Friday, May 28, 2010

Brendan Grace: completely and unashamedly Irish

Brendan Grace is an Irish comedian and singer. He played the part of Murphy in the 1995 movie Moondance, and in 1996 he appeared in the Irish TV sitcom Father Ted as Father Fintan Stack. Born in the heart of Dublin in 1952, Brendan was raised in the working class Liberties neighbourhood. His father Seamus worked as a bartender and at other odd jobs to keep the family going. However, this proved to be not enough and Brendan was forced to leave school at 15 to start earning for his family. Brendan has worked with such legends as Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Liza Minnelli. His work for children’s charities has won him many accolades.

Last night I was lucky enough to attend one of his now rare US concerts. Just as we were about to leave for the show, I said to my wife: "you know I think I want to give Brendan a copy of my book, "Driving Straight on Crooked Lines.."  So I did. Chatting with him before the show, I showed Brendan the following excerpt:

"Brian Stenson, one of my Legionary class-mates from Dublin was based in Salamanca. He and I always had great fun; he’d been based at another school in Mexico when I was at the Irish Institute and we shared a similar sense of humor.
One time, when we’d caught up on all our news, he said to me, “There is something you have to hear, you’ll get a great kick out of it.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“I have a Brendan Grace tape!”
Brendan Grace was an Irish comedian whom we both enjoyed. The problem was, finding a way to listen to this clandestine possession within the confines of the juniorate.
“There has to be a tape recorder somewhere,” I said.
“Not a chance,” replied Brian.
I visited Fr. Arumi, the rector. “Father, I need to take the bus out for a run, otherwise the battery may die. It’s been parked for a few days now.”
“Off you go,” he agreed.
“Would it be ok if Brother Stenson came along?”
So Brian and I went for a 90-minute drive on the back roads of Salamanca: long enough to listen to both sides of the tape and laugh our heads off. It did me a lot of good."

I was happy to be able to thank Brendan Grace, in person, for the many times he's made laugh, heartily, over the years - especially during those twenty years in the Legionaries of Christ, when I was so far removed from all things Irish. He is still as funny as ever. However, what most impressed me chatting with him was his easy friendliness and unassuming personality. At the end of the show I met him briefly. He said, "Jack, I want to thank you for the book. I'll read it and I will write to you." How many celebrities do you know who would actually remember a fan's name after delivering a two-hour show? What a great guy. Maybe you have to be Irish born to appreciate all the nuances of his humor - but try this clip for a taste of his extraordinary talent:

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

New Memoir About Life in the Controversial Legion of Christ by a Former Member Reveals Insights into the Double Life of Founder Father Marcial Maciel

Press Release

TRUMBULL, Conn., May 26 /PRNewswire/ -- As Vatican-watchers await the appointment of a papal delegate to oversee the Legion of Christ, a new memoir by a former member claims that few Legionaries were aware of the double life led by their founder, the late Father Marcial Maciel.

Driving Straight on Crooked Lines: How an Irishman Found his heart and Nearly Lost his Mind, (ISBN 978-0-9845227-0-5, Trade paperback, 352 pp, 5 1/2 x 8 1/2) provides author Jack Keogh's insights into the inner workings of the Legion of Christ and the intimate thoughts of a former priest who collaborated with the controversial Maciel, the founder of the Mexican congregation.

Keogh, the first Irish-born Legionary to set foot in Mexico, tells how he ultimately came to believe that God does indeed drive straight on the crooked lines of our lives after first nearly losing his mind.

Spanning locations across the globe, Keogh's "gripping story offers realistic insight, told with a subjective, non-judgmental outlook," says Australian writer and editor Cerian Griffiths. "Keogh's sincere narrative, in which he faces many challenges, inspires an attitude of hope for the future. His story is told with candor, a sparkle in the eye, plenty of blarney, and Irish good humor."

Investigative reporter, author and film director Jason Berry, whose recent report on the Legion of Christ's Father Marcial Maciel was published in the National Catholic Reporter says, "I was pulled along by the story of a young Irishman drawn into the world of the Legionaries of Christ, unable to see the raw truth of Father Maciel, coming to the painful realization of Maciel's psychological tyranny as time passed, and having the fortune to leave early enough to make a new life. This is a sad yet, in the final measure, uplifting memoir."

Keogh is Managing Director of Keogh & Associates Consulting, LLC of Trumbull, CT, which advises multinational corporations on leadership and cross-cultural communications. A resident of Fairfield County, CT, Keogh studied in Spain and Italy and is fluent in their languages. Many thousands of people around the globe have attended his presentations.

For more information about Driving Straight on Crooked Lines or to schedule an interview, please contact Jack Keogh at (203) 268-3126 or visit The book is available on, and

Book Cover:

CONTACT: Jack Keogh Iveagh Lodge Press Trumbull, CT (203) 268-3126

This press release was issued through eReleases(R). For more information, visit eReleases Press Release Distribution at

SOURCE Jack Keogh

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Don't hire a bullfighter to be your administrator!

“The Irish Institute is in trouble,” Maciel (the disgraced founder of the Legion of Christ) told me. “Juan Manuel Fernandez Amenabar is seriously ill. We’ve sent him to the best cardiovascular surgeon in the world, Dr. Michael DeBakey in Houston. I think he will survive – but the Institute is in bad shape.”

“What can I do?” I asked.  “I want you to go back to Mexico City for two months,” he said. “You’re the only one who understands how I want it managed. I need you to go back and fix it.”

One of the chapters in my memoir, "Driving Straight on Crooked Lines" tells the story of my second assignment to the Irish Institute in Mexico City. Since writing the book, I've remembered lots of details that I didn't mention in the memoir.

Fr. Amenabar, as we called the charismatic first Director of the school, was not the world's greatest school administrator although in the most important ways he was very successul founding the school. He was, however, like many full-blooded Spainards a lover of bullfights and all thing taurine. While I was back in Rome trying to catch up on my studies after spending several years helping to get the Irish Institute going, Amenabar hired an apprentice bullfighter to work on the cleaning staff. Apparentely, the young man was a better janitor than he was a bullfighter. Amenabar though, really appreciated his bullfighting aspirations - and translated his admiration into a constant series of promotions.

When I got back to the Irish Institute "to fix it" as Maciel had asked, I found that our aspiring bullfighter had been promoted to head of facilities management, sporting a nice suit and tie. Problem was, the administration was a mess. He became my perfect example of the Peter Principle. The Principle states: "In a Hierarchy Every Employee Tends to Rise to His Level of Incompetence." I had to fire him. The Irish Institute's loss was the bull-ring's gain.

The above little story came to mind when I posted the following on my "Global Mindset" blog. Some of the points are taken from Human Resources. You can read their take on the issue here.

No one can guarantee the performance of a manager or executive appointed to a new position. Indeed, if the reports and surveys we are constantly bombarded with are correct, we can safely say most executives make poor promotion and staffing decisions.

Peter F. Drucker repeatedly said:
“In no other area of management would we put up with such miserable performance (as we do in people decisions)...indeed, we need not and should not...Managers making people decisions will never be perfect...But they should come pretty close to batting 1,000, especially because in no other area of management do we know so much..."

1) Think through the assignment. Failure to think through the assignment, Drucker observed, was the number-one reason for staffing failures. Put differently, executives making staffing decisions must “match strengths to opportunity.” many times when thinking through the assignment, the necessity for reorganizing the existing organization becomes apparent. The nature of the assignment requires multiple knowledges and a variety of skills impossible to find in one person.

2) Make sure the appointee understands the job.“It is not intuitively obvious to most people that a new and different job requires new and different behavior,” Drucker said. “Most people continue to do what they've done before.”

3) The Right New Hire For the Right Job. A successful bus driver, in all likelihood, cannot run the bus company. Not to mention an aspiring bullfighter becoming your facilities manager.

Questions to ask: "What is the task?” “What is the experience and knowledge base required to carry out the task?" "Does the appointee understand the job?" Creating new opportunities for people involves helping them learn and develop. That's something my company, Keogh & Associates Consulting specializes in - but that is a topic for another day.

Have many Legionaries left the Congregation after learning about the secret life of the founder, Marcial Maciel?

Father Jesús María Delgado, Territorial Director of the Legion of Christ in Spain was interviewed on May 25, 2010 by Análisis Digital.

The full inteview is in Spainish. I have loosely translated Fr. Delgados's response to the following question:
"Have many Legionaries left the Congregation after learning about the secret life of the founder, Marcial Maciel?"

It goes without saying that if only one were to have left it hurts to lose a vocation or a brother.
 There are about 850 priests in the Legion and, since early last year, about ten Legionaries have made the decision to leave the congregation to join the diocesan clergy, though not in all cases for the same reasons. About the same number are living and working temporarily out of our Legionary communities, in a period of reflection.

What we have experienced is a tremendous blow. Any action taken by any Legionary, having to deal with this situation, is perfectly understandable.

What we have done – those of us who stay and those who have chosen to leave – is to pray to God to enlighten about renewing our commitment. This is something no doubt we all have had to do after learning all that we have learned. And, I believe, any decision taken in prayer before the Lord about what He wants is a good decision.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Apostolic Visitor to the Legion of Christ holds press conference

One of the Apostolic Visitors to the Legionaries of Christ (an "Apostolic Visit" is a sort of ecclesiastical audit) spoke with reporters concerning some of his experiences. I think his remarks are helpful in terms of demystifying the Vatican process with regard to the Legion and in terms of promoting transparency for the many people affected by the double life of Fr. Maciel, the now disgraced founder. The Bishop does not reveal anything that we did not already know. What he says coincides with the appraisal of the Visitation that I heard a couple of weeks ago from a well-informed Legionary friend.

My memoirs, "Driving Straight on Crooked Lines: How an Irishman found his heart and nearly lost his mind"  about my experiences with Fr. Maciel and the Legion, was sent to the publisher before the Apostolic Visitation took place. In the last chapter, I expressed my hopes for the future of the Legion and I am pleased to see that, so far, my hopes and predictions were not too far off the mark.

Bishop Ricardo Watty Urquidi of Tepic, Mexico, is one of the five bishops who carried out the Apostolic Visitation of the Legion of Christ. He discussed his experiences during the process and explained to reporters on Tuesday, May 18, that the results of the Vatican investigation would soon be released. The Bishop said he felt obliged to have a dialogue with reporters while he acknowledged the he couldn't discuss many details because Pope Benedict has reserved the right to be the spokespersons and implementer of the Vatican's decisions concerning the controversial Legionaries.

After interviewing 360 Legionaries, reading and reviewing numerous testimonies, and after meeting with Cardinals Tarcisio Bertone, William Levada and Franc Rode, Bishop Watty Urquidi said that “the Pope has five extensive reports to read, listen to and manage,” along with the team “he deems fit to put together.” This team would include the delegate the Vatican will appoint to oversee the Congregation and the Commission that will be convened to revise the rules and constitutions.

Bishop Watty lamented the double life of Father Marcial Maciel, the founder of the Legionaries of Christ. Commenting on the 43 communities he visited in Mexico and Central America during the investigation, Bishop Watty said that most of them “said they needed help.” He said that the members “have slowly learned that the way in which Fr. Maciel lived and acted affected what he began, which is the work of the Legionaries and its associated movement, Regnum Christi.”

The Mexican prelate added that Fr. Maciel was a very troubled individual who caused “much” harm. The apostolic visitors discovered in their findings “a very immoral person, who was not in accord with the Gospel, not even human dignity.”

“The positive aspects of his personality had an impact but so did the negative ones, and that is what the Church is concerned about right now.”

Bishop Watty said it is necessary to reach out to the victims of Maciel’s abuse, both inside and outside of the Legion.“This was how we felt, and the Pope was in agreement, as he has been courageously doing. In the name of the Church we must reach out to them.”

Bishop Watty asserted that the “entire structure of authority within the Congregation of the Legionaries needs to be rebuilt and made to be more in accord with way authority works in the Church, that is to say, more evangelical.” He also said that the Legion’s training program needs to be reviewed and revised.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Therapeutic swearing in Gabon

Here are a few paragraphs from my memoir "Driving Straight on Crooked Lines: How an Irishman found his heart and nearly lost his mind." The book is about my experiences in the Legion of Christ and with the founder, Fr. Marcial Maciel.

When I was in Gabon, Luis Lerma (another Legionary) and I were about to leave the mission house for the Sisters’ at about 5:30 pm, the heavens opened. Powerful lightening lit the sky, accompanied by earth shaking thunder-claps.

Luis engaged the all wheel drive and we set out on the muddy track towards the convent. The windshield wipers couldn’t handle the volume of rain. About halfway, the road skirted a big steel pole supporting the main electrical transformer. We were within 10 yards of it, when a bolt of lightening hit the transformer. The brightness of the flash was intense. I could feel, more than I could see, the massive electrical charge light up the pole. The hairs on the back of my neck and bare arms stood on end and tingled.

My recollection is of blue, crackling light running down the pole, chasing across the ground and enveloping our car. For an instant, the hood of the car and the window posts appeared alive with blue light. Frighteningly loud thunder followed and the transformer burst into flames, crackling and hissing.

Once I saw the flames, I realized I was still alive. Luis and I looked at each other, making sure we were both OK, but without acknowledging we almost expected the other to be dead. Neither of us said anything until, spontaneously, we both let loose with most un-Legionary, un-priestly expletives. I can’t remember ever swearing more intensely or therapeutically. Luis used some choice words I hadn’t heard for a long time. I’m sure God understood our outburst was a prayer of gratitude and relief at being alive!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Young Catholics find parishes a little like alien territory

The following three paragraphs are excerpted from my memoir "Driving Straight on Crooked Lines: How an Irishman found his heart and nearly lost his mind"

"In areas where the population is affluent and mobile, people may be baptized in one parish, make their first Communion in another, then go away to college for four years and lose touch with the ‘family’ parish. They get married somewhere else, and I suspect those who are buried from the Church where they were baptized, are in the minority.

In my experience most Catholic parishes have few, if any, meaningful activities capable of attracting and satisfying the fellowship needs of lively young people. The Sunday homilies are rarely inspiring or challenging because, in general, Catholics focus more on the Sacraments, than on preaching the Word.  Most priests can’t seem to get beyond basic platitudes in their Sunday homilies, which I suspect results from fear of offending the traditional Mass-goers (who tend to give the most donations). In other words, I think the parish structure is fine for liturgical celebration, but it has lost its power to create vibrant communities of faith.

I expected the local clergy would perceive our [Legion of Christ] efforts  to offer dynamic, adventurous and social activities as ‘competition.’ After all, we weren’t collaborating with them in their on-going parish work – which, in Rye, included two schools and an active CCD (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine) program. Rather we were setting up an alternative program for young people. Our efforts might also be unwelcome because the local Catholic Churches didn’t offer any vibrant programs beyond the weekly celebration of the Eucharist. If these challenges were not daunting enough, the local clergy were aware we Legionaries had no mandate from their bosses, to work in New York. The name ‘Legionaries of Christ’ didn’t inspire their confidence - it had an uncomfortable militant ring to it."  

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin was born in Dublin on 8th April 1945.  He attended schools in Dublin. He studied philosophy at University College Dublin and theology at the Dublin Diocesan Seminary (Holy Cross College, Clonliffe). He later pursued higher studies in moral theology at the Pontifical University of St Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) in Rome. He succeeded Cardinal Desmond Connell as Archbishop of Dublin on 26 April 2004.

His life and mine intersect on a few points - we were born within weeks of each other, in Dublin. He studied at University College Dublin where I grew up at our family home on the campus. We both studied at the Angelicum. Cardinal Desmond Connell celebrated my father's funeral Mass. We seem to share a view of the Catholic parish system.

Archbishop Martin has just published some "talking points" about the future of the Catholic Church in Ireland. His complete article is well worth reading, for those interested in the Catholic Church.. I have said in other postings that I think the Catholic Church in Ireland, and the Legion of Christ worldwide have the opportunity to become leading indicators of needed renewal and healing within the Church. Hence, I've taken the liberty of excerpting some quotes, relevant to parish life, from the Bishop's talking points. The lack of parish outreach for young people, which Bishop Martin references, created a niche which the Legionaries of Christ identified and rushed to fill.

"There are fundamental fault-lines within the current structure for Catholic schools that are not being addressed and unattended fault-lines inevitably generate destructive energies.  Our system of religious education – especially at secondary level but also at primary level in urban areas - more and more bypasses our parishes, which should together with the family be the primary focal points for faith formation and membership of a worshipping community.   I am not attacking Catholic teachers and Catholic schools; they do tremendous work.  What is needed is renewal of the vision of parish.  Many of our parishes offer very little in terms of outreach to young people.

The modern communications media provide great opportunities for adult catechesis, especially those media which are interactive and can be used not just to transmit information to individuals, but also to contribute to the construction of faith communities.   Parishes have however still much to learn about using these media.  Parishes must radically re-orientate themselves to become educational communities in the faith and understanding of modern communications is an essential part of that re-orientation.

The early Church was marked by the gathering of believers, who shared in the prayers and in their understating of the Word of God, who shared what they had and who together broke the bread. The Church is not a collection of individuals whose worship when they feel the need; the Church is fundamentally a worshipping community, founded in and nourished by the Eucharist. 

Parishes offers very little outreach to young people and I feel that an increasing number of young people find parishes a little like alien territory.  A form of religious education which is separated from the parish will inevitably collapse for most the day that school ends. Sacramental formation belongs within the Christian community which welcomes and supports each of us on our journey.   We need a more demanding catechesis, within a parish framework, for those who wish to come forward for admission to the sacraments.   Admission to the sacraments is not something which is automatically acquired when one reaches a certain class in school.

This will involve a much greater degree of parish-based catechesis and evangelisation within our parishes.  There is no way that this will take place without a very extensive programme of training for volunteer catechists, as is the case in most European countries.  Parishes must become real centre of on-going faith formation.  A more Parish centred church life does not however mean retreat into the sacristy."

LEGIONARIES OF CHRIST in the archdiocese of Dublin:
  • Novitiate
  • Oakhill Junior School
  • Clonlost School Retreats and Youth Centre
  • John Paul II Centre for Faith & Family Development
  • Dal Riada Family Centre
  • Dublin Oak Academy
  • Woodlands Academy

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Archbishop Ricardo Ezzati comments on Apostolic Visitation of Legionaries of Christ

Archbishop Ricardo Ezzati, of Concepcion, Chile in an interview - in Spanish - with Radio Cooperativa answered questions about the recent Apostolic Visitation of the Legionaries of Christ. The Archbishop was one of the five "Apostolic Visitors" sent by the Vatican to audit the Legion.

Here is my translation of the gist of his comments:

“The welcome we [Apostolic Visitors] received from the Legion has been very sincere; they collaborated actively with us as we took the pulse of the congregation….the apostolic visit was not intended to investigate the deeds of the founder… these had already been defined earlier by the Holy See.

In dialogue with people who are part of the Legion of Christ, aspects of the Founder's life were mentioned – but these were not the subject of the visit.

The Vatican statement [released on May 1, 2010] says very clearly that the vast majority of Legionaries have overwhelmingly acted in good conscience without suspecting the double life their founder was living…. I am convinced the vast majority of the Legionnaires did not know the reality of the founder’s life.

The Church says very clearly that it is committed to accompany the Legionaries as they undertake a journey of  purification....

The Pope will appoint a delegate to oversee the Legion, a commission will revise the constitutions of the Legion, and he will send an Apostolic Visitor to members of Regnum Christi."

Finally, Archbishop Ricardo Ezzati states he has no knowledge that Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iniguez , Archbishop of Guadalajara, has already been appointed to oversee the Legion.

Shared memories, not just shared company

Like all Legionaries of Christ, I made vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience. In terms of Chastity, my biggest temptation was loneliness. I was constantly surrounded by people and constantly busy.  How could I be lonely?

My loneliness was related to my difficulty in reconciling the friendships I developed with the requirement that I gave my heart exclusively to Jesus Christ. Saint Thérèse of Lisieux understood intuitively that our loneliness and the longings we experience have the power to lead us eventually to a place inside ourselves characterized her life as an “exile of the heart”. She refers to her life as a nun as an “exile” of the heart.  She knew that chastity and solitude helps us to face ourselves, to befriend not only the person we think we are, but also to come to know and love the person that in fact we are.

Even though it would take me a long time to act on my intuition, I knew that my spiritual life was not strong enough to sustain my commitment to a life of celibacy in the Legion.  Later I would learn that marriage offers the gift of shared memories, not just shared company.  Couples share life goals as they build their relationship over time. I know that married people can be lonely.  But I suspect that married men do not experience the loneliness of a celibate.

Maybe there are two different vocations.  One is a call to the priesthood.  The other is a call to celibacy.  They are not identical vocations.   In the Catholic Church the only option is the package deal.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Leaders for our times need to be in touch with their hearts

Leadership Freak, Dan Rockwell opines:
“If you’re a leader in a top down organization the natural tendency for followers to tell you what you want to hear is nearly insurmountable.”
Rockwell goes on to suggest three challenges for top down organizations:
  1. Leaders in top down organizations create and affirm people that comfort each other by clinging to the status quo.
  2. Leaders in top down organizations never get the real picture because people tell them what they want to hear.
  3. Followers in top down organizations live in bondage to bureaucratic hierarchy.
According to a new article by Bill George, during the last half of the 20th century, business leadership became an elite profession, dominated by managers who ruled their enterprises from the top down. In today’s business world that hierarchical model doesn't work anymore. Learning organizations have replaced the craftsman-apprentice style relationship. Apart from my school boy experiences, I got my first lessons in leadership when I joined the Legionaries of Christ. The following comments draw heavily on George's analysis of "authentic" leaders.

Knowledge workers do not respond well to "top down" leadership. The short-term outlook demanded by excessive focus on stock markets led many leaders to forget about long-term growth. In the past decade the old model blew up, from the ethical scandals exposed by Enron and WorldCom to the Wall Street meltdown.

Because people believe the leaders are serving only themselves and short-term shareholders, the result is people no longer trust business leaders to build sustainable institutions.

The 21st century requires leaders who focus on aligning people around mission and values and empowering emerging leaders at all levels. The fundamental goal is go concentrate on serving customers and developing collaboration throughout the organization. Traditional leaders thought they could solve this problem with rulebooks, training programs and compliance systems, and were shocked when people deviated.

When I look back, with the benefit of hindsight, on my experiences with Marcial Maciel the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, I recall being concerned with our organization’s increasing focus on “methodology.” We had a rule, a process, a method for everything. It took me until the late 1970s to realize that the focus on methodology, combined with a deficient understanding of the concept of religious “obedience” was not boding well for my future in the organization.

George  points out that hierarchical leaders delegate limited amounts of power in order to retain control. Based on my early experiences with Fr. Maciel, I would have to say he totally conformed to the model of a hierarchical leader. This didn’t bother me, at the time, because “hierarchical” was about the only flavor of leadership practiced in the 1960s. I have long since learned – and the experience of working with Fr. Maciel brought this home to me – that our times require a different style of leadership. I confess that I do not know if or how Maciel’s leadership style evolved since I did not work for him after 1982. Maybe he did begin to empower new leaders in the Legion. In fact I suspect he did. But I wonder if the new leadership set up the necessary systems of accountability to ensure leadership commitments were met?

CEOs who spend too much time listening to Wall Street risk ignoring their most important stakeholder — their customers. Maciel certainly kept a weather eye open to "Wall Street" and the successful corporate impresarios who could help support his mission. And he never lost sight of the importance of managing Vatican relationships. However, in my personal experience, he well understood that the organization – in his case a religious congregation – that does not offer better value to its customers than its competitors, will eventually go out of business. Hence, his organization, the Legionaries of Christ, developed an astounding network of colleges, charitable works, and missions in a very short time frame. All of them were carefully designed to offer "added value" for the "customers" - the good people who bought into what seemed to be a transformational vision of lay engagement with the Church. All the while, the Legionaries understood the organizational value of collaboration and, I think, they managed to avoid creating the organizational silos that hindered other contemporary organizations.

Maciel certainly started out as a top-down leader. And like so many other top-down leaders he achieved impressive short-term results. Apart from bequeathing his successors the daunting task of cleaning up the mess caused by his deformed personality and the criminal methods he used to achieve his ends, he left the Legionaries the task of develop a whole new style of leadership that cannot be based on the model inherited from the founder.

I believe that with external help, combined with a great deal of humility, the Legionaries have the resources to produce a new generation of collaborative leaders who can transform the organization and lead it to long-term sustainable performance.

These new leaders, if they emerge, will do well to remember that contemporary leaders need to demonstrate passion. The sub-title of my memoir “Driving Straight on Crooked Lines” is “How an Irishman found his heart and nearly lost his mind.” The Legion needs leaders who are in touch with their hearts (and the hearts of their “customers,) as well as their heads. To be successful they need to abandon the founder’s top down approach to leadership. They will need to clearly articulate their values, establish genuine and meaningful interpersonal relationships, and understand the potential “dark side” of their personalities. In my estimation, Maciel never seemed to be aware of the "shadow" side of his makeup. It is this dark "shadow", which for most of us emerges in times of frustration and stress, that sabotages our best intentions. The new leaders must "know who they are" and have the self-discipline to hold on to a new and very challenging course towards rebirth and renewal.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Thriving on Cross-cultural Complexity

Employers often make the mistake of sending star executives overseas on the assumption that they will continue the same exceptional performance in the global arena as they did at home, when in fact they fail because they lack the propensity to learn and succeed in a new and different environment.

I learned the importance of assessing one's own global mindset when I was sent on my first assignment, as a fairly new member of the Legionaries of Christ, to the Irish Institute in Mexico City - the "Instituto Irlandés." In hindsight, I know that it took me at least a year to adjust to Mexican culture even though I had already lived and studied in Spain and Italy."Driving Straight on Crooked Lines: How an Irishman found his heart and nearly lost his mind" tells the story of my experiences.

Eventually, I adjusted well and came to love all things Mexican. The founder and first Superior General of the Legionaries asked me to devise some method to help provide pre-departure and post-arrival training for young Legionaries who would be coming to Mexico to fulfill their internship program. Cross-cultural training was not a common concept in the mid 1960s. So I had to invent some way of first identifying and then weighing the required strengths for cross-cultural adaptability. If I knew the strengths I could devise strategies to identify and overcome weaknesses in potential Irish, and Spanish Legionary candidates coming on three year assignments to our schools in Mexico. The training that I came up with relied heavily on three practical approaches to psychology that were in vogue back then. I used “Parent Effectiveness Training” to teach communication skills; “Reality Therapy” to reveal psychological barriers to change and “Transactional Analysis” to delve deeper into the underlying drivers of behavior.

The resulting program was successful and I certainly enjoyed teaching it for a couple of years during the summer college breaks in Rome. Legionaries who went through the training acquired at least a basic understanding of cross-cultural challenges and a heightened sense of self-awareness which is fundamental to crossing cultures.

That early experience served me well – and it remains the foundation of the international skills I went on to develop as a management consultant. In my Legionary life, I lived in Ireland, Spain, Italy, Mexico, the United States, and Gabon in Central West Africa. By the time I left, I had developed a pretty sophisticated practical understanding of how to cross the cultural divide.

Reading “Managing Yourself: Making It Overseas” in the Harvard Business Review (04/10) Vol. 88, No. 4, P. 109; by Javidan, Mansour; Teagarden, Mary; Bowen, David,  reminded me of my early struggles with cultural adaptability and how I have learned to help develop the global mindset of my clients in measurable ways. The following points are adapted from the article which you can see here. The conclusions are based on research and the examples provided are from the corporate environment.

Success overseas depends on having a global mindset. This mindset has three components: intellectual capital, psychological capital, and social capital.

Intellectual capital refers to the capacity to learn, and to knowledge of how international business is conducted. Attributes for intellectual capital include global business savvy, cognitive complexity, and a cosmopolitan outlook

Psychological capital refers to the ability to change, and to be open to different cultures.  The defining attributes for psychological capital are a passion for diversity, a hunger for adventure, and self-assurance

Social capital involves the ability to develop and nurture interpersonal connections, bring people together, and influence stakeholders who are dissimilar to the traveler in terms of cultural heritage, professional background, or political outlook. It is defined by intercultural empathy, interpersonal impact, and diplomacy.

Little did I know, when I first went to help start the Irish Institute in Mexico City that one day the skills I developed there would lead me to a fulfilling career in international business consulting, working with corporate leaders and multicultural teams. One of the key attibutes for cross-cultural success is having a "sense of humor" (meaning not taking yourself too seriously - it relates to the ability to learn from mistakes.) No better background than Dublin, Ireland and then Mexico to develop the requisite sense of humor!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Breaking the Chains of the Past

George Weigel, Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington’s Ethics and Public Policy Center, proposes an unprecedented course of action to remedy the situation of the the Legionaries of Christ and the affiliated lay movement, Regnum Christi.

The measures he suggests would call for a heroic exercise of the virtues of courage, justice, and prudence. Essentially, Mr. Weigel is suggesting that in order for whatever goodness is found in the Legionaries of Christ and Regnum Christi to find its place in the future, the organization needs to dramatically and unequivocally break the chains of the past. Those chains are theological, psychological, historical and institutional.

The Vatican statement about the Legionaries of Christ, released on May 1 indicates that a Vatican delegate will assume control of the Legion. Mr. Weigel agrees that this delegate will have plenipotentiary powers, "including making recommendations to the pope about the future of the Legion of Christ—about which, it seems, all options remain on the table."

Hence, Mr. Weigel offers a series of suggestions to the Vatican Delegate in order to save whatever good is salvageable in the Congregation. He is advising pretty radical surgery. Granted the seriousness of the situation, in the context of perceived lack of decisive by the Vatican and the Legionaries, my initial reaction to the suggestions is.... they make sense and deserve serious consideration.

This excellent article does the Vatican and the Legionaries a great service. The good priests and seminarians of the Legion are among the victims and are sullied by the sins of the father. I hope they are treated with pastoral care because they and their families must be going through great suffering. I applaud Mr. Weigel for his constructive suggestions and for refraining from engaging in the unnecessary hysteria which so often surrounds the Legionaries, now that the Vatican has spoken.

In the re founding of the Legion, and perhaps too in its approach to the situation in Ireland, the Vatican has a chance to define a new beginning - both of these situations could be "leading indicators" of how the Church can renew herself.

You can read the full article here.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Legionaries of Christ: a leading indicator of Church renewal?

The Legionaries of Christ responded to the May 1, 2010 Vatican statement saying "The Legionaries thank the Holy Father and embrace his provisions with faith and obedience. We appreciate the hard work and dedication of the apostolic visitators. And we are grateful for the prayers of so many people of good will who have supported us at this time."

Meanwhile, The Irish Times reports that Irish born Bishop Brian Farrell, secretary to the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, "may be appointed as the special Vatican “delegate” who will lead a “commission of studies” into the discredited Catholic Order the Legionaries of Christ, Vatican sources have suggested." Bishop Farrell is a close aide to Cardinal Walter Kasper at Christian Unity, and is a member of the Legionaries.

Brain's brother, Kevin, a former Legionary, is now Bishop of Dallas. (Kevin gets several mentions in my memoir - like me, he served as a driver during his Legionary career. We shared adventures together. Brian and I attended the same high school in Dublin - he joined the Legion in 1961.)

My reaction to the Vatican statement is positive - the Pope is essentially ordering a “re-founding’ of the Legion. This is the opportunity for Legionaries to focus on their vocation to religious life and the priesthood, unshackling themselves from the pernicious influence of the founder. My assumption is that Legionaries will gladly collaborate and implement the Holy See’s guidance. I believe that this initial Vatican statement will be profoundly liberating for them. I know it was for me.

This is an important moment for the Church - finally, decisive, unambiguous intervention by the Vatican and the opportunity for a new and dynamic congregation to humbly discover its genuine mission - which for too long was obfuscated by the founder’s entrepreneurial focus on methodology. The result could be closer to the Congregation I thought I was joining, way back in 1962,  freed from the deformations introduced by Fr. Maciel. I am not about to “sign up” again - but I wish them well. What happens with the Legion could well be a leading indicator of the Church's ability to cleanse and renew itself as it emerges from decades of abuse scandals.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Vatican Statement on Apostolic Visitation of Legionaries of Christ

I think the following short statement, translated into English by Vatican Radio  is worth reading in its entirety. The Holy Father's actual statement is far more encouraging than most of the media analysis that I've read so far. To my mind there is nothing surprising or particularly newsworthy in the statement - other than, perhaps, the Vatican's explicit support for the Legionaries. Plus the fact that the Vatican announces it will send a special Visitor to the Regnum Christi "in response to insistent requests from consecrated members thereof." It seems that those who have long clamored that the Legion be "shut down now" may have to adjust their thinking to embrace the Pope's view. The Vatican, wisely, will review the exercise of authority within the Congregation. It seems to accept that the Legionaries' have a valid mission within the Church which however is not to be confused with "efficacy at any cost." In other words, the Legion of Christ will be reformed and, with God's grace, renewed as it sheds the pernicious effects of its flawed founder.

(01 May 10 – RV) Below we publish a Vatican Radio translation of the Press Office Statement released Saturday May 1, at the conclusion of a two day meeting in the Vatican on the outcome of the Apostolic Visitation of the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ:

1. On the days April 30 and May 1, the Cardinal Secretary of State chaired a meeting in the Vatican with five bishops in charge of the Apostolic Visitation of the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ (Bishop Ricardo Blazquez, archbishop of Valladolid, Msgr. Charles J. Chaput OFM Cap., Archbishop of Denver, Mgr. Andrella Ricardo Ezzati SDB, Archbishop of Concepción, Mgr. Giuseppe Versaldi, Bishop of Alexandria; Mgr. Ricardo Watty Urquidi, M.Sp.S., Bishop of Tepic). It was attended by the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life and the Substitute for General Affairs of the Secretariat of State.
One of the sessions took place in the presence of the Holy Father, to whom the Visitors presented a summary of their report, which had been previously submitted.
During the visitation over 1,000 Legionnaires were met in person and hundreds of written documents were examined. The Visitors have visited almost all the religious houses and many of the works of the apostolate directed by the Congregation. They heard, orally or in writing, the opinion of many diocesan bishops of the countries where the congregation operates. The Visitors also met several members of the "Regnum Christi" Movement, although it was not the subject of the visit, especially men and women religious. They have also received considerable correspondence from laity and family members of the Movement.
The five Visitors testified to a sincere reception and a constructive spirit of cooperation shown them by the congregation and individual religious. While acting independently, they have reached a widely convergent evaluation and a shared opinion. They testified that to having met a large number of honest and talented religious individuals, many of them young, who seek Christ with genuine zeal and offer their entire lives to spread the Kingdom of God

2. The Apostolic Visitation was able to ascertain that the behaviour of Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado has caused serious consequences in the life and structure of the Legion, so much so, to require a journey of profound re-evaluation.
The serious and objectively immoral behaviour of Fr. Maciel, supported by incontrovertible evidence, at times constitutes real crimes, and manifests a life devoid of scruples and of genuine religious feeling. The large majority of Legionaries were unaware of that life, particularly because of the system of relations created by Fr. Maciel, who had skilfully managed to build up an alibi, to gain the trust, confidence and surrounding silence and strengthen his role as a charismatic founder.
Not infrequently the lamentable disgracing and expulsion of those who doubted his upright conduct, and the misconception of not wanting to harm the good that the Legion was doing, had created around him a defence mechanism which made him untouchable for a long time , thus rendering knowledge of his real life difficult.

3. The sincere zeal of the majority of the Legionaries - which also emerged from the Visitation of the congregation houses and their many works, and which is appreciated by many - led many in the past to believe that the charges, which gradually became more insistent and widespread, could only be slander.
Therefore the discovery and knowledge of the truth about the founder resulted in surprise, dismay and deep sorrow among members of the Legion, as clearly evidenced by the Visitors.

4. From the results of the Apostolic Visitation it has emerged clearly, among other elements:
a) the need to redefine the charism of the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ, preserving the core truth, that of "Militia Christi", which characterizes the apostolic and missionary action of the Church and which is not identifiable with efficacy at any cost;
b) the need to review the exercise of authority, which must be conjoined to the truth, in respect of conscience and to develop in light of the Gospel as an authentic ecclesial service;
c) the need to preserve young people's enthusiasm of faith, the missionary zeal, the apostolic dynamism, through appropriate formation. Indeed, disappointment about the founder could call into question the core of this vocation and charism that belongs and is specific to the Legionaries of Christ.

5. The Holy Father would like to assure all Legionnaires and members of the "Regnum Christi" Movement that they will not be left alone: the Church has a strong desire to accompany them and help them in the path of purification that awaits them. It will also mean sincere confrontation with all those who, inside and outside the Legion, were victims of sexual abuse and of the power system devised by the founder. It is to them, at this time, that the thoughts and prayers of the Holy Father go, along with his gratitude to the many who, even in the midst of great hardships, had the courage and perseverance to demand the truth.

6. The Holy Father, in thanking the Visitors for the delicate work which they competently carried out with generosity and deep pastoral sensitivity, assured them that he will soon indicate the modalities of this process of accompaniment, starting with the appointment of a Delegate and a Study Commission on the Constitution.
The Holy Father will send a Visitor to the Regnum Christi Movement, in response to insistent requests from consecrated members thereof.

7. Finally, to all Legionaries of Christ, their families, committed lay people in the Regnum Christi movement, the Holy Father renewes his encouragement during this difficult time for the Congregation and each one of them. He urges them not to lose sight that their vocation, which originated from Christ’s call and is animated by the ideal to witness his love to the world, is a true gift from God, a treasure for the Church, the indestructible foundation on which to build their personal future and that of the Legion.