Wednesday, June 23, 2010

In the evening of your life you will be judged on your love.

This posting is sort of a follow up to yesterday's comment on "Legionary and Regnum Christi reactions to "Driving Straight on Crooked Lines."

A few months ago I came across a blog called "A Catholic View."  The site is replete with banners and widgets saying "100% Catholic," "EWTN," "Proud to be Catholic: 2000 years of Christian tradition," "Catholic Answers," and "Fight Foca." A picture of the Sacred Heart rounds out the line up. You get the picture.

I confess that I have been remiss in sending out unsolicited review copies of my book. However, I noted that "A Catholic View" features several book reviews.  So, on the spur of the moment I sent Blogger Christine an e-mail asking if she would be interested in reviewing "Driving Straight on Crooked Lines."  She agreed and I sent a review copy via Priority Mail. I didn't hear anything back for a few weeks so I followed up with an e-mail. Here is the reply I received today:

"Jack, When you asked me to review your book, you didn't mention that you are a former priest.  I cannot and will not  promote the works of a former priest or former nun.  I only promote faithful Catholics who believe and practice our true faith."  Christine.

If you have read my book, you'll know how hard it was to make the decision to leave the Legion of Christ. In my case, I had no doubt whatsoever that my "vocation" to the Legion and to the Priesthood were one and the same. After twenty years of loyal service - away from family and from my own country - I went to a pretty remote part of Africa to try to be sure that I was discerning God's Will for me to the best of my ability. Because of my Faith, I knew I could not leave without obtaining the full, legal dispensation from my commitments. That's not an easy process. In fact the Vatican protocols are quite humiliating - a fact that is not widely known. I got my full dispensations and, eventually, married in the Church. I've not abandoned my beliefs or practice of the "true Faith."

Hence, I found Christine's remark about "only promoting Catholics who believe and practice our true faith" uninformed and hurtful. Why do I bother mentioning this here?

Years ago, I read in David Rice's excellent book "Shattered Vows"

"The prognosis for resigned and married priests is a future of struggle. It is, however, a struggle not against the Church, but hand in hand with all its priests and people, a struggle to find God's will, and waged in love. In the evening of your life, as Paul Claudel said, you will be judged on your love."

As the Legionaries of Christ adjust to the revelations of the awful scandals of their Founder, it is not unthinkable that some will choose to leave. Although our Church deals in millenia, change is happening at an unprecedented rate. It is not unreasonable to assume that some priests, brothers and nuns will choose to serve God in a different way, perhaps after long lives of committed service, in the wake of today's unthinkable scandals and turmoil. These men and women need the compassion, understanding and support of their fellow Christians.

A few weeks ago, I saw a plea made by a Regnum Christi blogger, asking RC members to be supportive of Legionaries who choose to leave. I found this heartening. The Legionary Superiors, in general, have done an abysmal job of supporting their former priest colleagues. I, and countless others, left the Legion literally with the "shirt on my back" and no support whatsoever. In so doing, I think they have made tactical and strategic mistakes - but that is a story for another day. My point is that Catholics owe, at least, a debt of gratitude to the men and women who dedicated most of their productive years to the full-time service of the Church. It is puerile to believe that because they are resigned priests, brothers or sisters that they "no longer practice the one true faith."

So if you ever run in to a former cleric (there are tens of thousands of them attending Mass at parishes near you!) don't tell them, as Christine does, that you only support "faithful Catholics!" Was it Gandhi who said "I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ?"  I wonder what he would make of "100% Catholic" and "Proud to be Catholic" stickers on websites and blog that don't seem to have much to do with the virtues that Christ espoused.

With regard to my memoirs, I guess I shouldn't hold my breath for it to be reviewed on blogs that attract most of their following from the ranks of the LC and RC!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Young man claims: "Father Marcial Maciel, was my dad, and he sexually abused me"

Father Marcial Maciel , the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, had secrets, which included illegitimate children and sexual abuse, according to a lawsuit filed in Connecticut on Monday.

30-year-old Raul Gonzalez Lara, of Mexico, says he is the secret son of Father Marcial Maciel. Raul is now speaking out publicly about his father’s abuse and the double life he led. He claims the Vatican  protected the man he knew as his father for decades. In the lawsuit, Gonzalez claims he, and other children, were sexually abused by Father Maciel during his time as director of the Legionaries of Christ, a congregation he founded in 1941.

Gonzalez is represented by Jeffery Anderson and Joel Faxon. According to the Washington Post:
"Over the years, Anderson has earned millions from his lawsuits against the church and other institutions, collecting 25 to 40 percent of each payout. He estimated in 2002 that his victories had totaled $60 million, but refuses to update the figure." The Post adds, "Anderson says he has filed more than 1,500 lawsuits against the Catholic Church, plus 2,000 to 3,000 against other individuals and entities, including other denominations. He estimates that 75 percent yield no money for himself or his clients, often due to a statute of limitations."

There does not seem to be anything new revealed in the Gonzalez lawsuit. The young man's claims have been widely publicized in Mexico and the Spanish language media. The story fizzled in Mexico when it was revealed the young man allegedly sought a large financial payout from the Legionaries in exchange for his silence. That was when his Mexican attorney dropped him as a client although he claimed to continue to believe the young man's story. However, news of the Connecticut lawsuit has caused a media stir in the US. Gonzalez was featured on ABC's "Nightline" and on at least one Connecticut TV station.

I wonder about the tactics behind this lawsuit. Obviously I am not an attorney, but I would think there have to be major jurisdictional issues. The Legion is headquartered in Rome and the young man is apparently a resident of Mexico. I suppose it could be a ploy to pressure for out-of-court settlements.

Whatever the outcome, the behavior of the now deceased Fr. Marcial Maciel, continues to cause great suffering to his victims, to the Vatican, to the legionaries of Christ and to the faithful at large. On May 1st. the Vatican announced it would shorty appoint a representative to oversee the reform of the Legion. Rumor has it that the leading candidate for the job is Archbishop Velasio DePaolis, 74. He would have full powers to lead the reconstitution of the controversial congregation. De Paolis has served as head of the prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See since 2008; prior to that, he spent five years as the number two person  of the Apostolic Signatura, the church's highest court. He is allegedly a close friend of the Vatican's influenential Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone SDB.

The sooner the Vatican makes its move the better for all concerned. This is a case where it seems to me no good is gained by political and bureaucratic foot-dragging.

Legionary and Regnum Christi reactions to "Driving Straight on Crooked Lines"

A couple of weeks ago I met a former Franciscan who is quite overtly critical of the Legionaries of Christ and their founder Fr. Marcial Maciel. The Legion of Christ, founded by Maciel in 1941, now claims membership of more than 800 priests and 2,500 seminarians in 22 countries, along with 70,000 members in its lay arm, Regnum Christi. After the death of Pope Paul II, Maciel was stripped of his authority and the Legion of Christ will be reformed by a Vatican appointed representative. Father Maciel was still a priest when he died in 2008.

My Franciscan friend was right all on all counts in his criticism of Legionary reactions. However, one of his comments related to my memoir “Driving Straight on Crooked Lines: How an Irishman found his heart and nearly lost his mind." He said “If you publish your book in Mexico the Legionaries will shut down the distribution system.” That is when we disagreed. He was amazed when I told him that several Legionaries have already written to me to tell me how much they enjoyed the book. He was further amazed when I informed him of one instance where the book was recommended to local Legionaries by their Territorial Director. Then I told him that a Regnum Christi team-leader read the book, bought copies for his friends at work and later purchased a copy for each member of his Regnum Christi team. He tells me they will use it as an “inspirational” case study.

The Legionaries who wrote to me about the book suggested they had some “historical” quibbles – it turns out they are not substantial disagreements but rather different memories of the same events. One said to me, “Jack, when you and I joined we were in the Church Triumphant. Now we are in a Church that has been brought to its knees. And, you know what? I am very comfortable in this new Church.” All of these former colleagues agree that an auto-biography is, by definition, subjective. They seem to agree that my experiences, as related in the book, are a fair reflection on what life in the Legion was like for those of us who had close contact with Maciel.

I believe my former colleagues when they tell me that there have been substantial changes made in the rules and regulations since my time. Evidently, the rules relating to family visits have been greatly relaxed. One Legionary told me “You won’t believe me if I tell you that I can visit my family literally as often as I want to.” That is a huge and important change to my mind. The Private Vows (never to criticize ones Superiors) have been abolished. Another said, “In my particular apostolate (in Europe) I and my team work with poor people in close collaboration with our Bishop. There is no longer any pressure on us to recruit new members.”  He sounded genuinely content in his ministry. I remember him as an excellent priest – and I have read very favorable articles about his work in magazines published where he resides. I believe these statements from my former brothers.

A recently posted review on Amazon reads: “This book gave more than a glimpse into the heart of one of the orders making headlines today. While the situation regarding the order's leader, Maciel, is unimaginable in many ways, this book also shed light on the people that were involved in the order for the RIGHT reasons. I think it is easy for people to focus on all of the bad things going on, especially as you see it splashed on CNN every other day. This book was able to give the perspective of someone who hasn't denied any of the crimes that were committed or the cover-ups that were obviously made, but it gives a voice to those young men who joined simply because they wanted to do good work and be a part of something bigger than themselves. It was refreshing to read an honest story about the good things that the church, and even this particular order, has done.”

Maybe that review articulates why the Legionaries and Regnum Christi members seem to enjoy the book. As for my Franciscan friend, all he could say when I recounted these first impressions to him was “Well, I’ll be darned.”

If you read the book, I would be privileged it you would take a minute to leave a review on Amazon and if you would “vote” on the reviews that are already there.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Canon Law Clergy Abuse Seminar for Media

In the wake of news stories on clergy sexual abuse of minors and the Church's response, the U.S. Bishops and the Canon Law Society of America hosted members of the media for a daylong seminar on Canon Law as it applies to clergy sexual abuse. Four noted canon lawyers gave presentations. See the videos here.

Left Brain, Right Brain in the Legionaries of Christ

One of the things I have learned during my career is the need to develop synergy between both hemispheres of the brain. In order to be truly effective, we need to use the logical and analytical left side of our brain without neglecting the creative and intuitive right side of the brain.

Most analytical, logical, and rational thought takes place in the left hemisphere, where the tasks for well reasoned arguments take place. That may be the reason most people prefer to hold their phones against their right ear. The right ear connects directly to the left side of the brain - the side that processes language and analytical thought.

In today’s work environment, I find the right side of the brain is not used nearly enough. The right hemisphere is where our brains focus on the big picture. It is where we are creative and intuitive. In order to gain a competitive edge, especially in the realm of international business, we need to be able to draw on the resources of our whole brain – creativity and intuition to find the possible solutions and alternatives to a problem and logical and analytical reasoning to implement the solution.

In the world of organizations and business, the logical thinkers who tend to concentrate on data and details often dominate. In my consulting work, I find many teams where not one team-member is right-brain dominant. In part the reason for this is that the detail oriented logical thinkers find it hard to recruit personalities different to their own. The result of such self-selection is quite predictable – the team gets lost in data, details and processes, struggling to see the big picture.

During my time (see my memoir "Driving Straight on Crooked Lines") with the Legionaries of Christ, I think I was able to develop synergy between both halves of my brain.  My boss, Fr. Marcial Maciel, was a logical thinker who focused on detail. He didn’t spend a lot of energy on feelings – but he always seemed to manage to stay in touch with his intuitive side. He trained us to see the big picture, to seek creative solutions and then focus on process and implementation. Because Legionaries, like so many corporate and organizational types, tended to be data-focused logical thinkers the organization became quite left-brain dominant. From the spiritual point of view, this was not necessarily good in and of itself. The how of getting things done tended to be more important than the why.  As a result, we tended to focus on a rational approach to spirituality with a decided bias towards action. On the positive side, that is one of the reasons we got so much support from powerful business people – we knew how to get things done and we spoke their action oriented language.

Our bias toward action was tempered with an intense dedication to prayer – although our prayer life too tended to be structured and regimented. That approach probably worked best for our dominant personality type. A solid prayer life does help one keep in touch with the creative and intuitive side of the brain. I have since learned that optimism is probably the most important emotional asset in business. There’s nothing like a good prayer life to cultivate optimism.

As part of our prayer life, I would have to include the enormously healing, holistic effect of our Gregorian chant.  The French doctor Alfred Tomatis pioneered research on the neurophysiologic effects of chant on the minds and bodies of its singers and listeners. According to his theory, there are two kinds of sound: "discharge" sounds (those that tire, fatigue and drain the listener) and "charge" sounds (those that give energy and health). According to Dr. Tomatis, Gregorian chant may be the most potent "charge" sound to promote strength and vitality. Unlike other types of music, the rhythm of the chant is based on the breathing of the participants rather than on a mathematically calculated beat. Just try listening to a small amount of it each day, or better still, chanting some of the traditional melodies, and you will quickly notice how calming it is as you get in touch with your intuitive and creative side.

I am thankful that most of us analytical types in the Legion got to spend a balanced amount of time on creativity-enhancing exercises. A solid physical exercise regime helped us manage stress; we all spent a lot of time on writing, metaphysics and brainstorming. We listened to well selected classical music and had ample time for silent meditation.  I think the positive result of all of the above, for me, is that I learned to be in touch with both hemispheres of my brain. As I wrote at the beginning, this is not a skill I come across often in the corporate, technically oriented world I live in.  Did I learn anything in the Legionary approach to education that is useful for oft-maligned creative types? Yes. My creatively inclined confreres got in touch with their logical left-brain processes by playing dominoes and chess, studying scholastic philosophy, developing plans and budgets and adhering to the strict schedules that marked our life in community.

Sometimes I wonder, in the midst of the current controversies about the disgraced founder of the Legionaries, if we appreciate the positive and important lessons many of us learned during our time in the Legion. For many, the negative experiences seem to have overcome and obliterated the positive. That doesn’t seem to have been my experience – and for this I am grateful.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Different reactions to Marcial Maciel

This posting is an extended reply to a comment on an earlier post asking me about the different reactions to the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, Fr. Marcial Maciel.

There are many different takes on the current situation. First, let me say that most of my experiences with Fr. Maciel were positive. I was part of his “inner circle” at least for a number of years. During that time I had a lot of fun, learned a lot and was thrilled to be part of the “foundation.” My claim to fame was that I was the first Irish Legionary to set foot in Mexico. Things started to go south for me when I was transferred to New York in 1977. This transfer also coincided with the first General Chapter of the Legion which surprised me by tightening up our already strict rules.

To my mind several things affected our relationship with him. A certain number of the early Legionaries were chosen for their skills at public relations. Fr. Maciel seemed to enjoy our company and we enjoyed his. Hence, life with him was quite relaxed – strict compliance with the rules and regulations faded into the background. We lived the heady excitement of doing something important for the Church. The priests and brothers who formed this group were generally extraverted, self-confident and not “excessively” pious. We focused on getting the job done and we experienced directly the results of our success. I visited Cardinals and benefactors with him, traveled with him in small planes, served as his driver and go-to guy.

Meanwhile, another group spent most of their time and energy in houses of formation. It was almost as if they belonged to a different congregation. While it’s not fair to generalize, I would say they seemed to be to be very compliant, focused on the rules with not too much experience of the “outside” world. No doubt the first group tended to “scandalize” the second one – especially when we returned to the houses of formation.Later, others worked on the apostolate - but with little or no direct experience of the founder.

Personality differences played their role too. Some people don’t relate well to authority figures – they had difficulties with Maciel. I think if they were to have joined the army they too would have had problems. Fr. Maciel clearly had his favorites and was a master at manipulating each individual. No doubt most of us had disagreements or difficulties with him at some time – but none of us ever knew the “full story.” In hindsight, I know I was aware of several pieces of the puzzle of his life and others were aware of the same or different pieces. Most, if not all of us, had no notion of what was really going on. You truly had to live the experience of collaborating with him to understand what it was like. None of us had any reason to doubt his intentions. And it wasn’t just “us” – Popes, Cardinals, Bishops, business people and simple peasants all felt the same way.

I think it’s important to say that I did not always revere him as a “saint”. He was a superb leader who insisted we be loyal to Christ and the Church. At least in the early days, he never set himself up as an example to be followed. We did that. We repeated his stories, added a little exaggeration and in so doing we created the “myth”. People who hardly knew him heard our stories and followed our example of devoted loyalty. When I read of their experiences on “after RC blogs” I think I understand how many, who hardly knew Maciel, accepted him as a “saint”. That’s the image we were presented with by the first Legionaries and it is the image we passed on as part of our recruitment techniques. Hence I relate to their reactions upon discovering that the idol, to put it mildly, had feet of clay.

This is getting a bit long so let me come to a point. If the Vatican had made a more deliberate statement when they recommended a life of prayer and penance for Maciel and if this statement had been immediately communicated to all Legionaries, my guess is we would all have suffered less. I don’t know if Legionary leadership held back of their own volition or if they were instructed by the Vatican to do so. Either way, I think history will show that both the Vatican and the leadership did not move quickly enough.

Meanwhile, my peers tell me they are at now at peace with the awful truth and working on moving ahead with Vatican reforms. As one good priest said to me, “Jack when you were in the Legion, we were part of the Church militant. Now, I am part of a Church that is on her knees. And you know what? I am more comfortable in this Church.”

The younger American Legionary priests are more upset. They didn’t have the same personal experience of Maciel. Not only has the idol “feet of clay” but they feel they have been deceived by the delayed disclosure of the truth by their leaders. So you now have a mixture of generational issues, contrasting cultural approaches, religious beliefs and deeply personal reactions as we all grapple with the notion that the founder was a sociopath.

Like you, I think this is a time for compassion and mercy if the situation is to be resolved. I guess it’s not easy to talk of compassion when so many are still reeling from the hurt and deception. I’m not a betting man, but I don’t think the LC or RC will be shut down. For instance, in the US we have lots of alternatives to the LC schools. That is most definitely not the case in Mexico or in several other countries. Hence I think every effort will be made to separate all that is good in the movement from the perverted influence of the founder. Not an easy task – but it can be done with God’s help and our support for his Vicar and the good people who want to overcome evil by doing good.

Thanks for your comment – and, if you want the full breadth of my experience with Maciel and how we reacted to him, you should read my book!

Whose message is it, anyway?

The following reflection from Michael Krahn's blog, The Ascent to Truth, attributed to Tim Keller, made me think about the Legionaries of Christ. Give them their due - they do appeal to a lot of  the "younger brothers" who are beyond the reach of many parishes :

“Jesus’ teaching consistently attracted the irreligious while offending the Bible-believing, religious people of his day. However, in the main our churches today do not have this effect.

The kind of outsiders Jesus attracted are not attracted to contemporary churches, even our most avant-garde ones. We tend to draw conservative, buttoned-down, moralistic people. The licentious and liberated or the broken and marginal avoid church. That can only mean one thing.

If the preaching of our ministers and the practice of our parishioners doesn’t have the same effect on people that Jesus had, then we must not be declaring the same message that Jesus did.

If our churches aren’t appealing to younger brothers, they must be more full of elder brothers than we’d like to think.”

How Leaders can Turn Adversity into Advantage

When I wrote my memoir, “Driving Straight on Crooked Lines: How an Irishman found his heart and nearly lost his mind” I decided to share my own personal journey and the special circumstances that helped shape who I am today. One of the themes relates to learning to turn adversity into an advantage. I had to learn from my mistakes, getting in touch with my heart and my emotions, and follow the principle that it’s” better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”

Managers and leaders have to face difficult situations all the time. I learned that it is essential to be able to rely on a series of well articulated principles when faced with adversity. These are principles that I was able to think about and develop which served me in good stead in times of adversity. I think the process is akin to learning to drive an automobile on quiet roads before venturing out into traffic. Learn to drive straight first, then you can adapt to crooked roads.

When you are faced with an adverse situation, you need to know what principles to fall back on. To do this, you need to be able to articulate them and incorporate them into your life and leadership style. Being in touch with your principles will do wonders for your self-confidence which, in turn will make you a much more inspiring and effective leader. Humility and resilience are two qualities you need to cultivate. Knowing your values and principles will help you.

Here are some principles, in no particular order, which I believe in. You can think about them and make some of them your own, so that when the time comes they can help you turn adversity to your advantage.
To read more in PDF format click HERE.

Monday, June 14, 2010

What explains the success of the Legionaries of Christ?

I think the Vatican understands that the Legionaries of Christ and the members of Regnum Christi have done, and continue to do, a great deal of good. The Congregation, despite the disgraced founder, has been a conduit of saving grace for many thousands of adherents not precisely because of the work of Maciel but rather despite his reprehensible human flaws. They have achieved phenomenal success in varied apostolic endeavors during a relatively short period of time. The good they have done is from God and not from the founder.

Legionaries since very early on, guided by the entrepreneurial genius of Maciel the founder, learned to work with the best the Catholic Church had to offer – idealistic young men who wanted to be priests, generous young women willing to serve the Church, orthodox Catholic couples seeking a superior Christian education for their children. All of them dissatisfied, to some degree, by the lack of opportunity, organization, talent, and enthusiasm they found in their local parishes and schools.

Maciel the founder believed that Legionaries had much to learn from Communist recruitment techniques and motivational practices. He urged them to work harder and longer than the enemies of the Church. His message focused more on how to get things done. Slowly and imperceptibly methodology became more important than spirituality. For members, the how and why were one and the same.

The founder did a masterful job of keeping his vices secret and his double life diligently hidden from scrutiny. He encouraged his Legionaries and their recruits to preach and practice a totally orthodox spirituality founded on a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and loyalty to the Holy See.  Thankfully, neither the Legion nor the Regnum Christi Movement replicated the duplicity or the personal vices of the founder of which, for the most part,  they were unaware.

However, Maciel’s thinking and double life has sullied the methodology he bequeathed and has deformed the formation of the consciences of the members. The soon-to-be-appointed (Fall, 2010) Vatican delegate who will oversee the re-foundation of the Legion will be faced with the task of helping Legionaries and their adherents untangle Maciel’s twisted thinking from all that is orthodox in their formation. Thankfully, the Legionaries seem to be on-board with this task, promising obedient compliance with the Vatican clean up.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

"Buddy Holly in the Legion of Christ"

I have been caught up with business projects involving lots of travel. Consequently, I've been negligent about posting here. This afternoon, I was very agreeably surprised to read the following review of my book "Driving Straight on Crooked Lines: How an Irishman found his heart and nearly lost his mind" on Amazon.

It's from Paul Lennon, fellow Dubliner who published his story years before me. I think it's a generous and heartfelt review. As Paul says, we both play a similar song on different instruments. I'm taking the liberty of posting it here. Thanks Paul! Funny, how after all these years, our books end up "paired" on Amazon!

I say Buddy Holly because my first impression of Jack was Buddy Holly in a cassock: gangly, with horned-rimmed glasses, who could sing and play the guitar.

This memoir is a must read for the Catholic public, former Legionaries and members of Regnum Christi, their friends and relatives -not to mention priests, bishops, Apostolic Visitators and Commissioners. Let me humbly state that I am one of the people best qualified to write this review. I, too, am a Dubliner, and joined the Legion a year before Jack Keogh. His claim to fame is being the first Irish Legionary to set foot on Mexican soil; mine of being one of the first eight Irishmen to begin Novitiate and take vows in Salamanca, Spain, in what would become the fastest growing and most prestigious order (more precisely "congregations") in the Catholic Church.

Not that Jack and I became bosom buddies. As he explains, Legionaries don't discuss any personal thoughts or feelings among themselves even if they are living side by side. Friendships are not allowed. The memoir shows how every Legionary is an island -of silence, solitude, and secrets- and, for the most part, an island unaware of its own needs. Jack mentions moments of getting in touch with his own Eros -he was more alive than others. Occasionally, Jack pulls back the sunny curtain to reveal sadness, leading us into the mystery of Legionary life. The less enthusiastic and optimistic will find that "Most Legionaries live lives of quiet desperation." Legionaries and Regnum Christi members hide their real selves behind a solid rock happy face façade. "Mom, I'm fine. Everything is wonderful here!" The tragedy is they bury themselves alive.

Former Legionaries can be divided into three groups: those who had a good time/experience with Fr Maciel; those who had a bad time and/or were abused by him in some way; and those with little direct contact with him. Jack belongs to the first group. Marcial Maciel had the uncanny knack of zeroing in on a person's gifts/needs/weaknesses, exploiting them for his own (the Kingdom of Christ's) ends. Jack wanted to figure and do something worthwhile. Maciel sent him to found the Irish Institute in Mexico City among the rich and famous.

Bro. John, our Jack, was always upbeat. I can still recall this gregarious six-footer trying to boost the morale of the troops "in the community", his large frame skipping along the Travertine corridors at Via Aurelia, Rome, as he joined us after one of his expeditions into the outside world, regaling us with a joke, a funny story, or an edifying tidbit about Nuestro Padre. Jack, like the rest of us, tried very hard to be a good Legionary. Everything he says is true. Ours is the same tune, played on different instruments; or wearing different colored glasses, pink, blue, red or black...He the motivational speaker; I the skeptic.

As the "Feeling Introvert" (see Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) I thought a lot about leaving the priesthood, daunted by the practical perspective of life outside the monastery walls. Jack, the "Thinking Extravert" went into action quickly, chose a wife, got married, had a daughter, and entered the business world. We must not minimize the contribution of the woman who joined her life to his at that moment: Collette, an atractive, kind, intelligent, and supportive wife, helping to put "Humpty Dumpty" together again.

Jack is at his best when he drops the breezy debonair, baring his heart; as in the death of his native African friend, Dominique; or good bye to his teenage sweetheart, or his friendship with confreres such as Juan Manuel Amenabar, the ebullient Spanish padre who was director of the Irish Institute without speaking a word of English.

Jack renders a great service by describing what other former members overlook as the obvious but which outsiders ignore and are curious about - the details of daily life -giving a peek into what it is like in a Legion house of formation or apostolate, the various activities, the routines, the rules, the customs of the religious life: our duties as time-keeper, porter, laundry-worker, sacristan, mechanic, driver... He also gives a face to many unknown unselfish Legionaries whose names and stories would have remained in oblivion. Thank you, Jack, for going to the trouble of telling your tale, for taking the risk of sharing your intimacy, for helping to fill in the blanks in the Legion chronicles, and for giving us your personal perspective, for trying to be "objective" and dispassionate about a very passionate subject.

One of the final triggers for Jack's departure from the Legion was when Fr. Maciel cruelly mistreated Jack's fellow exile in Gabon, Luis Lerma. Jack's compassion kicked in and liberated him finally from the yoke around his neck. One of the final triggers of my leaving the Legion was furtively learning -through a mutual lay friend, Angelina - how Maciel mistreated Luis and Jack. Years previously I had picked up on something that destroyed my admiration for Nuestro Padre, and in my mind disqualified the Legion Founder from being a holy man or a saint: Maciel's inhumanity to man (and scorn for women).

J. Paul Lennon, author of Our Father (Maciel) who art in bed, a Naïve and Sentimental Dubliner in the Legion of Christ.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Driving Straight on A Different Journey

Irish priest Brian D’Arcy’s controversial autobiography "A Different Journey" is his story of struggle between his human nature and his calling. As a Passionist Father he found a way of combining his love for music and sport by becoming a chaplain to the entertainment industry. He has integrated a career in journalism and broadcasting with his priesthood. His autobiography was published in 2006. The following short excerpts parallel my own story in "Driving Straight on Crooked Lines: How an Irishman found his heart and nearly lost his mind." D'Arcy joined the Novitiate the same year as I did. The unnamed (Mexican) Legionary recruiter he mentions is the same one who recruited me - Fr. Santiago Coindreau. Brian's reaction about leaving his family to join religious life reminds me of my own.

"In St Michael's College it was the custom for priests to visit and give a really good talk about the work their congregation or order did. Then they'd give you a slip of paper asking if you were interested in their work. If you were interested they sent you material. I remember one priest who came and gave a great talk about his work in South America. It was an appealing and idealistic life. He was from The Legionaries of Christ. At the time I showed some interest, so one evening, about a month afterwards, this priest arrived at our house. He was probably Spanish and looked awfully clean with his white cuffs and gold cufflinks. He looked perfect.

My father and I were out in the field working when this strange priest came out to us. He stood at the edge of the field and beckoned my father to come to him; they talked secretly for 10 minutes or more. He never spoke to me at all. I never knew until 30 years later what he said to my father. First, he asked how much my father earned, and when my father told him, he said, "I don't think your family is rich enough for your son to join us. We're not interested." A cousin in whom my father confided told me that long after my father died. My father never told me, but I discovered that he was deeply hurt by this insult. When he came back to me in the potato drill, all he said was, "You won't be joining that crowd anyway."

The founder of The Legionaries of Christ, in the spring of 2006, was silenced by the Vatican for the alleged abuse of young boys, especially young students who entered his order.

Looking back, I understand now why my father didn't want me to be a priest. He always said we weren't rich enough for me to be a priest. Early on he did his best to change my mind. It would be a very long time afterwards before I understood why."


On the night of the 30th of August 1962, I went to Bundoran to a dance as a kind of a last fling, myself and my brother and a few neighbours. I went to dances regularly before I entered and I still wanted to hang on to the music. It was a double attraction that night. The Melody Aces were the first band and Butch Moore and the Capitol Showband were the second, in the Astoria Ballroom in Bundoran.

There's a quaint story that gives you an indication of the times we lived in back then. I actually played football for a neighbouring club, Kinawley, at underage level, and they took me onto the senior panel as well. I played in the county senior championship semi-final in August when I came on as a sub even though I was only 17 years old. We won the match and got to the final. But I had entered the Passionist monastery at The Graan before the final took place and I never played in the county senior final. We didn't get letters, papers, visits from people or anything like that while we were in the novitiate. We simply entered a monastery and from day one you became a contemplative monk. One day I was a teenager running around Bellanaleck and the next I was a contemplative monk. I never knew who won the county final until Christmas morning, when we were allowed one letter from my family. That was when I first realised that Roslea, not Kinawley, had won the cup.

The day I entered was a really, really sad day. I spent the day crying and saying goodbye to people, places of interest and even the sad old donkey out in the field. The day before I entered I had a sense of it being the last day of my life. I remember going on a bicycle to Enniskillen, crying because I was leaving home at 17 years of age. It was almost like a death in the family. That was the feeling around the house. My mother and my sisters were crying all day. Somebody had arranged to get a car to bring me to The Graan, which was unusual in itself. All my worldly possessions were in one little case.

The bleakness of The Graan was awful."

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Time Magazine Slams Pope Benedict

Time's cover story (June 7, 2010)  is just a diatribe against the Pope - an essay, devoid of newsworthy facts. It reads as if the magazine needs to, once again, smear the Church which it seems to believe is the last standing enemy of liberal progressivism.

I expected a major cover story to contain reporting of actual facts. Instead, it contains embarrassing errors, no understanding of theology and sophomoric reporting. I think this particular story is a telling example of why newsweeklies are failing - it is one more attempt to provide a salacious cover and story "Why Being Pope Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry." with no obvious purpose other than to denigrate the Vatican.