Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Hot topics for the Legionaries of Christ?

A commenter over at the (Spanish language) Trastevere blog seems to have some good information on the current internal debate within the Legionaries of Christ. He suggests there are two levels of internal debate going on. One is the dialogue between the “major superiors” and the plebs. The other, much more animated, between Territorial Directors and the rank and file. He says the following are typical of the questions being frankly discussed with the local Territorial Directors who, he says, are very open with their responses.

I find it heartening to know this internal debate (about which we hear so very little) is apparently alive and well. I have roughly translated the topics which allegedly are "hot" right now within the ranks of the Legionaries. They include:

  • Finding the "truth in our history ("hacer la verdad en nuestra historia")
  • How to help the victims of abuse
  • How did we find ourselves being audited and subjected to a Vatican visitation without an official version of what happened?
  • How do we deal with superiors who may be still allied to the regime?
  • How were our finances managed during so many years?
  • Have we been living outside of canon law during all this time, not living with the appropriate jurisdictions?
  • What about the appointment of superiors who had not reached the age required by canon law?
  • What about Superiors who have held their posts for years, and years?
  • How can we participate in the change process?
  • How can we accept and obey the decisions of the Holy See - when some superiors question them or simply suggest that the Church sometimes makes mistakes?
I've always maintained that mutual trust amongst the members is vital for any organization to survive and thrive. In my opinion, the lack of trust within the Legion is an endemic problem. These questions are a beginning - they could never have been brought up in the not too distant past. Maybe they portend the start of a new experience for the members. I certainly hope so. 

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Lost in Gabon

Gulliver at the Economist's buisness travel blog reports:

A CANADIAN man is suing Lufthansa for C$86,000 ($84,000), claiming the German airline flew him to the wrong African country in March. He says being “abandoned” for three days in Libreville, Gabon, instead of being delivered to his correct destination, Kinshasa in Congo, caused mental anguish. He’s asking for C$76,000 in general damages and C$10,000 in lost income for the mix-up, which saw him detained by police and placed in confinement for a day because he didn’t have a Gabonese entry visa.

Neither Gabon nor the adjoining Congo are great places to visit in March. The weather is hot, humid and the prolific mosquitoes certainly make their presence felt”.

This little vignette reminded me of my own experience arriving in Libreville, en route to Franceville in the interior of Gabon. I left New York with a one-way ticket to Gabon and $100 USD for travel expenses along the way. Here is how I describe it in "Driving Straight on Crooked Lines", the story of my time with the Legionaries of Christ:

A light rain fell as I descended the stairs from the plane and followed the other passengers across the tarmac, into the lackluster terminal building.
Whilst in line at the immigration desk, my Irish passport open at the ready, I noticed the presence of soldiers in camouflage dress. They stood in pairs, each one carrying an automatic weapon. The knot in my stomach tightened. Logically, I knew I had no reason to be afraid, but the soldiers reminded me of the term ‘trigger-happy.’ The few white people in the group of arriving passengers seemed out of place in the sea of native dark-skinned Africans. I fumbled with my belongings, not wanting to draw attention to myself.
The unfamiliar French language, laced with a dialect I did not understand, made me uncomfortable. Despite my fluency in Spanish and Italian, the thought of having to speak French for the next period in my life did not appeal.
As I waited to hand my papers to the bored-looking official at the immigration table, I worried the guards might lock me up in jail because of some stupid mistake caused by my French mispronunciation.

“Bon jour!” I said as I approached the desk. The unsmiling immigration official didn’t return my greeting. He motioned for my passport, and glanced at it perfunctorily.
“Work visa?”
“No,” I replied carefully, “I do not have a work visa.”
“Show me your return ticket,” he said.
I had arrived in Libreville on a one-way ticket. This seemed to be a problem.
“The Catholic Bishop of Franceville is expecting me.” I hoped this explanation might carry some weight. But the small, thin bureaucrat did not seem at all impressed.
“The Consul at the Gabonese Embassy in Washington D.C. said I don’t need a visa,” I continued, alarm beginning to rise.
 He looked at me blankly.
 “I’m a Catholic priest,” I added lamely.

The slight, impassive official beckoned to a couple of soldiers. He handed them my passport and said something I didn’t understand. The soldiers escorted me to a small office in the arrivals area.
“Sit down here and wait,” they instructed. They locked the door from the outside, and through a glass window, I could see them sit on rickety wooden chairs, machine guns on their laps, chatting to each other. I had no clue what was going to happen to me, and realized my Irish blarney and charm, which had saved my neck in other situations, might not work so well in Gabon.

At the time, I never thought of suing anyone - not that I would have won - but mine was a different mindset. But I can still empathize with the guy in the Economist story being placed in confinement for a day. And, of course, I stayed on in Gabon for substantially longer than he did....

Saturday, September 25, 2010

"Commissioners" named for Legionaries and Msgr. Velasio De Paolis

The names of the four commissioners who will assist the Papal Delegate to the Legion of Christ have been named. I can't find any "official" citation from the Vatican. However, the names - which had been speculated about for the past couple of days - have been made public. They are the same ones revealed in the leaks I mentioned in a prior post.

Bishop Brian Farrell, L.C. (Secretary for the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity). Brian went to the same high school, in Dublin, as I did. He joined the Legion a year before me. He is a thoughtful and spiritual man who, because of his full time work at the Vatican and his legal obligation to the Pope as a Bishop, has had at least as much exposure to the universal Church as he has had to the LC. My hope is that he will use his personal experience, as a Legionary, to describe, interpret and translate the internal secretive Legionary culture for his colleagues. Brian's brother Kevin (who features in some of the escapades described in my memoirs about the Legion, "Driving Straight on Crooked Lines"),  left the Legion shortly after me. He worked as a diocesan priest in Washington, DC where he was consecrated Bishop. He is now the Bishop of Dallas, TX.

Father Gianfranco Ghirlanda, SJ (native of Rome, noted canonist and former rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome)

Monsignor Mario Marchesi (Vicar General of the northern Italian diocese of Cremona and former professor of canon law at the Legionaries University Regina Apostolorum in Rome)

Monsignor Agostino Montan (a member of the religious congregation Josefino de Murialdo, professor of Canon law  at the Lateran University, Rome)

The special delegate to the consecrated women of the Regnum Christi Movement is:
Bishop Ricardo Blázquez, Archbishop of Valladolid, Spain since last April (formerly Bishop of Bilbao). Archbishop Blázquez was one of the "Apostolic Visitors" who audited the Legionaries.

It's an interesting team. An Irish Legionary Bishop, who has spent most of his life more immersed in the Vatican than in the daily life of the Legion; an academic Jesuit canonist, and two specialists in Canon law. No one from Mexico nor from the United States. I presume their first order of business will be  a total revision of the constitutions and rules of the Legion. That should be followed by a General Chapter which will accept the revisions and elect new leaders. (A General Chapter is convened for that very purpose - comprised of voting representatives from all regions of the congregation. Up now, the prior chapters were convened and controlled by the disgraced founder, Marcial Maciel).

For the sake of so many Legionary seminarians and priests - especially the younger ones - who, I am told are growing increasingly anxious because of the leadership void, and of course the thousands of lay people involved with the Regnum Christi and Legionary schools, I trust the Delegate and his "commissioners" will move expeditiously to right the ship of the Legion.

Bishop Blázquez, former president of the Spanish episcopal conference, should have a good understanding of daily life in the Legion following his experience of the Apostolic Visitation. He started his own priestly life in a minor seminary (Apostolic School in Legionary parlance). He is experienced in matters of doctrine and is well known to Pope Benedict because of his work at the Congregation for the Faith. The situation of the consecrated women in the Regnum Christi is perhaps the most poignant. Now they have the Delegate they requested. Let's hope that he moves quickly and pastorally to normalize their situation in the Church.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Legion of Christ:: "what’s good will be kept safe and what needs to go will be duly culled"

I am sure many Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi members are tired of the on-going analysis of their predicament in the wake of the revelations about the scandalous life of Marcial Maciel the disgraced founder.

Joan Kingsland over at the Regnum Christi blog, just penned some thoughts about the process of reform that is already underway. It seems only fair to give some time to her analysis. Here is my paraphrase of her comments where she compares what the Legion is going through to the culling of blueberries - separating the good berries from the rotten ones.

In his May 1st Vatican Communiqué, the Holy Father spoke of “the need to redefine the charism of the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ”. He didn’t say the Legion has no charism at all, or that its charism is somehow up for grabs. Rather, right then and there he put his finger on the heart of the Legion’s charism by identifying its “true core, that of the ‘militia Christi’ that characterizes the apostolic and missionary activity of the Church.”

In his June 16 letter naming Archbishop Velasio De Paolis, CS, as his personal Delegate, the Holy Father words were slightly different, while maintaining his same line of thought. He spoke of “the need and urgency of a path of in-depth revision of the Institute’s charism”. Certainly an in-depth revision implies the serious matter of culling; but it’s with the aim of protecting and perfecting what’s already there, something good that underlies and inspires the entire process.
This sheds light on why the Legion and Regnum Christi Movement remain open to new members and to ordaining deacons and priests. You don’t revise what’s rotten: you simply throw it out.
 How is this “culling” (an analogy to picking blueberries) going to take place? Above all through an in-depth revision of the Legion’s Constitutions, hence the specific mission of the Delegate of the Holy Father. The July 9th decree, approved by the Holy Father and signed by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary of State, specifies that “the paramount task of the Papal Delegate is to initiate, accompany and complete the revision of the Constitutions.” It makes sense that this is to be the pathway for the Legion’s renewal since the authentic tradition of an institute is “present in its rule, constitutions and statutes” (Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consacrata, n. 36). This same decree specifies that members at all levels of the Legion are to participate in the revision of the Constitutions. No doubt it will be challenging to consult so many people, but the results should be very enriching.
 The Pope’s fatherly interest and closeness to us along our current purifying pathway, provides great security and peace that what’s good will be kept safe and what needs to go will be duly culled.

I join Joan in praying that what’s good will be kept safe and what needs to go will be duly culled. And the sooner it happens, the better for everyone - especially LC & RC members who are stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Archbishop de Paolis gets his helpers

Given the situation of the Legionaries of Christ, the casual outside observer could be forgiven that it is taking forever to see some "action" from Archbishop de Paolis, the Pope's delegate to the Legion. One of the missing pieces of the ongoing puzzle is the names of the four "commissioners" who are supposed to help him with his daunting task. I have it on good authority that they have just been appointed and that will be named publicly. I gave my word not to reveal the names. I'm a little surprised by one of them; the other three are more "obvious." My initial reaction is that all are eminently qualified.

Another piece of heartening news is that a vice-Delegate has been appointed for the group of third grade consecrated women.

Hopefully, the full details will be revealed publicly very, very soon. I'll be curious to check the veracity of my source! Most importantly, I'm hoping that Legionaries and the "third graders" will feel that the rescue operation is moving into a higher gear. For those on the inside, this is dragging on far too long.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Vatican "perplexed and astonished" at investigation of Bank

Based in Vatican City, the Vatican Bank was set up by Pope Pius XII in 1942. It has no branches, and operates as an offshore institution outside EU rules. It is headed by a professional banker overseen by commission of five cardinals. The bank has no shareholders. All profits set aside for charitable or religious works.

The Vatican Bank was last mired in scandal in 1982 when its governor Archbishop Paul Marcinkus was indicted over his involvement with the collapse of what was then Italy's largest private bank, Banco Ambrosiano. I met the Archbishop in Mexico City, when he stayed at the Centro Cultural Interamericano of the Legionaries of Christ with some friends en route to a scuba diving vacation in Cozumel.  Later, he was accused of having links with organized crime groups. He died in Arizona four years ago. The fallout from that scandal took a darker turn when two of its top executives, one of them its chairman, Roberto Calvi, was found hanged under Blackfriars Bridge in London.

Now, the head of the Vatican Bank, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, according to a report on Italian state television RAI, is under investigation as part of a money-laundering inquiry, police sources say. According to the RAI report, no proof of money-laundering had emerged in the inquiry, but investigators said the Vatican Bank had failed to disclose information about banking operations as mandated by Italy’s 2007 law against money-laundering.

The inquiry was launched after two suspicious transactions were reported to tax police in Rome. Prosecutors seized 23m euros ($30m; £19m) from the bank's accounts with another smaller institution.

The Vatican said it was "perplexed and astonished", and expressed full confidence in Mr Tedeschi.

Tedeschi, 65, is a father of five, a devout Catholic and member of Opus Dei. He teaches financial ethics at a Catholic university in Milan. He has been in charge of the bank for a year, appointed by Pope Benedict. He was formerly head of Spanish bank Santander's Italian operations  Tedeschi has strongly denied allegations the bank broke anti-money laundering rules and sees news of the investigation into him and the bank as an attack on him, the institution and the Vatican.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Bishops meet at Legionaries of Christ house in Rome

 "Distinctly Catholic," a blog by Michael Sean Winters at the "National Catholic Reporter" published a "post card" on September 13, 2010, from Bishop David M. O’Connell, newly ordained coadjutor bishop of Trenton, New Jersey, about the annual meeting of new bishops, which is currently being held in Rome:

The meeting of the new bishops of the world is taking place these days at the house of formation for the Legionaries of Christ, Regina Apostolorum, on the outskirts of Rome. Well over 100 recently ordained bishops have gathered together from all over the world at the invitation of the Vatican's Congregation for Bishops to study and discuss the roles and responsibilities attached to episcopal service in the Catholic Church. The United States has the largest group in attendance with 25 bishops, two of whom were ordained only within the last week. The meetings will last until September 17.
Beginning with morning prayer and Mass each day at 7:30 am, the bishops are assisted by hundreds of seminarians belonging to the Legion. The facilities and grounds are spectacular and the Legionaires have been superb hosts. Meals are well prepared and served by members of the community who have demonstrated an uncanny ability to anticipate virtually every need.

You can read the full text at Postcard from Bishops meeting in Rome.

Given the circumstances surrounding the legionaries of Christ at this time, their house of formation is an interesting choice to host this meeting. It will be interesting to see if any other new bishops comment on their experience. I'm surprised at how little publicity this event has garnered.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

"Of Stolen Cows and Crooked Lines"

Deirdre Mundy writes at MommyWrites. She has occasionally argued with me on several blogs - she says, "if we'd been in the same pub, I would have leapt across the table to strangle him!" I didn't know she felt so strongly. As a result, I'm not sorry I haven't frequented any pubs in her neck of the woods! Deirdre has just written a review of "Driving Straight on Crooked Lines" which she posted on her blog. As I read it, I wondered when she'd unleash her fury. I prepared myself for the worst.

Actually, Deirdre has written a perceptive review. When my wife read it, she mentioned she agreed entirely with Deirdre's appraisal. High praise indeed! I've gone ahead and posted it with others on the book website. But because Deirdre and I have debated about the Legion, I thought I should go ahead and publish it here too. I appreciate her taking the time to read the book and write this review for which I thank her. I am cautiously optimistic that, should the occasion arise, it may now be safe for me to visit pubs in a certain part of the country....  Thanks Deirdre for your "fair and balanced" approach.

I’ve been arguing with Jack Keogh, otherwise known as “The Monk,” for months. We’ve butted heads on several blogs, we’ve disagreed vociferously, and on a few occasions, if we’d been in the same pub, I would have leapt across the table and tried to strangle him!

With that history, I wasn’t sure what I’d find when I opened “Driving Straight on Crooked Lines.” I think I was expecting a rousing defense of the Legion. Instead, Jack gave a fascinating, deeply personal account of what it was like to be a Legionary in the early days. His writing puts the reader behind his eyes and takes you along for the ride. In the end, his book answered a few important questions for me: What were they thinking? Why didn’t anyone see? Why would anyone have stayed? How do people decide to leave?

It seems like most accounts of Legion life have been written by melancholic introverts with a tendency toward extreme scruples. For these people, Legion life was Hell. The whole structure seemed to be set up to keep introverts miserable, subservient, and broken. Unfortunately, these accounts also repel many current LC and RC – it’s easy to write the authors off. “Well, of course the Legion was a bad experience for him. He was a bad fit! He should never have stayed! After all, it’s not like the door was locked!”

Jack Keogh was not introverted, melancholic, or overly scrupulous. He was an extrovert, set all afire in his quest to save Latin America from the communists. He was an optimist, and enjoyed most of his time in the Legion. He saw Maciel’s crushing lists of rules as mere guidelines, and broke them without guilt, treating punishments as the price to pay for having some fun.

And Jack did have fun. Lots of fun. As a driver, he didn’t have to spend much time in stifling community life. He traveled with Maciel, met heads of state and movie stars, and received glamorous assignments like turning around failing schools, working with cardinals, and establishing a Legion presence in a wealthy New York suburb. He took vacations, went to musicals, and entertained wealthy donors.

As I read, I got sucked in by all the travel, glamour and fun. I had to work to remember that, as the Vatican declared in its communiqué, Marcial Maciel had no religious sentiment or scruples. If I, an adult reading Monk’s memoir, found it so easy to be sucked into the exciting world of the early Legion, is it any wonder that so many boys were ensnared by Maciel’s order?

Still, even as Jack was having fun, there were hints of the revelations to come. Maciel repeatedly condones or recommends acts of dishonesty –For instance, lying about the contents of a lost suitcase to receive a bigger settlement. Or allowing the brothers to build a compartment in the bus so that they can smuggle electronics and alcohol across European borders. Why did they go along with his suggestions? It seems like their consciences were lulled to sleep by the knowledge that Maciel was a living saint. So obviously, these sins weren’t really sins, but simply God’s Providence helping the young congregation save money.

In between all the fun and busy-ness, Jack has doubts about the Legion. He begins to think of Maciel as a ‘slick operator,’ not a living saint, but a flawed man that God is using for great things. Jack has doubts about his call to the priesthood, and is on the verge of leaving several times. Yet whenever he’s about to return home to his family, there’s a new challenge or treat. Legion life becomes fun and exciting again and he doesn’t have time for all that difficult reflection and doubt. In a way, Maciel is almost Satanic, tempting Jack away from his vocation and a deeper relationship with God with pretty baubles – enjoyable but fleeting.

Jack is a golden boy in the Legion – loved, feted, coddled and treated as long as he is useful. Then the day comes when he’s no longer useful, and, like so many Legionaries before him, he’s exiled, ignored, and finally gone.

In the end, I think it was his early faith formation that helped him leave. Even though Jack enjoys himself in the Legion, he has a niggling sense that something’s not right – that the life he’s living isn’t really what religious life is supposed to be like, and that Maciel isn’t really what the founder of a congregation ought to be.

I found myself wondering about the other sort of Legionary—the sort who grew up in a Regnum Christi family, spent his formative years in K4J and Conquest and then went straight into Apostolic School at 12. How can a boy like that even understand what’s wrong with Maciel’s vision? If he’s been formed to be Maciel’s ideal apostle since pre-school, how can he hope to break free as an adult?

Jack was lucky – he had a loving family who was happy to welcome home the prodigal son. Because of his time as ‘Golden Boy,’ he had friends and connections on two continents. He was able to build a good life for himself outside of the Legion. At the same time, I finished the book feeling deeply sorry for him.

The Legion took twenty years of his life. Those are twenty years where he had almost no contact with his family – twenty years that opened a chasm between Jack and his brother, twenty years he couldn’t spend sharing his parents’ joys, and twenty years that his absence contributed to their sorrows.

I also mourned for the Church. As a boy, Jack had dreamed of being an Irish missionary priest and ministering to the sick in Africa. If only he’d tried his vocation with a different order, instead of with the Legionaries!

I’d heartily recommend this book to anyone interested in the early history of the Legion, to anyone who wonders why some Legionaries insist that the Legion was a good experience for them, and for any of my friends and acquaintances who still aren’t sure why people are so upset about the damage that the Legion and Regnum Christi have done to the Church.

One huge caveat – Jack does not tell his story straight through from beginning to end. He jumps around a lot, going forward and backwards in time. I found it helpful to make a timeline to keep track. Still, I enjoyed the book – Jack’s voice is unique among ex-legionary accounts, and he gives an excellent view into the founding of the Legion. I didn’t go into this book expecting to like it or to like Jack Keogh. (Honestly, I was ready to rip it apart before I began.) I finished it with a deeper understanding for how Maciel tempted the early Legionaries, and how even those who weren’t abused were seduced and used.

In a way, Jack’s tale is like the story of a young Irishman who is kidnapped by fairies and spends years dancing and eating and drinking under the hill- only to emerge decades later to find that he’s been frozen in time while the world has grown and changed- and the ‘gold’ given to him by the fairies turns out to be nothing but a pocket full of dried leaves.

While it might not be essential for understanding Maciel or the Legion, it’s helpful for understanding the Legionaries, where they’re coming from, and how they might get to where they need to go.

Monday, September 13, 2010

More on the Legionaries of Christ and the trapped Chilean miners

According to the British newspaper The Guardian, the Chilean government is now planning to rescue the 33 miners trapped in tunnels 700 metres underground in 60 days, rather than the previously announced 120, as fears grow for their health. Drilling on the main rescue tunnel is expected to begin today. The government is now organising two distinct rescue operations.

The main focus is a machine that bores straight down to 688m and creates a chimney-type duct that could be used to haul the miners out one by one in a rescue basket. A second drilling operation will attempt to intercept a mining tunnel at a depth of roughly 350m. The miners would then have to make their way through several miles of dark, muddy tunnels and meet the rescue drill at roughly the halfway point of their current depth of 688m.

The government on Sunday baptised the three bore hole tubes. "The first is 'Hope', the second 'Perseverance', the third 'The Hand of God,'" said Walter Herrera, the manager of Geotec, a firm which has been instrumental in the drilling. "It was almost impossible to get to the point where we are, we had many problems with [drill holes] deviating. It was God's will that guided us."While the government resolve technical problems, medical and mental health professionals must keep the miners occupied and happy. Signs of depression have been detected in some miners,

I’d also like to build on this "news" update and address those who asked about the analogy I made between the Legionaries of Christ and the trapped Chilean miners. What follows is a direct quote from a comment I left on an RC related blog.

Over the years, I’ve had to ask myself what I really think about the LC, especially in light of the awful behavior of the founder. Obviously, the answers come on many levels which a reader aptly characterizes as Peasant, Monk, and Cow (from the story about the "monk who stole the cow"  - see sidebar.) But let me say why I think the miner analogy came to me.

Leaving the LC was an extraordinarily difficult thing to do because, for me, it meant leaving the religious life and the priesthood. A very painful decision taken in the context of traditional Catholic family, loyalty to countless friends and acquaintances I felt I was “letting down” and, not least, the persistent brainwashing that to leave was to risk eternal condemnation. Maciel agreed that I had become aware of the “emperors’ absence of clothes” – he was actually very kind at the end – and sent me to Africa. Ever since I was a child I had wanted to work in Africa, with lepers. Of course, when I got there reality caught up with me and MM’s actions didn’t seem so very kind at all from the other side of the Equator. I left – and made darn sure I exited in good standing with the Church. Behind me, I left some great LC “brothers” (not really friends,) the only family I had lived with for 20 years.

They are the ones who remind me of the trapped miners. They are stuck in the bowels of a deep mine surrounded by an unstable geological structure. I am on the outside. It is very difficult for my peers – and any of them over a certain age – to leave, to “escape.” They are with the only family they have known, they trust their superiors, and many would not know “where” to go. The diocesan priesthood or another congregation is neither an obvious nor easy choice. Life in the Legion is a very hard act to follow. Those who haven’t digested all the facts of their situation still need to come to the full realization of what their beloved founder bequeathed them. Their emotions must be all over the place – anger, shame, revulsion, frustration, fear, sorrow and so many more. Nearly all of the legionaries I have known are good men who try hard to be holy and faithful priests. Of course they were manipulated by MM, and, in turn, participated in the system. But that is not why they joined nor did they choose to get caught up in the web he wove. Even though they have shunned all of their brothers (at least the ordained ones) who left, I find myself feeling sorry for them. It’s a mixture of sorrow and loyalty towards ones' dysfunctional family. I can’t paint them all with the “bad” brush because I know they are good men. Men who have left home, country, culture to work in the vineyard of the Lord, doing their best to live the Evangelical counsels (not particularly easy in this day and age.). I am sure there are “bad apples” in the group but I truly believe they are in the minority.

Because of the way they have been trained, I expect they will be totally “loyal” to the Pope’s delegate. Probably unquestioning – which, in my opinion, is not good. They will trust that the Delegate is a good man – but they have already been let down very badly by a man they revered even more. Like the miners, they will have to learn what real trust is all about. They will have to learn to think critically. They will have to learn to know each other and leave the “personal islands” that the founder designed for them. Deep down they will have to learn to trust the hierarchy – including the Pope. They should be angry with their superiors for not providing timely, full disclosure. Much as they love the papacy, they have to be asking themselves why the Vatican (including the current Pope) didn’t move faster and directly. I know for sure that senior Vatican cardinals (including Ratzinger) had enough information to demand action in 1982. That’s all pretty earth shattering stuff for guys that lived an unhealthily sheltered life. Many of them are in denial. Coming out into the glare of the sunshine will take time.

I’m not trying to persuade anyone of anything here. I’m perhaps trying to explain to myself why I seem to cause the perceptions I do on this blog [" being defensive of the legion of Christ"]. I note that the experience of having been an LC, and a priest, is completely different to those who were/are in the Regnum Christi, the Legion's lay movement. I suspect it’s a different sense of loyalty – Legionaries actually left our parents, siblings, and our world, to join a congregation, relinquishing the option to found our own families.

Twenty years of LC life later, and the same again of "lay" life, it’s devastating to know the awful secrets of the founder. I’ve been through all of the emotions I mentioned above including deep sadness. I can rail against the mine owners and operators, the “system,” the fraud, the lies, the collaborators, and the abuse.

I hate the fact that so many LC probably don’t feel trapped or in need of being rescued. That, for me, is the biggest part of the tragedy. Which is why I want them out of the mine, in the sunshine, with an opportunity to change, to grow, to serve the Church. They most definitely have not been kind to me and, humanely speaking, I think I have every right and reason to abandon them. I’m pretty sure many of them wouldn’t even want my “support.” That’s them, still trapped in a mine. As for me, sinner that I am, I just can’t bring myself to throw stones, at my dysfunctional ex-family, during the rescue operation. For what it’s worth, I don’t judge those who do. I get the anger, which I share. But I think I know how people feel, and react, when they are being stoned. Maybe that’s why I am “defensive” of them… at least until they get “out of the mine.”

Friday, September 10, 2010

Another book about Fr. Marcial Maciel founder of the Legionaries of Christ

 Several readers of my book "Driving Straight on Crooked Lines: How an Irishman found his heart and almost lost his mind" compare it to another book, written by former Legionary Paul Lennon. Paul wrote a gracious review of mine on Amazon.  So, I'd like to publish here what I said about his book.

The same song on different instruments  May 25, 2010

Paul Lennon, in "Our Father Who Art in Bed" mentions two Legionary companions of his, a Spaniard and an Irishman. According to Paul, both were sent to Gabon in Central West Africa "to learn their lesson." I am the Irishman in question now writing a very belated review of Paul's book.

First I should say that although I read and enjoyed Paul's heart-wrenching memoir, I hated the title. Like Paul, I too had serious difficulties with Marcial Maciel the founder of the legionaries of Christ. Although my fellow Dubliner joined the legion a couple of years before me, he left shortly after I did. During our time in the congregation we sometimes existed in parallel universes - I was assigned to work with our most affluent supporters while Paul toiled in the heat and humidity of our missions in Chetumal, Mexico. Our careers overlapped for a short time in Mexico City, where Paul headed "The School of Faith." He didn't live in our community but he joined us most days for our midday meals. That's where I came to appreciate his intellect and his passion for the underdog and downtrodden. At that stage in our lives neither of us talked to each other about our doubts and nascent rebellion against the Legion.

After I published my memoir of my time in the Legion, Driving Straight on Crooked Lines: How an Irishman found his heart and nearly lost his mind I re-read "Our Father who Art in Bed." I felt as if I were hearing my own song, played on a different instrument. Our experiences are very similar but told from very different perspectives. Unlike me, Paul actually met some of the victims of Maciel's abuse. Characteristically this "fired him up" - as it should have - and he became an ardent crusader against the abuses of the founder and the dysfunctional aspects of the congregation we both once wanted to love. Meanwhile, I was busy taking care of my new career, playing financial catch-up to support my growing family. Back in 1998 when Paul was meeting with some of the victims, I was quite oblivious to the awful allegations being made about Maciel. If I knew about them, I would not have believed them. Like Paul, I had no personal inkling at all of the level of Maciel's abuse while we were both in the Legion. I chose not to be part of Paul's crusade, hanging on to the positive aspects of my experience in the Legion. History, of course, has vindicated Paul's brave position. This makes his book even more gripping - he is the "naive and sentimental" poet recounting his life, unafraid to reveal the raw emotions he felt. "Driving" our community cars and buses was what distracted me in the Legion. For Paul, I think it was soccer. I was exposed to the debonair side of Maciel the brilliant entrepreneur. Paul was quicker to pick up on the Machiavellian manipulation.

Paul's book is a must read. Indeed, in a fantasy world if we could collate the different chapters in our books, I think the readers would get an even more complete picture of the disgraced fraud to whom we both showed so much loyalty. Meanwhile, to quote the American dentist who revised Paul's teeth, deprived of dental care for so many years in the Legion, saying, "You must come from very good stock!" I suggest the same can be said for his mind, his heart and his soul. His is a seminal book, based on real-life experiences. He could have called his book "Scoring goals on a bumpy pitch!" And then I would have no quibbles.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Building trust and the need for full ethical disclosure

The belief that “transparency results in responsibility and ethics” seems to be a new axiom for our time. Antonino Vaccaro and Joan Fontrodona, two ethics professors, writing in the Economist, argue that greater openness does not lead to better corporate governance. They say,

Today’s call for transparency is as simple as our mothers’ advice: lying is both bad and risky. In our complex corporate environment, failure to heed the spirit of this basic lesson—and taking comfort instead in sharing mountains of information as a means to ensure supposedly ethical behavior—leaves corporations and society exposed to lapses in responsibility and good citizenship.

They make a salient point, which I think offers useful guidance to the Legionaries of Christ in terms of their need to retain the trust of members and supporters - full, ethical disclosure is essential. The congregation has improved its communications with the outside world since I was a member, but still has lots of room for improvement. Heeding this advice, offered to the corporate world, ought to strengthen their resolve.

Full transparency is always associated with “data asphyxia” ....  It seems evident that a balance is required. But achieving that requires managers to construct a well thought out information strategy that takes account of quite a long list of economic, social and, yes, even ethical issues. Successfully addressing this ethical expectation is more than a source of competitive advantage; it is key to gaining the trust of employees, current and potential customers, partners, and even competitors. By the same token, attempts to hide potentially relevant information or, even worse, disclosing false or confusing information, could be catastrophic and companies in many sectors (from banking to biomedical) have experienced the heavy costs of being caught out in these dirty games

Solid advice, good for business and good for the Church.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Friday, September 3, 2010

Fifty years of flashback. Happy Labor Day!

Labor Day weekend holiday in the USA. Time to reflect on the summer that, this year, seems to have come and gone more quickly than usual.

Here is a short video that provides a great flashback through the past half century. Turn up your speakers, sit back and enjoy a review of 50 years of history in less than 3 minutes! Thanks to Billy Joel and some guy from the University of Chicago with time to Google!

Happy Labor Day

Trapped Chilean miners and the Legionaries of Christ

When the rescuers asked Luis Urzua, the leader of the trapped Chilean miners what they needed he said, "That you rescue us as quickly as possible, and that you don't abandon us."  When I read that phrase and thought about the awful situation of the miners trapped deep below the earth, the Legionaries of Christ came to mind. The Legion has been on my mind because writing my book "Driving Straight on Crooked Lines: how an Irishman found his heart and nearly lost his mind," recalling my experiences with them, rekindled lots of deep memories.

The Legionaries of Christ have just undergone an audit (Apostolic Visitation) by the Vatican which mostly focused on the conduct of Father Marcial Maciel Degollado the founder. The examiners found “the very grave and objectively immoral actions of Father Maciel, confirmed by incontrovertible testimonies, in some cases constitute real crimes and manifest a life devoid of scruples and authentic religious meaning.” They went on to say, "This life was unknown to the great majority of the Legionaries, above all because of the system of relationships constructed by Father Maciel, who was able skillfully to create alibis for himself, to obtain trust, confidence and silence from those around him, and to reinforce his personal role as a charismatic founder.”

Another statement in the Vatican’s findings, comes to mind in light of the Chilean mine disaster: “the discovery and the knowledge of the truth concerning the founder gave rise among the members of the Legion to surprise, dismay and profound grief, which was clearly brought out by the Visitators.” Now, the Legionaries are faced with the need to redefine the charism of the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ, preserving its true nucleus, ….not be identified with the drive for efficiency at any cost.” They must “review the exercise of authority,” “preserve the enthusiasm of the young people’s faith, their missionary zeal and their apostolic dynamism, by means of adequate formation.” Disappointment regarding the founder could call into question their vocation and the nucleus of the charism that belongs to the Legionaries of Christ and is proper to them.

I expect that in their current situation, the vast majority of Legionaries must be asking the Church, like the leader of the trapped miners, “rescue us as quickly as possible, and don't abandon us.” To which the Holy Father responds that [he] “intends to reassure all the Legionaries and members of the Movement Regnum Christi that they will not be left in isolation: the Church firmly intends to accompany them and to help them along the path of purification that awaits them.”  Not unlike the trapped Chilean miners, the survival of the Legionaries, as a distinct religious congregation within the Catholic Church, will depend in large measure on their willingness to trust their “rescuers.” It will also require the “emergence” of new leaders with specific abilities for the job at hand. And, of course, they must have a very clear understanding of their situation and their need for “rescue.”

Chile has seen a boom over the past decade as rising copper prices filled the government's coffers and allowed it to ride out the global recession. Record copper prices also meant old mines with deteriorating infrastructure became valuable again. The Legion of Christ also experienced unprecedented growth and success in a very short period of time. The congregation found a “niche” where old-fashioned discipline and a strict understanding of the evangelical counsels combined with the ability to attract leaders and raise funds enabled them to recruit 800 priests and 2,500 major and minor seminarians, with houses in 22 countries. Regnum Christi has a membership of about 70,000 youths, adults, deacons and priests in more than 30 countries. It is said that charitable works make up about $50 million of the Legion's $650 million yearly budget. A network of twenty-one ‘Mano Amiga’ (Helping Hands) schools serve 13,000 poor children, whose parents pay about $20 a month in tuition. Regnum Christi members started, and continue, to drive many of Mexico's leading charitable efforts, such as an extraordinarily successful Telethon for disadvantaged children, and a supermarket program where customers round their bill up, to donate money for a national food bank. In El Salvador, the Congregation built entire small towns for disaster victims, complete with schools, churches and medical facilities. I know that the President of at least one country is a member of Regnum Christi.

Now the Legionaries, in a sense, are trapped, awaiting the outcome of the Church’s rescue mission with which they will need to collaborate in a great sense of trust.  Like the situation of the miners some facets of the rescue are within their control. But the key to their survival is also in the hands of “outside” rescuers.

The 33 Chilean miners were trapped on 5 August by a massive collapse in the roof of the San Jose mine, located outside the northern Chilean city of Copiapó. The miners have already endured an amount of time trapped underground unprecedented in modern memory. The San Jose mine had been closed twice for safety violations and multiple fatalities. Fr. Maciel, the founder of the Legion, was accused of violations in the 1950s of which he was exonerated - under circumstances, which in the light of what we now know, must be considered dubious.

For two weeks, a series of probes has tunneled hundreds of meters trying to find the refuge where the miners were thought to be gathered. They repeatedly missed their mark, and officials began blaming the mine for not operating with updated maps or modern safety equipment.

The miners are stuck 700 meters (2,300 feet) below the surface waiting for a drilling machine that to excavate up to 20 meters (65 feet) per day -- and for the initial shaft being drilled to be doubled in diameter to permit each one to be pulled up. The escape tunnel will be about 26 inches (66 centimeters) wide — the diameter of a typical bicycle wheel — and stretch for more than 2,200 feet (688 meters) through solid rock. Miners will have to be no more than 35 inches (90 centimeters) around the waist to make it out of the tunnel.

Some mining experts believe it could take less than the estimated four months to dig the rescue tunnel. If drilling goes as planned the survivors will then face the ordeal of squeezing into a tubular, metal cage for three hours as they are slowly pulled up one at a time. Meanwhile, water, food and other supplies are being dropped through three fist-sized shafts drilled to the men. Authorities have started vaccinating the trapped men against tetanus, diphtheria, flu and pneumonia to prevent outbreaks of disease.

Many concerned onlookers of the Legion’s dilemmas are hoping for swift resolution. For the naysayers who advocate the suppression of the congregation, too much time has passed already. My take is that the process of healing the congregation from the dastardly effects of the founder’s conduct will take time.

Among the first things to happen in such dire predicaments has already happened in the mine. The miners appointed leaders among themselves. This process is referred to as “emergent leadership.” In times of crisis a person’s rank or official standing has less to do with leadership than competence does. The person with the “right” competencies for the job at hand emerges from the group.

Other normal, everyday leadership attributes such as popularity, likeability, and powers of persuasion are replaced by competence for the particular task. The most competent people lead.  One of the greatest challenges faced by the Legionaries is that – in my estimation – individual Legionaries do not know each other. Each man is an island, cut off from the deepest thoughts and feelings of his peers. This does not facilitate the process of "emergent" leadership. Maybe as they now endure feelings of claustrophobia and being "trapped" they will force themselves to leave their individual islands and break with the awful culture that isolated them, from each other and the outside world.

Just a couple of days ago, a former colleague of mine, whom I had not been in touch with for almost 40 years since he left the Legion, read my book and decided to call me. He said, “What if, when you and I were 25, we could have sat down, had a beer and told each other what we really thought about our life in the Legion?” He concluded that we would probably have left. I added, “Or we would have rebelled and demanded the necessary changes.” But Legionaries don’t talk to each other. That’s a huge, endemic challenge they need to remedy before they can hope to achieve change.

On the psychological level, the miners have to deal with physical misery, separation from the outside world (especially their families), uncertainty and ambiguity about the future. Not unlike the Legionaries predicament. In this situation, the concept of “trust” is especially important. For instance, if the miners do not perceive the rescuers as to be entirely forthcoming, they could lose their trust. This could produce the disastrous consequence of uniting the trapped men against the people running the rescue operation. Too little information from leaders who are not physically present causes discontent and distrust.

It is absolutely vital that the authorities on the outside do not lose the trust of the miners trapped a half mile below ground. I would suggest there is a parallel with the Legionaries. The miners are all poor, and the company that owns the mine is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. So the miners are worried about the safety and well-being of their loved ones, and are powerless to help. They only have a very general idea of how long the rescue may take. The rescue team isn't ready to let families talk directly with the miners yet.  To survive, they will need to trust each other, their immediate leaders and the “distant” leaders on the outside.

I don’t want to force the analogy of the Legion and the trapped miners. But as I read the news stories about the predicaments of both groups I find myself making connections. In both instances, trust, communication and adjustment to the indications of the “outsiders,” and the need for emergent leadership strike me as interesting parallels. Obviously, there is no real comparison with men who are trapped a half mile below the surface of the earth. However, I suspect many men feel “trapped” in the Legion. Leaving the congregation is not as simple an option as it might seem to people who have not experienced religious life. Neither is transition to the diocesan priesthood or to another Congregation. Most, I think, will want to redefine and fix whatever it was that attracted them in the first place. Then it will take a huge amount of prayer and trust to fight the feelings of claustrophobia as they claw their way along whatever rescue tunnel they and the Vatican come up with. To do this, they will have to learn to talk to each other and discover the notion of "trust."