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.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I write from the inside and I believe that you are very right in your appreciation of the situation. Please pray for us.