Friday, October 15, 2010

Delegate to the Legionaries of Christ to be made Cardinal

Vatican City, October 14 .-  According to the Italian newspaper Il Foglio, the apostolic Delegate for the Legionaries of Christ,  Mons.Velasio De Paolis, will be part of the group of prelates who will be elevated to cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI on 20 November, 2010.

The other names mentioned by the newspaper are Domenico Bartolucci former director of the choir of the Sistine Chapel, Elio Sgreccia, president emeritus of the Pontifical Academy for Life,  Brandmüller Walter, former president of the Pontifical Committee of Historical Sciences, Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Mauro Piacenza, prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, the archbishop of Washington, Donald William Wuerl, Reinhard Marx of Munich, Malcolm Ranjith of Sri Lanka, Kazimierz Nycz of Warsaw and Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya from Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Show us your heart

The 33 Chilean miners have been safely rescued. Chile has come alive in the eyes of its citizens and of the world.

The global recession hit this South American nation hard. The country is still emerging from the shadows of its dictator Augusto Pinochet who ruled from 1974 to 1990.  Chileans still struggle with economic imbalances and political divisions. The successful rescue of the miners came at a critical time in the wake of the devastating earthquake during the bicentennial celebrations. The dramatic rescue turned the potential for disaster into national and international celebration as more than a billion people around the world watched the events unfold on TV.

As I watched the coverage, I was moved by the cultural values of the Chilean people: their strong focus on family values, sustaining and transformational spiritual and religious belief, and a sense of community which takes precedence over the abilities of individuals.

Because I had seen an analogy between the trapped miners and the Legionaries of Christ I found myself thinking about them as I watched the celebration of the rescue. The Legion is still in the throes of revision as the Pope’s Delegate sorts out what is what, aided by five Vatican appointed commissioners. Meanwhile, whether they are conscious of it or not, the vast majority of Legionaries are still trapped in the dark cavern polluted by their Founder Fr. Marcial Maciel.

I’ve noted before that the most worrying aspect of this phase, at least in my opinion, is that collectively the Legionaries do not externalize any sense of being “trapped.” Consequently, there is not much sense of the need for rescue. They have much to learn from the saga of the Chilean miners.

Despite the cohesion of the group of miners, during the rescue we got some sense of them as distinct individuals. We empathized with their predicament. We cheered for them to be safe and well. I and so many others, also want the Legionaries to emerge safe and well.  But they make it hard to root for them because… well, because they seem to want to give the impression that everything is fine and under control. Their current circumstances – the result of decades of manipulation and fraud by the Founder – can all be explained away as part of the Divine plan for them. That seems to be the way they want to play it. Nothing to worry about. Everything will be fine. The Vatican is on the case and all is well. Stoic discipline in the face of adversity. I was like that once. Now I know it’s not enough. Perhaps that’s why I subtitled my memoirs “How an Irishman found his heart and nearly lost his mind.”

The Chilean people, their President, the miners and the rescuers have shown us their heart and the whole world has embraced and supported them. Therein lies a lesson for the Legionaries.  If  only they could react, find their heart, putting aside their happy-face masks, sooner rather than later we would be celebrating their rebirth, just as we are doing with the miners.

John Paul II "Santo Subito" despite Fr. Marcial Maciel?

After a delay in the beatification process of John Paul II, Italian media reports that progress has picked up in the matter concerning a medical assessment of a supposed miracle performed by the late Polish pontiff.

The Italian Il Giornale daily informs that the beatification process of John Paul II is progressing due to a medical assessment of a supposed miracle performed by the late Polish pontiff.

The process appeared to be slowed down due to a number of factors, including the recent sex scandals that had arisen in the  Church, especially the case of the founder of the Legion of Christ, Mexican-born Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, who was found guilty of abuse and fathering at least one child. Fr. Maciel was supported by John Paul II, but eventually banished from active ministry by his successor, Benedict XVI.

According to Andrea Tornielli, a journalist specialising on the Vatican, "the materials presented in the [beatification] process, show that John Paul II did not know about the grave accusations against Maciel” Il Giornale suggest that the beatification process was not halted because of this singular case and, again quoting Tornielli says "the Commission may confirm the case in the coming weeks.”

Late in 2009, incumbent Pope Benedict XVI declared the “heroic virtues” of John Paul II, which led many to believe that the Polish Pope’s beatification might take place this year.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Roman rumor no longer roams

Vatican City: October 13, 2010: The congregation of the Legionaries of Christ denies that Fr. Luis Garza Medina, their vicar general, has submitted his resignation. Persistent rumors in Rome, repeated on several blogs, suggested he had resigned or had been forced to resign.

Notimex, a semi-official Mexican news agency says sources close to the Legion affirm "nothing has been decided and an immediate decision about Garza’s withdrawal from senior leadership is not expected.  They also affirm that Garza does not expect to be in his position forever."

Fr. Garza has been accused of knowing about the double life led by the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, Marcial Maciel Degollado, which allegedly included the sexual abuse of children and fathering children with different women.

The Legionary priest has stated that he only became aware of these immoral acts after Maciel unexpectedly stepped down as Director General and after his death in January 2008.

The Legion of Christ is currently being supervised by an Apostolic Delegate Mons. Velasio De Paolis, appointed by Pope Benedict XVI. His primary mandates is to lead the reform of the religious institute.

Fr. Garza holds a Bachelor's degree in Industrial Engineering from Stanford University, as well as a Master's degree in Philosophy and Theology and a Doctorate degree in Canon Law, both from the Gregorian Pontifical University in Rome, Italy. He has been serving as Vicar General of the Legionaries of Christ since 1992, and has focused for many years on development and organizational issues.

Monday, October 11, 2010

What exactly is a "charism"?

A posting over at Regnum Christi Live discusses the topic of the "charism" of the Legionaries of Christ. How close is the "charism" tied to the personal life of the founder?

Last evening the CBS program “60 Minutes” aired a segment on Nelson Mandela’s forthcoming biography “Conversations with Myself.” Mandela lived his life for the fight of the plight of his people. He was a man of much wisdom; his memoir appears to be the most in-depth look into the real man and his thoughts while locked away all of those years. Apparently Mandela's book makes no effort to conceal the not insignificant personal failings of the former South African President. But this failings do not detract from his achievements.

I’m not at all suggesting any similarity or comparison with the founder of the Legionaries. However, relative to “charism” it seems to me that the discussion can get bogged down in semantics and canonical “definitions.” I guess the topic doesn't have to be so complicated - especially when it is discussed by those who see no other alternative other than to shut the Legion down. I don't think an organization's "charism" is entirely tied to the personality of the founder.

A “charism” is simply a term to describe the spiritual orientation and any special characteristics of the mission or values shown by a religious congregation as a result of the way they live their vows and the way they focus their activity.

Of course, a charism can be considered a gift from God to the Church for the world. It can be given to an individual or group to inspire the founding of a new religious family within the Church. This gift is enriched by all who are called to live it. It represents the particular way in which its members are called to follow Christ. Because all Christians seek to follow Christ, different charisms will have many elements in common, but the way in which these elements are emphasised gives each religious group its unique feel. So, yes, charisms - like brands? - are different one from another, but not so different that they do not share many elements common to other charisms.

I like to think of a charism of a congregation as what would remain if all written records were destroyed. The charism could be re-created through the testimony of its living members In that sense, it is simply the permanent heritage of a community, which includes the rule, mission, history, and traditions of a religious institute.

Viewed in this broader context, I think it entirely possible that whatever “charism” the Legionaries of Christ have is not necessarily centered, exclusively, on the life and teachings of the flawed founder. It’s more about the way the members define the way they live their vows and the way in which they undertake their work. This is a process, not necessarily finished. I don’t see any reason why whatever reform results from the Vatican intervention should not be part of the ultimate “charism.”

Until the Church decides there is no valid “charism” the Legionaries continue to be an “officially approved” religious congregation. This is something the members need to hold on to. Even though Papal approval doesn't mean an organization or an individual is necessarily without sin. As I’ve said before, I think it would help their relations with those following the debacle, if the Legionaries themselves gave some public sense they abhor the damage done by the founder to his sexual victims and to the Church and express more forcefully their recognition of their need for “reform,” resulting in a reformed understanding of what exactly the Lord calls them to within the Church. The Vatican hasn't helped that understanding by taking more than 13 years to intervene in such an egregious scandal. However, while the Vatican instigated reform process continues, I think it is fair to say the Legionaries' “charism” continues to evolve. After all, in Church time, it is still a very new congregation.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Thirteen long years for the Legionaries of Christ

John Paul II became Pope on October 1978. He was the first non-Italian Pope since 1522. No doubt he was influential in the fall of communism, both in his native Poland and in all of Europe. During his pontificate he visited 129 countries thus becoming one of the most traveled leaders in history.  He wrote 14 Encyclicals dealing with faith, reason and morals. He beatified 1,340 people and canonized 483 saints, more than the combined total of prior Popes during the past five centuries.

He promoted new “movements” within the Church, including the Opus Dei, which he set up as a prelature. He canonized their founder, Josemaría Escrivá in 2002. He encouraged the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi, the Neocatechumenal Way, and others.  He is one of the most influential world leaders of the 20th century.

During the four years that I remained in the Legion, after John Paul’s election, I felt immensely proud of our new leader. However, from a personal perspective, those last four years as a Legionary were amongst the most difficult in my life. As a result, I probably did not “enjoy” the Pope’s firm leadership as much as I might have under different circumstances.

Before the Second Vatican Council, few priests were ever granted release from their vows. After the Council, the Catholic Church faced an increasing number of applications from priests for ‘laicization.’ When John Paul stated at the beginning of his Pontificate in 1978, in the strongest possible terms, that he intended to uphold the tradition, dating back 16 centuries, that priests must be celibate, he also reaffirmed that only the Vatican has the power to release a priest from his vows. Little did I think, at the time, that just four years later I would be requesting release from my vows

My take on Pope John Paul was influenced by the fact that he grew up in the persecuted church in Poland. As an Irishman I could relate to what seemed to be his understanding that the survival of the Church required the monolithic union of the faithful against the “outside” persecutor. Although it didn’t bother me, the new Pope didn’t seem particularly open to debate or discussion within the Church. That attitude  fit right in with the culture of the Legion of Christ of which I was a member. Loyalty was more appreciated than intelligence or even pastoral skill. Some of the Pope’s critics have said his insistence on loyalty affected the quality of the Bishops and the clerical officials he appointed. He made it very clear he would be a forceful leader who would not tolerate dissent. The Legion and Fr. Maciel offered a perfect example of the unquestioning loyally he expected. The new Pope, an “outsider” to the Vatican bureaucracy seems to have trusted most those who overtly supported his approach. At the same time, he clearly did not trust voices of dissent.

During the time I studied in Rome, Paul VI was Pope. I had the privilege of meeting him on a couple of occasions when I worked for Cardinal Luigi Raimondi. Pope Paul impressed me as a very pastoral, caring person. After I left the Legion, I found out he received 32,357 requests from priests for laicization. Of these he granted 31,324 during his 15 years as Pope.  During the first six months of John Paul II’s pontificate, the Vatican received more than 300 petitions for laicization from individual priests. He didn’t grant one.

Although I’ve never checked the facts, I’m sure many of those priests just walked away without seeking a formal dispensation, as they did in the pre-Vatican II years. Frustrated peers of mine, who left after me, did just that.

However, when I was close to my decision to leave – before going to Gabon in Central West Africa - I told Fr. Maciel, the founder of the Legionaries and my Superior General,  I wouldn’t leave the Legion unless I could get a full dispensation. I recall telling him in Cheshire, CT I would’ve preferred remaining a priest even if I had to, “rot in some lunatic asylum as a result of a nervous breakdown.” He assured me my laicization wouldn’t be a problem, as he gave me his blessing to leave the Legion, and I began the process immediately on leaving Gabon. Although I eventually received my laicization and dispensation from vows, the process was marked by the renewed intransigence of the Vatican. I missed the pastoral approach of Pope Paul.

Perhaps too, John Paul’s enthusiastic leadership and demand for loyalty (which I applauded at the time) got in the way of his handling of the nascent clergy abuse scandal in the Church. In the case of Fr. Maciel, the founder of the Legionaries, I think it entirely possible that the Pope was not aware of the double life of his new-found Mexican friend. Was that because he didn’t want to know, made it difficult for others to tell him or because he assumed the loyal Maciel need to be protected from his “persecutors”?

We do know that Cardinal Ratzinger had a private audience with the Pope every Friday evening and also joined him for a luncheon discussion group every Tuesday. He says that he never had a “difference” in the strict sense of the word” with the Holy Father and that he “never refused the Pope anything.”  (cfr. “Salt of the Earth” by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger.)  When Cardianl Ratzinger realized what was going on, why did he not intervene directly with the Pope? Or, if he did, why did John Paul not choose to act?

When Cardinal Ratzinger became Pope, he acted swiftly, though not decisively, against Fr. Maciel. I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on that, because once the scandal “broke” most of the media attention was given to the victims of Maciel’s sexual abuse. Rightly so, because they had been disbelieved for so long.

But there is a second, much larger group of people who were used and hurt by Maciel. These are the hundreds of Legionary priests, and thousands of committed, idealistic, conservative Catholics who believed, as I did, that Maciel was a holy priest, loyal to and supported by the Vatican, as he led us to Christ, in a Legion officially “approved” by the Catholic Church.  He betrayed us all and turned out to be a sociopath who now  – according to the Vatican - lived "a life entirely without scruples and authentic religious feeling."

The Pope just can’t throw these people “under the bus.” Those who clamor for the suppression of the Legion, I think, don’t understand the dimensions and pastoral complexities of the problem. So, I support the current Pope’s attempts to first try to reform the congregation and free it from the dysfunctional influence of the founder. It would help if the Legionaries themselves gave some public sense they abhor the damage done by the founder to his sexual victims and to the Church and express more forcefully their recognition of their need for “reform.” I still don’t get why it took the Vatican 13 years to intervene.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Fr. Oder, personal friend of Pope John Paul II says "beatification is at crucial moment"


.- During a visit to Spain this week, the postulator of Pope John Paul II’s cause for beatification noted that the process is currently at a crucial moment as miracles attributed to the late pontiff’s intercession are being investigated.

In an interview with the newspaper La Razon, Father Slawomir Oder said the process “has not been blocked” as some media reports have indicated. “The only thing I can say is that the canonical process must continue,” he said.

“We have reached the end of the first phase which deals with his heroism and virtues, and now we must initiate the process dealing with miracles. When it is finished, the Church will be able to lay out the process for his beatification,” the priest said.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The tip of an iceberg?

It seems to me that the LC/RC debacle is in some sense the "tip of an iceberg." And I'm not saying this to diminish the LC/RC challenge. In my lifetime, new forms of "religious" or "consecrated" life seem have to have emerged with Church approval. They don't fit the "traditional" models of religious life. Particularly in the case of the LC/RC and the Opus Dei, they were "approved" very quickly, as far as I can tell without a whole lot of scrutiny. The OD founder was canonized within a pretty unprecedented time-frame and process. This doesn't mean these and other new movements are bad or illegitimate. I'm just not sure the universal church quite understands them. They tend to be right of center, "traditionalist", very loyal to the Vatican, secretive, and very militant. As I wrote in my book about the Legion, I never heard about the Regnum Christi until several years after I joined the Legion. It was presented to us as something the founder always envisioned. Just struck me as peculiar he never mentioned it in all the many conversations we had with him when I first went to Mexico.

The RC idea "made sense" within the LC culture - but many of us took a while to get our heads around the concept of "consecrated" lay members. Since OD seemed to have the same structure and was a favorite of the Pope, I became more accepting of the RC idea.

As one who was entirely duped by Maciel, I find myself more questioning about these "new movements" and some of his contemporary founders.

In the specific case of the LC/RC, I believe there are excellent, generous people involved who joined an organization officially approved by the Church. Later, it turned out the founder was a fraud and the major superiors (including the Vatican) were slow to communicate the truth. The Vatican does not seem inclined to close LC/RC down or say that they no longer have a place. Rather the intent seems to be reform. Meanwhile the generous souls on the inside are caught between a rock and a hard place; I suspect many are still at the denial stage - which is easily understood in the context of the hero worshiping adulation we all afforded the founder together with our blind loyalty to the Pope. It's a big step forward for them to be able to admit the need for "culling."

I'm sure not everyone is clear yet about "what" needs to be culled. After all, as far as they all know, their rules, constitutions and status within the Church are all "approved" and "legitimate" despite the sins of the founder.

If that is the case, the only genuine reform will have to come from within the ranks of the dual organizations. For that to happen, all of the current members and candidates need to know the full story of the founder's duplicity and his manipulation or the Church "system." I understand the denial (without condoning it). Indeed I suppose they will have to go through all the stages of grief - denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. That's going to take some time. It seems to me that the most immediate job for the Vatican team is to facilitate and expedite that process. Indeed I believe that my book "Driving Straight on Crooked Lines" (I hope I am not being selfish here) would make very useful reading for the LC/RC as part of that process. So too would the book by Paul Lennon – except the title ("Our father who art in bed") doesn’t make it initially appealing. Both books show quite clearly how the seeds we hardly noticed when we joined, gradually came to fruition as the founder advanced in years. These experiences of those of us who actually lived with the founder can prepare them for “exposés”, harder to accept for those in denial, such as "Vows of Silence" and other other publications in Spanish.

As far as I can tell, the Delegate to the 3gf (consecrated women) group has full administrative functions. That leads me to believe the consecrated women are not undergoing a "visitation" but rather they are already in the process of being reformed. When I was a Legionary I think many of my peers were not comfortable with the little that we knew about the 3gf lifestyle or with the dysfunctional relationship between us and them. I'm sure we had reason to worry. Let's see what the Delegate, the LC and the 3g women themselves do about it.