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.


poman said...

As an active RC member I can certainly say I went through those stages of grief. Funny enough, I don't think denial was ever one of them, or at least it was so momentary as to be unnoticed. I certainly went to anger quite quickly. And, even though I've accepted it, anger at Fr. Maciel is still there. I have seen the same with many, if not close to all, the Legionnaires I know. Some have expressed this anger more openly than others according to their personalities, but it's there and rightly so.

I am not saying you have done this, Jack, but it bothers me when RC or LC are accused of being in denial simply because they won't "bad mouth" Fr. Maciel and want to work toward reform. Don't get me wrong, we can say, and should say, how despicable and heinous many of the acts for Fr. Maciel were. But it seems that if we don't use strong terms like "evil" or "reprobate" then we are in denial.

I have no affection for the man, I find it hard to even pray for his soul or forgive him. And I would say that to anyone, whether within LC/RC or outside. But it does my soul and my healing no good to demonize and continually bash Fr. Maciel. I don't want to become obsessed with him. He is done. He has harmed many. I hope and pray that justice is done for those that were harmed. As well, we need to focus on what remains and see what needs to be removed, destroyed, reformed, whatever. I am just happy the Vatican has appointed a delegate to head up the process. An outside view is necessary.

And I am most thankful that God is bigger than all this. He can fix something that seems beyond repair to some, or He can burn it down and bring something even better out of the ashes. I just want to keep serving the Church and try not to get in His way.

Anonymous said...

poman - are you only angry at Maciel?
What are your thoughts/feelings about being told for years that the victims were liars?
That the victims reputations were smeared, not just by MM but by many LCs and RCs in roles of leadership and authority?
Do you think sending young boys to apostolic schools is a good idea?
How about young girls leaving their families to live in Rhode Island for years? Good idea? How about misleading them to believe they have an authentic vocation, aren't you bothered by it?

I coud go on. Your post seems characteristic of so many RC responses. "Yes, MM did some bad things", as though that's all it's about. Sure, he started it. But then there are a lot of malformed ideas he passed along to the people you call your superiors. They have used their free will to mistreat a lot of folks over the years, and I have yet to see anything more than weak words to address their own misdeeds. Take the apology to victims that took 15 months post-Feb. '09 - to say "it gives us great consternation to have to say the abuse allegations are true". Would you ever in your life make an apology where you said "it gives me great consternation to say this"? I seriously doubt it.

Where is your outrage?

Anonymous said...

Interesting post, Monk.

The more time I spend away from RC, the more I appreciate the value of being "plain old Catholic". It's an extraordinary blessing. We don't need anything else.

I wish there was a way the Church could at least suspend all RC activity for a period of a year or so. Just put it all on hold. Send people back to the Church to be "plain old Catholics". To me, it's like finding the quiet when you didn't even know you were surrounded by noise. It's like a Holy Hour every day, so much easier it is to truly hear the voice of God.

Sometimes things happen in the Church, and it seems it's a good idea at the time. Then, some years down the road, we see it has actually caused unintended harm.

It's like a new drug. It's like thalidomide. Some people were fine, yet others gave birth to children with missing limbs, toes, fingers. It sure seemed like a good idea to alleviate that morning sickness with this drug. Some were helped. But those who were harmed were harmed in irreparable ways. Was the benefit to some worth it? Not in my opinion. And now the FDA is a lot more careful with new drugs.

I suspect the Church will be a lot more careful with new movements.

Anonymous said...

poman - in your view, what needs to be reformed?

Have you read Jack's book? If not, I recommend it.

Unknown said...

Jack, I have read your book and Paul's twice. I read them both together and I was very taken by the fact there was so much common ground. As I have written elsewhere and you yourself reflect it, both books should be "must reads" for anyone involved in the "renewal" of the Legion.

I got to know MM in a more personal way in Madrid after leaving the Legion. One small thing he said to me there stayed in the back of my mind and surfaced very frequently. Now, with the insight I now have this incident takes a different hue.

Why should these books be "must reads"? At this time it is not because MM was a flawed man or that he has left so many of us angry. At this moment in time the Legion needs to look at the many basic christian ambiguities and inconsistencies his mode of leadership and management left. There is no malice in these books - thought I agree that the title of Paul's book does not do it justice. These book are written, as I see it, by men who really loved the Legion and who have courageously chosen to challenge it's inconsistencies in an open forum.

If I found insight and relief riding on the backs of their words, I believe that those within the Legion will, without doubt, if they they read them as Gerry Adams says "without pre-conditions" also find insight and relief. Let them read them a few times as each reading is a very different experience. Let them read them in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament with an attitude of "What do you want?"

Seamus Hayes

poman said...

Too many anonymous' here, I don't know who is who. It would be nice if even an alias was used so I know who is saying what.

To the anonymous #1, I was only responding to the posting regarding the stages in response to the news about Fr. Maciel.

I find it hard to respond to all your questions as I am unsure of your premises. For example I am not saying that the victims were never called liars, but you ask me how I feel about being "told for years" that they were liars. I was never told they were "liars". Never by other RC's, never by any LC's, even when I asked about it. Even in the midst of Fr. Maciel and the Legion claiming his innocence, I never assumed anything about those accusing. I have seen enough, and been around enough situations to know that false accusations can happen and not always because one side is lying. In this situation the case was outright lying by Fr. Maciel. He was wrong. Those who believed Fr. Maciel, including me, were wrong. If someone thought the accusers were lying, or even called them liars, they were wrong then to do so.

The current situation facing the Legion is huge and will take years to sort out. I can't respond accurately to general comments made and premises that aren't accurate. I don't have "superiors" so how do I respond that comment?

I am sorry, I wish I could sit face to face and address all these. I am sure we would not agree on everything, but at least we could understand where each other is coming from.

poman said...

To anonymous #2, I know what you mean, but I still consider myself a "plain old Catholic" in the sense that I am Catholic first, always. I am sure others there are RC who put RC first, but I disagree with that.

In another sense I don't ever want to consider myself a plan old Catholic in the sense that all I do is go to Mass on Sunday. I know that's not what you were meaning, so I am not implying that. I want to live the Catholic faith from Sunday to Saturday. I want to share it with others at work. I could care less if any of my friends joined Regnum Christi, or Opus Dei, or Focalare. I just want them to know Christ and love Him and His Church. My own experience in Regnum Christi aids me in doing that. That does not discount those who had a negative experience with out. But their experiences should also not discount mine and countless others as well.

Sorry, I kind of went beyond what you were writing about. I like your thalidomide analogy. The Church will certainly learn something from this. I wish it didn't have to be because of such horrid things Fr. Maciel did.

poman said...

Anonymous #3, no I have not read his book but have fully intended to. But you know what they say about the "road to hell". I will go order it right now. Thanks for saving me from damnation! ;-)

The Monk said...

Poman @12:35 PM

I agree with you about the uselessness of bad mouthing Fr. Maciel. It serves no helpful purpose.

For me the "Denial Stage" is when we try to avoid the inevitable. I certainly experienced it - "this cannot be true; it cannot be happening to me." My guess is that those of us who knew Fr. Maciel well experienced this emotion for many years. The allegations didn't jibe with the facts as we knew them. When we began to see they might actually be true we didn't want to believe them. I suppose that those who didn't know him personally experienced far less "denial" and like yourself moved straight into "anger." My guess is that many LC/RC are still in denial - but in the sense that they just find it very hard to get their heads around the new reality. Less so with the younger generation. (The other grief stages described by EKR are: Anger: Frustrated outpouring of bottled-up emotion;
Bargaining: Seeking in vain for a way out; Depression Final realization of the inevitable;
Acceptance: Finally finding the way forward.) When in the LC, I worked for a while in a hospice program and found Kubler Ross's writings about grief and dying most helpful. It took me a long time to get to the genuine "Acceptance" stage with regard to the Founder and some of my companions.

So I hope it's clear that I don't confuse "denial" with the unwillingness to bad mouth the man. I refer to the very real difficulty (hard to understand for those with no personal experience) of dealing with the fact that our "hero" was not at all the man we thought him to be. It is an emotion I respect in those who are still going through it - especially if they have not had access to the "facts" available to the general public.

Anonymous @2:35 PM

For years, the accounts of the victims were not immediately credible to those who lived through many of the events. In hindsight, it all seems very rational and believable. It was not so at the time. It is entirely possible, I think, that not even JP 11 believed the initial accusations. That only adds to the suffering of the victims who were not believed without detracting from the fact that so many of us were unaware of what they suffered.
With regard to Apostolic schools - I was never a fan. However, Maciel did not invent the concept. They were quite popular with several congregations in Europe. There were several centers for consecrated women - again, personally, I felt very ambivalent about the concept. However, in principle, it's not outside of contemporary Church practices. (Think OD numeraries.)

Please don't construe this to say that I am defending or condoning everything about the LC or RC. It's just that it has not been as "black and white" as many would like to see it.

Those Superiors - and, again, one must include the Vatican to whom the first complaints were made - who covered up the scandal, have a lot of explaining and apologizing to do. Those who can be shown to have covered up the truth in the LC, without being so directed by the Vatican, should have to face the music. I put it down to arrogant "clericalism" and a total misreading of the contemporary, educated lay mindset at the Vatican and to an "end justifies the means" mentality fostered by MM.

Finally - is "Anonymous" the same person in all comments? Might be easier to pick a better identifier!

poman said...

Jack, thanks again for your clarity. You said it better than I could.

Anonymous said...

Seamus Hayes - your post touched my wounded heart. So wise. Thank you.