Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The path is tiring but "ordinations open the way to hope"


Forty-nine Legionary priests were ordained by Cardinal Velasio De Paolis this December 12 in the Basilica of St. John Lateran. The ceremony is recorded in this video.

After expressing his gratitude to the Legionaries families for regarding their son’s vocation as a gift, Cardinal De Paolis emphasized that the ordination of 49 new priests is “a reason for consolation on the path of rediscovering the congregation’s mission. The path is at times tiring, but you are walking it with trust in the Church.” “This moment is one of consolation for the Legion. These vocations open the way to hope and make us look to the future,” he said.

Among the 49 newly ordained Legionaries of Christ, the youngest is 29, and the oldest is 35. The new priests come from seven countries: the United States (15), México (20), Brazil (5), Colombia (5), Italy (2), Spain (1), and Hungary (1). 

A balanced "Unpopular Opinion"


During the past several months I have been extremely busy -  too busy to find time to post here. Meanwhile, I've tried to keep abreast of the ongoing reform at the Legionaries of Christ. So far, so good. There is encouraging progress.

Today I stumbled on a blog written by Seminarian Philip Johnson. It's called "In Caritate non Ficta". After serving three years as a Naval Officer, in October of 2008, he was diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer. His blog chronicles his pilgrimage through life and towards the Roman Catholic priesthood. He hopes to be ordained a priest in 2015. The little I know about him suggests he is an inspiring young man.

The post which caught my attention is titled "Possibly Unpopular Opinion of the Year."  I enjoyed reading it and although I agree the opinion he expresses may be unpopular with some, I find myself in agreement with most of what he has to say. As we approach the Christmas season, I'd like to echo Philp's comments about the current situation with the Legionaries of Christ. He seems to know them quite well. 

Philip is obviously a brave, unselfish and thoughtful young man dealing with the challenge of an awful illness. He believes in miracles. Read his blog and say a prayer that he gets his miracle.  Here is sample of what he has to say about the Legionaries he knows:

"I have friends who are Legionaries, and they love their vocation. ... I have stayed for a lengthy time in Legionary houses and seminaries in Connecticut, New York, and Rome. I have also attended their retreats. They are not "brainwashed," "pressured" or anything else. Many people make this judgment without getting to know the men involved. They are there following the Lord's calling and I pray that someday I will have half the zeal for souls that they have. They are all suffering as their Constitutions are revised and necessary changes are made, but let's pray for them. They are good men, especially the ones who have stuck around during the recent trials ...
I believe that the Legion of Christ will survive this storm. It's a miracle that they've survived this long and still have so many vocations - and they are solid vocations, trust me. The Lord can bring good things out of bad situations, and He often does. I don't doubt that this will be another example. We must pray! Can you image how they must feel - those who have chosen to stay with the movement awaiting the Holy Father's ruling? There is turmoil in their family - let us empathize with them. They are our brothers, and they are suffering right now. Please stop now and say a prayer for them."

To which I add a hearty "Amen." 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Penn State and the Legionaries of Christ


E.D. Kain writing in Forbes says:
Institutions always lean toward self-preservation. When a member of an institution has done something wrong, the instinct of other members within that institution is to sweep it under the proverbial rug as quickly as possible. When the institution is at risk, every member feels at risk. And when the institution in question is opaque and hierarchical, that risk only becomes greater.

He goes on to add:
 So we see sexual abuse scandals in both the Penn State case and the Catholic Church that are frighteningly similar.....The secrecy and the cult-like power that Degollado (Fr. Maciel, founder of the Legion of Christ)  held over his followers made sexual abuse that much more likely to occur and made his victims and witnesses to his crimes that much less likely to come forward.

Of course there is some truth to the analogy. However, I am more inclined to think that the problem of child-abuse and subsequent cover-up is not specific to any one institution, religious congregation or church. The phenomenon seems to be more widespread than we would care to believe and is certainly not exclusive to the Catholic Church. So, E..D. Kain, by dragging the Catholic Church and the Legionaries of Christ into his article stretches the analogy too much for my liking.

There is a lesson to be learned from the scandal caused by Fr. Marcial Maciel, the founder of the Legionaries of Christ and it is is reinforced by the current scandal at Penn State. Vatican prelates, bishops, and representatives of "authority" including corporate boards of directors, university trustees and public officials would do well to never allow any one leader or executive to loom larger than the institution he or she represents. When the reputation of a leader (executive, teacher, coach, priest, and etc). becomes synonymous with the reputation of the organization we should be extra vigilant. This is what happened at Penn State, where Joe Paterno became the public face of the university, and it also happened with the Legionaries of Christ where Fr. Maciel dominated the lives of his followers.

The current scandal at Penn State must be heart breaking to everyone affiliated with the university - student, alumni, faculty, staff, and administration. The child victims who were allegedly abused by an assistant coach, have suffered the most.

Despite this scandal, no doubt there is far more right with Penn State than there is wrong. I think the same holds true for the Legionaries of Christ. Penn State used the power of football and the financial resources it produced to transform itself from a sleepy agricultural school into a top-notch research university. The Legion of Christ is in the process of trying to build on its successful, but highly flawed beginnings, to become a more mainstream force for good.  Neither institution is inherently doomed because of the faults of any one individual.

It's tempting to throw stones at both Penn State and the Legionaries. What is more important is to eliminate the culture of complicity that encouraged people to look the other way when they became aware of abuse. Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, much to the consternation of the powers that be in the Catholic Church, made it his mission to atone for the pedophile crimes of Irish priests: he  met with, apologized to, and acknowledged publicly the shame that the church inflicted on the innocents. Both the Legionaries and Penn State would do well to learn from his example.

If a scandal like this could happen at Penn State, it could happen anywhere. This thought ought to give every one of us, especially senior leaders pause to consider: What might be happening on my watch? What would I do differently?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Legionaries of Christ's New Castle property for sale after failed efforts for seminary, women's center

The Legionaries of Christ, the conservative Catholic order, has put their 97-acre parcel located at 773 Armonk Road, in the Town of New Castle, Westchester County on the market. After years of back and forth with the town over building a seminary or a women's center on its Armonk Road property, the Legion says it is selling the property for economic reasons according to Legion spokesperson Jim Fair.

The Legion of Christ, Incorporated (“LCNY”), a not-for-profit corporation, is soliciting offers from developers. LCNY intends to enter into either a contract of sale or a long-term lease agreement with a designated developer for the  property. 

According to the property web-site, the best financial offer, for either a sale or long-term lease, shall be based on the highest present value of payments to LCNY. It is LCNY’s intent to sell the property to the highest bidder. Consideration will also be given to the highest up-front payments.  

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The muddied waters since the death of Maciel


In an exclusive interview from Rome with Catholic News Agency, Jesus Colina the Spanish journalist who founded Zenith  the Vatican based news agency in 1997, explained the details behind his departure. 
Zenith is a non-profit international news agency comprising a team of professionals and volunteers whose stated objective is to inform about the "world seen from Rome," with professionalism and faithfulness to the truth. It is promoted by the religious congregation of the Legionaries of Christ; two Legionary priests offer consultation services and collaborate in writing the "Analysis" and "Liturgy" columns. 
Colina co-authored a book with Maciel, entitled (in Spanish) "Marcial Maciel: Christ My Life."

The journalist's remarks in the interview provide an interesting perspective from which to evaluate the muddied waters of the Legion of Christ's ongoing response to the awful facts which came to light about their founder. The scandal led to a formal condemnation of Maciel by the Holy See in 2006.

Here are the highlights from the interview with Mr. Colina:
  • Father Oscar Nader LC,( Chairman of the Board of Zenit) thinks Colina does not offer a clear idea of the institutional identity of Zenit that the Legionaries of Christ wish to communicate from now on.
  • This is the culmination of a gradual mutual loss of trust which began several years ago. 
  • The manner in which the Legion of Christ hid the information about Fr. Marcial Maciel, which was discovered bit by bit by the press, led to the breakdown of trust.
  • Despite the statement issued by the Holy See in 2006, the Legion continued to present Fr. Maciel as a role model, even at his death and after his death, maintaining this myth of sanctity that the congregation had promoted during his life.
  • Since the Vatican statement was issued calling on Fr. Maciel to retire and to publicly acknowledge his lies and crimes, the impression was spread among the religious and those close to the Legionaries that the Pope had unjustly punished him.
  •  Zenit staff asked the board to establish a totally separate and transparent management in order to guarantee independence in response to any accusations. In practice this has not been done.  Colina is morally convinced that the money received from readers goes directly to Zenit, but he cannot demonstrate this formally and administratively.
  • His continuous complaints about this situation led the superiors of the Legionaries to also lose trust in him.  When he proposed allowing other Catholic entities to have a seat on the board of Zenit, in order to address these questions and provide for an editorial future and greater ecclesial representation, not only was the proposal ignored, it led to his firing as well.
  • He never had any doubts about Fr. Maciel until the Vatican published the statement calling on him to retire to a life of prayer and penance.
  •  "The Maciel case and its understandably tragic consequences cannot blur the human, spiritual and professional adventure experienced by those lucky enough to spend their lives offering news coverage of the life of the Pope and the Holy See." "All this depth and holiness cannot be clouded by Fr. Maciel’s lies." 
  • "Honestly I know many priests and seminarians of the Legionaries of Christ and I consider them to be authentic Christians and, in a certain sense, martyrs of the situation they are confronting with so much love for Christ and the Church."

Founder of Zenith News Agency resigns


CNS (Catholic News Services) in a bulletin dated today, September 29 2011, reports Spanish journalist Jesus Colina, who established the Catholic news agency Zenit in 1997 and helped build it into a seven-language agency with about 450,000 email subscribers around the world, says he has been asked to resign because he resisted pressures to identify the agency and its work more closely with Zenit's sponsoring organization, the Legionaries of Christ.
According to CNS, Colina said 
One issue of contention was that Legionary officials were less than candid with Zenit about the facts regarding the scandal surrounding the late Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legionaries, who was discovered to have sexually abused seminarians and fathered children.
Another issue, Colina said, was a debate over the financial transparency of Zenit. He said that two years ago, Zenit had asked that its finances be clearly separated from the Legionaries order; the concern was that accusations of financial scandal connected with the Father Maciel case could undermine the trust needed in its annual fundraising efforts.
According to Zenith's website:
Our team is made up of writers and editors, translators, technical staff and administrators. All are committed to making their best effort in offering ZENIT their professional collaboration or volunteer services. 
Staffers come from a variety of spiritualities in the Church. Some are religious or consecrated men and women, others are lay people who come from Church groups, both young and ancient (Franciscan and Ignatian spiritualities, Opus Dei, communities from the Charismatic Renewal, Regnum Christi, the Teresian Institute, or parish leaders). Others are committed Catholics with no particular affiliation. Several married couples work for ZENIT. 
ZENIT is promoted by the religious congregation of the Legionaries of Christ. Two Legionary priests offer consultation services and collaborate in writing the "Analysis" and "Liturgy" columns. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

A new TV program about Maciel


Thanks to Google TV I was able to watch the 30 minute Milenio program live on the big screen. Here are some quick reactions:

The trailers and teasers promised more than the program delivered. Borderline "much ado about nothing' as so often happens in the wake of somewhat sensational promos.
Overall, nothing new was revealed other than photos of the deceased founder. I wonder who took these photos and for what purpose, why they were released (and by whom) to the media. Showing them, without any  reference other than to suggest that those people who were there post-mortem knowingly protected Maciel and his misdeeds, was in poor taste.
The visuals were mostly a collage of existing photos and video - one short vintage sequence I particularly noticed had Maciel speaking flanked on either side by two Legionaries for whom I have great respect: Fr. David Owen (my peer and a great friend when I was LC) and Fr. Carlos Zancajo an outstanding priest, spiritual advisor and outspoken superior. (Fr. Zancajo seems to have disappeared from the LC radar - I'm told he is in Venezuela...It was nice to see him, if only fleetingly.)  The image of Maciel speaking is dubbed with something he said at a different time.
The (relatively) long preliminary interview with Barba provided sought-after shock value as, once again, we were treated to a portion of the interview where he describes in detail his first sexual molestation by Maciel.
Nelly Ramirez acquitted herself well - her comments were fair, balanced and brave. The program seemed to be a prelude to the forthcoming relaunch of her book, in Spain.
One takeaway is a succinct chronology of milestones related to the Maciel scandal:

1997:  Ex Legionaries of Christ reported sexual abuse by Marcial Maciel on Mexico's CNI-Canal 40 TV.
1998:  Attorney Martha Wegan gives the Vatican the case file.
2006:  The complaint is filed at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
2009:   Fr. Alvaro Corcuera LC acknowledge the crimes of Father Maciel.
2010, February: Fr. Luis Garza LC apologizes to victims of Maciel.
2010, March: The order publicly acknowledges in writing the abuses of its founder and condemns his behavior.

The broadcast probably served to affirm the Mexican mainstream media's willingness to discuss the Legionaries on prime-time TV; since the debacle about the 1997 Canal 40 program and the pressure brought to bear on the station by LC supporters, Mexican TV has veered away from the Maciel scandal.presumably for fear of repercussions.
The program, not unreasonably I suppose, presented a one-dimensional view of the Congregation. No mention was made of the significant apostolates the Legionaries have organized in Mexico and throughout the world. 
The focus was entirely on Maciel's crimes, the suggestion of collusion by the major superiors and that he allegedly died unrepentant. When the broadcast somewhat abruptly came to an end after 30 minutes I found myself expecting another 30 minutes of conclusions, suggestions, allegations or whatever. I wondered it in part it  was not a gambit to attract ratings and audience.
Anyone familiar with the Legionaries learned nothing new. Those - in Mexico - who do not know anything about them probably were not overly interested. Others probably got an overview of the scandal with hardly any context of Maciel's undeniable "achievements" - schools, universities, clinics, outreach, missions, recruitment,  influence, and fundraising.
All in all, it was a reasonably fair and balanced presentation. Ciro Gomez is an excellent, respected, mostly impartial (I think) journalist and Milenio is a fairly mainstream news outlet.

Tonight's Mexico's Milenio TV will air a presentation (@ 9:30 PM and repeated at 23:30 PM, (Mexico City time) that will surely generate more questions than answers. It's called "The Kingdom of Marcial Maciel" and it promises to show never before seen images of the last days of the founder of the Legionaries of Christ.

The program, "El Reino de Marcial Maciel" claims that Maciel travelled the world with his wife and daughter, supported by Legionary Superiors who, years later, would claim to have been surprised by the news that he had a family and was leading a double life.

The program will include the opinions of Nelly Ramírez Mota Velasco who will make a formal presentation of her book "The Kindgom of Marcial Maciel" this coming Thursday at the Miguel Angel de Quevedo branch of theh Gandhi bookstore in Mexico City at 7:00 PM.

As far as I can tell, the program will be available streaming live at

The TV trailer already released on the Milenio site (also available on Youtube)   presents Maciel deathbed scenes. This teaser has me wondering how the media got access to such intimate photographs. No doubt the program will add lots of fuel to the fire of the Maciel scandal. I just hope it also provides - or provokes - some straightforward answers, especially from the Legionaries themselves.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Who is in charge of the Kingdom of Marcial Maciel?


I am way overdue with a review I promised Nelly Ramirez of her book: "El Reino de Marcial Maciel: la vida oculta de la Legion y el Regnum Christi." ("The Kingdom of Marical Maciel: the hidden life of the Legion and Regnum Christi")

For twelve years Nelly was a full-time consecrated member of the Regnum Christi Movement, the branch of the Legionaries of Christ for lay people. She left the Regnum Christi after learning the sordid details of Fr. Marcial Maciel's double life and because she disagreed with the apparent unwillingness of Legionary Superiors to transparently deal with the revelations.

This morning, I read a review of the book by my former colleague in the Legion, Fr. James Farfaglia which served to jolt me into action. Fr. James is now pastor at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church, located in Corpus Christi. We have stayed in touch "virtually."  He has written a couple of books and is a frequent contributor to

Nelly contacted me before she published her book and I've met with her in Mexico, subsequent to the publication. She is a charming young lady, quite shy and (at the time) still going through the difficult process of adjustment to lay life. I've seen her TV interviews and I've felt that she has been often quite "manipulated" by astute journalists in order to fuel harsh condemnations of her experience in Regnum Christi. I believe she published her book in order to promote honest reflection about the Legionary "phenomenon" with the commendable objective of "waking up" those Legionaries and Regnum Christi members who she believes remain in denial about the founder's life and works. This is an objective she clearly states in her Introduction.

Fr. James prefaces his review writing:
"Thousands of scandalized and disappointed former Legionaries of Christ, Regnum Christi members and generous benefactors are wondering what will happen to the shipwrecked religious order. In an explosive new book which has been rocking the news in Mexico, Nelly Ramírez Mota Velasco tells all in an objective and clear manner, free from any venom."
Contrary to his opinion, I submit that Nelly's book is not "explosive," it has not "rocked the news" in Mexico, and it is most certainly not "a fast read" as he says in his review.  Frankly, there is very little new information in the book. It has gained whatever traction it has among those who are aggressively opposed to the Legionaries of Christ and who do not support the Vatican's attempt to reform the congregation. I do agree that the author is not motivated by "venom," but when one reads the prologues which introduce her topic,  and the context of many reviews, it seems quite clear that the author and her intentions have been well "used" by those with mostly an anti-Vatican agenda.

Like Fr. James, I too was a Legionary of Christ for some 20 years. I knew him when he was a novice in Connecticut; I documented my experience of those times in an autobiography "Driving Straight on Crooked Lines: How an Irishman found his heart and almost lost his mind."

Unlike Fr.James and Nelly, I knew Maciel well. Indeed I also got to know the Garza family quite well at about the time Fr. Luis Garza Medina was considering becoming a Legionary priest. Based on my own experience and the reactions to the Maciel scandal,  my bias is that "El Reino de Marcial Maciel" contributes little - despite the author's state intentions - to understanding how Maciel managed to deceive and manipulate so many good people, including Fr. James and three Popes. In my opinion, this is the real issue with the scandal surrounding the Legion of Christ, especially for those of us who want to ensure that such deceit does not easily happen again.

"El Reino de Maciel" is not available in English. It is quite a "technical" read with detailed analysis of the Legion's approach to religious discipline and the practice of the evangelical counsels. It documents what I believe - as does Nelly - that the essential flaw in the Legion is a dysfunctional understanding of the virtue and vow of Obedience.

Granted the author was a consecrated member of "Regnum Christi" I hoped for a first hand description of the daily life and challenges experienced by consecrated women in the movement - an area that is shrouded in mystery even to most Legionary priests. Instead, Nelly focuses mostly on the Legionaries. She contributes very little information about her personal experiences and the feelings that must have plagued her as she went through the years of formation and subsequent apostolate. I have the abiding sensation that much of the Legion-related material was written by a Legionary "ghost writer."  It reads more like a bureaucratic report with names and places well documented although there is not much substantial new information.

An analysis of the Legionary constitutions by a canon lawyer contributes little to the discussion, probably because there are no "explosive" findings. The Legion's  essential structure was not so very different from similar congregations in the Catholic Church pre-Vatican Council. I suspect this fact is lost on many people not old enough to have known the religious priests, brothers and nuns who were such a part of the Catholic experience in the 1950s and 1960s. Like the Legionaries, their visits home were seriously restricted, their correspondence was monitored, they often could not stay overnight at their parent's homes, and their understanding of "poverty" (for instance) would be quite shocking to today's mindset. As a result of Vatican II they changed. The Legion did not, because, I think, Maciel realized that the "old" ways produced more vocations and presented the challenge young, idealistic people were seeking at the time. Worse yet, as his congregation expanded, the founding Legionaries understanding of the three religious vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience became "institutionally" distorted resulting in psychologically damaging behaviors and cult-like behavior.

Personally, I was most impacted and moved by some of the personal letters written by Maciel and presented in the Appendices of "El Reino de Maciel." Reading his prose again, in the light of what we now know, chilled my bones and rekindled unpleasant memories.  I imagine that former Legionaries will have the same experience and may well find those last appendices the most interesting part of Nelly's book

In general, I think it fair to say the book is a tedious read and of interest mostly to those who still have a somewhat obsessive interest in the Legionary rules and regulations. Only someone who has very little knowledge of the facts, or who is looking for incendiary information to fan the flames of scandal, would find the contents "explosive." Persons not deeply interested in the theme and who might have a somewhat unbiased perspective will probably not have the steadfastness to peruse all the details.

Nelly discusses "Grupo Integer" and, again, provides names and places. I don't think she makes a strong case to suggest Fr. Garza's involvement is more than that of an astute business administrator who sought to organize the Legion's tangled web of assets to bring some order to Maciel's chaotic foundational model. The Catholic Church, as Jason Berry the intrepid New Orleans reporter again points out in his new book, has hardly been a model of transparent finances. Group Integer is easily portrayed as a convenient red herring which plays nicely into the hands of conspiracy theorists. It's certainly a new model for the financial management of a religious congregation and it's clearly not a "transparent" endeavor. Time and further  investigation will tell if it is indeed an evil empire. There is not much in the author's expose to take us beyond anecdotal criticism of some of its operations.

Fr. James uses the title of his review to ask: "who is in really in charge of the Legionaries of Christ? I submit the answer to this very basic question is Pope Benedict.  After an exhaustive investigation, the Pope appointed an oversight commission and sent his Delegate to the Legionaries. He explicitly says that he wants the Legion of Christ to succeed and he actively supports their reform. The process is not yet completed. But we know who is in charge. Hence, I continue to believe that the "problem" presented by the Maciel and Legionary phenomenon cuts close to the heart of the Catholic Church. In some way, all Catholics are involved and connected to this scandal. As Benedict said to reporters on his plane en route to his visit to Germany, "I can understand that in the face of such reports, people, especially those close to victims [of sex abuse], would say: 'This isn't my church anymore.' Then, in his homily at the Olympic Stadium he went on to say,
"To abide in Christ means ..., to abide in the Church as well. The whole communion of the faithful has been firmly incorporated into the vine, into Christ. In Christ we belong together. Within this communion he supports us, and at the same time all the members support one another. They stand firm together against the storm and they offer one another protection. Those who believe are not alone. We do not believe alone, but we believe with the whole Church."
"Standing firm against the storm" and "offering one another protection" is not easily reconciled with the more rational reaction "This isn't my Church anymore." How we react to the Church's on-going intervention with the Legionaries of Christ is an interesting test of where we stand and a good gymnasium to flex our thinking.

Monday, August 22, 2011

"Driving Straight" & Amazon book reviews

In a new Cornell study, Trevor Pinch, professor of sociology and of science and technology studies and author of 14 books, and Web entrepreneur Filip Kesler conducted an online survey of 166 of's "top 1,000" reviewers, as identified by Amazon. The reviewers write about everything from obscure books and mainstream films to such products as the ThighMaster or a dog brush. 

Just who are the Amazon reviewers? The study reveals some of the secrets. 85% of the reviews are written in  exchange for free products - including books. Also, 70% of reviewers are male, and 40% are professional writers.

Pinch said
 " styles range widely, from tongue-in-cheek to stream of consciousness to "extremely well crafted. The quality of the writing can be surprisingly good. These are no slouches."

The English edition of my autobiography, "Driving Straight on Crooked Lines" so far has 23 reviews on Amazon. Full disclosure, I did send one (used) copy to a blogger who sometimes deals with the book's topics and asked for a sincere review. She obliged. You can read her review here (it's not on Amazon). 

Three "activists" with regard to the LC controversies requested a free copy of the book. They approached me - I did not contact them. None of them reviewed it., although one of them ( a well known writer) e-mailed me very favorable comments. I guess my experiences were not considered to be "negative" enough.  If my book had "thrashed"  the  Legionaries and the Regnum Christi movement, I have no doubt it would have received a lot more "publicity." Frankly, I preferred to stick to the (always subjective) " truth" of my personal experiences even though that is not a popular position with those who - despite the Pope's on-going support - see no good whatsoever in the beleaguered congregation.

If you have read the book and would like to leave a short review on Amazon, I would much appreciate it. If you are not up to writing your own review, I would also appreciate it if you would "like" the reviews on Amazon that you agree with. Every little bit of input helps! If you want to see a "compendium" of reviews (including some that never made it to Amazon) you can check them at the "Driving Straight" website.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Good News from Madrid: World Youth Day

The controversies swirling about the Catholic Church all too easily obscure the hopeful signs we don't hear enough about.

World Youth Day is is a great worldwide encounter with the Pope which is celebrated every three years in a different country. This year it is being celebrated in Madrid from August 16th to 21st, 2011. The event is open to all young people who want to take part in a festive encounter with their contemporaries centered on Jesus Christ. I am heartened to see the Legionaries of Christ and Regnum Christ are active participants as they try to move past the scandal bequeathed to them by their deceased founder.

WYD organizers announced that a record number - 440,000 youth - signed up for the event. Among them are approximately 25,000 pilgrims from the U.S.

According to the Zenit new agency, the Pope will be hearing the confessions of several young people on Saturday morning, August 20 in the Jardines del Buen Retiro before celebrating a 10 a.m. Mass for seminarians. This is the first time that they’ve scheduled the Pope for the sacrament as part of the official itinerary.

The Legionaries of Christ and Regnum Christi members started a "Coffee House" in 2000 at the Rome World Youth Day during the Jubilee Year. Since then, it has been held at every World Youth Day, with 15,000 to 20,000 youth participating each time. This year, they have Priests, religious, and consecrated members from 17 different religious orders or movements who will be presenting their testimonies. In addition to 25 Catholic bands performing live music, there will be moments for prayer and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament exposed in the attached chapel. Priests will be hearing confessions and offering spiritual direction round the clock. As an additional "background" support, cloistered nuns from 23 convents will be praying and offering up their own Eucharistic adoration for participants.

Regnum Christi, the lay movement of the Legionaries of Christ will have 2,600 youth from more than 20 countries participating in the 2011 World Youth Day celebration in Madrid. They will be accompanied by more than 200 Legionaries and a hundred consecrated women and men.

The concluding ceremony will be a Mass on Sunday morning at Cuatro Veintos Air Base. More than 1 million people are expected to attend. 745 bishops, 13,455 priests, and 4,585 seminarians are planning to be there. More than 60 U.S. Bishops will be participating in WYD Madrid.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

“There are a terrible lot of lies going about the world, and the worst of it is that half of them are true.”

The title of this post "There are a terrible lot of lies going about the world, and the worst of it is that half of them are true” is attributed to Winston Churchill.

 An anonymous comment on the prior post - about Francisco Gonzalez Parga's book - says:

"I understand the abuse started in the first foundation that failed in Cotija and that Maciel had to leave Cotija since he couldn´t find enough boys whose parents would let them enter. That Mama Maurita knew about the abuse of boys and turned a blind eye.

Is it possible to track down those boys (now adults) who joined Maciel in Cotija and get more information about that first foundation ie how it really was - not how the legionary mystics have painted it...?

The Legion of Christ published its own history book with David Murray and Angeles Conde. It would be interesting to publish an authentic history of the Legion putting together the work of different ex legionary authors along with the efforts Renner, Berry, etc. and the interviews of Aristegui."

I am moving it up here so that I can try to articulate my response. Here goes:


I can't corroborate that the abuse started in Cotija. The temporary house in Cotija was opened in 1940. As far as I am aware, the first (documented) accusation of abuse was made in 1944 when the "founders" group had moved to the donated house in Tlalpan. I don't think any of the Cotija group persevered.

I've never heard of any credible evidence that Mama Maurita (Maciel's mother) was aware of abuse or that she turned a blind eye. I met her for the first time in 1965; nothing in her demeanor ever suggested to me that she might have known, for sure, about any form of abuse perpetrated by her son in the Legion.

There are at least 9 Legionary priests, still in the Legion, who were allegedly abused later on. As I've said before, their silence is hard to understand - I'd want to hear them affirm or deny the allegations. I'm pretty sure that some of the very first recruits are still alive although they are no longer Legionaries; however, I repeat, the first accusation doesn't seem to have been made until 1944. By then, the Cotija recruits had all left.

There is a need for an "updated" history of the foundation - I can't imagine that there is anyone in the LC who believes all the details handed down from those early days - or, as you say, "how the legionary mystics have painted it."

The Legion of Christ: A History"Legionary mystics" is an interesting term. I don't like it, because I don't find it accurate. I joined the LC in 1962 and heard the "stories" related to the early days from my first superiors and, mostly, from Maciel himself. I don't think my generation had any reason to doubt those stories and I suspect that most of what we heard was true. We never heard of any (credible) accusations and we saw nothing to make us doubt the veracity of the foundational stories. In addition to this, I, for one, met many contemporaries of Maciel including some of his first recruits. No one gave a substantially different version of the "history" that had been passed on to us.  In hindsight, of course, I know I never heard the "rest of the story." However, therein lies an important point. Maciel's stories were handed down to the next generations by people the new recruits trusted (I include myself both as "recipient" and "transmitter.") Many of us who passed on the "history" later came to doubt many details of what we had learned. By then, the damage was done. A "believable"  oral history existed. I suspect David Murray's and Angeles Conde's book, to which you refer, is entirely based on those first "stories." At that time, there wasn't much reason to doubt the "facts."

My personal theory is that the post- 1970 (approx.) Legionary recruits were far more credulous than my generation. They were also more orthodox, more right of center, and, of course, they joined something that looked more like an established "institution" fully approved and supported by all levels within the Church. There were no dissenting voices.

When the first allegations of abuse were made public, within the LC we never heard of them... and if we had heard of them we would not have believed them. Hence, I prefer to refer to the "myth" of Maciel. By "myth" I mean an "unproved or false collective belief that is used to justify a social institution." The "myth" developed and was passed on by people (including me and my peers) who never doubted the fundamental veracity of the stories. Hence, I don't think there was an intent to deceive or to lie. The further the "myth" was removed from the original source the more it was "embellished" - by people who never even met Maciel.

No doubt the current LC "high command" heard, accepted and passed on the "myth."  It remains to be seen when they found out for sure that it was not true and how and why they seem to have taken so long to debunk it. However, it's naive - and unfair -  to suggest that they themselves were not taken in for a very long time. Long enough for them to find it very difficult to accept a negative, alternative version. It may turn out that they took far too long to react. However, as one who lived the "myth" I'm inclined to give them a break. So is the Vatican.

With regard to non-LC (current or former) testimonies, as far as I can tell most of the commentators have an anti-Church "agenda" that goes beyond Maciel and the Legion. (For instance, anti-Pope John Paul II, anti-Vatican Council and etc. Some of the authors provide enough solid facts to justify the indictment of Maciel, but not to support broader charges against the Papacy.) 

Apparently, some of the older Legionaries who lived those early days, and who according to some testimonies were abused by Maciel, are not talking  - at least publicly. That is a source of on-going irritation for me and many of my peers. We want to know what they have to say.... and yet, it's their prerogative to talk or to hold their silence. The "true" story will eventually emerge but, even when it does, in these "early days" not everyone would believe the "truth."

As far as I'm concerned, I'm not convinced we need much more data. We already know more than enough to form an opinion. The Vatican has condemned Maciel, the Legionaries officially accept the Vatican pronouncements, Maciel's abuses have been credibly documented with an abundance of sordid details. Major lessons will emerge from the Apostolic Visitation. The Legion will reform or die. My hope is that the reform process will work, albeit slowly. When that happens and the LC feels less "threatened" the true story is more likely to emerge. Hopefully, the Church will learn valuable lessons, make the necessary reforms and the remaining Legionaries and Regnum Christi members can dedicate themselves to whatever the Church asks of them.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

An autobiography by Francisco Gonzalez Parga, former Legionary of Christ

Yo Acuso al Padre Maciel y a la Legion de Cristo: Por sus enganos y abusos: sexuales, emocionales, religiosos... (Volume 1) (Spanish Edition)Yo Acuso al Padre Maciel Y a La Legión de Cristo” is a memoir by Francisco González Parga, who was a member of the Legion of Christ from 1951 to 1971.  It is a paperback, published through Createspace, on February 14, 2011. Language: Spanish; ISBN-10: 1456411330. Available on

I met “Fr. Parga” for the first time when I joined the Novitiate of the Legionaries in Dublin, Ireland in 1962.  He was stationed there from 1962 through 1966. Like me he spent 20 years in the Legion. He was ordained a priest by Pope Paul VI in 1966. By then, I had been assigned to help start the Irish Institute in Mexico City.  My autobiography “Driving Straight on Crooked Lines: How an Irishman found his heart and nearly lost his mind” is mostly about my experience in the Legion – an experience vastly different to that of Mr. Gonzalez Parga but similar enough with regard to the side effects caused by Fr. Maciel’s approach to religious life.

Francisco and I crossed paths several times during our careers in the congregation although I never got to know him well. For most of the time, we were on different continents. I left the Legion in 1982. As I recall, Fr. Parga was often described in some Legionary circles, with a knowing wink from the ones providing the information that he was “different.” That meant Fr. Maciel, the founder of the Legionaries, considered him to be “troublesome" or, perhaps, a little “unstable.”

The short book – a total of 140 pages including some 20 pages of appendices – provides the details that I and, no doubt, many of my peers were unaware of.  It is a powerful tale of innocence betrayed by sexual and emotional abuse. It is a cathartic story of survival, of redemption, of faith renewed and happiness regained despite terrible odds.

In my opinion this testimony would benefit from better editing and presentation in order to reach a broader audience. Although the title (In English: “I Accuse Fr. Maciel and the Legionaries of Christ”) and sub-title (“For their innumerable betrayals and sexual, emotional, religious and mental abuse…”) are accurate and descriptive of the testimony, I don’t think they do the content justice. Surprisingly, the narrative is far more “positive” than the title implies. The author does not wallow in bitterness or melodrama as lesser souls might be tempted to do. His perspective is that of a mature adult, telling a shocking story by which he hopes his readers, including Legionaries, their supporters and the Church at large, may learn salutary lessons.

Francisco eventually disentangled himself from the dysfunctional relationship with the Legion and its founder. It was anything but an easy separation. The author candidly describes how his personal life unraveled including his battles with alcohol, drugs and prostitution. He does not indulge in lurid details. Thankfully he does not seek to shock us. His simple acknowledgement of his weakness, and the effects caused by the abuse he suffered, is all the more powerful because he does not dwell on them. 

Although the book supplies little new information that is not already public about Fr. Maciel and life in the Legion, the value of this memoir is in the power of the candid, personal testimony of the author.

To the best of my knowledge, there are only four autobiographies written by former Legionaries of Christ. Two of them are written in Spanish. The first one to be written (2003) is called “El Legionario” authored by Alejandro Espinosa. In English, fellow Irishman Paul Lennon was the first to document his story in 2008 when he wrote “Our Father Maciel who Art in Bed.”  My book, “Driving Straight on Crooked Lines” (also available in Spanish) was published in 2010.  Paul and I cover roughly the same time frame (1961 – 1982); neither of us was aware of the founder’s sexual abuses before we left the congregation. Alejandro Espinosa and Francisco Gonzalez Parga knew Maciel in the early 1950s.  Along with several others, they claim to have been sexually abused by him. In a broad sense, all four stories complement each other. Although written from different perspectives, and with different “agendas,” combined they offer an intimate first hand look at the early days of the Legion of Christ when Fr. Maciel wielded absolute authority.

Francisco's story is extremely compelling. It pulled me in from the very first pages and affected me on a deep emotional level. Perhaps it had this effect on me because I met most of the characters mentioned in the book.  I am astounded, once again, at how such terrible abuse went unnoticed by most – but not all - of Francisco’s peers and the extent to which Maciel was able to deceive so many people. It is hard to understand how some of those peers who knew what was going on have been able to remain silent for so many years. Based on their denials many of us bought into the founder's manipulations. After all, they were there.... and they assured us that any allegations were no more than malicious gossip.

Francisco came under Maciel's spell as a young seminarian at the age of fourteen. He tells of sexual, emotional and mental abuse by the founder.  The author shares extremely personal details of his life as a Legionary and his life after he left the Congregation. He pulls no punches. He mentions many Legionaries I knew and respected, and his narrative includes places and dates I am familiar with. I find his story compelling and eminently believable.  As he tells his story, he puts his finger on wounds that still need to be healed and he offers keen insight into the dysfunctional personality of the founder and the serious flaws he bequeathed to the Legionaries of Christ.

Mr. Gonzalez Parga is now 70 years old, married to Maria Esther. Together they own and operate a small business, although most of his post-Legionary career has been dedicated to college level teaching. His story and the way he chooses to tell it, give lie to the gossip that surrounded some of his Legionary career.  After reading his book, I feel I know him much better. It makes me sad to realize how much he had already suffered by the time I first met him. I rejoice that, eventually, late in life, he found peace, a measure of happiness and, I think, a deep faith in God. Despite his awful experiences at the hands of a priest to whom he gave his innocent trust, ultimately his book is a tale of redemption.

Father Marcial Maciel, LC, was born on March 10, 1920, in Cotija de la Paz, Michoacán, Mexico. On May 1, 2010, The Vatican ordered the overhaul of the Legionaries of Christ, one of the Catholic Church's largest and most influential organizations following an investigation into decades of sexual abuse by the group's founder and systematic efforts to cover it up. According to the statement, Mexican-born Father Marcial Maciel engaged in "very serious and objectively immoral behavior," the Vatican said -- including fathering at least one child and sexually molesting boys and seminarians. The abuse dates to the 1950s and continued into the 1990s, years in which Maciel led a double life, protected by silence and obedience and his ability to sideline his accusers. Father Maciel, LC, died in the United States on January 30, 2008. His mortal remains are laid to rest in his Mexican hometown.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Scicluna: courage needed to meet the victims of abuse

Veteran Vaticanologist Andrea Tornielli has just interviewed Monsignor Charles Scicluna, the man who for almost a decade  has fought alongside Pope Benedict (Cardinal Ratzinger) in the battle against the scourge of pedophilia. In December 2004, with Pope John Paul's health deteriorating by the day, Ratzinger broke with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Sodano and ordered Msgr. Charles Scicluna,  a canon lawyer on his staff, to investigate the allegations against Fr. Maciel, Founder of the Legionaries of Christ.
Monsignor J. Scicluna, is the “promoter of justice” at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He was born in Toronto in 1959 to Maltese emigrant parents. Before his first birthday he returned to Malta with his family. In an interview carried on the website "Vatican Insider," run by La Stampa, Ms. Tornielli speaks to Msgr. Scicluna about the scandals related to priestly abuse.
Msgr. Scicluna says, 
The Church considers children’s’ innocence to be one its most precious treasures, and Benedict XVI’s leadership was and is vital. He had the courage to say: we have made a mistake here, here we need to change…
This is precisely what Ratzinger was referring to in his famous meditations for the Via Crucis on Holy Friday back in 2005, when he spoke of the “filth” that existed in the Church: Those words came from three years of abuse case study; there was an awareness of the need to see priests’ sins for what they really were.
 Scicluna uses strong words to underline the fact that violence shown towards minors by clergymen constitutes “an abuse of spiritual power”. 
“Yes, it is true there is a specific difference between repeated abuse by a lay person and that carried out by a priest, on victims that expect to see in them the figure of the “good shepherd”. If a priest commits the abuse, the trauma caused to the victim is even deeper, the spiritual trust that existed is destroyed and a person’s faith is lost.”
Asked by Tornelli whether the change in mentality that Benedict XVI has asked for, is taking root in the Church, he responds 
“I believe that a change in mentality is only possible for those who have the courage to meet the victims of abuse, to welcome them and to listen to their stories. If this does not happen, one may have read up on every detail of the scandal, be fully prepared, but that person will not be able to fully comprehend the trauma that these immense sins cause. The reaction and anger expressed by the victims of priests is unlike that found in any other type of case, because it comes from deep within the soul”.

A Gregorian University initiative, supported by the Vatican, entitled “Towards Healing and Renewal” will be launched in February of 2012. The objective is to provide "a comprehensive response to the problem of sexual abuse and the protection of the vulnerable."   
Msgr. Scicluna reveals in the interview that that the bishops that will be participating in the international seminar at the Gregorian next February, will need to have met with the victims of pedophile priests in their respective countries, prior to attending. 
“It is a traumatic experience that is life changing, as in my case. Thanks be to God, and to the strict laws that are in place and to the development of a new conscience, these cases have decreased dramatically compared to previous years. ...  We need to continue to support the victims who have for so long been seen as “threats” to the good name of the Church, instead of being treated as individuals who have been wounded in their innermost soul. We need to welcome and help these victims ensuring above all that the traumatic experiences they have been through are not repeated”.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Hazy but not lazy days of summer on the blue Mediterranean

I just came across a short video on the Legionaries of Christ website. It depicts pretty accurately a passage in "Driving Straight on Crooked Lines: How an Irishman found his heart and nearly lost his mind," in which I describe our vacations in a small town south of Naples in Italy. You can read the passage below. Judging by the video, not a lot has changed - except in my time we didn't have backpacks and we certainly didn't have access to sail-boards. It's a nice little trip down memory lane (thanks to David Murray) and it certainly helps answer the question: what do Legionary seminarians (in Rome)  do on their summer vacations?

Summer in Monticchio included two weeks of ‘vacation,’ which we dedicated to intense physical activity. Most days, we would set out in groups of three or four, hiking to a nearby bay that wasn’t accessible by road. Getting there involved about an hour’s trek. We would climb down a steep path, which took us through some small olive groves and, eventually, to the water’s edge. Climbing back up again after a long day of swimming in the sun was a daunting task.
The bay was practically inaccessible by land, so we had the entire place to ourselves. The shoreline was steep and rocky and there was no beach. A large concrete platform, the remains of some former structure, served as our base for swimming and diving. The blue waters of the Mediterranean were always beautiful. Motor yachts and speedboats sometimes came in from the nearby marinas, giving us a fleeting glimpse of a lifestyle far removed from our seminary existence.
Other days, we would hike to surrounding towns, enjoying the magnificent scenery and Mediterranean locale. One of the more adventurous destinations for a hike was to the town of Positano, a beautiful place protected from the Northern winds by the Lattari Mountains. The return trip was about 20 km, which meant we had to run for most of the way, and would have little or no time to eat our sandwiches and visit the town.
The structure of Positano is old and beautiful. The buildings cling in tiers to the rock face. The small houses huddled on top of each other, so characteristic of the area, form the subject of endless photos. The colors are vibrant, and the white buildings create a perfect backdrop for the bright geraniums and other flowers adorning the walls and courtyards. Smells included; leather used for making sandals, the aroma from the restaurants, and the bustle of every day life.
But we didn’t have any time for sightseeing, because no matter how far we hiked or ran, we had to be back to our residence at the appointed hour. Because of the long distance, completing a hike to Positano, and getting back on time, came with bragging rights. 

Friday, July 29, 2011

Taking one for the team

As the once-flourishing Legion of Christ struggles to heal from the scandal caused by the abuse and double life of the founder, we should remember that Legionary priests and members of Regnum Christi continue to do wonderful work. The way forward for them, although painful, is not hopeless.  With Christ and in His Church, things are never hopeless.

Leaving the Legion, after 20 years, I found a new career as an international management consultant. I suggest Vatican Delegate Cardinal DePaolis, and the major superiors of the Legion might learn valuable lessons from the crisis-recovery practices of the business world.

Rupert Murdoch initially refused to accept the resignation of Rebekah Brooks, his loyal lieutenant and CEO of his embattled British newspapers. He steadfastly defended her in the face of demands from politicians that she step down. However, as his News Corp company struggled to contain a U.K. crisis threatening his entire global media empire, he made an abrupt switch. The news of Brook’s resignation a couple of weeks ago was greeted with relief. The public needed to someone to finally take responsibility for the terrible events that happened on her watch. Because with power comes responsibility.

Meanwhile, Rupert Murdoch, who dominated the media world for decades, finds himself under intense pressure to defend his business conduct. He should be asking himself why things worked out the way they did. What caused his “derailment?” Executives derail when the skills (personality style) that were the original source of success turn into fatal flaws.

The Legionaries and Cardinal DePaolis, could learn a thing or two from New Corp’s early reaction to its snow-balling crisis. Up to now, the Legionaries have managed to convey the impression they do not fully grasp the magnitude of the harm caused to the Church by the scandal.

The Legion of Christ announced July 15 that Father Luis Garza, the vicar general of the embattled religious congregation, has resigned and will assume leadership of its newly created “Legion Territory of North America,” which combines the current Atlanta and New York-based territories. I have suggested that Father Garza’s resignation as vicar general and his new appointment “may be a classic Vatican-style political move: Father Garza resigns as vicar general of the Legion in order to take control of the new ‘Legion Territory of North America.’ That way, he is removed from his key position in Rome without ‘losing face.’ Meanwhile, the former territorial directors, Fathers Julio Martí and John Connor, are moved aside.”

However, by failing to demand the resignation of the major superiors, whether or not they are culpable in the Maciel scandal, Cardinal DePaolis is sending an ambiguous message. I suggest senior Legionary leaders should take one for the team and tender their resignations. They already are “Dead Men Walking” since they will be replaced anyway at the next General Chapter. Even if they were not aware of the founder’s double life and not complicit in the cover-up of his misdeeds, it would speak volumes of the Legion’s prospects for reform if they were to exit stage left immediately. The Congregation would gain some breathing room with the media, and with people concerned about the impact of the Maciel scandal.

I think every Legionary should be willing to unambiguously acknowledge the crimes, deformation and bad example of the Founder. The lack of outreach to those abused by Maciel and the tardiness of the reform process may be a combination of deficient public relations, legal niceties, an inadequate understanding of the notion of transparency, and the lack of decisive leadership. But it is coming across as callous disregard for the victims and the good of the universal Church.

Ultimately, the new Legionary “brand” cannot be dictated from the top. There is an urgent need for fresh thinking and input from the younger priests who were less directly exposed to the dysfunctional side of the founder. They too might learn some lessons from the corporate world. To do this, the old guard must step aside.

  1. Re-discover their Core Identity. Get rid or the psychologically dysfunctional approach to the vow of obedience, the relentless recruiting, and fundraising. Re-discover humility, genuine Charity, and the the essence of the congregation that does not need to be changed. Seek some external advice, and include former members who have gained new perspectives.
  2. Re-examine their extended identity. Articulate the most important things internal and external audiences need to know about the congregation and the reform.
  3. Elaborate a “Brand Statement. Tell us what Legionaries and Regnum Christi members are committed to doing and being.
  4. Write a “Positioning Statement.”  Give us a brief, easily understandable explanation of "who" the congregation is and “what” it does. 
  5. Describe the Legion’s “Personality.” If the congregation were a person, what descriptive adjectives would Legionaries choose?  Spiritual? Compassionate? Honest? Charitable? Authentic? Trusting? Understanding? Humble? This exercise could generate some great common sense discussions and buy-in to the new “brand” among Legionaries and Regnum Christi members. 

Changing the “image” is but a first step in the process of the total overhaul of the Legion’s goals, message, and culture, because the “image” has to correspond to reality. Legionaries need to understand, acknowledge, and manage the raw human emotions the scandal has awakened in them, in their families, the clergy, and the Church at large.
Good people will support the generous men and women in the organization who gave their lives to Christ. Pope Benedict XVI has indicated by words and support he wants them to reform and thrive.  It’s time for the Legionaries to “get real,” say what they mean, mean what they say and boldly take meaningful steps to reform now. As a businessman and as a Catholic, I expect nothing less.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Father Luis Garza, LC, to head the new "Legion Territory of North America"

July 15, 2011. In response to a proposal by the directors of the Atlanta and New York territories, the Legion has created the new Territory of North America. Father Luis Garza, vicar general of the Legion from 1992 to the present, has been named territorial director, effective August 1.

It seems to me that this is a classic Vatican-style political move. Garza resigns as Vicar General of the Legion in order to take control of the new “Legion Territory of North America” which has conveniently been created by consolidating the operations formerly headquartered in New York and Atlanta. That way, he is removed from his key position in Rome, to accept a new, "important" assignment without “losing face.” Meanwhile, the former territorial directors, Fr Julio Martí and Fr John Connor, are moved aside.

Fr. Connor, especially, stuck me as one of the few senior Legionaries who demonstrated a practical, almost humble, approach to the Maciel scandal. At a fundraising event for the Legion at the Waldorf Astoria several months ago, he was the only one of many LC speakers, who openly acknowledged the 800 pound gorilla in the room - the awful scandal caused by Marcial Maciel, the founder of the Legionaries. It remains to be seen if this move is also designed to manage internal dissent in the United States. 

While Fr. Garza has formidable skills, management experience and powerful connections to contribute to his new job, I suspect that this is really a transitional move designed to begin the process of dismantling current senior LC leadership. Fr. Garza can claim not to have been demoted. He will initiate serious damage control in the all important territory of the United States. His prestige, especially back in his native Monterrey, will not be perceived to be diminished. 

Fairly predictable Vatican politics. It just took longer to happen than I expected. Look our for similar moves in the near future.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Leaders need to know when to step down

In a report date stamped he Vicar General of the Legion of Christ, Fr. Luis Garza, confirmed to  CNA/EWTN News that the order’s leaders are likely to step down at their next General Chapter meeting, which could be held as early as 2013.

“My hope is that we can continue serving the Church with the same enthusiasm, or even more, and with the same dedication but at the same time purifying all that was wrong and that we definitely need to change,” said Fr. Garza of the Vatican review process. “Religious life, as you know, has vows and you need to abide by obedience, by poverty, by chastity. So if you move away from those principles, virtues and vows then you destroy religious life.”  He is also quoted as saying "“The fear, of course, is that due to our lack of prayer and to the idea of not being faithful to a charism that we’ve received, (we) could produce changes that are not according to what God would want and God’s plans.” The latter remark seems to refer to some discussion about the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience professed by all religious., including the Legionaries The context is not clear from the article.

Before the next General Chapter can be convened the on-going revision of the LC's constitutions needs to be completed. This means that the Chapter may not take place until 2013, at the earliest. It is also possible that it might be delayed until 2015.

Fr. Richard Gill, a former US Legionary now working in the archdiocese of New York, is also quoted. "By failing to remove major superiors, or at least some of them, Cardinal De Paolis failed to send to the whole Legion a clear signal that the manner in which the current superiors handled the revelations about Maciel was completely unacceptable."

I find myself in agreement with Fr. Gill's quoted remarks. The Legion may not be able to afford to wait another two or three years to change leadership by means of the General Chapter. Fr. Gill says "the future of the Legionaries depends as much on having good leadership as it does on having good constitutions."

Meanwhile, Fr. Garza says he and the rest of the Legion’s leadership will step down immediately if asked to do so by Cardinal De Paolis. So far they have not been asked to do so. Neither, though, have they tendered their resignations. But the vicar general agrees with Fr. Gill that the future of the Legion lies in good new leadership. “It’s not that, in a sense, I believe that I can do anything special or different from anybody else," he says. "The Legion has a lot of very good men to really follow this process and bring the Legion to betterment to better serve the Church.”

From the above, I deduce that the decision to keep current (top level)  Legionary superiors  in place must be attributed to Cardinal De Paolis. Either he is in charge or he isn't....

Legionary schools: contrasting opinions

Over at the Red Cardigan Blog "And sometimes tea", I came across a posting date Wednesday June 22nd, 2011, entitled "A Legion Affiliated School: Advice to a Reader (input welcome!)".

Red analyzes the reader's letter and highlights three areas of concern about  the unidentified school:

1. Cost

2. Level of Legion involvement

3. Too perfect

4. Physical correction

She concludes with a request - " I'm especially interested to hear what those who have experience with the Legion, particularly Legion-run or Legion-affiliated schools, have to say."

Readers of this blog know that I was very involved with the "Irish Institutes" of Mexico City and Monterrey (Mexico) which were set-up under the direct guidance of the Legion's founder, Marcial Maciel. With the except of point #4 "Physical correction", over the years I heard similar objections. So, my interest was piqued and I read the ensuing comments.

As far as I could tell only three respondents had personal experience with LC schools. One of them claimed "to have helped start the first LC school in Texas... can state with absolute certainty that anyplace is better than the LC...the list of abuses, even criminal abuses, that goes on in the Legionary schools is staggering."  Wow! That seemed a bit over the top to me.

Only one commenter seems to have actually attended a Legion-run school.

I myself studied all my life in a LC school and from my own experience (and that of my siblings and classmates) I found the educational model rather positive... Despite all the negative comments I’ve read. I talk to you from my own experience of being a student at their schools, from first grade to 12th grade. 

Another comment suggested

Why not ask giselle, over at Life after RC? I know you'll get a negative response, but she - as well as her readers - might be able to give you more exact reasons why. I know there are readers there who worked for LC schools; I bet they can give you harder facts, instead of generalized warnings.

In general, readers responses were negative about LC-run schools. However during my time as a Legionary in Mexico I got to know hundreds of families who were by and large very happy with the education their children received in Legionary schools. LC graduates have, by now, a long history of acceptance into some of the best post-graduate college programs in the world. It seems to me that a majority of the graduates send their own children to LC/RC schools. Of course, I could write a long list of what is "wrong" with LC schools. But anyone familiar with the world of education could do the same about practically any any educational system because, in the heel of the hunt, we want a system that conforms to our personal and family values.

So, I posted the following comment on Red's blog:

.... I am a former LC who helped start the first "Irish Institute" school in Mexico City (1966) and later another one in Monterrey. For many years I was closely involved with the Anahuac University in Mexico City. Eventually, after ordination, I served as principal at the Irish Institute (Mexico).

I wrote a book about my experiences ("Driving Straight on Crooked Lines: How an Irishman found his heart and nearly lost his mind", available on Amazon.) I mention this, not for crass commercial purposes, but because I think the book provides some valuable insight into the evolution of LC schools.

Back in the sixties, our [LC] credo was: parents should choose a school that is most in accordance with their family values; our education should include the whole person and not be limited to "technical skills;" LC schools should excel in performance, have the best teachers and prepare our students for the business of life.

Maciel had creative, valuable and entrepreneurial insights. However, the educational "system" was totally refined by the lay teachers (not RC) hired in the early years. We brought a group of top notch Chilean educators to Mexico (after the Allende debacle) who helped refine all LC educational systems. At that time it was against the law in Mexico to teach religion; clerical garb was forbidden and no religious symbols were allowed. Schools were set up as private companies in order to avoid expropriation by the lay, anti-clerical state. Mexican elementary education then - as in many other countries - did not focus so much on "critical thinking." In my experience, students from the LC schools that I knew did extraordinary well and went on to the very best universities in the world.

Then the laws changed in Mexico and RC was founded. In the States the LC attracted extremely conservative (by my standards) Catholics which lead both it, and RC towards a very traditional and conservative approach to the Faith. Of course schools were expected to encourage priestly vocations (later to RC) and the recruiting aspect became quite pronounced. In my time, only a relatively small percentage of students ended up as committed RC members and even fewer as priests.

In sum, I think there is another side to LC/RC education as is depicted in this thread. It is not as bad as portrayed (in my experience) and it offers a host of redeeming features for committed Catholics. Kids do get an excellent, well rounded education, very different from our public school model. (This is not a criticism of public schools - where I sent my 4 kids.)

The main concern at the moment is the internal turmoil within the Congregation as they try to come to terms with the awful scandal of the founder and the need to undertake significant reforms. I don't think these reforms will need to address their approach to education. Most reform relates to internal governance and a healthier understanding of the evangelical counsels. The vast majority of LCs are excellent, well-intentioned men caught up in a situation not of their own choosing. In my international travels I meet many former students of LC schools and the majority seem to look back fondly on their experience. Apart from all the considerations mentioned in other comments, I would check out the "spirit" of the school with other parents and trust my intuition - with the caveat that the LC is now going through difficult difficult times which must have consequences on their short-term performance. Maciel's influence on the LC schools philosophy was not, I think, substantially flawed. His problems were deeper and in another realm. Hope this helps!

My comment generated a response which reads in part

I too was involved with the Legion and in your "history" you conveniently ignore the fact that Legion, from the beginning, was a cult of personality founded by Maciel to serve his raging, out of control narcissistic need for validation and adulation.  Everything the Legion touched was directed towards one end, that is, to add to the numbers of slavish followers of this monster. Church law, rubrics, personal dignity, honesty, and commandments were routinely ignored, broken, and flaunted in service of Maciel and his needs.

This last response is not entirely untrue (much of it referenced in my book) - however, generalizing about the many hundreds of good Legionary priests and seminarians who believed in the good works they were doing and whose daily work was largely unaffected by the scandals of the founder is quite an exaggeration. Not to mention the numbers of intelligent and committed Catholics who choose to collaborate with the LC (and the reform process) while continuing to avail of LC schools and universities which are not quite as bad, in my view, as the naysayers would have us believe.

The Legion is in dire need of reform - and, so far, the process is underway albeit slowly. There is much to criticize. And the founder was a monster. However, Pope Benedict insists he believes the Congregation can be "fixed" and I suppose he doesn't want to lose the educational network created by the LC. Time will tell.

Friday, June 17, 2011

"The Legion is an large ironclad warship for the Church"

Here is a letter of encouragement a Jesuit priest, Father Jorge Loring, published on the Religión en Libertad Blog.

Fr Loring SJ, was born in Barcelona, Spain and was ordained when he was thirty-three.. His book "To save yourself" has sold more than a million copies in Spain, not to mention the Mexican, Peruvian and Chilean editions. He has also written a book about the Holy Shroud.

dated June 16, 2011

To my Legionary friends:

 We have all suffered a great deal with the crisis of the Legionaries of Christ. But the Legion is a large ironclad warship of the Church in the battle for the evangelization of the world, and we can not allow it to go under.

Many religious orders have gone through crisis and overcome them.

But the reforms have been made those who remain, not those who have left.

Sometimes people do not fulfill their duties properly, but people come and go and the INSTITUTION must persevere with our support and collaboration.

No doubt that those who have left have done so with good intentions and honestly.

But it  my opinion that more can be achieved from inside rather from outside the congregation.

It is not impossible to return.

With very best wishes,
Jorge Loring S.I.