Monday, January 3, 2011

A Happy and Humble New Year?

On December 24, 2010, in Rome Cardinal Velasio De Paolis C.S., President of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See and Pontifical Delegate for the Legion of Christ ordained 61 Legionaries of Christ to the priesthood. The ceremony was attended by family members, friends, fellow Legionaries, and Regnum Christi members who gathered in Rome for the occasion. By ordaining  so many priests in these difficult times, once again, the Legion has demonstrated that it is still a force to be reckoned with in the Catholic Church.

What sort of priests will these men be? Will they be able to separate themselves from the dysfunctional legacy of their founder, Fr. Maciel?  Will they be open to their families, their parishes and brother priests members of the diocesan clergy? Will they work in collaboration with the Bishops? Will they trust their fellow Legionaries? Will they continue to ostracize former Legionaries and Regnum Christi members many of whom they never knew but on whose shoulders they will build their new apostolates? Will they follow their vow of obedience in a psychologically sound way? Will they seem more "normal" and less "robotic" than some of their predecessors? Will they reach out to the victims of Maciel's physical abuse? Are they aware of the dysfunctional aspects of MM's legacy? Do they know they are not alone in their work? Will they welcome help and positive criticism?

Perhaps the beginning of an answer is to be found in a letter and progress report made public on December 14, 2010. The Legion of Christ has always been a proud, self-confident organization that has had to bite the dust thanks to the deceptions of the founder. They are going through a difficult time; how they react is not indifferent to the Catholic Church. Perhaps the Legionaries AND the Vatican will learn a very valuable lesson from this whole debacle. If they do and if they are humble perhaps so much suffering will not have been in vain.

Father John Connor, LC and Father Julio Marti, LC, territorial directors respectively of the Atlanta and New York territories issued an introductory letter to introduce a new 10-Point Progress Report that they will use in their territories to mark progress on the Legion’s commitments to improvement. Interestingly, "the report focuses on how we do things rather than the objective results of our efforts." This is important because a key element discussed by both the Vatican and the LC leadership in recent months is the concern that they have often sought results – at any cost.

The report presents information according to the commitments made by the Legion earlier this year in the March 25 letter from the order’s superiors, and includes key issues for improvement raised in the Vatican’s May 1 communiqué.  It will be updated periodically.

At a recent event that I attended, hosted by the Legionaries of Christ, I noted that Fr. John Connor was the only one of the 50 or so Legionaries in attendance, who seemed humble enough, or savvy enough, to publicly mention in his speech that the Legionaries are going through a difficult time. His comments were a refreshing oasis in a desert of denial. This letter reinforces the initial impression I had of his intervention. I suggest that the letter and report are well worth reading and I truly hope they reflect a new "attitude" and bode well for a better New Year for the congregation and those whose lives they affect.


poman said...


I can only speak to my experiences since the Maciel debacle, but I have had the good fortune of every Legionary, and RC member for that matter, be open to admitting and discussing the tough state of the Legion, and the scandal Fr. Maciel's legacy has created. Whether or not the whole Legion and Movement can break free and move forward in a healthy manner is to be seen. I have confidence in the Church and the Holy Spirit that much good can be brought out of this.

The Monk said...

That's encouraging to hear!
The challenge, I think, is to separate the Legionary lifestyle (norms, consitutions) from the dysfunctional aspect of the founder.

It's not easy to wake up one morning (I exaggerate!) and realize that your "father" was a scoundrel and that he manipulated you and your brothers. You have believed in him and practiced his teachings (lifesyle) for years. No doubt, granted the seriousness of his misdeeds, the "family" needs to go through all the stages of grief - denial, anger, acceptance etc. I was surprised at the intensity of my own reactions after so many years.

There may be two big groups in the LC - those over, let's say 50 and those who are younger. Where are the older guys going to go? What are they going to do? Diocesan priesthood is not an easy option. They are real victims too - and they are still "trapped."

The younger group probably feels it has more options and, in a sense, may be less affected by the sins of the father. Many of them hardly knew Maciel; they only knew the sanitized side of his life and they followed his orthodox teachings. My guess is that they are anxiously awaiting the final outcomes of the renewal process. They too are victims and they too are "trapped" - but they will be more inclined to action, especially in Europe and the US.

This latter group will make their decisions when they see who is chosen as the new leadership (when they have their General Chapter.) I think they are probably trying to evaluate who is who.... separating those who "get" the magnitude of the problem from those who apparently do not "get it." For instance, an LC not much younger than me, told me that the Pope did not agree with the May 1 Vatican statement. I was flabbergasted at this assertion... and found myself wondering how the "younger" generation might react to such a statement. Perhaps that might be emblematic of what's going on?

Although they never seem to want it, the LCs need support and prayer even though so many of them bite the hand that feeds them...

poman said...

Interesting comment about the over 50 and under. Never thought about that. My encounters have been overwhelming with the under 50 crowd, which may explain my experiences.

The comment about the Pope not agreeing with the May 1 statement would flabbergast me too. I have not met any Legionaries who do not "get it", but like any group there is bound to be some! I do not doubt they are out there, I just have not encountered them yet.

This might be the interesting thing to come out of this. Not to generalize, but perhaps the "younger" group will rise up to lead in a new direction, and the "older" group either goes with it or leaves. I have no solid evidence to think that will happen, but your comments have me pondering that possiblity.