Saturday, April 16, 2011

A consulting approach to reforming the Legionaries of Christ (5): Acknowledge the crimes

On May 1, 2010 the Vatican issued a statement condemning Maciel as "immoral" and acknowledging that Maciel had committed "true crimes" and that he had led a "life deprived of scruples and authentic religious feeling."  The Vatican statement was remarkable in its tough denunciation of Maciel's crimes and deception.

I am still cautiously optimistic that the Legion of Christ can be reformed and that it still provided great service to the Church.

However, I want to know that every single Legionary of Christ is willing to unambiguously acknowledge the crimes, deformation and bad example of the Founder.

Admittedly, I have only one case to cite where a Legionary priest of my generation sought to explain to me that “the Vatican’s condemnation of Fr. Maciel did not come directly from Benedict XVI and that it was “manipulated” by enemies of Fr. Maciel.”   This is one case too much

In general, Legionaries as a corporate entity have managed to convey the impression that they do not fully grasp the magnitude of the harm caused to the Church and to countless individuals, by the Founder.  In part this is the result of deficient public relations, a tardy realization of the notion of transparency, the apparent lack of decisive leadership by the Vatican delegate, and the deluge of news about priestly pedophilia.

As a result of reading my autobiography about my life as a Legionary, many former colleagues have written to me, clearly repudiating the behavior of their founder. On an individual level, I am sure most Legionaries now do. Organizationally, there is no room for leeway here. Any Legionary who wishes to be part of the future of the Congregation needs to be extremely clear in his total personal acceptance of the Vatican pronouncement.

Hence, I think it is important that every Legionary and every member of Regnum Christi must be able to articulate “the very grave and objectively immoral actions of the founder which have left deep wounds” include.
  • Sexually abusing dozens of teenagers, their religious vocation, human dignity and freedom.
  • Gave sacramental absolution to some of these children, thereby also corrupting their conscience.
  • Fathered more than one child with more than one woman
  • Diverted large sums of money from legitimate charitable donations, using them to finance unholy aspects of his personal lifestyle.
  • Deceived the people of God, the Legionaries, many bishops and cardinals and the Vatican by distorting the truth and manipulating people and institutions for his own purposes.
  • Tainting thousands of Legionaries, Regnum Christi members, benefactors and the Church in general by introducing dysfunctional, cult-like elements into his formation methodology, including an unhealthy understanding of the vow of obedience, suppression of critical thinking, fostering emotional immaturity amongst his followers, introducing Private Vows (now suppressed), draconian prohibitions with regard to Legionaries contact with their families, exaggerated focus on recruitment methodology to the detriment of healthy spiritual life, promotion of an elitist mentality, and the callous abandonment of  so many former Legionaries whom he routinely branded as traitors and to whom he (and the Legion, as an institution) offered no pastoral care.
  • His organization, to date, at least according to those who have made their claims public, has not adequately and charitably dealt with the victims of Fr. Maciel’s sexual abuse including monetary compensation and public apology
  • It is (now) impossible to believe that Fr. Maciel did not have accomplices within the Congregation. This must be publicly acknowledged. I can well understand that few knew the “whole story” and how everyone who came into close contact with the founder was adroitly manipulated. It’s not so much a question of “naming names” as it is of acknowledging that he could not have behaved to the extent he did without internal colluders.
I know, from personal experience, that what I am suggesting is not easy for those (I include myself) who personally knew, collaborated with, and thought they enjoyed the special favor of the Founder. The wounds are still extremely raw. It is never easy to denounce the sins of “a beloved father.” Time – and perhaps therapy for some - will heal those wounds.

Wearing my “management consulting hat” (aware the Legion cannot be treated as just another management challenge) I would suggest, in order to give credence to the acknowledgment of Maciel’s crimes, Legionary superiors and their spokespersons stop using the unctuous, manipulative, pseudo spiritual language they inherited from Maciel such as “I write this to you in the presence of the Eucharistic Jesus,” or “as we contemplate these ineffable mysteries… accepting the part Christ wants to assign to us….because we too are co-protagonists….this is how I present to you…”

There are many good people still willing to support those good Legionaries who generously gave their lives to Christ. The Church more than ever needs good priests, priests willing and able to engage in contemporary society. That's the sort of priesthood most Legionaries intended to live. The Vatican has indicated its desire, including support, that the Legion reform and thrive.  Now, in American parlance, it’s time for the Legionaries to “get real,” say what they mean and mean what they say and boldly take the next steps to re-articulate and live their Charism – this is their most urgent mission as “co-founders.”


Anonymous said...

The most disturbing statement that I have read in this sad event is the decision of the Legionaries to continue preaching from the books of Fr. Maciel, and Jim Fair's statement that they will not let anybody know that this is what they are doing. (on RCLive) A truly disapointing moment from one who prays for them.

This, and their history of denying the truth about Fr. Maciel, from the time he was censured by the Pope, to the present justification by the RC membership that Fr. Maciel was the flawed tool of the Holy Spirit, able to do a huge amount of good notwithstanding his sins, lead me to believe that there is a long road ahead.

But, in business, I've noticed that new managers often lie low the first year, assessing the territory, and move to make changes the second year once they know the ground and the players. And then, they can be quite ruthless. This is Church, so one would hope for mercy and compassion, but not at the expense of the Truth that sets people free.

The Monk said...

Anonymous, thanks for your comment. It seems to me that, in general, the Legion has not done a good job with public relations and damage control. My take is that, as an organization, they have moved away from the "teachings" of Maciel. The challenge is, most of what he wrote is quite orthodox. So, although they are definitely separating themselves from the founder, it's not quite as easy to show how they have moved from his "teachings". No doubt new leaders are being scrutinized and prepared so that they will be ready to step up for election at the next General Chapter. It's a slow process, but I am still cautiously optimistic.