Monday, April 4, 2011

"I was blind but now I see" A consulting approach to reforming the Legionaries of Christ

Readers who have ever watched the adventures of "Thomas and Friends" - a TV series for children - may remember that the star of the show, Thomas the Tank Engine, often has "an idea fly into his funnel." Over the past couple of weeks, I've had some thoughtful communications from friends who once were my colleagues in the Legion of Christ. Hearing from men I have not been in  touch with for 30 years certainly caused a lot of ideas to "fly into my funnel."

Yesterday was the Fourth Sunday in Lent in the Roman Catholic liturgical cycle. As I listened to the biblical and New Testament readings I hoped to garner some nuggets of inspiration to get me through the week. The priest delivered a fairly good homily - but, as is too often the case (in my view), he ended up condemning "the world" and the "unhealthy" culture we live in without giving a contrasting optimistic and encouraging message - a message that might help me get through the ups and downs of daily living. For instance, granted the biblical themes, I couldn't figure why - once again - he did not speak of the positive effects religion can have on our lives. It seemed to me, for instance, that the reading from the Gospel of John, about an early memory of a cure by Jesus, offered an opportunity for some extended teaching on "conversion" and its positive mental and spiritual consequences.

The first reading from the book of Samuel said: "Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart."  That got my attention!  Then, from Paul to the Ephesians: "Brothers and sisters: You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth." Finally, from the Gospel of John, the following phrases dove directly into "my funnel": "As Jesus passed by he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him."

As I tried to concentrate on the readings, I found myself thinking of the aforementioned former-Legionary friends. Like them, and most other former Legionaries that I know personally, a common thread seems to be that we describe our religion as being more "spiritual" than in days of yore. Less reliant on the external trappings - the Institution - of the Church and the dictates of the hierarchy. The specific men I refer to above greatly impressed me with their easy familiarity with the Scriptures, with their solid knowledge of philosophy and theology and their lack of "bitterness" when speaking of the many years spent as Legionaries of Christ.

Conversing with them was good for my soul. I hope it was good for them too.These men epitomized much of my experience of the Legion before the founder's crimes forever sullied the waters for all of us. I regard them as good, kind, compassionate, talented, and gentle men. I am proud to call them friends. At Mass, I reminisced about our conversations and wondered how men like us allowed the Legion to become so focused on results and our own "integration" to alienate us from the spirituality that we re-discovered after leaving the Legion.

Less all this sound excessively pious, let me say that I also found myself "distracted" with thoughts of an upcoming consulting project during which I will be working with a corporate high-level multicultural team. My task will be to leverage the strength of their diversity, enabling them find common purpose and shared values to help them come together as a high-performing team. This is what I do for a living. I wondered, what would I suggest if the Legion of Christ were to hire me as a "consultant" to help them address their efforts at renewal?

Like some of my readers - and very many former Legionaries and current blog-reading members of Regnum Christi - I find little solace, help, or compassion in some blogs, both in English and Spanish, that profess "to foster love for Christ, while analyzing the place of the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi in the Church." Beyond providing a forum for venting and nitpicking pretty much every move made by the Vatican in its effort to reform the Legion, I don't see much effort to offer constructive criticism or to support well intentioned Legionaries and RC members who wish to conform to the expressed desires of the Holy Father with regard to the Legion. It seems to me that enough dirty linen has been dragged out and displayed in the public forum - I don't think there is much more to be learned that will change our opinion of the reforms that are clearly needed and which are, apparently, already underway. I do think there is room for constructive input.

So, in the spirit of the liturgical season, as the Church prepares for Easter, I'd like to dedicate the next several posts to what I, wearing my "international management consultant" hat, would suggest to the Legionaries of Christ if they ever solicited my opinion. The Legionaries have had to swallow - some of them still gagging -  bitter medicine. I would like to offer positive, measurable steps they might implement on a personal and organizational level in order to complement the efforts already under way in order to achieve the stated goals of the Holy Father. I sincerely welcome comments from readers who might want to contribute their thoughts to this endeavor. It's so easy to tear things down - the real challenge is the rebuilding and remediation of an organization that affects, and has affected, the lives of so many people. From the outside, looking in, after years of separation, we might be ab;e tp offer some helpful suggestions.

Getting back to the Sunday reading, the Pharisees in the Gospel story "a second time called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give God the praise! We know that this man is a sinner.” He [the blind man] replied, “If he [Jesus] is a sinner, I do not know. One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see.” Those of us who have had the experience of living many years within the Legion and Regnum Christi organizations and who can relate to the blind man's exclamation, "I once was blind, but now I see" have much to contribute. It will be up to the Legionaries to choose to hear, and act, upon our thoughts. As I have learned in my work with leaders and teams, leaders emerge to deal with problems. I don't know who the new leaders will be - but I am sure some of them are already listening.

To be continued!

PS - I did write an article on "The Story behind the story: Lessons in Leadership" based on the events described in the book "Driving Straight on Crooked Lines."  It received good comments from fellow management consultants. Click on the link to the title of the article if you would like to read the PDF file.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I suddenly had a mounting curiosity about the Legionaries of Christ and Regnum Christi after reading negative press on John Paul II's impending beatification. It seems like the press and other people who are bent to discredit the contribution (that's an understatement) of the late Pontiff are using the scandal that Fr. Maciel founder of LC/RC to do just that. Though not aware of RC/LC until then, I felt the pain of knowing that a man of God who had built up an organization that is supposed to bring people closer to God has done all of these hideous crimes. But God has reasons... and though we have to condemn the sins committed, it is not for us to condemn the sinner. I am at a loss for words. But thank you for writing a blog that is totally different from the other blogs that I came across... they were just pure denunciations and full of hatred. I am sure that there are lots of sincere people in RC/LC who are sincerely following Christ. Anyway... just wanted to let you know that your blog somehow gave this Catholic heart of mine a little rest. I am just so sad and hurt to see all of these things happening to the people of God. What the founder of the LC/RC has done is unfathomable... I am going to pray for the repose of his soul. May the merciful God have mercy on him.