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 Amazon.com.

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.


Frank I said...


Have you ever considered reaching out to either Francisco Parga or Alejandro Espinosa, and trying to work out an arrangement to translate their books into English?

There may be enough of an audience in the English-speaking world to make it financially worth everyone's time and efforts.

If your friend Paul Lennon is reading this post, I'll throw out the same question for his consideration as well.

The Monk said...

Thanks for the suggestion Frank 1.

I'm not sure there is enough of an audience to make it financially worthwhile... even to cover the costs...writing about MM and LC is not a "financial" endeavor!

By now the LC "problem" is not news and I think a lot of people are tired of LC/RC "bashing"... with the exception of small number of the hard-core "opposition," I suspect the average Catholic is tired and embarrassed by the constant destructive criticism of the Church... for which the LC has provided lots of fuel. So I suspect there is not a broad readership base for the books in question.

I for one am more interested in seeing the outcomes of the Vatican intervention. While I am not as overtly enthusiastic as I once was, I still hope the LC/RC can be truly "reformed." Bottom line (for me) is that seems to be what the Pope (still) wants... it's not easy for me to cling to that hope. As a "business consultant" my inclination is to help fix broken organizations or make good ones better.

What do you think? Would any "good" be achieved by translating and publishing the books in question? I'm certainly open to suggestions! Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

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.

Frank I said...


I am waaaaaaay late to the party here in responding to your question. It has been on my mind, but life and work got in the way, thus the delay.

Your question was: "Would any good be achieved by translating and publishing the books in question?"

My response is: Yes, a tremendous amount of good would be achieved by translating and publishing the works of Francisco Parga and Alejandro Espinosa.

I believe it is critically important, both for individuals impacted by the legion (negatively or positively), as well as for the wider Catholic community, to know the truth about the legion and regnum's history. Though we have some differences about the legion of christ, I believe that we are both in agreement that the legion has never been honest about its history. Sadly, you were certainly lied to more than I was, as you spent much more time with them. Though I admire your hesitancy to cast yourself as a victim, to some degree you were a victim of legion lies and deceipt.

Allow me to offer one example of how important it is to hear from those who were in the Legion, particularly during the earlier years of the congregation.

Several months ago, there was a discussion going on at another blog involving the history of Regnum Christi. You contributed several posts to this discussion. One in particular struck me at the time. In your post, if I remember correctly, you stated that Maciel and legion leaders informed you in the year 1979 that they were going to form an apostolate of laypeople called Regnum Christi. Though I may be off a shade on some of the precise details, the bottom line here is that you offered testimony that the legion basically "rolled out" RC in the year 1979. If I have misunderstood you, please correct me.

Now, let's contrast your statement with the legion's history, as stated on the official Regnum Christi webpage:


In this page, lc/rc attempts to peg the original idea of rc to a conversation (non verified, of course) that maciel had with Pope Pius XII in 1946. Further, the legion states that the first draft of the rc constitutions were produced in 1959.

Compare your version of RC's founding with the legion's official version. Isn't it odd that this idea was around for 20 years before you, as a legion priest, had even heard of it? Recall, the legion was a fairly small congregation during your time with them. It isn't as if you wouldn't have heard about this pre-1979 if rc REALLY existed before then.

Further, by the late 70s, you had considerable authority and responsibities within the legion. It's not as if RC could have actually existed without being on your radar long before then.

The point I am making is that your testimony, whether you realized it or intended it, basically contradicted an entire swath of made-up legion history and lore. For this reason it is very important to gather the testimonies of folks like you, Paul Lennon, Parga, Espinsoa, those among the Original 9 sexual abuse victims of maciel who are still alive, and other former legionaries so that a fuller, more accurate picture of legion/regnum history can emerge.

Anonymous said...

Alejandro is a great friend to my family and I know he would love for some one to help him translate his book his English is not bad at all..he is never been afraid to talk about his experience with maciel even after anonymous threats to his own life if you would like to contact him by email or Skype I could help his health is not great cuz of cancer but I know be would love to see his book in English before passing.