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.


Anon out of RC said...

"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."

I get that and understand because I was a previous leader and strongly passed on the "myth" to others as was told by my superiors.  I still will never understand and condone the fact that the "myth" was still passed on after 2006 when Garza now admits the Pope told him Maciel was  guilty of abuse and still continued after Feb 2009 until brave ex LC and RC and the media called the LC leaders out on their lies and spin.  I do question the intent after 2006 and it spoke  volumes that LC leaders were willing to protect Maciel and the institution even above the Pope's sanction of Maciel and lead priests and lay and children against the Pope at that time.  Garza admitted he knew and the myth spinning was atrocious after 2006. My conscience screamed asking how could I stay in a group where the leaders would cover for such sin, not make immediate amends with abuse victims and lead me away from the Pope to save their institution.  As an ex RC to see in others and feel myself the loss of trust in priests and the Church that have come as a "fruit" of time in LC/ RC is extremely painful.  I am saddened that the LC chose to carry on their mission with those "faithful" who stayed and put time into recruiting more and did not help those "dissidents" and "traitors" who left and are still struggling and healing from the betrayal.  Maciel and anyone who covered for him (including Garza) were the traitors of Christ, the gospel and the Church not the many beautiful souls who had to leave to get right with God and their conscience.

I do pray for reform and that the good I experienced in RC can touch others but am still skeptical because the Gospel I follow does not hide and cover for sin and makes amends to those who have been hurt and cares for one lost sheep much more than the protection of a human institution.  I learned that in my 10 years in RC. I would love to see it put into practice.  

Anonymous said...

Probably rather than mystic I should have called them mythmakers. In this group I would include Fr. Arumi, Fr. William Izquierdo, Fr. Bannon, Fr. Jorge Cortes, Fr. Hector Guerra, Fr. Bailleres, among others.

The point is they believed everything without question, many times seeing that the reality was quite distant from their lofty claims, and imposed those beliefs on others along with very strong words for those who dared to question their absolutizing truths.

If this was anything other than a conservative Catholic organization in the heart of the church, some might even call them schizophrenics. Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that makes it difficult to tell the difference between real and unreal experiences, to think logically, to have normal emotional responses, and to behave normally in social situations.

Regarding Mama Maurita, it is hard to believe that she could be unaware. If she was so holy and full of virtue, how can she not pick up that there was not something terribly wrong with her son? There is a very unique connection between mother and son and between marcialito and his mother this was no exception.

I think that there were many who were deceived and deceivers through no fault of their own, but those who were close to Maciel knew that he did not pray, did not celebrate Mass, did not live the rule, and was a drug addict.

Personally I heard Fr. William Izquierdo state that Dominguez (maciel´s personal secretary) was trying to destroy the Legion to reap the riches. Whereas Dominguez was actually informing the Vatican about Maciel less than ideal lifestyle, prayer life and priestly life. Fr. Izquierdo also stated that Bishop Mendez Arceo was a communist and that is why he hated the Legion whereas Bishop Arceo wrote to the Vatican about Maciel...“devious and lying behavior, use of narcotic drugs, acts of sodomy with boys of the congregation.”

At some point you have to admit that many of the early Legionaries are simply lying, plain and simple, no other way to say it. For those of us who were deceived and deceivers, I think it is worth it to get to the real truth behind the myth.

1. did maciel sit on the hillside and contemplate eternity from the Cotija cementary?
2. did he see the gravesites and feel that riches simply mean nothing in reference to eternity?
3. did maciel bring communion to the isolated Catholic communities with great danger to himself during the cristero revolution?

Personally I would like to know the real truth behind the myth. I hope one day it can be consolidated into one single work and it needs to be done soon before these first legionaries or maciel´s Cotija followers pass onto the next life.

Lauretta said...

Jack, who do you think was in charge of the finances of the Legion? Did Maciel control the $20 billion all by himself? If not, shouldn't those who knew of the vast resources have had a difficult time accepting the Legion's tactics of feeding their seminarians and students donated, out-dated food, etc. Shouldn't those who were involved in throwing away the prayer intentions from those donating money have felt shame? Did no one know of Maciel's coercing widows out of their money? Why did those who booked his flights on the Concorde not have doubts about his authenticity? Someone was involved in bringing boys to Maciel's room at night. How could they not wonder at times what was going on? Did the Legion so strip these people of their reasoning and conscience that they were totally blind to all of this? If that is true, then they need to be dissolved because they are too dysfunctional to be witnesses to the Gospel. No one following the Gospel would have ever condoned or contributed to any of the things I mentioned.

Anonymous said...

Jack, I love the discussion. It takes a real level head to examine the Legion and see the Legion from various points of view. I do feel sorry for those who are still living the "ilusion" of doing great things for Christ through their warped spirituality and lifestyle. However there are still good people inside like Fr. Walter Schu. He has suffered alot from sickness and now witnesses the disease within his own community. He was never given the 5 star treatment so many others were given who were friends of Fr. Maciel and yet there he is. We may disagree sometimes but I think the discussion is healthy. Thanks again for your blog.