Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Legion of Christ: Should the Vatican intervene, or should the Legion seek the Vatican's help?

I have not commented much on the news about Legion of Christ Founder, Marcial Maciel, whom we recently learned, fathered at least one child who is now about 20 years of age.

This has brought upon the order a great scandal, and gives some credibility to accusations that Fr. Maciel was a predator who preyed upon some seminarians. Maciel was suddenly swept into a life of prayer and pentitence,without explanation, by Pope Benedict XVI in 2006 and died about a year ago.

Fr. Thomas Berg, LC wrote a letter to members of the LC apostolic movement, Regnum Christi that has been widely circulated since it was published February 8th. An anaylsis of Fr. Berg's beautiful letter by Dr. Germain Grisez, Flynn Professor of Christian Ethics at Mt. Saint Mary's is available at AmP.

I have not commented on this topic because I am an outsider who knows only what has been reported by others. This however, has not prevented me from looking at some of what I am seeing and pondering it all from a spiritual standpoint.

I do know ex-Legionaries and people who have ex-Legionaries in their families.

The examples I've seen in Fr. Jonathan Morris, LC and Fr. Thomas Williams, LC on television have left me with a favorable opinion of LC priests.

Before I go any further, I need to get some points out of the way....

Point One: Judas was a man with a vocation, called by God to be a priest. But, God gave to Judas, as he does with all of us, a free will. We don't judge the Church based on what Judas did. the apostles did not use Judas' behavior as justification to ignore what Jesus taught. Scripture reveals that Judas did not repent. Rather, he hung himself in despair. Had he sought forgiveness, it would have been given him. We do not know if Maciel confessed and repented of all of his sins or not. He has gone on to the Just Judge from Whom nothing can be hidden. I seriously hope that he did confess and repent.

Point Two: Each priest, whether diocesan, or religious order has a right to be judged not by the order in which he resides, but as an individual. If we judged priests based on their order, then one of the greatest Jesuits, John A. Hardon, SJ, would also have to be judged based on the strange teachings of certain Jesuits who engage in outright heresy. This amounts to throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Point Three: I'm tired of people using the "priest sex abuse scandal" to judge every priest. A 2002 news article about a report on priest-sex abuse compared data to that of sex-abuse by school officials. Over a 9 year period, there were 290,000 cases of school official abuse were reported vs. 11,000 cases of priest sex-abuse over a roughly 50 year period. Clearly, there is a double standard and rampant stereotyping in the media and in blogs. Charol Shakeshaft of Hofstra University concluded:

"the physical sexual abuse of students in schools is likely more than 100 times the abuse by priests."
Think about all those priestly roles you see on TV and how they are portrayed nowadays. Compare that to how Hollywood treats school officials!

A path of humility for Legion of Christ leadership

Some are calling for the Vatican to intervene because confidence in the LC leadership to do a proper self-audit is low and many questions are swirling as to whether it can continue as is. It is said that Maciel's photos have been taken down in LC buildings. But, it is not soo easy to "remove" him from other things within their structure.

There are many questions by a broad and public audience as to whether anyone knew about the founder's double-life, when they knew it, and how they may have aided him, etc. Questions loom over the heads of leadership with people wondering how they can possibly do any kind of investigation...... of themselves and those close to them. While there is a possibility that Maciel, and the kind of structure that he organized, enabled him to keep things hidden from everyone, others aren't so sure. Or, shall we say, that it is a justifiable thing to want to rule out. Only an outsider can give people the assurance that the investigation was full and proper.

In thinking through this (as a secular Carmelite), it would seem to me that we ought not look to the Vatican to intervene. Rather, we should enter an intense period of prayer that LC leadership does the right thing and seeks help from the Holy See. This is a path of humility, especially for the Legion, given it's secretive reputation.

Next to surrendering one's life, nothing can be greater than surrending one's will. For leadership to surrender their will by opening themselves to outside help, they obtain an opportunity to practice the obedience they so cherish.

What does obedience have to do with anything?

Obedience is a gateway through which only the Holy Spirit and holy Angels may pass. It serves also as a barrier for the Angel of Darkness whose pride is much too great to permit passage. Obedience is also a pathway of grace. The pain of not getting to do things your way, is an excellent, God-pleasing offering.

What is the future of the Legion of Christ? Only the Holy Spirit knows at this point. The best way to find out is for the LC to enable the Holy Spirit to do His work. Often times this happens through others. Surely, many graces will accompany such an act of humility - to seek help.

It will also go a long way in healing the wounds of scandal and mistrust. If after short time the Legion does not seek help, I pray that Vatican will step in for the good of all involved.

As for the rest of us, if you really want to do something about this situation, go to Adoration. There are a good many innocent people - all victims in one way or another, of the sins that one man probably thought were relatively hidden. Pray for the recovery of any victims of physical sexual abuse, especially that their faith is not lost. Pray for the innocent priests and lay people suffering now from the sins of their spiritual father. Pray for the repose of Maciel's soul, as well. Charity and mercy are not things we extend only to those we like and love.

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The obedient are not held captive by Holy Mother Church; it is the disobedient who are held captive by the world!