Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Outing A Spiritual Cancer

Did the Holy Father know the other Father wasn't so Holy?

New Haven, Feb 3, 2009 / 01:29 pm (CNA).- Responding to unconfirmed revelations of misconduct by the Legionaries of Christ Founder Fr. Marcial Maciel, the U.S. spokesman for the Legionaries of Christ has acknowledged unspecified actions that “weren’t appropriate for a Catholic priest.” However, he insisted that Fr. Maciel “was and always will be the father of the Legion.”

The blog “Exlcblog” claimed that Fr. Scott Reilly, the Legionaries of Christ Territorial Director in Atlanta, Georgia announced to those in the Territorial Direction that Fr. Maciel had a mistress, fathered a child, and lived a double life. The blog claimed that the Legionaries of Christ is therefore renouncing Father Maciel as their spiritual father.

CNA contacted Legionaries of Christ spokesman Jim Fair, but received no specific confirmation of any allegations.

“We’ve learned some things about our founder’s life that are surprising and difficult to understand,” Fair told CNA on Tuesday.

“We can confirm that there are aspects of his life that weren’t appropriate for a Catholic priest.
“Obviously he had human feelings but it remains true that through him we received our charism, which has been approved by the Church.
“Our commitment remains and we‘re going to go forward and love Christ and serve the Church,” he remarked.

Asked to verify the specific allegations, Fair replied:

“Fr. Maciel died over a year ago and obviously whatever has happened is between him and God and God’s judgment and mercy, so we’re going to let him take care of that.” (That's not a very noble thought. There are still many of Fr. Maciel's victims alive and it is your job to take care of them.)

CNA asked Fair to verify whether the Legionaries of Christ were distributing information on the allegations through their regional directors.

We communicate internally, but I can’t make any comment beyond that,” Fair replied.
“I know that there have been rumors about are we somehow denouncing him. Obviously we are not.
Fr. Maciel was and always will be the father of the legion.
“One of the mysteries of our faith is that God sometimes works through flawed human beings.”

(If the Legionnaires weren't based on compartmentalized secrecy their wouldn't be any rumors.)

In 2006, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, citing Fr. Maciel’s advanced age and declining health, decided to forgo a hearing into allegations he sexually abused around 20 different teenage recruits to the Legionaries of Christ as far back as the 1980s. The Congregation invited Fr. Maciel “to a reserved life of penitence and prayer, relinquishing any form of public ministry.”

Fr. Maciel died on January 30, 2008.


Fr. Maciel and the leadership of the Legionnaires will have a large number of victims to deal with beginning with the abuse victims of Fr. Maciel right on through to the newest member of Regnum Christi. Had the Legionnaires been selling Christ as voraciously as they had their founder, things might have been very different. But they didn't, Maciel was never held to account until 2006, and so for 60 years the Legionnaires were allowed to become Maciel's own private cult of personality, WITH PAPAL BLESSINGS.

The following is from the blog of Fr. Karras of the Legionnaires and says everything there is to say about how devastating the news about Fr. Maciel will be on the true believers. He entitled it Requiem For A Dream. The whole post can be read here.

One year ago today the Founder of the Legion of Christ, our Founder – Nuestro Padre – passed away. Instead of recalling with pride and nostalgia my thirty year participation in the foundation in privileged close company of the Founder, I find myself nearly disconsolate. Outrage, grief, a deep unutterable feeling of betrayal and deception have been growing in my soul for nearly six months as bits and pieces of the truth have painfully been made known to me.

Up until very recently I defended Fr. Maciel in public and private, knowing that the very essence of my identity as a Legionary priest depended on it. Now there is nothing to defend. It has all collapsed, and with it, a lifetime of enthusiastic commitment and high idealism.

I sit here humbled and heartsick with one earnest plea for the present leadership of the Legion: please, do the right thing. For the love of God and in honor of the hundreds of men, like yourselves, that have given their lives to the Congregation, bearing the burden of a fidelity that our Founder demanded of us but was unable himself to deliver: do what is right.

What a strange couple of weeks for Roman Catholicism. First the SSPX fiasco, in many ways another cult of personality steeped in male monarchical power and anti semitism, and now the Legionnaires, a cult founded on a bisexual pedophile. The symbolism in both of these stories about the very real shadow side of Catholicism is compelling. You know, that shadow side expressed in Power, Sex and Secrecy. Those very things that Vatican II was trying to root out with it's notions of collegiality, openness, transparency, and sexual realism.

The real battle for the spiritual energy in Roman Catholicism has very little to do with who prefers what form of liturgy or spiritual practice. It has everything to do with Power, Sex and Secrecy and rooting these out from the way the Church does business.

Fr. Karras is right to ask for transparency from his leadership, but he will also have to process the fact he was part and parcel of the secrecy purposefully used to make him feel special. He will also have to process the fact he bought into this notion of Legionnaire specialism hook line and sinker. Fr. Karras and many other Legionnaires had a great deal of spiritual pride tied to "Nuestro Padre". He will have a very difficult time finding his spiritual balance. It will take a lot of work necessitating asking himself some very hard questions. I feel for him. I feel for all the members of the Legionnaires.

I also suspect Legionnaire leadership will be patently incapable of dealing with the emotional and spiritual trauma this will unleash in the Legionnaire ranks. Their specialty so far has been denial, obfuscation and out right lies designed to protect Maciel's self proclaimed myths of sanctity.

My anger is with the Vatican. This fiasco is as much their fault as it is the Legionnaires. The Vatican appears to have absolutely no concept about protecting the flock from engaging in cultish behavior. Especially if those cults have access to big money or made access to big money part of their 'charism'. You would think some alarm bells might go off when people like Maciel and Opus Dei founder Saint Josemaria Escriva work to insure their own sainthood before they die. It worked well for Saint Escriva, Maciel's sainthood now seems permanently train wrecked.

Unfortunately for thousands of devote Catholic Legionnaires, that train wreck involves more than just Maciel's sainthood, it involves their spirituality. Maybe it's time the Vatican took St. Paul's words to heart, just as there is no room for a male/female, greek/jew, slave/free man divisions in Christianity, there is no room in Catholicism for promoting cults which set themselves up as citadels for super Catholics.

At least there shouldn't be any room for such a thing, unfortunately the Vatican is inviting another such group into the fold while watching another one go up in flames. Strange times indeed.


  1. Colleen, clever multi-layered title--outing a spiritual cancer. Driving it out; the phenomenon of outing folks; blessing as sending out a cancer . . . .

    I'm also seeing we chose the exact same picture for postings about Maciel yesterday, though I hadn't looked at your blog until now, and you posted before I did. Synchronicity.

  2. The real synchronicity is that everybody is using the same photo. I don't think one can separate Maciel from his benefactor and that's the real cancer.