Legion of Christ leaders express regret, take steps following Maciel revelations
CNA STAFF, Sep 3, 2009 / 11:24 am (CNA)
In a letter to Regnum Christi members and friends of the Legion of Christ, two territorial directors of the religious organization have expressed regret for the victims of their founder’s sexual misconduct and announced the recent steps taken to move forward.
The letter, dated September 1 was signed by Fr. Scott Reilly, LC, territorial director of Atlanta and Fr. Julio Martí, LC, territorial director of New York.
The authenticity of the letter was confirmed to CNA by Jim Fair, U.S. spokesman for the Legion of Christ.
The priests explain the purpose of their letter is to share the thoughts and recommendations of the Legion’s General Director, Father Alvaro Corcuera, for the future of the Legion and Regnum Christi.
“As priests,” Reilly and Marti write, “our hearts go out to all those who have been harmed or scandalized” by the actions of Father Marcial Maciel, the founder of the Legion of Christ who passed away in 2008. It was revealed last winter that Fr. Maciel lived a double life and fathered children. (I just love CNA. Let's just leave off all those other pedophile things and concentrate on those heterosexual things. Oh, by the way, those heterosexual things also involved under age children.)
“To all we extend a special apology on behalf of the Legion and our General Director, Father Alvaro Corcuera, who has, in fact, begun to reach out personally and in private to those he knows may have suffered most, offering his heartfelt apology and consolation, and will continue to do so.” (I'm waiting for him to tell us what he was up to while all that nasty stuff was going on with Maciel.)
In reaction to the announcement by the Mexican lawyer José Bonilla Sada that six more people in Mexico are claiming to be children of Fr. Maciel, the letter acknowledges “more recently, there have been allegations of other relationships and other children,” but it also says that “given the partial nature of the information available and the impossibility to evaluate immediately and in a definitive manner these complex allegations, the Legion of Christ cannot, at this time, make a statement regarding them.” (Is this kind of like you can't apologize to the eight men whose allegations of pedophelia finally brought down Maciel? Still evaluating are you?)
The letter also explains that the wide range of emotions, along with “the vast tangle of information, supposition, speculation and opinion, the different cultural sensitivities, and the Christian duty not to publicize the sins of others, have made it difficult to publish the sort of direct statement that many expected of us.” (Ted Kennedy should be so lucky, not to mention President Obama. CNA must not have gotten this memo.)
“Added to this,” Fr. Reilly and Fr. Martí say, “is the fact that we did not know the whole truth, we may not know it yet, and new information may well continue to come to light. What we do learn, we will address, respecting the privacy of those who request it of us.” (Good God, this could go on for even more decades.)
The Image of Fr. Maciel
“We wish to be close to anyone who has suffered in any way, and at the same time ask them to live the Christian virtue of pardon from the depth of their hearts,” the letter adds.
(Isn't this sort of like saying if you don't pardon us you will be committing sin? This is such the kind of spiritual and emotional blackmail that ties people in knots.)
Revealing that many Regnum Christi members “have rightly asked if the Legion has made or will make changes in its life,” the letter responds, “Yes…we have, we are and we will,” before listing some of the policies recently implemented.
“One of the questions that come to mind refers to the ‘safe environment and child protection.’” In this regard, the Legion is currently “in the process of accreditation by Praesidium, a risk management organization now helping a great number of religious institutions in North America.”
“Praesidium is conducting a full review of our internal rules and policies, as well as our training of all those who deal with minors. They will shortly be conducting on-site visitation of several of our institutions to verify that what is on paper is being applied,” the priests explain.
Fr. Reilly and Fr. Martí also reveal that in the U.S., the Legion has also “set up an external review board so that in the event of allegations of sexual abuse, we have the advantage of ‘outside eyes’ to weigh the evidence, issues and provide us with recommendations.” (The Legion is a little 'Johnny come lately' with this one. Dioceses and religious orders have implemented these programs years ago. The Legion in some dioceses, pulled out of education rather than conform to the Praesidium program. Hmm. I guess this is a step forward.)
On the financial side, the letter notes that in recent years, “due to the growth of our operations, we have put in place a still more professional system of business management through the services of Integer Group. Staffed by lay professionals, Integer has further improved our operating and management processes to ensure the integrity of all our operations.” (Nice try, but Integer can not ensure the integrity of your financial operations. They are completely dependent on the data you choose to give them. See Enron or Tyco.)
A critical area of adjustment, the letter explains, is “the way we refer to Father Maciel in the Legion and Regnum Christi.”
“While we cannot deny that Father Maciel was our founder and did much good,” the letter says, “neither can we deny the reality of what has recently come to light and his grave human failings.” (If the Legion thinks these are recent facts, they must take a really long view. Why is it that conservatives always have 'human failings' and liberals are 'willful sinners'?)
The priests then say that “progressive steps” have been taken to ensure “there is no inappropriate reference to Father Maciel,” by removing pictures of him from their center, editing the Legion and Regnum Christi websites and creating new editions of writings and brochures. (Actually, I see these as conservative steps, since an inappropriate reference isn't defined.)
According to Fr. Reilly and Fr. Martí, this is “an ongoing and difficult process given the need to discern his person from the solid Catholic doctrine that he transmitted and the legitimate institutional aspects of the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christ.”
Regarding the visitation ordained by the Holy See, Fr. Reilly and Fr. Martí say that “Archbishop Charles Joseph Chaput of Denver has been appointed as Visitor for the Legion in the United States and Canada. Archbishop Chaput will visit our seminaries and religious houses, see our life up close and interview whomever he wants.” (As long as they haven't been transferred before he gets there.)
“His mandate,” it continues, “will be to question, probe and assess with depth and objectivity. Legionaries are free to speak and write to him with all their comments and questions. He sets his own timetable and the points he wishes to probe, and he will present his findings and recommendations directly to the Holy See.” (I sure hope he gets to talk to a few Legion accountants and corporate lawyers.)
Changes in Legion Formation
Two other major issues are addressed in the six-page long letter. The first change involves the “private vow of charity” which was professed in the Legion. In their letter, the priests say that the vow was created “to ensure that the grievances one could have with his superior were brought to those who could resolve them and thus avoid irresponsible criticism or internal factions that degrade unity.” (Of course it was. It was never intended to foster a culture in which a supervisor would ever be questioned or held accountable. It was only a vow to protect the harmony of the simple faithful.)
The vow had been approved by the Church and had been in place since 1957, but, the letter explains, Pope Benedict XVI asked them to remove it two years ago – a request which the religious organization followed. (So what are you saying, it's taken almost three years to comply with Benedict's request? Apparently you do have a very long view of time.)
The letter also addressed the practice of superiors being spiritual directors or confessors of their subjects. This policy was also abandoned upon the request of Benedict XVI. “We are seeing positive fruits from this change of practice,” the priests report. (You neglected to mention this was always a direct violation of Canon Law.)
Though some members of the Legion and Regnum Christi have opted to separate themselves from the organization, others are evaluating whether or not they will stay following the Apostolic Visitation, and yet others have decided that they will remain part of the community.
Fr. Reilly and Fr. Martí called on members and friends of the Legion and Regnum Christi to “have great Christian understanding and respect for all. Each of us must presume the best and purest intention in the other, pray for each other, and recognize that each one of us suffers and recovers in different ways and at different times.” (Ooops, I've failed this test.)
“As tragic as the failings of our founder are, they should not cause us to diminish our efforts to bring souls to Christ, and to serve him and the Church selflessly in all our brothers and sisters,” the letter concludes, announcing that “we enter now into a new chapter of our history which must be focused on the pursuit of holiness and love for souls.” (I guess you could call them tragic failings. Outside in the real world, they are called criminal felonies and they put people in prison. Those who aid and abet these 'failings' are also put in prison.)
Here we go again. Another attempt at white washing aspects of the Maciel story which for some reason the Legion just won't deal with. There is still no apology forthcoming for the original eight seminarians whose public complaints finally resulted in the Vatican's forced retirement of Maciel.
Why? Who is being protected? What Vatican supporter hasn't died yet, and still needs to be protected? Could it be Cardinal Sodano?
I loved the smoke screen on the transparency of their accounting practices. It's pretty hard to make an accurate transparent accounting if there are a bazillion front corporations in multiple countries operating out of multitudinous accounts and banks. Garbage in, garbage out. In addition, secular accounting firms aren't necessarily fluent in the accounting needs of a 501C3. They wouldn't be interested in where the money came from or what it's intended purpose might have been originally. Donors beware I guess.
As far as Maciel goes, I don't think removing his pictures or striking his name off of websites is going to have much impact on members who have been enCULTurated into the Legion. The biggest stumbling block is that the Legion built itself around a specific charism of charity in which negativity in thought, word, or deed was seen as a violation of charity and there for sinful. One can see this dynamic at work in the above communication. It desperately strives to minimize the failings of both Maciel and other legion issues. Striking Maciel's name and face from Legion houses and websites, is a charitable way of dealing with him because it's a silent way of dealing with him. It conforms to the rule to say nothing negative.
It's this dynamic which will be the biggest block in an honest and truthful assessment of the Legion by it's members. Legion and RC members are so conditioned to spinning things in a positive light, it's going to have a very hard time dealing with ugly raw truth. It's one of the reasons I fear Archbishop Chaput is going to have a hard time getting truly honest facts from current members.
One last note, I tried to find out if this communication was strictly a US phenomenon. Apparently it is. The Mexican and South American members are not getting the same information as their American counterparts. I recognize there are cultural differences, but I would hate the see Archbishop Chaput hand the Pope a summary of his activity which is significantly different from his fellow visitors. The kind of report which could too easily be dismissed as typical American bitching. That would be terribly ironic given American nuns are more or less under their own investigation for too much American style bitching.