|Given the recent direction of the 'reform of the reform' it's pretty obvious the Legion will be undergoing no 'real reform'.|
Robert McClory has a recent post at NCR in which he describes the Church as a family suffering with a parent who has serious issues. As I was reading his article this morning my mind went to the Legion of Christ as perhaps the quintessential warning to Roman Catholicism of exactly what McClory was describing in his article. The following two excerpts are the beginning and ending paragraphs of his article:
There's something troubling and neurotic about the aggressive campaign the institutional church is waging these days. Orders are given and compliance is expected from the highest levels down to the lowest. Clearly, "the reform of the reform" Pope Benedict XVI called for a few years ago is moving forward at an accelerated, almost frantic kind of pace.......At this point he goes on to recount the numerous demands for conformity issued by the Church in the last couple years, and he ends with this observation:
...... The church's credibility in the eyes of many, many Catholics has become so thin you can practically see through it, as the church sheds members at a record pace. The institution is like a deeply troubled parent obsessed with a rage for order, and is thus in grave danger of permanently harming himself and the members of the family. If this were a real human family, its responsible members would be gathering together to consider the kind of help "Dad needs." And at minimum, wouldn't there be some urgent discussion of a possible intervention before matters get worse?
It does seem to me that the Vatican, and especially the USCCB, is attempting to remake the Church in the image of the Legion, not that of Jesus Christ. Obedience is everything, thinking is counterproductive. But the Vatican and the USCCB aren't the only forces on this planet sending messages to Catholics. So is the Holy Spirit. Given that, I'm not surprised that at this very same time another Legion scandal hits the news, so I've also been following discussions on LC/RC blogs about the sudden removal of Fr Thomas Williams, the ever so handsome American face of the Legion. Some of the posts, apparently coming from people still in the Legion, are disturbing. One commenter stated when the new Vatican approved constitution comes out, it will include a barely modified version of the Legion vow of absolute obedience to their leadership. For some reason, what disturbed me was not this possibility, but the fact I wasn't surprised this vow is resurfacing in this order.
The fact I knew on some level this bizarre vow of obedience would resurface made me really think about what this implied about my view the current Church. It's not a pretty picture. The rational part of my mind can't believe the Legion still exists in the first place--given the horrifically compromised life of it's founder, but more than that, the rational part of my mind can't accept the fact nothing of any substance is being done to actually reform the Legion. Cardinal De Paolis still has Maciel's chain of leadership virtually in place and intact, having just shuffled around the same deck of cards. What is that about? Well, maybe it's about the Vati leaks documents in which De Paolis tells Benedict all about the Legion's financial status, but not so much about it's spiritual status. Maybe there has been no reform of leadership because it's these very leaders that still have all those intimate contacts with very wealthy Mexican business leaders like Carlos Slim. Maybe it's because the Vatican is well on it's way to creating an identical atmosphere of intimidation and harassment used so successfully by Legion superiors to keep their seminarians and religious in line. Maybe it's because the Vatican not only sympathizes with the obedience instilled in LC/RC members, but desires to use the same techniques in all seminaries, convents, and religious houses under Vatican or Diocesan auspices. And finally, if our leadership has decided to reduce Catholicism to a Roman cult, it makes sense to try and keep it a rich Roman cult. The more conservative it gets, the more revenue it generates from really rich, really reactionary, really spiritually scared people. The threat of hell apparently still plays really well in gated communities.
I don't believe for one minute the Legion ever had a legitimate charism, but I do believe the ex LC/RC members do have a legitimate charism, and that charism is to stand as witness to the incredible amount of spiritual and psychological damage that following the blind loyalty/blind obedience path does to sincere Roman Catholics whose desire is to follow Christ. It warps them, disempowers them, and permits their leadership to blithely ignore the rules they teach to others. Hence we get Fr Williams the sexual philanderer teaching us all how to live Christian sexual morality. Double standards do seem to be the order of the day in not just in the Legion, but throughout today's Roman Catholicism. It's the usual hallmark of the 'do as I say, not as I do' style of parenting, and it's usually accompanied by the favorite child, always the enabler, having their own set of rules in comparison to the rest of the siblings. Apparently the Legion is still one of the Vatican's favorite children, because in spite of a Vatican 'investigation' very little is actually changing with in the Legion. The LCWR will not be so lucky.
Anyway, here's to the ex LC/RC's and their charism to continue to witness to the real evil in the Legion modus operandi, because in doing so the rest of us will be able to get a clearer picture of a Church leadership which just can't seem to reform the Legion and what that failure portends for any reform of the Vatican/clerical system itself.