Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Legion To Have Apostolic Visitation

This investigation would never have happened under this Pope. Kudos to Pope Benedict.

Vatican to Investigate Scandalized Religious Order
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Published: March 31, 2009

NEW YORK (AP) -- Pope Benedict XVI has taken the extraordinary step of ordering a Vatican investigation of the Legionaries of Christ, the influential, conservative religious order that has acknowledged that its founder fathered a child and molested seminarians.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the No. 2 man in the Vatican, said church leaders will visit and evaluate all seminaries, schools and other institutions run by the Legion worldwide.
Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state, said in a statement made public Tuesday that the Vatican was stepping in ''so that with truth and transparency, in a climate of fraternal and constructive dialogue, you will overcome the present difficulties.''

The Legion revealed in February that its founder, the Rev. Marcial Maciel of Mexico, had fathered a daughter who is now in her 20s and lives in Spain. Maciel died in 2008 at age 87.
The disclosure caused turmoil inside the religious order and its lay affiliate, Regnum Christi. The groups teach that Maciel was a hero whose life should be studied and emulated.

The news also raised many questions -- from the order's critics and defenders alike -- that the Legion still hasn't publicly answered, about whether any current leaders covered up Maciel's misdeeds and whether any donations were used to facilitate the misconduct or pay victims.

There is no way to predict the outcome of the evaluation. Germain Grisez, a prominent moral theologian at Mount St. Mary's University in Maryland, has said the Legion should be shut down.
In a statement Tuesday, the director of the religious order, the Rev. Alvaro Corcuera, expressed his ''deep gratitude'' for the review, called an Apostolic Visitation.

Yet, the Holy See undertakes these extraordinary investigations when it considers a group unable to correct a major problem on its own. In 2002, at the height of the clergy sex abuse scandal, the Vatican ordered an evaluation of all U.S. seminaries.

''The Vatican is -- in an exquisitely cautious way -- trying to decide whether to keep the Mexicans who are running the order and to determine whether the Legion is a kind of cult,'' said Jason Berry, a New Orleans journalist who has written about the Legion for years and produced the film ''Vows of Silence,'' about the Holy See's review of abuse claims against Maciel.

The Legion was formed in 1941 and became one of the most influential and fastest-growing orders in the Roman Catholic Church. Pope John Paul II championed the group, which became known for its orthodox theology, military-style discipline, fund-raising prowess and success recruiting priests at a time when seminary enrollment was generally dismal.

The group says it now has more than 800 priests and 2,500 seminarians worldwide, along with 50,000 Regnum Christi members. In the U.S. alone, the Legion has two dozen or so prep schools, along with a few seminaries for teenage boys, and it has been building a college -- the University of Sacramento -- in California.

Yet, the order and its lay affiliate, Regnum Christi, had detractors throughout its rise. Critics condemned the group's secrecy vows that barred public criticism of a superior, and its practice of limiting contact between seminarians or Regnum Christi members and their families.

Former members eventually formed support groups, such as the ReGain Network, to warn others against joining, and, in some cases, to help families get their relatives out. In 2007, the Legion sued ReGain to stop them from publicizing internal documents from the order.

The Legion was partly insulated from criticism by prominent supporters of its work, including George Weigel, the American biographer of John Paul; former U.S. drug czar William Bennett; and Mary Ann Glendon, a Harvard University law professor who was a U.S. ambassador to the Vatican under President George W. Bush. Legion leaders often vilified the order's critics as liberals who wanted to attack John Paul and the church.

But the group's reputation began unraveling in 2006, a year into Benedict's pontificate, when the Vatican instructed Maciel to lead a ''reserved life of prayer and penance'' in response to the abuse allegations. Nine men had told the Vatican that Maciel had molested them decades before when they were young adults studying for the priesthood.

Around the same time, several U.S. dioceses -- including those in Atlanta, St. Paul and Minneapolis, and Baton Rouge, La. -- set strong limits on the Legion's work. Last year, Baltimore Archbishop Edwin O'Brien restricted the Legion's local recruitment for the priesthood.
However, it was only after the disclosure this year about Maciel's daughter that leaders acknowledged publicly that the priest also molested seminarians.

''He (Maciel) was asked to do penance in 2006 and still they were holding him up as their hero, their icon,'' O'Brien said in an interview, after warning local parishioners last month they should not join the group. ''That shows how insensitive they were and I think, right now, unaware of the damage that's being done not coming out and saying things.''

Jay Dunlap, a former national spokesman for the Legion who now teaches in its schools, wrote an apology on his personal blog for defending Maciel.

''It is now clear that Father Maciel did, in fact, abuse his power and abuse young people in his charge,'' Dunlap wrote.

Weigel and other supporters of the religious order have been pressing leaders for a full disclosure of Maciel's wrongdoing so the Legion can move forward.

The end result of the global investigation depends largely on the Vatican's instruction to the bishops who are appointed to lead the review, and whether the prelates are able to pierce what Weigel has called the Legion's ''institutionalized culture of defensiveness.''

The team of investigators will be named by the Vatican and begin work within the next several months.


There are a number of things which I find curious about this press release. The letter from Cardinal Bertone is dated March 10th, but the Legion didn't officially release this information until the 31st. The interesting thing about March 10th is that it was also Maciel's birthday. If the Vatican was trying to send a message with the date of the letter, the Legion apparently didn't get the message or ignored it's significance. Maciel's birthday was a big feast day with in the Legion.

The letter itself came from The Secretary of State's Office and Cardinal Bertone. Usually Apostolic Visitations are conducted by the prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, which is headed by Cardinal Frances Rode. Rode was an unabashed supporter of the Legion and many people both with in and with out of the Vatican felt he was far too biased to have anything to do with an investigation of the Legion. Apparently Pope Benedict agreed.

This is the second time in three weeks that Rode's prefecture has been by passed or it's influence curtailed. The first time is when Benedict placed the SSPX issue in the hands of both the Congregation For the Doctrine of Faith and Rode's prefecture. Benedict did this in his letter to all bishops in which he apologized for the damage caused by the SSPX situation. It would appear that Cardinal Rode is not in Benedict's good graces. Cracks are appearing in the Vatican Wall of Apostolic Solidarity.

A number of other commentators have noted that Bertone's letter does not use the 'charism' in regards to the Legion. This is an important omission and I for one do not believe it is an over site. The Legion, as an independent apostolate, stands or falls on it's approved charism and founders always determine the charism. Bertone uses the word mission rather than charism. On the other hand Fr. Corcuera, the Director General of the Legion, does use the word charism in his letter to Regnum Christi and the Legion and states that God entrusted their special charism to the Legion.

What is that 'charism' you may wonder. According to Cardinal Bertone: In this holy season of Lent, a time of grace and salvation, I am pleased to remember that many people benefit from the works of education and apostolate which the Legionaries of Christ carry out in various parts of the world, moved by your desire to establish Christ’s Kingdom according to the demands of justice and charity, among intellectuals, professional people and those engaged in teaching and social action. Is it any wonder we see some very familiar names popping up around the Legion. The very same names we see popping up all over the Catholic neocon media movement and rightwing blogs. (Oh, by the way, now we can add Newt Gingrich to the list of Catholic neocons. Apparently his third wife influenced his recent baptism into the Church.)

This would seem to be a highly specific charism, and one which is frequently in conflict with Opus Dei. Both groups seem to proselytize the same groups of people. Or maybe in some cases it's the other way around as both the Legion and Opus Dei have friends in high places. Both groups have gotten themselves in trouble with Diocesan Bishops such as Archbishop O'Brien of Baltimore. Both groups have the same moneyed supporters such as Tom Monaghan and other members of Legatus. Priests from both groups vie for national media attention and claim to speak for the 'true' church. Both groups use coercion and secrecy in their recruitment of lay members and then vigorously deny they are cults. This in spite of the fact that both groups have spawned their own versions of deprogramming support groups. And finally both groups are products of fascist Spanish influence who came to prominence in Franco's Spain. Maybe that's why both groups insist a member's spiritual formation must stay in house with their confessors.

I suspect the outcome of this investigation is that the Church won't have both groups. It will have one group--Opus Dei. After all Opus Dei's founder is already a canonized saint and Opus Dei is recognized as the one and only Personal Papal Prelature. Maybe they can call them the Legionaire's of Opus Dei or something.

Actually I don't care what the outcome of this visitation is if it doesn't result in some serious answers about how the Legion really operates, where their money comes from and where it goes, and some serious transparency about Maciel's and the Legion's financial and sexual abuses.

It is really tiring to hear these groups claim to represent authentic Catholicism and then wallow in secrecy and power abuses. If that's authentic Catholicism then the Church is in real trouble, no matter how many priests are in formation or how much Eucharistic adoration is practiced by their members.

In reality maybe it's time the Church took a serious look at all these newer movements which claim to form a class of lay 'uber Catholics'. In reality I'm having a difficult time discerning the difference between an Opus Dei numerary and a vocation to a religious order. Seems to me they are engaged in exactly the same type of apostolate that more liberal American Orders of Religious are engaged in. They have the vows, (er I mean promises) the commitment to celibacy, they live in common, they follow a particular daily schedule, they work in the 'real' world as opposed to being cloistered, and they wear no habits or other distinctive garb.

Maybe that's why JPII supported the Legion and Opus Dei. Principally because they siphoned off committed young people from the existing orders by giving them the same life style without infecting them with 'liberalism', Vatican II notions of Catholicism, or the ability to think for themselves. Interesting and scarey thought.
Hmm, I wonder what the other Apostolic Visitation will find and then recommend? I'd hate to see the Benedictine's have to start recruiting like Opus Dei does. Sister Joan Chittister would stroke out.

No comments:

Post a Comment