Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Legion of Christ scandals

Unfortunately, as you've probably heard, more scandals have been revealed about Legion founder Fr Marcial Maciel. Some good commentary has already come out on several blogs.
Feelings run strong about the Legion, both pro and con. The further revelations of Maciel's sins must surely come as a shock to the many sincere members of the Legion, who have been taught to venerate him as their saintly founder. I can feel very sympathetic for them and am praying for them.
Having said that, though, I find myself wondering about what this must mean for the Legion. Their spokesman offered this pathetic response:
"In response to reporters’ questions whether or not the Legion will renounce Father Maciel as its founder, Fair said that there was no intent to rewrite history: 'He is the founder and he always will be the founder of the order. Whatever Father Maciel’s human failings, we remain grateful for the charism we received through him. One of the mysteries that we all see in life is that God does good works with less than perfect human instruments.'"

This response is very weak; it doesn't even name the sins but calls them "failings." A "failing" can be something very minor; pedophilia is far more than a "failing;" it is a mortal sin and a crime.
During the sexual abuse crisis that broke in 2002, Pope John Paul said that there is no place in the priesthood for a man who abuses children. There have been many former Legion members who accused Maciel of sexually abusing them. Up to now, the Legion has denied those accusations and treated the victims with lamentable indifference. The new revelations that Maciel had a mistress, fathered at least one child (it's not clear if there was only one; see Ed Peters blog) and basically led a double life, are truly mind-boggling. If there is no place in the priesthood for a sexual pervert, how can there be a place in the Church's panoply of founders of religious orders? Yes, he did what he did in starting the Legion. But the charism of a religious order is so closely tied to the Founder's spirit, that I don't see how the Legion can continue to exist as it is. Canonist Edward Peters in his blog says that the order should be suppressed and perhaps some Legion members can reconstitute themselves somehow as another order. I think he's right.
But some persons may object: many saints sinned grievously, so doesn't that show Maciel was just like them? The problem with that argument is that the sinning saints (like Augustine) had a conversion in their lifetime. Augustine, for example, admitted his sins in his Confessions and went on to lead a holy life in which he did not indulge in sexual immorality anymore. But Maciel was held up as a saint during his life, despite his leading a double life of sin and perversion. He never admitted his crimes but portrayed himself as some kind of innocent victim. That's the difference.
Others may object: look at the fruit, look at all the priests that the Legion has ordained and the good they do, etc. Yes, there are many good priests in the Legion and surely God knows all the good that they do. But remember what Mother Teresa once said: (I'm quoting from memory so this may not be her exact words) "God doesn't ask us for success, he asks us for fidelity."
The lesson of Maciel is that we can't be deceived into thinking that holiness is to be equated with good works. St Paul wrote, "If I deliver my body to be burned, but do not have charity, it profits me nothing." (1 Cor 13) Just because somebody founded a religious order that has grown and succeeded does not mean that the founder is a saint. There have been so many founders who were holy, the vast majority, that we can tend to equate the two things. But it comes down to our motivation. We can do great works out of great self-love. I'm not judging Maciel's motivation; only God knows that. But my point is that we can't look at the work he did and say that it proves he was a saint. It most assuredly does not. It could be an indication of it, if the rest of his life had reflected heroic virtues. But his sexual perversions show a different story.


Carlos Dounce said...

Interesting point of view. I tend to agree with most of it but there is a flaw on it. Why did you have to make the comment that Fr. Maciel may had fathered a second daughter? The only news out there came from the NY Times yesterday and it only states he had one. I think you spoiled your article with that comment. Now I'm not certain your of the your intentions.


Sr. Lorraine said...

Hello Carlos,
I got that information from Ed Peters blog, (In the Light of the Law); to quote him:

..."the disclosures...that Marcial Maciel Degollado (d. 2008), founder of the Legionaries of Christ, fathered at least one child, possibly more, destroy a decade of increasingly implausible denials by Legion leadership that their Founder, contrary to LC lore, was a sexual miscreant..."
It seems that details are still sketchy, so we can see what will come out when the dust eventually settles.

Carlos Dounce said...

Hi Sr. Lorraine. Thanks for the clarification. I'll take a look at Ed Peters blog. Now that we have initiated a conversation I'd like to know what do you think about Pope John Paul II´s position. On one hand he states there is no place in the priesthood for a man who abuses children but on the other hand he did not remove Fr. Maciel as the head of the Legionaries of Christ, he didn´t act. Even after JPII past away Pope Benedict XVI allowed him to retire and continue his ministry, ok, not in public but he remained a priest.

As a Catholic I trust the Pope and believe his judgment is right. The signals that he sent were clear to me I don´t know if Fr. Maciel abused children or not, I don´t have the facts, I only have what the media says and what the Legionaries say and I have my own feeling about it but one source that I can trust and can clear my mind on this regard is the Pope and the way I interpret the Pope's position is that Fr. Maciel was not at fault.

What do you think?


Sr. Lorraine said...

Hello again Carlos,

I suppose we can only conclude that Pope John Paul did not know the truth about Maciel's life. If he had, he would certainly not have given him special honors.
One explanation I read, that does make sense to me, is that in Poland the communists would often try to blacken a priest's reputation by accusing him of some kind of sexual impropriety. So in John Paul's experience, priests were often wrongly accused. Perhaps that made him skeptical of the accusations against Maciel.
Pope Benedict, however, when he was still a cardinal, is the one who took action on the case, which resulted in Maciel's censure.
It is a very difficult situation because of all the good members of the Legion; I'm sure the Pope doesn't want to discourage them. But the truth is coming out, and it is the light of God's truth that will clear out whatever needs to be cleared out.

CHI-MAL -el hijo rebelde del principado said...


Actually I am not active part of the Legion but I know them a little, I can say that my point of view is Catholic but not bias. Just some importants facts to note: 1) The annoucement was made from inside the Legion. What shows that they are not hidding the reality. 2) The legion is CHRIST's LEGION not Maciels. The Legion maybe will change some parts but the Legion will endure. 3) None Legion member has or will defend Maciels behaivor but either anyone has definetly probes of the children abuse veracity.

Trying to catch all this in the light of Christ I will say that this is a huge hit not only for Legion members but for all the Catholics, that the call for all of us is to learn from this mistery that not matter how saint anyones life looks like, all are and have been simple ways (media/instruments) for God's purposes. The real faith must be on Jesus Christ, the only one who really deserves our fidelity. Maybe this is a signal of our lord showing us how weak humans are and that we all are just instruments for him. Showing us that if we place our love on just humans it will fall down. An invitation to elevate our eyes and faith to him. I do not speak for any organization, just my toughts.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your input and calling it something else than a "failing" or human weakness. I still hold firm that these perversion can not be battled till we call them what they are, and that was evil.

The interview with the two LC priest on EWTN, one commented that he had heard that MAYBE Maciel was suffering from a split personality. That would explain, to a degree, why the proceeding in 2006 came to a complete halt. Can you try someone who is suffering from a mental disorder? We may never know that. It does make you wonder which came first tho, the mental illness or the perversion because mortal sin can cause other problems. Maybe it is best to leave that alone. It was also stated, on one of the blogs, that no mention from the pope was made when he died (customary condolences?) nor did anyone from the vatican attend. Our prayers are for the victims.