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.