Many AmP readers have asked me to link to Austin Ruse's defense of the Legion which he published last Friday in The Catholic Thing
. I have linked to it
and, in the interest of forthright discussion, I will bring up several points that strike me after reading it.
I have great respect for Mr. Ruse and his work for C-FAM
(which I have promoted often on this blog
), and intend with these comments only respond to the arguments he makes for the Legion.
Ruse: "There are souls in Heaven because of the charism of the Legion of Christ and of Regnum Christi."
AmP: This is an imprecise (and even misleading) statement. Obviously, souls are in heaven ultimately by the grace of God. The question at hand is what role did or did not this "charism" play in their salvation? What role can Maciel's spiritual insights and writings play in their lives? It also begs the question to assert that Maciel's charism was "revealed to him by God" - how do we know that it was? The mere fact that Ruse must say "there will be more saints because, and now perhaps in spite, of [Maciel]" should raise concern: charisms, after all, do not assist people towards heaven despite themselves!
Ruse: "The inevitable braying in the media and in the blogosphere is deafening."
AmP: I am happy, of course, to see my name excluded from this list. Dismissing, however, the "braying" does nothing to respond to the sensible criticisms that have also surfaced. If Ruse is attempting to highlight the most visible responses to this crisis, he has excluded several of the important ones (Ed Peters and George Weigel, for instance).
Ruse: "Under the guise of a letter to a friend, which in friendly fashion he released to the blogs, Germaine Grisez calls for an investigation, but assumes the Legion must be dissolved."
AmP: Dr. Grisez's choice to release an open letter was an entirely friendly thing to do if he had serious doubts about the Legion's own internal communication structure, which - after sustained observation - appears highly insular and inefficient. The best way for Legion members to see his suggestions, frankly, was to post them on the internet. Second, Grisez does not "assume" the Legion must be dissolved, he argues for that conclusion saying it is the best way to serve the continuing common good of its members.
Ruse: "Old clubs are being pulled out to beat the Legion."
AmP: 1) Admittedly, there are always people who want to club the Church. But in this case, it's not pulling out clubs to point out LC/RC problems that have been pointed out before. The last two "clubs" are true, 20/20 vision would seem to tell us. And therefore, individuals should be thanked for their courage in pointing these problems out rather than dismissed as having ulterior purposes. 2) On the contrary, Maciel did attract the attention of several popes, including the current pope, who banished him to a life of private prayer and penance. 3) Of course there should be no "glee" in watching the Legion suffer, but there should be relief that issues plaguing it might ultimately be addressed through this painful process. Purification is rarely easy, after all.
Ruse: "[Maciel's] failings do not nullify all the good that [The Legionaries] have done and will do for the Church and for the Kingdom of God."
AmP: True, but the question remains - will they continue to do these good things (or did they perform these good works) for the Church as/because they were Legionaries? Was Maciel's direction essential to their good works? Or rather, is Maciel's ongoing influence, in fact, known to be detrimental to the Legionaries own common good and the good of the universal Church? Might the definitive revelation of Maciel's misdeeds bring about the necessary emancipation of its members from the structure of sin he created to protect himself and further his misdeeds?
Ruse: "When I think of the Legion and Regnum Christi I think of Father Thomas Berg, a faithful Legionary priest who runs a bioethics think tank that is on the cutting edge of public discourse."
AmP: This is an exceedingly odd first choice for Ruse's list of LC/RC shining lights, considering Fr. Berg has actually been very active in working outside the LC/RC structure to assist other members in the movement. And just look at Fr. Berg's own advice to RC members: "If you still find the letters of the founder helpful in prayer, feel free to use them. But it is certainly OK to leave them aside. Remember that in many ways, the spirit and charism we have lived is Pauline. Continue to nourish your spirit on the letters of St. Paul." (So much for exclusively embracing the founder's charism.)
Fr. Berg also goes on to demand from the Legion superiors "nothing less than full transparency regarding the case of Fr. Maciel. Demand that Fr. Alvaro seek an independent third party investigation (perhaps in the form of a temporary review board or Visitation team from the holy see) into uncovering any Legionaries who may have been accomplices to Maciel. Demand that a similar body guide Legionary leadership in introducing any needed reforms into the internal culture, methods and religious discipline of the Legion."
In other words, if Fr. Berg is someone whom Mr. Ruse first thinks of when he thinks of the Legion, it might be good to take seriously what Fr. Berg's own advice has been to the movement in light of the Maciel news (and incredibly inadequate official Legionary reaction). Fr. Berg's reaction, after all, is very different from Mr. Ruse's, and more pragmatic.
Ruse: "[To members:] Remember the good and holy priests and all the members of the movement who are the charism. Ignore the idle chatter. Hew close to the charism. Either it is false and will die, or it is true and will be your guide to Heaven."
AmP: 1) I didn't realize a charism is its membership. If this is true then Mr. Ruse should not object to the Legion dissolving or at least seriously revisiting its foundation. 2) I agree - ignore the idle chatter ... but don't ignore the pure-intentioned advice of the prudent and concerned. 3) If we are using an organic metaphor ("hew close"), I'd say it is better for the movement to lop itself off from the decaying branch of Maciel and re-graft itself firmly into the One Church of Christ (by appealing to Rome publicly), perhaps through a new and living branch. 4) This last line puzzles me. I would say: if this charism is "false", God has issued an invitation and an opportunity for it to be renewed, so that it might be a better guide to Heaven. I would submit that this attitude of "abandonment to providence" (as an alternative excluding personal action, discernment and sacrifice) which Ruse seems to espouse is somewhat culpable for this sorry state of affairs in which many Legionaries now find themselves. If there is one thing which characterizes this crisis, it is the inaction of individuals of authority and responsibility who could have prevented it had they the courage. Please God, let us learn from their mistakes.
Labels: catholic controversy, commentary, legionaries of christ