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    AmP Countdown: Time left to demand that Congress make health care reform pro-life: 2009-11-07 18:00:00 GMT-05:00


    Friday, October 30, 2009

    Update: More details on Miami expelling Regnum Christi

    Yesterday I broke the news that the Archdiocese of Miami has chosen to ban the Legionaries of Christ and Regnum Christi from the territory.

    Interestingly no local press has taken notice yet. Zenit publish a short story confirming the veracity of the letter I published yesterday and adding:

    "Both Msgr. Souckar [chancellor of the Archdiocese of Miami] and Legionary of Christ spokesman Jim Fair were unavailable for comment.

    The letter said that Archbishop Favalora made the decision based on alleged abuses of earlier permissions given to the Legionaries that restricted their work to attending to the needs of members of the Regnum Christi movement, a lay apostolic association connected to the Legionaries.

    ... The letter furthermore stated that the Regnum Christi movement is not permitted to work in schools or parishes in the archdiocese."

    Here's what I can add:

    Sources close to the situation tell me that this decision took place on Wednesday of this week, and that it was prompted largely by the letters of parents concerned that their children were being approached by members of Regnum Christi without parental consent and knowledge. These episodes, it was claimed, had mostly taken place in an affluent Archdiocese of Miami parish and school.

    Yesterday and today the Archdiocese has been contacting parishes and schools where they believe Regnum Christi members were operating and making sure that these parishes and schools are aware of and in compliance with this new Archdiocesan policy.

    Since this story surfaced yesterday, I've been trying to compile a list of other arch/dioceses which have taken similar measures against LC or RC (either banning them or restricting their access to diocesan property, etc). John Allen names seven, and I'll add two others (in bold):
    • Baltimore, St. Paul-Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Baton Rouge, Richmond, Fort Wayne-South Bend, Columbus, Miami, Seattle

    As some commenters mentioned, Regnum Christi is active in many dioceses with no apparent problems or disputes with the local arch/bishop and diocesan structures.

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    Thursday, October 29, 2009

    Exclusive: Legionaries of Christ/Regnum Christi expelled from Archdiocese of Miami

    This was sent to me this morning and it appears to be authentic {update - the Archdiocese of Miami website has been updated to include a disclaimer confirming the materials I've posted here}:
    Legionaries of Christ

    I'm pursuing a couple sources who have background on the events leading up to this decision.

    Always something crazy happening in Miami, it seems.

    update: Miami is not the first archdiocese to ban LC/RC from its territory. The Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, MN did so back in December of 2004.

    Can anyone find proof that other arch/dioceses have taken this action?

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    Tuesday, October 06, 2009

    Legionaries: reform, refounding or dissolution?

    It's time to look at the situation facing the Legionaries of Christ/Regnum Christi once again.

    Austen Ivereigh of the America magazine blog writes about two different solutions preferred by members of the movement in Spain and in the U.S.:

    The result of Rome's investigation (known as an "apostolic visitation") into the Legionaries of Christ will result in either the dissolution or the re-founding of the order, according to sources close to the Legionaries in Spain.

    ... Dissolution would mean the houses, universities and other properties of the Legionaries would pass into the hands of the dioceses where they are located. A new institute could then be founded.

    ... According to a former Legionary quoted by the Spanish religious journalist Jose Vidal, the ordinary priests and members of Regnum Christi, want a root-and-branch reform -- if necessary, by means of a dissolution -- in order to give a new institute a fighting chance. But the order's leaders are fighting a defensive rearguard action, arguing that they knew nothing of the double life led by Maciel, and were therefore neither accomplices in his abuses nor did they attempt to cover them up.

    ... There seems to be a difference between the Americans and the Spaniards. The Americans want to get at the root of the problem quickly: they favor sacking the current leadership and making amends with Maciel's victims. The Spaniards, on the other hand, are more inclined to defend their current leaders.
    It would be helpful for me if former and current members of the Legion/RC could answer me these questions and give brief reasons for their answers:

    1) Have you heard that the visitation is taking place in your area?

    2) Do you have confidence that the visitation will fix the problems of the movement?

    3) Is the ultimate solution, do you believe, a (minor) "reform" of the movement, a (major) dissolution-and-then-refounding of the movement, or a (complete) dissolution and subsequent disappearance of it?

    After these three questions are answered you are welcome to take the discussion in other directions. If you choose to email me your answers (I will keep all correspondence anonymous), please write "LEGIONARIES" in the subject line.

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    Wednesday, September 02, 2009

    Text: Letter from US Legion Territorial Directors to members

    This letter is being widely distributed among members of the Legionaries of Christ and Regnum Christi in the United States. It bears the names of Fr. Scott Reilly LC, Territorial director for the Atlanta territory, and Fr. Julio Marti LC, Territorial director for the New York territory. I'm posting it below for discussion.

    My complete coverage of the Legion scandal is here. Recent coverage includes:
    Here it is embedded:

    And here it is for download and viewing in a separate window.

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    Thursday, August 20, 2009

    Huh? Regnum Christi releases CD promoting RC vocations

    Um, what planet is the regnum christi leadership on?!

    Their movement is under Apostolic Visitation for the crimes of its founder, and their leadership ought to be under intense scrutiny for possibly aiding and abetting him.

    Now is definitely not the time to be selling CDs that promote abandoning yourself to the regnum christi movement:
    'Why does a woman choose consecrated life over a business career, husband and family or the opportunity to compete as a world-class athlete? The CD gives the answers.

    As in Abraham's day, God continues to call, and souls continue to answer. The new CD "Count the Stars," created by the Regnum Christi consecrated women in Greenville, RI, tells the story of four women who heard that call and answered with their lives.

    The "Count the Stars" audio book also features an original song, "Question Answered," composed by the sophomore class at Mater Ecclesiae College, the institution of higher learning where the consecrated women of Regnum Christi prepare for their life of service to the Catholic Church.

    The CDs are on sale at the price of one for $15 or two for $25."

    Considering the clear evidence that Legion money was used to support Maciel's life of sin, could it be anything but desperation to try making a profit from a CD designed to convince young girls to join the movement? Perhaps the movement ought to be honestly addressing questions such as these posed by former members of the movement.

    Legion of Christ Communications Director Jim Fair has some explaining to do, I think.

    Ph/t: Catholic Light.

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    Wednesday, August 12, 2009

    Claim: Legion founder Maciel had multiple children; other details emerging

    For some time, I have refrained from reporting on the ongoing saga of the Legionaries of Christ out of deference for the canonical visitation which is taking place.
    AmP was the first major blog to report the scandal of Maciel having a biological child, and became a hub for accurate reporting on the story in the tumultuous weeks that followed.
    However, because the most recent round of news changes the situation dramatically, I will report on it as well. The conclusions of the apostolic visit cannot be expected for some time, but individuals who are still in the Legion or Regnum Christi deserve to know what is happening now.
    Multiple stories from Mexico report that three additional individuals claiming to be children of Fr. Maciel are suing the Legion of Christ for inheritance rights. It appears the original daughter of Maciel, and her mother, were supported by Legion money (i.e. money contributed by Catholic faithful for supporting Fr. Maciel's work). 

    The mother claims she was a minor when her relationship with Fr. Maciel began. And it appears that "highly placed officials" in the Legion knew of this situation and where complicit in it. Details beyond this are sketchy, but it appears probable now that there are even more children than the ones mentioned (the most frequent number I hear is six total). 
    If you are interested in the details, two ex-LC blogs provide them: Life-after-RC and Ex LC Blog.
    These new allegations suggest several conclusions:
    • Fr. Maciel was an extraordinary, calculating fraud and he ought to be acknowledged as such by the leaders of the Legion and Regnum Christi alike
    • The breadth of Fr. Maciel's crimes makes it nearly impossible that other members of the Legion did not know of them, and they ought to be brought to justice
    • The serious financial infraction of misusing lay resources (money, property, etc) for the upkeep of Fr. Maciel's mistress and his other escapades demands restitution
    • The ongoing revelations about Fr. Maciel and his enablers requires an intense examination, person-by-person, of those still charged with the movement's leadership
    In the face of these conclusions, the choice made by increasing numbers of Legionary and Regnum Christi members - to simply leave the order and begin anew - to my mind, is the most prudent way to respond. Most of these individuals have left quietly, and I have no desire to point them out, but it is happening and I have not yet heard of anyone regretting that decision. Life in the Church, after all, can always be wonderful, even outside a movement.
    For both those who decide to stay in the Legion/Regnum Christi and for those who have left, I would firmly admonish them to assist in every way possible with the ongoing apostolic visitation. 
    There have been some scattered reports of Legion/Regnum Christi members attempting to thwart the visitation (I do not necessarily give credence to these reports), but obviously the primary obedience of any faithful Catholic is to the Holy See and its elected representatives (Christ speaks through His vicar the pope, not Fr. Maciel). For LC/RC in the United States and Canada the representative of the Holy Father is Archbishop Charles Chaput.
    To contact Abp. Chaput, send an email with the subject line "PRIVATE" to "shepherd [at] archden.org" (without the brackets and spaces). Emails ought to be VERY SHORT and to the point. Every email will be read eventually.
    For those of us outside the Legion and Regnum Christi, let us continue to pray for all the members, and if we personally know anyone who has been or is a member, let us charitably reach out to them if they welcome it. Oremus pro invicem.
    [photo credit: chamorros1976]

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    Monday, July 13, 2009

    Fr. Berg breaks his silence about the Legion

    In an exclusive interview with Sandro Magister:
    ...The request for an apostolic visitation had been advanced, in the early months of this year, by some of the most prominent Legionaries themselves.

    One of these is the American Thomas Berg (in the photo), a member of the Legionaries of Christ since 1986, a priest since 2000, professor and confessor at the Legion seminary in Thornwood, New York, and very involved in formation activities. In April, he left the congregation, and asked to be incardinated into the archdiocese of New York. Archbishop Timothy Dolan made him a vicar of the parish of St. Columba in Hopewell Junction. Berg is also the director of the Westchester Institute for Ethics and the Human Person.

    In this interview, Fr. Berg explains in measured terms what is truly at stake, what are the strong and weak points of the congregation under investigation, what must be demolished and what rebuilt. He denounces the cult of personality that still surrounds the figure of Maciel. He criticizes the reasons why obedience to superiors often degenerates into blind submission. And he highlights the fundamental question: how it is possible that so many good things have come out of an institution that has been shown to be so full of flaws.

    It is the first time that an authoritative member of the Legionaries of Christ, a member for many years, has spoken publicly and candidly about the crucial problems that have exploded in this congregation. [Read on...]

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    Wednesday, July 01, 2009

    Breaking: Abp. Chaput, other Legion visitors appointed by Vatican (full details added)

    Sandro Magister reports - an extremely reliable source:
    Last March, the announcement; July 15th, the go-ahead. The apostolic visitors of the Legion of Christ will interview the priests and religious of the congregation founded by the Mexican priest Marcial Maciel Degollado, in shock because of the admitted evil conduct of their very own founder, sanctioned in 2006 for sexual abuse, and now, a year after his death, discovered to have had a lover and a daughter in Spain.
    The long-awaited names:
    – Ricardo Watti Urquidi, Bishop of Tepic, Mexico, in charge of Mexico and Central America, where the Legion has 44 houses, 250 priests and 115-120 religious seminarians; (bottom right)

    Charles J. Chaput, Archbishop of Denver, in charge of the United States and Canada, where the Legion has 24 houses, 130 priests and 260 religious seminarians; (bottom left)

    – Giuseppe Versaldi, Bishop of Alessandria, in charge of Italy, Israel, the Philippines, and South Korea, where the Legion has 16 houses, 200 priests and 420 religious seminarians. (in Italy 13, 168 and 418 respectively); (upper middle)

    – Ricardo Ezzati Andrello, Archbishop of Concepción, Chile, in charge of Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Brazil and Venezuela, where the Legion has 20 houses, 122 priests and 122 religious seminarians; (upper right)

    – Ricardo Blázquez Pérez, Bishop of Bilbao, Spain, in charge of Spain, France, Germany, Switzerland, Ireland, Holland, Poland, Austria and Hungary, where the Legion has 20 houses, 105 priest, and 160 religious seminarians. (upper left)
    More details:
    The investiture of the five visitors took place on Saturday morning, June 27th in the Vatican, at a meeting with Cardinals Tarcisio Bertone, William J. Levada, Franc Rodé and Stanislaw Rylko. The five were give a letter containing the conclusions for the investigation of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith which lead to Maciel’s being sanctioned in 2006. Each prelate was given a travel budget of 10,000 Euros.
    They are to submit their first report to the Vatican by fall of this year.

    update: these rumors have been percolating in Spanish-language press for some time, in El Universal on June 27, and June 28, and InfoCatolica (picking up on Magister's piece) today. 

    I would say that it is unqualified good news that Archbishop Chaput has been chosen to oversee the Legion visitation in the United States. AmP readers who have been following this story will remember that I reported back in early May that Abp. Chaput would be the Vatican pick. His personal experience of formation in religious life especially qualifies him to examine Legion policy.
    Two things to watch for: finances. The Hartford Courant recently posted an article on the relatives of a deceased woman challenging the donation of her estate (upwards of $7.5 million) to the Legion in the U.S. 
    Second: defections. I'm tracking numerous reports of individual (and groups of) priests, seminarians and consecrated people actively seeking ways to the leave the Legion and incorporate into dioceses, seminaries and other Catholic institutions. More of these will happen depending on what the Vatican investigation reveals.
    Neither of these situations is being helped (from the Legion side of things) by new details which have emerged about Maciel's not double life, but "triple." Especially concerning is the insistence of these sources that current leaders in the movement were aware of Maciel's sins before they leaked to the public or lower members within the Legion.

    update 2: I should be clear that I do not agree with everything claimed in the link above ("new details which have emerged about Maciel's not double life, but "triple""), but merely with the claims that Maciel used Legion money to fund his affair(s?) and that this activity was known to associates who still hold active roles in the movement.

    update 3: CNA confirms/clarifies: "Sources at the Holy See confirmed to CNA the accuracy of Magister’s report and said a public announcement would be made on July 15. Sources also said that contrary to the article, Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko was not present at the meeting."

    My exhaustive coverage of this story, as the first large Catholic internet portal to break the news, can be found here.

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    Thursday, June 25, 2009

    Is the Legion visitation taking place?

    Back in March I reported that the Legion had announced it was to undergo an apostolic visitation by the Vatican.

    An open thread on this question which I started earlier this month has some scattered reports, but no definitive information that the visitation - and the reform that it is expected to outline - has begun.

    So what's taking so long?

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    Tuesday, June 09, 2009

    Open Thread: Legion Visitation?

    Has anyone heard if the apostolic visitation of the Legionaries of Christ has actually begun yet?

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    Monday, May 25, 2009

    Report: 23 Legion priests to exit and form new religious group

    I've received this report:
    "An inside source within the Legion has confirmed that 23 priests are preparing their exit from the congregation to form a new religous group. Fr. Alvaro has asked them to wait until the Vatican publishes its findings. However the departure of Fr. Berg has added to their determination. 15 of the Priests are Americans."
    Background on Berg's departure here.

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    Thursday, May 07, 2009

    Update: Fr. Thomas Berg leaves the Legion of Christ

    His statement:
    After nearly 23 years of life as a Legionary of Christ, I have discerned that it is time for me to continue following Christ in the diocesan priesthood. Although the recent revelations about the Legion’s founder, Fr. Marcial Maciel, were profoundly disturbing, my decision has actually been in the making for nearly three years.

    Like so many, I have personally experienced again and again the vast amount of good which God has accomplished through Legionary priests and the congregation’s works of apostolate over the past six decades of its existence. I leave with a heart grateful to Christ who I know accepted and blessed the oblation of my years of religious consecration in the Legion.

    In my opinion, the serious issues within the congregation will require its thorough reformation if not a complete re-foundation. I am hopeful that the upcoming Apostolic Visitation of the Legion will be a first step toward a new beginning for the Legionaries and members of Regnum Christi. I trust that God in his providence will lead them to holiness and enable them to do great things for Christ and his Church. For my part, I remain their friend and brother in the Lord.

    My work as executive director of the Westchester Institute will continue under the direction of a new Board and no longer under the Legion’s sponsorship. By this means and through a very active ministry in the Archdiocese of New York, under our new Archbishop Timothy Dolan, I look forward to continuing to live my total consecration to Christ in his priesthood.

    My hope is that this brief statement would preclude unnecessary and unwarranted speculation about the reasons for my decision. Having released it to the press, I do not plan to make any further comment on the matter at this time.
    I have three quick observations:
    • This is a blow to the Legion because, among other things, Fr. Berg is one of their leading intellectual lights. He was certainly one of their most, if not the most, visible figures in scientific and academic circles. And with his departure, they have also lost the Westchester Insititute.
    • Notice how, contrary to those who held it to be simply impossible, Fr. Berg admits the possibility of "re-foundation" as a spiritual solution to the Legion's systemic problems. This is significant coming from someone who lived in the Legion for 23 years.
    • I am happy to see Abp. Dolan step in and provide Fr. Berg with a good home in the diocesan structure of the Church. May other bishops do the same for those priests who wish to continue their ministry outside the Legion.

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    Tuesday, May 05, 2009

    Rumor: Archbishop Chaput to oversee Legion visitation in the US?

    I had heard hints of this possibility before but now some Mexican newspapers are claiming it as well:

    {This is a rough English translation by Google. Spanish original here.}

    Three bishops and a priest to audit Legionaries

    Three bishops and a priest will be responsible for reviewing all institutions connected with the congregation of Mexican origin "Legionaries of Christ," during the Apostolic visit ordered by Pope Benedict XVI.

    Sources from the Vatican confirmed that it was Ricardo Watty Urquidi, of the Diocese of Tepic (Mexico), Charles Joseph Chaput, Archbishop of Denver (United States) and Giuseppe Versaldi, bishop of Alexandria (Italy).

    In the coming months will be responsible for visiting prelates, according to their geographical region, the communities of the Legion in the world and then deliver a report protected by the pontifical secret, the authorities of the Vatican. In the coming months will be responsible for visiting prelates, according to their geographical region, the communities of the Legion in the world and then deliver a report protected by the pontifical secret, the authorities of the Vatican.

    The group of visitors will join the Jesuit priest Gianfranco Ghirlanda, rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, who will investigate all the educational institutions of the Legion. The group of visitors will join the Jesuit priest Gianfranco Ghirlanda, rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, who will investigate all the educational institutions of the Legion.

    In addition they could add a fifth, which would be responsible for the review to South America, although this possibility is still under study.

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    Monday, May 04, 2009

    Legion of Christ open thread

    400+ comments on the last Legion-related thread, so I'm starting a new one.

    I'm particularly interested in hearing if you have found out when your local apostolic visitation will begin.

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    Monday, April 20, 2009

    Legion of Christ to expand into U.S. Catholic higher education?

    The Legion of Christ runs many high schools in the United States. Now it appears they are on the cusp of making their first foray into U.S. Catholic higher education (I, at least, am unaware of another Legion-run Catholic College in the US), according to this press release:

    Legion of Christ, Southern Catholic Eye Long-Term Collaboration

    The Legion of Christ and Southern Catholic College (SCC) have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that could make possible the college becoming a Legion institution.

    "We are excited about this development," said Jeremiah J. Ashcroft, president of SCC. "By collaborating with the Legion, we'll be able to attract students from across North America and develop programs with institutions around the world. This expanded reach and support greatly enhances our ability to achieve our mission to prepare moral and ethical leaders who will enlighten society and glorify God."

    "By working with SCC, the Legion can accelerate its desire to offer a greater contribution to higher education in North America. Nevertheless, we are still working things out, so it's not a done deal yet," said Father Scott Reilly, L.C., territorial director for Legion. "Southern Catholic is a great college and there would be considerable sharing of best practices with our existing institutions. I expect that SCC will experience significant growth in student population in the years ahead, with added growth coming from Legion-affiliated secondary schools in North America."

    Southern Catholic College is a co-educational liberal arts college, Georgia's first and only residential Catholic college. The school provides a learning environment for academic excellence grounded in the Catholic intellectual and moral tradition. SCC was founded in 2000 and has more than 200 students from 25 states on its campus in Dawsonville, GA, an hour north of Atlanta.

    My sources tell me the acquisition of SCC by the Legion is actually farther along than the press release claims. Donors, faculty, staff, students and students' parents have supposedly already been informed about the plans, and the local Archdiocesan paper will be covering the story very soon.
    The title of the press release, which mentions "collaboration", seems a technical misnomer. From what I understand, the Legion is buying Southern Catholic College, which has been experiencing difficulties (see below).
    While clearly this plan has been in the works for awhile, making the news public at this time - as the Legion is preparing to undergo a apostolic visitation by the Vatican - is interesting to me. Apparently, at this local level, business is certainly being carried on as usual within the Legion.
    The Center for Catholic Higher Education has a six-page overview and evaluation of SCC. They have only been hosting students since 2005. A student has been blogging about his experiences at SCC for some time, and makes some allusion to "many difficulties going on" at SCC. For those interested, his 2008 archive is probably the best place to browse. I am not trying to paint an negative picture of the situation - after all, it is by no means out of the ordinary for a start-up Catholic college to experience trials and difficulties in its early years of operation.
    From the Legion's perspective, I think this line from Fr. Scott Reilly in the press release is the critical one: "I expect that SCC will experience significant growth in student population in the years ahead, with added growth coming from Legion-affiliated secondary schools in North America."
    Currently, graduates of Legion high schools in the U.S. go on to attend a wide variety of colleges and universities. Soon, if they so choose, they may now opt to continue their education in a Legion institution during their undergraduate years as well.
    update: readers have noted that the Legion has operated the University of Sacramento since 2005.

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    Thursday, April 09, 2009

    Open Legion Thread

    The last thread is almost to 500 comments, so I'm starting a new discussion.

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    Monday, April 06, 2009

    Abp. O'Brien says abolition of Legionaries should be "on the table"

    Archbishop O'Brien oversaw the visitation of U.S. Seminaries and houses of formation a couple years ago. With the news that the Legion will now undergo a visitation, John Allen sat down with him for an interview.

    The four questions I found most interesting:

    Are you encouraged by the Vatican's decision to launch an apostolic visitation?
    I certainly am. I think it settles a lot of people's concerns that nothing was going to be done. It remains to be seen how this visitation will shape up, how deep they will go into the whole matter of the Legionaries and Regnum Christi. I would think that this is a one-shot thing, that we'll have one swing at this, and I hope that it answers the questions and responds to the doubts that so many people have raised.

    What are the issues that the visitation should consider?
    In the first place, they have to look at Maciel himself. What are the facts, who knew them, when did they know them, and why did it take so long for them to become public? They should look at the financial dimension. They also need to examine who the victims are, and what's being done to meet the needs of those victims.
    Then, they need to look at the structure that Maciel created. There was a good deal of secrecy in his own life, and there's secrecy in the structures he created. It would be helpful to know why there is such secrecy. For example, why is there such an effort with their seminarians to limit their exposure to the real world out there? What are their recruiting strategies for vocations to the priesthood? How above board are they? What are the numbers involved, how many priests have been ordained and how many are still active in the priesthood with the Legionaries?

    In your view, the visitators should not be afraid to recommend drastic steps?
    Absolutely not. This is a solemn obligation they have. It's very serious. Souls are at stake, lives are at stake. I'm sure the Holy Father will let them know that every aspect should be investigated, including the Legion's accomplishments, areas that need to be improved, as well as areas that have to be excised.

    Apart from the details about Maciel, are their broader lessons for the church in what's happened with the Legionaries?
    I think it begins with Maciel, with the cult of personality around him, the secrecy. The saints don't need that. We have many saints who are respected and looked up to in ways similar to how so many looked up to Maciel, but the saints don't have that fence around them, that mysterious following.
    We can learn from this. So many have been devastated and misled, and it will be good to see how it all came about. It's a lesson about holiness in the church. There's also something to learn about transparency. Of course, there are some areas where the church has to conduct itself in the internal forum, to protect people's rights and consciences, but I do think that at the core of the Legionaries there's been an unnecessary and unhealthy secrecy.

    Read the full interview here.

    Back story on Archbishop O'Brien's past and recent interaction with the Legion here. Complete coverage here.

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    Thursday, April 02, 2009

    Reuters: Vatican visitation of Legion may uncover more victims

    Reuters:
    Pope Benedict's probe into an influential Roman Catholic priestly order could uncover more cases of sexual abuse similar to those committed by its founder, a victims' group in Mexico said on Wednesday.

    Pope Benedict ordered the investigation into the Legion of Christ last month following a string of scandals tied to its founder, Father Marcial Maciel, a Mexican, who died last year at the age of 87.

    "We have testimonies that there have been other Legionaries who followed Maciel's example," said Jose Barba, the legal representative of eight former Legionaries who started court proceedings against Maciel in 1998. "The ramifications of the problem exist throughout the Legionaries of Christ," he added.
    There seem to be many unofficial reports that lend credibility to the claim that there are more victims.

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    Tuesday, March 31, 2009

    *Breaking: Pope Sends Apostolic Visitors to the Legionaries of Christ*

    As predicted, the Legion website has published a press release this morning. This post will be updated constantly.
    The press release consists of three things:
    1) a letter from Director General Fr. Alvaro Corcuera, LC
    2) a letter from Secretary of State Cardinal Bertone, saying that the Vatican will undertake a visitation of the Legion
    3) a short Q&A of four questions written by the Legion
    Here is the introduction posted on the Legion website:

    "Rome, March 31, 2009. We wish to share with Regnum Christi members and friends two letters announcing an Apostolic Visitation to the institutions of the Legionaries of Christ. We also have included some questions/answers. This is the beginning of a process in which the Legion will fully and gratefully cooperate. We invite our readers to accompany us with prayers that this special help from the Holy Father will assist the Legion and Regnum Christi to love Christ and serve His Church."

    [Read the 3 sections here.] [Read only the Alvaro letter.][Read only the Bertone letter.]

    Catholic News Service coverage has little to add:
    Details of the visitation were not made public in the announcement. Jim Fair, the order's U.S. spokesman, said the order knew little more than what the letter stated. "We know they're going to be visiting. We'll cooperate and prepare. But all we know is what's on the site."

    No other press has picked up the story at this point. I doubt anyone else has anything to add.

    update: Having had a chance to read the press release, I have a few questions:

    • Why did it take three weeks after the Legion knew an apostolic visitation would be taking place for them to notify their members? Why was this statement clearly delayed for so long?
    • Why did Cardinal Bertone not mention the Legion's charism? It has been the subject of much discussion recently and he did not take the opportunity of reassuring them.
    • If the Holy See is so close to the Legion, why has it chosen to undertake an extensive visitation of all their institutions? Why is the gravity of this decision not acknowledged by the Legion?
    • How does this apostolic visitation help the Legion - what are its goals? Apostolic Visitations have recently been called when organizations within the Church are feared to be incapable of fixing their own problems. What are the Legion's "current difficulties" if the only person at fault was Maciel?

    [photo: CNA]

    update 2 - George Weigel, in a Reuters interview:

    "[he] said the investigation will have to discover who within the order was complicit in Maciel's web of deceit. Eventually the pope will have to decide if the Legionaries should be reformed or dissolved, he said."

    update 3 - I found these comments on the press release by "Cassandra Jones" to be insightful.

    Complete coverage and backstory here.

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    Legion statement possible today or tomorrow

    update: "Pope Sends Apostolic Visitors to the Legionaries of Christ"

    The internet background chatter on the Legion situation has spiked significantly in the last 24 hours, and now numerous sources are claiming a statement will be released today or tomorrow. So check back if you have interest.

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    Thursday, March 26, 2009

    Update: Video/Transcript of Toronto Archbishop on the Legion

    On Tuesday night Archbishop Thomas Collins discussed the situation of the Legion on the Salt and Light TV show. You may now watch the archived video here and read a 3rd-party transcript here. A sample:
    So that whole thing has to be totally reviewed and cleaned up. And I would wonder too how a person could lead a double life, without the community being aware. I think certainly at the minimum there has to be a massive reordering of the Legionaries of Christ for the sake if nothing else of those good and true and wonderful Legionaries of Christ and Regnum Christi people, who have put their trust in this and have done great work for the Lord, and who have been betrayed….

    I would say [the ones questioning their involvement in the movement] might consider leaving Regnum Christi, that would certainly be one thing, or priests in the order, good and faithful priests, I’m sure that many of them will consider leaving the order and starting fresh in an order or in the priesthood in a way that doesn’t have these real questions over it.

    On the other hand, I think that the work they do is good. And the work they have done is good and they should be proud of that, but there’s something not just personal in Maciel, but this whole thing needs to be looked at. It just needs to be brought to the light...
    I have no update to publish at present regarding the probable Vatican intervention/apostolic visitation.

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    Tuesday, March 24, 2009

    Archbishop of Toronto calls for Legion overhaul, "may be wise for some to leave"

    Sent in by a reader:

    Tonight’s episode of Catholic Focus explores two controversial topics in a riveting and candid interview with the Archbishop of Toronto. Catholic Focus: State of the Church features Archbishop Thomas Collins speaking openly about the Bishops Richard Williamson fiasco, the Vatican’s need to overview its communications strategy and the prospects of dialogue with the Society of St. Pius X.

    Then the conversation moves into the recent revelations about Fr. Marcial Maciel, the founder of the Legionaries of Christ who fathered an illegitimate child, misappropriated funds and appears to have some culpability in earlier claims of sexual abuse of young seminarians.

    Archbishop Collins is forthright and persuasive in the interview, calling for an overhaul of the Legionaires and frankly admitting it may be wise for some priests and seminarians to leave the order.

    Catholic Focus: State of the Church airs Tuesday, March 24th at 7pm and 11pm ET, with an encore presentation Saturday, March 28th at the same times.

    [Source: Salt & Light Blog.]

    I'll be unavailable to watch but hopefully someone else can provide us with a transcript.

    update: on the Salt and Light TV website you can watch a live stream of their programming.

    The episode will also be archived for viewing in the Catholic Focus section of their website by Thursday.

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    Thursday, March 19, 2009

    Report: LC "town hall meeting" with vocations director

    On March 9th I posted news forwarded to me by a member of Regnum Christi about the first-ever Interactive Teleconference hosted by Legion vocations director Fr. Anthony Bannon.

    Fr. Bannon was one of the figures instrumental in the founding and expansion of the Legionaries and Regnum Christi in the United States, and has been with them for more than thirty years.

    Here are my observations of the conference call he conducted last night, numbered for convenience:
    1. There was a moderator of the conversation that introduced Fr. Bannon. People calling-in were given the option of submitting a question. Some of these questions were submitted to Fr. Bannon by the moderator (scroll down). It was promised that every question would eventually receive a response from Fr. Bannon or one of his assistants.
    2. Fr. Bannon began with a clarification of what the call was, and was not. He said it was not a news conference and he would not be discussing or answering questions about the "unexpected events" and "total surprise" of the "serious failings of the father founder" which he went on to say were "difficult to accept, but accept them we must." [These parts felt recited and measured.]
    3. He said the time was not yet mature to discuss these matters and promised that the Legion was in constant contact with the Holy See. He said there were facts that still need to be investigated. Prudentially and without rushing. He promised they were working on it.
    4. [This sounded more ad-libbed] He emphatically stated that "we’re deeply sorry and apologize to anyone who has been hurt or scandalized by these actions. Our directors are quietly trying to get in touch with possible victims." He went on to apologize again for the scandal caused to "you."
    5. "Many of you have gotten in touch with us to say you are praying for us, so let me express my gratitude for your prayers over these past weeks."
    6. "One of the main reasons that you have supported us is our fidelity to the Holy See. That part of our spirituality is not about to change nor will it ever I hope."
    7. He promised that anything the Holy Father saw as appropriate (in terms of taking action), "we will do that and do it happily."
    8. [It was evident at this point that he was in fact going to discuss the situation at some length.]
    9. "First point, our trials have been a blessing. You have been very kind to us." He said the Legion has received many accolades including from many quarters in authority in the church.
    10. He said the apostolates were growing tremendously. "All of this is good." But at the same time: "We are human and this is therefore a danger. We can get overconfident, begin to feel superior." He said there was a real danger of "losing the focus" and that "the present situation has helped bring us back."
    11. He continued: "This experience of weakness has brought us back to the core of what we are doing as priests. We must review our actions to make sure no one except Christ is at the center of our lives. A better awareness that it is Christ we are following, and no one and nothing else."
    12. These points are perhaps the most interesting of what he said: "Our constitutions were approved 25 ½ years ago. It was like the church took our charism out of our hands. Received from God, and taken out of our hands and our founder’s hands. For those 25 years, not even he could change them without going through a process."
    13. [I'm paraphrasing:] The church has guaranteed ours as a valid charism, and protects it. It is a valid path to holiness. Regnum Christi was approved in similar fashion 4 years ago.
    14. We work to do what the church has approved in order to make it a reality. [At this point it felt rather distinctly that he was reading from a prepared statement. Though perhaps rephrasing things in his own words. It was very fluid.]
    15. He concluded by saying, in effect, "We want to make sure we are what we are supposed to be, in what the Church has approved."
    16. (I forget exactly how long this opening statement took to complete, but I believe it was about 8 minutes.)
    17. Next, he overviewed the situation of Legionary formation in the United States. "Vocations are up this year" was the bottom line. But he spoke at length and in great detail. He talked a lot about how happy the seminarians are.
    18. He said formation of Legionary priests faces two challenges: fostering commitment to the vocation they have chosen on the side of the seminarians, and providing for the financial needs of their education on the side of the formators.
    19. At this point, the moderator came back on the line and asked five survey questions of the listeners, which I paraphrase: a) how vital is the work of the legion to the future success of the Church? b) in addition to vocations, what are you most interested in -
      Youth family programs; Schools/education; Work with poor abroad? c) what age group are you in? d) have you ever met a legion priest or seminarian? e) are you interested in a future teleconference?
    20. Following this, roughly 30 minutes of the moderator asking questions from the listeners while Fr. Bannon responded. The questions: a) “how come the Legionaries aren’t assigned to parishes like regular priests?” b) “Should parents be allowed to see those in the novitiate more often?” [Fr. Bannon explained that the novitiate is "Almost like a year or two of contemplative life."] c) "how has the economic downturn affecting the legion in the way you operate?" [Fr. Bannon said it has affected them as much as anyone else, so seriously. They are looking to expand their donor base, I gathered] d) "how much time does the Legion spend supporting human life and against abortion, etc?" e) why does it take so long to reach ordination?" [The gist of Fr. Bannon's answer: because they are not ordained until they are ready to act as priests.] f) "We’re in a period of spiritual warfare. What should we do and what is the Legion doing?" [Here it was interesting to note that I believe Fr. Bannon slipped at one point into saying "John Paul II told the founder ... I mean, told us ..."] g) "do the Legion receive funds from anyone besides private donors? Do the dioceses?" [This question, perhaps because he did not understand it, I don't think Fr. Bannon ended up answering. He spoke about collaboration between the Legion and local dioceses instead.]

    I've not posted most of the spiritual insights and attitudes that Fr. Bannon expressed. I had the impression I was in the presence of a holy man, very dedicated to his mission of forming priests.

    He often thanked the listeners for supporting the Legion. He said "God’s providence is always there, and he will bless and help us" and asked that "we may have the perseverance to do what we need to do". He prayed that he could "Serve you and serve souls better" and promised to pray for the listeners in his prayers and Masses. He said God was very present to us now.

    Afterwards the moderator returned to the line and thanked everyone, saying he thought it was an excellent way to be "close to you." People whose questions were not answered were invited to leave a voicemail.

    I'm not sure that I have any commentary to add except one observation: it's a pity that this conversation had to be conducted about such pressing issues as the formation of seminarians, the financial stress of our times and on the Legion, and the future of the Legion in relation to the Church ... without any up-front discussion of the Maciel scandal. Clearly it is on people's minds, clearly they are looking for answers, and Fr. Bannon could not (read, is not allowed at this point to) give any.

    Let us pray for priests and seminarians of the Legion, for the consecrated lay members of Regnum Christi, and for Maciel's victims, that a forthright solution will be pursued to these too-long-festering wounds.

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    Friday, March 13, 2009

    Text: Pure Fashion Director Brenda Sharmon Responds

    Brenda Sharman, Pure Fashion National Director, responds to the discussion generated by my March 11 story, "Modesty back in fashion as economy worsens?":

    Hello to everyone who has commented on the Pure Fashion story in USA Today. I was notified that there was a discussion on the story and I'm happy to jump in and clarify a few points.

    Point #1. Jayne O'Donnell, the reporter with USA Today is a wonderful woman with a kind heart for young girls and I so appreciate her taking the time to write this story. It's been a pleasure to get to know her over the past 9 months. During that time we discussed the history of Pure Fashion, the fact that Pure Fashion started in Challenge clubs, and then developed into it's own Apostolate.

    Point #2. I never said or implied that we have broken away from Regnum Christi. Pure Fashion is a service of Regnum Christi and I too am a member of Regnum Christi. Regarding the choice of words in the USA Today article, I don't know why those words were chosen...but I'll bet that it was just a quick way to summarize that we grew out of Challenge clubs into our own program. It was obviously not the complete history spelled out, but there was no deceptive intent. Pure Fashion and I are proud to be affiliated with Regnum Christi. As of January 2009, we are now offering affiliation to Parishes, schools or Churches that would like to offer the program, so we expect a great deal of growth in the next few years and many more organizations outside of Regnum Christi who will be offering the formation program and the end of the year event...the modesty fashion show... Our culture needs as many programs as possible to support our teens in living lives of virtue!

    If anyone has questions about Pure Fashion, please feel free to e-mail me directly at brendasharman [at] purefashion.com . I have always been open, transparent and available to answer questions and will continue to do so. God bless you all... I've got to get back to work, there is a lot to do!

    Your Sister in Christ, Brenda.

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    Thursday, March 12, 2009

    Exclusive: Legion discontinues controversial "Prayer for Fidelity"

    I have it on good authority that the "Prayer for Fidelity" said by Regnum Christi members has been officially discontinued.

    This communique originated from Fr. Scott Reilly, the Legionaries of Christ Territorial Director in Atlanta, Georgia.

    Fr. Reily appears to be a catalyst in making information known within Regnum Christi. He was one of the first priests to begin informing various Regnum Christi sections about Maciel's misdeeds.

    I am also told that a new prayer is being composed, although I do not know who is responsible for that task.

    Here is the text of the discontinued prayer, with parts I found interesting in bold:

    Lord Jesus, you have entrusted to us the mission of furthering the Legion and Regnum Christi, and making them grow healthy and vigorous for the good of all people and of your Kingdom. This mission comes to us as an utterly free, unforeseen, mysterious reality, out of all proportion to our abilities.

    Since the Legion and the Movement will be vigorous and will flourish as long as the spirit of our founder is present and active in our lives and behavior, we ask you to open our eyes to the urgency of learning, assimilating and passing on the doctrine, spirit, apostolic methods, genuine traditions, discipline and lifestyle of the Legion and Regnum Christi, just as our founder has made them known to us, since this is our responsibility.

    Lord, help us to adhere totally to the charism you inspired in our founder.

    You have chosen to give us a role in your plan of salvation, and we have the possibility of fulfilling it, step by step, for the good of the Church and of humanity, or of making it fail deplorably. So, we ask from you what you ask of us: faith, great faith in your work, love for it, trust in its mission, docility, loyal collaboration, humility, a sense of responsibility, and fidelity. Amen.

    An encouraging move.

    update: welcome, SpiritDaily readers, my complete coverage of the Legion scandal is documented here.

    Photo source.

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    Tuesday, March 10, 2009

    Breaking: Cardinal Pell becomes first Cardinal to recommend Legion intervention

    As I previewed yesterday, Cardinal George has gone on the record with the UK Catholic Herald:
    Cardinal George Pell has become the first senior Church figure to call for outside intervention to tackle the crisis afflicting the Legion of Christ.

    The cardinal, speaking in Oxford last week, said a Church authority external to the Legion should investigate its founder's corruption and re-examine its charism.

    He said: "I think there should be an intervention, perhaps a visitation or something like that. I don't know what the facts of the matter are, the alleged corruption, if that's the word, on the part of the founder, to what extent there was a cover-up, to what extent the whole rationale of the order [should be] re-examined, but I think it should be sponsored by some extra-Legionary Church agency."

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    Monday, March 09, 2009

    Expected: Cardinal Pell to call for Vatican oversight of Legion

    I'm hearing reliable reports that during Cardinal Pell's recent visit to England he said on the record that he thinks the Legion can't possibly be expected to sort out its own affairs and that some sort of Vatican involvement is needed, probably in the form of an apostolic visitation.

    Stay tuned....

    Related: "Cassandra Jones" pens a lengthy summary of the Maciel scandal in Spero News Forum and claims that the Legion is delaying its response due to an internal debate over its "charism".

    update: as expected: "Cardinal backs intervention in Legionaries crisis".

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    Posted: LC donor invitation to "town hall meeting" with vocations director

    Forwarded to me by a member of Regnum Christi. This was sent out to select members this morning:


    After the image cut-off the phone number and details are given, along with the text "We look forward to you joining us! ~ Sincerely yours in Christ, Fr. Anthony Bannon, LC."

    Can you guess what the questions from donors will be about? Notice that the questions follow after updates on vocations and the contributions of the Legion to the Church. Good news first, bad news last, I guess.

    Fr. Bannon used to be the North American territorial director of the Legion and is among those who strongly denied charges brought against Maciel, claiming they were an attack by surrogates on John Paul II.

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    Latest Legion Leads

    While new English-language reports on the Legion situation are almost non-existent (with the exception of this flawed Hartford Courant piece), the Spanish and Italian presses are still rolling.
    One thing I'm consistently hearing is the strong possibility of appointing an "apostolic visitor" to supervise the Legion instead of dissolving it. This might explain the Vatican's silence, if they are actively pursuing behind-the-scenes fix. And obviously it would be better to go public with the solution if they already have this apostolic visitor chosen.

    (What have you heard for/against this rumor?)

    One attitude I hope we see gradually rooted out is expressed well in this reflection forwarded to me from an RC member in response to Fr. Groeschel's message (underlining mine):
    There have been so many questions in my heart - but I can't doubt the call God put on my heart to join Regnum Christi - and I can't doubt what I have seen of the Holy Spirit working through so many good people: priests, Consecrated, and laity. I also don't deny that I am a sinner myself.
    Great Scott - I hope this individual is not seriously comparing their sins to Maciel's! What a lack of spiritual and moral formation is displayed by such a comment. And what an opportunity to grow in both.

    Two other notable contributions:

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    Friday, March 06, 2009

    Friday Legion Thread

    From what I'm hearing, the clarification statement by the Legion won't be released anytime soon.
    From what you're hearing, how are members of Regnum Christi handling the news now? Are people leaving the movement? Are they scaling back their personal involvement/financial support? How much weight are they putting on the clarification? Is the Maciel scandal still being discussed, or have most people moved on?
    I realize I'm asking these questions in the third person, but obviously we have many RC members among us.

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    Wednesday, March 04, 2009

    New Legion Thread

    Before the previous thread passes 1,000 comments, I'm starting a new one. For fresh discussion:

    "The Vatican is taking far too long to sort out the crisis caused by the collapse of the Legionaries of Christ and their lay arm, Regnum Christi, following the revelation that their supposedly saint-like founder, Fr Marcial Maciel, led a double life. Why has Pope Benedict XVI said nothing?"

    "Now: "You all need reform!" We ALL need reform! When do we need it? Every single day, no matter what goes on. Send anybody around to me who says, "They need reform!" and I'll tell them, "Wake up, smarty!" Our Divine Savior says, "The time has come, and the Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the good news." And that is something that must go on every single day."

    (.... I'm tracking down other developments at the moment, so please stay tuned in the meantime.)

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    Saturday, February 28, 2009

    A little blip on the Maciel scandal story

    Karna Swanson writes in (Legion-run) Catholic news service Zenit that Archbishop O'Brien will not close a Legioniary academy and "does not plan to ask the congregation to leave his archdiocese." This in response to an article published this Wednesday where Abp. O'Brien, among other things, said the Legion stifles the free will of its members and lacks transparency.

    But what is most interesting to me in this Zenit article is its summation of the Maciel scandal situation:

    A month after the Legion of Christ revealed that its founder had a relationship with a woman and fathered a child, the congregation has yet to reveal more about the findings of its internal investigation, or its path forward.

    The news broke early this month that Father Maciel had led a double life. Jim Fair, the U.S. spokesman for the congregation, issued a statement to the press confirming that the founder of the Legion and its lay movement Regnum Christi engaged in activities that "weren’t appropriate for a Catholic priest."

    Catholic News Agency reported Monday that sources in the Vatican assured a statement is expected soon from the Legionaries of Christ, and that the congregation is actively analyzing its situation in conjunction with "several cardinals" of the Holy See.

    While admittedly only quoting and re-publishing CNA's scoop, it would seem the author of this Zenit article finds the report at least worth repeating. It's my best guess that this is where things currently stand - several Cardinals are actively involved in figuring out what to do about this mess. This solution is what many people have been calling for - Vatican oversight and intervention.

    Numerous questions present themselves at this point - who is involved? Rode? Bertone? Others? Who will publish the statement? Will it be released by the Legion or the Vatican? What figures of authority will publicly comment on it? Will other US bishops besides Archbishop O'Brien react independently after the statement is released?

    As we reflect on possible answers, let's not forget to pray for the parties involved.

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    Friday, February 27, 2009

    Friday Maciel Thread

    Because the last post on this subject is approaching 500 comments - let's start fresh here, with a firm amendment to clearly speak the truth with charity, so that our comments inform and encourage others.

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    Wednesday, February 25, 2009

    Abp. O'Brien says Legion "stifles the free will of its members and lacks transparency"

    Still no official statement from the Legion today.

    Archbishop Edwin O'Brien, however, has become the first bishop to comment about the Maciel scandal, in an interview with his Archdiocesan newspaper The Catholic Review. I'll quote the first part of the article in full:
    Concerned that the Legion of Christ stifles the free will of its members and lacks transparency, Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien told the religious order’s director general that he cannot in good conscience recommend that anyone join the Legion or Regnum Christi, its affiliated lay movement.

    In the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Legion of Christ is affiliated with Woodmont Academy in Cooksville. Regnum Christi is also active in several parishes.

    The archbishop’s action came in the wake of revelations that Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legion of Christ, fathered a daughter while serving as leader of the international religious order.

    Pope Benedict XVI had previously removed the Mexican priest from public ministry in 2006, asking him to lead a life of prayer and penance after Father Maciel faced allegations of sexual abuse of seminarians and financial irregularities.

    “It seems to me and many others that this was a man with an entrepreneurial genius who, by systematic deception and duplicity, used our faith to manipulate others for his own selfish ends,” Archbishop O’Brien told The Catholic Review in a telephone interview following his Feb. 20 Rome meeting with Father Alvaro Corcuera, director general of the Legion.

    “Father Maciel deserves our prayers, as every Christian who dies does, that he’ll be forgiven and we leave the final judgment to God as to what his life and death amounted to,” Archbishop O’Brien said.

    Saying that the Legion’s founder “leaves many victims in his wake,” the archbishop called for the “full disclosure of his activities and those who are complicit in them or knew of them and of those who are still refusing to offer disclosure.”

    He added that the finances of the order should be opened to “objective scrutiny.”

    Archbishop O’Brien said he has grave concerns that the Legion fosters a “cult of personality” focused on Father Maciel.

    “While it’s difficult to get a hold of official documents,” Archbishop O’Brien said, “it’s clear that from the first moment a person joins the Legion, efforts seem to be made to program each one and to gain full control of his behavior, of all information he receives, of his thinking and emotions.”

    The archbishop said many members who leave the order suffer “deep psychological distress for dependency and need prolonged counseling akin to deprogramming.”

    Saying that “I know that there are good priests in the movement” and acknowledging that Legion members are in full accord with the theological teachings of the church, the archbishop also said some of the practices of the movement are unhealthy.

    “This is not about orthodoxy,” he said. “It is about respect for human dignity for each of its members.”

    The archbishop noted that he has heard reports that the movement claims that the first duty of a Legionary is to love the Legion.

    Such policies subject a person’s use of reason not to one’s own judgment, Archbishop O’Brien said, but to a spiritual director.

    “It’s been said that the founder is alone called ‘nuestro padre’ (‘our father’) and that no one else can have that title,” Archbishop O’Brien said. “All are bound to identify with him in his spirit, his mind, his mission and in his life. This would suggest that the very basis of the Legion movement should be reviewed from start to finish.”

    The second part of the article adds some scattered comments from Jim Fair, the US spokesman for the Legion.

    Last June Archbishop O'Brien demanded that the Legion become more transparent or he would expel them from ministry in his archdiocese. At the time, O'Brien's "initial hand was stayed by Vatican intercession" and at last check-up (in August), the Legion appeared to be complying.

    update: more on Abp. O'Brien's dealings with the Legion in this June 12th, 2008 interview with John Allen.

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    Expected: A clarifying statement for the Legion today

    If CNA is right, we should have it today.

    update: well, it didn't appear in today's VIS, that's for sure.

    update 2: if the statement is coming from Europe, it's already almost end-of-business there.

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    Tuesday, February 24, 2009

    NCRegister editor responds to questions regarding Maciel scandal silence

    In the midst of the Maciel scandal breaking, a former writer for the (Legion-owned)Register published a lengthy piece in First Things demanding that the Register end its silence on the issue, saying:

    "A good Catholic newspaper must not shy away from the truth. But it would frankly make the newspaper look absurd if the whole Catholic world is discussing Fr. Maciel and the Register’s pages largely ignore the whole matter."

    Today, in answer to a letter to the editor, the Register responds:

    Our publisher, Father Owen Kearns, knew of Father Raymond’s concerns when he wrote in his publisher’s note for the Feb. 22 issue, “I’m also grateful for those who have expressed their indignation and their hurt. I know that it comes from their love for the Church we all love so well, and which the Register is dedicated to serving.”

    ... The paper covered the Holy See’s 2006 communiqué regarding Father Marcial Maciel with a wire service news story. Father Owen Kearns wisely limited any defense of Father Maciel to two pieces bylined by himself, one in 2001 and another in 2006. We have told Father Raymond repeatedly that the Register fully intends to correct the record on that coverage as soon as we can do so accurately.

    The Register is dedicated to follow this story in as responsible a way as possible. This will mean, for the most part, relying on journalism produced independently of the Register to avoid even the appearance of conflict of interest.

    At the Register, our mission is to form and inform Catholics. We are more than a newspaper — we have a mission to bring readers closer to the Church. But we are also a newspaper, and accuracy is our fundamental value.

    We will keep readers informed about this situation in a way that is accurate, above all, and in keeping with our mission to form and inform.

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    Monday, February 23, 2009

    Update: Legion of Christ to respond to scandal on Tuesday

    CNA gets the scoop:
    Vatican officials confirmed to CNA on Monday that the leadership of the Legion of Christ will release a major statement in response to the controversy surrounding the double life of its founder and the future of the order. The statement will be released on Tuesday “or Wednesday at the latest.”

    ... According to the Vatican source, the forthcoming document will address “the difficult circumstances created by the recent discovery of the double life led by Fr. Maciel and the need to restore peace, trust and apostolic vitality within the spiritual family he founded.”

    The document “will also sketch the concrete future steps the leadership of the Legion of Christ will take to achieve these goals.”

    Asked if the document will be “final,” the source told CNA that it will be a foundational document that will be decisive in determining future action. “I would say it is a definitive document... it is too soon to tell if it will be, indeed, final,” the source said.

    The Vatican contact also added that, despite the fact that he has read the document, “I prefer not to anticipate any of its content, I think it will speak for itself.”
    I'm not sure if an embargoed copy will be made available. NB: I don't break embargoes.

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    Sunday, February 22, 2009

    The Legion: What is happening behind the scenes?

    The short answer, of course, is that we don't know.
    Unofficially, from the background chatter I'm hearing, I'd wager a few bets. These hypotheses do not entail any sort of privileged knowledge on my part, just connecting the dots.
    First, some sort of "serious clarification" is in the works, but has been delayed, perhaps because they are waiting for the Vatican to "sign off" on it. When will it be released? That's really anyone's guess.
    Second, the General Director of the Legion, Fr. Alvaro Corcuera, is talking to the Holy See, and at least some communication is happening with Pope Benedict, although not necessarily directly.
    Third, some sort of Vatican visitation of the Legion is going to take place. There remains some question where this will be official or unofficial. It will take a look at Legion operating practice - though it is unclear how broad or deep a mandate this visitation will receive, or who will undertake it.
    Fourth, a careful look at the Legion norms will occur, specifically in regards to how they incorporate the writings, "witness" and charism of their founder, Marcial Maciel. It's my speculation that some serious effort will be made to bring them fully into line with canonical norms if they are not.
    Fifth, individual members of the Legion and Regnum Christi are re-evaluating their relationship to the movement. Many people have told me they are leaving, some have commented (directly and indirectly) that they never intend to leave, others have not yet decided, and say they are waiting to see how the leadership handles this crisis.
    The Sixth, and least knowable, thing happening involves the Legion leadership. Besides the single public statement of Fr. Alvaro, scattered reports of his internal addresses to members, a few odd comments from low-level Legion priests, and a handful of public comments made by Legion spokesman (notable for their problematic nature), we don't have any sort of handle on what the superiors of the Legion are doing.
    Illumination on any of these points would be appreciated.

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    Friday, February 20, 2009

    Open thread: What approval does the Legion *now* enjoy?

    As we wait for the Legion's promised "serious clarification" statement, I'll continue to select what I find to be compelling comments which will provide a starting point for further discussion.

    Today's comments originate from someone claiming to be a Legionary priest, who says:

    I am an active LC priest, dismayed by the silence and passivity of many of my brothers. Outrage at this entire situation and our hapless leaders' response to it is the ONLY acceptable position.

    I find particularly dismaying our superiors' reliance on the argument that runs something like this: "We know all is well in the LC because the Pope has tols us how much he esteems us and Cardinal Whoseewhatzit and Cardinal Whatzhisname have been visiting our centers saying how wonderful we are."

    How could that type of reasoning convince anyone? Least of all those of us who lived through the LC's halcyon years under Pope JPII?

    Fr. Maciel was praised publically and privately by the Pope and other Vatican officials time and time again during the 80s and 90s when he was actually living the double life we now recognize with horror. The Pope said lots of nice things about us then when the Founder was in the act of duping us all.

    How could anyone's praise or approval of us now be a sign that all is well? We've already seen that Popes and Cardinals can be fooled and manipulated. We already know that the LC does its best to show them only what the LC wants them to see.

    The only thing that can save the LC is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Full disclosure, full transparency and full renunciation of its policy of deception.

    It doesn't matter who approves of us or disapproves of us if we are not truthful with ourselves.

    I'll add a point to these thoughts. Fr. Alvaro has claimed that the Legion and/or Rome only recently discovered the fact that Maciel had a daughter twenty-two years ago. This means that all the previous conversations Fr. Alvaro claimed to have had with Cardinals, and Pope Benedict, and all the encouragement he claims to have received from them, were given without their knowing about the full extent of Maciel's deception.

    One must then wonder how the Vatican is re-evaluating the status of Maciel and his inner circle in the light of this "recent" discovery.

    A revealing question to ask: how many bishops and cardinals have spoken publicly encouraging the Legion to carry on with business as usual after this news was made public?!

    Find me one.

    And if indeed not one has thrown their hat in with the Legion, what are we to make of all these claims that "the Vatican" completely endorses their current activity? If these Cardinals and Pope Benedict are so eager to support the Legion, why has not a one of them said so in public?

    (Also of interest: A Jesuit studying to become a priest compares Ignatian Obedience and the Legionaries.)

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    Thursday, February 19, 2009

    Published: RC director encourages members to offer "spiritual bouquets"

    Someone has created a website to offer "Spiritual Bouquets" for LC priests and RC consecrated members. I'm told it began as a Facebook group and crossed-over onto a full website. The individual who registered the website lives in Connecticut, near where the Legionaries of Christ are based in the United States.

    This email was sent by a national-level director of Regnum Christi to their women members:

    Many of you have told me about the beautiful initiatives of individuals and local sections and cities to support your local legionaries, consecrated, and the Church as a whole during this difficult time. Thank you for your love for Christ and the Church!

    One city decided to start a website to gather a spiritual bouquet in gratitude for the vocations of the Legionaries of Christ, and Consecrated members. It is http://www.spiritualbouquet.net/. I wanted to share it with you in case you’d like to participate, and in any case, to encourage you to pray for the perseverance of all priests, consecrated and religious, and for Our Church. Below is a message from the organizers:

    “Let us join the thousands of other Regnum Christi Members from around the world by offering up a spiritual bouquet for the Holy Catholic Church and especially for the Legionaries of Christ and the Consecrated Men and Women of Regnum Christi in gratitude for their vocations and as a means for their perseverance in faith.

    You can include the number of Masses, Rosaries, Holy Hours and sacrifices that you would like to offer up on the website. The website will keep a runny tally of all the prayers and sacrifices offered. (This is a continuous spiritual bouquet so you can later go back and offer more if you would like.)

    The spiritual bouquet will then be sent to Pope Benedict XVI, Fr. Alvaro and the Legionaries of Christ priests and Consecrated Men and Women of Regnum Christi so they could see the continuous number of prayers and sacrifices offered for them and the whole Catholic Church.

    Not our will, but God’s Will be done. Let us entrust this into the hands of Our Mother.”


    God Bless, you are all in my prayers.

    Yours in Christ and the Movement,

    [name]

    Note how "movement-centric" this innitiative is, with no mention of those outside the movement who have suffered, beginning with Maciel's own victims. This is how the petition reads:

    "Considering the painful times that we suffer together as the Mystical Body of Christ and a Regnum Christi family, please join in gathering and assembling spiritual flowers. This spiritual bouquet of prayers and sacrifices will be offered especially for the Legionaries of Christ and the Consecrated Men and Women of Regnum Christi in gratitude for their vocations and as a means of perseverance in faith. Not our will but God's Will be done."

    The website also contains a quotation from a speech Pope Benedict XVI made during his visit last year to the United States. I will quote a line from this speech (that appears on the website):
    Charisms are bestowed by the Holy Spirit, who inspires founders and foundresses, and shapes congregations with a subsequent spiritual heritage."
    Maciel certainly left a heritage.

    update: from "Dominus Flevit" in the comments:

    The spiritual bouquet is quite revealing. The immediate, overriding concern of the LC leadership is clearly the retention of its priests and RC consecrated members ("perseverance").

    The leadership realizes what the Deep Denial crowd does not: A significant number of LC priests are likely to head for the exits over the next several years, if not sooner. Some of them (Fr. Berg?) may even make noisy exits. That in turn will shake what remains of the faith RC members have in the Movement.

    This catastrophe could be averted with a thorough and credible housecleaning, including identification and removal of all LCs who knew or should have known of Maciel's double life. Sadly, the LC leadership doesn't look capable of taking the steps necessary to salvage credibility.

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    Wednesday, February 18, 2009

    Open thread: was Maciel a fraud?

    There is no new verified Maciel news to report today. And the "serious clarification" from the Legion that we were promised has yet to appear. However, emerging from the hundreds of comments posted on this and related topics yesterday, one sentence in particular struck me as thought-provoking, from an anonymous author, which I paraphrase:

    "What the Regnum Christi members are refusing to acknowledge, and what I really would like one to address, is that there is a difference between a founder being a sinner and a founder being a fraud."

    I often hear Regnum Christi members refer to Maciel as an "imperfect instrument". Well, we are all imperfect instruments. But Maciel is a different case, it would seem to me, because he actually used others as instruments of his deception, as Diogenes pointed out yesterday.
    This is one of the ultimate treacheries, and tragedies, facing members of the movement now. Speaking of Maciel as merely an instrument, therefore, ignores the probable malice of his own fraudulent actions. Again - what is the difference? A sinner can be an instrument, but a fraud goes a further step and uses others (and in this case, even the holy things of God) as instruments for himself.
    I'd be interested to see what members of the movement in particular have to say in response to this anonymous poster's claim that Maciel acted fraudulently.
    (Also, because it has begun to cause confusion and questions, I will try to make more of an effort to distinguish posts where I am simply providing information from ones where I am contributing my own commentary. This is a commentary post. Once I have access to new information, I will provide that separately. Some will no doubt charge that even my information posts are tinged with bias, but there's no eliminating that - I will, however, try to avoid it. Bear in mind, information itself is a scarcity in this story, and I've tried to be judicious in what I pass on.)

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    Tuesday, February 17, 2009

    The Maciel dilemma from two vantage points

    Marjorie Campbell:
    "No one knows what stirs in the dark, lonely heart of a human being, especially driven people like Fr. Maciel – many of whom share their worst worries and battles in confession and spiritual direction. While I am disappointed, deeply disappointed, in Fr. Maciel’s disordered decision making, and an apparently disordered management that allowed Fr. Maciel to disregard rules of discipline, I am no more surprised by Fr. Maciel’s paternity than I was surprised by the dark and empty spirituality of Mother Teresa."

    ... Which is not to say that the Legion does not have a lot of explaining – and apologizing – to do with several categories of people: the victims of abuse by Fr. Maciel; the RC members and former members of the Legion forced out for expressing concerns about Fr. Maciel; Fr. Maciel’s daughter and her mother; the Legion’s supporters who contributed dollars to form priests, not support the Founder’s secret family; the Legion's enthusiasts at the Vatican who, at times, went to great lengths in defense of Fr. Maciel. This is a short list. It is my sincere hope and prayer that the Legion will make the longer list, systematically acquiring and sharing information and expressing a sincere sorrow for any failures of the organization itself that contributed to Father’s harms. The Legion can, and should, survive this challenge by shining light upon their information and process, and offering regret and transparency for the darknesses which veiled the sins of their founder."
    Diogenes:
    "The fact of the matter is that Maciel was publicly accused of specific sexual crimes, and that out of personal moral cowardice he enlisted honorable men and women to mortgage their own reputations in defense of his lie. The lie was the lie of Maciel's personal sanctity, which Maciel knew to be a myth, and which the fact of his bastard child (putting aside the more squalid accusations) proves that he knew. To the villainy of sacrificing the reputations of others, Maciel added the grotesque and blasphemous claim that the Holy See's sanctions were an answer to his own prayer to share more deeply in the passion of Christ, as an innocent victim made to bear the burden of false judgment in reparation for the sins of mankind. The Legion cannot share Catholic reverence for the Passion and fail to repudiate Maciel's cynicism in portraying himself as the Suffering Servant."

    ... When I speak of the Legion's duty of revilement, I do not mean they should issue so many pages of rhetorical denunciation of Maciel's sexual iniquities. What is required is an unambiguous admission that Maciel deceitfully made use of holy things and holy words in order to dupe honest and pious persons into taking false positions -- sometimes slandering others in the process -- in order to reinforce the legend of his own sanctity. Since Maciel's treachery was sacrilegious in its means and in its effect, he should posthumously be repudiated as a model of priesthood and of Christian life."

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    Monday, February 16, 2009

    A reaction to Austin Ruse's defense of the Legion

    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.

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    Magister: "The Legion Is in Disarray. Betrayed by its Founder"

    Noted Vatican analyst Sandro Magister picks up on the Maciel scandal:

    "New revelations about the second life of Fr. Marcial Maciel. He was not only guilty of sexual abuse, but also had a lover and a daughter. The Legionaries of Christ are in danger of collapse. Some are calling for an apostolic visitor. Or for direct intervention by the pope"

    Read Magister's column here.

    Most of what Magister says I've already published at some point. A few of his observations:

    [Fr. Corcuera's] authority has been deeply shaken. Fr. Corcuera was always extremely close to the founder. The latter's misconduct inevitably reflects back on him, and on other leaders in the congregation. In part for reasons of personal conduct, therefore, the congregation of the Legionaries of Christ no longer seems to be capable of managing its own recovery. Some of the priests who are highly respected in the congregation – Thomas Berg, Richard Gill, and Thomas Williams – see no solution other than an authoritative intervention by the Holy See.

    ... In order to overcome the latest resistance, in 2006, it took a direct order from Benedict XVI to require Fr. Maciel to retire to a penitential life. The secretary of state at the time, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, defended the founder of the Legionaries to the end.

    Magister's covering of this story is significant because he is widely read inside the Vatican.

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    Former writer demands better reporting from NCRegister on Maciel

    Fr. Raymond J. de Souza, a longtime writer for the National Catholic Register, has published an extensive outlining of how the same newspaper's reporting on the Maciel scandal has been woefully inadequate and goes on to demand that they face up to their collective journalistic obligations:

    "Even at this late date, [the Register] has never reported the full extent of the accusations against Fr. Maciel. Worse still, it published what was false. Even if we once thought it to be true, we now know it to be false. Ordinary Christian morality demands of that the newspaper correct what it published. Fundamental journalistic ethics demands the same. Simple justice demands it.

    ... A good Catholic newspaper must not shy away from the truth. But it would frankly make the newspaper look absurd if the whole Catholic world is discussing Fr. Maciel and the Register’s pages largely ignore the whole matter.

    Moreover, the odd way in which the news was made public, with rumors and leaks and vague statements from superiors, indicates that the Legion of Christ itself either cannot be or will not be a reliable source of information on this matter. The National Catholic Register might be able to do in part what the Legion of Christ seems unable to do.

    [Read the entire piece in First Things.]

    {update: for online newsies, Catholic.net is also run by the Legionaries of Christ/Regnum Christi, and similarly has nothing to say about the Maciel scandal, from what I can tell.}

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    Maciel: Day 13

    Thirteen days ago I posted a story: "Legionaries founder Maciel fathered children, internal investigation reveals." Here is a summation of this weekend's editorial developments. They encompass two main questions: How/Can the Legion continue? And what of the Legion charism?

    Raymond Arroyo: "Now some say that the Legion should forget all of this and press forward: continue meditating on Father Maciel’s writings, enjoy the good he did and forgive the rest. But this misses the point. Continuing to build upon a foundation of deceit will not permit growth in the order. In light of the recent revelations, it seems Father Berg has it right. There is no way to mouth quaint pieties and expect that everything will be better in the morning. To attract new recruits to the order and for the health and welfare of those good clergy already in its ranks, the Legion must clean house, taking the time to reform its operations and to rediscover its true charism. Only by facing the ugly truth, reaching out to the wounded victims, and relying on the Holy See for guidance can the Legion be returned to strength and credibility. Adversity is sometimes God’s way of bringing cleansing and lasting change. May it be so for the good people within the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi."

    Robert Moynihan: "The Legion’s leadership is now seeking to distance the Legion from its founder, but with great caution, knowing there has never been an order in the history of the Church that survived after repudiating its founder. At the same time, from outside the Legion, calls are multiplying for Pope Benedict XVI to take decisive action, perhaps even to suppress the order, to preserve whatever of good there is in it from destruction. As this issue went to press, it was not yet clear what Benedict would do."

    Ed Peters on the claim that because the Legion has good people, it can reform from within: "History affords us many examples of organizations or movements that were fundamentally and even fatally flawed, but which for a time attracted and held good Catholics in membership; but that only shows that good Catholics, too, can be duped. That's not their fault, certainly, but their innocence does not guarantee the basic soundness of the organization in which they serve. Membership is distinguishable from institution."

    Ed Peters on the claim that Maciel's canonical crime spree does not negate the L/RC charism: "This argument misses the key question, namely, whether in fact Maciel ever bequeathed an authentic charism to the L/RC, or whether he left instead a legacy of systemic deception clothed in an attractive rhetoric that trusting men could mistake for a new route toward Christian perfection. There is, I think, at least as much reason to wonder whether Maciel set up an institute in order to assure himself of ample access to sexual targets and unaccountable funds, or whether he suffered from some warped psycho-emotional condition that enabled him to compartmentalize pious devotional practices and sexual predation for decades on end, as there is to wonder whether he left a real charism to a Catholic clerical, religious, and lay organization."

    Austin Ruse of C-FAM tries to mount a defense of the Legion's charism on the Catholic Thing.

    Steve Skojex, who used to be in the movement, responds to the points that Ruse raises.

    If time is permitted, I will try to write a brief response to the points that Ruse raises.

    In related news, Fr. Jonathan Morris promised in a radio interview with Al Kresta last friday that the Legion would "in the coming days [release] a serious clarification."

    I'll be sure to notify AmP readers when that surfaces.

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    Saturday, February 14, 2009

    Document: Legionary internal talking points

    The author of "Ex LC Blog" has posted the Legionary of Christ/Regnum Christi internal talking points, saying "The following was sent to every member of Regnum Christi by Legion of Christ Superiors yesterday by email or fax."

    {update: several RC members have emailed me saying they have not received this. So it's unclear precisely how widely these talking points have been distributed.}

    Actually, this has been circulating among Legionary territorial leaders and section leaders at least since Feb. 9th, when I first saw it. Because it is already available on the internet, I will now provide the full PDF file below (click here to view the document full-screen in your internet browser):

    There are so many interesting lines and attitudes in the document that I will not try to excerpt any of them here. But for those who want to pursue the topic further, the document is available to you.

    I think plenty of what we have been hearing over the past 10 days from individual LC/RC members is explained by referencing this memo. Note how they rarely stray from the party line, and do not in fact seem to know anything beyond what this document puts forward.

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    Audio: My interview on Kresta in the Afternoon

    Yesterday I was interviewed by Al Kresta on Ave Maria Radio on the topic of the Maciel Scandal.

    You can listen to the MP3 here (jump to the middle of the show) and subscribe to Kresta's podcast here.

    Thanks to producer Nick Thomm for setting up the interview. Do stop by his blog for a needful reason.

    Of Al Kresta's many books, Why Do Catholics Genuflect? is my favorite, though I've also been meaning to read Moments of Grace: Inspiring Stories from Well-Known Catholics when I get a chance.

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    Friday, February 13, 2009

    AmP Poll: What do you think of the official Legionary response?

    We've been discussing this question closely for about a week.

    [Note: this post will remain at the top of the page today. If you can't see the poll click here.]

    Time to poll the AmP audience:


    And feel free to explain your choice of response in the comment box below.

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    On the Al Krest radio show at 5:30 EST

    You can listen live here on Ave Maria Radio's website. I'll be discussing the Maciel scandal.

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    Online petition asks Legionaries for transparency

    Shena Muldoon Rossettie has organized one:

    Dear Fr. Corcuera and the Legionaries of Christ:

    As friends of the Legionaries of Christ and Regnum Christi, we are writing to you out of loving concern following the recent news regarding Fr. Marcial Maciel.

    While we, the undersigned, may not agree with every particular nuance in this petition, we agree with its overall substance and intention.

    [Read the petition.]

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    On Facebook, Regnum Christ youth react to Maciel news

    A search of the popular social networking website Facebook reveals several popular groups created (some time ago) to support Marcial Maciel. Out of curiosity, I visited two of the largest ones to see how young Catholics are reacting to the news.

    The first one is named "Sainthood Quickly for Fr. Marcial Maciel, LC!" (click on the picture for full-size.)

    With 318 members currently, the description reads:

    This group is especially created for all those who believe and know that Nuestro Padre has been in life and is now a saint!! Withut [sic.] doubt this man is probably one of the greates [sic.] men of our times and all of us and the whole world will be touched by him in many ways. This is a man that the world will never forget especially his beloved legionaries. Lets hope and pray that the process of beatification and canonization will begin quickly!!
    One line from the group's discussion area caught my eye: "We cannot expect people on the outside to understand, because they have not had the opportunity to know the spirituality. Anyone who has taken the time to read the Cartas, CLC, etc and truly pray about it knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that the author of those letters was in no way a man of sin or vice."

    More work to be done.

    The second group is named "In loving memory of Fr. Marcial Maciel, MC" (click on the picture for full-size.)

    This group has obviously changed it group picture into one depicting a grieving Christ. The group's description has similarly been changed and, without mentioning what has happened, and counsels prayer for all those involved and hope that God will bring something good out of this.

    And while some of Fr. Berg's comments are mentioned (greatfully) in the discussion thread, one person says: "I have learned a lot out of this experience. The mesage is: everyone can be a saint!"

    More work to be done, still.

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    CNA picks up my report on Legion head Mass

    And does a good job of summarizing my observations. Read it if you don't want to slog through my full version.

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    President of Mexican Bishops calls on LC to apologize

    It's taken some time for me to get up to speed with the Maciel situation in Mexico. There is sadly very little cross-over between English and Spanish language journalism. The results of my search, however, do not disappoint.

    To begin with, the President of the Mexican Bishop's Conference (CEM) has called on the Legionaries to apologize to Maciel's victims (underlining mine):

    The Legionaries of Christ will have to ask pardon from the sex-abuse victims of Marcial Maciel, because this would be a sign of reconciliation, said Carlos Aguiar Retes, the president of the Mexican Bishops' Conference. In a statement yesterday, he condemned the fact that Maciel, a priest from Michoacan, led a double life. The president of the Bishops' Conference (CEM) said that yes, the Legionaries should ask pardon from those who denounced Maciel, founder of the Legionaries, for having sexually abused them, "because it certainly helps a lot when a person accepts his responsibility, for this is the principle of reconciliation. In this case the priest has already died and the congregation should make the apology as an institution. This is the principle of reconciliation." (All translations by a reliable AmP reader. Original Spanish text here.)

    Archbishop Retes continues (underlining again mine):

    For Aguiar Retes, the founder of the Legionaries of Christ "was a public person who had his freedom and, lamentably, we now know about this conduct." The Legionaries, the ecclesiastical leader added, have confronted this situation. They were the ones who made the information public. "No other source made this information public," he said, and he clarified that "this revelation was a very great act of courage, which hopefully will help them purify themselves internally." This situation will not affect the works of the religious order which Fr. Marcial Maciel founded, because they have spoken with the truth and "the truth purifies, and since they are doing this with transparency, that will help a lot to heal the wound, since it is undoubtedly a very serious wound."

    Sadly, I do not share the Archbishop's view of the matter at present, unless there are LC Spanish-language apologies and acts of transparency which I have missed.
    Nonetheless, I completely agree with Abp. Retes that accepting responsibility, apologizing and speaking the truth in full transparency are the appropriate actions in this situation - actions that will heal this "very serious wound." I think the Legionary leadership has a long way to go still.
    Here is more from Archbishop Retes, as well as a quick overview of what is being talked about south of the border. This from the Spanish-language magazine Proceso {my comments in brackets}:

    The Catholic Church "did not hide" the sexual affairs of the priest Marcial Maciel, according to astatement made today by Carlos Aguiar Retes, president of the Mexican Bishops' Conference (CEM). {I believe there have been charges in Mexican media that this was a Church cover-up}

    In this way, the highest authority of the Mexican Catholic hierarchy – which brings together more than 100bishops from the country – distanced itself from the signs which were indicating that the Church always covered up for the controversial founder of the Legionaries of Christ.

    In the press conference, Aguiar Retes made this clarification because the Legionaries themselves last week made public the news that Macielhad "at least" one daughter. In last week's edition of the magazine"Proceso," Javier Bravo, the spokesman for the Legionaries in Mexico, did not wish to clarify how many children Marcial Maciel had, nor how many mistresses. {See the incredible lack of transparency at work here? If Maciel had only one mistress, the LC spokesperson should deny multiple affairs. If Maciel had more, the LC spokesperson's silence on the question probably evens out to the same thing in the end.}

    The most widely spread version of the story is that he had a daughter who currently lives in Spain, although also it has come to light that over the course of decades he maintained sexual relations with various devoted women. {There is not a source given for this claim. Again, I am unable to definitively dismiss this rumor because the Legion remains silent on these typs of follow-up questions.}

    A third article in Proceso drops a bomb:

    Javier Bravo, spokesman for the Legionaries in Mexico ... revealed that, even before the death of Marcial Maciel last January 2008, the Vatican already had in its possession an ample documentation about the amorous affairs of Maciel. [He also said that] the Vatican was planning on making this information public, and indicated this to Father Alvaro Corcuera, successor of Maciel at the head of the Legionaries. {note plural "amorous affairs", again.}

    This is simply stunning news if it is true. It contradicts what the Legion has been saying that they found out first and went to the Vatican. It also contradicts the claim that the Legion spontaneously brought this information to its rank-and-file members.
    For if the Legion's hand was indeed "forced" by an understanding that the Vatican was going to make this known anyway, then the Legion was actually granted permission by the Vatican to spread the news in their own way first (and we are witnesses to how that has worked out).
    Most of these above-cited stories have only been out a day or so.
    And I must say, once again, these confusions will continue to exist as long as the Legion maintains its silence.

    {update: it's probably best to take this post with a couple more grains of salt than usual. I'm operating in a language that I don't speak natively and I don't have as sure a grasp on the reliability of sources.}

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    Thursday, February 12, 2009

    Posted: "Grisez's Response to a Critic and a Friend" {AmP Exclusive}

    Dr. Germain Grisez, who has already posted an open letter and a follow-up on these pages, now responds to what he describes as "the nastiest critic and the only serious effort at counterargument that I’ve seen".
    Read his response here.

    update: Dr. Grisez's interventions, in addition to being cited on EWTN's The World Over, have also made it into Canada's Western Catholic Reporter.

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    Noted: Georgia Students/Parents Informed re: Maciel

    The Archdiocese of Atlanta newspaper:

    The most visible presence for [the Legion in Georgia] is Pinecrest Academy, a 900-student independent Catholic school in Cumming. Five Legionaries of Christ priests are on the board of directors of the school, according to its Web site.

    School officials met with a large group of parents on Thursday, Feb. 5, to discuss the news about the order’s founder, Father Marcial Maciel.

    I'm being informed that similar parent-teacher (and then student) conferences are being held at Legion schools across the United States. I haven't heard about any specific content being discussed beyond what the Legion has already admitted to regarding its founder.

    One member's account of the response:
    "The reactions [RC member Vigil] has seen range from “bewilderment, (in) others anger at feeling duped, and (in) still others a certain holy detachment and faith that makes you wonder if they are in denial since unwavering praise of ‘Father Maciel’ was never far from their lips,” he wrote in an e-mail.

    ... Vigil said that despite the scandal, the Catholic practices entailed in his commitment as a member of Regnum Christi are solid and he looks to the Holy See for ongoing evaluation of the soundness of its spirituality."
    Silence is often construed as consent - but is the silence from Rome this time actual consent?

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    What the head of the Legion is saying to members

    This Sunday I was invited to attend a Sunday Mass of healing celebrated by Fr. Alvaro Corcuera, the General Director of the Legionaries of Christ (and direct successor to Marcial Maciel) at a local Catholic parish.

    I have published my observations here.

    I have also published the widely-distributed thoughts of a Regnum Christi member who was in attendance.

    Taken together, they provide both an internal and third-party view of what Fr. Alvaro is saying about the Maciel situation.

    This information is especially helpful because public, official statements by the Legionaries have - up to this point - been very scant.

    Fr. Alvaro often speaks of the Legionary as a family. I publish this with a hope that the promises he has made within the family will also be abided by outside the family.

    update: welcome, UK Telegraph readers. Complete information about the Maciel scandal here.

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    The Maciel scandal in Mexico

    I am sitting on several important updates on what is happening in Mexico with regards to the Maciel scandal. They are very significant and I will strive to have them published sometime today. So stay tuned.

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    Wednesday, February 11, 2009

    Maciel admission timed for SSPX controversy?

    Many people have been asking what prompted the Legionaries to choose this time for publicly acknowledging the veracity of allegations against their founder Maciel.

    Joan Desmond, a widely-published Catholic journalist, is hearing a consistent answer:

    Contacts in Rome, who sought to protect their sources during this sensitive time and would not go on the record, report that the on-going controversy over Bishop Williamson - one of the four schismatic bishops whose excommunication was lifted by the pope, but who still denies the existence of the Holocaust ... continues unabated and has made it difficult to work out an intervention by the Vatican. Only the Americans in the Legion have broken ranks in a noticeable way, attracted the public support of prominent Catholics, and appear committed to commencing a thorough house cleaning of the Legion, followed, possibly, by the "re-forming" of the order with new superiors in place.

    My contacts assert that the convergence of these two big news events--the outrage prompted by the Bishop Willliamson affair, followed shortly afterwards by the new revelations regarding Father Maciel's "double life" -- was no accident: the order's superiors and their ecclesial allies took advantage of the crisis surrounding Bishop Williamson to minimize the impact of the new disclosures regarding Maciel. The Mexican superiors, I'm told, believe the present tempest will blow over and the Legion will pull itself together and go on as before. (The Cathoholic - updated 3:30pm)

    It certainly seems that amidst the hubbub surrounding the SSPX story, coverage of the Maciel scandal has been slim-to-none, except for the notable exceptions chronicled on these pages.
    update: welcome, New Advent readers. Complete coverage of the Maciel scndal here.

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    CNS reporter gushes over Maciel's legacy in Mexico

    Catholic News Service has finally published something regarding the Maciel scandal: a glowing report of Maciel's legacy in his hometown of Cojita, Mexico.

    And when I mean glowing, I do mean glowing. Only two paragraphs talk at all about what Maciel did, the second and the last. Here's one paragraph:
    So when allegations of sexual abuse of young men surfaced against the priest and, more recently, the acknowledgment by the Legionaries of Christ that their founder fathered a child, many in Cotija failed to allow the news to negatively color their views of the late Father Marcial Maciel Degollado.
    Let's be clear: these are "allegations" of sexual abuse of young men only in the sense that we do not know which ones are true. Some of them are true.

    There are 49 words in the above paragraph. The other ~800 are devoted to praise.

    The article ends this way:
    "I think that God should be the final judge," said Rosa Maria Rangel, who runs a cheese store. She added that few in Cotija held negative opinions of Father Maciel, prompting one young employee to object. When asked why she held a negative opinion, Leobardo Medina, 26, responded, "For what he did."
    Again, we need to be clear: no one is claiming to know definitively the final state of Maciel's soul. We are only, in fact, just learning the full extent of his grave earthly sins. It shouldn't be surprising that a man as powerful as Maciel, who was synonymous with the Church to the people who knew him, and about whom these allegations only recently were admitted to as being true in any form ... should end up having "few negative opinions" among the general populace at this point.

    Finally, Leobardo (why the masculine word ending if she is a woman?) has it right: one can hold a negative opinion about Maciel "For what he did." We can have negative opinions about people known to have gravely sinned against and injured their fellow men and women.

    Let's review what Maciel did:
    • Broke his priestly vows in having a sexual relationship with a woman, whom he conceived a child with
    • Evidently misused Legionary funds - monies given to him in trust by the Church
    • Sexually abused young boys in his charge, over an extended period of time
    • Betrayed his fellow Legionary brothers and consecrated lay women through his actions
    • Deceived the members of the movement whenever he did any of the above things

    Any man who does these sorts of things, and dies without ever publicly repenting or seeing to the good of the order he left behind, would give me cause to form a negative opinion about him.

    (Oh, and by the by - the story's author, David Agren, has written for Regnum Christi. I mean, you'd think that factoid would be worth a disclosure, would you not?)

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    John Haldane says "Time for 'God's Rottweiler' to show his bark – and his bite"

    John Haldane, Professor of Philosophy at the University of St Andrews and Consultor to the Pontifical Council for Culture in the Scotsman:
    [Pope Benedict is] a gentle man and not at all the strict and harsh disciplinarian suggested by the tabloid title "God's Rottweiler". In view of recent events, however, it may be that some barking and biting are now called for.

    ...it has been revealed that the founder of another traditionalist Catholic movement, the Legionnaries of Christ, fathered at least one child by a girl of 15 when he was 68. Marcial Maciel had long been the subject of accusations of sexual predation, but his movement produced hundreds of priests and he found favour with John Paul II.
    I've come across these rumors that the woman Maciel impregnated was 15 at the time she became pregnant. Currently, however, I do not find them credible and have strong private evidence that she was not a minor. Once again, however, the Legion's secrecy makes it impossible to definitively dismiss these rumors, so in all likilihood they will continue to spread.

    Anyway, Haldane continues:
    ... [Maciel's] movement, however, was not reformed. Benedict had acted, but the Vatican had not followed through, and members of the Legionnaries behaved as if it were business as usual. So, again, the charge arises: did the Vatican not care or did it not know. Either way, its failure imperils Pope Benedict's project of reform, renewal, and restoration.
    Yes - the current situation is a wound to the universal Church that does not promise to heal itself.

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    Unhelpful Washington Times reporting on Maciel

    Julia Duin heard about the Maciel scandal, and what was her reaction? To send one of her interns to the Catholic University campus to gather reactions from undergraduates.

    What did the intern learn? Absolutely nothing of consequence.

    No offense to the CUA kids, but going to them for answers, in my mind, ranks right up there with asking the mailman how he feels about the Postmaster General's winning the lotto.

    I mean, sure ... but why?

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    Tuesday, February 10, 2009

    Dr. Grisez's Comment on Fr. Berg's Letter {AmP exclusive}

    Dr. Germain Grisez, Flynn Professor of Christian Ethics at Mount Saint Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Maryland, has published his official comment on Fr. Thomas Berg's letter to Regnum Christi members.

    Dr. Grisez asks that this comment, published first here on AmP, be widely distributed.

    Important links:

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    Posted: Fr. Thomas Berg's Letter to Regnum Christi

    Several blogs have broken the embargo that Fr. Berg requested be kept on the private letter he wrote to pastorally assist Regnum Christi members.

    I will now post it in hopes that it reaches more of its intended audience. It's very instructive for us as well. Fr. Berg, it will be remembered, also published a shorter, public statement last Friday.

    It was very brave of him to send this. He is clearly motivated out of a deep concern for his Regnum Christi family, beyond all else:

    To my beloved Regnum Christi Family

    A personal note from Fr. Thomas Berg, LC offering guidance and warmest companionship in the midst of this intense suffering.

    Dear everyone—

    Christ's peace.

    I write to you this Sunday morning with my heart in my hand. I know personally that so many of our priests, section directors, have been working for hours on end, meeting with groups of RC, first to break the horrible news and then to accompany them, often themselves reduced to the point of tears. Then there have been the endless follow—up phone calls, private conversations. Believe me, we have all been trying to do everything possible to reach out to all of you personally.

    But my heart aches because our best efforts have not been enough. I want to reach out to you as a brother and friend this morning and try to assure you, if nothing else, that we are here. I know further efforts are underway to attempt to respond more adequately and formally to the confusion you all feel, not to mention the hurt and betrayal. I beg you, in the midst of such pain and hurt, please bear with your directors.

    At the same time, however, I also beg you forgiveness for the disastrous response which this crisis has received from our upper LC leadership. There is no other way to say it: in so many respects, Legionary superiors have failed, and failed miserably to respond adequately to this crisis, and not surprisingly, have engendered in many of you and understandable lack of confidence. Those are the facts and your reaction is natural and reasonable. With all my heart, on their behalf, I apologize. Our superiors are human instruments; I know in their hearts they have trying to do the right thing, under inhuman pressure. Please understand that.

    I am not making any excuses, however, for the fumbled media responses (which I believe have been too often unfairly attributed to Jim Fair our communications director who needs your prayers and has earned a very high place in heaven for what he has had to endure this week), for the appearances of being less than forthcoming, for the lack of information, for the confusion of messaging. For that, there is no excuse in a way, and tragically is largely due to the ineptness of many of those in leadership positions to respond with expertise and diligence in a crisis management situation like this.

    But it is more than just crisis management. The thing I am most pained about—I share this as a brother—is the near absence of but fleeting suggestions of sorrow, and of apologizing for the harm done, both to alleged victims of Maciel, and, frankly, to all of you. I am deeply, deeply sorry, and I personally apologize with my heart in my hand to each and every one of you.

    I understand your feelings of betrayal. For twenty-three years I have loved and tried to follow Christ in the Legion. I can say before God, in spite of my many human frailties, I have been faithful. I have also, more than many of you to be honest, gone out on limb after limb, trying to defend Maciel. I have lived my priesthood always with that cloud hanging over me, always having to essentially apologize for being a Legionary. You feel betrayed? You feel rage? I can only say that the rage, and raw emotions that I have felt these past days (the hardest days of my entire life, emotions like I have never experienced) are only a glimpse of the unspeakable hell that victims of priest sexual abuse must go through. My thoughts and my heart have been so often with them these days…

    I know that many of your are utterly confused about what you are feeling and about where we go from here. In no particular order, let me offer my advice and counsel as follows:

    1. Most of you are going through the stages of mourning. Understand that and know what that means. This is a very useful site.

    2. Keep talking to your section directors. Let them know how you feel. Let them know if you are satisfied with their response to you.

    3. Many of you might find it to be a wonderfully freeing and healing experience to offer acts of reparation for those suffering the effects of priestly sexual abuse. You might also find it healing to reach out to persons who, in any way, have found themselves hurt by their experiences with the Legion or RC.

    4. For your own spiritual needs right now:

    a. Remember you are free to speak with anyone, inside or outside the Movement about your pain, your reactions to this tragic news, and for ease of conscience to speak to whomever you believe can best help you at this time. I would encourage you to reach out to and find guidance from priests whose holiness and sound judgment you trust, whether Legionaries or not.

    b. Your spiritual experiences—even when they came through the letters of the Founder—are valid, and real. God was working through those instruments. The sad revelations about Maciel do not change that. Try to thank God for the past, and sing his praises for the way he has done in your lives through RC. Prayer of thankfulness will help you. Prayer of thanksgiving for this deliverance he has given us now, and for the purification which we are undergoing will also be very helpful.

    c. 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.

    d. In your meditation, go back to the bedrock truths of your life and ponder them serenely before God and let him use that meditation to soothe your hearts: the Incarnation of the Son of God, the Redemption, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, your Baptism, your call to a more deeply committed Christian life, and a loving meditation ("Mary meditated on all these things in here heart") of all the wonders God has done in your life.

    e. I also recommend using The Better Part by Fr. Bartunek, and any other spiritual writings be Legionary priests. You might find those helpful. Your section directors should also be able to point you in the direction of other sources on which to nourish your souls. Share your ideas with each other.

    Finally, I encourage you to speak to Legionary leadership, and even in the form of petition letters, demand 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.

    And remember: "Entrust your life to the Lord, and He will act."

    Let's pray for each other. With all my love, gratitude to all of you for your fidelity.

    In Jesus,
    Fr. Thomas Berg, LC

    If you are looking for the face of the future of the movement - look to Fr. Berg.

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    Monday, February 09, 2009

    Text: Letter of Legionary priest in Mexico

    "I am a Legionary of Christ" by Juan Pedro Oriol.

    What this is: "An open letter published in the leading Mexican journal Reforma. It is a letter by a Legionary priest recounting his vocation experience and asking for forgiveness."

    Thanks to an AmP reader for a quick translation from the Spanish (the original spanish text is available at the end of the post linked above).

    We should be aware that, while this story is breaking mostly on English-language blogs in the United States, the Legionaries have an even more active presence in Mexico, where Maciel was born.

    [Photo credit: Religion en Libertad]

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    Disappointment at the Vatican press office

    Today, in the first bulletin from the Vatican press office after the weekend (summarizing February 7-9th), the following news items were considered important enough to publish:
    • the Pope made public his message for the seventeenth World Day of the Sick
    • the Pope appeared at the window to pray the Angelus (as he does every week)
    • the Pope launched an appeal for peace [in Madagascar]
    • the Pope and German Chancellor Angela Merkel had a phone conversation
    • Cardinal Bertone expressed appreciation of the attempts to save the life of Eluana (We are all presumed to know about this case since it is in Italian news. And this is an international news service?)
    • the Pope received the Letters of the new ambassador of Brazil (a photo op, in other words)
    • the usual announcement of recent papal audiences (this week it has been Nigerian bishops)
    • the usual noting of recent papal acts (an interesting appointment to "director for telecommunications" - maybe someone got fired? I'll have to track that question down some other time.)

    ... anyway, my simple point is: no mention of the Legionary crisis. Not even a note of condolence from the Holy Father over the public admission of the scandalous life of Maciel, a revelation which is clearly shaking thousands of LC and RC members worldwide. And this situation does not merit a mention?

    update: I should make myself clear, especially since I have many new readers who don't know where I am coming from: I'm not impugning the pope in this post, I'm simply saying that it strikes me, an independent observer, as odd that so many things are done by the pope and in the pope's name every day - so why a selective silence when it comes to an objectively grave situation like the one facing the Legionaries? I don't apprehend, immediately, the prudence of not even expressing sympathy for the victims and members of the movement.

    You will recall that it was an "information vacuum" that exacerbated the SSPX-Holocaust situation. I would hate to see the Maciel meltdown follow the same general trajectory - because that can still be avoided.

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    Maciel Meltdown: weekend recap & latest developments

    This story continues to move quickly. Updates from over the weekend:

    Also, for AmP tipsters, two important notes.

    Finally, Catholic Exchange has published Part II of its four person panel on the Maciel scandal.

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    Sunday, February 08, 2009

    Two important notes for AmP tipsters

    Papists,

    I'm experiencing a huge volume of emails, comments and readership these days because of my ongoing coverage of the Maciel scandal.

    Because of this volume, if you wish to assist my reporting, please email me ("thomas [at] americanpapist [dot] com") the things you want me to see ... I do not have enough time to read through every comment.

    Similarly, if there are serious cases of comment box misbehavior (cursing, false info, etc.) - please bring it to my attention by quoting the offending comment to me ... again, in an email.

    Doing these two things will help me respond more quickly to tips and problems.

    Thank you.

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    Analysis: How do Maciel and the Legionary charism relate?

    Canon Lawyer Edward Peters (my father) asks the question that, if Maciel was in fact a criminal, then how is one to understand his charism?

    I think it's the most important question of practical theology one can ask in this situation. The claim is being made by Legionary leaders that Maciel's charism, because it has the approval of a Vatican dicastery, no longer relies on Maciel's own person:
    "... setting aside questions about what exactly the Legion's "charism" is, Legion spokesmen are invoking the ecclesiastical approval of their charism in the same terms that one sees used to defend the celebration of sacraments by grave sinners, that is, as if dicastery approval of a charism worked ex opere operato to guarantee the authenticity and spiritual fecundity of a given charism. I ask, says who?
    For those not familiar with the term ex opere operato, in this case, Peters is claiming that Legionary leaders are saying their charism was transmitted intact regardless of the personal virtue of Maciel (just like the Church teaches sacraments convey grace to the recipient regardless of the minister's personal virtue). However, a charism is not a sacrament, so the question remains open to debate, a debate which Peters takes up next:
    "Notwithstanding some authors who think that Roman approval of a religious institute enjoys the certitude of (one level or another) of infallibility, the better opinion is, I think, that ecclesiastical approval of a religious institute's charism is not protected by any level of infallibility. See Avery Dulles, Magisterium (2007) at 78."
    That's Cardinal Avery Dulles, the renown theologian, so his opinion holds some serious weight.

    Why is this question of Maciel and the Legionary charism important for moving forward? Peters:
    "[if Church approval of a charism is not infallible, this] would let us explore the question of the Legion's future with a frankness that would be harder to muster if one feared impugning a determination made by the Church's magisterium."
    Here again, the Vatican could provide us clarity. In the meantime, serious debate is welcome.

    update: Peter Vere, another canon lawyer, has published his thoughts on these (and related) topics in an interview over at the Life After RC blog. I found several of his points to be helpful.

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    Video: Legionary Priests on EWTN - Feb 6th, 2008

    Last Friday, as I mentioned, Frs. Thomas Williams and Jonathan Morris, LC appeared on EWTN to speak about the Maciel scandal (actually, they were scheduled in advance to speak about their recently-released books).

    I was in the studio audience during the taping of this interview. I have no additional observations to add, except that both priests (although especially Fr. Morris) appeared crestfallen and somber before tape began rolling. You can see the same emotions in the video.

    Part I (3:33):

    Links to Parts I, II, III & IV. {updated - the links should be in the right order now.}

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    Vatican leaves door open for Legionary intervention

    The substance of this CNA article is that the Vatican is not considering "immediate" action in the wake of the Legionaries' crisis, but the anonymous official does leave the door open:
    The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, headed by Cardinal Franc Rodé, is not considering an immediate intervention in the crisis generated by the recent announcement that the deceased founder of the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi, Fr. Marcial Maciel, led a double life and fathered a child in the 1980s.
    Cardinal Rode appears a great friend of the Legion. More:
    An official from the Congregation who spoke with Catholic News Agency explained Saturday morning that the dicastery – usually known by its short, inaccurate older name, the Congregation for Religious – has no immediate plans to intervene in the Legion of Christ. However, the official said that intervention could happen in the future in “case of necessity.”
    Well - I think we are there...
    The official explained that the dicastery usually intervenes in religious congregations in two circumstances: when it is requested by the organization itself, or when the internal crisis of an organization is perceived by the Holy See as “impossible to solve by internal means.”
    Interesting that the Legion has evidently not asked for an intervention itself, and George Weigel's piece lays out a strong argument that the Legion cannot solve this problem by internal means.

    Interesting:

    Finally, the official highlighted that the fact that the dicastery is not announcing an intervention “in no way implies a lack of sense of the gravity of the issue.”

    “It just means that any step should be decided according to the principles of charity, prudence and justice, moved by the well being of those affected and the common good of the Church, and not in a rush to respond to short-sighted pressure.”

    First of all, it's good that the official wishes to convey an appreciation of the gravity of the issue, because up until this point, no official Legionary spokesperson has done so.

    Second, the pressures facing the Legion are far more than "short-sighted." I would argue that what has been short-sighted is the response of the Legion to this crisis. At minimum, it would appear to me that the members of Regnum Christi and the Legion are not being well served by their leadership in the short-term, and frankly, that's where they are living.

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    George Weigel calls for Vatican intervention in Legionary scandal

    George Weigel has published an important letter in First Things calling for specific, immediate action to be taken by the Vatican. He finds the official Legionary response, up to this point, to be completely inadequate.

    He asks how the good of Legionary members can be saved:
    It can only be saved if there is full, public disclosure of Fr. Maciel’s perfidies and if there is a root-and-branch examination of possible complicity in those perfidies within the Legion of Christ. That examination must be combined with a brutally frank analysis of the institutional culture in which those perfidies and that complicity unfolded. Only after that kind of moral and institutional audit has been conducted, and has been seen publicly to be a clean audit, can the Legion of Christ, and the broader Church, face the questions of the Legion’s future
    How should this be done specifically? In concrete terms:
    ... as the flailings and failures of the past ten days have made clear, that audit cannot be conducted by the Legion leadership, which is likely beset by a maelstrom of internal and external pressures. It must be mandated by the pope, and it must be conducted by someone responsible to the pope alone—not responsible to the relevant parts of the Vatican bureaucracy, not responsible to the cardinal secretary of state, but responsible to the pope alone. There is simply no other way open to an accounting that will be both scrupulously honest and publicly credible.

    To take an image from corporate law, the Legion of Christ must be immediately put into receivership: A personal delegate, appointed by the pope, must be empowered to take over the governance of the Legion of Christ and to conduct the moral and institutional audit required. The papal delegate would be instructed to report his findings, both interim and final, to the pope alone, and he would be instructed to make recommendations (again, to the pope alone) addressing the possible futures, including dissolution or dissolution-and-reconstitution, of the Legion.
    Weigel goes on to respond to the questions that his proposal may raise.
    Weigel is by far the most prominant Catholic intellectual and Church expert to call for a Vatican intervention in the internal affairs of the Legionaries.
    More as I find it....

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    Noted: Zenit picks up two Legionary letters

    Just to keep abreast of the situation, the Legionaries' premier international news service Zenit has copied Fr. Berg {update - link fixed} and Fr. Alvaro's (the superior of the congregation's) letters. It still surprises me that there has been no official follow-up from the Legion answering the questions that are still unanswered.

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    One report of the LC timeline

    An AmP reader anonymously contributes their understanding of the LC timeline:
    "... at the meeting our section director held this week, he explained that several months ago, the investigation was completed & facts about the affair verified, and at that point, Fr. Alvaro informed the Vatican immediately, received their response ("Tell your people"), & began the process of personally telling his priests about the situation. This process was slow, b/c he really desired to follow the person-to-person methodology we have always had, and which he found to be most fatherly.

    This process was fast-forwarded last weekend, when it became clear that the news was about to become public, and he wanted to ensure that all LCs & RC members were informed before it came out in the media. Immediately, the method changed from top-to-individual to phone tree: the many remaining priests & seminarians were informed through the hierarchical structure; section directors informed RC group leaders who called team leaders who personally called all their team members. So TBTG, we all knew before it hit the media (barring a few out-of-towners and/or missed assignments, I'm sure).

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    Saturday, February 07, 2009

    Video: Cardinal Rylko encourages Regnum Christi

    This video was filmed in January, and uploaded to the Regnum Christi YouTube channel on Feb 5:

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    Statement from Director of Regnum Christi in New York {AmP exclusive}

    From Fr. Richard Gill, Director of Regnum Christi in New York and of Our Lady of Mt. Kisco Retreat Center.

    I’ve been a Legionary priest since 1991 and I have always loved my Congregation and my priestly vocation and I only hope Our Lord has used it as an effective means of grace for many people to find their way to a deeper relationship with Christ.

    I thought I knew Fr. Maciel. I do believe he did many good things for many people. I have benefitted greatly from the formation and life I have lived as a Legionary for twenty-eight years. I defended Fr. Maciel because to the extent I thought I knew him, I sincerely believed the allegations against him were baseless.

    Yet, in light of what has been coming out about him, I must say I am terribly sorry to have defended him. I believe I acted in good faith, yet nonetheless did an injustice to the victims.

    I am deeply sorry to the people who have suffered from these inexcusable and reprehensible actions of Fr. Maciel. No person should have to suffer abuse at the hands of a priest in whom they have put their trust. And his actions have damaged the holiness of the Church and contributed to the alienation many people feel due to similar scandals in the Church.

    I offer my prayers and sacrifices for anyone who was victimized, so they may continue to heal and discover the love of Jesus Christ.

    I am confident that our superiors are working closely with the appropriate dicasteries of the Holy See to chart the best course forward for the Legion of Christ so it can be of better service to the Church and the Holy Father.

    Fr. Richard Gill, LC
    Our Lady of Mount Kisco Retreat Center
    773 Armonk Road
    Mt. Kisco, NY 10549
    rgill@legionaries.org

    Posted with permission of the author.

    Please keep all members of the Legionaries of Christ and Regnum Christi in your prayers.

    update: Edward Peters examines this new letter, at the end of this post.

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    Former LC/RC Spokesman for North America apologizes

    Jay Dunlap was hired by the Legionaries of Christ in 1998 to respond to the first public allegations of Maciel abuse published in the Hartford Courant and later the National Catholic Reporter:

    It is now clear that Father Maciel did in fact abuse his power and abuse young people in his charge. I personally apologize to his victims and to anyone who was misinformed by statements I made, in this forum and in others. How awful for victims to be taken from their families as children, suffer such abuse, and then to be disbelieved!


    This paragraph threw me for a loop (underlining mine):
    Last month, Cardinal Franc Rode, prefect of the Vatican office that oversees religious congregations like the Legionaries, appeared in several Latin American countries encouraging Legionaries and Regnum Christi members to carry on their service to the Church. He did so fully aware of what Father Maciel had done and what the Legionary leadership was doing in response.
    Wait - hold on a second. Cardinal Rode knew what Father Maciel had done? If the cardinal knew a month ago, how did the Legionaries just find out about it? It still seems like we are dealing with conflicting timelines.

    More:
    The Holy See has the extremely difficult task of trying to keep numerous Legionary institutions from collapsing.
    I trust the Holy See realizes that it cannot fulfill this task by only working behind the scenes. Some public statement is necessary.

    Conclusion:
    The survival of these institutions and the good work they have done depends now upon the sustenance of the Holy Spirit, if the organization can be purged of any elements of the culture of deception which enabled Father Maciel to get away with so much for so long. That purging appears to be underway.

    Appears? What information is this based on? I would agree that the most recent statements of Legionary priests have been an improvement upon the ones being made at first, but the leadership of the LC is still maintaining a stony silence.

    Despite all my questions, I found this to be a good apology.

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    Friday, February 06, 2009

    Noted: Fr. Thomas Berg’s statement about Fr. Maciel

    This is by far the most forthright statement I've seen from a Legionary priest (just published).

    Asking for Your Prayers
    Deepest sorrow for the pain and scandal caused by our founder
    Last Thursday evening I was informed that, after an internal investigation of the charges lodged against him, it had been discovered that my religious congregation’s founder, Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado fathered a child, who is now in her early 20s. Fr. Maciel founded the Legion in 1941. He died on January 30, 2008. On May 19, 2006, the Vatican released a communiqué requiring him to retire to a private life of penitence and prayer in light of numerous allegations brought before the Holy See, including accusations of sexual abuse of some of the first members of the congregation. At that time the Legion began its own internal investigation.
    Given the near impossibility of ascertaining what happened over so many years (the earliest accusations would have been dated to the 1950’s), and because I am not privy to the findings of any of these investigations, I do not know which of those earlier accusations might be true. Sadly, however, it seems evident that some of them must indeed be true.
    In shock, sorrow, and with a humbled spirit, I want to express my deepest sorrow for anyone who, in any way, has been hurt by the moral failings of Fr. Maciel. Of my readers, I ask your prayers for each of them. They count not only on my prayers, but also on the personal acts of reparation that I intend to do to implore for each of them the grace, healing, and comfort that only God can give. I am so sorry for each of them, and for the scandal this has caused to the entire Church.
    For the members of my religious family, the Legionaries of Christ, I humbly ask for your prayers as we discern the road ahead and strive, each in our way and apostolic work, to continue to serve Christ and his Church.

    Amen.

    update: to understand why this letter is so important, read Canon Lawyer Edward Peter's analysis.

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    A crystallization of what is wrong with the LC response

    I missed the import of these lines when I first read them in a Catholic News Service interview with Fr. Paolo Scarafoni, spokesman at the Legionaries’ headquarters in Rome:

    Asked how the Legionaries came to know about [Maciel's child], Scarafoni said, “Frankly, I cannot say and it is not opportune to discuss this further, also because there are people involved” who deserve privacy.

    {Is it truly concern for the child and her mother that is keeping them from discussing it? They need not give any details about them, they ought to give details about Maciel.}

    The pain the Legionaries are experiencing now “is so great precisely because this is something we did not know before,” Scarafoni said. However, he said, “We are serene." ... "At the same time, he said, “there is much gratitude. Our gratitude to him remains very strong because we have received so much that is good from him. This is something we cannot and will not deny.”"

    {Cannot and "will not"? Why such obstinate/defensive language? Why serenity that your founder lied to you? For most people, "acceptance" is not the first emotion one reaches when presented with new, shocking news. And why such focus on pain already experienced but so little concern for preventing further pain by listening to the council of concerned observers?}

    Scarafoni said the Legion had no plans to apologize to any alleged abuse victims or offer them pastoral care. "They have surely found a way by now to receive adequate care," he said.

    {This gets me the most. If ever the allegations of abuse victims should be re-visited, it is now, when Maciel's character has been definitely reveled as suspect. Why not even a second thought about these persons, when everything the Legion has presumed - and taught - about its founder's actions is being called into question?}

    This won't do.

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    Maciel News - Day 4

    Chatter seems to be subdued today - you can be sure various people are using the lull to write their editorials - I've already discussed what appears to be the official LC response at this time.

    A few bites this morning, however {from newest --> oldest}:

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    Day 4 - A response from the Legionaries? My conclusions.

    Almost four days after AmP carried the story that Legionaries founder Marcial Maciel fathered a child with his mistress and led a double life, the Legionaries of Christ and its lay component Regnum Christ have updated their websites with this letter from the new Legion superior, Fr. Alvaro, entitled "In the Wake of Painful News." They have also linked to this Zenit article: "Legion Regrets Founder's Conduct - Congregation Apologizes for Scandal".
    The picture at left (taken from the Legionaries news page) illustrates the awkward juxtaposition the Legion finds itself in - on the one hand they have barely finished extolling their late founder in days previous, on the other hand they must explain to their members that Maciel was, for lack of a more descriptive term, a scoundrel.
    What they have done so far in response, however, is not adequate to the gravity of the situation, regardless of their apparent desire to see it resolved quickly.
    I think significant problems remain when it comes to Maciel, the LC Leadership, and the RC Membership.
    Maciel: First, the discovery that Maciel fathered a child with a mistress is the tip of the iceberg. It's very credible from the New York Times story that he also misappropriated Legion money to fund his double life. There may be at least one other child. There have been tenable reports that Maciel abused drugs. And I'm not even mentioning the long-standing allegations of his sexual abuse of minors, which have been surfacing for years.
    In fact, there cannot be a sense at this point that we know the full breadth of Maciel's crimes. And because we still don't have the facts on Maciel (for a moment, can you imagine what the canonical process for his canonization would have been like?!) it's premature to think we have even begun the healing process.
    LC Leadership: Second, we don't know who (if anyone) in the Legion abetted his immoral activities. I don't see how Maciel could have done these things without anyone covering for him. If he did manage to pull this off solo, this means those around him had no idea what he was doing for significant segments of time. They should have known something was up, especially if he was asking for unmarked bills before taking trips.
    Therefore it is evident that a thorough investigation of the Legion leadership is necessary, and yet I see no hints that this is on the Legion's radar, and frankly, I have serious doubts that the Legion is capable of self-diagnosis and treatment on this matter. And needless to say, it is disturbing that outside sources have to be the ones bringing up the question of how Maciel got away with it. The question of how to institutionally fix the patterns of activity that allowed this to happen in the first place should have been raised internally, immediately, and then become part of the Legion's public response. An institution that claims to be surprised that Maciel did these things cannot also claim to be on top of its own affairs.
    RC Membership. Third and finally, there is a pastoral crisis facing the Regnum Christi and Legionary memberships, involving how they relate to Maciel, and especially how they absorb these discoveries about his moral depravity. In this task, I don't think they are being helped by their Legionary pastors. And while this is a complicated phenomenon, it boils down to a simple point: the Legion do not have objectivity about Maciel. Their commitment to spreading Maciel's spirituality has become unhealthy because this task now has an insurmountable contradiction to overcome - Maciel's own life.
    Let me explain. It is one thing to say [A] "this man was a good person, let us follow his positive example." It is quite another to say [B] "this man was not a good person, let us learn from his example negatively." It's a third thing altogether to instantly switch from [A] to [B], without even admitting that is what is being done. Consequently, until I see some admission from the Legion that this changeover from [A] to [B] must happen (whether it should happen at all is a separate issue), or until Legionary leadership can admit publicly that Maciel did evil things and is not an example of virtue, I must remain seriously doubtful that they can meaningfully be trusted with the flock given over to them.
    These are my private opinions. In my reporting, I aim to present an accurate picture - giving equal weight to all sides. I will stay true to this style of coverage in the coming days. Thank you, and I welcome comments.

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    Thursday, February 05, 2009

    Maciel Meltdown: Day 3

    The latest (from newest --> oldest):

    The beginnings of an official Legionary response, but still no news releases on the Legionary or Regnum Christi websites.

    All previous AmP coverage of this topic is available here.

    Look for more updates throughout the day....

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    AmP exclusive: Open Letter to Legionaries by Dr. Germain Grisez

    I've been given permission to publish an open letter to the Legionaries of Christ and Regnum Christi, by Dr. Germain Grisez, Flynn Professor of Christian Ethics at Mount Saint Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Maryland.
    In the open letter, Dr. Grisez calls for the Legionaries to reorganize themselves into a new institute. They must, he argues, appeal to Pope Benedict to "fulfill his responsibility" of being "the ultimate superior on earth of every religious institute," and thereby "save the common good of the faithful members of the Legionaries of Christ."
    Canon Lawyer Edward Peters (my father) made a similar argument yesterday: "Rome must take control of the Legion crisis."
    The official word from the Legionaries who have spoken publicly thus far is that they are not considering this option. There has been no official reaction from Rome, yet.

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    OSV's John Norton interviews Legionary Fr. Thomas Williams

    Fr. Thomas Williams, LC is the dean of theology for the Legion's pontifical university in Rome.

    Excerpts:

    Father Williams: We have already begun moving [Maciel's] pictures from the walls. Regarding his writing, it is more complicated since they represent an integral part of the charism of the order, which the Church has approved as authentic.

    OSV: On a related note, for the purposes of carrying on the charism of the Legion, how does the congregation do that considering the founder apparently led a double life? How can his teachings on the charism be reliable?

    Father Williams: We have the assurance of the Church's magisterium to rely on. A number of cardinals have stepped forward to encourage us to remain strong and keep moving forward, despite the tremendous difficulties.

    {snip}

    OSV: Is there any consideration at all to dissolve the congregation and refound?

    Father Williams: None whatsoever.

    Read the full interview here.

    As I mentioned earlier, he will be appearing on EWTN tomorrow night at 8pm.

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    AmP exclusive: how LC schools are handling this internally

    I've obtained access to an internal email sent out by one Legionaries of Christ school principle on Febuary 4th, 2009. This provides a glimpse into how the Legionaries are presenting the Maciel scandal internally.

    You can read the text here.

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    Wednesday, February 04, 2009

    Maciel Meltdown: Day 2

    The latest (from newsest --> oldest):

    "We cannot deny the existence of these facts but we cannot go into detail as we respect the privacy of those involved... We have learnt recently of certain aspects of his life that are very hard to understand, aspects of his life that are not appropriate to the life of a priest." (source)

    • Andrew Sullivan picks up my reporting, but gets all the interpretation wrong, as I explain
    • Whispers posts on the recent developments and fills in some of the backstory
    • Associated Press, briefly: "Spokesman Jim Fair ... declined to comment Wednesday about claims on blogs that Maciel fathered a daughter ... The order's Rome headquarters declined to comment."
    • UK blogger Damian Thompson: "The question for this wealthy and well-connected order is: what next? And no one seems to know the answer."
    • Reuters covered the story this morning: "News reports and blogs in the Catholic media have said that Maciel, a Mexican, had lived a double life for many years and members of the order had been told privately that he had an affair and fathered at least one child."

    This post will be updated throughout the day. Stay tuned.

    Yesterday's comprehensive coverage of this story can be viewed here (scroll down the page).

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    Two LC priests to appear on EWTN this Friday

    This Friday (8pm EST) Fr. Thomas Williams and Fr. Jonathan Morris will be appearing on EWTN's The World Over with Raymond Arroyo. Both priests are well-known authors and TV commentators.
    I understand that the show was planned long before the news came out about Marcial Maciel's pattern of sin and deception. You can watch a live stream of the EWTN feed online here.
    As it stands, this appearances may provide the first opportunity for two prominent Legionary priests to answer questions that have been raised in light of the Maciel revelations, especially if no official response is published by the Legion in the next 48 hours. I'll be watching.

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    Andrew Sullivan gets the Maciel case wrong, and here's why

    Welcome Daily Dish readers.

    I almost completely disagree with Sullivan's evaluation of what we should learn from the Maciel case.

    Here are five quick points he gets wrong:
    • Sullivan claims that Pope Benedict XVI "protected" Maciel "for many years." Actually, about a year after his election, Pope Benedict removed Maciel from ministry and has taken steps to reform Legionary internal affairs. How are either of these actions "protecting"?
    • Sullivan falsely reads into what Fr. James Martin is actually trying to say. Fr. Martin isn't claiming anything is wrong with the priesthood, he is claiming something was deeply wrong with Maciel. But for Sullivan, any problem with a priest must be a problem with the priesthood. That's not the right conclusion.
    • Sullivan says: "The problem is the distorted and contorted sexuality that celibacy and total power can create in many clerical psyches." And yet the vast, vast majority of priests do not have the problems that Sullivan describes, so I disagree strongly with Sullivan's claim that the "problem" with Maciel was his oath of celibacy. Instead, once again: the problem for Maciel was Maciel.
    • Sullivan: "Until the Church hierarchy tackles that, until it is able to understand sexuality more than it fears it, it will not be able to bring new and healthy life into the church." This is an incredibly ignorant thing to say, and shows that Sullivan hasn't even bothered doing his homework. Of course the Church does not fear sexuality (thanks, Dan Brown), The Church in fact has an incredibly rich teaching on the matter. Seriously, Sullivan, try googling "Theology of the Body" or read any one of the encyclicals that treat these issues.
    • Sullivan ends: "The laity have already figured a lot of this out, guys. Let us know when you're interested in talking. " Let us know, Sullivan, when you've done enough homework to be worth having a debate with. In the meantime, Daily Dish readers, stick around here for informed commentary and sober analysis.

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    Tuesday, February 03, 2009

    Edward Peters on what won't, should and could happen to the LCs

    My father, canon lawyer Edward Peters, speaks about the Maciel meltdown and the future of the Legion. I'm excerpting some of the most important points. You can read the rest of his blog entry here.
    • The Legion should (if it can, and I'm not sure it has the self-possession to do this) identify every official who knew of Maciel's canonical crimes or who suspected them, but did nothing (let alone cooperated with them!) and expel them under 1983 CIC 696. Canonical crimes by a number of persons might well have been committed here (see e.g. 1983 CIC 1389); these should be pursued.

    It is almost impossible that Maciel acted alone, without the abetting of at least some associates.

    • Everyone, within the Legion and without, who has publicly attacked the motives and/or character of Maciel's accusers and of Legion critics should, just as publicly, apologize. (Tom Hoppes, a layman who edits the Legion's National Catholic Register was the first, and so far the only, Legion official to offer any apology for the LC's treament of it's critics.)

    If this were any other institution, apologies would be publicly demanded of them. This is a first step towards reconciliation, and an essential stage to begin if the public is to ever trust LC leadership again.

    • the Legion could dissolve itself... the LC priests who might wish to remain together could dissolve the Legion, and reconstitute themselves as a new institute under a dramatically new form of governance (not simply with the correction of some strange points in the Legion rule as occurred under Benedict XVI) and with a substantially new charism.

    This is essentially what I've spoken about in terms of "refounding" the order. Others have made the point that the way of life approved by John Paul II remains in effect. Without addressing that issue directly (I need to do more research), this seems an insuffitient solution for the enormity of the sins perpetrated by the founder, as well as the "structures of sin" he established (and others apparently participated in) which allowed his misdeeds to go undiscovered and unpunished until after his death.

    • What must not happen: Any more language whatsoever from Legion leadership that tries to spin this disaster. Today's pathetic first response must not be repeated.

    We'll be watching.

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    NYT confirms Maciel story: "Founder Led a Double Life"

    The story I highlighted this morning has been picked up by the New York Times:

    The Legionaries of Christ, an influential Roman Catholic religious order, has been shaken by new revelations that its founder, who died a year ago, had an affair with a woman and fathered a daughter just as he and his thriving conservative order were winning the acclaim of Pope John Paul II.

    .... Now the order’s general director, the Rev. Álvaro Corcuera, is quietly visiting its religious communities and seminaries in the United States and informing members that their founder led a double life, current and former Legionaries said.

    I've alluded to allegations that Maciel mispent Legionary monies to fund his double life:
    Father Fichter, once the chief financial officer for the order, said he had informed the Vatican three years ago that every time Father Maciel left Rome, “I always had to give him $10,000 in cash — $5,000 in American dollars and $5,000 in the currency of wherever he was going.”

    Father Fichter added: “As Legionaries, we were taught a very strict poverty; if I went out of town and bought a Bic pen and a chocolate bar, I would have to turn in the receipts. And yet for Father Maciel there was never any accounting. It was always cash, never any paper trail. And because he was this incredible hero to us, we never even questioned it for a second.”
    Statistics:
    The Legionaries, founded in 1941, have grown as the church in many countries has shrunk. It has 800 priests in 22 countries, and 70,000 members worldwide, many of whom are lay people in its affiliate, Regnum Christi.
    AmP published this story at 9AM EST today, confirming rumors that had been circulating privately for many days, and online the evening previous. I will continue to provide comprehensive coverage, as we await the official response of the Legion, public fall-out, and possible Vatican intervention.

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    Legionary reaction to Maciel revelations adequate?

    This morning I confirmed rumors that have been circulating the Catholic blogosphere for several days that Legionaries of Christ founder Fr. Marcial Maciel fathered at least one child and was guilty of leading a "double life."

    In that post I said:
    "....the Legionaries of Christ have some hard decisions to make with regards to how they respond to this crisis concerning the founder. The eyes of the world are on them, and the prayers of the universal Church are with them. It is somewhat encouraging to see that the current head of the LC's personally saw to it that a thorough investigation took place. Now let's hope they follow through on their discoveries."
    I went on to say:
    "... there remains a serious charge to be made about how the Legion has handled the allegations of misconduct against Maciel up to this point. Something along the lines of renouncing Maciel as their spiritual founder or perhaps spiritually "re-founding" the order might well be the appropriate response. For a start."
    Unfortunately, the first response from a Legionary-affiliated official is deeply dissapointing:
    CNA contacted Legionaries of Christ spokesman Jim Fair, but received no specific confirmation of any allegations.
    “We’ve learned some things about our founder’s life that are surprising and difficult to understand,” Fair told CNA on Tuesday.
    “We can confirm that there are aspects of his life that weren’t appropriate for a Catholic priest.
    “Obviously he had human feelings but it remains true that through him we received our charism, which has been approved by the Church.
    “Our commitment remains and we‘re going to go forward and love Christ and serve the Church,” he remarked.
    Fair continues:
    Asked to verify the specific allegations, Fair replied:
    “Fr. Maciel died over a year ago and obviously whatever has happened is between him and God and God’s judgment and mercy, so we’re going to let him take care of that.”
    “I know that there have been rumors about are we somehow denouncing him. Obviously we are not. Fr. Maciel was and always will be the father of the legion.
    “One of the mysteries of our faith is that God sometimes works through flawed human beings.”
    Canon Lawyer Edward Peters (my father, for new readers) responds in a post entitled "Memo to the Legion: We are NOT idiot children":
    "Is this how the Legion of Christ, even today, is going to act when confronted with grave questions of Maciel's whole life? Is Legion leadership really going to continue talking to the Catholic world as if it were inhabited by idiot children? If so, and notwithstanding my deep sadness for the fine Legionaries I know, there really is no hope for the institute."
    I agree. The leadership of the Legion is at a crossroads. They owe it to the souls they serve to forthrightly admit the failings of their founder publicly and then fully confront the consequences of these revelations internally.

    Also, regardless of what the Legionaries do, the Vatican can well be expected to say something as well. This is a pastoral crisis for the members of the Legionaries and Regnum Christi. Rome has the authority and power to compel the Legionaries to change their ways, starting today, and Pope Benedict has already involved himself before in LC affairs, as I outlined in my first post.

    update: and by the way, lest we forget, this is how the Legion announced his death: "[we] announce the departure of [our] beloved founder, Father MARCIAL MACIEL, LC to heaven on January 30, 2008."

    Announcing that your founder is in heaven may need to be revised, in other words. Make no mistake: I pray that he is. But presuming that he is, as a community of Christian believers, does not seem prudent here.

    update 2: Phil Lawler has excellent commentary on the Legionary reaction at Catholic Culture.
    update 3: The New York times has picked-up the story.

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    Legionaries founder Maciel fathered children, internal investigation reveals

    Welcome, Daily Dish readers - my latest coverage of Legionary founder Marcial Maciel is available here on one page - or scroll down this page for the original story.

    {update 3: Canon Lawyer Edward Peters on what won't, should and could happen to the LCs}

    {update 2: the New York Times has picked-up this story, adding confirmation to this report}

    {update 1: see also my follow-up post: "Legionary reaction to Maciel revelations adequate?"}

    {original story, 9AM EST:}
    Reports of this story have been circulating for several days now, and some figures have even made a veiled mention of its imminent publication.
    They involve new revelations of misconduct by the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, Marcial Maciel.
    I'm now receiving multiple confirmations that members of the Legionaries of Christ and its lay branch Regnum Christi are being informed of the findings in their private meetings this week.


    Like it or not, the news is quickly becoming public.

    The Ex LC Blog is claiming that Marcial Maciel is being renounced as the spiritual founder of the Legionaries of Christ, at least in some chapters, due to recent details that have emerged as the result of an internal investigation by the Legionaries {update - this claim is now disputed, of Maciel being "renounced as the spiritual founder, the allegations of misconduct have been confirmed}:

    Today, Fr. Scott Reilly, LC, Territorial Director in Atlanta, Georgia, announced to all those who work in the Territorial Direction of the Legion of Christ, that Marcial Maciel had a mistress, fathered at least one child, and lived a double life. For this reason, the Legion is renouncing him as their spiritual founder.

    Life after LC provides a more comprehensive picture:

    Rumblings began last week about how the Legionaries were gathered in bits and bobs to inform them that the founder was indeed guilty of "certain accusations." The rank and file were told in various places -- some on retreat, others in special meetings. There are some consistent details about the Official Explanation that are trickling in:

    1) Maciel fathered a child who is now in her early 20's;
    2) Maciel offered some money illicitly to his own family;
    3) The current head, Alvaro Corcuera, entertaining his own suspicions, demanded that the case be reopened several years ago;
    4) The health of the Legion depends on denouncing him as founder and moving on.

    I have heard more details in addition (a second child, etc), but in this situation, I tend to think we've already learned enough to make an evaluation. Anything further is simply prurient interest.
    Suffice it to say that Pope Benedict's disciplinary actions against Maciel and interventions in Legionary practice were fully justified, and that the Legionaries of Christ have some hard decisions to make with regards to how they respond to this crisis concerning the founder. The eyes of the world are on them, and the prayers of the universal Church are with them. It is somewhat encouraging to see that the current head of the LC's personally saw to it that a thorough investigation took place. Now let's hope they follow through on their discoveries.

    Other points to consider:
    • There are many good and holy Legionary priests. I have been privileged to know several. The sins of the founder ought never be visited upon their heads, ever. Similarly, the Legionaries of Christ serve the Church in many important ways, these good things they have done must never be ignored.
    • People who entered the Church through contact with the Legionaries of Christ or Regnum Christi, or whose faith life is closely identifiable with the movement, ought not to have their faith in the one true Church of Christ be shaken by the personal faults and failings of Marcial Maciel.
    • However .... there remains a serious charge to be made about how the Legion has handled the allegations of misconduct against Maciel up to this point. Something along the lines of renouncing Maciel as their spiritual founder or perhaps spiritually "re-founding" the order might well be the appropriate response. For a start.
    Related AmP posts from the archives (if you are unaware, I've been covering this for a long time):

    The mainstream media is sure to have a field day on this one. In this storm of coverage, we must not lose sight of our duty as brothers and sisters in Christ to support one another in prayer, and especially to reach out to those hurt and surprised by this news who are part of the Legionaries and Regnum Christi. In these situations we can often become confused and angered, but let us not miss this opportunity to perform spiritual and personal acts of mercy. In all this, a frank admission of the facts at hand are key to moving forward.

    I will be providing continuing coverage of this story as it develops, and will especially await the official response from the Legion.

    {Digg this story, if you want.}

    updates (most recent updates at top):

    • 4:00pm - a full work day after I broke this story, it's starting to get serious attention from other blogs. Rod Dreher weighs in, and notes the strong denial of these allegations that has come from some circles for a long time. Fr. James Martin, SJ, meanwhile speculates over on the America blog what it could mean for the Legionaries to renounce their founder: "It would be as if the Dominicans said, "We're through with St. Dominic."" (Well, Maciel ain't no St. Dominic...)
    • 3:45pm - CNA has managed to track down the Legionary spokesman, Mr. Jim Fair:

    “We’ve learned some things about our founder’s life that are surprising and difficult to understand,” Fair told CNA on Tuesday. "We can confirm that there are aspects of his life that weren’t appropriate for a Catholic priest." Jim Fair goes on to deny that the Legion will denounce Maciel. We'll wait and see about that one. And I agree with Life after RC that this is an inadequate, deeply troubling initial response which I blog about here.

    • 2:30pm - Tom Hoopes, editor of LC-owned National Catholic Register, in Amy's combox:

    "All I want to say is, I’m sorry. I want to say it here, because I defended Fr. Maciel here, and I need to be on the record regarding that defense: I’m sorry, to the victims, who were victims twice, the second time by calumny. I’m sorry, to the Church, which has been damaged. I’m sorry, to those I’ve misled. I did it unwittingly, but this isn’t a time for excuses.

    The Church gave me great, great good in Regnum Christi. The Church did bring justice, and did penalize this man. Thank God for the Church. I seek repentance and forgiveness, and I leave it at that."

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    Tuesday, December 02, 2008

    Fr. Euteneuer (HLI) vs. NCRegister re: Obama

    Fr. Tom Euteneuer, president of Human Life International, has gone so far as to claim that the Legionariest of Christ are "now officially part of the problem, not part of the solution" and have "lost it on this one" because of a supposedly "pro-Obama" editorial penned by National Catholic Register editor Tom Hoopes, a layman employed by the Legionaries.
    Fr. Euteneuer even goes so far as to claim that the Register editorial at issue reminded him of a National Catholic Reporter editorial, and as a result he has cancelled his subscription and urged others to do this same.
    Now these are very serious accusations and actions taken.
    And I think they are misguided.
    Tom Hoopes has responded to these accusations here and I agree with him that the National Catholic Register, pace Fr. Euteneuer, has been a stalwart defender and champion of the rights of the unborn in this recent election.
    And while I may find the editorial in question a bit gushy for my taste - it's not a suffitient reason to cancel a subscription to a fine Catholic newspaper. And good heavens, this is still nothing compared to the NCReporter.

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    Friday, August 15, 2008

    In Baltimore, Legionaries hand over documents to Archbishop O'Brien

    The Baltimore Examiner gives us details on the latest development:

    Warned by Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien that its closely held activities must become more transparent if they are to continue within the archdiocese, the controversial Catholic religious order Legionaries of Christ — and its lay counterpart, Regnum Christi — appears to have seen the light.

    O’Brien, who in June was on the verge of barring the religious and lay orders’ operations within his 153-parish jurisdiction — including the group’s K-8 Woodmont Academy in Cooksville and its Crownsville family center — now tentatively supports the traditionalist congregation’s organizational and evangelical work.

    “We had a meeting several weeks ago with three priests of the Legion, and they handed over a rather significant volume of information concerning membership and the programs that they run,” O’Brien told The Examiner...

    ... O’Brien, whose initial hand was stayed by Vatican intercession, wanted the information within a month, and he wanted semiannual updates of any changes.

    Apparently, the hybrid evangelical group, which dates from the 1940s and now has 70,000 members, 700 priests and numerous schools, institutes and seminaries throughout the world, has complied completely.

    So we are told to believe that O'Briens "initial hand was stayed by Vatican intercession"? That's just poor reporting - no source or verification, just a claim. Has anyone heard anything about a "Vatican intercession"?
    It is good to see that the Legionaries are cooperating.

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    Friday, June 20, 2008

    In Baltimore: O'Brien v. Legionaries

    (and not just because I've been watching episodes of Law & Order recently.)

    I've been reading bits and pieces of the developing situation in Baltimore. I haven't had enough time to read enough to form an opinion, but here's what I've been looking at so far:

    John Allen has also published an extensive summation of the controversy, along with the Legionaries' response, here today. It's required reading for anyone interested in the story.

    I'm saving my opinion for when I get to read through the documentation fully.

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    Tuesday, March 25, 2008

    Noted: New Legionary of Christ Director Meets With Pope

    Their meeting took place on the 15th of this month, but I didn't notice it until now:

    In a private audience with Benedict XVI, the general director of the Legionaries of Christ renewed the congregation's loyalty to the Pope at the start of a new stage in its history, following the Jan. 30 death of the founder.

    The Pope received in audience Legionary of Christ Father Álvaro Corcuera on Saturday.

    According to the congregation, in the meeting the general director wanted to assure the Holy Father of the group's "unconditional loyalty to the Pope" in what he called a "new stage in their history."

    Father Marcial Maciel, the founder of the congregation and the apostolic movement Regnum Christi, which is associated with the Legion of Christ, died Jan. 30 at age 87.

    According to the Regnum Christi Web page, "The Holy Father, with fatherly kindness, assured Father Corcuera that he continues closely accompanying the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi with his prayers. He then granted all of its members his apostolic blessing, especially the thousands of young people and families who will participate in evangelization missions across the world during Holy Week." (Zenit)

    "Unconditional loyalty." A "new stage" in the LoC history. Good signs. Why we need good signs.
    The picture above is from their previous meeting in June 2006. More about it, in Fr. Corcuera's own words, on the Regnum Christi website. The RC report on this 2008 meeting is here. Happy Pope photo alert:

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    Saturday, February 02, 2008

    Canon Law: Fr. Maciel was not 'suspended' (+ Brazilian excommunication clarification)

    From the In the Light of the Law blog (which was recently described in the National Catholic Register as the "only canon law blog on the internet" - a factually arguable but functionally correct assertion), comes this important clarification regarding the ex-leader of the Legionaries of Christ:

    "I would caution against describing Maciel having been "suspended" or "penalized" by the Holy See."

    [Read why here.]

    See also (unrelated to Maciel, but related to Canon Law): "Brazilian excommunication warning."

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    Friday, February 01, 2008

    Correction: LC founder Maciel died in Houston, TX

    In my original post for this story, I cited anonymous claims that Legionaries of Christ founder Marcial Maciel died in Naples, Florida. Such is not the case, as the AP reports:
    The founder of 1 of the fastest-growing Catholic religious orders, who was disciplined because of sex abuse allegations, has died in Houston.

    Mexican priest Marcial Maciel ... died yesterday [Jan. 30] of natural causes.

    He was 87.

    Details come from his order, the conservative Legionaries of Christ.

    Officials say Maciel died where he lived in a group home with other Legionaries priests.
    Apologies for the earlier mis-identification. That post will also now be revised.

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    Thursday, January 31, 2008

    Legionaries of Christ founder Marcial Maciel dies

    update 1, feb 1: Amy notes:

    I’m struck by the fact that at least up to this point, there is no telegram made public from the Holy Father sending condolences to the group for the death of their founder, an act that is otherwise standard practice.
    Agreed. Remember that I said originally in this post that one should watch to see the Vatican reaction to his death. In this case, I would claim that even a lack of activity can be taken to mean something. The official LC response, similarly, is significantly terse (and it looks like I got my translation of their announcement accurate).

    update 2, feb 1: The Associated Press has reported that Maciel died in Houston, Texas.

    original post: ABC News gets right to the point:

    A well-connected Vatican insider who was accused of molesting young priests in training has died. Father Marcial Maciel never faced a trial nor was he punished by the Vatican despite the fact the church had asked him to stop all public ministry appearances.

    The Vatican City AP wire is a bit more accurate:

    The Rev. Marcial Maciel, a Mexican priest who founded the Legionaries of Christ religious order and was disciplined by Pope Benedict XVI after sex abuse allegations, has died in the United States, his order said Thursday. He was 87.

    Maciel died Wednesday of natural causes, the conservative religious order said on its Web site. It did not say exactly where he died.

    {update 2, feb 1: The Associated Press has reported that Maciel died in Houston, Texas.}

    The Legionaries website announces (In Italian) essentially that their "beloved Founder and Father, MARCIAL MACIEL DEGOLLADO, has passed to his celestial native home, on the 30th of January, etc..."

    (Again, my rough translation:) "By the wish of Fr. Maciel, the funeral will take place in an atmosphere of prayer and celebrated in a simple and private manner."

    CNA specifies that the funeral will occur in his hometown of Mexico, date unpublished.

    Associated Press: "Religious Order Leader Maciel Dies"
    Reuters: "Mexican Catholic leader accused of sex abuse dies"

    God rest his soul.

    Watch for: 1) Vatican reaction at the news of his death. 2) Official Legionaries of Christ reaction.

    Related posts:

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    Thursday, December 13, 2007

    New report offers confirmation that Pope dissolved secret Legion vows

    Rorate Caeli translates an excerpt from an article published yesterday in Mexican newspaper La Jornada:

    "The derogation of the secret vows of the Legionaries"

    The Pope has derogated the private vows of the Legionaries of Christ, precisely those which were used by the superiors of this religious congregation to protect themselves from possible complaints. The sources of news agencies indicate that these are "parallel measures" to the disciplinary penalty imposed on Marcial Maciel for sexual abuses in 2006.

    Pope Benedict XVI had personally asked for the repeal of the private vows professed by the seminarians and priests of the Legionaries of Christ. These were oaths, related to the internal life of the order, which assured its secrecy and impermeability: the first [oath of "charity"] prevented any kind of criticism of superiors and their decisions by members, while the second [oath of "humility"] forbade the religious men from aspiring to positions within it.

    {Read the entire report (in Spanish).}

    I covered this story last month: Did the Pope dissolve two private vows in the Legionaries of Christ?

    Ph/t: Amy.

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