The Wanderer Press
Of Canons & Culture . . . Praising With Faint Damns
By PETE VERE
While I was speaking to a friend with the Legion of Christ/ Regnum Christi ( LC/ RC) movement the other day, he asked me whether there was any hope for the LC/ RC now that its founder had been exposed as a fraud. Humanly speaking, I believe the answer to be no. The LC/ RC might have survived Fr. Maciel’s duplicity, including the strong probability that he was a sexual predator, but the movement’s subsequent public response has raised several new questions about future viability. Of particular concern are the lack of public apology to Fr. Maciel’s victims and the movement’s failure to distance itself from his influence as founder.
As noted by popular Catholic blogger Diogenes, “LC leadership persists in allotting Maciel a role of (somewhat tarnished) honor: praising him with faint damns, and suggesting that his spiritual patrimony remains valuable in spite of his personal life. This won’t work.”The pseudonymous Fr. Damien Karras, a priest who has spent several decades with the LC, agrees. In fact, Fr. Karras was even more terse in his observations. “Your lack of credibility — not Fr. Maciel’s past sins — will eventually buckle and break the Legion,” he wrote LC superiors in an open blog.
So serious is the situation that the Holy Father has ordered an apostolic visitation of the Legion. This is a fancy way of saying Pope Benedict wants a thorough, top to bottom investigation by a team of outside experts. Such a step is normally reserved for crises that have spun out of the control of the host institution.
However, the LC/ RC is reportedly presenting the visitation as proof of Rome’s seal of approval. Several RC contacts have forwarded me an e-mail they claim to have received from leaders within the movement, which states as follows: “Various Cardinals in the Roman Curia and elsewhere have shown the support that the Holy See has for us in this great vocation to the Movement that God has given us. The Church very much knows the great gift that we have, and she very much is encouraging us to transmit this gift to the Church and to the souls that are entrusted to our care.“To further show its support, the Holy Father has decided to order an apostolic visitation of the Legion to help us to move forward vigorously. The Holy See wants to show its trust in us and offer us a chance to show the authenticity of the gift that we have to the Church.”
Or, to quote Mark Shea, “More Legion happy talk!”
Regardless, it appears the Legion is trying to present a face of business as usual. This was apparent to many from the Legion’s recent attempt to acquire Southern Catholic College — a coeducational residential college near Atanta.
“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,” states the Legion’s April 20 news release.
Speaking as a Catholic layman, and the father of several children, I would feel a lot more comfortable with the LC/ RC and its “gifts” to the Church (not to mention potential oversight of a Catholic college) if the movement’s leadership would demonstrate a more penitential spirit.
Many of the movement’s apologists, on the Internet and elsewhere, have compared Fr. Maciel to King David, noting that God built His Kingdom through an adulterer and murderer. Yet King David did not deny his sins when confronted by the prophet Nathan. Nor did he attempt to discredit Nathan or enlist the help of good men to conceal his sins. Fr. Maciel did. Rather, King David repented, in public, begging God to punish him rather than his nation.
This is unlike the LC/ RC founder who went to his death publicly asserting his innocence, blasphemously claiming to suffer persecution like the crucified Christ, and who allowed his followers to sacrifice their reputation for his sexual vices. Thus instead of an apologia for its founder, the movement should focus on a public apology to its founder’s victims, with a second apology to Catholics for the embarrassment this has caused the Church — in particular to the legacy of Pope John Paul II.As Diogenes concludes with such eloquence: “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.”
© Copyright 2009 The Wanderer Press