Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The First Apostolic Visitation, Part I

From Cassandra. She does a great job of explaining a confusing and complex period in the Legion history, one which is laden with the typical myths surrounding the founder. It is tough to shake the reality from the fantasy.

The truth of "The Great War" or "The Great Blessing" finally comes out.

Read Part II here
Read Part III here.
Read Part IV here.
Read Part V here.

The Vatican’s second decision to conduct an official investigation, a so-called apostolic visitation, of the Catholic religious congregation the Legionaries of Christ was made public on March 31, not long after the 50th anniversary of February 6, 1959, the day Legionary founder Rev. Marcial Maciel counted as the day of his reinstatement after the conclusion of the first. Few know the full story of the first visitation: it concluded obscurely and Father Maciel and the Legionaries were able to misrepresent it for fifty years afterward. But the visitation did occur and actually concluded that Maciel needed to be removed from office and that the Legionaries needed reform. The Legionaries defeated that first apostolic visitation with untruth, appetizing presentation, and the help of curial friends. This is something that anyone interested in the honest outcome of today’s visitation needs to be aware of.

(This account of the first visitation draws substantially from Fernando M. González Los Legionarios de Cristo; testimonios y documentos inéditos (Mexico City: Tusquets Editores 2006), which has not been much discussed in English. González publishes documents of the case verbatim (some in facsimile) from two archives, one that of Father Luis Ferreira Correa, Legionary vicar general at the time, supplied by José Barba, and another made available to him by a source. This account also draws from Jason Berry and the late Gerald Renner Vows of Silence (New York: Free Press 2004), the standard account of the first visitation in English, which, however, González greatly supplements.)

Cardinal Valerio Valeri, prefect of the Vatican Congregation of the Affairs of Religious, ordered the first apostolic visitation of the Legionaries in 1956. He was prefect from 1953 to his death in 1963 at 79. He had been the apostolic nuncio to France accredited during the war to the Vichy government and then forced from France after liberation by Charles de Gaulle, to be succeeded there by Angelo Roncalli, the future Pope John XXIII.

Though by 1954 Maciel hoped his institute was close to definitive Vatican approval and Valeri was supportive enough in February 1956 to have approved the new name “Legionaries of Christ,” Maciel, aged 36 in 1956, was becoming incapacitated from addiction to narcotic painkillers Dolantin and Demerol. On January 3, 1956 Spaniard Legionary Father Rafael Arumí, 29, novice master at the Legionary College in Rome, found Maciel so unstable from drugs that he summoned from Mexico Father Luis Ferreira Correa, 41, rector of the Legionary apostolic school (minor seminary) at Tlalpan in Mexico City and Legionary vicar general. The crisis lasted for days. Arumí, Ferreira, and Spaniard Legionary Father Antonio Lagoa, 36, rector of the Legionary College in Rome, considered how to deal with the scandal and contemplated Maciel’s replacement as superior. Valeri was hearing such things from sources in Rome and Mexico and himself saw Maciel in poor condition detoxing in Salvator Mundi Hospital in Rome in spring 1956.

Photo: Fr. Rafael Arumí

Two Legionaries took responsibility (treasonably, as Maciel saw it) for informing authorities: Ferreira Correa and Spaniard Brother Federico Domínguez, prefect of studies at Tlalpan, who as Maciel’s private secretary had observed him closely.

In a letter dated August 24, 1954, [Exlcblogger note: read the text of the letter here] Domínguez, then 27, had reported Maciel’s shortcomings to the vicar general of the Mexico City archdiocese: he doesn’t follow the religious rule, recite the Breviary, or meditate. He disrespects confidentiality in matters of conscience. He uses “lies, distortions, exaggerations” and acts as if “the ends justify the means.” He lacks the spirit of religious poverty, travels first class, eats luxurious food rather than that prepared for the community, spends more time in the houses of women donors than in his own religious houses. He considers his desire for sexual gratification to be a urological problem. He gives himself narcotic injections and carefully conceals it. “Under the effect of the drugs, he makes magnificent plans of apostolate and [violating confidentiality] talks publicly about the private defects of those he is with. This is understood by the religious who don’t know what is going on as a proof of Father Maciel’s ‘spiritual clairvoyance.’”Domínguez’s letter got back to Maciel, who then to help him discredit Domínguez sought out Belgian Benedictine Gregorio Lemercier, prior of the Benedictine priory he founded near Cuernavaca. Lemercier was an unlikely potential ally, a pioneer in the use of psychoanalysis in vocational discernment and religious life and a well-read exponent of liturgical renewal, who ten years later would himself fall foul of Vatican authorities. Maciel had miscalculated: if Lemercier first had the impression that Domínguez needed counseling, he soon gathered that Maciel himself was the problem and instructed Domínguez, then Ferreira, to report the drug and sex abuse they knew about before leaving the Legion, as they intended to do.

Continue to Read Part II here


Anonymous said...

Robert said...

Excellent Blog!, Real eye opener