I Felt It in the Works
July 13th, 2009 | 6:39pm
While I was in the (diocesan, and healthy, sane, and orthodox) seminary I met a few ex-Legionaries. One of them, whom we will call F., mentioned to me that his 25th or 26th birthday was approaching. Several of his friends and I took him out to a local Appleby or Ruby Tuesday, or someplace of the like in town. We had dinner, drinks, and dessert. It was a nice evening. On the car ride home, he told me that he'd never gone out with friends for his birthday before. I was stunned, as if he'd said he'd never been to WalMart before (just kidding). But I was stunned. Here's what he explained.
He entered the Legion when he was 14. They discouraged the seminaries from having friends. "No friends?" I asked. Without any venom or malice, he said, "No. They were afraid of 'particular' friendships or affections. Our time - even our recreation time - was all planned for us. They were careful to make sure that we did things with different groups: volleyball with this group, then switch up for hiking with a new configuration of classmates, so we spent equal time with everyone, more or less. We were told to report to our spiritual director anyone that we saw spending noticeable amounts of time with any given classmate. If someone told us something that we were supposed to talk about only in spiritual direction - family stuff, sexual stuff, etc., we were supposed to report that to our spiritual director. So we couldn't make friends."
I was floored. He left voluntarily, and against a lot of recrimination by his superiors, after his first or second year in college seminary, after reading a Platonic dialogue that dealt with friendship. The priest-professor praised friendship as described in the text, and F. realized that while he was "friends" with "everyone," he had nothing like what the text described. He decided that he wanted it, and had to leave to get it. His family, he told me, was very supportive of him leaving even though they had thought it a good idea to go to the Legion in the first place.
It still just blows me away. And it says something significant about the structure of distrust and control. I think the Legion and RC have done a good amount of good work, and untold potential for more. They have a LOT of issues that need to be worked through, first though. And it's not just a crisis in leadership or curriculum - it can't be. Spiritual things don't work that way.
The Legion, it must be said, aren't [sic] being persecuted for being orthodox. It strikes me as significant here that even before their scandals, they had received flak not only from loosey-goosey bishops, but also from bishops noted for their public defense of the orthodox faith.