Sunday, December 20, 2009

Catholic Con Men, from Fr. Longenecker

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Catholic Con Men

As the sordid revelations about Fr. Marcial Marciel--the founder of the Legionaries of Christ--keep emerging the faithful ask, "Why were so many taken in by him?"

What very few people stop to consider is the complex psychology of religious belief. Religious faith is the greatest adventure and brings forth the very best of human beings, but we have to be honest and admit that it brings forth the very worst as well.

Why do people fall for priests who turn out to be such stinkers? It's pretty complicated, but it goes like this: first of all, the bad priest himself is usually a complex character. He has deep flaws and serious sins deep down in his life. To compensate he tries very hard to be good, and what better way to be good than to become a priest? Becoming a priest helps him to cover up his flaws. He puts on a uniform everyday which proclaims that he is a holy man. The uniform allows him to play a part. He is comfortable being a good pastor, a caring person, a wonderful preacher, a man of prayer. It makes him feel better about himself and if he is not careful, he soon starts believing his own priestly image.

If he is charismatic, charming, debonair and dynamic he is even more attractive. If he is wise and wonderful and eloquent and compassionate and caring and almost Jesus himself, then he becomes even more popular and the real deep down problem is only made worse by the imposture, not better. Have you ever noticed how often it is the priests and pastors who seem the very best and most wonderful who are the ones who fall? Every asked yourself if the reason they were so wonderful is linked with their crash?

Furthermore, the whole church establishment from pope to people encourages him to merge his identity into his priesthood. He is not a man doing a job. He is to become what he was ordained to be--a self sacrificing priest. Now this is a great ideal and it is one which, when it works, makes for a wonderful transformation. However, the dark side is that all we get is a man in a priest outfit playing a part. The real monster still lurks below. If the inner problems are not resolved, the man soon starts living a double life. On the surface he is Father Fantastic. Everyone loves him. He's good at everything. Indeed he is "the best priest we've ever had..."

Furthermore, the whole dynamic of parish life contributes to build up the false image. Everyone loves Father Fantastic. Everyone looks up to him. In fact they invest an awful lot of spiritual capital in him. They put him on a pedestal. In fact, the people, rather than learning to love God (which is hard work) love the priest instead. They idolize him and he can do no wrong because they actually want an idol of a priest who can do no wrong. He epitomizes for the their whole religion. All this false religion does is to make the bad priest's conflict between his inner demons and the outer false image even worse.

Then the whole facade crumbles and Father Fantastic runs off with somebody or turns out to be an alcoholic or a pedophile or an embezzler or some other kind of skunk. Then everyone says, "How could it be! How could we have been taken in!" The sick psychology continues and Father Fantastic (who was only ever Father Flawed anyhow) is scapegoated by the community. He has gone from paragon to pariah. He's an outcast. He's guilty even when proven innocent.

Why were so many taken in by Father Maciel? Because so many people wanted to be taken in. It was easier and more exciting to believe the whole fabricated fiction than to take the effort to find out the truth and follow it.

I hope people will not misunderstand me and draw the conclusion that I am a cynic or that I don't believe holy priests are possible. They are, but the best priests I've known have been the dull ones. Give me a plodder priest any day. Give me the Samwise Gamgees of the priestly fraternity. When it comes to priests, remember all that glitters is not gold.

I'm not encouraging cynicism and doubt. I'm just saying that if you come across a priest or a monk or a bishop who is too good to be true...He probably is.


Anonymous said...

Soy uno de los nietos de Luis Lúcia Lúcia, autentico autor del libro El salterio de mis horas. Les envio un enlace del blog de nuestro abuelo donde hemos escaneado simplemente las dos primeras paginas, para que vean el plagio.
Si tienen posibilidad de hacernos llegar el libro de Maciel tanto en Pdf como fisicamente se lo agradeceriamos, pues nos es imposible al ser un grupo tan cerrado.En pdf lo tenemos en francés y español,Agradeciendoles sus molestias y aprovechando en nombre de toda la familia Lúcia les deseo Feliz Navidad.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Maciel worked very hard to manipulate the minds of his followers. He built a cult, whose problem goes far, far beyond your description of Fr. Fantastic.

Aaron Loughrey said...

I will translate the first comment:

I am one of the Grandchildren of Luis Lucia Lucia, authentic author of the book The Psalter of my Hours. I send you a link of our grandfather's blog where we have scanned the first two pages, so you can see the plagiarism.

If you are able to send us Maciel's book in hard or digital copy we would be thankful - it is impossible for us [to get a copy] as [the Legion] is such a closed group. We have it on pdf in French and in Spanish.

Thanking you for your trouble and in the name of the Lucia family I take advantage and wish you a Happy Christmas.

Anonymous said...

I think there is a lot more to this than just some psycological escapism. There are many causes for adherence to the founder-heroin.
1) There is the idealism of youth which opens any healthy young man to hard challenges and high ideals- and hence less circumspect about what reality truly is.
2) Also one comes into LC trusting the Church trusts what is going on so one tends to be less critical and more willing to exercise the virtue of faith, and attribute all problems to one's own issues. This is very easy to do when as one commentator put Theological Orthodoxy was couple with a less detectable heterodox psychological manipulation and control of the human spirit.
3)Additionally that simple scheme of a founder in collaboration with cofounders- not owned by the Legion in any way- has always tended to have congregations anxious to canonize their founders. One understood founders were the key to the future unity of the order, and "protecting" their influence was a noble thing to do.
4) I think also, for Latinos, there was the central focus on a charismatic leader, macho style, as very much a part of their culture, a real motivator for them and this was coupled with the hyper-centralization of all authority that also runs in the culture.

MM failed in the founder category in the worst possible way, and I have yet to figure out why those who look at the "great good of the Legion and its works today", even while acknowledging needed reforms, think a workable unity and strong spirit will emerge when any given set of reforms are applied- however severe.

I believe yes there were/are goods of whatever magnitude you wish to describe in the Congregation- this perhaps is why there will be no dissolution (if reports are true); this why recruiting goes on and is moderately successful, and the kind comments of others will flow for some time. BUT these goods were and are still glued together with evil- controls, manipulation and deceit, and material collusion in MM's show. If reform comes ( I mean real reform) , removes that glue, and a real humanity come forth- the order will quickly unravel. Think- when the first crisis of identity as a group comes forth, how will they find objective references to come to terms with division and camps of interpretation? All I can say is, if you are still in- keep both eyes wide open, train wreck just ahead.

ditz said...

"Dialogue with Christ: Lord let me use hardships to build newer levels of trust and intimacy with you. Open my heart to seek you on your terms.
I ask of you neither joy nor sorrow,
health nor illness,
wealth nor poverty,
liberty nor slavery,
fortune nor misfortune.

For fortune is misfortune if you are absent.
And ill fortune a benefit if it comes with you.
For what profit are good things without you,
And isn’t misfortune with you our greatest fortune?
(Psalter of My Days, Father Marcial Maciel, LC)" found at

Anonymous said...

Tried to access wikileaks to find more of "Psalter of my days" but operations there have been suspended due to financial difficulties!