Friday, June 03, 2005

is the answer within?

As reported in the media and duly commented in one of my previous posts, a Vatican official stated recently that no canonical process is being brought against Fr. Marcial Maciel, nor is one forseen for the future.

This week, the National Catholic Reporter dedicates a disproportionate amount of print space to questioning the origin and veracity of the disclaimer. Basically, it is asserted that Ciro Benedetti, spokesman for the Vatican Secretary of State, is not the person who could have authoritatively made such an announcement and that the way it was made public does not square with Vatican protocol on delicate issues like sex abuse accusations. It is insinuated that the Legion of Christ has attempted to preempt any more bad press about the Founder and muddy the waters of the incessant speculation on the case even further.

Without getting into the details that Berry, Allen and the lead editorial of the paper furnish regarding this latest twist in the plot, I think the stage on which the case against Fr.Maciel and, perhaps, many of the complaints against the Legion of Christ stand, is being bared.

What fuels the passion with which, not only Fr. Maciel's accusers, but the writers and media sources that have joined the crusade, pursue their cause? Why is no response good enough? Why is even a Vatican communique held suspect from the instant it was released by the Legion's spokespersons? Newspapers and TV commentators publicize what they believe their audience will find of interest. How did the woes of Fr. Maciel and the Legion fall into that dubious category? Why do even people who don't question the moral probity of Fr. Maciel or accept the accusations made against him feel that, somehow, the Legion has brought much of the antagonism upon itself?

I would like to assume that, at some level, the Legion asks itself these questions. The Legion does well to fly above the din and can certainly not be expected to question itself every time someone lodges a complaint. Nor should anyone ask the Legion to be untrue to itself and its mission in the vain hope of pleasing its critics.

But a little introspection and critical self searching does no one any harm. Might reveal something. Might even help. Might make one better.

Why, then, do people turn so relentless and bitter in their discrepancies with the LC? Why do even the smallest complaints and misunderstandings get rehashed forever with undiminished outrage no matter how much time has passed?

Some thoughts:

1. Avoid the 'conspiracy theory' explanations. That's a breezy, comfortable route if you want to let yourself off the hook without answering any of the tough questions, but it resolves nothing. It ain't the socialists, it ain't the Jesuits, it ain't the freemasons or the scientologists. There's no 'they' there.

2. Don't whine about being mistreated by the invasive, liberal, secular, scandal mongering press. The media is all that and worse. The Catholic Church IS habitually mistreated in the mainstream press. But nobody listens to a whiner.

3. Do not even THINK about simply shrugging it off, taking refuge in that us-against-the-world mentality and chalking it all up to some 'spiritual martyrdom' that is just part of the vocation. It should never be the LC against anyone and there are more than enough crosses to be borne in religious life without heaping self-absorption onto the pile.

4. Understand that the LC frequently, perhaps unconciously, projects itself as aloof and intransparent. Aloof often breaks down into: smug, unaccountable, utilitarian and self seeking. Intransparent generally translates: dishonest, suspicious and suspect, manipulative and ├╝ber image conscious.

It is here, precisely, that a bit of self searching would be in order. It can happen the moment the LC stops thinking, 'Why is everyone so unfair to me?', and says, 'What, possibly, am I doing to create such lasting hard feelings? How do I manage to alienate even those who are potentially on my side?'

Much of the acridity and disenfranchisement that the LC stirs up is due to the way it deals with people, often its own people, often good people, equally committed to Christ and the Church.

It is a shame. But it is not an irreversible shame.

Achieving that elusive and delicate balance between trust and vigilance, between acceptance of others and confidence in self, between fearless transparency and conservation of the gift received, between leading when called upon and following when needed... that will be the sign that the LC has come into its own. It might also be the end of a whole bunch of unnecessary headaches.

It will happen. And hopefully the present unpleasantries can serve as a catalyst.

(Sorry, guys. But it's the feast of the Sacred Heart, so today's post had to come from the heart.)