Wednesday, July 15, 2009

who stole my primerissima?


Today should be a primerissima.

You know, Misa con motetes… banderas… fusion entre comunidades… merienda cena.

But it’s quiet today at our centers. Nothing out of the ordinary. Business as usual: saving the world one lider at a time.

If the Pope were blessing a stone, we’d be hearing about it.

If the Mayor of Podunk were visiting an apostolic school, there’d be ‘chi-qui-ti bun-ba-di bin-bun-ba’ till the cows come home.

If Cardinal Doofratzit were having dinner with the community, the estudiantina would play Viva Espana! and La Malaguena into the wee hours of the morn.

Today is one of the most significant dates in the history of the Legion and… (crickets).


If anything, the orchestrated ignorance of the LCs, 3GF and RC members regarding the apostolic visitation of the congregation provides an eerie backlighting for the event itself. The members of the movement, clergy and laity, have been scarcely informed and left unprepared. A strategy of ingenuous smiles and simulated serenity is firmly in place. As if the Vatican appointed visitators will be so overwhelmed by the choreography that they’ll overlook the dark recesses of the plot and the hidden horrors of the screenplay.

The LC would almost certainly prefer to be left alone to work out its own solutions. The visitation is an embarassment and an undesired intromission into its private laboratory where truth and lies can be arbitrarily fabricated or erased through the alchemy of spin and secrecy.

But the LC is wretchedly incapable of curing itself.

Case in point: how can the LC continue at this present moment to ordain deacons and priests? How can it promote to religious profession the young novices that obliviously inch toward their vows? How can the Legion now so aggressively recruit new candidates to fill its vaunted houses of formation?

This is a point that Fr. Berg made in his recent interview and that many of us have marvelled at in private conversations.

Is not full knowledge a requisite for full and free consent? Could anyone validly commit their lives to serve as priest and religious in an institution about which they really know quite little because the truth has been systematically obfuscated and discarded?

Shouldn’t the LC at least wait until the visitation publishes its results – and we should all pray for an independent publication, free from LC filters and delays, if we hope to ever know the real findings and results – before herding more idealistic young men into its ranks?

The retort that present generations are less affected by the scandalous life and legacy of Fr. Maciel and so should progress unfettered by useless hindrances like ‘truth’ and ‘full disclosure’ is disingenuous at best. Every new candidate to the LC should know up front that he is entering the only existing religious order in the Catholic Church whose Founder was a sexual predator and a pathological liar who lived a double life during the sixty whatever years of the foundation. The parents of every new recruit should be carefully informed that their son or daughter is about to put their life and conscience in the hands of an institution that has had to disown its Founder because of accusations of sexual abuse (“more than 20, less than 100”), toss out all the writings and teachings that sustain his warped spirituality and now awaits with uncertainty a judgment on its future existence. They should also know that the men presently running the organization that will exercise full and unmitigated authority over their son or daughter were hand-picked by Fr. Maciel and swore personal allegiance to him at the last General Chapter.

Hey, folks, wake up!!! I mean this ain’t the Jesuits, the Dominicans or the Salesians you’re joining… we’re the LC!!!

If there were real transparency and full disclosure, who in their right mind would risk getting involved with the Legion of Christ right now?

I will take this a step further – and believe me, it has been a long, dark and painful journey to this point – and say: who among us, Legionaries of 20, 30, 40 years or more – being of sound mind and discerning conscience – would have endured even one minute of the teaching, preaching, discipline, spirituality, methodology, spiritual direction, ‘questions’, conferences or writings of Fr. Maciel had we known that at the very time he was hypnotizing us with his lies he was sexually abusing seminarians, fathering children, running around on the congregation’s dime, duping popes, cardinals, bishops and benefactors…

It was our ignorance that held the Legion together. The LC is founded, not on the supposed sanctity and inspiration and charism of its Founder, but on the gullible and impressionable idealism of his hapless followers.

We should be the first to decry the smoke and mirrors. We should be the most outraged by the falsehood and programmed ignorance that keep the LCs and 3GF subject to an illusory vocation. We should be the voices that the visitation hears and that make the hard changes possible.

And we definitely should have had a primerissima today…

Chi-qui-ti bun-ba-di bin-bun-ba.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Leave the bathwater. Take the cannoli.

An old friend popped in unexpectedly today. I dropped what I was doing and we went to lunch at a deli in the section of town they used to call ‘Little Italy’. Everyone says the city is not what it used to be, but you can still get good cannoli and sfogliatelle on Franklin Ave. if you know where to look.

We have mutual ties to the LC and this guy recently visited one of our large houses of formation in Europe. He asked the superior – also an old friend – how he was holding up, given all the pressure and uncertainty.

I held up my hand and said, “Wait, let me guess. He replied: Mucha paz y tranquilidad, gracias a Dios. Aquí y en toda la Legión se respira un gran aire de familia.“

My buddy smiled and shrugged. “Almost verbatim. How did you know?”

“Just a hunch.” I said as the waitress came with our drinks and sandwiches.


He asked me if I thought it possible to save the writings of Fr. Maciel. Many of them, he said, contain instruction and reflections that are, in and of themselves, good and useful. Many are simply his expression of elements of spirituality and religious life common to the universal Church. Why not keep what is good in his writings even if we must disown and distance ourselves from his person?

Why throw out the baby with the bathwater?

I answered with two analogies.

Adolph Hitler was a painter. Paintings of his have survived and even been auctioned off to collectors and historians in recent times. He painted landscapes. He painted the Blessed Virgin with the Christ Child. He fancied himself quite the accomplished artist.

Hitler is not remembered for his art. He is forever engraved upon the collective memory of humankind as arguably the least human, most deranged and criminal mass murderer of modern times. That is who he was.

To say, ‘let’s forget who he was and hang his paintings in the rectory’ would be disingenuous, offensive and repugnant to even the most lenient of critics.

One cannot separate the art from the artist. BECAUSE OF WHO HE WAS, Hitler’s Madonna and Child becomes a particularly blasphemous mockery of the Virgin, Christ and all the sacred artwork that has tried to represent the Holy Mother and her Son throughout time.

Analogy number two: in the Gospel narration of the temptations of Jesus, Satan quotes Sacred Scripture in the hopes of inducing the Savior to sin.

By itself, Scripture is a holy and valuable guide. On the lips of the Adversary it becomes a singularly vile and devious hex, a sacrilegious manipulation that reeks of evil and desperation.

Fr. Maciel was neither Satan nor Hitler and analogies take us only so far.

But while Fr. Maciel masqueraded as the saintly founder, the admirable priest, apostle and ‘suffering servant of Yahweh’ that all the LCs sought to emulate in their own vocation, his writings were veritable treasures that we meditated and quoted, memorized and preached.

Once we found out who he truly was, those same writings have turned into the cruelest of jokes, a most unholy parody of true spirituality and religious tradition, a sacrilegious satire that should make us all ashamed of having once proudly called ourselves ‘co-founders’.

The bathwater dissolved whatever baby there was long, long ago.
So throw it out with no regrets.