One last post that I have been meaning to write for some time, on a topic that my fellow blog hobbits are now tackling. It concerns Fr. Maciel, family life, and the importance of truth. Giselle at Life-After-RC has posted the testimony of a parent who accuses Fr. Maciel of hurting his family life through Maciel’s lies, which touches upon why parents ought not treat Regnum Christi membership like a vocation on par with marriage (click here).
Meanwhile, ExLC treats us to some poetry in responding to my earlier post explaining how Fr. Maciel’s life undermines the teachings he advocates in his spiritual writings. Here’s ExLC’s poem:
Now here is the problem:
Who was Marcial Maciel?
Did he lie to his families about being a priest?
Or did he lie all along about being a founder?
And how can we ever know which one is the lie?
Or were they both a lie?
And of several thought-provoking weekend posts at RC Is Not My Life, one of them deals with this issue by comparing Fr. Maciel to television network executives in Jim Carey’s movie The Truman Show. What struck me was not only the author’s insight, which you can read here, but reader Simon’s comment in the ensuing discussion:
Based on what we now know about Maciel, there are really only two possibilities, aren’t there?
1. He concocted the Legion and RC to cover up for and fund his decadent lifestyle. The whole thing is a cynical joke, a scam. Marcial Madoff, L.C.
2. Anguished by the internal contradictions of his own life, this man — so utterly lacking integrity, self-discipline, generosity, genuine piety or even a fixed identity — overcompensated. He created an organization that pressed its members to sacrifice their own personalities and stripped away their ability to discern vocations, express authentic human emotions, or even decide how to part their hair.
In the first possibility, Maciel made cynical use of authentic Catholic spirituality in order to achieve his evil ends, adding nothing distinctive.
In the second possibility, Maciel actively distorted Catholicism in response to his own bizarre interior torment, so that the result is doctrinally orthodox as a formal matter, but deeply screwed up at the level of formation and spirituality.
I’m not a psychologist. Nor do I play one on television. However, I’ve ministered inside the Church’s legal structure for close to ten years now. I’ve seen a lot in that time, and heard a lot from canon lawyers who are older, smarter and more experienced than me. Often the answer to this type of mystery can be found in the childhood relationship between a troubled priest and his mother – especially if the father was absent, abusive or had a poor relationship with his son.
This reminds of an incident when I was first getting started as a canon lawyer. Along with several other canon lawyers I happened to be at a workshop explaining the process whereby priests and religious seek to return to the lay state. The vast majority of those in attendance were over 40 years of age. The handful of under 35-year-olds sat together in the back.
The presenter, a respected priest and canonist, said during his presentation: “The trigger for older priests and religious wanting to return to the lay state is seldom a love interest. The most common trigger is the death of a parent, usually the mother. Let’s be honest: how many of us are here today because our mother wanted us to become a priest or religious? How many of us would have chosen this life had we not been sent off as teenagers to the minor seminaries by our mothers?”
A look of shock and horror came over our faces in the back row, among those of us who were under 35 and had not been alive prior to the Second Vatican Council. Surely the presenter was exaggerating the “bad old days” before Vatican II! But as we watched row-after-row of older clergy and religious nod their heads in agreement, regardless of whether they were liberal or conservative theologically, us younger canon lawyers recognized that the presenter was speaking the truth. For many, it was the mother who wanted the vocation.
Now I don’t want to get carried away on this point. It’s not a bad thing if a mother, suspecting that God may be calling her son to priesthood or religious life, fosters and encourages the potential vocation. In fact, this is a good thing – if the vocation or call to discernment are a true calling from God. Thus St. Monica’s prayed for St. Augustine’s conversion, and St. John Bosco had a close relationship with his mother, who adopted the orphans served by her son’s apostolate as her own. Similarly, St. Pius X’s mother urged him to stay in the seminary when, as oldest son, he considered dropping out to support his mother and his siblings after the death of his father.
A similar story is told of Fr. John Hardon, the noted Jesuit catechist and spiritual director to Mother Teresa, and an only child who was raised by his mother after his father died in a work-related accident when the boy was only one. Reportedly, Father had thought about dropping out of the Jesuit seminary to support his mother when she began to show the effects of old age. His mother urged him to continue with the Jesuits, if this is where he felt God was calling him.
In each of these cases, the vocation is clearly present. The individuals themselves felt the call to priesthood and religious life, and those charged with their formation confirmed it. Their mothers simply encouraged them, through word and prayer, to remain faithful to God’s call. They did not seek to impose a calling that was not already clear to their the son.
This is different from being pressured into the priesthood or religious life – especially when a child’s relationship with the other parent is poor or lacking.
Mama Maurita has passed away. So has Fr. Maciel. Therefore, this avenue of inquiry can only be speculation. However, three things cause me to suspect that Fr. Maciel’s founding of his movement is tied to his relationship with Mama Maurita:
1 – Fr. Maciel had a difficult relationship with his father throughout his entire life.
2 – Fr. Maciel held his mother, who happens to have been a fervent Catholic and the niece of a bishop and a canonized saint (and who wanted to be a religious herself), in particularly high esteem.
3 – None of Fr. Maciel’s reported children (at least the ones we know about) were born until after Mama Maurita’s death. On the other hand, most of the sexual abuse allegations involving seminarians and young men seems to take place while she was still alive.
Again, I am not a psychologist. Nor was I ever Fr. Maciel’s spiritual or formation director. And having met, I never acted for him in any capacity as a canon lawyer. So this is only speculation on my part. However, it is an avenue those in the LC/RC may wish to consider in pursuing the truth about their founder.