In the combox of the recent schism thread, reader Richard Sutcliff (who has graciously taken on the role of resident SandPounder), raises the following question:
Here is an entirely hypothetical question, but one which I would like Pete to address.
We talk about the possibility of a rump of LCs going into schism if the Pope doesn’t rule their way.
What are the possibilities of the opposite happening, that some of the Legion’s critics refuse to accept Rome’s verdict were the Vatican (again, this is hypothetical) to allow the Legion to continue on?
In my experience? I’ve never seen it happen. Certain individuals may abandon Rome for the Eastern Orthodox Churches, evangelical Protestantism, or even atheism – but I’ve never seen a formal schism over something like this. So I consider it unlikely.
I also consider it increasingly unlikely that the Holy See won’t act in some in some dramatic way to dissolve or refound the movement, especially in light of growing allegations like the following from reputable media sources: “Among the conclusions that he will present in breve to Rome, Blazquez [one of the apostolic visitators] seems to understand clearly that the the intermediate command of the Legion knew about the double life of Maciel as well as as some scandals which occured in Spain, and not only did they do nothing to stop him, they silenced some of the victims.”
If this allegation is true – that the Legion’s middle leadership knew of Maciel’s double-life earlier, but continued to cover up for him and attack the victims (the moral equivalent, I feel, of World War II Germans hiding Nazis in their attics) – then I don’t know how the Holy See can avoid decapitating and dissolving the movement.
Moreover, as one of my former canon law professors use to say: “Rome is never hasty unless you bring the Church hierarchy into disrepute, especially in financial matters. Then she acts swiftly and the consequences are always painful.” There’s no question among many orthodox Catholics outside the LC/RC that Maciel’s actions and the movement’s response have brought the Church and Pope John Paul II’s legacy into some disrepute. Especially since apologists for the movement continue to link its credibility to that of the late pontiff.
Among the Legion’s critics, both internal and external, one also sees a growing consensus for dissolution of the congregation in lieu of attempting reform (although critics are divided on whether the Holy See should permit the movement’s current members to attempt a refoundation). I get the same feeling I had back in February, when Catholics from across the faith spectrum came to a consensus that the Legion was incapable of handling the crisis internally, and that intervention from the Holy See was necessary. Yeah, pro-Legion apologists kicked up a fuss at the time, accusing critics of lacking faith in the Church. When momentum continued to grow anyway, the same apologists tried to spin it into saying that any outside intervention or investigation should come from Cardinal Rode. In contrast to these pro-Legion apologists, Pope Benedict agreed with the sensus fidelium.
Having said that, I think the greater danger for the Legion right now is that orthodox Catholics won’t accept a refoundation should it come about. Why? Because we’re parents. It’s one thing for us to accept the Holy See’s verdict that a movement can be refounded, but quite another to involve our own families in the refoundation. There are other options for orthodox Catholics, you know.
Which is why, to give a potential refoundation a fighting chance at taking root,the Holy See must do three things in my opinion:
1 – Impose several deep reforms upon the movement.
2 – Appoint outside superiors to implement these reforms.
3 – Apologize publicly to Maciel’s victims and offer them reasonable restitution.