I think it was my Tyranny of Nice co-author Kathy Shaidle who once quipped, after being denounced as a Nazi for expressing conservative during an on-line debate, that “In the future everyone will spend 15 minutes as Adolph Hitler.” I was never much into Andy Warhol; but could appreciate the reference.
It’s not just the left that’s given to such hyperbole governed by Godwin’s Law (Whoever cries Nazi first, forfeits the debate). In sifting through push-back from Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi supporters this long weekend, I’m seeing a resurgence of the only enemies of Catholic orthodoxy/ the pope/ John Paul II attack the Legion meme. I’m convinced that every Legion critic will now endure 15 minutes as Hans Kung.
For example, over on the America magazine blog, reader John Stangle savages Austen Ivereigh for commenting on the letter sent out by American RC directors:
Has any “proof” been offered or seen that Fr. Maciel actually fathered one or more children? Or, as you state above, “sexually abused” anyone? A letter by a Mexican attorney to sue is nothing.
Confirmation that Fr. Maciel fathered a child is contained in the letter published by Fathers Scott Reilly and Julio Martí on the Regnum Christi website. As far as I know, neither of these Legion priests is a Mexican attorney.
I’ve been quite taken aback by the seeming vengence and even gleeful reporting over the accusations towards Fr. Maciel -and over his “purging” on this America blog at various times. What dastardly deeds did the Legionaries do? Surely that the Legionaries had support of John Paul II can’t be in itself a reason – or can it?
I haven’t conducted any scientific surveys or consulted any expert in media psychology, but I believe the controversy has more to do with the Legion sheltering a pedophile for decades while presenting him to the world as a living saint. That and not apologizing to victims once the founder’s sexual proclivities became known.
Over on the No Apology, No Charism thread, Mouse reports coming across a similar appeal to JPII phenomena:
My RC friends are all claiming that there MUST be a charism in their some place, because the pope approved it… but to me this seems more like a case of a marriage where one of the spouses lied about who they were, their intentions, and their ability to be married in the Church….
I agree. That being said, I cannot comment on what your RC friends are saying, but I have a number of devoutly Catholic friends from Poland, who fled the communist persecution. All of them are furious with Maciel and the Legion for dragging their beloved pope into this mess. Having lived behind the Iron Curtain, they can understand how Pope John Paul II was sucked in Maciel. They are devout Catholics who suffered for their faith, and without exception they tell me that part of the persecution included communists destroying the reputations of good priest by spreading false rumors of pedophilia. Nevertheless, they also assure me Pope John Paul II never would have tolerated a known fraud or pedophile. I believe them. They’re orthodox Catholics and they resent how the Legion continues to cite Pope John Paul II in its defense, sacrificing his reputation to defend the acts of a pedophile.
And on the ‘I wasted the best years of my life on a fraud’ thread, reader Enda Mc chimes in with her testimony insinuating that critics of the LC/RC are enemies of Catholic orthodoxy. Here’s some excerpts:
I am a Catholic who was well trained in debate and the techniques of argument and who has benefited from the great example of devout and loving parents…
Then please address the arguments put forward by your movement’s critics, rather than spread suspicion about the motives of those making the critique.
I looked deeper into the question deciding to judge by the fruits. One one side there were some who felt slighted and personally hurt along with a few bodies who had their own agenda. Some examples of this were a campaign to allow priest to marry and for the promotion of contraception among catholics (incidently lead by an Irishman).
The Legion’s critics now include Archbishop O’Brien and Cardinal George Pell. I don’t believe either senior churchman has called for the ordination of married men or promoted contraception.
On the other side I met a group of people who were as close to Christ as I have ever seen or met. There were a few who displayed what seemed to be an unhealthy worship of the founder. I decided (due to this analysis, to prayer and to what I recognized as God’s hand in my life), to become a member.
If a movement is incapable of apologizing sincerely to victims of the founder’s violations of the Sixth Commandment, or for having attacked the good name of these victims when they came forward with the truth about the founder, then I believe it is more than simply a few who demonstrate an unhealthy worship of the founder.
Do not forget the first Pope lied about Christ, denied Christ and abandoned Christ. Do all those who wish to crush the whole of Regnum Christi want to do the same to the one Holy Catholic and apostolic Church next because of the failings of men?
So we’re back to our 15 minutes as Hans Kung. How soon we forget that the Legion is not the Church, does not possess Christ’s promise of indefectability given to St. Peter and the Church, and that we have a clear record from Holy Scripture of St Peter repenting – at the moment he received His commission from Christ.
And while we’re at it, I might as well address the Medieval-popes-were-more-corrupt-than-Maciel canard. Yes, it’s true that popes in the Middle Ages were held to a different moral standard by their peers, and they didn’t have to contend with angry bloggers or Jason Berry. However, if we’re gonna wax Medieval, peasants also had several means to deal with corrupt churchmen that would not go over in contemporary society. They usually involved bonfires and pitchforks. In short, there would be no debate over the Legion’s charism had Maciel been a child of the Middle Ages. Every one of his priests (with the exception of Fr. Berg) would either be suffering the passion of Jan Hus right now or hiding in a Benedictine monastery. This is how peasants in the Middle Ages dealt with sorcerers, which they considered clergy who misused their office to seduce young men and women.
But back to 2009. So long as the movement pretends that its critics are Hans Kung for 15 minutes rather than admit the founder was a fraud, I don’t see the Legion surviving.