This letter from the German RC territorial director just appeared in the German edition of Zenit. It is similar to the one released in the U.S. My German is about as good as my Spanish, so I won’t attempt a full German translation, but you can read it here). A babelfish translation shows the letter following the same general chronology of talking points as the U.S. letter.
Could any of our German-speaking readers confirm?
[UPDATE from Richard: I’ve drafted a translation and taken the liberty of adding it here:]
Dear members of Regnum Christi,
Today the novices and candidates here in Bad Münstereifel are beginning an eight-day silent retreat in preparation for [the rite of] clothing in the habit of the order. Next weekend, God willing, five young men will receive the habit of the order and nine novices will make their first profession.
The retreat is a moment of purification and renewed dedication of our entire lives to the Lord, which is always needed, especially in this year which is marked by revelations about our deceased founder, Fr. Marciel Maciel, LC. The task and purpose of this letter is to give you an overview on how our community is dealing with this complex of issues.
The Church is thinking today of Pope St. Gregory the Great. The liturgical texts and the reading from the breviary emphasize the responsibility of those who take assignments of leadership in the Church conscientiously As territorial director I know myself to be especially under the duty, together with the general leadership and the confreres of our province, to provide for an adequate review of the past and a suitable orientation of the Legionaries of Christ and of Regnum Christi for the future. For this reason there are institutional measures, which will however only bear lasting fruit if we as individuals work to follow the Lord consciously and decisively, and if we ask him continually for his grace and his presence. I know that very many of you stand beside us in this commitment and this prayer. For this we are most deeply grateful to you.
I hope that these lines can also accomplish another small objective, that all who are affected by this in any way can walk together on the path ahead. To be sure, it will be a long path and process of healing. First of all, I am thinking of those who were injured by the grave misdeeds of Fr. Maciel. In the name of the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ and of our General Director, I would like here once again to ask from the heart for forgiveness.
Fr. Alvaro has already begun some time ago, personally and privately, to contact those who experienced particular suffering personally, to ask for forgiveness and to offer condolences. As a Congregation, we lament most deeply that the misdeeds of Fr. Maciel were not recognized earlier by the institution and thus were not stopped; and so even more suffering has been caused. Therefore we wish to stand by all those who have suffered.
1. The state of the matter and our actions in relation to it
As has become generally known recently, Fr. Maciel had a relationship with a woman, who gave birth to a daughter. According to the latest information, there are also reports from a Mexican attorney of further relationships and children. Because of the fragmentary nature of the available information and the impossibility of reviewing all the implications of this confused situation quickly, the Legionaries of Christ cannot yet present a decisive statement of our position on these new media reports.
Against this background it has become even more apparent how wisely and pastorally the Holy See dealt with the accusations of abuse against Fr. Maciel. The Congregation for the [Doctrine of the] Faith investigated these accusations and directed him to withdraw to a life of prayer and penance, as was announced in the statement of May 19, 2006.
For us as an institution, as a religious-order family, and as individuals this all came on completely unexpectedly and was correspondingly hard. The many strong emotions, the heaps of news reports, assertions, speculations, and opinions, the various cultural sensitivities and the Christian duty, not to publish word of others’ faults, have made it much more difficult to quickly publish a clear and comprehensive statement, as many might have wished. In addition, we did not know the full truth, and even now acknowledge many ambiguities, and it is possible that additional new facts may become known.
It is foreseeable that in the coming months this topic, with new variations, will remain active in the relevant foreign media and will also be taken up in the German-language media. I would recommend that you not let yourself be disturbed by every new detail. For one thing, one often does not know what is true; for another, new details do not change the content which is already known.
The whole situation is not only painful for us Legionaries of Christ and members of Regnum Christi, it is also a shock (Ärgernis) for the Church and casts a dark shadow on the Catholic priesthood, about which we Legionaries of Christ have always felt an especial duty, and still do.
In completion, as our General Director, Fr. Alvaro Corcuera, already wrote in his letter of March 29 of this year: “I have thanked the Holy Father sincerely for this additional help (through the Apostolic Visitation), which he offers to us in the challenges of the moment, that have arisen in connection with the grave facts in the life of our founding father. The CDF has already investigated some of these and reached a decision in May 2006; others will be made known shortly. All of this saddens us deeply, and we sincerely ask God and all those who were injured because of them, for forgiveness.”
Many people have asked, and with reason, whether the Legionaries of Christ have drawn any conclusions from these experiences. I can assure you that this is so and will continue to be the case.
a) One measure is the reevaluation, already begun, in relation to the person and work of Fr. Marcial Maciel. On one side we cannot and do not want to forget that Fr. Marcial was the founder and did much good; on the other side stand his grave mistakes and what has most recently come to light. In relation to this, we are currently making sure, step by step, that references to Fr. Maciel in every area are made in a proper way. So, for example, our internet sites are being reworked and the sale and new issue of writings and publications is being examined. All of this leads us to what matters: to center our life fully and only on Jesus Christ.
As you can imagine, this is a continual and difficult process. It is valid to distinguish between his person, his actions as founder, the solid Catholic teaching he gave to us, and the canonical-institutional aspects of the Legionaries of Christ and Regnum Christi. Making these distinctions is not easy and cannot be done overnight. For this, the leadership of our order is seeking the advice and guidance of experienced and intelligent men of the Church, so that through this process the gifts the Legionaries of Christ and Regnum Christi have received from God may not be endangered.
b) Beyond that, we are experiencing the support of the Church in this review, especially through Pope Benedict XVI, to whom we are truly thankful for it.
This is happening above all through the apostolic visitation of the Congregation, which began on July 15. His Excellency Ricardo Blázquez Pérez, Bishop of Bilbao (Spain), is the visitator for Europe (with the exception of Italy) and therefore also for us. Bishop Blázquez will visit our daughter-houses, see our life from up close, and speak with all the members of the order with whom he wishes or who respectively ask for a conversation. His assignment consists of asking, examining, judging incisively and objectively, and presenting his results and recommendations directly to the Holy See. Understandably we cannot offer any further statement regarding the content or the process of the visitation, since this could interfere with the work of the visitator.
I assume, that after mature consideration and counsel further measures will follow. It is possible that the Holy Father will give directives after the conclusion of the visitation, which we will be happy to act upon.
The special situation of our congregation at the beginning of this second chapter of our history contains an appeal to us all, but especially to those who are entrusted with assignments of leadership, to take our own responsibility fully to make our way forward. Human failure and collapse can never be perfectly excluded. We carry a treasure in breakable vessels (cf. 2 Cor. 4:7). All the more are superiors obliged to do everything humanly possible in the community of our order to avoid erroneous actions. I would like also to share a few thoughts about this with you.
a) A way in the Church and with the Church
As a congregation in the Catholic Church, agreement to the measures of the Holy See has always been for us a guarantee of building on rock and not on sand. Our faith in this and our awareness of it have been sharpened by recent experiences.
So, in the admission of novices and especially of candidates for priestly ordination, we are led by the prescriptions of the Church. The discernment of vocational qualifications is done with greatest care, including accepting the help of good psychologists. Formation for the priesthood is a long road in the Legionaries of Christ (ca. 12 years); it is comprehensive and foundational.
We have also received concrete directives from the Holy See in past years regarding the life of our order, which we have acted upon.
Since 1957, the Legionaries of Christ have taken a “special vow of charity”, which was approved by the Church. You may have heard of it reported in articles about the profession of novices in Germany. The background of this vow was to ensure that anyone would discuss any difficulties with a superior with the affected person himself or with higher superiors, so that irresponsible criticism or internal faction would be avoided. Benedict XVI, who as Pope has full authority on earth to bind and to loose, did away with this vow two years ago, and since then we no longer profess it.
During the last two years we have furthermore at the direction of the Holy See changed the general practice, by which direct superiors could also be the spiritual directors of those subject to them. This was based on a centuries-old monastic tradition, by which the superior was the spiritual father as well as the teacher of his community. Pope Benedict XVI spoke of this most recently in the general audience of May 27, 2009: “Although he carried on a very extensive external activity, Theodoros [the Studite] did not let himself be distracted from what he regarded as strictly necessary for his function as a superior, namely to be a spiritual father to his monks. […] So he exercised a spiritual leadership with respect to the monks. Every day, so the biographer reports, he sat before the iconostasis after evening prayer, in order to hear the confessions confided to him.”
A further change at the indication of the Holy See regards the practice of Confession in the congregation. Members have always been able to decide freely to make their confessions, according to their choice, to one of the priest confessors, members of the order or non-members, arranged by the General Director, or to any other Catholic priest. In practice members most often made their confessions to their superiors. At the recommendation of the Holy See superiors are no longer father-confessors to their subjects.
b) Structure and transparency
As a growing organization with manifold and various assignments and areas of involvement, we stand in a great variety of relationships of responsibility, which are often of a secular nature. Here too we let the greatest care prevail, in order to carry out our institutional and personal duties justly.
In the area of finance, the use of funds has been regulated by specific instructions, which are aimed at a clear and unambiguous accounting of all income and outlays. In our territory, we in Germany are constituted as the general-purpose corporation “Legionäre Christi e.V.” and correspondingly give the [Federal] Finance Office an accounting annually, at the end of each year. The use of funds according to the constitutions and in particular according to the donor’s intention is ensured.
The congregation is supported by a team of chief co-workers who bear the concern for professionalism and transparency in questions of finance and governance. For years an external auditor has been assigned the examination of finances.
A further thought is also appropriate on the subject of how we treat minors entrusted to us. Children are the most valuable thing parents can entrust to other people. Every kind of abuse is worthy of abhorrence. Our constitutions, norms, and disciplinary directives place great value on respectful, attentive, and responsible conduct with minors. Our order members and many voluntary co-workers are held to uphold this carefully. We are also preparing a plan of intervention, in order to be able to proceed immediately and properly in case of a well-founded suspicion, something which has never happened among us. These measures of preparedness are being updated continually and in compliance with the directives of the German Conference of Superiors of Orders (Deutschen Ordensoberenkonferenz (DOK)).
At the end of this letter I would like to take up a word of St. Paul: “All things work together for good for those who love God” (Rom. 8:28). The heavenly Father has the power and the will to stand by his children in every situation and draw them, through all their experiences, closer to him. But this is not something automatic. It requires our readiness in everything – in good and bad times – to look to Jesus Christ and ask ourselves the question dwelling within every situation: “What would you think, say, or do now, Lord?” This prayer helps me personally again and again when I am confronted with difficulty or darkness.
Understandably everyone has his way of dealing with this topic. We should pray for one another and recognize that everyone is suffering through and dealing with this chapter in his own unique way.
If we live this time in righteousness before the Lord, with a strong faith, a firm hope, and a generous love; if we often seek to meet with the eucharistic Lord, then the Legionaries of Christ and Regnum Christi will be purified within and strengthened as a consequence. I have had the experience very often in the past months, that this is not just a pious wish, but indeed is true. Thanks be to God!
Fr. Alvaro, for whose wise leadership in this difficult time I am very thankful, has recently quoted in a homily St. John Chrysostom, who teaches on the five ways of reconciliation: to ask for forgiveness; to forgive others; prayer; almsgiving; and humility (cf. John Chrysostom, Sermons, PG 49, 263-264). The Lord wants to help us to walk on these paths.
So I remain full of gratitude for your friendship and with the request of your prayer.
[signature of German original]
Sylvester Heereman LC
[translation by Richard Chonak, with the usual caveats: translation is not an exact art.]