One of Genevieve’s readers has translated an early report concerning the apostolic visitation to the Legion of Christ. You can read it here. If this report is accurate, then I find it significant for two reasons:
1 – The reason Maciel’s earlier victims have not received an apology is because LC/RC leadership reportedly don’t want to admit the probability of Maciel’s guilt.
2 – The Holy Father is reportedly concerned that LC/RC are still following the “vow of charity” in spirit, even though His Holiness has suppressed it in law.
If both these allegations (reportedly alleged by LC rank-in-file troubled by their superiors’ response to crisis) are true, then we’re looking at a deeper question. Namely, are LC/RC leadership capable of repentance?
I cannot claim credit for the question. It comes from a friend of mine who asked me to preserve his anonymity, citing his ecclesiastical status as a local ordinary. He has been following the LC/RC meltdown with great interest because of the effect he feels the movement has had on the people of his diocese.
The question arose as he was telling me about about a pastoral situation he found himself in as a young priest. A successful professional wanted to divorce his wife of several years, abandon their children, and run off with his much younger assistant. My friend asked the professional to think it over, reminding him of his marriage vows and explaining the after-effect this would likely have on the couple’s children. “Can you face God on Judgment Day knowing full well that you have torn your family apart for selfish reasons?” my friend asked.
However, the professional was obstinate. The spark had died in his marriage, he protested, and he was madly in love with his young assistant. “Besides,” the man said, “I’m basically a good person. I volunteer at the food bank and donate my time and money to many local charities. God sees the good things that I do in this community. And speaking of God, you priests are always preaching God’s forgiveness. Are you telling me now that it’s a lie? That God cannot forgive me if I follow my heart, despite all the good things I do?”
My friend was stumped. How to explain to a man looking for any excuse to bolt his marriage that God could forgive him, without appearing to retreat on the importance of remaining faithful to one’s marriage vows and seeking marital counseling. My friend sought advice from a more senior pastor who was experienced with these types of pastoral intervention.
The more senior pastor said: “Tell him that God can forgive him if he follows through with his plan. Then add: ‘But in making this decision with full knowledge of the consequences it will bear on your family, will you be capable of repenting?'”
That is the question. (Although he could have added the following as well: “Or will you spend your life denying the consequences of your intended actions, refusing to admit you were at fault? Digging in to salve your conscience as you try to justify yourself to your children when they turn against you?”)
This is the situation in which members of the LC/RC now find themselves. The good works to which they appeal does not justify the grave evil they appear to gloss over by their actions. Maciel’s earlier victims are still waiting for an official apology, in public and in private. And can anyone show any attempt on the part of LC/RC officials to restore the good name of Maciel’s victims?
Like many other orthodox Catholics, I was prepared to cut the Legion some slack when news first broke last January. This was a great shock to those who had previously believed Maciel to be a living saint. People needed time to absorb the news and understand its implications. However, over nine months have passed since this broke. Moreover, it now seems probable that LC/RC leadership knew about this beforehand. That’s plenty of time to apologize in accordance with one’s Catholic obligations, and obligation in justice as taught in every orthodox Catholic children’s catechism.
And thus my question is as follows to those who, with knowledge of Maciel’s probable guilt and the injustice done to his victims, continue to promote and defend the movement, citing its reported good works, while refusing to acknowledge the gravity of the injustice to Maciel’s victims and the movement’s responsibility to correct the situation: “If you continue along this road, will you be capable of repenting?”
And as an added question to fellow parents, should your children clue in and turn away from the movement before you do, will you be able to keep them from turning against the Church as well? Or will you be too busy engaging in apostolate, promoting your “good works” despite the naysayers?