I just finished reading the two letters/communiques put out by the Legion of Christ/ Regnum Christi (LC/RC) over the weekend. I did so line-by-line. Here is my initial impressions, in point form, for those who are interested:
– The letter from Fr. Alvaro seems to be written for the inside, that is current members and close supporters of Regnum Christi and the Legion of Christ. Whereas the communique signed by Fr. Alvaro and various Legion superiors seems to be written for the broader Church community and perhaps society at large. Until LC/RC clarify otherwise, this is my assumption in reading and interpreting each piece of correspondence
– The LC/RC appears to have read the ecclesiastical tea leaves from Pope Benedict’s apology to the Irish, and the recent interview with Msgr. Scicluna. Whether this is good or bad will depend upon how the movement conducts itself in the future.
– I’m guardedly optimistic that LC/RC superiors may finally be moving in the right direction. Nobody can reasonably expect perfection overnight, so I won’t quibble over the weaknesses or ambiguities in the letter or communique. However, the communique seems to make progress. It admits Maciel sexually abused seminarians, it apologizes to Maciel’s victims, it lays out the other accusations involving three mistresses (of which one is admitted and two are alleged) and several children (one admitted and others alleged), it admits the response to the movement’s victims was too slow, it states concern for the victims should be paramount, it admits that some within LC/RC probably covered up for Maciel, it admits the movement made a mistake in not believing the victims when they put forward their accusations, and it comes clean with the real reason the Holy See invited Maciel to retire in 2006.
– I’m also not going to quibble over the movement, at this stage, renouncing Maciel’s example as founder rather than renouncing Maciel as founder. Yes, it’s a distinction that still recognizes Maciel as founder. However, I find myself guardedly optimistic when reading it, especially in light of another statement within the communique admitting the Church will never place Maciel on the same pedestal as other founder-saints like St. Ignatius, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Bruno, St. Dominic, St. Benedict, St. Josemaria Escriva, etc. That and I am really not sure how LC/RC can renounce Maciel as founder prior to an official refounding overseen by the Holy See. After all, the historical record is clear – Maciel founded both LC and RC.
– Please note that my optimism is guarded. The reason for this is that many of my predictions vis-a-vis LC/RC since this scandal began have now come to pass. However, readers who have followed the blog over this past year know that the one area where my predictions are consistently wrong is with regards to giving LC/RC the benefit of the doubt over major communiques. Three notorious examples? 1) When the movement first admitted to Maciel’s daughter, I predicted the movement would quickly follow the lead of Changobeer, Fr. Berg, Jay Dunlap and Tom Hoopes in recognizing the validity of previous allegations put forward by Jose Barba, Juan Vaca et al. 2) I actually believed LC/RC sources last March when they assured us an official statement and apology was forthcoming. 3) I accepted publicly as a good faith attempt the letters signed by RC territorial directors in Germany and the U.S. last fall, putting my credibility on the line, then was forced to retract several days later when the letter signed by Spain’s territorial director failed to mention directly Maciel’s sexual abuse of young seminarians, thus leaving many readers with the impression that the Holy See had retired Maciel in 2006 for fathering a daughter. So this time around I want to see how the movement follows through with the communique, both in word and in deed, before letting my guard down.
– I feel the same way toward the Legion’s claim they will adhere to any reforms suggested or imposed by the Holy See as a result of the apostolic visitation. Let’s see if the movement does so in both letter AND SPIRIT before letting down our guard.
– That being said, this may be a sincere move toward reform, or it may be a last-ditch effort for LC/RC current leadership to hold onto power before the Holy See releases the results of the apostolic visitation. Or it may be both if the current leadership is trying to use this communique and letter to hold on to power, while rank-and-file are trying to co-opt it to usher in reform. We will know soon enough.
– Has the communique been communicated to everyone on the inside? I’m talking brothers/seminarians, rank-and-file priests, 3gf and Regnum Christi members?
– My own response to the communique as a blogger, to borrow a police/military analogy (meaning I’m speaking metaphorically) is to not accept a cease-fire requested by some LC/RC supporters. I can, however, agree to a check fire. This means one ceases firing and engages the safety. However, one’s weapon remains cocked and loaded, with the target clearly in one’s cross-hairs and one’s finger near (but not cradling) the trigger. This allows LC/RC leadership and supporters to further clarify and act upon their intentions if they are sincere, while allowing Catholics to defend ourselves at a moment’s notice if it turns out that the letter and communique are LC/RC’s latest attempt at double-speak.
– If LC/RC proves sincere through subsequent actions and words, we as orthodox Catholics must prepare ourselves to forgive and welcome members back into the fold. Of course this does not oblige us as individuals to support or participate in LC/RC-sponsored organizations. Nor does it mean that we stop voicing constructive criticism when appropriate. We are simply giving LC/RC members an opportunity to prove they can reform their movement and live in peace with other Catholics.
– Put another way, I’m willing to give LC/RC another chance to prove itself based upon this letter and communique, and I encourage them to continue down this path. However, I will wait to see if they do so before I feel some degree of trust or comfort.
– A good next step would be to unilaterally revoke the terms of settlement imposed upon any of Maciel’s victims – including ReGAIN – in civil lawsuits that previously silenced victims. This does not require an investigation by the Holy See to carry out. Neither does reimbursing these victims for their legal costs. (On the other hand, I can see why LC/RC would wait for the results of the apostolic visitation before canning any upper leadership who intentionally or through negligence covered up for Maciel.)
– Any response from LC/RC leadership becomes moot if the current clergy sex abuse crisis hitting the Europe spreads to Italy in the next few weeks. I doubt even the movement’s strongest current supporters in the Roman Curia will continue to protect the order, if the Cardinals find their own heads on the line.
– Most serious churchmen, Church experts and Church observers with whom I have spoken believe that the Holy See will attempt to remove Frs. Alvaro, Garza and Sada as part of a decapitation of the movement’s upper leadership. History may yet vindicate Fr. Alvaro down the road if he goes peacefully, fully supportive of the Roman reform/refounding, and the movement’s rank-and-file accept the reforms/refounding in both letter and spirit.
– Please continue to pray for LC priests and seminarians reportedly stuck on the inside.