Anonymous raises an interesting question in the Was Maciel’s ‘medical condition’ contagious? blog discussion:
In reading the followup comments on the linked blog entry, and seeing more than one claim of abuse at the apostolic school, what in these days would make anyone fear exposing abuse in a court of law: I mean we know for better or ill, there are personal injury lawyers that would mop the floor with the LC’s with these kinds of cases, and that would not take into account criminal prosecution of any act still within the statute of limitations.
I think the issue is that Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi, until very recently, were considered ‘untouchable’ within the Church. Victims were often sued, threatened with lawsuits and ostracized for speaking out. Maciel was, to a certain extent, protected by Pope John Paul II and several powerful curial Cardinals in Rome.
Even Cardinal Ratzinger had to proceed quietly and carefully behind the backs of Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Sodano. The Legion also managed to exempt itself from the Church’s investigation of U.S. seminaries and religious orders that took place during the aftermath of the sex abuse crisis. So one cannot blame the average Catholic for being cautious in speaking out.
Of course the difficulty with making oneself untouchable is that one becomes use to getting away with one’s machinations. One becomes impervious to criticism as one insulates oneself from the popular mood, relying upon underlings who are “yes men”. Some because they buy into the system, and others because they are too scared to speak out against it. Thus one is the last person to discover that one is not only touchable, but fatally out-of-touch.
In some ways the Legion’s current situation reminds me of the Christmas revolution that overtook Romania in 1989. Like in other Eastern bloc countries, the people had grown disenchanted with communism and were looking to change their political system. The leaders of surrounding countries had enough sense to recognize that popular mood had swung against them, that discontent against communism had rooted itself deeply in the people, and so the leaders ushered in democratic reform to avert violent revolution.
Romania was the exception. Romania was the only Eastern bloc country in which communism was overthrown by violent revolution. The Romanian revolution ended with the two-hour show trial and public execution of Nicolae and Elena Ceauşescu, on Christmas day, three days after the couple were forced to flee communist party headquarters in Bucharest.
Of interest is Ceauşescu’s last speech as Romania’s dictator, during which he completely misreads the mood of the Romanian people. It probably never occurred to him that four days later he and his wife would be shot in the head:
On the morning of 21 December Ceauşescu addressed an assembly of approximately 110,000 people, to condemn the uprising in Timişoara. However, Ceauşescu was out of touch with his people and completely misread the crowd’s mood. Starting his speech in the usual “wooden language, spurting out pro-socialist and Communist Party rhetoric,” Ceauşescu delivered a litany of the achievements of the “socialist revolution” and Romanian “multi-laterally developed socialist society.” The people, however, remained apathetic, and only the front rows supported Ceauşescu with cheers and applause. As the speech went on, some in the crowd actually began to jeer and boo and utter insults at him. Ceauşescu’s lack of understanding of the recent events and his incapacity to handle the situation were further demonstrated when he offered, as an act of desperation, to raise workers’ salaries by 100 lei per month (about 4 US dollars at the time, yet a 5-10% raise for a modest salary) and student scholarship from 100 to 110 lei while continuing to praise the achievements of the Socialist Revolution, unable to realize that a revolution was brewing right in front of his eyes.
As he was addressing the crowd from the balcony of the Central Committee building, sudden movement came from the outskirts of the massed assembly, as did the sound of (what various sources have reported as) fireworks, bombs, or guns, which together caused the assembly to break into chaos. Initially frightened, the crowds tried to disperse. Bullhorns then began to spread the news that the Securitate was firing on the crowd and that a “revolution” was unfolding. This persuaded people in the assembly to join in. The rally turned into a protest demonstration.
The entire speech was being broadcast live around Romania, and it is estimated that perhaps 76% of the nation was watching. Censors attempted to cut the live video feed, and replace it with communist propaganda songs and video praising the Ceauşescu regime, but parts of the riots had already been broadcast and most of the Romanian people realized that something unusual was in progress. […]
The reaction of the Ceauşescu couple on the balcony is memorable: They staged futile attempts to regain control over the uprising crowd using phone conversation formulas such as “Alo, Alo” (“Hello, Hello”), Ceauşescu’s wife “advised” him how to contain the situation “Vorbeşte-le, vorbeşte-le” (“Talk to them, talk to them”), and they urged the crowd “Staţi liniştiţi la locurile voastre” (“Stay quiet in your places”). In the end Ceauşescu allowed himself to be directed into the Central Committee building by his underlings.
The jeers and whistles soon erupted into riot; the crowd took to the streets, placing the capital, like Timişoara, in turmoil. Members of the crowd spontaneously began shouting anti-communist and anti-Ceauşescu slogans, which spread and became chants: “Jos dictatorul!” (“Down with the dictator”), “Moarte criminalului!” (“Death to the murderer”), “Noi suntem poporul, jos cu dictatorul!” (“We are the People, down with the dictator”), “Ceauşescu cine eşti?/Criminal din Scorniceşti” (“Ceauşescu, who are you? A murderer from Scorniceşti”). Protesters eventually flooded the downtown area, from Piaţa Kogălniceanu to Piaţa Unirii, Piaţa Rosetti, and Piaţa Romană. In one notable scene from the event, a young man waved a tricolour with the Communist coat of arms torn out of its center, while perched on the statue of Mihai Viteazul on Boulevard Mihail Kogălniceanu in the University Square. […]
It is likely that in the small hours of 22 December the Ceauşescus made their second mistake of the day: Instead of fleeing the city under cover of night, they decided to wait until morning to leave. Ceauşescu must have thought that his desperate attempts to crush the protests had succeeded, because he apparently called another meeting for the next morning. However, before 7:00 a.m., his wife Elena received the news that large columns of workers from many industrial platforms (large communist-era factories or groups of factories concentrated into industrial zones) were heading towards downtown Bucharest to join the protests. The police barricades that were meant to block access to Piaţa Universităţii (University Square) and Piaţa Palatului (Palace Square, now Piaţa Revoluţiei — Revolution Square) proved useless. By 9:30 a.m., University Square was jammed with protesters. Security forces (army, police and others) re-entered the area, only to join with the protesters.
By 10 A.M., as the radio broadcast was announcing the introduction of martial law and of a ban on groups larger than five persons, yet hundreds of thousands of people were gathering for the first time, spontaneously, in central Bucharest (the previous day’s crowd had come together at Ceauşescu’s orders). Ceauşescu attempted to address the crowd from the balcony of the Central Committee of the Communist Party building, but his attempt was met with a wave of disapproval and anger. Helicopters spread manifestos (which did not reach the crowd, due to unfavourable winds) instructing people not to fall victim to the latest “diversion attempts,” but to go home instead and enjoy the Christmas feast. This order, which drew unfavorable comparisons to Marie Antoinette’s haughty (but apocryphal) “Let them eat cake”, further infuriated the people who did read the manifestos; many people at that time had trouble procuring such basic foodstuffs as cooking oil.
In essence, current LC/RC leadership is facing its own Easter Revolution. What’s destroying the movement is not Maciel’s acts of molestation, but the methodology that allowed him to get away with it for so many years. A methodology taken to heart by his closest underlings, who now find themselves out-of-touch with the horror felt by average Catholics. A methodology that refuses to acknowledge its shortcomings, or blames them on external enemies. A methodology that preaches serenity and tries to distract its members with talk of “good fruits” when real victims are suffering. A methodology that blinded the leadership when a rank-and-file Legionary prophesied the movement’s downfall one year ago (click here).
But that’s the bad news.
The good news is that yesterday Our Lord Jesus Christ was crucified for our sins and weaknesses. Today He rests, as today is the Jewish Sabbath. Tomorrow He will rise again – conquering sin and death. So while it may be too late to reform the movement begun by Maciel (although refoundation may still be possible), it is never too late for members to turn to Jesus Christ.