Stephen King gets it? Does Fr. Alvaro?


Cassandra Jones posted a report of Fr. Alvaro's homily at yesterday's Legion of Christ professions in Cheshire. You can read Cassandra's report here. Fr. Alvaro spent quite a bit of time asking for forgiveness, Cassandra states. But in reading over the report I keep asking myself Forgiveness for what?

Fr. Alvaro appears to allude to the Fr. Maciel scandal on several occasions. I say "appears to" because one is never entirely clear from reading Cassandra's report that this is what the Legion's Director General is referring to in sprinkling spiritual advice with mea culpas. As Cassandra's source reports: "I wanted to know how the scandal would be handled, so that's what I will emphasize. It was not mentioned directly at all, of course, but a lot of what Father Alvaro was saying seemed to relate to it very closely." (Emphasis mine). For an order whose defenders were quite specific in denouncing their founder's victims, "seemed to" is not enough.

Allow me to digress as I confess the following: I have a weakness for Stephen King. (Or in current Legion-speak, "The troubling imagination of a certain modern author has integrated itself into my personal library, which is kept separate from my professinal and spiritual library.") Some of it goes back to my budding years as a writer, exploring Catholic themes through short horror stories. Some of it, I am sure, is due to the ministry God has called me to as a canon lawyer, which often deals with the darker aspects of man's fallen nature.

Regardless, there's a common discrepancy in Stephen King's writing that I first noticed when reading Needful Things. It's in the way he portrays clergy. Protestant clergy are generally nutty fundamentalists, no different than Hollywood's usual stereotype. This contrasts with how King typically portrays Catholic clergy - conservative, heroic, dedicated to the welfare of their flock and of their community, and struggling to overcome one or two minor personal flaws. In short, King often portrays Catholic clergy both sympathetically and realistically as good ministers struggling to be saints.

What makes this fascinating is that King is not Catholic. He was raised by his mother, a strict Methodist who struggled as a single mother to hold the family together after King's father walked out. It's his wife Tabitha who is Catholic. Moreover, he disagrees strongly with the Church's teaching on contraception, as he has made clear through both his fiction and non-fiction. Nevertheless, his fundamentalist protestant clergy tend to be one-dimensional fanatics (The Stand's Mother Abagail a noted exception), while his Catholic clergy tend to be multi-layered, reflective and human. The contrast becomes all the more fascinating when King's Protestant and Catholic characters interact.

Which brings me back to Cassandra's report about Fr. Alvaro's homily yesterday. As I read through the report, wondering what Fr. Alvaro was asking forgiveness for, my mind wandered to an incident in one of King's books. It begins with the child of a Bible fundamentalist doing something naughty to a Catholic neighbor. It might have been a rude insult or a small act of vandalism, and I think the book was The Regulators. I can't recall the details and it's been several years since I read it, so I apologize if I recall the story vaguely or incorrectly.

Yes, I apologize. Specifically, I apologize for my recollection that is not as specific as my apology. And this, according to King as he describes the incident, is what distinguishes devout Catholics from fundamentalist Protestants.

In the book, the child's father frog-marches the kid before the victim of the child's bad behavior. The child alludes to the wrong-doing, if I recall correctly, but doesn't actually name it. The child beats himself up verbally, inviting the wronged party to follow up with a physical beating as the kid's father watches on. What follows is my recollection of the passage.

The victim suppresses a smirk, looks down at the child, and says something along the lines of "I just want you to do one thing. Look me in the eyes and tell me what you did wrong."

Upon hearing this, the child transforms from resigned and robotic to visibly uncomfortable. He begins to squirm and looks up at his father with a pitiful gaze. Father is as horrified as son and begins to protest as parent. Speaking through the voice of the narrator - or perhaps the child's victim - King launches into a thought about how admitting to one's wrong-doing is the worst form of punishment one can inflict upon a Christian fundamentalist, who sees no value in the sacrament of confession. On the other hand, Catholics understand that freedom from sin only comes when one lets it out by confessing to the wrong-doing. What an interesting insight from a writer of psychological horror.

In short, Stephen King gets it. He may not have been raised Catholic; his novels may be saturated with dark themes and four-letter words; he may lack the grace of holy orders, of advanced degrees in Catholic theology, of being the head of a large Catholic order - but in spending a lifetime observing and writing about the darker side of our fallen nature, he understands that forgiveness and healing are tied to a specific admission of one's wrong-doing and guilt. So he gets it.

Here's the question: Does Fr. Alvaro?


Well Pete, I think he gets it, as much as he can in this moment. The real question is what limits him from going further. Now this blog always assumes the worst, lack of courage, complicity, delusion. So easy to say those things as it grasps at anything to demonize so as to gain momentum for the cause.

Why is it the "saviors" of the victims of abuse become as hard hearted and cold as the abusers they try lock up. Do not get me wrong, I am with you 100% in making the truth known, 100% in looking for remedies, and in a christian manner offering a constructive critique. Lately you and other writers seem to be too in love with their "righteous anger". They stand on their soapbox in the name of all victims not just to make their situation known, but to wage their holy war of leveling everything in sight that hints of association with (even if only materially) to the original crime. When anger finds no room for mercy, I am always suspicious.

Have you never really asked the question what did the Holy See know and when did they know it? Are they not managing the information flow of the Legion, and Fr. Alvaro, who knows a disgraced 'founder' of this magnitude, will emotionally and psycolgically damage even more members far beyond the current number if the situation is not managed with more graduality and close to all the Holy See indicates. Remember it is Cardinal Rodhe, his immediate superior, who was supporting (look at his comments) if not directing the campaign the hold onto the founder- Yet YOU give the blame always to the Legionaries whom you state are living in delusion. I give them the benefit of the doubt, they seem to me a bit more like deer in the headlights, and you sometimes hit the gas peddle rather than the brakes.

I also think you maybe missing the depth of the theological crisis this is (approved charism with fruits- disapproved founder who is a sham) , along with the moral scandal. In this context, that a Vatican Curial process shows different approaches is normal in trying to digest it, but it make all parties confused and seemingly without decisiveness until maturity of the facts are established. The Legion will naturally be the visible face to all this.

Establishing the facts,making them known with responsibility, and honest Christian reflection. Now here is where this blog can do and has done good work.

Do you honestly think the Vatican specifically forbade Father Alvaro to clear the names of Maciel's accusers? To try to repair the damage the Legion did to their reputations by heaping abusive language upon them for years, calling them enemies of the Church and cooperators with the Devil?

Father Alvaro knew something was up with Maciel for years; in fact, our LC priests specifically told us that Alvaro had started his own private investigation after the communique in 2006. But all this time Alvaro was "investigating", he was still making my son venerate this deviant as a living saint. My son was ONLY allowed to use the Bible or Maciel's writings for his spiritual "growth", up till the day I drove up to the school and took the writings of that evil man away from him (several days after the revelation of Maciel as total fraud).

This is my reason for believing Alvaro to be totally full of it. If he had even the slightest WHIFF of an idea that all was not well in the Paradise of Maciel, he had a responsibility to back off on the veneration, imitation, and adulation. That didn't happen. Surely the Vatican wasn't holding a gun to his head telling him he HAD to keep the scam going?

I don't know how much the Vatican controls as far as what the Legion can or cannot say, but I do know it would be downright shameful if the Vatican had told the LCs they had to keep up the deceit until February 3rd. Therefore I conclude it must have been Alvaro's decision to keep the scam going, long after the Legion admits he suspected something was up.

As a mother of a son who was made to venerate this pedophile long after the Legion admits Alvaro had started "investigating", I don't feel particularly merciful towards the man at the moment. This my son. These boys are REAL kids who were taught to imitate and venerate a fraud and molester. Having to tell my son the truth was one of the most painful experiences my husband and I have been through as parents. The look on his face as the realization dawned on him is something I will never forget.

I don't think Alvaro gets it at all. Mercy may come later, but for now I am one angry mother.

I have two points on the comments made by A close observer.

Cardinal Rode is not, strictly speaking, Fr Alvaro's immediate superior.

More substantially, you categorise the situation thus: "approved charism with fruits- disapproved founder who is a sham".

Yes, the charism is approved but this is not an infallible position. Further, the approval was granted under false pretenses. If the lifestyle of Fr maciel was known there would have been no approval. The approval was based on deceit and dishonesty.

As to the fruits, yes there are many. I can certainly admit that there are many good and excellent fruits. But there are also many rotten fruits. Broken families, ex LCs and consecrated who have literally lost their faith because of what has happened to them, the brainwashing of members (yes, I use that term deliberately, for is LC priests continue to refer to Fr maciel as Nuestro Padre or as "a great man", as they still do, then quite simply they are brainwashed and incapable of independent thought). And of course, the sexual abuse, fornication, dishonesty, financial corruption, pride and the downright abuse of JPII and his friendship. Yes, there are LOTS of fruits. I can't say if the good outweighs the bad. What I can say is that what seem like good fruits - apostolates etc- are shouted from the rooftops. The bad fruits are hidden in the brokeness of people's lives and their shattered faith. But they are still there.

From the long Trastevere discussion, re. what or when the superiors 'knew':

From Francisco: "No hay juicio temerario porque sí hay fundamento suficiente. Te he dicho que hay pruebas de DNA hechas, incontestables. Además la hija y la madre vivieron con las consagradas y los padres durante meses antes de la muerte, en la misma casa donde estaba MM. Yo estuve allí. Hay fotos. Y no quiero contarte más. Era un escándalo. Punto. Como lo fue las muchas veces que en Cotija las 2 estuvieron con muchos legionarios y consagradas. Estuve allí también y allí las conocí hace años. Te asombrarías de saber cómo se hizo la prueba de DNA."

From Ignacio: "Los que sí sabían, aunque no sé precisara desde qué momento, eran los superiores mayores de la LC pues desde que el P. Álvaro Corcuera comenzó como DG se comenzó a investigar en los episodios de la vida de MM pues había firme sospechas (ciertas peticiones y envíos de dinero por ejemplo). De hecho sé de episodios de algún LC que tuvo que hacer el papel de “malo” por negarse a peticiones que le hizo MM relacionadas con dinero."

It would be most helpful if those posting items in Spanish could provide at least a partial translation.

A close observer's attempt to pin blame for the non-apologies on the Vatican simply won't work. It also suggests that for at least some LC/RC diehards, the professions of fervent loyalty to the Holy See melt away when it conflicts with loyalty to the Movement.

Nobody in Rome has prevented the Legion from naming names or from apologizing to the victims of Maciel. And while it remains to be seen what the Holy See knew and when it knew it, it's obvious now that Alvaro & Company knew about the Monster Founder's mistresses, illegitimate kids, systematic embezzlement and pedophilia for much longer.

Remember back in February when the Legion party line was the Fr. Alvaro had just learned these things and launched an ongoing internal investigation? That doesn't even pass the laugh test anymore. Like so much else from the LC leadership, it was a lie. Sadly a lot of rank and file RC bought it, and when it become obviously untenable, a lot of them move on to acceptance of the next lie.

Please, people, for the sake of your souls: Get out of this abomination.

Translation from a friend:

From Francisco: "The is no rush to judgment because there is sufficient basis. I have told you that DNA tests have been done, undeniable ones. Moreover, the daughter and the mother came to the consecrated women and the priests months before his death, in the same house where MM was staying. I was there. I have photos. And I don't want to say more. It was a scandal. Period. As it was many times when the two of them were in Cotija with many Legionaries and consecrated women. I was there then, too, and I had met them there years ago. You would be shocked to know how the DNA tests were done."

From Ignacio: "Those who did know, even if they do not say when they first knew, were the major superiors of the LC because since Fr. Alvaro Corcuera began as General Director, the episode of the life of MM were investigated since there were solid suspicions (certain requests and sending of monies for example). Actually I know of episodes of a certain LC who had to do play the role of the bad guy saying no to MM in relation to requests he made for money."

(No doubt "A close observer" could attest to Francisco and Ignatio's great desire to relate to authorities what they witnessed, but the Vatican told them to stay quiet.)

Go to Babel Fish and cut and paste the two passages and it will translate them for you (one at a time). You'll have to select Spanish to English, of course.

I did so and, though the translations are a bit bumpy, the upshot seems to be that a). there is DNA evidence proving paternity (and the story of its collection is apparently quite a doozy, but the commenter does not elaborate), and b). either one or both of the commenters in spanish were present in Cojita and saw several of Maciel's children there prior to his death and at least one of the mothers and c). that LC priests were present, RC consecrated were there too and they all knew that these were the Founder's children.

Leastways, that's what I gather from the sometimes garbled Babel Fish translation. Babel Fish, it's a reference to "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy."

Another point I'd like to make regards the interrelations in the Church hierarchy. They are not as they are in the secular world. At all.

Bishops are priests. Pastors are priests. Abbots are priests. Popes are priests. Priests are priests. Cardinals are priests.

The Pope is not the "Boss" of the Cardinals who are the boss of the Bishops who are the bosses of the pastors, etc. etc.

All of these clergy are, in a sense, of equal rank as representatives of Christ and the Church. Administratively, of course, there are distinctions and in certain areas, if my understanding is correct, Bishops do have responibilities over certain matters that pastors do not. But each serves in his role in communion with the Magisterial office of the Church, in "communion" with Rome, as it were, etc.

As a Congregaton of Pontifical Rite, the Legionaries "answer" to the Pope. Yes. But as a missionary community of priests, who have no literal geographical domain, they cannot operate anywhere without the express permission of the local ordinary (the bishop) and, in cases in which they seek to operate within parishes, of the pastor of that parish. So, for instance, if they receive permission from a Bishop to, say, evangelize through Familia and RC to families at, oh, St. Luke's parish in Diocese X, they will also need to procure the permission and active cooperation of the pastor in charge of that particular parish. And if that pastor says "no," most if not all Bishops will follow the pastor's wishes.

Now, the human element in the Church is such that it quite often (and corruptly) operates like a secular business or the Mafia, but that is a human failure to understand the spiritual dimension of the relationship between the members and the heads of the "Body of Christ" that is the Church.

If anyone with more knowledge of these things finds fault with my understanding and explanation, please do, with all due speed, correct my errors--which, of course, remain my own.

I just have no problem with the Holy See processing things behind doors as long as they act, bring about justice as the circumstances indicate, under what is within the domain of their authority. Some here panic as if the scandal needs to be reported to the universe, the moment you know. Well this is only true if there is a civil mandate, or one needs to act to prevent further harm from being done- but do not pretend that reporting it is harmless either. Seeing the harm that was coming, and perhaps unavoidable, would make any prelate slow the process, and see if managed gradually he could minimize the effects.

Since the Holy See already investigated formally the charges in 2004, and quite thoroughly, and acted in 2006 (clearly this brought some significant closure for victims) why does anyone here think they have been in the dark? Wake up.
Also why did they not issue any formal judgment of MM?
1) That a founder had gone this far into foundation, and there was a palpable and strong witness that the Legionaries were offering to many, aside from their detractors. Several papacies were duped, many prelates, etc.. There was no parallel to this in the history of the Church.
2) To take away the founder is the same thing in practical effect as dissolving the congregation, which is why Cardinal Rode must insist for now that he be kept. Will that work in the long term? Opinions vary.

Get use to it, grow up, for the Holy See timing, graduality are precious goods that permit many other goods to work- emotional detachment, deeper understanding of the facts, more revelations to come forth (as we have seen) and more time in prayer letting the Holy Spirit bring solutions that mere men cannot see.

Cardinal Rode's Congregation is the Sacred Congregation for Religious Institutes and has the delegated power of governance of the Holy See for all matters concerning religious orders and congregations.

For A close observer, two questions:

1. Which victims, exactly, gained closure by the communique of 2006? They had NO information beyond what was given to the rest of the world, and even that only trickled out by accident. Are you in touch with different victims than the ones represented by Martha Wegan? Is there another group not associated with Regain that we're unaware of? NONE of those victims have been gratified in the least by anything done thus far; and

2. When you note that several papacies have been duped, many prelates, etc.. and that there is no parallel to this in the history of the Church, aren't you're saying the audacity of MM combined with the "egg on the face" by the Vatican warrants special consideration? Doesn't the cleverness of Jack the Ripper warrant a firmer response (rather than kid gloves) regardless of the fact that he outsmarted Scotland Yard? I find your pussyfooting around indicates that the Church often has as much pride as MM.

A Close Observer says:

"I give them the benefit of the doubt, they seem to me a bit more like deer in the headlights, and you sometimes hit the gas peddle rather than the brakes."

Does a deer in the headlights write a letter to his leaders and formators in March of 2008 that says "On the one hand, this year’s Easter is tinged with special sorrow, being our first one without Nuestro Padre’s physical presence—but it also is one of deep joy and hope knowing that he accompanies us much more closely from heaven" and "I am certain that you understand your mission of being light, formators and cofounders, and that being team leaders is not something sporadic or circumstantial in your lives, even more so after the example Nuestro Padre left us." We were told that deer (Fr. Alvaro) was uncovering the double life of Fr M since 2006 and even went to the Vatican with the info. Would the Vatican tell him to continue to cover up this deep by telling us Fr M is in heaven? (I don't think that is even good Catholic teaching to say that about anyone except a declared saint). Would the Vatican tell Fr. Bannon to tell those in a fundraising call in March 2009 that the Legion is "quietly getting in touch with the victims" and than not follow thru with what he said as reported by those in contact with the abuse victims? Would the Vatican tell the Legion to pay for Norma Hilda's apartment and life for all these years out of donor's contributions?

I am in for 100% truth and charity in this too and I agree that more patience is required by many of us and some of these blogs get a little crazy - but so far the Legion is not passing the truth test for me. I am not saying that anyone is blatantly lying because I cannot judge that - only God and the person themselves can say whether they are lying or not. I am saying that Fr M led a life of deciet for 60+ years and common sense says that it had to seep into the methodology and into the actions and formation and response of all LC/RC even remotely close to him. I even did not want to tell the truth about my struggles to my RC friends in the first months this news came out because I thought holding it in was living charity and I did not want to be scandalous and I found out I was being dishonest with myself and God when I hid the way I felt. Once I openly accepted and charitably shared my struggles, I felt peace. What I have seen since this information has come out in Feb 2009 is a tendancy to cover-up, spin, be majorly defensive, only provide minimal information and promote a sense of business as usual and serenity as mentioned in the talking points that came out in Feb. These were all learned and many dysfunctional behaviors that we all should now realize were wrong in Fr M.

I also have to say that if the Legion is following step by step the Vatican plan – we need to question those in the Vatican too including Cardinal Rode. He should come out and say that he was wrong promoting Fr M last year especially if he had any inkling about his double life (maybe he did not?). If anyone had proof and knowledge that he just fathered one child (and now it looks like he fathered at least 6! and counting!) and lied all these years - promoting him as a saintly founder and example is just another lie and there is no excuse for it. The Pope stopped promoting him in 2006 and said not a word at his death. When is the hierarchy of the Church going to learn that covering anything up is not the Lord's way and makes everything worse...surely the Boston scandal should have taught all of us that. And why would the Vatican not allow an institution to publicly and formally apologize to those who have publicly been slandered and lives ruined by a man that should have been stopped many times? Fr A had years to prepare his first communication to all – why didn’t it include a public apology to the sexual abuse victims. Does the LC still think they are liars (as the LC has said in communications) after the King of Lies is now coming to light? Is there a fear of lawsuits by admitting that Fr. M. sexually abused seminarians? Is that imitating Christ?

We all gave Fr M the "benefit of the doubt" for years even after the 2006 communique when we should have shifted the "benefit of the doubt" to the victims. If we would have only given 10% of the "benefit of the doubt" to the abuse victims who yelled for years or even 10% of the "benefit of the doubt" to all those on these blogs who have tried hard to yell to the Legion and the Church for years that there is something not right about Fr M and some of his methodology - maybe we would be making progress. I do hear some of these bloggers "waging a holy war" that to me sometimes seems out of control and too much and than I stop and think that some of them were sued to shut down their blogging and turn over the constitutions in Aug 2007 when Fr A may have already known about some of Fr Ms double life. Why did Fr A approve a lawsuit at that time if he knew that the bloggers were onto something? Maybe the LC should call a truce to this holy war and humble themselves and sit down and talk with these bloggers who have dealt with many hurt souls and find out what the bad methodology was that was inherited by Maciel and hurt so many. Isn't that charity and a good way to do reform? Shouldn't the LC/RC do a self analysis as Fr. Berg has said and ask questions of those who have been hurt instead of just constantly defending their own position - especially after we all missed a life of deceit right under our noses?

What would Jesus do? I want to hit the breaks instead of the gas peddle, but the LC has not given much to work with (and neither has Cardinal Rode). I have to say that those who have hit the gas peddle are maybe part of the reason that some of this truth has finally come out to begin with. I think Jesus wants truth with charity as Pope Benedict so eloquently wrote about in the beginning of his new encyclical and all of us (Legion hierarchy, LC/RC, ex-LC/RC, victims, Vatican, Catholic Observers) need to examine ourselves to make sure that is what we are promoting. If we operate in truth – God will take care of the rest.

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This page contains a single entry by Pete Vere published on August 30, 2009 7:12 AM.

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