St. Benedict: the antidote to Maciel

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It's been quite the week for Catholics concerned with the scandal surrounding Fr. Maciel and the Legion of Christ. Lots of new revelations, accusations and resurgence of strong memories and feelings. As the week comes to a close, my fellow blog hobbits - us little people who believe in building up God's Kingdom through $20 donations to Mother Teresa's Missionaries, rather than $1000-hams to Mexico's Saruman - are trying to make sense of this spiritual shadow that has cast itself over our Catholic shire.

Here's a summary of how each hobbit is responding to different aspects of this scandal, followed by my own analysis on certain points. RC Is Not My Life has two posts. The first talks about her experience as former RC consecrated and how the women are given little support during the transition period after they leave the movement (click here). Her second post discusses how the Legion obsesses with the numbers of people coming into the movement, but nobody seems to know how many leave.

Meanwhile, Hobbit Giselle at Life-After-RC discusses how the Legion severs family ties when people enter the movement's apostolates, as you can read here. Which leads to internal struggles when those still active with the movement begin to question their involvement, as Giselle discusses here.

Over in his part of the shire, ExLC posts the personal reaction of a former Legionary priest, who says: "I feel duped, embarrassed, and angry in front of so many lies. I think, without wishing to make false accusations, that this priest did not work alone, that there were Legionaries who knew what went on with Maciel and kept silent, maybe out of fear or maybe just to cover it all up." His feelings are not unlike those expressed by LC and RC still on the inside with who I am in contact.

ExLC also posts the testimony of a former LC seminarian named Frank, who left after speaking with a Jesuit while on summer break. Here's the crux of Frank's story:

While I was home, I contacted a Jesuit priest for help with my internal conflict. "I want to be generous, and give everything to God, but I just don't feel right about it," I told him. "Is that selfish? If God calls me to do something I hate, then shouldn't I just follow His holy will?"

The good Jesuit responded: "Frank, one of the bedrock principals of discernment from St. Ignatius is that one should never make a serious life decision without a sense of true peace, be it marriage, religious life, job change, etc. If you don't feel at peace with the decision to join the Legion, that's a clear sign not to proceed."

Which brings me to my own thoughts as we wrap up the week. Several commentators continue to draw parallels between the Legion and the Jesuits, in some cases suggesting that Rome hand over the Legion to the Jesuits, and in others suggesting that the Legion's charism is connected to that of St. Ignatius. Says goodguyex in the comments' box over at CrunchyCon: "[T]he spirituality of the Legion is Ignatian. Perhaps the Legion can "adopt" St Ignatius Loyola as it spiritual Step-Founder."

I disagree.

One must not be fooled by appearances. Although the two orders resemble each other on the surface, they could not be more different on the inside. The contrast is as different as the life of each founder. The first concerns each order's understanding of religious obedience. Jesuit seminarian Nathan O'Halloran, a graduate of Steubeville who initially considered the Legion, explains this difference in understanding here.

Secondly, as alluded to by Frank, Ignatian spirituality focuses heavily on the proper discernment of spirits, how to distinguish God's call from the devil's temptation. Along that lines, if one believes that the Legion's leadership knew nothing of their founder's "double life," leadership whereas the Legion's entire leadership, if we believe them, failed to discern some serious irregularities in their founder's behavior. This is not to say the majority of Legionaries are bad people for being taken in, only that it shows a certain lack of discernment.

Moreover, self-criticism and examination of conscience are a major part of Ignatian spirituality. Yet one of Fr. Thomas Berg's most pointed criticisms upon leaving the Legion is that the order seemed incapable of self-criticism. "That inability to see and honestly recognize the flaws and errors that so many people outside the Legion are able to see speaks volumes," he said. I agree. It says that the Legion and Regnum Christi were far too focused on the external trappings of apostolate, the numbers and the high-profile converts, and that something serious was lacking in the movement's internal spirituality - both collectively as an order, and individually as priests and brothers.

Which is why I believe the best hope for individual Legionaries right now is not the Jesuits. Certainly they have a lot to contribute to the healing process, but I question whether Legionaries are ready to embrace it. For the Legion and the the Jesuits share many of the external trappings of apostolate and obedience, but without the same internal understanding of these concepts. This creates the potential for confusion and brings with it a host of other temptations.

Rather, I think the big hope for individual Legionaries right now is the sons of St. Benedict. Individual Legionaries need to learn to pray again. They need to "retreat" from high-profile apostolate, and rekindle their interior life and their personal relationship with Christ as they work through the consequences of this scandal. A good dose of Benedictine "Ora et Labora" - that is, large doses of daily prayer coupled with simple work and apostolate - provides medicine for the soul.

So my suggestion to individual Legionaries who find themselves falling apart right now - whether it be physically, emotionally, mentally or spiritually - is to visit your nearest Benedictine monastery.

1 Comment

Well how can one discern from matter one cannot observe? If the founder was not visible 24/7 to 90% or more of LCs except through writings and conferences, and only a handful had a hold of his personal interactions, then how can this judgment be made of the members of the order wholesale. Does the Church have the gift of discernment? Legionaries and founder have been there in Rome for years,curial prelates have moved in and around their centers, and they approved the LC Constitutions, etc... Discernment applies to what you can see. Many here beat up the LCs as if robots, is the Church a puppet to MM too? They approved it all and the members of LC listened to the Church too and made that part of their discernment. No, honest deception does not of itself characterize necessarily the one deceived... I do not think you can go that far with that comment

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This page contains a single entry by Pete Vere published on August 28, 2009 12:07 PM.

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