Every Legion critic is Hans Kung for 15 minutes


I think it was my Tyranny of Nice co-author Kathy Shaidle who once quipped, after being denounced as a Nazi for expressing conservative during an on-line debate, that "In the future everyone will spend 15 minutes as Adolph Hitler." I was never much into Andy Warhol; but could appreciate the reference.

It's not just the left that's given to such hyperbole governed by Godwin's Law (Whoever cries Nazi first, forfeits the debate). In sifting through push-back from Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi supporters this long weekend, I'm seeing a resurgence of the only enemies of Catholic orthodoxy/ the pope/ John Paul II attack the Legion meme. I'm convinced that every Legion critic will now endure 15 minutes as Hans Kung.

For example, over on the America magazine blog, reader John Stangle savages Austen Ivereigh for commenting on the letter sent out by American RC directors:

Has any "proof" been offered or seen that Fr. Maciel actually fathered one or more children? Or, as you state above, "sexually abused" anyone? A letter by a Mexican attorney to sue is nothing.

Confirmation that Fr. Maciel fathered a child is contained in the letter published by Fathers Scott Reilly and Julio Martí on the Regnum Christi website. As far as I know, neither of these Legion priests is a Mexican attorney.

I've been quite taken aback by the seeming vengence and even gleeful reporting over the accusations towards Fr. Maciel -and over his "purging" on this America blog at various times. What dastardly deeds did the Legionaries do? Surely that the Legionaries had support of John Paul II can't be in itself a reason - or can it?

I haven't conducted any scientific surveys or consulted any expert in media psychology, but I believe the controversy has more to do with the Legion sheltering a pedophile for decades while presenting him to the world as a living saint. That and not apologizing to victims once the founder's sexual proclivities became known.

Over on the No Apology, No Charism thread, Mouse reports coming across a similar appeal to JPII phenomena:

My RC friends are all claiming that there MUST be a charism in their some place, because the pope approved it... but to me this seems more like a case of a marriage where one of the spouses lied about who they were, their intentions, and their ability to be married in the Church....

I agree. That being said, I cannot comment on what your RC friends are saying, but I have a number of devoutly Catholic friends from Poland, who fled the communist persecution. All of them are furious with Maciel and the Legion for dragging their beloved pope into this mess. Having lived behind the Iron Curtain, they can understand how Pope John Paul II was sucked in Maciel. They are devout Catholics who suffered for their faith, and without exception they tell me that part of the persecution included communists destroying the reputations of good priest by spreading false rumors of pedophilia. Nevertheless, they also assure me Pope John Paul II never would have tolerated a known fraud or pedophile. I believe them. They're orthodox Catholics and they resent how the Legion continues to cite Pope John Paul II in its defense, sacrificing his reputation to defend the acts of a pedophile.

And on the 'I wasted the best years of my life on a fraud' thread, reader Enda Mc chimes in with her testimony insinuating that critics of the LC/RC are enemies of Catholic orthodoxy. Here's some excerpts:

I am a Catholic who was well trained in debate and the techniques of argument and who has benefited from the great example of devout and loving parents...

Then please address the arguments put forward by your movement's critics, rather than spread suspicion about the motives of those making the critique.

I looked deeper into the question deciding to judge by the fruits. One one side there were some who felt slighted and personally hurt along with a few bodies who had their own agenda. Some examples of this were a campaign to allow priest to marry and for the promotion of contraception among catholics (incidently lead by an Irishman).

The Legion's critics now include Archbishop O'Brien and Cardinal George Pell. I don't believe either senior churchman has called for the ordination of married men or promoted contraception.

On the other side I met a group of people who were as close to Christ as I have ever seen or met. There were a few who displayed what seemed to be an unhealthy worship of the founder. I decided (due to this analysis, to prayer and to what I recognized as God's hand in my life), to become a member.

If a movement is incapable of apologizing sincerely to victims of the founder's violations of the Sixth Commandment, or for having attacked the good name of these victims when they came forward with the truth about the founder, then I believe it is more than simply a few who demonstrate an unhealthy worship of the founder.

Do not forget the first Pope lied about Christ, denied Christ and abandoned Christ. Do all those who wish to crush the whole of Regnum Christi want to do the same to the one Holy Catholic and apostolic Church next because of the failings of men?

So we're back to our 15 minutes as Hans Kung. How soon we forget that the Legion is not the Church, does not possess Christ's promise of indefectability given to St. Peter and the Church, and that we have a clear record from Holy Scripture of St Peter repenting - at the moment he received His commission from Christ.

And while we're at it, I might as well address the Medieval-popes-were-more-corrupt-than-Maciel canard. Yes, it's true that popes in the Middle Ages were held to a different moral standard by their peers, and they didn't have to contend with angry bloggers or Jason Berry. However, if we're gonna wax Medieval, peasants also had several means to deal with corrupt churchmen that would not go over in contemporary society. They usually involved bonfires and pitchforks. In short, there would be no debate over the Legion's charism had Maciel been a child of the Middle Ages. Every one of his priests (with the exception of Fr. Berg) would either be suffering the passion of Jan Hus right now or hiding in a Benedictine monastery. This is how peasants in the Middle Ages dealt with sorcerers, which they considered clergy who misused their office to seduce young men and women.

But back to 2009. So long as the movement pretends that its critics are Hans Kung for 15 minutes rather than admit the founder was a fraud, I don't see the Legion surviving.


The comparison to the Catholic Church thing really scares me. I keep wondering how deep that thinking is and how unhealthy and theologically off it is. I have heard it several times. It is actually so prideful to think that the LC/RC is compared to Holy Mother Church herself. I literally thought in my years in RC that our movement had the most potential to save the Church and society and to bring Christ to the world and now I see clearer that the HS calls and moves differently and each movement/institution serves its time and purpose only as the HS calls. Humility now is the key.

Pete, like the blog but please please.
I am sorry but I cannot get over the obsession that still pervades to characterize every manipulative tactic and evil of Fr. Maciel to Legionaries of Christ. Oh yes, I know the distinction Legion of Christ vs. Legionaries of Christ. That surely we do not intend this for all LCs, yet how some gleefully unleash volumes of anger on that title in the end knowing its the same thing. Yet evidence is pointing to the Holy See not acting in the 50's, in the 70's and in the 90's, the only ones who had authority over Maciel. The "Legion of Christ" were the subjects of this man, and if he fooled Popes, Cardinals and others outside the Legion, how to you hold the Legion so unrelentlessly accountable for everytime MM sneezed? and only them. In the end I do not feel any release of frustration with the blame game being played here, rather the effort to understand and remedy is reasonable manner.

And please let's not overdo the apology thing- OK up to a point. How much responsibility do you feel for when your sons do harm to others, if you are like me a lot. BUT how often do feel responsibility and the urge to apologize when your father commits a crime, how many people come to you asking you why could you not fix this?
You need to make restitution. Well I just do not have the same sensitivity to an apology for my fathers misdeeds where he has been the cause of the evil, I feel he should have known better and I would feel almost as angry as the one he offended. How much more so would the LCs feel lost in the type of sensitivity you keep wishing them to show to a superlative degree. Please get real... No problem with seeking it but let's not overdo.

And even if I way off on that point, with the control structure of that small circle (Alvaro et al) how can you deduce a charism or no charism on the basis of what 3 or 4 men are doing. From what I have read the rank and file have never really ever been permitted to way in. I hope the Visitation will help that.

To the second anonymous -

There is so much to respond to, but I will limit my response to your reference to an apology. I will be charitable and assume you are unaware of the history behind the demand for an apology, and why an apology is owed.

Father Maciel was accused of sexually abusing young men who were in his care in the seminary. There were young teens at the time in question. The story of their abuse appeared in the Hartford Courant in 1997. Based on Maciel's apparent holiness, as evidenced by the work of the Legion and RC (all the good "fruits") the Legion apparently believed him to be innocent, believed his denials, and launched a vigorous defense of Father Maciel. The accusers were branded as liars.

Imagine summoning the courage to go public with an account of your own sexual abuse, and then being disbelieved.

Of course the Legion is not responsible for the actual abuse. No one is expecting that. However, they are accountable to remedy the damage they did to the good names of these men who were called liars.

I will use your example. Let's say your father is accused of dumping toxic waste from his factory, and causing illness. He denies it, says he is an avid environmentalist. You believe your dad. You tell everyone you know that will possibly listen that his accuser lied. You smear the victim's name - they are just trying to get money, they hated your dad, their jealous of your dad, etc.

10 years later, after your dad has died, new evidence surfaces that you dad was in fact dumping toxic waste at another one of his factories. All of it sudden, it appears that maybe your dad really was capable of dumping toxic waste. Do you feel you owe an apology to the original accusers, for calling them liars, and questioning their motives in bringing the accusation?

Does this help?


I don't think Pete has stressed the apology thing enough. There are soooo many more apologies that need to be made and most of them have nothing directly to do with Fr. Maciel. The LC priests that you refer to as innocent are NOT innocent. They have left MANY victims in their wake. They have destroyed friendships, families & innocent reputations. They have exploited the sincere efforts of those under their care to grow in holiness & humility and used their weaknesses (pride & vanity) against them. They have flattered them to the point that they are living pharisees. They have psychologically manipulated them to the point that they are emotionally attached to them and cannot imagine life without them. They have worked in a programmed and systematic way to do this. They can live without Maciel but they cannot live without their LC priest. This angers me the most because these people came to them in good conscience. Oh yeah, and all this was "for the sake of the movement."

So, yes, I do not believe the LC have even come close to acknowledging their sins and apologizing. Thank you, Pete, for your diligence in this!

Dear anonymous friends, in order to avoid confusion, would you each please adopt a "handle"?

Anon wrote: And please let's not overdo the apology thing- OK up to a point. How much responsibility do you feel for when your sons do harm to others, if you are like me a lot. BUT how often do feel responsibility and the urge to apologize when your father commits a crime, how many people come to you asking you why could you not fix this?
You need to make restitution. Well I just do not have the same sensitivity to an apology for my fathers misdeeds where he has been the cause of the evil, I feel he should have known better and I would feel almost as angry as the one he offended. How much more so would the LCs feel lost in the type of sensitivity you keep wishing them to show to a superlative degree. Please get real... No problem with seeking it but let's not overdo.

Your comparison doesn't fit. The 'children' in this case spent decades defending the Father and trashing the reputations of the accusers. And they still haven't made a clear, specific apology. I was in RC, I know how this was spun from Fr. Scott Reilly all the way down to the section leaders. I don't know what your experience was, but to say I am disgusted with your notion of an overdone apology is an understatement.

To Anon-who-doesn't-think-apology-is-important:

Let's get this straight: the apology I expect from the Legion is for their complicity in detracting and calumnizing the sexual abuse victims of Maciel. They did their best to ruin their good names, calling them liars and enemies of the church. They tried to wreck their credibility at every opportunity. And sure, perhaps it was the Legionaries at the top who initiated the calumny, but NOT ONE LEGIONARY that I know of tried to say anything in public regarding these acts of calumny against the victims being uncharitable. Not one. No LC tried to correct this terrible deed, and for all I know, not one LC recognized it as terrible.

Moreover, I expect them to apologize for not doing their best to protect all the innocent victims from their founder. Rather than investigating him based on the victims' allegations (and if they had investigated, perhaps the LCs would have noticed dear ole NP had a strange habit of disappearing for weeks at a time with large sums of cash), they soundly denied any possibility of their founders misdeeds and compared him to Jesus Christ. Thus more people were possibly victimized by Maciel AND the original victims were denied justice.

Furthermore, I expect an apology from the Legion for the deceit: They continued to have our children venerate this man as a saint long after they knew about the mistress/child. Moreover, do you not think that perhaps the discovery of a mistress/child by their beloved man they thought was a saint might make them consider that he had a problem with sexual continence and that perhaps the earlier allegations had some teeth? But no, they continued to cover up and insist the boys in the apostolic schools read only Maciel and the Bible for their spiritual growth. I expect an apology for this deceit.

The Legion is not responsible for Maciel's personal sins. But they ARE responsible for participating in them when they hopped right on the calumny bandwagon with their father founder and they ARE responsible for ignoring clear signs that their founder might be less than saintly (as in, those pesky disappearances for weeks at a time, and the fact he himself did not live according to the constitutions or norms). They also had a duty to try to get to the truth of the matter. The truth WAS out there---those six children weren't exactly hidden in a jungle in South Africa---but apparently nobody was interested in searching very far for fear of what they might find. And that's the charitable take on it----it's quite possible those at the top knew about Maciel's debauchery and deviance right from the get-go, back in the 40s and 50s. And covered for him. And lied. And attacked those who had been victimized and sought to reveal the truth.

THOSE are the apologies I expect. If the Legion had ANY integrity, not only would they apologize, they would get down on their knees and THANK the victims who have been trying to sound the alarm for decades. If the Legion were truly interested in truth, they would be grateful to those who have been trying to expose it all these years.

The entire outfit is guilty by association - much like I as a German citizen am still considered guilty by association for the atrocities committed by Hitler over 60 years ago even though I wasn't even born then.

The group has to accept that tremendous humiliation, make apologies, do penance, make restitution in a humble disposition before God, the victims and yes, the entire Catholic Church!

There is little to no humility in their conduct. If there was they would do the right thing, and in doing the right thing the founder would be out of the picture.

As it is now they are only perpetuating the cult of deceit, secrecy and lies even if none of them has ever peronally committed any of those same evils Maciel did.

And what, I ask you, is one to do when confronted with such unspeakable evil? One can either detach themselves resolutely from it or deny it actually exists. It is clear which route this outfit chooses to go. Public humiliations, apologies, penance and restitution would go a long way to curing the cult of deceit, secrecy and lies.

Mercy, Mum26

And while we are on the subject of apologies, let's not forget specific apologies to those notable Catholics whose good names were used in order to perpetuate the lies and deceit. That would include, at a minimum, George Weigel and Mary Ann Glendon. While Fr. Neuhaus (may he rest in peace) no longer requires an apology, the restoration of his good name is required. Oh yeah - same with the good name of JPII.

I'm still dumbfounded when I recall how Fr. Scott Reilly LC had the gall to stand up in front of my RC section last Feb. and call Weigel "irrsponsible" for having written a critical piece on the LC. He also accused Weigel of "playing pope" for the very intelligent recommendations Weigel made. This from one of the superiors of the very organization who used Weigel so shamelessly.

Such hubris and ineptitude is unbecoming even for the LC.

Dear Ginger,

I believe that former LC priest Fr. Thomas Berg was the only priest in LC to make a statement of public apology.

You can read his entry dated Feb. 6th on the website of the Westchester Institute here

I just want to give him the kudos he deserves!

OOPS! My bad........I meant AT THE TIME, when the victims were first being trashed by Maciel&Co (1990s). I mean that not one Legionary priest spoke out and said that seemed like perhaps an unchristian thing to do back in the 1990s when the victims came out to the press, and the Legion called them liars and enemies of the Church.

I am fully aware of apologies that have been made by several Legionaries since the news broke in February, and I commend this small number of priests who have done so.

But back in the 1990s, not a single one seemed to think it was a bad idea---or at least did not voice anything to that effect---and thus they were participants in Maciel's calumny.

Sorry for the confusion! It was so clear in my mind what I was trying to say that I didn't stop to re-read to make sure it was clear to anybody NOT inside my mind. LOL!

Fr. Richard Gill also apologized on Am Papist early on. So did Tom Hoopes and I think one of the former Legion communications directors (can't remember name)

Statement from Director of Regnum Christi in New York {AmP exclusive}
From Fr. Richard Gill, Director of Regnum Christi in New York and of Our Lady of Mt. Kisco Retreat Center.

I’ve been a Legionary priest since 1991 and I have always loved my Congregation and my priestly vocation and I only hope Our Lord has used it as an effective means of grace for many people to find their way to a deeper relationship with Christ.

I thought I knew Fr. Maciel. I do believe he did many good things for many people. I have benefitted greatly from the formation and life I have lived as a Legionary for twenty-eight years. I defended Fr. Maciel because to the extent I thought I knew him, I sincerely believed the allegations against him were baseless.

Yet, in light of what has been coming out about him, I must say I am terribly sorry to have defended him. I believe I acted in good faith, yet nonetheless did an injustice to the victims.

I am deeply sorry to the people who have suffered from these inexcusable and reprehensible actions of Fr. Maciel. No person should have to suffer abuse at the hands of a priest in whom they have put their trust. And his actions have damaged the holiness of the Church and contributed to the alienation many people feel due to similar scandals in the Church.

I offer my prayers and sacrifices for anyone who was victimized, so they may continue to heal and discover the love of Jesus Christ.

I am confident that our superiors are working closely with the appropriate dicasteries of the Holy See to chart the best course forward for the Legion of Christ so it can be of better service to the Church and the Holy Father.

Fr. Richard Gill, LC
Our Lady of Mount Kisco Retreat Center
773 Armonk Road
Mt. Kisco, NY 10549

Posted with permission of the author.

Thomas N. Peters, JD, JCD, over at "In Light of the Law," a blog devoted to the discussion of the finer points of Canon Law, has made the argument that Sen. Edward Kennedy's deathbed gestures toward the Church--including his being in constant contact with his Catholic pastor and his writing a letter to Pope Benedict, whose content was made public after the Senator's death--constitute at a minimum signs that he reached out to make some effort to rectify his past anti-Catholic stances in public. In Mr. Peters' opinion, these are good enough signs, and public enough, to have warranted a Catholic funeral.

I think a similar argument here is being made by Pete regarding the relationship between a direct apology to Maciel's victims by the Legionaries of Christ and whether we are to understand that there is a real charism involved with their movement. The lack of any official apology--one that is direct and specific--might be understood as negative evidence regarding a real charism.

That was clumsily put. But an apology might be understood to be inspired by a real charism. The continued vagueness and differing degrees of defensiveness and deflection seem to indicate an organization that is not founded on solid ground. Face it--the Legionaries and the Regnum Christi are literally all over the map in their response to this crisis. And such haphazardness, to me, does not bode well in the defense of an authentic charism.

In reflecting upon the scandals that have been rocking the Church in the past decade, Benedict mentioned directly the "filth in the Church" and pointed expressly at the clergy in their failure to fully live their offices.

Where is the similar simple and direct utterance by the Legionaries regarding the filth in their own Congregation--including that of the Founder?


It was Jay Dunlap, the former spokesman for the LC, who also apologized.

A small correction: the canon law blog gregorbo mentioned above is by Ed Peters. I believe he's the father of Thomas Peters, author of the "American Papist" blog.

Dear Father Gill,

Thank you for speaking out for the victims of Maciel. It is a relief for many of us to hear Legionary priests acknowledging the suffering of these original victims, who were much further victimized by Maciel and the Legion when called liars and "enemies of the Church".

I must say, though, that I find it disturbing to hear Legionary priests constantly reiterating how much good they think Maciel did. Sure, he might have done some good things (nobody is TOTAL evil, after all). So did the BTK killer, who was very active in his Church. Yet nobody reminisces about those good things or publicly thanks BTK for it. Simply put, now that we know BTK was killing and torturing people throughout the time he was doing good things for his Church, all of that "good" is now looked at in a completely different light. And any "good" things he did are COMPLETELY demolished by the acts of evil he perpetrated. I'd venture to say that the sexual molestation of even ONE CHILD completely outweighs any and all good Maciel did during his lifetime, especially considering that Maciel went to his death publicly unrepentant and never attempted to make any kind of reparation for his sins. I can only imagine how ill it would make me to hear priests thanking Maciel for the good he had done if Maciel had sexually molested one of my children. It's just plain wrong to keep publicly thanking and acknowledging the good somebody had done when that person is a publicly known abuser of the worst kind. It's scandalous and makes our Church look very bad when priests go around publicly praising the works of a child molester (especially one who lied about it, covered it up, and went to his grave without trying to make reparation for his crimes and sins). I'm sorry, but as a mother it outrages me to hear this kind of talk. I'd be equally outraged to hear a known lifelong unrepentant rapist praised for all the "good" things he had done in his life. It's just plain wrong.

Again, I want to thank you for your publicly expressed sorrow for your part in the public calumny of the victims of Maciel. It's meaningful. But I have to say that all this talk about all the good this liar and sexual predator did during his life is sickening to mothers like myself. Once we know that somebody has perpetrated so much evil on so may innocent people during his life (AND went to his grave without trying to make anything right), it's plain inappropriate to keep thanking him for all the "good" he did. And it concerns me to see so many LC priests stuck in this mode; it's one of the reasons I have concern for the malformation inherent in the organization created by this deceitful predator.

The good you received---your beautiful vocation and your love for the priesthood---came from the Holy Spirit DESPITE Maciel's evil. It's time to start thanking the Holy Spirit and STOP thanking the evil man through whose order the Holy Spirit chose to bless you. Praise be to GOD, not to the child molesting fraud who started the order.

I'm sorry if this came across as harsh. But as a mother, I needed to try to get across to you how offensive this kind of talk is.

God bless and keep you during what must be a very difficult time for you.

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This page contains a single entry by Pete Vere published on September 7, 2009 1:30 PM.

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