Fr. Owen Kearns apologizes


Here is a snippet from the National Catholic Register:

I regret that in my defense of Father Maciel I took to task Gerald Renner and Jason Berry, the writers who broke the story, and their editors at the Hartford Courant. They didn't get everything about the Legion right but they were fundamentally correct about Father Maciel's sexual abuse and I ask forgiveness -- too late for Gerald Renner, who is deceased.

To Father Maciel's victims, I pray you can accept these words: I'm sorry for what our founder did to you. I'm sorry for adding to your burden with my own defense of him and my accusations against you. I'm sorry for being unable to believe you earlier. I'm sorry this apology has taken so long.

Click here to read the whole apology.


I would love to know if Fr Kearns is fair dinkum in his apology. He might be. He might not be. We have progressed so far to the end game that there really is no longer any way it is possible to be sure.

If he was only a day late and a buck short, that wouldn't be quite so bad. But the Legionaries of Christ are several decades late and 23 Billion Euros short.

There are many good men and women in LC/RC, and they deserve better than the psychological chains that tie them to an organisation that was founded to do great evil while looking like it was saving the Church and the world. The LC/RC should be suppressed so that the good people involved can re-start serving Christ properly.

In many ways, this is a welcome apology, especially at the end where Fr Kearns states: "I'm sorry for adding to your burden with my own defense of him and my accusations against you. I'm sorry for being unable to believe you earlier. I'm sorry this apology has taken so long."
Note that he doesn't apologize for people feeling hurt, but for his role in adding to the hurt. He uses first-person, active voice ("I'm sorry . . ."), not third-person, passive voice ("to those who may have been hurt by our founders actions . . .").
It's a refreshing break from the mealy-mouthed, like pulling-teeth apologies the LC leadership, principally Fr Corcuera, has given.

But . . . and you knew there was a but, aside from being so late, the apology is still too focused on apologizing for Maciel. When will the LC understand that the fury with LC is not so much with Maciel, but with their pathetic reaction to this whole sordid series of events?

Consider this sentence: "Even when the Vatican invited Father Maciel in 2006 to a retired life of prayer and penance, and it was obvious to many that he was considered guilty, the absence of a public explanation for the move allowed me to hope against hope that he was innocent."

Who is primarily responsible for the "absence of a public explanation?" The LC leadership, that's who. And not only did they did fail to explain the horrible situation, they actually spun it to say that Maciel would, like Christ, carry "a new cross that God, the Father of Mercy, has allowed him to suffer." I am exasperated that priests like Fr Kearns who express thier continued shock at Maciel's actions ("Nothing in my experience of our founder prepared me to believe his victims. . ." "All of these revelations have been extraordinarily difficult for me to comprehend, let alone assimilate.") cannot come to the startling obvious conclusion that the LC leadership witheld the truth of Maciel's depravity from the public and its own LC priests and RC members at least since 2006 (and almost assuredly much earlier) when the Vatican canonically sanctioned Maciel. Is Fr Kearns the least bit concerned with examining why he was so schocked at Maciel's sinful lifestyle? Isn't it obvious that it is due to the fact that, in addition to Maciel being a master liar and manipulator, the LC leadership actively chose to withold the truth from their own members?

Here's a second troubling sentence: "The conclusive evidence that he had done things incompatible with religious and priestly life made me rethink everything."
No, clearly Fr Kearnns and nearly every LC priest in a leadersihp position has given all appearance that they have not rethought everything or even anything. While there is the appearnce they have rethought Fr Maciel, and only because they have been forced to, their far-too-confident claim of a valid charism puts even that in doubt. But clearly,what they have not rethought at all is the competency of their leadership, nor their own methodology, formation, schools, seminaries, recruitment, apostalates, fund-raising, financial accountability, etc, etc. Far too many LC priests and RC members believe there is nothing really wrong at all with their order or lay arm (RC and 3gf), and thus there is no need to rethink anything.

Every action the LC has taken indicates that they are first and foremost concerned with their survival. The essence of LC and RC is a group that is motivated far too much by fear (fear of losing one's vocation, fear of the internet and outside information, fear of non-LC friends and family members, fear of contrary opinions, fear of non-LC priests and bishops, etc.). What the LC and RC is clearly not motivated by is truth. Until that changes, there is no hope for lasting reform and renewal, and all apologies will fall short.

I'm with you Pete. I am cautiously optimistic. I believe our prayers are being answered as day by day, news emerges of LCs who have left the Legion (Bonum's brother) or have come to terms with the truth in a way that witnesses to other LCs and RCs (Kearns).


He says, "I'm sorry." He doesn't say "Please forgive me." In asking for forgiveness, he would actually participate in the empowering of the victims of Kearns (forget about Maciel--it is literally too late for that).

I have been following this situation for quite some time on various blogs and it seems to me that we are missing out on a very important fact.

From what the top Legionary personnel are saying when they apologize, we are to believe that Maciel was capable, all by himself, without one other person having any knowledge or complicity, of amassing a fortune of $30 billion.

Now we all need to sit up and take notice of these facts. If Maciel was capable of doing this, we need to look carefully at his methods and try to learn something! Good heavens, who else in history has been capable of doing this? This is an amazing feat--$30 billion with no help from anyone and he kept it a secret from his closest collaborators. I am impressed.

I'm with Pete. Father Kearns' apology is a good start, and now it would behoove him to offer restitution to the victims.

I disagree with your suggestion that Father Kearns should have asked forgiveness here, and that in doing so now he would have participated in the empowerment of the victims. Some victims might have welcomed that request, whereas others would need the opportunity to first process the apology (and then the offer of restitution, or lack thereof). Ideally, Father Kearns has entered into a multi-stage dialogue. If so, there will come a point at which he can ask forgiveness with confidence that it has already been extended.

While it may surprise those coming from a lay Catholic viewpoint, there is a good reason for holding off on asking for forgiveness from victims. Father Kearns and the victims aren't on equal footing; there is a power differential to be acknowledged. Survivors of abuse may have been traumatized, and it may be difficult for them to immediately consent to a forgiveness request. (We especially need to bear this principle in mind where part of the abuse has involved manipulation of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and such manipulation was part of MM's pattern.)

If Father Kearns has had access to professional consultation, and I hope he has, he may well have been advised to first apologize and offer restitution. (He shouldn't be delaying with the latter.) The victims (themselves or with third-party advocates) can indicate how adequate they find his outreach, and they should have the opportunity to suggest necessary modifications. As we can see from the comments at the Register, Aaron Loughrey for one isn't yet satisfied. He is asking Father Kearns to meet face to face with victims of abuse and detraction, and to be far more specific in the apology. "NAME ALL of your sins. Make a firm RESOLVE to not repeat them. Make AMMENDS (sic). After this comes forgiveness."

Pete, I agree with you that those still inside need our prayers. As well as all the victims of l/r. This is a simple and basic act of Christian charity. It almost seems like the fight is over for justice b/c you call so often for prayer. Again, warranted but not with the same emphasis since people are STILL suffering as a result of current actions of the l/r. The very existence of blogs will tell you hundreds if not thousands of people have been hurt and scandalized by these priests. Let's set aside for amount the sexual abuse victims. What about the innocent Catholics who gave millions to these men who called themselves priests? What about the ex members who were slandard publicy? What about the children who were ripped from their families under the guise of vocations which are now questionable? What about the men and women who are still emotionally scarred from their sick and twisted methods to control? What about the men, women, and children who have lost their faith in the Catholic church and more importantly their faith in God? This battle is not only about sexual abuse victims (btw, I am a childhood survivor of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse). One halfway decent and questionable apology is not a GOOD START at all after 40+ years of abuse of decent human beings. I am sorry for all and I pray that Pope Benedict rids the Catholic church of this evil sooner than later.

Ms. Sheepcat--with all due respect, I think you've got the forgiveness thing wrong. He should ask for forgiveness regardless of whether some calculation on his part indicates any readiness on the victims' part (and I mean his vicitms, the ones he calumnied by calling them liars).

This is how the empowerment of forgiveness works: once he's asked for it, sincerely, HE must wait--until the victim is ready to forgive. And for all he knows, he'll wait forever--because he has no power anymore.

To argue that he wait to ask for forgiveness until he's decided the victims are ready to grant such a gift is, well, ludicrous. It means that Kearns retains the timetable, in a sense.

And, besides, he's done all this in public. I'd have much preferred to have read a missive from one of the original victims of Maciel which read: "I would like to publicize that Father Owen Kearns had privately contacted me and asked for forgiveness for his not believing me when I reported my accusations against the founder of the Legionaries of Christ. While I'm not sure I am prepared at this moment to forgive him, this is a step in the right direction."

But Kearns makes his apology publically, according to hiw own timetable, and without giving his victims any opportunity to participate in whatever grace might flow from the process of repentence (on his part) and forgiveness (on theirs). Rather, he forcefully and publically "throws the ball back into their court."

Sorry--but, for me, just about everything about the way Kearns has handled this has failed.

Lauretta, you have confused facts. The Legion purportedly has $30 billion in assets; there has never been any assertion that MM amassed it or banked it secretly. MM’s closest collaborators are fully aware of the value of Legion fortunes. What you may be confusing is that MM is reported to have had millions in offshore accounts. This is the fortune the Legion of Christ are alleged to have not known about. This is more conceivable, imo.

Fr Stephen Fichter reported that MM took $10,000 every time he travelled, $5,000 in US dollars and $5,000 in the currency of the country he was visiting. Do that once a week for a year, you’ve taken over half a million dollars. Multiply that by how many years? And it’s not hard to see how he could amass many millions to support his mistresses and children. This doesn’t even take into account the cash handed to him by wealthy widows and other rich benefactors. It is not a stretch to believe he told his benefactors that it would be best if their donations were paid to him in cash. Thus there was more money that was never accounted for officially. Possible, imo.

Anonymous one,

Thanks for the comment. Everything I have been reading is that no one knew anything about what Maciel was up to--no one was complicit in his sins. It seems very unlikely that the wealth of the Legion was obtained by legitimate means--were others complicit in this amassing of wealth or not? If they were, they need to come clean about how this money was obtained.

I have been trying to find out about the assets of the Catholic Church as a comparison. The one article I read said they were valued at $52 billion. So, if the Legion has $30 billion, there must be something a little underhanded going on in my opinion. Who was involved in all of this? So far the only one who has a finger pointed at him is Maciel from what I am reading. I still find that difficult to believe.

Lauretta, I wish there was definitive evidence of the LC financial holdings. Where do we get the $30 billion figure? I am not disputing it, I have just heard it often enough, I believe it. At the same time, I'd like to understand why they are supposedly broke on the one hand (feeding old food to seminarians in a freezing cold seminary, unable to keep SCC and other schools afloat) and rich on the other (billions of euros)

The Legion has focussed on fundraising throughout their history. If they do in fact have a vast wealth, this is the reason, imo. When I was in RC, I recall people who included the Legionaries of Christ in their wills. Occasionally over the past year, when I have googled Legionaries of Christ, I have stumbled on obituaries in which the deceased has left their fortune to the Legion, or obits that have asked for memorial donations to the Legion. Remember Mrs. Mee, who left her fortune to the Legion?

In my own RC section, there are so many very wealthy families. The financial commitments on a yearly basis are/were huge. I remember feeling bad that I could not offer more support. It would have made me very proud if I could have kept up with these benefactors. I shudder now to think about it! $50,000 here, $50, 000 there adds up. There are people here who can and do (or at least could and did) give that sort of money, very regularly.

The point I was making, though, is that I don't think the Legion is pointing the finger at MM re: ALL the LC holdings, only the money squirrelled away by MM. I don't think the Legion is even commenting on the reported 30 billion, and if they did, I don't know that they would see anything wrong with it.

Anonymous One,

I am sure that Legion members don't think anything of the $30 billion in assets that their group possesses. It just seems beyond the pale that this money was all gotten legitimately. The Catholic Church has people that give generously as well, leaving money in their wills, etc. It just does not seem possible that one small group such as the Legion could possibly in such a short time have amassed nearly as many assets as the Church has in the entire world. It would seem that there must be other, non legitimate sources to account for this huge balance. There are those who claim the Legion as a money laundering site for drug cartels, etc. from Mexico. If that is truly the case, I find it hard to believe that Maciel was able to handle all of that by himself without anyone close to him knowing about it.

What I am trying to say is that I think that there are people in the Legion who know a lot more than they are telling about a lot of Maciel's actions. They sound way too much like their leader who proclaimed his innocence right up to his death.

Again, I am not disputing the number $30 billion, it may well be accurate. OTOH, I think I've accepted it because it is bandied about so easily, I've come to trust it as fact. The Legion is no help, they don't confirm or deny anything we hear in the press. Your quote of the assets of the Church versus the Legion actually makes me start to question that figure. Do we know where the $30 billion euros statistic came from?

Tell you what, if this priest had appeared in my confessional, I would have made him resign his position at the NCR. While in Christian charity I believe the sincerity of the confession, I don't believe adequate reparation could even begin until he leaves the paper.

I tried to leave the above comment at the NCR's own website, but it didn't post. Act of commission or omission? With the LC cult one is never sure.

FRMichael--just signing in to say "God Bless you." I'd sit in your confessional any day. Thanks and God bless you in your work for the Church, for Christ, and for us.

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This page contains a single entry by Pete Vere published on April 18, 2010 1:34 AM.

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