Recently in Legion of Christ/ Regnum Christi Category

Writer Genevieve Kineke of gave an interview to Boston's NPR station today about the Legion scandal. MP3 audio is on-line at

As the Holy See released its statement in Rome yesterday vis-a-vis the recent apostolic visitation to the Legion of Christ, a strange meeting took place along the Canada/U.S. border. Two active Orangemen, an active Freemason, an active Knight of Columbus and an Opus Dei cooperator donned disguises, met secretly in a field, and under cover of darkness discussed in whispered tones how best to manipulate falsehood into real temptation, hoping to lure the unsuspecting into a deathly trap.

The Holy See has released its statement on the apostolic visitation to the Legion of Christ. To read Vatican Radio's English translation of the statement, please click here. I hope to provide a line-by-line commentary later today. For the time being, my thoughts are summarized in Deuteronomy 30:15-20:

"See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you this day, by loving the LORD your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his ordinances, then you shall live and multiply, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land which you are entering to take possession of it. But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you this day, that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land which you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice, and cleaving to him; for that means life to you and length of days, that you may dwell in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them."

Mouse has the details here. Please note I will NOT be posting daily updates. So please drop by EWTN or Mouse's blog each day to join us for this Novena

...the Mouse will pray


Thank-you for praying for me and my lads during what has been a challenging week. Since I'm not sure when I'll be back, Deirdre (aka Mouse) has stepped up and taken charge of Novena duty. Starts tomorrow. To St. Joseph the Worker. For details, click here. To read the testimonies of some of the families for who we will pray, click here.

Tuesday Novena thread


Today is the last day of our novena to Our Lady of Good Remedy for friends and family stuck in LC/RC. To find out more on Our Lady of Good Remedy, and how this novena began, please click here. Basically, it was under the title Our Lady of Good Remedy that the Blessed Mother miraculously helped St. John of Matha free thousands of Christians enslaved to Muslim overlords. Here is the daily Novena prayer, which I invite you to join me in praying for Catholics enslaved by Maciel's movement and methodology:

Suzanne - my long-time friend, fellow Canuck, and fire team partner in the trenches of Catholic pro-life activism in the Great White North - is coming under fire for having believed in Maciel's innocence and disbelieved his victims (click here). I can understand. We go way back and I can corroborate her following reaction and description of herself:

It was a shocking level of duplicity. Very hard to digest. When you live your life to be honest and as simple as possible, it's hard to imagine that anyone would be so two-faced.

Which is why I find it impossible to be angry with her, or to seek hidden motives for her reaction, despite our past disagreements over Maciel, or the movement he founded. There's a small community of orthodox Catholics and pro-life activists in Canada. We're about the same age, and we both became active around the same time, when our numbers were even fewer. Hence the temptation to believe that anyone who professed Catholic orthodoxy was our friend. Without my background in canon law and wide exposure to Catholicism in the U.S., I would likely find myself in her shoes.

So no hard feelings Suzanne. I may question LC higher-ups who claimed to known nothing of Maciel's duplicity, but I don't question Suzanne's integrity for having believed them. For me this is another tragedy of this scandal. That such a kind, honest and devout young mother like Suzanne - that such a supportive friend and loyal ally in Canada's culture war - was pitted against Aaron, Glenn Favreau, Paul Lennon and other honest men who I consider friends and allies in the Church's internal struggle against Maciel's methodology.

So no hard feelings, my friend.

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.

There's a reason the early Christians shared their personal testimony of how they encountered Christ. For most of us, a good story captures the imagination much more readily than dry theological treatises. Which is why I'm happy to see so many former LC/RC/3gf emerging in the blogosphere to share their personal stories of leaving Maciel's movement. One never knows when the Holy Spirit will use your story to help others in a similar situation. By sharing the truth of your experience with the movement, Christ is setting you and others free.

This is a question several parents - who are shying away from RC and its derivatives - have asked me over the past month. Where does one find a program that teaches kids self-discipline, self-respect, loyalty, faith and patriotism? A program that allows kids to socialize with other good kids, and that is at the same time easy on the budget and open to large families - both homeschooling and non-homeschooling?

If one needed proof that vocations from God are more hearty than LC/RC reportedly claim, Rachel Gray shares her experience at a Norbertine monastery this past weekend on a vocation retreat for young women. At one point during the retreat, a Norbertine nun spoke about how she had been a liberation theologian before having a change of heart and concluding her vocation with the 3gf. But God had other plans, as you can read here.

Spero News has just posted a report, which begins as follows:

Responding to allegations made in an interview published yesterday (April 12) by the Spanish newspaper, El Mundo, the regional director of the Legionaries of Christ in Spain, Father María Jesús Delgado, has sent a letter to the paper's editor, calling for a correction to be published. The interview, which was printed in a supplement entitled, "Chronicle of the Legionaries of Christ," was incorrect in more than one respect, claims the Legionary.

To read the full report, please click here. (Hat tip Monk) I'm kinda surprised that a LC superior would reportedly raise the specter of lawsuits at a time when the secular media is in a feeding frenzy over clerical sexual misconduct. This simply widens the opportunities for the media to investigate and report the Legion's sex scandals. However, if the record needs to be corrected, may truth prevail.

Part two of Jason Berry's piece exposing Maciel's financial empire has now been posted (click here). All I can say is thank God for Pope Benedict. Not only is he fending off wolves in sheep's clothing, but he's facing down werewolves dressed as shepherds.

Jo Flemings, who I read somewhere is a convert from protestantism and the Catholic mother of a large family - including one Legion apostolic and a Legion brother (seminarian), I believe - responded in the comments section of Bonum's blog. She asked why the alleged victims don't come forward and alert authorities. I believe her question is sincere, given that two of her sons are with the Legion if I have understood correctly. She is obviously a mother concerned about her children. This discussion cannot be easy on her. Especially since Bonum is now part of a profession where human lives literally depend upon one's honesty and integrity. Thus one can presume his trustworthiness.

For the past month or so, it seems that two new questions have arisen among LC/RC supporters who remain committed the cause: Why are Catholics tearing each other apart over LC/RC? Why can't we be more charitable toward each other?

Over the past year I have heard the stories of several good, orthodox Catholics stuck in LC/RC. Some were related to me by friends and family. Others by the individuals themselves. With the Feast of Divine Mercy past us for another year, I will be starting a novena on Monday, April 12 for those individuals who feel stuck in Maciel's methodology. This novena will be to Our Lady of Good Remedy.

Bonum invited ex-Legionary Mortalitor to guest blog (click here). Here is one of the insights Mortalitor shared concerning his experience with the Legion:

Now if we remove all vestiges of Fr. MM, his works and writings, then you in essence have removed the spirituality of the Legion, that which makes the Legion the Legion, the identity which separates it from all the other orders and the diocese. This is true because the legion only uses its founder's writings and the bible as their only source for spirituality. The legion would lose its identity and would have to find a new one. This finding of a new spiritual identity, as an order could be an exciting and wonderful experience, one that I wouldn't mind being a part of. However, who is to lead this new spiritual journey? Certainly not the Legion's current leadership.

To which an anonymous commentator responds:

Father Maciel claimed his innocence. Please note he never was tried in a civil or ecclesiatical court. The campaign against Father Maciel and the Legion of Christ is a smear campaign which roots are in pride and envy.

Hopefully this commentator is simply a troll on a drive-by, or represents an extreme minority within LC/RC. If he represents the majority of insiders, we may well have a schism on our hands. 'Cause Pope Benedict shows no sign of relenting in his campaign to rid the Church of filth.

A reader asked me what I make of Danielle Bean's commentary on the Legion of Christ over at the Faith & Family blog (click here). Erin Manning has posted an excellent response here, while Giselle breaks down Danielle's argument as follows:

1. MM did some very bad things;
2. MM's congregation gives us lots of money;
3. We do good things with that money;
4. We don't account for his bad deeds, only our good works;
5. Therefore, don't worry about the connexion; the pope will figure it out.

My own thoughts? I don't doubt Danielle's sincerity in pointing to - in her words - "the good things we do at Faith & Family, the dedicated men I know who are Legionary priests, and the many good men and women I know who are members of Regnum Christi." However, in reflecting upon this argument, I am reminded of Our Lord's encounter with the demoniac of Ger'asenes:

And Jesus asked him, "What is your name?"

He replied, "My name is Legion; for we are many." (Mark 5:9)

Notice two things about this encounter:

  1. Although the Bible provides several names for Lucifer and his fallen angels, "Legion" is the only name in Holy Scripture that these evil spirits give themselves.
  2. The evil spirits boast of their great numbers.

As Christians we stand not upon great numbers. We stand upon Christ. We stand upon the truths of His teaching. This is clear from chapter 6 of John's Gospel. Driven by personal need, a multitude witnessed and partook in the miracle of loaves and fishes. Only twelve remained after Jesus preached difficult truths. And one of the remainder was a devil, the evangelist reminds us.

But to quote Simon Peter in verse 68: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life."

Christ is risen! Alleluia! Truly He is risen!

Today is Easter Saturday, the ninth day of the Divine Mercy Novena. I would invite you to join me in praying this powerful novena for Aaron, Jose Barba, Juan Vaca, Bonum's buddy in the hospital, and all other victims of LC/RC sexual abuse. If you did not make the first day, don't worry about it. Join in anyway. God will honor your prayers for this intention.

Barely a week into the month, and already April is turning into a horrible month for Regnum Christi (RC) members. First, Jason Berry reports that Maciel and LC allegedly made several questionable donations to high-ranking Vatican officials. The silver lining is that Pope Benedict - at the time Cardinal Ratzinger - reportedly refused such donations. He did so firmly. Thus RC members can feel reassured that the Holy Father will get to the bottom of the Legion scandal, that the Holy Father's integrity in doing so is beyond question, and that any medicine he prescribes - while potentially bitter - will be for the spiritual welfare of his flock.

Other bad news includes the closure, mid-semester, of Southern Catholic College - which had been taken over by the Legion last year shortly after the Holy See announced its apostolic visitation of the order. And then an anonymous reader on Damien Thompson's blog, claiming to be a former LC/RC associate, alleges that Maciel was not alone in his travels to Thailand. As commonly known to anyone involved in investigating or prosecuting pedophiles, Thailand is a euphemism for child prostitution - particularly, young pre-pubescent boys. Granted, this last allegation is only unconfirmed rumor by an anonymous blog reader. But given everything else we have learned about Maciel and the Legion over the past year...

That being said, I have some good news for shell-shocked Regnum Christi members struggling with this Tsunami of spiritual sewage. It's the words of Our Lord to St. Faustina, which those of us who are praying the Divine Mercy Novena reflect upon today (Day 7):

"Today bring to Me the Souls who especially venerate and glorify My Mercy, and immerse them in My mercy. These souls sorrowed most over my Passion and entered most deeply into My spirit. They are living images of My Compassionate Heart. These souls will shine with a special brightness in the next life. Not one of them will go into the fire of hell. I shall particularly defend each one of them at the hour of death."

You are sickened and horrified, but you are not alone. If you cast yourselves - sincerely - upon Christ's mercy, if you show mercy and compassion to victims of Maciel and the Legion, Christ will comfort you in this life and in the next. The devil may yet claim the Legion and Regnum Christi, but you need not allow him to claim the souls of individual members - including you and your loved ones.

So cast yourself on Christ's mercy. Show mercy and compassion to those who were victimized by Maciel and the movement. Take a few minutes today to pray a Rosary or Divine Mercy chaplet for all who suffered sexual, physical, mental, emotional or spiritual abuse at the hands of Maciel and other accomplices within the movement he founded.

Many of these victims were hurt so deeply by the abuse that they no longer practice their Christian faith. They have ceased to pray, and there is nobody else to pray for them. Take up their cause in prayer. Pray for victims who have ceased praying because of the scandal and hurt caused by your founder and your movement.

Beg God to grace these victims with His divine mercy, to not judge them harshly for the anger they feel toward Him and toward the Church, but to soften their hearts and to heal them. Pray specifically for those who you, personally, have hurt or scandalized as a member of the movement, even if it was done in good faith. For this is the good news of Christ's resurrection, which we now celebrate: God is merciful to those who reflect His mercy.

UPDATE: Currently reading Berry's piece. Was heartened by Berry's following admission, given his past criticism of Cardinal Ratzinger's handling of the Maciel case (prior to Cardinal Ratzinger being elected Pope):

One cardinal who rebuffed a Legion financial gift was Joseph Ratzinger.

In 1997 he gave a lecture on theology to Legionaries. When a Legionary handed him an envelope, saying it was for his charitable use, Ratzinger refused. "He was tough as nails in a very cordial way," a witness said.

Good for His Holiness. And good for Jason Berry for showing journalistic integrity in pointing this out.

Jason Berry's first installment of a two-part series investigating Legion of Christ finances was published today. You can read the article by clicking here. For those new to this whole controversy, Jason Berry is one of two Hartford Courant journalists who in 1997 broke the story of Maciel's sex abuse of minor seminarians. This afternoon has been pretty busy so I have not yet had time to read his latest expose. But Giselle has posted some comments here.

Patrick Madrid has blogged an excellent post discussing Medjugorje, Marcial Maciel and Pope John Paul II's (alleged in the case of Medjugorje) support of these two ecclesiastical movements. To read it, please click here.

New monk and cow!

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Reader AG at The Risk of Truth blog has posted a new monk and cow story! It concerns a naughty abbot who, under the guise of holiness, secretly pushed peasants' cows over cliffs. He got away with it for several years, having convinced the archbishop of his sanctity. However, his plan goes awry when the Vicar General clues into the Abbot's bovine fetish. You can read the whole story by clicking here.

To read other monk and cow stories, please click here.

Among Eastern Christians (both Catholic and Orthodox), there's a compendium of spiritual texts known as the Philokalia. It's a sort of spiritual reader, collecting stories from early saints and other monastic spiritual guides throughout the centuries. What follows is one of my favorite stories from the collection:

Two monks were praying on the mountain when the first monk turned to the second and said: "I cannot understand why you enjoy such renown among the people for holiness."

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.

"Do not let my heart turn toward words of evil, to cover sins with smooth names."

Another report alleging nude LC with medical condition, and young boys boarding in (North American) Legion apostolic school (click here).

UPDATE: Aaron, a reported sex-abuse victim of the Legion's apostolic schools, responds by sharing his own experience with Fr. Garza (click here).

So begins the Legion's Night of Long Knives.

Of all the parties named (or implied) in this latest controversy, I consider Magister the most trustworthy. I appreciate that Fr. Berg left a year ago after trying to effect legitimate reform within the movement. I'm a little more uncertain about Fr. Gill, but generally I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. And yes, Fr. Garza appears to have been quite candid in his talk to the 3gf last fall. However, in an order of blind men, the one-eyed priest is pope.

Sandro Magister is generally accurate about these things. He offers an experienced set of eyes from the outside. He often recognizes threads missed by folks still attached to the inside. Additionally, Magister's only discernible motive is to provide readers with accurate information and analysis. This is how he earned the esteem he enjoys as a Vatican watcher. Thus it makes no sense for Magister to risk his reputation by inflating a story, especially if in so doing he misses another story (Garza vs. other Legion superiors) that is equally intriguing.

Pray, don't prey


Of all the unholy revelations that have surfaced about Fr. Maciel over the past year, the one that surprises me the least is that he stopped praying in his final years. This is consistent with most cases of serial abuse among clergy that I have encountered as a canonist. Long before these men began preying, they had ceased praying.

In fact, I think this is why Maciel's writing always turned me off. I could only read his writing in bits and pieces before headache-inducing foggy confusion came over me. One cannot give what one has not received. It is now clear that Maciel's writing (at least that which was not ghost-written or plagiarized) was not based upon prayer. Nor does prayer appear to come naturally for many of my LC/RC acquaintances. They come across as too focused on activity, with prayer scheduled in between (and heavily scripted) like one would schedule the reading of a business file during coffee break.

Which is why, come Good Friday, I invite you to join me in praying the Divine Mercy Novena for Aaron, Jose Barba, Juan Vaca and all other victims of Maciel and his movement. As Catholics let us pray for those who were preyed upon in the name of the Catholic faith. To find out more about this special Novena, please click here.

In a similar spirit I invite readers with LC/RC background to check out the following Jesuit blogs, of which two focus heavily on prayer:

- Good Jesuit, Bad Jesuit
- The Spiritual Exercises Blog
- Father Brian Van Hove's Blog

Basta! and other Spanish-speaking bloggers are asking for prayers for LC resistance/philosophers. In questioning the movement's methodology from the inside, these brave souls are reportedly feeling increasingly watched and insecure. Some have posted to Trastevere's blog over the weekend.

Response to LC/RC communiques


I just finished reading the two letters/communiques put out by the Legion of Christ/ Regnum Christi (LC/RC) over the weekend. I did so line-by-line. Here is my initial impressions, in point form, for those who are interested:

- The letter from Fr. Alvaro seems to be written for the inside, that is current members and close supporters of Regnum Christi and the Legion of Christ. Whereas the communique signed by Fr. Alvaro and various Legion superiors seems to be written for the broader Church community and perhaps society at large. Until LC/RC clarify otherwise, this is my assumption in reading and interpreting each piece of correspondence

- The LC/RC appears to have read the ecclesiastical tea leaves from Pope Benedict's apology to the Irish, and the recent interview with Msgr. Scicluna. Whether this is good or bad will depend upon how the movement conducts itself in the future.

New monk and cow adventure!

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I will respond to the two Legion communiques in a separate post, but first a few updates:

- Back after a busy weekend. A nasty cold prevented me from indulging in beer, but Bonum and I met at the local Timmies for coffee and tea. (I'm the tea drinker, in case anyone is wondering). It was great meeting him, his lovely wife and his adorable children (including their newborn) - even if it was from a distance due to the cold. We're hoping to meet up again this summer.

- Speaking of tea, Erin Manning (aka Red Cardigan at And Sometimes Tea) has brewed the latest monk and cow cautionary tale, which I'm hope readers will enjoy as much as I did. It's called The Monk, the Cow and the Peddler. Each of the previous installments are posted here.

- For those who haven't heard, Vows of Silence author Jason Berry, who along with Gerald Renner broke the original Hartford Courrant story exposing Maciel's sexual molestation of minor seminarians, is due to publish a new piece in the National Catholic Reporter this week exposing the Legion's alleged money trail.

- Sandro Magister responds to the Legion's communiques.

Reader Susan's cry for help is one that many readers can identify with:

Help!! I am scheduled to attend a mother daughter retreat with my teenage daughters sponsored by Regnum Christi. I have only recently become familiar with this LC/RC situation and I must say that I am thoroughly disgusted and confused. Do the RC members continue to quote/recognize/acknowledge Maciel at the retreat centers? If so, I will not attend. I have left a message at Mt. Kisco but not sure if it will be returned in time. Between this and the situation in Europe, I am feeling very disheartened about the Church overall and not much in the mood for a retreat, but I don't want my feelings to affect my children. My daughters are excited about attending this and we are going with good friends. Any advice??

Susan, as a fellow parent I both understand and appreciate your concern. In fact, your situation is similar to one that came up in discussion last year over enrolling one's daughters in RC-sponsored Pure Fashion. I would invite you to check out the post, which identifies some problems and offers a practical alternative for Catholic moms and daughters to grow together spiritually. Please click here.

Additionally, many monasteries and some convents, take retreatants. Some have special guest houses for women. As a teen I attended several youth retreats - via both the Catholic Church and the PAOC (Canada's equivalent to Assemblies of God) that were "teen orientated" - retreats like Antioch, Youth Encounter, etc. I even attended spiritual exercises with the SSPX.

However, the most memorable retreats for me were the times my dad took me to the Trappist monastery in Oka or Orangeville, or my visit to the Benedictine Monastery in St. Benoit du Lac. Ironically, it was after a retreat with these old, tried and contemplative orders that I discerned God calling me back to the Catholic Church - the first time home from evangelical protestantism, and the second time home from radical traditionalism. In retrospect, I feel there is something about praying in a relaxed and simple surrounding, in the middle of nature, that draws the soul back to God.

The other nice thing is that one's schedule is open. So one can join the monks for prayer and mass followed by a breakfast of fresh bread and fruits. Then take a walk around the monastery grounds, while praying the Rosary, before joining the monks for more prayer and lunch. Then drive into town for a little mother-daughter shopping in small town boutiques, take in the local sights and grab supper - using it as an opportunity to really converse with your girls. Then return to the monastery for evening prayer followed by recollection and night prayer.

As many of us have discovered as parents doing our best to raise our kids Catholic, what speaks most to our children is our time. We don't need fancy retreats, programs, marketing, etc... What we need to do is take the time to introduce them to simple Catholicism, to old charisms like that of the Benedictine which is both tested and true.

For instance, like we try and do every summer, our family will probably mix our summer vacation at Mackinac Island and Jellystone Park with a day at this national Franciscan shrine. So it's Yogi Bear in the morning; Mass with the Franciscans and the National Nun Doll Museum in the afternoon; followed by an evening shopping along the boardwalk at St. Ignace. Then back to the trailer to pray the rosary while roasting marshmallows by campfire. Sometimes we arrange to meet up with other Catholic families, sometimes we just happen to run into them and plans merge for the afternoon or evening.

In fact, if any of you live in Michigan and enjoy camping, you're welcome to join us this summer. Perhaps we could all get together for the Canada Day - Independence Day long weekend. There are several KOAs and a couple of Jellystone Parks between St. Ignace and Higgins Lake. It's just a matter of picking one; putting together a loose schedule that combines prayer time, historical time, fun time and family time; and meeting up.

From around the blogs

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I've been called away for the weekend and won't have regular Internet access. However, as Giselle and I have been saying for the last few months, we're getting a little long in the tooth. So we're quite happy to see newer, fresher blog voices arise to help Catholics make sense of the Legion of Christ/ Regnum Christi crises. Among some of these voices who have posted good commentary over the past few days:

- Deirdre Mundy (aka Mouse at American Papist), a devoted Catholic mother, launches an appeal To the Mothers of Regnum Christi.

- Tea-drinker Erin Manning (aka Red Cardigan), a devoted Catholic mom herself, asks whether one in good conscience should support LC/RC-sponsored apostolates directed toward families (click here).

- Nat at May Contain Gnats has systematized several Changobeer posts from over the years to show that LC/RC methodology (what is known in more traditional religious orders as the charism) is intrinsically linked to the person of Maciel (click here).

- And the plot sickens over at ExLC blog, where Landon Cody (okay, he's not new) has posted a group photo of Maciel, the two Normas, and some 3gf (click here). Anyone else notice that the younger Norma's dress, while lovely, does not appear to meet the Pure Fashion modesty guidelines?

- Sam, a non-RC husband who feels abandoned by his RC wife, has posted a brilliant piece of sarcasm (At least I hope it's sarcasm! Please pray for Sam and other spouses in his situation.)

- Meanwhile, my fellow Canuck Bonum, Verum, Pulchrum (who I'm hoping to catch up with for a beer this weekend) has been distracted from the LC/RC-related blogging by Ann Coulter's riotous (literally!) speaking tour in Canada. Check out his blog for the video of Ann on the Michael Coren show.

The kids and I are out with a bad cold, which thankfully, has spared my wife who is looking after us. So your homework assignment for today - particularly those who are new to the debate - is to read and reflect on the following:

1 - Former Legionary priest Jack Keogh (aka Monk)'s response to Pope Benedict's letter to the Irish, Is it time to convene the Third Vatican Council. Although it would be a gross exaggeration to proclaim Monk as an unofficial blog spokesman for the Legion, I have found that his missives around the net often line up with what appears to be current Legion thinking concerning the crisis. So it's worth a read, even if I disagree with much of what he wrote. (For some clear thinking on Pope Benedict's leadership in addressing the sex abuse crisis, read John Allen's following reflection on the topic.)

2 - Thus I'm curious to see whether in the coming month or two the Legion hierarchy attempts to throw Pope Benedict under the bus - not by full out accusations of complicity, mind you, but rather by indirect suggestion. That being said, I'm not Irish. My Catholic ancestors were Italian and Polish, and I was schooled in the French Catholic school system. All this meaning that stories about monks and cows and sayings like "God draws strait with crooked lines" were not part of our Catholic curriculum growing up. Rather, we were taught the expression 'Qui mange du pape, meurt.' This loosely translated into English as "Whoever eats of the pope will choke to death." So to my Regnum Christi readers - as well as Legionary resisters and philosophers - beware if the Legion tries to throw Benedict under the bus. Historically the bus has a funny way of missing the pope and crushing the crowd. Re-read my posting from a year ago - How schism becomes an option.

3 - Speaking of French-Canadian Catholicism and schism becoming an option, throughout this controversy I have often drawn comparisons between the Legion and the Fils de Marie. At one time - I am told both by former Legionaries and former Fils - the two orders were extremely close allies in Rome among new ecclesiastical movements. Their seminarians were allowed to mingle freely and unchaperoned, I am told, a privilege neither order afforded to any other outside order. In fact, the Fils de Marie are probably the reason the Legion was unable to garner much of a following in French-speaking Canada until recently. Thus I recommend reading Rick Ross's dossier on the Armee de Marie/ Fils de Marie, which you can visit by clicking here.

4 - By now, several Regnum Christi readers are saying "Schism? That could never happen to us, we are totally obedient to the Pope." Here's a cautionary tale. Cutting through canonical jargon, I've seen several movements suddenly go into schism after years of claiming total obedience to the Pope. In the vast majority of cases, members never thought the movement would become schismatic or disobedient to the Holy See. Yes, it happened to other groups that claimed Catholic orthodoxy and total submission to Rome, but folks believed their particular groups was different. "Just look at the fruits," is a common argument. What happens is that the claim of total obedience to the Pope is often a facade for avoiding criticism or oversight by local Church authorities (like diocesan bishops). The movement portrays local Church authorities as liberal dissenters who hate the movement for its orthodoxy. When the Pope sides with the wider Church, members feel betrayed and come to believe the Pope is part of the conspiracy, although they will usually argue at first that the Pope is an unwilling part. Think of the "Maciel took a hit for the Church because the Pope was under pressure by the Church's enemies" argument put forward after the 2006 communique.

New Monk and Troll story

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As Jack keeps reminding us, it's only a story...

Surfing the net before heading off to Mass this morning, I came across several blogs written by Catholics re-discovering their Catholicism after involvement with the LC or RC. Like Betty Duffy's story about The Dorito Eaters. In particular, I enjoyed these two paragraphs explaining why she adopted the name Dorito Eaters for her and three friends who she had met through Regnum Christi:

It's sort of funny to consider that the four of us met through Regnum Christi. Our girls' getaway used to be a weekend retreat or convention. Since the scandal with Father Maciel, we have continued to do Gospel Reflections on our own, though not as a part of RC. We still woke up each morning in Florida and said our morning prayers together. We still went to Mass and said our Rosaries. But it was sort of fun not to spend the weekend sitting in a hotel convention room listening to lay testimonies. It felt very rebellious.

I remember a cousin of mine, once explaining to me why she didn't want to join Regnum Christi with me: "Sometimes I just want to sit on the couch and eat Doritos," she said. In light of Father Maciel's writings on Time and Eternity, I often feel guilty about doing anything that's not an apostolic activity. So I have devolved into a Dorito-eater. Hopefully, there will still be room in Eternity for me. My entire adult life as a Catholic has been tied up with Regnum Christi, and one of these days I'm going to write a post about how life has changed since I'm not really involved.

Catholic Teacher Man Adam Thompson has also blogged an excellent reflection re-interpreting his previous experience with the Legion, in which some Legionaries reportedly tried to convince him to drop out of college. What I found most interesting was how his mother and his Jesuit confirmation sponsor reacted to the situation:

The young Legionaries had such an awestruck reverence for the [Maciel]. It was really quite moving. We imagined ourselves in the presence of a truly holy man, a veritable Ignatius of Loyola or Francis of Assisi. I remember thinking there was a spiritual aura about the man. Consequently, I returned home from Europe full of zeal and fervor for the faith, not to mention an unshakable confidence in the Legion. When my Confirmation sponsor, a Jesuit priest, and my mother voiced concern about the Legion, I brushed aside their criticism as being simply misinformed or excessively protective, and advocated for the Legion as a priestly order akin to what the Jesuits used to be. This was hurtful to the priest, as I intended, and I greatly regret those words to this day. That should have been the first sign that something was amiss with the Legion, or at least its founder.

You can read Adam's full story here.

Pope Benedict minds sex abuse


Pope Benedict has just released his letter to Irish Catholics concerning sexual abuse against children. Although we knew His Holiness would take a tough stand - he's become less tolerant than his predecessor in punishing priestly abusers - this letter is nevertheless a bombshell for canonists.

One of the most important principles when applying canon law to a situation is that one interpret the law according to the mind of the legislator. Pope Benedict is the Supreme Legislator within the Church. This letter reveals Pope Benedict's mind on this horrific topic in a manner that leaves little room for ambiguity in its interpretation. Although addressed to Irish Catholics, the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi would do well to pay attention. After all, any attempt from the Holy See to impose reform on Maciel's movement will follow the mind of Pope Benedict. So you - and I'm speaking directly now to LC/RC canonists - would be foolish to dismiss this letter as addressed only to Catholics in Ireland, and not to your movement.

I urge everyone to read the entire letter here. Here are some key paragraphs that stand out in light of LC/RC handling of the Maciel scandal:

I can only share in the dismay and the sense of betrayal that so many of you have experienced on learning of these sinful and criminal acts and the way Church authorities in Ireland dealt with them.

Notice the apparent absence of Romanita and Bella Figura in His Holiness's words. Popes in modern times don't talk like this. He considers the sexual abuse of children sinful, criminal and treachery. He will publicly shame an entire Church hierarchy to make his point.

It is true, as many in your country have pointed out, that the problem of child abuse is peculiar neither to Ireland nor to the Church. Nevertheless, the task you now face is to address the problem of abuse that has occurred within the Irish Catholic community, and to do so with courage and determination.
The fact that children are sexually abused outside of the Church, or in other parts of the Church, is no excuse for inaction. Focus on the problem in your own background. You have a duty to confront this problem and to fix it.
At the same time, I must also express my conviction that, in order to recover from this grievous wound, the Church in Ireland must first acknowledge before the Lord and before others the serious sins committed against defenceless children. Such an acknowledgement, accompanied by sincere sorrow for the damage caused to these victims and their families, must lead to a concerted effort to ensure the protection of children from similar crimes in the future.

There is no recovery without first acknowledging the wrong done, the serious of the wrong done, and the vulnerability and innocence of the victims. This must be followed by sincere sorrow for the wrong done, and a pro-active approach to preventing similar harm to children in the future.

The pope then shares good advice on praying for God's grace and turning to saints for their Christian example. This is fairly strait-forward.

That being said, the following statements reveal that His Holiness sees bad methodology as a contributing cause to this crisis:

Significant too was the tendency during this period, also on the part of priests and religious, to adopt ways of thinking and assessing secular realities without sufficient reference to the Gospel. [...]

Certainly, among the contributing factors we can include: inadequate procedures for determining the suitability of candidates for the priesthood and the religious life; insufficient human, moral, intellectual and spiritual formation in seminaries and novitiates; a tendency in society to favour the clergy and other authority figures; and a misplaced concern for the reputation of the Church and the avoidance of scandal, resulting in failure to apply existing canonical penalties and to safeguard the dignity of every person. Urgent action is needed to address these factors, which have had such tragic consequences in the lives of victims and their families, and have obscured the light of the Gospel to a degree that not even centuries of persecution succeeded in doing.

Finally, he makes it clear whose side he is taking in this scandal:

On several occasions since my election to the See of Peter, I have met with victims of sexual abuse, as indeed I am ready to do in the future. I have sat with them, I have listened to their stories, I have acknowledged their suffering, and I have prayed with them and for them.

Not only has Pope Benedict met with the victims personally and listened to their stories, but he has acknowledged their suffering and prayed for them. This is the response one would expect from good and holy priests. And since Christ calls the Pope as head shepherd to lead by example, this is the response the Pope himself expects.

Notice what is absent from the Pope's letter: No blaming the victims for their (supposed) lack of charity; no passing the entire responsibility to the abuser alone, no silly cliches like "God writes straight with crooked lines," no chastising the faithful for their outrage or for not also recognizing the good that abusers had accomplished. No use of euphemism to describe painful sind. No denying the effects of abuse upon the victims. No covering up for the sake of avoiding scandal in the Church.

What's even more interesting, in re-reading His Holiness's letter a second time, from the beginning, is that he calls the Irish hierarchy to account for their handling of the situation. Yes, the Pope is intervening to help fix the situation. However, it is only because the Irish hierarchy failed in their responsibility to do so. This should be a sobering reminder to current LC/RC supporters. Just as "I was only following orders" has been rejected as an argument for moral justification, so too does Pope Benedict appear to reject "I was only waiting for orders to follow."

Which is why LC and RC should ask themselves what they (not Maciel) have done to correct the situation, and whether it lives up to the Pope's expectations. This is the question he asked of the Irish bishops. And this is the question he will ask of you.

Or to quote the Holy Father in a part of the letter addressed specifically to bishops (after saying religious superiors should follow the advice he gives bishops):

Only decisive action carried out with complete honesty and transparency will restore the respect and good will of the Irish people towards the Church to which we have consecrated our lives. This must arise, first and foremost, from your own self-examination, inner purification and spiritual renewal. The Irish people rightly expect you to be men of God, to be holy, to live simply, to pursue personal conversion daily.

The Holy Father concludes the letter with several excellent recommendations for prayer, fasting and reform.

Comparing King David to Maciel


I would have assumed that the author of this recent comment proclaiming Maciel's innocence was either a troll or someone being sarcastic. However, in the last couple days I have come across a former-LC-brother-turned-RC-organizer with an Anglophone name who actually expressed similar thoughts.

Regardless of whether the individual is trolling, being sarcastic or expressing sincere thoughts, his/her following words hit me: "Finally, it is Catholic teaching that good comes out of evil. Jesus was from the lineage of David, and David had an adulterous relationship with Uriah's wife and then had him killed."

Okay, we've all heard LC/RC apologists use the King David analogy before. And we've all responded: "King David repented publicly. Maciel claimed innocence until death." Fair enough.

But what about King David before he repented? Before Nathan confronted him with the story of the two shepherds? Let's take a good look at 2 Samuel 12.

First, God deprived King David of his first child with Uriah's wife. In short, God permitted the death of the fruit conceived from David's and Bathsheba's adultery. Moreover, God did so on the seventh day, which is the day a baby boy would normally have been circumcised under the Old Covenant - signifying his covenant with God. Since David was asleep when the child died during the night, I'm guessing the child died before receiving circumcision. But I will leave the Biblical experts to figure this out.

Second, God forgave David, but David's adultery and murder continue to curse his descendants long after David had repented. As the prophet Nathan tells David in confronting him: "Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised God, and have taken the wife of Uri'ah the Hittite to be your wife," and "Thus says the LORD, `Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes, and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun.
For you did it secretly; but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.'"

Forgiveness is possible. God will forgive a repentant heart as He forgave King David. But forgiveness does not remove the temporal consequences of sin. Nor does God's forgiveness insure the survival of the fruit of one's sin.


- Mouse from AmP (Deirdre Mundi) is blogging again this afternoon and she deconstructs two myths of Legion/RC supporters: 1) God writes strait with crooked lines; 2) God brings good out of evil.

- A saint yells at a pederast? (and nobody notices?)

Very busy today with other projects. However, there's a lot going on for readers looking to make sense of the Legion of Christ/ Regnum Christi scandal:

- If found out late last night that the Jason Berry interview with Anderson Cooper had been postponed again due to the health-care debate. As soon as I find out what the new date is, I will let you know.

- Possible Changobeer sighting in the comments section of Eric Sammons's blog. (Hat tip to Jane for mentioning this in yesterday's post indexing of Changobeer's blog).

- John Allen is back! He's mounted a vigorous defense of Pope Benedict's handling of the sex abuse crisis involving Europe and the Legion. I'm still trying to wrap my head around the National Catholic Reporter leading Pope Benedict's defense against his secular critics.

- Aaron whacks a troll over at Erin's blog, explaining his attempt to report to local police the abuse he [allegedly] suffered as a minor in the Legion.

- Let us join Giselle in praying to St. Joseph, Protector of the Universal Church, as the next stage of the apostolic visitation begins. (Click here).

- Nat has put together an interesting blog attempting to untangle the Holy See's request to untangle the Legion from Maciel. (Click here).

- Bonum posts a letter from a grateful mother to her bishop, for helping her and her husband rescue their son from a Legion apostolic school. The mother lists several serious allegations against Maciel and the methology her son was subjected to. (Click here).

No comment


Developing over at Erin's blog:

Monk wrote: "Recently, I quoted John Paul 11 as saying: 'you resemble the company you keep.' [...] RC seems new to these environs - and has managed to raise more than a few hackles. However, the substance of his remarks is bang on. He is well worth listening to - especially now before he ends up resembling the company he keeps!"

Red Cardigan wrote: "RC, you keep missing the forest for the trees. I'm not sure, given what you wrote about the 'Gaia-worship' example, that you even understand what an analogy is. I'm also not sure if you aren't just a really annoying troll--you're beginning to seem like one."

Troll, formerly known as RC said: "Trolls ask inconvenient questions and point out flaws in thinking, especially those of analogies that don't work."

Lauretta said: "Would you like to tell Aaron Loughery from Ireland that there is no proof of Legion sex abuse? He is the one the stated that he was sexually abused, the man who abused him was sexually abused by a Legion priest, that man was abused by a Legion priest, who was in turn abused by a Legion priest who was abused by Maciel." [To read Aaron's allegations, click here and here].

TROLL said:

Aaron Loughery is a coward.

If he had any integrity, he would press charges, and let whoever was accused mount a defense in a proper court of law that would determine his guilt or innocence beyond a reasonable doubt.

Instead, he mounts a whispering campaign, and you gossipers willingly participate. Where is that angel with the flaming coal to purify all your mouths?

To readers just tuning in to the LC/RC scandal surrounding Maciel and the movement he founded, catching up on the blog conversation can seem rather daunting. One of the best sources for "tuning in" to the discussion is Changobeer - the blog of the pseudonymous Fr. Damian Karras (the priest in the movie Exorcist) written by a 30-year veteran of the Legion (commonly believed to be Fr. Frances Snell, LC). Although eight months have passed since Changobeer's last entry, the blog still offers insight into several facets of the scandal and Legion thinking throughout out.

Fr. Changobeer was close to Maciel. He believed in Maciel's innocence, and defended the founder up until news became public of Maciel's daughter. The same with regards to a charism within the Legion. But Fr. Changobeer also believed strongly in obedience and submission to the Holy See - not only in word, but in spirit. He often expresses discomfort with the Legion's response to words or instructions from the Holy See. He also recognized that some self-critique of the order was necessary for the movement to purify itself. Thus many of his blog entries concern questions that arose in an honest attempt to reconcile his belief in Maciel's sanctity and the Legion's charism with obedience to the Holy Father.

Here's a chronological index of Changobeer's posts as he wrestles with several issues concerning the scandal. Please let me know if I have missed any:

- May 05 - He points to the Vatican Secretariat of State letter as proof of Maciel's innocence.

- Jun 05 - He dismisses Maciel's critics and the allegations, but admits the Legion needs to engage in self-criticism, to stop being so secretive and to stop alleging conspiracy theories.

- Jul 05 - He disagrees with Sandro Magister's prediction Pope Benedict's action against Fr. Gino was a foreshadowing of what was in store for Maciel. Says the outcome with Maciel will be different.

- May 06 - He states that something confusing has just hit and he is still struggling to understand it, will post his best explanation but he is not satisfied with it. His next post states that the issue is the Holy See's communique inviting Maciel to retire to a life of prayer and penance, and the separation the Holy See draws between Maciel and LC/RC. He identifies and struggles with many questions.

- Oct 07 - Although normally quite critical of ReGAIN, he expresses disagreement with the Legion hiring high-powered lawyers to sue the organization. Compares it to Scientology.

- Jan 08 - Discusses Roman-mandated changes within the Legion, including suppression of the extra two vows. Optimistic for the changes, but concerned about the "serene" facade and interpretation of Legion superiors.

- Jan 08 - Tribute to Maciel upon his death.

- Feb 08 to Apr 08 - Writes five-part series attempting to explain and clarify the Legion's charism. (Part one, part two, part three, part four, part five).

- June 08 - He wrestles with Archbishop O'Brien's criticism of the Legion, and how closely the Archbishop came to banning the Legion in Baltimore. Renews call for transparency and self-examination in the Legion.

- Sept 08 - Strongly questions the credibility of Jason Berry and Maciel's other victims. Says he believes Maciel based upon working side-by-side with Maciel for several years.

- Sept 08 - Criticizes Legion, Church officials and the wider Catholic community for ignoring Maciel's death and funeral, and the cloud of suspicion this left concerning the founder.

- Nov 08 - Attends Cistercian retreat, describes how relaxing and rejuvenating it was compared to the frantic pace of past (presumably Legion) retreats.

- Jan 09 - News of Maciel's daughter breaks. Fr. Changobeer becomes first LC-affiliated priest in English blogophere to admit the significance of the news vis-a-vis Maciel and LC/RC. He is also the first to publicly call for full disclosure, for LC leadership to resign (if needed), and for an apostolic visitation from Rome.

- Mar 09 - Suggests that Legion leadership lacks credibility, and that the seeds of the Legion's methodology were rooted in Maciel's sins.

- June 09 - He argues that the only way forward for the Legion is to tell the truth.

- June 09 - Points out the difference between Maciel being flawed, and Maciel being a liar.

- June 09 - Explains why the Legion must purge itself completely of Maciel.

- Jul 09 - Refutes the "Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater" analogy being argued by the Legion and its supporters. Explains why any good accomplished by Maciel is irrelevant to this scandal.

- Jul 09 - Criticizes the movement for trying to downplay Maciel's sins and attempting to move forward, business as usual.

- Aug 09 - (Last post) - He reveals that LC superiors are trying to preserve Maciel's writings for future generations, while avoiding direct mention of Maciel and his actions.

Just received from Landon Cody at ExLCblog:

Jason Berry will be on Anderson Cooper 360 [now Thursday] on CNN, 10 pm EST to talk about the Legion of Christ case. may find the following resources helpful in helping to make sense of everything:

- St. Ignatius of Loyola's rules for discerning spirits.

- Nathan O'Halloran's essay Jesuit Obedience and the Legionaries of Christ. Nathan is a young orthodox Catholic and a graduate of Franciscan University in Steubenville. He briefly considered a vocation with the Legionaries before discerning God's call to become part of the current Jesuit revival in orthodoxy.

- St. Bruno's famous Letter to Raoul de Verde.

Many speculate about the future of the Legion of Christ and what the AV will hold, but few do so with the accuracy and credibility of Vatican correspondent Sandro Magister. Has he published even one prediction concerning the Legion that has not come to fruition? So his observations are always taken seriously by Vatican watchers - both inside and outside the Holy See.

This observation, from a piece Magister published today, scares me:

Priests and seminarians who until very recently were steeped in the writings attributed to Maciel will have difficulty finding new sources of inspiration, not generic but specific to their order. The current leaders of the congregation aren't helping, either. On the contrary. One of Maciel's former personal secretaries, Fr. Felipe Castro, together with other priests of the Legion, has worked in recent months to select from among the founder's many letters a group of letters to be "saved" for the future, to keep a positive image of Maciel alive.

The dependence of the Legionaries on Maciel was - and for many still is - absolute. There wasn't a shred of daily life that escaped the rules he dictated. Absurdly exacting rules. Which prescribed, for example, how to sit at the table, how to use a napkin, how to swallow, how to eat chicken without using one's hands, how to debone a fish.

But this was nothing compared to the control exercised over consciences. The handbook for the examination of conscience at the end of the day was 332 pages long, with thousands of questions.

The whole piece is well worth reading. You can do so by clicking here.

As I was taking out the trash this morning, I was struck by reader Patrice Becker's observation in the combox yesterday: "The 'unique methodology' supposedly developed by Father Maciel was almost an carbon copy of the Latter Days Saints community methodology. Having lived amongst Mormons for over nine years, I recommend every RC member read Judy Robinson's book Out of Mormonism to discover Fr. Maciel's methodology is not unique at all."

Okay, I don't know Patrice personally, so I cannot vouch for the reader's alleged experiences with Legion priests or Mormon bishops. However, I have read Robinson's Out of Mormonism in addition to Andrea Moore-Emmett's God's Brothel. I definitely see some striking similarities in methodology between Maciel and Mormonism. From the focus on programming and recruitment, to the sometimes blurry lines between church and business, to the way the head of the Mormon structure is practically worshiped. This is making sense. Way too much sense. Thanks Patrice.

Many Catholics now tuning into the Maciel scandal, as well as many who have followed the scandal over the past few years, keep hearing references to Jason Berry, Gerald Renner and their investigative journalism for the Hartford Courant that first broke Maciel's "double life" to English-speaking audiences. While doing some research this morning, I came across an online reprint of the story - including some images of the original publication.

The article was published 13 years ago under the title Breaking the Silence: Head of Worldwide Catholic Order Accused of History of Abuse. Most of you are aware already of the controversy it would spark. Many have read the Legion's subsequent responses to the story, as well as Renner and Berry's responses to the responses. But have you read the original story?

This is your opportunity to do so. Please click here.

UPDATE: A reader points out that I missed the obvious: In trying to minimize Maciel's relationship to the Legion, Monk argues that Maciel accuser Juan Vaca was the true founder of the Legion (at least in Spain).

Red Cardigan vs. Monk's sacred cowl: It's pure fashion!

Erin Manning (aka the blogger Red Cardigan at And Sometimes Tea) has a knack for applying common sense to LC/RC sacred cows, which is why I always appreciate the clarity she brings to this debate. Thus I was not surprised when she smothered Monk's latest cow (or is it 'cowl' given that Monk's wrapping himself in it?), namely, that members of Maciel's movement were attracted to Christ and not to Maciel.

To which Erin replies:

Monk, did you, or did you not, use a prayerbook composed of Maciel's prayers?

Did you (collectively) receive his letters and have them read to you?

Did you celebrate his birthday and his mother's birthday as major feasts?

There are many additional questions Erin asks of Monk, which you can read in the comments' section of this post. At the same time, Erin is also providing another LC-supportive critic with some common sense answers. The fact she ably defends the truth despite being outnumbered is testament to the grace of the Holy Spirit in her life.

Loyal reader Anon out of RC said something in her following comment that really disturbed my conscience:

I was a leader in RC and for years I said the same story that I was told, especially after 2006 - the sexual abuse victims and any of those associated with their cause were "enemies of the church" and wanted to bring down the LC, Maciel, Pope JPII and the Church. I did it innocently, although after 2006 I was so proud of my charity to Maciel and obedience to my superiors by not reading anything except what the LC told me - that he was innocent and suffering like Jesus on the cross. That was pride on my part (and also a learned feeling of guilt for checking out other sources) and not good discernment but the Lord allowed it.

After Feb 2009, I read, prayed and made my own discernments instead of just what I was told by LC. I have since apologized online at American Papist and in my heart and soul to Maciel's original sexual abuse victims for my part in spreading the lie that they were not telling the truth and they were "enemies of the church". It was freeing.

It finally came together after Mass today. Our pastor had touched upon the need to apologize for one's sins - both of commission and of omission - during the homily. For the past year I have been urging LC and RC to come clean and apologize to Maciel's victims. Yet I have never apologized for my own sins toward them.

It's time to correct this injustice. Maciel's victims truly remind me of how Christ suffered during His passion. Their reputations were murdered. They were accused of spreading falsehood and being enemies of God when what they had spoken was truth. Their persecution was initiated by the religious authorities of the day, to preserve a system already in place, and the persecution spread to the masses. And the victims' suffering was multiplied by the religious persecutors turning to civil authorities to enlist the sword of the state in the silencing of truth.

Yet where Maciel's victims most remind me of Christ is in their treatment shown to former persecutors who have apologized sincerely for helping to spread the lie, and who have asked for forgiveness from the victims. Not one of Maciel's victims has refused forgiveness in situations that I am aware of. All have treated their former persecutors with mercy and tenderness, reassuring their former persecutors that they too were once on the inside. So they too understand.

But back to my own sin toward the victims. Unlike Anon out of RC and so many others reading this blog, I cannot claim to have acted in good faith. Mine are sins of omission. Mine are the sins of the Apostles who fled when the angry mob came for Christ, despite knowing that the victims were innocent.

From the moment I first heard of the allegations against Maciel, I knew they were true. A close relative is a civil attorney who in the Canadian legal system is considered an expert in cases alleging clerical sexual misconduct. While studying canon law I had been taught by one of the Church's most respected canonical experts on this topic - a former consultor to the Holy See. The Church's sexual misconduct crisis was all over the North American media, and I had represented accused priests. With the canon law community I had also voiced strong support for Fr. Tom Doyle (not a popular figure at the time) and strong criticism for the failure of Churchmen to put children first. So I had the professional knowledge and experience to know better.

Yet there is one circumstance that aggravates my sin even more than any of the above. It is that I first heard the allegations FROM SOME OF THE VICTIMS THEMSELVES. Personally, not through Jason Berry or Tom Doyle. In person, not over the phone or by email. At a hotel in Atlanta, shortly after delivering the following paper (scroll down a page) to an international conference on cults, on the topic (ironically!) of what the Church considers signs of cultic behavior in new religious movements. Over supper with Giselle who introduced me to the victims. I sat with Aaron, Jose Barba or Juan Vaca (I cannot recall who) [UPDATE: Giselle has confirmed both were present at the meal.] and some of the other victims. They looked me in the eye and described the sexual abuse they had suffered. Their faces were the faces of every other legitimate victim of clergy sexual misconduct I had met in person. The modus operandi they described was that of many priestly abusers whose cases I had worked on. I knew these victims spoke truth.

And if I had any doubts about their veracity - I didn't - several of my colleagues in the canon law world confirmed the horror I experienced, sharing experiences with former LC that corroborated my own, but warning me as a young canonist to tread carefully since the LC and Maciel were at the height of their power within the Church. "Everything you heard is true," said one respected canonist familiar with the situation through previous work in Rome. "But I'm convinced that nothing can be done about it until the next Pope." And that is what pains me still about the situation, given the love and admiration I feel for Pope John Paul II.

So I fled. I refused to take a public stand on the issue, or communicate directly with the victims (Giselle knew how to get hold of me - discretely - if they needed canonical advice), or put my name to anything that could be traced back to ReGAIN or Maciel's victims. I guarded my words carefully and spoke in ambiguities when a high-profile North American representative of the Legion confronted me afterward about my meeting with Maciel's victims. I resorted to the same verbal gymnastics when approached by people I knew to be LC, RC, friends or family of members, or movement supporters.

I continued to critique LC/RC quietly on other issues of concern to canonists, using the general consensus in my profession as cover, but I avoided mention of the victims. I kept quiet about the allegations, and hurriedly changed the topic whenever they came up.

It took me until 2006 to steel my courage and speak up publicly in support of the victims. Only when the Holy See released its 2006 communique "inviting" Maciel to retire to a life of prayer and penance. But by then I knew the gig was up. It might take LC/RC years or even decades to come around to the truth about Maciel. Some likely will never come around. But as Msgr. Scicluna noted in his recent interview, for any semi-competent canonist there was no sugar-coating what the Holy See meant by its 'invitation'. Speaking out at this point required little moral courage.

In light of all this, I wish to apologize:

- To Maciel's victims and other victims of alleged abuse within the movement for not speaking up sooner in your defence, despite knowing that you were speaking the truth.

- For the not returning your phone calls or emails, for insisting that I be contacted anonymously and quietly through Giselle.

- To Giselle for making you take time away from your family, and for the inconvenience I caused by putting you in the role of mediator.

- For not defending you when your reputation was sullied in public by supporters of Maciel and his movement, despite knowing that you were innocent of the accusations against you and that the persecution was unjust.

- For contributing to the delay of justice in your case, which also means that justice was denied to you.

- For putting my professional career as a canonist and Catholic journalist before your pain and the correction of injustices against you.

- For re-victimizing you through my silences and other sins of omission.

And to members of LC, RC, friends and family of people on the inside, fellow parents and other Catholics, I apologize:

- For my use of ambiguous language whenever you approached me with concerns, whether you shared them or had simply heard rumors.

- For allowing you to continue believing in good conscience that Maciel was innocent and his victims were liars.

- For not speaking up sooner and warning you, when I knew the truth, that Maciel was an abuser and that his accusers were victims.

- For any harm to you, your family or your friends that may have come through my silence, use of ambiguous language, or other sins of omission.

Please forgive me. Please pray for me. Please join me in apologizing to victims of Maciel and the movement whose reputations were unjustly tarnished for coming forward with the truth.

And please note that there are no hard feelings toward you from my end. As noted by Anon out of RC, there is nothing more freeing than the truth of an apology.

Several readers have asked my opinion about a new LC/RC prayer book, which reportedly continues to source Maciel. Giselle has aptly summarized the situation here. Likewise, Changobeer (the pseudonymous priest who spent 30 years with the Legion, and who was until last year one of Maciel's most vocal defenders) warned about this impending controversy in a blog last August:

At the same time, a book recently distributed internally, 'Cristo al Centro', offers an anthology of Fr. Maciel's writings and sayings - unindexed and sometimes slightly retouched - mixed with quotations from other, less dubious sources as a thinly disguised attempt to revindicate the Founder's contribution to LC spirituality. Now we can quote the Founder without mentioning his name, read some of the things he said and wrote without that direct and oh-so-uncomfortable reference to his person. They're already talking about revisiting the writings of Fr. Maciel some years down the road when all this 'persecution' has blown over...

This ties into Changobeer's earlier critique of the "Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater" argument (click here). Since Changobeer and Giselle have exposed the Legion's attempt to hide Maciel in the rear ranks, I prefer to address this controversy from a personal angle:

Quite simply, I never could get into Maciel's writing. I tried reading material recommended to me by LC friends. But gave up after a couple of pages. What little I read was tedious, boring and inconsequential to my life as a Catholic. Which is kinda weird given that I was excited by the Code of Canon Law, not to mention arcane legal texts. I'm not saying others didn't get anything out of Maciel's writing, I simply could not, and was not going to pretend.

At the time, I chalked it up to being a canon law student. Many in my profession had serious doubts and reservations about Maciel and the Legion even before the original accusations became widely known. The reservations included the rumored Vow of Charity, superiors acting as confessor, the alleged raiding of other movements' seminarians, not being able to identify a clear charism, not knowing how the Legion contributed to the wider Church community.

Maciel's writings never clarified any of these concerns; his writings simply obfuscated them. So I walked away conflicted between my non-canonist friends in the Catholic apologetics movement who swore by the Legion as the new ecclesiastical movement most loyal to John Paul II and Catholic orthodoxy, and my friends and trusted mentors in the canon law world who were waiving red flags from their experience with other new ecclesiastical movements that had gone astray. Two things held me back from critiquing the Legion sooner: Pope John Paul II's support for Maciel, and the many pious lay Catholics I met through Regnum Christi.

That being said, I had the opposite reaction to the writings of St. Bruno - founder of the Carthusian order. I find his writings inspiring, accessible, and clear. They are as easy on the eyes and the spirit as blueberry pie and chilled Chimay beer on the tongue. At the same time they are deeply rooted in Christian prayer and intellectual relfection. Which is why the Carthusian charism continues, 900 years later, unreformed by the Church.

Here is an excerpt from one of St. Bruno's most famous letters, which in my opinion provides sure guidance vis-a-vis many of the issues surrounding the Maciel controversy:

Contemplation, to be sure has fewer offspring than does action, and yet Joseph and Benjamin were the favourites of their father. This life is the best part chosen by Mary, never to be taken away from her. It is also that extraordinary beautiful Shunammite, the only one in Israel to take care of David and keep him warm in his old age. I could only wish, brother, that you too, had such an exclusive love for her, so that lost in her embrace, you burned with divine love. If only a love like this would take possession of you! Immediately, all the glory in the world would seem like so much dirt to you, whatever the smooth words and false attractions she offered to deceive you. Wealth and its concomitant anxieties you would cast off without a thought, as a burden to the freedom of the spirit. You would want no more of pleasure either, harmful as it is to both body and soul.

You know very well who it is that says to us: "He who loves the world, and the things of the world, such as the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and ambition, does not have the love of the Father abiding in him"; also "Friendship with the world is enmity with God". What could be so evil and destructive then, so unfortunate, or so much the mark of a crazed and headstrong spirit, as to put yourself at odds with the one whose power you cannot resist and whose righteous vengeance you could never hope to escape? Surely we are not stronger than he! Surely you do not think he will leave unpunished in the end all the affronts and contempt he receives, merely because his patient solicitude now incites us to repentance! For what could be more perverted, more reckless and contrary to nature and right order, than to love the creature more than the Creator, what passes away more than what lasts forever, or to seek rather the goods of earth than those of heaven?

So, what do you think ought to be done, dear friend? What else, but to trust in the exhortation of God himself and to believe in the truth which cannot deceive? For he calls out to everyone, saying: "Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest". Is it not, after all, a most ridiculous and fruitless labour to be swollen with lust, continually to be tortured with anxiety and worry, fear and sorrow, for the objects of your passion? Is there any heavier burden than to have one's spirit thus cast down into the abyss from the sublime peak of its natural dignity - the veritable quintessence of right order gone awry? Flee, my brother, from these unending miseries and disturbances. Leave the raging storms of this world for the secure and quiet harbour of the port.

For you know very well what wisdom in person has to say to us: "Whoever does not renounce all that he has, cannot be my disciple".

It is well worth reading the whole letter, by clicking here. Why not make a donation to the nearest Carthusian monastery, asking the good monks to pray for Maciel's victims as well as those who have been harmed by the movement. The address for their North American monastery is:

Charterhouse of the Transfiguration
Carthusian Monastery
1084 Ave Maria Way
ARLINGTON, Vermont 05250

What? Who?

On life and living in communion with the Catholic Church.

Richard Chonak

John Schultz

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