Can LC/RC members repent?

One of Genevieve’s readers has translated an early report concerning the apostolic visitation to the Legion of Christ. You can read it here. If this report is accurate, then I find it significant for two reasons:
1 – The reason Maciel’s earlier victims have not received an apology is because LC/RC leadership reportedly don’t want to admit the probability of Maciel’s guilt.
2 – The Holy Father is reportedly concerned that LC/RC are still following the “vow of charity” in spirit, even though His Holiness has suppressed it in law.
If both these allegations (reportedly alleged by LC rank-in-file troubled by their superiors’ response to crisis) are true, then we’re looking at a deeper question. Namely, are LC/RC leadership capable of repentance?
I cannot claim credit for the question. It comes from a friend of mine who asked me to preserve his anonymity, citing his ecclesiastical status as a local ordinary. He has been following the LC/RC meltdown with great interest because of the effect he feels the movement has had on the people of his diocese.
The question arose as he was telling me about about a pastoral situation he found himself in as a young priest. A successful professional wanted to divorce his wife of several years, abandon their children, and run off with his much younger assistant. My friend asked the professional to think it over, reminding him of his marriage vows and explaining the after-effect this would likely have on the couple’s children. “Can you face God on Judgment Day knowing full well that you have torn your family apart for selfish reasons?” my friend asked.
However, the professional was obstinate. The spark had died in his marriage, he protested, and he was madly in love with his young assistant. “Besides,” the man said, “I’m basically a good person. I volunteer at the food bank and donate my time and money to many local charities. God sees the good things that I do in this community. And speaking of God, you priests are always preaching God’s forgiveness. Are you telling me now that it’s a lie? That God cannot forgive me if I follow my heart, despite all the good things I do?”
My friend was stumped. How to explain to a man looking for any excuse to bolt his marriage that God could forgive him, without appearing to retreat on the importance of remaining faithful to one’s marriage vows and seeking marital counseling. My friend sought advice from a more senior pastor who was experienced with these types of pastoral intervention.
The more senior pastor said: “Tell him that God can forgive him if he follows through with his plan. Then add: ‘But in making this decision with full knowledge of the consequences it will bear on your family, will you be capable of repenting?'”
That is the question. (Although he could have added the following as well: “Or will you spend your life denying the consequences of your intended actions, refusing to admit you were at fault? Digging in to salve your conscience as you try to justify yourself to your children when they turn against you?”)
This is the situation in which members of the LC/RC now find themselves. The good works to which they appeal does not justify the grave evil they appear to gloss over by their actions. Maciel’s earlier victims are still waiting for an official apology, in public and in private. And can anyone show any attempt on the part of LC/RC officials to restore the good name of Maciel’s victims?
Like many other orthodox Catholics, I was prepared to cut the Legion some slack when news first broke last January. This was a great shock to those who had previously believed Maciel to be a living saint. People needed time to absorb the news and understand its implications. However, over nine months have passed since this broke. Moreover, it now seems probable that LC/RC leadership knew about this beforehand. That’s plenty of time to apologize in accordance with one’s Catholic obligations, and obligation in justice as taught in every orthodox Catholic children’s catechism.
And thus my question is as follows to those who, with knowledge of Maciel’s probable guilt and the injustice done to his victims, continue to promote and defend the movement, citing its reported good works, while refusing to acknowledge the gravity of the injustice to Maciel’s victims and the movement’s responsibility to correct the situation: “If you continue along this road, will you be capable of repenting?”
And as an added question to fellow parents, should your children clue in and turn away from the movement before you do, will you be able to keep them from turning against the Church as well? Or will you be too busy engaging in apostolate, promoting your “good works” despite the naysayers?


  1. Well this commentary would apply well to LC leadership, but rank and file LCs have not the information access to confirm and consolidate informed judgments. Culture of secrecy is well noted in the news story, and when LCs do learn enough we see a large number of them (though not all) reacting the way the bloggers do… They want apology, transparency, and a General Chapter to make the needed reforms, or they just leave.
    I have it from one LC that they were never told the intentions behind the removal of the 4th vow and the cultural change that the action supposed. Fr. Alvaro literally told them the spirit of it remained even it the vow was no longer in force.
    One must note that all of the “changes” to date are carried out through the command and control of 3-4 people. I believe there is an urgency that the Holy See make known its changes in public and well-nuanced. Please stop the behind the scenes approach with Fr. Alvaro et. al.
    I also hold accountable some in the Curia who no doubt are complicit in perpetuating even now this control and denial structure regarding MM and other LC issues. They want what the Legion is doing for the Church in its works more than they want the sincere good of its members or the truth and justice due to so many good Catholic faithful. It seems from the enlightened Legionary quoted they want the Pope to not sit on the outside with supportive commentary and offer a little internal tweaking of the norms, but to confirm and help what is emerging (or would emerge if they had all the facts) in the consciences of a growing number of LCs. They need to make tough decisions and consciences are always at more peace when the Church confirms them along the way. They want him to say: “Yes-you are right- you need to all discern, you need deep reform and you need it now.”
    Pete- Lumping LC/RC into one whole over simplifies. I see three different groups that have to be understood differently in this:
    1) Those with authority and have had all the facts (Vatican Curia, certain LC leaders)
    2) Those with neither authority, and often little or no information-victims still of secrecy structures: Rank and File LC/Consecrated Women
    3) RC Members at large- who have all the info they need if they do the research.
    And then ofcourse you have Fr. Edmond Ritter and the Legionary in the news story who broke the rules and got the information anyway- and are still pulling their hair out trying to figure out what to do.

  2. Pete, it is great to have you back. We’ve missed you!
    You said yourself in your earlier post: If it was just a matter of the founder falling from grace, this controversy would be over by now. You are right. They could have said, we are sorry, we were wrong, we were deceived, we believed him, and now we realize he was not the man he claimed to be. They could have apologized to his victims, for disbelieving them and for attacking their good names. The problem is not the apology; it is the whole new set of questions that crop up if they admit Maciel’s guilt.
    If Maciel was guilty, then why, in 1997, did Miguel Diaz Riviera retract his accusation of sexual abuse, and claim the other victims coerced him to lie? If asked that question today, what would he say? Was it his idea to discredit the other victims?
    How about the deathbed statement of Juan Manuel Fernandez Amenabar, accusing Maciel of abuse? A psychotherapist who was not Amenabar’s doctor, Raul de Anda Gomez, came forward and disputed the statement, claiming that Amenabar was medically incapable of making that statement. If the Legion now concedes Maciel’s guilt, doesn’t that make the veracity of Amenabar’s deathbed statement more likely? Doesn’t this make one suspect the motives of Raul de Anda Gomez?
    Four men signed affidavits, claiming to have been asked to join in a conspiracy against Maciel, to accuse him of sexual abuse. Why did they submit those affidavits? Doesn’t an apology today from the Legion today make those affidavits from 1997 look suspicious?
    There are 6 men who will face serious scrutiny if the Legion ever apologizes to Maciel’s victims. How will they stand up to that scrutiny? What might they reveal?
    The Legion has managed to instill in members a siege mentality, that they are privileged insiders to a beautiful mission to advance Christ’s Kingdom, while outside, there are evil critics doing the work of the devil to bring it down. How can the Legion now concede that some of those critics were correct?
    I believe the decision to apologize comes down to a simple analysis for the Legion leadership. What will it cost to apologize versus what will it cost if they fail to apologize? In 9 months since the latest scandal, they have lost some support, but it appears they are confident they can rebuild. They are on their best behavior for the AV. They are broadcasting positive news of supportive bishops as well as success and growth in many RC apostolates to assure their remaining members of their ongoing contributions to the advancement of Christ’s kingdom. As for continuing the vow of charity, officially or not, how do you prove it? If the rank and file LC and RC speak with serenity and optimism, and turn away from any doubt or unpleasant talk, so what? Aren’t they just being good Christians?
    Recruitment continues in RC. 50+ Legionaries are slated for ordination in December.
    Why apologize?

  3. They.Will.Never.Repent.
    So many RC members are waiting in trust for the LC to apologize, because they believe the vague promise of private apologies. Such a shameful abuse of their faith and trust.
    You would be better off leaving RC, and telling the movement you’ll be back when the LC has apologized. It won’t happen.
    And if by some miracle they do apologize, do you think they won’t welcome you back, with your donations and apostolic zeal?
    It won’t happen. Nothing can happen after 9 months that would prompt the LC to apologize.

  4. The psychotherapist who claimed Fr. Amenabar was unable to make his deathbed confession – which was witnessed by his long-time therapist (he was suffering from a stroke) – was neither medically qualified to comment on Fr. Amenabar’s physical abilities nor had he in any way examined or worked with Fr. Amenabar. Fr. Amenabar’s mental condition was never in question, only his ability to speak and communicate. He made the confession in the presence of his speech therapist.
    This psychotherapist had visited Fr. Amenabar with other LC superiors who were offering to give him medical assistance (suspectedly for his silence) and is/was an RC member.
    Any comments he made were purely speculative and were made at the Legion’s request.
    The men who signed the affidavits were all in the employment of the Legion of Christ or of Maciel’s brother. They, like the man who retracted his statement, have all kept silence since that moment.
    I know that if it were me who had been approached with money to lie, I would be very vociferous about it. It seems very convenient that a bunch of affidavits suddenly appear as a defensive response to the hartford courant articles and nothing is heard from these men ever again.
    I believe there were put up to it by the Legion.

  5. The adulterous “professional” never will have to repent. He can divorce his wife with the blessing of the Church, knock up his little baby girl and stay with her for the good of the children and even apply for nullity, which some canonist quack like Vere or his ilk can’t wait to grant.
    Even if there is no nullity the Church does not care. Clergy care nothing at all for justice or repentance. They are FAST to judge the victims and ever patient with the perps.
    I know this to be true. I am living it. Pete knows this to be true as well, but I am sure has some lame excuse. All canonists do.
    This story is stupid.

  6. Pete, I don’t think this is entirely fair to many, many good-hearted and well-intentioned RC members who, up until the news broke about the illegitimate child (children), had been completely “docile” to their directors. In 2006, when RC members questioned what the Vatican communique meant, we were told adamantly that we didn’t understand Vatican politics, etc. You know that we were taught to trust our directors. Then, when we discovered that what the Vatican had said was exactly what we thought (but had been told was wrong), a huge number of us just quit completely all of our previous activities. Most of us took a “leave of absence” because of the stigma of leaving outright. Our local section is down by two-thirds. But so many of us “left” precisely because the leaders would not apologize for their actions and for the wrongs committed by MM. Please don’t say that we can’t repent. So many have “left” (this will not be recorded in the official Legionary record books) because of the lack of true charity, the failure to apologize to the victims.

  7. Although I don’t usually reply to anonymous posters engaging in whisper campaigns – especially those who are trying to hi-jack the thread (change the topic?) and leave a false email address – however, I’m on record in several places as to why the sudden explosion of marriage breakdown in North America after the 1960’s. It was the culture of contraception, pre-marital sex, etc. Just go back into the Catholic Light archives and you’ll find the following I wrote back in 2003:
    I’m also on record as to why marriages between conservative Catholics highly active in apostolate were not exempt from the trend. The following article, written by Jacqui Rapp and me, received both strong praise and strong criticism from a number of folks on the Catholic circuit:

  8. Dear Anonymous long-time RC member,
    I do not and cannot speak for Pete. However, with what I know of Pete, I can assure you, from the tone of your post, he is not speaking about people like you when he asks the question: can they repent?
    The point is, when things began to smell fishy, you and many like you did not take the easy road of following the RC crowd professing serenity and good fruits. You did not blink impassively at the mention of MM’s victims, or admonish people to believe the good they hear and only the bad they see. You used your God-given ability to reason, you did not stifle your conscience, and you asked logical questions. When the long overdue apology did not materialize, you left. You did repent, if you go by the definition of “repent” as “to feel regret about a sin or past actions and change your ways or habits”. You changed as soon as you were able.
    It is not a sin to be tricked or deceived. No one goes through life expecting to be lied to in the name of Christ by supposed sincere Catholics or priests. When you had the facts, you acted on them, according to your conscience.
    On the other hand, in my opinion, there is a lack of repentance in those who remain committed to the movement, who refuse to attempt any self-critique, who are focussing on business as usual, who have moved on despite the lack of apology, or who are “at peace” with the obvious problems because RC has been good for them personally, as though THAT is all that matters. Thankfully, that’s not you.
    If you have not done so, read through some of the archives here at Catholic Light. I am sure you will find Pete’s comments to be wise and charitable.

  9. Thanks, Jane, for accurately summing up my position. To reassure Anonymous long-time RC member, who sounds like he/she had the courage to stand up and correct an earlier mistake that had been made in good faith, I’m not pointing the finger at rank-and-file RC who went along with the LC/RC position prior to the revelation of Maciel’s daughter, or even gave the movement’s leaders the benefit of the doubt in the months after the revelation. And I’m certainly not pointing the finger at those you describe. Rather I pray that God blesses them for their courage.
    Rather my question is targetted to those who attempt to sidestep, ignore or justify the lack of adequate apology to Maciel’s victims, even after nine months of the truth being known.

  10. If the matter is moving to this level of gravity and is so clear, why is the Holy See not calling for such repentance? They are the one’s with pastoral oversight of the LC leaders.

  11. 1 – We don’t know that the Holy See hasn’t called for the LC/RC to apologize to Maciel’s earlier victims. We simply know that the Holy See has not done so publicly, although I believe several high-profile churchmen have.
    2 – The reason the Holy See has not publically called upon the LC/RC to apologize is, I believe, as follows: The Holy See is not a babysitter. It’s role right now is to observe, discern the depth of the problem, and formulate a means of resolving the problem in accordance with the obligations of Catholic justice.
    That being said, this does not remove the obligation on the part of LC/RC to apologize to Maciel’s victims, make restitution for the harm done to these victims, and the restore the victims’ good names.

  12. Interesting comments. Maybe it might be worth a couple of threads to consider what would happen if all the LCs were asked to sit down for one day to read the REAL history of events without manipulation (like that of Cassandra Jones- as posted on Exlcblog.) What if they also read John Allen’s coverage of the 1997 effort to try MM, with all the details of manipulation and coverup of the facts. What if they could see the primary evidence, or authenticated letters, reports, documents from the 40′,50’60’s.
    If I read this news report correctly- When the ‘scandal of the founder’ is mentioned now- they hear only the child and affair; they think the events of foundation are still without stain and honorable. The internal campaign in the LC/RC is getting everyone now to just move on with secrecy, divulging only a very weakened version of the events, ommision of MM name in everything, and by focusing everyone on works, fruits and new affirmations. Hence crisis averted.. The sordid past is becoming irrelevant now, as Visitors focus on reform that will be seen as ‘tweaking’ things. All very affirming and positive. Ordinations on the way, Montreal bringing in the LCs, etc… All is well.
    Even if the 3 LCs at the top brought forth an apology to accusers, would we really have a true reconciliation of events for each and every member perfectly conditions to forget and deny?
    Afterall for them, as said elsewhere, events mean nothing- just fruits.

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