Magister vs. Garza, Berg & Gill vs. Alvaro

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.

Like founder, like sons…

Hard to believe a whole year has passed since revelations of Marcial Maciel’s daughter became public. Hard to believe that the Legion of Christ – the order founded by Maciel – still has not offered adequate public apology or restitution to Maciel’s earlier victims of sexual abuse. Many of these victims were minors studying for the priesthood. They were boys entrusted by their families to Maciel and the movement he founded. Their families had believed their sons were being sent off to become holy priests under the care of a living saint. One would hope than an order of “holy” and “orthodox” Catholic priests would recognize the injustice of sexual abuse committed against children in the name of Christ, and the injustice of public calumny against these victims when they came forward with the truth.
Yet in retrospect – and I say this in all sadness – we should not be surprised by the failure of Legion superiors to apologize to Maciel’s victims. We should not be surprised by the movement’s failure to apologize for Maciel’s abuse, not to mention the movement’s coverup of Maciel’s actions as well as the public persecution of Maciel’s victims.
Because like any other religious movement, good or bad, the Legion of Christ appears to derive its spirit from its founder. When the spirit of the founder is good, when the founder seeks sincerely to follow Christ and is inspired by the Holy Spirit, then we recognize the spirit of the movement as a charism. But when the spirit of the founder is evil, then it curses the entire movement.
Which brings us to what I consider the most disturbing report concerning the founder since the scandal broke. It is the recent El Mundo report of Maciel’s death. For those who understand Spanish, you can read the original report here. For those who need an English translation, former Legionary Landon Cody has kindly provided one here.
Several sources tell me that El Mundo is a reputable Spanish news source. If this is true then I am most disturbed by the following aspects of Maciel’s death, as reported by the news source:

It seems that for the previous two years, the founder had lost the faith. He did not go to mass, did not pray… The Legionaries who took care of him came to know that he felt “repulsed by religion”. […]
But the few elect who were with him at the end of his life had a hard time seeing him as an old man. For them, the last hours of the founder were a real calvary. Marcial Maciel refused to confess his sins. He did not want to and did not believe in God’s pardon. Maybe he had spent too many years accostomed to fooling the divine representative in the confessional. How to suddenly declare him a pederast, he has relations with both men and women, he had at least six children who he never took care of like a real father, the abused drugs, he coveted and obtained great quantities of money, he plagiarized the spiritual guidelines of his congregation, he lied and damaged hundreds of people without it bothering him in the least way, and God knows what more. This, God does know. So, why confess his sins? “I said no!” he blurted out to Alvaro Corcuera, who was trying to anoint the dying man with holy oils.

Of all the sins that man can commit during his time on earth, only one is unpardonable by God. It is known as the sin against the Holy Spirit, or the sin of final impenitance. It is the sin of so hardening one’s heart against God that one chooses to die unrepentant of one’s sins.
As explained by Catholic Answers apologist Jim Blackburn:

Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is essentially the willful rejection of God’s grace and forgiveness.
A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture explains, “Unlike other blasphemies or sins which might be partially excused by ignorance, passion or inadvertence, this was[/is] a sin of willful malice and blindness to the light. As long as such a mentality persists, pardon is impossible, not because of any limitation of God, but because those who are guilty of this sin refuse to respond to the promptings of grace” (p.912).
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) states, “There are no limits to the mercy of God, but anyone who deliberately refuses to accept his mercy by repenting, rejects the forgiveness of his sins and the salvation offered by the Holy Spirit. Such hardness of heart can lead to final impenitence and eternal loss” (CCC 1864).

God alone judges the eternal fate of Maciel. We cannot know what conversation took place between God and Maciel in the final moments of the founder’s life. Perhaps, as he was breathing his final breath, the prayers of all his followers cracked the hardness of his heart, allowing him to make peace with a God he had betrayed throughout his life. One can fool the wisest of popes and presidents, but one cannot fool God. And God forces each of us to face the truth of our sins. Better to face Him in the confessional during this lifetime.
Nevertheless, we cannot ignore this report of Maciel’s death – a report that describes all the visible signs of final impenitance. “A tree falls in the direction it is leaning,” my Benedictine spiritual director use to say when explaining the importance of living a Christian life in preparation for facing God in death. If Maciel’s heart remained consistent with the double-life he led, if his heart remained true to his reported actions facing death, then he died either unable or unwilling to repent. In which case, but without judging, his eternal fate seems bleak.
This is something every Legionary and Regnum Christi member must reflect upon, two years after the death of their founder. Not only because the movement continued to describe Maciel as a saint in Heaven, despite an alleged death that suggests anything but. Not only because several top Legionaries reportedly witnessed the visibly unholy death of the founder. But because this spirit of impenitance, so visible (allegedly) in founder’s death, has cursed his movement that refuses to renounce him. Just as Maciel reportedly appeared to choose death rather than repent of his sins, so too have current Legion superiors vis-a-vis Maciel’s movement. Bossuet’s description of Jansenist nuns seems apt in this situation: “They are as pious as angels and as proud as devils.” But even more fundamental as Christians, what we are witnessing is St. Paul’s warning to Romans: “For the wages of sin are death.”
I pray the founder’s impenitance has cursed the Legion and Regnum Christi as institutions only. I pray that God softens the hearts of individual Legionaries and Regnum Christi members, so that they not follow the spirit of their founder into the grave. Let the curse die with Maciel’s movement. May Our Lord Jesus Christ free Maciel’s victims and followers from the curse of Maciel’s impenitance. And let us pray that no further soul risks eternal damnation because of the scandalous example of Maciel and those within the Legion who covered up for him.

Not your life, Fr. Alvaro, but an apology

Giselle has posted an unofficial translation of Fr. Alvaro’s letter reportedly sent to LC priests and RC consecrated. You can read the translation here. Like Giselle’s reader Don, I suspect this may be the letter referred to in August by LC priest (and blogging internal critic) Fr. Damian Karras. Even if it isn’t, Father’s following criticism still sums it up best:

The Superior General has just sent an eighteen page letter meant, apparently, to motivate and strengthen the LCs in these difficult times. The meandering missive never even names the problems that are rocking the congregation to its core and basically offers three bits of advice to its confused, anguished and frustrated priests: pray, don’t read the newspapers and trust the superiors.
Trust the superiors? Like we all trusted Fr. Maciel, our Superior General, for nearly 70 years?

For my own part, I feel a lot more pity for LC Director General Fr. Alvaro after reading this letter. I kept think back to that passage from Lord of the Rings where Gandalf says to Frodo:

Pity? It was pity that stayed Bilbo’s hand. Many that live deserve death. Some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them, Frodo? Do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. Even the very wise cannot see all ends. My heart tells me that Gollum has some part to play yet, for good or ill before this is over. The pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many.

I suppose there are many similarities between Maciel and Sauron, between the founder’s methodology and the Ring of Power. Like Gollum, Fr. Alvaro strikes me in this letter as someone who once was like us, but who having under the spell and influence of his precious, is eager to hold on at any cost. Hopefully I’m wrong.
Regardless, we don’t know what role remains for Fr. Alvaro as the scandal unfolds. Especially if rumors in the Mexican media pan out of a power struggle between Fr. Alvaro and his Vicar General Fr. Garza, who also served as vicar general for Maciel. My heart tells me Fr. Alvaro can still play an important role in the movement’s meltdown, whether for good or for ill.
Having said that, I discern a lack of confidence in the letter attributed to Fr. Alvaro. The Legion and Regnum Christi follow a military motif. But as any current and former military can tell you, soldiers expect communications to be concise and to the point. So too do sailors and marines. (Air Force are a bit of an exception, but even they get to the point once the meandering threatens to cut into their coffee break.)
The Jesuits operate much the same way. I attended a Jesuit college for my undergrad. One of my visiting professors during graduate studies in canon law was a Jesuit. I have worked with Jesuits in the canon law profession. Their communication is always precise and concise. Essays are limited to one page only. Anything longer and they stop reading. Anything longer and they wonder whether you know what you’re talking about, or grasped the central point.
The Legion is capable of pointed and focused communication. It is capable of such under Fr. Alvaro’s leadership. A good example is the order’s response in 2006 when the Holy See invited Fr. Maciel to retire to a life of prayer and penance.
In contrast, the more recent letter goes on for several pages without identifying what necessitated the letter. In so doing Fr. Alvaro’s letter communicates three things, in my opinion: A lack of self-confidence in his leadership, a lack of confidence in the priests and consecrated to whom the letter is addressed, and a lack of confidence in the message the letter attempts to convey. And a general who lacks confidence cannot inspire it in his soldiers. I don’t know what Fr. Alvaro is talking about in his letter. Does he?
Giselle’s reader Jane put the letter’s word count at 8,555. That’s 8,553 words too many, in my opinion. What’s needed is a simple “I’m sorry” to Maciel’s victims. Fr. Alvaro, this is the only message that will restore confidence in your leadership.
Which brings me to this quote from Fr. Alvaro’s letter:

Believe me that I would give my life, or whatever it would take, so as to soften the cross of each one, and that I feel very unworthy of being able to offer you my whole life and renew to you my gratitude, support and brotherly closeness.

Nobody is asking Fr. Alvaro to give up his life. We’re simply asking him to apologize publicly to Maciel’s victims. It’s a debt of justice owed to those who were victimized at the hands of Maciel, then victimized again by having their reputations shredded when they came forward with the truth. Yet this is the one course of action Fr. Alvaro keeps avoiding. Why?

Will Fr. Garza to be thrown under the bus?

I’m on a short break right now, and I want to be very clear about the following post: I am NOT speaking as a canon lawyer. I’m simply speculating a future possibility based upon the following:
1 – Current observable trends in LC/RC;
2 – Past emails I have received from well-placed sources in the movement describing the parties to this reported controversy;
3 – Observations of other movements within the Church that collapsed or went through a period of internal blood-letting;
4 – A new report in Proceso (click here for a copy mirrored on a blog) alleging that Fr. Alvaro and Fr. Garza are clashing in Rome, and that these disputes are growing louder. According to the report, Fr. Alvaro wants to usher in a series of reforms to the Legion, while Fr. Garza wishes to retain strict control of Integer, which reportedly controls much of the LC/RC’s assets.
To be clear, I don’t know how credible Proceso is as Mexican news outlet. Certainly the blog that cribbed it appears to have some political tendencies. And the report is quoting anonymous sources within the Legion, so I would be cautious going on information in the article alone, unless of Mexican readers can vouch for its credibility as a news source.
However, the allegations are consistent with the Legion’s media focus and spin since the crisis first hit last February. Fr. Alvaro has been all over the place, saying he is reaching out to victims, sharing his regrets, etc. Many Legion superiors have sung his praises, like the territorial directors for the U.S., Germany and Spain. People on the inside report being told that Fr. Alvaro had initiated the investigation in Maciel after he became suspicious about a strange woman hanging around Maciel’s death-bed. So yes, the Legion has moved to defend and build up Fr. Alvaro during this crisis. I suppose this isn’t surprising, given the Legion’s penchant for “rock star” priests and the fact Fr. Alvaro is Director General.
Except…how many of us have heard from Fr. Garza? He is, as Vicar General, the number 2 man in the organization. Moreover, he held this position under Fr. Maciel, and several sources report that he was widely expected to take over from Maciel when the Legion electoral process passed Garza over for the much more affable Alvaro. That we have heard little from him during this scandal is surprising given his position.
Moreover, LC/RC insiders often describe Fr. Garza to me as a financial genius who lacks Fr. Alvaro’s ease and skills with people. Which is interesting because the LC has tried to disassociate itself from Maciel’s ‘double life’, though not the founder himself, but they really haven’t commented much on allegations of a financial nature, other than to say they’re audited annually and are working with Integer. However, the LC hasn’t trotted him out to answer financial allegations as they have Fr. Alvaro to answer allegations of a sexual nature.
Speaking as a political analyst, and not as a canon lawyer, Fr. Garza has all the qualities of a good fall guy should LC leadership decide to throw him under the bus. It’s tempting to predict, but whether it happens is another question. If the Legion leadership has shown itself adept at anything during this crisis, it’s closing ranks.

Victims vanish from Legion’s Spanish letter

Periodista Digital, which broke many of the recent allegations against Fr. Maciel, has now posted the Spanish version of the letter to RC faithful recently sent out in America and Germany. It is addressed to the RC in Spain. You can read the letter here.
In reading through the Spanish version, it’s about 90 percent the same of what was published in America and Germany. So no need to rehash that.
What I found interesting is the 10 percent difference. First, the letter appears much more forceful in warning RC against blog commentary. The usual stuff about charity, conjecture, etc. But second – and this really caught my attention – is the absence of any mention of allegations Fr. Maciel sexually abused seminarians in his case. This surprises me because these were the allegations that led to his 2006 invitation to retire to a life of prayer and penance.
In fact, the letter is structured in such a way as to give me the impression the Holy See invited him to retire because he had fathered a daughter, and possibly more children. There’s no mentions of earlier allegations – those made by former LC seminarians.
Now my Spanish is far from perfect. I initially thought I was missing something in translation. So I ran it through babelfish. Still no mention. I was going to call a friend who happens to be a Spanish translator, but then the comments at the bottom of the article caught my eye. Several readers, who I assume are fluent in Spanish if they’re capable of writing in the language, blast the letter for exactly this reason.
They point out three things:
1 – It’s pretty close to the same letter as the one sent off in the U.S.
2 – The major difference is the lack of any reference to the allegations of sexual molestation of seminarians.
3 – The letter gives the impression that Maciel was invited to retire because of his sexual escapades involving women.
Which raises two questions:
1): Is molesting boys not seen as a big deal by the Legion’s Spanish leadership? After all, they don’t mention it in their Spanish apology, which in my opinion also raises questions about the sincerity of the American and German apologies.
2) Does this explain the discrepancy we’ve heard about Fr. Alvaro reaching out to Maciel’s victims? After all, most of us in the English-speaking world think first of the young seminarians who first brought forth allegations against Maciel. However, they are not acknowledged in the Spanish version of this letter.
These questions are not merely conjecture on my part. The sexual abuse of minors is a serious sin. Both the American and Germans found it important enough to mention. But the Spanish version did not. Yet all three versions claim the support of LC Director General Fr. Alvaro. Given all the allegations circulating about the Legion playing games with orthodox Catholics, and all the focus that’s been put on the original victims, how can you expect us not to notice such a discrepancy?
In light of this major discrepancy, combined with the impression that the Spanish letter gives, I must retract my earlier statement that the American letter presents a step forward for the LC/RC. Most of the original victims spoke Spanish. To omit any mention of them in the language in which they were victimized is simply unconscionable, in my opinion.
Nor will I accept the excuse that the difference is cultural or linguistic. Such an argument appeals to the racism of low expectations, implying that Spanish-speaking folk are incapable of accepting the truth. This is not true, as demonstrated by the outrage expressed against the letter in Periodista Digital’s comments section.