Okay, one more post – Maciel and Mama Maurita

One last post that I have been meaning to write for some time, on a topic that my fellow blog hobbits are now tackling. It concerns Fr. Maciel, family life, and the importance of truth. Giselle at Life-After-RC has posted the testimony of a parent who accuses Fr. Maciel of hurting his family life through Maciel’s lies, which touches upon why parents ought not treat Regnum Christi membership like a vocation on par with marriage (click here).
Meanwhile, ExLC treats us to some poetry in responding to my earlier post explaining how Fr. Maciel’s life undermines the teachings he advocates in his spiritual writings. Here’s ExLC’s poem:

Now here is the problem:
Who was Marcial Maciel?
Did he lie to his families about being a priest?
Or did he lie all along about being a founder?
And how can we ever know which one is the lie?
Or were they both a lie?

And of several thought-provoking weekend posts at RC Is Not My Life, one of them deals with this issue by comparing Fr. Maciel to television network executives in Jim Carey’s movie The Truman Show. What struck me was not only the author’s insight, which you can read here, but reader Simon’s comment in the ensuing discussion:

Based on what we now know about Maciel, there are really only two possibilities, aren’t there?
1. He concocted the Legion and RC to cover up for and fund his decadent lifestyle. The whole thing is a cynical joke, a scam. Marcial Madoff, L.C.
2. Anguished by the internal contradictions of his own life, this man — so utterly lacking integrity, self-discipline, generosity, genuine piety or even a fixed identity — overcompensated. He created an organization that pressed its members to sacrifice their own personalities and stripped away their ability to discern vocations, express authentic human emotions, or even decide how to part their hair.
In the first possibility, Maciel made cynical use of authentic Catholic spirituality in order to achieve his evil ends, adding nothing distinctive.
In the second possibility, Maciel actively distorted Catholicism in response to his own bizarre interior torment, so that the result is doctrinally orthodox as a formal matter, but deeply screwed up at the level of formation and spirituality.

I’m not a psychologist. Nor do I play one on television. However, I’ve ministered inside the Church’s legal structure for close to ten years now. I’ve seen a lot in that time, and heard a lot from canon lawyers who are older, smarter and more experienced than me. Often the answer to this type of mystery can be found in the childhood relationship between a troubled priest and his mother – especially if the father was absent, abusive or had a poor relationship with his son.
This reminds of an incident when I was first getting started as a canon lawyer. Along with several other canon lawyers I happened to be at a workshop explaining the process whereby priests and religious seek to return to the lay state. The vast majority of those in attendance were over 40 years of age. The handful of under 35-year-olds sat together in the back.
The presenter, a respected priest and canonist, said during his presentation: “The trigger for older priests and religious wanting to return to the lay state is seldom a love interest. The most common trigger is the death of a parent, usually the mother. Let’s be honest: how many of us are here today because our mother wanted us to become a priest or religious? How many of us would have chosen this life had we not been sent off as teenagers to the minor seminaries by our mothers?”
A look of shock and horror came over our faces in the back row, among those of us who were under 35 and had not been alive prior to the Second Vatican Council. Surely the presenter was exaggerating the “bad old days” before Vatican II! But as we watched row-after-row of older clergy and religious nod their heads in agreement, regardless of whether they were liberal or conservative theologically, us younger canon lawyers recognized that the presenter was speaking the truth. For many, it was the mother who wanted the vocation.
Now I don’t want to get carried away on this point. It’s not a bad thing if a mother, suspecting that God may be calling her son to priesthood or religious life, fosters and encourages the potential vocation. In fact, this is a good thing – if the vocation or call to discernment are a true calling from God. Thus St. Monica’s prayed for St. Augustine’s conversion, and St. John Bosco had a close relationship with his mother, who adopted the orphans served by her son’s apostolate as her own. Similarly, St. Pius X’s mother urged him to stay in the seminary when, as oldest son, he considered dropping out to support his mother and his siblings after the death of his father.
A similar story is told of Fr. John Hardon, the noted Jesuit catechist and spiritual director to Mother Teresa, and an only child who was raised by his mother after his father died in a work-related accident when the boy was only one. Reportedly, Father had thought about dropping out of the Jesuit seminary to support his mother when she began to show the effects of old age. His mother urged him to continue with the Jesuits, if this is where he felt God was calling him.
In each of these cases, the vocation is clearly present. The individuals themselves felt the call to priesthood and religious life, and those charged with their formation confirmed it. Their mothers simply encouraged them, through word and prayer, to remain faithful to God’s call. They did not seek to impose a calling that was not already clear to their the son.
This is different from being pressured into the priesthood or religious life – especially when a child’s relationship with the other parent is poor or lacking.
Mama Maurita has passed away. So has Fr. Maciel. Therefore, this avenue of inquiry can only be speculation. However, three things cause me to suspect that Fr. Maciel’s founding of his movement is tied to his relationship with Mama Maurita:
1 – Fr. Maciel had a difficult relationship with his father throughout his entire life.
2 – Fr. Maciel held his mother, who happens to have been a fervent Catholic and the niece of a bishop and a canonized saint (and who wanted to be a religious herself), in particularly high esteem.
3 – None of Fr. Maciel’s reported children (at least the ones we know about) were born until after Mama Maurita’s death. On the other hand, most of the sexual abuse allegations involving seminarians and young men seems to take place while she was still alive.
Again, I am not a psychologist. Nor was I ever Fr. Maciel’s spiritual or formation director. And having met, I never acted for him in any capacity as a canon lawyer. So this is only speculation on my part. However, it is an avenue those in the LC/RC may wish to consider in pursuing the truth about their founder.

Why Mama Maurita is part of the story

In her inaugural post, RC Is Not My Life responds to my last entry about Fr. Maciel making special exceptions for his mother (Mama Maurita). Here’s what RC Is Not My Life says:

At first I thought, you know, let’s leave Mama Maurita out of this. But then reading the post later it just dawned on me the number of cases of favoritism I saw in the Legion. The Mama Maurita exception, while problematic, was just the tip of the iceberg.
And just like that, as instantaneously as I came under their spell, the scales came falling off of my eyes. I woke up. I could see the Legion for what they were. And then my entire life came crashing down. So many questions. So many red flags I did not see.

I totally understand where RC Is Not My Life is coming from. Initially, I too debated whether to drag Mama Maurita’s name into the debate over Fr. Maciel. While many wonder whether she is material for sainthood, nobody seems to question that she was a devout Catholic woman. Is it her fault that her son grew into a fraud and a pervert?
Probably not. However, Mama Maurita is part of the story. Not because she gave birth to Maciel, but because he and the Legion’s public relations machine have dragged her into the story, much like they did Pope John Paul II. Fr. Maciel’s critics may have raised her name in the most recent debate, but this is long after Legion sources used pseudo-messianic language to put forward her cause for beatification (click here). That and much of what we thought we knew about Mama Maurita comes from Fr. Maciel – a man who lied about his priesthood, his dedication to God, and possibly his mother. So she is now part of the story. And Catholics looking at her beatification process are trying to sift fact from fiction.
This is the spiritual legacy of Fr. Maciel’s spiritual deception. And by covering up the deception – and not being more forthcoming with the truth and an apology to the founder’s victims – those closest to the founder find their reputations singed by his deception. It’s not unlike what happened with former U.S. president Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinski scandal.
Clinton survived with his presidency tarnished, but still intact. However, his sexual escapades and subsequent coverup destroying the presidential aspirations of his closest advisers. Just ask Al Gore and Hillary. Despite not having participated in the adulterous act, they got pulled into the scandal when the president was less-than-forthcoming about the truth. Clinton survived the scandal by crippling future presidential runs of his wife and his vice-president. They took the fall, not for Clinton’s illicit sex, but for the subsequent coverup.
This is similar to what’s happening with those close to Fr. Maciel. In not being more forthcoming with information, in allowing Catholics to discover what’s happening through the secular media rather than Church sources, Fathers Corcuera, Garza, Álvarez and others at the top now become part Fr. Maciel’s story.

Maciel wasn’t made for the Legion, but the Legion for Maciel

In response to my earlier post Maciel, Mom and the Messiah, Still RC – For Now, Anyway shares an interesting comment at Life-After-RC:

My understanding of “Mama Maurita’s consecration” is that it happened shortly before she died (within a year perhaps?) and that she was exempt from the ban on smoking cigarettes that all the consecrated must follow. “NP” himself exempted his mother and no one I know complained of “special privilege” because, really, are you going to tell your elderly mother she can’t smoke?

Did Christ exempt His mother from suffering at the foot of the cross?
There are two reason why I find Fr. Maciel’s exception for Mama Maurita so interesting. The first is that special exceptions for the founder (or those close to him in this case) is one of the red flags canon lawyers use to determine that something is amiss in a new religious movement (click here and scroll down)..
The second reason is that many people report that Fr. Maciel was perpetually accusing the Jesuits for having lost their charism of fidelity to Rome. So how was Fr. Maciel’s reaction any different than than the Jesuit response to Pope Pius XII’s ban on religious smoking?

Maciel, Mom and the Messiah

While ExLC was translating the latest news to come from Spain (click here) and Giselle was surveying Regnum Christi membership decline in local sections (click here), I thought I would take a moment to poke through alleged LC constitutions available on Wikileak. (As an aside, has anyone heard from Cassandra or Fr. Damien Karras concerning recent allegations?)
I won’t go into the Legion’s structure, or ask why they include regulations on how to properly tip one’s soup bowl when dining. Rather, what stood out to me in glancing through the documents was the following hagiography of Mama Maurita, venerated among LC/RC as Fr. Maciel’s mother. In fact, the movement is currently pushing her cause for beatification:

Historical material pertaining to Our Founder

472. To gather historical material pertaining the family of Our Founder, especially Mama Maurita [the mother of Marcial Maciel Degollado], the instrument chosen by God to give life to Nuestro Padre and to prepare the earth in which his vocation as a Christian, a priest and the Founder of the Legion of Christ would germinate.[emphasis mine]
473. We consider it appropriate at this time to inform you that the Commission for the Cause of the Beatification of Mama Maurita has now been put in place and will in time be releasing information on the steps which it has been taking. Meanwhile, the Chapter Fathers invite our legionary brothers to intensify their prayers so that God may grant us the grace of seeing in the not too distant future Mama Maurita placed on altars, for the good of the Church, of the Legion and of the Movement.

Okay, anybody else troubled by this?
Not to say Fr. Maciel’s mother wasn’t a holy woman. She may or may not have been – I don’t know and that’s not where I’m going here. However, whatever her level of sanctity, does she deserve the same to messianic hagiography as the Blessed Mother, who prepared the way for Christ? Especially given that Fr. Maciel ended his life a disgrace to the Church.
The contemporary Church doesn’t even use this type of messianic language for St. Monica, who bore St. Augustine – a great convert, confessor, father and doctor of the Church, not to mention founder of the institute bearing his name. However, in Advent-like narrative, Mama Maurita was uniquely chosen by God to prepare the earth for and give birth to Fr. Maciel!
Suddenly, I understand why Fr. Maciel compared himself to Christ suffering on the cross in silence when the Holy See invited him to retire to a life of prayer and penance.