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.
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.
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.
[UPDATE: On an interesting – but not as serious – side-note, Berry and Renner confirm that St. Rafael Guiza was among portly saints canonized by the Church. He reportedly struggled with obesity and diabetes, which I find interesting given last week’s discussion on how one rarely encounters portly priests in the Legion (click here).]
I picked up Jason Berry and Gerald Renner’s Vows of Silence tonight (click here for the DVD with the same name, which includes a Spanish version), after RC Is Not My Life asked me to check the Jesuit connection to Fr. Maciel’s expulsion from the second seminary he attended. It seems that Maciel wasn’t just paranoid – the Jesuits were suspicious of Maciel and the Legion. Berry and Renner report that the Jesuits from the beginning suspected his sexual proclivities.
Yet what caught my eye in re-reading their chapter on Maciel’s seminary days was his expulsion from his uncle’s seminary, the first seminary Maciel attended. Particularly how it relates to the death of St. Rafael Guizar Valencia, who was Maciel’s uncle, sponsoring bishop and rector of the first seminary Maciel attended. Maciel always claimed expulsion due to a “misunderstanding” after his saintly uncle’s death. Berry and Renner explore the alleged misunderstanding, shedding the following light (carefully footnoted) on page 155:
Bishop Guizar died on June 6, 1938. The Legion history says that “misunderstandings” arose. “Marcial had to leave the seminary.” [LC priest and biographer Fr. J. Alberto] Villasana reports that two months after the “holy death” of his uncle, “the vicar-general of the vacant see and the new provisional rector expel from the seminary ‘the Bishop’s spoiled nephew who is planning a foundation‘”–a religious order. The italics are Villasana’s; the quotation is clearly Maciel’s interpretation of what the two churchmen of his uncle’s diocese thought of him. The self-absorbed Maciel misses the implication of two church superiors, in a persecuted land, washing their hands of a seminarian from an influential family. “Spoiled” begs the larger question: what in his character made them recoil?
An even darker explanation may underlie the expulsion. The day before Bishop Guizar died, he had been heard shouting angrily at Maciel. He was giving his eighteen-year-old nephew a dressing down after two women had come to the bishop’s house to complain about Maciel, who was their neighbor. Father Orozco, who was among the original group of boys to found the Legion of Christ in 1941, said he heard the women had complained about the “noise” Maciel was making with children he had brought into his home to teach religion. He said that the seminary officials blamed Maciel for his uncle’s heart attack.
Berry and Renner are careful in their presentation of the alleged incident. They don’t accuse Maciel of molesting children or indirectly causing his uncle’s death. Rather they present the testimony of someone who was present, noting unusual circumstances, and leave us to draw our own conclusions. But given what we now know of Maciel’s double-life, along with what we know about St. Rafael as a holy bishop who sought always what was right in the eyes of God despite the persecution he would suffer, I think we can conclude fairly that this incident concerned more than a mere “misunderstanding”.
As Berry and Renner point out in subsequent passages, the Catholic Church in Mexico was undergoing a severe persecution. The Church was starving for priests. Maciel was from an influential Church family that included two bishops. Yet as Berry and Renner state, two church superiors nevertheless expelled Maciel from his uncle’s seminary.
But let’s look at this from the perspective of other parties who were present. What would compel two church ladies – who, in allowing their children to be catechized during a time of persecution, were likely risking their lives and the physical welfare of their children – to come forward and denounce the seminarian nephew of a bishop much beloved by the Catholic faithful?
One might argue they were anti-Catholic agents who were trying to bring embarrassment upon the Church, but this doesn’t fit the circumstances. First, they approached St. Rafael with their allegations, rather than civil authorities who were looking for any stick with which to beat the Church. Second, St. Rafael acted on their complain, jacking up his nephew in anger. What would compel this holy man of God to tear down his own flesh and blood seeking to follow in his footsteps unless he found the women and/or their allegations credible?
So once again we find Maciel’s life as murky as his sexual proclivities. Which begs the question, who were Maciel’s first victims?
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?