I just saw this interview with Fr John Connor, LC, about the situation and renewal of the Legion and Regnum Christi:
First, I should say that I have known Fr John Connor since 1991, when we entered the novitiate at the same time in Cheshire, Connecticut. He is a talented, hard-working, dedicated priest. I have heard many lay people say how much he has helped them and their families to grow in the faith. He has a very difficult task now as Territorial Director for the territory of Atlanta (which means he is the Superior for much of the United States). He has my prayers.
That said, I find this interview disturbing. It’s not so much what he says; much of what he says is on target. There are things I might take issue with, but I don’t want to go there now. What bothers me much more is what is not said. Nowhere does he or the interviewer address the central issue of the crisis and necessary process of renewal. When asked about the things that might have obscured the clarity and living of the charism in the past, he addresses a few symptoms, but nowhere does he face up to, or even mention, problem #1: the founder of the Legion and his influence on the life and structure of the congregation.
Fr Marcial Maciel founded the Legion of Christ and directed it for more than 60 years, and authored (or at least supervised the drawing up of) the rules and regulations of the congregation. In the meantime, he sexually abused seminarians, fathered at least three children by at least two women, used the congregation’s funds to support his families and at times a luxurious lifestyle for himself, plagiarized spiritual writings (or at least consented to having them printed under his name), abused power in the congregation, deceived and as a consequence has now scandalized countless people, and more. Let’s look again at what the Vatican’s Apostolic Visitators had to say:
The Apostolic Visitation was able to ascertain that the conduct of Father Marcial Maciel Degollado has given rise to serious consequences in the life and structure of the Legion, such as to require a process of profound re-evaluation.
The very grave and objectively immoral actions of Father Maciel, confirmed by incontrovertible testimonies, in some cases constitute real crimes and manifest a life devoid of scruples and authentic religious meaning. This life was unknown to the great majority of the Legionaries, above all because of the system of relationships constructed by Father Maciel, who was able skilfully to create alibis for himself, to obtain trust, confidence and silence from those around him, and to reinforce his personal role as a charismatic founder.
Not infrequently a deplorable discrediting and distancing of those who entertained doubts as to the probity of his conduct, as well as a misguided concern to avoid damaging the good that the Legion was accomplishing, created around him a defence mechanism that for a long time rendered him unassailable, making it very difficult, as a result, to know the truth about his life.
That is what has obscured the charism. That – and the way the crisis has been handled – is what has caused the lack of confidence in the superiors of the Legion and Regnum Christi. That is what no one is willing to take any responsibility or accountability for, even if it happened on their watch. And that is the elephant in the room during this interview. Until the Legion openly addresses this, internally and externally, comes to terms with it, and deals with the consequences honestly and straightforwardly and with some real transparency, real renewal will not happen.
Every few weeks I hear about more Legionary priests or seminarians – especially Americans and Spaniards, but also men of other nationalities – who are leaving because this is not happening. I am happy that they are getting clear of the situation and serving God in freedom somewhere else, but it still bothers me that the situation is such as to prompt our exit from the community. I don’t think the superiors are malicious; I trust they are trying to do the right thing. I believe that there is just too much of Fr Maciel’s mentality and culture permeating the Legion’s way of thinking and acting.
That’s one reason why I find this whole situation so painful; I see men I love and respect bringing a train full of equally well intentioned people down a railroad track to a desert wilderness, where the people will abandon it one by one and the train will eventually run down and decay. Who can blame those of us who are jumping off the train? And yet, how can I not suffer as the train seems to continue without changing tracks?
If any Legionaries read this post, I hope they will not feel hurt, or think that I want to attack them or the Legion. I wish them the best. I know men in the Legion who have their eyes wide open and are trying to help effect a change in the course of the Legion. I hope and pray that the Pope’s delegate Card. Velasio de Paolis is able to wake up everyone on the train to the reality of where they are and where they are going, so they can change direction and get on the track to true renewal, growth in holiness and apostolic fruitfulness for the good of the Church and the world.