Renewal of the Legion and Regnum Christi?

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.


About Matthew Green

I am a translator, origami artist/teacher, and photographer, a blogger, former philosophy professor, and I love to sing. You can see my photos on Flickr and buy prints of some of them on Fine Art America. You can find me on Instagram, Twitter (@mehjg), and in various and sundry other social media sites on the web.
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14 Responses to Renewal of the Legion and Regnum Christi?

  1. Karl-Olaf Bergmann says:

    Thanks, Fr. Matthew for your interesting comment and thoughts on the issue! I keep you in my prayers! Cordial greetings from Germany.

  2. Johnathon Brett says:

    I agree you but I think that it is important that we do not say that it is a good thing that some are leaving… It is difficult to come to that and we should trust in the Holy Fathers ability to correct those things which you have rightly pointed out. God Bless and Count on my prayers

    • Thanks for your comment!

      Given the way the situation is today, I do think it is good that some are leaving, for our own mental, spiritual, and psychological health; but I think it would be better if the situation were such that we did not have to leave. I have no doubt that, by leaving, I am following God’s will for me, discerned through much prayer and consultation. I am sure that most of those who leave follow a similar path of discernment, and doing God’s will is good, and a reason to be glad.

      I do not think this contradicts having trust in the Holy Father and the Vatican. Although even there, I would take a more nuanced approach; the Holy Father is clearly not going to shove reform down the throats of the Legionaries. He is doing what he can, but success requires an adequate response on the part of the superiors and subjects in the Legion. I am sure there is a desire to give that response, but… I’ll leave it at that.

      • Johnathon Brett says:

        I fully agree Father Matthew but we must relize our place and as we are no longer Legionaries it is not our place to say what and how they are to affect reform not is it our place to judge those who are either there or who leave this is for the proper authorizes in the Church any other move to closely towards gossipy and away from Charitable criticism. God Bless,

      • I’m afraid I disagree. Lots of people are confused about what is going on with the Legion, and they have been misinformed in one direction or the other – they either believe that the accusations are false, or they think the Legion is totally evil. Many people have thanked me in the past for helping them understand the situation better. Other people see the situation clearly, but have a hard time convincing friends or family; having a straightforward “informed source” is helpful to them.

        Furthermore, as someone who has been a Legionary for 20 years, I am entitled to an opinion, and to express that opinion. As you can see from what I wrote, I am not judging anyone’s motivations (except perhaps the founder’s); on the contrary, I am assuming the very best intentions on the part of everyone involved.

        The Church is the correct authority to determine what happens to the Legion, but there is no “private vow” anymore in the Legion, nor in the Church at large, and there should not be. Respectful and open expression of ideas and constructive criticism is important. I am not saying this behind anyone’s back, nor am I violating any bond of secrecy, nor saying anything untrue; it’s not gossip.

        Also, it helps people to understand why I, and others who agree with me, left. I get that question a lot. Expressing my opinion about the situation helps people to understand where I’m coming from.

        Lastly, when I was living in Legionary communities, I was told I should not express my ideas about the situation because I was still in the Legion; I thought (and still think) that is very wrong-headed, but I obeyed the “cease and desist” order out of obedience. Now I am leaving (although I am still technically a Legionary, just on “leave of absence” until the incardination process begins), and I will say whatever I think needs to be said. Much of the communication from Legionaries regarding the whole situation has been – intentionally or not (I am assuming not) – evasive, deceptive, and manipulative. I am hoping it will continue to help at least some people, that someone like me – who knows the Legion and appreciates its good intentions and good works – says things clearly and honestly.

      • I just realized that I neglected to mention something important: I am not trying to add anything substantial to what the Church authorities have, in fact, already said. I’m just quoting the communiqué and saying, “See? This was the problem, and still is the problem, and until the Legion actually takes seriously everything that the Visitators said, it will continue to be the problem.”

  3. Roger Sin says:

    Well written, Fr. Matthew. That is, indeed, one of the big problems. Another fundamental question is whether or not there is any authentic inspiration from God through Maciel to found the Legion. That would put into question any professed ‘charism’ the order purports to have. Another question in my mind -never raised- is whether the priestly ordination of Fr. Maciel was even valid. Was he even a priest? If there were canonical impediments present at the time of his ordination his priesthood was invalid….. So many questions still to be answered…..

    • Those are both very good questions, Roger, and as you indicate, there are other questions of a similar nature that have either not been posed or seem to have been brushed over lightly.

  4. Robert Nugent says:

    Excellent post. I think we only have to hear the talk Fr. Santiago Oriol gave in Madrid to see how divided the legion actually is. Devoid of a founders true charism they have no real direction. I think its a given fact the legion will struggle to reinvent itself, They are closing houses in the states as well as handing over schools. In Ireland they closed the only school they had.

  5. Scipio Africanus says:

    Great post Fr. Matthew, he is saying in a very USA oriented style what every major superior is saying: “Don’t worry, we are OK, change will come…” but the reality is the Legion is not facing the central issue: the structural damage left by the founder because there are still high positioned macielistas which are blocking this essential self-criticism. That is what generates lack of trust, which is evident and is the main reason LCs are levaing

  6. P. Marco Aurélio Mauricio, LC says:

    Muchas gracias por los comentarios y por la claridad con que habla. Que Dios le bendiga, padre.

  7. Barbara says:

    Thank you for your candor, Father. As a long time RC member who quit in 2009 after the horrible revelations about Maciel, I find your decision to leave encouraging. There are certainly good men in the Legion, but they are trapped in a very bad system that dissipates their energies. I’m still wrestling with guilt over my blindness and participation in the scam, as
    well as a terrible cynicism toward the hierarchy of the Church. They have let the faithful down
    and I am profoundly disappointed in the Pope
    and Cardinal DePaolis. This isn’t a game –
    peoples’ souls are at stake and yet it’s all Church politics as usual.

  8. Thanks says:

    Thanks for these insights. They are honest, balanced and therapeutiuc. I left RC after almost 16 years for all of the reasons you mentioned. It was a tortuous process which I have not recovered from to this day (2 yrs. later). I still miss what once was. However, what I knew will never exist again. It’s like grieving a death.

    What I really don’t understand is why Fr. Alvaro and the other major superiors would not give any credence to the heartfelt anlysis of many longtime priests and supporters. I often have felt that even if they are not guilty of anything, they should humbly say “we’re sorry this happened on our watch. It’s a tragedy. We let you down. So, now, we will step aside, resign our positions, to let the young, talented men of this new generation lead the reform of our order. We hope that you will have the confidence in them that we do and give them your full support.” If they had done that, in a timely manner, they would still have some credibility. A foundation of trust to build upon. As it is, you are right. They will slowly wither and die over time. So sad.

  9. Sandy says:

    Fr Matthew said “I am happy that they are getting clear of the situation and serving God in freedom…”

    Precisely! It is difficult for many remaining LCs and RCs to understand that many of us pray for the freedom of these men out of our deep love and respect for them. Freedom is a word I use daily as I pray for the Legionary priests and brothers I know and love. I cannot imagine trying to live out one’s priestly vocation while under a cloud of suspicion and distrust. That’s not freedom. Nor can I understand remaining in the Legion if one is unable to speak openly and frankly about one’s concerns. That’s not freedom either, nor does it bode well for a reformed future.

    I have followed some of your blog posts since you left the Legion, Fr Matthew, and I am so pleased to see you flourishing, indeed, blossoming in your vocation. You are indeed a gift to the world, and I thank you for your example of honesty and charity in your comments. God bless you!

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