Saturday, December 15, 2007

Legionaries in the wash

One of the largest of the new religious congregations is the Legionaries of Christ. I don’t think we have any in the UK, I understand they tried to get into the Westminster diocese, but the late Cardinal Hume was having none of it. I met a couple once who struck me as being quite impressive, until I heard that one of the curates in the presbytery in which they were staying had thrown a red rugby shirt into the washing machine, with Legionaries white tee shirts and boxer shorts. White underwear is apparently in “the rule”, they came out pink. There was a whole series of telephone calls to the superior in the United States begging either for permission to wear pink and not white, or to ditch the pink vests and pants and buy new ones, which conformed to the rules!

One of the first acts of Pope Benedict was to dismiss their founder and Superior General Marcel Maciel and to send him into a life of penance, forbidding him to celebrate the sacraments or to preach. There had long been accusations of pederasty and homosexual abuse laid against him, it appears that Pope John Paul regarded him as a saint and refused to listen to these accusations. Now the Pope Benedict is reported as having directed the Legionaries to remove two special vows they make:

1. Never to desire, seek or scheme to obtain responsibilities or positions in the congregation for himself or others …
2. Never to criticize externally the acts of government or the person of any director or superior of the congregation by word, in writing or any other way. And if he knows for certain that a religious has broken this commitment, to inform the latter’s immediate superior.
The Legionaries seem to pride themselves on a military style of discipline, which is obviously part of their attraction to young men. Unfortunately it tends to seperate them from their families, there peers, and creates a little world of their own. Gerald Augustus has few of their rules on his website.

9. The face of the legionary belongs to others. Always display happiness and serenity as a manifestation of inner richness. At the other extreme, avoid all sign of depression, insecurity or timidity. Do not display a worried, sad, melancholy or disgusted face, or show an exaggerated form of happiness.

13. Go up and down stairs without running and without precipitation, walking up one step at a time.

57. Do not expose others to animated states, difficulties or problems. Reserve those things for the persons designated to deal with them.

61. After visiting a center or apostolic work, always comment on the positive, stimulating and edifying aspects that you have been able to notice and never outwardly express to others the problems or negative aspects that you encounter.

65. When receiving family visits, always appear happy, cordial, attentive, grateful and satisfied with the vocation that God has granted you. After the visit, take the opportunity to once again generously offer up your most intimate affections and to strengthen your consecration to God. Behave in the same way when you visit them...

66. Do not fall into states of sadness or homesickness in your relationship with your family and do not become accustomed to discussing with family members your emotional state when you are experiencing depression or some unresolved difficulty so that you do not disturb them with problems that relate solely to your personal relationship with God and with the Legion.

567. Out of love for the Legion and a sense of responsibility take care not to communicate to outsiders anything that might be misinterpreted about the diverse context of religious life in the Legion, anything that might be used against the Legion, anything which superiors have not authorized you to communicate, and anything that might imply scorn of the Legion.

569. Never facilitate, without serious cause, oral or written distribution of reports or facts about legionaries, or writings of the Legion without authorization by superiors. Be very prudent and discreet in your comments so as not to unnecessarily damage the Legion.

570. Be shrewd when dealing with strangers. Respond with precision, moderation and discretion to questions they may ask, keeping in mind the good or evil they are capable of doing to the Legion and to each other in passing along a fact or expressing an opinion.

571. Be especially discreet in regard to anything that you may learn in an official capacity, including anything of an apostolic nature, or through dealings with secular members, or through interaction with superiors, bearing in mind that you are the keepers of a confidence that should not be betrayed.


Anonymous said...

Father ~ an open and sincere dialogue is required in respect of ALL of these new movements. Some of them are very strange and not particularly Catholic at all.

I heard Neo-cat "Kiko's" sermon during B16's encounter with these movements a couple of years back in Rome. Frankly, it was completely weird and contained falsehoods.

My advice to parents is to exercise caution when their teenagers become involved in these groups.

Anonymous said...

Having looked up a few sites on this subject for further information, this 'Order?' seems to be very cult like in its details (even how to do their hair and table manners) and their leader treated like a cult figure.

Ex members warn that they do not like their rules appearing on the internet so please be careful Father.

It looks as if cardinal Hume was right not to allow them here.

Anonymous said...

Father ~ yes, be careful. They are currently involved in litigation against "Regain".

There are other websites dedicated to ex-members of the Focolare. Presumably, all these new movements now have ex-members who are clearly disoriented, confused and unhappy.

Even your friend's organisation "Faith Movement" is slightly eccentric in its origins, I'm afraid to say. I am not being nasty, simply stating a reality.

A rule of thumb is that a religious movement, should never be wrapped up in the personality of its founder. Secondly, most healthy religious groups are notoriously inefficient. The SVP for example, is mildy ridiculous. For that reason it is generally harmless.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Yes I think Faith did have rather strange beginnings, at one time I would have been very wary of it, and involving young people with it.
Now, I am quite willing to encourage people to go along to its conferences, and to have its priests speaking in my parish. The good thing is that it is willing to be self critical, and to listen to its critics, it has a bit of humility about it, that is the key.

Anonymous said...

I met a priest of the LC earlier this year. He had all the qualities I would have looked for in a priest.

When he was asked by a friend about the LCs, in relation to the potential vocation of a new relative, this young priest spoke about the right attitude towards discerning a vocation; he did not seek to persuade this person that the young man should join the LCs.

He had no hang-ups about his background, his family (he spoke of his relationship with his family warmly), the work of the LCs and their obedience to the magisterium.

He had every opportunity to praise the person of the founder or leaders of the LCs. He didn't do that; he simply spoke as one might expect any good priest to do so, particlaulry on the life of a priest in the context of a potential vocation. He was a joy to listen to.

In terms of an over-familiarity with founders or leaders - let's just look at the founder of the Church Himslef and His apostles and dicsiples. Do we not love him and speak fondly of him? Do we not try to model our lives on His?

Have a dialogue about the LCs and other new movements, by all means, but let's not just stigmatise them. I'd much prefer a reveiw of what's going on with, say, the Jesuits than the LCs. There are some widely recognised excellent Jesuits (eg Cardinal Dulles, Fr Fessio) but, as an Order, how many Jesuits these days bring young people close to Christ, the Church and the Priesthood? By their fruits etc...

Anonymous said...

"No good tree can bring forth bad fruit, and no bad tree can produce good fruit."

There are still many questions about Fr Marcel Maciel and his intimates; the Holy Father is trying to correct, a serious disease here.

Anonymous said...

Well i'd kinda like pink underwear!

Anonymous said...

Mrs Parkes ~ PLEASE ~ a woman of your standing in the community!

Anonymous said...

"No good tree can bring forth bad fruit, and no bad tree can produce good fruit."

So is every diocese in the world a bad tree? Every order? And a good order would produce no bad fruit? Where has there not been sexual impropriety in the priesthood (and even in the hierarchy)? What order has not had its zealots?

I am very familiar with the Legionaries, and spent some time with them, and they seemed to me to have all the things a particular kind of seious and devout young man would want. Most of all, they acted like males. They studies, played lots of scoccer and basketball, prayed, and worked.

The Legionaries I knew in Rome were very good men. Some of them tended to be too serious or humorless, and so contrasted starkly with most other priests I knew, who tended even farther in the other direction. Others were extremely kind and gentle, in that way the Pope seems to be. There was no one type, though there certainly were the kind of gruff men that you don't really see in other orders. That may not be a bad thing on the whole.

I mentioned that a friend of mine was intersted in some Catholic instruction and so at least two Legionaries drove to our part of town on a regular basis. They were not rocket-scientists, but what they had they used well. they were also patient and kind. One expressed his spirituality like this: "I like to picture that when I get to heaven, there will be a big stadium of people who cheer because of the life I lived on Earth for the Lord." Now that isn't such a bad ambition is it!

They thought very highly of Fr. Maciel, and told stories about the dangerous stands that he and his friends took in Mexico during the Catholic persecutions. He was in many ways a hero to them, but was not worshipped.

The best analogy I can offer for the order itself is the U.S. Marine Corp. To mske Marines out of the high school boys that join, the Corp. basically strips the kids down psychologically and physically in a very jarring way, only to build them back up as disciplined and orderly men. For some people, this is destructive and needless and tends to do little more than humiliate and opress. For others, it finally makes them into productive disciplined men and gives them self-esteem and purpose. They come home as responsible adults. I am not saying the process is the same, but the idea holds. If you wree meant to be a Jesuit or a Fransican, you should NOT become Legionary. But for others, it is very life giving, and a good fit.

I know people that were burned by the Legionaries. Some of their stories are of serious sins and should give us pause. Howeveer, some are cases of over-sensitivity-people want a certian kind of interaction from their Religious and did not get it. Is there any order where this does not happen? It seems that you are better off being loosey goosey than overly strict.

I hope this humilitation will be born patiently by the good men in the order, and it will re-focus them, in an even deeper way, on thier true founder: Jesus Christ.

Anonymous said...

Fr Z has some light hearted comments on this subject on his blog.

Reading earlier about the hair styles I found a short video of Pope Benedict meeting the legionaries and see that they all have sleeked back hair with a parting on the left and all look identical. really spooky with this '50s look. presumably if your hair can't do this then you can't join?

But of course we must remember the monks' tonsure of old which presumably made them all look like clones too? But in today's world?

Anonymous said...

All the Legionnaries I have met have resisted admitting the quite obvious and seemingly undeniable similarities between themselves and the pre-conciliar Jesuits. This has always struck me as a little odd and has often made me wonder whether deep down they realise that their founder was effectively copying a pre-existing template. In the light of what would appear to be the irrecoverable position of the founder and the upcoming General Congregation of the Jesuit Order, might this be the time for the Legion to be redesignated by the Pope as "Jesuits of the Strict Observance"? This was a concept which many Spanish Jesuits actively campaigned for in opposition to the Arrupe reforms in the early 70's. The Order could still be run as a separate and autonomous body but by grafting itself more closely onto its Ignatian roots this might help to heal its reputation as well as giving the Jesuits a new lease of life. What do people think?

Anonymous said...

Good though many Legionaries are, the fact remains that their founder, Fr Marcial Marciel, operated from a psycho-pathological impulse for a significant period of time. The Holy Father would not have suspended him unless there was proof of his sexual infidelity and inclinations. To this day good looks are a desirable feature in recruits and, seen in the context of what Fr Marciel established and his own inclinations, this is questionable.

For a time Fr Marciel was a Jesuit novice and it is not clear why he left. The Legionaries seem to have imbibed much pre-conciliar Jesuit formation in their training but, unlike the Jesuits, they do not have a universal mission. Their repressive rule and life-style gives no room for affective development and, in time, will lead to psychological casualties.

But, when all is said, Fr Marciel broke a serious code of trust by indulging in sexual play on the basis of 'poor health'. He was also addicted to pethadone. What he did was revolting and could only be achieved on a fetid basis of secrecy. I suggest that the absolute principles of secrecy and 'loyalty' that continued to be applied only make sense in the context of his bizarre private life and need for sexual gratification.

The Holy Father must have recognized this and it makes sense of his recent dispensation of these crippling vows. Remember, too, that, during his time as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, an enormous file was formed on Fr Marciel and the evidence against him was seriously evaluated. Fr Marciel's protector in the Vatican was Cardinal S0ddano, the Secretary of State, and it was his disobedient efforts to protect him and Legionaries that led to his dismissal from office. The suspension of Fr Marciel followed immediately. This would not have been done unless the evidence against him was incontrovertible.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Ray,

I came across a couple of young Legionaries when they acted as supply priests in my parish for a week or so, just after Pope Benedict had punished their superior. I was keeping a watchful eye on them because of all of the hoo-ha.

They struck me very much as being "men's men" -- square-jawed, sporty, ample Brylcreem, the sort of men you normally see in an advert for Gillette razors. But I could detect nothing creepy or sinister about them at all, which somewhat surprised me given all the bad publicity. The old-style Jesuit and US Marine Corp analogies are both good ones, I think.

I felt sorry for those two priests because they had hitched their priestly ministries to an order which had made the huge mistake of building a personality cult around a disreputable founder. Hopefully Pope Benedict can help the order out the hole it got itself into.

gemoftheocean said...

Just from the select subset of rules you posted, some of them seem very cult like -- in "not a good way." You can't dictate how people feel. You can make suggestions on good courses of action if people do end up feeling a certain way. But feelings, are involuntary. People are different and individuals -- it seems like they are trying to clone almost robotic ways of acting and feeling. I don't think that sounds like a good thing. Someone compared it to the Marines - but at least with that, there's the ultimate purpose of trying to keep your entire unit from getting killed if a few individuals don't take action. AFAIK the Marines don't tell them how they are supposed to "feel" about things. They don't really go there.

There are different callings to different kinds of services - maybe one guy would be happier as a Jesuit than a Franciscan or a Dominican happier as a Carmelite. For my money, I have to say I think the Benedictines hit the mark with "the via media" really well. They're in prayer many hours a day, but they're not so much in the ether that they never interact with "civilians" or get some dirt on their hands in manual labor, and they have their individual hobbies.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Gladys! My Miles Jesu brothers & Priests have sharp hair cuts!They look great!

Anonymous said...

Google 'Michael Rose and the Legionaries of Christ' and read his review of a recent book on the iniquities of Fr Maricial Marciel's strange order. You can't accuse Rose of liberalism. See what he thinks from a strong orthodox perspective. Thank God the Holy Father has taken further action. Freed from their secret vows, doubtless further accusations will follow, not only against the founder but also many priests who've held responsible posts in the Legionaries over a long period of time.

Anonymous said...

All these new orders seem to resemble the pre-conciliar Jesuits!

Anonymous said...

If the pre-Vatican II Jesuits were like the Legionaries (which I doubt) thank God they've changed.

Anonymous said...

"If the pre-Vatican II Jesuits were like the Legionaries (which I doubt) thank God they've changed."

I believe there to be a distinction between the new orders/movements (LOC, SOLT & so on) resembling the J's rather than the other way around.

What I regard as significant is that the implosion of the Jesuits in the West has seen immature orders emerge to fill the vacuum.

Ironically, one of the complaints levelled against the modern SSPX is that they too are starting to resemble the Jesuits (which was not their original purpose).

It's seems so easy, in the pursuit of discipline and conservatism (after decades of decadence) to end up with a bastardised version of Ignatian spirituality. It's as if this stage is the first "port of call" in renewal or the "new evangelisation".

Unfortunately, the Bishops are so lacking in credibility in the area of discipline and tradition, that they seem incapable of stopping this childish phenomenon.

The LOC's Maciel's sexual immaturity (immature to the point of criminal) is arguably a metaphor of the problem.

Anonymous said...

Gladys, the Legionaries were founded in 1940, years before the Second Vatican Council, and by the end had been in existence for twenty-five years. In that time Marciel had been investigated, and exonerated, of sexual abuse. Clearly the investigation did not go far enough because he later described his period of suspension as a 'blessing'. Some say that Marciel adopted aspects of former Jesuit formation but the results were entirely different, then and now. I've Googled the Michael Rose link and it is clear that Marciel would never have survived in the Jesuits and explains why his time in two diocesan seminaries was short. It is astounding how this creep got as far as he did.

Anonymous said...

anon ~ I take you point about the LOCs being in existence well before the council. My point is that they boomed post-V2 and were a perceived antidote (along with Opus Dei et al.) to the madness afflicting the other orders.

I am not sure Maciel would have struggled in the American Jesuits given the scandalous behaviour of the order post-VII. Anyway enough of this depressing stuff - we are all sinners!

Anonymous said...

I'm still interested in whether people (regardless of the degree to which they consider the Legion to be modelled on the Jesuits) think that some kind of "grafting" exercise of the Legion onto the Jesuit Order might help the credibility of both orders in the long run?

Anonymous said...

sussex ~ the Society of Jesus was founded by a saint, the LOC was not.

I would have thought that anyone seeking authentic Ignatian spirituality might be better off joining the Jesuits and then reforming them from the inside.

A tough ask given the chaos with which they have become synonymous.

Anonymous said...

A tough ask indeed and not one that many would relish taking on and sustaining. I simply wonder whether the example of the Franciscans who have spawned numerous autonomous versions over the centuries (CFR being the most recent example) in an attempt at reform offers the LC's a possible way forward. Otherwise it appears that they are going to be left between a rock and a hard place, on the one hand refusing to sever ties to their founder despite the seemingly definitive stance from Rome, yet at the same time professing obedience to the Pope who has openly declared the Founder's guilt. This is why I wonder whether playing up the Order's Ignatian ideals while at the same time airbrushing the Founder out of the picture in favour of St.Ignatius would help them to begin again. Appoint a good American Jesuit like Fr.Fessio as superior and let him shine a light on some of the more murkier aspects and bring the whole thing into line with where such an order should be. I still think the idea has some merit.

Anonymous said...

Sussex ~ it's an idea that is better than the current status quo so yes, let's go with it!

The Catholic Church must always be a friend of logic and the current position of the LOC is simply illogical no matter how good they look in black.

Intrigued to read a quote recently by Evelyn Waugh which played down his alleged obsession with the so called "Brideshead image" of Catholicism (the Tablet always love drawing the allusion). Waugh loved the low Mass with priest and server, or "master and apprentice" as he described them. The pomp of high Catholicism he saw in proper perspective as something "protestants could easily imitate" as the beauty of evensong at an Oxbrdige college amply demonstrates.

My point is that the LOC may look, sound and even smell like the pre-Vatican II Jesuits (i.e. a good imitation of them) but they just aren't the real deal, as the Maciel scandal and the order's reaction to it, indicates.

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