What is going on with the Legionaries of Christ

Sandro Magister has a good piece on what is going on with the Legionaries of Christ.  A strong stomach is required.

You can read it there.

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24 Responses to What is going on with the Legionaries of Christ

  1. Frank H says:

    Is there any precedent for disbanding a congregation?

  2. Andy F. says:

    I have read all that has been supplied to let me know all of the wrong things inside the Legion. What I can’t seem to find is anyone sharing the facts that the Legion has done lots of good as well. I detest all scandal in the Church, but I also remember that there are very good men in that order and they have a faithful apostolate (brainwashed or not) in Regnum Christi. By the way, I don’t belong to either of those groups and I have never discerned in their seminary. :)

  3. Clinton says:

    Frank H., the Piarists were suppressed in the mid-1600′s, but revived about a decade later. And of course the Jesuits were also
    suppressed in the late 1700′s and revived a generation later.

  4. Charles says:

    I had a good experience with the Legionaries. I did my last year of high school and a year of novitiate before I discerned, with the help of my spiritual director, that I was not called to be one. I can, however, attest to canonical irregularities, namely, that the rector of the high school and the novice master acted as my spiritual directors. They were forthright about the irregularity involved in this arrangement. I do know some guys who had bad experiences with them as well. I am extremely disappointed with the congregation, and hope that the many good priests and brothers will be treated with love and respect. That said, they definitely need to be dissolved.

  5. Justin from Ohio says:

    The one difference between the Legionnares and other religious orders that needed reform or were suppressed for a while is that the Legion’s own founder….the charism of the order….was a terrible sinner and a horrible example.

    Some of the very customs and attributes of the Legion, such as unquestioning fidelity and obedience, appear to have put in place in part to hide and mask the sins and double-life of the founder of the order.

    It’s a mess….I’ve heard many canon lawyers and other experts discuss this issue and most of them agree that the Legion simply cannot go on….the entire order is based on the lies and sins of its founder. And I admit there are many holy and devoted Legion priests.

    Perhaps they can be merged with another order or community in the Church. I don’t know, but they cannot go on in this way.

  6. robtbrown says:

    I would be be surprised if the Legion is disbanded.

    1. I don’t think anyone is saying that their 750 priests and 1300 seminarians are corrupt. The problem was with the founder and perhaps with the upper levels of governance.

    2. These men opted for the vowed life. Are they just supposed to be dumped into diocesan life?

    3. One serious problem is that the influence of Maciel on the spirituality of the institute will have to be totally excised.

    4. Rome has been aware for some time of the Legion’s approach to formation that was more like mindless programming. One solution to that problem was to get the Legion to require all their priests obtain at least an STL.

    5. My GUESS is that the Legion will stay together but will lose its self governance. And new vocations will not be permitted until the formation is fixed.

  7. irishgirl says:

    I hope that a solution will be found so that the Legion is not dissolved. It would be a terrible shame if it was.

    robtbrown, I like your suggestions.

  8. Situations like this are never resolved with a change of leadership at the top. The dysfunction manages to seep into the middle management as well, as is evidenced in the article. Those who cling to their power, and to old habits, know they can simply lay low, and outlast the official scrutiny. (I know from experience, that of nearly 30 years working for the Federal government.) “[T]he influence of Maciel on the spirituality of the institute” will never be “totally excised” until the order itself is excised. The only solution is to completely disband it, and allow the priests to be incardinated to a diocese. Even this won’t be a quick fix, as inner spiritual lives need to be reformed. But it may be the best solution in the long run.

  9. Ralph says:

    Some, likely unorigional, thoughts as I read this story:

    1. How did this cult of personality develope and how was it allowed to get so far out of hand?
    2. How does a “rank and file” member of the Legion move forward within the Legion? How can you trust the charism of the order? How can you trust it’s leadership?

    We must pray for the many good men that surely make up the bulk of the Legion. It would seem that things are still likely to get a bit worse before they get better.

  10. Gregg the Obscure says:

    Kyrie eleison. I hope that Fr. Maciel had the grace of final penitence and that his followers can be brought into a full and healing life in the Church. I’m not nearly smart enough to figure out a way to salvage the institution of the Legion.

  11. lucy says:

    I agree that the order needs to be fixed, but I would hope it is not disbanded completely. When I was a fairly new convert, I had occasion to go to a mini-retreat for mothers at a local parish. The Legionnaire priest was obviously striving to be a very holy man. At the Mass after the retreat, I remember him raising the Host as high as he possibly could and then leaving It there for minutes. I was awestruck by him doing this. It became clear to me that the Host REALLY was the body of Christ. I, of course, knew this before, but it was even clearer to me and in my mind, and it was a solid fact. I have never seen another priest do that before or since, even though I know many good priests, and I know that they believe in the true presence.

  12. Dave N. says:

    As a quick gander through the book of Acts and the letters of Paul will show, vowed suppression of criticism isn’t a particularly Christian value.

    I think perhaps the “suppression” precedent (see Jesuits above) might be a good one here. For good or ill, a lot of people will have to die off before the order can rebuild from the ground up, assuming a new leader can be found.

  13. Based on the facts which Mr. Magister relates in his article, it seems to me that the Legionaries of Christ are much more a cult than a religious institute. With some of the rules and extra vows that were mentioned, it seems to me that one of the principal aims of the superiors of this congregation was to mask the sins of their founder.

    In other religious Orders like the Beneidictines, the Dominicans, and the Franciscans, the Rules itself shows the interests of the founder and his or her ideas about how religious life is meant to be lived within that particular life. However, none of the founders that I mentioned created an Order to mask their own problems or issues.

    Hopefully, the Holy See will use decisive action until they come to their senses.

  14. robtbrown says:

    Some of the very customs and attributes of the Legion, such as unquestioning fidelity and obedience, appear to have put in place in part to hide and mask the sins and double-life of the founder of the order.
    Comment by Justin from Ohio

    I doubt that. I think it was mostly a matter of Maciel being a control freak.

  15. RichardT says:

    robtbrown suggests that the order shouldn’t be disbanded, but that “One serious problem is that the influence of Maciel on the spirituality of the institute will have to be totally excised”

    The problem is that if the Sandro Magister article is true (or even half true), then Maciel’s influence is too pervasive throughout the order to be excised.

    So how to disband it without losing the good things?

    But how do we deal with the existing priests? It doesn’t seem right to make them purely diocesan priests when they specifically joined an order (although some may be willing to do so), but there must be a risk that a new order set up for them would also be infected by the problems of the old one. They also seem rather too big to join an existing order.

  16. RichardT says:

    Precedents for disbanding an order?

    Not just the Jesuits – what about the Knights Templar? Or will that mean that a future Dan Brown will write bad books about the Legion of Christ?

  17. TJerome says:

    Well some order’s have a founder that is bad, and some orders have priests that are bad. Should the bad acts of its individual members (including their founder) be the determining factor in disbanding an order? I think this is a complex matter. Unless the order is systemically bad, I would hope the Church would make every effort to to keep it together, particularly because most of its priests and seminarians are good, solid, Catholic clergy.

  18. rinkevichjm says:

    My suggestion is that since the LC duplicates much of what the Jesuits were established to do, that they would be merged with them. It would invigorate the Jesuits, while giving the former LCs a reasonable taste of religious charity which seems to be lacking. Let’s not forget the Jesuits were once disbanded, so they can a least have some sympathy for the old order’s members. The LC problem is that their true spirituality is lacking and the old disciplines have been ordered removed; the Jesuits in general have good spiritual practices and the tools to train members to lead but seem to lack discipline: so this may be good for both sides.
    The Knights Templar (particularly the Order of Teutonic Knights) deserved to be disbanded: all they did was keep Lithuania pagan for an extra century. Why? They made raids into the western Lithuania that made the native Lithuanians want never to be Christians.

  19. RichardT says:

    rinkevichjm, the Teutonic Knights were a completely seperate Order from the Templars (and were still fighting in Lithuania a century after the Templars were disbanded).

    But that reminds me of something that makes my analogy better – when the Templars were suppressed, most of the remains of the Order were handed over to the Hospitallers, rather like your proposal to merge the LCs into the Jesuits.

    I did think of suggesting the Jesuits, but I was afraid of causing mass heart attacks amongst the elderly dipsy 1970s “modernising” Jesuits.

  20. RichardT says:

    TJerome, have you read the article? The point is that in this order it seems that the founder’s ethos (which we now know to be corrupt) pervaded the whole order in a personality-cult way.

    If that is true, then the whole order needs to be disbanded and broken up to eradicate his infuence. The question then is how best to do that without losing the good that it did.

  21. Henrici says:

    The point is that in this order it seems that the founder’s ethos (which we now know to be corrupt) pervaded the whole order in a personality-cult way.

    I doubt this. At one time (a few years ago) I thought myself fairly knowledgeable about the Legionaries because my grandchildren attended an L of C school, and their parents were enthusiastic supporters of the Legionaries (and I shared their enthusiasm). However, they began to be disillusioned by cult-like aspects particularly of their lay apostolate Regnum Christi (which all school parents were urged to join).

    However, through it all — their having since disassociated themselves from the L of C — every L of C priest we met or saw seemed exemplary, a model of what all priests should be — in regard to liturgy, orthodox teaching, and personal and public appearance and demeanor. I still doubt strongly that there were any “irregularities” among those we knew, or that they knew of those of their founder.

  22. robtbrown says:

    TJerome, have you read the article? The point is that in this order it seems that the founder’s ethos (which we now know to be corrupt) pervaded the whole order in a personality-cult way.

    Agree. But the LC’s also have fidelity to the Church.

    If that is true, then the whole order needs to be disbanded and broken up to eradicate his influence.
    Comment by RichardT

    Disagree. His heavy influence is undeniable, but even when the founder is saintly, the religious needs to grow up.

  23. jmvm says:

    TJerome said:

    “Well some order’s have a founder that is bad, and some orders have priests that are bad. ”

    I think that this gets to the crux of the issue. What other order’s have “bad” founders. I am hard pressed to think of any. I think this goes to the heart of the charism of the order itself (established by the founder).

  24. It’s not really that unusual for the Church or a bishop to rule that an order or movement to be disbanded, or totally reorganized under the rules of another order or movement. The thing is that when it happens, usually it’s forgotten pretty quickly over the years. (Partly because it’s often associated with strong advice for those involved not to talk about it much, partly because when such things become necessary, the people involved often want to forget.) Of course, most dysfunctional orders or movements just fall apart after a while, without the hierarchy even having to get involved.

    Btw, if the upper hierarchy of the LC’s were really serious about wanting to help their groups and charism survive, they would have demoted themselves to janitorial duties by now.