The Legion: status quaestionis

From the site of Sandro Magister comes this about the status quaestionis of the Legionaries of Christ.

Legion Leaders Absolve Themselves Before They Sink

In an internal memo, published here, they say they never knew anything about the double life of their founder, Maciel. But the judgment of the Vatican authorities says otherwise. The imminent appointment of the papal delegate

by Sandro Magister

ROME, May 17, 2010 – Back from Portugal, Benedict XVI finds on his agenda once again the arduous case of the Legionaries of Christ.

Soon the pope will have to implement the three decisions announced in the statement of the Holy See on May 1: [1] the appointment of a papal delegate with full powers over the Legion; [2] the appointment of a commission to study the constitutions of the congregation; [3] the appointment of an apostolic visitor for its lay movement, Regnum Christi.

*

As for the delegate, the only candidacy taken under consideration at the Vatican meeting on April 30 and May 1, that of Cardinal Juan Sandoval Íñiguez, 77, the outgoing archbishop of Guadalajara, has had no follow-up. The cardinal has said that he was not approached and does not consider himself to be the right person, while saying that in any case he is at the disposal of the Holy Father, bound to him by the oath of obedience.

But there is an interesting passage in the note concerning this published on May 7 on the website of the Mexican bishops’ conference: the one in which Cardinal Sandoval expresses his hope that the delegate will be one of the five bishops who recently concluded the apostolic visitation of the Legion.

Among these, the two most likely candidates seem to be Ricardo Ezzati Andrello, the Salesian bishop of Concepción, 68, Chilean but Italian by birth, and Giuseppe Versaldi, bishop of Alessandria, 67, an expert canonist. Both enjoy the complete trust of cardinal secretary of state Tarcisio Bertone. And both are rising stars in their respective episcopates, the former rumored to be the next archbishop of Santiago, Chile, the latter of Turin: one of these appointments would have to be set aside if the nod went to either of them, for an undertaking that will demand a great deal of time and energy.

*

In addition to the appointment of the delegate, the anticipation also concerns the powers that will be attributed to him, and his future working agenda.

There are also interesting passages on this, in another note that appeared on May 6 on the website of the episcopal conference of Mexico, the country in which the Legionaries of Christ were founded and have their greatest following.

In it, the current leaders of the Legion are criticized in no uncertain terms. They are accused of "pressuring the pope to act in favor of their interests." [Yah….. that’s going to work.] It is taken for granted, as a result, that the papal delegate "will remove en bloc the current governing council of the Legionaries and the regional directors." And it is predicted that the Legion, in order to "refound itself" on the basis of a new charism, and to make a clean break with its unworthy founder Marcial Maciel, will also have to give up its current name, perhaps returning to its original name of Missionaries of the Sacred Heart and of Our Lady of Sorrows.

*

Both at the Vatican, therefore, given the extremely severe statement of May 1, and in a bishops’ conference as pivotal as the Mexican one is, the views of the trustworthiness of the current heads of the Legionaries are entirely negative.

And yet, these same leaders, and in particular their two highest representatives, director general Álvaro Corcuera and vicar general Luís Garza Medina, both Mexican, continue to present themselves as the men best suited to stay in the saddle, even during the transition phase.

Publicly, the two of them, and Garza in particular, have done this with statements and interviews, before the Vatican statement on May 1.

But it is above all on the inside that they are trying to convince. With constant talks, meetings, letters, they are pressing for the allegiance of the hundreds of priests and religious of the Legion who are most disoriented after the revelations of the unworthy life of the founder.  [It would be interesting to see who how many are fleeing to dioceses and other communities.]

The longer it takes for the papal delegate to arrive, the more Corcuera and Garza are counting on fortifying the internal consensus around them, making their removal – they hope – more difficult, if not impossible.

One clear sign of their intentions is in the internal memo that the territorial heads of the Legion sent to their subordinates on May 5.

The complete text of this memo – made public on May 6 by the Italian blog "Settimo cielo," linked to www.chiesa – is reproduced further below.

In it, the current leaders of the Legion not only minimize the damaging force of the Vatican statement on May 1, but they also deny the accusation that they knew for many years about the double life of founder Marcial Maciel, and covered it up.

In fact, they write in the memo that when the Vatican statement says that "most of the Legionaries were unaware of this life," this "means that the majority knew nothing, including those who are currently in command of the Legion.[Hmmmm….   Possible, I suppose, given the level of deceit of the man in question.]

But then who made up the "system of power" that – as the Vatican statement affirms – built around Maciel a "mechanism of defense" of his unworthy life, with the "silence of the entourage" and with the "deplorable discrediting and ostracism of those who doubted his upright behavior"? Of whom was it composed, if not the leaders of today and yesterday?

Implausibly, [Clearly Magister isn’t buying that.] after absolving themselves this way, the authors of the memo add that "it remains to be examined whether there was culpability on the part of those whom the Vatican statement mentions." As if, in addition to the double life of Maciel, there was also a double leadership at the head of the Legion, [Ouch.] the second of them also kept concealed.

*

As for the agenda of the delegate whom the pope will appoint, a hypothetical game plan has been sketched out by Catholic American intellectual George Weigel, in an extensive commentary on the website of the magazine "First Things."

According to Weigel, a first imperative must be the total repudiation of the "grand narrative" linking the history of the Legion to the figure of its founder, Maciel, whose merits many continue to praise even though they recognize his offenses.

One glaring example of how well this "grand narrative" has worked, even outside of the Legion, is given by a homily addressed to the Legionaries by Cardinal Franc Rodé, prefect of the Vatican congregation for religious, on July 29, 2007, more than a year after the papal condemnation of their founder:

"What brings admiration in the Legion of Christ is the fruit of the genius of Fr. Maciel. The Lord has blessed you in recent years with many vocations, and will continue to bless you if you remain faithful to the charism he left to you. Where must the origin, the source of Fr. Maciel’s wisdom be sought? In his love for Christ, in his love for the Church. That is where the secret of his life and the secret of his work lies. It is this that permitted him to build an outreach of global dimensions."  [I guess a secular analogy is that you can’t praise a dictator for having made the trains run on time.]

Once this "grand narrative" has been eliminated, the steps suggested by Weigel are the following:

– removing the current central and territorial leaders en bloc, and expelling the ones tainted by complicity with Maciel;

– suspending the acceptance of new vocations;

– identifying the inspirational charism on which to rebuild the Legion from scratch;

– convening a general chapter to dissolve the Legion and reconstitute a new religious congregation, with a new statute, with a new name and with carefully screened members.

Realistic or not, the agenda suggested by Weigel will be a long time coming.

To which it must be added that Benedict XVI will meet with some of the victims of Maciel’s abuse. This was confirmed by one of the five visitors, Mexican bishop Ricardo Watti Urquidi, in an interview on Televisa.

The following is the memo that the territorial heads of the Legion sent to their subordinates on May 5, 2010.

The statement to which the memo refers is the one released by the Holy See last May 1, at the end of the meeting between the Vatican authorities and the five apostolic visitors charged with inspecting the Legion, reproduced with commentary in this article from www.chiesa:

> The Big "Wager." How to Remake the Legion from Scratch

__________

LEGIONARIES OF CHRIST. INTERNAL MEMO OF MAY 5, 2010

1. The Holy See has asked us that this be a time of reflection and prayer, so it is not appropriate for us to make comments or declarations about the Statement. This is the reason why we have not made any further public statements.

This does not imply that we are not helping and communicating the essential elements to foster peace, unity, and the acceptance of the Statement. On the contrary, within the contents of the Statement and with due prudence, we must communicate and offer accompaniment across various channels, above all personal and group. As for the precise details, we must at every moment adhere to the fact that we have no official information beyond that of the Statement itself. As soon as we receive further information, we will communicate it to you. In the meantime, we must not allow ourselves to draw conclusions or interpretations in this regard.

2. Nonetheless, it is necessary that you help all (Legionaries, consecrated members, members and friends of Regnum Christi, benefactors, employees) to:

a. Accept the dispositions of the Holy See with profound faith in God and with filial obedience to the Holy Father.

b. Exert ourselves to build unity among all, and in a special way with the Holy Father. One must come away from every meeting with a meek and humble heart.

c. Strengthen trust in the Providence of God and face the future with great serenity and with a positive spirit.

d. Concentrate on the greatness and urgency of the mission of evangelization that obligates the Church, and us within it. It is there, on the proclamation of the Gospel, on the salvation of souls and on the extension of the Kingdom of Christ, that we keep our eyes focused.

3. So also, help the positive parts of the Statement on the Legion to be understood as well. Many communication outlets are spreading only the corrections and the negative aspects, which tends to distort many of the messages.

4. In personal attention, in the meetings and conferences that are held in the communities, in groups, in the sections and activities, it is necessary to clarify some mistaken messages that certain media are spreading:

a. The Statement does not speak of "refounding," but rather of "profound revision" and "purification."

b. It does not speak of changing the charism, instead it speaks of the "core charism that belongs to the Legionaries of Christ and is proper to them," of the "need to redefine the charism . . . while preserving the true core," of "an authentic gift from God, a treasure for the Church"; the pope "urges them not to lose sight of the fact that their vocation, sprung from the call of Christ and inspired by the ideal of being witnesses of his love to the world, is an authentic gift from God, a treasure for the Church, the indestructible foundation on which to build their personal future and that of the Legion."

c. It is not a rejection of the Legion of Christ by the pope. Rather it says that "the pope renews to all the Legionaries of Christ, to their families, to the laypeople involved in the movement Regnum Christi, his encouragement, at this difficult moment, for the congregation and for each one of them." And "the Holy Father intends to reassure all the Legionaries and members of the movement Regnum Christi that they will not be left alone: the Church has the firm intention of accompanying and assisting them in the journey of purification that is waiting for them." [We shall see.]

d. When it says that "most of the Legionaries were unaware of this life [of Marcial Maciel]," this means that the majority knew nothing, including those who are currently in command of the Legion. [We shall see.] It remains to be examined whether there was culpability on the part of those whom the Statement mentions.

e. Regarding the Delegate, the Holy Father has not specified the name of the person, his faculties, or the dates. Nor has there been any further information about the apostolic visitation to the consecrated members of Regnum Christi, although this has been confirmed.

Divine Providence has permitted us to experience this path of purification. Living it with faith, hope, and charity is an opportunity that God offers us to give witness to his love. Let us see it as an opportunity for evangelization.

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31 Responses to The Legion: status quaestionis

  1. KevinSymonds says:

    Fr. Z., I can still hear traces of their old habits in this letter and I don’t like it. This is going to be a long process indeed.

    -KJS

  2. chcrix says:

    You would think that, clever as some of these men must be, they would realize that a blatant attempt to hold on to power is a guaranteed non starter. If I were in their shoes, and if I were a total cynic as well, I would have tendered an undated letter of resignation to the pope a couple of years back and kept my mouth shut. That is a strategy that actually might work.

  3. AnAmericanMother says:

    Good. The bad guys are revealing themselves.

    All my Japanese holly bushes were severely winter-killed in a bad cold snap in January. They looked horrible, and after I took the pruning shears to them they looked even worse – nothing but trunk and little stubby bare branches left before I found live wood.

    But now it’s late May, and they are putting out tons of beautiful little green leaves all over.

    It will be a long process and a brutal pruning, but hopefully all the bad wood will be removed and the good priests allowed to continue in their ministry under a new name and new leadership. Because there ARE some good priests and good men in this organization.

  4. Jon says:

    As they have the education for it, I say let’s turn evil to good.

    Suppress them, pull out the good ones, and make them all Jesuits.

  5. Henry Edwards says:

    Jon: Suppress them, pull out the good ones, and make them all Jesuits.

    What is to be done with the “good ones” when the “bad ones” that are left are made Jesuits?

  6. B.C.M. says:

    First, Father, something has happened, everything is in italics!!!

    Second, I typically read WDTPRS on my phone, but the urge to comment on this post brought me to my computer. I don’t have much to say but a serious question and a concern arises in my mind. A few years ago, the Legion was talked of as the new Society of Jesus. It is telling that the Society, at one point, had a General so powerful he was referred to as the Black Pope. That right there is a disturbing cult of leadership and personality. these recent allegations and discoveries about the Legionaries of Christ belie a similar cult of power which hearkens back to the fall of the Jesuits.

    Why is it that the most promising, defensive orders of whom many in our camp are so proud end up becoming drunk on their own power/authority/intelligence and wickedness, it seems, that they simply turn out, in the end, to be scoundrels?

    The tag for all of these Legion-related articles should, instead, be “corruptio optimi pessima”.

  7. Jacob says:

    I pray that Weigel’s agenda in some form is followed by the delegate. Magister’s reporting on the Legion over the years has been excellent and I have no doubts as to the veracity of his claims on the subject.

  8. Jon says:

    Henry,

    “What is to be done with the “good ones” when the “bad ones” that are left are made Jesuits?”

    I missed that part about precision in English class. But what the heck, bad Legionaries have got to be better than good Jesuits! just kidding…just kidding…

  9. stgemma_0411 says:

    I too think it is time for the Legion to be put in its place and dissolved. Without either the original founder nor a link to its foundation, it becomes a new movement altogether. What that means needs to be left up to God’s will and the acceptance of it by the Holy See. As it stands, all of the priests/religious need to be given a period of a year to decide where to re-incardinate to with only the permission of the local ordinary/superior to be necessary. I have seen some horrible consequences of the programs used by Regnum Christi, enough that it outweighs the good that could be accomplished under only the best of circumstances. As it stands, the Legion and all of its components need to be dismissed. If anything, if it truly is God’s will, then the calling will remain.

  10. Jack Hughes says:

    Big question – What do we do with the Legion’s financial Assets?

  11. irishgirl says:

    This is such a sticky situation!

    Where would all the priests and seminarians go? What about the students in their schools, especially the younger ones?

    I know someone who is an employee of the Legion’s business office in Connecticut. He had been a seminarian, but left, got married, and is a member of Regnum Christi. He is the only breadwinner for his family. Where will he go?

    There’s got to be some solution…

  12. robtbrown says:

    Second, I typically read WDTPRS on my phone, but the urge to comment on this post brought me to my computer. I don’t have much to say but a serious question and a concern arises in my mind. A few years ago, the Legion was talked of as the new Society of Jesus.

    That line was promoted by Maciel himself.

    It is telling that the Society, at one point, had a General so powerful he was referred to as the Black Pope. That right there is a disturbing cult of leadership and personality. these recent allegations and discoveries about the Legionaries of Christ belie a similar cult of power which hearkens back to the fall of the Jesuits.

    The head of the SJ’s was referred to as Black Pope not only because of the size of the Society but because he was elected for life. Further, in the SJ’s, unlike the OP’s, power flowed from the top down.

    Why is it that the most promising, defensive orders of whom many in our camp are so proud end up becoming drunk on their own power/authority/intelligence and wickedness, it seems, that they simply turn out, in the end, to be scoundrels?

    When I was in Rome, there were a lot of good people who had hesitations about the Legion.

    The Legion has a lot of good young priests, but there was always something mindless and incestuous about their formation. Rome tried various things to change them, among which was encouraging everyone to get at least an STL.

    It turned out the problems were deeper than anyone thought.

    The tag for all of these Legion-related articles should, instead, be “corruptio optimi pessima”.
    Comment by B.C.M.

    I have never considered them the optimus.

  13. The Cobbler says:

    “Big question – What do we do with the Legion’s financial Assets?”
    Comment by Jack Hughes

    If it can be tracked down and retrieved (I’m told they played a clever business game), there’s a whole bunch of Legion-specific, largely (as far as we currently know) Maciel-specific abuse victims still waiting for due justice not only for the abuse but for being slandered afterward (these accusers are enemies of the Church! bla bla bla…). Obviously financial repayment alone can’t complete justice in any fitting fashion (except perhaps as poetic justice to the money-making power of the Legion), but it’s the sort of imperfect movement that ought to be done anyway, right? Sadly, it doesn’t sound like it’s likely to happen; but then, Benedict and the people who truly follow his lead have surprised me before.

  14. The Cobbler says:

    *”it” in that first sentence is the assets.

  15. ecclesiae says:

    As a component of the purification of the Order, its priests should be limited to using the Roman Canon (First Eucharistic Prayer) when offering the Novus Ordo Mass. Thus, its reform will become integral to the “reform of the reform”.

  16. Mark R says:

    What have Legionnaires have to do with Jesuits?
    Other communities won’t want them…they are too dysfunctional due to their institutional set-up and I doubt other communities have the charism for taking care of dysfuntctional priests…no matter how orthodox they may be.

  17. DHippolito says:

    Are the Legionaires a personal prelature to the Pope, as Opus Dei is? If so, that might contribute to the Legionaires’ problems. If anything good comes out of this whole debacle, it might be the ending of such prelatures and ordering such organizations to be subordinate to local bishops — instead of a charismatic, ambitious founder (Maciel, Escriva).

  18. dcs says:

    Are the Legionaires a personal prelature to the Pope, as Opus Dei is?

    No.

  19. Opus Dei has a founder that is a saint.
    The Legion of Christ has a founder that is a pervert, liar, miscreant and “launderer of monies”…
    there is no comparison.
    The members of LC and RC are to be pitied and compassionated; they must find a viable charism…
    lust, money-grubbing, and lying, as well as a double-life cannot be a part of their charism; they have much to discern, much to ponder, much to atone for.
    God help them.
    It is an awful thing; the “face of God” is before them. Let us pray that they find their place in the Church.
    But not in further “absconding”…Pope Benedict won’t allow this…pray that his decisions are blessed by the Holy Spirit.
    This is so sad. So awful. So very much a part of this “filth” of the last century. Let us pray that we be rid if it all in this next. Pope Benedict is doing all he can to do this. Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom, Mother of the Church, pray for us!

  20. Henry Edwards says:

    Da Vinci Code rubbish to the contrary, no credible questions have to my knowledge been raised about the activities of Opus Dei. For instance, there has never been (so far as I know) a credible accusation of clerical sexual abuse in Opus Dei. Of how many other orders (or prelatures, or whatever) of their size can such a statement be made? Any? Perhaps Opus Dei can be held up as a salutary example of irreproachable behavior for the whole Church?

  21. JSBSJ says:

    “But what the heck, bad Legionaries have got to be better than good Jesuits!”

    Let’s avoid the Jesuit bashing folks. I can’t imagine such talk helps either my vocation or the vocation of any other Jesuit who reads this blog. Don’t destroy the Church’s good, young vocations with cynical attitudes.

  22. irishgirl says:

    JSBSJ-amen, brother!

    I met a fine young group of Jesuit novices last June while attending the burial of Cardinal Dulles in upstate New York. When I saw them all together, I said almost out loud, ‘The future is HERE!’

    As JSB says, let’s not tar all Jesuits with the same brush. I wouldn’t do it to the good ones most readers of this blog know, such as Father Mitch Pacwa and Father Joseph Fessio.

    I think we’d better escape this rabbit hole-after all, this entry is about the Legionaries of Christ. Let’s keep them in our thoughts and our prayers.

  23. AnAmericanMother says:

    Amen, amen on the Jesuit bashing!

    I’m as guilty as anyone else of launching on some of the weirder Men in Black . . . or, more likely, in sports shirts . . . but there are some really good (much) older Jesuits and some absolutely awesome young ones.

    My daughter’s confessor at college was one of the former, she said he was about 95 and I didn’t believe her until I saw his picture on the parish website . . . . but he’s a fine, solid, orthodox man who BELIEVES and has given her good counsel.

  24. DHippolito says:

    nazareth priest, the question isn’t whether Escriva is a saint or Maciel was a pervert. Ask yourself this question: What if the situation was reversed? What if Escriva was a pervert and Maciel was a saint? Would Opus Dei have the kind of internal controls that the Legionnairs and Regnum Christi apparanetly didn’t to hold Escriva accountable? Remember Escriva is revered by OD members as Maciel was by the Legionnaires and RC. In addition, if JPII was “deceived” about Maciel, would he not be more deceived (hypothetically speaking, in this instance) about Escriva, especially if OD is a personal papal prelature?

    My point is that, far too often, the Church Universal — let alone dioceses, parishes and various organizations — are run by “the rule of men” rather than “the rule of law,” whether that law is Canon Law, Natural Law or the fundamental moral principles in Scripture. If the only way to hold high-ranking prelates accountable either is through highly publicized scandals or lawsuits for massive monetary damages, then something is fundamentally wrong with Church governance, apostolic succession notwithstanding.

  25. robtbrown says:

    DHippolito,

    It’s not really the same thing. Opus Dei is primarily an institute for the laity. There are comparatively few priests.

    Further, every Opus Dei priest, except the founder, has had a previous profession. No one joins Opus Dei and begins formation for the priesthood as a teenager. The admiration for Maciel was drilled into the heads of young seminarians. In Opus Dei there is no such thing as young seminarians. Single men join Opus Dei and after a few years might be asked about the priesthood. Or not. Dr Joachim Navarro Valls was JPII’s press secretary–he was Opus Dei but not a priest.

    For example, the man who followed Escriva had been an engineer. In Rome I had Opus Dei prof who had been a lawyer.

  26. Henry Edwards says:

    Further, every Opus Dei priest, except the founder, has had a previous profession.

    Perhaps this is part of the reason there’s never been a whiff of scandal involving Opus Dei priests.

    Indeed, I don’t personally recall ever hearing of any “problem” involving a diocesan priest who had a professional career preceding the seminary.

  27. DHippolito says:

    So, Henry and robtbrown, since Opus Dei is mainly a lay organization, it has internal controls to keep its leaders accountable, yes?

    I’d like you both to go back to my main point: Too many organizations, apostolates, dioceses, even the Vatican itself, within the Church are run as the focal point of individual personalities, not principles (spiritual or ethical). This is what I mean by “the rule of men” vs. “the rule of law.” The best (and saddest) example is the differing approaches between Pope Benedict and Pope John Paul II concerning the clerical sex-abuse crisis. Why should the approaches be so different for such a crisis? Why do so many in authority (such as the president of the German bishops’ conference) feel emboldened to deny fundamental truths of the faith, let alone, let alone engage in immoral behavior? Why has this been a problem w/in the Church for centuries? Saying that men are naturally sinful is not enough; in fact, asserting it too often sounds like a cop-out, because those who hold authority in God’s name must answer to higher standards.

  28. Henry Edwards says:

    those who hold authority in God’s name must answer to higher standards.

    Can anyone doubt that they do? “The road to hell is paved with . . ..”

  29. robtbrown says:

    So, Henry and robtbrown, since Opus Dei is mainly a lay organization, it has internal controls to keep its leaders accountable, yes?

    I already answered that. I definitely think having older, more experienced clerical students is a fail-safe against the type of LC scandal.

    It’s common sense to know that it’s easier to brainwash a pious 16 year old than a 22 year old with a professional degree and a work record.

    I’d like you both to go back to my main point: Too many organizations, apostolates, dioceses, even the Vatican itself, within the Church are run as the focal point of individual personalities, not principles (spiritual or ethical). This is what I mean by “the rule of men” vs. “the rule of law.” The best (and saddest) example is the differing approaches between Pope Benedict and Pope John Paul II concerning the clerical sex-abuse crisis. Why should the approaches be so different for such a crisis? Why do so many in authority (such as the president of the German bishops’ conference) feel emboldened to deny fundamental truths of the faith, let alone, let alone engage in immoral behavior? Why has this been a problem w/in the Church for centuries? Saying that men are naturally sinful is not enough; in fact, asserting it too often sounds like a cop-out, because those who hold authority in God’s name must answer to higher standards.
    Comment by DHippolito

    This is more complex.

    1. Before the Church fell apart, there was a massive system of discipline that fueled Catholic life. IMHO, the foundation of this system was Latin–this is the essence of JXXIII’s Veterum Sapientia.

    2. It is common that religious orders have extraordinary admiration for their founders while they still live, and this develops into a cult after they die (which is why Benedictines and Dominicans have the name of their founders inserted into the Confiteor.

    3. It was the great discipline of the Church that mitigated against extreme cults of personality. With that discipline gone, about all that’s left is canon law and the highly personalized MO of those in authority. That’s not likely to change until there is true reform.

    4. JPII was an enigma.

  30. DHippolito says:

    Henry, the fact that you agree that those who hold authority in God’s name must be held to higher standards does not, sadly, mitigate the fact that many Catholics effectively don’t believe that. They’re far too interested in celebrating church leadership than in holding it accountable. Such was the case for those fostering JPII’s cult of personality.

    robtbrown, I don’t deny that JPII was an enigma. But even enigmas must recognize and understand gross immorality when they see it — especially if it takes place outside of their philosophical “comfort zone.” Read 2 Samuel 2, about how the high priest Eli handled his corrupt sons. Sadly, JPII didn’t behave much differently when he told the American bishops to “cut it out” and “stop this crisis.” (not exact quotes, as you can understand, but you get the idea).

  31. DHippolito says:

    Sorry, that should be I Samuel 2.