Cathy Kaveny last week wrote about a new Vatican investigation of more sexual abuse inside the scandalous Legion of Christ, and this week it emerged that one of the Legion’s most telegenic and best-known priests, Father Thomas Williams, in fact had at least one affair and fathered at least one child. All this while he was a media presence telling others how they should be holier Catholics — like him and his order.
What’s more, not only did the Legion know about the scandal and do nothing, but Father Williams himself was holding himself out as a pious preacher while living a double (or triple or quadruple) life. (John Allen’s report is here, lest our resident papalists think this is Rome-bashing.)
This really is astonishing, and I don’t think we have unpacked the psychology and spiritual peril of all these scandalous figures — Thomas Euteneuer, John Corapi and the rest — holding themselves out as the guardians and icons of orthodoxy while rallying their fans to defend them and their agendas against their enemies. That fosters cover-ups — scandals — when these holier-than-thou types are found to be less-than-holy, because so much is invested in protecting a hero and promoting an agenda.
Cathy’s point is worth revisiting:
What the Legion and RC did so well is LOOK GOOD. They seemed holy, they seemed attractive. They came out of central casting. Maybe we should take Jesus’s injunction about praying in private as a cautionary sign: we ought to be suspicious of those who try too hard to be SEEN as holy.
And they were enabled by self-proclaimed “good Catholics” who wanted always to give this group the “benefit of the doubt,” casting personal aspersion on those who had the courage to speak out.
In that thread, Alan Mitchell pointed to the summer boys camp website of Regnum Christi, an affiliate of the Legion, which features a video that would be a joke — the product of too many LOTR movie marathons — if it weren’t so typical of the regnant mindset among church authorities today. It might also be funny if it weren’t betrayed by facts. Self-proclaimed saints are instead snake oil salesmen, the self-proclaimed persecuted are in fact the powerful, and those who declare themselves courageous are in fact cowardly.