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Only Christ at the Center

Sandro Magister has published this morning an anguished and bold letter from a priest of the Legion of Christ to the Legion's Director. Here is an excerpt:

I address myself to you again with sorrow and shame. The sorrow is increased by the knowledge that sending you this letter will again be a useless effort, as have been other letters and other suggestions to you and to other superiors. But [my] silence would not be a good choice, because it would make me an accomplice of the one who abused and plundered the lives of our brothers.In these days, I have had the honor of visiting some houses of the Legionaries (and of being received with great charity). I have witnessed with my own eyes that in most of them there are still photos of the village of Cotija, of the house in Cotija, and, incredibly, in three places (San Salvador, Cancn, and Canada) there are photos of Fr. Maciel surrounded by the first followers or by the first groups of Legionaries.How is this possible, Fr. lvaro? What message are we sending to Fr. Maciel's victims? Is this the way to accept the [Vatican] statement of May 1, 2010? Fr. lvaro, for the love of God and for the honor of those who suffered the horror of abuse, the agony of disdain and disregard, I beg you to order the removal of the photos of the author of the abuse from the home in which he was born, from the village in which he was raised, and from the institution in which those acts were committed, wounding the innocent and casting so much discredit upon the holy Church.I likewise beg you to order that all of the spiritual retreats in Cotija take on a tone of reparation, that Fr. Maciel's body be moved from the central altar to one of the crypts to the side in which other Legionaries are buried (so that only Christ may be at the center).I propose that the home of the deceased be turned into a home of reparation and perpetual adoration, and that the museum be turned into a museum to commemorate his victims and guarantee that they never be forgotten.Finally, I propose that the house in the mountains (CCI) be given to the diocese to be used as a seminary or retreat house, or even as a place of rehabilitation for priests in the grip of alcohol or other vices.In this way, we will make a gesture of reparation to the Church of Mexico, so discredited on our account.

The rest is here.

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This is similar to people who have bought Toyota Camry's and refuse to believe they were sold a defective car. Few want to believe they were duped. Having spoken to a few Toyota owners I am amazed how they bought Toyota's cover-up. Most likeley within the Legionnaires there are many who are saying that Maciel is innocent and that the pope merely censured him for political reasons. The capacity for human deception is incalculable.

I really think the only way forward is to treat LC and its subsidiary organizations as a cult. I really have no idea how the people at the National Catholic Register, and Faith and Family, Circle Publications continue to receive hundreds of thousands of dollars DIRECTLY from this group in good faith.And piously defend Catholic sexual morality from such a vantage point. . . I can't see how it's not analogous to someone knowingly employed by a money-laundering front for the mob piously denouncing violence.And people wonder why Catholic moral teaching is losing credibility. .. .

I feel sorry for this man. The Pope should solemny release all LC members from their promise of obedience and leave them free to make a new one if they wish in a renewal ceremony.

"O God, come to our assistance! O Lord, make haste to help us!" And we, the Church, pray this every day. The Church absolutely needs an intervention. George Weigel in "Letter to a Young Catholic" quotes Flannery O' Connor: "It seems to be a fact that you have to suffer as much from the Church as for it." Weigel's response is hopeful: " ... failure is not the final word. Emptiness and oblivion are not our destiny. Love is the final word. And love is the most living thing of all because love is of God. To know that, and to stake your life on it, is to have been seized by the truth of God in Christ - amid and through, not around, the gritty reality of the world." So let's have faith that God is coming to our assistance!

Catholic Moral teaching is losing credibility because there are those who profess to be Catholic while denouncing Catholic Moral teaching, simultaneously. Christ, The Truth of Love, is incorruptible.

One interesting aspect of this is that conservatives and Vatican apologists are publicizing this letter, which in almost any other context -- the sex abuse scandal, e.g. -- would be seem as dissent, or promoting divisiveness, or Vatican-bashing, etc. Perhaps the LC is seen as so radioactive -- in a way that child abuse and other challenges in the church are not -- that conservatives feel the only way to protect Rome is to make sure this is exposed, and hence they take on the role often reserved for Catholic liberals. It may also be that LC is seen as such an integral (and wealthy) part of the orthodox infrastructure that all possible measures must be taken to save it, much as Benedict has done with the SSPX folks.

Our Lady of Fatima, Pray for us.

"I address myself to you again with sorrow and shame. The sorrow is increased by the knowledge that sending you this letter will again be a useless effort, as have been other letters and other suggestions to you and to other superiors. But [my] silence would not be a good choice, because it would make me an accomplice of the one who abused and plundered the lives of our brothers."If any of us waver in the purposeful exercise of intellectual freedom within the Church, this is a great reminder of its importance. He clearly feels speaking his mind is useless but he's doing it anyway. And ultimately it does do some good. Here's to the power of voice.

... the other point being that his silence makes him an accomplice. Does this turn the exercise of intellectual freedom from an arbitrary activity into a moral obligation?

The LC has money. The money keeps them in the loop. Morals be damned!

If you study the history of religious communities in the church over centuries, a pattern emerges. 80% of all communities were inspired, rose up, contributed to the church and the world, and then slowly died. Very few religious communities last for centuries - in fact, an argument can be made that their very mission is time limited and they were not founded for self-preservation.Agree with Prof. Kaveny - this group is a cult and needs to be suppressed - there is precedent in church history for this and it would be an act of kindness.

One of the best priests I ever knew had been a member of an order but later became a diocesan priest. What struck me as odd was that the fact was generally kept secret. Why should his switching be considered disgraceful in some way? Maybe the reason the LC is not being disbanded is so that the members won't suffer the same sort of negative judgement. But it doesn't speak well for the rest of us if they will be considered somehow personal failures because of the failure of their founder. Poor Legionaires. They were gullible, but of itself that's no sin.

Bill - you are exactly right - "only Christ at the center" as in the blog title not the religious communities at the center.

Hi, Ann, it's not particularly disgraceful (at least not intrinsically so) to move from a religious order to a diocese.As you can imagine, such a move might be accompanied by emotions of hurt/anger/betrayal by those within the order - it necessarily involves the breaking of fraternal bonds.These are just general remarks on my part; the Legionnaires of course are a very "special" topic. I can't help but agree with Cathleen's assessment. And yet, we also see, in this letter, that whatever spirituality has characterized the order (and it's of a type that has no appeal for me) also has attracted good people, who should be able to serve the church in a healthier environment.

"I beg you to order the removal of the photos of the author of the abuse" --- Hmmm. What would happen if that priest took matters in his own hands and removed the photos himself whenever he encountered them? To me, it's a pleasing idea.

Re: Jeanne Follman10:20 am's very apt question of intellectual freedom and moral obligation -There is a Canon Law which says that one may and sometimes should speak out. I apologize for not knowing which one. Perhaps an expert can tell us what it says.

F.Y.I.: http://www.zenit.org/article-29109?l=englishI am wondering if the Bishop in charge of the Legionaires, Bishop Velasio De Paolis was notified of these concerns or was he kept out of the loop?

Jack Barry and Jeanne (and maybe Peter V.) --It's not for nothing we are created free. Sometimes we have an obligation to speak out. But that is a prudential matter, and as we know so well these days, prudence covers a multitude of sins.Prudential problems often involve complex matters. There is a new branch of philosophy called "complexity theory" which grew out of the fact that complexity itself is often a problem. Maybe these new young complexity philosophers will eventually give the moralists some help. Hard to judge their work, though. The work is apparently being done mainly by AI theorists, and they're the only ones who talk the AI language. Sigh. Peter V., do you know anything about their work?

Magister's opening sentence speaks loudly:"In many of the houses of the Legionaries of Christ, the portrait of their disgraced founder is still on display. And his system of power continues to function. The letter of accusation by a priest of the Legion to its leaders. But at the Vatican, they don't have any protectors anymore."As the old expression goes: no money? no honey!

Btw, note this beginning by Magister:"The changing of the guard that is taking place at the top of the Vatican congregation for religious is making the heads of the Legionaries of Christ, the heirs of their disgraced founder Marcial Maciel (in the photo), even more nervous.The prefect of the congregation, Cardinal Franc Rod, who was their last major protector, is in fact being replaced for reasons of age. The name of his successor is not yet known. "So Cardinal Rod is out. Does the visitation of US religious sisters go with him? Will all that turmoil be for naught?

Good ole Vincentian, Cardinal Rohde, will have his resignation accepted. "Romanita" will not allow his succesor to ignore the visitation but watch to see if the focus and results do not change.

Hello Ann (and All),I first became aware of complexity theory only this spring, and I suspect that I'm a bit ahead of the learning curve over most moral and political philosophers because I have so much direct contact with social and cognitive scientists (necessary because of my particular research specialty). As I understand matters, complexity theory is such a new research area that there is still lively debate over what defines a complex system. Also as I understand matters, complexity theory has so far been most successful and influential in cognitive science and is rapidly making inroads into other social sciences such as econ omics. We moral and political philosophers have not yet fully worked out the significance for our part of philosophy of some important 20th century breakthroughs in the social sciences, let alone the even more recent complexity theory.I think we're rather far from knowing whether or not philosophers aided by complexity theory can give us the insights we'd like on specific cases such as this case to which Fr. Imbelli has pointed us. But "the sky might be the limit" in time.

"You can take the man out of the Legionnaries, but you cannot take the Legionnaries out of the man."Even if the LCs were to be disbanded, I suspect Rome would be prepared to support emerging groups with the same kind of attraction to authority, etc.And we could expect ex-Legionnaries to gravitate toward such new groups.(Rome needs the money.)

You may not know someone. But a person's attitude and actions around money show much. History is full of Cardinals and bishops catering to the monied class or group. One learns an awful lot by following the money.

Anguished? Yes. Bold? Not so much. As you were wealers. I'm gone for now.

Peter, I am just guessing, but I think the development arrow is in the opposite direction, ie mathematics -> economics -> cognitive science. (assuming I understand what complexity theory is! you may be referring to something entirely different, knowing philosophers...)My reasoning is that complexity began with formal systems, identifying problems that are neither recursive nor random. (Godel/Turing response to Hilbert's everything is recursive = solvable) This found application in systems with large amounts of data, first physics, then economics. From there, it passed to cognitive science, since this proposed a new type of system about which to think.But again, you may be talking about something else entirely

Jim McK ==I just checked out the Stanford Encyc. of Philosophy about complexity theory. It seems it is limited to arithmetic complexity. Sigh. WEll, maybe someday those smart guys will get to other sorts of relationships besides numerical ones, the sort that would be needed in the solution of moral and other problems. Here's the site: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/computability/

Ann, I think maybe you're giving up too easily. The material in the Stanford site is a summary of a standard undergraduate course in computer science ("theory of computing.") It is applicable only to deterministic machines. ("machine" in the abstract sense)But you mentioned a few days ago you think there is also complexity theory done by artificial intelligence folks. Those guys are much more concerned with probabilistic algorithms (simulations) and statistical methods (Bayesian nets and such.) I think they have questions like "When has this solution converged to an acceptably probable result?" which are directly relevant to the way humans evaluate arguments. Unfortunately, I think their answers are probably limited to very simple cases.

I note with sadness but not surprise that First Things is now using Danielle Bean as a blogger. Mrs. Bean is an editor of Faith and Family, a LC run outfit --supported by them to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars, by her own admission. When I was googling the LC the last time around, a debate came up about her suppressing criticism of LC on her blog site. Couldn't FT have found a homeschooling, blogging mother of many who wasn't so closely tied up with the LC?I'm sure FT will say you can't blame her or the nice people in or paid by the LC for the problems in the organization. And that may be right in her case. But one reason the LC has been able to be so successful is that it has manipulated the admirable reluctance to judge others for its own ends. And FT ought to know this. Neuhaus defended Maciel until the last possible moment-- it was the mean liberals attacking him that were the problem. And after it was no longer possible to defend Maciel, they defended the integrity of the organization, presenting him as a rogue operator who duped everyone else. And with this article, that is no longer possible-- the whole thing is officially rotten to the core.The whole thing is also just exhausting. How do you tell the nice people from the corrupt ones in a cult, anyway? And how do you ensure that a cult doesn't keep operating by taking advantage of appearances --and innocent people--except by refusing to have anything to do with it as a general rule? Mrs. Bean and Fr. Kearns are the faces of the Legion's operation--they are its representatives and agents.Does the "I'm sorry" of the publisher of the National Catholic Register, Fr. Kearns, make it all go away, when the paper is still owned by and he is still a member of the LC?Is it fair to say, "Look at this point, we can't judge any individual, but we know so much about the LC and its methods of operation that we ought to avoid entanglement with anyone who continues to choose directly to contribute to or benefit substantially from its operations?" And if not that, what?

Indeed, I am not sure this is very related to complexity theory. Complexity theory in computer science is the study of how fast problems can be solved.1- some problems has no systematic algorithm (undecidability)2- others have an algorithm that, given all the relevant information, will churn away and give you the solution after some finite time.One principle of complexity theory is that there is little point in having an algorithm if it takes too long to find the solution. For example, if I ask you to give me the billionth prime number, of course you can do it (just try all numbers one by one in sequence) but it will take you your entire life and more: that's pointless; you'll never get there. Should you figure out a shortcut to compute that more quickly than going through the entire sequence, or should you give up and declare the problem hopeless? That's what complexity theory is about. It aims to further classify the problems that have an algorithm into subclasses:2.1 - those that can be solved in reasonable time2.2 - and those that do not have any reasonable time algorithm. These are the complex problems!That doesn't mean that in these problems are always hard: in a particular situation, faced with a particular instance, there can be other features that makes the problem easy. But there is no general algorithm that's fast in all cases. Examples: Weather prediction after n days; Nash equilibria for general games, scheduling courses in a school to satisfy every body's constraints; ...

Cathleen, your comments at 8:03 am prompted me to go back and re-read George Weigel's recommendations on FT from last May. In the context of our discussion here, Weigel's recommendations, in my opinion, wear well. What do you think?http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2010/05/next-acts-in-the-legionar... - My thought, based on this letter from Magister, is that what is needed is leadership from the Vatican that is extraordinary, vigorous and determined. Unfortunately, those adjectives rarely attach to senior church leadership :-(

Jim - Rome would have to say that they were wrong; they would have to throw JPII under the bus. Just won't happen.

Jim, from my point of view, there are three basic problems with Weigel's approach. First, I think at the time, he is still pushing to some extent a a line of "Maciel and a few bad apples." It's more than that. And I think you can't rule out the possibility that people in the Vatican knew and looked the other way--even JPII. Second, his proposals for reform are good--but there seems to be not enough interest in reform from the piece Bob posted. What then?Third, if it's a cult, it's not enough to change the structure--you have to change the mindset totally distorted by the structure. How do you reprogram some of these people? I don't think it was clear to Weigel then that it wasn't merely corrupt--it was and is a cult built around corruption. And that factor has to be grappled with. You can't just let all these people go off to other settings all on their own--you have to help them remove old patterns of thought and put new ones in. It isn't going to be Commonweal who's going to put a break on their influence--through subsidiary groups. It's going to be places like First Things, who will say, "Hey, great that you're a conservative Catholic mother, but not so great that you're mixed up with this crowd, since it's proven itself to be too dangerous to conservative Catholic mothers and children, among others."

"Mrs. Bean and Fr. Kearns are the faces of the Legions operationthey are its representatives and agents."Cathy, Marx was right in that a person's philosophy is governed by her economics. I hate to be cynical. But most people can be bought. That seems to be the case here.

It's a hard question. . . you don't want to exclude people based on association. . . but if including people like these means putting a respectable face on a dangerous group--not dangerous because of viewpoint, but because of coercive and manipulative practices--how do you avoid it?It's a complicity with evil problem.What should be done if they don't reform--not by others, but by you and me? Just go on as usual? Act as there were never a problem?

"what is needed is leadership from the Vatican that is extraordinary, vigorous and determined." I believe that we're past this point, in the same way that the letter writer, although begging his superior to take action, knows that it's not going to happen. I think that we are at the point where we have to act ourselves for the changes we want. When this priest sees photos of Maciel up on the wall, he needs to take them down himself. When we make donations, we have to give them to venues where we can exercise oversight over how it is used (instead of giving to the Vatican, then asking that they take some action.)

What I have noticed, when I have been a guest at the occasional LC soiree, is their hospitality and the genuine intellectual curiosity that animated the discussions we had. Oh, yes: and the youth of those in attendance. If the LC leadership has often been appalling like the leadership of some other parts of the Church that I have had the misfortune to observe closelythe rank and file have often been exemplary. But still orthodox, which I suspect underlies most of the schadenfreude at the LC's plight, and zeal for the Legion's dissolution.

Yes. they are very hospitable and very intellectually curious. Their wine and food are the very best. They took in the likes of Mary Ann Glendon and Richard John Neuhaus and George Weigel. But I can think of one or two people --one a lion of the conservative Catholic and pro life movements ----who were shaking their heads in dismay at the LC a decade ago.And maybe some others weren't duped, but thought the smiling orthodoxy of the many was worth the price of the corruption and ruin of a few.That is what scares me. That's why they scare me. It's that possibility at the Vatican that I can't get out of my head--and then, what hope of any reform of anything do we have?

In all things Catholic, Christ As Center only becomes complex if we remove Christ fom the center.

Sorry, no zeal for its dissolution rather experience working with deprogramming folks in cults. As Prof. Kaveny notes, this is a difficult and at times long cycle requiring total dedication and effort. It actually is an act of kindness that can "save" a person but it is not easy. There are no agendas here - the agendas have been with the cult like activities of the LC/RC.Also, dissolution and change are not necessarily negative or bad. You seem to posit that? To paraphrase Newman, "Change is good; to change often is to be perfect."One thing that could be done is to put pressure on US bishops to close all LC schools and to not appoint them or assign them their own parishes. This removes a fundraiser; it gets at one of the roots of the issue; it supports LC folks but with assignments that are monitored and led by others who hopefully will address the need for "re-programming".

"Third, if its a cult, its not enough to change the structureyou have to change the mindset totally distorted by the structure. How do you reprogram some of these people? I dont think it was clear to Weigel then that it wasnt merely corruptit was and is a cult built around corruption. And that factor has to be grappled with. "I think the notion of reprogramming could be compatible with some of the remedies that Weigel is proposing. His proposal #6 is the most 'extreme': "Given the unprecedented nature of this casea religious congregation manifestly capable of good works yet founded by a sociopathic personalityoptions beyond either suppression or reform ought to be considered. If it is essential that the grand narrative of Legionary history be repudiated along with the founder, and if a mechanism needs to be devised to ensure that the future can be constructed without the burden of those associated with the evils of the past, then perhaps a dissolution-plus-refoundation scenario should be explored."It seems to me that the two options that positively can't be on the table are (1) to do nothing at all; and (2) to say, in effect, 'we're going to blow up the Legion' without having a plan for all of the implications of that plan. There are hundreds of priests and thousands of laypersons associated in some way with the orders or the institutions run by the orders. What happens to all the priests? What happens to the schools? The teachers? The students and their families? The buildings and property? Who needs to be reprogrammed and who doesn't? It's a huge undertaking.

"If the LC leadership has often been appalling like the leadership of some other parts of the Church that I have had the misfortune to observe closelythe rank and file have often been exemplary."Hi, Mike, I'm sure it's true that there are other Church organizations whose leaders may not pass the sniff test. But Weigel is right that the Legionary situation is unprecedented, because the cult of the founding personality that ties them together is a lie, and an unknown number of members were complicit in it.

The letter presents another aspect. The offending pictures were not of Maciel alone, but of early members of the LC with Fr Maciel. IOW Fr Byrne is calling for the order's history to be rewritten, purged of any sign of Maciel.Is such a purge appropriate? It seems dishonest to me. Is it better to have those pictures up as a reminder of the sin at the beginning of the Legion?

Bill, etc., if we place Christ As Center, we will restore the Natural Order of all things Catholic, (to paraphrase Cardinal Newman) which is why, to paraphrase both Cardinal Newman and O'Malley of Notre Dame, "The Catholic College (as in all things Catholic) should be a community of students and teachers centered in Christ...the marrow of a Catholic College is not a system of thought, but a saving personality." (HT- Guardian of The Grotto)

As in the past, the LC will get the best leadership from the Vatican that LC money can buy.That always was, always will be and will always remain the same.

" --- What happens to all the priests? What happens to the schools? The teachers? The students and their families? The buildings and property? ---"This smacks of the results of a "smaller but purer" church for which some high up in the rarified confines of Holy Mother the Church seem to be yearning.

"Is such a purge appropriate? It seems dishonest to me. Is it better to have those pictures up as a reminder of the sin at the beginning of the Legion?"Jim McK: forgive me for continuing to tout Weigel - I do think his recommendations shoudl be taken serioiusly - but his recommendations are that all vestiges of Maciel's involvement in the order be purged "root and branch" including, presumably, pictures removed; and that the church pen a credible account of his duplicitous life and misdeeds, which every member of the order be required to read and certify that they have read. (This is may be part of Cathleen's deprogramming recommendation).

It worries me that maciel is buried in a place of honor-- under the central altar.

He is buried under an altar and has not been moved?

Cathy --If LC really is a cult, and I'm sure it is, then the problem of the attitudes and assumptions of the rank and file is not fundamentally a problem caused by the manipulative leadership. As I understand the psychology of cults, people who join cults are to begin with at least somewhat emotionally crippled. They have the sort of personality which *wants* a strong leader to make up their minds for them, and they need the strict conformity of the members within their group. So I don't think the solution to the problems of those well-meaning but psychologically limited members of the rank and file is a matter of de-programming them. They need therapy to deal with the reasons they joined the cult in the first place, and those reasons are very individual.,The last thing highly dependent people want is to learn to stand on their own two feet, They are too afraid to change. A deep, even irrational conservatism and an intransigent loyalty to their leader are their crutches. They're not likely to change.

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