from vows of silence comes a great noise……

Posted on Monday 26 April 2010

Legion of Christ Regnum Christi

Yesterday, I was reading about the Legion of Christ, a Catholic Organization founded in Mexico in 1941 by Fr. Marcial Maciel [with the lay organization Regnum Christi]. Here are some of their ‘vows’:

177. The first duty of a legionary is to love and esteem the Legion. As Nuestro Padre says, it is not a sin to love our Mother who is with all her being dedicated to the expansion of the Kingdom of Christ. On the other hand, when we do this, we are not laboring blindly for we have before our eyes the splendid fruits that the Legion has produced for forty years, the formation of its men and the radiance of its apostolates which confirm that it is work of God and of the Church.
178. To love the Legion is to believe in it and in all that which makes up its specific charism – spirituality, discipline, apostolic methodology. To love the Legion is to intimately know it, accept it in all its fullness, without reticence or diminution. To love the Legion is to actively pledge oneself to it, living its spirit and enriching it with the contribution of all of one’s personality. To love the Legion is to feel oneself fully realized within it and to make it an essential part of one’s own happiness.

The punch line, as is common these days, is that Fr. Marcial Maciel was a major league sexual predator and crook:
Maciel was a morphine addict who sexually abused at least 20 Legion seminarians from the 1940s to the ’60s. Bishop John McGann of Rockville Centre, N.Y., sent a letter by a former Legion priest with detailed allegations to the Vatican in 1976, 1978 and 1989 through official channels. Nothing happened. Maciel began fathering children in the early 1980s – three of them by two Mexican women, with reports of a third family with three children in Switzerland, according to El Mundo in Madrid, Spain. Concealing his web of relations, Maciel raised a fortune from wealthy backers, and ingratiated himself with church officials in Rome.
The reason I posted some of the vows is that as I read about the Legion of Christ and its vows, I thought, "Oh, that’s just a cult!" I was surprised that the Catholic Church had cults within its fold [Dan Brown’s novels aside]. But then I began to wonder what was the difference between a cult and a religion. So I started reading, until I realized that I wasn’t going to find the answer to my question by reading [actually, I began to think that I wasn’t going to find an answer because there’s not any answer].

I thought of a cult as a small group lead by a charismatic person who offered a unified belief that explained all things, demanded loyalty to the cult, and who exploited the members – like Jim Jones or Charles Manson. Apparently that pejorative definition comes from the 1960’s when there so many examples. But in the main, it really means something like ‘new religious movement’ opposed to a sect that is a group that breaks off from an existing religious group. That’s way more than I was looking for.

So going back to my original thought ["Oh, that’s just a cult!"], what was I getting at. I was thinking that a cult was a small group of vulnerable people being given some simplistic set of ideas that were presented as absolute truth – preached by a charismatic sociopath who took advantage of his/her followers. Well the Legion of Christ fits the bill. But what of religion in general – "a small group of vulnerable people being given some simplistic set of ideas that were presented as absolute truth." Can I get away with saying that any and every religion fits the bill? That sounds a lot like Karl Marx, "the opium of the masses." Here’s the full Marx quote:
Religion is, indeed, the self-consciousness and self-esteem of man who has either not yet won through to himself, or has already lost himself again. But man is no abstract being squatting outside the world. Man is the world of man—state, society. This state and this society produce religion, which is an inverted consciousness of the world, because they are an inverted world. Religion is the general theory of this world, its encyclopedic compendium, its logic in popular form, its spiritual point d’honneur, its enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement, and its universal basis of consolation and justification. It is the fantastic realization of the human essence since the human essence has not acquired any true reality. The struggle against religion is, therefore, indirectly the struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion. Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.
Yikes! There’s a mouthful. Again way more than my thought meant to take on. Sounds kind of religiously antireligious to me. So back to my thought.

Fr. Marcial MacielWhatever it is that draws people to religion has something to do with wanting to be a part of a group. Whatever it is that draws people to religion has something to do with wanting absolute truths and explanations. Whatever it is that draws people to religion has to do with having a relationship with nature, the universe, bigger-than-can-be-understood things, and one’s personal place therein. Whatever it is that draws people to religion often fosters the belief that others, outsiders, are wrong, maybe bad. Whatever it is that draws people to religion also makes them vulnerable to exploitation by the organizers of the religion, cult, group.

So, I think the Legions of Christ, and perhaps much of the Catholic Church is a fertile ground for "the belief that others, outsiders, are wrong, maybe bad" and renders followers "vulnerable to exploitation by the organizers." And that’s true throughout the religious world – for example in Islam, in the form of the jihadi, the mujahideen, is a cult as destructive as any around. It’s true of many Protestant Christian sects, particularly Fundamentalists. We might throw Glenn Beck [guns, god, & gold] in there for good measure.

I don’t personally either agree or disagree with  Karl Marx. What he says can be true. But that, to me, is not the point. Religion is attractive to most people in the world, and that’s just what is. Nor is the point what good religion may do in the world for its practitioners or others. What matters is that the dangers of religion are multiple and predictable, and the current crisis makes it clear that the Catholic Church has not addressed the possibilities for exploitation nearly enough – if at all. The Legion of Christ is just a simple example. A quick read of those vows should have immediately set off very loud warning bells…
Maciel, serial abuser: Let the apologies begin
U.S. Catholic

By Bryan Cones
April 26, 2010

The publisher of the Legionaries of Christ-backed National Catholic Register, Father Owen Kearns, has finally apologized to the victims of the Legion’s founder, Father Marcel Maciel, a pathological liar and abuser who, as Jason Berry has reported for the National Catholic Reporter, bribed his way through the Vatican to gain favors for the Legion and its lay affiliate Regnum Christi. Why it took Kearns so long to apologize to victims is unclear, though Kearns says in the statement he as been ready to do so for some time.

It remains to be seen whether other high-profile defenders of Maciel will issue their own apologies, notably papal biographer and commentator George Weigel and Mary Ann Glendon, the former ambassador to the Holy See. The late Father Richard John Neuhaus is beyond apology, though his journal First Things offers this defense in his case.

The Maciel case is a perfect example of seeing only what one wants to see, and one reason why victims of child sexual abuse are rarely believed. Who could imagine that someone so "holy" could ever be guilty of such crimes? Maciel’s victims, including his own biological children, continue to suffer, and the fact that the Legion of Christ still exists is a scandal. It was created completely in immorality through a web of deception and abuse woven by a man whose behavior can only be described as sociopathic. The order purchased its influence with the kind of bribery that would make the characters of the Godfather blush. And through its many arms, including Regnum Christi and the National Catholic Register, it has sown nothing but discord in the Body of Christ.

There is only one remedy for this corruption, and that is to eliminate it. The Legion of Christ must be suppressed, along with Regnum Christi. Its members must be helped to discern new communities in which to live out their vocations, and the order’s billions of dollars in assets and institutions must be investigated and disposed of according to church law.

Furthermore, the shady corruption revealed by Jason Berry must also be investigated and its perpetrators dealt with, both those who offered the money and those who accepted it. Only be shining a light on this or any corruption that has exposed the innocent to danger can the church ever emerge from this tragedy.

In case it’s not obvious from my red highlighting, there are two articles by Jason Berry in The Investigative Fund about the life and exploits of Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi, that are a better read than the novel that’s currently on your bedside table:
Andrew Sullivan’s summary is pretty good as well:
With this video clip from Vows of Silence:

    May 1, 2010 | 10:42 PM

    […] on Saturday 1 May 2010 The Legion of Christ is a really big problem for the Catholic Church [see from vows of silence comes a great noise…]. Recently, the members of the Vatican Investigation reported their findings to the Pope, and he […]

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