Correspondence with a Legionary Hurt by My Call for the Destruction of the Legion

Correspondence with a Legionary Hurt by My Call for the Destruction of the Legion January 8, 2014

He writes:

Just a short note to say that I read your blog about destroy the Legionaries and I thought I would drop you a quick email to ask you to have a cup of coffee with one of them so you can formulate an opinion about these fine men after you meet with one of them. I have been around them since 1996 and I shared my opinions and dissatisfaction with their some of their methods and the ways that they did things.  I would also like to point out the many good things that they did and continue to do. Through them I learned to be a better father and husband and they helped me be a better person.

They are not perfect and have faults but they are trying to improve and reform.  Please encourage them and be kind to them.  I respect your passion and your direct way of speaking because I am cut from the same cloth. I am hurt by your words destroy the Legion, they do not deserve this. If you got to know them, you would really like them.  I have had to refrain from writing emails when I am angry or have a disagreement with someone because I call a spade a spade but I realized that my words hurt people and I cannot do this anymore so the only emails I write are kind emails. That way I stay out of trouble.  Maybe you can try the same thing. It helped me, maybe it can help you.

I’m sure there are many nice and good Legionaries.  Most of them were the victims of a con artist and obviously sought and seek to serve God.  But the robot he built is, I think, unsalvageable and needs to be destroyed because it will continue to use its members as human shields for grave evil since that’s what Maciel built the robot to do.  The members need to be freed from this evil organization and go find something to do in some other apostolate that is ordered toward God and not toward defending its evil founder.  Organizations, like computers, don’t do what we want them to do.  They do what they are designed to do.  The Legionaries were carefully and deliberately designed by an evil monster to facilitate and cover up his monstrous crimes and that organization continues to do what he built it to do, despite the best intentions of the rank and file good folk who joined it for entirely pious reasons and who continue to this day to try to serve Christ with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength.  The organization is, in fact, designed to act as a drag on that and diverty all that energy toward defending the ghost of its evil founder.

You sound like a good guy to me.  I hope and trust Christ will bless your desire to serve him.  I urge you to escape that organization and find some other place to live as the disciple of Jesus you obviously desire to be.



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  • CD

    I agree with the comments put forth and disagree with you Mark. Yes, Maciel was a fraud but somehow he did create a Catholic order made up of many, many Holy and amazing Priests, Seminarians, Consecrated and Lay doing much amazing work here in the US and many places around the world. They choose to follow Christ–NOT Maciel. Pope Francis and Benedict has blessed their efforts and sees the fruit of their work (and the Papal Delegate who has worked with them for 3 years) and now Pope Francis will apparently make a decision on their future after the conclusion of their General Chapter meetings. Unless you are a former Legionary or Regnum Christi member, I am quite certain you know very little about the Legion of Christ. The Vatican can make judgment and Christ. Not you.

    • Mr. X

      “They choose to follow Christ–NOT Maciel.”

      Except their formation was centered around their founder, Maciel. They spent years reading his works and celebrating his birthday like a feast day. They even denied his actions until very recently. It’s a cult about ought to be dismantled.

      • Paul McCusker

        Yes – and Opus Dei studies the writings of its founder, and Franciscans, and so many other Orders do the same. Are Benedictines called that because they – what? – take benadryl? 🙂 In the Book of Acts, one of the first descriptions we read of the early Church was that the people were dedicated to the Apostle’s teaching. Funny. Why not the teachings of Christ? Must be a typo.
        Maciel was a terrible man, no doubt, but to argue that the Legion should be shut down because its people read his works, etc., is a bit silly.

        And arguably, Dan C, the Legion DIDN’T have trouble with authority. Its people gave in to Maciel’s authority too readily, without the right forms of accountability. So I think that’s a curious thing to say, too, as a reason to dismantle it.

        • Mariana Baca

          There is a difference between an org that reads the writings of a Saint, even an org that reads the writings of a wise and pious man or woman that hasn’t been canonized, with an organization that reads and follows the writings of a man who was a serial abuser and possibly a cult leader. Even if you remove the problematic people, you need to remove the problematic writings.

          • Paul McCusker

            I agree – and understand Maciel’s writings have been removed from the publications, classes, etc. Frankly, I don’t think there was anything revelatory in the man’s writings that hadn’t been better said by others. My point, though, was that we can’t fault the movement for studying the words of its founder before they knew how depraved he was.

            • Mariana Baca

              Sure — not before — I don’t know anything about the movement before and whether there were obvious red flags or not. But if you remove Maciel, you are left with a sort of spotty rule that you are trying to patch which may or may not have had undercurrents of Maciel in it even if they aren’t his writings.

              If nothing revolutionary exists in the founder’s charism, maybe joining up with another order would be more beneficial and spiritually uplifting.

              • Paul McCusker

                I shouldn’t have been so quick to dismiss Maciel’s writings, since I didn’t read much of them. But a founder’s charism is more than just his writings. I believe the meetings taking place in Rome are trying to determine the Charism for the movement, along with their Constitution. God help them all.

                • guest again

                  Paul, please read my comments above (guest, to your first comment).

    • Dan C

      They have trouble with authority. They have difficulty with transparency.

      Both are required for anyone to trust them with children or in a fiscal environment.

  • FrMichael

    “I thought I would drop you a quick email to ask you to have a cup of coffee with one of them so you can formulate an opinion about these fine men after you meet with one of them.”

    I actually have had coffee with them, shot the breeze, and still told them that their order needs to be abolished, the 3gfs set free (since they are not really consecrated religious), and the RC abolished. Individual LCs could attach themselves to dioceses or other religious orders for incardination. For those not interested in becoming a non-LC priest, an expedited laicization process could be set up ad hoc so they could be quickly returned to the lay faithful and get on with life.

    • Dan C

      This is exactly what I do not want.

    • Dan C

      I do not want them “on the loose.”

  • quasimodo

    Is there room on the page for God to write straight with crooked lines?

  • Andrew

    After rereading the past few posts that you’ve written, Mark, I’m seeing how most people are misunderstanding your words or what could seem to be “lack of charity”. You are saying “Destroy the organization”.

    If Pope Francis sees fit to have the order reformed and “remade”, it would be a different organization. All of the charisms, personality (and the focus on things like how one is to eat, drink and speak to other human beings) would be removed and essentially remade, thus “destroying” the legion and making it a new things altogether.

    It’s true, folks. Something that was founded and whose charism and identifying personality is that which was molded by Maciel (again, with guidelines on how their men must eat, drink, speak and build relationships(or lack thereof)) cannot be simply “reformed”…..any significant change, which is what, I think, Mark is talking about, would essentially destroy the organization.

    • Paul McCusker

      You’re right, Andrew. So we must shut down the military, too, because it tells its people how to dress and sometimes dictates what they may eat or drink and when, and even interferes with relationships. With or without the misdeeds of a Founder, certain disciplines are needed within Orders, as determined by its leadership for the good of its people. An example from the Legion: they had strict rules about not speaking unkindly about others and extended that to respect for leadership. It’s something more of us could learn to do. That Maciel used that rule as a cover for his horrible actions is lamentable – but that doesn’t mean the discipline itself is wrong. Say what you will about Maciel – I won’t argue – but I’m still not understanding why so many are vitriolic about the Legion itself or why it is beyond reforming.

      • Dave P.

        Have you actually read the rules? The ones for the Legionaries go far beyond anything else I’ve ever seen. Not even the strictest orders in pre-V2 days went so far as to tell people how to eat a fish, or how to comb their hair, or other such details

        • Paul McCusker

          I’m a child of the 70s, Dave, so any strict rules make me break out in a rash. But I have no doubt I could read the rules for almost any Order and react. Members of various Orders aren’t allowed to speak, or get up at all hours of the night to attend Mass and pray. Some are forced to wear those drab brown robes. Isn’t that unreasonable? 🙂 So the rules I’ve seen in the Legion – and the ones often mentioned in articles – remind me of a School of Manners, which a friend of mine attended in preparation to be a concierge at high-class hotels. They were strict about hair length and style. They taught him how to eat food properly and how to speak in conversation. All in the name of business.

          I don’t mean to be rude, but there are a lot of people – especially priests – who could use some training in those areas. And when we consider the low-income place from which the Legion emerged, it makes sense that poor kids who had decided to become priests might need help so they could navigate most social situations without causing offense.

          I’m not advocating extremes. I’m also wary about judging rules without knowing the intentions or context behind them. Heaven knows how outsiders could react to some of the rules I’ve had to implement with my kids. All the same, I’m still having a hard time connecting rules about table manners with the terrible evil of Maciel – and the call to shut down the Legion. It sounds like people want to throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater.

        • Daniel

          I honestly think that doesn’t make them a cult. Instructions on how to eat and be clean an distinguished are part of an etiquette that elevates the dignity of a person.

          That might sound snobby, but there are many people who complain about lack of refinement in priests – their breath smells in the confessional, they eat with their hands when they come over for dinner… That doesn’t make a bad priest, but a priest doesn’t belong to himself – he represents Christ, the paragon of humanity, restorer of human dignity. He didn’t come to open heaven a crack so we can suffer miserably here and just barely make it there – I think he wants us to be happy and living in a respectful and dignified manner here as well.

          There aren’t penalties for those things, and they make sense. And they open the doors to other circles of people, including the spiritually destitute and universally condemned people of the world – the rich and refined. It’s certainly a blow to reputation to try to save those people, isn’t it? But maybe the Legion isn’t in the business of reputation anymore.

          There’s so much we could say about this. Ranting against the free education in good manners is just as ridiculous as the amount of detail in the manuals. No, if there is a problem with the Legion, it does not reside here, unless you’re like me and understand that Western etiquette and silverware is really caveman stuff in comparison with Eastern hashi.

          Back to what is really important. Structuring is an issue. Specific personnel are an issue. Fundraising practices are an issue. How to eat and keep yourself clean, no.

  • Athelstane

    “The members need to be freed from this evil organization and go find
    something to do in some other apostolate that is ordered toward God and
    not toward defending its evil founder.”

    Agreed. The problems with the Legion are far too fundamental to be erased through mere reform of the order. The problem goes far beyond Maciel and his top lieutenants.

    Only by complete dissolution can any of its surviving members have any chance at a healthy spiritual life.

  • Daniel Harting

    Mark, your name rings a bell… Where have I seen you before?

    I can easily say that the North Korean government should be destroyed and everybody with half a brain would agree with me. Now as hard as it is to believe, the immediate consequences of such an action might be negative for the people involved, including the North Korean citizens. What about that minimal infrastructure that exists and is maintained by that government, the current distribution of goods that barely keeps most everybody alive, the information on the camps, etc.? No a peaceful transition always beats a violent one.

    So while I’m not offended by your title, I think it is brazenly out of line with reality. Let’s start with the word ‘destroy’ and end with ‘Legionaries’. I don’t think that reflects your sentiments properly unless you intend that we reduce the Legion’s members’ bodies to ashes after convincing them that they’re worthless nothings. You can opine that if you like. You don’t look like that kind of guy. You might be an Amish or Orthodox double agent, but a psychopathic serial killer, or at least an online personality that encourages psychopathic serial killers? No way.

    If you mean disband the canonical reality, the institution, it would run something more like “Disband the Legion of Christ.” You’re very much entitled to that opinion, and it should be respected to the degree that you know and understand the internal situation of the congregation and its individual members.

    Now the Pope said something different, but what does he know? Maybe he knows something. He sent his own people to investigate, and they banged out an analysis and solution after many months of traveling, many interviews, intense note-taking, and maybe some starbucks to keep them going.

    If only because of all that, plus the starbucks, I think we should give it a chance in our theoretic inner reality where we watch the world play out the way we would like it to and form our opinions about it. I opine that just since so many honest people put so much effort into it, we ought to let it sit for a while before throwing it away.

    And I have as much right to be wrong in my opinions as you do. And I wouldn’t tell you to have a cup of coffee with them. I’d say go have a game of basketball with them – much more fun. They would also do more defending there, because I haven’t heard any defending the founder since 2009.

    I’m sure they have a ways to go. Fortunately, since it was a human intelligence that designed the bad robot, it is not beyond the current human intelligences involved in the current government to rewire it. But if they’re truly a work of God, they’re going to go on regardless of our opinions.

    Okay, now on to reading the article that started this, ’cause I actually haven’t read it yet…

    • chezami

      Yes. Anybody with common sense can clearly see that I am calling for the mass murder of every member of the Legionaries and not the destruction of the organization of that name. *eyeroll*.

  • Paul McCusker

    You surprise me, Mark. I assume you wouldn’t call for the destruction of police forces or military branches because someone in leadership used or created systems within them to facilitate evil deeds. As someone from a Protestant background, you have seen churches suffer the same problem. You’ve seen the same as a Catholic. Would you shut down churches completely because the Pastor or Priest abused the structure for his own misdeeds? We’ve had corrupt Presidents who have used democracy to further their own terrible behavior. Are you advocating that we give up on democracy as a form of government? I hope not. There are more honest police officers and self-sacrificing military personnel and good church members and dedicated Presidents than corrupt ones. Why is the Legion any different? Two Popes have agreed that the greater purpose of the Legion is worthy of preserving, even if the systems within need to be reformed. And, yes, the people who were truly complicit with the Founder should be appropriately dealt with. But what, in the rest of the organization, is so unredeemable that it can’t be reformed?

    • chezami

      The Legionaries are an organization specifically designed and built to facilitate and protect a monster. It’s a machine. Machines do what they are designed to do by the designer, not what the user wants them to do. The designer was the monster, and the machine continues doing what the monster built it to do. In order to be really free, the people trapped in the machine need to be set free from the machine. And to do that, the machine must be dismantled till there is nothing left of it. The Church (and even human organizations like the military and police are not specifically the creations of monsters built for the principal purpose of facilitating and covering up evil. They can be perverted to that, but it is not their design that makes them so. With the Legion, that *is* the design of the machine. To make it not do that, the machine must complete cease to exist.

      • Paul McCusker

        So, if I’m reading you right, you’re saying that, from the very start,
        Maciel created the Legion as part of an elaborate scheme to empower and cover his warped sexual appetites and infidelities? That was his motivation back in the beginning for inventing that so-called machine? Really? Why go
        through all the effort and organizational gymnastics to do that?

        Wasn’t there a much easier way to fulfill his sick passions? Or… is it not possible that he originally developed the Legion with the right intentions and later used and abused what he had started for his own nefarious desires?

        I don’t have to be a fan of the Legion to want to challenge the scenario you’ve presented. It doesn’t make sense. Whereas the second scenario does (in part because that’s what sometimes happens to leaders who get lost in their own power and sin). So, I see an organization worth reforming – not a malevolent machine that must be dismantled.

        • Daniel Harting

          I have often wondered that too – why go to so much trouble to do what a lot of people manage without all that trouble? Call me crazy, but I think he suffered from some sort of psychological split – maybe some part of him wanted to serve the Church in a real way, and he just couldn’t help taking advantage of it when it succeeded.

          Too many coincidences and last-minute-saves happened in its history for it to be the mere work of a man, even a genius psychopath. I think God hijacked this guy’s shenanigans.

          Now that’s a theory, among many possibilities, but if we are not partisan ideologues, we are willing to consider all the possibilities. We don’t seek to validate our opinions, but rather we look for the truth, whatever it might be.

        • EZanswers4u

          First of all, Paul, most Catholics were exposed to the Maciel dictated story line about how he helped the Cristeros, went to the Montezuma seminary and kicked out by Jesuits because of his efforts to build leaders, then had 3 failures before finally starting off in Mexico City, etc, etc. For those of us in the Legion, plenty of time was dedicated to learning the “official Legion history” – so what I have to tell you Paul is that all that you heard about the early years is primarily fantasy stories written to create a saintly narrative that fit for a founder. Most people are still impacted by those stories, but as time goes on more and more is discovered that contradicts the official version that was given. So much so that at this point, most of what you heard or was told is pretty much lies, fantasies and invented tales kind of like the kid who kept on telling more lies to cover up an earlier one and they just kept on growing. The difference is that Maciel remembered the lies he told and could kept the myth going. He had a great memory. So in conclusion, whatever you heard, read or was told about Maciel, his early years, the foundation, all his sacrifices are mostly lies mixed in with some truth. For example:
          1. Montezuma: official story line – Maciel had a dream of forming leaders, he formed his own little group, they would carry out rigorous penances, they would meet and work on their formation. He was booted out by jealous jesuits and never returned. Truth – Maciel was in Montezuma twice (not once, but twice). He was booted out due to perverted behavior that was unacceptable. He returned (probably under pressure from one of his bishop uncles) and booted out again. We know from Montezuma that Maciel was already one sick puppy (ie he didn’t become one later).
          2. Maciel abusing children. Recent Legion story line – happened to only a few children, events were few and far between. Truth – the abuse was everywhere and all the time. Most founding legionaries were abused by Maciel although few admitted it – primarily those who left and later in life sought justice. Some report abuse as early as the first foundation attempt in Cotija.
          3. Official story line – Maciel found generous benefactresses who believed in the mission of the Legion. Truth – Maciel found wealthy female Catholics, slept with them, got their money and then left them hanging.
          4. Official story line. Maciel would sit up on a hill overlooking Cotija and realized that all wealth was useless in the search for God’s will and finding eternal life. Then he realized his mission to do something great for Christ. Truth – Maciel was a chronic drug abuser. In a drug induced ecstasy he heard a little voice that told him what to do with his life.
          5. Official story line – Maciel constantly sought out prayer, the sacraments and the presence of God in his life as founder. Truth – Maciel prayed very little, did not celebrate Mass, did not go to confession, did not pray his breviary, did not observe poverty, did not observe community life. He hid in 5 star hotels and had a very high standard of luxury. Rarely lived at a Legionary house and then was off again (obviously to the missions…).
          So you can see your premise about Maciel going to all to all this work to start the Legion makes no sense if he was simply looking to satisfy his sexual appetite. And the truth is that by being a founder Maciel had several advantages – position, power, money, protection from enforcements, the benefit of the doubt, access to the highest authorities in the Church who could help him out in a pinch. Maciel was a complex bird. His primary focus was power and control over others – his abuse of children was a manifestation of that, but what gave him the greatest pleasure was the control, manipulation, the power and the life of easy money. The myth of maciel was so strong and the mind control was so generalized that these little children were afraid to speak up until later in life when they were finally able to get out from under the spell. As long as he could keep up the farse as founder, no one would dare touch him legally or ecclesiastically and guess what – no one did.
          So you can see your idea that somehow all this effort was based on love of God, the Catholic faith, the missions, etc is completely wrong. Hope that helps you in your search for the truth. Really what I suggest to you is to really dig for the truth – don’t answer specific questions with ideological answers or hypothesizing. We already know Maciel was a monster and the deeper this goes, the worse it gets. Don’t be on the wrong side of history trying to uphold a myth that no longer works nor has any historical background. So good luck in your quest.

          • Paul McCusker

            I think you’re misunderstanding me. You can say whatever you like about Maciel. There are no myths that I’m trying to uphold. I am not trying to defend the man. I wouldn’t try to alter or spin any of the facts (though the facts don’t always explain the motives of the man behind them – that is where I was speculating, not defending). Yet, even if his intention for the Legion was, from the beginning, a Godless one, based on a very warped and psychopathic desire for power, control, manipulation, sex or whatever, that still doesn’t make the movement itself inherently evil.

            I reject the idea that the movement is nothing but a machine or a Frankenstein’s monster of some sort. It defies my Christian belief that, in spite of gross human failings, God can and does redeem. I don’t care what Maciel’s intentions were. What I know is that I became a Catholic because of the holiness and goodness of the priests and Regnum Christi members I met. I was drawn to what the movement aspired for itself spiritually. Maciel was irrelevant to me. When I learned of his monstrous acts, I was sorry that such things happened, but they did not impact what I saw in the principles of the movement. (As an Evangelical who’s seen many so-called holy men fall to sin and the churches struggle to survive the fallout, I understood what it all meant. I hold no sentimental views about such things.)

            I do not believe Maciel’s actions meant the movement itself was thoroughly corrupt. Had Pope Benedict rejected it – or if Pope Francis does – then there would be nothing left to say. I abide by the Magisterium. But they didn’t, or haven’t, and I’m willing to watch and see what happens next without screaming for the whole thing to be thrown out.

            There are a group of people in Rome right now trying to discern the future of the movement. And we may well be like Abraham haggling with God over the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah. If a hundred, or fifty, or ten, or one righteous man can be found, will God spare them? Or are we like Jonah whining beneath an eggplant because God showed mercy on the sinful people of Nineveh? What are we as Catholics if not a people who believe that God can pour His love and grace into the worst situations and make them something pure and good?

            That was my starting point with this whole thread. Not Maciel, but the movement. To hear the people in the movement – our brothers and sisters in Christ – described here as mere robots in a so-called machine that ought to be destroyed seems completely wrong to me. If they are collectively beyond redemption, then the rest of us are, too.

            • EZanswers4u

              Actually Maciel is important. “There is the need for and subsequent spiritual heritage of each Institute. It is precisely in this fidelity to the inspiration of the founders and foundresses, an inspiration which is itself a gift of the Holy Spirit”(Vita Consecrata). “[I]t is very important that individuals, desiring to advance in recollection and perfection, take care into whose hands they entrust themselves, for the disciple will become like the master, and as is the father so will be the son” (John of the Cross, The Living Flame of Love, 3, 30).

              Fanatical followers of Maciel, the Legion and RC, first based the evidence of the holiness of the Legion on the apparent holiness of the founder. Then when his errant ways were made public, the same fanatics jumped ship and spoke about the “fruits” of the Legion – vocations, rock solid spirituality and apostolate. Those too have been made public as destructive, cult-like and self serving. Now we are talking about – a group of really good guys who help you and me feel oh so special. Opps – the Church has already pointed out that the founder is the key – and by the way, almost 70 years of mismanagement by ecclesical figures does not bode well for the future which is why lay Catholics like Mark Shea need to keep hitting hard until we get to a rock foundation…for the disciple will become like the master, and as is the father so will be the son.

              • Paul McCusker

                That Maciel was important – and is important – to the history of the movement isn’t being argued here. But he didn’t enshrine in the movement’s constitution or charism anything about molesting seminarians or engaging in multiple marriages or any of the other terrible things he did. The core principles he espoused are, to my view, basic Catholic ideas. There are many people of good will who were drawn to the movement because of those principles and not by the man. (Those who were drawn in because of the man have had to deal with that. I can’t address any fanatical followers of Maciel, since I’ve never met one.)

                Surely you’re not suggesting that “vocations, rock solid spirituality and apostolate” are bad things. That they may have been used in a “destructive, cult-like or self-serving” way is wrong, but a movement that promotes them as they are meant to be applied is a good thing, isn’t it?

                I don’t understand the statement “a group of really good guys who help you and me feel oh so special.” What does that mean? It’s sounds condescending, as if the single motive for being drawn to the principles of the movement is to feel special. If that’s what you meant, then it’s a gross overstatement and certainly doesn’t reflect my experience with the movement’s people.

                I also don’t know what you mean by “70 years of mismanagement” either. Are you talking about the movement, the Catholic Church, the Vatican…?” And to avoid another misunderstanding: I happen to like Mark Shea and his writings. I disagreed with him on this point, but that isn’t to suggest he should stop writing or doing what he does best.

                As it is, this discussion is merely an exercise in debate. Fortunately, the future of the Legion/ Regnum Christi is not ours to decide.

                • EZanswers4u

                  What is the charism of Regnum Christi?…just one sentence please.

                  • Paul McCusker

                    I believe the group in Rome is attempting to answer that question. Officially, for now, the Regnum Christi website states that it is: to know, live, and preach the commandment of love that Christ the Redeemer gave us through his Incarnation – in service to the Church and mankind. Unofficially, one could probably add that the means to accomplish this is through personal spiritual discipline and evangelism.

                    • EZanswers4u

                      I guess chameleon might be the charism since every 10-20 years or so they get a new “charism” and shed the previous one like an old sock. The one you found on their website is just the generic “I don’t know what the heck our charism is, but this should do for now…” I heard Maciel himself say that the charism was the formation of leaders. Then he conveniently found a new one like a mid-life husband dumping his aging wife to get a new, younger version. Now we are 180 degrees in the other direction – no mention of leaders. Fr. Richard Gill agrees…

                      Fr. Richard Gill says:

                      My 18 years as a Legionary priest were spent as Director of Regnum Christi sections in Washington DC and New York. I find Fr. Berg’s thesis that the RC lay branch may hold the key to any charism for the Legion intriguing.

                      Every Legionary of my generation (ordained 1991) and earlier knew of Maciel’s helter-skelter manipulations regarding the charism… from the 1950’s it was “militancy”, dressed in the spirituality of Christ the King and the Sacred Heart. Later in the 70’s and 80’s it morphed into “formation of leaders” … still later, reacting to criticism of the Legion as elitist, Maciel generalized with “formation of the laity”. Finally in his twilight years around 2000 he began to in define the charism as “charity”. Superiors loyally explained this away and Legionaries adapted dutifully convinced by a Founder who expressed the “will of God” for us.

                    • Paul McCusker

                      That’s fascinating. I had no idea that the wording of a Charism was not allowed to change. I’ve understood that the essence of Regnum Christi, as it aligned with the Legion, has been an emphasis on discipleship and its various disciplines, to assist the Church and evangelize the world. I can see how that might be described as Militancy in one period of the movement’s history, or formation of leaders, or formation of the laity or, as is needed, a manifestation of charity. I see nothing in what you’ve written that is alarming or contradictory – just various expressions of the same core. Unless there is a rule – and there may be – that the Charism of any movement or Order is never to be re-expressed, then I’m missing something here. And all of the things you listed are good things, right? To the greater point, I see nothing enshrined in what the movement aspires to be or do that makes it worthy of being dismantled.

                      Your apparent cynicism about everything to do with the Legion and Regnum Christi makes me suspect that you can’t be objective about even the good it does, or may do. I don’t know your history with them – and I’m sorry if it was a bad one. But, as I said, its future is not in your hands or mine. I’m not sure how helpful this discussion is.

                    • EZanswers4u

                      Historically there is no “core” and if there was, there would be no need to discuss it now in Rome – it would be obvious just like the franciscan charism is obvious. Since maciel used the legion to whitewash his evil lifestyle, to provide him with unlimited financial resources and to connect with the most powerful and wealthy, the Legion and RC were only what he needed them to be at the time and then call it charism (which were for him a series of theatrical masks that he could put on and take off at will). However the gift of the Holy Spirit is not something you buy, invent or spin with 5 color brochures and the best marketing firm. It is either there or it isn´t. The Legion and RC now are at a pivotal moment of decision where they need to move beyond the path of deception that characterized the Legion and RC from their founding in 1941 until the founder´s death. Many of those leading the charge backward are maciel clones who carried out his orders until the last letter and rigorously applied the constitutions, principles and norms, ratio studiorum, etc without question. This makes the struggle of those trying to move forward even more accented because they are stuck in a groove that they now need to depart and many of their top people will naturally fall back into the groove where they are happy and comfortable. From here they need to find a true charism which will determine their spirituality, apostolate, style of community life, etc, and they need to figure out who is/are the founder(s). Due to the habits of sin and pride inherent in the Legionary and RC lifestyle, especially the lifestyles of their past superiors, a true exorcism is needed to bring them out of the funk where they are now. Eventually, those who were the most complicit need to be removed from all public ministry (similar to what was done with maciel even though he ignored the Vatican´s orders). Thus the Church will triumph if in the end the Legion and RC would decline and are extinguished (which would be unfortunate, but possibly necessary to move forward).

                      I would hope that my comments are helpful for the majority of readers even though the most determined Legion and RC supporters find them offensive due to pride.

    • guest

      Interesting that “police forces or military branches” would be the analogy used. I was in both the military and RC at one point (not at the same time) and the RC approach appealed to me in part precisely because I was former military. I read recently that a newly ordained Legionary considered the Legion the “Marines” of the church or something like that. I counter that the chaplains in the ACTUAL US Marines or Army, Air Force, CG, or Navy are actually the Marines of the priesthood. He’s young and has probably not been around the military.
      The appeal of taking orders, no questions asked, esp. if you KNEW that the Holy Spirit and Holy Father approved, was awesome, and difficult to leave. Yikes!
      Do you know, Paul, that I incorporated shortly before 9-11, and that terrible Tuesday evening, my family (along with the rest of the parish, and my new RC team in their own parishes) attended an impromptu evening Mass. The next week, at our team meeting, my team leader read a statement from the priest who was our section leader (or whatever) letting us know that while it was good to attend Mass, it would have been even better to attend our team encounter that evening and be in solidarity with RC throughout the world at that time –instead of at our parishes, at a Mass, in solidarity with our actual community?! (Former and current members of that section reading this, you remember, don’t you?) I am sorry to say that I thought it was bizarre but just coming off my incorp retreat, I was ready to say, yessir!
      After several years of increasing easiness and several incidents, our family quietly withdrew. As my former team leader told me as I was asking her in 2007-08 if MM could possibly have done these things, maybe I wasn’t meant to be in RC after all. Yep! I was so much on the outskirts but experienced much spiritual turmoil and even shame (how could I leave my buddies behind, right? was I just a wimp for not taking it on the chin?) for a couple of years, I can’t imagine what others more deeply in went through.
      If the recent revelation about Father Thomas Williams –not even so much that he sinned, mind you, but that it was covered up for a decade as he taught moral theology–isn’t convincing enough, I don’t know what is. I wish that the money my family had “invested” in LC vocations (or whatever–a trip to Spain?) during that timeframe was given to our diocese, instead.
      God bless us all as we “walk along side each other” (Pope Francis) and try to make sense of it all. I pray that the Holy Spirit’s will is what prevails in this mess.

      • Paul McCusker

        Of course, I used those analogies to make a different point, but you bring up a possible aspect to the movement: because of the Legion/ Regnum Christi’s emphasis on discipline, people are drawn to it who come from a disciplined background or believe they need that kind of discipline in their lives. They desire spiritual “bootcamps” and a high level of expectation and commitment. They want to be challenged. And they want to join with others who feel that way, who want to live out a rigorous and faithful Catholic life. Many don’t get that at a parish level, which is why they seek help and inspiration elsewhere.

        No surprise, then, that a movement like that might attract people who may seem demanding or aggressive – stepping on the toes of other members, offending parish priests and even bishops. Some were/are downright obnoxious or arrogant about it and could look down their noses at parish church experiences. Loyalty is a high requirement. Any group – not just the Legion or Regnum Christi – is susceptible to an Exclusive Club mentality. It’s sad, but I’ve seen it happen again and again – not only in orders and movements, but in churches. I would argue again that the pathologies don’t negate the greater good.

        You mentioned Thomas Williams and I, like many people, wondered if we were seeing exactly how deep the sins of the Founder had gone into the Movement. Was there a pervasive environment of corruption? The conclusion, I think, was no. What strikes me about Williams is that he, like Maciel, was a dynamic personality who may have begun to believe he could be the exception to the rules – because of the good work he was doing, because of his charm, because of his popularity, because he worked so hard. It’s a diabolical mind trick that gets played on charismatic leaders. They rationalize why they deserve certain kinds of self-indulgences. “God will look the other way because I’m doing such a great work for Him,” they think. I’ve seen that time and time again as well. Not only in leaders, but in my own life 🙂

        As a military man, you know how important training is. I suspect the leadership at the Legion were not trained to deal with failures in leadership. Maciel certainly didn’t train them, for his own sick purposes. So, when a Thomas Williams comes along, it’s not a surprise that leadership tries to handle it privately or quietly, without making a fuss, possibly bungling it. Or they might go for the “Circle the Wagons” approach – as they did with Maciel – not because they’re evil, but because it’s a human thing to do when loyalties are challenged and friends are under attack.

        Arguably, the complexities of the Church’s scandals involved the same kinds of things: trying to be discreet, trying to minimize damage, trying to help, trying to hide, trying to do the right thing and doing the wrong thing… I’m not excusing incompetency, but I also don’t want to confuse incompetency with malevolence, as some try to do.

        • guest again

          Judging it to be incompentency or malevolence, that is truly above my pay grade, I am really honestly not trying to be facetious. Truly, Our Lady of Knots, pray for us.

          Well, I am a woman : ) and I do agree with your first paragraph in terms of who was/is drawn in. In fact, as my first team leader helped me discern my root sin, it was “pride” — as, she said, many have in RC–because the drive is to recruit leaders. (and that appealed to my…pride!). And there was (is?) recruiting, I remember very clearly being asked to make a chart with names and to keep track of how I could draw these friends into the movement. I remember being proud of bringing someone in “long distance” –from another state (they are out now).

          The funny thing about paragraph #2 is that, although there were definite expectations within RC, and some strong personalities, we were asked to be meek and mild–don’t push into a parish, instead, serve it and look for ways to bring RC apostolates in gradually. (And I did take some great advice about not being a hothead and choosing your battles, that DID help me, as did the support for a regular prayer life, Lord be praised. Still working on that, in fact–I think my root sin is sensuality now!)

          One great difference between the military and RC/LC is that I can find the oath of enlistment I took, and in fact, and entire history of them ( ), but go try and find the “promises” (vows?) I made at the final Mass at my first “Spiritual Exercises Triduum” after I was basically shouted at by the priest during my spiritual direction — “Well, what are you going to do? You MUST make a decision!” –heh, no pressure there. No copies of those first degree promises online that I can find–or in my copious notes, which I have kept.

          I did find this on wikileaks, though–the first general chapter. I remember being uncomfortable with it when I read it the carefully guarded handbook, but argued myself into submission to it, for awhile:

          “Recruitment is achieved by cellular action and through open means of
          recruitment whose possibilities are practically limitless. All should
          work on this with enthusiasm and discretion.

          103. Recruitment must happen in stages:

          From friendliness (some manuals say “kindness”) to friendship.
          From friendship to confidence.
          From confidence to commitment.
          From commitment to submission.”

          No financial sign-up bonus for recruitment–another difference from military. : )

          I made the decision to join, that is true, and I met many great people and the Holy Spirit worked in my life, but so He does amidst many uncertainties–like Medjugorie, right? But when I began to hear things like the Holy Father’s mystical connection to Father MM in some way, allowing him to suffer for the church soon after March 2006, then “Charity in speech–that’s what we are known for” over and over for a couple of years after that, then the same answers through 3 spiritual guides, I was done.

  • HornOrSilk

    And you thought the Voris trolls were annoying…. look below!

  • GI Jane

    I wish I had a nickel for every time so done defended the Legion by saying “they’re not perfect”. What a conversation stopping phrase.

    • GI Jane

      *someone not so done – autocorrect.

  • Sandy

    Yes, there are some good individual priests inside the Legion. It’s possible to want the Legion to be destroyed/dismantled/disbanded out of love and support for those trapped in the Legion. There are very distinct cult-like aspects to the Legion and it’s lay side branch, Regnum Christi. The International Cultic Studies Association has devoted much time and study to this group. The problem comes in when critical thinking has been suspended or stifled, out of either a heightened sense of the importance of the organization, or out of a warped concept of charity wherein one cannot say anything critical about anything EVER. Aside from the warped life of the founder, there is a good portion of the Legion superiors who have perpetuated some very bad methods which have become endemic to the group. I was a member of Regnum Christi and I can honestly say nothing has been more detrimental to my faith and that of my family than our experiences with RC. And yes, I was once an avid fan. Visit the life after RC blog to educate yourself about the long messy history of this group. Thank you Mark Shea for your blunt words.

    • Paul McCusker

      Sandy, you mentioned that the International Cultic Studies Association has devoted a lot of time and study to the Legion and Regnum Christi. I don’t know if the ICSA is credible, but I’d be curious to read their conclusions. Do you know where to find them?

  • sibyl

    Used to be in RC and left after several years of uneasiness and feeling something not right, even before the whole Maciel blowup.

    My idea is this: The Holy Father should take the whole organization and fold it right into the Jesuits! Awesome! Totally solves two enormous and sticky problems at ONE BLOW. Imagine the way these two groups could benefit each other, and the church.

  • realitybites

    Those who blithely talk about Maciel’s rule not to say anything unkind about others have no understanding of what this Legion machine is all about and the evil and abuse that built into its very structure from the ground up.
    We were caught up in the Legion machine for nearly 15 years, and it is a was a black, dark, ugly spiritual blight on our lives. And we got out much easier than many others, thanking God for the blessing of freedom from it and praying for all those who suffered far more than we did.
    The machine continues to do exactly what Maciel built it to do. What remains to be seen is how invested Rome is in its continued survival. After all, an expose of exactly how Maciel got away with his criminal activity for well over 50 years right under the nose of the Vatican might air out dirty laundry Rome hopes will never see the light of day. I don’t ever expect to see a real investigation into who knew what when and why they let it go on for so long. No real investigation=no real chance at reform.

  • Dave

    I had the misfortune of being a Legionary for eleven years (thank God I eventually got my head straight and got out before ordination.) In an ideal world, the Legion would have been dissolved sixty years ago. Today, that option is not possible: it is just too big an operation in Latin America; I doubt the Church down there could absorb the schools and colleges. Also, the well-meaning Catholics still associated with the Legion might be tempted to leave the Church. As sick and destructive as the Legion has been, the best anyone can hope for is either the long, slow work of grace bringing the group closer to the Church, or that it simply withers and dies.