Throughout the ongoing unraveling of the Legion of Christ, I have not written anything on the topic. I know people who are or were part of the Legion; but I’m not an expert on the Legion in any way.
Nevertheless, today’s article by Jason Berry has provoked me to action.
Berry details the Legion’s development of the Magdala Center at the Sea of Galilee in the Holy Land. Apparently, the Legion was given administrative control of
the a Vatican property in Jerusalem which was subsequently partnered with the Magdala Center, a Legion project independent of the Vatican. where the center is based. This happened a few years before Maciel died, well before his debauchery was exposed and confirmed publicly.
Here’s the part that really gets me. Berry reports that the Center has a booklet, “Magdala: God Really Loves Women,” which compares the founder of the Legion, Marcial Maciel, to St. Mary Magdalene. An excerpt from the booklet as cited in Berry’s article:
Marcial Maciel’s initials are also MM, just like Mary Magdalene. She had a problematic past before her deliverance, so there’s a parallel. Our world has double standards when it comes to morals. Some people have a formal, public display and then the real life they live behind the scenes.
But when we accuse someone else and we are quick to stone him, we must remember that we all have problems and defects. With modern communications so out of control, it is easy to kill someone’s reputation without even investigating about the truth. We should be quieter and less condemning.
Are they kidding?! The title is just sad. The writing is not worth comment. Taking the initials MM as a sign of something? Mickey Mouse had the same initials… What does that tell you?
But in all seriousness, a 2010 Vatican statement had this to say about the Legion and Maciel:
The Apostolic Visitation was able to ascertain that the conduct of Father Marcial Maciel Degollado has given rise to serious consequences in the life and structure of the Legion, such as to require a process of profound re-evaluation.
The very grave and objectively immoral actions of Father Maciel, confirmed by incontrovertible testimonies, in some cases constitute real crimes and manifest a life devoid of scruples and authentic religious meaning. This life was unknown to the great majority of the Legionaries, above all because of the system of relationships constructed by Father Maciel, who was able skilfully to create alibis for himself, to obtain trust, confidence and silence from those around him, and to reinforce his personal role as a charismatic founder.
Not infrequently a deplorable discrediting and distancing of those who entertained doubts as to the probity of his conduct, as well as a misguided concern to avoid damaging the good that the Legion was accomplishing, created around him a defense mechanism that for a long time rendered him unassailable, making it very difficult, as a result, to know the truth about his life.
Remember, this is the man who is reported to have refused the last sacraments on his death bed. Just what “deliverance” are they talking about in the booklet?
How the Legion can compare the life of a man which the Vatican has identified as “devoid of scruples and authentic religious meaning” to a saint, the woman who is known by tradition as the apostle to the apostles, is utterly incomprehensible.
Sure, legend has it that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute. But that’s not even confirmed in Sacred Scripture or in historical documentation. It could be that she was, but we don’t know.
Scripture doesn’t record Mary’s sinful past. (Newsflash – no one’s perfect.) It records her profound faith, a faith that truly understood and knew, a faith that took her to the tomb while the men stayed away. It’s a bitter irony that the Legion would hide the deplorable character of their founder behind a woman who witnessed her faith truthfully and openly and about whose sins we know very little.
Hopefully, the fact that I couldn’t find the booklet online is a sign that someone in their leadership realized how inappropriate it is, but it should have never been published in the first place. It’s also very troubling that such defamation of a saint is being done publicly at a property owned by the Vatican [UPDATED – or at a property working closely with the Vatican project]. Maybe the lease or administrative agreement includes some type of a morals clause…
One can hope.