Why I Decided to Leave the Regnum Christi
The following is a letter written by a former Regnum Christi member after having decided to formally leave the Movement. Because there are many real and good fruits of the Regnum Christi, sometimes members do not take the time to reason out some of the bad and illegitimacies that they see and experience. The exiting member spells out a few elements of Regnum Christi that need re-thinking by its current members --
1. cult-like behaviors (if not overtly a cult);
2. the controversy of Fr. Maciel’s private life;
3. the dispute of the valid canonical strength and message of the Communiqué from Pope Benedict of May 19, 2006 and why it can not be just a response from the Pope to quiet disgruntled journalists or former LC/RC members. (This was the “company line” that so many are led to believe as truth.)
4. The disregard that so many Legionaries have for the directives of the Bishop and/or pastors and then, in turn, the LC distrust of many strong lay and clerical leaders in our Church;
5. The divisive recruitment strategies LC/RC uses between husband/wife and parent/child; and
6. Is it really spiritual direction???
… [Personal introductive paragraph]…
I sincerely thank you for the concern you show by writing this email to me about your opinion on our leaving the Regnum Christi Movement. It appears to me that your perception of why our family left the Movement did not come from us or a close source, but from the rumors that have been circulated by the Legionaries and RC Members. I thought that it would be good for me to explain why I have decided to leave the Movement. I imagine you can understand how committed to and invested in the Legion and Movement we were for so many years, and how we had placed so much affection, sincere faith and hope in the mission we believed the Movement had from the Church. Indeed, there were many good times and great fruits over the years. The decision to leave the Regnum Christi Movement, after the initial period of taking a step back to reevaluate and research different aspects of the Legion and its work was all extremely difficult. This process and decision was not taken lightly whatsoever. Even if limited to the clubs of our children and for our community of friends, the social consequences alone of this decision have not been light for us at all. I hope you understand that we have prayed much over this decision.
There are many factors contributing to the opinion we now hold of the Legion and Regnum Christi. I don’t mean to number them all off here, but I do want to share with you a few of the main ones.
Many ORDAINED Legionary priests have left the Legion
So many ordained Legionary priests have left the Legion, which is significantly more than the statistical norm in the Church. This is a simple math equation … add up the number of ORDAINED Legionary priests that there were in the Legion back in 1989. Then go through, class by class, year by year, the number that the Legion of Christ has ordained. For example in 1991, one of the largest classes ever, the Legion ordained 60 men. During the 50th anniversary of Fr. Maciel’s priestly ordination celebration in Mexico City in 1994, the Legion ordained 57 priests. On the Legion website, they say that they have 662 priests now. Adding up all of the Legionary ordinations over the years is almost double of the number 662. The facts are clear, A LOT of Legionary ORDAINED priests (not seminarians but ordained priests) have left the order. The percent is 48 – 51% depending on the exact number of Legionaries that are in the Legion right now. The percent is staggering. Some are still priests elsewhere; some have left the priesthood completely. And that doesn’t even address the huge number of seminarians and pre-candidates that have left. This is far more than the statistical norm in religious life. Why? Perhaps they too have figured out the moral lies and the abuse in the Legion?
United States Diocesan Disdain for Legionaries
Many, many diocesan priests throughout the United States have grave concerns about the Legionaries and the Regnum Christ and prohibit any of their programs in their parishes. Why? If we could dismiss the many allegations against Fr. Maciel himself, how can we dismiss the serious concerns and outright unwelcome that so many diocesan and religious priests give the Legionaries and the Regnum Christi? For years, I was told that it was the liberal, dissenting priests in the Church that did not like the strong orthodox stance of the Legion of Christ. I have come to find out that it is very clearly the opposite: it is the active, traditional, conservative, orthodox priests that have greatest concern over the harm that the Legion is doing to so many in the Church. Legionaries are not allowed on many campuses in the United States, notably some of the more conservative colleges such as Steubenville, Thomas Aquinas College,
Ave Maria, Christendom College , the Catholic University of America, just to name a few. There is terrific disdain from Vocation Directors in most dioceses towards the Legionaries and their recruiting practices. This was shocking news to me when I realized that I believed the line that NON-SUPPORTERS OF THE LEGION OF CHRIST WERE UNFAITHFUL CATHOLICS.
Diocesan pastors will not even let the Regnum Christi women’s teams meet at their churches. Why? These pastors are outwardly unsupportive and vocal in their stances against the Legion. How can this be? These are respected and holy priests in the dioceses around the country. In one of my positions in the Movement, I remember dealing with Fr. N, pastor of X, who wouldn’t even let one of the Regnum Christi Women’s teams just do a Holy Hour at his parish. Why would he hold this stance? Is he against prayer before our Eucharistic Lord??? He is a fine and holy priest in our Archdiocese. Even with the shortages of priests and the difficulty in covering Christmas and Easter holidays, many US pastors will not let the Legionaries help out even for sacramental purposes. Again, why?
Bishops Forbid Legionaries in their Dioceses
It is my understanding that there are 9 confirmed American Bishops/Archbishops that have totally disallowed the Legionaries from their dioceses, despite the LC constitutional approval from Rome years ago. I know of many bishops that although they have not formally suppressed Regnum Christi activities, they are openly unsupportive and warn their flock not to attend their schools or programs. For years, I had spoken with these bishops and tried to defend the Legionaries and their actions. I tried to “prove” the successes and Scriptural fruits of the Regnum Christi Movement. I never won not even one of them over to become supportive to the Legion. The same holds true for MANY lay and religious leaders in our Church today. Many outstanding and renowned Catholic lay leaders have expressed to me their lack of support for Legionaries over the years. I have had many conversations with Franciscans, Jesuits, Dominicans, Opus Dei priests and lay members ... all, quite literally all, have expressed serious concerns about the practices and in some cases the overt lies that the Legion endorses and uses to “win kids over,” attend their boarding schools, start apostolates, fundraise, etc. The ill-regard for Legionaries at the North American College (a major seminary in Rome) is notable. There are very few persons, very few, outside of the Regnum Christi or the Legion of Christ that are enthusiastically and fundamentally in support of the Movement or the Legion. Those who were in support of the Legion of Christ and the Regnum Christi Movement before the Legionary response to Pope Benedict’s Communiqué (May 2006) are now overtly opposed to the group. I would be happy to point you to these people so you could talk with them directly. These are upstanding members of the Catholic Church, theologians and well-educated lay ecclesial ministers with universal respect in the Church. Again, we must ask why. Can this simply be chalked up as character assassination of Fr. Maciel? The crazy liberals attacking the Church we love? The complacency of diocesan priests? Those were the arguments that I was given and foolishly (albeit reluctantly) I listened to those explanations to compensate for my lack of factual research as to what the real reasons were.
Pope Benedict XVI Communiqué-May 19, 2006
The Communiqué in May of 2006 disproves those LC/RC theories as Holy Mother Church spoke out on May 19th with authority and canonical support. The Church seriously punished Fr. Maciel and this was not done lightly. According to Canon law and procedure, a Communiqué must be written with sufficient and admissible evidence to take that strong of an action against a priest and founder in the Church. Pope Benedict’s recent corrective and punitive actions this past Fall (2007) in the abolition of the private vows as well as his corrections to the family visits show that indeed it is not just the authors (Jason Berry and Gerard Renner) of Vows of Silence or other “senseless attackers” that see error in the practices and norms of the Legion and the Regnum Christi Movement. Over and over again, I was told by Legionary priests and members of the Movement that the Communiqué was just persecution and that they were POSITIVE that Fr. Maciel is innocent WITHOUT A DOUBT. If he is absolutely innocent then this is an atrocious statement by our Supreme Pontiff. Does the Legionary response then say that Pope Benedict is lying? Is the Church the “senseless attacker” of the Legion and their founder? This is a horrible implication. We should accept the fact that the bishops and other priests and lay ecclesial leaders have substantial and real reasons in their love for the Truth and for the Catholic Church to support their overt disapproval and lack of advocacy of the Regnum Christi and the Legion of Christ. Perhaps only God will ever know the truth of Fr. Maciel’s private life but we must at least recognize that perhaps the Holy Spirit knows more than Fr. Maciel’s blind loyalists. To state boldly that they know he is innocent makes open ridicule of the seriousness of Pope Benedict’s statement of May 2006.
Legionaries Attacking US Bishops (Where is the Charity Vow Here?)
Many people have told me that the “weaknesses” and “spineless” actions of the diocesan priests and United States bishops is part of the reason why Legionaries don’t get along with other groups in the Church. I DO believe that that American Catholic Church is united to Rome despite the attacks I have heard from LC/RC members. And I wholeheartedly agree with the line you quote of working from within the Church to build the Church. It is because of this that I can no longer stand for a group that belittles or disregards the wishes of the princes of the Church (the Cardinals) and encourages the faithful of the diocese to sidestep the counsel or requests of their local ordinary and their pastors (I know multiple first-hand cases of Legionaries receiving a request from the local bishop or pastor about wanting to start apostolates or not recruiting through certain events, and then disregarding that directive and proceeding as they saw “best for the Movement”). Again, there is the justification that all is okay if the Movement will benefit . . . this is simply wrong. Why didn’t their secret vow (now, thankfully abolished by Pope Benedict in November of 2007) stand when it came to speaking well of their local ordinary in the dioceses that Legionaries serve?
Regnum Christi/Legion of Christ Recruiting Practices
A major part of the reason we left the Regnum Christi Movement was due to the stark reality we confronted many times, which was very painful to us spiritually. One of these realities is the immoral and unchristian practices and foundations for recruiting. Many young girls, ages 17-18, are inarguably pressured to become consecrated. The same was true for young boys going to the Apostolic Schools or entering the Novitiate. I know first hand of both directresses and territorial directors disregarding health symptoms, and explaining, for example, that it was common for young girls to no longer have menstrual cycles while they were “discerning”. These young ladies would show other conditions that would be labeled stress symptoms by anyone proficient in the medical field. Gynecologists do not agree with this position the amenorrhea is “normal” for young women, yet gynecologists DO recognize that severe stress is indeed a factor.
Women and men who are of great financial talent are recruited for both their money and their positions in the society. I have now spoken with many affluent women who say that their “Spiritual Direction” appointments had nothing to do with their personal spiritual lives but just to make sure all was well at home and that the “tithing” would still come on a regular basis. No, this did NOT happen in EVERY case but it is certainly a common practice. Asking money from the elderly, some of whom are on fixed incomes, by using pressure tactics and lines of, “It’s God’s will for you to give to the Legion and not to your family members.” this is another area of major concern to me. I would be happy to discuss with you the immorality and disrespect that I know personally in way more than one case.
Some have said, “Well, this has not been our experience.” This should never be ANYONE’S experience. That is a weak argument. (I have never had an abortion, but the fact that they take place in anyone’s life is WRONG regardless of my experience. Moral principles stand on their own.) Many girls and young men about to enter religious life are directly pitted against their families, under the directive of “this is God’s will AND FAMILY ADVICE SHOULD NOT BE SOUGHT” …SO MUCH THAT THEY ARE COUNSELED NOT TO EVEN BRING UP THE TOPIC OF THEIR DISCERNMENT ON HOME VISITS OR PHONE CALLS. There is something deeply wrong here especially when the son or daughter comes from a strong, openly communicative devout, daily-Mass-attending family. This is, in my opinion as a parent, terrible pressure to put on a young man or woman.
Spiritual Direction … or is it Spiritual Strangulation?
I believe (as does the Catholic Church teaching) that spiritual direction is not one person giving commands to the other, but rather 3 people discerning God’s will for that 1 person. The role of the Spiritual Director or Spiritual Guide is to help analyze if the correct catechetical, Scriptural and spiritual principles are being applied and then never to dictate the decision. The Church is clear here. This is a crucial issue that is so often not lived our correctly in the Legion and the Movement. It was common for women to come conflicted to other spiritual guides or spiritual leaders in the church (priests or members of their local Church Community) because their Legionary spiritual director had told them that they must be more generous with their time given to the Movement, despite the contrary discernment of their spouses. There again I see this as an illustration of how the Movement separates and drives a wedge between the Godly familial order. Through the sacrament of marriage, a husband is the head of the family, the woman the heart and together through the complimentarity of their sacramental bond, the husband and wife are called to prudently decide how they should live out their Christian vocation as the parents of their children . Young children should consult their parents, especially in cases of parents who only want the will of God for their children. I am afraid that sometimes spiritual direction in the Movement was used to “convince” a member that what is best for the Movement will automatically be best for them, their marriages, their families and their checkbooks. This then becomes a form of manipulation and exploitation which is NEVER a part of spiritual direction.
I believe that there is a huge problem in the Regnum Christi Movement with employing illegal administrative tactics to start or maintain an apostolate. No matter what it is for, it is never right to lie or cheat or steal, not even “for the Kingdom.” Unfortunately, I cannot ignore or deny that the Legion operates with many practices rationalized as “the ends justify the means”; even if the means are forged checks, false fronts to creditors, perjury, or bribery. How can we be part of a group that can rationalize breaking both civil and moral laws to expand the Kingdom of God? It seems to me that the kingdom of God requires that we follow God’s rules and commandments not those rules of man’s dishonesty and exploitation. At what point are we accountable to God when we know that these behaviors and actions take place but we sanction it by our membership and loyalty?
Please be assured, N., that all the members of the Legion and the Regnum Christi occupy a special and uppermost place in our family’s prayers. I do not wish any harm to come to any of these dear people. This is why I maintain our stance against the practices and fundamentals of the Legion and Regnum Christi, not against the people. Only God can judge people’s hearts. Only in heaven will we understand why God has allowed all of this hurt, betrayal, and overt disobedience to occur. As Catholics, we must stand for the truth of the Gospel and never even attempt to go against God’s immutable moral code.
N., please know that I pray often for you and all families that choose to remain a part of the Regnum Christi Movement. I hold nothing against any of you personally; for many years, you all were my dearest friends, which is why it pains me so that some have ended our friendship once we publicly left the Movement. You said in your note that I know the Legionaries well. You are right. Yes, I do know these men and women well in the Legion and in the Regnum Christi and I know well the Manual of the Regnum Christi. Undoubtedly, there were fruits that our family received and experienced from the Regnum Christi Movement. We met a fine group of people associated with the Movement, in love with God and wanting to do something big for the Church.
But I also think that is how Satan tricks us to be duped. For some mysterious reasons, God allows Satan to tempt us with disguised evil. God has allowed Satan to come appearing as the light and disguised as the good throughout salvation history. And then God, in His Goodness and in His Love, will bring good from evil, deceit and exploitation. God is the Master of making straight our crooked paths. But we must do our part.
I do hold high the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the moral code set forth and lived out for over 2,000 years. Woe to all of us if we don’t preach the true Gospel of Jesus Christ and live by His moral principles. Ephesians 5:6 “Let no one deceive you with worthless arguments. These are sins that bring wrath down on the disobedient: therefore, have nothing to do with them.”
I hope to remain friends with Regnum Christi people but I think Our Lord will have a lot to say if we put His Gospel, His Church and His unchangeable moral code second to our friends, and now that we know all of these facts, if we shrink from defending the Truth of our rich and true Catholic Faith.
I will always remain sincerely yours in the love of Jesus Christ,
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