Fr. Peter Cronin on Leaving the Cult-like Legion

By Fr. Peter Cronin

[Introductory number of NETWORK, October, 1992, from REGAIN archives]

Dear Friend:

Greetings and Welcome to NETWORK. This newsletter is an effort to create a network of former members of the Legion of Christ, a way to keep in touch, communicate ideas, share our personal experiences (and maybe a few laughs), analyze and evaluate our past and, hopefully, offer support to each other. The past is prologue [Shakespeare].

As you can see from the list of names, we have the beginnings of a network that extends to many states in the US and other countries. Please contact others you know who would be interested, mail the list and articles to them, and invite them to send me a letter or an article, a personal history or bio, thoughts or refelections which I will be happy to copy and send on to all Network members. Send all communications to:

Peter Cronin
St. Bartholomew’s

You can FAX letters to me at… or reach me by phone at (301)…

I think all of us agree that in the realm of social phenomena leaving the Legion of Christ is a unique experience. Is there anything quite like it? It is unique for several reasons:

Firstly, the lifestyle we shared prior to leaving. We progressed through a series of stages postulancy, novitiate, juniorate, philosophy, apostolic practices, theology and maybe even ordination and the priesthood. We were the Curso Intensivo in Salamanca, Prefectos de Disciplina in Mexico, Vocational Directors in the US and Spain. We moved in a clearly defined world in which we absorbed ideas on the spiritual life, the priesthood, the Church, the apostolate, the Legion. [Spanish] Words such as quiete, Primerisima, Cesare, Cotijas, Cumbres, Kranz, modestia de la vista, Nuestro Padre, Tercer Grado [3rd Degree], Monticchio, la seccion femenina [female section] and so many others became part of our everyday vocabulary and even ingrained in our subconscious…

Secondly, leaving the Legion is unique onto itself.

It is not easy to leave the Legion. One is encouraged, advised and directed to stay by the Superiors. We went through a lengthy period of personal discernment before taking the step.

Prior to leaving we could not share the crisis with anybody except the Superior. This resulted in gradual isolation that we had to cope with and overcome.

Before leaving, we went through a difficult period of disagreement with the Legion on basic issues: aspects of priestly formation, Apostolic Schools, lack of diversity or individual freedom, lack of dialogue, the practice of confession and spiritual direction with the superior, relations with one family. With whom could we share these concerns? Where did we seek counseling? What forum was there for a free, healthy, honest discussion of these issues?

When one leaves the Legion it is kept a secret within the order for as long as possible. Why?

Thirdly, our experience after leaving the Legion is quite special in that we emerged from such a close-knot organization into a world in which we are faced with the excitement and challenge of personal decision-making everyday.

“Un Legionario se es o se despide” [You either are a Legionary or you take your leave!]. That is precisely what we did. However, it was our decision. The time came when we realized that it was not what we had originally looked for; the Legion did not meet our expectations or answer our needs for spiritual growth, or respond to our vision of priestly life or religious experience. We left because we had to leave. Personally, I consider my decision to leave and my departure from the Legion as a grace-filled, liberating and ultimately salvific event. It was the will of God!

After I left, I found the company and support of Declan Murphy, Kevin Farrell and Paul Lennon in the Washington DC area to be most helpful. Thanks, guys, if I never said it before! I am very happy now as a priest in the Archdiocese of Washington. I find my ministry to be diverse, challenging and rewarding. If any of you are ever in the DC area you have a place to stay right here. Is that Espiritu de Cuerpo esprit de corps- or what!

We have all gone our separate ways, adjusting to our new reality; some in the priesthood, others in the lay state, married or single. But, we have a common past and experience which was wonderful, fulfilling, graced, happy, funny, silly, disappointing, sad, horrendous, unjust, inhuman…(add your own adjective). We have a lot to share. I will try to send out Network every other month. Mail or fax your articles to me or call me on the phone 24 hours a day (although, preferably, in the normal waking hours).

It has been fun putting these thoughts together. I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours truly,
Peter Cronin.

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