Mary Therese Helmeuller – My Experiences with RC Recruitment Tactics
137 E. Downs Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55117
Mary Ann Glendon
1575 Massachusetts Ave.
Harvard Law School
Cambridge MA 02138
Dear Mary Ann Glendon,
April 16, 2002
Thank you for defending the celibacy of the Priesthood in your recent interview on the ABC news program
This Week with George Stephanopoulos. I agree with you that a renewal of the seminaries is definitely necessary. However, the renewal must not only include the seminaries but also some religious orders and dioceses.
It is understandable that while looking at the Legionaries of Christ one can be quickly impressed with the reported
overflowing seminaries but some one with your intelligence, accomplishment, and importance should be aware of the excellent priests, and seminarians who are leaving, and those who have already left.
I am confident you will understand the gravity of the issues below, since you are a member of the Boston Archdiocese’s Social Justice Commission and having also served as a representative of the Vatican at the Beijing Conference for Women.
I experienced the recruiting techniques of the Legionaries of Christ through Regnum Christi in February of 1995, when Norma, a consecrated woman, called and said
you have been chosen by the Holy Father to participate in a project as a reporter for the Beijing Conference. Well, it sounded strange but who was I to say
NO to the Holy Father? However strange or unlikely this was I trusted them because they were a part of the Legionaries of Christ. Norma went on to say
this is a secret project and no one is to know about it-not even your family. Your life may even be required of you. She continued by explaining that I would need to go to Rome for training and that we would be
instructedby Vatican officials.
So I quickly spoke to Al Matt at the
Wanderer who gave me a press pass and then I worked to get the required clearance documents from the United Nations. All the while there was great pressure to come to Rhode Island to consecrate myself.
I was invited to a
retreat in the formation house of Regnum Christi in Rhode Island during Holy Week, April 1995. I was told that there would be a
necessary meeting afterwards of the women who were going to Beijing. So I decided to go. There was no meeting but there was a lot of pressure to enter the consecrated life! And this I would not consider doing at such a fast and quick pace.
So several months later I received the necessary documents from the United Nations and I made reservations, with payments, to a hotel in Beijing that was required for reporters. Finally I made my flight arrangements to Rome —all at my own expense.
When I arrived at the
Mother House of Regnum Christi in Rome I explained who I was and why I was there. The consecrated woman at the door replied
I ‘m sure the Holy Father would approve if he knew about it!
I stayed three weeks at the “Mother House” and was with the top Regnum Christi women including Patricia Bannon (Father Anthony Bannon’s sister). There were approximately 8-12 of us who were planning to go to the Beijing Conference. I was the only one with documents as a reporter and so it was decided that the others would go as observers. All the while there was increasing pressure to consecrate myself.
With each passing day it became obvious there would be no training sessions or meetings with Vatican Officials. Finally, several days before the conference began, a Legionary priest from Spain came and so did the 27 year old Mother Superior ,
Maleni, who outlined the program for Beijing. Why were they going to Beijing? The number one, important goal was
RECRUITING [Spanish ‘Captacion’]: a technique that includes attracting attention by smiling, flattery, and charm until you can actually ‘get’ the person for the RC cause. We were told to
show them what kind of a woman you are.
When I announced, that as a reporter, I was going to associate myself with Fr. Paul Marx and the pro life groups during the Beijing conference I was told
No you can’t do that; they are too negative. I was shocked and disgusted to hear this coming from consecrated women with years of so called
Wasn’t there something more important happening at the Beijing Conference other than recruiting for Regnum Christi? I wondered if this was the intention of the generous donor who gave $40,000.00 for this project? In the end, I refused to participate in this ridiculous project of recruiting that ultimately mocked the importance of defending human life and the family.
Before leaving, I confronted Norma, a consecrated woman, with everything: the lies, the disrespect, the arrogance, the
cult like pressure, the mind control, the secrecy, etc. I clearly had felt used as well as emotionally and psychologically abused. I demanded some answers. Norma finally admitted that this Beijing project was used as
the hook to get me consecrated.
The hook is a recruiting technique taught by the Legionaries to increase numbers.
Then after revealing the truth, Norma warned and threatened me:
There will be serious repercussions if any of this is made public; and you know what I mean. I understood it to mean that my brother John, who had final vows in the Legion would be made to suffer. So out of fear I remained silent but gradually could not contain the injustice. While praying for my brother to get out of the Legion I began sharing my experience with others in hopes of helping other young woman and their families.
I eventually spoke to Fr. Anthony Bailleres L.C. by phone and reported everything to him. As of yet there has been no apology for wasting my time or for the thousands of dollars I had spent on their fabricated lie. It took until December of 1998 for my brother to leave the Legion but from 1995-1998 he had literally suffered through hell. After asking a few questions and showing concern for fellow Legionaries who were obviously suffering depression and mental breakdowns, my brother John was sent to a Legionary house in Rhode Island to cook and clean for Fr. David Chavez L.C.
Fr. Chavez L.C. bragged of ‘breaking’ four previous vocations!!! Now after 11 years and final vows in the Legion, my brother was asked to
start thinking about getting married!Daily Mass was not offered and so he walked 1 and Â½ miles one way to Mass each day. It was forbidden for my brother to talk to anyone outside the house and when he asked permission to contact Bishop Carlson he was denied.
Thanks be to God my brother finally left the Legionaries of Christ and he was ordained a priest by Bishop Carlson on June 23rd 2002. He is now serving in the largest parish of the Sioux Falls Diocese.
Mary Ann, I am very grateful for all your work in our society and in the Catholic Church. However, I think it is time to reflect: Why are good priests and good seminarians leaving the Legionaries of Christ? (Some whom you know and perhaps are unaware of their change) What kind of religious formation would permit or even promote a recruiting technique referred to as the hook in which lies, deceit and abuse are used to gain numbers? What kind of spiritual direction is there when a seminarian with 11 years and his final vows is forced into isolation and demanded to think of getting married? Is isolation proper treatment for asking questions or showing concern? Is 3-6 years of fundraising really considered part of a solid priestly formation? Or should it be considered as cheap labor? If everything is fine with the Legionaries of Christ, then why the secrecy? the lies? the arrogance? the destruction? and the injustices? Whose Kingdom are they building? Christ’s or Fr. Maciel’s?
There is so much more to say and even more to question but, as you mentioned in your interview, it is indeed
a time for reflection.
Thank you for your time. Please feel free to contact me if you wish to discuss this letter.
Mary Therese Helmueller
137 E. Downs Ave.
St. Paul MN 55117
P.S. I am a college graduate with a BA in Nursing. I have 15 years in Critical Care and I have also studied in Mexico and speak Spanish. I own a company incorporated in the state of Minnesota that conducts international pilgrimages to approved Catholic Shrines.
CC: Bishop Robert J. Carlson
CC: Al Matt-Wanderer
As a postscript to this testimony we offer this short note written by Fr. John Helmueller, an ex Legionary that was later ordained a diocesan priest. He writes it to a fellow ex Legionary of Christ who was told to get married when they suddenly kicked him out after several years of stringing him along in a Legionary vocation:
Thanks for your note. Believe it or not, I was told the same thing while I was in the Rhode Island house. In virtue of my vow of obedience, Fr. Jose said I had to forget the priesthood and think about getting married. I tried to compromise with him. I said I would try it for three days, but I couldn’t help thinking how stupid this exercise was. Keep in mind I was already perpetually professed! I had already given my whole life to God! I was in my 11th year of LC formation! Some of my classmates were already Deacons! Why was I supposed to start doubting my vocation now! It didn’t make sense to me.
Well, I better stop writing or I’ll get upset. For me, the LC is history. It’s a book on the shelf and that’s where it’s going to stay. I don’t understand what is going on in the LC. The leaders seem hell-bent on self-destruction without knowing it or admitting it. They feel somehow superior to the rest,
Super Priests, and the LC feeds right into this. Too bad a lot of innocent men are still stuck in there with them.