Who Can Believe Legion Leaders?

Who Can Believe Legion Leaders?


On Feb 28, 2004, Father Bannon issued a letter to members and relatives of Legionary and Regnum Christi members warning them at the time about the Vows of Silence book that was about to be released.


He referred to demonstrably false allegations that our founder, Father Marcial Maciel, sexually abused a few young men (then members of the Legion) back in the 1940’s and 1950’sand despite all the evidence available to the authors and of which they are aware, the accusations are rehashed in a new book to be released in March 2004 attacking Pope John Paul II, especially his staunch defense of the Church’s discipline of priestly celibacy and its unchanging sexual ethic.


ReGAIN Comment:


Fr Bannon made a statement that the allegations were demonstrably falseand referred toall the evidence available to the authors. At the time how could Fr Bannon have felt so sure that Fr Maciel was innocent? He does not claim any research into the subject. Joining the Legion in the 60s in Ireland he had no first hand information regarding the 1940-60 period when the abuses were alleged to have happened. In truth there was an absence of evidence of any kind regarding those obscure years. Fr. Bannon was basically appropriating the Legion line of the time.


Fr Bannon went on to say that on behalf of the Legion and the Movement I assure you once again that Father Maciel is absolutely innocent. He has made it clear ever since the allegations first arose in the late 1990’s – decades after any alleged abuse could have happened – that he has never committed any such act ever.


ReGAIN Comment:


Fr Bannon declared Fr Maciel to be absolutely innocent. But Fr. Bannon must have known about some accusations in the 1950s when Fr. Maciel was exiled to Spain by the Vatican, a period (1956-59) referred to in frequent talks such as Explanation of Rules asThe War(La Guerra). So he knew accusations were not surfacing for the first time in the 1990s. He states the source of his confidence in assuring members and their families that Fr Maciel was absolutely innocent: Fr Maciel had said so himself. This is jumping to conclusions. Was this naivety, gullibility, or a deliberate attempt to manipulate Legionaries and to discourage them and their family members from reading the Vows of Silence book?


Later in his letter, Fr Bannon adds:


Moreover, Nuestro Padre continues to insist on responding to these allegations in the most Christian way possible: forgiving them, saying as little as possible, simply laying out the facts, letting his record speak for itself, avoiding personal attacks and harboring no ill will or rancor for the accusers. This has set an extremely high standard for those of us who want to come to his defense.


ReGAIN Comment:


Fr. Maciel met all accusations with blanket denial. Fr Bannon said that Fr Maciel’s record spoke for itself and that he believed this had set a high standard for those who wanted to come to his defense. Considering recent revelations we wonder if Fr Bannon now regrets making this statement and how much of the real truth he was aware of. If he was totally unaware then we wonder about his ability to discern what is going on around him.


Fr Bannon commented: Anyone who would take an objective look at the facts will see where the truth lies.


ReGAIN Comment:


Considering the real facts it is evident where the truth lies. Was Fr Bannon sincerely seeking the real truth at the time or was he into denial?


Fr Bannon referred to independent, documented facts from the time when the alleged abuse would have happenedand that Vatican investigators moved in and lived with the Legionary communities in Rome and elsewhere. They interviewed each Legionary personally and in depth. Not only did they find the charges empty and baseless, they reported that the Legion and Father Maciel were exemplary, holding great promise for the Church.


ReGAIN Comment:


The reality is that the results of that Visitation/investigation were never released. How could Fr. Bannon know the results? A few years ago Mexican historian Fernando Gonzalez was able to unearth some of the reports written by the Carmelite Friars investigating Maciel for suspected sexual abuse, drug abuse, abuse of power, and leaving his foundation abandoned for long periods. These are available in Spanish in his book, Marcial Maciel, la Legion de Cristo, Testimonios y Documentos Ineditos (Unpublished Testimonies and Documents; Ed. Tusquets, Mexico City, 2009). Allegations of sexual abuse are mentioned, together with Fr. Maciel’s powers of persuasion and intimidation, as well as his use of the morphine derivative, Demerol. Fr. Bannon did not have access to any serious documentation when he wrote. He based his statements on Legion Spirit and Mystiqueand Fr. Aruma’s explanation of rules in Salamanca. Fr. Aruma was one of the Legionaries Fr. Maciel left in place when he was forced out in 1956.


In the letter, Fr Bannon explained that every member (was) interviewed personally and in depth, and none of them corroborate (d) a single allegation of any wrongdoing – let alone sexual molestation then added that every alleged victim had the perfect opportunity to reveal any abuse right after it would have been happeningand that the facts of the investigation and its findings overwhelm the accusers and their story.


ReGAIN Comment:


With this statement Fr Bannon demonstrated not only a lack of empathy but a total ignorance of how sexual abuse victims are traumatized and would rarely be prepared to testify against their predators right after it happened. Fr Bannon also fails to point out that in this case the victims were totally and completely dependent upon Fr. Maciel as their sole provider of all the necessities of life and that he had made them agree to a secret vow to never speak ill of him or any of their superiors. Fr. Maciel prepared his victims for the interviews by telling them the Visitators were coming to destroy the Legion and their God-given vocation.


Fr Bannon stated in his letter that the book will apparently argue that a Vatican-inspired ‘vow of silence’ keeps the accusers’ allegations from being taken seriously. But the Vatican knows the Legion’s history; it knows what its decades of scrutiny have revealed about the Legionaries of Christ and Regnum Christi. That is why the Vatican has done what any court does when a case has no basis: the court refuses to hear it.


ReGAIN Comment:


How did Fr Bannon draw such conclusions? Was he attempting to influence the LC and RC members and their families by falsely implying in writing that there was no basis at the time to the case of the victims? It is probable that the influence peddling by Fr Maciel among senior members of the Vatican had far more of an effect on the case that had been presented by credible witnesses.

Fr Bannon added: Seeing these false charges aired in public is upsetting to us all. There is enough to do without having to deal with patent falsehoods. I trust that you will look at the facts and what God has worked in your family since you met
Regnum Christi and the Legion of Christ


ReGAIN Comment:


Fr Bannon here referred to false chargesand patent falsehoods. In other words he declared in writing that the victims of Father Maciel were liars.
Usually people gather facts before they make such charges against others, especially if they put such claims in writing. Did Fr Bannon conduct his own investigation by interviewing at least some of those who claimed to be victims? Based on his own words, it seems that his main proofwas that Fr Maciel had declared himself to be innocent and he expected others to do the same. For the majority of those who had been under the influence inside the Legion or Regnum Christi, this was an effective argument because Fr Maciel was perceived by them to be a living saint and the main source of their unique spirituality. What seems like empty unsupported statements to outsiders were at the time believable for those who had been conditioned to believe everything that came fromofficialLegion sources of information. Any outside information that was critical of the Legion or of their founder, especially that which came from those evil detractorswas not even allowed and was considered to have no credibility.


It is unknown what prompted Legion leadership to reveal the existence of Fr. Maciel’s daughter in Spain. Fact is that this revelation opened the floodgates to further revelations of his double life and behavior unbefitting a priest. This scandal contributed to the Vatican’s Visitation of the Legion. As the Legion began to toss some members jumped ship, others cut their losses apologizing, and all distanced themselves desperately from Fr. Maciel, vowing ignorance. Fr. Bannon has remained in the backwaters.


Day by day the truth continues to unfold and as slowly some of it seeps inside the walls, Legion spin doctors are now having a more difficult time explaining away their mistakes or misdeeds! ReGAIN encourages everyone involved in this situation (inside and outside) to seek the truth and to act on it. That painful – truth will set them free.


The entire letter is available at Click here Then scroll down to Revisiting 2004article.


LC Opens New High School Seminary in Sacramento, CA

Priesthood prep: A conservative Catholic order teaches boys in Placer County


By Laurel Rosen


Sacramento Bee
Tuesday, February 3, 2004


Surrounded by tall pine trees and gentle mountain slopes, students at a boarding school near Colfax live as few teenagers do.

They do not watch television or movies. They do not listen to the radio, play video games or use the Internet.

When they listen to music, it is only classical. When they talk on the phone, it is only with their families.

Mostly, their days and nights are filled with study and prayer. These boys – who range in age from 12 to 16 – are preparing for the priesthood.

From a really young age, I just felt called to become a priest, said James Kuchar, 14.

As a 4-year-old, Kuchar said, he played make-believe Mass in his Boise, Idaho, home.

I would pretend I was a priest and my brothers and sisters were congregants and altar servers, he said.

Immaculate Conception Camp Del Oro opened last summer to 15 boys interested in becoming priests. It is one of about 10 high school seminaries around the country run by a variety of Catholic orders.

The seventh-through 12th-grade school in Colfax is run by the Legion of Christ, a Catholic order known for its strict observance of religious tradition. It is the order’s first school in the West and draws students from California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado and Idaho. It costs about $7,200 a year to attend.

The Legionaries operate a similar, but much larger, seminary high school in New Hampshire, as well as a graduate school of psychology in Virginia and 10 institutions of higher education in Latin America and Europe.

The order also has been in discussions with Sacramento city and county officials about opening a university here.

Sacramento Bishop William Weigand has welcomed the Legionaries to the region, which is a primary reason they established the apostolic school in Colfax, their spokesman said.

Membership in the order has grown steadily since it was established in Mexico in 1941 by the Rev. Marcial Maciel. Today, Legionary leaders say, about 70,000 people worldwide belong to Regnum Christi, the order’s lay movement; there are about 3,100 Legionary priests and seminarians.

The order, however, is not without its detractors. In the 1990s, several of Maciel’s former students accused him of sexual abuse in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. Maciel has denied the allegations, and Legionary officials say a Vatican investigation determined that he did nothing wrong. Maciel, 83, now heads the order from Rome.

While Legionaries say their schools offer outstanding academics and an environment of intense spiritual devotion, critics say the program is too regimented and controlling.

At the school in Colfax, the boys awaken in a communal sleeping room with 15 beds. They dress, taking uniforms from a communal clothes closet. Before breakfast, they go to morning Mass. Before each class and each meal, they say prayers.

Ben McCabe, 14, said he likes the school because it gives him the opportunity to foster a relationship with God.

I think He might be calling me, McCabe said. That’s why I’m here. This school is like a door and I’m here to see if I should go through that door.

In general, students at the Legionary schools said they come from highly observant Catholic families. Many have several siblings and were home-schooled before joining the Legion.

Three of Edward Kuchar’s nine children left Boise to attend the school in Colfax. He says the boys chose the path themselves, and he couldn’t be happier.

God is attracted to us and for some reason our kids are getting evangelized very young, Kuchar said. It’s God working in their life. It’s a stunning thing as a parent.

School leaders say the 240-acre Colfax campus is a work in progress.

A main building holds a kitchen, dining room, sleeping quarters and classrooms. Another building serves as a chapel. Motor homes scattered on the property provide shelter for visiting priests and brothers.

Eventually, officials hope to move the school closer to Sacramento and reserve the Colfax site for religious retreats.

Between prayer, study and hikes in the woods, the students do all the work it takes to keep the facility running, said the Rev. John Curran, who heads the Colfax campus. They sort laundry, set dining tables, wash dishes, mow lawns, clean bathrooms and paint fences. The school day is long and highly structured, and vacations are short – a few days after Christmas and a few weeks over the summer.

Students interviewed in Colfax say they don’t mind.

I’m willing to make the sacrifice for God because we don’t have long on this Earth, said Thomas Cauthorn, 14. I’d rather make the sacrifice and spend eternity with him.

But other students who have left the Legion’s other schools say the sacrifices the school demands of its students are unreasonable.

It’s very regimented, very secretive. As you progress, it becomes more secretive; you can’t criticize your superiors, said Todd Carpunky, 29, a bankruptcy lawyer in New York City.

Carpunky attended Immaculate Conception Apostolic School in Connecticut, went on to further training to become a priest, and then became a Legionary recruiter in Europe.

He described an environment at the schools where strict regulations dictated every aspect of life, including – as part of the training in etiquette – how to eat a banana with a fork and knife.

You can never just pick up a banana and eat it, Carpunky said.

The flow of news from the outside world was censored, Carpunky said, with newspapers arriving with whole entire sections cut out – even in the Catholic newspapers.

Carpunky left the Legion in 1996 after a dispute with Legionary leaders over his desire to seek medical care for a herniated disc in his back.

It was the best thing that ever happened to me, Carpunky said. But I was so scared at the time because they tell you if you leave you’re at risk of eternal damnation.

Training to become a Legionary priest is a demanding task, Curran said, and requires a lifestyle that does not suit everyone. The school teaches table manners and grooming in an effort to prepare the boys for whomever they might meet when they leave, Curran said. Exposure to the media is controlled so that the boys don’t encounter any inappropriate influences, he said, and contact with friends is limited to help the boys foster their friendship with Jesus Christ.

If they’re called to be a priest, they take a vow of obedience, poverty and chastity. We live our vows very strongly, Curran said. If a boy has a problem with that, then it’s a way for him to see that he isn’t called here.

Yet, enough people have found such practices so stifling that they have left the order and share their experiences on Web sites such as http://www.regainnetwork.org or http://www.exlegionaries.com. The Legion of Christ has responded with http://www.legionaryfacts.org to counter its critics’ claims.

One defining characteristic of the Legion of Christ is the strict prohibition of gossip, said Jay Dunlap, the order’s North American spokesman.

People are attracted by our emphasis on charity, even in every word you speak or write. We never use words to slander or attack, he said.

But Andrew Boyd, 20, another former Legionary who attended the apostolic school after it moved to New Hampshire, said the no-gossip rule creates an environment where people can’t fully express themselves.

The Legion’s emphasis on communal living was too much to bear, Boyd said, and he felt manipulated by superiors who read his mail.

If they can control any information that comes to you, nobody is going to come in and convince you to leave that life, Boyd said.

Boyd left after a year, feeling that he had been tricked into a life he did not sign up for.

Of course they don’t tell people straight up, ‘Do you want to come to our seminary? We read your mail.?

Boyd went into a diocesan seminary, where, he said, he was allowed privacy and his mail was not read. He now studies history at the University of Central Florida, where he is involved with the Catholic Campus Ministry and Army ROTC.

Dunlap and Curran said that opening student mail is an ancient practice in many Catholic schools preparing boys for the priesthood. It cultivates the spirit of openness and honesty that’s necessary in a communal religious environment, they said.

Sometimes there could be news in a letter that could really rock a kid, Curran said, adding that it’s important that school leaders know what’s going on at home so they can respond to the child’s needs.

The parents expect it, and want it. They know that’s the way this life is, he said.

Upon hearing about a year ago that the Legion of Christ was planning a university in Sacramento, Boyd said, he wrote to Bishop Weigand to warn him about them. The bishop responded with a note, Boyd said, stating that he had had only good experiences with the order.

That view was supported by the Rev. Charles McDermott, an official with the Sacramento Diocese, who said in an interview that the Legion of Christ is simply a conservative form of Catholicism.

The Catholic Church has broad boundaries, McDermott said. We believe what St. John the Evangelist said that Jesus said: ‘In my father’s house, there are many mansions.’ There is room for people to be more liberal or more conservative, without ceasing to be Catholic.

About the Writer

The Bee’s Laurel Rosen can be reached at (916) 773-7631 or lrosen@sacbee.com.