Was There a Legionary Cover Up of Fr. Macial’s Sexual Misconduct?

Fr. Luis Garza was asked at the September 25 RC State of the Section meeting in Atlanta if there had been a cover-up (regarding the founder’s sexual misconduct). Father Garza’s response was summarized on Trastevere blog Click Here for Spanish article 

An English translation of this article is available on life-after-rc blog
Click Here

The above accounts show that according to statements made by Fr. Garza, the Vatican began the 2005-2006 investigation (regarding allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Fr. Maciel) thinking that he was innocent and just wanted to clear his name for the sake of history, but later, as the investigation proceeded, they realized that he was guilty. It goes on to say that a lady (Norma) appeared in the summer of 2005 and she stayed in Cotija where Fr. Maciel was staying but very few (of the consecrated women) thought that this was an affair.

According to Garza, dementia affected the founder’s thinking and behavior in his later years.

In Feb 2006, Malen Oriol expressed her concerns to Fr. Garza that the lady (Norma) was taking advantage of Fr. Maciel and she asked him to intervene. That was around the time that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) contacted Fr. Alvaro Corcuera and advised him that the founder had been found guilty (it was not clear exactly what he had been guilty of). According to the report, Fr. Garza said he did not believe the CDF.

Then around Feb. or March in 2007 they began figuring what to do. By that time, the Legion had received positive results regarding Normita (Fr. Maciel and Norma’s daughter).

Fr. Maciel died on January 30, 2008. Apparently even though he had been urged to confess about his relationship with Norma and Normita he had refused to do this.

Reportedly Fr. Garza said that they started to tell some people, about 50 LCs in November 2008 and by January 2009, some of the unfavorable news was leaked to the press.
ReGAIN Comment:
Would the Vatican have been likely to launch a year long investigation into Fr. Maciel’s life and interviewed one hundred witnesses around the world if they thought that he was innocent and just wanted to clear his name for the sake of history? At the time, there was a considerable amount of well publicized evidence including the Hartford Courant articles about credible claims of sexual abuse of minor seminarians by Fr. Maciel and the claims had been made by credible individuals.

Norma, one of Fr. Maciel’s wives for months had been living in a room adjacent to Fr. Maciel and their daughter Normita came and went to Cotija to be with them. Is it reasonable to state with any certainty that the consecrated women who lived in the complex did not suspect anything untoward? At the time, these women were bound by solemn promises of obedience and charity to never criticize any superior (especially the founder who they had been encouraged to idolize as a living saint). The consecrated women who witnessed Fr. Maciel living with his family would not have been allowed to discuss any suspicions with each other about what was going on.

Is it likely that Fr. Maciel’s behavior (having a mistress) was a result of dementia? According to numerous testimonies on this and other websites and in books and articles, there had been credible reports of his sexual activities with men women and children going back to his very early adulthood. Although it is possible that the founder in his 80’s suffered some degree of dementia, this would not explain his sexual misconduct over all the many previous years. This excuse for the founder’s actions is similar to one that was tried by some Legionaries years ago when they blamed his perversions on having received a blow to the head.

It is interesting to note that Fr. Garza was quoted as saying that he did not believe the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, considering that they had interviewed so many people and had spent a year gathering facts.

There is a personal testimony from Aaron, an ex Legionary priest who as a teenager had been sexually abused by his superior and spiritual director during his time in the Legion. Further details of Aaron’s story may be seen in articles on this website.

Fr. Garza disbelieved Aaron without having ever met him and allowed the abusive priest to continue his ministry in a school.

According to the Trastevere article, Fr. Garza stated that around Feb. or March in 2007 they (the Legion) began figuring what to do.

The time line here is interesting. The Vatican started their investigation into the founder’s life in 2005. It seems obvious from accounts that Fr. Maciel was openly living with a mistress and daughter in Cotija since at least early 2006.

Yet, Fr. Garza seems to have chosen to simply deny any accusations of wrong doing even after the Vatican had sentenced the founder to a life of prayer and repentance and had advised the Legion that he was found guilty. The Legion continued to pretend that Fr. Maciel in the same manner as Jesus Christ had been victimized by the Vatican who falsely judged him. It seems that they waited until early 2007 to accept some of the facts and only then decided what to do.

When they finally did decide what to do it seems that they did as much as they could to keep things quiet for damage control.

Fr. Maciel displayed a consistency in his actions throughout the decades and Fr. Garza has also been consistent in his actions. The statements attributed to him in the Trastevere article raise serious questions about cover ups to those who have not had their thinking powers compromised by the mind numbing structure within the Legion and Regnum Christi consecrated life.

Now that there has been some relaxing of the rules in the Legion and for the 3gf (consecrated) women we suggest that those who are seeking the truth check facts from outside sources as well as from the foxes who continue to guard the henhouse.

 

Reflections

Fr Luis Garza, LC, director of the North American Territory has written the first of a series of personal reflections on the current situation for the Regnum Christi Movement and posted it on their website. Click Here

Even though Fr Garza currently has enormous power in the movement, he has presented his thoughts in an informal manner as personal reflections and opinions rather than as official policy statements.

He starts by explaining what a Catholic religious movement is and the various forms of structure for religious orders, institutes of consecrated life, societies of apostolic life and associations of the faithful. He identifies various structural options available to the Regnum Christi Movement according to canon law. He points out that at present, Regnum Christi does not have juridical personality although its statutes have been approved.

He goes on to discuss the status of the 3gf consecrated women and relationship between Regnum Christi and the Legionaries of Christ and outlines alternative arrangements under which the 3gf women could be reorganized and continue their work.

 

ReGAIN Comment:

Fr. Garza offers some conclusions at the end of his letter. His conclusions do not make specific recommendations after considering the various alternatives.

How does one explain to a group of dedicated followers who have surrendered so much of themselves that unfortunately they are like a ship without a rudder or engine power in a stormy sea. The overall purpose of their movement (charism) remains a mystery. Their founder, their rules of order and more recently their form of consecrationhave been rejected by the Vatican. Although it seems obvious to outsiders that the consecrated women were deceived over a long period of time, this has all been blamed on the founder. It is obvious to everyone that there are very serious unresolved issues and these seem to be getting worse instead of better.

It seems astounding that the 3gf women would not stampede for the exit doors after all these shortcomings in their way of life have been exposed to them. Remarkably, most of them seem willing to accept these setbacks and the explanations provided to them as they continue business more or less as usual. Recently, during a recent webinaraddress the consecrated women were encouraged to keep on sharing their love for Jesus (i.e. recruiting) and this message is repeated in the letter. Wouldn?t it be more prudent to sort out the horrendous current problems before getting more people to come and commit their lives to such a demanding lifestyle that requires such great sacrifices?

Perhaps the conclusions in the letter provide some clues to why these women are willing to hang on to their way of life while many in similar circumstances would conclude they had been victimized.

Several statements in the conclusions had been underlined for emphasis, even though they did not really seem to be conclusions in the usual sense and on the surface appeared to be vapid generalities. Do these underlined statements convey powerful subliminal messages to discourage people from bolting? Is this an example of management by mind control?

We are seeking personal and community holiness. To any outsider this sounds on the surface like an innocuous statement.

In a number of previous ReGAIN articles we have pointed out how the women become overly dependent on their community and in fact surrender their freedom, their money, their sexuality, and their decision making powers in isolation from the outside world. One of the few benefitsthey receive from all these sacrifices is their special form of holiness. They have reportedly been conditioned to inwardly believe that this elite form ofholinessis not portable and reportedly they have been encouraged to be afraid of losing their salvation if they dare to leave. Is this underlined message intended to remind people that they risk losing their everlasting happiness if they leave?

We seek to do God?s will in our lives. This seems to be another mundane motherhood statement that should apply universally to all Christians. Yet this is underlined as being important. The implied message here seems to be that it is God?s will that they remain where they are even though there are difficulties and if anyone leaves, they risk offending God through their weakness and selfishness. There have been numerous testimonies over the years that the leaders tend to brand those who leave as being disloyal to God who has called them to their special vocation from all eternity.

We cannot stop doing good. The 3gf women are urged to continue helping souls find the love of Christ. This suggests that the Regnum Christi women are currently helping souls find Christ (through their recruiting efforts) within their community but this would automatically stop if they were to leave. If this were actually the case then the women would have reason to feel guilty about abandoning their good works. Guilt and fear are powerful motivators.

Charity in all and above all. Charity is a Christian virtue common to all denominations. Is this yet another motherhood statement or is it a reminder to the subconscious minds of those 3gf women who made a secret solemn promise of charityto never criticize any of their leaders? They are urged in the letter to avoid acting emotionally and to trust their brothers and sisters. The women are advised to dialogue with maturity instead of giving in to their emotions. The message here seems to be that if you pay attention to any emotions (about all the deceptions that have been uncovered through Vatican investigations) then you are being immature. No emotions please!

We are children of the Church. This underlined conclusion is further explained in the letter. God is carrying out His work through the Holy See. In other words, be child like in your obedience and don?t question anything that is happening because then you would be questioning almighty God.

This looks like an example of absolute black and white thinking by associating the leaders? management decisions to God?s intervention. If God is just starting to fix things up now, it makes one wonder where He was during the last forty to seventy years. Did He just recently notice that there were problems and is only now starting to address these? Isn?t it more likely that some or all of the current leaders who are responsible for correcting the mess were deeply involved in the current state of affairs?

At ReGAIN, we recommend that the consecrated men and women obtain as much information as they can from quality outside sources as they discern what they choose to do with the rest of their precious lives. Opportunities have opened up to obtain information from outside sources through improved access to the internet and email (which had been denied until recently for decades) and each one is entitled by canon law to choose anyone they wish as their spiritual advisors (this right was also restricted for decades).

It is wise and mentally healthy to pay heed to our God given human feelings in support of our logical thinking ability before making major decisions.

The Vatican has identified the need for reforms in the way of life for both the Legion and Regnum Christi members but so far only some limited progress has happened. The Vatican has left the details of working out the details of the reform process to the old leaders, who have not shown much desire or initiative to make changes over and above those that have been imposed by the Church. It has been almost three years since the disgraced founder?s lifestyle was made public. The leaders who displayed unquestioning loyalty to their founder are now asking loyalty and continued obedience and recruiting efforts from the consecrated women yet they have not provided clear objectives beyond those that are self serving. Trust needs to be earned.

There are many alternative ways of serving God and the Church through worthwhile religious orders, movements, societies and other communities that have valid charisms and saintly founders, who lived exemplary lives. Although it is theoretically possible for God to draw straight using crooked lines, it is wise to use extreme caution when encountering crookedness and recognize it for what it is. Jesus did warn us to beware of wolves in sheep?s clothing and he advises us that good trees bear good fruit and bad trees bear bad fruit.

*Comments by Paul Lennon on Fr. Luis Garza?s Reflections

The first thing that strikes the reader is that Fr. Garza, Vicar General of the Legion of Christ, presents these reflections as a purely personal opinion. This simply one more opinion will not be taken as such by the rank and file members of the Regnum Christi to whom it is directed through official Regnum Christi channels coming down from the desk of the Vicar General. Such a contradictory position may not seem such to the members of the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi who are accustomed to ambiguity and to walk in the dark.

The Vicar General, writing thus in his unofficial official capacity goes on to explain that the Regnum Christi is an association of the faithful, fruit of the Holy Spirit?s charismatic action . ii) As such it would be like the Legion of Mary or the Society of St. Vincent De Paul, reflects this writer. But Fr. Garza goes on to explain that the Regnum Christi has some particular aspects insofar as it includes consecrated persons and insofar as it has a close relationship to a religious congregation. Neither of these two aspects changes its nature as an association of the faithful, and it should be understood as such, ; like a third order, posits the writer. Fr. Garza goes on to explain, rather surprisingly for this reader, that Currently, Regnum Christi does not have juridical personality.

Regarding the consecrated nature of some of the members, Fr. Garza has to engage in some logical and canonical gymnastics. It would seem that consecrated members are not really consecrated or they are consecrated but not officially. The writer quotes: Although the text of the Regnum Christi statutes does not use the word ?consecration?, it is clear that there are consecrated members in the Movement, since the description if gives of the third-degree members has all the characteristics proper to a consecration: a stable form of life dedicated to following Christ through the evangelical counsels.

Once again, normal readers should be aware that such ambiguity will not appear ambiguous to faithful RC members. After stating categorically In the current code of Canon Law, there are no canons referring to the possibility of consecrating oneself to God in the ecclesiastical movements, Fr. Garza goes to lengths to explain the differences and similarities between the consecrationof members of ecclesiastical movements (such as Regnum Christi) and that of that of members of institutes of consecrated life.

To overcome the ambiguous canonical nature of the Regnum Christi Movement certainly a fruit of the founder?s wanting to retain maximum autonomy in controlling his brainchild- Fr. Garza devotes several pages (13-17) to trying to figure out what canonical structure the Regnum Christi consecratedshould embrace; whether it be an association of the faithful, an institute of consecrated life, a secular institute or a society of apostolic life. As a summary, in my personal opinion it would be good to give the consecrated members of the Regnum Christi Movement a specific juridical structure of their own, and because of the canonical characteristics, I would lean toward it being an association of the faithful or a society of consecrated life.

Another issue that Fr. Garza struggles with is how to maintain some unity between the different entities that would arise from the canonical structure of theconsecratedmembers, and how to include them, the Legion of Christ, and the non-consecrated members under the umbrella on the one Movement. In discussing the relationship between the Legion of Christ and the Regnum Christi in general, the Vicar General explains changes that would have to come about in canonical structures, administration, and apostolate.

Fr. Garza must be commended for taking upon himself this gargantuan task of clarifying so many ambiguities. His conclusions, however, appear to be very general and lacking in the specifics he explained during the body of his reflections. They are lame and vague in the eyes of this lay person who was once a Legionary: we are seeking personal and community holiness; we seek to do God?s will in our life; we cannot stop doing good; charity in all and above all; we are children of the church.. Such basic demands are common to all Christians. And some of these ring hollow when confronted with certain realities: the Legion?s lack of real charity in coming to the aid of those who were sexually abused by Fr. Maciel (there are no provisions made for those who were otherwise abused by the Founder or for those who were and are- abused, sexually or otherwise by other Legion and Regnum Christi members); there is still too much posturing and delay tactics in helping the victims before they tire, lose hope or simply wither away. Such an attitude and praxis is closer to materialism and self-interest than to the way of life of Christ{i}, the Founder of Christianity.

J. Paul Lennon, STL, MA, Licensed Professional Counselor

* Mr Lennon writes in a purely personal capacity and not as president of REGAIN, INC. His opinions here do not represent the official stance of REGAIN, INC.

i. Recent reflections appearing on the Regnum Christi official webpage about the direction Regnum Christi is to take:
http://www.legrc.org/regnum_db/archivosWord_db/the-regnum-christi-movement2012.pdf

ii. There is no examination of whether the Regnum Christi has a charisma and what that charisma might be. As elsewhere it is taken as a fait accompli, a faith-filled affirmation without proof.