General Confession with Fr. Maciel and a tribute to my real father
By one of First Irish LC’s
The author explores the dangers of the Legion of Christ’s Apostolic Schools in the light of OLD & NEW allegations of sexual abuse by Founder Marcial Maciel of his younger seminarians and that of other Legionaries in minor seminaries. The article questions the training and credentials of Legionary seminarians as formators of adolescents. Structural discrepancies with official Church Teaching are mentioned.
From Legion of Christ official website:
FOR YOUNG MEN WHO WANT TO BE PRIESTS
The Legion’s apostolic schools worldwide, including this one in Center Harbor, New Hampshire, aim to give young men in grades 7-12, who are really thinking about the priesthood, what they will need to discover Christ’s call and prepare for it.
LEGION NOVICES AVOID TRAINING IN ‘SAFE ENVIRONMENT’ FOR CCD CLASSES AT LOCAL PARISH
[from exlegionaries.com discussion board, thread: ‘safe environment’]
Posted on 9/19/2005 at 10:22 AM
Safe Environment ?
In the spring I stopped by St Brigid’s church in Cheshire and noticed in their bulletin that they were looking for CCD teachers because they would no longer have the services of the LC’s when I asked an LC why not they said they didn’t know. At WYD I met parishioners from St Brigid’s so I asked them why the LC aren’t teaching there anymore and they said the superior would not let them take the safe environment course required to teach in a parish school. I was wondering if that was to keep the seminarians from realizing they do not live in a safe environment?
WHAT IS CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE AND ASSAULT CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE.
One in 3 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually assaulted before the age of 18
Handbook on Sexual Abuse of Children, Russell, 1988
CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE IS ANY EXPLOITIVE OR COERCIVE SEXUAL EXPERIENCE INVOLVING A PERSON UNDER THE AGE OF 18. THIS CAN INCLUDE: VOYEURISM, EXHIBITIONISM, PORNOGRAPHY, FONDLING, ORAL/ANAL/VAGINAL INTERCOURSE, AND PROSTITUTION.
Child Sexual Abuse does not necessarily involve penetration or even physical contact. Often beginning with seemingly innocent intrusions into the child’s personal space, the offender slowly tests and conditions the child to accept abuse which may escalate over a period of time.
The stereotype of child molesters as mentally unstable, dangerous-looking strangers is not statistically accurate:
- Only 10-15% of offenders are strangers to their victims.
- Often, child victims have trusting, dependent relationships with their offenders.
- Ordinary-seeming men and women, even respected community members, sexually assault children.
Child sexual abuse occurs within all racial, ethnic, religious, educational, gender, social, and economic classes.
Although offenders may use physical force to perpetrate abuse, more typically they rely on threats. bribery, emotional force, or simply the force of their authority over the child. Sometimes, this force is implied rather than overt.
THREATS: ‘If you tell you’ll be sent home and lose your vocation.’
BRIBERY: ‘You will have special exceptions to the rule and privileges.’
EMOTIONAL: ‘You won’t be my special friend any more’
AUTHORITY: ‘This is our secret -don’t tell. They wouldn’t understand.’
[Adapted by the
writer from: Child Sexual Assault brochure, VAASA, http://www.vaasa.org. Feel free to request]
WHAT IS SEXUAL ASSAULT?
It is not ‘crime of passion’. IT IS A CRIME OF VIOLENCE, POWER, AND CONTROL. It occurs when a person is forced, threatened, coerced or manipulated and tricked into sexual contacts against his or her will. No one asks to be sexually abused -it is the perpetrator who decides to hurt someone. Sexual abuse is never the victim’s fault.
WHO ARE THE PERPETRATORS?
Because of the mistaken belief that sexual assault is sexually motivated, it is often assumed that anyone who would sexually assault a male is after sex. Therefore, we assume that a perpetrator of male sexual abuse must be either a heterosexaul woman or a homosexual man. But sexual assault is not about sex -it’s about violence, power, hostility and domination. It’s an attempt to hurt someone. It is possible for a woman to assault a man; and some men who commit sexual assaults are gay. But most sexual assaults of men are committed by ‘straight’ or heterosexual men.
Sometimes, a person who wants to control or dominate others doesn’t care who they dominate. Sometimes, as IN AN ALL MALE SETTING, SUCH AS A PRISON OR A BOYS’ SCHOOL, ONLY MEN ARE AVAILABLE. AND SOMETIMES, MEN WHO ARE THREATENED BY THE IDEA OF HOMOSEXUALITY WILL ASSAULT MEN WHO THEY THINK MAY BE GAY -WHETHER THEY ARE OR NOT.
[See ‘Male Survivors of Sexual Assault’ brochure, VAASA, http://www.vaasa.org]
THE LEGION OF CHRIST AS A POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS PLACE
I am at Sanborns restaurant at the ‘Plaza de las Estrellas’ mall in Mexico City?s Anzures district on Saturday, September 10, 2005. Sitting across from me, Dr. Fernando Gonzalez interviews me about my experiences with the Legion of Christ, against the background of pedophilia. I tell him honestly I was never sexually abused in the Legion, nor was I ever approached in an inappropriate way by any member.
Entering the LC at age 17 and 7 months, I admit I was very immature mentally, emotionally, and spiritually; naive and sexually unaware, too. However, as the son of a warm and structured home, I had strong relationships with my mother her only son- and with my father -we were ‘boon companions’. He was very ‘blue collar’ and a man of simple pleasuresTogether we went to sports events on his Excelsior 125cc motorbike which would often breakdown. A small and practical man, he liked mechanics, electricity and carpentry, with a passion for soccer, boxing and fishing. Sitting by the side of this quiet and polite person as we waited for the fish to nibble off Dun Laoghaire Pier I learned the silence of men and the art of closeness without words.
NUESTRO PADRE, OUR FATHER, MACIEL
Soon after joining the Legion in Bundoran, County Donegal, my confreres and I were introduced to Fr. Maciel, a tall, thin, pale Mexican with thinning brown hair, big manicured hands, as he smiled through his glasses with cold blue eyes. He was the Founder of the Legion of Christ and a Holy Man. We were soon told that Legionaries called him Nuestro Padre , (Our Father;) though not as in the Lord?s Prayer, which in Spanish begins with the words in the opposite order, Padre Nuestro].
Our Father, with the help of the whole Legionary apparatus, was portrayed as a caring and solicitous father, who thereby evoked openness, trust and closeness in his children. But with me the closeness did not take. My relationship with my biological father was too strong and present. I did not need the affection of another father, even though this one was supposedly a saint. Perhaps, I was subconsciously not trusting of male religious figures. With one father in heaven and my dad on earth, I did not need the affection of a third.
Let us imagine, however, a teenager whose relationship with his earthly father is not firm and caring. Would he not tend to gravitate towards this Super Father who wanted to be his confidante, guide, and mediator with God?
FR. MACIEL AND THE FIRST APOSTOLICS
Let us imagine next a preadolescent boy who goes to the Apostolic School in Mexico City in the 1940s, 50s, 60s and 70s. Nuestro Padre could be here, there and everywhere in the Legion house. There were not that many Legion members and few were the houses. When absent he made his presence felt through general and personal letters, as a form of community and individual guidance. What a strong impression he must have made on these first ApostolicosThey were leaving the relative anonymity of small Mexican towns for the exciting and attractive Apostolic School in Tlalpan with its playing fields, bright red uniforms, good education and a swimming pool with a diving board. Mexicans are fearless and skilled divers and swimmers. Mostly from families as large as five, ten or fifteen children, they must have felt very special when they received the personal attention of the Padre Prefects who supervised them and took care of all their needs. Above the prefects was the Padre RectorSpiritual Director. The Prefects and Rector became these children?s fathers in their regular lives. And above the Rector was Nuestro Padrewho would drop in occasionally, bringing relief from the daily routine. For Nuestro Padre was the Founder, a Spiritually Gifted Man of God. When he was with the community, everything was special and improved, including richer food, more games and recreation, movies and special excursions. To top it all off he would also celebrate a Solemn Mass, flanked by the Rector and Prefects.
ABSOLUTE TRANSPARENCY WITH AND TRUST IN NUESTRO PADRE
The greatest privilege of all was to go to confession to Nuestro Padre, because he was so close to God and he knew God?s Will for you. So you were sure you would get the right answer to your questions and doubts, especially regarding your vocation to serve God in the Legion
The Brother Bursar took care of one?s material needs. The Padre Prefect took care of one?s studies, discipline and ordinary religious life. Nuestro Padre took care of one?s spiritual needs, and what a privilege it was to have him around, he, the Founder, inspired directly by God, with a direct line to the Holy Spirit, a Living Saint, who could read your soul and guide you along the paths of the Lord.
Total Transparency and Complete Truest in your Superior is an essential element of Legion Spirit and Mystique, and this was heightened in the case of Nuestro Padre. The Apostolics opened up to and totally trusted this Other Christwith their histories, trials and tribulations. Many a tear was shed during those confessions and spiritual directions in the Legion the distinction if often blurred. Tears of relief after unburdening one?s soul, tears of gratitude, maybe even of tenderness as the boy felt Gods forgiveness through Nuestro Padre?s loving care. [As a young Legionary I read a booklet written by Fr. Javier Tena,LC, one of the first Apostolics from Mexico. Called Nuestro Padre in my Child Soul, ‘Nuestro Padre en mi alma de Nino’, it described in idyllic terms the Apostolic?s life.
MY GENERAL CONFESSION TO NUESTRO PADRE
I had the privilege of going to confession to Nuestro Padre for the first time before my Religious Profession in Salamanca, September, 1962 [I was 18 and 10 months old]. By then my Spanish was good enough. Together with my 7 Irish cofounder companions I took my temporal vows after only one year Novitiate ??mine mostly in crisis [major depressive episode?], interpreted as my own personal dark night of the soul. It was suggested to me by my spiritual director/superior that I make a general confession to Nuestro Padre to take advantage of the special graces I would thus receive through the Founder and as the best way to prepare me for the religious life.
During the relatively uneventful and sheltered life I had lived before entering the Holy Novitiate at age 17, I had accumulated two sins against purity which troubled my somewhat scrupulous conscience and about which I felt very ashamed. Before entering the Legion I had unloaded one to a Carmelite friar at St. Teresas Clarendon St., Dublin.
In fear and trembling I unloaded the 2nd to Nuestro Padre, Man of God. I do not recall any earth-shattering advice or apocalyptic revelation. I felt he was kind. At the end, I kissed the end of his stole as a sign of reverence and gratitude. He may have brushed my cheek with the tassel in a fatherly way. I experienced a great sense of relief because I had been able to get rid of that sin. I dont remember any advice. Now, I had no sin on my soul, I was free through the Sacrament of Confession, and I was ready to take on my vows. My interviewer Fernando insists, was there nothing, not the slightest sexual innuendo in this encounter with Fr Maciel? No, nothing. And you were not aware of any abuse going on around you as appears from the testimonies of others? Non whatsoever.
Against the background of the two dozen testimonies of sexual abuse from the 40s and 50s, and those which are beginning to appear regarding the 60s-70s, why was I and others so totally unaware? Could it be that Fr. Maciel is a Master of the Game of secret societies, with their isolated concentric circles of information/power? Maciel in the middle surrounded by a first cadre of unconditionals who silently acquiesce to his power? Only The Master knows everything. The unconditionals know more than the following circle, and so on. Those within the circle of abuse are isolated from the community at large, which is totally oblivious to what goes on behind the infirmary door? Reading the chilling descriptions in John Le Carres A Perfect Spy, and Solzhenitsyns Gulag Archipelago regarding secrecy, isolation and control might lead to such speculations…
SEXUAL ABUSE IN CONFESSION AND SPIRITUAL DIRECTION
One Legionary in pastoral ministry in Sacramento, CA, got into hot water a few years ago for questioning a child about his/her sexual problems. The Legion solution? Send him back to the Quintana Roo Mission? My question is: What about the Maya children? Are they not important? From this and other documented testionies there seems to be a recurring theme of Legion Spiritual Director/Superiors inquiring into students sexual experience. A THOROUGH HISTORY OF SEXUAL EXPERIENCE SEEMS TO BE PART OF A CANDIDATE’S SCREENING, CARRIED OUT BY LEGIONARIES SUCH AS FR OWEN KEARNS AND OTHERS. How vulnerable these children and adolescents are to abuse by unscrupulous, inquisitive, curious, prying, probing and potentially abusive superiors! Aren’t the ‘examiners’ in danger of giving in to their own prurient curiosity? Isn’t there a grave danger of such intimate material being used against the candidate in the future, through the Legion system of unprotected communication between superiors?
Think of all the Apostolics, Candidates and Novices that opened their histories and hearts to Nuestro Padre! Did he pry into their vulnerable souls? Did they feel obliged and privileged to tell him everything about themselves? Did he ask about their difficulties with Holy Purity? Did he ever overstep his boundaries with any of them? Did he walk through the doors that they in their naivetÃ© left open, full of gullibility, innocence and trust?
When I recall now that confession with Nuestro Padre, in the light of allegations of sexual impropriety, I tremble. I am overcome with a sense of revulsion and of relief. Did the sin that I confessed somehow immunize me against improper approaches from Nuestro Padre and other Legionary Superiors? This is not idle speculation, as you will see from the following.
ONGOING VATICAN INVESTIGATION OF FR. MACIEL AND SHOCKING RECENT REVELATION
By all it is well known that a ‘new’ Vatican Investigation into Fr Maciel’s sexual abuse of his first seminarians is presently underway. This is separate from the 1956-58 wider investigation into his drug use, abuse of power and questionable relationships with his seminarians, carried out by the Sacred Congregation for Religious. I am not saying that the present investigator does not have access to the old archives. This investigation is being carried out by the Promotor of Justice for the Congregation for the Faith, a separate Vatican department with greater powers to sanction. As the investigation of the original 8 accusers was underway, more men from that generation and the following came forward, particularly in Mexico City during early April 2005 [see Regain Press Release and corresponding articles].
As I prepared to attend a conference in Madrid in mid July a shocking revelation was made to me by one of my Irish co-founder colleagues, in the sense that he too had been sexually abused by Father Maciel from 1962-1969. This allegation, out of the blue and totally ‘incomtaminated by’ the other accusations, is being clarified and researched by reporters, and has been reported to Monsignor Scicluna, the Vatican Prosecutor. I am not at liberty to disclose further information. This fact doubly impacts me: it proves that Fr Maciel’s sexual abuse did not stop with the early generations; and it brings the abuse even closer to home for me because I know the abused personally, we trained together, and I have even less reason to doubt the facts. It also prompts speculation regarding whether extensive sexual abuse by the Founder may have spawned an epidemic in the Legion and whether such abuse is now endemic to or widespread in the Institution.
PARENTS, DO NOT EXPOSE YOUR CHILDREN TO THE DANGER OF ABUSE!
What therapeutic skill do these Prefects, Teachers and Directors possess? Are they trained in Spiritual Guidance? By what institute? Are they trained in counseling and psychotherapy? Have they had the necessary background checks for someone closely involved in the education of minors? Remember, ONE EPISODE OF ABUSE WOUNDS A CHILD FOREVER!
At least two periods of serious sexual abuse has been documented regarding the Legion Apostolic School in Ontaneda, Santander, Spain. Isolated cases of sexual abuse have been reported about the New Hampshire Apostolic School. Testimonies exist regarding sexual abuse in the Irish Novitiate.
[From a posting on the discussion board:]
‘Protecting God’s Children’ – Virtus Program
mikeinnj – 9/14/2005 at 05:17 PM
Many (if not most) dioceses in the US now require abuse awareness training for all clergy, teachers, staff, volunteers through the Protecting God’s Children – Virtus program (which, by the way, I find very informative). Considering the large numbers of RC programs for children and young people, and the highly visible contact with young people that the LC has, are the LC’s/RC’s getting this same training that other Catholics around the US are REQUIRED to do? This would include teachers in LC/RC run schools. Are the bishops in those dioceses where there is an LC/RC presence making sure this training is taking place, especially for RC people working with kids? Or does the LC/RC consider themselves exempt from or above all this?
STRUCTURAL DISCREPANCIES WITH OFFICIAL CHURCH GUIDELINES
Even if the above considerations regarding the danger of sexual abuse and assault fall on deaf parental ears, Church Leaders still need to carefully review the Legion training system in the light of the official and authorized doctrine of the Catholic Church for seminaries. We respectfully submit that, besides the above mentioned dangers, there are other problems at Legion Minor Seminaries. Because of the lack of space, I will simply underline [uppercasing] some aspects. I am shocked to see how some BISHOPS seem to be turning a blind eye to gaping STRUCTURAL DISCREPANCIES, or at least potential dangers, in the Legion system. The following teaching’s last paragraph also shows Catholic parents that the traditional minor seminary or apostolic school is NOT THE ONLY OR BEST WAY to foster priestly vocations.
On another, though related, note, it is a crying shame that exiting members from the Legion and the Regnum Christi -particularly women- often do not have properly validated studies, thus unduly prolonging and jeopardizing their recovery process.
In minor seminaries erected to develop the seeds of vocations, the students should be prepared by special religious formation, particularly through appropriate spiritual direction, to follow Christ the Redeemer with generosity of spirit and purity of heart. Under the fatherly direction of the superiors, and with the proper COOPERATION OF THE PARENTS, their daily routine should be in accord with the age, the character and the stage of development of adolescence and fully adapted to the NORMS OF A HEALTHY PSYCHOLOGY. Nor should the fitting opportunity be lacking for social and cultural contacts and for CONTACT WITH ONE’S OWN FAMILY.
Moreover, whatever is decreed in the following paragraphs about major seminaries is also be adapted to the minor seminary to the extent that it is in accord with its purpose and structure. Also, STUDIES UNDERTAKEN BY THE STUDENTS SHOULD BE SO ARRANGED THAT THEY CAN EASILY CONTINUE SHOULD THEY CHOOSE A DIFFERENT STATE OF LIFE.
With equal concern the seeds of vocations among adolescents and young men are also to be fostered in those SPECIAL INSTITUTES, which in accord with local circumstances, serve the purpose of a minor seminary as well as among those who are trained in OTHER SCHOOLS or by OTHER EDUCATIONAL MEANS. Finally, those institutions and other schools initiated for those with a belated vocation are to be carefully developed.
[Decree on Priestly Training, number 3, II Vatican Council]