Pain, Mutual Distrust, Tensions and Disenchantment In The Legionaries of Christ

All is not well in Legion Land according to Andres Beltramo Alvarez on his Spanish blog Sacro y Profano Click Here . Father Sylvester Heereman, the acting Vicar General of the Legion recently acknowledged that some members of the Legion are struggling with emotional issues, including mutual distrust, incomprehension, tensions, disenchantment and unsettling insecurity about the future.

Some of the Legionaries are suffering from an inability to separate themselves from their immoral founder, Father Marcial Maciel. There are those who are upset because he led such an evil life, while others are unhappy about how they were deceived by him.

There is still some turbulence among the members. Some are disturbed that the Legion no longer has a positive image. There are some open wounds caused by judgments made about those who were closer to Father Maciel and others who have been branded as rebels.

Some feel that the Legion should have conducted further reviews into their founder’s secret life to uncover all the facts so that they would discover everything that they need to be better able to purify the Legion. The constant reminders that the Legion’s past has been bad and that changes are needed is upsetting for some Legionaries. There has been a lack of healthy self criticism to date. There remains confusion about their identity and some are disenchanted with their vocation. There are feelings of insecurity about what the future has to hold for the Legion.

This state of affairs is not simply an opinion expressed by critics of the Legion; this is the situation as reported by the Legion’s own Vicar General.

This sets the emotional atmosphere for the Legionaries as they meet later in November to select delegates to take part in the general chapter in Rome in January, 2014.

ReGAIN Comment

After the 2009 bombshell, the Legion with guidance from the Apostolic Delegate had a golden once in a lifetime opportunity to rebuild out of the ashes of their battle scarred past, with alternative paths to follow. They could have chosen to re’found something totally new and different from scratch. Instead they chose to convince people that except for their founder, there wasn’t too much wrong and with a little tweaking they could simply carry on their recruiting, ordinations and consecrations as if nothing unusual had happened. Nobody emerged as a Spirit ‘ inspired leader. Nobody wanted to conduct any more investigations into their past problems and to uncover who in the present times assisted the founder in his perverse and dishonest way of life. Except for blaming all their problems on their fallen founder, nobody wanted to admit that there was anything seriously wrong and at least to outsiders it seemed that they simply wanted to sweep things under the carpet and continue along their same old path.

It is not surprising then that the remaining members are demoralized. In the past, because of their expanding numbers and praise from John Paul II, for years they had reason to be proud of their religious order and the special status they had in the Church. Since 2009, when it was discovered that their disgraced founder was a fraud, there has been an illusion that their religious order is being reformed. With no clear understanding about what the problems were and who did what, there is no clarity about what needs to be reformed and unfortunately a desire to let sleeping dogs lie. Father Marcial Maciel, Nuestro Padre who put his personal stamp on every aspect of the Legion and Regnum Christi was their ideal. There is no escape from having a disgraced founder and there is nothing or nobody new to replace the immense hole that was left by him inside the Legion. Certainly there is a sense of loss that his good example was based on fiction and deceit. There must be confusion after realizing that the evil detractors who they had wrongfully believed to be out to hurt the Church and their founder were actually telling the truth. Many of the leaders who the Legionaries of Christ members had looked up to have left the order and some of them have made statements critical about the structure and methodology and the old guard leadership.

With the presence of an Apostolic Delegate from Rome, the Legion members have had less restriction of their information and with the windows to the outside opened up they have become aware of much valid criticism from credible outside sources about their way of life and their leaders. Before 2009, such criticism was prohibited.

Since 2009, the remaining Legionaries have become aware that Father Maciel was not the only one of their leaders who deceived them. They have become aware that their top leaders knew about of the secret lives of Father Maciel and Father Williams and others for years and covered for them until things could no longer be kept secret from them.

Within such an environment, how can the remaining members trust their leaders? How could they feel enthusiastic about remaining in a congregation that is still struggling to discover a religious purpose after more than seven decades of existence? Is it any wonder that there is insecurity, confusion and disenchantment in the Legion?

The Legion seems to be suffering from deficits common to high demand and authoritarian groups; namely how individual members become unable to accept unpleasant facts and incapable of making informed choices. Often they cling to the comfortable status quo, frozen by fear, avoiding painful but ultimately life giving decisions. Add to this the possibility that the superiors, who wield all the power, are against change.

Cardinal DePaolis did not come in with a big stick to throw out old leaders and to force major changes. He provided an opportunity for the Legionary leaders to come up with plans to decide what needed to be done to fix themselves. They have to date shown a lack of desire and total ineptitude in this regard and the confused environment is the end result. Will Pope Francis allow this situation to continue or will he appoint a new Delegate with a bigger hammer?

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