FAULTY DISCERNMENT and Fake Ignatian Exercises for LC & RC Consecrated

Faulty Exercises, Charism and Founder?

By J. Paul Lennon, STL, plus Comment by Ex-LC Theologian at Large

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LC/RC lacks proper discernment process and instruments; the traditional discernment instrument par excellence, Ignatian Spiritual Exercises, has been pruned by Fr. Maciel and the leadership to fit the Movement’s authoritarian mold.


One of ReGAIN’s criticisms of the Legion Training System is that the Novitiate comes too soon, before young people are mature enough to really make the best use of it, i.e. to discern whether, if, and/or what kind of a vocation they have. You may have already read about there being 15-year-old novices in Legionary novitiates in Spain and Mexico through the 80’s. Eighteen to twenty, even twenty-five, is still young to make such a major decision that is going to commit you for the rest of your life: This commitment to renounce sexual and emotional intimacy with another human being (Celibacy), to have to ask permission to use anything (Legion Poverty), and to always obey your superior in all things great and small (Legion Obedience) is too serious to be taken without proper discernment.

Other orders and seminaries, in an effort to delay commitment and facilitate more mature decisions from their members, leave the novitiate (spiritual year) until after philosophy (which usually entails their going to an outside university and being in touch with students their own age). But the legion wants to ‘get them while they are young’; grooming, recruiting and premature commitment happen subtly, without due deliberation. The Legion has gone so far in isolating its members as to has co-opt contact with ?outsiders (Spanish ‘extra?os’) by having its own houses of studies (cloistered) for their own students. With this method, the legionary/consecrated does not have to meet women/men his/her own age and of equal emotional and spiritual standing, i.e. good candidates as a life companions; so there are very few real challenges to his/her vow of Chastity, until after ordination.

Although the LC novice takes only temporal vows (Promises for Consecrated men and women in the Regnum Christi Movement)for three years at the end of his 2 year novitiate Spirituality, his training and his own inner dynamism makes him see this first profession as definitive (like getting engaged to Jesus?). The male religious or consecrated woman will later, in Legion parlance, ?renew their vows; which conveys the fact that s/he is already committed. The carefully orchestrated atmosphere of ‘religious euphoria and generosity’, prevalent in LC/RC communities makes ?Perpetual Profession highly desirable and a foregone conclusion for a ferverous member. It all depends on the approval of your Spiritual Director -Superior: whether he or she thinks you are ‘suitable’ to take your Perpetual Vows, or whether s/he considers you are ‘not suitable’ or ‘not ready’, i.e. ‘not good enough’. In the latter case one has to eat humble pie and be content with an extension of ‘mere’ Temporal Vows, a blow to one’s spiritual machismo.


Many members may have done one month’s Spiritual Exercises before Vows or Promises. Here again the Legion looks good, smells like a rose, says and does all the right things. Apparently. The Exercises were (are) supposed to be Ignatian, in the spirit of St. Ignatius and the Jesuits. But these exercises in the Legion are not the genuine article. Father Maciel has tinkered with the real thing, and so the Legionaries have their own brand of ‘Ignatian’ Exercises. The real thing, of course, is the small booklet written by St Ignatius
(see http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14224b.htm) and interpreted by a seamless tradition of Jesuit directors of Ignatian Exercises.

From the 50s through the 80s, Directors of the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises would come into the Legion formation house ?from the outside. Though not members of the Society of Jesus -Maciel’s nemesis- these diocesan priests had been trained by the Jesuits, and were very familiar with the dynamics of the Exercises. Fr. Maciel hired and paid them for their services. He would spend hours with them before and during the Exercises telling them what focus to give their talks. A few members of the LC community would be instructed to ‘go to spiritual direction’ to the outsider to keep up appearances of openness. But I witness to the fact that the majority would not speak with the Director and would stay with their Legionary Superior-come-Spiritual Director. These outsiders were a breath of fresh in the very sheltered lives of the seminarians, who celebrated their jokes long after they had been paid (off) and gone. But we knew that their manners were not as good as they should have been and their vocabulary not as select as ours, and they lacked other social graces that a ‘Man of the Kingdom’ should possess.

No longer does the Legion have to worry about that ‘outside influence’. It has its own Ignatian Directors. The fact that these Legionaries are not adequately trained in the true spirit of Ignatian Exercises -this would entail contact with live Jesuits: – is of little concern to the Legion. Why give gullible candidates the genuine, costly, article if they are content with a pirate edition? Believe it if you like that the Jesuits have perverted the Exercises and that the Legionaries are the bearers of the true flame of St. Ignatius!

There is something missing in the Legion version. The gut wrenching, but ultimately life giving, ESSENTIAL discernment process has been neutered! The Legionary or Consecrated Woman, as s/he enters the Spiritual Exercises, is not questioning what to do with her life. S/he already knows that, i.e. what her/his Spiritual Director wants her/him to do. He or she is simply asking for strength to do the Will of God he or she already knows manifested in the will of his/her directors: If something arises during the Exercises that troubles him or her, perhaps some real ?movement of the Spirit that upsets her LC/RC applecart, s/he will go to the LC or RC Spiritual Director to find out what to do. Even though the whole meaning of the Exercises is to discern, as an individual, in collaboration with the Holy Spirit what direction to give your life: Imagine the reaction if you went to your Spiritual Director and said something like: Father, I have just realized that the Legion is not for me. I think I have a vocation to the Jesuits: I jest, but to illustrate the absurdity.


Because of their exposure to a counterfeit discernment process and a faulty instrument, many LC/RCs who stay may be on shaky ground with their ‘vocation’. They have received it from man, and not from God.
Many of those who leave discover their relationship with God is weak, their spiritual and religious life in a shambles, at times leading to atheism or alienation from Jesus and the Church. Some are plagued with fear and guilt because they could not do what their Superiors, speaking in God’s name, ordered them to do. Others were told by their directors, with or without spiritual exercises or proper discernment on anyone’s part, that they were not called to the religious life or the priesthood, and that they should get married and have children. A good number of exiting consecrated prefer to accept this ‘dogma of faith’, instead of going through a really harrowing discernment process on their own.
Quite a few balk now at the mention of retreats or spiritual activity of any kind. They have to re-start their lives all over again, examining, questioning what was second nature before joining ‘The Movement’: Faith, God, Jesus, Church, Prayer, Sacraments, Eucharist….

trusting their own individual psycho-sexual-spiritual growth process in the knowledge that

The Glory of God is a human being who is fully alive

(St. Irenaeus, in the 2nd century, as quoted by John Powell, sj, Fully Human, Fully Alive, Thomas More Press, Allen, TX)

From our Theologian at-large



  1. I fully agree with this analysis. The Legion simply does not give real Ignatian spiritual exercises and in general the notion of ‘discernment’ is a bad word to be avoided. Why would such discernment be needed when legionary bosses give the unwitting subjectsthe vocation? And when they want they call them in and tell them they do not have a vocation probably because they began go have doubts about the Legion party line
  1. One of the fundamental principles of Ignatian spirituality is freedom and service. There is no such thing as freedom as St. Paul expresses it to the Galatians (it is for freedom that you were made free) in Legion parlance or practice. Legion spiritual exercises are another form of indoctrination: very little to do with the real Ignatian product. I have asked some of those who came to give them in Cheshire if they had read St. Ignatius’s book and they confessed that they had not !
  1. Why would they need to? Do they not have the all-knowing letters of Maciel which, like all the rest of his life work, are ghost-written plagiarized fakes? In my opinion he is like a counterfeiter who is distributing false dollar bills in the Church. Unless one looks at them closely, they seem to be the real green backs, but they are not. In Spain they sell a kind of chocolate which is bad quality and they call itsucedeneo. The whole Legion is just that: sucedeneo, fakery, forgery, plagiarism. The trouble is that he is not even a good faker or forger. Some fakers have been able to pass off their products as real Rembrandts but Maciel’s products are easily discovered for what they are: fakes. It also says something about the lack of discernment of those who have approved it in the Vatican and the kind of model of ecclesiology we have had if this trickster has been able to be so successful in the Church for as many as 6 decades. The reforms intimated by Vatican II have a long way to go.
  1. .I am also convinced that the Legion does not have a specific charism, that what is presented is the charism is not such, and at the end of the day the best thing the Church could do with it is to suppress it. Besides, a foundational charism is intimately linked to the life of a Founder. But what of the life of Maciel? How can one derive a charism which is a gratia gratis data (grace freely given by God) for the building up of the Church, according to Aquinas, from such a life? It is true that in accordance with the analysis given by St. Augustine and accepted by the Church, an unworthy minister can validly perform the sacraments, but I do not see that a foundational charism can be communicated by such an unworthy person. And in the case that it actually did exist -which is, in my opinion, not the reality- would it not be destroyed in the process? It would appear that it was founded to provide him with a harem of boys, which is one of the principle concerns of all pedophiles.



Spiritual Direction and Contemplative Prayer is experiencing a resurgence, and not just within the Catholic Church. One of the most thorough training centers in the USA is in Washington DC, in the shadow of the National Cathedral. Called Shalem and founded by the Anglican priest, Tilden Edwards, this ecumenical center for spirituality is currently under the direction of Anglican priest, Carole Crumley. Shalem, with Programs in the Contemplative Tradition, was drawn to its faculty Dr. William May, brother of renowned psychologist, Rollo May, as its Senior Fellow for Contemplative Theology & Psychology, as well as Catholic Sister, Rosemary Dougherty, Senior Fellow for Spiritual Guidance.

For a modern Anglican approach to mysticism and spiritual guidance see:
Gatta, J. (1987) Julian of Norwich,The Cloud of Unknowing, Walter Hilton, Three Spiritual Directors for Our Time. Cambridge, MA: Cowley

Those of us who have lived in the Legion are aware that, driven by activism and crammed with devotions, a Legionary’s life is sadly lacking in true contemplation. With so much pressure to produce, and in a constant rush, the soul cannot simply rest. Without contemplation, Spiritual Guidance is reduced to Spiritual Direction: a superior interpreting God’s Will for you leafing through the Rules and Norms, telling you the Movement’s concrete plans for you.

For solid Catholic Contemplation we should not lose sight of our own tradition: Benedictines, Claretians, Franciscans, Jesuits… Why seek authentic works of art, the real thing, at the airport newstand?

Author: Da Man from Cabra West

Dubliner, Legionary of Christ [1961-84], mental health therapist living in the Washington DC are since 1985, bilingual Spanish, 13 years in Mexico, married to a pretty Guatemalan; I am "amateur writer", translator, co founder of REGAIN, INC, www.regainnetwork.org, Legionary of Christ "expert", member of International Cultic Studies Association.

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