New Oxford Review Puts Legion of Christ in Context
The following Letter to the Editor appeared in the December 2005 edition of The New Oxford Review. click here for link The letter appears below in italics and the response of the New Oxford Review follows in bold.
Fr. Maciel: A Laborer in the Vineyard
With regard to your protracted criticisms of the Legionaries of Christ, I would like to make a request: Move on. Your criticisms began when the National Catholic Register decided not to run the NOR’s ads. You have been harboring resentment ever since.
However, rejection by a magazine or newspaper does not have to lead to resentment. I myself have had an article rejected by the NOR. To be sure, it is never pleasant to receive a rejection letter. But it wasn’t the end of the world. I looked around for another magazine.
Resentment can be a small thing. But disrespect for the reputation of a particular person is a more serious matter. Certain writings in the NOR over the past year have involved personal criticisms of the founder of the Legionaries (Fr. Marcial Maciel) that border on rash judgment or even detraction. According to the Catechism (#2477), one is
guilty of rash judgment if even tacitly he assumes as true without sufficient foundation the moral fault of a neighbor. And one is guilty of detraction when
without objectively valid reason, one discloses another’s faults and failings to persons who did not know them.
Is the NOR descending to the level of certain media whose modus operandi seems to be one of a constant drumbeat of criticisms of their enemies? Or will the NOR aspire to build up some members of the Church to create a lasting legacy?
I have recently seen a piece of Fr. Maciel’s legacy to the Church: I refer to the consecrated members of the Regnum Christi movement. At a Mass I attended in their house of formation in Greenville, R.I., more than one hundred women were gathered in the chapel. In the words of a vocation prayer, these women
leave everything in order to follow You (Jesus) alone, the Supreme Good, in perfect charity. They give their freedom out of love for You, they offer up the best of their affection and love to You….
This community of lay women serves the Church by spreading out across the country (and the world) to help girls and women grow in the spiritual life. They do this by offering practical advice about prayer and spiritual reading on a one-to-one level, and by putting on days and evenings of recollection in places where a local mother has organized a group.
Talk about Vatican II and the vocation of the laity! These women are doing precisely what Vatican II called lay people to do: bring Christ to the world. And they were founded by Fr. Maciel in the part of the vineyard where he was called to work.
There is plenty of work for the Church to do. I hope that the NOR will find its niche, where it also can develop a legacy that will build up a part of the Church rather than tear down some of its members who are laboring in the harvest.
Dermott J. Mullan
THE EDITOR REPLIES:
The Register banned our trademark ads in January 1997. Our
protracted criticisms of the Legionaries began in May 2005. To keep silent about
resentment for over eight years is pretty hard to do. You accuse the NOR of resentment, a
moral fault. That is precisely rash judgment, for you have no way of knowing the soul of the NOR. When the Register (controlled by the Legionaries) refused to run our ads, we did not become resentful; we became suspicious. Why? Because our ads spoke the truth about the state of the Church. When our ads were first rejected, we were sent the Register’s official
Ad Acceptance Policy, saying advertisers are not allowed to say
anything that directly or indirectly questions, creates doubt, degrades or attacks Church officials…(or) anything that is…controversial…. Here’s where we ran into trouble. The first ad rejected by the Register questioned Cardinal Bernardin’s Common Ground Project, which was intended to bring dissenters and the orthodox into dialogue. Significantly, three cardinals attacked Bernardin’s Project. Shame on those cardinals for casting doubt on a
Church official,Cardinal Bernardin. Another ad rejected was titled
Why Liberal Catholicism Is Suicidal,which criticized liberal priests (also
Church officials). And so it went.
The Legionaries have reputations for being preoccupied with money and power, and have frequently been called Machiavellian. We believe our ads were rejected because the Legionaries and the Register want to curry favor with bishops and priests, so as to gain power in the Church. And we’re not the only ones who believe that (we could name names, but these people don’t want their ads banned by the Register).
Like you, Mr. Mullan, we had assumed that the Legionaries were an outstanding order in the Church. But when we started to investigate the Legionaries, we were horrified.
You speak of our
personal criticisms of Maciel. But what are they? You don’t say. They are multiple charges of pederasty committed by Maciel on his seminarians, among other things.
Not surprisingly, the Register has downplayed the clerical sex scandals. The Register tried to trash Michael S. Rose’s book Goodbye, Good Men, on the homosexual scandals in the seminaries. The Register even refused to advertise Goodbye, Good Men. When Deal Hudson – who defended Maciel against charges of pederasty – was accused of adultery, the Register claimed it was
detraction. The charge against Hudson was absolutely true, and young women needed to know. And the Legionaries have branded the sexual predation charges against Maciel as
detraction. Not reassuring!
The Legionaries remind us of the Communist Party, which fought bravely for the rights of labor and was in the forefront of the civil rights movement. Does that get the Party off the hook? Likewise, the Legionaries have done many good things. Does that get the Legionaries off the hook?
The Communist Party has a principle called democratic centralism, which means that when the higher-ups in the Party make a decision about anything, no one can criticize it. The Legionaries, in addition to the traditional three vows, have a fourth vow: never to speak ill of Maciel and the Legion, never to criticize one’s superiors, and to inform on those who do. Right out of the Communist Party’s playbook. As for the vow of poverty, the Legionaries, still a small order, are one of the richest organizations in the Church, and Maciel is known for his opulent lifestyle, just like many Communist dictators. Maciel is also known for building up a cult of personality around himself, just like many Communist dictators. Chairman Mao had strict rules for sexual purity for his Communist cadres, but Mao had harems of lovely Chinese girls wherever he went – or is this too
detraction. As our Lord said, there will be false messiahs who will perform deeds so great as to deceive the elect (to paraphrase Mt. 24:24).
Moreover, the Legionaries and Regnum Christi have been said to have broken up families and ruined people’s lives. They have been accused of deceptive tactics and mind-control. That’s why the Legionaries and Regnum Christi are often referred to as cults.
You hope the NOR will find its niche. We already have: speaking truth to power and bringing things out into the light of day. We do realize that certain delicate souls, as T.S. Eliot said, can’t handle too much reality. If these people want to live in dreamland, there’s nothing we can do about it.
You ask us to build up the Church rather than tear down some of her members. As the Book of Ecclesiastes says:
There is an appointed time for everything…. A time to tear down and a time to build (3:1,3). The Church is probably experiencing the worst sex scandals in her history, and you want us to cover it up. Sorry, but we don’t care to be enablers. As Jesus said, only
a fool builds
his house on sand (Mt. 7:26).
At this time, the Holy See’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is investigating the numerous charges of pederasty against Maciel. Is the Holy See involved in rash judgment and detraction? The Legionaries would likely say so. What say you?