Prophetic Analysis Of The Legionaries Of Christ By Toronto Archbishop Collins In 2009 – If They Can’t Fix Themselves Then You Go To A Higher Level

Recent news regarding Toronto Archbishop Thomas Collins brought to mind the presentation he gave two years ago regarding the Legionaries of Christ after the double life of the founder had become public.


Last year, Pope Benedict XVI called for an apostolic visitation of Ireland in response to the sexual abuse crisis. The process has begun very recently.
Four top English-speaking visitors are leading the review.

Details were recently reported in the National Catholic Reporter Click Here -Vatican Visitation to Ireland
One of the team involved in the visitation is Archbishop Thomas Collins of Toronto. ReGAIN editors remember the prophetic analysis that Archbishop Collins provided in his comments in March, 2009 and felt that it was worthwhile to share his insightful comments from two years ago.
Following is a summary of Archbishop Collins’ presentation:
When asked about Legion Founder, Fr. Marcial Maciel’s double life Archbishop Collins said there have been real concerns for years about him. He said that he had had extreme reservations about Maciel for other reasons. There seemed to be something wrong there. He said that Cardinal Ratzinger was the main one responsible for rooting this out and getting his officials (of the Church) to deal with these issues before he became Pope to his great credit and for the good of the Church. The Archbishop said that the whole culture seemed to be very strange, very controlled and there were some policy issues about who could hear whose confession and about criticism of the founder and these were very problematic in this group. He said some positive things about the good young priests who were attracted into it and about good Regnum Christi members. But the structure set up by Maciel provided some opportunities to do things. He said as you get in towards the centre there with the founder there were massive problems with him and now things have come out after his death that clearly indicate he had led a double life. Archbishop Collins said he felt sorry for the wonderful people who have been betrayed.

When asked if he knew of any precedent in the history of the Church for a leader who founded a religious order or who was given a charism who led this kind of a sinful life, the Archbishop said he could not think of any. The great founders of orders are often canonized because of the integrity of their lives. He said that God is able to write straight with crooked lines. If someone who is disreputable in his own personal life can tell people to love Jesus and serve the Lord they may respond to it but truth be told there is a lie there in terms of the person’s integrity. He said he would be concerned not just about the problem with the founder but about the structure a person leading a double life could set up that would make it possible to live such a life. That whole thing has to be totally reviewed and cleaned up. He said he would wonder how a person could lead such a double life without anyone within the organization being aware. He said he thought there should be certainly as a minimum a massive reorder (re-organization) of the Legionaries of Christ for the sake of those within the organization and with Regnum Christi who have been betrayed.

When asked what message he might have for disillusioned people still in Regnum Christi and Legion of Christ who are questioning their involvement he said that they might consider leaving and getting a fresh start in an order or in the priesthood somewhere where these real questions do not hang over them. He said he was sure many would consider leaving. He added that they should be proud of the work that they have done. But there is something not just personal in Maciel but this whole thing needs to be looked at and brought into the light.

The interviewer quoted George Weigel (Feb 9 article in First Things) and his discomfort regarding excessive veneration of the founder. He asked if there is too much emphasis on the founder. Archbishop Collins said that this is a major problem. When you get a cult of personality that is over the top. It is not a healthy thing. There is something wrong there. Even in legitimate groups where it turns out the founder is a perfectly good person, the group should tone down the cult of personality. Only Jesus walked on the water. We already have a Messiah.

Many of those founders who were canonized see themselves as humble servants serving the Lord.
He said it is always dangerous in the Church when any leader in the Church is treated with that kind of approach. It is not healthy. It turned out this man was a fraud. We should honor great people but we need limits. We should be servants of Jesus (and not of any human person). These people must be transparent.
When asked about the structural problems he had referred to and what options he sees, the Archbishop said he was not sure but off the top of his head there are several options he can see.

  1. Send in somebody to take over the order to the point of appointing a Papal representative to go in and take over the order and clean it up.
  1. Another possibility would be to shut it down and start anew. He said that has been suggested.

He added that sometimes in such cases as this it is good to have the Pope and the Holy See on board. Sometimes a group may be able to fix itself and that is always the first step. You should always start with the local level first. But if they can’t fix themselves then you go to a higher level. Some way of doing that needs to be done. He said that he did not know what is being planned.

ReGAIN Comment:

Archbishop Collins demonstrated both wisdom and knowledge in his comments in 2009. He showed good understanding of the problematic structure that was set up by a founder who Archbishop Collins had been aware of real concerns for years about him and he referred to a lie in the person’s integrity.

The Archbishop went on to say that you should always provide an opportunity for a group to fix itself first as a first step?.

This appears to be exactly what Cardinal DePaolis has been doing as many outsiders and loved ones of those directly affected eagerly (and sometimes impatiently) await a big hammer to come down. For those who think that Rome is acting too slowly, the above message provides hope that the big hammer is available if needed but not to be used as the first step in the overhaul process. The Legion leaders are most definitely being given a lot of opportunity to acknowledge what is wrong with the structure that was established and developed by Fr. Marcial Maciel and to make whatever corrections they feel are appropriate.

To date, apart from blaming things on the founder the Legion hierarchy does not seem to have demonstrated a good understanding of the structural issues, some of which were clearly identified by Archbishop Collins in his statements. Instead the Legion has shown merely a willingness to accept whatever measures the Vatican imposes on them, like a child forcing down some horrible tasting medicine.

A key issue in reformation of the religious order and movement established by Fr. Maciel is that there is no clear unique charism along with saintly example at the root to return to. Not only does the Legion have to recognize and correct their own defects; they must somehow miraculously come up with a purpose for being. To make matter worse, some of the Legionary priests who had good leadership qualities and who had maintained some measure of independent thinking ability have seen the writing on the wall and have left.

We can’t help but wonder what the higher level? that Archbishop Collins referred to will be in this case, because so far the Legion is not doing an effective job of fixing itself.

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