The story I have to tell about the Legionaries of Christ perhaps should begin with me and my conversion to the Catholic faith as a young adult over fifty years ago. An only child of good but not particularly religious parents, I spent the early teen years as a member of the Methodist faith of my father. My mother, a French Catholic by birth, was not practicing her faith for reasons probably too complicated for me to discern. In her old age, she returned to the Church with the approval of my father and they both lived out their lives happy and content. I have been comforted in the fact that everyone who knew my parents speaks so well of them and their exemplary lives.
I married a
cradle? Catholic of very orthodox parents and was blessed with four children, all of whom where reared in the faith. There were twelve grandchildren, all of whom I love dearly, but I was especially connected to one. There is no explaining exactly how or why, but this child held me in the highest esteem as I did him. We cherished one another’s company and enjoyed a mutual devotion that was new in my life. He would ask to come visit me and hang out with me on many occasions while none of his siblings seemed to share this interest. We went to museums and restaurants, as well as other shopping ventures, which he totally enjoyed.
Having just graduated from Catholic High School in May, 2003, he was scheduled to enter university in September and had agreed to go with me to France on his Christmas break. I did not know then he was going separately on a retreat to Rome shortly, but a strange thing happened. While riding with me on his last visit, I had an intense feeling that I should tell him something I had not said before – which was that I loved him unconditionally.
He smiled and said,
I don’t know what to say.
Thank you is enough, followed by,
now that does not give you permission to go do something stupid.
Many times since I have felt God must have nudged me to tell him that – that perhaps he will remember it and in some small way help him to cope.
A SUDDEN CHANGE OF PLANS
The Legionaries of Christ and Regnum Christi entered my sphere of reality in June, 2003, when I received a phone call from my son, the father of this child, happily announcing that this sixteen year old grandchild was going to stay for a year in Europe
to do missionary work.
To say that I was speechless is an understatement. Remember that we had made tentative plans to go to Europe together for the upcoming Christmas holidays and he had just weeks before reaffirmed his eagerness to go. I knew immediately that something was terribly wrong, and I blurted out to my son,
He has been brain washed! At the time, I knew no other details. It was then his father told me that he was going to be in the Legionaries of Christ. I soon became aware that this son and his entire family were steeped (â€œburiedâ€� may be a better word) in Regnum Christi.
It is hard to describe my initial feelings. It took days for me to gather my wits. As a convert who took the Church seriously, I was confronted with feelings alien to my beliefs. How could I fault a group which professes just about everything I believe and try to live? Yet, something was wrong – terribly wrong. My entire life was turned upside down. Not only my grandson but his parents and siblings were becoming strangers. I had to do something. I had to save my grandson! I had to save my son and his family! I was soon to learn that I was not seeing the real picture as it exists in the lives of RC/LC.
My first ventures were to the Legionaries of Christ where I found nothing to assuage my fears. My first helpful contact through the web was a lady named Ruth Bertels and, through her, others from whom I have learned a lot – including how to cope. They number too many to list but this one – Giselle Ste Marie – has been my main support through her writings and her personal communications must be acknowledged.
Ultimately, fearful, sad, and angry, I felt betrayed by my son who chose to wait until it was no longer possible to keep this a secret and perhaps avoid the loss of yet another one in the family. My protestations were at first minimized and then ignored.
Having lost their first son to cancer several years earlier, the mother, then the father, and then the rest of the family became engulfed in Regnum Christi with brochures of Maciel strewn about their house.
MY WORST FEARS
My initial reservations were now verified. Efforts made to reach them fell on deaf ears. They knew the Legion was militant – to them, it is good to be militant for Christ. I was informed by my daughter-in-law that she did not want anyone to interfere with
the rearing of her children. My son and his older surviving son concurred, although I am certain with great pain to both.
My son, long the faithful and dutiful Catholic, who looked up to me from adulthood on, one of whom I could only be proud, has become a stranger and such a supporter of Marcial Maciel that I no longer know him.
All the rumors I have heard are true. You are either for Regnum Christi or you are the enemy. Me!! The father revered and loved without question – now the enemy!!
The last time I spoke to my grandson was when he came home after the Candidacy Program and before he left for the Novitiate. The visit was for four days. They would deny it but they did not invite me to see him this last time he would be home. They took it for granted I knew he would be in and assumed I would come. I know better and I also know my daughter-in-law knows better.
I am comforted only in that my grandson knows me well and knows I love him unconditionally. He remembered me telling him on the visit we had over a year ago before all of this happened. He also knows how I feel and, while I am sure he does not agree with me, he respects my right to my feelings. The last night of his last visit home, he called me before bedtime and we spoke briefly. The love seemed to be still there. He knows how I feel about him and how I only want for him what is good. A few last words and a promise of prayers ended the last connection.
This young man, now 17 is loyal, trusting, faithful, and totally Catholic. He is outgoing and would do anything to help anyone. He thrives on personal and close interactions and has many friends – all of whom think he has lost his mind.
I have spent the last fifteen months learning about Regnum Christi and the Legionaries of Christ. I have visited the bishops, authors of books, and even one of the ex-legionaries who is well known.
I could write a book about my experience – how I came to understand what I intuitively knew about this movement. While it has not caused me to lose my faith, it has caused me to reassess the Church and its leaders – including our present Pope. How could he approve of this man? How could he allow him to continue, with his blessings, to do the harm he is doing in the name of the Church?
This is the worse catastrophe I have experienced in my seventy-five years. The only prayer I can muster for Marcial Maciel is that he is called to his heavenly reward with speed and for God to have mercy on his soul.
– – – – – – – –
Another year has passed without change. The family dynamics remain altered. No one talks about the elephant in the room – everyone knows it is there.
I now pray for truth and justice to prevail and for our family to be again as we once were, loving and united.