Anonymous – Bewildered Part II Of Bewitched, Bewildered And Bothered

Fr. Maciel in my Training
By Naive and Sentimental Catholic Boy, an Original Legion of Christ Co-founder from Ireland


On the evening of that day they overtook the Samanas and requested their company and allegiance. They were accepted.

Siddhartha gave his clothes to a poor Brahmin on the road and only retained his loincloth and earth-colored unstitched cloak. He only ate once a day and never cooked food. He fasted fourteen days. He fasted twenty-eight days. The flesh disappeared from his legs and cheeks. Strange dreams were reflected in his anlarged eyes. The nails grew long on his thing fingers and a dry, bristly beard appeared on his chin. His glance became icy when he encountered women; his lips curled with contempt when he passed through a town of well-dressed people. He saw businessmen trading, princes going to hunt, mourners weeping over their dead, prostitutes offering themselves, doctors attending the sick, priests deciding the day for sowing, lovers making love, mothers soothing their children – and all were not worth a passing glance, everything lied, stank of lies; they were illusions of sense, happiness and beauty. All were doomed to decay. The world tasted bitter. Life was pain.

Siddhartha had one single goal -to become empty, to become empty of thirst, desire, dreams, pleasure and sorrow -to let the Self die. No longer to be Self, to the experience the peace of an emptied heart, to experience pure thought -that was his goal. When all the Self was conquered and dead, when all passions and desires were silent, then the last must awaken, the innermost of Being that is no longer Self – the great secret!

[Hermann Hess, SIDDHARTHA, Picador, 1973, pages 11-12]


I had little idea of the emotions that swept over me as I took the habit: homesickness, a feeling of being trapped, a huge commitment bearing down on me like a Mack truck, overwhelmed by the rapid pace of events, making a choice that would bind me forever?… I remember Nuestro Padre joking later about the fact -a story he made up for his own weird reasons: to keep us off balance or lower our defenses? – that we first Irish were thinking of shanghaiing a boat in San Sebastian and escaping back to Ireland. I, for one, lacked that kind of initiative and entrepreneurship, but the clever story seemed to distract attention from or diffuse the real concerns. Personally, I felt dazed like a deer in the headlights. During the week-long retreat before taking the habit on September 16, Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, I went to confession to one of the few Padres who, thank God, spoke English.I feel terrible. I don?t know what?s come over me. My mind is blurred . My faith is confused. I can?t feel or see God. I am doubting everything, including the existence of God…! His advice was clear, condescending and placating. Don?t worry. That is a temptation from the devil. It will soon go away. Carry on, take the habit….Here I was -thanks to Father James? meditations- feeling like Peter on the Sea of Galilee. The Lord was telling me Cast your nets for the catch, although I couldn?t see a fish around. I had to summon up some heroic faith from the depths of my doubt: In your name I will cast the nets. Thus began what I believed –supported by a series of spiritual directors– were my Doubts of Faith, my Dark Night of the Soul.

I took the habit with a sense of impending doom and felt none of the elation I know in retrospect I should have felt. My crisis of faith did not go away despite bringing it to my Spiritual Director, Father Rafael Arume? who was also, and concurrently, house Superior and Novice Master. Who ever said that following Christ was going to be easy? Every evening he delivered the Explanation of Rules, explaining how, for a good Legionary, there was no levity of matter and that all rules and norms, no matter how small, should be followed with the same exacting fidelity as the fulfillment of the Will of God. Key to the Legion Spirit & Mystique was that a member bare his soul to his spiritual director with absolute trust and that he not disclose his personal feelings or problems to anyone else. It became second nature for us not to mention personal issues at all to anyone, even to our relatives in our monthly letters home. Soon after starting my novitiate the Assistant Novice Master, Fr. Jorge Cortez, then recently ordained, told me not to sign my letters to my mother with my first name, as in simply Paul but to sign Brother Paul Lennon, n.L.C, meaning novice of the Legion of Christ. All incoming and outgoing mail, even to relatives- had to be monitored and reviewed. The Legion was our new home, our new family, replacing carnal bonds with spiritual. In our conversations, usually in threes around the gardens, we never spoke of our families, our siblings, our previous life and experiences, our likes and dislikes, our opinions, our wishes, desires or difficulties with those who lived with us on a daily basis. Criticism or complaints were strictly taboo. Difficulties or problems were a sign of weakness that we could never disclose because it might scandalize another brother and jeopardize his vocation.

Because we were co-founders we had the opportunity of sending to and receiving correspondence from Father Maciel without inspection by anybody as often was we wished. He was not only our Superior General but also Our Spiritual Director, presented to us as a holy man, with great wisdom and skill in directing souls. It was recommended that all Legionaries write to Our Founder on a consistent basis, totally opening our souls to him. Thus we could have Spiritual Direction by Mail with Our Superior General and Founder. I began that practice soon afterwards, writing to him at least once a month, in Spanish, and receiving occasional replies, which I considered a personal and confidential treasure, one of the few possessions I could keep. It was a sign of being a privileged Legionary to have received letters from the Founder. As Superior General he was also the Supreme Authority over each and every Legionary. In difficulties with our immediate superiors or when we needed privileges or exceptions to the Rule we could appeal to his judgment and intercession. Just like a Roman Citizen of yore I could appeal to my personal Caesar.

The novice master gave me the job of assisting the infirmarian, Jesus Martinez Penilla, with the sick Brothers. I dedicated myself unselfishly to that mission from then on in my formative years, and during my year of novitiate this helped block to some extent the obsessive doubts that plagued me: What if all this was not true, if there were no God, no Jesus, no Eucharist…. What am I doing on my knees, going through the motions? My spiritual director?s advice was a kind of Spiritual Sublimation: offer it up to the Sacred Heart, pray harder?, forget yourself and your rationalism?, be simple, deny yourself, and be more generous. On a practical level, I was kept busy taking care of the medical needs of my co-novices, many of whom were coming down with all kinds of illnesses, including hepatitis and meningitis.

Reverie. ?Dear A.J.:
i received the videotapes you sent on Tuesday and started watching them last night [4/4/02], beginning with the first video, the rough version of the testimonies of three brave ex-Legionaries. I was able to see on the screen the face of Jose Barba whom I haven?t seen for many years, and there he was, full of dignity, ruefully talking about his abuse. I was saddened and angry at Father Maciel by Jose?s story. I, who love to sleep late, did not sleep well. I got up a six, a record for me. As I continue with the second tape, the Mexican Canal 40 report, i continue to understand the nature of and grasp the reality and seriousness of this abuse. On hearing/watching Alejandro Espinoza talking about the recruitment of pretty boys I had a weird sense of my own intuition. I seem to have stumbled onto the realization of Maciel being an ephebophile a few days ago when I shared my reflections with the group.

Memories and names from my own experience come to my mind. When I arrived in Salamanca in September 1961, I do remember seeing an Arturo Jurado. He belonged to another community, already a Philosophy student in apostolic practices? From what I remember, although I could not talk to him, he did seem to be a particularly gentle and quiet individual. I do not remember crashing into him during one of our friendlyintercommunity soccer matches.

At that time I was suffering from my first big crisis of faith, probably a mixture of homesickness and a sense of dread, as if I were getting into something i could not back out of. Nevertheless my will -or my fear of God or of failure-spurred me on and I never said i wanted to go home and out of there. Father Jose Maria Sanchez, one of the few legionaries who spoke English, had approached me one day as I was working in the garden and kind of shamed me into staying. The other 7 Irish guys who had traveled with me: Pearse Allen, Maurice Oliver Mc Gowan, Declan French, Francis Coleman, Michael Caheny, Declan Murphy and Brian Farrell started getting sick. For some reason -maybe to get my mind off my own troubles- I was appointed enfermero, infirmarian or male nurse to the novices community by Novice Master, Spiritual Director and Rector, Fr. Rafael Arumi. I was trained by Jesus Martinez Penilla, whom we called Father Penilla, who was probably another Philosophy student on and appointed as Prefect of Juniors [Classical Studies] . I never had any problems with him. I took care of the sick novices and spent a lot of time nursing my Irish confreres as they began to come down like flies -maybe from their own sense of homesickness and from the vigors and austerity of the novitiate during the harsh Castile winter.

I was never Nuestro Padre?s nurse. He had his own secretary/valet/nurse, Guillermo Adame, and later others as I went through my Legion training: Valente Velazquez, Raul De Anda… In retrospect I thank God for not having that privilege. He did want to be ourfather and loved to be considered such by the brothers, to be addressed with terms of endearment. I believe that personally I was a bit impervious to that. I had a very good and loving relationship with my own blue collar, sports-loving, and kind father, and I could notbetray that relationship by fawning on someone else, even if he were the Founder. I remember feeling some resentment towards a fellow Novice for using the even more endearing term of ‘Mon Pere’ when addressing the Founder. This smacked of too much ‘sucking up’ for me. ”

[Back to narrative]. Because our group was special, Nuestro Padre was to grant us the privilege of taking our vows after only one year Novitiate. Again I went through the consultation process with my spiritual director and hours and hours of forcing myself topray reaching out to the invisible, intangible and absent God. As part of my preparation for profession I was able to make a General Confession to Father Maciel. There he heard the short list of peccadilloes of a very sheltered and innocent adolescence. As I kissed the end of his stole I could understand his advice in Spanish: Go forward for Christ!Adelante por Cristo! And I took it. Blindly. My superior was Christ?s representative on earth. If I couldn?t see, he would see for me. Trusting absolutely and blindly in him I would take my vows, the Three Evangelical Counsels and the Fourth or Private Vows. The latter profession took place in the sacristy, privately, in the presence of our Founder and Superior General, Nuestro Padre. There he gave us our crucifixes, brought from Rome. That would be our only possession. True to that promise, I kept mine to this very day. I never really had a problem with Jesus. As a matter of fact, I have always been fascinated by Him.

Exciting things were happening in the Church at large: POPE JOHN XXIII, a pope that neither Nuestro Padre nor the Legion could ever truly understand, had just summoned the Ecumenical Council. Unwittingly, His Holiness was also doing some of us a great favor. We would soon be leaving the extreme climate of Salamanca, Spain and traveling to Rome to take care of a group of Mexican bishops who were staying at our college. The clouds in my head would lift momentarily while in Rome, later to perch there again when I returned to Salamanca at the end of the first session of Vatican II, in the fall of 1962.

A year later, and still in my Dark Night of the Soul, I returned to Rome to began my studies of Scholastic Philosophy at the Gregorian University. Abandoning the enclosed atmosphere of Novitiate and Juniorate to attend public college seemed to dispel some of the fog in my head. But only to a certain degree. What better than Philosophical Theology to get you doubting about the existence of God as you studied the likes of Sartre, Nietzsche and Camus? Once more I approached my spiritual director, religious superior and Seminary Rector, Father Alfredo Torres, with my doubts of faith. His attempts at helping me were embarrassingly clumsy and dumb and I decided not to bring that painful subject up again.

It never crossed my mind nor was it ever suggested to me that I could consult with someone outside my assigned guides. Not even with another Legionary priest. If on paper recourse to another confessor or spiritual director was feasible it was not part of my practical options; much less to consult with someone outside the Legion. They would never understand our charism. Psychological or pastoral counseling were not offered and I had never heard of them at that time. My resources were clearly defined: spiritual director – in this case he was also the rector- and Father Maciel via snail mail.

Fortunately, because I needed to keep in touch with my English I was able to do somepersonal reading. I became an avid reader of C.S. Lewis and his humanistic apologetics. These personal readings, beyond the Gospels and the Letters of Nuestro Padre, and the assigned readings, would become a life source for me during the remainder of my Legion life. During my seminary training I would explicitly get permission to read each individual book, if not from the Rector, from the Prefect of Studies. However, I must be thankful for the kindness of the Prefect of Studies who supplied me with books for me to review in both English and Spanish. I did get my teeth into Graham Greene, the Catholic author who describes the struggle of good and evil in every soul. What better than to read his ‘The Power and the Glory’ as a preparation for Mexican missionary life.


The openness of our Roman Seminary life was still controlled. We were not allowed to talk to other seminarians without permission from our superiors. It was very awkward to arrive at the doors of the university in our Mercedes bus and descend en masse punctually every morning and depart en masse at the end of classes. It was embarrassing not to be able to speak and chat with other seminarians in general. Even so, at the university we were exposed to more ideas than at home. I was always attracted to authors whom I considered original or unconventional. There was much effervescence in theological circles. The Legion was very conservative and thus I never read any of the progressive theologians of the day, such as Rahner or Schillebeeckx. Yves Conger, the Dominican, and the young Joseph Ratzinger were not looked on favorably. I would sometimes dare to question or ask questions that in the Legion you are not supposed to ask.

One day Nuestro Padre was surrounded by a large group of students in the college foyer and he began to go into a tirade regarding certain theologians who were destroying the Catholic Church. He mentioned the Jesuit Teilhard de Chardin, then a real bone of contention. Suddenly I heard myself asking and Nuestro Padre, what is wrong with Teilhard de Chardin? I had never read this writer but I was wondering why Father Maciel would condemn him without knowing much about him or while the jury was still out. The reaction was a swift and harsh threat: Well, Brother Paul, if you want to read Teilhard de Chardin you can go somewhere else! The door is wide open! Out you go! We cannot allow our students to foster these ideas in the Legion! I wanted the ground to swallow me. What had possessed this quiet, timid religious to ask such a question? Needless to say, I was so scared and ashamed I did not follow his advice. Besides, for several years I had never been out of the seminary or fended or myself. I would not know what to do or where to go even if the doors were wide open! The insightful reader might suspect that this was the beginning of my intellectual rebellion and the beginning of my clandestine reading of Teilhard de Chardin. Rebellion? Who knows? But reading, no. I was not all that interested in TdC when I asked the question and I was not fired up to read his writings later on. I may have perused ‘Le Milieu Divin’. In general, I preferred writers from the French school of spirituality and literature favored by Giovanni Battista Montini, then Pope Paul VI. Bernanos was in vogue among us Legionaries. I was stunned by the put down but I blamed myself for my audacity. I still had reverence and faith in the Founder, and Nuestro Padre continued being my spiritual director through the mail, as he had been since the beginning and would be almost to the end.

During the summer before my fourth year of theological studies, 1969-70, I found my superiors were promoting me to the deaconate. Nuestro Padre was to spend some time with us in Monticchio, Naples, so we could talk with him regarding this big step which carried with it the solemn vow of celibacy. With my long history of doubts of faith, my lack of unquestioning enthusiasm for the Legion and its apostolates – the strange Regnum Christ lay movement had just appeared on the horizon-, plus the occasional run in with Father Maciel, I was not sure. With courageous trepidation – because I think an element of fear had always been present in our relationship- I honestly laid out my difficulties to him. To my relief his manner was very paternal and accepting and he assured me, quickly laying my worries to rest. You may have had your problems, but that is a separate issue. No, Brother Paul, you have never been a problem to the Legion or to me. Do not be afraid to embrace the deaconate. God will give you the Grace to fulfill your commitments. Trust in the Lord and step forward. By this time I, Peter of Galilee, had learned my script. In your name I will cast the nets! I knew that my only problem was my lack of generosity, lack of simple faith, my rationalism, stubbornness, my critical mind that analyzed the Legion and its doctrine in an excessively human fashion, my lack of supernatural spiritand my selfishness. The solution to all these limitations was the virtue that I had espoused since my novitiate: Self-denial, la abnegacion. With some foreboding, in a kind of a cloud of confusion, I was ordained deacon during my 26th summer at the Parish Church of Don Miccio, in Monticchio, Naples, thus paving the way to receive the jewel in the crown: priestly ordination and the wonderful supernatural powers that came with it. From the above description the reader with gather that Solemn Vow of Celibacy involved in ordination to the priesthood did not appear as a major obstacle.


In the light of controversies regarding sexual scandals in the Legion, which I learned about years after I left, I add the following considerations.

During my 8 year training to be a Legionary, I was never aware of any sexual improprieties of any kind in the order; nor indeed during the remaining 15 years in the Legion. I was never once approached by a confrere or superior in a sexually inappropriate way. As a matter of fact, I was so sexually naive or ignorant, or pure or repressed, that the whole sexual thing mostly went over my head. I would not have known whether I was being ‘approached’ or not.

I knew I was heterosexual –in my then-mind, was there any other kind? — since early puberty, and my later first tennis club crush on D.T at the ripe old age of 16. During my training years, before taking my vow of celibacy for the deaconate, I never met an attractive woman. It seems reasonable to conclude that my commitment to celibacy was like everything else in the Legion formation, an unprocessed foregone conclusion. I admit I felt fleeting attraction for a Venezuelan benefactress, N.M., who was allowed to flit around the community in Rome some time during my Theology studies, with her rather provocative daughter. She must have been contributing in no uncertain terms to theeconomy of the Legion for Fr. Maciel to allow that. Although it was kind of strange to have a woman in the community, all Legionaries knew that when The Founder was around, exceptions could be made to regular observanceof the rules. Anyway, my infatuation with La Senora must have lasted about 20 seconds, that is, while we were together in the elevator between floors. I may have been slightly troubled about it at the time. Looking back, it just proves that I had not been totally neutered by the system.

In fact, most Legionaries will attest that the atmosphere surrounding us regarding sexuality and chastity was eerily antiseptic, like that smell you get – or used to- when entering a hospital. There was a common belief that the Legion had been protected from impurity by a special gift from the Blessed Virgin Mary. So that purity was a given, and impure thoughts, feelings or actions were unusual, out of place, and unexpected in the Legion. I received no explanation of the physiology of sexes, drives, attraction, falling in love and love-making. Who would talk about something as repulsive and impure as that? Novice Instructor, Rector, Superior and Spiritual Director Rafael Arumí, or obsessive compulsive Assistant Superior and Spiritual Director Octavio Acevedo, not-too-bright Rector, Superior and Spiritual Director Alfredo Torres, or dog-lover and gardener par excellence, Rector, Superior and Spiritual Director Juan Manuel Duenas-Rojas? Where would you find a manual, a booklet or even some pictures? All the remotely sensual illustrations in the Encyclopedia of Art had been papered over. I?m sure some creative souls did their own research – but not me. I had enough with my constant doubts of Faith. Well, there might be the occasional wet dream. That would be part of confession and spiritual direction. I believe I received the recommendation: Be more careful, and try not to let that happen again.

The ordination itself came in a blur of activities: preparations, rehearsals, Nuestro Padre?s XXV Anniversary of priestly ordination, on November 26, 1969, at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe: being one of Fr. Maciel’s 12 Legionary Apostles flanking him around the altar, ordained by Cardinal Antoniutti, surrounded by many Legionary priests, deacons, seminarians; the visit of our relatives, my mother?s joy and pride, my sisters? visit, my first Mass in the Catacombs… I could now celebrate the Mass and forgive sins: great privilege and grave responsibility.


As a hardstick and guideline for human rights of people involved with the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi and all their auxiliary schools and programs, we can borrow from Human Services Agencies who must present all persons seeking their services with a Notice of Clients’ Rights and Appeals Process which they are to acknowledge receiving and sign.

Notice of Clients’ Rights and Appeals Process


– to be treated with dignity and respect in the least restrictive setting.

– to receive services regardles of race, national origin, sex, age, handicap, affiliation, sexual orientation, or ability to pay

-to participate in the development of your treatment plan

-to privacy

-to confidential handling of your records

-to be protected from harm and abuse

-to receive services in a safe and healthy environment

-to ask questions and get help with your rights

-to have your complaints resolved

-to all legal rights

-to receive a copy of the Human Rights Policy of X Co.

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,, Legionary of Christ "expert", member of International Cultic Studies Association.

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