Anonymous – Bothered, Part III Of Bewitched, Bewildered, Bothered, …

By Naive and Sentimental Catholic Boy, an Original Legion of Christ Co-founder from Ireland


On the same day, Siddhartha informed the eldest Samana of his decision to leave him. He told the old man with the politeness and modesty fitting to young men and students. But the old man was angry that both young men wished to leave him and he raised his voice and scolded strongly.
Govinda was taken aback, but Siddhartha put his lips to Govinda’s ear and whispered: ‘Now I will show the old man that I have learned something from him.’
On the way, Govinda said: ‘Siddhartha, you have learned more from the Samanas than I was aware. It is difficult, very difficult to hypnotize an old Samana. In truth, if you had stayed there, you would have soon learned how to walk on water.’
‘I have no desire to walk on water,’ said Siddhartha. ‘Let the old Samanas satisfy themselves with such arts.’
[op cit pp 19-20]



Father Paul remained in Rome to finish his fourth year of theological studies and receive his STL degree. But there were no cap and gown for Legionaries. Summer vacations were spent with confreres in Salamanca: spiritual exercises – month-long? – To get ready for his new life as a priest. Then came a pleasant surprise: he was informed he had been chosen as a member of a select group that would travel to New Haven, CT, to do an MA in Psychology and Education at Yale. While accepting this honor and order, a personal, simultaneously worldly and spiritual desire, came to mind. He had one request: to be allowed to travel to his home country to visit with relatives who had not been able to be in Rome for that first Mass His Community & House Superior plus Spiritual Director, Fr. Juan Manuel Duenas Rojas, expressed hesitation. This request would require special permission from Nuestro Padre. In reality Paul did not have a choice regarding arrangements for the trip because for the past nine years he had never had any money, had never bought anything, nor made travel arrangement, but had always depended on the bursar for all material and practical needs. When he got back Father Rector finally told Paul that he could spend 20 hours in Ireland on his way to the USA. The brevity of the visit was hard to digest but Legionaries don?t complain. However, Paul could not avoid brooding [another one of his vices, la cavilacion]. Strictly speaking, Fr. Duenas was right, Paul did not qualify for a visit to his family according to Legion rules:

Rule 300.4 Priests and religious will be able to visit their parents for three days when they are transferred from one country to another, if the parents live in the same country or in the country to which they are transferred.

Paul was being transferred from Spain to USA; his parents did not live in either of these countries. Fr Duenas was ‘within his right’ in denying this permission, despite the positive factors in his subject’s favor: he was Irish born, newly ordained, had not shared this great event with his siblings or extended family, and had not celebrated Mass in his home parish or country.

Soon enough, he found himself between another rock and a hard place. Arriving in Connecticut that August he discovered another white lie. He learned that the university the LC group was actually going to attend was not prestigious Yale University but Southern Connecticut State College where the Legion had befriended the Dean of Students, Dr. Thomas Vitelli. The courses he would take would be chosen by his community superior and rector rather than by himself. He preferred psychology; his superiors chose administration courses for him. In his budding crisis he bared his soul and wrote to his absent Spiritual Director, Nuestro Padre Maciel. He expressed some of his heartaches, including how he didn?t like the way Father Rector had handled the visit home and how he was struggling with the course selection. Finally, he felt obliged in conscience to confess that his old doubts of faith were returning with a vengeance. This was about September, 1970. In October or November Nuestro Padre wrote to say he was very concerned about the newly ordained priest losing his Catholic Faith and that in order to save it at all costs he must abandon his MA studies and go to the Missions to learn the simple faith of peasants. He would let Monsignor Bernal know about the arrival for him to prepare a place. To await further orders. Trying to engage his immediate superior?s understanding and intercession was like squeezing water from a stone. Father Octavio Acevedo Marin was as impassive as a sphinx: there was nothing he could do until Nuestro Padre spoke again. Christmas came and went, by which time the Crisis of Faith was less painful and Paul began enjoying the course of studies and contact with the excellent teachers and friendly masters students. The English speaking Legionaries were making special efforts to help their Mexican confreres do their papers and get their credits.
The truth Paul was not aware of: Leaving MA studies was a punishment for criticizing a superior in Spiritual Direction


Having accumulated 24 of the 30 credits necessary for his degree, the order came from Nuestro Padre for Paul to go to the Missions. He would not graduate with his companions from SCSC, even though he had been instrumental in helping some of them do their papers. He had a vague idea that the Legion had just taken over the Quintana Roo Mission from the Maryknoll Fathers by request of Pope Paul VI. Though after nine years in the Legion, he was also conscious that the Legion?s true, specific, apostolate was in education and training leaders, not the Missions. This new old order, which had been stayed for several months, caught him off guard. Mind and heart were already set on the MA and the prospect of working in one of the Legion?s high schools, among the elite, engaged in the Legion?s specific apostolate In a tight spot and not wanting to disobey, he then bargained with community superiors Acevedo and Ramiro Fernandez to at least allow him finish the MA in Education. No amount of humble asking or even cajoling could move any superiors to delay transfer for three months. No! Nuestro Padre had spoken and it had to be Prompt Obedience With sadness but without conscious rebellion he obeyed. The holy oils still fresh on his hands may have helped. And he was young and flexible enough to handle another twist of destiny: from naive Missionary [popular parish ministry] to Legionary [not parish ministry but teaching and forming leaders, using the Media] back to Missionary [sacramental ministry, teaching people with a 3rd grade education]. Assigned as assistant pastor in the small town of Bacalar, he lived in the parish house with another Legionary and performed priestly duties, including traveling by jeep to the Mayan speaking villages, and encouraging the Maya speaking sisters, Madres de la Luz. Grace of state had to be invoked when hearing confessions in Maya, where he would pick up the occasional Spanish word cussed out my sister, hit my brother, didn?t feed the pig or whatever. With true devotion, trying to explain and illustrate the rites, he painstakingly performed baptisms and celebrated the Eucharist. Later, in the capital city of Chetumal, pop. 30.000, to a more sophisticated public, he launched a Catholic radio program and organized training for religion teachers. Following the mind of his superiors, and as a way of overcoming his doubts he worked about 16 hours a day for four years. Contact with good decent people and involvement in a series of very concrete activities may have eased the pain eating Paul, assuaged it, or put it on hold. But here, at least, with these good natured people, he could love and be loved.


Because of Paul?s success in Religious Education, Father Maciel chose him to set up a Pontifical Catechetical Center in Mexico City, the School of Faith [1976], with the help of an American ex-Legionary, P.K. The following years marked the pinnacle of his Legionary glory, and also the start of the unraveling of his allegiance to Father Maciel and the Legion. The School of Faith, as originally presented by Father Maciel and as implemented by him, had a Church-wide dimension. It was meant to train religious instructors for parishes and dioceses, which, from Paul?s point of view, involved collaboration with the Religious Education Centers of the neighboring dioceses. It was also a school to catechize many parents whose children attended Legion schools. Because of the quality of the program and instructors, The School of Faith soon had Regnum Christi [the Legion’s Lay Movement] members from the young women and men?s sections eagerly coming to classes. The School of Faith was co-ed and so it was a place where these men and women could mingle.

Paul heard rumblings in the distance that the School of Faith was to be used as an open recruitment medium for the RC [medio abierto de captacion]. To him this appeared to be a narrowing of its initial goal, its ecclesial [Church] dimension and a twisting of its mission. He expressed his misgivings to those above but the complaints fell on deaf ears. Once more he felt uncomfortable with the direction of events and began unconsciously- wanting to take some control of the situation. By 1980, he was about 37 Paul began feeling better about himself, perhaps due to his success as the founder, creator, and director of the School of Faith, an apostolate that was very successful and had a bright future, and beginning to expand to the provinces. From a Legion standpoint he was losing humility, docility, spirit of faith, and integration Or perhaps he had never adjusted properly to the introduction of the Regnum Christi Movement, which was not on the horizon for many years after joining the Legion. Now, it was supposedly more important than the Legion. Paul?s generation had seen the Movement evolve from vague ideas to a reality, and knew how important it had become for Father Maciel. But, according to his values that should not allow it to be placed above local dioceses and parishes.

Around this time Father Maciel sent a fellow Legionary from Rome to replace Paul overnight at the School of Faith without notice. Just like that. It was a rather apologetic Fr. Peter Cronin who came awkwardly into the office on Sierra Vertientes: I?m taking over the School of Faith. Could you tell me how to run it as quickly as you can…? Paul was being told to take a break. The reason given was that he was urgently needed in Cozumel, Quintana Roo – tourist but also mission land! – to accompany Cardinal Pironio, who was visiting. He was Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes and a friend of the Legion. [He was actually instrumental in securing Pontifical Approval for the LC Constitutions]. Arriving in downtown Cozumel, someone else was taking care of that particular assignment. The local Legionary superior, Fr. Javier Orozco, was kind but didn?t need him.
Truth: the story about being needed in Cozumel was a ruse to get him away from the School of Faith. After a couple of weeks rest in Cozumel the acting Territorial Director for America, Father Carlos Zancajo, had Paul back at the helm of the School of Faith. Fr. Cronin was dispatched to Monterrey, Mexico.

Paul had the questionable privilege of being one of the few Legion members who ever dared question Fr. Maciel?s judgment or opinion in public. This happened at community gatherings or retreats when he, Nuestro Padre, would instruct his disciples. Whenever he dared to ask uncomfortable questions, Fr. Maciel would humiliate him in front of the community: I know where you are coming from, he would begin, implying that Paul was intentionally sabotaging the talk, and calling him a rationalist who lacked faithPaul can reminisce, now with amusement, about certain escapades during Nuestro Padre?s Conferences at the Interamerican Multicultural Center, Tlalpan, Mexico City in the 80s. Some kind of death wish must have impelled him to speak up and ask awkward questions. More mature Spanish Fathers, such as G. L. and Juan Manuel Amenebar, R.I.P., would whisper when he held up his hand: For God?s sake, don?t ask a question. You know how he gets. We?ll be here all night. Shhhhhh! For them it was simultaneously uncomfortable and entertaining. For Paul, because of his burgeoning doubts and questioning of Father Maciel and the superiors, it was a necessity.


During this same period Paul witnessed two examples of what he perceived as Father Maciel?s despotic governing style. He banished two major superiors, Territorial Directors, i.e. Provincials, who dared question his opinion or decision. One was Mexican Father Alfonso Samaniego, former Provincial, who lost his position as Rector of the Anahuac University, Mexico City for begging to differ with Maciel about Father Jesus Blasquez?s system of recruitment at the university. Those were the heady days of Mexico RC men foundation with the colorfully nick-named El Raton [Mouse] -Felix Sanchez-Soler, La Coneja'[Rabbit] Eduardo Robles Gil-, ‘El Gato[Cat] whoever-, the present Legion General Director, Fr. Alvaro Corcuera, and other important RC founders. Padre Alfonso – the Mexican-born founding Legionary priest whom Nuestro Padre himself had praised to the skies for incarnating the Legionary Type never held another important position in the Legion. Since that fatal day – Holy Week Spiritual Exercises at the IMC – he has lived in reclusion at his residence in Polanco district, Mexico City.

The other was Territorial Director Father Carlos Zancajo who was sent packing to Caracas, Venezuela. What was the cause of his fall from grace? In the Legion you never knew. Perhaps for complaining about not being informed of one of Fr. Maciel?s decisions that affected religious under Father Carlos? care. To this dayas far as is known. Fr. Carlos is in Caracas where he teaches at a modest university. He is a faithful Legionary, has no beef with the Legion, and would not want to be associated with any criticism of the Founder. It seemed to Paul that both exemplary priests had been relegated to the backwaters of the Legion because they dared question, doubt The Saint’s judgment or decisions…
The lesson was clear: don?t mess with Maciel. You cannot question his authority. Another speculation could be that these men were examples of great integrity and prestige among their Legion confreres and much beloved. Could it be they were a threat to Father Maciel?s continuing leadership and absolute authority and adultation? No rivals.


Paul?s relationship with Fr. Marcial Maciel, alias Nuestro Padre, alias The Saint as his religious subject and spiritual son took another turn for the worse. Around 1981 he was summoned to meet alone with The Saint at his Cultural Institute offices in Tlalpan, Mexico City. These encounters were set up in such a way that the notified religious could only speculate about why he was there and what it would be about. This strategy, naturally, placed the subject at a disadvantage. Paul got there and waited; for a couple of hours. At this stage of his Saint knowledge, Paul was not surprised by this, the delay tactic. The Saint suddenly appeared out of nowhere and started walking around the grounds with Paul in tow. He came right out with the blunt accusation: I?ve been hearing things about you. There is a contemptible woman at the School of Faith [in Spanish he used una tipa, which could even mean prostitute]. You need to get rid of her! Paul took exception to that and countered asking him what he was talking about, as he did not know anycontemptible women The Saint got impatient. Well look, Paul, –he used the first name, you get rid of her because I will not have adulterous priests in the Legion of Christ!? Paul was steely calm as he told The Saint he knew very well what adultery meant and that The Saint was barking up the wrong tree. The Saint countered with a MexicanWhere there is smoke there is fire [Cuando rio suena, agua lleva]. He then threatened to get rid of the impudent religious and banish him from the School of Faith. Paul threatened him back by saying that if The Saint did that he would go straight to Cardinal Corripio, Archbishop of Mexico, and report The Saint.

Paul could not believe his own ears or comprehend his rashness. He was losing his fear of and respect for The Saint. Paul was also angry that because the complaint involved a woman The Saint immediately concluded something sexual was going on, rather than some other explanations such as being in love, emotional involvement, a working relationship, or even platonic friendship. He was incensed that this so-called holy man should have spoken that way of a woman friend. Paul knew he was fond of her. But his Spiritual Director had lost him, burning the bridge of trust and respect with his accusations, base language and threats. They glared at each other for a long moment until The Saint stalked off with a scowl. The electric storm between the two was gathering momentum, to an explosion that would ultimately lead to Paul?s demise. This struggle would not only alienate Paul further from his erstwhile spiritual father but also from anyspiritual direction in the Legion, where he knew there was no separation of spiritual director and superior; that whatever was said in Spiritual Direction could be used against him, grist for the Obedience mill. A week later, at the Institution Cumbres fathers? house during Sunday morning retreat, The Saint came up quickly, out of nowhere, and said:Don?t worry about that any longer. No need to do anything. I believe you. . Without further explanation he disappeared the way he had come. Despite the strange nature of the appearance and message, Paul felt relief because he had won this round. But he was also naive to believe that he could win the bout. What follows is more bizarre than a soap opera.


A year or so later, as his relationship with The Saint, and consequently his career at the School of Faith continued to unravel, Paul was summoned once more to meet with The Saint at his office. This was indoors at the offices in Tlalpan. After the usual pleasantries, The Saint told him he was sorry to say he had to go. Two local bishops had forwarded anonymous letters to him. The letters implied in very crude, if vague, terms that Paul was having an affair with someone?s wife. Once more Paul, shaking in his shoes, remained outwardly calm and asked for further information. Well, The Saint did not know. The bishops had sent them to him as superior general. Paul explained that these were ridiculous fabrications. Maybe, but the bishops are asking me to move you… That logic wasn?t very clear because Paul doubted bishops would do that. He asked to see the letters and told his superior he would personally pursue the issue with the bishops because it was HIS reputation as a priest that was on the line. The Saint assured him he had no doubts about his integrity and would personally tell Cardinal Corripio that. Paul insisted [by now he did not trust The Saint] and the Saint agreed to let him have the letters. Then the Saint: One way or the other, you have to go. You see, the Superiors had decided some months ago that your term of office at the School of Faith was over, but we hadn?t told you until now.The Saint could see the skepticism in Paul?s eyes. Father Devlin. – he calls to his secretary over the intercom – could you please bring in Father Paul?s file? John D. came in with a brand new manila folder containing one sheet of paper. See, there is the letter or appointment signed by the Superiors three months ago. You are assigned to the Quintana Roo Mission. Look at the date. Still incredulous and feeling deceived – he knew the Legion would not think twice about pre-dating a document, Paul decided to play his cards carefully. He could see the writing on the wall about The Saint wanting him out of Mexico City and knew he could not refuse to obey. So he pleaded with The Saint to send him to Monterrey, Mexico, to open the School of Faith there…. But The Saint was adamant. It?s not me. The Superiors have already decided this three months ago So Paul said OK. Just let me take care of this business with the bishops and I?m on my way

MYSTERY QUESTION: Who ever sent those anonymous letters?

By this time Paul was no longer an obedient and docile religious. He stalled in Mexico City setting up appointments with the bishops but, one way or the other, Paul was struggling with a return to the Missions. Been there, done that. This time he perceived it as a step down, a punishment, banishment. The Saint had reluctantly agreed to give him time to clear up the false accusations with the bishops. Paul got an appointment with the Bishop of Tlalnepantla and got some satisfaction when the bishop told him: ‘Anonymous letters about my men, I get many. They go straight into the wastepaper basket. But these were about a religious; I sent it to your superior.’ [Was he telling the truth?]. Meanwhile, as a way of implementing the move to the Lost Worlds of Quintana Roo, The Saint?s valet, executive secretary and hatchet man, Paul?s former school buddy, Fr. John Devlin, placed an envelope under his bedroom door one evening; it contained a note telling Paul to be at Mexico City airport the next morning. There, Monsignor Bernal would await him with his plane ticket for Cancun, Quintana Roo. Next morning Paul dutifully drove to the Benito Juarez International Airport in his dung colored jalopy. He knew Monsignor Bernal pretty well from his first term on the Missions. Bernal had always treated him well. But Bernal was also a wimp. Paul asked him to show him the plane ticket. When Bernal gave it to him he said: Monsignor, I will not be using this ticket today. Let me take it back to Fr. Devlin so he can get reimbursed. That was a pretty smart move. Grabbing the ticket he went back to Quinta Pacelli and put the ticket under Fr. Devlin?s door. Despite this and other delay tactics, Paul was finally forced into obeying.

Father Octavio Acevedo, by then LC Provincial, phoned him after Easter telling him to go to the Anahuac University chapel to pick up the Paschal [Easter] Candle and take it to the Instituto Cumbres house. It was a Sunday morning in the spring of 1982. When Paul got to the chapel in Tecamachalco, Fr A. was waiting alone in his usual ferret-like posture and proferred a sealed letter. Paul took it, saw it was from The Saint, thanked his superior, and turned to go [letters from The Saint were private and confidential]. No, you have to read it here. That is an order! So Paul had to obey. The letter said In virtue of Holy Obedience you are to go immediately to the Quintana Roo Mission. There was no wriggling out of that.


Out of sheer obedience and impotence Paul went on his way to Quintana Roo, trying as best he could to adjust again to that life-style and pastoral work. He had been sent to the same sleepy little town to which he was assigned eleven years previously. The only phone was in the local bar; the booth did not have a door. So everyone could hear your conversation, and could understand it, if you spoke in Spanish – the key was to speak in English!- Once more Paul was low on the totem pole, Assistant Pastor. Only the pastor was different. Did he have the assignment of watching Paul, or spying and reporting beneath the facade of comraderie? Paul soldiered on bravely for another couple of years, losing himself in his work, thinking up a new Radio Apostolate, and doing his own nature therapy: rising early in the morning to watch the sun come up over Bacalar’s Lagoon of Seven Colors and strolling around the tiny plaza on his own every night contemplating the stars.

One other little episode did little to reconcile him to the Legion, the Second Mother he had loved for most of his life. Several months after his arrival, Monsignor Bernal casually handed him a letter from Cardinal Corripio. Paul had asked for an appointment before leaving Mexico City but received no answer. Now he saw that the letter from Cardinal Corripio had been posted weeks before. It gave Paul an appointment at the Cardinal’s office dated several weeks previously. Paul confronted his superior. Monsignor explained that the letter must have gotten lost in his brief case. That was ‘a pity’. What could be done at this late stage? Better just to let thinks be, calm your soul and accept the Holy Will of God’. Paul was quickly transitioning to a no-nonsense approach to problem solving. He told Monsignor that he would find a way of meeting with Corripio to clear his name. And he did.

But the storm that was gathering inside would not abate. His attitude towards The Saint and the Legion became more critical and skeptical. Through some lay friends he clandestinely picked up information about other dissident Legionaries and how they were being treated. Two companions had been sent to French-speaking Gabon by The Saint to learn their lesson. In that painful isolation they got on each other?s nerves and quit. They suddenly left the priesthood and married soon afterwards. Both were personal friends of Paul?s – in as much as one could have friends in the Legion. The Spaniard had been ordained the same day in Rome, November 26, 1969; the other priest was a fellow Dubliner. His father almost had a heart attack the day Big J. suddenly showed up at his place of employment in Dublin no longer a priest, Dad, I?m back and I?m out. Paul empathized with them and identified with these confreres and their families. He was aware of how close he was to following their footsteps, but was determined not to leave the priesthood impulsively.


In November 1984 the Quintana Roo Missionary community traveled to Cotija, Mexico, The Saint?s hometown, to begin spiritual exercises. Though he was not aware of it, Paul was a changed person. Unbeknownst to himself he was not afraid and would not be silenced. The main event, as usual, was The Saint?s arrival and his delivery of the introductory presentation. As was also usual, he was late, and so the opening talk was given the morning after the community?s arrival. Finally, with a flourish, he appeared and the captive audience sat down to listen, absorb and assimilate. He began to paint a rosy picture of newly recruited members and how generous these young men and women were [compared to the retreatants, lukewarm and tired religious!]. Paul did the unexpected and spoke up interrupting the discourse: why did The Saint never say anything about all the Legionaries that were leaving or had left! That there were many hurting, exiled, or put out to pasture! An ugly argument ensued. The Saint told Paul to shut up; who did he think he was?; that he didn?t know what he was talking about. Paul countered The Saint with names and examples to illustrate his claim and would not back down, or sit down; by this time he was standing and talking loudly. It was the first time for Paul and for everyone else there to see The Saint confronted in such a way. As if Paul was not there and some else had taken over. How long did the altercation go on? The ‘community’ just listened in stunned silence. Until one spoke up, another former Dublin school buddy, now faithful servant of The Saint, Fr. Thomas Moylan:
We have not come to hear a discussion but to listen to Nuestro Padre To which the once Naive and Sentimental Catholic Boy replied: ?If that is the way you all feel, then this is not the place for me!? Paul walked out of that room never to return to the Legion.


There is no record of anyone following Paul to try to stop him from leaving or dissuade him from carrying out such a hasty decision. Perhaps he could not have been stopped. Maybe it was too late. Walking to his room, he packed his belongings into the battered suitcase he had brought with him and went out into the street. Totally alone and left to his own devices for the first time in 23 years, Paul, now 41, stood at the bus stop in Cotija. He did not know the bus schedule. Nor did he care. He would wait, though he was half-afraid someone might come after him. What would he do in that case…? Any bus was good enough to take him out of there, to Guadalajara, anywhere, far away from the pain that was inside his head and his belly, burning him up. The second class bus did not matter. He was beginning a very long and lonely journey. Luckily, he did have some cash on the Missions that was allowed and a return plane ticket to Mexico City, which he hadn?t planned using on his own. He stayed in some dingy hotel in Guadalajara close to the bus station that nigh, making sure to bolt the door against the many prostitutes that were surely going to break in and take away his virginity. Next morning he was on the plane to Mexico City. Once there he went through a list of numbers.

At a pay phone outside the airport he called a safe female friend he knew through the School of Faith. With that typically Mexican flexibility and generosity, without questioning, she picked up the little guy in the guayabera shirt and took him to her home in the Polanco district. He told her about his show down and was glad she was not tooscandalized. . Luckily, she was the one who had kept him updated on the sage of his confreres exiled in Gabon. A few days later, from her home he called Father Acevedo and asked to talk with The Saint. Although his allegiance to The Saint and the Legion was shot, as a gentelman Paul felt impelled to apologize for his angry outburst and lack of respect. The Territorial Director the Easter candle padre who had tricked him and forced him to the Missions two years previously told him he didn?t know where The Saint was. Paul refused to tell Easter Candle priest where he was – perhaps his first clear-headed act of formal disobedience.

KAPUTT! In this state of exhaustion, aloneness, deathly pain, confusion, and disorientation Paul could only try to stay alive, survive. For some strange reason, despite all that devastation, the thought of suicide never crossed his mind. But what now? Where to find a safe place to go and lick the wounds? Get away from here, to Ireland, to hearth and home…

‘BEHOLDEN’ Part IV, dealing with POST LC RECOVERY, will soon appear in a full version of the writer’s memoir


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