Maeve – Death in the Regnum Christi

Recruited into ECYD 1976, member of RC until 1983.
By Maeve

Testimony of Irish girl who was recruited into the Legion of Christ’s lay movement, Regnum Christi (RC), in Dublin. Male(M) and Female (F) members-in totally separated sections– can commit to the organization at 3 levels: (1)Devotions, Spiritual Direction and Apostolate, consisting mostly of recruiting more members and fundraising for Regnum projects; (2) the above, plus more financial and time investment; and (3)full commitment to the Movement and its leadership through “promises” of Poverty, Chastitiy and Obedience according to the “Statutes” of the organization. The levels are called degrees in English, a possibly imperfect translation of the Spanish word grados, meaning levels/grades. Fully fledged female members are called 3GF, in Spanish and in English. The Regnum Christi was founded by Mexican priest, Fr. Maciel, censored by Pope Benedict in May 2006 for sexually abusing some of his seminarians.

[This material was edited from exlegionaries discussion board 3/13/05: ]



I was recruited into the junior version of Regnum Christi – ECYD – at the age of 12. A beautiful Mexican lady told me I was special and that I’d been chosen. And I was hooked. I finally left the RC Movement almost eight years later.

Marie-Carmen and Daire, wow, now there’s a couple of blasts from my past. Marie-Carmen was Directress of the consecrated women’s centre in Dublin – Dal Riada (I’ll never forget the name of that house). Gorgeous, incredibly dignified Marie-Carmen. I was in awe of her. So when she told me I was special and had been chosen to attend a wonderful retreat, she may as well have told me I’d been chosen to dig a large hole and sit in it for a week – I would have done it anyway.

And Daire – she changed so much after joining the residents – she really blossomed. Of course, within six months she was speaking Spanish like a native (in fact, she even spoke English with a Spanish accent after a while). But I think the life suited her, she was happy.

[Editor?s Note: REGAIN was saddened to hear that Mari-Carmen Perochena, one of the Mexican founders and directors of the Regnum Christi female branch, and much beloved by several members and ex-members, had been diagnosed with cancer. We support her and her family with our prayers]

I met Fr. Maciel once (still have the photos). And, because my brother was also RC, I had a lot of contact with the Legionaries of Christ in Dublin. In fact, I once asked a certain Fr. Alonso for a lift because it was raining and he was going to pass by my house on his way back to their residence. He went very red, mumbled an excuse, and left, leaving me wondering what on earth I’d said wrong. One of the lay nuns called me aside and told me he would have been going against the rules of his order by being alone with a woman. Today, I’d probably react with a colorful range of feminist expletives. At 15, I just felt tainted.

Although I met some special, genuinely holy people through my years in the Movement, I would describe the experience as intensely negative overall – for too many reasons to go into here. Suffice it to say, it took me years to work through the emotional baggage.


My experience? It would take too long. How about a few highlights?

I was invited on a retreat and came out at the end as a member of ECYD. No one asked me what I thought or if I wanted to join. Perhaps more importantly, no one asked my parents.

I didn’t have much of a home life or an open relationship with my parents so my team became my new family and my team leader became my confidant.

The movement was a world unto its own, a world where -at first – I felt special, protected, valued, loved. But I very quickly learned that I was accepted and loved only as long as I played by the rules. That meant absolute obedience. It meant not speaking my mind. And it meant not asking questions.

Every year, a group of us would go carol singing in a top hotel in Dublin for the Latin American Missions. One day I asked where the money actually went. I never got an answer, just an admonition that my question was inappropriate.

We opened a new girl?s centre in a Dublin suburb. A new retreat was planned and I was asked to be a team leader. But I said I wouldn’t do it unless we spoke to the parents first. So someone else became team leader.

At the age of 19, I was asked to help out with a bunch of 9-10 year old Spanish girls coming to Ireland for a summer school at our RC centre. By the end of the first week, I’d figured out that these girls came from very wealthy families. Their parents thought they were being tutored by a qualified English teacher and had access to modern sports facilities. The teacher was me. And the sporting facilities were a run down basketball court at the back of the house and a small field where we played rounders with a tennis ball…

One of the girls’ favorite activities was a walk to the local shops. They had an obsession with greeting cards. On at least three occasions I had to stop them walking out of the shop without paying. I asked one of the [Ed. fully fledged, 3GF] residents for help with how to deal with the situation – I felt totally out of my depth. She told me not to worry about it – they were just kids.


Hey, here’s a story for you.

On the girls’ convention in Madrid back in 1980, there was a list where we could write our names down if we wanted to have confession.

Well, seeing as how my Dad would drag me and my brothers off to confession every two weeks anyway, I decided to give myself a little time off for good behavior…

There was an open day for the parents of the Spanish girls. One of the girls I’d made friends with (Mayo Gómez – a real sweetie, met her again years later in Dublin) was introducing me to her parents. All of a sudden someone took hold of my elbow. It was another Spanish girl – can’t remember her name but she was the RC equivalent of a teacher’s pet. She announced that I was to come with her to confession. I thought, eh?

I didn’t want to make a scene in front of Mayo and her parents, but I tried to make her understand that I’d rather not – thanks all the same. Well, no obviously wasn’t in her vocabulary. So she literally pulled me away by the elbow, saying that Father Whassisname had asked to see me.

All the way to the chapel, I got angrier and angrier and angrier.

She opened the door of the confession box and waited until I was actually kneeling before she closed the door.

Poor priest. Can’t remember his name, but I doubt he’d ever heard a confession quite like it…


But perhaps the most scathing indictment was what happened to my first team leader. She wanted to join the residents from early in her teens, but promised her dying mother that she would finish her teaching qualification first. Her mother died, she finished her qualification, and off she went. I still have the two letters she wrote me from Mexico. They are manic. I read them and thought who’s she trying to convince? She left Ireland a few pounds overweight. Six months later she died in a hospital in Mexico – she’d starved herself to death. No one had even told her family she was ill.

Regnum Christi isolated me from my family and my friends. It didn’t support my relationship with my family. It didn’t prepare me for relationships. It didn’t give me skills for life. It didn’t make me tolerant of others. It didn’t help me to learn to trust my own judgment or even like myself very much.

As I said in my first entry, I DID meet some truly wonderful, holy people throughout my years in RC: people who genuinely believed in what they were doing. And I think that fanaticism does have a certain place in the world. So many things would not have changed for the better without it.

But fundamentally, I think that any institution or belief system that requires unquestioning obedience has to become corrupt sooner or later.

I’m one of the lucky ones. You can barely see the scars…


I have two children now. (Well – from God to Guinness, so why not from Chaplain to Children?). Two absolutely beautiful, funny, sensitive kids that amaze me daily with their wisdom, their optimism and their trust in the goodness of people.

My daughter will be 10 in June. Maybe that’s why this RC stuff is on my mind for the first time in years. There are times when I catch myself wondering if a Marie-Carmen is out there waiting to try to manipulate HER.

I have to remind myself that my daughter isn’t me.

A couple of days ago a friend of hers from school came to play. My daughter was talking over dinner about a bad dream she’d had. The other little girl commented my mummy says that when we have a bad dream it’s because God is cross with us. I almost fell off my seat, but before I could respond, my daughter said mmmm, well, if you believe that then that’s OK – but I don’t believe it. Cool or what?

Enough ramblings! I should be working!


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