At twenty-one I could speak three languages fluently. At twenty-one I had graduated with honors from the most prestigious university in the world. At twenty-one I had already served twice as an acolyte at a papal mass celebrated by John Paul II in St. Peter?s Basilica at the Vatican. At twenty-one I was appointed administrator of the Instituto Irlandes (the Irish Institute), one of the most prestigious schools in Mexico City, and had a phalanx of teachers and related administrative personnel working under me. At twenty-one I was driving a luxury Mercedes and a high-powered BMW. At twenty-one I abandoned it all to obtain the one thing I did not have: my freedom. Since then nothing has changed; today at 38 years of age I am free, but I have nothing.
Critical articles and books have been published dealing with Marcial Maciel?s insincerity and dual personality. They have detailed acts involving the sexual abuse of minors within the congregation
acts which must always be proven and which certainly are not the general norm. As a former member of the congregation I must assure you that I have no personal experience of such things. I want to relate my personal story, which represents the norm rather than the exception a story that does not have to be proven with a signed affidavit. I also want to make it clear that it is not necessary to sexually abuse someone under the cover of darkness in order to destroy that person?s life. There are more correct ways to do this.
Once upon a time there was a fourteen year old boy who, having just gotten a particularly good report card, was allowed by his parents to go to Ontaneda, Spain on vacation. While there he was told he had a vocation to the priesthood, something he had never before considered. Meanwhile he was really enjoying himself. He studied little and played a lot
a bit of praying in the morning, a little more at night and everything was fine. Little by little, however, the hours spent in prayer gradually increased until, without knowing how, the salvation of many souls rested on his shoulders. God was expecting generosity and total commitment from him at a time when his superiors, in an act of supreme arrogance, became the self-proclaimed messengers of the will of God. The standard line was that everyone there had a vocation until your superior told you otherwise. At the time I was only fourteen, but I was one of the older students, since the age range at this vocational center was from ten to fourteen. Meanwhile the students and their parents were deceived into believing that legionaries follow a professional career track while at the same time studying for the priesthood so that in principle, if one decides to abandon his priestly studies, he always has a career to fall back on.
At age fifteen I began my novitiate. It lasted two horrible and extremely long years. I always felt it was my misfortune that God had called me to be a priest. My superiors, however, represented the will of God and they told me that this was my vocation and that I could not say
no to Jesus Christ. I spent two years locked in a center, leaving only to take walks to the countryside while avoiding the city. A typical day began at four or five in the morning and was repeated over and over again in the same manner. My life was made up of long hours spent in prayer, Gregorian chants (which they tried to convince us were very popular), memorizing the Congregation?s constitutions and the gospel of St. John, and of course studying Latin and Greek. There was no free time, no time for yourself or for thinking. Everything was programmed beforehand. I remember that the longest period of free time that I had was twenty minutes. Even then it had to be programmed so that you could put it to full use. And all this took place amid absolute silence. We could not communicate with our colleagues. In the morning there was a period of ten minutes devoted to
quiete during which we could speak to each other. There were also short periods of
quiete after lunch and dinner. The boredom and monotony were such that the
Primerissima days (special feast days) were something special for us. On those days we had Corn Flakes instead of bread and jam for breakfast.
I took my vows against my will. I repeatedly told my superior and spiritual director, Fr. ArumÃ, that I did not like this lifestyle, but he never gave any importance to what I said. Actually, I never really took my vows since, at the moment when we were supposed to pronounce the vows in unison from our pews at the rear of the chapel, I remained silent.
After two years of novitiate came two years of humanities. These were the absolute worst years of my life since I had always been a person with a great aptitude for science and absolutely no aptitude for the humanities. In spite of my continual efforts, I never had any success. This led to a constant and deep depression. It was obvious to me and to my superiors that these studies were an impossible burden for me to carry.
I would like to comment on the Legion?s intellectual formation. During my first year it was decided that our studies should be accredited in order to provide an official bachelor?s degree. The level of understanding of mathematics by Mexican Apostolics (as those who attended vocational centers are called) was so low, however, that almost no one knew how to divide. They had to teach us such things as how to add and subtract fractions and other things that would have been obvious to any student our age. Instead we learned to recite from memory and in Latin the philosophical writings of Cicero and to declaim the Philippic orations of Demosthenes. When we were tested at the Instituto Torres Villaroel, the results were so disastrous that they were forced to give us an approved general course in mathematics. Even then, there were only a few of us who did not have to take it all over again in September. The Legionaries of Christ display a complete disdain for mathematics, placing instead great importance on the memorization of texts; and if they are in Latin or Greek, so much the better. I swear that sometimes I would have preferred to memorize the phone book instead of those stupid texts whose meanings I could not understand.
Anyway, after two years of humanities came two years of philosophy in Rome. Life in Rome was more pleasant than in Salamanca. We were eating better and every day we went downtown to study at the Gregorian University. Unlike humanities, philosophy went very well for me and best of all I began to speak a new language, which gave me great pleasure and satisfaction. Listening to the Jesuit priests who taught philosophy was a joy, not all of them, of course, but some, such as Fr. Peter Henrici, were truly wise men. Learning about English Empiricism opened my mind to tolerance and I began to question things, which previously I had accepted as givens. I remember a class with Fr. Huber in which he stated that a priestly vocation was not an obligation, but something one could freely choose to accept or not. That was the beginning of the end for me.
It is customary for Legionaries not to speak to outsiders unless it is for work-related reasons. For example, if you had a flat tire and had to call a mechanic, you could explain your problem to him, but informal conversation would be forbidden. This principle also applied to conversations with our Italian colleagues at the Gregorian. When they saw a large group of us dressed in black cassocks, they would ask us where we were from, where we lived, and all the other normal things that fellow students would ask one another. Well, believe me when I tell you that no one would answer them. In a display of the worst possible etiquette training, my companions would turn around and walk away. After a few days a lot of students would come to talk to me, because I would answer them, telling them where our school was, or that I was from Spain, and they would always answer,
Oh, muy bueno, Butragueo I came to be known as
l?avvoltoio, or the vulture because that was the famous soccer player?s nickname in Italian. Finally, we would end up talking about the Real Madrid soccer team. Thanks to them I learned Italian much faster than the others. In Rome things were O.K. I enjoyed my studies and we were allowed more freedom to organize our spare time. We had bedrooms instead of cells like we had in Salamanca. (For those who don?t know, a cell is a cubicle whose walls do not go all the way up to the ceiling, where there is a curtain in place of a door and everything is so small that there is only room for a bed and about three extra feet of clearance.) But there were two things that came to annoy me: worship of the superior and the
rotating napkin syndrome.
Worship of Superiors
is the result of superiors setting themselves up as messengers of the will of God. By conferring on themselves sacred value, everyone was compelled to satisfy not only their directives, but also their desires and suggestions. In this way the superior became a true totem, or golden calf. Even without having studied theology, it seemed not only heretical, but also blasphemous to me that a man could present himself to his equals as the voice of God, thereby restricting the decisions and will of those under him, and to relegate to nothingness the sacred space reserved for freedom of conscience that the Second Vatican Council defined as sacred. In this regard Maciel is in a class by himself. He is the golden calf?s golden calf. It is worth noting that in a congregation said to be based on a Christocentric spirituality, the only things one reads and meditates on are Maciel’s writings
the Cartas de Nuestro Padre, while the gospels are relegated to a secondary status. Of course, their explanation is that the
Cartas de Nuestro Padre are written for us as explanations of the gospels.
The Rotating Napkin Syndrome.
This was something that happened in the dining room. There were cabinets with pigeonholes in which to put napkins and it was up to each individual to remember to put his in its proper place. But often, when you went to put your napkin in its pigeonhole, there was already one in it, so you would put it in another. And when you went to get it on another occasion, it generally would already have been taken by someone else; so by the end of the week you had wiped your mouth with at least two or three different napkins. At any rate, I felt like one of those napkins, someone who was passed from superior to superior, without any privacy, in order to receive various sorts of orientation. We were required to receive biweekly spiritual direction, academic orientation, complimentary orientation and, on top of it all, weekly confession. What would happen was that you would go to spiritual direction, since of course there was always something you could improve upon, and then go to academic orientation and be told that you did not study enough. Later you would go to complementary orientation and another superior would tell you that you had to correct another defect. And finally, if there was still something that needed correcting, there was confession. Given the laws of chance, there were days when you found yourself doing three of these things in one day; so that at the end of it all you felt like a boxer who been bounced all over the ring, but learned nothing. It is not pleasant having to share your most intimate thoughts with so many people for them to point out your defects, because they cannot accept you as you are. I would ask myself, which is worse?: selling your body for money as prostitutes do, or opening up and sharing personal intimacies with people who do not value you as a person? Whores sell that which is physical, but we were selling our spiritual intimacy.
My religious life was a continuing succession of vocational crises. One led into another until my second year in Rome when I made my spiritual director aware of the fact that I could see this was not the path for me. He tried to placate me, but it was futile. It was clear to me that in spite of everything this was not for me. It was around the beginning of June 1987 and it was assumed that after two years of philosophy most of us would be going on to
Magisterium, Apostolic Practices, and so it was. The entire group of us was suddenly told to go to the offices on the third floor of an old school building in Rome. No one knew why, but just as people queue up at the supermarket, we all walked up to the third floor in line, one after another. While we waited in silence, I wondered what was going on in there. We were like lambs going to the slaughter. Scoundrel priests were taking advantage of the vow of obedience that the scoundrel Maciel himself had instituted. Each one of us would go into the office and the door would close behind him. Two of Maciel?s secretaries would make you sign a document by putting a blank sheet of paper over the document so that you could not see what you were signing. Being the gentle lambs that they were, everyone signed it except me. I left without signing anything.
On the following day the superior of the center, the rector, called me to his office and asked why I had not signed. I remember him telling me that I should have enough confidence in my superiors to sign a blank sheet of paper and that it would not be something which wasn?t in my best interests. In response I told him that the superior should have enough confidence in me to show me what I was signing. When he showed it to me, I saw it was a visa request to travel to Mexico. Then I signed.
Three months in Mexico
I had not thought of going to Mexico, so I called my parents to invite them to visit me in Rome with the excuse of wanting to say goodbye to them before taking such a long trip. But the real reason is that I wanted them to take me back to Spain. On the day before my parents? arrival, I received a letter from Maciel inviting me to go to Mexico, where I could, with the light of God in spiritual exercises, decide what I should do. This seemed reasonable to me, so I went.
Upon our arrival in Mexico City, I immediately noticed the extreme poverty and pollution. From there we were taken to a ranch in the middle of nowhere. This would be the house used for spiritual exercises and for our vacation. After the spiritual exercises had taken place, I decided to chuck it all and go back to Spain, which I made known to my spiritual director. Since he did not know me, he was surprised and told me he would deal with the matter later. I never saw him again. We stayed at the ranch for several weeks after spiritual exercises. During our vacation time there we hiked through the countryside surrounding the ranch. I wanted to go back to Spain and felt increasingly anguished over not being able to talk to anyone about my wanting to leave.
From there each of us went to his own separate destination. Mine was to be administrator at a Irish School. I lived in a freestanding house near Anahuac University. The rector was Fr. Eloy Bedia, an LC priest from Cantabria, who helped me through my most difficult moments. He gave me spiritual direction whenever I asked for it and, although I did not know anything, he always showed me charity and understanding. Since I had already made the decision to return to Spain, he suggested that I talk to Fr. Acevedo, who was the territorial director of America at that time, to also ask his advice. I really wanted to leave. The rotating napkin syndrome was getting worse. I was not able to talk to Fr. Acevedo, only to his secretary, who told me he had just left for the United States and would not be back for three months. Under the circumstances this seemed like a long time a very long time.
By sheer coincidence I had a toothache and had to go to the dentist. Since I did not know any dentists in Mexico, I asked who was a good one, and they referred me to one who treated Legionaries. Off I went. The reader will no doubt be surprised to learn whom I found there: the very Fr. Acevedo who theoretically was in the United States. From this I immediately deduced that this gentleman had to be either a living saint blessed with the gift of being in two places at the same time, or a scoundrel and a liar.
I remember that, in the few weeks during which I was an administrator at the Colegio Irlandes, there was a man, whose name I cannot recall, who was in charge of the audiovisual equipment. I found out through the school?s former administrator, Fr. Ortega, that they wanted to get rid of him. I asked why, thinking that he must have been stealing things, or was not efficient in his job, or some such thing. On the contrary; he was a person known for his efficiency who always kept the audiovisual equipment in perfect working order. I was extremely surprised since he was someone I had known and who had been very helpful and attentive to me. The reason was that he was divorced and, on top of that, was bringing his girlfriend to school with him in the mornings, which set a bad example for the children. But later I found out that more than half of the parents whose children attended that school were divorced. This just goes to show the moral and pharisaic hypocrisy and double standards of the Legionaries of Christ. They intrude into the private lives of their employees and fire them from their jobs while at the same time refusing to ask parents who enroll their children in the school whether they are divorced or not.
I was with the legionaries from the time I was fourteen until I was twenty-one, seven years, but very decisive in the formation of one?s personality. They had been my family and my educators me during that time. And I was grateful for the formation which they had given me, with all its lights and shadows. The fact that I did not want to be a priest did not mean that I had stopped being a Christian. In fact, I tried to get in contact with Fr. Florencio [Sanchez] in Madrid with the intention of integrating into Regnum Christi, but he wanted nothing to do with me.
I then went to live in Asturias, Spain, where my parents lived, far from the Legionaries who had no presence there. Considering I had a brother who had entered the novitiate a few days before I left the congregation, my parents were very respectful and accepting of my decision to leave the religious life, since they understood that another one of their sons might still have a vocation. But my family was a shadow of what it had been. Sadness, bitterness and disillusion enveloped everything. My parents had three children, the first one being me. Two years later came my sister, and three years later came my brother. When I left, there was no one at home. My sister had been consecrated to God as a
Numerary of Opus Dei, and my brother had just entered the novitiate of the Legionaries of Christ. My parents, simple people of faith, accepted the vocations of their children with resignation, but the fact is that sadness and disillusion bore down on them like a tombstone.
For four years we went to visit my brother in Salamanca when we were permitted. But to be quite honest, no priest or member of the congregation ever came to greet my family.
The Legionaries of Christ, who compel their members to follow their rules with such scrupulosity, are very lax when it comes to their own adherence to the rules of canon law. They admitted my brother into their congregation knowing full well that he was the only child left at home. This is something which canon law forbids, since at least one child should stay with the parents; first because such a practice is inhuman and secondly because someone must attend to them in their old age.
When I arrived home I found out my father had suffered a heart attack two months after I had left for Ontaneda. In Asturias I had to enroll in COU [pre-university course], since my ecclesiastical studies did not count for anything. Later I went to Gijon to study advanced industrial engineering, something I had always wanted to do. It was not the right place for me because, at least at that time, there was no way humanly possible to pass the exams. I was already older than other students and so after three years I left. The discontent in my house was enormous. It had long ago gone from being a home to being a funeral parlor. My mother had died six months earlier at age 55, and my father died of grief a year later.
Life in solitude
My parents passed away, one right after the other, within a year and a half of each other. The death of my father was long, sad and painful. My brother was never allowed to visit him. My sister was there, and so was I. Immediately after my mother?s death I had moved to Madrid with my father to finish my studies in philosophy in the only place where I could do this
the University of Comillas in Madrid, which was run by the Jesuits in conjunction with the Gregorian University in Rome. While I was finishing my studies, I met someone from whom fate had up till then separated me, whom I remember with deep gratitude Professor Garcia Fajardo. Among other things, he was professor of the History of Ideas in the School of Sournalism at Complutense University and founder of a non-governmental organization, Solidarios para el Desarrollo (United for Development). He was affably close and understanding with me and I considered him a friend during the time when fate brought us together. During that period of my life I worked in various programs run by Solidarios. I made weekly visits to the inmates of the jail in Segovia and worked on reintegrating former prostitutes and drug addicts into society. I brought hot coffee, light conversation and a smile to the needy and homeless living on the street. We would all meet at Madrid?s main railway station to visit and chat. Professor Fajardo understood the need for social sensitivity, which I was never taught by the Legionaries. (In the Legion of Christ social sensitivity is rejected because it is associated with Liberation Theology.) Another thing I liked about Solidarios was that they accept you as you are, with all your defects and virtues. You don?t have to change. They liked me the way I was and accepted me.
Since I did not have work in Spain, I quickly ran through my meager savings, and this forced me to immigrate to England. Like James Bond, I put myself at Her Majesty?s service. After buying my airline ticket and paying the travel agency, I was left with 35,000 pesetas, or one hundred pounds sterling.
My first job was in a country hotel in the county of Surrey near London. I started out as a waiter and dishwasher. My command of English was precarious. My first sensation there was one of isolation. I did not know anyone and everyone else at the hotel was English, so they did not lower themselves to talk to me. I remember once they took me to a pub. There were three of us – the manager of the hotel, a friend of his and me. They asked me to join them in a game of billiards and, since they assumed anyone like myself who did not speak English was an idiot, I was able to beat them. That was the first and last time they asked me to go out with them.
Fortunately, I learned about an academy which gave
training teaching lessons, which were free for students. There I met people of other nationalities, particularly Hungarians, who were very friendly with me and with whom I took my first steps in English. Much later I met some Spanish men and also Spanish women and we formed a very friendly group. We liked to get together for beers and small talk during the rare moments we all had some free time.
A change of scene
I decided to leave the hotel, because I was being paid very little for the work I was doing and, without realizing it, found myself in one that was even worse. It was the waiting room to hell, and I am not using poetic license here. It was physically the waiting room to hell, if by hell one means hell the way Dante describes it: the place where those who enter lose all hope of leaving.
I worked in the hotel?s pub, which was a gathering place for all the area?s drug addicts. I won?t mention all the drugs that passed through there. Suffice it to say that every Saturday afternoon chairs would fly around the room, doors would be kicked in and vast quantities of alcohol would be consumed.
In the staff house (which was the building housing the hotel?s personnel) everything was available – most commonly hashish, but also speed, all manner of pills, cocaine, of course, and crack. I have seen very young and charming people hooked on crack.
This is how I spent the last months of 1999. Among the prettiest things in England are its rivers and the walkways alongside them. No matter where you go, you will always find a river with a walkway beside it. The hotel where I was working was located next to the Thames and I spent my free time taking long walks to relax. In this atmosphere I felt the need to visit a church. It had been years since I had been in one and I found it made me happy – a bit like Mickey Rourke in
Angel Heart. I did not find anyone inside. Since all the churches are protestant, I wanted to find one that was Catholic. I think it was about three months before I found a Catholic church in a nearby town ten kilometers away (along the river road, of course). At that time I had lost my faith because for me the Church represented a house of liars.
The Pub at the Ship
This was the name of the place where I worked, but a lot of people called it
The Pub at the Shit because it was where the worst people hung out. Nevertheless, I formed my group of friends there. Between drinks they would tell me their life stories, or even how their day had been. I learned a lot of English there and managed the bar in my own way: talking to the clientele, being friendly with them, not distant and cool as the English tend to be. Some of the people who came to talk to me started calling the place
Emilio?s Pub, which led to some jealousy. The manager of the hotel could not tolerate a Spaniard standing out from the rest of the waiters who were English and he began to make my life impossible.
New Year?s Eve, 1999
We all remember how special New Year?s Eve was that year
the end of the year, the end of the millennium. Pub workers were being paid up to L70 pounds an hour; I was getting 3.50 pounds an hour, less than what a pack of cigarettes cost me. I did not want to work that night, especially for what they were paying me. I said to them,
What if I am sick?The answer was,
If you are sick, you?ll be sacked. I worked that night, but promised myself that I would have a good time, and damned if I didn?t. That night, every time a female customer came in, I kissed her three times – once with
Happy New Year, then with
Happy Century, and finally with
Happy Millennium. A co-worker told the manager what was happening and he asked if I was drunk, to which he said,
no, that the surprising thing was that I was sober.
In Spain it is quite normal for a waiter to kiss a customer in a pub if they are known to be friends or even if they just want to do it. In England, even today, the distance between waiter and customer is immense, but even more so if your manager is an old ill-tempered goat like mine. Then the distance is an abyss. From that day on I was waiting for a chance to leave, and finally it came.
I was fired for drinking on the job. It was a shitty glass of Coca Cola from the tap. It cost L1.05 pounds, and I had not paid for it. Everyone drank free Coca Cola from the tap and no one said anything. I told the manager I could not pay for it, because one of the rules of the pub was that waiters could not carry cash, but he demanded that I pay it immediately. The guy became very angry and fired me, giving me eight days to clear out of my room at the hotel.
I had no money, absolutely none, and I had to find lodgings, pay for them in advance and put down a deposit. I had to look for work knowing that I would not be paid for two weeks. On top of this I had figure out how to eat for two weeks before earning anything. I could see myself sleeping on the street. I do not recommend this sensation to anyone. But I survived
I went to live in Guildford, a pretty town conveniently located near London and a university, which always guarantees an abundant presence of young people. Little by little I integrated, meeting people and sharing personal histories, the most interesting of which was Miguel?s.
Miguel is a great guy, loveable and noble, but he had a defect, a mental quirk. Miguel is like a piano in which most of the keys sound O.K., but one or two are a little out of tune; very intelligent in some situations, but clumsy in others. A magnificent communicator and of everyone one I knew there, he spoke with the richest and most elegant vocabulary. A great worker, his preferred job was as a dishwasher. He is as strong as steel. He never gets tired and can finish a job in one place, then go to another. At one point when I knew him, he was working in three different places at the same time.
He did not speak more than four words of English and two of Italian, but he was better understood than I was with all of mine. He worked everywhere and went everywhere.
Without knowing English, he knew the names of the owners of all the discotheques. They would greet him when they saw him on the street. He knew their sons and their daughters, where they spent their vacations and how many cars they had. I remember once how in a discotheque Miguel went to talk to the owner and he brought over free drinks for all of us.
Well, anyway, Miguel had a defect which was that he did not know how to say
no and many Spaniards bastards would take advantage of him and ask him for money, generally with the excuse that they needed it to pay their rent. One girl got money from him for a New Year?s Eve dress, which she could not afford. Another got money for music and other such things. What these people did not know was that he needed the money he handed over to them to pay his own rent. I know that on several occasions he was given hamburgers at McDonald?s because he did not have enough to eat. Finally, one day he ended up on the street without a place to live and without a job. When I saw him, he had completely bitten off his fingernails because of the stress he was feeling. I remembered those times when I was on the verge of being forced to sleep on the street. When I found Miguel on the street I was working at a coffee shop, and was allowed to take home the leftover sandwiches after work, so I gave them to him to eat. I also told him he could sleep in my room one night a week. There were a lot of Spaniards and he could stay at their places on other days.
One day a Spaniard named Paco, who was one of my roommates, threw a party at the house. A lot of people came, including Miguel. The next day there were some CD?s missing and Paco called to tell me. I told him I did not have them and I did not know anything about the matter. Then he accused Miguel.
In a very calm voice I said to him,
Look, I know Miguel and Miguel would not take anything from anybody. Just the opposite. Everyone takes from him. Then this Paco guy began making racist comments about Miguel, that he was abnormal, that he took them so he could sell them because he needed the money. Once again in a calm voice I said,
Look, Miguel?s mother abandoned him when he was only two years old. He was raised in an orphanage. If the same thing had happened to you, I?d like to see how well you?d manage.At that point Paco told me that he was fed up and he did not want Miguel coming over anymore because he was embarrassed to be seen with him in front of his friends.
I went home, grabbed the phone and called Miguel.
Hey, Miguel, something?s come up. Paco says you took his CD?s
I don?t have them, he told me.
I know that, I said,
but I want you to know because in these kinds of situations the person being accused is usually the last to find out about it. Then we hung up.
Ten minutes later the phone rang. It was Miguel. He told me Alex had the CD?s. Alex was a friend of Paco who took the CD?s without giving it a second thought. He only wanted a chance to listen to the music again and had every intention of returning them. Miguel said,
Please tell Paco for me that, next time he is missing something, he should look for it the same way I have before accusing anyone.
Our house was very large and there were a lot of us living there – as many as eleven people sometimes. We were in the habit of leaving messages for one another by pinning slips of paper on the refrigerator door with a magnet. I left a note for Paco, the text of which I will not write here, though I remember it perfectly. When Paco read the note, he lost it, told me Miguel and I must be sleeping together, because we seemed to be an item, and other such pleasantries until we came to blows. Miguel slept in my room that night and every night thereafter.
But Paco did not stop there. In his hatred and spite he went to tell the landlord that there were two people sleeping in the same room. The landlord came to talk to me and gave me the choice of throwing Miguel out or leaving with him. Fortunately, at that time we were able to find him work in an Italian restaurant, which also provided lodgings. But good old Paco insisted on causing trouble and he managed to turn a large segment of the Spanish community against me. I asked myself how it was possible for people to be manipulated so easily, and especially over such stupid things.
A female friend of mine, who was familiar with what had happened, told me I handle things differently from other people. But it did not seem to me then and it doesn?t seem to me now that it takes an act of heroism to offer shelter to a young lad whom you know is on the verge of sleeping in the damn street.
A period of spiritual sensitivity
My depression as well as my homesickness were still with me. It was a time of tremendous spiritual loneliness and loss of faith. At that time in my life the Church was and continued to be for me a house of liars. The incident with Miguel caused me to reflect. I realized I was being discriminated against and people were mocking me for having human feelings. During that period I began frequenting a church on Sundays. At the parish where I went, there was a priest who was very good at connecting with people and the church was always full. I enjoyed the feeling of unity and family among the parishioners, which no doubt had something to do with the fact that we as Catholics in England were in the minority. Because of this there was a feeling of affection and closeness. I became interested in documentaries with religious themes, particularly those dealing with the life of Christ and things like that. At that time I had an intense urge to do good for others. It did not matter to me if people went to Mass or not. That seemed secondary. What really mattered to me was social justice. Plus, at that moment in time I had an intuition that God had plans for my life. It might seem to the reader that this amounted to nothing more than the illusions of a very vain person. However, I was always taught that God had plans for everyone?s lives and that it was up to each one of us to discover what they were.
Trip to Spain for Christmas
About that time I decided to go to Spain to spend Christmas with my family. I got in touch with my brother who had spent a lot of time in Mexico, but was now back in Spain, specifically in Ontaneda where I visited him. While enjoying the warm meeting, I told him I would like to have spiritual direction with a Legionary priest. He consulted with the then territorial director for Spain, Fr. Guerra, and told me that this would not be possible.
Lies and more lies
Later, during Holy Week that year a family property that I owned with my two siblings was being sold. My brother did not come in person, but sent someone to act on his behalf
a lay ex-legionary named Fernando Mazaranbres. Without my mentioning anything, he spontaneously told me that I could get a job at the university (naturally, the Legion?s Francisco de Victoria) and that all I would have to do was show up at the door. I told him I wanted to speak with Fr. Ignacio Oriol to receive spiritual direction. This priest knew me very well from our having lived together for years and having shared common experiences. I also took this to be in response to my previous Christmas request. I wrote to Fr. Ignacio, we exchanged some letters and agreed to meet in Madrid. I traveled from London to Madrid to see and receive spiritual direction from him. I wanted to know what plans God had for my life and wanted to speak about this with a legionary priest, since legionaries are the priests I knew best. Fr. Ignacio invited me to go to a South American country, the name of which I now cannot remember, to participate in a social program with people from Francisco Victoria, so that I could gradually become integrated and get to know the university staff. But later it was confirmed that there was no seat on the plane for me. So Fr. Ignacio told me that I should go to America to participate in a social program with IUVE (a non-governmental organization run by the Legion). I never heard anything more about this trip.
Taking a risk
All this happened during the summer of 2001. In October I started giving language classes in the United Kingdom, waiting for a reply from someone. I never got one. I still had these intense feelings that I was in the wrong place and that I should be doing something more interesting and productive with my life other than giving language lessons. I needed to talk to someone to help me clarify my ideas. My preference was to talk to a priest, so I took a risk. I wrote a letter to Fr. Ignacio telling him of my intention to enter into spiritual direction to find out if God had something special in mind for me. I left for Spain, having paid my rent three months in advance, just in case I needed to return. The upshot is that, when I got to Spain, Fr. Ignacio was not in Madrid, but in parts unknown, and absolutely no one was there to give me spiritual direction.
Final stay in Spain
Although my lodgings in England were paid for three months in advance, there was an unforeseen series of circumstances, which forced me to remain in Spain longer than I had expected. I wrote numerous letters to the then territorial director for Spain, Fr. Deomar de Guedes. I manifested the amazement, confusion, disgust and displeasure I was feeling as a result of their current failure to provide me with spiritual direction despite my having been a member of his congregation – something I previously had received several times a week. Additionally, I pointed out to him that they had taken my brother away from home along with his inheritance – a rather large sum of money for an average family. This was money which my parents left to help their children to get along in the world, not for the Legionaries of Christ to take – something which they had made known but had not stipulated in their wills. He wrote back, expressing regret for much of what had happened and feeling sorry for the misunderstandings. He gave me the name of Fr. Navarro-Casillas whom he said could give me spiritual direction and whom I knew from my stay in Ontaneda. When I finally received spiritual direction almost a year and a half had passed since my arrival in Spain .
First spiritual direction
After the initial greetings at our first session, I expressed my desire to join Regnum Christi, the Legion?s apostolic movement. I was spending a lot of time trying to live a Christian life in a country as irreligious as England. I faithfully went to Mass and prayed assiduously. I had always tried to do the right thing with everyone I met. I believed I met the requirements for membership in any apostolic movement. But I was told that I could not join. I won?t say this surprised me, because by that time nothing surprised me. What was curious was that the same people, who previously had assured me I had a priestly vocation, now told me I didn?t even have a Christian vocation.
Second spiritual direction
My second session of spiritual direction was celebrated six months later. During this session I pointed out to Fr. Navarro the moral responsibility that comes with telling fourteen year olds, who don?t know anything, that they have a priestly vocation. I mentioned that the Legion tells them they must fully commit to this, while at the same time obliging them to follow a curriculum with no professional career options. I also pointed out that the Legion had lied and continued to lie to families who allow their children to enter its seminaries, telling them that Legionary priests follow both a professional and an ecclesiastical career track. Because of this families felt reassured at least that if their sons decided on a change of life in the future, they would be free to do so knowing they would have some security. He surprised me by agreeing with me and confirming that this was true, but said that the Legionaries do follow two educational tracks, but do not exercise the professional one. The evidence shows this to be a lie. I also told him the Legion should be grateful to my family since it had given them two sons when they were both still very young, one of whom was about to be ordained a priest. He laughed hysterically saying,
Yes, we should be very grateful to your family and to your mother. He kept on laughing,
Ha, ha, ha. Well, Fr. Navarro, that laugh will swallow you up, for I can tell you that from this moment on I will spare no effort in denouncing the illegal and anti-Christian abuses carried out by this congregation under the guise of building the Kingdom of Christ.
PERSONAL APPRAISAL OF THE LEGIONARIES OF CHRIST
I remember once walking with Maciel through a pine grove near Rome when someone asked him, –
Nuestro Padre (which is what he is called in the Legion), if you had not been a priest, what would you have been? At the time his answer surprised me, but not now. The answer I expected was,
I would have been a doctor so I could have saved lives, or an honest politician so that I could have forged just laws, or a lawyer so that I could have supported just causes. In the end there are many professions, which require social awareness, a commitment to others, and doing some form of good. This essentially is what defines a priest. But instead his answer was the following:
I would have been an entrepreneur. Being an entrepreneur is an activity with as much dignity as any other, but it surprised me that someone who was a priest would suggest being an entrepreneur as an alternative to the priesthood. A profession that by definition has somewhat selfish connotations, which looks for economic benefit, which does not always consider the morality of the means to an end, including exploiting workers for maximum economic benefit.
This is precisely the key to understanding the Legionaries of Christ. They are a religious congregation run according to entrepreneurial criteria, where the only thing that matters is extending the Kingdom of Christ, which really means extending the kingdom of the Legionaries of Christ. It will use any means necessary to achieve this without regard for the damage they cause to individuals or entire families. Everything is justified because it is done for the Kingdom of Christ, including the recruitment of minors for their vocational centers (which happens to be against canon law) and the separation of children from their siblings and their families. The eradication of these family bonds is very reminiscent of Nazism. As a Religious Congregation run according to entrepreneurial criteria, they use people as though they were objects, keeping them as long as they are useful, later discarding them without any regard for justice or charity.
Rank and file and leadership
When speaking of the Legionaries of Christ, one must distinguish between the persons who make it up on the one hand, and the moral relativism of the religious congregation, the men who run it and their standards of behavior on the other. It is made up of absolutely admirable people, the majority of whom are dedicated to the strict and detailed observance of Christian virtues, especially the virtue of charity. They commit themselves to long hours of prayer and take on a life of great economic limitations. On the other hand the men chosen for leadership positions present themselves as arbiters of the will of God. They expect to be worshipped and enjoy every privilege. Meanwhile, they force upon their subjects a multitude of rules and norms, which extend into every aspect of life -from how to cut fruit at the table, to how fast to drive a car, to the proper way to put a spoon down after using it. One of a superior?s responsibilities is to integrate religious into being members of the Legion of Christ, which consists in eliminating their own personalities and idiosyncrasies in order to force them into the Legion mold. The result is an army of robots who, as is often said, think and feel the same way and who, of course, see the world in the same way.
Working with the elite
Working with members of the elite represents the essence of the Legionary spirit. They try to avoid appearing class-conscious, saying that they are also involved in social programs, such as setting up schools for the underprivileged and other such things. But this amounts to nothing more than propaganda or image making. More priests are assigned to the elitist Colegio Irlandes than to Mano Amigo (Friendly Hand, a Legionary charitable organization). This strikes me as a brilliant idea – the recruitment of the elite in order to promote justice, equality, sharing, solidarity, etc. What actually happens is that these recruits are utilized not for the social influence they can exercise but for their financial contributions and as sources of favors for the Kingdom of Christ – or more accurately for the kingdom of the Legionaries of Christ. The Kingdom of Christ does not need special favors from anyone. They are successful with the elite precisely, because through their presence they support and legitimize power and its corrupt and deplorable actions. Historically, this is nothing new.
Social justice is associated with liberation theology. The Legionaries of Christ are not a congregation which denounces wrongs and demands social injustice. They are a congregation of the status quo, of keeping things the way they are. They reduce Christian life to that which is familiar, and in the realm of sexuality they impose rules on others, which they themselves do not abide by. They are effective at presenting a scrupulous conscience as a way to address certain moral topics. In this way they are an effective voice for the pope.
They are image specialists. From the point of view of the Congregation [Order] the solid formation of its members and unconditional loyalty to the pope are nothing more than convenient ploys to be used to build up their image. If they display a lack of justice and charity by no longer concerning themselves with their former members, it doesn?t matter. If the Congregation goes against the teachings of the pope by recruiting minors, it doesn?t matter, because it?s good for the Congregation. Finally, if they do not promote family unity, a frequent topic of the pope, by not permitting their members to visit relatives (in my case the last time my brother came home was when my father died fifteen years ago), that doesn?t matter either. Theirs is an image made up of close associations with the pope, of long and fervent Masses, of extensive and frequent Eucharistic adorations and of beautiful discourses on spiritual topics. This is what dazzles many bishops and cardinals, who place their trust in them, assuming that the spiritual intensity and fervor will bring forth good works. In this way they are able to cover up the injustices and betrayals they commit.
The Congregation is essentially interested in one thing. The structure of all the Apostolates, and every decision made, is designed to bring in vocations or money. The Legion?s schools serve fundamentally as seedbeds for vocations and those who work there are required to cultivate them. The vocations can be to the priesthood or to Regnum Christi. They do not run schools because they have a teaching mission like other worthwhile Orders. The Legionaries have schools because they are a useful means of extending the Kingdom of Christ through money or beneficial contacts.
Charges against Maciel of pedophilia, sexual abuse of minors and drug addiction
Recently books have come out, such as
The Secret Documents of the Legionaries of Christ by Jose Martinez (published by Ediciones B) or
The Legionary by Alejandro Espinosa (published by Grijalbo), which claim, among other things, that for a time Maciel was addicted to morphine and maintained sexual relations with religious, some of them minors. They also deal with accusations that he bought off certain cardinals in the curia with money or favors. Personally, in my seven years in the Legion of Christ, I never saw any of this. But if a fully credible investigation is not opened into these charges, I will believe Alejandro Espinosa, whom no one has been able to discredit in any way.
These books also report incidents of sexual abuse of minors in Ontaneda and other vocational centers. Once again, I cannot denounce these acts without there first being an investigation by the church. My personal opinion is that, reading these stories and taking into account all the details presented in them, I am convinced that the accusations are true and that these acts did in fact occur. Additionally, after examining the details related to these cases, I come away with the impression that the office of the Director General allowed priests with pedophilic inclinations to work with minors.
I intentionally refer to the superior general of the Legionaries of Christ as
Maciel without using the honorific title
Father before his name. As the author of
The Legionary points out, his ordination was neither valid nor lawful, since he had not taken the theological courses required to be a priest. Additionally, he was suspended
a divinis by the same bishop who had ordained him.