LC and the Jesuits/Opus Dei
Subject: RE: The Legion of Christ,:between the Jesuits and the Opus Dei
> Dear Eloise:
> how wonderful to get your mail and have a few minutes on my hands as the year 2001 ends! I have yet to launch my own ‘apostolic’ message for the new year, so I will take your info as a launching pad for some unstructured remarks. I will draw some comparisons and parallels between the Opus, the Legion and the Jesuits, which may be helpful to less initiated LC/RC searchers. As usual, I may stir up some reactions and would welcome others jumping in and using my reflections to further educate us all. My information may need some corrections and
nuancing. I am not the most knowledgeable/appropriate person to be writing parts of this.
> MARCIAL MACIEL AND THE LC/RC: BETWEEN THE JESUITS AND THE OPUS DEI
> The ‘rock and a hard place’ metaphor is intentional. The theme here is that Maciel and the LC/RC movement may be better understood by drawing some comparisons with these two other phenomena: Escriva de Balaguer and his Opus Dei, and Saint Ignatius and the Jesuits.
Though, with all due respect, Ignatius and his boys, the SJs, are in a league of their own because of their long history, wide influence, canonized saints, missionaries, ‘holiness’, pastoral works, etc. And although the Opus Dei is secretive and perhaps repressive in its own way, I have no first hand knowledge of this and am more familiar with the particular astuteness and deceit used by the Legion and Maciel. [Note: I will be using both the founder’s first/christian name ‘Marcial’ [as in ‘martial’, a less-common but not unknown Spanish name; a Latin poet, born in Spain, Marcus Valerius Martialis], and his last/surname ‘Maciel’, an uncommon but not-unknown last name, which according to the annals of Cotija, Michoacan, hark back
to European settlers or French soldiers; hence the blue eyes.
> ESCRIVA/OPUS & MACIEL/LC:RC
> * Both are communities of priests that run lay organizations:
> The Holy Cross [?] priests run the Opus Dei; the Legionary of Christ priests run the Regnum Christi lay movement. Part of the mystique of these priest organizations is to deny that they ‘run’ the lay organizations. They will allege that the latter are independent. * The Opus Dei was born of, or at least forged by, the Spanish Civil War. Atrocities were committed by both sides and a million people died. Irish and American volunteers fought on the side of the ‘Rublicans’, which get better press, particularly in liberal-leaning circles, and popularity perpetuated by Hemmingway novels and the movies [with Gary Cooper] they spawned. Francisco Franco, [July 1936] protected
> by a personal guard of Moor fighters, led a band of Spanish Legionnaires back from Morocco to combat what he saw as a communist [‘Red’] regime.
> The discipline, fierceness, strategy, and the support of -I suppose- at least half the Spanish people, finally won the war. The Catholic Church supported Franco as a champion of religion. I believe that in this climate of strong feeling for and against the Church the Opus Dei took off: to prevent society from ever again becoming atheistic and anti-church, it was necessary to win over young leaders who would cultivate christian/catholic values in society from positions of influence…
> * The Spanish Legion would be -together with the Roman- what Maciel had in mind when he thought of calling his group ‘Legionaries of the Pope’ and later ‘Legionaries of Christ’. Not the French Foreign Legion as most English speaking readers would assume.
> * Franco was looked upon favorably by Father Maciel and other Legionary superiors during my service [1961-84] and was considered a great leader [Spanish, Caudillo].
> * I believe Escriva was older than Maciel but Maciel started off very young. Meanwhile back in Mexico in 1936, Marcial, son of Francisco Maciel, a dispossessed land owner, is sixteen. Anticlericalism is rampant in some government circles. There has been religious persecution
> going on in his country for several years and he has witnessed
> atrocities. Bands of religious guerrillas struggle to defend church rights and properties confiscated by the government. [For an ambiance read Graham Green’s novel, The Power and the Glory, about a whiskey priest who is a paradoxical hero.] This was the Cristero [lit. Christ fighter’], uprising of the 30’s which was stronger in certain areas of Mexico [Tabasco, Veracruz are legendary] depending on the religious
> fervor of the populace and the cruelty of central government troops
> [Federales, renowned for their atrocities] and local leaders.
> * With the martyr cries of ‘Viva Cristo Rey!’ [Long LIve Christ the King!] ringing in his ears the 16 year old Marcial tell us he ‘got the call’ to become a missionary priest, and, soon after, the call/obsession to found a new religious order. It is an exciting story, no doubt. This quest took him to several seminaries. No sooner was he admitted than he would start drawing other seminarians into his inner circle and sell them the
> idea of starting a new order of priests who would be better, more devout, modern and efficent than regular diocesan clergy. He was kicked out a couple of times. Finally,he was ordained by his uncle who was a
> bishop [Mons. Arias of Cuernavaca?] on November 26, 1924 at the age of twenty-four. Before ordination he had begun training a group of 12 young recruits, mostly from the Western Cristero states, to be his first missionaries [Missionaries of the Sacred Heart?]. Later he would toy with the idea of calling them ‘Legionaires of the Pope’ but decided that would be too risky. [After all, he is a marketing genius!].
> * In the context of a family dispossessed by land reform, a
> society besieged by anticlericalism, etc. it is easy to see how Maciel would have come full circle with a powerful organization that reclaims Mexican society for Christ, conquering those areas of society: politics, the media, the schools, universities, etc. that had been instruments of agnosticism, anti-clericalism and liberalism during the XIX and XX centuries. In this sense, the RC is the Mexican Opus.
> Note: Maciel uses, copies, usurps names and ideas very freely and will bristle at suggestions that he is borrowing ideas from others.
> * My opinion is that he idea of a lay movement may have come from the Opus Dei [‘Work of God], because at the beginning of his Maciel writings he makes no mention of a lay movement. [Beware here with the Legionaries re-editing, i.e. ‘doctoring’, the books to make it look like the idea started earlier!] Those of us who joined in the 50 or 60 were exposed
to the original ‘Letters of Nuestro Padre’ which were printed and promoted as our principal source spiritual reading [the Founder’s writings].
It was all about his missionary priests in the numerous letters he wrote to his communities while he was absent fundraising . I would say it was not until the late 60s or later that he started moving in the direction of a lay movement. [Former members and historians help me…].
> * My personal experience may illustrate the point about name borrowing.When I was working with Father Maciel around 1970-71 on the project to train lay religious education teachers he liked the sound of Escuela[s] de la Fe [Schools of Faith], I pointed out to him that the name and concept of ‘School of Faith’ already existed. As a matter of fact I had found
out about a wonderful French Worker Priest, Jacques Loew, who already had founded his ‘Ecole de la Foi’ in Fribourg, Switzerland. [I confess I was quite attracted to this priest’s life and writings and made inquiries about it but then got cold feet when Fr. Loew invited me to meet with him in Rome…]. Maciel’s answer want something like:’Forget this guy. We’re going to the do the Schools of Faith!’ This is typical of his arrogance.
> * Regarding the name Regnum Christi [Kingdom of Christ] it is very easy to make a transition from the previously coined term, Opus Dei [‘Work of God]. The Legion has always considered its spirituality ‘Christ-centered’. And the Legion is triumphalistic; therefore ‘Kingdom’. Besides, there is no denying that the ‘Coming of the Kingdom’ is central to Christ’s message. Whether the preacher of the radical Sermon on the Mount meant the same as Father Maciel regarding social change is another question.
> IGNATIUS/JESUITS & MARCIAL/LC+RC
> Some parallels immediately spring to mind.
> * Jesuits is the term given to the members of the order of
> religious priests founded by Ignatius of Loyola. As a Basque ex-soldier, Ignatius would be the one to talk about armies and other such stuff. His group became known as ‘La Companyia de Jesus’ which is ‘The Company of Jesus’. Now this is not because these holy men kept company with Jesus. It is a military term, as in Jesus’ Batallion/Company of Soldiers. Not being a military man
> I’m getting foggy here, but I believe he is referring to a small select group of soldiers. He could have called it the ‘Jesus Seals’… Once more, there is a short step from ‘Company of Jesus’ to ‘Legion of Christ’. But it is more than the name.
> * Founder Maciel also espoused the idea of a religious order of priests that were not tied to a dioces of parish, that could move about freely all over the church, and be under direct command of the Pope rather than having to answer to local bishops. [Mons Escriva got this for his priests and group by having their director made a ‘Personal Prelate of the Pope’] .
> * Father Maciel also believed that the Jesuits were the best
> trained and best organized religious order in the church. He wanted constitutions/rules and a spirituality similar to theirs. He loved the idea of specialized training and studies for his young men. Maciel took his men out of Mexico to study in Jesuit run seminaries in Spain and eventually to the Jesuit Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
[Can you imagine his ‘high’, when the boys he had trained won gold and silver medals at this prestigious university in the 50s and 60s!]. * I am lacking a piece of lc history during the 40s and 50s in northearn Spain at the universities of Cobreces and Comillas that may be key to lc contact with the Jesuits. There was this paradoxical situation of the young Mexican priest who admired the Jesuits and wanted to learn from them but wanted to do his own thing. So I believe from early on a kind of love-hate relationship began with the Jesuits. One came imagine the Jesuits being annoyed at this young upstart who wanted to pick their brain and upstage them. Undeniably there are many parallels between the Jesuit and Legion spirituality and system.
> * Even the ‘uniform’/cassock is strikingly similiar: black with
> black waistband. * The legion continues to believe in the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius as key element in preparing for stages in training and as a yearly ritual. I personally did Ignatian Exercises of a week every year I was in the Legion, and did month long exercise at least once.
It must have been at a time when Maciel thought it was a great method. However, there is always a twist when describing the Legion modus operandi. Maciel would carefully select the more traditional spiritual directors to lead/give the Spiritual Exercises [Don Angel Morta, Don Luis Bariandaran, Don Angel Suquia]. These would not be Jesuits [that would be too blatant and I don’t think the Jesuits would take kindly to it] but rather diocesan priests trained in the Jesuit method. These priests could be well known preachers that Maciel would hire i.e. pay to preach the Exercises. Maciel would coach them along certain lines
that he wanted to get through to the retreatants. The core of the Ignatian retreat, the discernment process of the Will of God for me as an individual, was glossed over. Because we all knew -out superiors had told us- that we had a vocation to the Legion. So, although I have done Ignatians Spiritual Exercises on many occasions, I cannot say that I have done an authentic Jesuit Ignatian Retreat. Nor did I experience more modern approaches that integrate spirituality and psychology [v;g; along Jungian lines]. I did not have that kind of spiritual freedom until after leaving the legion.
> * The importance of Examination of Conscience and frequent
> soul-searching of one’s motives, ‘Purity of Intention’, etc., is another Jesuit legacy. I believe Maciel turned this up a notch with the ‘Practical Exams’ for self scrutiny on weekly retreats.
> * Don’t forget that the term ‘Nuestro Padre’ [Spanish for ‘Our
> Father’ and which in Spanish does not necessarilly harken to the Our Father prayer but rather is an endearing/respectful form of ‘Father’], is the term the Jesuits use[d] to refer to their beloved founder Ignatius of Loyola.
> * Just as the Jesuits were the Catholic Church’s ‘combat troops’ of the Counter-reformation, so Father Maciel wants the Legionaries to be the Church’s ‘Marines’ of post Vatican II. Maciel has never fully accepted the Second Vatican Council. He is more comfortable with Vatican I. He rarely mentions Pope John XXIII. His favorite pope is Pius XII.
> * Between Maciel and the present pope and many conservative cardinals and bishops there is quite an amount of consonance regarding doctrine, morals and the need for strict discipline of religious and clergy in the face of materialism, hedonism, and liberalism. The large numbers of legionary seminarians appears as a confirmation to Pope John Paul II that the measures he espouses in implementing Vatican II can be and are successful. This may be one of the reasons Father Marcial Maciel is untouchable in Vatican circles. Who would want to kill the hen, or rooster, that lays the golden eggs?
> From his headquarters by the Potomac,
> the dissident disciple,
> Paul Lennon MA