Leaving the LC requires a very special effort to rebuild our relationships with our family,? writes G., a former legionary, in an online forum.
We were never allowed to reveal to them any of our spiritual difficulties at any time, so our leaving the Legion always came as a shock to them. They always though that we were so happy. So many times I hear families say that their son seems so happy in the Legion. There is no way that the family could know anything different, since there is not communication of anything negative in this regard. We were trained in the phrases to use and themes to comment on in letters and phone calls.
For insight into the sorts of issues faced by legionaries who suddenly find themselves out of the legion and back in the real world, the Legion created a website of what it considers to be helpful tips: http://formerlegionaries.org/ or http://www.formerlegionaries.net/ Its content is written by Joe S., who has served as a spokesperson for the legion.
It shows just how inadequately the legion prepares its candidates for adulthood.
Since the Legion recruits very young people into its ranks, some as young as twelve, many former members have never had a checking account. Therefore, the site must explain that
cash paper or coin money is useful, but in today’s world, a majority of purchases of over $50 is made by check or credit card. It adds,
You’ll also need a bank account in order to deposit your job payments or to cash checks.? It notes that parents will
naturally be extremely helpful? in setting up such accounts.
It must point out that debit card is essentially a card used to retrieve cash from your checking (or savings) account as well as explain the importance of producing a credit history and what credit cards are and how to use them: Credit cards are essentially short term and high interest loans made to private individuals for private purchases. They are useful in helping you cover high upfront costs such as buying a used car, a major appliance or some other major expense for which your current checking account simply could not cover.? According to this site ex-legionaries are not aware that employers pay their workers every two weeks,? so credit cards might be necessary to cover any financial shortfall.
Ex-legionaries must be told that they will be expected to work at least 40 hours a week at a job unless of course your parents are willing to put you through a graduate degree program. Apparently they do not know that
there are many types of jobs in the American economy: those you can walk into immediately and those that need a more formal interview process to begin with. But for either type, they are told,
you will want to make a good first impression on potential employers as well as learn as much about them as possible.?
They are given advice on how to train professionally:
If you want to be a waiter, spend time watching waiters, if you spot a really good one analyze his style and how he does his job. If you want to be a salesman, go shopping and ask a lot of questions and then watch how good salesmen act.
They must be told of the importance of physical exercise:
Having just left the Legion you’ll probably be in good physical condition. . . but if you don’t find or make the time to continue to exercise, within a year or two, you’ll begin to fill out and fall apart.
They must be told of the importance of proper diet:
In general, Legionaries have few cavities but a year or two
in the world, eating foods rich in sugar and calories has led not a few former legionaries to extended visits to the dentist’s chair.
They must be given advice on how to conduct their social lives:
What you do with your free time is completely up to you to work out.
They must be warned that
dating is a prelude to engagement and marriage, so it can be both expensive (flowers, candy, cards, teddy bears, dinners out, etc.) and time consuming (late night phone calls, constant emails, weekend walks in the park, etc.).
And of course they must be warned of the dangers women pose:
Girls date in order to find husbands who will then take care of them for the rest of their lives. They are warned to
avoid those girls who are physically attractive but morally weak. (Remember, if she is going to be the mother of your children, her moral virtue is a big deal.)
They must be told where to go to find out about the birds and the bees:
If you want to understand women and learn useful anatomical details read serious books such as â€˜Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus
They must also be lectured on the responsible use of time:
Laziness is the devil’s workshop. . . You’ll probably pray a lot less than before, and time for reading or reflection will also diminish, but just be careful to not vegetate as your new mission awaits you: finishing an education, finding a career, discovering a mission, a wife, and becoming the man God wants you to be.
No preparation for adulthood
Most people will not disagree with most of the advice given by the legion in the above excerpts. What is telling, however, is that it more resembles the sort of advice one would give a child rather than a man in his twenties, thirties or even forties. For example, what does it say that the legion feels the need to tell exiting members that eating sugary foods leads to tooth decay?
Here is an organization, fabulously wealthy by all accounts with an annual budget rivaling that of the Holy See, yet many former members complain they receive little help, financial or otherwise, when they transition to the outside world .
This is an organization which counts among its benefactors not only some of the most powerful people in the Roman Curia, but powerful political and business leaders in Spain and Mexico as well. They have tremendous resources of financial knowledge upon which to draw, but do not tell their recruits what a checking account is. This is an organization that operates schools all over the world, including numerous universities in Spain, Mexico and Italy, but has failed to explain to its members how a credit card works.
One may ask, is this is deliberate? Is the legion purposely keeping its members in the dark? The legion generally only accepts adolescents or very young men as seminarians. Education is supposed to be the Legion’s primary mission, yet its own website suggests that it fails to educate its own members about some very basic aspects of modern life. One may ask, does the legion want them to be so naive about the world so they will never have the confidence to leave? The legion knows that most of the its candidates for the priesthood never make it to ordination. According to former members, of those who are ordained, many if not most leave after ordination. One may also ask, should the legion not be able to provide some sort of preparation that takes this fact into account?
Legionaries are kept in something resembling indentured servitude. They work night and day for years without receiving a salary or a stipend. They are not allowed to receive even small financial gifts from family members. If such gifts are given, they are turned over to their superiors. They relinquish every aspect of their personal lives to the legion with the assumption that they are making a lifetime commitment and that they will be financially taken care of. If the legion is not going to provide for individuals’ financial needs when they are dismissed abruptly without warning, as many are, why does the legion not at least provide them with some rudimentary knowledge of the more mundane aspects of life?
Perhaps the answer is because they know that, for those Legionaries who leave, the burden for supporting them will fall upon their parents.