Xavier Leger – Testimony of His Life During and After the Legionaries of Christ
Xavier Leger, a French ex Legionary shares his personal testimony during and after his years of experience as a Legionary. His sharing of his personal journey provides a glimpse of what it feels like for well intentioned people who are caught in a trap, deceived into mistrusting their own judgment, fearing serious damage to their relationship with God and gradually losing their sense of worth. His story also serves to confirm the message that this website and others are providing to shine some light into the darkness of Legion.
Six years of suffering, going against my better judgment, my real conscience
I had the feeling of being constantly spiritually raped.
and felt very humiliated on realizing I had been the prey of a recruiter..
the brainwashing of the Legion leads us to think that doubting about one’s vocation is a serious sin…
I began to recover from the serious damage that my experience in the Legion had done to my self-esteem
I was suffering from post-cult trauma.
the rector was willing to e-mail the families, but Fr. Guerra, the Territorial Director, forbad him to do so.
The parents thought that Father Guerra wanted to present his personal apology (regarding cases of pedophilia in the Apostolic School) but when they arrived at the Territorial Direction, instead of Father Guerra they had to face the Legion of Christ lawyer
Here is his story:
My name is Xavier Leger. I’m 33 and I’m French. I come from a fairly liberal Catholic family. I studied philosophy at a Catholic institute, the Faculte Libre de Philosophie Comparie. When I entered this college, I had not been practicing my faith since my childhood catechism. But the wise teachings I received there and the friendship of the students helped me to get closer to the Church.
In 1997, I went to the World Youth Days in Paris. This experience moved me deeply. I came out transformed… There are a lot of things that I cannot explain. I can only say that I understood that God was a GOOD FATHER. From this time on I never lost my faith, even during the toughest years I spent in the Legion.
During the World Youth Days, I also met the Legion of Christ,
thanks to a young Mexican deacon, Father R.M, LC. He had been sent to France as a Legion recruiter -of course, I was not aware of that at that time. After the WYD, he urged me to join the Regnum Christi. I was bothered by his intrusive manner. I felt he was too insistent and, besides, he had even managed to make me leave my previous spiritual guide in order to take his place.
But probably being too naive, I followed him. From the moment of my spiritual experience during the WYD, I really wanted to become a priest. Quickly recruited into the Regnum Christi, I did not try to compare it with other paths … And I joined the Legion in 1999.
I have to say that, contrary to some former Legionaries who say they were very happy in the Legion, I was never so. Maybe, to feel normal, I convinced myself at times that I was; but honestly, I have very bad memories of my life in the Legion … Six years of suffering, going against my better judgment, my real conscience.
Coming from a family of artists, I am a very emotional person. I need freedom and sometimes solitude. I need to walk at my own pace. I hate to be under pressure.
During my novitiate I had the feeling of being constantly spiritually raped. Because I had studied philosophy, I appreciated the wisdom of St Thomas Aquinas, in particular regarding the operation of will and reason in moral action. In the Legion I had the impression of being in an opposite system, where everything was duty and obligations… our own will was denied, even placed under suspicion.
I remember that during one of the first quiete (time allotted to conversation in small groups), some brother asked me who my
vocational recruiter was. I was disturbed at what he said… My what? Vocational recruiter? I was discovering the
human part of the methodology… and felt very humiliated on realizing I had been the prey of a recruiter… I felt betrayed and, in hindsight, I was beginning to understand why Fr. R.M. had urged me so many times to quickly join the novitiate.
But maybe because I was too weak, I trusted their promises (stay one year at least, and then, you choose…), believing that maybe I had a legionary vocation. I stayed six years and a half.
This might be easier to say today, but I must confess that I always felt repulsion towards Marcial Maciel. While I was following all the instructions and learning all the details about the virtuous life of Maciel, inside my heart I could not compel myself to love him. I was often thinking back to a book, in which the author, Daniel Pennac, explained that there are verbs that cannot take the imperative form. We cannot say
love!, since the act of love is created, not by the strength of the will, but by the kindness of the object. I was feeling very bad about all the devotions we had for Maciel, a man that I did not know, and that I had to venerate as a father and a saint.
A haunting image came to my mind all the time, during my prayers or even in my dreams: there was a shadow between me and the light. This shadow had the shape of Maciel. I was angry. I wanted to tell him to go away, because it prevented me from seeing the light.
I was ashamed to think that. It made me feel guilty.
During my years in the Legion, I suffered many humiliations. Some of those humiliations took place in public, in front of the community… Today, I think that the priests who did this, who used their authorities to gratuitously humiliate me, were simply poor unfortunate guys, very unhappy themselves. But the worst thing is that there was no room for me to defend myself. The superior was right, always. And I could do nothing but accept with bowed head.
From the novitiate of Gozzano to my internship in France
After my novitiate in Italy, I was sent to Salamanca, thence to Thornwood, and finally back to France during the summertime of 2003 to do fund raising.
I had a lot of very bad personal experiences in the Legion but since they only concerned me I accepted them. When I was sent to do apostolate, however, and asked to follow the methodology for fund raising and recruitment, I slowly sank into a deep breakdown.
I still tremble when recalling some shameful situations… For example, when I begged some old people for money: they where trapped between two young brothers wearing clerical collars… I often ask God to forgive me for that.
At the end of the summer, having worked in fundraising for two months, the Territorial Director Fr. H G asked me to stay in France to work with ECYD (Study, Education & Sports). The reason for that was very simple: before joining the Legion, I used to be a Boy Scout leader in a parish that was very close to the Territorial Direction Center. When my former boy scouts learned I was in Paris, they gathered to greet me. It was a wonderful moment. Fr G was surprised to discover that I was very well known here. Some weeks before I arrived in Paris, the brother who was taking care of ECYD in Paris had suddenly left the Legion. So Fr. G saw an opportunity and I was asked to stay.
I was happy to be back in my own country. My family was only 30 minutes away from the Territorial Direction, and I could see them more frequently. During the last four years, I had had very few occasions to be with them. My older brother was married… and I had not been allowed to be present for the wedding. This was an enormous mistake by the Legion… because from that moment on my family got less and less enthusiastic about my vocation.
During my stay in Paris, I witnessed a lot of strange events. I saw how Fr. R.L. successfully infiltrated the French Jet Set. I met some very important people at the TD. One day, I was even asked to be acolyte at a private Mass for Cecilia Sarkozy, the former wife of our President. I remember that on one occasion Maciel came to Paris for a special dinner with some of the biggest French leaders. I was not allowed to be present at the dinner, so I went into the chapel that was just beside the dining room. I caught some snippets of conversation while trying to say my night prayers. I was appalled when I overheard Maciel making a strong comment: he accused the last French governments of letting too many Muslims into France. I was deeply deeply shocked to learn that the Legion had rented a magnificent classic car to chauffer Maciel in Paris. And that he was staying in one of the most expensive hotels in Paris. How could such a thing be possible? The Territorial Direction is a grand house, located in one of the wealthiest private avenues of Paris… Why doesn’t Maciel stay here? Why rent a very expensive car when we already have Fr. G?s beautiful car? I could not sleep any more.
One activity that I enjoyed among my various apostolates was the catechism I taught at a small parish near the Territorial Direction. The Legion was trying to infiltrate the dioceses of Paris and my superiors had sent me to participate in some diocesan events. I was feeling much better in this atmosphere than inside the Legion. For the first time I began to dream of leaving the Legion and joining the diocese of Paris.
Leaving the Legion
After two years, I was totally exhausted and disgusted with the bad example of some recruiters working in France. I was thinking seriously of leaving the Legion, but I did not feel able to go through this tremendous humiliation. As you all know, the brainwashing of the Legion leads us to think that doubting about one’s vocation is a serious sin… I was feeling like a graft that was not taking. My superiors sent me to Rome
in order to save my vocation. This was in September 2005. When I arrived in Rome I felt lost in the enormous Center of Study, like a sheep lost in the enormous flock. I could not bear the rhythm of daily routine anymore. Every moment was painful. The superior of the Center of Studies, who was also my Spiritual Director, made me many promises in order to prevent me from making the decision to leave. But in January 2006 I told him that I had made up my mind: I wanted to leave. At that moment he said something that totally shocked me: he said that he had also been thinking about me and had come to the conclusion that in fact I did not have a legionary vocation… And he also added that it would be better for me to abandon the idea of the priesthood altogether. He advised me to get married and to keep on with some apostolates with Regnum Christi. I still feel bitter when I recall this final conversation.
My worst moment ever came the day of my departure. I felt that I was making the worst mistake of my life: I was putting my salvation in jeopardy; I was betraying my vocation, my mission… the very reason of my existence. As usual, they had chosen to send me home during a time the community was out. This was a tough humiliation: the superior of the Rome house and the brother who had been my Assistant for religious life took me to the airport with an expression of compassion in their eyes. When I got on board the aircraft, I was trembling… saying to myself:
What have I done! My God, I have betrayed You!
Arriving home I threw myself into my mother?s arms and wept. I was suffering. My parents did not know how to handle my condition, but they took me back as their son. During the next few weeks I lived at home; a kind of new birth. My dear parents, with love and without any judgment, took care of me.
I was almost thirty years old. Time had passed, and I was lost. I had to rebuild my life from scratch. But I knew I was too weak. There was still this sword of guilt in my heart, and this feeling that whatever I did after was only a means of justifying myself. I had betrayed my vocation. I had disobeyed the will of God…
A New Start In Life
But things began to change more quickly than I imagined. I remembered that the only place were I had been successful was in my work with youth. I had been a Boy Scout leader. I had worked in catechism in different places… I could not imagine myself working in an office, too far away from my former experience. So I thought that the best thing I could do, at that moment, was to find a job with youth, in a Catholic atmosphere.
Some months before I left the Legion, I had met a parish priest who was the director of an important oratory in Paris. I don’t know why, but I had a strong hunch: I should offer him my help. I found his phone number and called him:
Hello Father, I do not know whether you remember me. I was in the Legion of Christ. I just left the order. I do not know what I am going to do now but I need time to think. If you are still looking for counselors, I would be glad to help you.
That’s amazing! I have just learned that the leader of the children’s activities is in the hospital. I need you tomorrow!
The following day I went to the oratory and worked during the whole day with the children. At the end of the day the director came up to me and said:
You, you stay here.
This was the best thing that I could have hoped for. At first I was working only on Wednesdays and during the weekends. I had a lot of experience in working with youth, and after some weeks I made a bunch of proposals to the director in order to revitalize the activities. The central point of those little reforms consisted in creating a service to help the children with their homework. This was necessary in order to gain the confidence of the families: If the children could stay in the oratory after school and do their homework, the parents would be glad to entrust their children to us. The idea was very simple, and easy to carry out. For that, I needed people to give of their time to helping the kids do their homework. I looked for some schools requiring the students to volunteer work. And I was successful. When summertime arrived I was able to present a project proving to the director that the oratory could hire me. I had a solid financial project, including the creation of different activities for every age group. The director consulted his team, and in September I had a full time job. I also found a small apartment near the oratory. Despite some hesitations at the beginning, most of the activities worked even better than I had even hoped.
This period was a very important stage in my life as it was part of my healing process. I began to recover from the serious damage that my experience in the Legion had done to my self-esteem. I was still very weak, and I had kept some ties to the Legion. The director of the oratory advised me to cut myself off all ties. I had to start a new chapter in my life.
Like many ex members, I experienced a very strong breakdown in my spiritual life. I was feeling anxiety each time I came into the chapel. I could not pray at all. At the time I did not know that this was normal because I was suffering from post-cult trauma. I was confused, feeling guilty at progressively abandoning any kind of prayer. But, strangely, at the same time I became able to formulate some light criticism of the Legion.
I remember that at that time I began to read some articles on ReGAIN and other web sites. I was as excited as an adolescent secretly reading porn sites… ReGAIN and the other web pages critiquing the Legion were doing the work of the Devil! Of Course! But since I was already bound for hell what would it matter? Anyway, I was still so suppressed that I did not read very much… In my mind all these accusations against the Legion could simply not be true because the order was at the center of the Church. The Legion seemed so strong, so huge, so successful…
The keystone of the movement in France leaves the priesthood
Something happened at this moment which totally blew me away. Fr R.L., the French Jet Set Legionary priest I spoke about already, sent out an email announcing that God was calling him to a special mission in South America. He had to leave ASAP… Well, this was strange because Fr, R.L. was the most important Legionary in France. Nobody could replace him. He was at that time the keystone of the apostolate the Legion was developing in France. Something strange was going on…
The true version came through the priests of the diocese. The director of the oratory told me that Fr R.L. had left the Legion, and even the priesthood. The Legion was trying to hide the scandal, but it was already too late. Fr R.L. had left the Legion to meet up his former girlfriend (the girlfriend that he had left when he decided to join the Legion).
The departure of Fr. L, and the way the Legion tried to hush up the scandal, pushed me one step forward in my ability to critique the Legion. There was something wrong with the Legion. I could say that at least,
Making the Decision to Join the Paris Seminary
In June 2007 I asked to join the seminary of Paris.
My intentions for coming back onto the rails of the priesthood were very muddled. I had the firm conviction that God was calling me to become a priest. There are elements of my life, very personal, that I cannot explain right now. Inside my heart there was also an intuition, which I could not explain with words, but I was thirsty to have another experience of the Church. I understood that I NEEDED to come back to a totally different kind of training system… because I was looking for answers and healing. I also had the hope of getting a second chance.
When the Director of the Oratory learned that I wanted to join the seminary of Paris he published an announcement in some catholic newspapers seeking to hire someone for my post. I was very proud of my achievements because most of the activities I had created were working quite well.
During the last days of June the director of the oratory was receiving many applications by post. One day as I was strolling in the oratory I recognized a man who was waiting in front of the office. It was an ex-member of the Legion, J D. I knew him quite well because we had spent one year of novitiate together in Italy. He had even been appointed to be my
guardian angel to introduce me to the religious life.
I was not aware that he had left the Legion and above all I was very surprised to see him without a cassock or clerical collar.
I walked toward him. He startled, very surprised at seeing me. He did not know that I was actually the leader of the youth activity center. I greeted him and I asked him what he was doing here… Well, he confessed, he had just left the Legion and that he was looking for a job -showing me the newspaper with the ad. I explained to him that I was the one who had created this post and that I was leaving now to join the Paris seminary. I felt a bit of embarrassment on his part… We shared our phone numbers and I told him that, after his meeting, I would invite him to take a beer together in order to share our recent experiences.
I was thinking to myself: well, I have had an extraordinary opportunity with this job. Thanks to it I have been able to overcome many personal difficulties. I was sure that if I supported his candidacy JD would have the job. But for some reason I quickly approached the director in his office and said:
Father, I know the man who is about to meet you for the job. He is a former Legionary. I cannot explain why, but I feel this guy is very fragile. Please, trust me, do not hire him. And the Director accepted my suggestion (A new twist to this story will be told later).
The seminary director asked me to start all over again. The diocese of Paris was very suspicious of the Legion of Christ and its training system. So they wanted me to spend a year at the Maison Saint Augustin (San Augustin House), considered
year zero. Why
year zero? Because during this year we were not yet seminarians. This is a special year for spiritual foundation and discernment. From the very beginning I was told that nothing compelled me to stay on this path. It was a time to discern the will of God and to test my own capacity for the priesthood. We were immediately told that participating in the year of discernment we were being very generous with the Church and therefore the diocese was contributing to our social care and our individual retirement. It was explained to us that although the above was very expensive it was the diocese? moral duty. And with all our needs covered by the seminary the diocese was also offering us a small salary. I could not help thinking about the 500 Euros the Legion had given me day I left after six years in the order…
The pedagogy at the Paris Seminary was absolutely different from my former experience in the Legion of Christ. Everything was based upon trust and freedom. There was some discipline, of course, but also great flexibility. We were not being constantly watched. For the first time I was told about a principle I had never heard of in the Legion: a spiritual guide or director should never be in position of authority over the seminarians. Never! We did not speak of
Spiritual Director, but of
Spiritual Guide… And we could even choose the one we wanted!!!
Everyday we gathered in the chapel to pray the liturgy of the hours at lauds and vespers. The atmosphere was again very different. The formation of the diocesan priests revolved around the study of Holy Scriptures. We had very good teachers to introduce the readings… I was amazed and ashamed to discover that, after having spent six years in the Legion, I was totally ignorant about the Bible. During that whole year I studied and read the entire Bible, book by book. This work began to transform many things in my mind… I was beginning to understand that many things in the Legion were somewhat in contradiction with the pedagogy of God which I was witnessing through reading the Bible.
In contrast to this new template I was also beginning to understand that the driving force behind the whole system of the Legion was based on two principles: guilt and seduction. I do not know how many hours I spent that year with my spiritual guide. During our conversations I began to throw up my former experience… becoming more and more aware
and convinced that the Legion of Christ was indeed one powerful machine for crushing personality and vocations.
The healing process allowed me to exteriorize the anger I had repressed inside myself for too long. I was angry but, strangely, I was getting better; I was breaking down the walls of inhibition that the Legion had created in my mind. This anger was not bad! As a temperature is a good thing when we are sick because temperature means that our body is defending itself by producing antibodies… my conscience was progressively rejecting all the pathogenic aspects of the Legionary methodology.
I remember that one day a fellow companion asked me during a meal what I thought about the Legion. Spontaneously, I answered:
It?s a cult! This was the first time I used the word… and I felt relieved to affirm it.
Admitting this idea, however, leaded me to others difficulties: If I was right it would mean that the Legion of Christ, that was growing in many parts of the Church, having more and more responsibilities in the Vatican, was pushing the Church in a wrong direction.
At that time, however, I could not yet believe that Maciel was guilty of pedophilia… It was too horrible to be true… Even if, somewhere in my mind, I was thinking that it would explain a lot of things. But no, such depravity could not be possible… for many reasons:
- – First of all, despite some cult-like behavior that I was finally admitting, there were the fruits: the enormous centers of formation, the growing number of vocations, the mega-missions, and all those enormous apostolates… all those things were visible proofs of the holy origins of the Legion. Weren’t they? Would God choose a pedophile to create all that?
- – Second, the Legion had introduced an irrefutable defense: on the Web Site of Wikipedia, they had explained regarding the accusations that one of the accusers, Miguel Diaz, had withdrew his accusations, confessing under oath, that he had been approached by people who were trying to attack Fr. Maciel so as to satisfy their personal desire for vengeance. Other people had also confirmed that they had been approached with the same purpose. This defense was very strong: would those people, and the leaders of the Legion, lie without scruples and sell their souls to defend Maciel?
- – Third, there were the many approvals of the Church authorities. Could they have been so blind? And what’s about the
- ? The Church had already carried out an investigation 1955-58… How could those Visitors have been fooled? And all the marvelous stories about the incredible life of Maciel… all were lies?
Informing the Church’s Authorities
Nevertheless, during the vacations of February 2008 I decided to write to my Bishop, Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, who was also the President of the French Bishop’s Conference. Such a task was very difficult and hazardous. I was not yet accepted into the seminary… And I was afraid because criticizing a religious congregation blessed by the Church could be seen as a serious lack of humility.
Nevertheless, I had reached the point of no return. Keeping silent meant that I was in league with lies… I had to do it. I had to inform Church authorities about the danger rife in the Church. At this point I felt that I had to take the role of Judas… because the roles had been subtly reversed.
So I wrote a ten pages letter, adding ten other pages of documents. To get it down I spent an entire week alone in my room. As I wrote the first draft I became increasingly upset. Everything was becoming clear in my mind.
I told the Cardinal that I was struggling with my conscience because of my former experience in the Legion, and that I wanted to entrust my doubts to the Church. I explained him that, according to my humble opinion, there were many cult-like behaviors in the religious discipline and in the apostolic methodology. There were many internal contradictions that I could not understand. I put the emphasis on the lack of discernment, the means that the Legion used to make the members feel guilty, the poverty of the spiritual formation, the voluntarism leading to transform faith into an ideology, the idolization of the founder, and the culture of secrecy.
I finally explained that I was very worried about the Apostolic School of Mary-sur-Marne. According to me, there was something very dangerous for the students… It appeared to me that because of the lack of privacy, the lack of freedom, the spirit of guilt… the Legion of Christ could create frustrations among the religious. I told him that I was worrying that this atmosphere of frustration, added to the almighty powers of the superiors, could generate or set off psychological disease leading to pedophilia. I had learned that a
light case of pedophilia had recently occurred at the Apostolic School. According to my informant, this was not a big deal because the religious brother perpetrator had been stopped very quickly. He was only accused of some caresses.
Regarding the accusations against the founder, I told him that I did not believe they were true because of the declarations of Miguel Diaz and other reasons I already explained. I sought possible explanations, saying that Fr Maciel, like other founders, had a strong character…
My letter was introduced by a special word of the superior of the
Year Zero house. He had followed my thought process and gave his approval for my initiative.
Cardinal Vingt-Trois did not answer me but I know he read it. At the end of the year he visit our house. He greeted me with a friendly smile. I understood that he had read with attention my letter. I began to feel relieved.
Summertime, before Joining the Paris Seminary
At the end of the
Year Zero I formally requested to join the seminary. I was feeling much better. At this point I was hoping to put the Legion issue behind me. But there was still something that I could not get out of my conscience: there was a student at the Apostolic School who had joined the school because of me when I was still in the Legion.
Now he was already 16 years old and was going through a troubling period When he was at home for a weekend he called me. I spoke with him very calmly for two or three hours. He could not bear the life in the Apostolic School anymore. He needed to breathe! As I listened I grasped how the Legion had succeeded in brainwashing him. He was full of prejudices about diocesan priests; he was showing off about belonging to the best branch of the Church… At the same time he was trying to find a way to get out – a strange contradiction, very common among legionaries.
As we conversed I helped him understand that it was not a shame to leave. I insisted about the fact that God was a good father: what is the most important thing for a loving father? the personal success of his son… or his happiness? I helped him to analyze some words of his superiors who were trying to make him feel guilty. I told him that this was not fair. This was not true. Those superiors were going above their authority. And I explained to him why. He was relieved by my counsel and was able to leave the Apostolic School despite some bad comments from his Assistant accusing him of fostering rebellion among the students.
But I made a mistake letting him know that I had written to my bishop about my problems of conscience. He shared it to his mother who got upset and immediately informed the Legion Territorial Direction. After a couple of days I received a message from Father J, superior of the Legion?s Paris community. He wanted to meet me urgently. I answered quickly that I could not meet him at this moment because I was about to take care of a summer camp. There were eighty children and I was the person in charge…
No time, sorry. In hindsight I understand how my letter could have upset them: The Legionaries had been working for a couple of years to infiltrate the diocese of Paris. They were trying by all the means to seduce the priests and the authorities of the diocese. My letter was jeopardizing all their attempt to infiltrate the diocese.
I was clearly becoming an
enemy of the Legion.
The mother of Bernard suspected me of having encouraged his son to leave the Apostolic School. This poor woman who had joined the Regnum Christi Movement became furious. During the summertime she sent me hundreds of text messages everyday insulting me.
But I was becoming free, and relieved to be able to finally act according to my conscience.
First Weeks in the Seminary
At the end of summer I joined officially the seminary of Paris. I thought that the worst was behind me. But something happened once again.
It happened on the very first day of classes. All the students of the Studium were gathered for a special conference by the dean of the studies. There were about one hundred and fifty people in the conference room: around seventy seminarians, maybe thirty teachers, and the remainder were composed of lay students and other people working for the school. At the end of the conference the dean presented the youngest student of the Studium: P N., an 18 year old girl from a family that lived in the Paris suburbs.
I was very surprised. I knew this family.
In 2005 I had been contacted by her parents because they had two children wanting to become priests. Some of their friends, who were members of Regnum Christi, had spoken them about the Apostolic School. They wanted to know more about it. So they invited two Legionaries to dinner.
During the meal I became very moved by the kindness of those people of such modest means. Amidst the typical hubbub of a large family I could feel the joy and spontaneity of people of faith… Something similar to the joy I had felt in other occasions before joining in the Legion. Now I had taken religious vows and wearing a clerical collar but I was spiritually dry. The family invited us to participate in their night prayer, a very simple moment taking no more than ten to fifteen minutes. All the children were gathered together, kneeling or seated around a small altar that had been decorated with drawings and holy pictures. Parents and children began to spontaneously pronounce some words of worship, thanking God for this or that… In the depth of my heart something was moving deeply. There was in the simplicity of this prayer more truth, joy and sincerity than I had experienced during all my years in the Legion. I was very moved. But I had to contain my emotions because I was sent there with the mission of recruiting their children for the Apostolic School.
After the prayer the children went to bed. We stayed alone with the parents. They told us that they had received more information about the apostolic school and were not disposed anymore to entrust their children to the Legion of Christ. One way or the other, I had a good time with them. They were very kind and respectful. As I and my Legion confrere drove home that night I felt someone had slapped me on the face with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I, the consecrated religious coming to evangelize the family… was knocked out by the shinning example of this simple family. The brother who had come with me looked upset.
So, when the Dean of studies said that name I startled. I did not know that girl personally because when I came to visit her family she was not at home. At the break I approached her and told her that I knew her family. The girl was surprised. I said:
A few years ago, I used to be a religious. Your family contacted me to learn a little bit more about the minor seminary run by my former religious order.
Were you in the Legion of Christ?
Yes, I was.
She looked confused. And answered firmly:
My brothers have left the Apostolic School. My parents are disappointed with this congregation.
But, I thought that your brothers did not enter the school…
Yes they did, in 2006. But my parents took them out, two months ago.
She explained me that after our visit her parents were still wondering whether to send their sons or not… They visited the Apostolic School, and later received a visit from Fr. M. Finally, attracted by the good appearance of the school, they accepted to entrust their children to the Apostolic School. But they realized progressively that something was wrong: their children were losing their spontaneity. They were speaking always about Father Maciel, more than Jesus Christ. And, by the way, the academic level of the school was very low.
On this particular day I happened to be carrying a copy of the letter I had written to Cardinal Vingt-Trois. During the next class, I sat at the back of the classroom and wrote a letter to the parents. I briefly told them that I had left the Legion of Christ but had kept a wonderful memory of my visit to their home. I invited them to read the letter that I was attaching to my message begging them not to disclose it to anybody.
That night P N?s mother called me. She was very emotional. She had carefully read the whole document with her husband. She told me that they were finally able to understand what was going on with the Legion. During the two years their children were in the Apostolic School they felt that something was not right. She said something that I will always remember, because I think it summarizes the whole issue:
When they joined the Legion, they were praying. When they came back, they were reciting their prayers.
She added that the Legionaries had tried by all their means to prevent the children from leaving the Apostolic School. They even dared to threaten the parents. They became very upset. She told me that I should have spoken more about the cases of pedophilia because that was very serious. I asked her to tell me more. She answered that there was two cases that happened later on. Many children had been psychologically wounded. The first pedophile was French, and the other one, Mexican.
A French brother? But I know all the French brothers in the Legion! I asked her his name but she could not remember. She asked me call back; she would find the name.
Right after this call I made another call; to B, the young boy I already spoke about. His mother answered. She was still very angry at me but she accepted the call. I told her that the family N. had informed me about two cases of pedophilia in the Apostolic School. The mother immediately questioned her son who answered that the N. family was lying because they hated the Legion.
I called the N. family once again. The mother gave me the name of the French offender:
Brother J D Brother J D used to be in charge of the Apostolic School students. At night when the children were going to bed he used to call a child into a separate room and fondle him. It happened in 2004 during the General Chapter while the rector was in Rome. From information she had gathered she knew that the rector was willing to e-mail the families, but Fr. G the Territorial Director, forbad him to do so. So, some families learned through other families that their children had been abused… Afterward, the rector went to visit all the families and cried in front of them to express his shame and beg pardon… The Legionaries were acting that way to cover their traces. Without proof they could not sue the Legion.
I could not believe it. Brother J D this ex-brother who had tried to get my job at the oratory. But could it be possible? After our encounter in the oratory he had become my friend of Facebook. A few months later, I learned that he got married. I had sent him a message for the occasion, saying jokingly that he had been very quick… I remember that I had noticed the presence of a Legionary in the wedding picture that he had published on Facebook.
I had to confirm this information. I needed to know the truth… I called him. But he did not answer. I called him, again and again but as soon the phone began to ring he hung up. I tried another number. He answered. I told him very quickly that I had to speak with him about a very serious issue. There were bad rumors about him. I asked him:
what happened in the Apostolic School? He became furious and angrily said:
You are meddling with things that do not concern you! If you really want to know, you should ask the Legion authorities. And he hung up.
His answer was an acknowledgment. I began to weep alone in my room. I was thinking about the children he could have abused in the oratory if he had been hired…
I called B?s mother again. I told her that I had received confirmations about the abuses, and I told her the name of the French brother. Her son finally confessed:
Yes, it is true.
But you lied to me? You lied to your own mother?
Yes, but you know that in France the media and the government are trying to expel the Legionaries… We must protect the Legion!
I think that this issue led me to appreciate the seriousness of the matter. The last veil that was still over my eyes was torn to shreds. In my mind the Legion was not a real catholic order any more, but a cult suffering from a persecution complex. I told him that we should never fear the truth. But I did not try to argue.
The families of the victims did not sue the Legion. One of those families explained me that they had been invited by the Territorial Director to personally meet with him. The parents thought that Father G wanted to present his personal apology but when they arrived at the Territorial Direction, instead of Father G they had to face the Legion of Christ lawyer. And this lawyer explained to the parents how they would deal with the issue.
French justice is still doing an investigation (in France, for this kind of serious issue concerning sexual abuses of children there is automatically an investigation lead by the police). But without a complaint from the families there is no serious threat for the Legion.