Legion Bombs in France
I thought that you would be interested to know a little bit more about the situation of the Legion in France… that may bring you some hope!
The first installation of the Legionaries of Christ in France goes back to 1987. So for more than 20 years the Legion has been trying to settle in the homeland of Saint Jean-Marie Vianney, St Joan of Arc and St Therese of Lisieux. Despite Legionary hopes raised by the creation of a small seminary in 1996, in Mary-sur-Marne (one hour away from Paris, next to the Disneyland theme park), it seems that the integration of the order in this country has failed dramatically and repeatedly to the point where the Legion is about to lose its last foothold in this strategic territory.
From the beginning, French bishops were quite reluctant to accept the community, because they seemed to be overly conservative. As many people are aware, the Church in France has been deeply marked and wounded by divisions caused by some traditionalist movements, which led Bishop Lefebvre to schism. The arrival of such a conservative new community aroused suspicion.
I remember that during my period of apostolic internship (2003-2005), the Legion was already suffering from a very bad reputation. I also remember that most attempts to create new apostolates invariably ended up in failure.
There may be deeper causes for such failures. Historically, the Church in France focused more on essentials and was less open to different ideologies. I really think that there is great and genuine vitality in the Catholic Church environment in France.
Some special individuals have deeply marked the history and the renewal of the Church methodology, offering a deep reflection on the place and role of the Church in the today’s world. I think of Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger (1926-2007), former Archbishop of Paris, who was the architect of a large number of new works for the Church in France. He is the one in particular, who with the help from the Jesuits developed the new template of training centers for the seminarians, rejecting the old system of big seminaries. He added his personal and original approach regarding discernment and respect for personal freedom.
I think that this helps to explains why the Legion has never been able to become established there. The order was unable to sell its training system and apostolic methodology to the French Bishops.
Just a few months ago, we witnessed how whole sections of the Legion in France simply collapsed. Several dioceses have now closed their doors to the Legion. I recently learned that the Archbishop of Rennes has banned the Legion from his Archdiocese. Other bishops have followed him, asking the Legionaries to stop ministries in their dioceses. The Diocese of Rennes was the major source of vocations for the Apostolic School of Mary-sur-Marne. It is likely that their exclusion threatens the very existence of the Legionary minor seminary, whose numbers have been considerably reduced according to my sources.
Articles published in several Catholic newspapers and magazines, including La Croix, La Vie and Famille Chretienne have helped many people to open their eyes to the hidden reality of the order. The article published on Famille Chretienne, which is the magazine read by most of the fairly conservative Catholic families, dared to criticize the Legion. It was a rude awakening for the Legion in France.
It seems that even the bishop of the diocese where the Apostolic School is located had some reservations about the Legionaries and asked them not to appear publicly any more in his diocese. The Apostolic School has always been a bottomless pit for the Legion. I wonder how long they could have continued paying their bills and all the teachers? salaries.
Since the revelation of the double life of Maciel, many French Legionaries have left the order. This year, among the 61 ordinations, there were none from France. I wonder if the Legion will be able to recover after those successive failures.