Ellen’s Story

This is one of a thirty part exposé on the Children of the Legion. This group of women, then girls, in the Regnum Christi, share their stories of abuse, neglect and the aftermath of being children in the Regnum Christi. For a complete list of stories to date, view Children of the Legion.

I was in the PC for four years, then consecrated until I left in 2009. I haven’t though through everything, but here are some of the things I think about my experience and the institution as a whole:

I had a lot of good experiences, but I don’t think the good should be attributed to the institution. I think the good experiences we had came from the people we were with. I know I met a lot of truly, deeply good people while in the Movement, and am still good friends with some of them. A lot of us deeply loved God and our Catholic faith, and genuinely and generously wanted to dedicate one or more years of our lives to discerning a possible vocation (PCs) or living a life of consecration in the Church (3GF), or just doing some form of good volunteer work in a Catholic context (coworkers). Because we were genuine, enthusiastic and eager to do good, many of us did indeed have good experiences – because of the goodness of our hearts, not necessarily the institution.

I agree with those that say you can’t blame everyone/everything involved in an institution for the sin of one man (MM) or a few (supporters). However, I think that’s a very weak defense. The story doesn’t end there. I didn’t leave RC because MM sinned. I left for two reasons:

1. I came to recognize that his sin was more than a personal sin. Given his position in the institution, he was able, whether deliberately or not, to ingrain the mentality behind his own actions into the overall functioning and methods of the institution.

2. Once the news had come out regarding MMs personal life, the abuse cases, and the need for reform of the institution, I don’t think RC/LC handled the situation correctly. First of all, the Gospel says, “The Truth will set you free,” yet the consistent approach taken was to withhold as much of the truth as long as possible. Even after the Vatican itself began sending communiqués, directors passed them down with a watered down explanation making everything seem “not so bad.” I don’t think the victims of abuse have yet been directly addressed and dealt with. I don’t mean to imply that LC/RC has withheld truth out of malice. There might be some cases where it has been done for some sort of power or gain, but it is also possible that, in many cases, denial is simply easier than acknowledging a truth that requires change. I know that surface level things have changed (e.g. shorts on outings for PCs, more free time, access to the internet for consecrated, etc.), but I don’t think the deeper issues have been addressed.

And, while acknowledging the truth and addressing the victims of abuse is very important, I don’t think that is the extent of the problem.

I believe that LC/RC hasn’t even begun, at least publicly, to address or reform serious flaws in the congregation that came about due to MMs leadership. These flaws pervade the fiber of the institution at all levels, and until they are addressed, true reform can’t even begin to happen. As long as LC/RC takes the position that, yes, MM, and some other LCs have sinned and made mistakes, but the institution itself is good, nothing will really change, even if consecrated now go around in sandals and ponytails.

As a specific congregation/Movement with its own identity, LC/RC basically became a “subculture” within the Church. There is no problem with subcultures that share the same values as the larger Church, but live them out difference (as the Dominican teaching order, for example, has a different religious culture than the cloistered Carmelites, but both are united with the greater Church in essence and differ in ministry and tradition). LC/RC, however has formed a subculture that mirrors (or at least mirrored) genuine Catholicism externally, but was really a perversion of it. Faith and reason are two very important dimensions of the human person, and I believe that LC/RC perverted both of them. Faith became blind, and often “dumbed down” obedience, in which there is a direct correlation between what the superior says and the will of God. This goes in direct conflict with the true Catholic teaching of conscience, which states that, in the end, we will be held accountable for what our conscience tells us. Yes, we have the responsibility to educate our conscience, but it is to be educated with the TRUTH and guided by reason – the opposite of suspending reason to blindly accept the word of another and assume that we are not responsible for our actions because they have been directed by the superior. And, reason has been perverted by being marginalized. Obedience is always more important than our reason, and even though LC/RC tells its members that they are free to think, it directs them as to how they should think, so the “reasoning” generally follows a set track that has been thought out in advance and fed to the members. Every time my reasoning led me to a different conclusion than what the directors/Movement said, I was “corrected” for being “too rational.” This is completely against true Christian philosophy, which sees reason as one of our greatest gifts from God and a means to bring us to him through the truth. I’m not saying our reason is always perfect, but I am saying that it shouldn’t be marginalized, overlooked, trampled on or put out of the picture. It should be respected and cultivated, not by telling us what to think, but by letting us think for ourselves, explore, discover, discuss, debate, and in the end, draw our own conclusions, even if they differ from the “party line.”

I believe that the greatest tragedy of the institution is not the life of the founder, but the harm it has caused in the lives of individuals and in the life of the Church it professes to love and serve. I don’t just refer to the individuals that were victims of abuse, but to all that have suffered spiritually, psychologically, emotionally, physically or in any other way due to their experience in the Movement. From reading different comments in this discussion and others, it seems that some had very negative experiences and others had, at least on the personal level, positive ones. I don’t think that the good experiences some have had make up for the difficulties so many others go through, or for flaws inherent in the institution. The Church as a whole has also suffered, because many people, possibly some of you included, have lost their faith or have a negative experience of it due to LC/RC. LC/RC took different concepts, terms and aspects of the Catholic faith and used them differently. Prayer has a true meaning. Spiritual direction has a legitimate place in the Church, but it isn’t what the Movement calls “SD”. Obedience really is a virtue, but not as the Movement taught us. Docility, humility, etc. really are good things, but I’m sure many of us can’t stomach the words now, because of the connotations taken on in the LC/RC. This hurts the Church as a whole by tainting some very good parts of the faith. Many of us have a hard time praying, or going to confession, or going to someone for advice, not those things are actually bad, but because we are turned off by the very idea due to a negative experience. And even when we go back to, or discover for the first time, what the Church really means by those things, there will always be a bad residue by virtue of association.

I am still Catholic and still practicing, but I fully understand how some of you might not be. I believe that I am because I had a very strong education in my faith from my family prior to going to the Precandidacy. When I left the Movement, I had something to fall back on from before entering, something much truer that I still remembered. I also did a lot of studying and thinking after leaving to reorient myself with the Church and draw my own conclusions, and I ended up being able to separate “Church” from “Movement.” I sincerely hope that each of you that have in some way been hurt is able to find peace and healing, and draw close to God in whatever way you can, not because you “have to,” but because he IS there, and is worth knowing, even if we feel that the “friend” that introduced him to us betrayed us.

Regarding the Movement itself, I still wish it the best, even though I no longer support it. I still know many people that are in it, and I know that many of them are truly good people. I hope they are able to see the truth and act accordingly, even if it is hard.

49 Weeks
This story is a testimony from the 49 Weeks Blog. You can see this and more stories by visiting 49 Weeks.

2 thoughts on “Ellen’s Story”

  1. If you think of the complaints of the women who suffered from the Magdalene sisters, then you see that the girls from Regnum Christi were not the only people who suffered from the extreme severity of a part of Romes church. There seems to be a current of thinking in parts of the church which includes very crippling attitudes on how you educate people.
    I wonder how nuns used to be treated? Maybe they suffered from the same sorts of regimes.
    Rome is escaping dialogue with liberal Catholics about the most fundamentalist corners of their church. Cardinal Ratzinger when he was a Cardinal, did for the careers of theologians who did not agree with him.
    Have you watched the film the Magdalen sisters. It is the sort of film I would not have watched before I had got worried about the attitude of street recruiters, before I had myself begun to see something wrong with the church. I would not have watched it before because my fathers reaction to films that criticised the church was that they were from crazy conspirator theorists and I was so influenced by him that i would have been embarrassed to fill my head full of crazy theories made to smash the good.
    The attitudes the nuns in the film showed were such as the nuns I new in the early seventies would have called part of an older fashioned and rougher church that was no longer a reality, that they were embarrassed by, but it seems that the old fashioned part of the church has been growing.
    You can also,find the testimonies of the women who suffered from the Magdalen Sisters on the internet.

    The problem seems to be that the church needs to be confronted about its medieval side and who dares to confront them? It is not just the legion that is very odd. Though it is a legionnaire I am most worried about and by at the moment.
    The film The Exorcism of Emily Rose also exposes a very backward and black bit of church thinking. It’s arguments criticise the church. It is not a film that romanticises exorcism.
    The film, “Priest”, about a priest fighting vampires, includes the church he has come from which is as problematic for the population as the vampires are and seems pretty Catholic. I have not watched it more than once and that in bits.
    There is a bit of The Penguins of Madagascar in which there is a baddy sending out subliminal messages over New York from a strange broadcasting machine on a rocket, in order to capture the population. Baddy that the penguins have to bring in hand. There are signs of unrest even in films and series. The legion certainly tries to send out subliminal messages.

    In the old days the English Catholics I suppose the North American ones too, just said of the more old fashioned part of the church, of such things as preparing children for the priesthood from childhood say, “that is what happens in Spain or South America”. They felt divorced from the part of the church that was more old fashioned. They supported a group whose behaviour, in other countries, they did not like, without lifting a fingure to change what happened in other countries, We deserve the legion!
    It should have been our responsibility to ask for changes in those countries. Now, the type of religion they suffered from has come into the modern world.
    The new, so called “orthodox” ideas of the church needs questioning as you have done here, with other parts of the Catholic theological tradition being remembered and put forward as also valid.
    The extreme right of the church has taken over the Vatican or so it seems to me. That is to go where angels fear to tread. Won’t anyone who puts things at the Vatican’s door be done for in some way? Wont this site be attacked if I go there.

    The church cannot just abandon the church to its extreme self, that is to leave so many people in the lurch. Spanish intelligentsia, who are mostly, extremely anti-religions, they had too much experience of something like the legion as the most important part of Catholicism here to be religious, If you know a legionnaire you get to understand why priest and nuns got their share of violence in the Spanish Civil War. The Spanish intelligensia dont try to argue with the church. They shrug off all conversation about religion because they claim to be out of it, as atheists.
    As democrats they are however obliged to help the rest of the population in the measure that they can. Democrats take responsibility for the whole population or should. They who see the churches weak points more clearly should be vigilant about the church and argue with their most out of the way dictates for the sake of the whole population.
    It is no good arguing from within the church, this does not dent the churches armour, the argument that you should do so is one of the ways in which the church avoids discussion, They don’t feel pressed enough to feel they have to discuss theology with the rest of the church, with the faithful. Those are just the rules of fight, you get persuaded to be discrete in an argument and others will have you too much in hand for them to need to try minimally for you. It is necessary to denounce them in other places just in order to bring them to the table.

    Bringing into being the welfare state must have meant arguing with the protestant church in England and their faithful on the extent to which God put the poor at birth in poor families because he meant them to be poor. About the point to which you just accept negative things because they are part of Gods design. It is a point which is always being pushed in history.
    It seems to me that the church of England did not stay behind the people on the countries venture into social justice. The new ideas were incorporated into the churches thinking and into the faithful ‘s thinking.
    The catholic faithful here in Spain are not at all sure that the poor are not more beautiful, morally so, and poor when they are more miserably poor, which also means that their dependence on the church in their old age or before that,for food hand outs, made them like the church willy, nilly. .
    The church of England, before partial socialism, believed that God had put the lord in his castle and the beggar at his gate purposefully. That the poor were meant to be poor, part of a North American Hymn, but their attitudes changed and I bet that change took a lot of hard work.
    Anyone who disagrees with the church is arrogant and selfish, who wants to e called such names.
    There should be an, on going dialogue as to how to fit the finding of psychologists into Christ’s religion, or doctors or politicians. It seems that all there is is the churches ability to escape such a dialogue.
    The church waffles about wanting peace and being sorry for the poor and will not talk about many bits of doctrine that its faithful need them to be less horrible on, that it pretends to be absolute, when there are a whole lot of other historically valid bits of theology which put into question such thinkers as Marcial Maciel so their is in orthodox Catholicism a whole lot of material that the Vatican does not want to talk of.

    How Marcial Maciel had time to be a theologian of any worth is beyond me. He just did not and that is all there is to it. Studying takes hours and hours and hours. For one new bit of information you often have to re-read masses of old ones, as a new bit of writing repeats things you already know on the subject as well as giving new lights on it. At other times you have to read something written in such convoluted language that it is hard to read. It would take me hours and days and years, decades, to study theology, giving a very big piece of my whole time to it.
    Xavier Leger says that in the seminar they read Marcials writing, he is critical of the fact that it is the only reading material they had and they did it for hours and hours I imagine. Reading the thoughts of just one man is not studying theology.

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