Legion of Christ Priest Seriously Mentally Ill (SMI), as diagnosed by Superiors
You have a Serious Mental Illness!
A Legionary Priest describes how he was diagnosed as Seriously Mental Ill (SMI) by his Legionary superiors, deceitfully interned in a psychiatric hospital and treated with dangerous psychotropic medications. His self-preservation instinct, his family, one kind companion, and the help of humble lay people saved him.
The writer of this testimony wants to remain anonymous as much as possible and has avoided using names of people and places. He frequently uses “N” in the original Spanish text instead of a Legionary’s name. We only know he is a Spanish language Legionary priest who recently left the congregation to carry on his ministry in a diocese.
“The events I narrate happened very quickly and I did not have time to react normally. You might say things happened so quickly I barely realized what was going on. It was near vacation time. That year our community was going to X town to spend vacation at the home of the same family as the year before; it was close to a beach we were familiar with and liked.
About two weeks before vacation time Fr. Assistant for Religious Life came to visit our community; he was heading for X city where Y and Z communities lived and our house was on his way. He had lunch with the priests and religious and at the end of the meal, in front of everyone, he invited me to go with him on vacation. I was not particularly busy and I thought I would be nice to have a few extra days’ vacation. I had heard that this particular Legionary priest was fun to be around and I agreed.
At that moment I did not realize how the house superior was pressuring me to get my bags packed. “For goodness sake, I had just been invited!” Later I realized that the priest who had invited me also seemed in a hurry. I got into the car and took off with Fr. Assistant. But instead of going to the vacation spot we headed for another city. Father explained that his physical was due and we would pass by a hospital. He asked me how old I was and whether I had had my physical. He suggested I get a physical too. I was confirmed in my good impression about Fr. Assistant. He was being so kind as to offer me a physical, too, without me having to beg my regular superior.
We arrived at the hospital but we did not go toward the prevention section. I was walking beside the Padre. He asked me to sit in a small waiting room while he went in. Things began to happen quickly. I was sitting there waiting when Fr. Assistant came out chatting with a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist then began interviewing me. It seems that the Padre had told him that I was suffering from some mental illness. For when I entered the consulting room the decision had already been made. When I asked the psychiatrist how did he know I had such and such a mental illness he told me I was presenting with some very strange symptoms. I denied I had any such symptoms. Then the psychiatrist told me that I was not aware of my symptoms he would have to intern me in the hospital because denial was a sign my illness was in a very advanced stage. What illness? But I then decided to accept everything he was saying so as not to argue with the psychiatrist and questioning a decision taken by my superiors because I had been acting strange.
(Comment: what has happened is that this superior took advantage of his priestly authority to convince the psychiatrist that his subject was mentally ill.)
I never received any documentation describing the reasons for my hospitalization. I don’t remember how many days I was there; I didn’t know whether it was night or day. Maybe two days, maybe a month. I don’t know. They made me take some medication and I was not even able to speak. When I was released the Legion took me to a residence where Frs. X, Y and Z lived. I was put in a room on my own, isolated. Fr. X took care of me. He was very kind.
After I left the hospital the Territorial Director, The Assistant for Religious Life –the one who had deceived me about vacations- met with me and the three of us talked. They told me my treatment was not finished. I asked them why they wanted me to go through that treatment and I begged them for charity sake not to put me through that again because the drugs were very strong and were affecting my health. Fr. Territorial Director told me that it did not depend on them. They were following instructions of Nuestro Padre, Superior General Father Maciel, and they had to obey.
A few days after arriving at the house the psychiatrist told me I was having a marvelous recovery. Some days later he told me I was not ill and in front of Fr. X said that they should stop the medications immediately. But Fr. X told me I was still ill and he ordered me to continue the medications.
Summarizing I can say that I was in “treatment” for three months enclosed in a Legionary house which many Legionaries know but do not imagine what goes on there. But now it is time for me to tell you how I was miraculously cured from one day to the next.
It had been a long time since I spoke with my family. It happened to be my birthday. I do not know how my mother got my phone number but she got through the house where I was living in isolation. I had never received a phone call there and as far as I knew nobody could tell where I was.
But it was my birthday and the woman in the kitchen answered the phone and handed me the receiver. But the effect of my 8:00 am meds had not worn off yet and I could not speak properly because I could not control my facial muscles; I did not sound drunk but like a mentally retarded person who slurs his speech. I told my mother that I was fine but she began to cry. With this I became more distraught and my speech got worse. Then she hung up.
A few minutes later my dad got on the phone and I was still unable to talk properly. So my older brother snatched the phone from his hand and said he was coming to visit me and where was I staying. I did not know the address but I said such and such a city which was not far from them. They said they were taking the first bus; my father and my brother.
At lunchtime I went to the Padres dining room and told Fr. X with a lot of satisfaction that as it was my birthday my family was coming to visit with me. He got up immediately and called the local superior who came over to the house as quickly as he could. He told me to tell my family they could not visit me; he told me to call them and tell them not to come. I got annoyed ant told him my family did not have a vow of obedience and besides they were already on their way. His tone changed and he insisted I tell them not to come because Nuestro Padre (Superior General, Fr. Maciel) had already given the order that I be transferred to another country, that my plane was leaving shortly and when they arrived I would not be around. I reminded the superior that I had been declared mentally ill. He replied that I was now cured and to start getting my belongings together.
After the local superior left I went to see Padre X who had been so kind to me “during my illness.” He told me I should give thanks to God for having recovered my health. I told him I believed I never had been ill. He opened his eyes real wide, looked directly at me and stated: “Well, I don’t think you have ever been ill either. But don’t say that (out loud). Don’t you see that if you insist about never having been ill the superiors are going to leave you here longer? What you should do is go to the superiors and thank them for all they have done for you to help you recover. That way they are going to leave you alone.”
I went to me new assignment anyway. They had washed their hands of me without leaving a trace. A new Calvary began for me: I had stopped my meds suddenly before my system had detoxed. I suffered from terrible anxiety crises, headaches and insomnia.
The superiors there did the opposite to those before. I was the one who asked to go see a doctor; I felt I needed something to calm my anxiety as a result of withdrawal. This new superior told me my trouble was that I was not used to working with the poor. At that point I began secretly begging money from the faithful to pay the trip to the doctor. I paid my trip, saw the doctor and, thank goodness, he did not charge me. I explained my situation to him. He examined me and did a blood test. He then got me an appointment with a specialist. I paid for these trips with money I begged from the local people. The specialist in X told me that from a medical point of view it was impossible that I had ever suffered such and such an illness and recovered in less than a year. In other words, I never had that illness. He explained that the medication I had been taken could not be suspended just like that because of the level of certain substances in my system; to do so would cause anxiety and insomnia. He prescribed new medications. By that time I was leery of doctors and so went to consult with a doctor I really trusted. He coincided with the previous doctor: that I was OK. I then began to take the prescribed meds to facilitate my full recovery.
I want to state very clearly that the Legion did not give me a red cent for these medications which, incidentally, were very expensive. I continued to ask for alms and collected money for my meds. I spoke with Fr. Y and Z about the need I had for the meds. Fr. Y flatly told me that our insurance did not cover that.
A psychiatrist who saw me seven years after these sad events assured me that it was impossible that I could ever have suffered from such and such a mental illness. He gave me a clean bill of health. At that point I stopped taking medications –seven years after the Legion did a job on me. Almost everything (the meds, because the consultations were free) was paid by lay people and by the poor. If you, the reader, want more information I can refer you to Drs. X, Y and Z; these were the three doctors who treated me and have my medical records.”