Does Pope Francis really Understand the Legion/Regnum Christi Phenomenon?

Francis with Legionaries

Dear Readers,
ReGAIN appreciates your interest in the previous article highlighting Pope Francis’ comments regarding the Fr. Maciel/Legion of Christ phenomenon. The present article is a probing commentary follow up.
The first investigation of the Founder in the years 1956-59 ended with Fr. Maciel’s reinstatement as General Director in ambiguous circumstances: the interregnum between the death of Pope Pius XII and the installation of Pope John XXIII. More recently, after Fr. Maciel’s death in 2008 at the age of 88, the Legion revealed that he had committed many sins/crimes and lived a double life. These revelations shocked many Catholics, including members of the Legion of Christ religious order and its Regnum Christi lay movement; a good number left and that time and the bleeding continues.
The outcry spurred a second Vatican “visitation”/investigation which later led to a period of Vatican oversight led by Cardinal Velasio de Paolis and an effort to “renew” the institution founded by the depraved founder. When interviewed about the Maciel case Pope Benedict XVI decried the founder’s sins but decided that the Legion was worth “saving.” In a nutshell that is the watershed moment. To confirm this notice how the words used in Vatican documents always used the term “renewal” and never “reform” of the Legion of Christ. So this fundamental decision by Pope Benedict would mark the whole Vatican “intervention” with the Legion: many superiors, trained and hand-picked by Maciel, were allowed to stay in the posts. There was some slight re-shuffling of certain superiors organized by the Vatican Delegate and the Legion superiors, but no disciplining or holding accountable for collusion with the corrupt founder during his more than sixty years at the head of the Legion.

It is difficult to understand why the Assistant Superior General, Fr. Luis Garza, was removed from key posts and sent to Mexico. Could it be that there he could be closer to his rich family and to the Legion’s riches? Some important figures during the Maciel administration, his lackeys and hatchet men, were sent away from the USA -where they might be sued- and sent to “safer” places such as Ireland, Rome, Mexico and South America…De Paolis and the Legion superiors chose too Maciel clones, Frs. Corcuera and Robles Gil -originally handpicked by Maciel to found the Regnum Christi youth section- to lead the renewal and the new Legion.

It appears that the Legionaries’ anxious period of Vatican oversight is coming to an end with the successful conclusion of the Extraordinary General Chapter and culminating with the approval of their new constitutions. Pope Francis signed off on those constitutions.
Mexican reporter Valentina Alazraki’s interview with Pope Francis brought up some of the old doubts about the Pope and the Vatican’s intervention of the Legion of Christ. Pope Francis distanced himself from Maciel and the Legion of Christ and “defended” Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XIV’s actions. All of this in a wide-ranging and almost casual conversation with allowed Pope Francis to be very vague and slide away from unpleasant issues. This writer expressed his opinion in a brief introduction to the interview’s Spanish language version. It said:
“As ReGAIN has so much interest in this subject, we want to say a couple of words about the Pope’s comments. Our first impression is that the Holy Father does not totally comprehend the full malice of Father Maciel and the disastrous effects he and the men formed by him have had on others. Those of us who have been close to the (sexual, psychological, physical and spiritual) victims have the feeling that the Pope (and his predecessors) just don’t get it.
It is just not enough to say that Fr. Maciel was “a very ill person” a pedophile or a pan-sexual abuser; or that he was “an enigmatic figure” with “a life out of moral bounds,” as Benedict XVI described him in Light of the World. J. Paul Lennon has written the only English profile of the personality of the founder (Marcial Maciel, Pedophile, Psychopath and…  In Spanish, Fernando Gonzalez produced an in-depth study of the personality, history of Maciel and the Legion: .

So there remains a profound question to be answered: how could such a corrupt, destructive, psychopathic person, totally lacking in faith, hope and charity found a religious order? Critical minds remain unconvinced by Church leaders’ “Deus ex machina” answer: Maciel bad, Legion of Christ good; “God writes straight on crooked lines.” “God can use an unworthy instrument to create His Work.” That is all well and good, if we can stretch our puny faith another mile. As educated and thinking Catholics we posit that both Benedict and Francis fail to grasp the depth of Maciel’s depravity and deceit and by so doing avoid radical questions and actions regarding the nature of the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi.

At the risk of scandalizing our Catholic readers we request from our leaders a review of the late and lukewarm intervention of Church authorities in this case. Sadly, Pope Francis’ vagueness and hesitations seem like an effort to justify his predecessor’s omissions,” (writer later adde): “lack of oversight, due diligence and vigor in getting to the bottom of the Maciel/Legion murky mystery”.
These considerations lead to scary derivations:
• Could it be that three popes and their entourage were also deceived by the incredible con-man who portrayed himself as the founder of a new and healthy religious order? At this juncture there comes to mind the suggestion that Maciel’s powers of manipulation and deceit were well-nigh diabolical!
• If the popes and Vatican department were misled regarding the authenticity of the Maciel/Legion charisma, could they have erroneously approved the order in 1948, thus putting papal infallibility in jeopardy?
• Or, more fundamentally, is the Pope infallible when he decides to approve a religious order?
• More pointedly, did the pope/Vatican err in approving the Legion of Christ when Maciel played games with Vatican authorities and manipulated the bishop of Cuernavaca into canonically erecting the order back in 1948?


One reader, wise2, made the following comment to the previously posted Spanish language article which gives another twist to the discussion:
from your comments here, I’m not sure if you get it.
The issue is not so much how could Fr. Maciel found this order, but it is the profound effect of Maciel on the Legion and how that effect is being propagated in the heart of the Church around the world, including a few minutes from where I live. It seems so much easier to talk about Maciel and not Maciel’s effect on this order. The scandal that nobody is mentioning is thousands times larger than anyone, even you, apparently, will even talk about. The stones are crying out!”

Translation of Introduction to original Spanish language article:
Teniendo ReGAIN tanto interés y conocimiento del tema, nos permitimos dos palabras sobre los comentarios del Papa. La primera impresión de nuestros editores es que el Santo Padre no se percata de toda la malicia y los estragos causados por el Padre Maciel y por los hombres formados personalmente por él. A los que estamos cerca de las victimas del Padre Maciel y de los superiores legionarios nos da la impresión de que, como dicen los norteamericanos, “He just doesn’t get it.” No basta decir que el Padre Maciel fuera una persona “enferma” ni que fuera sólo un pederasta. Y queda por resolver la pregunta básica: ?Como pudo un hombre tan corrupto, tan destructor de vidas, un verdadero psicópata, y totalmente carente de fe, esperanza y caridad fundar una congregación religiosa? A nuestro humilde parecer como creyentes católicos sostenemos que tanto Benedicto como Francisco se quedan cortos y rehúyen de los interrogantes radicales y profundos acerca del fenómeno de la Legión de Cristo y del Regnum Christi. Esperamos no escandalizar a nuestros hermanos y hermanas al reclamar a nuestros líderes una revisión de la tardía y tibia actuación de las autoridades en el caso Maciel/Legión. Es muy triste constatar que el Papa Francisco parece estar justificando a sus predecesores su falta de vigilancia y vigor en el caso Maciel y no reconocer que ellos también fueron víctimas de su engaño.
Traducción castellana del comentario hecho en inglés:
Estimado Editor,
Por lo que Ud. escribe yo no estoy seguro que Ud. tampoco comprende de lo que se trate. El problema no es cómo pudo Maciel fundar la orden sino el efecto profundo que Maciel dejó en la Legión y cómo esos efectos siguen propagándose en el corazón de la Iglesia por todo el mundo, incluso a poca distancia de donde vivo yo. Como que es mucho más fácil hablar de Maciel mismo y no sobre su efecto en la orden. El escándalo que calla todo el mundo es mil veces más grande de lo que nadie, inclusive Ud., quiere abordar. !Las mismas piedras están clamando!
1. Editor
March 16, 2015 at 1:17 pm Edit
wise2, Tell us more. We find you comment well taken.

3 thoughts on “Does Pope Francis really Understand the Legion/Regnum Christi Phenomenon?”

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