Shipwrecked on a Beach in Brazil: the Legion of Christ’s Irish Armada



Shipwrecked on a Beach in Brazil:

The Legion of Christ’s Irish Armada, 1960-1980


By J. Paul Lennon

Easter, 7th April, 2016



To Michael Francis X,

former Legionary of Christ


                                                                          There is another God,

                                                                           and so different from

                                                                           the Legion of Christ’s;

                                                                            a paradoxical God

                                                                            who looks after his “little ones


 Some are still in the ranks. But many of those first brave sailors are scattered to the four winds -or continents. One, with a poet’s name, as far as Australia. Another, now a shambles, to Cuernavaca, Mexico. A third to Natal Province, Brazil. The greater the abuse, it seems, the farther the distance from the crime scene. Where does that leave me, living in La Antigua, Central America?

Me, of an older generation. Early enough to have met the first Mexicans, Spaniards and Irish -some of whom were sexually abused. Too late to know the middle generations personally: The Garza-Sada, Monterrey, Mexico empire. But I observed from the outside the Legion’s golden days of power and glory, as the darling of popes and princes, wealthy vulnerable widows, millionaire entrepreneurs like Carlos Slim, politicos Fox and Sarkozy; when the founder-player moved Queen Sodano and Rooky Dziwisz across the Vatican chessboard.

My personal claim to glory: a thorn in the side of the untouchable order, daring to strip naked the wantonness of Maciel and his “Work of God.”. I had my 15 minutes of fame; six months, rather, as Legion well-greased lawyers raked another “disgruntled old man” over the coals in the City of Alexandria -not Egypt- for daring to point out The King’s Magic Suite of Clothes. And for listening with an understanding heart to the buffeted survivors’ tales of woe.

But for some reason, Michael Francis is center stage in my mind-memory today. One of the very first Irish who felt the sting of Maciel’s venom in his own flesh. Who tried to confront him later from safer ground; but never got the chance -the viper always slipped away into the night to continue plundering other beds. Many are still ashamed to admit it. Michael dared to speak. He wrote to me. But the investigative reporter considered his angry writings too “off the wall” and I was left alone to rue that abuse. Until today.

He got away from the trauma, from the stifling Legion, and continued in the priesthood for several years; first in his dear County Sligo and then in Brazil where he worked with the poor -until losing faith in the Catholic Hierarchy. He fell in love with a warm woman who fell in love with a poor survivor she encountered on a lonely stretch of beach. Far from the maddening crowd of LC true believers in Dublin, Atlanta, Rome and Mexico City Michael found hope, life and love.

Facebook brings his children and his children’s children to me, filling me with a brother’s joy. They all look like him: the oval face, the shock of dark hair, the twinkle in the eye.

Oh, how the winds of misfortune have scattered us! But, oh, how we have survived! And how our Irish noblesse thrives!

There is another God, paradoxical and so different from the Legion of Christ’s, who looks after his “little ones.”




See Luke 4,18 related to Is 61,1:

“To preach the Gospel to the poor” (corresponding to the Hebrew, anawim, God’s little ones)


“Abodah Zarah 20b contains a discussion of R. Joshua ben Levi according to which “meekness (anwah) is the most important virtue, for it is written in Is 61,1: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me. He anointed me to announce to the poor (anawim) the good news”. It is not written ” to the pious”, but to the poor, which means that meekness is the most important virtue”. Meekness acquires a messianic and eschatological meaning.”[1]

[1] Fr. F. Manns, OFM, “The Jewish Roots of Jesus,” (Open Lectures 2006), Copyright Studium Biblicum Hong Kong:


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