Tarcisio Alfonso Samaniego, LC, R.I.P.
Legion of Christ/Regnum Christi Federation leadership recently mentioned the passing of Fr. Tarcisio Samaniego; those of us familiar with the institution immediately thought of his better-known and more important brother, Fr. Alfronso Samaniego; Fr. Alfonso had been been the LC Provincial for the American Continent from the 1960s through the 1980s. I believe many of those generations admired Fr. Alfonso’s elegance (an important Legionary value), his quiet, friendly manner, his intelligence and tact.
As tributes poured into Legioleaks (original 4500 member Spanish language facebook page) the writer added his comment in Spanish. (I will translate that into English very loosely with embellishments!):
THE RISE AND FALL OF FR. ALFONSO SAMANIEGO, LC/REGNUM CHRISTI PROVINCIAL
I knew Fr. Alfsonso pretty well, as director of the original Universidad Anahuac north of Mexico City and my Territorial Director (North American Provincial) for almost twenty years.
In 1961, when I joined in Ireland, Fr. Alfonso was well known in the ranks. He had graduated from the Gregorian University in Rome summa cum laude (gold medal?) and worked at the Legion’s first Instituto Cumbres in Mexico City. Fr. Maciel often mentioned him when he visited the houses and expressed his pride in having personally “formed” Fr. Alfonso from the youngest age (12-year-old) . Fr. Maciel could be quite judgmental and abrasive when he wanted to make a point to the troups. He lamented not being able to “form” the (grown Spaniards) who joined the Legion early in the 1950s -we knew to whom he was referring-. He said that Alfonso had been able to really capture “the Legionary Style” (Tipo Legionario), reflecting that elegance, suavité, intelligence, good personal appearance and grooming, articulateness. attractiveness, and gift of persuasion of the Legionary charism ( as Maciel saw himself).
Our status, esteem and posts in the Legion during the founder’s life time depended on our closeness to, agreement with, admiration for, adulation of-and maybe sexual intimacy with-“the preeminent example for youth” (words of Pope JP II). When, following my successful four-year-spell on the (0nly) LC Mission in Quintana Roo, Maya Riviera, in the then remote towns of Bacalar and Chetumal, Fr. Maciel chose me to found the first School of Faith in Mexico City, 1975, he told me to consult with Fr. Alfonso Samaniego re the curriculum. Patrick Kavanagh and I put the whole operation together from scratch in six months. I felt that with my shining MA in Theology from the Gregorian University during Vatican II I was caapable of drawing up the content for our Catholic Education Courses. I duly showed Fr. Alfonso what I had for the various subjects. He, like a good Legionary, had only one concern: would it be offensive to some of my (rich?) students if I expounded on the social doctrine of the Church -regarding the equal distribution of resources- according to Vatican II pastoral constitution Gaudium et Spes? I feigned confusion…, and Fr. Alfonso did not insist.
FR. ALFONSO SAMANIEGO’S FALL FROM GRACE
As best I recall – I was an eyewitness- it happened during our 1982 Holy Week retreat (Legionaries don’t usually work in parishes and so are usually free duing that time of the year) at the Centro Cultural Interamericano in Mexico City. Fr. Maciel was giving the keynote address. He would use this occasion to give us updates from the various “frontlines” and motivate us for the retreat. The Great Manipulator might stage happenings also. One never knew what he was up to. Anyway, a controversy surfaced which involved Fr. Alfonso Samaniego, then rector of the Anahuac University. Maciel publicly voiced his concern about Fr. Alfonso not allowing Fr. Jesús Blázquez -then promoting the first generation of male Regnum Christi lay members- to recruit at the university. Fr. Alfonoso took exception to that version stating that he had not been consulted prior, andfleshed out other factors. He refused to be cowed by Fr. Maciel’s accusation and attempted to explain what happened . A major tactical mistake. Nobody could question Maciel in public. The exchange was somewhat heated and left a bad taste in our mouths.
Shortly afterwards Fr. Alfonso was removed from his position at the Anahuac and not given another assignment. He was relegated to the community of older priests living at Alencastre 73 in Mexico City; there to remain in the company of the other semi-retired priests such as Gregorio López, Faustino Pardo, Juan-Manuel Amenábar… As far as I know Fr. Alfonso never held another position in the Legion of Christ until his dying day. This little dissident Legionary was shocked by the showdown and his representment grew toward Maciel’s despotic leadership.
I add today: around 1980 when I was director of the School of Faith, I was abruptly told to leave my post immediately and fly to Cozumel, Quintana Roo, to assist Monsignor Eduardo Pironio who was vacationing there under our hospices. I flew out the morning after being told – prompt, joyful, blind and heroic obedience! When I got there, Fr. Javier Orozco, LC, the superior there informed me they were covered and I was not needed. After a week or two twiddling my thumbs, Fr. Zancajo, my Provincial told me to return to my job in Mexico City; that the previous order had been a mistake. He had said something about not being informed about my change. (Seems that Maciel had sent my replacement without letting him know and Zancajo did not take too kindly to that.) Soon after Fr. Zancajo was removed as Provincial (Territorial Director, in LC.RC parlance) and sent to Caracas, Venezuela as chaplain at some university. He was there for about thirty years. Never being recalled during Maciel’s lifetime.
En los anyos 1960 alabado por Nuestro Padre como el ejemplo del TIPO LEGIONARIO. Nuestro estatus en la Legion dependia de nuestra cercania, acuerdo y admiracio/ adulacion del Padre Maciel y/o si eramos parte de su haren. Alfonso pudo haber sido victima del abuso del santo del pene grande -segun testimonios de las victimas. Cuando me tocO fundar la Escuela de la Fe en 1976, Maciel me recomendO consultar on DT Alsonso sobre el curriculum…
La CAIDA de Alfonso, que presencié en el Centro Cultural Interamericano durante el retiro de Semana Semana Santa 1980 (?) sucedio cuando Alfonso manifestó desacuerdo con Maciel durante nuestro retiro. Maciel lo destituyO inmediatamente del Anahuac y de su puesto como director territorial. Lo DESTERRÓ a la comunidad de sacerdotes “relegados” en Fernando Alencastre 73, a juntarse con Padres Gregorio Lopez, Faustino Pardo, JM Fernandez Amenabar…?
Alfonso Samaniego fue reemplazado por el Padre Zancajo (santo varon). Cuando Carlos Zancajo tuve un desacuerdo con Ma iel circa 1980, Maciel lo destituyO mandandole a Caracas Venezuela, donde quedo dura te unos 30 años. CUANDO YO SALÍ DE LA LEGION EN 1984 NO SABIA NADADEL ABUSO SEXUAL DE MACIEL. MI PROBLEMA ERA CON SU MANERA DESPOTA DE EJERCER SU MANDO. (Paul Lennon LC 1961-84)