Online Edition: March 2009, Vol. XV, No. 1
News and Views
From the time the founder of the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi, Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, was “invited” by the Holy See to a “life of prayer and penitence” on May 19, 2006, until his death on January 30, 2008, the members of his foundations have denied all suggestion that Father Maciel deserved this exile and disgrace — which came after more than two decades of charges that he had sexually abused vulnerable seminarians in Mexico, Spain and Italy, and hints of serious financial corruption.
There had been no formal charges lodged by the Holy See against the ailing Father Maciel, which was explained by his advanced age (86) and ill health, in addition to his having “declined” re-election as the Legionaries’ superior in 2005. So the Legion’s persistent flat denials of their founder’s culpability — moreover, their implicit suggestion that he had been unjustly forced by the Holy See to suffer a sort of martyrdom — were difficult, if not impossible, to counter.
Thus the revelation in early February of the misdeeds of their founder was profoundly shocking to members of the Legion, which the young Mexican had founded in 1941, three years before he was ordained, and Regnum Christi, the lay association he founded in 1959. The news that their revered leader, whom they called Nuestro Padre (Our Father), had fathered an illegitimate daughter (and possibly a son) more than twenty years ago was stunning to those who had for years believed and defended him when he proclaimed innocence of any wrongdoing.
The reactions from the Legion ranged from vague understatement to honest expressions of sorrow and apologies from a few individual priests.
The official statement on February 4 by Maciel’s successor as head of the Legion, Father Alvaro Corcuera, merely alluded to press accounts, and said only that their founder was “a man”. The US spokesman for the Legion, Jim Fair, told the press that there are “some aspects of his life that were not appropriate for a Catholic priest”. No details of Maciel’s misdeeds have been revealed by Legion officials, other than acknowledging the media reports about the illegitimate daughter. There has been no allusion to reports of dubious (or worse) financial miscreance, nor to reports of his sexual abuse of young men.
Some observers who are sympathetic to the Legion believe that the problem of the founder’s misdeeds cannot simply be overcome by ignoring them as unhappy events of the past, or to proceed as if they didn’t happen. Some have suggested that effectively dismantling the order and re-founding it will be necessary to salvage the movement from lethal damage caused by this grave scandal. It is impossible to believe that none of the leaders of the Legion knew of Father Maciel’s behavior.
The secrecy and denial with which the leadership has habitually shrouded Maciel’s actions in the past has shattered their credibility. Trust has been trashed. “What did they know and when did they know it?” are burning questions that must be answered. “Transparency” is a word that comes to mind.
Whatever comes next will be a daunting task. Among the complicating factors that must be dealt with forthrightly is the testimony of former members of Regnum Christi and ex-Legionaries, some of whom had been leaders in the order and had worked closely with Father Maciel. Their testimony — long denied by Legion officials — can no longer be discounted.
The Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi is a vast organization with many subsidiary groups, schools, and institutions, including Zenit, the international internet news service, and the Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum in Rome, which Pope John Paul II elevated to a pontifical university. Zenit regularly features liturgical commentary by Father Edward McNamara, LC, professor of liturgy at Regina Apostolorum.
To find a solution to this scandalous rupture, the Holy See clearly must intervene soon and with determination. Personal oversight by the pope will be essential.
The Holy See announced in January that it will undertake an Apostolic Visitation, or official investigation, of the principal women’s religious orders in the United States. The project was ordered by the Congregation of Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life (aka Congregation for Religious), headed by Cardinal Franc Rodé.
The Visitation will be led by Mother Clare Millea, superior general of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She will be assisted by Sister Eva-Maria Ackerman, of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George, who was director of the St. Louis archdiocese’s Office of Consecrated Life for more than twelve years.
The purpose of the project is to “look into the quality of the life of women religious in the United States” and of their work “in these challenging times when fewer women enter their ranks and their median ages rise”, Sister Eva-Maria said when she announced the launch of the project at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington on January 30. She said that Cardinal Rodé had announced the Apostolic Visitation to the two official groups representing women’s religious orders in the US, the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR) and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).
The process will take about two years, Sister Eva-Maria said, and will involve personal interviews, gathering statistics and information about activities and practices, and on-site visits. “We pray that this study will be a source of grace and strength” for religious life, she said.
Only the “active” religious orders that have schools, hospitals, or other service centers will be involved in the Apostolic Visitation. Contemplative orders will not be included.
The National Catholic Youth Choir is sponsoring a summer camp for Catholic singers entering grades 10, 11, and 12 on the campus of Saint John’s University and Saint John’s Abbey, Collegeville, Minnesota.
The event will take place June 22-July 9, 2009, and will include intensive daily choir rehearsal, music and religion classes, classical and modern music, liturgies and concert performances, and an out-of-state tour including a performance at the National Association of Pastoral Musicians (NPM) convention.
Cost: $750, scholarships available. Applications due March 31. Information, contact:
Techy Catholics take note: A new iTunes application makes it possible to access the Breviary (Liturgy of the Hours) straight onto iPhones.
The iBreviary, created by an Italian priest and web designer, Father Paolo Padrini, includes the Breviary — in Italian, English, Spanish, French and Latin and, in the near future, Portuguese and German. It also includes the prayers of the daily Mass and other prayers.
An official version was released in December, Father Padrini said. The application costs € .79 (about $1.10 US), with proceeds going to charity.
Monsignor Paul Tighe, secretary of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Social Communications, praised the new iBreviary, saying the Church “is learning to use the new technologies primarily as a tool or as a means of evangelizing, as a way of being able to share its own message with the world”.
Source: Associated Press