Blood from a Stone

This has been a tough month for Catholics. I’m keenly aware of the time, because I have been straining at the leash wanting to write about the Legionaries of Christ. In lieu of articles, I’ve subjected my friends on the phone to fully formed paragraphs of commentary till they cried uncle — and devoured the excellent coverage to be found at the American Papist, helpfully linked from InsideCatholic.
But I couldn’t take the time to write. I had to take a month off from both my weekly columns in order to finish a 1,000-page book I edit — the snarky, snooping, informative Choosing the Right College (see funny promotional animation here), a bible for conservatives sifting schools for themselves or their kids. Okay, it’s not really a bible (although the entry on Wesleyan University does bear an eerie resemblance to portions of the Apocalypse); it’s more like the Syllabus of Errors (the really fun one, Pius IX’s). In it, our reporters reveal what they’ve heard whispered by student and faculty contacts about their dumbed-down and multiculturated curricula (Toni Morrison shoves out Shakespeare), the latest "sex workers" symposium for Valentine’s Day, or the tambourine-banging Newman club chaplains wearing Chia vestments for Earth Day. (Try to guess which one of those outrages I made up. Go ahead, try.)
Of course, we print good news as well, like the rise of schools such as Wyoming Catholic and Southern Catholic colleges; the increased theological focus at "niche" schools like the funky, artsy, orthodox place where I teach writing; and the Romeward movements occurring at "establishment" schools such as Notre Dame and Boston College. But face it — good news is dull. Accentuate the negative, I say. If it bleeds, it leads. I can’t really complain about a job where I get to title the entry on Holy Cross "Give us Barabbas!" and the one on Georgetown "Ignatius wept." Who could?
It requires a certain schadenfreude to edit such a book, lest I trade in my job as a writer for that of a sniper. Some people are scandalized to hear that; I answer that it’s a healthy defense mechanism that every decent person has the right to call upon, to fend off despair and avoid being "perpetually scandalized, forever a child" (Flannery O’ Connor).
But to muster schadenfreude concerning the Legionaries of Christ would take a more cynical, hard-boiled cuss than me. I know hardcore fans of Malachi Martin who greeted the passing of Joseph Cardinal Bernadin by dancing around and singing, "Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead!" Even they’re not laughing now.
Too many good people have suffered and will hang on a kind of cross for months or years. Old colleagues and friends of mine are being forced, at spiritual gunpoint, to reexamine the works and inspiration that consumed their lives for decades. They must face the fact that they formed their consciences and spiritual lives according to the words of a hypocrite, a liar, perhaps a sociopath.
Even I can’t make that funny.
Let’s be clear and avoid evasions: Rev. Marcial Maciel was credibly accused by a group of former seminarians of sexually abusing them while they were still pubescents. Of claiming that he had permission to engage in these perversions from Pope Pius XII. Of absolving those with whom he’d sinned — a sacrilege so serious that in canon law it has no statute of limitations. (In civil law, only crimes like murder can claim the same.) Of invoking the Vicar of Christ to seduce young men, then standing in persona Christi to absolve them of the sins he had suborned. If true, these are not merely "sins of the flesh" but of the spirit. Indeed, they suggest the potent influence of one spirit in particular: the one who "roams the earth seeking the ruin of souls."
The accusations were clear and specific, the accusers sober and sane — and amazingly, mostly still believers and friends of the Church. Given the torrent of squalor that has sprayed the faithful, thanks to the negligence of their bishops, we had every reason to believe them. What convinced me, among many others, to discount the likelihood that these stories might be true?
Is the question really what? Or is it, rather, who?
I’ve never seen anything inspiring in Father Maciel himself. (Has anyone read his books who isn’t ordered to, under religious obedience? His 14 or so volumes of correspondence?) Friends of mine who spent years in Legionary seminaries — where the only lectio divina permitted them, they said, were the Bible and the works of the Founder — complained how derivative and dreary his writings were. If he offered any special insights into the spiritual life, they haven’t filtered out to the rest of the Church. His genius, if he had one, was organizational. He was good at getting younger, impressionable people to trust him and follow his orders. At building an organization, and motivating followers to engage in a common work — despite the objections of their families, the contrary winds of a culture, and the temptations and distractions of a turbulent time in the Church. He was very, very good at keeping control of an organization and keeping it focused and disciplined, responsive to his commands.
These talents can come from and be used in the service of God: St. Ignatius had all of them. In Father Maciel’s case, they attracted earnest Catholics who saw the Church subjected to persecution from without and within. Mexicans who remembered their governments’ slaughter of the Cristeros flocked to his standard. So did Americans in the 1970s and 1980s — a time when Modernists in mitres were backing apostate organizations like Call to Action, when the "Lavender Mafia" routinely purged seminaries of heterosexuals, and pious folk who preferred the Latin Mass were treated like biblical lepers. Remember all that? If you don’t, you need to read back issues of The Wanderer, or better yet, Ann Roche Muggeridge’s The Desolate City — and say a prayer of gratitude for the work Pope John Paul II did in cleaning up the American church, slowly enough not to provoke a schism that might have lasted for hundreds of years.
The Legionaries, as I remember the saintly Rev. John Hardon, S.J., telling me and a high school friend, were the "one religious order I feel really comfortable telling young men to investigate." How many other holy priests like Father Hardon told young men to eschew the local (corrupt and corrupting) seminary and look into the Legion? For two decades at least, the Legionaries seemed to be virtually the only game in town. In places with terrible, borderline heretical bishops — and Pope Paul VI’s late, unlamented papal legate Archbishop Jean Jadot made sure that they covered most of our map — the manly Legionaries in their swirling cassocks, with their firm grasp on the essentials of the Faith and their refusal to engage in gossip or sniping at Church authorities, seemed like emissaries from a Church that had almost disappeared. I remember comparing them to Edmund Campion and Robert Southwell, the Jesuits who snuck into England to keep alive the Faith when apostate clergy were leading the effort to snuff it out.
So the Legionaries collected, by default, many of the best vocations in the country. Many of these men were ordained, and I can’t think of one who isn’t an excellent priest. Their lay groups drew thousands of earnest lay Catholic men and women — who have founded exemplary families, who do pro-life and apostolic work we all admire. There are schools like the Institute for the Psychological Sciences, and papers like the National Catholic Register (where I worked for over three years), and dozens of lower-profile projects, from Theology on Tap chapters to campus ministries.
All these good people, all these good works. Whether they realize it or not — and some of them are even now wrapping their minds around this monstrosity — they were Father Maciel’s other victims. He used them as his camouflage. The flowers of faith, hope, and charity that they cultivated in the wasteland that was the American church were watered by their obedience to this man. When we looked at him skeptically, we didn’t really see Marcial Maciel, the secretive Mexican aristocrat and religious entrepreneur. We saw some solid, orthodox priest who gave us wise advice about marriage and NFP — neither lax nor scrupulous, but solid. We saw that nice young homeschooling couple we’d met at Mass. We saw these folks, and they told us they believed Father Maciel, so we believed them.
We assumed that whatever "charism" could help form people like this must be of God. That the system of sanctification he had discovered, even if it wasn’t to our taste, must be legitimate. It had sanctified these people, so it must have been real, an original contribution to the spiritual treasury of the Church. Which meant that the man who’d developed it, who vouched for its effectiveness, who’d forged it in the crucible of his own prayer life, must be the real deal. Or at any rate, a practicing Catholic.
So we swallowed it, some of us — right up until the moment Pope Benedict XVI silenced Father Maciel. Would this pope allow an unjust decision to stand against an innocent man? Would any pope willingly wound one of the only orders he could rely on? It was hard to believe, which is why only men and women trained in the Legion and Regnum Christi’s rigidly self-abnegating discipline believed it. They clung to every ambiguity in the verdict like White House loyalists during Watergate, pretending that the 18-and-a-half missing minutes in the tape consisted of Nixon singing the Ave Maria.
The house of holy cards crumbled with the revelation that Father Maciel really was a father — of at least one child (maybe more), and that he’d kept a slush fund in cash to cover his "extracurriculars." Which forced even loyalists to ask themselves: What else was he lying about? Suddenly the stories we’d all put out of our minds backflushed like a bus station toilet. The stomach-churning tales of predatory sodomy and sacrilege that rank among of the worst of all the "filth" that Pope Benedict bemoaned has infected the priesthood. This man, this Maciel, who some had ranked alongside saints like Loyola and Escriva, really belonged in the company of Paul Shanley and John Geoghan.
Or of two pedophile Latin Mass priests who snookered me, Carlos Urrutigoity and Timothy Svea. I met both men, and thought each one was surely a saint. When I heard Svea speak in New York City, I actually said to myself: "This is what St. Paul must have sounded like." There is indeed a spirit that can make itself like unto an angel of light. I have met this Enemy, face to face.
But what explains the Legion’s success, all the real and tangible holiness that permeates the members of an organization founded by such a man? On the natural level, the Legionaries were working with excellent raw material — thousands of the best young seminarians and Catholic couples to be found in America. Many of them had nowhere else to turn, given the heresy and scandals that plagued their local churches. These people were pretty much incorruptible; we are not yet (I trust) in the end times, when even the Elect can be deceived. Since the market he served was orthodox Catholics, Father Maciel made sure he delivered them the goods that they were seeking. He didn’t transform the Legion into a network of pedophiles but kept his vices secret. He plundered the heritage of orthodox spirituality to furnish spiritual uplift he couldn’t practice and didn’t understand to better Catholics who could and did.
What is more, from all I have witnessed, he used in his lay movements a modern technique mostly employed in political groups. I learned of it from a book by Douglas Hyde, Dedication and Leadership, in which the author (a former Communist converted to the Church) sorts out the methods of Leninists, searching for those that are morally neutral and highly effective, which could serve the Church. (I read this book at a right-wing activist camp, so I know that others are using it, too.) The key to making people commit themselves to a movement, the Communists learned and Hyde revealed, was to keep them busy. To make them work harder and longer than they’d ever thought possible — even at tasks that don’t really need to be done. A person’s devotion to a cause, Hyde coolly explained, is proportionate not to what he gets from it but what he puts into it. So don’t make things too easy. Make people feel useful, and keep them digging up holes so others can fill them up. (It’s telling, perhaps, that Hyde rejoined the Commies and died outside the Church.)
If you look up "non-joiner" on Wikipedia, you’ll see my picture, so I never got involved with Regnum Christi. But from what I have heard from friends who did, the organization is big on such busywork. (Its meetings and methods sounded mind-numbingly tedious to me, and I came up with the snarky nickname Boredom Christi.) But now I think I understand what was working and why: Out of trust in the saintliness of their founder, these holy men and women spent much of their free time praying — and hunting snipe.
No errand, however futile, undertaken for the greater glory of God goes unrewarded. (Think of the great St. Louis and his utterly botched Crusade.) Our Lord, who reads our hearts, poured countless graces on thousands of souls — not because of, but despite, the efforts of Father Maciel. And the pope knows this. He knows that whatever is good in the Legionaries and Regnum Christi comes not from anything originally contributed by Marcial Maciel, but the sacred sources on which he drew, and the people he attracted — and the Grace that flowed from Jesus’ side, around and over him, but left him dry as a stone.

John Zmirak is the author, most recently, of the graphic novel
The Grand Inquisitor and is Writer-in-Residence at Thomas More College in New Hampshire. He writes weekly for

John Zmirak


John Zmirak is the author, most recently, of The Bad Catholic's Guide to the Seven Deadly Sins (Crossroad). He served from October 2011 to February 2012 as Editor of Crisis.

  • Billy Valentine

    This is the best article I’ve read on the disaster Thanks for writing, I’ll be passing it on to others.

  • Catherine Baron

    One good thing that can come out of this painful mess is that the Legionaries will, I think, become innoculated from the cult of a man. That can be a very handy characteristic to have in any time of charismatic leaders, whether political or spiritual.

  • Will

    I think one very big red flag about Maciel, was his total lack of humility: having his followers engage in all of this “Living Saint” adoration of the man smacks of idolatry to say the least. Forbiding his followers from reading the work of anyone but him is another red flag. At the risk of being a bit cynical, any man who requires such adulation and who cannot abide his followers reading works done by anyone else is scary, a pathological personality, or perhaps even worse. To rape impressionable, young seminarians, hear their confessions, and grant them absolution is not only a rape of the body, but of the mind and soul. A man who is both evil and an ego-maniac.

    The Cardinals and Bishops of the Curia are very smart men, much smarter than I can claim to be. One would think that at least some of them would have seen these “red flags” about Maciel?
    I would bet that more than a few Cardinals and Bishops suspected that something rotten was going on, and perhaps even quietly discussed it among themselves. Unfortunately, Pope JP II seemed to be deceived by this man, and allowed Maciel to perpetuate his errors. Pope Benedict, a wise and courageous man, finally did something, and for this and other things, I believe that Pope Benedict is a greater Pope than people realize.

    The sexual abuse of seminarians and young people is truly evil and it must be dealt with, not covered up. This has cost the Church much embarassment, much money and angered many people, both clergy and laity. I think we are finally on the right track, although we may still need to replace a few Bishops, such as Cardinal Mahoney in Los Angeles, who seemed to have a problem with this issue as well. We need to be painfully honest and clean out the filth, as Pope Benedict called it.

    It will be slow and painful, but it must be done.

  • Dan Deeny

    Very interesting article. This gives us some background information. Poor Fr. John Hardon, S.J.. He couldn’t recommend the Jesuits? Benedictines? Franciscans? Dominicans? What about Blessed Charles Foucauld’s group? What are they called… the little brothers and sisters of Jesus?

  • Ted S.

    I first read your blog, then the Rules for Comments. Your blog violates all your Rules for Comments.

    What makes you qualified to the judge orthodoxy of others? Huge presumption there.

    How do your gleeful charcterizations of the deaths of Card. Bernardine and Archbp. Jadot not violate simple charity?

  • hrh`

    For years, miters and red hats in the Curia were on to Maciel, as were a lot of others, even before Jason Berry & Gerald Renner (sp?) did their big exposees in the ’90s. Even as late as a few months ago, the head of the Baltimore diocese was read the riot act by three big-wig red hats esconced in the Vatican when he wanted accountability from the LoC cult re their nefarious activities in his diocese.

    Why? It’s all about $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$. Maciel was a huge cash cow. NOTHING he did would jeopardize his exalted position because of his phenomenal fundraising ability.

    How sad the institutional church have devolved into nothing more than a gang of arrogant, condescending, avaricious (EXTREMELY avaricious!), disconnected, entitled queens who’s only concern is to continue their cushy lifestyle.

    BTW, if you want to unnerve your local miter or red hat, ask them how much millions they are required to give to the Pope when they are called to “ad limina” every five years. That’s DOLLARS, not lire!

  • Steven Schloeder

    Dear Mr Zmirak:

    With all due respect, you tell us you are an editor, now please consider editing your own work.

    The first six paragraphs are a rambling self promotion which has nothing to do with the very good message that you have to deliver. I waded through it based on the recommendation of my wife. I felt like I was at a funeral where a snarky comedian was brought in to give the eulogy.

    When you finally got to the point of the essay, your insights were excellent. As a writer in residence, you should know better than having to make your reader endure drudgery.

  • Mere Catholic

    This is one of the more insightful posts on the sexual abuse nightmare in the Church because it gets to the heart of the matter. Pedophiles and pederasts will use anyone and do anything to achieve their malicious ends. The Legion of Christ was perfect cover for Maciel with its crisp, photogenic orthodoxy that gained him access to the corridors of power within the hierarchy. May this be a lesson to all of us that orthodoxy to matters of faith is necessary but it is not sufficient.

    I am sorrowful for the good and holy members of LC and RC who have devoted much of their lives in service to the Church, yet unwittingly helped Maciel continue his deeds. I hope the Pope takes the first step by initiating a complete top-down investigation of the LC and brings to account those who willingly allowed Maciel to perpetuate . And if that results a dissolution of the order, so be it. The Church will survive without the LC charism, and though with much pain, so will the members of LC and RC.

  • Kevin in Texas

    Dear Ted and Steven,

    Not that I always agree with John Zmirak’s comments, but I do feel the need to defend him in this case. Both of you may be new readers of Inside, so you may not know that Zmirak’s writing style, at least in his commentaries and on his blog, is one of witty sarcasm and dare I say it, even “snarkiness” at times (I hate that word, but Zmirak would probably characterize his writing as snarky at times.) Some people appreciate the dry wit, others don’t like it so much, and maybe even mistake his sarcasm for uncharitable criticism.

    As with most sites and magazines with multiple editors and writers, there exists a wide variety of styles on this Web site. I doubt any reader appreciates all of the different writers’ styles, but to each his own, I suppose.

    And Ted S., I think you may have misread Zmirak’s comments on Cardinal Bernardin and Archbishop Jadot as his own personal criticisms; it seems to me he was characterizing how other people may have reacted, albeit in a sarcastic way.

  • CC

    One good thing that can come out of this painful mess is that the Legionaries will, I think, become innoculated from the cult of a man. That can be a very handy characteristic to have in any time of charismatic leaders, whether political or spiritual.

    That would be a valuable lesson. But am I right to imagine you are using the term ‘Legionaries’ as a simple means of identifying those persons who some time ago were members? Or are you implying the Legionaries as a formal body might continue? Have you read Dr. Germain Grisez’ open letter to those persons? [“…[It] is, in my judgment, your grave moral duty to appeal to the Pope, as your superior, to save the common good of the faithful members of the Legionaries of Christ by terminating the present juridical person, and seeing to the formation of a new institute.”]

  • GG

    This is the most direct and precise commentary I

  • Alma

    Thank you so much MR Zmirak. That was beautiful. I have been in the Movement for almost 10 years and this is a heartbreaking time for me and my family. You have given me a new way of looking at my own place in this and I have so much to think abd pray about. Thank you and God bless you.

  • freddy

    Eloquent, honest and charitable. Thank you!

  • Ellen

    Anyone with knowledge of psychology and human development should understand that Maciel’s sins were more than bad choices — they run deeper and are more complex than that. In various ways, they permeate the relationships and structures he created — that’s the nature of these things. Which is why reform is always needed after something like this. I disagree with this statement at the end, however:

    He (the pope) knows that whatever is good in the Legionaries and Regnum Christi comes not from anything originally contributed by Marcial Maciel, but the sacred sources on which he drew, and the people he attracted — and the Grace that flowed from Jesus’ side, around and over him, but left him dry as a stone.

    It is simply not the case that no good could come directly from Fr. Maciel. As an example, you reference his “dreary” writings, but I thought Time and Eternity was wonderful. It may be hard to conceive that God can work in and through someone with these sins and crimes, but God does. Maciel’s problems undoubtedly can be traced way back in his life, but there are fruits of his life, fruit that can be traced directly to him. Which would include the very mission of the Legion and RC.

  • Steve Skojec


    I’ve been writing about this issue pretty much ad nauseam on my blog since the story first broke, and I’ve done so from my perspective as someone who was once very much a part of the “movement” and being groomed for leadership therein.

    While you make excellent points throughout this piece, I feel that something is strikingly missing from your analysis, namely, the profound effect that having a founder who was a sexual and psychological predator and spiritual fraud has had on the methodology, pedagogy, and formation of the members of the movement, both religious and laity.

    Having been involved informally for several years before living in community full-time for about a year and a half in two separate houses of apostolate, I saw a progression both in my own involvement and in my wariness about the ways in which the Legion acted. The secrecy, the hostility and condescension toward the rest of the institutional Church and other “competing” orders like Opus Dei, the culture of deception, the strangely viral aspect of every apostolate which, no matter how outwardly-focused on the surface was merely another recruitment tool – all of it added up to some very bright red flags that I struggled at first to see.

    Oddly, it was my scruples that both made me a perfect candidate for recruitment and wound up causing me to rebel against the group as I was drawn more deeply in. They drew me in because I could easily be riddled with guilt over my commitment to Christ and my “generosity” with all that he had given me (read: my willingness to do whatever the LCs told me was God’s will for me). But my compulsive honesty resisted their willingness to lie, deceive, or omit important information when carrying out my apostolate.

    Is it any wonder that an order founded by a predator but designed to draw in devoted Catholics would manifest multiple personalities? The same priest who preached against the very existence of “white lies” from the pulpit was the one telling you to tell the RC woman calling the house that he wasn’t there when he was sitting in front of you, just because he didn’t want to “cause scandal” that he was too busy to take her call. The same priests who would preach about gossip and slander would take part in methodically destroying the reputations of their charges who left without their blessing, often knowing too much.

    Long before I was branded “toxic” by the LC priests recruiting at my alma mater, Franciscan University, I was accused by my superior of not being “integrated” into the movement because I “questioned its charism” – specifically, I refused to deceive the boys in my youth group chapter about the departure of a well-liked brother who left because he didn’t have a vocation. At the time, I didn’t know what “integration” meant, but I had a general idea. According to a friend of mine who had access to Legionary documents, the First General Chapter of the Legion of Christ in 1980 defined integration as, “identifying with the Founder, with his spirit, his mind, his mission, his life. Integration which includes accepting, knowing, valuing, esteeming and transmitting a spiritual legacy that comes to us by way of the Constitutions, the writings and various orientations which are constantly being given value by the example of his life.”

    You are judged by the extent to which you adhere to the example of Fr. Maciel – and that example was, even before the various allegations against him became public, exceedingly dodgy at times. Clearly, dishonesty with an allegedly noble purpose in mind was considered by at least my superior at the time to be the example the founder set.

  • Steve Skojec

    Virtually everyone who joins the Legion and the Regnum Christi is a devoted and orthodox individual with zeal for God. But what must be recognized is the deformation of conscience that is pervasive in the spirituality of the group as a whole. I know DOZENS of people wounded by the Legion in ways that have nothing to do with sexual misconduct – it is all psychological, spiritual, and intellectual abuse.

    There comes a point when the members, who exhibit natural virtue and a genuine sense of charity, begin losing prior distinctions of right and wrong and thus fail to see that they are assisting in a corrupt enterprise. They become willful idiots because they believe they are building “the Kingdom.” I know, because I was the biggest and best willful idiot I could be.

    Fr. James Farfaglia, ex-LC, touched on this during his recent Catholic Exchange roundtable, when he said:

    The only way that anyone can really understand the Legion of Christ is by understanding Mexico. I don

  • Sam

    I have met several Legionary-affiliated people: members of Regnum Christi and siblings of Legionary priests. To a man or woman, I have found them to be loyal, heartfelt, good Catholics. I appreciate this article for making the distinction between Fr Maciel’s sins and the many graces the Lord has given the Church through the good works of his followers. May the Lord grant him a long and purifying Purgatory (if he went there), but more importantly, may He guide the Legionaries as they learn painfully that the founder was not a saint and how best to carry on the good works they have started under his organizational skills.

  • David

    Excellent analysis on par with George Weigel’s (

    Please continue to comment on the remaining leadership who provided cover and are still active in the mind control of the organization.

    As a former RC member, I read LC explanations and analysis of the situation and with great frustration think, these guys just don’t get it…what an opportunity for reform which they are totally squandering.

  • juan j vaca

    It’s about time we name and describe Maciel’s personality with accuracy, and without euphemisms. He poses all the characteristics pertinent to the Malignant Narcissism disorders, as any one can verify in an authoritative web site. And because of such a personality disorders, Maciel was able to deceive popes, cardinals, bishops, financiers, people of good faith, and abuse sexually and psychologically so many adolescent seminarians.

  • Jesse

    Marjorie Campbell strikes a more sober note:

    The reality is that, sometimes, good things come from people who also do very bad things. The Legion has, in my experience, dealt with this reality in its ministry far more effectively than any religious order I’ve observed. Now, the Legion has an opportunity to embed the practice of supporting holiness in everyone into its permanent charism. … Which is not to say that the Legion does not have a lot of explaining

  • Ann


    You bring up excellent points and you identify the exact characteristics of the movement which I struggled with when I was a member. I never felt fully “integrated,” as they say, though my spiritual director assured me it was a gift from God that He just hadn’t given to me yet. I hesitated to invite people to activities because I knew the group would latch onto them until they joined–and I just wanted to invite people without strings attached, simply because I thought they would enjoy a retreat or a speaker. I could not believe they asked me to create a written out recruitment plan with the names of four people I “identified” as having possible “vocations” to the movement. I disliked having to hide the RC name when we advertised or ran apostolates. I disliked the snide comments about Opus Dei and other Catholic groups. I really didn’t appreciate it when I told my spiritual director that I had gotten engaged (to a non-RC Catholic) and she began to tell me that he was going to be a lazy leech who made me work all day while he sat around and got drunk. She had never even met him!

    I relate all of these things because I think you are precisely right about the psychology of the movement reflecting the deviant behavior of Maciel. Why is it that almost everyone who leaves has the same complaints? Why is it that no one who stays can admit even a sliver of validity to those complaints? As long as one is “integrated”, he is trained to think that the will of God is solely the work of the movement, and nothing else. To oppose the movement is to oppose the will of God.

  • Frederick Manligas Nacino

    I was reading the last paragraph and Eph 6:5-8 came to mind:

    Servants, be obedient to your lords according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the simplicity of your heart, as to Christ. Do not serve only when seen, as if to please men, but act as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. Serve with good will, as to the Lord, and not to men. For you know that whatever good each one shall do, the same shall he receive from the Lord, whether he is servant or free.

  • Beth

    Excellent article.

    Steve, thanks for taking the time to write such a well informed and insightful post. I am hoping the denial all of these years by LC and RC will finally be over.

    I hope the members of LC and RC that would like to leave are able to do that freely and without guilt. Will they be able to?

    I’m surpised at the writer who is still willing to give money to the order when they have not even shown that they are truly going to deal with this mess.

  • Shannon

    Thanks for a great commentary!

  • Jesse

    I’m surpised at the writer who is still willing to give money to the order when they have not even shown that they are truly going to deal with this mess.

    Fr. Berg’s statement is a start. But, who am I to judge that they “have not even shown that they are truly going to deal with this mess.” They’re telling their people which is how the news was leaked. I’ll wait and see for more official actions but proverbial closets don’t get cleaned over night.

    On his blog, Deal tells us:

    I agree with Marjorie Campbell that the Legion of Christ will survive the revelations, both recent and past, about the founder, Fr. Maciel.
    I am told by those who know that the member of the Legion are devastated, but I am also told that the international network of donors and supporters are going to remain loyal to the work, albeit with the demand for greater transparency going forward.
    There are many in the Catholic world, some who are bloggers or print journalists, who have had their knives out for the Legion for quite a long time…
    I do know good people who have had what they describe as bad experience with the Legion and Regnum Christi. …
    Nothing I have heard could offset my experience of the many wonderful people I have met through the Legion and Regnum Chisti, or the work of I have seen them do, especially in education, across our country.

    If their big donors are still on board, small little donors like me have no reason to stop giving as of yet. As long as Guadalupe Radio simulcasts their Masses in Spanish for my elderly relatives to see, as long as Hombre Nuevo continues their arena passion plays during Lent, as long as their Escuela de Fe continues educating faithful lay people, my wallet remains open.

  • Rhonda L Mannino

    “What is more, from all I have witnessed, he used in his lay movements a modern technique mostly employed in political groups. I learned of it from a book by Douglas Hyde, Dedication and Leadership, in which the author (a former Communist converted to the Church) sorts out the methods of Leninists, searching for those that are morally neutral and highly effective, which could serve the Church. (I read this book at a right-wing activist camp, so I know that others are using it, too.) The key to making people commit themselves to a movement, the Communists learned and Hyde revealed, was to keep them busy. To make them work harder and longer than they’d ever thought possible — even at tasks that don’t really need to be done. A person’s devotion to a cause, Hyde coolly explained, is proportionate not to what he gets from it but what he puts into it. So don’t make things too easy. Make people feel useful, and keep them digging up holes so others can fill them up. (It’s telling, perhaps, that Hyde rejoined the Commies and died outside the Church.)”

    My first “training for appostolate was for “Catholic Kids Net”; A wonderful kids program, and Challenge; a girls club. I was told that Nuestro Padre borrowed his recruiting techniques from “Jehovah Witness’ evangelizing in Mexico. BUT what they described was more like a KGB operations. I could not agree with you more. Collecting information about others was a regular practice and made me very uncomfortable. THis was my demise in the Movement. And thank God! I wonder if a charitable book could be written of all the x RC members.
    Fr. Adrian Van Kaam (psychologist and originator of Formative Spirituality) would say that Functionality was the mode of operation here, not the “Love WILL” or “Transcendence”. For me and many who join, our need to have a position, some social presence” in an institution that we love and believe in, is what drives us. Not our Love for God or our faithfulness to Him. Fr. Maciel and the movement constantly preached to it’s members, PURITY OF INTENTION. We shall see how things shake up. I thank God every day for taking me out!

  • Catholicgrrl

    Yes, you write some good stuff here, but I have two points to, well, point out.

    One is I can’t help but think all of that mushy hippy crap we hadda put up with at mass in the 70s and 80s would have been seriously lessened had those orthodox young men become diocesan priests, instead of getting recruited by the LCs. So in a way, we were robbed.

    Second, you talk about all the “good” RC/LC orgs did, like IPS. The duplicitousness and inability of them to come clean about their connections as an LC recruiting center are appalling, including: Faith & Family, Challenge, ePriest, Familia, K4J, Pure Fashion,, and there are plenty more. All of them work first as a recruitment organization to build up RC/LC. I know of one very good Catholic psychologist who has been pressured to make a professional connection with IPS, but was hesitant since it could not be made clear *who* they were. I found out, in the wake of this crisis, that they are, indeed, LC. And I seriously wonder if Fr. Benedict Groeschel, who is plastered across their home page, has any idea that they are a front for LC. And that home page still advertises themselves as a “graduate school”, but not an LC school. If you are proud of who you are, shouldn’t you be advertising it, loudly and clearly? Even the Jesuits still call their uni’s “Jesuit”, as they still believe that’s a good thing.

    Which leads me make the comparison: Fr. Benedict, himself the co-founder of an order, would be tempted to crack you over the head with his cane if you ever even so much as suggested treating him with a fraction of the pomp and fawning the LCs were made to do over Macial. But therein lies the key: made to do. I’m sure the refusal to treat the man like a canonized saint was a sure clue that you didn’t really have a vocation.

    We should’ve had those young, manly, orthodox priests at our neighborhood churches. Damn.

  • Woody Jones

    On some blog sites the issue of other religious congregations that had scandals or at least problems has been raised. The history of the Piarists, Capuchins, and Opus Angelorum (OHC) could be instructive. And then there are the Rosminians (Institute of Charity), whose founder suffered the misfortune, after his death, of having certain selected propositions from his writings condemned by the Holy Office, only to have them rehabilitated by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Colorfully, the currently oldest living Rosminian is none other than Jean-Marie Charles-Roux, IC, scion of French high civil servants, celebrant of Mass in the EF for Mel Gibson on location at “The Passion”, and Catholic patron of the Society of King Charles the Martyr, among other things.

    My hunch, powered by my hope, is that an appropriate Roman body (which may well be an ad hoc cardinalatial group) is right now conducting an investigation and looking to clean up whatever else (Fr. Maciel is dead, after all, and although some obviously would like to emulate the Reds in Spain and dig him up so they can shoot him, I doubt this will happen) needs to be cleaned up, and a proper reform or revision of the Legion and Regnum Christi will be carried through, so that the very great good that is there can continue to help us Love God, Serve People and Build the Church.

    Que les vayan bien.

  • Wounded Healer

    Thank you for your charitable, lucid and helpful comments. I was an LC priest; I spent 20 years in the Congregation and feel deeply for those who continued in the group. They have done phenomenal good in a world where the Church seemed to have lost the excitement and passion of the Gospel message. 70,000 members in a lay movement and abundant vocations in this day and age is no small achievement. Now our worst nightmare has come to pass and no matter how we feel about the methods of the Legion or our personal experience with them, I think we all feel bewildered, betrayed, and and deeply hurt. I for one need time to process this and to discern what is salvageable from the fallen house of cards. Unlike most other Internet based comment I find your article helpful and healing. That is what we all – whether we admit it or not – need. Thank you for not savaging our hearts. God Bless.


    I believe that one of the key elements of priestly formation is the proper formation of the “human person”. I cannot imagine any situation in which a priest or a seminarian who spent 8-12 years in a formation process led by followers and sycophants of this pervert could possibly have properly formed. This scandal has cast doubt over the entire LC. Soldiers are expected to defy orders that are considered immoral, shouldn’t we expect more from vowed religious?

  • Will

    Maciel was a liar and a fraud, however, everyone that I ever met from LC and RC are good people. Where do we go from here? Suffice it to say, the incumbent leadership is somewhat tainted, thus Pope Benedict needs to appoint outsiders to run LC for a few years. Not just the superior General, but several key aide positions should be staffed by a Bishop and priests who are reliable and have no affiliation with LC. Give them a free hand to make whatever changes are deemed necessary by Pope Benedict and go on from there. It won’t be easy, and in fact, will be quite painful, but it must be done.

    If I may be so bold, I think that retired Baltimore Archbishop Wiliam Cardinal Keeler would be a good choice. Orthodox, but a realist as well, who has run an Archdiocese and given his status as a Cardinal commands much respect. Since he is retired, he has nothing to prove and can avoid church politics.

    Give him 6 or 7 good priests to assist him from diocese in North America and Europe, and allow him the latitude to make the changes necessary in LC seminaries, etc.

    I have personally met the Cardinal and I believe he would be just the man for the job.

  • Presbyter felix

    Joe Bernardin was a good and dear friend of mine, a godly man who grew spiritually in high office (something highly unusual: in all fields of endeavor, when a person gets to the top, he normally has to survive on the spiritual and mental capital he brings with him). So I protest against the unjust slanders heaped on this good and holy man in this article.

    Apart from that, I found the comment good.

  • gregorbo

    I think you’ve made some very salient points, John. Thanks.

    I, like you, worked for an RC/LC backed institution for about 4 years. I never joined RC because, spiritually and intellectually, it was not to my taste. And, for a long time, I chalked up my disinclination to join to just that–taste.

    But as time went on and I got to know better members of the movement and saw firsthand their methodologies, I became more and more uncomfortable with the way they operated.

    This is somewhat reflected in many of the comments here–many who never joined RC say the same thing: “I’ve met many members of RC and LC and all of them were good and holy Catholics.”

    On the other hand, what we hear from those who are x-members (not current members, mind you) is the opposite–“What I saw of the behaviors, behind closed doors and out of the view of ‘outsides’ (what RC and LC members are trained to call non-memmbers), made me increasingly uncomfortable.”

    These latter comments would be branded by an RC member or an LC member as “uncharitable.” Hence, the reason we have heard very few comments by current members that even come close to being critical of the Legion, RC, and their responses to this latest scandal.

    In my capacity in working with the RC institution I was privy to some of the instructions developed by LC for educational institutions. In a section, for instance, that instructed RC leaders in what to look for in potential employees, I was struck by the repetition of the phrase “docile personality” in nearly every description. Years later, after the sex abuse accusations went viral (post May 2006), reading the Legion’s response, it struck me that such a response was understandable since every ex-RC and ex-LC member, whether consecrated, lay, or ordained, had a personality that was anything but docile.

    Independent thinkers need not apply.

    It’s no wonder John didn’t stay in the employ of the Register for too too long.

    In my view, the Legion is infected with Maciel’s distorted psychopathology–whatever it is and a thorough re-examination of its entire constitutions, by an independent body, is called for–along with the remedies suggested by Wiegel, et al., in their public letters regarding what ought to happen now. At the same time, I think RC section leaders ought to report post-haste to their local Bishops to find out directly from him what he would suggest they do.

  • The Other Ellen

    John, only you can make me laugh in one sentence and then bring me to tears in the next. While I have known you to go over the line on occasion, you achieve a heartfelt, thought-provoking balance in this article. I will be sharing this one with friends.

    I’ve also enjoyed all the intelligent commentary following the piece, especially those posts by Steve Skojec and Ann. Still, I can’t help but agree with Catholicgrrl that diocesan churches were robbed of heroic orthodox priests because of the LC. In fact, I remember one committed RC member explaining to me just a few years that some bishops didn’t permit the LC to enter their diocese, since they’d “steal all the vocations.” Of course, her revelation was meant to explain to me the society’s need for secrecy in its many agencies.

    What a revolting, putrid mire the Bride of Christ has had to wade through with these last couple decades. But we must nevertheless keep our eyes fixed on our Bridegroom, Who likewise endured betrayal, shame, torment, and worse here on earth.

  • Rachel

    I have been following this story with great interest as one of my best friends incorporated into RC in November. We both went through Familia, which I thought was awesome (but came to find recently was written by a couple of the last name Sellors, who joined RC gave them Familia, then left RC, but didn’t get Familia back. See the exLC blog for more). After Familia, my friend got involved with Challenge with her girls. (I tried Conquest for one of my sons but it was really expensive, far away from our house, and the spiritual obligations my son was supposed to meet were extensive.) Anyway, through Challenge, my friend was drawn into ‘incorporating’ into RC. Which she did. Now she feels sick. She sent me the link to this article which I have since put on my blog and facebook. It’s the best piece about this issue that I have read so far…and I have read alot of them.

    All I can say is but for the Grace of God there go I. I could have become a member of RC all too easily. I am a very enthusiastic Catholic convert. On the surface, the poster child for RC. However, as someone mentioned above ‘Independent thinkers need not apply’ to RC and someone else mentioned that RC likes ‘docile’ types, I am very much the former and very not the latter. Plus, when I saw all the stuff I would be expected to do as a member, I got so tired I wanted to take a nap. So, I just couldn’t join them. But, man, I came soooooo close.

    My prayers are with all involved. Thank you again for this excellent article. Oh, and I love you Bad Catholic guides…I have them both. I love a good snarky dude. 😉

  • Violet

    I liked your article overall, so I’ll overlook the comment about the “dumbed down and multiculturated curricula” at some of these colleges (a comment that strikes me as insulting to anyone who comes from a non-European culture).

    I am interested in hearing people’s take on a certain question, though. I’m having a hard time reconciling the fact that John Paul II was so taken in by this fraud Maciel. What does it mean that a pope has such poor judgment?

    I’m not trying to be rude, I’m honestly interested in hearing what people think.

  • Robert

    I joined RC over a year ago with my eyes wide open. I knew about the accusations and did some research learning about the good, the bad, and the ugly.

    I abhor abuses of power and sexual abuse of any kind. Having been sexually abused as a child, and personally devastated as a result (alcoholic, suicidal, drug addicted for 14 years), I am acutely aware of this particular flavor of evil and it’s consequences. It was not until I went to AA and converted to Catholicism that I began to heal.

    If it were up to me, LC leaders would publicaly repent, if only on behalf of Maciel, over and over again and go to great lengths to facilitate the healing of all abuse victims for years to come. I would have them commit 35% of all their funds to new or existing victims of abuse outreach programs. Nothing they could do would make up for his abuses, which is why it should be an indefinite effort.

    Ultimately, I decided to join because of the people and priests I encountered at all the events. These are Good people who are serious about their spiritual journey. My wife and I feel that we have found an authentic way to live out our orthodoxy.

    While evangelization is a constant theme, is it also common to all sects of Christianity. I want to bring others to Christ. No one pressured me to “incorporate” into RC. As an active member, I feel no unusual pressure to bring others into the movement, however, I do feel a responsibility to bring others to Christ, as I did before I even knew about RC. It only follows that a Catholic who has found a great way to live out their faith would bring others to that modality.

    I appreciate that others have had a different experience, but the criticisms I’ve read here are not a part of my experience.

    I have had candid discussions with our section leader, a fine priest, about this scandal and my utter dissatisfaction with the response of the leadership so far. He has engaged me in these discussions with candor, and agrees to a large extent. He thanked me for my honesty, and I believe he respects me for speaking my mind and upholding universal ideals. I have learned a great deal from him as he responds to this mess.

    Interestingly, not once has a LC priest in my city, here in the states, recommended the writings of Maciel. They have pointed me to other classics and one book by another LC priest.

    I can see that some of the priests have had the rug pulled out from under them and are in the process of re-dedicating themselves to Christ, as we all due in times of great turmoil. Some, however, were already properly focused on Christ and are having an easier (not easy) time of it.

    As a Catholic, I do not need RC to facilitate my spiritual journey. Our faith is too rich and varied to be wed to one path unnecessarily. Having said that, given my experience and the people I’ve encountered in RC, I plan to continue my journey with RC and the excellent LC priests I’ve come to know.

    I hope you will pray for the victims of Maciel, The LC priests, and all in RC.

  • Bryan

    I have not really noticed this scandal until today.

    The new allegation is that Fr. Maciel had SIX children.

    You write:

    “Or of two pedophile Latin Mass priests who snookered me, Carlos Urrutigoity and Timothy Svea. I met both men, and thought each one was surely a saint.”

    Is this not the problem? we are looking for priests to be
    living saints but the Psalms remind us Noli confidere in

    We can never truly know about the lives of others and this
    event should remind us not to place our trust in the
    virtue of those who appear to be holy. The Devil tempts
    priests and can use them and their appearance of holiness
    for his own purposes.

    Thankfully we distinguish between the office of priest and
    Father X the office holder. We recognise that the Masses of a
    priest like Fr Maciel were valid as long as he offered the Mass
    with the intention of doing what the Church wanted.

    Finally I cannot believe that young seminarians believed
    that Pope Puis XII had given Fr Maciel permission to abuse
    them as has been claimed. Surely these men knew that a
    superior cannot order a subject to commit a sin.

    I pray that the Vatican will be able to rescue some good
    priests from LC and put them into the vineyard for the service of the Lord.

    In caritate Xp.,