Charisms Don’t Make You a Saint

One of the big puzzles that many Catholics have grappled with in recent years is the baffling phenomenon of some charismatic figure (one thinks of a Rev. Marcial Maciel, for instance) who can, for years, inspire or otherwise offer blessing and solace to good and decent Christians who are full of faith and obedient to the Church. Said figure can preach or write clear and engaging explications of the Faith. He can do all sorts of wonderful things that help struggling souls find healing, that give new purpose to the hopeless, and that help the lost discover the riches of grace in Christ. He is beloved by his devotees– and not without reason.

And yet that charismatic figure then turns out to be bound up with very serious sin or even shown to be, as in Father Maciel’s case, a monster of diabolical proportions.

It’s a question that haunts people in the wake of the Maciel debacle and of similar falls. On the one hand, you had people — aware of the evidence pointing to a radically duplicitous life — pointing and waving at the flashing red lights and loud warning klaxons that were sounding with ever greater shrillness while the evidence piled up that the Beloved Hero was an utter fraud.

On the other hand, you had lots of people, very good people — a blessed pope, even — trusting men like Father Maciel and simply unable to bring themselves to believe that the people waving their hands and shouting warnings could possibly be right. Some of them even attacked the critics and whistleblowers as enemies of the Church, motivated by evil spirits or malice or worse. And oftentimes the (very reasonable) thing holding them back from so much as letting themselves suspect the fraud was, in part, that Jesus Himself had said:

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? So, every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit. A sound tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits. (Mt 7:15-20)

“So there you are!” said the defenders of “solidly orthodox” scoundrels like Father Maciel. “His fruit” — by which they meant orthodox preaching or writing, inspirational talks, various things done that they found helpful, illuminating, moving, healing, or motivational –“is good. I’ve experienced his fruit in my own life! He was an instrument of healing and conversion for me. He saved my soul! He brought me into the Church. He taught me my faith straight from the Catechism, and it changed my life. I will be grateful to that man till the day I die. So he can’t be a bad tree! Anybody who says otherwise simply has to be motivated by hatred of the Church, envy, or just plain Satan.”

And then it all comes out. The guy was a fraud. He’d been playing his adulators for suckers for years, lying to them all and even using them as human shields to protect himself while he subtly worked them into a fury against his critics, investigators, and accusers (all while adopting a properly martyred pose of patient resignation to persecution, of course) and sent them out to shout down and destroy the whistleblowers and witnesses to his perfidy.

Everybody is stunned. They have to work through all the stages of dying to reach the place where they really do admit to themselves that they were not just suckers, but suckers who persecuted whistleblowers on behalf of the guy who suckered them. How could they have gotten played so badly? There is a period of mourning — and then we move on to believing completely in the next guy with a gift of gab or a knack for writing snappy prose/singing catchy Christian tunes/making popular Christian movies. Pretty soon we have that guy on the fast track to canonization, and if somebody says that there’s something sketchy about him… well, just look at his fruits! How can he possibly have something seriously wrong with his credibility?

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…


There are a lot of dynamics that enter into this deathless tendency to credulity and idolatry — our current cult of celebrity in the West, tribalism, lack of discernment, clericalism, false humility, fear, the need for a hero, a vortex of simpleminded culture-warrior narratives that sees the Church neatly divided between Valiant Heroes Who Tell It Like It Is vs. Craven Lickspittle Members of a Shadowy Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy Out to Destroy These Heroes — but I think one factor that gets overlooked a lot centers precisely on this matter of “fruit.” What is Jesus talking about?

Well, what He is not talking about is what many defenders of religious charlatans and flimflam men believe fruit to be: namely, the exercise of charisms such as preaching, evangelization, exhortation, or (my own particular charism) yakking about the Faith and theology. How do I know? Because St. Paul understood perfectly clearly that merely being a yakker about the Faith — even a profoundly orthodox one — was no guarantee of his salvation:

Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Well, I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air; but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (1 Cor 9:25-27, emphasis added)

Paul is the original orthodox preacher of the Faith. Yet he does not see in that a slam dunk guarantee of his sanctity. He recognizes that he, even he, could still blow the race by grave sin and apostasy. So he keeps a tight rein on himself lest, in getting swept up in the razzle-dazzle of adulation from the people he ministers to, he forget his duty of discipleship and the fact that everything is from God’s grace and to God’s glory. (The above was, after all, written to the Church that was splitting up into fan clubs shouting, “I am of Paul! I am of Peter! I am of Apollos!” (cf. 1 Cor 1:11-13).) Paul was gravely concerned about the possibility that, even as he led others to Christ, he might lose his salvation himself.

And history is littered with people who demonstrate the very live possibility of this. Case in point: Tertullian. Rock-star convert. Priest. Brilliant defender of the Faith. Magnificent writer. We still quote him today. He’s the guy that gave us such lines as, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church,” “What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?” and other quotables. The early Tertullian is one of the ablest exponents of the Faith from the patristic era.

But Tertullian ended as an apostate. The gift of gab was not a proof of sanctity. He saved others. Only God knows if he himself was saved.

This is also true for those with other, even more spectacular charisms, such as prophecy. For example, one contributor to the text of the New Testament spoke, without any possible doubt, under the inspired prophetic inspiration of the Holy Spirit. His words constitute part of the inspired word of God, and the apostle John fully endorses them as an able encapsulation of the entire gospel message. His name was Caiaphas, and he uttered this inspired prophetic oracle that neatly summarizes the truth about Jesus:

You know nothing at all; you do not understand that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish. (Jn 11:49-50)

That’s solid orthodox Christian preaching, that is. And yet, Caiaphas is not what we would call a saint or even a disciple of Jesus, given that he is directly responsible for engineering the judicial murder of the Son of God.


Examples can be multiplied, but we’ll stop there. The point is that there are two different sorts of gifts that the Church speaks of: charismatic gifts and sanctifying gifts. Here is the basic lowdown on charisms:

Whether extraordinary or simple and humble, charisms are graces of the Holy Spirit which directly or indirectly benefit the Church, ordered as they are to her building up, to the good of men, and to the needs of the world. (Catechism of the Catholic Church 799)

Charisms are fantastically diverse. Paul gives not a definitive list, but a sort of Whitman’s Sampler of them in Roman 12 and 1 Corinthians 12. There’s lots more where that came from. They range, as the Church says, from extraordinary (St. Padre Pio bilocated and St. Joseph of Cupertino levitated) to simple and humble. (My wife has a charism of hospitality. She makes our home into a cross between Rivendell and a certain house in Nazareth whose hospitality to guests was literally heavenly. That won’t get into the history books like St. Pio or the Flying Saint, but it has done wonders to show our guests the welcome of the Kingdom of God.)

Now, Paul’s point in describing the charisms is this: Your charisms are not for you. They are the gifts God gives you (typically in baptism and confirmation, though God is not bound by the sacraments) to give away. Their purpose is to build up the body of Christ, help your neighbor, and renew the face of the earth. Somebody exercising a charism is exercising it for the benefit not of himself, but another.

The fascinating thing about this is that charisms need not have any particular relationship to somebody’s maturity or sanctity. A classic example is the Mozart we see in Amadeus. He is a majestically gifted musician with a charism for creating music that still propels us into the heavens. He is also a complete jerk. Indeed, the entire drama — the very name of the film — is about a protagonist who is deeply angered that such a man is “beloved of God” and who acutely feels his own lack of giftedness in comparison to Mozart’s towering genius.

Salieri is not the first person in history to wonder why God sometimes gives immense gifts and abilities to people who are, in other ways, radically defective. But the reality, judging from experience, is that this is indeed what He does. But in each case, such charisms are given not for the benefit of the one with the gift, but for the benefit of those around him; they trace their origin and purpose back not to the gifted individual, but to Jesus who works through them to draw us to Himself into one body.

One of the ways in which we grow in grace is to be obedient to our charisms and let them be expressed. Charisms are vital to our vocation and are given by God so that we can do the work of love to which we are called. In the words of the St. Catherine of Siena Institute, “If you are called, you are gifted, and if you are gifted, you are called.” But (mark this) it is the obedience to God which is the thing that does the possessor of the charism good, not the charism per se. In the words of Albus Dumbledore, “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”

Indeed, without the practice of virtuous obedience to God, a charism can often just make one’s fall more complicated and disastrous. So while suppression of one’s charism through fear can be a form of disobedience, likewise perversion of one’s charism by sinfully turning it from the service of God to selfish purposes can be a much graver sin that distorts and destroys oneself and one’s gifts.

Once again, Father Maciel is instructive here: a man of massive organizational charisms who used those gifts to create an organization whose purpose, in the final analysis, was to supply him with means to pursue his proclivities and guard him from being discovered. He designed the robot so well that it went lumbering on defending him even after he was dead — because organizational systems, like computers, don’t do what we want them to do. They do what they are designed to do. Father Maciel perverted his charism to fool people into trusting him and then organized those people into a phalanx of defenders. He understood the Number One Rule of the Con Man is that a con man does not fool people. He gets people to fool themselves.


Which brings us to the second sort of spiritual gifts: sanctifying gifts. These are the gifts you get to keep. The sanctifying gifts, not the charismatic ones, are the gifts that make you like Christ, and you typically receive them in Confirmation.

Confirmation is a sacrament as old as the Church. You can see it happening, for instance, here:

Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit; for it had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. (Acts 8:14-17)

Early on, the apostles are aware that initiation into the Church involves two movements, baptism and confirmation. Confirmation strengthens us in our baptismal graces and, in particular, is ordered toward making us friends of Christ and participants in His mission. The sanctifying graces given us in that sacrament are all ordered toward making us Christlike so that, in preaching to others, we ourselves are not lost. They are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. And it is from these gifts that we get the “fruit of the Spirit” that scripture describes: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal 5:22-23).

Note that there is nothing in this list of fruits about racking up convert scalps, nor gathering crowds of impressive size, nor inspiring people with great talks, nor astounding them with wonderful and even miraculous deeds, nor inspiring them, nor a thrilling/funny/moving/orthodox conversion story, nor in a knack for recitation of Scripture and Catechism. That is because Paul is aware that the real fruit of the Spirit is rooted in the sanctifying gifts and not in the charismatic ones. He says exactly this in perhaps the most famous passage out of his entire corpus of work:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends; as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect; but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Cor 13:1-13)

Paul, as is his custom, is following his Master here — and in a way that really ought to make those who are struggling with the matter of fruit and trees prick up our ears and listen. Because the fascinating thing is that the place where Jesus makes exactly the same point Paul is making in 1 Corinthians 13 comes in the Sermon on the Mount, in the verse immediately following the passage about judging a tree by its fruits we saw above. Jesus says:

Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?” And then will I declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.” (Mt 7:21-23)

That’s why the distinction between the charismatic and sanctifying gifts is so vital in asking “what went wrong?” in our discernment of Father Maciel and various other figures in the Church who have demonstrated enormous charisms but little or no sanctity. Creating ministries that pull in thousands of devoted followers, swaying big crowds with words of inspiration, becoming popular and beloved — all these things may accompany somebody who is a saint (as the lives of St. Paul, St. Francis, or Blessed John Paul II demonstrate). Saints can, in fact, prophesy in Christ’s name, cast out demons in His name, and do many mighty works in His name.

But these things — along with organizing the Legionaries, preaching to giant conferences, or becoming a media star preacher or (ahem) pudgy blabbermouth writer — do not, in themselves, constitute the fruit of sanctity and may even mask a deeply perverse spirit, as Father Maciel and sundry others demonstrate. Indeed, it should be borne in mind that the devil himself remains an extraordinarily gifted creature, with resources of intellect and a mastery of Scripture that he does not hesitate to use in his attempts to pervert us:

Then the devil took him to the holy city, and set him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will give his angels charge of you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'” (Mt 4:5-6)

If the devil can quote the Psalms, we should not be too surprised if his servants can quote the Catechism.

For the same reason, a mere passive-aggressive ability to observe the pieties or claim to love one’s Catholic Faith while in fact harboring hostility to Christ and His Church is one of the oldest tricks in the book, whether one is Maureen Dowd or John Corapi fomenting rebellion among his “fans” (as he now calls them) by baselessly declaring his bishop to be a blackmailer and libelous, by lying that his allegedly persecuting superiors “wanted me gone” (when SOLT, in fact, labored to persuade him to stay faithful to his vocation and remain a priest), by claiming his investigators to have been dragging out his investigation (which he himself actually hindered and destroyed by his civil lawsuit against the witnesses and his willful defection from the priesthood) — all while duplicitously promising “complete cooperation” and posing as humbly submissive to his bishop and superior as “honorable men.”

Judas, recall, also betrayed Jesus with a kiss.

Bottom line: The fruit of sanctity comes from obedience to God and is seen not in popularity, nor in hitting all the right notes calculated to stoke the pieties of conservative Catholics (as Father Maciel and men like him have been past masters at), nor even in orthodox yakking, but in “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” Look for these things — rooted in obedience to God — and not merely to dazzling charismatic gifts, and, in the words of St. Pete Townshend, we won’t get fooled again.


Image: Keystone/Getty

Mark P. Shea


Mark P. Shea is the author of Mary, Mother of the Son and other works. He was a senior editor at Catholic Exchange and is a former columnist for Crisis Magazine.

  • Tom

    This is interesting piece. Why not simply use the word “talent” or “gift” instead, as in the Bible? One can either use ones God given talents in service of God, or for selfish reasons.

    It seems to me that is what St Paul says in 1 Cor 12:

    “Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us exercise them: if prophecy, in proportion to the faith; if ministry, in ministering; if one is a teacher, in teaching; if one exhorts, in exhortation; if one contributes, in generosity; if one is over others, with diligence; if one does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. Let love be sincere; hate what is evil, hold on to what is good;”

    The problem I see, is the way we now tend to use the word “charism”. It presumes that we know, a priori, that a particular person is using his or her talents 100% in service of God (or smugly deluding that we are doing this ourselves). We may be right, but we may also be wrong. Only God knows. In the mean time we need to be more humble and self critical about this, a St Paul exhorts us.

    Related to this, for about 500 years, the office of promoter of faith gave counterbalance to claims of “charism” in the Church. The job of the office was to examine such claims with a skeptical eye, to prevent that a fraudulent person be fast-tracked to sainthood. In 1983, this office was removed from the Canon Law code. Why was this office removed?

    If it was not for a pair of determined journalists and a small outsider team of Canon law experts representing Fr Maciel’s victims, chances are that Fr Maciel would have been beatified (he even had a mausoleum built for himself in Rome). His mother was also slated for beatification.

    • Michael PS

      According to my concordance, “Charism” [ἡ χάρις] occurs 155 times in the New Testament. How it is translated, of course, depends on the version

      • Tom

        That’s good for the New Testament writers. Neither you or I are one of them.

  • Zac

    Good one, Mark.
    We all accept that a talented singer may perform beautiful sacred music yet be motivated purely by aesthetic interests.

    It’s harder for someone to promote church teaching without actually adhering it, but by no means impossible.

    In the end, it’s still a matter of ‘performance’ and may be driven by any number of possible motives.

  • The key word is in your lead–consolation. Charisms provide consolation (as do liturgical aesthetics) but that is not what we come to the Church for. We come for Faith and Faith is a cross. If we are seeking only consolations we will be angry and left bereft often because they are not the lasting things. As we know from St. John of the Cross, removing consolation is a sign of God’s presence. In removing a charismatic figure from the Church, Christ removes a consolatory presence, and encourages a collective Dark Night for all of us in which the Church entire will be transformed.

    Some, of course, will experience this as a loss of Faith. We can become addicted to our consolations. So we will either project the Dark Night that was intended for us unto some Purveyor of Evil, who Takes Away Our Consolation–or we will despair.

    The fall of a charismatic preacher is the preacher losing his consolations–his “fans” are losing theirs. There is no way around that. There is no way around that this is actually, itself, a sanctifying gift. However we may scramble after other consolations–righteous, indignant rage, or self-deception, it is the fear and trembling of standing before God stripped, naked, with nothing between us and the pain of existence.

    Break, Blow, Burn. There is no way around that.

    • Peter Rowe

      I find this article very interesting and well-put. We must keep ourselves from turning to a form of idolatry.

      Charisms are meant for the strengthening of the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ. They are not meant to be toys – and definitely not an ends for this or that consolation. One can be fully charismatic – I am extremely involved with Catholic charismatic youth ministry – and yet be struggling with all the things other people struggle with. To seek a consolation is different than to “Make love your aim; but be eager, too, for spiritual gifts (charisms)”, – that was the instruction of St. Paul to Corinthian Christians (14: 1)- many of whom were “ultra-charismatics” apparently giving Benny Hinn a run for his money. I think he does this because he is teaching that there are counterfeit charisms. Maciel definitely is the example of a wicked man with wicked counterfeits of actual spiritual gifts.

      The dangers of Maciel and – I hope not but it looks like it – John Corapi, (or the future possibility of Scott Hahn or Mark Shea or myself) is that a mere human being becomes the oracle of God and to fail to listen to the oracle and worship every thought and word of the oracle is sin in the eyes of their True Believers; sometimes they close their eyes, sometimes they ending up rejecting religion, others experience a crisis of Faith. All of them are spiritually damaged. (A difference with Maciel to be fair. Maciel was a disgusting excuse for a Catholic Priest and Fr. Corapi may be behaving badly, but he is not diabolical in the same way Maciel was. Maciel was a twisted Satanic image which entered and destroyed many spiritual lives). Just because someone comes quoting Scripture, the Catechism at you, has studied the Fathers of the Church, and seems to be very pious and “obedient to Holy Mother Church”, it does not mean they are authentic. Authenticity shows its fruit in good works.

      Not all who call me Lord will inherit heaven – Jesus Christ, (the Only man we are allowed to worship).

      One of the charismsin Scripture is the discernment of spirits (1 Cor. 12:10). We should ask for that holy gift.

      God bless,

    • Andrew

      Jennifer: Forgive the paradox but I found your comment to be very wise – and consoling.

  • Deacon Ed

    We should add to the list of perverted charisms all those religious orders who, in the aftermath of Vatican II, hijacked their orders’ raison d’etre and politicized their vocations. These orders morphed into the virtual non-existence we see today. Thirty years from now few will be around.

    If the Legionaries are able to renew themselves and their charism, they will continue to attract new vocations. If not, they will join the ‘legion’ of those religious orders who have already lost their charism into obsolescence.

    • Br Matthew Schneider, LC

      Thanks for your vote of confidence. I think we will need your prayers as we renew ourselves. We still have a long journey but we will come out better.

      • Judy

        Where do you read “vote of confidence”??

  • Tom

    “If the Legionaries are able to renew themselves and their charism, they will continue to attract new vocations.” That is exactly part of the problem.
    Scientologists are also skilled at attracting new “vocations”. The hope is that, in the aftermath of the breathtaking con and scandal of the Legionnaires, the Catholic Church learns that cult-like methods of psychological manipulation, althought effective in giving the appearances of “good fruit” (both new members and $$$), causes in the end a lot of damage to individuals and to the Church. The damage from these pseudo orthodox “new movements for the $$$” are just as bad as “Marxist liberation theologies” of the ‘60s.
    What was/is the “Charism” of the Legionaries? Was that charism perfecting brain washing techniques, spreadsheet at hand and a secret vow, in order to hide abuse by the founder? Was it raking $billions to “help the poor”, $billions that are now nowhere to be found? Unfortunately, there is little evidence, one and a half years after the Legionnaire scandal broke, that there is any real change coming from within. The Legionnaires are not alone…
    After the sex abuse scandal, the Church risks litigation by the next wave of abuse, this time for psychologicaly deceptive spiritual/financial cons…

  • Confederate Papist

    It seems that whatever results Maciel or others have in bringing people to the Faith should be applauded, but Maciel et al should not be looked upon as saints, and their “disciples” should just give it up and continue to enrich thier own lives and that of the Church.

  • Jim McCullough

    In my experience most people using the fruits argument do not mean charisms, they mean conversions (to the faith, back to the faith, or conversions of life)–i.e. people brought to the Lord. How do we respond to that?

  • Mark M

    A beautifully written piece. Thank you.

  • Sally Wilkins

    The Lord can use anyone as an instrument of His will (cf Cyrus the Great) – and it is His will that everyone should come to salvation. So the fact that someone is used to bring others to faith is not ipso facto evidence of the person’s own standing in the Kingdom, it is evidence of God’s sovereignty and mercy.

    I think Mark’s excellent point is also emphasized by James 3:1-2 (not many should become teachers, for we who teach will be judged more strictly). A humbling reminder for those of us who keep putting our words out there . . .

  • Matt B

    I guess if we want to talk about discrepancies between people’s “sanctifying gifts”and their “charismatic gifts,” you would have to bring up the corrupt popes of long ago, who although exercising papal charisms, ended up in Dante’s inferno.

    Also, while you bring up Maciel and Corapi, they are just a variety of the whole protestant experience of Christian mega-personalities. What about all the protestant “fruit?”

    In my view, the crux of the matter can be found in Mark’s assertion that charismatic gifts come in a wide variety, not all of which are ennumered in 1 Cor. The really important ones are often not celebrated like the “celebrity” gifts are. If we put more emphasis on gifts like “obedience,” “responsibility,” “thrift,” “hard work,” “humility,” “quiet prayer,” it would go a long way towards fixing the problems not just of the Church but of the world. I guess it’s the difference between the John Wayne era and the Jim Carey era.

    The twisted cases you cite show that God can work with sociopathic egomaniacs just as well as humble hardworking simple people. But I’ve got to believe He prefers the later.

    BTW – I’ve forwarded this article to my spouse, who is grappling with just these same issues. I’ve got to believe she’ll find it useful. Thanks!

  • Maureen

    One wonders why there is a necessity among some on the internet to continually call Father Maciel names and continue to write about him in such a hostile manner? What is the root cause of this?

    Whether one is guilty or not of sins, we as Christians are to pray for those who we consider our enemies.

    Christ told us to love our enemies. He gives us the grace to do so via prayer and the sacraments.

    The Faith is only passed on via humility. The hostility towards those who have been deemed to have sinned…especially priests, is not a fruit of the Holy Spirit.

    Finally, for a proper understanding of charisms, read the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church:

    • InfoGuy

      Maureen, you have unfortunately been swindled once again by LC leadership. You can bet we are all praying for the LC, but the LC leadership is trying to achieve some very simple goals by asking us for prayers instead of taking the actions they are obligated to do by simple ethics and Canon Law:
      1. stop us from asking for the truth about LC top leadership’s involvement in FMM crimes. Did you know that FMM stopped praying, going to confession, living according to his own LC rules, etc, etc, way back in the 50s and not one LC leader has had the courage to write to the Vatican except Dominguez who was booted from the LC in the late 50s? then we have the BMW, the months of disappearing without a trace or word and no one asks questions, the secret apartment in Roma EUR, the large cash withdrawls with no accountability and no one tails him or investigates, FMM abuse of American Fr. Christopher Kunze who had a mental breakdown, the Concorde trips, the Presidential suites, etc all at donors expense.
      2. get us to think that they deserve our sympathy (and somehow our donations and young children as future priests) when they have yet to punish the guilty, have failed to open up their accounting ledgers to the public to see where so many good Catholics hard earned money given to them has gone, have yet to be transparent about all the abuses in the past – the ones committed by FMM and other abuses commmitte yearly in Cheshire, CT, Rye, NY, and across the entire US of A.
      3. impede coming to the truth that the “what the LC needs now is prayers and not criticism” is a strategy invented in their fundraising office since sympathy is a first step in getting donors to recommit funds to the LC. Anyone who has received a call from their FRO, knows that the search for sympathy is their first foot in the door.
      So Maureen, don’t come attacking anyone since we have not blindly followed the LC/FRO strategy of being duped into submission by your search for sympathy and prayers. At this point it is about justice, not about prayers, since there is no peace without justice. When justice is achieved, come back and ask for prayers and sympathy.

  • Tom

    Maureen, no one is calling him names, just saying the truth (the Pope called him a false prophet). Plus the LC problem is far from over:
    1) Leadership that he selected is still in place, calling the shots.
    2) LC members were told officially by these leaders that it’s ok to teach the preaching of the “false prophet”, as long as they did not mention his name. This crazy.

    But it is also true that it’s easy to point fingers at “horrible monsters”, as true as they may be. It’s much harder to look in the mirror and fix our own little problems, to humbly reach out to those around us.

  • Matt B


    Scandal is an awful thing, and Our Lord rightfully said it is better for a man to tie a great millstone to his neck and plunge headlong into the sea, than to scandalize one of these least little ones of mine. It’s like when Bob Dylan went electric. Many old folkies have still not forgiven him.

    But your point is well taken: we have all been there. I thank God that my own moments of scandal have not been caught on national TV. (Although there are indelible “copies” that exist in certain minds and hearts, that I wish I could finally eradicate.)

    As Scripure widely attests, this phenomenon was expected by our Lord, who said “To this day, the Kingdom is taken by force…” by some. But after all is said and done, the Kindgom still belongs to children: the lowly and small. The Corapis and Maciels are only “thieves who come to slaughter and destroy…” the sheep, the children. Yet, the feeling of betrayal is very bitter indeed.

    The scripture quoted above about “fruit” could be clarified by another saying, more recent: “handsome is as handsome does.” If we apply that yardstick to the behavior of some prominent people, we’d likely discover their looks were somewhat lacking. Conversely, some people who are overlooked now would come out smelling like a rose. But that, only God truly knows.

  • St Reformed

    Mark writes “…a VORTEX of simpleminded culture-warrior narratives that sees the Church neatly divided between Valiant Heroes Who Tell It Like It Is vs. Craven Lickspittle Members of a Shadowy Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy Out to Destroy These Heroes”
    [CAPS are mine.] Very subtle, very cogent.
    If I may quote a familiar Catholic blogger:
    “Remember, when your stated purpose is to capture and expose the Lies, it follows that if somebody disagrees with you, they are part of the Vast Conspiracy of Lies, not mere people with a different piety.”
    If I may quote our Lord:
    “I came for sinners, not the [self-]righteous.” [Brackets are mine.]
    Pax tecum

  • Matt B

    Mark, you make the tribal identification point again and again in your posts. I laughed at the “llttle feet” reference to people who use their pro-life self identification to justify divergence with other Church teachings.

    You must have only witnesssed the merest tip of the iceberg of the pro-life movement. For many years, and even now, prolifers have had absolutely no respect in “respectable” circles. Even so called “good Christians” reject their singlemindedness and ardor. It’s strangely refreshing to find your point of view engaging to someone under 50, after years of being marginalized and ridiculed. Prolife is suddenly hip.

    I suspect the same is true for other conservative-type issues. After being treated to slander and humiliation for so many years by the main-stream, starting from university days and running right through the corridors of professionalism and power, can you wonder why so many “regular” “common-sense” people are hardened and shell shocked?

    I personally think your hyperbole on this score does not do justice to reality. What’s more, most “tribal conservatives” are veritably pacific in their attitude towards the diabolical destroyers of peace and freedom. Look what the Maccabees did (and what was done to them). If I were Abraham, I would have stopped at 40 or 50. That he continued bargaining with God on behalf of the Sodomites was his real claim to fame.

    Amen I say to you : Peace!

  • FRED

    same old blah blah blah to ruin the Catholic faith

    • Mark P. Shea

      ? I guess that reply beats trying to make sense.

  • ginger

    As for Maciel, I think the reason the Pope called him a name (“false prophet”) is a sign of how serious the scandal he caused is.

    Had he ever shown any repentance for what he did, you would probably not find him vilified quite as much. As it is, though, he went to his grave publicly unrepentant, never having stopped inciting his followers to malign his victims.

    I personally think it will be a very sad day when we no longer call men who did such things as Maciel monsters, for when monstrously cruel and deviant crimes against children no longer create revulsion and disgust within us, it will be a sad indictment of our society.

    This is a man who built an empire (Kingdom!) specifically designed so that he could get away with 60 years of child molesting, womanizing, embezzling, and engaging in all sorts of cruelties. Not only does he deserved to be called names such as “false prophet”; his very name will be used as an adjective to describe other sexual predators and deviants for decades (centuries?) to come.

  • Mark

    “Test everything; retain what is good.”


  • Kitty

    God bless you, Mark. As a former member of RC “still in recovery,” I appreciate the lucidity of this article.

    I was only a marginal victim of Maciel’s duplicity. But still, how does one recover and heal from spiritual rape (that’s the only way I can describe my experience)? Only time and the grace of God, I suppose.

    Still, I sincerely appreciate this rebuttal to the “good fruits” argument I’ve heard ad nauseum for the legitimacy of the Legion and RC. Not only is it narrow-minded (there’s a LOT of rotten fruit!), even the good fruit does not prove holiness. I do hope the NC Register publishes this.

  • Maureen

    Re: consolation, one of the points here is that gifts only given to be given away often only are a “consolation” to the person with the gifts early on. First it’s fun and a gateway to being able to feel God; then not so much, not so often, maybe not at all. It’s very disconcerting to feel that other people are getting good out of something while you yourself seem to be getting only work and expense of spirit. A lot of stupid things that, say, singers and actors and artists do are meant to fill in that gap of not really being able to tell if what you’re doing is any good, because you no longer feel the same joy in doing it as when you first received the gift. But the same thing applies to all sorts of charismatic gifts, even the most ordinary; it doesn’t happen to everyone but it’s very common, and it’s even part of the normal spiritual lifecycle. Lots of things go well with your soul if you can manage the obedience without the consolations, and there are better good things waiting. But nobody warns anybody about what to expect… another reason there’s a crying need for good spiritual direction.

  • Tom

    Maureen, those are good points. For me, having a role model helps, or in a marriage, at least the consolation of a caring and commiserating spouse, or if not married, family members or friends, ideally within the Church. The hope for me, is that something good is going to come out of these pains in the Church (by Church, I mean all of us), some form of being an adult lay in a meaningful and supportive way, without needing to be part of some wound up cult of personality movement. Matt, not sure what you tried to say about pro-life, but being a little against abortion is like saying that one is a little pregnant. Bad things like the LC scandal need to be denounced, but the sheer number of abortions in the US is an evil on an order of magnitude by itself. But I also agree with your other point: it all starts with changing our lives first.

  • Catherine

    One thing that used to drive me crazy when people defended Maciel based on the “fruits” argument…we can’t purport to know all the fruits of a person’s work. Only God knows them, and this is why only he can judge them. We were seeing only a part of Maciel’s fruits, not the whole. The wormy side of the fruit was hidden. The “fruits” argument only works when we can see all the fruits.

    Maybe I’m naive, but I believe that if the LC has the right pruning, they can offer us their charism alongside two new gifts that they’ve been given: 1) humility; 2) the wisdom to “beware the cult of a man.” The people of God need this wisdom, as evidenced by some popular priests who seem to be stumbling. Personally, I think the LCs should take a new 4th vow to replace the one that was dropped – that of humility. I still think they have something that we, the Church, needs.

    • Br Matthew Schneider, LC

      The Legion used to have 2 extra vows and the second one, sometimes refered to as the vow of humility, is still in place. The content of this vow is to avoid seeking positions. Maybe we are a step ahead of where you thought.

      The difficulty with a vow for a virtue in general is that they generally are not approved by the Holy See. (One example: I was reading the life of St Bernadette and her community had to remove a vow of charity because it couldn’t be well defined.)

      Personally, I think that this troubles wil teach us that we really preach Christ not one man, saint or sinner.

      • InfoGuy

        To take anything at face value at this point is completely unfounded. The “private vows” were an essential part of Maciel’s system to squash criticism and maintain absolute control over his troops. Call the vows what you like, some even call them humility, which is totally idiotic, but in the end Maciel created a system in which he could remain untouchable for more than 60 years and continue to carry on his ungodly deeds. Meanwhile the iron grip from the top down to recast all the evil into holy images such as humility, charity, apostolic zeal, etc. shows how deep the system was tainted in every aspect…I am sorry that Br. Matthew continues to defend what by now should be old history which is also a sign of how deep the mind control continues to live on in what we call “legion”.

      • Ohh

        This “private” vow was simply a means of control, a way to keep the pervert in charge. He is the one they told everybody was a ” living saint.” Not a very perceptive bunch, or most of the leaders were helping him cover up the fraud and sexual abuse of little boys.

        • Br Matthew Schneider, LC

          The second private vow is something each legionary needs to examine as we go through the constitutions. I realize in his mind it was probably part of his way of hiding all the evil he did. The question I am not sure about is whether taking that away it is good for the Legion or not. For me it was never a big deal as I decidedly don’t want to be a superior. I would much rather do our ministry that have to worry about all the things one has to worry about as a superior.

  • Paul

    a certain Gamaliel did say that “…For if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself.”. Time will tell. God is always able to ‘write straight with crooked lines’ if it is indeed his will.

    • Br Matthew Schneider, LC

      Please pray for us so that God will help us write straight.

      • InfoGuy

        Still depending on Fr. Alvaro, Fr. Bannon, Fr. Owen Kearns? Fr. Alvaro is a committed liar. Just look at his eulogies for Maciel when he had already seen the mother, daughter up close at maciel’s death bed. Look at what he already knew about maciel – misuse of funds, did not pray, did not observe community life, Concorde flights, helicopter trips, Presidential suites in big, expensive hotels, etc. Yes, Fr. Alvaro is a committed liar. Fr. Bannon? Over 15 years of applying maciel’s rule to a T as a major superior, he and the Legion are one. How do you expect him to change? Look at Fr. Owen, he kidnapped a mentally broken LC candidate at Cheshire and locked him in a third floor room at their spooky house in Rye, NY. This is an interstate crime ! If you doubt that, just ask Fr. Peter D from New Zealand. He was there. So yes, please keep trusting in those committed superiors – liars, abusers, criminals, kidnappers, etc. They are the creme of the Legion crop – what should be expected from future LCs when they are in charge. More of the same Fr. Matthew – more of the same !

  • ginger


    I used to think the same thing, but the reaction of the LC after the news of Maciel came out in 2009 pretty much said it all as far as their inability to really separate from the man Maciel and to become truly humble (the examples could go on and on, but one in particular comes to mind—instead of humbly getting down on their knees to beg forgiveness of all those victims they maligned in Feb 2009, it took months for anybody to even acknowledge anything more than the womanizing. And when Alvaro finally did admit to it, it was with a passing comment that it appeared “some” of the victims were telling the truth. Now we know there are well over 200 credible accusers.

    My husband and I had dinner with a Legionary priest the other day. He still loves Maciel. He is probably one of those who has photos of the child molester hanging up on his bedroom wall (remember the delegate appproved the personal honoring of Maciel in such a way as well as the preaching from his spiritual works–as long as you don’t tell anybody that is what you are preaching). This priest also told us he still truly believes young boys in the apostolic schools are in grave danger of losing their “delicate” vocations if they are allowed to be at home with their families more than two weeks in the summer.

    Don’t believe the window dressing changes. The air of superiority to diocesan priests and the belief that they are very, very special indeed to be Legionaries is still prevalent. And the admiration for Maciel has simply gone underground. We worked for the Legion for well over a decade, and we still have many friends who are employed there. They believe nothing is really changing except for the facade. The priests who truly wanted reform have either left or are being marginalized for it. Being open about the true changes necessary for a real reform leads to ugly personal consequences for a Legionary.

    As Mark stated, this system continues to do exactly what it was designed to do. If Maciel could see how the current leaders are clinging to their power and making surface changes to appease the naive while managing to control and manipulate the consciences of the LCs, I have no doubt he would be very pleased indeed. The system he created is doing Maciel proud.

  • Br Matthew Schneider, LC

    I hope I can just clear up a few things. I realize we still have a long road ahead of us but I think right now we are going in the right direction.

    1. I trust the Church. The Holy Father appointed Archbishop Chaput and 4 other bishops to conduct a visitation. They found some issues but the final action of the Vatican was to appoint a Papal delegate with wide powers but keep the current leadership.

    2. Our current revision of the Constitutions is to focus more on our core charism and express it better not to change it. (For instance one issue is we have much in our constitution that would fit better in a lower level of norms.) A religious community is defined by a foundational charism, not the charism of a specific individual. For instance the Pope had to intervene to say the will of St Francis wasn’t a binding law for the Franciscan. And St Francis is probably the top post-apostolic saint.

    3. One person asked what our charism is. In the communiqué from the Holy Father, he said it was Milites Christi (Soldiers of Christ) which Mons. De Paolis (the Papal delegate) further specified it as the formation and launching of apostles, Christian leaders, at the service of the Church.
    “Our current culture is secularized, infected with immanentism and relativism. Such a mindset is the hallmark of the culture of our times and of those who today shape opinion or are considered the drivers of culture. It is a matter of culture and therefore a matter of leadership, i.e.: of those who hold the reins of society in their hands. We have before us a society that no longer evinces personalities of Christian and markedly Catholic cultural depth. At the same time, we know that the faith cannot be pushed back merely to the private level. If today’s society is to be Christianized, it needs people capable of assuming responsibility for the society of tomorrow, and who are formed in schools and universities. It needs priests, consecrated people, and committed lay people, all well formed. It needs apostles for the new evangelization.” – Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, October 19, 2010

    4. Several people commented about Legionaries who still idolize Fr Maciel or the issue of quoting him. The majority of Legionaries I know will not quote him intentionally and do not idolize him. And I am sure, that no priest will intentionally quote him in anything that goes against the spirituality of the Church.
    I think part of the norm is also there to avoid paranoia. Fr Maciel wrote many things (1000s of pages) and even if I don’t try to quote him but try to express a general truth of the Christian faith, I may quote him by accident, or a priest could have made his own some phrase that began with Fr Maciel. For example, here is a line from Very Rev. Adolphe Tanquerey (one of the greatest spiritual writers of the first half of the XX century) I found just now: “love cannot be without self-immolation,” (The Spiritual Life, TAN, n. 327) But, if I switch it to the positive, someone could accuse me of quoting Fr Maciel.

    • InfoGuy

      Br. Matthew, Fr. Maciel as a source of a true charism is laughable. The Legion is in transition with no guarantee of its survival at the end of the road. Currently the Legion has no charism, no constitutions, no letters of the founder, no authentic spirit of the founder, nothing. You continue to trust in Fr. Alvaro who lied to all LCs & Catholics after FMM died and Fr. Alvaro stated he was faithful to God and fought the good fight when he already knew about the wife and daughter and most certainly suspected that all the abuse cases were well founded in the truth. If you feel that there is any Legion left to save then it is in your hands to take the measures to do so and not blindly trust in a failed leadership that is leading you to nowhere. With Fr. Bannon heading up the Constitutions review, someone who lived, eat and breathed the FMM system to a T as a Major Superior for over 15 long years, you have a long road ahead to get anything substantially changed. My thought is that the writing is on the wall and so you better prepare your incardination documents as a Plan B. You may want to read the entire testimonies of the abuse cases and see how the Superiors were involved to see that the Legion is rotten to the core. Only after you have done your own investigation and come to your own conclusions (not ones spoon fed by the major superiors) should you even consider continuing with the LC or whatever it is called after all is said and done…I wish you well and hope you can finally get back that healthy sense of questioning…

  • Brother Matthew– The full sentence from the Communique about the charism is, “The need to redefine the charism of the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ, preserving its true nucleus, that of the militia Christi, which characterizes the apostolic and missionary action of the Church and is not to be identified with the drive for efficiency at any cost; ” ( )

    So, it seems to me that he is saying that the Legionaries should, like all Christians, work in apostolic and missionary endeavors. This is the Nucleus of ALL charisms, not just the Legion’s. It is the mission of all Christians.

    The fact that your charism needs redefinition means that, until now, these values have NOT been at the core (or, in a more optimistic view, may have been obscured by the Legion’s “efficiency”, which sometimes used immoral and even evil means to advance Maciel and the Leadership’s agenda.)

    But saying “We’re Soldiers of Christ!” isn’t helpful. It’s equivalent to saying “We’re Baptized Christians!”

    One thing to consider– in general, charisms are much more specific – for instance, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate are “Soldiers of Christ” by spreading the Gospel to the poor and unwanted in the third world. The Missionaries of Charity are “Soldiers of Christ” by caring for the poorest of the poor and loving Christ in them. The Benedictines are “Soldiers for Christ” through their regular prayer schedule, their monastic communities, and their Christian hospitality to any who come to the door.

    As you seek to redefine your communities charism, you must ask yourself… HOW are you, as a community of priests and seminarians, living your baptismal call in a way that makes you an “order”, and not just a random collection of individuals?

    Also, the Communique mentioned that the Legion has very serious problems with respect for individual conscience and for the LIMITS of authority. How are you, as Legionaries, working to address these problems? Will the top-down structure of the Legion (unusual for religious communities) give way to something more like the democracy usually found in religious life?

    • Br Matthew Schneider, LC

      As far as issues of authority and respect for the individual, some thing have been done and more are happening with our current revision. Most are technical things like rotating superiors more often, having certain typoes of decisions made lower on the chain of command (this is being done type of decision by type of decision), making the general norms less detailed, and sperating the role of spiritual director from that of superior (this last one happened before the visitation but things like this don’t change instantly).

      As far as I understand what was meant by Milites Christi, it refers to be zealous apostles. Even though I think the Missionaries of charity are soldiers of Christ, I doubt that term would appear in a one paragraph description of their charism. It is a certain emphasis we have.

      I included the extended quote of Msgr. De Paolis to further specify beyond this.

    • Legionary

      Since I will not follow the superior’s speech as Br. Matthew I need to remain anonymous. But I would like to say the very changes that Br. Matthew is calling for are not being done. If it is lack of will or technichal impossibility please judge by yourselves.
      1. There are still active superiors with more than 30 years as such, and most of the latest changes are only moving superiors from one place to another without ceasing as superiors. Even a very obvious opportunity for that like the removing of a provincial has been done moving him to another place of authority (Fr. Jacobo Muñoz, former provincial of France, now rector of the seminary in NY).
      2. Superiors are still having extended interviews (called euphemistically, formation dialogue) with seminarians during spiritual exercises: could you think of a more suitable opportunity to talk with your spiritual director rather than your superior?
      3. Superiors are actively inviting seminarians with perpetual vows to leave the Legion just because they are not comfortable with the current superiors (I suggest you talk with your rector about that, Br. Matthew), against what was explicitly said by Fr. Ghirlanda.
      4. The new rector of the Center for Higher Studies in Rome is still Assistant Provincial combining two very obviously incompatible offices.
      So, Br. Matthew, is there a sincere will of renewing superiors and following the Holy See’s indications?

      • ginger

        The very fact Legionary has to post anonymously because he is not toeing the Legion superior party line illustrates how nigh impossible any true reform will be. There is no true freedom in the Legion, never was, and most likely never will be.

        Any talk of “reform” while the like of Alvaro (a known liar, as exhibited by his blatant lies about Maciel’s “holy” death and ascension into heaven), Garza, Sada, and Bannon are still running the show is a complete joke.

        I feel sorry for those on the inside who really desire true reform and are clear-headed enough to see what is really going on (Legion business-as-usual being conducted by Maciel’s most loyal company men). It must be incredibly frustrating and disheartening.

      • Br Matthew Schneider, LC

        I am sorry it has taken me so long to respond.

        I am very happy to be a Legionary, and I think we will come out the current situation stronger and more able to help the Christ and his Church. I feel sorry for my fellow brother who is not so happy with how things are going.

        1 & 4. Msgr. De Paolis is a man who likes to do this right even if it is slow. For example, it took a few months to get a decree on use of the internet as he wanted to make sure it was right. I too wish that it would go quicker (patience is not one of my star virtues). The time frame for rotation is every 6 years or so. If all superiors will change every 6 years, I didn’t expect the vast majority to change in the first few months which is all that has passed since we understood this issue. I see the proper direction with several changes already made – Fr Miguel Segura and Fr Matthew Brackett who were but are not superiors – and that is what I referred to. It would be chaotic if every superior changed in just a few months. About 1/6 should change every year so after only a few months is a little early to make a complete judgement: we will see.
        2. It is normal in religious communities and even diocesan seminaries to have regular conversations with a superior or formation director who is focused on the external discipline. If you want, you can also deal with interior matters but superiors cannot give any special treatment to those who open themselves more (I have opened more with some superiors than others). This is not a question of either-or but both-and: all those on exercises have access to numerous spiritual directors (most, have their regular ones). I personally don’t like the term “formation dialogue” but I haven’t found a better term to suggest and usually refer to as simply a talk with my superior.
        3. Obedience is first to Christ, then to the Church, then to the superiors in the Legion. I already forwarded your comment here to Fr Ghirlanda to do with as he pleases. If you have more concrete confidential information, you can send it to him. I simply don’t know enough about this situation to make any reasonable comment.

        Getting back to Dierdre, I apologize for not being able to include a better description. I ran out of time before I had other duties that made me cut my first comment short.

        As well as being zealous apostles who form and launch Christian leaders, apostles at the service of the Church; I think we do it with a certain spiritual emphasis. We are Christ-centered (which again could describe almost Christian but is a special emphasis) basing our spirituality on love for the Christ, Mary, Souls, the Church and Pope.

        As for Ginger, I don’t always toe the line. I have had my share of disagreements with superiors, even major superiors but they have been resolved and I don’t think it is prudent to post them on a public comment board. I truly want reform but a reform that will make us better able to serve Christ and his Church not a reform for reform sake or reform that is pure liberalization. In the meetings that we have been having for the revision of the constitutions, I have probably suggested the most or second most changes of anyone in my group.

        Regarding the superiors, I trust that if one or the other was corrupt. Archbishop Chaput and the 4 others would have told them personally to step down. They were duped but so was everyone else. I can tell you they are making a number of reforms and changes but they want to make sure they do it right so it is point by point rather than an overnight overhaul. I have had a number of discussions on this but I would consider it imprudent to go into details.

        Please pray for us that we can go through this path well and come out a better instrument to serve Christ and his Church.

        • ginger

          Brother Matthew,
          Thank you for the reply. I am glad to hear you don’t feel compelled to always toe the line in private.
          As to the trusting Abp. Chaput and the other hierarchy and taking this to mean the current superiors were just hapless dupes (even though Alvaro himself has admitted to starting to suspect Maciel was living a double life back in 2005 but still serenely pronounced him gone to heaven, having died a holy death, in early 2008–and in May 2008, months after Alvaro was present at the bedside of the child molesting fraud alongside his mistress and child, the boys at ICAS were instructed to re-enact scenes from the holy man’s life, reciting disturbing passages from Envoy and Christ is my Life), why should I? I trusted JPII to have the wisdom and insight to have been able to detect Maciel as a child rapist if he indeed were one and based on his great love for Maciel and the Legion, I entrusted my son to a system of abuse of authority and conscience founded on lies and cruel depravity. Hierarchs can be wrong, dead wrong, and parents can cause huge damage to their children by following them blindly. And it does not make me a bad Catholic for saying so and for choosing to use my common sense. Many knew about Maciel for decades and were trying to sound the alarm. For Alvaro and Company to pretend they had not a clue (until 2005, apparently, at which time they did start to have enough of a clue to open an investigation, but still compared the man to Jesus Christ, innocent like a lamb, in May 2006) is ridiculous. But let’s take them at their word for it: if they were so incompetent and blind as to not see what was going on right in front of their faces (e.g. Nuestre Padre would disappear for weeks at a time taking large sums of cash with him—even my 13 yr old would recognize that was cause for suspicion. And did nobody recognize that driving only in luxury cars, always flying first class, staying in the 5 star hotels, and having delicacies flown in especially for him were not the hallmarks of a holy man?), they have no business remaining in their seats of power. They were either liars and complicit or totally incompetent—and this is exactly why Maciel was able to get away with 60 years of cruelty and abuse while being declared saintly and innocent like Jesus (even after Alvaro admits he privately started investigating him in 2005 due to suspicions he was leading a double life).
          We have been closely connected to the Legion for many years, and what I see locally is not at all encouraging. We are not stupid and will not stand by while history is re-written. We’ve seen a much abuse first-hand, have friends and acquaintances whose children have lost the faith due to their experiences with the Legion of Christ, and have seen many negative effects of the Legion in our own family due to our naiveté in trusting the hierarchy over our own common sense.
          I was one of the hopeful ones in Feb. 2009—really, really hopeful. I was relieved and so very happy for the victims when they were exonerated (although it took Alvaro months to admit that “some” of them had actually been telling the truth about being molested by Maciel). But within weeks, seeing both the local and public reactions of the Legion to the scandal, I realized with dawning horror just how much Maciel’s methodology was part and parcel of just about everything Legion. I can’t express to you how deeply painful it was to have to face the fact I had entrusted my child to such an abusive system. And nothing the Legion has done since has given me any real reason to hope for any kind of true reform.

  • Judy Pantaleo

    Your article is fascinating and well-written — until the last few paragraphs. None of what I have read on-line from John Corapi can be intelligently considered as fomenting rebellion. He deserves better from you. Either examine his case and words carefully in print, or exclude him from your criticism. I especially refer your readers to messages at Thank you.

    • Mark P. Shea

      If you don’t think baselessly charging his bishop with blackmail, claiming he was forced out of the priesthood when he in fact abandoned it, and lying about his “complete cooperation” with the investigation, all while not doing a thing to stop his yammering cultists from decrying his bishop as “satanic” is not fomenting rebellion, then we do not speak the same language.

  • Marsha Livingston

    Judy Pantaleo is RIGHT. Mr. Shea, you have no shame at ALL. Maciel was a predator. Fr. Corapi is convicted of NOTHING except being some kind of wild burr under your saddle. Equating them says vastly more about you than about Fr. Corapi. I don’t know if you wrote this long piece just to get that dagger-hit in at the end, but it”s as reasonable an assumption as your claiming omniscience about “baseless charges” and “lying” when I ASSUME you have no more FACTS to go on than the rest of us.

  • Christine

    I’m not one of Fr. Corapi’s “fans”, but I feel, Mr. Shea, that you’ve exhibited rash judgment in your accusations. You wrote:

    “John Corapi fomenting rebellion among his “fans” (as he now calls them) by baselessly declaring his bishop to be a blackmailer and libelous, by lying that his allegedly persecuting superiors “wanted me gone” (when SOLT, in fact, labored to persuade him to stay faithful to his vocation and remain a priest), by claiming his investigators to have been dragging out his investigation (which he himself actually hindered and destroyed by his civil lawsuit against the witnesses and his willful defection from the priesthood) — all while duplicitously promising “complete cooperation”…”

    1. Accusing him of “baselessly” declaring his bishop a blackmailer indicates that you know, without a doubt, that the bishop most definitely never acted that way. Do you? I don’t–and I don’t think anyone does right now.

    2. You wrongly accuse him of “lying” that his superiors wanted him gone; what he actually wrote was that “certain people in authority” want him gone–and that is in fact true. There are clergy in the Catholic hierarchy to whom he is a thorn in the side, who do not like his orthodoxy nor the fact that he has blasted heterodox bishops, and do indeed wish him gone.

    3. There is nothing to indicate that his investigators did NOT drag out the investigation (even if Fr. Corapi contributed to that); this is not either/or. Fr. Corapi made clear in a recent post that his lawyers had submitted a set of simple questions to the other party, which failed to answer them after six weeks. So even if Fr. Corapi had contributed to dragging out the investigation, that does not mean the other side did not do this also.

    4. You accuse him of lying about “complete cooperation”–yet Fr. Corapi DID cooperate, up until the point he submitted a letter to his superiors saying the emotional and spiritual distress of his situation was too much for him to bear. At that point, he made the unfortunate decision to leave public ministry. But up until that point, there is no evidence that he did NOT cooperate.

    I don’t mean to be an apologist for Fr. Corapi, but you sure are quick to judge in the most general, and sometimes inaccurate, terms; it seems you’ve already made up your mind, and are bound to convince everyone else of his guilt, even if it means twisting the facts into the most sinister light possible.

    • Mark P. Shea

      1. “Baselessly” means that he provided no evidence for his claim, which, you know, he didn’t. Pretty rich to be complaining about him being “guilty till proven innocent” while he expects everybody to believe him without a jot of support for his attacks on his bishop.
      2. Who are these people. Name them. And how, if they are not in authority over him, does their opinion matter? Sorry. Corapi is to blame for ditching his office, not some shadowy “authorities” he doesn’t name.
      3. Again, proof? The fact is, the only person who prolonged the investigation was Corapi. Stop making excuses and open your eyes.
      4. Bunk. He immediately threw a spanner in the works by pursuing a civil suit against his accuser calculated to stop the investigation. He did not cooperate *at all*. And now, by ditching his priesthood, he has completely killed the investigation. Stop being a sucker and open your eyes.

    • Ann

      “it seems you’ve already made up your mind, and are bound to convince everyone else of his guilt, even if it means twisting the facts into the most sinister light possible.”

      Christine, you are correct that Mr. Shea and other commentators made up their minds and convicted him at the beginning of the investigation. If you go back to their posts at the time, it is clear that they had made their judgements. It is unfortunate, that many Catholic commentators could have added much to the discussion but chose to enter the fray with harsh condemnations and very little charity. Just look at the language they use. Mr. Shea and others have not only judged Father Corapi but those who benefitted from Father’s work. We are “yammering cultists” guilty of idolatry. Mr. Shea has drawn conclusions from the public record regarding Father Corapi, but on what does he base the claim of idolatry? That I listened to a radio program? That I prayed for Father because he asked for prayers? What does Mr. Shea know about my or anyone else’s spiritual life that he can make such accusations? There is a common thread among the commentators that are bashing Father Corapi but I wouldn’t put it into words here because it would be making assumptions about their character and spiritual state. There are a few people, like Father Z with something worthwhile to say and they are the model for the rest of us: we are all sinners and ALL priests need our prayers. I guess it is time to add Catholic commentators/bloggers to my prayer list.

      • Mark P. Shea

        “Mr. Shea and other commentators made up their minds and convicted him at the beginning of the investigation. If you go back to their posts at the time, it is clear that they had made their judgements.”

        Ahem. Ann, you are either ignorant or a liar. Here’s me on the Corapi situation in March: What part of “I presume innocence until guilt is proven” do you fail to grasp? Indeed, with respect to the charges his accuser brought I *still* presume innocence, particularly since nobody outside the investigators knows what those charges are, much less the evidence for them. My focus is not on these charges, but upon the baseless slanders and documentable lies Fr. Corapi has told outside the matter of the accusation that was being investigated. These are not matters of speculation but of documented fact. Open your eyes and stop getting played.

        • Christine

          Mr. Shea,
          You may claim you believe in innocence until guilt proven, but your point-by-point response to my comments makes it clear you judge Fr. Corapi to have lied: about Bishop Mulvey, about clergy in authority who want him gone, about his submitting a set of questions to the opposing party that they failed to answer. Your replies: “Bunk”, “Proof?” “No evidence”, etc. When were you made judge and jury, that he must submit evidence of every claim to you?

          I find it interesting that Fr. Sheehan, Superior of his order, who is privy to more about this case than you and all your readers combined, continues to claim he is a priest in good standing in the order. (Even Fr. Euteneuer’s bishop could not say this about Fr. E.) Fr. Sheehan also said Fr. Corapi had a right to file his lawsuit against his accuser, and says the order will work “to protect his good name.”

          He wouldn’t say ANY of these things if he even suspected Fr. Corapi was guilty of a single one of these claims–yet you, who know far less about this case, have already made up your mind.

          Instead of rectifying the errors in your text (e.g., your claim that he lied about his superior wanting him gone, when Fr. Corapi wasn’t even referring to his superior), you offer a typically flippant, glib response. Fine. But in the end it’s on your conscience, not mine.

        • Christine

          And something else: You should be wary of linking to POW Network to prove your point about Fr. Corapi (which you did here:

          The POW Network isn’t the most credible source.

          I would’ve posted all this over at your blog, but you’ve disallowed commenting for this post.

  • Tom

    “Legionaries I know will not quote him intentionally and do not idolize him. And I am sure, that no priest will intentionally quote him in anything that goes against the spirituality of the Church.
    I think part of the norm is also there to avoid paranoia. Fr Maciel wrote many things (1000s of pages) and even if I don’t try to quote him but try to express a general truth of the Christian faith, I may quote him by accident, or a priest could have made his own some phrase that began with Fr Maciel.”

    I am sure your intentions, at the onset, were good, but what you describe is the problem, isn’t it. Its shows to what extent you have been brainwashed. You don’t even know what is of Maciel and what is not. De Paulis expertise is money, but is this enough to fix your group’s psychological/spiritual malformation, if you can’t? Is there any precedence in 2000 years of the Church history?

    Could it be that people in the Church in general are discouraged, and becoming “indifferent”, and “secularized” because of scandals like LC, and the refusal of those in it to change? That the more you do, the worse things become? You keep on saying that “this is what the delegate wants”, that this is “what the Pope wants”, why not help them, like Renner and Berry did, by exposing problems? Too much trouble? Against your comfortable vow to stay put, and not use your God given brain and heart? Do you have any courage, or are you too afraid to let go of your little comforting blanket? What are you waiting for? Just put your self in our shoes, those that never were part of LC. For many of us, LC is like a relative with an alcohol problem, an addiction, that refuses to change, and drags the entire family down with him. Perhaps you should think about how, with your self comforting inertia, you are making the rest to the Church suffer.
    I live in Atlanta, and also have a friend priest (over 80 years old) that works in drug infested Juarez. You guys are very “brave” and “militant” when in comes to infiltrating rich suburbs in the US, not so much when it comes to working in your own back yard in Monterrey. Sorry, slick PR/marketing is no fruit.

    • Br Matthew Schneider, LC

      Tom, please be fair and at least use the qualifier I did, “the majority of.” I don’t speak for anyone but myself; I don’t speak for all and I have only given you how I personally interpreted this decree. Of those LCs I have spoke to on the issue of quotations, I don’t remember one who told me that they would go out of the way to quote Fr Maciel, although a few had some set phrases they had made their own but were quotations. I will say that from the time everything came down in 2009 till the decree you speak of, I would intentionally avoid anything that I thought might be a quote from Fr Maciel, I can remember a few times I probably sounded a little odd because I spoke in a circle for three sentences rather than quote him in one.

      As for Card. De Paolis, his current position is managing the Vatican’s money so I presume he has some expertise regarding money as you say. However, he also wrote a 700 pg book on religious life, was provincial, and was a member of the general council for his own congregation dedicated to the care on migrants. Obviously he also has expertise on religious life and authority in religious communities.

      As far as putting out all the evidence, in the visitation everyone had the opportunity to say what they wanted to confidentially and anonymously. Therefore, anyone who is willing to say what they knew had the perfect opportunity to say it. I spoke with Archbishop Chaput during this time and he sincerely wanted to know anything we knew about Maciel’s sins. I don’t know what is in the confidential visitation report but Card. De Paolis has it all. With that report, he specifically decided not to investigate who knew what and when because being imprudent about suspicions is a lack of prudence but not a canonical crime. On one hand, I would like to know, but on the other hand, I accept that he, with access to many testimonies I don’t have access to, decided that it would be a huge expenditure with almost no fruit.

      I agree that someone needs to do something for the drug-laden suburbs in Mexico but unfortunately we are not Supermen or a cure-all so we can’t do everything. I commend any priest who does that. We have a specific charism (see my previous comments) that God has called us to that is not focused on that particular circumstance. It is like asking a podiatrist to cure lung cancer, he may be able to do it because he went to Med School, but he does a lot better correcting arches and straightening legs and leaving another specialist there. In Mexico, however, we have several programs to help the poor based on our charism: low-cost or free Catholic schools in poor neighbourhoods, training and fundraising for full time lay catechists for little villages in the country, missions in Holy Week that get the city folks out helping in the poor countryside, and some connection with the Mexican version of the Children’s Miracle Network Telethon (without the Shriners).

      • InfoGuy

        Br. Matthew, I am sorry to say that you are delusional and need psychological help. You have been sucked into a cult from which has trapped your mind in circular thinking from which you are unable to recognize the chasm into which you have fallen. The psychological help you need is called being deprogrammed and is typical for individuals who were members of groups that display cult thinking and practices. Like in the movie Matrix, those in the false world are incapable of recognizing that they are slaves to that thinking. As some say, you can leave a cult, but can the cult leave you. I would ask you to make an appointment with a psychologist who is an expert in cults and sects. Many people can provide you with evidence that you are in one and you can also search for that on the internet. I feel you are a talented person and sorry to see your life and mind waste away in something you feel does a great amount of good but actually has done a great amount of evil beyond what maciel himself has done.

        • InfoGuy

          What I mean is that if you are really in a cult, you will not recognize it yourself. Few people do. You will need a professional to help you come to that realization if that is really the case, then you will need a sort of deprogramming. Isn’t your future and psychological health worth at least checking that out? If you indeed have spent nearly 20 years following a false prophet, his teachings will be so ingrained in your psyche, way of thinking and way of perceiving things, that it will not be easy to come to that realization and it will be very painful to suddenly realize you have been duped by a mexican con man and his many, many helpers who have wholeheartedly thrown their lives, minds and energies into making that con a reality. At least visit a professional and get an evaluation. What harm could that do?

  • Frank

    Unfortunately, I do know a priest who quoted Maciel intentionally. He even said no matter what everyone thought about him, he would always be thankful with “Nuestro Padre”.

  • Rick

    Yes, I came to love the attention and let my ego get bound up in it. Yes, I also wanted ordinary people to be more respectful. Yes, I should have kept my mouth shut about everything. Yes, being consistent has been almost impossible, but my habits have improved markedly and I am close to perfection in this matter, no small feat thanks in part to all the problems I encouraged. Yes, I was a horrible person and made myself worse. But deep down, I initially did it partly because I hoped others would follow my example, and this was one of my main reasons.

    • I have been perfect on this issue for a while now, and have been close to over-the-top, avoid-even-a-hint-of-evil example-setting.

  • I initially acquired a few of my tools for an internship, but soon realized using them daily wasn’t smart. However, by then, I was already practically stuck in the role thanks to virtual destitution. The bizarre purchases were irresponsible. I had virtually no money to buy ordinary “kit”, though I did buy some from a charity store. Though I certainly became a victimizer, initially, I was a victim myself of several great evils.

  • Mark

    While the Church Militant continues to wage war against Satan, Mr. Shea decides to kick Fr. Corapi while he is down… I guess he needed a break from his grueling spiritual battle with EVIL Lila Rose.

    What a brave man you are.

    • Mark P. Shea

      Lila Rose is not evil. Lila Rose is a great gift to the Church. She is, however, mistaken that you can lie in the service of a good cause.

      Fr. Corapi is lying in the service of a very bad cause: his rebellion against his bishop, his superiors, and his ordination. Don’t be a sucker.

      And, anonymous Mark, try using a last name before denouncing somebody as a coward. You’ll sound less ridiculous.

      • Mark

        My point is that with ALL of the objective evil in the world, it abuses prudence and is completely devoid of discernment to publicly go after people like Fr. Corapi and Lila Rose — who are obviously fighting with — not against St. Michael.

        I like the messages of Fr. Corapi as I like the messages of Fr. Rutler, Fr. Groeschel, Fr. Connor and Fr. Pacwa. I wouldn’t kick any of them if they fell either… publicly or privately.

        My guess is that you had a problem with Fr. Corapi before this recent stuff came down.. is that true? This is your chancec to show off that courage.

        The man speaks the truth vis a vis the Faith (which includes some difficult truths re: artificial birth control and homosexuality. Do you agree with Church teaching — that both of those behaviors are intrinsically disordered?

        Fr. Corapi is an imperfect man, however, he is more honest about past sins and drug abuses than almost anyone I’ve ever heard. It’s well known in my circle that I’ve enjoyed quality imported beer for a long time (sometimes too much as my confessor has heard on more than one occasion) however, I have never been tempted by narcotics… thank God.

        Have you used drugs in your past? Marijuana perhaps?

        Oh, my last name is O’Donnell — not sure how that helps you though because I’m not famous and I do not have a website. I do however, live near O’Hare Airport and would be happy to buy you lunch the next time you are in Chicago and say all of this to your face if you’d like.

        Brian, Zoe and Margaret all have my e-mail address and I give them permission to give it to you.

        • Mark P. Shea

          See my blog today. There is, honest, no history between me and Corapi. Likewise, your ASCII diagnostic about my suspected history of drug use is laughably far off. I think I’m the only person of my generation who never even tried pot. I’m boring as hell. My concern over him is not sublimated guilt for my own dark demons. I simply could see that he was an obvious fraud and felt it my duty to point that out to his suckers.

          • “felt it my duty to point that out to his suckers.”

            Charitable as always, Mr. Shea.

            I see you lost no opportunity to gloat in your latest blog post. Bravo–you were right about Fr. Corapi’s guilt. The rest of us who prudently withheld judgment, bit our tongues, and refrained from sins of anger and sins against charity in our speech should be ashamed, I suppose, that we didn’t follow your lead and loudly and brashly proclaim his guilt from the rooftops, brave and fearless whistleblower that you are!

            Nah. I’m glad I stayed quiet. I knew the truth would come to light one day, and I didn’t need your uncharitable rants telling me what to think about this man.

            “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will render an account for every careless word they speak.” Matt 12:36

          • Mark

            “I’m boring as hell.”

            Well at least we can finally … nah, too easy and cheap.

            A sincere thank you for answering in a straightforward manner. I didn’t consider the pot angle until recently when one of the readers who usually agrees with your opinions starting promoting hemp out of no where. Usually when someone promotes hemp, they usually use it. Sorry I considered guilt by association.

            “I simply could see that he was an obvious fraud and felt it my duty to point that out to his suckers.”

            I’ve listened to literally over 100 hours of Fr. Corapi on Relevant Radio while driving and have to ask:

            – did you listen to all of his many lectures?

            – what did you hear him say that made you believe he was a “fraud”?

            – how are any of us who listen to priests give orthodox sermons “suckers”?

            I never sent Fr. Corapi any money, and assumed he took a vow of poverty. Is that not true? Regardless, what is the “I told you so” lesson you are trying to pound home here?

            Specifically, what MESSAGE of Fr. Corapi do you so adamantly oppose? All I can think of is the intrinsically disordered behaviors of homosexuality or practicing artificial birth control.

            Or maybe I should ask another way … what have you heard Fr. Corapi say that Pope John Paull II or Pope Benedict would openly disagree?

            I sincerely hope that this doesn’t have anything to do with your obsession with the fringe issue of interrogation.

  • Br Matthew Schneider, LC

    I want to appologize in advance for not being able to respond to any further comments here. We have deaconate ordinations tomorrow and then we head off for vacation where I will not be checking my e-mail or the web.

    Please pray for the Deacons to be.

  • Judy Pantaleo

    It’s sad that this discussion has fomented anger. My hope is that it will prod more of us to pray for priests and for Holy Mother Church. I have settled in to reading HOLY HANDS (a recent book by Fr. Clement Machado, SOLT). I highly recommend it.
    May God bless you all.

  • Judy

    Rather than criticize Mark Shea’s comments regarding Fr C, perhaps the Fr C defenders can respond with a defence of Fr C’s chosen course of action – do you support it and why? Can you think of a better way he could have responded?

    I compare Fr C’s decision regarding his vocation to my own vocation as wife and mother, and I wonder – what would lead me to believe the best course of action is to abandon my vocation? imho.

  • Sam Schmitt


    It’s not so much a matter of defending Fr. Corapi as not speaking as if we know the full truth. Some may argue that the truth is evident from his actions, but we do not know the full story. Of course it’s always easy to think of a better way in which someone else could respond, but it’s not up to me to decide on behalf of Fr. Corapi.

    I simply do not see the good of offering a definite opinion about the situation when we do not have all the facts.

    As for “abandoning ones vocation” – again, while on paper this may seem to always be a bad choice, it may be the best course in a given circumstance (or at least the least bad option), just like it may be best to separate from one’s spouse and even obtain a civil divorce as allowed by the Church in certain circumstances.

    Am I saying that Fr. Corapi did the best thing? I don’t know whether he did or not – and neither does anyone else in the blogosphere. That’s the point.

  • Linda

    Well done Mark, you have handled this whole mess with class and honesty. TO me the best people stand up for what they believe as you have done.

    I feel sorry and pray for Fr. Corapi, but after viewing all of the facts presented, it is very obvious he is much more of a strayed sheep than a sheep dog.

    Faithful Catholics follow the teachings of the church not some rogue fallen Priest. I trust the church to come out with the truth, after all we are supposed to be people of faith. John Corapi is not to be run down any more, he is a sinner like all of us. Unfortunately, he seems to be in denial of this fact and that should be the biggest warning sign of all.

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