Monthly Archives: February 2009

Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion—Diocese of Scranton, Bishop Joseph F. Martino

Diocese of Scranton – web site:,20 09.asp


Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion

The Eucharist is the source and summit of all Christian life. It is the sacrament of salvation, the Body and Blood of Christ offered for us on Calvary and received by us, the People of God. Regarding the Holy Eucharist, St. Paul says, ³Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord² (1 Cor. 11:27).

The law of the Church requires each Catholic, before receiving Holy Communion, to make a careful examination of conscience, using the teachings of the Church as the examining criteria. After this private examination, each Catholic is able to determine whether he or she is prepared to receive the sacrament. Canon 916 of the Code of Canon Law states:

A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to celebrate Mass or receive the body of the Lord without previous sacramental confession unless there is a grave reason and there is no opportunity to confess; in this case the person is to remember the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition which includes the resolution of confessing as soon as possible.

The above mentioned preparation is private, as the state of each Catholic¹s soul is known to him or her alone. However, there are instances when a Catholic¹s unworthiness to receive Holy Communion will be determined by the Church because of a person¹s public conduct. This determination does not depend upon the private examination of conscience but results rather from a Catholic¹s public and persistent actions in opposition to the moral law as taught by the Church. In these cases, the Church forbids members to receive the sacrament. Canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law states:

Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.

In recent years, the Holy See has declared that those who are unworthy to receive Holy Communion if they are ³obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin² include persons directly involved in lawmaking bodies. These have a grave and clear obligation to oppose any law that attacks human life.[1] Pope John Paul II also addressed this matter when he wrote, ³The judgment of one¹s state of grace obviously belongs only to the person involved, since it is a question of examining one¹s conscience. However, in case of outward conduct which is seriously, clearly and steadfastly contrary to the moral norm, the Church, in her pastoral concern for the good order of the community and out of respect for the sacrament, cannot fail to feel directly involved. The Code of Canon Law refers to this situation of a manifest lack of proper moral disposition when it states that those who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin¹ are not to be admitted to Eucharistic communion.²[2]

In 2004, the then Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) instructed the Bishops of the United States as follows:

Regarding the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia, when a person¹s formal cooperation becomes manifest (understood, in the case of a Catholic politician, as his consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws), his Pastor should meet with him, instructing him about the Church¹s teaching, informing him that he is not to present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist.

This denial, the Cardinal noted in the same instruction, ³is not a sanction or a penalty. Nor is the minister of Holy of Communion passing judgment on the person¹s subjective guilt, but rather is reacting to the person¹s public unworthiness to receive Holy Communion due to an objective situation of sin.²[3]

Therefore, His Excellency, the Most Reverend Joseph F. Martino, Bishop of Scranton, reminds all ministers of Holy Communion, ordinary and extraordinary, that:

1. To administer the Sacred Body and Blood of the Lord is a serious duty which they have received from the Church, and no one having accepted this responsibility has the right to ignore the Church¹s law in this regard;

2. Those whose unworthiness to receive Holy Communion is known publicly to the Church must be refused Holy Communion in order to prevent sacrilege and to prevent the Catholic in question from committing further grave sin through unworthy reception.

James B. Earley


[1] Doctrinal Note on some questions regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life, 4, 2002

[2] On the Eucharist, 37, 2003 [3] Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger¹s memo Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion, 6

Archbishop Edwin O’Brien on Marcial Maciel []

Archbishop O’Brien raises concerns about Legion of Christ

By George P. Matysek Jr.

The Catholic Review

Concerned that the Legion of Christ stifles the free will of its members and lacks transparency, Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien told the religious order’s director general that he cannot in good conscience recommend that anyone join the Legion or Regnum Christi, its affiliated lay movement. In the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Legion of Christ is affiliated with Woodmont Academy in Cooksville. Regnum Christi is also active in several parishes. The archbishop’s action came in the wake of revelations that Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legion of Christ, fathered a daughter while serving as leader of the international religious order. Pope Benedict XVI had previously removed the Mexican priest from public ministry in 2006, asking him to lead a life of prayer and penance after Father Maciel faced allegations of sexual abuse of seminarians and financial irregularities. “It seems to me and many others that this was a man with an entrepreneurial genius who, by systematic deception and duplicity, used our faith to manipulate others for his own selfish ends,” Archbishop O’Brien told The Catholic Review in a telephone interview following his Feb. 20 Rome meeting with Father Alvaro Corcuera, director general of the Legion. “Father Maciel deserves our prayers, as every Christian who dies does, that he’ll be forgiven and we leave the final judgment to God as to what his life and death amounted to,” Archbishop O’Brien said. Saying that the Legion’s founder “leaves many victims in his wake,” the archbishop called for the “full disclosure of his activities and those who are complicit in them or knew of them and of those who are still refusing to offer disclosure.” He added that the finances of the order should be opened to “objective scrutiny.” Archbishop O’Brien said he has grave concerns that the Legion fosters a “cult of personality” focused on Father Maciel. “While it’s difficult to get a hold of official documents,” Archbishop O’Brien said, “it’s clear that from the first moment a person joins the Legion, efforts seem to be made to program each one and to gain full control of his behavior, of all information he receives, of his thinking and emotions.” The archbishop said many members who leave the order suffer “deep psychological distress for dependency and need prolonged counseling akin to deprogramming.” Saying that “I know that there are good priests in the movement” and acknowledging that Legion members are in full accord with the theological teachings of the church, the archbishop also said some of the practices of the movement are unhealthy. “This is not about orthodoxy,” he said. “It is about respect for human dignity for each of its members.” The archbishop noted that he has heard reports that the movement claims that the first duty of a Legionary is to love the Legion. Such policies subject a person’s use of reason not to one’s own judgment, Archbishop O’Brien said, but to a spiritual director. “It’s been said that the founder is alone called ‘nuestro padre’ (‘our father’) and that no one else can have that title,” Archbishop O’Brien said. “All are bound to identify with him in his spirit, his mind, his mission and in his life. This would suggest that the very basis of the Legion movement should be reviewed from start to finish.” Scott Brown, executive director of the Woodmont Academy, declined to comment and referred questions to Jim Fair, a U.S. spokesman for the Legion who said that revelations about Father Maciel have been a “great shock” and “great disappointment” to members, but that the order has achieved “very positive things” for the church. “We’re processing that mystery, that the Holy Spirit could use what was very clearly a flawed instrument to do good,” Mr. Fair said. “The Holy Spirit does that with all of us. We think it did it with Father Maciel. So while this is certainly disappointing, we have a charism that is approved by the church and we’ll continue to work on behalf of the church on our various apostolic works.” The spokesman said the Legion is interested in working with the Vatican to address concerns about the movement. “We’ll be double-checking our policies and procedures to ensure that we’re in a good position to ensure the integrity of the group,” he said. Mr. Fair said he hoped the Legion will be able to prove to Archbishop O’Brien that “we have some value that would help his ministries and the archdiocese.” Last summer, Archbishop O’Brien was on the verge of asking the Legion and Regnum Christi to leave the archdiocese. He wrote a June letter to the order’s leader asking that a liaison be appointed who would inform the archbishop of all of the Legion’s activities within the archdiocese. He also asked for more transparency of Regnum Christi programs and for the order to stop giving spiritual direction to minors. “As far as we can judge, they are responding well to our requests,” Archbishop O’Brien told The Catholic Review, “but these larger questions are looming ever more threateningly.” Father Maciel founded the Legion of Christ in 1941. He died Jan. 30, 2008, at the age of 87.

Paul McMullen contributed to this story.

Feb 25, 2009

Nathan O’Halloran: “Jesuit Obedience and the Legionaries of Christ” []

Jesuit Obedience and the Legionaries of Christ

Although many people on many different blogs have weighed in about the Legionaries of Christ and their current crisis, I thought I would throw in a few Jesuit reflections that come to mind.

Meaning what. Well, before entering the Society of Jesus, I was told by many at my alma mater that I should instead enter the Legion. Why? Well, because they are the new Jesuits of course. They are the real Jesuits, what the Jesuits used to be, what the Jesuits were meant to be. I heard this from no less than priests from the Legion. It struck me as a bit odd and arrogant, and had the cumulative effect of pushing me far away from them. My own suspicions were confirmed when they were thrown off campus and not invited back to Franciscan University of Steubenville. But for a while, to criticize the Legion was to criticize orthodoxy for many, since the two terms were considered synonymous. This annoyed me to no end, but it was unavoidable. If I didn’t like them, it was probably because I could not follow their rigorous lifestyle.

I won’t go into the many wounded individuals I have met who left the Legion or RC and continue to struggle to live normal lives. My point here is different. Many told me that I should join the Legion rather than the Jesuits because they practiced the true form of Jesuit obedience. Ignatius told Jesuits to pride themselves on their observance above all of obedience. This vow, he said, separates us from other orders. We live a strict form of obedience. And so I was told by Legionaries, since this form of obedience is best found in Ignatius’ letter to Simon Rodrigues, SJ living at the time in Portugal, and since many Jesuits these days notoriously do not follow such a notion of obedience, therefore, Jesuits no longer know how to live obedience.

A couple of distinctions are in order. Yes, there are several high profile Jesuits who do or did not live obedience very well. Robert Drinan, SJ, former congressman, is one of those. No doubt about that. And his disobedience to Rome and his own order is to be rejected as an example of a proper living out of Jesuit obedience.

Next, the well known letter on obedience to Simon Rodrigues was precisely that: a letter. It was written to a Jesuit in Portugal who was at the time living in the king’s court and nurturing a rather devoted following of Jesuits. Ignatius was attempting to bring him under reign, trying to curb his sumptuous living and his predilection to get his way. We learn: Rodrigues’ method of government had erred on the side of mildness and softness, with the result that, when he was removed, these subjects refused obedience to any other superior than himself or one appointed by him. And so his letter is written with very strong language. Some famous quotes include: But he who aims at making an entire and perfect oblation of himself besides his will must offer his understanding [which is a further and the highest degree of obedience], not only willing, but thinking the same as the Superior, submitting his own judgment to his, so far as a devout will can bend the understanding. Therefore, each Jesuit is to submit his “judgment which must approve the command of the Superior, in so far [as has been said] as it can, through the energy of the will, bring itself to this.”

After talking to several ex-Legionaries, I began to understand that a.) this was the only item on the topic of obedience from Ignatius that they ever read, and b.) they read it in excerpts, as I was told by an ex-Legionary. Ignatius is careful to mention twice above the proviso “in so far as it can.” He understands that the will can only bend the intellect so much. Each Jesuit must do his best.

But he can do more than just his best. Another part of the letter mentions something called Representation. In spite of this, you should feel free to propose a difficulty should something occur to you different from his opinion, provided you pray and it seems to you in God’s presence that you ought to make the representation to the Superior.

This was a part of the letter that many Legionaries apparently never saw. They received their instructions under their door in letter form, and were not allowed to discuss their assignments. This, coupled with their well known Vow of Charity by which they were never allowed to criticize or even second guess a superior created, as we know now, a very poisonous atmosphere.

Jesuit obedience is not blind. It has as its pre-requisite a praying, discerning man in conversation with his provincial. Ignatius allowed for a man to Represent up to three times to his superior before submitting himself. A regular Account of Conscience also provides a Jesuit ample chance to share about his own personal prayer and discernment. There is a reason that all young Jesuits spend 30 days of prayer learning how to discern spirits, and that reason is not so that they can never do it again in their lives.

Rather, this discernment is written into the very core of Jesuit obedience. It is for good reason that GC 35 quoted a famous letter that Ignatius wrote to a Jesuit appointed patriarch of Ethiopia. In the letter he states: All this is proposed under the heading of advice. The patriarch should not consider himself obliged to comply with it. Rather, he should be guided by discreta caritas, taking into account the circumstances of the moment and the unction of the Holy Spirit which should be his principal guide in everything.

But this is not an isolated letter. One only need to read the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus — or re-read them as I am doing now (and finding lots of wonderful things too!) — to find repeated over and over again a common Ignatian phrase, stated in various ways: according to persons, places and circumstances; as circumstances permit, etc. All over the Constitutions, one finds Ignatius making constant provision for circumstances, places, persons. While he is writing the rules, he wants there to be the requisite flexibility for individual Jesuits to use their own discreet charity and discernment in specific cases.

To bring this all back around then, did the Legion just sort of go wrong? Did they have most things right and just mess a few things up? I feel like going back to those people in college who told me that the Legionaries had it right and demanding that they now look at the present situation, caused in large part precisely because they misunderstood Ignatian obedience. As a Legionary, one could not represent, could not discern, could not manifest. And so within this atmosphere, the poison spread. This is not a situation where for the most part, they have an intact spirituality, with all the “good parts” of Jesuit life — as I was so often told. Where are all those people who said those things now? I wish they would come out and admit they were wrong. Admit that Ignatius knew what he was talking about and did not need to be modified t be even stricter than he ever intended to be. “Strict” is actually not even the question. Rather, psychologically destructive. Ignatius was a good psychologist, a reader of men’s hearts and minds. He knew better than to propose an obedience that the Legionaries impose. And wisely so.

I’m not going to ask people to stop criticizing the Jesuits. That is healthy, and we learn a lot from it. But if all those “orthodox” people out there had been willing to criticize the Legion more, maybe we would have uncovered this stuff a lot earlier. Tom Hoopes of the Register has done a noble thing by apologizing. The Legionaries themselves, well, my thinking right now is that of a colleague at work: Rome should make them a group devoted exclusively to caring for the sexually abused.

But that aside, let’s remember not to cut off bits and pieces of a spirituality that we like. The “good parts” by themselves are only parts, not the whole. The whole is a rich spirituality that cannot be gleaned from one letter. It must be pulled together from the writings and the lives of a whole religious family, the Society of Jesus.

A good quote to end with from the GC 35 document on obedience:

37. We encourage Jesuits in formation to grow in the spirituality of obedience and in availability for placing their lives and freedom at the service of the mission of Christ throughout the stages of formation. It will be good for them to take advantage of the opportunities for self-abnegation that community life, constant and rigorous dedication to studies, and other aspects of their experience will doubtless provide. Self-abnegation, “the fruit of our joy at the approach of the Kingdom and the result of a progressive identification with Christ,” is a virtue Jesuits need if they are going to take on the sometimes difficult demands of obedience.

38. We encourage formators to help Jesuits in formation understand and live the mystical source of obedience: an unconditional love for the Lord which will bring them to a desire to serve him in fulfilling the Father’s will. We ask formators to help Jesuits in formation become progressively aware of the demands of a life of obedience: transparency with superiors, esteem for the account of conscience, the responsible exercise of personal initiative, and a spirit of discernment which accepts the decisions of the superior with good grace.

39. The spirituality and tradition of the Society require that Jesuits in formation and their formators be filled with a spirit of obedience to the pope as something essential to the mission and identity of the Society. Jesuit spiritual and ecclesial formation should emphasize availability for mission and “the proper attitude we ought to have in the Church” established by the Thirty-Fourth General Congregation.

Nathan O’Halloran, SJ

Posted by Nathan O’Halloran, SJ / Mason Slidell at 2:56 PM

Diogenes on Maciel [Catholic Culture Commentary: Off the Record: “The Legion of Christ and its founder”]

The Legion of Christ and its founder

Posted Feb. 17, 2009 8:47 AM || by Diogenes

Commentary: Off the Record: “The Legion of Christ & its founder”

What do we know about the misbehavior of Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, deceased founder of the Legion of Christ? In strict terms: nothing. In part this is the fault of the Holy See, whose 2006 communiqué did not specify the wrongs in response to which it “invited” Maciel to “a reserved life of prayer and penance.” In part it is the fault of the Legion of Christ, which issues assertions about Maciel while withholding the evidence on which the assertions are grounded. In place of publicly verifiable data — such as checkable documents and signed testimony — we have coy and ambiguous declarations based on informal confidential investigations. This is not knowledge. In early February the Legion’s spokesman Fr. Paolo Scarafoni announced that Maciel had sired an illegitimate daughter, now in her twenties. The CNS story reports, “Asked how the Legionaries came to know about her, Father Scarafoni said, ‘Frankly, I cannot say and it is not opportune to discuss this further, also because there are people involved’ who deserve privacy.” This is a transparent falsehood. Scarafoni was in reality communicating “Frankly, I cannot be frank about this matter.” Tactical mendacity of this kind is beloved of Roman churchmen (think of the Jesuit General’s claim that there is no conflict between the Society and the Holy See); it is not intended to be credible, but it serves as a kind of No Trespassing sign, warning outsiders that further inquiry along a given line will not be tolerated. Granted, however, that we don’t and can’t know whether Maciel’s paternity is better founded than any other claim the Legion has made about him, the remarks that follow will assume that this minimal admission is true. Maciel deserves to be reviled by the Legionaries of Christ. By “deserves” I mean his revilement is a debt of justice owed all Catholics by the Legion. This is not on account of Maciel’s sin of sexual weakness, nor even on account of the sin of denying his sexual weakness. The fact of the matter is that Maciel was publicly accused of specific sexual crimes, and that out of moral cowardice he enlisted honorable men and women to mortgage their own reputations in defense of his lie. The lie was the lie of Maciel’s personal sanctity, which Maciel knew to be a myth, and which the fact of his bastard child (putting aside the more squalid accusations) proves that he knew. To the villainy of sacrificing the reputations of others, Maciel added the grotesque and blasphemous claim that the Holy See’s sanctions were an answer to his own prayer to share more deeply in the passion of Christ, as an innocent victim made to bear the burden of false judgment in reparation for the sins of mankind. The Legion cannot share Catholic reverence for the Passion and fail to repudiate Maciel’s cynicism in portraying himself as the Suffering Servant. Yet the LC leadership persists in allotting Maciel a role of (somewhat tarnished) honor: praising with faint damns, and suggesting that his spiritual patrimony remains valuable in spite of his personal life. This won’t work. Many of the greatest saints were repentant sinners. Yet not only did Maciel (as far as is known) go to his death without repenting, but he used wholesome Christian spirituality as a tool in the deception of others. Think of the Soviet mole Kim Philby: while he worked in the UK’s SIS and Foreign Office, his articulate patriotism may have inspired those he duped to a deeper love of country. Yet once he was unmasked as a spy, and after his patriotism was revealed as a contrived distraction from his real treachery, even those who were moved to genuine loyalty by his speeches would not continue to feed on them. And note: Philby’s patriotic words would provoke the most shame and disgust precisely in the persons who found those words truest. Or consider a woman whose husband ingeniously hid his infidelities from her for many years. Once she realized she had been deceived, the gifts he brought back from his business trips would be understood to have been instruments in that deception. Far from cherishing the jewelry he gave her, she’d feel that the diamonds now mocked the affection and fidelity they symbolized. By the same token, Maciel’s addresses will be spiritually kosher — he was after all a highly successful deceiver. But those addresses dishonor the very truths they expound, and it’s impossible that they can cause anything but distress and confusion in those who attempt to nourish themselves on them. To repeat: the fact that he was a flawed priest is not the reason for repudiating Maciel. The Mexican priest-protagonist of Graham Greene’s novel The Power and the Glory was enfeebled by lust and alcoholism and despised by those he served; yet, because of his concern for souls, he kept himself in the arena of danger and died a martyr. Maciel presents Greene’s image flipped on its head: he was a Mexican priest with an internationally cultivated reputation for sanctity. He lived surrounded and cosseted by admirers, and yet in reality he held divine retribution so lightly that he went to his deathbed without undeceiving those he’d taken in, leaving behind him shattered consciences and wobbly faith. When I speak of the Legion’s duty of revilement, I do not mean they should issue so many pages of rhetorical denunciation of Maciel’s sexual iniquities. What is required is an unambiguous admission that Maciel deceitfully made use of holy things and holy words in order to dupe honest and pious persons into taking false positions — sometimes slandering others in the process — in order to reinforce the legend of his own sanctity. Since Maciel’s treachery was sacrilegious in its means and in its effect, he should posthumously be repudiated as a model of priesthood and of Christian life. What is said above is predicated on the minimalist assumption that Maciel’s siring of a bastard daughter is the only canonical lapse that can held against him. Yet he stood accused of sins much more serious, including the sin of absolutio complicis — i.e., of sacramentally absolving one’s own partner in sexual wrongdoing. The Legion’s leadership professes improbably comprehensive ignorance of Maciel’s misdeeds, but even if they are in fact in the dark about Maciel’s guilt in this area, they surely must understand that abuse of the sacrament of confession moves the debate over Maciel’s priesthood onto an entirely different level than a failure in sexual continence. True, we don’t expect Newsweek or NPR to focus on the gravity of abusing a sacrament, because for them sacraments are simply ceremonies. But we would expect orthodox Catholic priests to grasp the importance of the charge. Knowing what they now claim to know about Maciel’s sexual delinquency, can the Legion confidently dismiss the accusation of abuse of the confessional? And if they can’t dismiss it out of hand, how can they fail to address it, even obliquely, in their statements? How can they keep up the public patter of his “flawed priesthood” without the certainty — the certainty — that there are not souls out there that need concrete sacramental help, souls whose access to the sacraments Maciel may have blocked by his villainy? The Legion leadership’s piecemeal public disclosure broadens rather than narrows the general speculation about the extent of Maciel’s crimes. Today and for the foreseeable future they’re in the “half of the lies they tell about me aren’t true” position. They have only themselves to blame. Whereas St. Augustine said, “God does not need my lie,” the Legion’s officialdom appears to base its strategy of teaspoon by teaspoon revelations on the contrary conviction: “God needs our falsehood, and yours as well.” Yet what are we to make of the Legionaries who aren’t superiors and who remain under a vow of obedience to those who are? Are they complicit in the actions of their superiors simply by remaining bound by their vows? If Maciel has real victims whose urgent spiritual needs are being ignored or dismissed by the leadership, can the Legionaries who would wish to address those needs act on their own to do so? If not, what is the course an honorable man would take, and how might the Holy See make it possible for him to act in conformity with a well-formed conscience while remaining a religious in good standing? Many persons of good will associated with the Legion and Regnum Christi have called for prayers for Maciel’s victims. This is entirely proper. But if you were a victim of Maciel, and had been denounced as a slanderer for accusing him, and that denunciation had never been unsaid, would you feel spiritually buoyed by the promise of prayers offered on your behalf?

Commentary: Off the Record: “The Legion of Christ & its founder”

The Body of the Church: Why the Pope Had to Do What He Did. By Martin Mosebach []

Tuesday, February 10, 2009 /

The Body of the Church: Why the Pope Had to Do What He Did

By Martin Mosebach

The Catholic Church is experiencing an unprecedented moment in her recent history. A sacerdotal act of the Pope – the removal of the excommunication of four bishops who had been consecrated contrary to the prohibition of his predecessor in the Petrine office – encounters an outraged lack of understanding not only of the non-Catholic public but also of many Catholics and even bishops, who have openly renounced their loyalty to the pope. Forty years after the Second Vatican Council, which attempted an “opening of the Church to the World”, the Catholic Church has been struck dumb – as if she does not recognize any more her own institutions. What is a Catholic Bishop? Is he a senior administrative official of the Church? Is he a high-ranking politician, who can be subjected to party discipline? This is how non-Catholics (certainly contemporary ones) view the bishop, because they never have been told anything else. For Catholics, the bishop embodies the highest form of the priesthood, connected with the capacity to represent Jesus Christ himself in the giving of the Sacraments. He receives this capacity irrevocably upon his consecration and no pope or council can take it from him. That is the disturbing thing about the episcopal office: even the most unworthy and scandalous bishop always remains a bishop, capable until his last breath of adding new bishops to the line of apostolic succession. What is excommunication? Exclusion from a political party? That’s how non-Catholics understand it – they like to call exclusion from the communist party “excommunication.” Catholics should know that a complete exclusion from their Church is absolutely impossible. For the Church, a baptized Christian cannot become an untouchable by any deed, however terrible it may be. If the Church, as the most extreme punishment, forbids a baptized Christian from confessing his sins, from receiving the Eucharistic Christ at Mass and from receiving the sacraments at death, she does so always in the hope of soon lifting the excommunication. Ultimately, no spiritual authority wants to accept the responsibility of letting a man die uncomforted. Strictly speaking, he who offends against the unity of the Church excommunicates himself. The cancellation of the excommunication cannot be denied him if he honestly desires to return to this unity. The use of excommunication as a means of political pressure ( as it was often done in the Middle Ages) has been justly condemned. The Jewish philosopher Simone Weil called such excommunications a mortal sin of the Church. The fact that murderers and child molesters are not automatically excommunicated shows how little excommunication has to do with moral approval. The community that receives again an excommunicated person is a community of sinners. These are likely to have been the principal considerations of Pope Benedict when he lifted the excommunication of the four bishops who had been consecrated in a manner sacramentally valid but contrary to canon law. For the pope, it must have been a tormenting thought that these bishops, in isolation, could have succumbed to the temptation to perpetuate the schism and consecrate additional bishops. The sacraments form the heart of the Church. The danger that they could be permanently dispensed while in breach of unity must have troubled the pope exceedingly. Now, in the meantime, the whole world has had the opportunity of hearing on television one of the four bishops, the Briton Williamson, utter the most revolting theses regarding the persecution of the Jews at the time of Hitler. Behind the seemingly dispassionate poker face of the prelate there was revealed a paranoia bordering on madness. This was linked, as had been long known in the Fraternity, to a complete, insane, system composed of similar “secret knowledge.” It is understandable that a general horror prevailed, on seeing that such a man might exercise his office as an official Bishop, reconciled with the pope. Why, however, did the general public not notice that bishop Williamson specifically cannot exercise his office, because the lifting of the excommunication did not affect his suspension from the office of bishop. Instead, they indulged in conjectures as to whether the Pope after all had a secret inclination to anti-Semitism. This, regarding a Pope, who, leaving aside his addresses in Auschwitz and in the synagogue in Cologne, has tried in his theology – one could say, like no other pope since Peter – to read and understand the Gospel as the work of the Jews. It even extended as far as the laughable report that the pope had set the conditions for the lifting of the suspension of the bishops only under the pressure of public opinion. No one should deceive himself: this pope does nothing under the pressure of public opinion. The question was posed whether Benedict XVI knew of Williamson’s speeches. To be sure, he can’t help but have noticed the spiritual atmosphere in the SSPX. Unreality and fanaticism resounded from the many attacks that the bishops of the Fraternity directed against Benedict. And it is very well possible that the knowledge of a growing pathological narrowing of the minds drove the pope to act. Twenty years ago, as Cardinal and prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he had already labored with all his strength for a reconciliation with the SSPX. At the time their founder, the legendary Archbishop Lefebvre, still lived. He had participated in the Council and had only become an opponent when the “movement of ‘68” made inroads in the Church and made a revolution out of the reform. Lefebvre refused to give up the traditional, ancient mass rite and Paul VI responded by suspending him. Cardinal Ratzinger attempted to win over the old man and promised that the pope would name a bishop faithful to tradition for the community. Then Lefebvre’s distrust was aroused – he felt he was being strung along. He broke off the negotiations and consecrated four bishops with whom he was excommunicated immediately thereafter. Had Lefebvre acted rightly by following his hunch? Cardinal Ratzinger in any case must have been affected by the death of this man in the state of excommunication. For, unlike most bishops of this time, it was impossible for him to deny any justification to Lefebvre’s struggle. “Whomever these teachings do not please he does not deserve to be a man.” This hymn of liberalism from Mozart’s “Magic Flute” became the maxim of the Church that had become liberal. The SSPX was hermetically sealed off. It was not permitted to participate in the discussions of a post-conciliar Church so enamored of discussion. Its young priests celebrated in basements and garages. One could say that the Fraternity had circled the wagons but around these wagons yawned a void – nobody cared about that. Every sociologist knows what quickly becomes of small oppositional groups cut off from interaction with reality. That this group was endangered would have been sufficient for a responsible priest to care for it. But more was at stake here: as misfortune would have it, exactly this group had made its mission the preservation of the greatest treasure of the Church. Even today it is a difficult undertaking to speak of the importance of the liturgy for the Church. Twenty years ago it was almost hopeless finding a sympathetic ear. It was a foregone conclusion for many clerics that the traditional, over 1500-year old liturgy of the Church was decorative mumbo-jumbo for the nostalgic and for aesthetes. It had the same importance for “emancipated Christians” as the string quartets played on occasions of state have for politics. What had been true throughout the entire history of the Latin Church had been forgotten: that liturgy is the visible body of the Church; that Church and liturgy are identical. It is the mystic depiction of the whole plenitude of revealed truths. It is the locus of faith, where subjective conviction and feeling become objective contemplation and encounter. It is this liturgy which carried the Christian faith through the centuries. The success of the mission in the entire world was owed to its sacrality in liturgical language and chant. The liturgy had soared above the deep divides of European history because it was equally removed from every epoch into which it entered. It is always unseasonable and therefore always an image of the other reality which awaits man. This great form of the liturgy had been softened up by Paul VI’s radical reform of the mass – an intervention unheard of in the entire history of the Church. It splintered into a thousand improvisations. But why was Archbishop Lefebvre the only bishop in the entire world who uncompromisingly rejected this attack against the liturgy and thus against the Church? With this no to a process of decomposition so highly dangerous to the Church, Lefebvre entered ecclesiastical history. What gave him the strength was the milieu, only found in France, of a Catholic laity which had acquired its world view in the struggle against aggressive republican secularism. This was the tragedy of Lefebvre and his movement: they rescued the ancient liturgy but linked it to the struggle of political parties in recent French history. The only refuge that the traditional liturgy had found threatened to become its prison. Pope Benedict had already freed it from this prison with his Motu Proprio and had given it back with its universal claim to the entire Church. Must he not, however, have felt a sense obligation to the SSPX; that, for all its faults, it had become an instrument for preserving the Holy of Holies of the Church in a time of crisis? Whether the SSPX succeeds in finding a place in the multiplicity of the present day Church remains to be seen. Its historic mission, in any case, has been concluded. In the last few days it could be heard again and again that the Vatican is incapable of conveying its concerns to the public. It is certainly true that there would have been less excitement among those of good will if, for instance, one had emphasized at the lifting of the excommunications that Bishop Williamson remained suspended until further notice. But one cannot underestimate what black holes of ignorance have been created even in believing Catholics by more than thirty years of neglected religious instruction. These cannot be closed even by the cleverest public relations work. Regarding the pope, broad circles know only that he is for human rights and against condoms. It is happily declared that “the Church can’t return to before the Second Vatican Council.” Few, however, think about the contradictions and need for interpretation of the most important texts of this council. Does anybody notice that the pope has acted exactly in accordance with the theology of the council in his magnanimous lifting of the excommunications? The restoration of the sacral visage of the church must remain for the majority of “worldly” observers foreign and incomprehensible. Probably only later generations will grasp that the restoration of liturgical identity was worth a great sacrifice. Building up is, after all, slower than tearing down. Naturally, things could reach a point that the state and society lose the taste for tolerating within their borders a corporation, which visibly stands under a different law and defends values other than those of the secular majority. The coarseness of a chancellor in an election campaign gives us a foretaste. As was done under Bismarck, the accusation could be made against the Catholics that they are bad citizens of the state because their heart is ultramontane; it clings “over the mountains” to the pope and his authority. Ultramontane – this word describes perfectly the Catholic mentality: with a small part of one’s consciousness to be not German, not contemporary, not cosmopolitan. Despite all distrust, the commonwealth does not have to fare ill with such members – the result of the constant tension between the Pope and the Emperor in the Middle Ages was nothing less than the European idea of freedom.

Copyright by Martin Mosebach.

The original of this essay appeared in Der Spiegel magazine. Any errors are mine as translator. Special thanks to Ulrike Hagg for providing the article.

Posted by Stuart Chessman

Russell Shaw on Clericalism—relevant for the Legion of Christ scandals

relevant to the Legion of Christ scandals

Clericalism and the Sex Abuse Scandal

by Russell Shaw

“America” Magazine

3 June 2002


Clericalism in the Catholic Church is something like the pattern

in the wallpaper: it’s been there so long you don’t see it anymore.

That may be why, amid all the demands for change in response

to the scandal of clergy sex abuse, more has not been heard

about clericalism and the need to get rid of it once and for all. Yet

clericalism and the clericalist culture are at the heart of this

noxious episode.


Clericalism does not cause sex abuse, of course, any more than

sex abuse causes clericalism. But when sex abuse occurs in a

clericalist context, the situation takes on a distinctively clericalist

coloration that makes matters worse. In the present crisis, it is

painfully clear that attitudes and ways of doing things associated

with clerical elitism often came into play when priests were

found to have engaged in abuse. As a result, what already was a

tragedy for individuals became in time a world-class disaster for

the church.


How is it possible that bishops who, angry rhetoric aside, are

known to be conscientious, intelligent churchmen made the

horrendous mistakes some repeatedly made in dealing with

wayward priests? The only credible answer to that question is

that these bishops were acting according to the prevailing

clericalist assumptions and procedures for handling priests who

get into trouble: protect them to the point of coddling them, give

them time off, therapy and new assignments, hush things up,

keep knowledge of the mess confined within a very limited

clerical circle. Here is all the confirmation anyone could want for

Eugene Kennedy’s observation that the clericalist code “shielded

men from responsibility and covered for them when they fell or



Bishops who responded in this manner to sex abuse by priests

were doing what made perfectly good sense within the clericalist

system in which they too had been socialized and whose rules

they knew only too well. They desired to be good servants of the

church; but whenever problems arose, they served the system

instead. And, as might have been predicted, this system built on

falsehood and illusion betrayed them in the end–them and

everybody else.


Clericalism is linked to power. Initially, generosity moves men to

pursue a calling to the priesthood. But sometimes the generous

impulse is corrupted along the way by a taste for unearned

authority, deference and the absence of significant

accountability. One thinks of the Boston priest in Edwin

O’Connor’s The Edge of Sadness, who remarks, “Probably in no

other walk of life is a young man so often and so humbly

approached by his elders and asked for his advice.” Although

O’Connor was writing about the Catholics of an earlier

generation, even today many Catholic lay people share the

clericalist assumptions held by many, though not all, of their



The clericalist culture is variously described as a caste system,

a fraternity, a club. All of these terms fit. In part, clericalism is the

clergy’s special mode of succumbing to two dangerous errors

that threaten all professions: the perversion of solidarity among

colleagues and low expectations with regard to professional



In a special way, however, clericalism is rooted in the idea that in

whatever pertains to religion, it is the right and the responsibility

of clerics to make the decisions and give the orders, and the job

of lay people to carry them out. At a deep level it is spiritual

snobbery reflecting the assumption that the clerical state in and

of itself makes clerics spiritually superior to the laity. A mistaken

idea of vocation is at work here–the idea that the calling to

ordained ministry is superior to all other vocations.


There are several things wrong with that, not least the fact that it

ignores the reality of personal vocation. Before the Second

Vatican Council, Pope John Paul II points out, it was generally

supposed that vocation mainly or even exclusively referred to a

calling to the priesthood or religious life. Now we know better.

The pope expressed it this way in his Message for the World Day

of Prayer for Vocations (May 6, 2001): “Within the Christian

community, each person must rediscover his or her own

personal vocation and respond to it with generosity. Every life is

a vocation, and every believer is invited to cooperate in the

building up of the church.”


As leaders of the church seek solutions to the crisis brought on

by revelations of clergy sex abuse and its mishandling by some

bishops, what should be done? Many things, of course, with

priority given to a significant tightening-up of procedures for

dealing with such cases when they arise and, better yet, to

preventing them from arising at all. As steps go forward to make

it easier to expel priest-abusers, conduct the second apostolic

visitation of American seminaries in 20 years and otherwise

address this crisis, the bishops must confront the problem of

clericalism that did so much to make it the calamity it is.


This must begin with the recognition that clericalism is pervasive

in the church. Ugly enough in itself, the present scandal is only a

symptom of systemic corruption. Denial of that unpleasant fact is

a luxury Catholics no longer can afford. If the opportunity to

eliminate clericalism is missed now, when the need is so

obvious, clericalism will help to shape fresh disasters in the

future–if not sex abuse, something else.


Recognition that clericalism is a fact should encourage priests

to internalize the message of Section 47 of Pope John Paul’s

apostolic exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis (1992). In the context

of ecclesial communion, the pope declares, the priest is first and

foremost (“above all”) an equal among equals. That means

being “a brother among brothers”–committed to

“co-responsibility in the one common mission of salvation” and

sincerely appreciative of “all the charisms and tasks which the

Spirit gives believers for the building up of the church.”


The pastors of the church also must take a great deal more

seriously than they have done up to now the implications of

accountability and openness. How often since Vatican II has it

been said that the exercise of authority in the church is a ministry

of service! But if service is not to be paternalistic, accountability is

essential. And accountability that is genuine, not just for show,

will require an end to the secrecy that even now often serves as

an instrument of clerical manipulation and control in the conduct

of ecclesiastical affairs.


But more than accountability and openness are required.

Decision-making in the church needs a careful rethinking. Lay

people should have voice and vote regarding finances at the

parish, diocesan and national levels along with a direct say in

identifying candidates for positions like pastor and bishop. They,

not clerics, should be the ones who set and carry out the public

policy agenda of the church–an innovation fully in line with the

letter and the spirit of Vatican II and particularly necessary at a

time when the sex abuse scandal has gravely weakened the

church’s already waning capacity to act effectively in this area.


Some may object that changes of these kinds would require

changes in canon law. There is an obvious answer: change it.


Important as structural changes are, however, changes on the

level of faith and its living out are even more necessary. These

include much wider acceptance than now of the idea that the

church is a communion, a hierarchically organized body with a

diversity of offices and roles in which all members are equal in

dignity and all have roles in its mission, and a much livelier

appreciation than most now possess of the implications of

personal vocation.


A friend of mine whose love for and loyalty to the church are well

beyond the ordinary tells a story that should be pondered for

what it says about the present crisis and its clericalist roots.


Back around 1985, when the scandal of clergy sex abuse had

just come to light for the first time in Lafayette, La., he and some

lay friends were chatting about the situation with several priests.

All were staunch Catholics. All were devoted to the church. My

friend recalled the conversation:


Every cleric there thought that priests who had committed sexual

abuse should be sent off for treatment and put back into some

kind of service, at least restricted service as a chaplain or some

kind of low-level administrative job. All the lay people thought that

was a bad idea. I argued that if a priest has been guilty of

sexually abusing a child, even once, he should be out, since

such acts are a gross betrayal of the laity’s trust. But all of the

priests tended to be more concerned with the erring cleric.



Those were good priests, too. But they were imbued with a

clericalist mentality very much as those good plantation owners

in the pre-Civil War South who treated their slaves well were

imbued with racism.


That is a very strong statement. Perhaps it is too strong. But

church leaders should grasp the fact that this is how some of

their best and brightest now think.



By Russell Shaw.

Russell Shaw is the former secretary for public affairs at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.


Steve Skojec on Marcial Maciel []



House of Cards

This is my site Written by Steve Skojec on February 3, 2009 – 5:30 pm

I’m a little relieved today, but I’m even more angry.

Yesterday morning, I received an email from someone I trust, indicating that a big, damaging story about the Legionaries of Christ was about to break. Something that went beyond the scandals we’d already heard. Patrick Madrid hinted about it on his blog. So did Thomas Peters.

I started networking. Checking in with contacts who are closer to “the movement” than I am, since I parted ways with them 12 years ago this month.

The information began trickling in. In an unusual twist, it was percolating up and out of the movement itself. The culture of deceit, denial, and diversion was finding itself compelled to be honest with its own members. This alone was damning evidence. Why? Because that’s not how the Legion works. Let me back up a little bit.

I’ll never forget how two days after Thanksgiving in 1996,  I was flown on less than 24 hours’ notice, along with every other full-time worker in the Regnum Christi and Legion apostolates, back to the seminary in Cheshire, CT (we had just left from a retreat) to be briefed on the revelation of the first public accusations of sexual abuse against Fr. Maciel. Only we weren’t told that. We really weren’t told anything. We were simply told that something was coming, that it was categorically untrue, and that we were to deny it if asked.

But the allegations didn’t go away. And after I had run the gauntlet of lies, manipulation, and calumny and come out the other side, a contemptible Catholic who eschewed his “vocation” and wasn’t “generous enough”, I ran into them again. And then again. And finally, in 2006, the Vatican did something about it. Entirely lacking in justice to either Maciel’s followers or his alleged victims, it should be noted, but something.

But the Legion continued as if it were nothing. In response to the removal of Fr. Maciel from public ministry, the Legion issued a statement, which struck those of us who knew better as hubris-riddled nonsense:

Communiqué from the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ

The Legion of Christ and the Regnum Christi Movement in response to the communiqué of the Holy See renew their commitment to serve the Church

In reference to the news regarding the conclusion of the investigation of the accusations made against Father Marcial Maciel, our beloved father founder, the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ offers the following statement:

1. Father Marcial Maciel has received during his life a great number of accusations. In the last few years, some of these were presented to the Holy See so that a canonical process would be opened.

2. Facing the accusations made against him, he declared his innocence and, following the example of Jesus Christ, decided not to defend himself in any way (*see footnote).

3. Considering his advanced age and his frail health, the Holy See has decided to forgo a canonical hearing and to “invite him to a reserved life of penitence and prayer, relinquishing any form of public ministry”.

4. Father Maciel, with the spirit of obedience to the Church that has always characterized him, has accepted this communiqué with faith, complete serenity and tranquility of conscience, knowing that it is a new cross that God, the Father of Mercy, has allowed him to suffer and that will obtain many graces for the Legion of Christ and the Regnum Christi Movement.

5. The Legionaries of Christ and the members of Regnum Christi, following the example of Father Maciel and united to him, accept and will always accept the directives of the Holy See with profound spirit of obedience and faith. We renew our commitment to work with great intensity to live our charism of charity and extend the Kingdom of Christ serving the Church.

*Note: Since 1997, the accusations against Father Maciel have been often published by the means of communication. Father Maciel, after affirming his innocence, chose not to engage on a public debate regarding these allegations.

These words depict Fr. Maciel as a white martyr, suffering innocently (with “complete serenity and tranquility of conscience”) these horrific accusations.

But that wasn’t the end of it. No, this week, the story finally surfaced that Fr. Maciel had done something else:

It’s Out. Maciel is Out.

Today, Fr. Scott Reilly, LC, Territorial Director in Atlanta, Georgia, announced to all those who work in the Territorial Direction of the Legion of Christ, that Marcial Maciel had a mistress, fathered at least one child, and lived a double life. For this reason, the Legion is renouncing him as their spiritual founder.

That’s right. This man who the Legion describes as having “the spirit of obedience to the Church that has always characterized him” had “had a mistress, fathered at least one child, and lived a double life”, after he had already been accused by “more than 20 but less than 100″ of his own priests and seminarians of sexual abuse, and had been described in terms depicting a disordered addict by his own trusted LC priests as early as the 1950s.

I vaguely recall being told when I was with the Legion that Fr. Maciel made it clear that he had “…never said no to Christ.” Wish I could find that quote. Whether or not it was what he wrote, they certainly acted like it was true.

And now, with this bombshell dropped, are they owning up? Not in any official capacity:

Responding to unconfirmed revelations of misconduct by the Legionaries of Christ Founder Fr. Marcial Maciel, the U.S. spokesman for the Legionaries of Christ has acknowledged unspecified actions that “weren’t appropriate for a Catholic priest.” However, he insisted that Fr. Maciel “was and always will be the father of the Legion.”

The blog “Exlcblog” claimed that Fr. Scott Reilly, the Legionaries of Christ Territorial Director in Atlanta, Georgia announced to those in the Territorial Direction that Fr. Maciel had a mistress, fathered a child, and lived a double life. The blog claimed that the Legionaries of Christ is therefore renouncing Father Maciel as their spiritual father.

CNA contacted Legionaries of Christ spokesman Jim Fair, but received no specific confirmation of any allegations.

“We’ve learned some things about our founder’s life that are surprising and difficult to understand,” Fair told CNA on Tuesday.

“We can confirm that there are aspects of his life that weren’t appropriate for a Catholic priest.

“Obviously he had human feelings but it remains true that through him we received our charism, which has been approved by the Church.

“Our commitment remains and we‘re going to go forward and love Christ and serve the Church,” he remarked.

Asked to verify the specific allegations, Fair replied:

“Fr. Maciel died over a year ago and obviously whatever has happened is between him and God and God’s judgment and mercy, so we’re going to let him take care of that.”

I suppose a group so constitutionally unable to exhibit even the vaguest shred of honesty or integrity, woven as they are into their web of lovingly-programmed sophisms of conscience (they call it “formation”) would be incapable of admitting that their entire order, founded as it is on a spiritual charlatan and sexual pervert who has been protected for half a century by a program of rules and lies that kept him immune from criticism and shrouded in both secrecy and celebrity, has finally been revealed as a sham.

I am angry because I allowed myself to be sucked into this group, like so many of the good people I met there. They turned my love of God into an asset for their own purposes, and when they were done with me they stabbed me in the back. The damage this did to my faith persists even today. I made an act of the will to completely trust God through this charism, and I was betrayed. I was made to believe that the rest of the Church wasn’t good enough, and when I left, I found no solace in a faith devoid of my elite purpose, my sense of mission, my fellowship with those who were chosen.

Through the prayers of many, I retained my belief, and I strengthened my Catholicism with education and an appreciation of tradition. But I have been cynical since those years, harboring a secret anger even I was no longer aware of. I trusted no one. I refused to seek spiritual direction again after it had been used against me. I saw God as antagonistic, temperamental, unreliable – helping sometimes and hurting others as it pleased Him. I avoided committing myself to any subgroup of the Church. I was wary of any but the most common devotions. I became even more risk-averse than I had been by nature, and spent years feeling residual vocational anxiety and hurt.

It’s taken a lot for me to get to where I am now, and I find that the vestiges of these things are all still here. I never got closure, never received an apology, never got a response to my request for answers. And when I tried to warn people of the dangers inherent in this group, they often ignored me, or at least refused to believe me. New recruits who knew me were told that I hadn’t been (again) “generous enough” and that it was a case of “sour grapes” and that they should avoid me. I had given years of my life to these efforts, had put my heart and soul into it, and had only left because my struggles with vocational anxiety were choking me. It was only later that I learned the truth, and I was not going to lay down and take it while they suckered other people in only to hurt them in the same way.

With the news today, it would seem that an end should at last be at hand. That I can close this chapter in my life and walk away. But I’m finding that the old emotions are still there. I want accountability. I want the priests who covered this up, who used my friends and me (and used us to use others) to face the music. I want those who were not complicit to admit that it’s all based on a lie. I want all the innocent people in the movement who are reeling today from the news and in danger of losing their way to be put at ease, to be told the truth, and set free. But they won’t be. It seems clear that instead, the Legion will hide what they can,  spin what they can’t, and do all in their power to mitigate the damage  – to themselves..

It’s what they do. It’s what they’re best at. Self-preservation.

And if the Vatican doesn’t push this, they might get away with it for a while. But either way, the whole thing is coming down. It is, after all, a house of cards.

Update – 2/9/09: For those of you finding your way here via Andrew Sullivan, welcome. I have a response to his comments about my posts on this topic here.

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16 Responses »

  1. Dale Price on February 3rd, 2009 at 6:01 pm: Wow, Steve. Good (in the virtuous sense) stuff here. I’ve appreciated your commentary on the LC before now, but I never knew how much it had ground you up. Thank God for the grace of faith through it all. I don’t know that I would have managed so well. Definitely not without a strong lifeline of grace, that is for sure. I will pray for those good folks in the movement who are about to face the shockwave, and for justice for the victims.
  2. Steve Skojec on February 3rd, 2009 at 6:19 pm: Dale,I wish I could say I managed it well. I spent my first two years of college in a near-constant seething rage, ready to burst forth at any moment. I still find that my faith, which was once so effortless, is unruly and hard to manage. It’s become a temperamental thing, I’m sorry to say.

    And I didn’t think all of this still bothered me so much either, but it’s only in seeing this stuff come to the surface that I realize it does. They seemed so damned invincible for so long I think I sort of just gave up and suppressed what was left. And now, this at last is confirmation of what I’ve always suspected – a group with methods so rotten can only be that way if the animating principle is corrupt. Or as the LCs liked to remind us, “By your fruits you shall know them.”

    I’ve spent countless hours battling this cult, trying to deprogram people who were being lulled by its seduction and giving information to anyone who I thought could benefit from it. But to be honest, until this week, I felt like I was pissing in the wind. They drove it home, again and again, that they had the favor of Rome. How many battles could I win when they had such an obvious and well documented stamp of approval from Pope John Paul II?

    And even the disciplinary action taken against Maciel two years ago was insane. With so many accusers, for that to be inconclusive deprived everyone of justice. If the man was innocent, the Vatican should have said so. If he was guilty, they owed it to both his followers and victims to acknowledge it. Instead, they left things ambiguous, and they went right on pretending to be the BEST. CATHOLIC. THING. EVER.

    They’ve run out of time. Jim Fair’ words are thin. The movement will split internally, because there are too many people with two much integrity on the inside to keep at this. Morpheus has knocked on the door, and they’re going to see the Matrix for what it is, just like the rest of us who’ve already gone through it. The others will stay in wonderland, but there won’t be much left of it.

    They can’t survive this. And it’s huge. There are hundreds of thousands of members all over the world. They need prayers. This is going to be ugly.

  3. Steve Skojec on February 3rd, 2009 at 6:31 pm: Ironically, a friend of mine who was also involved sends this:

    Update: and by the way, lets we forget, this is how the Legion announced the death of their founder: “[we] announce the departure of [our] beloved founder, Father MARCIAL MACIEL, LC to heaven on January 30, 2008.”

    Perhaps they’d like to reword that, for the sake of prudence. Those of us who have a history with them know how deeply they abhor scandal…

  4. Dale Price on February 3rd, 2009 at 6:49 pm: Well, for what it is worth, your testimony kept me leery of them. Your comment 3 is bad, but the official statement about MM is even worse–just saw it over at Canon Law via your FB link. They’re going to have to be dismantled and what’s left turned over to something healthier.
  5. Annonymous on February 3rd, 2009 at 7:44 pm: This quote that you made sounds like the evil one is speaking through you… “They can’t survive this. And it’s huge. There are hundreds of thousands of members all over the world. They need prayers. This is going to be ugly.” They will get through this by God’s grace. They need prayers, not bitter remarks like yours.
  6. Steve Skojec on February 3rd, 2009 at 8:28 pm: Ah, yes. The courage that comes with internet anonymity.You think I sound like the “evil one is speaking through” me? Because I said that this will get ugly, because so many people will be effected who “need prayers” (perhaps you missed that, since you went ahead and suggested that that’s what I should have said. Even though I did.)

    The “evil one” is also known as the “Father of Lies” – and I’d venture to say that with all the deception that’s been going on here, you might want to look to the beloved “movement” for examples of those who are more well-acquainted with him than I. Perhaps you could start with Father Maciel himself.

    You may also want to get familiar with this, so you can learn to distinguish it from what you’re going through.

  7. Scott on February 3rd, 2009 at 8:44 pm: Longtime reader… did not realize that you had once been a part of RC. I’ve always known that RC is bad news, since a very dear friend of mine was similarly wronged by this predatory organization.
  8. Marianne on February 3rd, 2009 at 10:05 pm: Maciel would have made a really interesting psychological study. He must have been a master manipulator, who knew how to abuse religion and holy things for his own purposes. May God have mercy on his soul.
    I pray for those in the Legion who will be shaken by this news. But at least–hopefully–it will cause them to come out of their denial and set some things right.
  9. Sister Maureen Paul Turlish on February 3rd, 2009 at 10:22 pm: Steve,I just came across your blog via as I read the latest news on the Legionaries and Fr. Maciel.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Much of what you expressed was similar to the way I reacted when I first realized that church leadership, the bishops, enabled and facilitated the sexual abuse of thousands of children by covering up and transferring rogue priests not only all over a diocese but around the country and the world as well! And they are still lying, still fighting court cases, still opposing better child abuse legislation that should be passed, especially in the District and in Maryland.

    The best thing that could happen for the good people in the LC would be if they were disbanded, it members given the choice to go to another order or affiliate with a diocese. Probably that will not be done because money talks.

    God bless you,

    Sister Maureen Paul Turlish
    Victims’ Advocate
    New Castle, Delaware

  10. Dave Pawlak on February 3rd, 2009 at 11:42 pm: I visited Cheshire in August 1992, and had an opportunity to briefly meet Fr. Maciel. My impression at the time was that while there were many good people there, and good work being done there, something was not quite right…Steve, were you in Cheshire at that time?
  11. JD Carriere on February 4th, 2009 at 12:42 am: When I hear a priest has been leading a double life, I guess I’m just relieved to find out it’s been with a woman.
  12. Phil on February 4th, 2009 at 11:27 am: Steve,I was in the Legion for eight years, and your experience, past and present, is close to my own. There are many who go through the same thing, the emotions, the frequent nightmares, the resentment, the many people who try to either dismiss, minimize or use the experience against you.

    Anyway, don’t let the LC set the agenda again – they will never apologize or in any way make up for what they have done. There is a reckoning that will come from God for them, when there will be full justice. No one can say what that will look like, only that it will wipe away every tear from our hearts.

    But remember that you joined because you were a very generous, idealistic young man, and that core of goodness is still there in your heart. That act of love, proven in fire for so many years of your life, is not forgotten or erased by these despicable men.

    This revelation is a new beginning, a chance to be generous and renew the life we have now, with our wife and children. It is a confirmation of God’s love for us, who for so many years were told and treated as detritus.

    So from a former brother, God’s peace be with you.

  13. Timothy Mulligan on February 4th, 2009 at 4:02 pm: Steve,I believe you 100%.

    I’m a 45-year-old traditional Catholic who lives in Philadelphia. I attend the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite (the Traditional Latin Mass) at a parish here in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. I am a single man and I do not belong to any religious order or group within the Church. I work as an immigration lawyer for Catholic Social Services. I just want you to know where I’m coming from.

    I’ve observed LC and RC from afar, and certain other groups within the Church, for awhile now. I came to the conclusion that they rely on typical cult elements (separation from family; no free time; massive financial commitment; personality of the leader; elitism; using front organizations and/or failing to disclose affilations; pretextual “friendships”; etc.). It seems to be about employing expedients instead of letting things grow slowly, according to grace (like the field that’s planted and the farmer goes to sleep and does not know how it grows). And you hit the nail on the head: they are self-involved, to an extreme. This is not the Gospel. This is not our Tradition.

    I see this catastrophe as a call from Our Lord to rely on normal, ordinary means of living the Faith: Holy Mass; the Gospel, as handed down by holy Tradition and the living Magisterium; prayer; a life lived sacrificially, especially for those most despised, overlooked or forgotten.

    Steve, you stated the case so incisively and powerfully that there is nothing else to say, really.

    Thank you for your suffering. May it bear fruit.

  14. susan on February 4th, 2009 at 10:10 pm: My nephew is in the Legion. It has been painful to see him not be able to attend his only sister’s wedding in the Catholic Church, to be quaranteened in a rectory behind the Church our son was married in while the Catholic ceremony took place with his siblings and mother in attendance, and to have him spirited away from family for the last 10 years. I do not wish bad on the Legion, but only justice. They also tried to persuade our 7th grade son to join on a whim, on a visit to the school in Center Harbour. They have always made me uneasy. God bless them all. Fr. Jonathan’s brother is older brother to one of our son’s best friends. They are all human souls that the true God loves. Bless them and justice be done.
  15. Joe Brackett on February 9th, 2009 at 9:46 pm: Steve,Since I have no familiarity with your specific history with the Legion I will not endevour to correct or attack your opinion. However, in fairness to the record: I spent three years with the Legion – 2 as an Apostolic and 1 as a Pre-Candidate. I found many decent friends, guidance, role models, and rules and formation that have been useful to me in the intervening years.

    They are a good group. As your are, no doubt, aware, even the best organizations have some unfortunate members (e.g. Mother Church herself, the Legion, the U.S. Senate, etc). It is not fair to paint all those members with the color deserved by one member, no matter how richly that one or those few deserve it.

    Since you are spiritually aware enough to point out that prayers are needed and have availed yourself of this public forum, I challenge you personally to devote your time and energy to the needed prayer and not flirt with detraction.

    Be Well Steve,


  16. Steve Skojec on February 9th, 2009 at 10:00 pm: Joe,Are you sure you don’t know me? There was a co-worker by the name of Joe Brackett during the time I was a co-worker, and he left before the completion of his year, just like I did.

    Either way, the whole “it’s a few bad eggs” schtick doesn’t fly anymore. I have no question that the group as a whole is filled with good men and women, and I’ve tried to make that statement everywhere I have leveled criticism. Members of my family, even most of my friends, were involved at some point.

    As I said in this very post, “I am angry because I allowed myself to be sucked into this group, like so many of the good people I met there.

    The fact remains that while Catholics were drawn to the Legion because they wanted to come closer to Christ, the Legion – and by extension many individual Legionaries – misused and abused their trust, often unwittingly. The important thing to remember is that phrase I keep using – a culture of deceit. That culture that is such a hallmark of the Legion subverts the truth to whatever the goals of the “movement” are. And in every case I ever encountered, those goals were all focused on the propagation of the movement itself.

    As Fr. James Farfaglia (ex-LC) said at Catholic Exchange today, “the only way that anyone can really understand the Legion of Christ is by understanding Mexico. I don’t mean this as any kind of criticism of the Mexican people. They are wonderful people. However, there is a certain way of doing things in Mexico. Corruption and lying are an endemic part of the negative side of the Mexican culture. Perhaps, because of the culture that they were brought up in, the Mexican leadership of the Order simply can’t see clearly what has been going on within the Congregation.”

    My only disagreement with Fr. Farfaglia here is that I wholly agree that at least some of the LC leadership has been complicit with this culture, which Fr. Maciel perverted to his own ends.

    I would be lying if I said that I didn’t derive spiritual benefit from my involvement with the LC and RC. I’d also be lying if I said that the damage that was done by the end of my involvement outweighed the benefit.

    I continue to believe that there is a systemic corruption in the order that makes it impossible for those involved with it for a long time to even see it anymore, unless they were aware of it from the get-go. For myself, and at least 30 other people I knew, the stories of lies and manipulation and even spiritual abuse were strikingly similar.