Steve Skojec on Marcial Maciel [http://steveskojec.com/2009/02/03/house-of-cards/]

http://steveskojec.com/2009/02/03/house-of-cards/

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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 BishopAccountability.org 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,

    Joe

  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.

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