Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Legionaries of Christ and Fr. Marcial Maciel

The Legionaries are admitting that their founder Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado who died last year, has surprised the Legion with aspects of his behavior who were not appropriate for a Catholic priest. The behavior was not specified. But there are different stories circulating in different blogs and news agencies that affirm that Fr. Marcial had a double life that included inappropriate sexual relationships with minors - sexual abuse- and seminarians, and other inappropriate relationships with women, including the fathering of at least one child - presumably a girl-. These news come after he was disciplined by Pope Benedict XVI in 2006, because the Pope gave credibility to the allegations of seminarians who claimed they had been abused by Fr. Marcial. Fr. Marcial was removed in the same year from active ministry. Any person with any common sense would see that the actions of Fr. Marcial have been deplorable and one also has to think about the many victims that he has left behind. One of the sad parts of this story is the campaign of denial that most of the Legionaries have undertaken throughout the years to protect their founder and present him as a model of virtue and holiness. But the image has been crumbling down for years, and now it seems like the image is about to fall.

Sadly I have also noticed how the media rejoices in this type of news, and they almost gloat with the crisis that the Legionaries are facing, many of them hope the Legionaries will disappear from the face of the earth. I believe that this rejoicing on the part of the media is not so much due to a real sense of justice or morality, but more along the lines of using any opportunity available to tarnish the image of the Church as a whole.

Many of them are predicting the destruction and the falling apart of the Legionaries and that may well happen. But people forget also that although Fr. Marcial is the founder of the Legionaries, there are also hundreds of wonderful and great priests that are part of the Legionaries. Today they have close to 800 priests and over 1300 seminarians. The Legionaries have also founded a lay movement called Regnum Christ which has over 70000 members. They own and direct several schools and Universities located in different parts of the world, they also run radio and TV stations, and own several magazines and newspapers as well. It is a solid network, that has done a tremendous service and good to the Church, especially in the times in which we live. Sometimes we forget that God writes straight with crooked lines, and even if it is true that Fr. Marcial committed all those acts that are imputed to him, there is also the reality that God works through wounded instruments and brings good even through defective vessels. Is not that our story as well? And proof of that is the fact that God has done marvelous things through the Legion. It is also true that the Legion has enjoyed many blessings from God and the Church has been blessed in turn by the Legion. It is very easy to point the finger and discredit everything that the Legionaries have done without acknowledging all the real good they have done.

I personally do not like the formation program of the Legion and some attitudes of the Legion in general, but I still can recognize that there are many wonderful things they are carrying out. I personally considered the Legion at one point while discerning my own vocation but based on what I had heard from ex-seminarians and other priests I chose not even to visit them. In my mind they appeared to be too rigid, too much of a military mentality for me, they tended to be somewhat isolated, perhaps cliquish. Sometimes they are perceived as aloof, and they have a reputation for revering their superiors, basically there is no room for constructive criticism. This structure probably has favored the lack of accountability of the superiors of the Legion, and especially the founder, who was almost idolized within the community.

Yet, at the same time I have high admiration for the Legion, for their mission, their zeal, their dedication, their orthodoxy, and for the many positive fruits the Legion has produced throughout the years. I do not think it is fair to identify the whole Legion with the sinful actions of their founder. I do not think is fair either to demonize the Legion and their apostolates based solely on the actions of the founder. One must retain what is good and reject that which is unhealthy within the organization. I think this could be an opportunity for purification within the Legion and for restructuring. I have heard some comments from other priests in some of their blogs that seem also to rejoice at the recent news of Fr. Marcial. I hope that we as Catholics will be very merciful towards the Legionaries and not jump the wagon of rejoicing at the pain of others.

The Legion will certainly enter into a crisis, no doubt about it, but a crisis can also be an opportunity to grow. It is reported in some of these blogs that there are already groups within the Legion that seem to want do distance themselves from their founder, whereas others want to maintain the connection with Fr. Marcial regardless of his failings, perhaps divisions within the Legion loom in the horizon. Perhaps some of the priests will eventually face the reality of their founder and eventually grow disenchanted with the Legion and may choose to leave. We do not know at this point. I hope however that this will be a time for purification and renewal within the Legion, a time of redefinition, a time for the Legionaries to grow in humility and accept their own mistakes and even cover ups. I hope it will be a time to do what Fr. Marcial inspired them to do, without imitating his actions.


  1. I agree with that take on things.

    Two LC's are supposedly going to be on EWTN tonight (Friday) at 5 PM.

  2. I couldn't have said it better. I resonate with everything in the above article ... and I did spend a week with them in Cheshire(1990 or 1991). I can only offer two things in addition to the article:
    1). There is a difference between their seminarians and their priests. Many faults exist in the notions of the seminarians, that get straightened out over time or by attrition.
    2). I think moving forward the legion will survive and even thrive if they can accept the truth about Fr. Marcial with humility. Anyone who joins a group because of the merits of the founder, any founder, whether it be Franciscans, Jesuits, Legionaries, etc. is doing a real disservice to God with his or her vocation. If the Legionary priests and other Regnum Christi members focus on Christ ... then Christ will be glorified despite anything else. It's their vocations which make a group great, not the vocation of a dead founder.

  3. I think they ought to be fine, as long as they try to live up to their name -- after all, they are the Legionaries of Christ, not the Legionaries of Fr. Maciel.

    There's an article on about this. I think it gives the official LC stance.

  4. I remember when the story broke about Fr. Marcial. Three men were interviewed on tv, ex seminarians, who were successful men and from what I saw had no reason to falsely accuse Fr. Marcial. None of them wanted any monetary compensation. They were only requesting an investigation and his removal so he could not do any more harm. At the time the interviewer spotted then Cardinal Ratzinger walking and approached him. The former Cardinal became angry at his questions re Fr. Marcial and actually slapped the back of the interviewer's hand!(lightly, but reproachfully) So later, when Marcial was disciplined by our Holy Father I was sure the accusations must have been true. As Cardinal he had really defended him but in retrospect I think some of that was the effort on Card. Ratzinger's to protect our much loved and very ill Pope John Paul II from having to deal with another scandal that may have put his health over the edge.
    You are right Father, God can always bring about good in every situation. Certainly there are MANY holy men serving God and His people within their community.

  5. The Catholic Church does not condone any immoral conduct or any inappropriate behaviour or a priest or lay people in the church. It is good to realise that the legionaries of Christ have acknowledged the fact that their founder behaved badly. I think that those of us living should not focus on the sins of the dead, rather we should look up to God for our own sancity. The media is certainly not lookinf for justice, but as one of the comments said, they are looking for any means to bring the church down. So long as we as a church continue to look into our past and correct our faults, we shall grow from strength to strength.

  6. Was this case not settled in 2006? Why bring it up now?

  7. While it is true that Fr. Maciel has been idolized by many of his followers. It is also true that there are many good and holy priests and lay consecrated who have dedicated thier lives to bringing souls to Christ. It is true that the call to this life, as it is to any vocation, has its crosses and joys. I have personally had the pleasure of the company of both Legionary priests and Regnum Christi lay consecrated. It is my experience that they have a genuine zeal for bringing souls to Christ. My prayer is that they not become disheartened because of the sins of one man. The church needs them now.

  8. The Legionaries of Christ, their priests and seminarians, should not be discouraged with this news. Fr. Marcial was their founder, and he was a human being who was weak and had committed horrible mistakes during his life. With God's infinite goodness and Mercy, we know that Fr Marcial has been forgiven for these sins. We should continue to pray for the followers of the Legionaries of Christ, that they remain strong as they continue on their mission to spread God's word.

  9. I know a marriage that was on the rock and the wife was suicidal, I tried for months to help and my very saintly wife. I asked a Legionary Priest to spiritually guide them. He did and by was he wonderful at sorting it out. Awesome fellows. Jesus picked St Peter, Weilding a sword at somebody's head, lying, denying and snoring in the garden. Yes Fr Marcial was a sinner and Like King David he did wrong but God still did business with him.

  10. i'd say, rather, that they DID idolize Maciel. i know, i was in it for 7 years!!! there are good elements, no doubt, but it is also very cultish in many ways.