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.