An update on the reform of the Legionaries of Christ has now been issued by Zenit, and it poses a number of questions.
My readers may remember that some weeks ago I asked the question: what, after everything that has happened, is the point of the continued existence of the Legion? I suppose a better question would be, not what is the point of its existence (after all, I think we can accept the good the Legionaries themselves have done and continue to do), but what is the possibility of its continued existence?
If the whole charism of a body is based on a particular individual’s supposed sanctity, how – without going through a process of very radical change – does it continue after that individual is shown to be not holy at all but a very bad man indeed? Suppose St Francis were shown beyond peradventure to have been corrupt and vicious; how would you carry on being a Franciscan? It’s a real question.
Well, according to Zenit:
“The Legionaries of Christ and its lay movement Regnum Christi will no longer refer to their founder as ‘Nuestro Padre’, celebrate his birthday, or hang photos of him in their centres… However, the norms do allow Legionaries and consecrated members of Regnum Christi to keep a photograph among their personal belongings, and to read Fr Maciel’s writings or listen to his talks in private. Additionally, the writings of Fr Maciel may be used when giving talks and sermons, but without citing the author.”
In other words, there is to be a public rebranding of the organisation, but the cult of Fr Maciel is to be allowed to continue to flourish underground. His thought will still be the basis of the Legion’s spirituality: his image will still be venerated, but behind closed doors. “Photographs of the founder alone or with the Holy Father cannot be placed in Legionary or Regnum Christi centres,” reports Zenit, and Fr Maciel’s “personal writings and talks will not be for sale in the congregation’s publishing houses, centres, and works of apostolate”. But somehow they will be available to members of the order: there will be a black market in such things, and they will be passed around like samizdat. Retreat centres “will continue offering the same services, but a place for prayer, reparation, and expiation will be created there”.
Oh yeah? And what kind of expiation will that be? Reparation for what? For Fr Maciel’s child abuse and womanising and corruption? Maybe; retreats conducted at these centres, however, will doubtless continue to feature addresses based on Fr Maciel’s writings but “without citing the author”. The Zenit report put it into my mind to look up the word “hypocrisy” in Roget’s Thesaurus. It gives the following synonyms: “quackery, casuistry, pharisaism, sanctimoniousness, affectation, pietism, false guise, bad faith, hollowness, display, charlatanry, lip service, bigotry, dissimulation, sham, fraud, pretence of virtue, false goodness, lip homage, formalism, false piety, assumed piety, empty ceremony, tartuffism, solemn mockery, tartuffery, lip reverence, sanctimony, false profession, cant, bunkum”.
That just about does it; what do you think?