Archbishop of Baltimore, Edwin F. O’Brien has called on the Legion of Christ to give “full disclosure” of their founder’s activities and has expressed his concerns that the movement ‘fosters a culture of personality’ with the founder at the center.
In an interview with The Catholic Review, Archbishop O’Brien noted that while Fr. Maciel appeared to be “a man with an entrepreneurial genius,” he “used our faith to manipulate others for his own selfish ends.”
Last month it was revealed that founder of the Legion of Christ, Father Marcial Maciel Degollado fathered a daughter 22 years ago with a mistress.
“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 continued.
The prelate then called on the Legion to provide “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.”
In the interview, Archbishop O’Brien acknowledged that while there are faithful priests in the Legion, he is concerned that the movement fosters a “cult of personality” with Fr. Maciel, in the center.
“While it’s difficult to get a hold of official documents,” Archbishop O’Brien noted, “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.”
He continued by noting that when members of the Legion have left, many have suffered “deep psychological distress for dependency and need prolonged counseling akin to deprogramming.”
Jim Fair, U.S. spokesman for the Legion acknowledged to The Catholic Review that the news about their founder has caused “great disappointment” to its members.
“We’re processing that mystery, that the Holy Spirit could use what was very clearly a flawed instrument to do good,” Fair continued. “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.”
Fair also noted that 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.
The spokesman added that 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.”