Jean Boudet

Jean Boudet

Articles by Jean Boudet

Ecclesial communities with a disgraced founder may learn from the Legionaries’ experience of restoration

Apr 29, 2016 / 00:00 am

The burgeoning of new religious movements in the Church of our moment once seemed an unambiguous outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Ambiguity has lately been introduced: a number of the founders of those movements lived unholy lives in secret that have, when discovered, brought scandal and disgrace to these founders and innocent community members alike. The Vatican Congregation that oversees Societies of Apostolic Life currently faces at least twelve such cases of communities with disgraced founders, the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae being the most recently publicized. An ethics commission reported two weeks ago that the Sodalits’ founder, Luis Fernando Figari, had fostered a culture of physical abuse in the society. An Apostolic Visitation is underway.          The foundation of a graced ecclesial community by an unworthy founder has unfortunately now become simply a recognizable pastoral problem, a phenomenon characteristic of our time. But it’s puzzling: in traditional Catholic understanding of the founding of religious life, the founder was important. Individual founders, committed authentically to integrity and holiness of life, were at a moment of time inspired to found a community and provided it personally with a model to be imitated in their particular way of following Christ and living out the Gospel. How is it that now in our time hypocritical or conflicted founders could so frequently have gathered honest congregations? The Legionaries of Christ are the most notorious example of this phenomenon. Their founder, Father Marcial Maciel was an unscrupulous predator who by the congregation’s own admission infected its life and history for half a century and stained the reputation of the Popes, particularly John Paul II, who had supported them. Even so, eighteen months ago, in October 2014, the Vatican officially brought the Legionaries back from scandal to life by approving their new constitutions. Not all were pleased and some remain puzzled. Critics from early on in the Legionary scandal had called for their dissolution on the traditionalist grounds that an unholy founder could not have conveyed a valid charism to the Church.     Church authority has based the restoration of the Legionaries on a new, post-traditional theological view of the founding of religious life in the Church and has thereby implicitly asked opponents of their survival to acknowledge it. This newer view, that religious institutes are not necessarily founded at a single moment in the mind of an individual and that “charism” can emerge over time in the lived experience of the membership, and that the founder therefore in some respects can be unnecessary and discardable, is important to reckon with. It underlies the Legionary restoration. It also represents new canonical territory to explore for other ecclesial communities betrayed by a sinful founder.     This article is about aspects of the recent canonical restoration of the Legionaries: where they are now and how they got there. But the current epidemic of unworthy founders suggests that the process of recovery after scandal and the issues associated with it. In the Legionaries’ case: the revision of their previous constitutions; distinctions drawn between their founder’s sins and members’ innocence while acknowledging the corrupting influence of their reverence for him; their reconfiguration within a wider movement; the theology underlying a congregation’s moving on without a founder; conservative objections to their survival on those terms; what has been legislated and what has been left to be legislated in future; what vigilance is still in place. These urgently concern many other smaller ecclesial communities as well. For other communities with disgraced founders the Legionaries’ experience of restoration suggests hope in the aftermath of scandal: in current authoritative Catholic understanding, even without a founder, they can survive and be reformed without being dissolved or refounded. The new Legionary constitutions Restored to life, the Legionaries again pursue their activities as avidly as ever: vocational recruiting; “Test your call” retreats; Conquest, Challenge, and other youth and family ministries; schools from elementary to graduate level. With Pope Francis’ blessing, they observe a 75th anniversary Jubilee year of their founding by Father Maciel. In March, North American laypersons of Regnum Christi, going through the same process of reexamination and revision of their statutes as the Legionaries already have, completed a territorial convention in Mundelein, Illinois, preparatory to an international convention in Rome this May. From February 2009, the Legionaries had lived through almost six years in which they ended their coverup of their founder’s double life, endured Apostolic Visitation and supervision under Apostolic Delegation, and completed a chapter meeting to elect new leadership and vote on new constitutions. The new Legionary Constitutions were approved in a letter from Archbishop José Rodríguez Carballo, O.F.M., secretary for the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, to Legionary General Director Father Eduardo Robles-Gil, dated October 16, 2014, the 36th anniversary of the election of John Paul II and the memorial of visionary of the Sacred Heart, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. The highlights of the new constitutions were known since they were submitted for approval by the Legionary chapter meeting in February 2014. The Legionaries claim a redefined charism and mission, by way of “integral formation,” to “form apostles,” that is, Christian leaders, who aspire to transform the personal, family, professional, and social life of all, ministering principally in the areas of preaching the faith; education; evangelization of the family, culture, and media; youth groups; formation of priests; promotion of social justice; and charity to the most needy. The spirituality is Christocentric (n4). (In this article I will refer to the new Constitutions by number from Constituciones de la Congregacíon de los Legionarios de Cristo 2014 (indicated by (n)), online here) and to those previously in force from Constituciones de la Legión de Cristo, 1983 (revised 1994), 1998 (indicated by (p)).)  The Constitutions intend that religious Legionary priests share this charism with the laity of the Regnum Christi movement, a shared Christian vocation consequent to the sacrament of baptism. This location of the Legionaries within the larger Regnum Christi movement, this new “canonical configuration,” has been approved only tentatively, pending the definitive canonical configuration of Regnum Christi, as indicated by footnotes in four places (n1.2, 16, 112, 130.2). Because the Legionaries emerge from a scandal that was most sensationally (though not entirely) sexual, the Legionary legislation about sexuality has drawn the most attention: they demand from their members chastity, maturity, and respect for women. They will be friendly with children, without inappropriate familiarity. “Particular friendships,” banned traditionally in religious orders as a brake to homosexual relationships and a call to love everyone equally as Jesus did, is dealt with sensitively and in a positive way. The constitutions call for universal and fraternal charity. (n29-30) The new Legionary will have a right of conscience and aspire to develop the strengths to assure a “complete man” (“hombre cabal”) by cultivating an “integral and harmonious” formation (n58). The new Legionary charism is not for those small in ambition. It is all-encompassing: of priests and laity, of contemplation and action, of scholarship and social service. The new constitutions are the sixth version approved since 1948, when the Legionaries were first established canonically in the diocese of Cuernavaca. Two Vatican approvals, decreta laudis, one preliminary and one final, the usual canonical course, came in 1965 and 1983 (with some post-Conciliar changes in 1970 and in 1994). The 1983 decretum was granted months before the new, revised 1983 Code of Canon Law took effect. What the new Constitutions mean for the reformed Legionaries, and how they may challenge them, is best illuminated by close comparison with those previously in force. In some respects the new Constitutions are in continuity with the old. The patrons of the congregation (the Sacred Heart, Our Lady of Sorrows, Sts. John and Paul, Joseph and Michael) remain those that Maciel chose (p12, n7). The Legionaries, once contemplative and conquering (“contemplativo y conquistador,” p222 and 228), intended to form “select groups of leaders, trained in capillary action [i.e., subtle insinuation, as seeping water] in the various branches of society, above all, workers, intellectuals, industrialists…” (p1.1). They are now contemplative and evangelizing (“contemplativo y evangelizador,” n12) and intend to form “Christian leaders in the service of the Church (n4).” Their motto remains Maciel’s, “Thy kingdom come!”, which still conveys to Legionaries Maciel’s emphasis on penetrating and transforming culture, on building the Kingdom on earth urgently, time being short (n11), rather than gradually like yeast in dough or a mustard tree growing. In many other respects, content from the previous Constitutions has in a different spirit been omitted or changed in the new, particularly the constitutions that encouraged cultishness and exceptionalism. The previous Constitutions mandated discretion in various ways: outsiders were not to see them; those who left the Legion were to turn in their copy (p409.2-3). The new Constitutions are online. Some unrealistically general previous constitutions have been omitted: the total banishment from the congregation of mediocrity and spare time (p71.1, 150) and the cultivating of a “growing love for their vocation to the Legion in that they embrace equally its spirit, its mystique, its discipline, its methodology” so as to achieve a total “spiritual, criteriological, psychological, affective, and real identification and integration…” with it (p237). The new Constitutions omit the emphasis on control that the old Legionaries were known for: the review of all letters a Legionary received by a superior (a traditional religious discipline), who reported its contents if greater good required (p375.1, 377); the requirement to speak only of virtues, never of faults, of other Legionaries (p260); the sending of all manuscripts and documents of deceased religious to the General Director without examination (p195.2). The new Constitutions omit the extensive concern with practicalities characteristic of those previously in force. The new Constitutions do not address such matters of discipline as the censoring of newspaper reading (p392.1) or the forbidding of the reading of novels or writing of essays on controversial topics (p392-3), the locking of one’s room or desk (p403), the seeing of more than six movies a year (p386.1), the watching on television of theater or opera or ballet or zarzuela (p386.2.4) or of more than five sporting events (or six if it were the World Cup or the Olympics) (p386.2.5). Disciplinary matters such as these will be legislated in future secondary legislation. Also omitted from the previous version in the new version are such things as: novices’ doing a month of agricultural work (p51.2), an investigation to be done into each novice candidate’s family and personal background (p22-3), and the requirement that Legionary novices all have above-average intelligence (p23.1). The new omit the previous Constitutions’ emphasis (at least five or six times times within the first 270 numbers) on forbidding “conspiracy” (“intriga”), “defamation” (“calumnia”), “backbiting” (“murmuración”), and “keeping secrets” (“confidencias”) within the congregation.  Slander (“maledicencia”) was the negation of Christianity (p227), the worst of evils, a deadly cancer that, together with conspiracy, superiors must amputate with swift stroke any member infected by (p 268.3). A Legionary involved in conspiracy, defamation, or backbiting was dismissible on a par with one becoming a labor activist or liberal (p210). On the day of professing the traditional religious vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, the old Legionaries additionally, privately, undertook two “private” vows: first, “never to desire, nor seek, for oneself or for another, nor conspire, to win or keep responsibilities or positions in the Congregation, and to inform the General Director if he learns that another religious has done so” (p314.1); second, misleadingly known as the “vow of charity,” “never to criticize externally in words, writings, or in any other way, an act of government or the person of any director or superior of the Congregation” and to “advise the immediate superior of the subject who criticized or, in the case that he was the one criticized, the immediate superior of the criticized superior, if he is satisfied with certainty that the religious has broken this commitment (p314.2).” Both private vows were reportedly suspended by Pope Benedict in 2006 in conjunction with the disciplinary suspension of Maciel for the double life that the private vows had done their part to enable. The vow never to criticize a superior and to report those who do was instituted by Maciel in September 1956 as he worked to obstruct the first Apostolic Visitation of the Legion, which had then just begun. The new constitutions formally discontinue the second private vow, but carry forward the first (n37.1), which is no longer called a “private” (“privado") vow, but “their own vow” (“voto proprio”). It is formulated as the last part of the words of the public vow-taking and now goes: “In addition, I promise and vow to Almighty God, not to work to gain or keep, for myself or for others, posts of governance or responsibilities in the Congregation. (n95) (The Constitutions of 1983 had also legislated special vows of charity and fidelity to be taken at the privileged invitation of the General Director, who was to receive the vows personally (1983: 318-325). These special vows were not carried forward in the revision of 1994, published in 1998.) “Renunciation of one’s own judgment and will through obedience” was one of the “principal virtues” of the old Legion (p31.2). “Total trust in superiors” was required (p17.10). Novices were trained with trials to break their judgement and will (p50), though, even so, at the same time Legionaries were expected to do nothing “out of coercion, fear, or pressure from the environment (p101).” The Legionary vow of obedience, one of the evangelical counsels committed to traditionally by all religious, required “the total surrender of their judgement and will as a sacrifice and holocaust of themselves in love (p297.1),” so as never “to examine the nature of the order, even if it is difficult or disagreeable, so that they will truly practice internal renunciation of their own judgement and will (p300.2),” and ever to be in their apostolic and priestly work “conscious of the need for total dependence on the will of the superior (p307).” The new Constitutions by contrast emphasize right exercise of freedom (n29) and authentic interior freedom for novices and those in discernment (n61, 75). Obedience to superiors is required even in difficult or disagreeable matters, though principled resistance or refusal is now envisaged as possible (n34-5). Superiors are to exercise authority with respect for rights and charity (n36) The new Constitutions emphasize the new Legionary commitment to guarantee the same respect for privacy and freedom in confession, spiritual direction, vocational discernment, and the internal forum that Code of Canon Law 630 requires. The previous constitutions were ostensibly in conformity with Canon Law, requiring, for example, the regular availability of outside confessors (p54.4), but the tone of former Legionary life was determined more by such a constitution as: “Our religious should sincerely thank God if their errors or defects are reported to superiors by another person who has learned of them outside of confession, personal dialogue, or a consultation. (p355)” In the Chapter documents of February 2014 the Legionaries admitted to “not having ordinarily distinguished between superiors and spiritual directors” in their houses of formation (“Communiqués of the General Chapter” 126). Under the new Constitutions, superiors will recognize the liberty of members in confession (n50.2) and are forbidden, as Canon Law requires, from coercing (inducir) a manifestation of conscience from subjects (n60.2) A new view of religious foundation The canonical restoration of the Legionaries and the solution to the embarrassment of their foundation by Father Maciel (and potentially also the solution to similar embarrassment in other ecclesial movements) depends on an interpretation given them by their former Pontifical Delegate, Cardinal Velasio de Paolis, and their General Councilor by papal appointment and adviser on canon law, Gianfranco Ghirlanda, SJ, formidable canonists both. Legionaries explain it to people this way: The 1983 Code of Canon Law on the matter of religious congregations speaks no longer of “charism” but of “spiritual patrimony.” Canon law requires congregations to adhere to their “spiritual patrimony,” but patrimony arises not simply from a foundational gift granted a founder at one moment in time, but comes from many sources, emerging and developing in history to be eventually discovered and validated by Church authority. To have been founded by a disreputable founder is therefore not disqualifying, and, in any event, the Legionaries are not in this respect unique in history. Father Maciel, at least at the beginning, had a legitimate and good intention in his act of foundation and that fulfills 1983 Canon 578, which requires the intention of the founder as a component of the spiritual patrimony. Nor was the need to revise the Legionary constitutions unusual; every congregation’s constitutions needed revision in the aftermath of the Vatican Council. Several canonists I spoke with explained to me that this theory is not an ad hoc invention with which Church authorities solved the founder problem in order to preserve a congregation they wished to preserve for other reasons. (Reasons such as: the Legionaries have extensive infrastructure on the ground in Mexico; they have been effective in combatting evangelical Protestantism; there are too many institutes founded by problematic founders to deal with severely and to do so would reflect badly John Paul II, who championed movements.) If conservative critics wanted the Legion to disappear after the scandal on the grounds that a fraudulent founder could never have conveyed a valid charism, that was too simple and old-fashioned a view. This new, post-traditional understanding — that foundation of religious institutes does not occur in a single moment of time or in the mind of a single particular person, that “charism” is a process, emerging over time in the lived experience of the members of an institute — was an original perspective of Paul VI, according to Rev. Francis G. Morrisey, O.M.I., professor of canon law at Saint Paul University in Ottawa. It was expressed first in the 1971 apostolic exhortation “Evangelica Testificatio; On the renewal of the religious life according to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council.” There Pope Paul wrote, “the Council rightly insists on the obligation of religious to be faithful to the spirit of their founders, to their evangelical intentions, and to the example of their sanctity,” but that “in reality, the charism of the religious life, far from being an impulse born of flesh and blood, or one derived from a mentality which conforms itself to the modern world, is the fruit of the Holy Spirit (11).” Accordingly, “many exterior elements, recommended by founders of orders or religious congregations, are seen today to be outmoded. Various encumbrances or rigid forms accumulated over the centuries need to be curtailed. Adaptations must be made. New forms can even be sought and instituted with the approval of the Church. (5)” Although speaking repeatedly of “fidelity to the founding charism,” John Paul II in “Vita Consecrata” (1996) spoke also of some institutes’ need to reassess their apostolate and update their way of life. “Thus it is necessary to distinguish the historical destiny of a specific Institute or form of consecrated life from the ecclesial mission of the consecrated life as such. The former is affected by changing circumstances; the latter is destined to perdure. (63)” This new approach is a beautiful development in the Church’s understanding of religious life, Morrisey told me. He is happy that it saved a congregation as numerous as the Legionaries and gave them a second chance to realize their vocation and fulfill the mission they have in the church. Dr. Eileen Jaramillo, professor of canon law at Siena Heights University and Detroit Mercy Law, author of “Evolving Into a Vibrant Religious Institute: When Charism Harmonizes With the Catholic Church” (2014), speaks similarly. She told me the charism of consecrated life is a manifestation of the Holy Spirit given to individuals for the sake of others and “signifies communion as arising from the relationship among the persons of the Trinity.” When the Code speaks of “spiritual patrimony” or the “wholesome traditions of an institute” it means just this, “the life-giving breath of charism.” “Since the world is constantly undergoing many changes, the charism or gift is also being received in a new way. Hence, charism is never a static gift but a lived reality.” Code of Canon Law 578 (drawn from the Conciliar Perfectae caritatis 2b (1965)) says: “The intention of the founders (fundatorum mens) and their determination (proposita) concerning the nature, purpose, spirit, and character of the institute that have been ratified by competent ecclesiastical authority, as well as its wholesome traditions (sanae traditiones), all of which constitute the patrimony (patrimonium) of the institute itself, are to be observed faithfully by all.” Therefore, Jaramillo said, “It asks that institutes know their legitimate history. This includes the founder or foundress as well as the graced developments since the time of the foundation. It also includes the legitimate historical changes as distinguished from historical accretions. Tradition in the Catholic Church has included handing on not only the content of the faith but also time proven ways for living out the faith. Within a religious institute, the same can be said regarding the searching out of wholesome or authentic traditions.” Jaramillo said that “in emphasizing the return to the original charism of the founder or foundress, some institutes discovered that there was no particular original charism, but rather a response to a particular need at the time of the foundation,” offering for example an institute founded in a particular place in the United States to serve immigrants there. “Research into the intentions of the founder or foundress and their plans needs to include putting these dynamics within the proper context of ecclesiastical, historical and cultural needs.” This is what the Code means by referring to “wholesome traditions” in canon 578 rather than charism. “The intention to respond to the particular needs may remain similar, while carrying them out may entail the establishment of a different apostolate.” Altogether, then, according to this view, the Legionary charism can be recognized by the Church in whatever was wholesome or authentic in the lived experience of the membership over the decades, entirely apart from (though still in a way inspired by) the person of Father Maciel. The double life of the founder and cultishness in the lived experience of the members, now apologized for, can be construed as encumbrance outmoded for decades; the congregation’s dubious historical destiny can be distinguished carefully from its valid ecclesial mission. If the particular ecclesial needs to be served at the time of foundation were those in Mexico in the 1940s, adaptations have been made. The constitutions are renewed to enable a new charism, born of the Holy Spirit, who availed himself of a surprisingly corrupt instrument, to achieve a different apostolate, a more universal evangelizing purpose, conducted now in greater freedom and with more ecclesial responsibility. God can write straight with crooked lines, or so Legionary defenders love to repeat, and the Church does embrace both saints and sinners, but even so, the Legionary position on their restoration has not satisfied everyone, though those respectful of Church authority keep their questions to themselves. It isn’t simply, some feel, that all congregations’ constitutions needed revision after the Council; the Legionaries had already revised theirs twice before, in 1970 and 1994. It isn’t that their traditions had become encrusted and deadened over the centuries, but only in the very years in which they were winning approval with the decreta laudis of 1965 and 1983 from the Congregation for Religious. Can the intentions of Paul VI and John Paul II on the reform of congregations with long histories be accurately applied to a congregation with a problematic founder founded only in the last few decades? And the “fundatorum mens” remains for all that an element of Canon 578. Jaramillo says that the founder’s intention “is a gift to the founder or foundress as well as their own way of understanding and making concrete the following of Christ. It is a gift which the members must embrace if it is to become a communal reality and not just the mission of one person.” Legionaries claim that Father Maciel had legitimate intention at least at the time of foundation, however badly he behaved subsequently, and who can know otherwise? In assessing its founder’s intention, it will be necessary work for any institute with a problematic founder to distinguish carefully, and accurately with historical evidence, between founders with human flaws (as even sainted ones must be), founders with goodness and right intention who later lapsed, and (potentially) founders who from the start were never any good. It should not then remain a tacit, unexamined historical assumption that the Legionary founder whose life the Apostolic Visitation found “devoid of scruples and authentic religious meaning” had possessed upright intention on January 3, 1941, and then lost it as time went on. Maciel, then aged 20, had already been dismissed twice from seminary, once by his uncle, Bishop Saint Rafael Guízar y Valencia (1878-1938), whose angry bout of screaming at his 18 year old nephew may have contributed to a fatal heart attack the next day, June 6, 1938. Jason Berry and Gerald Renner in “Vows of Silence” (2004) give reason to suspect as constructed fiction Legionary stories of Maciel’s heroism during those years, including accounts of the special call from God that had him founding and instructing members of a congregation before completing seminary studies of his own. In 1949 he was a man capable of wearing a hat with a bullet hole, as if nearly shot to death by communists, as a prop to impress seminarians and potential donors. And is it true that there are other examples in history of spiritual frauds whom the Holy Spirit chose to grace the Church? Previously as archbishop of Brasília, as he said in 2011, Cardinal João Braz de Aviz was not a Legionary supporter, suspicious of “the lack of trust in the freedom of the people I saw in it. Authoritarianism that sought to dominate everything with discipline. I had already removed the seminarians of Brasília from their seminaries…” But, when coming into office as prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, and therefore Curial supervisor of the Legionary restoration, he also said, “Certainly it’s painful when you see the expansion of an institution that presents itself as charismatic, and then the unworthiness of its initiator emerges. How it is possible remains a mystery. The Legionaries are not the only case.” He had in mind the Franciscan Fraternity Toca de Assis, founded by the Brazilian priest José Roberto Lettieri. Legionaries mention the continuing good work of Life Teen, a Catholic youth apostolate, founded by a former priest who was discovered as an abuser, laicized, and excommunicated, or that of Food for the Poor, the scandal of whose founder did not negate the good purposes of the charity. But these are clubs and programs, not religious congregations. Mentioned too are sainted founders, who through ecclesiastical miscomprehension lost connection with the congregations they founded, which then went on without them: St. Joseph Calasanz, St. Alphonsus Liguori, Blessed Mother Marie-Anne Blondin (1809-1890), Venerable Mother Elisabeth Bergeron (1851-1936). Yet it is mortifying to invoke the same pattern of persecuted founders that the Legionaries invoked in the old days when defending Father Maciel from calumnies that proved to be true. Legionary Father Patrick Langan, co-formulator of the new Legionary charism with Legionary Father Owen Kearns (see Kearns and Langan, “The Quest for the Core of the Regnum Christi Charism” (Legion of Christ, 2014)), edited “Founders; Cross and Resurrection in the Life of Some Founders” (Circle Press, May 1997) as part of the Legionary response to the first revelations about Father Maciel in the Hartford Courant in February 1997. I have not yet been made aware of an adequate analogue from history to the foundation of a congregation of pontifical right with a universal mission in the Church by an unscrupulous founder. Toward the future The new Legionary Constitutions have removed excessive detail from the old, but this means that many detailed guidelines for Legionary lifestyle are still to be legislated in future, destined perhaps to receive less public scrutiny. The well-known Legionary rules governing, say, the eating of fresh fruit (grapes and cherries excepted) with a knife and fork, or of pasta, bread, and fish, were in the “Norms of Urbanity” (262, 179-265), not the previous Constitutions. The new constitutions will be implemented by “secondary legislation” (n232) —  a “Ratio institutionis" (the overall formational program implementing the charism of the congregation), a “Ratio studiorum” (the educational plan), and practical norms of conduct — that all will be bound to observe. The 2014 Chapter meeting envisaged three years for the completion of the formational program with the educational plan taken up after that. (On sexual abuse policies and procedures, in place since at least 2011 has been a “Code of Conduct And Other Directives Pertaining to Safe Environment Issues in North America for the Legionaries of Christ” (December 2013, online here). The adoption of this code is part of the Legionaries’ compliance with safe environment policies, accredited and audited periodically by Praesidium, Inc., a consulting, public relations, and management firm on matters of sexual abuse. But the “Code of Conduct” is not a document of ecclesiastical governance.) The most fundamental issue still pending is, as mentioned, a new “canonical configuration” for Regnum Christi: how will canon law accommodate the religious Legionaries with laity in the larger movement? John Paul II’s “Vita consecrata” acknowledged such new forms of consecrated life: “The originality of the new communities often consists in the fact that they are composed of mixed groups of men and women, of clerics and lay persons, of married couples and celibates, all of whom pursue a particular style of life. (62)” The Legionaries were a congregation whose recruitment rhetoric could include the thought that marriage implies a compromised lack of generosity with God. Some Legionaries will still paraphrase “Vita consecrata” to the effect that only celibate religious are fully committed to an unblocked union with God. The Legionaries, if in fact they will privilege the baptismal as the common vocation of laity and religious, have the opportunity to vindicate a crucial Conciliar perspective. In the monastic tradition of “contempt for the world,” the new Constitutions legislate a suspicion of its dangers when going outside their religious house (n43) or of getting involved in temporal affairs when visiting family (n45). Indiscriminate use of media can be a serious obstacle to fidelity (n46.2), echoes of the past when internet browsing was prohibited to Legionaries lest they discover uncensored coverage of their founder. Yet this is the same world that Regnum Christ laypersons must inhabit without undue suspicion. Should a Conciliar emphasis on the common baptismal vocation also imply an attitude of less hostility to the world? Also pending is Legionary “intellectual formation.” The previous Constitutions had much more specifically to say about education than the new. They required internal undergraduate studies, but of such a quality as to enable getting valid diplomas and certificates and study at civil universities (p88, 104). Humanities were to convey a “broad knowledge and deep assimilation” of the values of Greek and Latin authors (Epicureanism? The imperialism of Roman Legionaries?) (p106.1). Higher philosophy and theology in Legionary centers were to follow Aquinas and be taught and studied (somewhat optimistically?) in the Latin language (p111.1-2), though, at the same time, “taking into account the most recent research and latest advances of science (p112.1).” Study of theology was to avoid a “false intellectualism (p126).” The new constitutions give only the broadest indications for the still to be written “Ratio Studiorum.” Intellectual preparation is meant to be “solid, deep, and select,” involve humanities and sciences, philosophy and theology, in an intense academic atmosphere, at the level of university degrees, a professional training to defend church teaching. (n96-7) Legionary education will still be practical: “All the formation of a Legionary must have an apostolic focus, oriented to communicate Christ and his message. (n100)” This does echo John Paul’s “Pastores Dabo Vobis” (1992), which asked for a priestly education in service to “the challenge of the new evangelization (51).” But it remains to be seen, when the new “Ratio studiorum” appears, how open Legionaries will aspire to be in academic dialogue and the discovery of partial truth in modern thought and culture, a personal strength of Popes John Paul and Benedict, and, in different ways, also of Pope Francis. Legionary contemplativeness does not by constitution include the study of truth and beauty for their own sake, an activity not so foreign to John Paul’s understanding of the new evangelization. The Legionaries are by constitution bound to leave behind all preoccupation with temporal things (n20.2), but some temporal considerations have proven necessary to Legionary survival. Things like holiday gift giving to supporters, marketing techniques for fundraising and development, or consulting firms to manage and accredit compliance with child and youth protection policy. Or like lawyers, which the Legionaries made use of to defend themselves in two cases in Rhode Island, civil suits alleging coercive and deceitful fundraising tactics applied to elderly donors. They settled one in December 2014, on terms they then did not disclose, and won dismissal of another in January 2015 on a legal technicality. Or like canny public relations management, as when the Legionaries’ public admission that a novice instructor from 1982 to 1994 at their seminary in Cheshire, Connecticut had abused at least one novice, was timed to coincide, the same day, December 5, 2013, with the even more arresting public announcement of the wedding of a prominent former Legionary. Reports on the new Legionary constitutions have emphasized the legislation against abuse as if it were a response to the scandal, but those sorts of things were already forbidden in the 1983/1994 constitutions. It wasn’t only Father Maciel who transgressed the Constitutions previously in force; in many areas, it was the whole congregation. The Legionary Chapter documents of February 2014 (details in previous article) acknowledged deficiencies that the previous Constitutions had not prevented even when explicitly forbidding. So we are reminded that Constitutions are law, an idealized vision, and do not of themselves guarantee good behavior. If the scandal did not destroy the Legionaries and they have survived on the theory that a charism, a reason for existence, can emerge and develop over time, by the same token, the approval of new Constitutions does not definitively reconstitute them. Indeed, Father Morrisey told me that even while it is a great thing for religious communities to be able to recover or reestablish a charism, years are still needed to see if that recovery is good or not. If valid new charisms can emerge over time, the Legionaries will still have to prove themselves, live up to the new Constitutions, and vindicate their own new charism. What “Vita consecrata” asks of bishops and new forms of religious life emerging in their dioceses — “wisely evaluate possible weaknesses, watching patiently for the sign of results (‘From their fruits you will know them.’ (Matthew 7:16 )), so that they may acknowledge the authenticity of the charism (62)” — applies to the new Legionaries and their new charism. Vigilance is still called for. Though Pope Francis has been mostly silent about the Legionaries, he has recently sounded both supportive and vigilant. The Curial champions of the old Legion are potentially among those suffering from the spiritual illnesses he diagnosed in his Christmas greeting to the Curia in 2014. In October 2015, Francis granted the Legionaries and Regnum Christi a jubilee year, with the possibility of a plenary indulgence for members, to observe the 75th anniversary of their founding. The timing of the jubilee, still influenced by traditional understanding, presupposes that the foundation occurred at a moment in time in the mind of a particular person, the date the Legionaries keep of their foundation by Father Maciel, January 3, 1941. But the indulgence is no more than what is offered to every Catholic in the Jubilee year of Mercy or, indeed, at any time. As he spoke to reporters on the plane returning from Mexico, February 18, 2016, Pope Francis also emphasized that old accounts are still being reviewed and that supervision is still in place over the Legionaries in the persons of a vicar and two councilors. He said: “…an intervention took place and today the government of the congregation is not yet fully autonomous (“el gobierno de la congregación está semi-intervenido,” [i.e., the process is ongoing, not yet completed]). That is, the superior general is elected by the [Legionary] council, by the [Legionary] general chapter, but the vicar is chosen by the Pope. Two general councilors are elected by the council, the general chapter, and the two others are elected by the Pope. In this way we are helping to review the old accounts.” (As I write, on the page of the Regnum Christi website identifying the five members of the Legionary General Council, only one, Gianfranco Ghirlanda, is identified as “at the choice of the Holy See.” The vicar general and first Councilor is among the five, Legionary Juan José Arrieta.) Institutes recovering from scandal will face the challenge of distinguishing the wholesome from the corrupt in their history. As the Legionaries recover from theirs, they have been both comforted by continuity and challenged by reform. The senior Legionaries who must administer the congregation with a new spirit under new constitutions were formed under the old constitutions. Legionary Father Owen Kearns, defender of Father Maciel in the pages of National Catholic Register, has gone on to become the co-deviser of the new, approved Legionary charism, recently expounding it to the delegates of the Regnum Christi renewal convention at Mundelein and preaching them a retreat. There are other ironies. The Legionaries, whose previous constitutions expressed hostility to labor unions, in part owe their survival to a “liberal” interpretation of charism advanced by Paul VI, who supported labor unions in “Octogesima adveniens” (1971). And after such well-known public loyalty to Pope John Paul, the Legionaries’ reliance on their emerging charism has worked to annul the John Pauline theme of unity of life. To John Paul writing in “Christifideles Laici,” “Holiness must be called a fundamental presupposition and an irreplaceable condition for everyone in fulfilling the mission of salvation within the Church. (17)” the Legionaries have provided a counterexample in the person of their founder. The proponents of an “integral” formation must continue to claim as part of their spiritual patrimony Father Maciel’s disintegrated life. The Legionary scandal has furthermore provided material, in the end ambiguous, with which to take up the absorbing theological question as to whether the Church’s approval of a religious order is irreformable. So also will the developing stories of other ecclesial communities with disgraced founders that had been granted approval. That such approval is irreformable has been theological norm from the 17th century, though one that has been questioned by more recent theologians examining the scope of infallibility as it applies to matters beyond revelation itself, the “secondary object of infallibility.” The Legionaries were sustained immediately in surviving the scandal by the traditional view — their decreta laudis were granted them infallibly and so it was impossible for Church authority to dissolve them — even as they now owe their continuing life to the newer theology of an “emerging charism.” Legionaries would do well to answer the privately expressed criticisms of their restoration by adding two things to their self-explanation: a thorough, public airing and application of the theological and canonical theory on which their restoration is based and an answer to the question of whether Father Maciel is unparalleled in Catholic history or paralleled only in recent history within the epidemic of problematic founders. This would assist both critics to feel reconciled with a Church administrative decision they find difficult to understand and members of smaller communities with founder problems who may not command the same high-powered canonical legal advice as the Legionaries, experienced as they are in the arts of survival. It would benefit all if the rationale for the Legionary restoration were more than a theological and canonical technicality devised in private by professionals. It would also benefit all if the vexing question as to how it is that (in Father Maciel’s case) a man devoid of religion conveyed a good gift to the Church were to be faced more plainly and receive an explanation fuller than that of Cardinal Braz de Aviz, “How it is possible remains a mystery.” Or fuller even than that of Pope Benedict in “Light of the World” (2010), “To me Marcial Maciel remains a mysterious figure. There is, on the one hand, a life that, as we know, was out of moral bounds—an adventurous, wasted, twisted life. On the other hand, we see the dynamism and strength with which he built up the congregation… That is the remarkable thing, the paradox, that a false prophet, so to speak, could still have a positive effect.” To refute accusations against their founder the old Legionaries used to allude to Scripture: a bad tree could not have borne good fruit. Now to restore themselves and strive again for new life, the new Legionaries effectively rewrite Scripture, as will other communities with a founder problem, as will the whole Church if it accepts that bad founders can make good foundations. Bad trees, however paradoxically, may indeed bear good fruit.

New edition of Luis Lucia’s Psalter of my Hours casts light on Father Marcial Maciel’s appropriated version

Aug 13, 2014 / 00:00 am

The new edition by Vicent Comes Iglesia in the Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos of Luis Lucia Lucia’s Salterio de mis horas, Psalter of my hours (Madrid 2014), allows us to consider, virtually for the first time, a poignant 20th century life and a noteworthy work of Catholic spirituality. (I wrote about it in a previous article [link].) It allows us also to do something less edifying: we can now compare the original work closely with its appropriation by Father Marcial Maciel as Salterio de mis días, Psalter of my days, esteemed for decades as a foundational work of spirituality among the congregation he founded in Mexico in 1941, the Legionaries of Christ. Lucia wrote his Salterio while a political prisoner in Barcelona, 1937-40, condemned first by the Spanish Republic and then by Franco. It was politically indelicate and unpublished, emerging only in a small, private edition in Valencia in 1956. Coincidentally this was the year Maciel moved to Spain, having been restricted by Vatican authorities from Rome, where he had brought his congregation, and suspended pending investigation of allegations of drug abuse, sexual abuse, and other irregularities of religious life. Early on in what he called his exile, he encountered Lucia’s Salterio and made it his own. Maciel fashioned a new work that combined plagiarism, both verbatim and slightly adapted, with some original passages that imitated Lucia’s poetic style. And he found in it a poetic language and a theological structure with which to interpret the period of his suspension, 1956-59, as the years of the “Great Blessing.” The first Apostolic Visitation of the Legionaries began in October 1956, prompted by complaints from several Mexican bishops and concerns felt by some Legionaries in Rome. Maciel was asked to step down from Legionary leadership and to move from Rome, which he did. In February 1957 the Visitation recommended, among other things, Maciel’s permanent removal from office. New Visitators, however, more friendly to Maciel, succeeded in July 1957 and arranged in September 1958 for him to be reinstated, though under some restrictions. Maciel was reinstated by the Congregation of the Affairs of Religious in a letter of October 13, 1958 to Cardinal Clemente Micara, Vicar General of Rome, who conveyed the reinstatement to Maciel on February 6, 1959. (Why it was issued four days after the death of Pius XII (a papal interregnum is not a time when Vatican business is transacted), how it fell to Micara’s jurisdiction, or why the reinstatement was delayed for four months are questions that have never been answered.) So ended the first Apostolic Visitation of the Legionaries without conclusion or implementation and Maciel and the Legionaries were able to represent it as full vindication and simply move on. Psalter of my days became central to the Legionary effort to make a positive of Maciel’s negative and rebound from seeming disgrace. Legionaries understood the work to have been written in 1957, as the exiled Maciel struggled prayerfully to endure calumny and persecution at the hands of the enemies of the Legion. The work eventually became a staple of Legionary and Regnum Christi spiritual reading, used, for one instance, as material for meditation in a (projected) three volume commentary by prominent Legionary Father Cristóforo Fernández (Salterio de mis días: 98 Meditaciones Tomo 1 Editorial Nueva Evangelización 1998). The Lucia family remembers, as Vicent Comes told me by email, that Maciel was given a copy of Lucia’s recently published Salterio by Lucia’s son, Luis Lucia Mingarro (1914-1984), who in 1957 was 43 and living in Madrid. He was a filmmaker then at the peak of a considerable career as producer, director, and writer, whose filmography includes some 40 films made 1942-72.  (As a scholar of Lucia’s life and work and editor of the Salterio, whose text is based on the autograph manuscript still held in the family, Comes has been close to them. Lucia’s daughter, Josefina Lucia Mingarro, who made a typescript of the Salterio to her father’s dictation in 1941 during his exile on Majorca, contributed a forward to the new edition.) Tipografía Moderna in Valencia brought out the 1956 edition of Lucia’s Salterio de mis horas. According to Comes, there were about 500 copies. To arrange, pay for, and circulate the small, private edition was an act of piety to his memory on the part of Lucia’s family, friends, and followers. They were encouraged and supported by Valencia Archbishop Marcelino Olaechea Loizaga, who had read the typescript in Josefina’s home, admired it, and contributed a forward to the book. But there was no question of making it available in bookstores, because, even thirteen years after Lucia’s death, political authorities still considered it provocative. As it was, censors required suppression of any references to the Salterio’s authorship by a political prisoner of Franco’s regime. Lucia’s Salterio was published so privately and so discreetly that Maciel evidently calculated that he could get away with appropriating it. He did get away with it in his lifetime (he died in 2008 at 87) and the Salterio was read among the Legionaries, privately and discreetly, as his own. The family, devoted to the book as to a family heritage, was completely unaware of Maciel’s Legionary version, Comes told me, until a family member within the last few years came upon it and began to bring it to attention. That the Salterio was not original to Maciel became widely known in December 2009, the year in which the coverup of many aspects of his double life unraveled. Made public was an internal Legionary memo that revealed the plagiarism to the membership. As CNA reported, [link=] “although the memo does not describe Fr. Maciel's copying as plagiarism, a Spanish member of the Legion familiar with the text told CNA that Fr. Maciel's version reproduces ‘80% of the original book in content and style.’” But anything beyond that assessment, even basic knowledge of Luis Lucia’s life and work, has before now been difficult, except for those in possession of a rare copy of the private edition of 1956. With Comes’ new edition in hand we can now describe Maciel’s appropriation accurately. By my rough, undigitized count, Maciel used 52 of Lucia’s 61 pages, using therefore some 85% and omitting some 15%. Maciel wrote 27 pages of 88 not based on Lucia, so that some 31% of Maciel’s Salterio is additional material. Much of what Maciel drew from Lucia is used verbatim, but there are many small adjustments and editings of meaning and style. Maciel also frequently rearranged large pieces of Lucia’s material in different order. Maciel’s appropriation is therefore a combination of plagiarism and unacknowledged creative adaptation. (I compared Comes’s new 2014 edition of Lucia’s Salterio with Marcial Maciel, Salterio de mis días, Ediciones CES Rome 1991.) Many of Maciel’s changes simplify and shorten. Maciel often omits Lucia’s heavy repetition of connectives and conjunctions. Lucia’s “Many thanks, Lord!” (¡Gracias mil, Señor!) becomes in Maciel “Thanks, Lord” (Gracias, Señor). Maciel often changes Lucia’s forms in vosotros (tomad, decid, vuestro siervo) to singular (toma, dime, tu siervo). Maciel omits Lucia’s indentations and breaks the sentences of Lucia’s poetic prose into shorter verses, a quality Legionaries were taught to admire by the introduction to their 1991 edition: “The psalms gain from their short phrases the sonority of rhythm, more compact expression, the nobility of vocabulary and modifiers…  yet an austere style that Nuestro Padre kept to with the simplicity and spontaneity of spoken language, without giving the feeling of artifice.” This passage, for example, from Lucia’s psalm 24: And I want, as the wise virgins, never to lack “oil for my lamp” so that you don’t catch me in the dark, or close to me the door of your wedding feast, or say to me as to the foolish on that great day that you do not know me… becomes in Maciel’s 12.2 (Psalm of the Gospel. Vigilance): And I want, as the wise virgins, never to lack oil for my lamp so that you don’t catch me in the dark, or close to me the door, or say to me, on that great day, that you do not know me…  (Translations from the original Spanish in this article are my own.) Maciel’s omission of quotation marks here is also characteristic. Calling attention to quotation is part of Lucia’s technique of allusion and synthesis. Maciel omits such clauses as: “as Ecclesiastes says,” “as Francis of Assisi loved them,” “as your little Thérèse of the Child Jesus said,” “as Martha said…” Lucia’s psalms are entitled only by number, 1 through 28. Less astringently, Maciel adds titles to his psalms and groups them into chapters. Lucia claimed to have written spontaneously, “as my pen ran,” yet his Salterio has an overall logic not unlike that by which he structures individual passages: freedom and human solidarity lead to acceptance of the cross and self-donation; the loss of worldly dignity is a detachment that leads not to decadence, but to forgiveness and love of neighbor; this conversion reveals him to himself as a prodigal son and he desires to present God with the fruits of penance. Maciel’s rearrangement makes for another scheme evident when the 15 chapter headings are listed in order: Psalms of offering; of faith, hope, and love; of love for creation and love of man; of pardon, tender and humble love, love of the cross, detachment, incessant prayer; of the Gospel, the sacraments, love for the church; and of blessing in my banishment. Maciel’s new title adapts the work to his circumstances. Lucia’s “psalter of his hours” evokes time slowly passing in prison. The days of Maciel’s “psalter of his days” are those of exile (destierro), which is he how he alludes in his Salterio to the circumstances of his disciplinary exclusion from Rome. Lucia’s 14 has: With the cross on my shoulders, I walk my days along the street of Bitterness on my long passion. In 9.3 (Psalm of love for the cross. O Sister cross), Maciel changes this to: With the cross on my shoulders, I walk the days of my exile along the via dolorosa of my long passion. Lucia begins 28, his concluding prayer: And as crown for my Psalter, allow me, Lord, kneeling before you, to repeat the prayer of all my days and all my nights… Maciel begins his final psalm (Psalm of blessing in my exile): And as crown for these days of my exile, of solitude and of pain, allow me, Lord, kneeling before you, to repeat one more time the prayer of all my days and all my nights… In 27 Lucia prays “for Spain, for my Spain, for that beloved and poor fatherland of mine.” In Maciel 13.5 (Psalm of the sacraments. Eucharist) this becomes: for Spain, for our Spain, for that beloved and poor fatherland, my home in exile and my suffering… Maciel makes other appropriate changes. Sometimes he understands metaphorically what in Lucia’s situation was literal. Lucia’s prayer, “Grant me to kiss the blessed hands that signed my death sentence.” has a literal meaning: a court of the military dictatorship had condemned him to death (though that sentence was commuted). When Maciel appropriates this prayer verbatim, “death sentence” is only metaphor for the Apostolic Visitation, which lacked authority for capital punishment. When Lucia says of family and friends, “Your Justice, Lord… is the obligation to care for, nourish, and educate my own,” Maciel means this of his own congregation as its founder. In 26 Lucia literally feels cold in his cell and makes of it a spiritual metaphor: Let me come to you, Lord! Because I know that You have come “to cast fire on the earth” and you wish “the earth was enkindled.” And I am dying of cold, Lord. And I want you to warm me. The prison context does not apply to Maciel in 12.5 (Psalm of the Gospel. I have come to cast fire): Let me come to you, Lord! Because I know that You have come to cast fire on the earth, and you wish the earth was enkindled. Make me not die of cold, Lord. I want you to warm me. Maciel (not yet biologically a father) must understand Lucia’s words in 27: I place in the chalice the greatest loves of my heart… My wife, my children (hijos, Lucia’s son and four daughters), my brothers, those others, closest friends of my soul, who would not deny me in the hour of my tribulation. in a sense appropriate to the founder of a congregation in 13.5 (Psalm of the sacraments. Eucharist): I place in the chalice the greatest loves of my heart… my sons (hijos, spiritual sons), my brothers, those others closest friends of my soul, who would not deny me in the hour of tribulation. Maciel’s most extensive revision is to have softened or removed Lucia’s harsh self-accusation of sin. Lucia had experienced deep conversion in prison, fears the judgment of God on one who had received so much, and in humility repents of imperfection, let alone sin. Shame for previous conduct is inconvenient to the Maciel of 1957 concealing his crimes from Vatican Visitators. For one example, Lucia in psalm 4:  I want to believe according to your doctrine.  And to hope according to your promises.  And to fear according to your threats.  And to love and to live according to your commands and counsels. becomes Maciel in psalm 2.1 (Psalm of faith. Give me faith and knowledge of the faith): I want to believe according to your doctrine. And to hope according to your promises. And to love and to live according to your commands and precepts. For another example, Lucia in psalm 24: I want to bear those fruits of penance I so greatly need for the satisfaction that I owe you for my faults. But I know, Lord, that “You are the vine and we the branches.” becomes in Maciel 12.1 (Psalm of the Gospel. Fruits of conversion): I want to bear those fruits of penance I so greatly need. But You are the vine and I one of the branches. A good part of the 15 percent of the original that Maciel chose not to take from Lucia occurs in a series of stanzas in Lucia’s psalms 21, 22, and the beginning of 23, which begin with the refrain, “I have no excuse, Lord!” (¡No tengo excusa, Señor!), repeated 7 times in all. Lucia fears the judgment of God. Maciel, while he admits sinfulness in general terms, does not. Maciel does use part of Lucia’s psalm 23 for his psalm 12.8 (The prodigal son). Yet, while Lucia longs to return to the house of his father, Maciel is glad he has nothing to repent of. Lucia’s psalm 23 reads in part: “I have no excuse, Lord! Because I too, as the Prodigal Son of your Gospel, many times left your house and squandered the fortune of the gifts you gave me in the foolish dissipation of worldly glory and vanity. And even if my lips never failed to pronounce your name, how many times in the coldness of my leaving home and in the windy gusts of my frivolity the spirit of your name was blown out in my heart and in my works! I sought to rid myself of your sweet yoke, which I thought heavy, and I was about to fall as a slave into the harsh service of implacable men. I believed that with you I was not satisfied but wherever I went I found nothing but hunger. I had eagerness for life, and senseless of myself, I went “to seek Life among the dead.” Maciel in 12.8 changes this to: Blessed may you be, Lord. I never would have wanted, as the prodigal son of your Gospel, ever to abandon your house and squander the fortune of the gifts you gave me, in the foolish dissipation of worldly glory and vanity. And I wanted that my lips never fail to pronounce your name, and I sought never to lament the coldness of a leaving home from you or the twilight (ocaso) in my heart and in my works of the spirit of your name. I did not seek to rid myself of your sweet yoke, on the grounds that I thought it heavy, to fall as a slave, into the harsh service of implacable men. Far from me was to believe that with you I would not be satisfied, that then wherever I was I would encounter nothing but hunger, And, eager for life, senseless of myself, I would among the dead seek the one who lives. Lucia confesses sin in 27: “And instinctively, Lord, I bring close to myself also this small chalice that you have given me as a gift. I, Lord, shamefully to me, have denied you many times with my conduct. And I know, Lord, that I cannot boast that I never denied you with my words, though I hope not to have denied you with the help of your divine grace. Because Peter was Peter and before the cock crowed already he had denied you three times. But you know, Lord, that, up to now, I have never denied you before men and that my lips have confessed and proclaimed you “in the great assembly.” while Maciel has nothing to confess in 13.5 (Psalm of the sacraments. Eucharist): “And instinctively, Lord, I bring close to myself also this small chalice that you have given me as a gift. I, Lord, in your infinite Goodness and Mercy, have never denied you with my conduct. I know, Lord, that I cannot boast of never having denied you with my words,  though I hope not to have denied you with the help of your divine grace. But you know, Lord, that, up to now, I have never denied you before men and that my lips have confessed and proclaimed you “in the great assembly.” Maciel omits in this passage Lucia’s reference to Peter’s betrayal. The figure of Peter does appear in an addition by Maciel in 14.2 as pope (Psalm of love for the church. Successor of Peter) and in 7.2 (Psalm of pardon. As Peter I put away my gleaming sword). Maciel more easily thinks of himself forgiving his enemies than of God forgiving him: Those who crucify me slowly, those who persecute and mistreat me, from the height of my small cross, I also forgive, Lord, and as Peter I put away my gleaming sword, because into your Kingdom enter only the meek, those who do not stir the fire of desire of hatred and revenge in the slow and exhausting days. The 30 percent of material that Maciel added to the Salterio imitates aspects of Lucia’s versification but not his rhetorical flamboyance. Biblical figures that appear in Maciel and not in Lucia include Job, Judas, and David and Goliath. Maciel’s psalm 2.2 (I believe, as Job, when the light fades away) expresses faith in the midst of doubt and hardship. Maciel’s 7.3 (I have not learned to hate) would intensify Lucia’s memorable “To the gates of death they brought me because I knew not how to hate.” with And to your enemies, Lord, I have offered your most delicate grace: to Judas, the traitor, a kiss of friendship and to the centurion who opened your body the sight that surpasses all sight, faith in you. Maciel’s psalm 8 (Psalm of love meek and humble. Humility is your face) has: I will love, Lord, my neighbor in humility, because humility is your face; because you chose it as the pebble of David to bring down the hulking Goliath; because it was your partner from Nazareth to the Cross… Maciel expands on Lucia particularly on the subject of the sacraments (five of seven), especially priesthood and Eucharist. Maciel omits Lucia’s penitential “I am, Lord, a poor ‘blind man, led by other blind men,’ who, though sightless, sought to lead other blind men.” Rather, with some of his additions he accentuates the theme of his divine election as founder and leader of a religious congregation. The opening of Lucia’s Salterio: I know, Lord, that I can do nothing without you. But I know also that with you I can do anything. Because you are the one who comforts me. becomes Maciel’s opening: I know, Lord, that I can do nothing without you. But I know also that with you I can do anything. I know that, having chosen me, you will always be my strength, because you are the one who comforts me. In psalm 8, Maciel also adds a passage that could not have been written by the Lucia who in 1922 recognized inadequacy in the founding of “new religious orders to astonish the world with their holy wisdom and success in spiritual reconquest…”: We are all workers for your Kingdom and have to form a solid unity, strong as a single body as a marvelous block of faith and hope that marches to the conquest of your Kingdom among men. For a final example, a subtle, almost imperceptible, but revealing change, Lucia in psalm 14: …I thank you in my suffering a thousand times for the gift of your divine choice (escogimiento). Because you ought to ask much of me when you test me so much. becomes Maciel in psalm 9.1 (Psalm of love for the cross. Pain that comes from God): I thank you in my suffering for the gift of your divine election (elección). Because you ought to ask much of me when you test me so much. Escogimiento is more humble than elección for the providence of God’s choosing; it allows that God could well have done otherwise. Overall, Lucia accepts political imprisonment and the bitter failure of his orthodox progressive politics as Christ accepted the will of his Father in Gethsemane: Also I place in [my small chalice of offering], Lord, this cross that you gave me… This my sister cross, with all its pains, with all its sorrows, with all its bitterness, with all its loneliness, with all its ingratitude… Maciel used these words verbatim but meant the Vatican investigation of charges that he denied, but were in fact true. Lucia ends his Salterio with the inscription: “Luis, Barcelona, 24 December 1940, Model Prison, Cell 17” (though this inscription was suppressed in the first, 1956 edition). Maciel ends his: “M.M., L.C., Madrid, Spain, in the years of the great blessing of 1956-1959.” So did Lucia’s suffering become Maciel’s rhetorical strategy. Thereafter, Maciel figured the period of his suspension and the Apostolic Visitation, 1956-9, as a false persecution and therefore, because Christians in union with Christ believe they suffer injustice redemptively, as “the Great Blessing.” Decades later we know that the accusations were true and that by maintaining that his “persecution” was a “Great Blessing,” Maciel scandalized Christianity’s central belief in aid of covering up his double life. It was from Lucia’s Salterio that Maciel evidently drew inspiration for his claim that his unjust persecution was a sign of God’s election. The Legionaries perpetuated this interpretation and Maciel’s rhetorical strategy was operative even 50 years later. In June 2006, in the then-Legionary National Catholic Register, Father Owen Kearns, currently the formulator and proponent of the redefined Legionary charism, explained that the recent Vatican disciplining of Maciel was not a discipline: “We are not afraid of this cross; on the contrary, we are honored by it.” Kearns even used Lucia’s image of the chalice: “If you pray for the Legionaries, don't pray that the cup be taken away, pray that we be worthy of drinking it to the dregs.” That interpretation of the 2006 Vatican discipline was officially disavowed by the Legionary Chapter in February 2014. Comes’ new edition of Lucia’s Salterio allows us to recognize with precision the malice and deliberation of Maciel’s plagiarism and makes it more difficult to maintain, as have Legionaries unable to give up attachment to their founder, that Maciel’s writings, despite his personal flaws, are still worth reading. As prominent Legionary priest John Bartunek said in January, “A lot of the fathers fed their hunger for spiritual reading with the writings of the founder. Today, a lot of these guys are doing great work and are spiritually mature priests, and they ask, ‘How can we say it's all trash?’” In a December 2010 document of self-governance, “Provisions Regarding the Founder,” the Legionaries decreed that “the founder’s personal writings and talks will not be for sale in the congregation’s publishing houses, centers, and works of apostolate,” but allowed Legionaries and Regnum Christi members to “privately keep a photograph of the founder, read his writings, [and] listen to his talks. In addition, the content of these writings may be used in preaching without citing the author.” The permission to preach from Maciel, as long as it was without attribution, was controversial. In a blog defending it at the time Legionary Communications Director Jim Fair explained that a Legionary preacher may simply be “stating a truth in words that are, to him, clear and familiar.  And if a Legionary priest does not attribute such statement to Fr. Maciel it has nothing to do with deception, but he just avoids a reference which would be seen as continued, unwarranted deference or would just be an obstacle to convey God’s revelation and touch the hearts of those who listen… I pray for each Legionary who must with patience and charity reconcile the gap between Fr. Maciel’s spiritual writings and human failings.” More recently, in February 2014, newly elected Legionary general director Father Eduardo Robles Gil stated publicly that although “Father Maciel's published works are free of doctrinal error, the Legionaries no longer assign them to their seminarians.” But he also allowed, “Someone can read the books of Oscar Wilde and enjoy the books of Oscar Wilde without worrying whether he was a sinner or not.” Yet to continue to quote without attribution at least from the plagiarized parts of the Salterio would perpetuate posthumously the injustice that Maciel perpetrated on Luis Lucia, a creditable figure of 20th century Catholicism. For that matter, plagiarism is a lively issue in the critical reception of Oscar Wilde, as is his conversion to Catholicism at the end of his life. And if Maciel emerges as a man who had to plagiarize words of love for the dearest friends of his heart or to plagiarize from a layman his expressions of priestly devotion to the Eucharist, it is difficult to have confidence in the authenticity of anything that he wrote. In the same blog Fair allowed that “Fr. Maciel – as any superior general of a religious congregation (or Bishop, politician, CEO, etc.) – had several quite knowledgeable people assisting him with correspondence and other writings.” In the Father Maciel of 1957 who appropriated the work of someone whose sufferings were real to give meaning to his own self-inflicted ones we meet again the “life devoid of scruples and authentic religious meaning” that the second Apostolic Visitation of the Legionaries in 2010 discovered. Lucia before God was reconciling himself to persecution by enemies; Maciel was fantasizing that so was he, though he was being unsuccessfully called to account for his misbehavior. As for Lucia, it was not absurd enough to have been imprisoned by both the Republic and then by Franco and then to have his Salterio obscured in life and in death by the censors of the dictatorship. Lucia’s Salterio, come finally to light after 70 years, cannot escape a connection to the impostures of Father Maciel, though Comes’ new edition does not so much as mention the name. But perhaps the posthumous ignominy of that is still another suffering service rendered by Lucia to the communion of saints, helping us better to understand the excesses of charismatic founders, itself something of a feature of 20th century Catholic life. For a Catholic who must ponder how it is that an unholy founder conveyed a valid charism to the Church it is disconcerting to come upon the words of Jeremiah: “See I am against the prophets, says the Lord, who steal my words from one another…  See, I am against those who prophesy lying dreams, says the Lord, and who tell them, and who lead my people astray by their lies and their recklessness, when I did not send them or appoint them, so they do not profit this people at all, says the Lord.”

Finding God in Franco’s Prison: A new edition of Luis Lucia’s Psalter of my Hours

Jul 8, 2014 / 00:00 am

The civil war in Spain, 1936-9, confronted the Catholic world with a dilemma. To support Franco, pro-Catholic and anti-Communist, was, in alliance with Hitler and Mussolini, to support fascism and oppose the democratic rule of law. To support the elected government of the constitutional Republic was, in alliance with Stalin, to support Communism and the persecution of Catholicism. Under the circumstances, those who opposed the killing of priests and nuns could not fight side by side with those who opposed the killing of Jews.Luis Lucia Lucia (1888-1943) was a journalist and politician from Valencia who suffered the dilemma in his person: he was both Catholic conservative and pro-Republic social progressive. He was imprisoned by the Republic for complicity with Franco and then imprisoned by Franco for complicity with the Republic. But the absurdity of his suffering brought him understanding: ideological conformity and the love of God are two different things. Lucia’s spiritual legacy, a short book of mystical reflections written in prison 1937-40. Psalter of my hours, has now been made available for the first time widely and in a complete and uncensored edition. (Luis Lucia Lucia, Salterio de mis horas, edited with introduction and notes by Vicent Comes Iglesia, Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos, Madrid 2014)Lucia had helped to found in Valencia Spain’s first Christian Democrat party and under the Second Spanish Republic (the democratic government of Spain, which was formed in 1931 when King Alfonso XIII abdicated and was overthrown in 1939 by General Francisco Franco, who assumed military dictatorship thereafter) he served in Parliament and in 1935 as Cabinet minister. Eighteen months later he was in jail. Lucia supported the Republic and the rule of law under a democratic constitution among conservative Catholics in love with what he called “the mystique of violence” as social policy. Though a man who liked to make distinctions, he saw no distinction between martyrdom for the rule of law, even when it betrayed him, and martyrdom for his Catholic faith. If Christian love of neighbor requires social engagement, as he thought, his political persecution was persecution in the name of Christ. This new volume in the Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos is edited by Vicent Comes Iglesia, an historian of modern Spain at Florida Universitaria in Valencia interested in 20th century progressive Catholic conservatives. His lengthy introduction draws from his political biography of Lucia, En el filo de navaja (On the Razor’s Edge, 2002). After 1936, Lucia fell into obscurity, silenced by Franco, who died in 1975, and ignored in the post-Franco transition, according to Comes, ever inconvenient to both sides. The volume intends to restore to light not only Lucia’s career and political thought, but also, in the words of BAC editor Carlos Granados, “a poetical-religious work of great value” and “to vindicate the Christian testimony of a great man of the faith, a great believer.”At Jesuit school young Lucia had learned “virtue and literature” as well as social service in a Jesuit project for workers education in Valencia. After school he took a law degree, practiced for a few years, but decided instead to write journalism, which from 1918 he continued to do through the outbreak of the civil war. Comes presents excerpts of Lucia’s vehement journalism that evoke the times vividly. For one example, Lucia wrote in 1922 about his goals for Catholic journalism: “Dream up the best Christian institution that human zeal can devise; put in pious order the most beautiful social initiative; found new religious orders to astonish the world with their holy wisdom and success in spiritual reconquest; raise temples whose architecture will amaze generations to come; found social organizations with the purest ideology and most admirable structure… if before all this, the pinnacle of Catholic aspiration, you do not raise a rampart of journalism to inundate the world with Christian teaching, you will have done nothing more than prepare green pasture for the beasts of Bolshevism to enjoy, to expose to frontal assault their antireligious and antisocial fury.” (Translations in this article from the original Spanish are mine.)After 1919, according to Comes, Lucia creatively saw in Carlism – the grouping of monarchist, traditionalist, Catholic conservatives – an opportunity to bring 20th century ideas to Catholic politics, reforming the anti-liberalism of Pius IX and the Syllabus. His pulpit was the editorship of Diario de Valencia, a city whose politics were dominated by anti-clerical Republicanism. What would become characteristic political concerns emerged in his writing in the 1920s: support for labor unions, workers’ rights, and a living wage; opposition to religious tests for union membership; overall insistence on balancing the right to private property with the common good and prioritizing social justice over charity by patronage. The more progressive social teaching of Leo XIII obliged Catholics; unconcern for social injustice on the part of more conservative Catholic political rivals Lucia found heterodox. The dictatorship of Miguel Primo de Rivera (1923-1930), to whose government’s censorship the Diario was subject, troubled Lucia. In 1931 he welcomed in the Diario the foundation of the Spanish Republic and encouraged Catholics to participate in democracy, a liberal stance in 1930s Spain. His approach to political involvement was that of the Spanish bishops, if not that of all Catholic conservatives: Catholics should be indifferent to the form of government under which they lived, whether monarchy or democracy, hoping for possible goods even in a regime hostile to the Church.  In 1930 in his book, In These Hours of Transition, Lucia pilloried conservatives too pure to engage in politics: “Our generation has a defect that the left lacks… There walks this whole numerous legion of 20 to 50 year olds, worthy young men, dignified gentlemen, model Catholics and citizens among whom to revolutionize Spain in a Christian way it is enough and more than enough that civic Spain be a faithful reflection of the principles of the public Christian right. But, alas, they refuse to be contaminated with politics, dirty politics!, trivial, disgusting politics! They don’t want to ‘draw attention.’ They believe themselves something like a Quixote-like aristocracy of spirit that entrusts those low chores of determining if their country should be governed in conformity with the laws of God or the laws of hell to a group of menials, sealed forever with the tattoo ‘partisan’… It is in corporate boardrooms and parliaments where the great battles of faith today are fought and in struggles in the street.”But the anti-Catholic legislation of the Republican government (which from 1931-33 closed churches and convents, banished Jesuits, and banned religious orders from schools) tested Lucia’s optimism. In response he wrote: “We want to make Republicans, that is, citizens who are loyal to the new government with sincerity. The Government tries with a suicidal obliviousness or an incredible sectarianism to make monarchists as a natural reaction against its anti-religious legislation. Who is the better supporter of the Republic?”In 1933, also in response, Lucia became a co-founder and vice president of Confederación Española de Derechas Autónomas (CEDA), a rightist pro-Republic political coalition that won a plurality in the elections of November 1933. Lucia took a seat in Parliament and served as government Minister briefly twice under two governments in 1935, for Public Works and Communication. In his short time as minister he worked on programs of infrastructure in rural areas: irrigation, communication, telephones, and roads.Lucia had seen CEDA as a coalition for pro-Republic conservatives: acknowledging the rule of law even under an anti-clerical regime, abjuring violence, defending papal social doctrine. But for all Lucia’s hopes to bridge Catholic orthodoxy and progressivism, CEDA was led by the fascist José María Gil-Robles. The two had always had differences, downplayed in the press, according to Comes, who is careful about distinguishing the two. Comes told me by email that Lucia had intended to withdraw from CEDA at a convention planned for September 1936, before events intervened. Lucia won back his seat in the elections of February 1936, but the overall victory of the leftist Popular Front destroyed finally any unity in CEDA among Christian democrats and conservatives.The military uprising against the Popular Front government, July 17, 1936 confronted Lucia with the crisis of a lifetime. In witness to his belief in the rule of law he had written in 1933: “We do not pretend that men of the right have a monopoly on integrity; there are men naturally good in all parties, and in this world the number of those mistaken is, to give human dignity its due, infinitely greater than the number of the wicked. Politics is a struggle of ideas, not of persons, Politics is a battle of wits, not of arms. Therefore politics must not be injury, but friendship. It must not be insult, but education. Harsh, fierce, constant, implacable combat against ideas, but with total and absolute respect for persons, standing up and showing ourselves gentlemen at the gates of their honor, which, because they are men, is as respectable as ours and, because they are the men that we are not, is even, if possible, more respectable than ours…”  In accordance with those beliefs, the next day, July 18, he sent a momentous telegram to the democratic government affirming his loyalty: “As a former minister of the Republic, as head of the [local CEDA party], as a member of Parliament, and as a Spaniard, I raise my heart in this grave hour above all political differences to place myself on the side of the authority which is, in the face of violence and rebellion, the embodiment of the Republic and the country. Luis Lucia Lucia.”As the telegram represented support from a CEDA politician, the Government broadcast it on the radio that day, but it did not save him from his having been aligned with the right. He was arrested late in 1936, imprisoned in Valencia and then in Barcelona’s Cárcel Modelo, and eventually convicted without evidence of complicity with the military uprising and sentenced to 30 years.When Barcelona fell to Franco in January 1939, the rightwing political prisoners were released, but this did not lead to freedom for Lucia. Evidence for the defense under one regime was evidence for the prosecution in the next. Lucia’s telegram had enraged Franco. The words of Lucia’s sentence, February 27, 1939, make clear that his crime was anti-fascism and adherence to the rule of law: “…the actions of the accused evidence an ideological evolution that deviates from the holy rebellion against iniquity… to a servile and meek conformism with a regime that would have taken Spain to the abyss along the paths of dishonor and crime… This ideology, held by Mr. Lucia before and during the National Uprising, is an enemy of all process of violence, a defender of the democracy and legality, and absolutely respects legally constituted authority.” Franco’s military government condemned Lucia to death for “aid to the rebellion.” The sentence was commuted after intervention by various authorities to a 30 year prison term, and then, in July 1941, to exile on Majorca. Allowed to return to Valencia for treatment of what turned out to be pancreatic cancer, Lucia died there January 5, 1943 and was buried discretely after a private funeral Mass. The Salterio de mis horas, the legacy of Lucia’s ruined life, occupied him through the slow hours of four years in prison, 1937-40, writing spontaneously, “without an eraser and as the pen ran.” He is lonely, cold, lost, hungry. Yet the Lord is with him: “You speak to me always, at all hours,” as warmth, the way, the bread of life. Lucia intended it privately for his wife, five children, and a few close friends with whom he had “an absolute spiritual identification,” including his sister, a Carmelite. Politically, it was “too delicate” for anyone else; the “greatest discretion” was required. He transcribed a fair copy and dedicated it on Christmas eve, 1940, “the fifth Christmas of my imprisonment for my God and for my Spain, Barcelona, Cárcel Modelo, Cell 17.” Lucia had considered and abandoned the notion of anonymous publication of the Salterio, Comes tells us, and shortly after his death in 1943 the family had secured ecclesiastical approbation for the manuscript. But publication apparently was discouraged by the regime. A private first edition, limited to some 500 copies, was arranged in 1956 in Valencia by friends and family and encouraged by Archbishop Marcelino Olaechea Loizaga (1946-66). The text was based on the typescript Lucia’s daughter Josefina had made to his dictation on Majorca in 1941, which Olaechea had read in her home. The 1956 edition was mostly complete and added references for the numerous Biblical citations, which Lucia had made from memory. But government censors required suppression of references to the Salterio’s authorship by a political prisoner, its Christmas eve dedication from jail, and the final note that requested political discretion. This elegant new edition of the Salterio, based on the one autograph manuscript, held still by the family, is, then, the work’s first full, uncensored publication. An introduction by current Valencia Archbishop Carlos Osoro Sierra remembers Olaechea’s support of the work. There are 15 color plates illustrating the stages of the text and showing Lucia in ministerial splendor in 1935 and in the reduced circumstances of 1940 in a watercolor portrait, painted by a fellow prisoner.The Salterio, 28 psalms in all, is a “baring of his soul” (expansión del alma) for us to overhear. He understands his imprisonment as a Calvary and his psalter as a Gethsemane that prays over his chalice of offering. Lucia wonders, as the Biblical psalmist before him, about God’s providence in a miserable and contradictory world: why was everything taken away from me? how can I forgive my enemies? “My God, why have you abandoned me?” Yet, “My complaints are not complaints, but ventings of love… Because to ask is not to demand…” Lucia’s psalms are poems in prose. They rely for their music on rhetorical rhythms like anadiplosis (as in Romans 5, “suffering produces endurance, endurance character, character hope…” or, as in a passage of Lucia’s journalism that Comes quotes, “Education is respect, and respect is peace, and peace is order, and order is the first and indispensable foundation for the life of societies and the mutual understanding of the citizens that comprise it…”). For one example:Perfection is cooperation.Cooperation of grace and of will…Will that is freedom.Freedom, which is the possibility of merit.The possibility of merit, which is the key placed in my hands by your love to enter at will into the kingdom of your glory. And parallelism (as in the Biblical Psalms):When poverty surrounds me, it is because you wanted me poor and because you know the benefit of austerity that I can gain from my poverty.And when my brother slanders me it is because you wanted me slandered and because you know the benefit of humility that I can gain from slander…A prisoner of both Republic and Franco has been made sensitive to paradox, and this is his most pervasive rhetorical technique. He seeks to reconcile the most difficult balances and contradictions of Christian life, wanting to be a “balanced scale” (balanza en equilibrio), tipped wherever God wishes. To seek answers of God is compatible with submission to God’s will. To obey God is not a self-annihilating conformity, but a union and identification. He seeks to love without fear, yet love provokes the fear of ever losing the one he loves.Prison stimulates meditation on freedom: “I want to be free and to know I am free.” But the purpose of freedom, paradoxically achievable in prison, is submission to God’s will. “I renounce my freedom as my sovereign act.”  In Ecclesiastes, the whole duty of a human person is to fear God and do what he wills. “Well, then, Lord, I want to be entirely a man. And because I want to be that, I give myself completely to you.”  Yet Lucia distinguishes kinds of obedience: he wants to do God’s will not in conformity (conformidad) or abnegation, but in identification (identificación) and union: …because conformity smacks of resignation and resignation of sacrifice.  And in me there is no sacrifice. And because conformity means the sorrow of renunciation.My renunciation is not sorrowful, but joyful. I do not ask to be conformed with you, but to be unified with you…Uniting our will to God’s is the summit of perfection. And I want to reach that height!Of course, Christians must love their neighbor. For Lucia, intellectual culture presupposes empathy and becomes an act of service and solidarity not power:If I were the only man created on earth I would have asked only for a blind faith, Lord.But I have brothers.And because my brothers have hunger and thirst for your faith, I sought of you a reasoned faith as well…When I probe your wounds seeking reasons for my faith… do not mourn me O Lord! To seek is not to doubt.Whoever seeks desires and believes that he will find.I do not seek for myself but for my brothers.Give me for myself, Lord, the blind faith of a coal miner.But give me also to instill in my brothers all the knowledge of the faith of all your great Doctors.As Jesus died not only for those who loved him, but also for those who crucified him, Lucia must forgive the political enemies who condemned him to death, his former friends and colleagues:My neighbor is not just the one next to me... but every man. Someone from my race the same as those from the races which raise their hand against me.Someone who sheds his blood for me the same as the one who drains my own.My friend the same as my enemy.But because now Lucia seeks a perfect love of Christ, he distinguishes forgiveness of his enemies, which sometimes means only forgetting, from actually loving them:To the gates of death they brought me because I did not know how to hate.And from the gates of death I return and still I have not learned to hate…I killed the assassin to give to love of self the pleasure of its revenge.And I robbed the thief to give love of self the pleasure of its riches.And I rolled the lecher around in the mud to give to self-love the pleasure of its lust.Lucia aspires to indifference, to be blank paper for God’s pen, water for whatever vase, potter’s clay, that pain and pleasure should be the same to him (“I cannot go to you haggling like an egotist over the pain of my sweat.”), but his detachment is not ascetic or decadent: This detachment, Lord, cannot excuse me from my obligations to myself or those to my neighbor.Because detachment from goods is not abandonment of material things but a spiritual indifference.Holy detachment from things of the world is not a flight from the world. Nor does love of God imply contempt for the world:Because I am your image, I can rejoice in all the privileges of human dignity…All things are yours. I did not love you truly if I did not love all your things...I love the intoxicating aroma of your flowers because you gave me sense to perceive it.I love the fruits of your fields because you gave me taste to enjoy them. And I love the hand that caresses me the same as the thorn that hurts me because you gave me the same sensitivity to sweetness as to pain.Lucia has experienced a conversion in prison. Jesus’ threats have terrified him: the judgment against the man of many talents, the curse of the fig tree, the words “depart from me you worker of iniquity!” Lucia is the prodigal son who now wishes to return to the house of his Father. Though, Lord knows, he “proclaimed him in the great assembly,” his merit is small among his great sins. Sometimes he used his talents to “dazzle” rather than “illuminate” his people. Sometimes he was too busy for God. “I sought to get rid of your sweet yoke, which I believed heavy, and started to fall as a slave into the harsh service of implacable men.”What sin was Lucia ashamed of? After a political life committed to defending the thought and interests of Catholicism, what does he mean when he says, “I denied you many times with my conduct.”? Nothing disgraceful in particular, Comes believes, as he told me, but as Lucia in his 50s looks back on his life, trying to understand why he is in prison and why he has been condemned as traitor by a regime established by all his old friends, he sees his career as a public figure as poor and spiritually empty. Lucia now seeks perfection, a deep union with God. “Tired and disillusioned” with politics in general, he repents of political ideology: “I am exhausted of serving lords who allow me to die and of putting my heart in causes that are not you yourself and only you yourself, never did I have more hunger for you, more thirst for you, more crazy longing for you.” Now converted beyond ideology, he identifies himself simply with the will of God, the cross. How can it be suffering when suffering brings God? First I suffered you [the cross] with patience. Then I carried you con gusto, willingly.Now today I embrace you with love.Exercising as layman his share in Christ’s priesthood, Lucia concludes the Salterio by filling a chalice of offering with his sufferings in union with the communion of saints and praying for the whole church, for laborers for the harvest, for the unity of all Christians, for the peaceful intentions of Pius XII, for his loved ones and family, and finally for Spain, “my Spain… which now seeks to return to you and which, for having so many times ignored your call, must now be oblivious to so many lives and so much blood and grief and tears…” “There come to me the sweet and at the same time chilling echoes of your Great Promise, of your Great Offering, and of your Great Prayer.” Placing the Salterio in a wider literary or theological context is beyond the scope of Comes’ introduction, but he tells us that the most immediate influence was Élisabeth Arrighi Leseur (1866-1914, now Servant of God), whose spiritual journal Lucia read in prison in summer 1939. She herself had converted from a conventional bourgeois Catholicism to a deeper mysticism in the late 1890s and patiently won the conversion of her anti-clerical husband after her death. Lucia was impressed, as he wrote to his family, by “a saint in the middle of Parisian society, the only aspect of whose sanctity that anyone noticed was a cheerfulness that even seemed worldly” and struck by her words, “suffering is the most elevated form of action. …useful for the great and small causes that one longs to serve.”Lucia draws widely as well from traditional Catholic spirituality; the Salterio finds a place among prison writings like Philippians, in which the imprisoned Paul forgives the Christian enemies who mock his disgrace as long as Christ is being preached, or the letters of Ignatius of Antioch on his way to execution, or the Spiritual Canticle of John of the Cross, imprisoned by fellow Carmelites, or the last writings of Thomas More. Another dispossessed politician once optimistic about the possibilities for a Catholic state, More wrote from the Tower in 1534 a prayer not unlike Lucia’s:Of worldly substance, friends, liberty, life and all, to set the loss  at right nought for the winning of Christ;  To think my most enemies my best friends,  For the brethren of Joseph could never have done him so much good  with their love and favor as they did him with their malice and hatred.  Like Francis of Assisi, he loves all creation: “I am the brother of all things.” But like Augustine, he also recognizes the frustration built into creation that points to God: “And it is also to love you to love the pain of things which you created for us to punish us.” He quotes Francis de Sales -- “To unite our will with that of God is the summit of perfection.” -- and echoes the songs of Thérèse: To die in love!To die with love!To die for love!To die of love!!!The Salterio also looks ahead. Having faced in his own way violence and contradiction characteristic of the 20th century, Lucia shares what would soon be mid-century, Conciliar concerns. His emphasis on freedom and distinction between conformity and union with God anticipates the John Pauline acting person. Karol Wojtyla in “I Reach the Heart of the Drama” (1974) is kindred poet:You pay for freedom with all your being, therefore call this your freedom, that paying for it continually you possess yourself anew.Through this payment we enter history and touch her epochs…When Lucia treats the likeness of the human person to God as the basis of human solidarity and prelude to self-donation, he anticipates Gaudium et Spes. Lucia’s life and prayer dramatizes a theme that Josef Ratzinger/Benedict developed from Introduction to Christianity (1968): “man, leaving behind the seclusion and tranquility of his ‘I’, departs from himself in order by this frustration of his ‘I’ to follow the crucified Christ and exist for others” through Caritas in veritate (2009): “Only through an encounter with God are we able to see in the other something more than just another creature, to recognize the divine image in the other, thus truly coming to discover him or her and to mature in a love that ‘becomes concern and care for the other.’”Yet Lucia prays and writes not from Roman or Tudor prison, but, for part of his term, that of a regime supported by the Vatican and the wider Catholic world. The Salterio’s author learned to distinguish conservatism from orthodoxy and orthodoxy from union with the tortured crucified God. The cross is more than a coercive emblem, as for Constantine or Franco, but a disorienting Calvary that prompts Lucia to love, “to kiss the blessed hands that signed my death sentence,” rather than desire to kill his political enemies in the struggle for a Catholic regime. Lucia illuminates how fascist (as well as anti-clerical) politics imply an anti-personalist theology and spirituality and how Christians in a spirit of humble service might acknowledge the humanity of an enemy, even in politics. Lucia’s Salterio would make clear to us that, whatever the attractions of fascism for imposing Catholic orthodoxy or a beautiful social order, in the introductory words of BAC editor Carlos Granados, “Christian beauty is never a worldly aestheticism, but rather a quality proper to truth crucified.” (This new edition of Lucia’s Salterio is newsworthy also for the work’s connection to the story of Father Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legionaries of Christ, who appropriated it as his own. That topic will be dealt with in a second article.)

Legionary Chapter acknowledges deficiencies and looks to the future with revised charism

Apr 8, 2014 / 00:00 am

When it concluded on February 25, the Extraordinary General Chapter of the Legionaries of Christ, meeting in Rome to complete the drafting of new Constitutions and elect new leadership, issued eleven documents that represent the Congregation’s future. The Legionaries, once again autonomous, have emerged from a period of “examination and renewal” that began five years ago in 2009 with their public acknowledgment of their Founder’s scandalous double life and continued with an Apostolic Visitation (2009-10) and three and a half years of supervision under a Pontifical Delegate, Cardinal Velasio de Paolis (2010-14). The Constitutions, now awaiting Vatican approval, was the principal work of the Chapter, but these eleven communiqués and decrees, innovative in several respects, address generally a series of topics that widely concerned Legionaries during their self-examination and express the goals the Constitutions will legislate. The Chapter documents both apologize for past deficiencies and convey optimism for a productive future.(The eleven documents, including a presentation letter and two attachments, comprising some 120 pages, have recently all been made available in English translation of their original Spanish here)In its May 2010 report, the Visitation saw the “need to redefine the charism… preserving its true nucleus.” So most pressing on the Legionaries was to reformulate and to insist on the validity of their charism. The charism of a religious community, to use John Paul II’s words in Vita Consecrata (1996), expresses a “specific spirituality, that is, a concrete program of relations with God and one's surroundings, marked by specific spiritual emphases and choices of apostolate, which accentuate and re-present one or another aspect of the one mystery of Christ.” But, first, could a valid charism have been conveyed by a criminal Founder?Yes, it was, the Chapter says: the Church has always distinguished between founder and foundational charism and, inerrant in its approval of religious orders, approved the Legionaries twice with official decreta laudis in 1965 under Paul VI and in 1983 under John Paul. The Legion exists and Benedict XVI wanted it to keep existing. Canon law requires an identity, lifestyle, and tradition, and those they have.And so, “the Legion of Christ and its essential features do not have their ultimate origin in the person of the founder; they are a gift from God that the church has accepted, approved, and made her own, and which from that point on lives in the congregation and in its members… when talking about our foundational charism, we must not limit our consideration to the initial impulse from God, or how the founder embraced this grace in his life, but rather recognize that we are in the presence of a charism that has already been configured and institutionalized in the Church.”Accordingly, the Legionaries declare their reformulated charism to be that of “forming apostles,” making “particularly present the mystery of Christ the Lord who gathers the apostles to himself, reveals to them the love in his heart, forms them, and sends them to help establish the Kingdom in the hearts of people and society.” They wish to form “Christian leaders at the service of the Church” and “to form a chain by means of which God’s grace will reach people’s hearts, families, and society.” The congregation of Legionary priests now understands itself as a part of the larger Movement, Regnum Christi, all of whose members, whether men or women, lay or consecrated, married or ordained, religious and diocesan, share this same charism of forming apostles, according to their various states in life. “Each vocation expresses the shared charism in its own way… The complementarity of the different vocations” within the same charism “brings a unique evangelizing strength (especial fuerza evangelizadora) to the Movement.”Past problems aside, many priests with sincere love and desire to serve the church comprise the Congregation. The Movement as a whole is “a help in evangelizing and a hope for the future.” As apostolic priorities they take working with families and young people, founding schools, and working with the poor. Sharing the grace of holiness of life with all members through baptism, Legionary priests will serve the Movement both in spiritual fatherhood and in accompaniment as brothers and sisters. Canon law cannot currently accommodate this vision of the Movement and the “quest for an adequate canonical configuration” will continue. But, in the end, the fruitfulness of the mission depends “not on definitions or juridical instruments,” but on union with God.While resisting the lure of materialism and managing risks to the vow and the virtue of poverty, Legionaries are called to evangelize both poor and rich: “While we value direct apostolic action towards those most in need, we also have in mind that we can reach a greater number of them and do them greater good by means of the action of many others… we are not forgetting that evangelizing social or economic leaders is not always easy, but it is part of our vocation to bring them to Christ and encourage them to know and put into practice the Social Doctrine of the Church, and in so doing to transform social structures in accordance with justice and charity.”According to Legionary founder, Fr. Marcial Maciel, Pius XII in 1946 inspired him to rename the “Missionaries of the Sacred Heart and Our Lady of Sorrows” by citing the Vulgate Song of Songs to characterize the congregation as castrorum acies ordinata. The founder admired the discipline, strength, and effective cohesion of Roman imperial legionaries. The Visitation in 2010 had recognized the nucleus of the Legionary charism as “that of the militia Christi,” though one “not to be identified with the drive for efficiency at any cost,” and the Chapter confirms that “a militant character is part of [our] spiritual and human make-up… as the expression and fruit of a healthy tension (sana tensión) towards holiness and the establishment of the Kingdom.” However fraught the historical associations, the Legionaries declined to change their name as mere rebranding or “marketing strategy.” “In a certain way [the name] expresses the charism.” Legionaries hope someday for an affectionate, popular nickname like “Jesuit” or “Communion and Liberation” spontaneously to arise. But in the end, “the most important thing is the people who bear the name and the way in which they live.”“Recognizing the errors of the past” takes up much of the Chapter documents, together with aspirations for correction and requests for the new government to take up questions left unsettled.The widely noticed Communiqué of January 20 (now Attachment 1 to the final set of documents) “conclusively” acknowledges, condemns, and apologizes for the sins of Fr. Maciel: sexual abuse of seminarians, concubinage with several women, illegitimate children whom he also abused sexually, misappropriation of money and religious authority, drug addiction, and stealing the literary work of others.When the Vatican announced sanctions against Maciel in 2006, the wording was so charitable that the Legionaries corporately and Fr. Owen Kearns, Legionary publisher of the National Catholic Register at the time, were able to claim, plausibly to some, that the invitation “to a reserved life of penitence and prayer, relinquishing any form of public ministry” was in fact a refusal to sanction. Eight years later the Chapter addresses that misinterpretation -- Maciel’s behavior “merited the sanctions that …[were] justly imposed on him” -- and acknowledges with sadness the institutional silence and errors of judgment in dealing with the crisis.Beyond the Founder himself, the Legion also examined, as the Visitation had required, the effects that Maciel’s personality and behavior had had on the life the congregation. They admit that they often gave “undue, universal value to Fr. Maciel’s directives and clung too much to them because of an inadequate understanding of the concept of founder and an excessive exaltation and uncritical way of considering his person.” Under the previously approved Constitutions, Legionaries had as novices in training “submitted to trials especially those that demand the renunciation of their own judgment and will”; interpreted their religious vow of obedience as a “total surrender of judgment and will”; and additionally vowed never to criticize a superior and to inform on those that did. Benedict in 2007 set aside that private fourth vow and now consequently “we are learning how to share reflections and suggestions with our brothers and freely debate about any issue.” In future, “superiors… should be patient, humble, and sincerely open when [their subjects] express disagreements or criticisms, even if in an inadequate manner, trusting instead in their good intentions.”The Visitation also required in particular review of Legionary formation and governance. The Chapter finds that Legionaries were providing candidates with inadequate vocational discernment and help with responsible and mature decision-making. They pressurized recruits “with a certain ‘rush’ to get immediate results” due to “a desire to grow too quickly.” Vocational recruitment became a priority beyond other forms of service. They accordingly got too many vocations too fast to treat them as individuals. They resolve to develop a more personalized formation program and to train spiritual directors to know more psychology and be better able to guide discernment. The period covered by first vows will provisionally be increased to four years from three to allow more time for both candidates and superiors to know one another.The Chapter also admits to Legionaries’ not “having ordinarily (ordinariamente) distinguished between superiors and spiritual directors” in their houses of formation. This situation was a serious violation of canon law, which requires careful distinction between internal and external forum and, of course, the confidentiality of the seal of the confessional. They have newfound respect for the internal forum: “We have sought to implement a clear separation between the ambit of the conscience (spiritual direction and confession), the internal forum, and the external forum (the guidance of the superior and religious discipline) in order better to guarantee the freedom and the confidentiality of each religious.”As for governance, the Chapter finds in the past both excessive centralization and fragmented authority, insufficient consultation, too infrequent rotation of leadership, and too much reliance on statistical reports distorted by pressure to inflate numbers. The new Constitutions aim better to interconnect authority at central, regional and local levels, bring about more consultation, and to assign personnel more appropriately and keep novices in training closer to home. Some powers are newly delegated to territorial directors, such as admission to novitiate, first profession, renewal of vows, and some aspects of education and common life.Superiors are now expected to proceed according to law when confronting irregularity. Legionary governing documents will in future conform to universal ecclesiastical norms. Regulations to favor safe environments, already in place, are confirmed. Archives will be established as resource for the writing of objective history.Superiors, however, will still to some degree hope to manage Legionaries’ access to news, even in the aftermath of superiors’ having controlled members’ knowledge of the Maciel scandal, some of whom informed themselves by surreptitiously surfing the web. “Superiors should communicate to the members of their community all that affects the life of the congregation and the community and all that helps foster a family spirit. For this reason, they should try and ensure, in as much as possible, that news regarding the congregation reach Legionaries through their superiors. Given the dynamism and immediacy of today’s means of communication, this will not be possible in certain circumstances and hence we invite all to accept these limits with realism and understanding.”The Chapter notes deficiencies in Legionary apostolate: poor preparation, too much emphasis on the worldly concerns of prestige, institutional strength, and results at any price. Legionaries have acted independently of local bishops and ignored the pastoral plans and projects of the local church. This they will remedy.Community life suffered, the result of activist, on-the-road Legionaries treating it as an obstacle to the mission. The Legionary regimen fostered not friendship, but the idea that one should open his heart only to his superior. They now disavow the regulation of life down to the smallest details.In the interest of fostering amity, the Chapter revises the stricture on particular friendships, something traditional in congregations both to encourage universal charity and discourage homosexuality. “In a community setting, there can be, humanly speaking, difficult relationships, which ought to be welcomed with ‘crucified love’ In other cases, however, a deeper, more gratifying relationship will evolve which, elevated by grace and supernatural charity, develops into the Christian friendship of a consecrated person.  It is therefore possible to have companions we know better than others, with whom we get along better and consult more easily—without this relationship ever excluding anyone else.”   The Chapter recognizes an arid formalism in Legionary spirituality of the past and admits to having resisted Conciliar priorities for prayer and liturgy: liturgical prayer first, then contemplation, then acts of piety. Resolutions for improvement include reducing the number of the acts of piety and learning to assess them in terms of union with God and not as ends in themselves, to leave more space for personal prayer and contemplation, and to expand concelebration of Mass beyond feast days to Sundays and other days. They resolve to make the Church’s prayer, the Liturgy of the Hours, more relevant to the whole congregation by opening it to all the brothers (who are not required as are by law the ordained) and by inviting priests to pray it more often in community. The writings of Fr. Maciel have been central to Legionary spiritual reading and hard for many to give up. As prominent Legionary Fr. John Bartunek said in January, “A lot of the fathers fed their hunger for spiritual reading with the writings of the founder. Today, a lot of these guys are doing great work and are spiritually mature priests, and they ask, ‘How can we say it's all trash?’” The Chapter nevertheless asks that there be spiritual reading drawn more widely from tradition and Magisterium. The Legion is now heavily in debt, the Chapter says, due to imprudent, “disordered and unbalanced” expansion, and poor financial planning and control, an aspect of the vocational “rush.” Running schools is expensive and the scandal came simultaneously with the worldwide economic downturn. The debt, however, is “manageable, considering the income and the assets of the congregation as a whole.”In response, the Legion will be working toward self-sustainability, better integration of financial planning at general, territorial, and local levels, and economizing: eliminating unnecessary travel, curbing desire for the latest equipment and accoutrements, and being careful to undertake new projects. They have in fact consolidated and sold off many of their properties: merging the territories of Germany and France and Atlanta and New York; separating Rome from the territory of Italy; closing apostolic schools (the Legionary term for high school or minor seminaries) in California, Chile, Argentina, and Brazil; closing novitiates in Ireland and Canada; closing the humanities school in Salamanca in Spain; and closing the theology school in Thornwood, New York.These documents are of course written with the blandness of theological bureaucratese. “Increase our patrimony” means “raise money by fundraising.” “Our apostolic charism at times brings us to work with people in environments of economic abundance” means “God calls us to evangelize the rich.” Legionaries should be “always respecting the donor’s intention” for money they receive. It would have broken canon law had they ever done otherwise. The founder is acknowledged as guilty of “the arbitrary use… of material goods,” but an Economic Affairs Commission, headed by Msgr. Mario Marchesi, one of the Delegate’s commissioners who investigated Legionary financial affairs, found no “embezzlements or other irregularities in the fiscal actions that were reviewed.” At the same time, the Chapter acknowledges that there was pressure that “brought [some Legionaries] to slacken in the diligence with which they live the vow of poverty by managing funds apart from legitimate superiors and administrators” and there were some canonical provisions “for the administration of ecclesiastical goods… which at times we have not applied with precision and constancy.” The delicacy of euphemism makes it uncertain just what financial impropriety is being admitted to here.While the Legion is again autonomous under new leadership, the Chapter emphasized that the reform is ongoing and that, aside from approving the draft of the new Constitutions, its achievement is only provisional. “We are committed to continuing this process of renewal and conversion humbly.” The Delegate’s assessment that the Legion is now “cured and cleaned” and the words of newly elected Legionary General Director Fr. Eduardo Robles Gil in an inaugural interview, “we want things to go back to normal,” must be understood in that light.The goals articulated by the Chapter documents remain to be fleshed out in a new Ratio institutionis, “the formation program inspired by a particular charism” (as Vita consecrata defines it), due within three years, and Ratio studiorum, the academic program, after that.The Chapter tasked the new government with such things as developing further necessary financial and administrative guidelines, planning for financial self-sustainability, developing funds for elderly and sick members, and revising the Legionary manual of liturgy, manual of practical exams, and prayer book.Most importantly, the “quest for an adequate canonical configuration” for Regnum Christi continues, that is, a solution to the question in canon law of how to incorporate an institute that includes so variously so many states of life. Perhaps the canonical configuration of Opus Dei will provide some sort of parallel there.Provisional, experimental norms for the consolidation of the whole Movement of Regnum Christ and the self-governance of its branches were approved earlier by the Delegate and issued as a Provisional Framework on March 19. The Chapter acknowledges that in the past, the Legionaries did not sufficiently “appreciate or promote the individual vocation of each member” of Regnum Christi or share responsibility for the apostolate. Under the new norms, they will respect decision-making in the lay branches of the Movement. Further dialogue will further illuminate the vocation to Regnum Christi and each state of life in it.(Documents relating to the “Provisional Framework of Cooperation for the mission of Regnum Christi” are available in English translation here)Other challenges also remain. The Legionaries emerge from a time of “pain and confusion,” “loss of zeal,” and “mutual distrust,” in which many left the congregation. Victims of a spiritual charlatan, they “hope[d] against all hope” that their sense of vocation was not in vain, while developing “a thirst for prayer” that remains a good fruit of the sorrows. The remarkable extensiveness and severity of their apology argues for the sincerity of their conversion.They do admit to a lot in the Chapter documents, including serious violations of canon law. If still seeing themselves as a congregation that produced “exemplary religious” and good priests who “live a love for the Church, a sense of obedience, self-denial, availability, and apostolic zeal” and “combine an adequate intellectual formation with a careful human formation,” simultaneously, by their own admission in these documents, they were a congregation that used people instrumentally, did not know friendship or how to discuss and debate issues respectfully, rejected Conciliar priorities in prayer and liturgy, practiced empty externalism that inspired both dissipation and an activism that vindicated itself with statistics and prestige, disrespected the freedom of candidates in discernment in the rush to get results, broke canon law in their seminaries by violating the internal forum, mishandled and imprudently spent money, sidestepped the authority of local bishops, and mindlessly adulated their founder.They admit, in short, what critics had accused them of over the decades and they were as could have been expected from their having revered and imitated a founder who led “a life devoid of scruples and authentic religious meaning,” as the Visitation found. A certain cultishness, the uncritical exaltation of the person of a founder and all these consequences of it, secretly flourished even within a new religious movement under Vatican approval.“We asked ourselves how to fit several elements together that could seem contradictory.” As the reform continues, the Legion will need to resolve opposites (or, to put it another way, animate paradoxes). How have they redefined a charism that the Church already possessed? If “the future will require continual conversions of heart and mind,” how will they preserve their traditions and simultaneously convert away from them? If their heritage is mixed, will it be hard to keep what is sound and jettison what is not? Who will guarantee the permanence of the conversion?The Legionaries have laid claim to a charism so innovative that canon law cannot yet accommodate it and so flexible as to include priests religious and secular, consecrated, and laity, in both contemplation and active evangelizing, in apostolic work with both rich and poor, both on-the-road and in community. It is also a charism that was conveyed from God by an unholy founder. Legionaries and Delegate could have plotted another less complicated route to the future. The congregation could have been refounded or the first Legionary or Regnum Christi members could have been recognized as the true conveyers of the charism or some other solution could have been found. But, so committed still in some ways to the person of Fr. Maciel, the Legionaries choose to stake their future on the understanding that they possess a charism already institutionalized by the church and totally distinct from its source.Pope Benedict and Cardinal João Braz de Aviz, the current Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, have endorsed this approach to the Legionary reform, but not all will agree that it is “in line with common doctrine,” as the Chapter claims. The Legion may have the “vocation and identity” required by canon 587 but canon 578 still holds that “all must observe faithfully the mind and designs of the founders regarding the nature, purpose, spirit, and character of an institute…” Vita consecrata requires, among other things, “fidelity to the inspiration of the founders and foundresses,” who embodied the Spirit’s gift, though most every reference to founders in that Exhortation can in fact sustain the Legionaries’ notion of a disembodied charism.The divergence of opinion was vividly on view on March 9 in an episode of the Irish Television (RTE) religious documentary series “Would you believe?” about the conclusion of the Chapter and the Irish contribution to Legionary history. As Fr. Owen Kearns, an Irish Legionary closely associated with the redefinition of the charism, put it, “We believe that God did use a seriously flawed criminal, a sociopath, if you want to put it like that, an abuser, and through him set up this, such that when we met it, we knew, this is from God.” As Genevieve Kineke, author of The Authentic Catholic Woman and Life after RC blogger, was edited to respond: “That’s not how the Holy Spirit works.”Observing how the Legionaries will go on to lead their institutional life will help settle the engrossing theological questions as to whether a valid charism can be communicated by an unworthy founder and, more generally, whether the Church is inerrant in its approval of religious institutes. Time will tell whether the Legionaries’ creative approach to charism will prove a good foundation on which to win back the trust of the Church. They have proven so far at least that they are gifted with the charism of survival.