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.”
(Column continues below)
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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.