The story of the Legion seems to be one of victims and tragedies. We’ve seen the pain of the abuse victims, the secret families, and the ex-members who were thrown aside as soon as they were no longer useful to the movement. But, in the end, the greatest victim of Maciel’s methodology may have been the man himself.
Maciel used his warped definition of ‘charity’ to make sure that no one could criticize his behavior. He surrounded himself with lieutenants whose greatest desire was to protect the movement. He lived within a bubble, where sin had no consequences.
Sometimes I wonder if Garza, Corcuera and company actually hated Maciel. After all, by practicing Legionary ‘Charity,’ they may have damned him.
In Legion-speak, charity means not criticizing other people. It means excusing sinful acts and remaining silent in the face of a superior’s unjust behavior. In contrast, Christian charity calls us to admonish the sinner and instruct the ignorant. We are called to care more for the souls of others than for our own comfort and popularity.
Maciel taught his followers to practice an inversion of Christian Charity. As a result, they were either unwilling or unable to call him out for his behavior. Even worse, they happily portrayed him as a living saint. They insulated him from the temporal consequences of his actions and let him live as an unrepentant sinner.
In the end, we have a story that is more in keeping with a Greek tragedy than with the history of Catholic religious orders. Maciel thought he could use God and the Church for his own gain. Instead, he harmed others and destroyed his own life. He may have even damned himself.
Last week, the Legion apologized for Maciel’s actions. Now I want to see them apologize for their own actions. They owe their followers an apology, for leading them astray. They owe the Conquest and Challenge kids an apology, for encouraging them to model their lives on Maciel’s. But, more importantly, they owe Christ and his Church an apology. We’re responsible for the spiritual well-being of our brothers and sisters.
The souls of the Legionaries may have been in Maciel’s care, but he was also in theirs. When Corcuera and Garza allowed him to sin with impunity, when they didn’t force him to accept punishment for his crimes, they abandoned him. They put Mammon above Mercy and Luxury above Love. Maciel goes before them as Marley went before Scrooge. They have had their warning – they have seen the consequences of a lifetime of lies. It is time for them to repent.
Fortunately, we have a pope who will not allow them to escape the consequences of their actions. He can’t force them to ask God for forgiveness, but he can remove them from power and hopefully provide the catalyst for their conversion.
This holy week, I’ll be offering my prayers and sacrifices for my friends who remain tangled in Maciel’s web of lies, fear and control. I originally started blogging on the subject in the hopes that I could use it to start a conversation with friends in town who shy away from in-person discussions of LC/RC and who keep insisting that everything’s GREAT! I am now fairly certain that it hasn’t reached any of them. So my only option is to take to my knees and plead with the Holy Spirit. I suspect many of you are in the same position – so let’s storm heaven this week.