While I was writing the response to Warrior Woman’s post on the “What Should RC Members do Now?” post, I realized something about Maciel.
He was brilliant at taken advantage of Youth. Not just physically, but spiritually.
It’s the nature of youth to burn with passion, to want to do great things and important things. It’s also the nature of youth to underestimate their elders – to assume that the quiet acts of piety and charity are lukewarm and mediocre, because they’re quiet.
So, for instance, I went through a “Liturgy Planning Nazi” stage in college, where I was determined to shake the congregation out of their complacency with acts of LITURGY. (It’s a pretty embarrassing period in my life. I went all the way – cactuses in the baptismal font, making the congregation give up chairs for lent, ‘dramatizing’ the readings… well, we avoided Liturgical dance… but only barely…)
Or look at St. Augustine. In the brashness of youth he mistook his mother’s simple piety for plain old stupidity. He had to run off, join a cult and lead a life of sin before he recognized the truth – and even then, it took the brilliance of St. Ambrose to bring him around.
Maciel understood this tendency – and that’s how he roped people in. He promised them a chance to do big things, when other adults just wanted their help with donut day. He promised they could be saints, cofounders, even. He asked huge amounts of time and money from them, and they gave, because for the young bigger is always better.
He gave them rallies. He gave them VOCATIONS. He made them feel special and needed. He made them an elite corps. He got them to engage in Apostolate! Look at us, we’re apostles! We’re saints in the making!
But he gave them nothing in exchange. He took their time, their money, their enthusiasm, and used them feed his own sinful desires. He was like a great gaping mouth, swallowing the good and repaying it with evil. He took their enthusiasm and turned it to his own ends with faulty theology and thought stopping phrases. (Lost Vocation, Sure Damnation! It rhymes, so it MUST be true.)
It takes a special gift to do that. Hitler had it. Stalin had it. Mao had it, and Maciel had it. The people who’ve been in RC since high school are like people recovering from the Cultural Revolution. They had enthusiasm and belief, but Maciel twisted them. And now, they have to take a step back and mourn their spent youth and idealism – otherwise, how can they go on?