Thursday, March 11, 2010

Taking Advantage of Youth

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?


Just Wonderin' said...

Obama has it! :)

And why do you personally hate the LC/RC so much? Just curious.

Nat said...

"He took their time, their money, their enthusiasm, and used them feed his own sinful desires"

Some snowy evening when you want to dig deep:

"Enthusiasm: A Chapter in the History of Religion with Special Reference to the XVII and XVIII Centuries (1950). Knox's own favourite book, a study of the various movements of Christian men and women who have tried to live a less worldly life than other Christians, claiming the direct guidance of the Holy Spirit, and eventually splitting off into separate sects."

Anonymous said...

"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?"

"And why do you personally hate the LC/RC so much? Just curious"

Good Lord. She's a writer. Not a hater.

The Monk said...

Last year, the Archbishop of Dublin, Ireland, Diarmuid Martin said “there is a dramatic and growing rift between the Church and our younger generations and the blame does not lie principally with young people. Our young people are generous and idealistic but such generosity and idealism does not seem to find a home in the Church, which for many remains an alien place.”

I was a Legionary of Christ for 20 some years and worked closely with Marcial Maciel, the founder. I eventually saw that he was a manipulator of people, Machiavellian, possessed of a lethal dose of narcissism combined with great charisma. More than 25 years after leaving, I was stunned by the awful revelations about him. I am willing to wait for the recommendations of the Apostolic Visitation before pronouncing that there is no such thing as a vocation to priesthood or lay apostolate in the Legion. I expect the name will be changed, the constitutions revised, their canonical status adjusted and I hope they will accept the changes.

However, more than many in his time, MM did manage to make the Church a less alien place for young people. He attracted more than 70,000 members to his lay organization (Regnum Christi.) The Legionaries have more young, committed, orthodox priests and seminarians than practically any other religious congregation. They have a superb network of colleges, schools, missions and important charities. I would wager they have less instances of child abuse in their apostolates than other congregations of similar size.

Hence the awful dilemma – can anything good be salvaged from the work of a man who turned out to be a sinner? Are we sure that MM's personal sins invalidate the good that others did while in the LC/RC? I believe I did a lot of good - not because of MM, but because of God. Do the sins of the father invalidate the independent good done by family members?

I am about to publish a book about my experiences with him, trying to figure the answer to the dilemma. In no way do I seek to defend MM or the LC (the book is just about my personal experiences - it's "my story." I don't want to jump the gun on the AV and, to be truthful, I still feel a sense of loyalty to my former brothers in arms - both in the LC and RC. They will all choose what to do with their lives. For now, I think they need our support and prayers.

Nat said...


If you want to write a book worth buying why don't you grapple with the questions Fr. Berg raises. Now that would be a useful contribution to the Church:

Anonymous said...

The fact that MM attracted a ton of people in such a short time means exactly nothing. In fact, for me it raises flags.

For a tree to be solid and strong it has to have fat and deep roots.

MM wasn't just a sinner. He committed delicta graviora, those crimes that are punishable by excommunication and by those words Our Lord Himself uttered "it would be better for him that a millstone be tied around his neck and he be drowned in the depth of the sea"

What is the rush in attracting the youth?
I firmly believe that if we offer the youth authentic solid Catholic devotions of Adoration, Rosary, etc...... we are working through Our Lord's power and we will keep the youth. But, of course, this is not fast growth, this is slow, but steady --- like the roots of a tree.


The Monk said...

Nat -
Thanks for the reference. I had to search a bit but came up with this one:

Based on what I read, I don't think Fr. Berg asks anything that I haven't addressed in the "epilogue" of my book. I agree with most of his comments - the LC needs a massive dose of reality therapy in order to accept the dimension and impact of the sins of the father. They need to re-found themselves with Vatican guidance distancing themselves from Maciel, they need to truly understand their charism and they have lots of good people in LC/RC.

Of course, I don't pretend to have the answers and the big incognito is how the LC/RC will respond to the AV. The other incognito is what the AV will actually recommend...

The book is at the publisher so there's not much I can add. If your interest is sincere, as I believe it to me, I should say that my book is not about MM or the LC. It's just my story of how I joined in 1962, was the first Irish LC in Mexico, started some prestigious schools, founded the first house in New York, served as aide-de-camp for a couple of Cardinals, found my heart and almost lost my mind.... ending up in Gabon (Central West Africa) and then home.... and a new life. I suppose there is some element of "triumph over adversity." But that will be for readers to decide. Thanks again for the lead.

Nat said...

Monk, Good to hear from you. What part of Fr. Berg's comments did you disagree with?

Agreed that that are many good people, and that radical surgery i.e. refoundation(s) is required to break away from the methodology and the recruiting networks and the corruption that led to the spiritual immaturity Fr. Berg describes.

As for refoundation I think you only get one shot at a unique charism. The re-foundation(s) should look to the Church to provide suitable missions and rules and leadership to start from.