Some of my friends are still insisting that Maciel could have had a legitimate charism—that in one brief moment of grace in his sordid life, God could have given him the impetus to found a religious order.
I think they’re missing how charisms usually come about.
If you look at other orders, the charism doesn’t come to the founder in a lightening flash. He doesn’t wake up one morning and say “I’m going to found an order to serve the poor!” Charisms seem to develop organically, after many years of toil, after the founder is already trying to serve God in everything he does.
Take St. Francis, for example. He didn’t wake up one morning, write down a rule for Franciscans, and start an order.
First, he experienced a deep conversion. Then, on fire with love for Christ, he started trying to follow Gospel teaching literally. He tried selling all his belongings and giving the money to the poor—but that scheme backfired magnificently. (The cloth was actually his dad’s, and he had to pay his father back. The bishop was sympathetic, but firm.)
Then he tried to “Build up the Church.” Literally. By begging for stones and renovating a decrepit chapel. But people were attracted by his fervor- without trying to, he attracted companions. After a while, they decided they needed a rule, and they went to the Bible to find it.
And then, Francis had to begin the slow work of living by that rule, and figuring out exactly what it meant. It took St. Francis a lifetime to learn to serve God. If you had asked him what his “Charism” was, he wouldn’t have been able to articulate it- as far as he was concerned; he was just a simple man trying to follow Christ.
From the outside, it’s easy to see what the Franciscan charism is – Francis and his companions lived lives of radical poverty, depending on God for all their needs, while preaching the Gospel and caring for the poor. They found freedom through poverty, and trust through uncertainty. They passed on that spirit to posterity, and now we can look back and say “aha!” They had a charism.
The Legion’s account is topsy-turvy. They claim the charism can only be seen from the inside, even though usually charisms are clearer to those who are outside looking in. They claim Maciel received this charism from God in a moment of grace – that it doesn’t matter if he never lived it and it never led him to holiness, because the charism is still sound.
In a world where most orders follow the Franciscan model (1. Conversion 2. Trying to live a better life 3.Attracting companions 4.Gradually developing a way of following Christ based on the founder’s experiences that continues through the generations), the Legion alone has a charism delivered directly by God.
For years, many of us were willing to give the Legion the benefit of the doubt—maybe it was a new way, for the 20th century! (Of course, Mother Teresa’s order followed the old way, but never mind that)
Now that the truth’s out, it’s clear that the Legion is different from all orders that came before it. Not because they got a special charism in a special way, but because they have no charism and were founded by a child-molesting embezzler. There can be no charism. I can’t say it enough. There is no charism. There never was. Those who joined LC/RC were spiritually defrauded. They’re like people who bought into a non-existent timeshare development.
But you can’t sue for spiritual fraud-- you can’t recover your time, your trust, and your faith in a court of law. All you can do is grieve, pray for healing, and try to persevere. Putting a happy face won’t help you; it will just delay the inevitable crash. But Maciel was not Christ, and his groups are not the Church. Your local parish has not defrauded you; the sacraments have not betrayed you.
I’m feeling especially harsh today. I’m not surprised Maciel molested his own kids—after all, he molested the kids who thought they were his spiritual children too! But I’d hoped that the cover-up was not as large; that the depths of corruption in the Legion were not so deep. I’m sorry for Maciel’s sons, but I’m angry that Jim Fair, the Legion’s official spokesman, is happy to just brush the whole thing aside.
Since it’s March, the month of St. Joseph, I’d suggest you turn to him, especially if your income depends on Maciel’s evil empire.
Ite Ad Joseph!