As I was meditating on the Office of Readings for today, it hit me afresh how wrong the Legion response is, i.e. "Look at all the fruit." This is said in a variety of ways: "But we do a lot of good," or "We sincerely want to serve the Church," or "Regnum Christi is all about good works." Perhaps, and I'd like to think everyone is motivated by their own definition of good. But consider this:
The death of the Lord our God should not be a cause of shame for us; rather, it should be our greatest hope, our greatest glory. In taking upon himself the death that he found in us, he has most faithfully promised to give us life in him, such as we cannot have of ourselves.
He loved us so much that, sinless himself, he suffered for us sinners the punishment we deserved for our sins. How then can he fail to give us the reward we deserve for our righteousness, for he is the source of righteousness? How can he, whose promises are true, fail to reward the saints when he bore the punishment of sinners, though without sin himself?Brethren, let us then fearlessly acknowledge, and even openly proclaim, that Christ was crucified for us; let us confess it, not in fear but in joy, not in shame but in glory.The apostle Paul saw Christ, and extolled his claim to glory. He had many great and inspired things to say about Christ, but he did not say that he boasted in Christ’s wonderful works: in creating the world, since he was God with the Father, or in ruling the world, though he was also a man like us. Rather, he said: Let me not boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (from a sermon by Saint Augustine).
And let's look again at the Legion/Regnum Christi response:
- They don't say that they are boasting in God's good works through them, but in their own good works (maybe shorthand for the former, but it's always said this way, which indicates sloppy thinking at best) but even if they claim it's God working through them, that's not something to boast about according to Sts. Paul and Augustine;
- Good works--whether God's or man's--are not the point. We can only cling to the cross and pray that we are saved by the blood of Christ;
- "Consider all the good" seems to be the heighth of self-righteousness--and I know I used that phrase myself when in. For this I am truly sorry.
So we can revisit some quotes on behalf of the Legion to see how they stack up:
For his own mysterious reasons, God chose Fr Maciel as an instrument to found the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi, and we thank God for the good he did. At the same time, we accept and regret that, given the gravity of his faults, we cannot take his person as a model of Christian or priestly life (Legion Communique of 25 March 2010).
Love moves us to continue making a reality of the beautiful and fruitful charism that God gave us. Out of love, we seek to make it bear fruit (Fr Alvaro's letter of 25 March, 2010).
Why would these elderly men attack Father Maciel? Who would conspire to allege sexual misconduct against an aging priest who started a fast-growing priestly congregation, the ecclesial movement Regnum Christi, hundreds of schools, 10 universities, and a host of other institutions and apostolates serving the Church? (Fr Owen Kearns boasting about MM's works, as proof of his goodness).
There have been so many questions in my heart - but I can't doubt the call God put on my heart to join Regnum Christi - and I can't doubt what I have seen of the Holy Spirit working through so many good people: priests, Consecrated, and laity. I also don't deny that I am a sinner myself (RC member defending good people in the Movement -- note the awkward wording).
“While we cannot deny that Father Maciel was our founder and did much good,” the letter says, “neither can we deny the reality of what has recently come to light and his grave human failings."
"Along with the severe failings of the founder, and of the probable few who directly or tacitly enabled those failings over the years, please acknowledge the many good and effective works of the Legion and Regnum Christi, and the thousands of religious vocations in them. The Catholic Church needs and wants to maintain those. I trust Pope Benedict to do that" (comment on article about the Legion).
If you thought the Catholic Church was dead, look again! Fr. Maciel is a true son of the Church, faithful to what God asked of him, and -at 83 years old- is still going strong. This book is candid and historically accurate, showing how a 20 year old seminarian was able to found a religious congregation that is one of the fastest growing in the Church today. "You shall know a tree by its fruits;" for anyone who has heard of the work of the Legionaries of Christ, this book is a chance to see the roots (Ed Mulholland's review of Christ is My Life.
Maciel gives a tearful farewell speech to the congregation: “The Legion is said to be a good work, but what is the chance that the Legion, the tree, the branches, and the fruits are good, but I, the trunk, am evil? What sense is there in that?” (10 October 1956).
"I believe so, the congregation of the Legionaries of Christ is a work that, for me as a priest, I see it as coming from God, that has done a great deal of good, and has to continue doing a great deal of good. I have total confidence that it will continue (Alvaro Corcuera in the radio interview above).
Yes, by their fruits you shall know them, but the fruits are secondary -- not the hook on which you justify your existence. "Who are you calling good?" asked our Lord.
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of Glory died
My richest gain I count but loss
And pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it Lord that I should boast
Save in the death of Christ my God
All the vain things that charm me most
I sacrificed them to His blood.