Responding to Vatican analyst Sandro Magister’s article on the leadership of the Legion of Christ, two prominent former members of the congregation told CNA on Wednesday that Fr. Luis Garza LC, current Vicar General of the Legion, should be regarded as part of the solution and not the problem.
Fr. Richard Gill and Fr. Thomas Berg, two high profile former Legionaries of Christ now working in the Archdiocese of New York, told CNA that Magister, in his reaction to the Legion of Christ's official admissions concerning Fr. Marcial Maciel's double life, “makes valid points about the likelihood the Holy See will need to remove the current major superiors and appoint a commissioner” in order to make “needed reforms” and “purge the Legion of any taint of the legacy of Maciel.”
“The current superiors,” the priests note, “whether they had prior knowledge of, or were complicit in any way with Maciel's crimes are certainly compromised by their closeness to him and their inability to be honest about, and take corrective steps concerning his scandalous life from the time it became indisputably clear in 2006.”
They note that moving forward for the Legion, “requires new leadership and a new start with a spirituality free from the influence of a man who may in fact be the most seriously disturbed major Catholic figure in the 20th century.”
Nevertheless, the two former Legionaries argue that Magister goes “well beyond the available evidence” when he suggests the Vicar General, Fr. Luis Garza, LC is “mastermind of an evil conspiracy to consolidate control."
“Our personal experience has been that Fr. Garza was candid and forthright from the beginning about the issues generated by the Maciel scandals. It was Garza who investigated Maciel once it began to appear to him the Vatican's 2006 censure of Maciel was well grounded and discovered the facts. Garza later put forth a program of openness and reform that was unfortunately rejected by the other major superiors, a program which, had it been implemented at the time, would have saved the Legion much of its current distress,” Fathers Gill and Berg say.
Magister also notes in his article that Garza “is the creator and absolute master” of the “holding company that acts as treasury and administrative center for all the works of the Legion in the world, with assets totaling an estimated 25 billion euros.”
The priests defend the Legion saying that “all religious orders have assets in real estate and investments, and some larger orders no doubt have assets in the many billions of dollars. Why should this be surprising?"
They add, “The task of any reporter who suspects foul play is to demonstrate that this wealth is somehow ill gotten or is being misused for purposes that do not further the mission of the Church.”
“A reporter should avoid innuendo that creates an impression unsupported by facts he can document,” Fathers Gill and Berg conclude
[Please be sure to read the comments for Aaron Loughery's precise explanation of Fr Garza's complicity in covering up his (A.L.'s) personal encounter with sexual abuse in the Legion. He lied to cover the Legion's reputation and intimidate the victim.
Kindly remember that your humble scribe indicated a year ago that there were troubling elements in the parting discourse of Fr Berg, not to mention concerns about Fr Gill's actual separation from the group, since he was still collaborating with them. People have gotten so distracted by recent emerging facts about MM's sexual perfidy that we've neglected the fundamental truth: this is a cult--and a cult that invested heavy in mass media apostolates. That focus seems to be paying dividends even now. Now when reading this piece below, keep in mind that the author is a Legionary seminarian (evidently in Rome) who is writing for a LC-hosted site. And there are clear indications that the seminarians have not been told everything about the founder or the details of the current situation. Consider that filter as you process how he may have understood her remarks.]
Mrs Glendon seems to have confidence in the group as well:
Mary Ann Glendon, president of the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences, professor at Harvard University, former ambassador of the United States to the Holy See; visited the Legionaries of Christ in Rome and gave a conference, referring to the current situation of the Legionaries of Christ.
Wise, warm and welcoming; she confided to the Legionary community in Rome that she knows what it is like to go through a time of of testing. The first lesson learned is that God does give the strength. She mentioned that when Pope John Paul II named her to the Vatican delegation to the United Nations Conference on Women in Beijing in 1994, she felt inadequate. One of her lifetime greatest difficulties was stage fright. In Beijing, she would have to confront a vary diverse audience with views mostly contrary to some of the basic talking points of the Vatican at the summit.
Almost mysteriously, the stage fright left her. Asking a religious sister in the delegation why it had taken so long for her to get over this phobia, Sister Christine answered “so you could be sure that it is not you that did this.” God does give the strength.
The second lesson is to not exaggerate the suffering. Sometimes with hate mail or vicious phone calls, she can feel sometimes like St. Sebastian with the arrows sticking out. Then she reminds herself that she is not St. Sebastian: they are not arrows, only letters and phone messages.
The biggest suffering that she has witnessed up close was the 2002 Boston Clergy Sex Abuse Crisis. At the distance of eight years, it is a good moment to take stock of what we have learned from the event. Really, the involvement of Catholic priests in child abuse, while grave, is only one manifestation of the problems resulting from the Sexual Revolution of the second half of the twentieth century.
The Clergy Sex Abuse Crisis helped to underline that the true victims of this Revolution have been children. They have suffered especially from three A’s: Abortion, Abandonment by irresponsible parents, and Abuse.
Those mainly responsible have been in their own families. First on the list are their mothers’ live-in boyfriends and stepfathers. Then come teachers and other adults with privileged access to children. Way down the line come Catholic priests, accounting for less than 2% of all child sex abuse cases.
Why was there so much furor directed against the Church? We have to look at the source of the attacks. Contingent-fee lawyers in Boston, who receive as payment one-third to one-half of the amount awarded their clients, realized it was not very lucrative to sue teachers or Protestant ministers. It could be a gold mine to sue the Catholic Church. They were able to win support by getting the news media to publicize some dreadful cases that did occur in Boston.
With the help of the example of English statesman, Edmund Burke, she explained how in the French Revolution, there was an organized campaign trying to smear the clergy with immorality. This was in preparation for confiscating Church property. Burke questioned the sincerity of someone who would accuse just before robbing somebody. Burke, a Protestant, recognized the effort to get the French to hate their own clergy as a preparation for abolishing the Christian religion.
Here, Mrs. Glendon turned her attention to the Legionaries of Christ. Who can be surprised that there is so much attention on the Legion of Christ? Behind the lawyers, the opportunistic newspapers, the revolutionaries in France in the 18th century; there was another force.
St. Paul gives some good advice on what to do in this case. Eph. 6:11-20 states: “Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground. So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace. In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all (the) flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. With all prayer and supplication, pray at every opportunity in the Spirit. To that end, be watchful with all perseverance and supplication for all the holy ones and also for me, that speech may be given me to open my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel for which I am an ambassador in chains, so that I may have the courage to speak as I must.”
Nicholas Sheehy, LC studies for the priesthood in Rome.