For this post, we defer to the prayerful study of a man deeply affected by the Legion. As the members of the General Chapter gather for prayer and discernment, may we accompany them, fully aware of how the Church has operated in such matters over the course of her existence:
Whatever I have suffered personally at the hands of the Legionaries of Christ is not my concern, save inasmuch as it has led me to follow the discourse concerning the rise, fall and attempted renewal of this community, culminating in the current General Council. I have seen compelling canonical, ecclesiological, financial, psychological, social and cultural analyses of the Legion situation; what I have not seen, is any clear theology on the matter. This confuses and troubles me greatly. The following is not an analysis of the Legion’s situation per se, but a discussion of the issue of charismata and especially of founder’s graces — a particular topic in mystical theology which has been an object of intense study for me over some time. The quotations appended at the end of this passage were not compiled, or sought in the interest of building a case for or against the continued existence of the Legion. I have studied and prayed with the writings of St. John of the Cross and St. Peter Julian Eymard over a lifetime, and the writings of our recent popes intensively over the past years; their doctrine has become, for me, a native intellectual milieu. It is impossible for me to understand the current discourse apart from this formation.
Charismata are gifts of the Holy Spirit gratis datae, like prophecy and miracles. The charism considered here is that of foundation (“founder’s graces”) — without which a religious community cannot be founded, for as Evangelica Testificatio states, “the charism of the religious life, far from being an impulse born of flesh and blood or one derived from a mentality which conforms itself to the modern world, is the fruit of the Holy Spirit.” Charism here is not like a corporate mission statement, a job description or even a designation of apostolate; such things are quite pragmatic, and quite human in origin. Charism is the working of the Holy Spirit through the instrumentality of the founder, which contains virtually within itself the entire life and future of the congregation, as an acorn contains virtually within itself an oak tree.
In such a case, reform could come to a community by a radical return to the spirit of the founder, to the spirit given the founder, a return which supersedes the betrayal of that spirit on the part of the founder himself. St. Peter Julian Eymard writes, "God never gives more than one graces of foundation." True, this would run counter to the references in Evangelica Testificatio and Vita Consecrata to the holiness of the founder as inspiration for the continued life of the community; this is problematic, but by itself perhaps not insurmountable.
To have, however, a vague and amorphous charism (or, even worse, an alleged charism focused around the natural self or “personality” of the founder) in conjunction with evident evil and corruption in the founder — that would seem to indicate something different. That would seem to indicate the absence of a charism, an absence of founder's graces (or a rejection thereof so thoroughgoing as to leave nothing behind); this would seem to indicate at best a human work, at worst a diabolical one. Success in numbers and influence is no witness to anything; who, after all, is the prince of this world? Indeed, such success points only to a higher standard for founder’s graces and charism, for as St. John of the Cross wrote, “With respect to the first fruits of the spirit, God accords to founders wealth and value commensurate with the greater or lesser following they will have in their doctrine and spirituality.” Nor do sincere and pious followers indicate anything. A defining character of the work of the Antichrist is that it mislead, if it were possible, even the elect, (Mark, 13, 22) and distortion or perversion of the vocations of those dedicated to Christian perfection is always a particular target of the Devil, in any case. We can only pray that the dangers be no greater than that; as St. John of the Cross writes:
It is very important that individuals, desiring to advance in recollection and perfection, take care into whose hands they entrust themselves, for the disciple will become like the master, and as is the father so will be the son.
If a community cannot profess fidelity to the spirit of its founder, it is not a community. If this spirit is not in the Holy Spirit, it is not a religious community, or in any case not a religious community within the Church; perhaps it is even some type of a sect, but the Spirit does not abandon the Church, nor does the true child of the Church deviate from the Spirit. If a community does not originate from a charism, a gift of the Holy Spirit, given to a founder, there can be no question of authentic religious life being present.
Below are relevant quotes:
In Christian discipleship and love for the person of Christ there are a number of points concerning the growth of holiness in the consecrated life which merit particular emphasis today. In the first place, there is the need for <fidelity to the founding charism> and subsequent spiritual heritage of each Institute. It is precisely in this fidelity to the inspiration of the founders and foundresses, an inspiration which is itself a gift of the Holy Spirit, that the essential elements of the consecrated life can be more readily discerned and more fervently put into practice (John Paul II, Vita Consecrata, 36).
Institutes of Consecrated Life are thus invited courageously to propose anew the enterprising initiative, creativity and holiness of their founders and foundresses in response to the signs of the times emerging in today's world (John Paul II, Vita Consecrata, 37).
In founders and foundresses <we see a constant and lively sense of the Church>, which they manifest by their full participation in all aspects of the Church's life and in their ready obedience to the Bishops and especially to the Roman Pontiff. Against this background of love toward Holy Church (1 Tm. 3:15), we readily understand the devotion of St. Francis of Assisi for "the Lord Pope," the daughterly outspokenness of St. Catherine of Siena toward the one whom she called "sweet Christ on earth," the apostolic obedience and the <sentire cum ecclesia> of St. Ignatius Loyola and the joyful profession of faith made by St. Teresa of Avila: "I am a daughter of the Church." We can also understand the deep desire of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus: "In the heart of the Church, my mother, I will be love." These testimonies are representative of the full ecclesial communion which the Saints, founders and foundresses have shared indiverse and often difficult times and circumstances. They are examples which consecrated persons need constantly to recall if they are to resist the particularly strong centrifugal and disruptive forces at work today (John Paul II, Vita Consecrata, 46).
The various ways of living the evangelical counsels are in fact the expression and fruit of spiritual gifts received by founders and foundresses. As such, they constitute an "<experience of the Spirit,> transmitted to their disciples to be lived, safeguarded, deepened and constantly developed by them in harmony with the Body of Christ continually in the process of growth." The identity of each Institute is bound up with a particular spirituality and apostolate, which takes shape in a specific tradition marked by objective elements. For this reason the Church is concerned that Institutes should grow and develop in accordance with the spirit of their founders and foundresses, and their own sound traditions (John Paul II, Vita Consecrata, 48).
If on one hand there is reason to rejoice at the Holy Spirit's action, there is on the other a need for <discernment regarding these charisms>. A fundamental principle when speaking of the consecrated life is that the specific features of the new communities and their styles of life must be founded on the essential theological and canonical elements proper to the consecrated life. This discernment is necessary at both the local and universal level in order to manifest a common obedience to the one Spirit. In Dioceses, Bishops should examine the witness of life and the orthodoxy of the founders of such communities, their spirituality, the ecclesial awareness shown in carrying out their mission, the methods of formation and the manner of incorporation into the community. They should wisely evaluate possible weaknesses, watching patiently for the sign of results (cf. Mt. 7:16), so that they may acknowledge the authenticity of the charism. In a special way Bishops are required to determine, according to clearly established criteria, the suitability of any members of these communities who wish to receive Holy Orders (John Paul II, Vita Consecrata, 62).
Only in this way will you be able to reawaken hearts to truth and to divine love in accordance with the charisms of your founders who were raised up by God within His Church. Thus the Council rightly insists on the obligation of religious to be faithful to the spirit of their founders, to their evangelical intentions and to the example of their sanctity. In this it finds one of the principles for the present renewal and one of the most secure criteria for judging what each institute should undertake. In reality, the charism of the religious life, far from being an impulse born of flesh and blood or one derived from a mentality which conforms itself to the modern world, is the fruit of the Holy Spirit, who is always at work within the Church (Paul VI, Evangelica Testificatio, 11).
With respect to the first fruits of the spirit, God accords to founders wealth and value commensurate with the greater or lesser following they will have in their doctrine and spirituality (John of the Cross, The Living Flame of Love, 2,12).
[I]t is very important that individuals, desiring to advance in recollection and perfection, take care into whose hands they entrust themselves, for the disciple will become like the master, and as is the father so will be the son (John of the Cross, The Living Flame of Love, 3, 30).
If you do not cherish your Rule in your heart, what will you do for God? You can only glorify Him in the spirit and according to the grace of your Congregation, and be assured, God never gives more than one grace of foundation.
The great danger to new-born Congregations is to lack faith in the first grace. There are those who come and say: “How would it be if we were to modify this, if we would add that”; or, “we were wrong to have acted in this manner until now.” They may have talent, experience, and influence. For my part, I tell you that they are voluntary or involuntary traitors who seek to split the first grace, the grace of the foundation, the thought of the Founder, and they will be the ruin of the Congregation that listens to them!
There are always some who think themselves called upon to reform their Founder and to do better than he: but God always blesses only the one whom He has chosen to lay the foundation, and never those who want to oppose him: The example of Brother Elias and St. Francis is well known. Elias wanted to add, diminish, and comment, and the Saint commanded by God, always said: “No glossing, no glossing.” Elias parted from him, went to Germany, where he died miserably on the side of the schismatic emperor, supporting the anti-Pope.
No, God never blesses outside of the first grace. It must be developed, made to yield all that it contains according to the requirements of the times and circumstances, but is never permitted to change it, nor to introduce into it anything contrary to it. God will only make the first seed fruitful: He will never give another.
And if we have strayed from it, we must return to it unconditionally: “Go back to the old ways,” return to the purity of your first grace; “Or else I will come to visit thee, and … will remove thy candlestick from its place.” (Rev. 2, 5) And so never let anything new or extraneous introduce itself into your Rule. As that saintly Founder replied: “Let them remain as they are, or let them disappear altogether!” This danger is great; be on your guard against it.
Finally, observe your Rule and guard it religiously out of respect for the good God. Your Rule comes from Him; do you believe that man is capable of composing a Rule? No; neither virtue nor piety is sufficient for that. It is necessary to have a vocation and a special call from God: it is He who inspires it, and the Founder transmits it to you in writing with his sufferings and his tears. What man could put light and holiness in a few lines written by his hand? The Rule carries grace and sanctifies: only God can give grace and the virtue to sanctify (St. Peter Julian Eymard, The Eucharist and Christian Perfection, Vol. I).
 The oft-cited case of Bernadino Ochino, “co-founder” and third General of the Capuchins, is not a reasonable comparison; the Capuchin “founders” — really, reformers — bore a valid charism nsofar as they returned to the spirit of Francis, and fell — catastrophically — insofar as they deviated from that spirit.
 Obviously, followers led out of lives of sin into piety by the work of the founder and the charism would be a far different matter, if such could be found.