Eleven documents have been released in English, which show the work that the Legion still has to do now that the three years with the Papal Delegate have ended, according to Jean Boudet of CNA:
The Constitutions, now awaiting Vatican approval, was the principal work of the Chapter, but these eleven communiqués and decrees, innovative in several respects, address generally a series of topics that widely concerned Legionaries during their self-examination and express the goals the Constitutions will legislate [...]
In its May 2010 report, the Visitation saw the “need to redefine the charism… preserving its true nucleus.” So most pressing on the Legionaries was to reformulate and to insist on the validity of their charism. The charism of a religious community, to use John Paul II’s words in Vita Consecrata (1996), expresses a “specific spirituality, that is, a concrete program of relations with God and one's surroundings, marked by specific spiritual emphases and choices of apostolate, which accentuate and re-present one or another aspect of the one mystery of Christ.” But, first, could a valid charism have been conveyed by a criminal Founder?
Yes, it was, the Chapter says: the Church has always distinguished between founder and foundational charism and, inerrant in its approval of religious orders, approved the Legionaries twice with official decreta laudis in 1965 under Paul VI and in 1983 under John Paul. The Legion exists and Benedict XVI wanted it to keep existing. Canon law requires an identity, lifestyle, and tradition, and those they have.
And so, “the Legion of Christ and its essential features do not have their ultimate origin in the person of the founder; they are a gift from God that the church has accepted, approved, and made her own, and which from that point on lives in the congregation and in its members… when talking about our foundational charism, we must not limit our consideration to the initial impulse from God, or how the founder embraced this grace in his life, but rather recognize that we are in the presence of a charism that has already been configured and institutionalized in the Church.”
I can't speak to the claim that the Church has always distinguished between a founder and the foundational charism (perhaps those who are familiar with the topic can chime in). What is odd is that we've never heard it before, and now it's "always" that way. First of all, it would seem to be a circular argument: the Legion circumvented the usual procedures (through monumental deceit) and yet since the Church is inerrant, the Church's approval of the Legion indicates we're supposed to exist.
But later in the article, the author revisits the question and notes that it's not that easy, actually, to separate the two:
The Legion may have the “vocation and identity” required by canon 587 but canon 578 still holds that “all must observe faithfully the mind and designs of the founders regarding the nature, purpose, spirit, and character of an institute…” Vita consecrata requires, among other things, “fidelity to the inspiration of the founders and foundresses,” who embodied the Spirit’s gift, though most every reference to founders in that Exhortation can in fact sustain the Legionaries’ notion of a disembodied charism.
Moreover, their attempt to separate founder and charism rests to a great degree on an anecdote about their very name:
According to Legionary founder, Fr. Marcial Maciel, Pius XII in 1946 inspired him to rename the “Missionaries of the Sacred Heart and Our Lady of Sorrows” by citing the Vulgate Song of Songs to characterize the congregation as castrorum acies ordinata.
Is this another anecdote like all the rest we were fed over the years? "The pope is counting on us!" or "The pope needs more members of RC!" or "Nuestro Padre is on a special mission for the pope"? Now we're told: "The pope gave us this name, and I submitted to his earnest desire."
Even the new "separation" is based on a story from MM, who was known for constantly creating fables. Would Pius XII have interfered with the name if he really thought MM was the vehicle for a "work of God"? (More likely, the initial name worked well in Mexican climate, so that families handed over their boys, and then later once in Europe he could create the more rigid, lock-step structure to match the cult-like atmosphere.)
Furthermore, the methodology's pet construct of "efficiency" remains intact:
“While we value direct apostolic action towards those most in need, we also have in mind that we can reach a greater number of them and do them greater good by means of the action of many others… we are not forgetting that evangelizing social or economic leaders is not always easy, but it is part of our vocation to bring them to Christ ..."
While the vagueness of the charism allows for a whole range of initiatives (indicating that the Church is still their oyster, and Catholicism 101 remains their generic vision) the efficiency element does set the group apart -- reminding us painfully of the distinguishing aspects added by MM. [For those who have 15 minutes, consider this clip of Fr Bartunek explaining the charism specifically so that all brothers will now give the same answer when asked. Painful.]
Surprisingly, the Legion is now attached to the RC, as opposed to vice versa, and then there is this stunning acknowledgement:
Canon law cannot currently accommodate this vision of the Movement and the “quest for an adequate canonical configuration” will continue. But, in the end, the fruitfulness of the mission depends “not on definitions or juridical instruments,” but on union with God.
So they are still not kosher when it comes to Church law, and thus they are still organising themselves along new and unendorsed lines. This is really important to those considering a vocation in any part of this Movement: they're simply feeling their way along (thanks to the Church's desire that something come of this group). I would think that's an enormous element in pondering whether one could live obedience within a structure that has yet to be approved by the Pope and the canonists.
There is so much to this article, that it really takes time to digest it all. It incorporates a wealth of data (very well written, I must say) that reveals an ocean of abuse on many levels. In sum:
They do admit to a lot in the Chapter documents, including serious violations of canon law. If still seeing themselves as a congregation that produced “exemplary religious” and good priests who “live a love for the Church, a sense of obedience, self-denial, availability, and apostolic zeal” and “combine an adequate intellectual formation with a careful human formation,” simultaneously, by their own admission in these documents, they were a congregation that used people instrumentally, did not know friendship or how to discuss and debate issues respectfully, rejected Conciliar priorities in prayer and liturgy, practiced empty externalism that inspired both dissipation and an activism that vindicated itself with statistics and prestige, disrespected the freedom of candidates in discernment in the rush to get results, broke canon law in their seminaries by violating the internal forum, mishandled and imprudently spent money, sidestepped the authority of local bishops, and mindlessly adulated their founder.
But the grim satisfaction in reading it comes with the authors most subtle analysis:
They admit, in short, what critics had accused them of over the decades and they were as could have been expected from their having revered and imitated a founder who led “a life devoid of scruples and authentic religious meaning,” as the Visitation found. A certain cultishness, the uncritical exaltation of the person of a founder and all these consequences of it, secretly flourished even within a new religious movement under Vatican approval [...]
If “the future will require continual conversions of heart and mind,” how will they preserve their traditions and simultaneously convert away from them? If their heritage is mixed, will it be hard to keep what is sound and jettison what is not? Who will guarantee the permanence of the conversion?
The Legionaries have laid claim to a charism so innovative that canon law cannot yet accommodate it and so flexible as to include priests religious and secular, consecrated, and laity, in both contemplation and active evangelizing, in apostolic work with both rich and poor, both on-the-road and in community. It is also a charism that was conveyed from God by an unholy founder.
Worth the half-hour that a solid reading takes. Consider every one of your concerns over the years validated in these documents.
UPDATE: call me slow but I've been pondering the author's brilliant phrase, "disembodied charism." While we can remember a whole slew of "charisms" over the years (contemplative and conquering, charity and unity, forming leaders, etc.) I think we were all taught that the methodology and charism were transmitted "person to person." It had to be a personal "encounter" which was the point of the weekly propaganda prayer sessions. But how ironic is it now that their claim is that the charism itself was not transmitted "person to person" but apart from personal contact; rather it was sifted into the mix unbeknownst to the members, and voila! God told us how he wants us to live. By groupthink consensus!