Sunday, February 3, 2008

A Controversial Death

In William Shakespeare's play, Julius Caesar, it is said that the "evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft inturred with their bones." So should it be with Fr. Maciel?

The founder of the Legionaries of Christ, Father Marcial Maciel, died January 30, 2008. His life was dedicated to Christ. Since he past away I have read several articles about his life. Most have concentrated upon the allegations against him of misconduct.

My questions are:

1. What will Fr. Maciel's legacy be? Will he be remembered for his tremendous work in spreading the Gospel of Christ or for the serious allegations made against him?

2. Is it fair to bring up the allegations since they were never proven? Should Fr. Maciel be considered innocent until proven guilty?

3. If the fruits of a person's life are 95% good and 5% bad, how should we remember them? Should we honor them for the good they have done or abstain from praise so as to not cause scandal?


Anonymous said...

Some of your 'questions', of course, do not make any sense if Fr. Maciel is indeed innocent. Most "assume" he is guilty based on others' accusations and a one sided interpretation of the Vatican statement.... The fact rests that he has never been proven guilty.

All this is, however, 'water under the bridge'.... God, Fr, Maciel & his accusers know the truth. We may never know it.

The statement of Jesus still holds true: "By their fruits you will know them."

Civis said...

Double D,

Guilty or innocent, there is a scandal. May not be fair, but it is there. In the public eye, unless his accusers recant, there will always me a mark on his record. People will always talk about it. But, as time goes by and as the uproar about the various scandals dies down, I think it will be less and less significant.

Confero said...

A couple of thoughts:
1. How can one say the the Vatican has a "one-sided" interpretation of the facts? Does this mean that they do not have a balanced/objective view of facts when investigating internal matters? I disagree on the basis that they are called to live out the gospel and that they have an obligation to minimize the negative spiritual ramifications from this unfortuante event.
2. How much does our own historical perspective matter in this situation? God is the ultimate judge (Roman chapter 2 or 3)
3. If the claim is true, should that change our actions...our ability to carry the gospel into our everyday lives? Absolutely NOT! If Regum Cristi is rooted in the love of Christ and open to the graces from God they will continue to flourish.

Civis said...


In the spirit of healthy debate, do you have some background for #1? I don't have a dog in this fight, but I'm just wondering if there is something you know that I don't know. Is there some official Vatican declaration on Fr. MM's guilt?

I don't think there is such a pronouncement, but if there were, your point is fallacious: Argumentum ad verecundiam.

What is your answer to your second question/point?

Double D said...

Did Confero miss your point in about the Vatican statement? I understood Anonymous to speaking of how others such as media interpreted the Vatican's statement. I did not think Anonymous was saying the Vatican was one-sided.

Wasn't your second point intended to say our perspective does not matter? Civis asked what the answer to your second question/point was but I thought it was rhetorical.

On Confero's third question/point I think it will change my actions. Not in spreading the Gospel but in our actions related to Fr. Maciel. If the accusations are false then he may very well be a saint. If he is a saint I would like to learn more about his life and imitate it in some ways. If, on the other hand, the accusations are true, then I'm not really interested in learning any more about him.

Jared said...

Double D and Civis: Asking us "low lives" all these questions they probably have better answers to. :)

Q: What will Fr. Maciel's legacy be? Will he be remembered for his tremendous work in spreading the Gospel of Christ or for the serious allegations made against him?

A1: Don't know.
A2: Both.

2. Is it fair to bring up the allegations since they were never proven? Should Fr. Maciel be considered innocent until proven guilty?

A1 & 2: I'm no expert in canon law, but I don't believe there is a presumption in favor of guilt. Innocent until proven guilty is a hallmark of western legal tradition, which has been highly influenced by canon law. But, hey, I could be wrong. The allegations are fair game; however, the person should be made aware that they are allegations. Talking with some and reading about it, some have said that MM was stripped of public ministry because he matter of factly molested kids. Not the case. The Vatican thought it was such that a canonical trial was merited, but because of his age and health such an endeavor would not be possible. Justice required at least that much. Many know that there are many cases that in the beginning apparently have enough for a ruling in favor of the petitioner but upon further examination the evidence doesn't merit a verdict in the petitioner's favor.

An aside, what fascinates me about this case is: what cause of action did the accusers have? What damages were they seeking? What law did MM violate? The reason I ask is because of two reasons: 1) the length of time between the petition and the alleged misconduct (whatever it all consisted of) during, I believe, the 50's---was there no statute of limitations?; 2) the jurisdiction---the CDF (Ratzinger's office) was the one investigating and over the file; why not the congregation for religious, for example,---since we are dealing here with alleged moral misconduct of a religious superior. It would seem the CDF would be over this matter if there was some doctrinal violation commmitted by MM. But I may be wrong. Perhaps I don't know well enough the current Vatican structure in matters of this nature. I think that Paul VI extended the jurisdiction of the CDF in some document; perhaps the extension dealt with things like this.

It is okay to bring up the communication by the Vatican on this if done with veracity and ensuring one doesn't engage in speculation which could lead to rash judgment on the part of the recipient. Of course, one must ask: what are the reasons you are devolving such information about this man to the person you are talking to? Is it because you assume he is guilty? Is it because you purposefully want to harm MM's reputation?

Q: If the fruits of a person's life are 95% good and 5% bad, how should we remember them? Should we honor them for the good they have done or abstain from praise so as to not cause scandal?

A1 & 2: It depends, to a degree, on what it is that was good and what it is that was bad. Also, did they repent of the thing that created such bad fruits? I am by no means saying MM is a saint, but has any saint (besides Mary---"blessed is the fruit of thy womb") ever had 100% good fruits? Yet their lives are worthy of emulation.

With respect to MM, I will honor him (his writings, his congregation, his lay movement) as much as Holy Mother Church does. In my humble opinion, even though there is no definitive evidence for MM's guilt, I think the LC and RC need to place more emphasis on the message and methodology and not the founder. But that would be difficult. It would be like telling Bonadventure not to read the poetry of Francis. A movement (religious or lay) is inextricably united with its founder.

What kind of scandal are we referring to here? Leading one to grave sin? See CCC 2284.

Regardless of the guilt of MM, I must say that the priests of the LC that I have met, gone on retreat with, and visited with have displayed great amounts of human and supernatural virtue. The same can be said for me with the laymembers: from the ones I've met and know, I suspect most of them are much holier and virtuous than I am. The priests and members are this way because the founder, MM, whether saintly or sinister, promoted time-tested methods of growing in holiness given to us by none other than the Founder of the one Church.

Alex said...

All of these are great points and will be considered. Some of you know already that I have had a problem with this movement prior to me learning about this scandal. The scandal just adds fuel to the fire as far as I am concerned. I am not saying that the methods used by the RC's aren't founded in Grace and I have met many people that I admire greatly that are immersed in RC. That is not to say that the founder has to be great for something good to come out of it...there have been numerous organizations over the years that have produced some amazing results but had deep flaws in their organization. I think MM legacy will only live within the organization. He will never be canonized...for good reason. He did not defend himself properly and if he was innocent, this was a huge mistake on his part. I think there reason why the Vatican asked him to go into solitude. I think it had merit based on evidence. I am not sure if he was guilty or not. I do know that I have met many that have spent time with the LC and there are certainly mixed feelings within themselves. Regardless of seeing fruit from this organization, one has to wonder why so much controversy surrounds them. I certainly do. And jared, no more novels (Ha Ha).

Civis said...


You bring up some important points/ considerations. In fairness, just because there is controversy--where there's smoke there is not necessarily fire. There was a lot of controversy surrounding the Duke Lacross team, but they were innocent of the charges. There was a lot of controversy about Joan of Arc and she was a saint. There was also a lot of controversy about Christianity: allegations of canabalism and that they had drunken orgies.

Alex said...

You are certainly correct but understand that this is my opinion that is based on about the same evidence as these things not being true. I am just saying that I was leery before this came out...this just adds to my leeriness of this organization.

Jared said...

Alex said, "He did not defend himself properly and if he was innocent, this was a huge mistake on his part."

What ever happened to letting your yes be yes and your no be no? (Matt 5.) MM said he didn't do anything the accusers alleged he did; what else does he need to do? On the other hand, MM might have had a duty to uphold the reputation and honor of this congregation and movement, which means he might have needed to do more than say that he didn't do it. The verse from Matt 5 might only apply as to a person individually and his reputation. But don't you have a duty to defend your good name, especially if by not doing so it adversely affects your, say, family or movement? Civis, perhaps More has some things to say on this.

Jared said...

Alex, don't worry---no new novels...for now.

Anonymous II said...


No one has brought up the "fourth vow", which is one of the most controversial elements of Fr. Maciel's legacy. With that in place, it would have been impossible to rectify any misdeeds by any superior in the order, from Fr. Maciel on down; it was unhealthy and it certainly helped give the appearance that indeed, Civis, there was fire behind the smoke. Thank God the Vatican has ruled against that one - the LC and RC should be -- and some (maybe most) probably are -- very grateful for that.

I don't think subjective experience has much to say about the matter -- my own subjective experience with both LC and RC has been vastly different from your own. On the basis of that experience, I crossed them off my personal list years before the scandal broke and years before the ReGain website went up.

Fr. Maciel's legacy is in the hands of the Holy Spirit and He will either inspire the LC and the RC to continue or they, too, will fade into insignificance. My personal forecast is that they will fade into virtual oblivion; shall we all meet here again in 50 years or so to see who's right?

Jared said...

Anonymous II,

Are those your answers to Double D's questions? (And seriously, DD, those were some very good questions.)

And please tell us about this "fourth vow." I don't know much about it. How would it have been impossible to rectify any misdeeds? So, if the Holy See has to provide guidance and correct a newly formed religious congregation that means they are anathema? I wonder how many other orders have had to have Vatican correction in their constitutions, vows, etc.? I don't know the answers to these questions. Please tell me if someone knows.

If RC and LC are truly obedient to the Pope, then this change in the "fourth vow" should not be a problem to them. The Church has been around for much longer than any of its orders and of course the bearer of the fullness of Wisdom on this earth.

I agree, subjective experience doesn't have much to do with the matter. If you noticed that wasn't the foundation of my answers. However, subjective experience must have a lot to do with you because you said, "On the basis of that experience, I crossed them off my personal list years before the scandal broke and years before the ReGain website went up." Sometimes representatives/members of any organization aren't the best of examples of the authentic message or objectives of the organization. Is RC and LC bad in itself because of your bad experiences? I happen to think they have good formation for laypersons, objectively speaking. Perhaps you don't. Does a bad experience of a priest or member of the Church mean the Church and its message is bad? To apply in the secular world, what about a lousy, blood-sucking lawyer and the way he presents the profession to the public. Does that make the profession in itself bad?

And why do you think LC and RC will fade into virtual oblivion? I can't guarantee that I'll be around to visit about this in 50 years; I'll definitely be up in age. Perhaps you, aii, are a little younger than me. :-)

Jenn said...

Double D,

As a RC memeber I would like to respond to the questions that you posed. I'll try not to be as lengthy as Jared. :)

First, I would hope that the world would look at Fr. Maciel and see the great inspiration that was given to him by the Holy Spirit and the astounding yes that he continously gave in order to fulfill what God was asking of him to do. BUT, realistically I know that the majority of the time people would rather get hung up on anything negative they can find in someone else, whether true or false. It's just easier and usually makes us feel better about whatever wrong we may do.

Secondly, of course he should be considered innocent since he wasn't found guilty and we have to rest on the innocent side whether we have personal issues with LC or RC members. There will always be people in every walk of life that you just don't see eye to eye with, but I don't think that is good reason to discredit anything and everything that they belong to or are a part of.

And lastly, I believe as a Christian that we are called to look at the good that everyone does. If a man imprisoned for murder does an act of charity, then we should rejoice for the one act of charity that he does and not hold back on giving him praise for it for fear that it may cause scandal. As a wise man once said, we should believe ALL of the good we hear and only the evil we see. I have read many of Fr. Maciel's works and had the privelage of meeting many people who were formed under him and you can truly see the genius work of the Holy Spirit in everything that Fr. Maciel has done. RC and LC formation is geared toward an integral formation (human, spiritual, intelluctual, apostolic), but we are all human and are and will always be working on this formation, but at least we have the tools, thanks to Fr. Maciel's yes!

As for having issues with the Legion and Regnum Christi itself, I really find that hard to swallow at times, but that may be my rule oriented temperment. To me if the Church and the Pope have approved, encouraged, and molded them then how can a Catholic in line with the magisterium go against it?