Sunday, May 30, 2010

Why I'm Leaving the Legion of Christ (Part 2)

This is part two of “Why I am Leaving the Legionaries of Christ”.
To read part 1, click here.

Breach of Confidence

The 2007 film “Breach”, a dramatization of the Robert Hanssen espionage case, has striking resemblances to the current knowledge of Fr Marcial Maciel. Though the screenwriters largely fictionalized Hanssen’s relationship with Eric O’Neill and other aspects, their portrayal of Hanssen as a devout catholic exemplifies how a person can mask his intentions in a colossal breach of confidence, essentially what has been called “the worst intelligence disaster in US history”.

What may become the worst scandal in Church history unfolding before our eyes, I believe is fundamentally a scandal of breach of confidence.

Confidentiality (at times unjustly called secrecy in journalism for greater impact) is a fundamental element in professional life. Even journalists use it to protect their sources. Physicians, lawyers, clerics and others are bound to keep information revealed to them confidential as a means to aiding that person. Let’s just face it: we are often ashamed to speak about some physical ailments, not to mention our sinful tendencies. We trust these professionals will not betray our trust.

Ordained priests in the Catholic Church are bound to confidentiality in the sacrament of Reconciliation and Spiritual Direction, though not in the same degree. A transgression against the confidentiality or Seal of Confession carries an automatic (latae sententiae) penalty: excommunication for the priest who breaks the seal (See number 1388 of the Code of Canon Law). A spiritual director is bound to confidentiality, and should make this clear from the very first direction. Nevertheless, a spiritual director who knows of violations of civil law in the context of Spiritual Direction is obliged to report crimes to the civil authorities. Otherwise, he may become an accomplice to the crime. This obligation does not apply to crimes a priest hears in confession.

When a person seeks spiritual direction, he assumes confidentiality unless the director specifically states otherwise. It is a common understanding just as one trusts the confidentiality of a lawyer, physician or other professional. A breach of this confidence could seriously damage a soul and separate him, not only from the spiritual director, but the one he represents, especially if the director is a priest.

There came a moment when I realized that what I said in spiritual direction years ago influenced how my subsequent superiors dealt with me, the decisions they made, the apostolates I was given. This has had a two-fold effect on me: I lost confidence in my superiors (and they in me), and I am constantly frustrated in my apostolates.

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