Friday, June 22, 2012

We only want what's best for you

Just a few days ago I watched “Mao's Last Dancer”, a movie based on the autobiography of Li Cunxin, a Chinese dancer who defected in the late 70’s. At one point Li is detained at the Chinese Consulate and questioned by the communist Counsel who says, “We only want what’s best for you”. When I heard those words, I had to pause the movie. I could no longer think straight, let alone follow the plot of the movie.

How many times did I hear those words from my superiors who tried to coerce me into doing “God’s will”, which for a long time was to leave the legion, but also to accept apostolates that I wasn’t cut out for.  What’s best for me? I don’t think at any time a superior was sincerely concerned for what’s best for me. Behind these words was always, “What’s best for the Legion”. They don’t really care for the well-being of individuals. People are assets that need to be maintained for the better fruitfulness or efficacy of the Legion. If an asset becomes ill, treatment is given according to how that asset benefits the Legion. If an asset is seen as unproductive or not useful, it is isolate or removed.

When was the last time I heard “We only want what’s best for you?” Let me put it in context.

Once ordained a priest, and that took not a few years, I was assigned to be chaplain to the Consecrated women and school chaplain. I hated it. I felt smothered, incapable of any real personal expression or initiative, subservient to a group of women I couldn’t talk with and had to go through a superior to find out what they wanted me to do. I was miserable. I began to purposely screw things up so they would get me out of there.

Finally I was moved and made assistant pastor of a parish in Brasilia, just another of the projects the legion accepted to get into an important city, but had no real interest in. When things went sour between me and the superior, as they inevitably would, and I was one foot out the door, the territorial director asked me what I wanted. Still convinced the legion and RC were God’s gift to humanity, I said I wanted to work in an RC section where I could have more initiative, be more active. He said, Ok, he’ll talk to Fr Alvaro and see what could be done.

Three weeks or a month later he came back. He said he had talked to Fr Alvaro and decided that “what was best for me” was to go to Chile to be the chaplain of one of the girl’s schools. My mouth dropped, along with my heart, my will and every drop of desire to be related to that order of manipulating sons of bitches.

I don’t remember what exactly I said. But I made it clear that they really had no interest in what was best for me, because they intentionally did not take into account what I had suffered in the same situation. In fact, they intentionally wanted to put me back into the same situation to break me. I was a useless asset to be eliminated at all costs.  

Not too many days after that I visited Archbishop João Braz de Aviz (who is now Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, taking the place of Card. Franc Rodé). I told him of this incident and recounted my life in the Legion. He listened with jaw agape, and then prayed with me and assured me I would be accepted into the archdiocese of Brasilia. He never said he would do what’s best for me, but that he sincerely wanted to help me. That was a first. That was a relief. 


  1. Hi Fr John, I followed your link from Life After RC. I post there sometimes as "Another exLC" but I think someone else just took that name. Anyway I met you once many years ago when I was a teenager on retreat in Cheshire, and I recall thinking "Wow, so not all Legionaries are alike!"
    I was an LC from 2000 to 2011 and your last few comments have me thinking about my own experience.
    I was used to seeing laypeople being used; as much as this disgusted me it never occurred to me to ask if I was being used as well. I think LCs look at people and wonder where they will fit into a flow chart. I did it too. It is not intentionally mean, everyone has some good quality God wants them to place at His service. But people are not their qualities. Qualities are things to be used. Qualities are accidental, not essential to who we are.

    1. So Dave, I take it, from your comment you thought I was different? Hahaha. That's actually a complement.

  2. Praying for you Fr. John. Your earlier blog helped me heal as I left RC. Leaving RC was the hardest thing I have done in my life...harder than the death of family members. I had to question the core of who I was and my faith and had to choose to leave to follow my conscience but felt like a traitor with major guilt. I loved my SD and the woman in RC and had to walk away from things I love to be true to myself. LC/RC did not make it easy for me or anyone in RC who left in the beginning of the scandal. They should have encouraged us to seek outside SD and let us know that we were not "bound" to our RC "vocation" (which was a terrible word to use for a lay person). No one would set us free and to be honest - I needed an LC priest to set me free. The exLCs were the ones whose courage gave my heart the "permission" to leave.

    I can't imagine your experience leaving as a priest and how much harder that must be. Keep on healing and praise God you are free!

  3. Jack, your family praises God that you are free! Daily. In every Holy Mass.


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