Friday, August 24, 2012

Manipulate or die

I wanted to follow up on the idea in my previous post that it is essential for a legionary to manipulate others. The fact is, twenty four years in the congregation gives you a chance to know a lot of people and a lot of legionaries. It was a real Noah's ark.

We were all thrown  into the same boat. Some made it to the deck, some navigated, some took the helm, and the great majority swabbed the deck. I swabbed.

But what was it that got you to the deck? What was it made you stand out and make it to the top? Everyone that entered had talents. Some more than others. That was no guarantee that you were going to be called to the deck. There had to be another quality that was sought after, something that made you stand out.

Leadership qualities were a must. But it was in the definition of a leader that we find so many answers. A leader in the Legion (in practice, not in theory) is anyone who is able to manipulate other to the desired end.

I mentioned a priest I knew who had many personal problems, but was given a pass on these and honored because he was so successful in getting rich people onto the boat. The quality that dictates success is to win people over to the cause, get inside their minds, convince them, no matter what the cost to you or them.

It is a very calculating way of doing things. You need to plan, get to know the person, play on his or her weaknesses, and promise rewards. It is very much akin to the Prosperity Gospel so common in Brazil where evangelical churches preach prosperity under the guise of God's blessing. It's more subtle in the legion, but it's there. Maybe it's not material blessings in this life, but it is eternal salvation.

And those who are able to latch on to this way of doing things are the ones that survive, or persevere in legion lingo.

If you don't get it, you are marginalized or pushed out. It's as simple as that - manipulate or die.

The striking thing is the vision of personal holiness preached in the legion is not rewarded.

I knew another priest who was a real example of authentic priestly zeal. People loved him for this. There were no limits to his generosity. He would dedicate hours to confession, visit the sick, council anyone who asked, and spend quality time in prayer. But he was marginalized, because he wasn't getting the required fruits. He was ridiculed by other legionaries as being a new St John Vianney. And that was sad: a man who was truly on fire for the Lord and for souls was treated as second rate, or lower.

The number of superiors and other honored legionaries I knew who had very visible faults but were given great prestige was countless. Sometimes I would hear mid-morning snoring coming from their rooms. Others would waste time on unholy practices on the computer; nothing immoral - just not measuring up to the standard they preached of using time well.

I don't know if you can call it a double standard. In a way it was. But it didn't matter how many vices or defects you had, as long as you were bearing the right fruits: money and vocations.

Just a final word on marginalizing. The Legion is good at creating place to send unwanted priests. The Mission Territory of Quintana Roo in Mexico is the best of all. But there are administrative positions created, auxiliary posts, and so many other places to send non-productive priests or religious. I held a lot of these posts. But I could never be satisfied with that. I wanted to be more productive. I wanted to feel more fulfilled.

I do feel more fulfilled now than ever. Parish life is very rewarding. I try very hard not to manipulate people. I listen to them and offer solutions, and respect their freedom. After all, that is what God does.  


  1. That is a very accurate rendering. 2g for over 10 years.The very reason the LoC is nearly destined to fail is that there is no actual leadership to be found. The sad implosion of Fr. Tom Williams is exhibit A - took five years to figure out a course of action, placing the LoC, Fr. Williams and likely many others at risk. The MM era, where everyone was a sheep following one wolf laid a leadership foundation of jello. Dan

  2. Fr John, you bring up some very good points. A little tangent to what you were writing about is this notion of double standard. If reform is to occur, the double standard has to stop. As a brother, I was totally scandalized by the fact that superiors ended spiritual exercises on the 8th night with merienda cena. All Legionaries finished exercises on the next morning. I had many a preacher that exhorted us at the end of the 32nd meditation that the retreat was not over until the next morning b/c it was to be a full 8 days and nights. It was a codified breaking of the norms for the superiors. Not only t he manipulation you speak of above but that double standard as well has to stop. It was that double standard that enabled so many to turn a blind eye to MM's infidelities.

  3. Double standards: As a young man I knew some Augustinians and would pop over their place every once in a while for lunch. One day they were giving one of the priests some good natured ribbing because he had just been named superior of the house. "Wow, that is a big deal" I said. "No," they corrected me, "we all take turns."
    Imagine that happening in the Legion... no sorry, I can't.

    1. No, Dave, I cannot imagine that happening in the Legion. There superiors are marked early on, and it is like being the Pope - superior to the end.
      I too know some other congregations and being a superior is no big deal. They are for a time then someone else is, and you go back to normal.

  4. A response to "happy in diocesan life" on
    You left because you didn't want to be a problem, and that's OK. You got out when you could. God bless you for that. I didn't, and it caused me a lot of pain and suffering. But for some reason I had to stay, make a statement, even if just to the superiors and not publicly, that it was not alright what they were doing to me (and unknown to me, to others). Maybe I was overly proud. I admit that. But I was not going to let them put all the blame on me. That's why I stayed and fought, costly and humiliating as it was. And when I did decide to leave, I didn't leave quietly, like other (not blaming, just saying). Even before leaving I started a blog, leaving a permanent record of what was happening. I never repent of this.


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