Monday, August 27, 2012

And what about lying...?

An unknown blogger commented on my last post, "And what about lying...?"

True, I didn't mention lying as an instrument used in manipulating. It really goes without saying. After all, what is being manipulated is not so much the person as the truth. The question is, how can you justify manipulating the truth to obtain you end? I have found that Legionaries tend to base this justification on a sound principle, albeit badly applied.

Consider #2489 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
Charity and respect for the truth should dictate the response to every request for information or communication. the good and safety of others, respect for privacy, and the common good are sufficient reasons for being silent about what ought not be known or for making use of a discreet language. the duty to avoid scandal often commands strict discretion. No one is bound to reveal the truth to someone who does not have the right to know it
It is obvious that, if Larry is speaking to Charlie, Larry does not have to reveal embarrassing or scandalous details about Thomas unless keeping them secret would harm Thomas or someone else. But for Larry to willfully conceal the truth about Charlie from Charlie to get Charlie to do or say something, that's manipulation. Simple, right?

Take my case, for example. At one point I was told Maciel decided I should leave the Legion. I asked why? But the only response was, that's what had been decided. I had the right to know since the burden of asking to be dispensed from the vows was squarely on my shoulders. I was not being expelled. I was told to ask to leave. Is that manipulation, or what?

There are so many other facets to the Truth equation in the Legion. I don't want to get into every detail. But the fact is, they manipulated the truth to obtain their ends.

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.  

Friday, August 17, 2012

A letter to Rome

Just a quick note

Archbishop Sérgio called me last Friday. After I got over the initial shock, and then a little small talk, he told me he had prepared a letter stating that he has accepted me in the Archdiocese of Brasília. He apologized for taking so long, and that he wasn't quite sure who he was supposed to send it to. In the end, he addressed it to Fr Alvaro. I received confirmation from the LC's in Rome that that was OK.

I picked the letter up on Tuesday, and sent it on to Rome that same afternoon. I added a copy of my letter to the Holy Father asking for dispensation from the evangelical counsels, a letter I had already sent to the Holy Father with a copy to the legionaries. The LC's lost my copy. Nothing new under the sun. I know my letter to the Holy Father arrived because I received a confirmation from Bishop Joseph Tobin of the Congregation for Religious.

I am hoping that the rest of the process won't take too long. I have been out of the legion for two years, have been installed as pastor of a parish in the Archdiocese for one and a half. Hopefully the Holy See will take this into account and expedite my process.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

You're back?

Nothing really remarkable happened in candidacy. It was a fun time is all. To tell you the truth, I don’t remember too much about it other than the water balloons and hospital bed incidents.

What I do remember was coming back to Cheshire for the spiritual exercises before entering novitiate.

It was a short visit (as were all visits home), just three days.

I remember walking up the front steps of Cheshire to enter the lobby with my bags. Fr Owen Kearns was there. He just looked at me as I mounted the stairs, then said, “Br John, you’re back!” I made some comment in my worldly way, saying something like, “Did you think I wouldn’t?”

That comment stuck with me for a long time. I am sure it was not uttered off the top of his head, but was well thought out. You see, Fr Owen, like so many other legionaries, never utters a single word in vain.

There are a number of priests like that. Every word that comes out of their mouths is measured and, you might say, calculated for optimum effect. You can see it in their eyes. You can see that they are thinking diligently of what their next word will be that will get what they want, and compromise your soul.

I knew another priest who was like that, but he wasn’t one of the faithful ones. He had his problems. He very much liked women. That’s nothing unusual for a congregation of men. But he had a hard time controlling his eyes. He would constantly lower his eyes, and not just momentarily, to see women’s body parts. He also had his problems in obedience and poverty. He was a very intelligent man, and had an incredible memory, and like some of the other legionaries, he would calculate what he was about to say. But because he had so many problems, while he was listening to you talk, he would utter a slight, guttural groaning sound.

We would push him to the limit sometimes, so see if he would break. But he was good at keeping a light-hearted demeanor, even when caught in contradiction.

I cannot express how much I despised this man. Even though it was obvious to many that he was not being faithful to his vows, he was held in very high esteem by the superiors. Why. Because he was able to make contacts among the most influential and wealthy of the city where he worked. That bugged the hell out of me, because I, on the other hand, who was knocking myself out to be faithful, was so often shunned. I realize my hatred for this man was a projection of the hatred I was feeling for the Legion. He was only worthy of my pity, and I do pity him now. I know how much he is suffering and probably can find no way out of his misery. God, I’m sure, will be merciful to him.

But the way the legion treated me is inexcusable. So many times I was transferred to a new city or country. For the first five or six months, everything was normal, and I would be pretty happy. I would be doing what was expected of me, making my mistakes, which everyone would. Then would come a change, a very noticeable change in the superior’s attitude toward me. It was as if they had received some enlightenment, some inside information, and little by little they would start to noticeably show lack of trust in me. They would begin by taking away parts of my responsibility, shifting me to doing jobs not quite in my given assignment. Then that assignment would be given to someone else and little by little every other responsibility would be taken away, until I was left with nothing to do. I would get irritable because of this and murmur against it, and then I would be moved on to another city or country where the whole process would start over again. Building up hope and breaking it down, time and again.

So many of the superiors I had during this process were those who never uttered and uncalculated word, just like the first ones I had. It was as if, at every move, the superior would utter, “You’re back?”

Friday, August 3, 2012

My first soccer game

I wasn’t very athletic when I was growing up, that is, I didn’t play any organized sports. We did play baseball in the street or some touch football. There were those who played basketball in grade school, but I just wasn’t into it. I guess it was because I didn’t have anyone to teach me.

Anyway, when I arrived at candidacy in the legion we were expected to play sports every day. That meant basketball and soccer. There was some baseball when we went on hikes, but the mains sports were those two I didn’t know too well.

I can remember my first soccer game as if it were yesterday. I didn’t have a clew. They put me on defence. I guess because that’s where I would do less damage. Instructions: when the other team is coming with the ball, just get between him and the net. That’s what I did. But this guy was huge, and knew how to play. He came at me, aimed, shot the ball, and it hit me square in the chest with all the force of a runaway train.

Gasping for breath and dazed, I could hear all the other members of my team congratulating me for the great block. GREAT BLOCK!

I thought, “You jerk! You should’ve gotten out of the way.”
No real moral here. Just a fun story. 

Guilty shopper

Don't know why I thought of this, but I remembered something that happened the first time I went home after leaving the Legion.

It was a not too warm summer day, and I decided to go for a walk. I left the house with no real destination, just started walking. I ended up going to the city park and really enjoyed it.

On the way home I stopped at a drug store to buy a granola bar and a bottle of Gatorade. As I was waiting my turn at the counter a strange sense of guilt came over me. I didn't have to give anyone an account of what I was doing or how much I was spending, but I felt guilty deciding to pick up something for myself. I shook it off and enjoyed my snack as I walked casually back home.

This wasn't the only time I felt that. From time to time I still get that guilty feeling, especially when buying things for the parish. But each time I shake it off. In all, they are moments that remind me that I am free from the legion.