Saturday, February 23, 2013

Benedict vs Maciel

Pope Benedict's announced retirement has sparked abundant reflection. I could care less about the media hype. It will sell for them just like any other big story. The Church will follow its norms and elect a new Pope. Benedict will fade away for a while. Then he will pass away, there will be pomp and a solemn funeral, and a media will slobber and slander again. It will be what it will.

What concerns me is the decision itself. Here is a man who was thrust to the Throne of Peter (which we celebrate today). Here is a man who accepted and fulfilled his mission. And when his strength began to decline, when he realized his health would start to be an impediment, man of God that he is, he decides to step aside and let someone else bear the cross.

That mind-boggling humility leaves a lasting impression. We have seen over the past few years men who have fought and killed to hold on to power, only to be imprisoned or murdered by their own people. Then come Benedict who renounces power because he loves his people. He saw that there was something in the way of being able fulfill his mission, so he relinquished the mission for love of the mission. That's courage.

It is inspiring to me, and should be for future popes and all who have been called to serve God's people.

Fr Marcial Maciel was a man who too was unable to fulfill his mission, albeit for different reasons. He was unable to control the desires of the flesh, was dependent on narcotics, at least during periods of his priestly life, fathered at least three children with two women, molested seminarians, and was absent from all contact with his congregation for long periods of time. Any honest man would see that this type of behavior was no way near the ideal of priestly life, not to mention a founder of a religious community. Any honest man would step aside and let someone else take the reins.

But Maciel was not an honest man. He deceived his followers from the beginning. He deceived himself and his Lord. He should have resigned years before he was forced to a life of prayer and penance. He was not a courageous man.

The more I reflect on Benedict's decision, the more I wish Maciel had done the same for the good of the Church.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Pope Benedict's resignation and the Legion

The announcement this morning that Pope Benedict XVI would be resigning at the end of the month caught me, as well as the Church and the world, by surprise. It didn't upset me in any way, for the Church is always in the hands of the Holy Spirit. The transition process will start, less the normal mourning period when a pontiff passes away, and before long there will be a new Pope.

The period between the death of a pope, and in this case the resignation of a pope, is called "sede vacante", empty see. During that period the governing of the Church basically is put on hold. The bishops and cardinals that have been named as heads of the Congregations, Dicastaries, Institutes, etc, cease to hold their possitions. Their secretaries continue to take care of the most immediate issue until a new Pope is named. 

In this case, I am wondering what will happen to Cardinal Velasio de Paolis who, since July of 2010 has been the Papal Delegate overeeing the reform of the Legionaries of Christ? Since he is the delegate of Pope Benedict XVI, does his authority over the Legion end on February 28? It would seem so. But in the interim, will the legionaries take action to change things on their own? 

This we may not ever know. There is really little we know about what is really going on inside the Legion. We don't know all the details of the reform, or if there has been a substantial reform of the internal governance of the Legion. The abuses in the Legion can all be attibuted to the superiors. This same body of superiors, for the most part, the same ones in place after Marcial Maciel died, surely have the same mentality they did before Pope Benedict iniciated the Pastoral Visitation and the reform process. I may be wrong, but I don't have any proof to the contrary. The Legion would do a great service to the Church to spell out clearly what has been done and what still remains to be done, and how they will conduct themselves during this period of Sede Vacante.

===UPDATE - 2/20/2013

Fr Sylvester Heereman of the Legionaries of Christ has sent a farewell Letter to the Holy Father. Here is a link to the letter: It is filled with all the same lingo that is characteristic of the Legionaries: promise of unwavering fidelity, gratitude for all the Holy Father has done for the Legion. They do express their saddness at his resignation. I still think there is a bit of joy behind the tears. That's my opinion, probably unfounded.