Friday, February 7, 2014

AP, Skepticism, but above all - HOPE

Nicole Winfield, Vatican correspondent for the Associated Press, contacted me yesterday asking my opinion on the election of the new superiors of the Legion of Christ.

Here is the article she published.

The following is my full response to her questions.

Dear Nicole,
Thank you for your balanced approach reporting on the Legion and the Chapter. I, like many others, have followed the events with a great deal of skepticism, but always hopeful real change would come about. 
 You can see what I think of Fr Eduardo Robles-Gil on my blog leavinglc.blogspot.com. I really want to stress an attitude of fairness. I don't know what changes have come to pass in heart of Fr Eduardo or any other of the elected superiors. Transparency has not been part of the whole process. 
 The election of the new superiors, for me, was not shocking, but it was disappointing. It was not shocking given the Legionaries that make up the General Chapter. Who else could they choose from? All of them are entrenched in legion-think. 
 If more legionaries will leave after this announcement is a good question. I think many have been waiting to see the results of the General Chapter. The election of new superiors is just part of that process. I think the publication of the New Constitution will be more important. That's where any real changes will be made obvious. 
 Even though the Holy See appointed Frs Arrieta and Sabadell, it doesn't mean much. I knew them both. They were very much LC hardliners in my day. Again, who knows if they have had a real change of heart. Fr Juan Sabadell's letter asking for forgiveness was pretty revealing. 
 I do think the balancing act of Card. dePaulis was an attempt to keep the peace in the Legion and avoid more from abandoning the LC. I was particularly offended by the tone he used when referring to those of us who left. It always seemed to me that he was looking down on us as heretics. 
 Though I have been somewhat critical of the renewal process, I haven't lost hope. I still think there is a great deal of potential for change in the Legion. The Communiqué the Chapter Fathers published today shows signs of hope. It shows they have taken into consideration the respect for the privacy and conscience of the legionaries, and that the exercise of authority was very much broken. I hope they are able to make the necessary changes in practice and not just on paper. 
 Thank you again, Nicole. 


Thursday, February 6, 2014

How I knew Fr Eduardo Robles-Gil

In 2002, after the World Youth Day in Toronto, I was sent to Rio de Janeiro as assistant to the Vocational Director, Fr Eduardo Robles-Gil, who was also the superior of the community at that time.

Previously, I had been living a period or exile, stripped of all apostolic activity, in Cheshire, CT. That period lasted two years.

I willingly went to Brazil to show my superiors I wasn’t a defective cog in the machinery. I hadn’t yet come to the conclusion that the machinery itself was defective. So I got right into the work (first of all, learning Portuguese) with all my heart.

Fr Eduardo was supportive, encouraging, and in my opinion, sincere. He immediately confided in me and gave me an active part in his vocational work. I had done vocational work in the States from 1995-1996, so it wasn’t new to me.

I learned a lot from Fr Eduardo, much of which I still use today.

Unfortunately, he was bound to obey his superiors, and Fr Maciel as General Director. 

Before he left Brazil in 2004, he began to question me in spiritual direction about my vocation, why I hadn’t left yet knowing that Fr Maciel had already determined I had no future in the Legion. My torment began all over again.

Now, I want to be absolutely fair. I know that Fr Eduardo grew up in an LC school, was Ecyd, RC and all that. I know that he was a consecrated member of the Regnum Christi along with Fr Luis Graza, Alvaro Corcuera and Florencio Sanchez, and entered the Novitiate of the Legion of Christ with them. I know that he was and LC insider, part of the club of superiors with all the perks. But, again, I want to be fair:

I DON’T KNOW WHAT HAS BEEN GOING ON IN HIS HEART THESE PAST SIX YEARS!

Nor do I know what is happening in the hearts of so many other legionaries, those in the General Chapter and those who sent them there. There hasn’t been much communication by the legionaries these past few years, which has only led to a lot of speculation, harsh criticisms and a general sense that nothing productive is being done. I too have been suspicious of them and have written critically.


But, I want to be fair, and I believe Fr Eduardo wants to be fair. I am avoiding jumping to rash conclusions now that a new team of superiors has been elected and the General Chapter will be coming to a close. I do not want to judge based on what little I know. I only ask that the Legion begin a new era of transparency, honesty and justice.  

New General Director and Path of Renewal

The Legionaries of Christ announced today that they have a new General Director. They also published a Communiqué regarding Fr Marcial Maciel, an apology to victims, and their path to renewal.

Here is a run-down of the entire outcome of the election:

-       General Director: Fr. Eduardo Robles Gil, LC. 
-       Vicar General: Fr. Juan José Arrieta, LC.
-       General Councilor: Fr. Sylvester Heereman, LC. 
-       General Councilor: Fr. Jesús Villagrasa, LC. 
-       General Councilor: Fr. Juan Sabadell, LC.
-       General Administrator: Fr. José Gerardo Cárdenas, LC. 
-       General Procurator: Fr. Clemens Gutberlet, LC.      



Communiqué of the Legion’s General Chapter regarding thepath of renewal of the Legion of Christ

The communiqué includes:
·      A conclusive pronouncement regarding Fr. Marcial Maciel, including an apology to those who were hurt by Fr. Maciel or by the Congregation’s shortcomings.
·      A summary of the conclusions of the “Outreach Commission” and the “Economic Affairs Commission”.
·      A commitment to continue on the journey of conversion and renewal which “has advanced, but has not yet ended.”
ROME (February 3) – The representatives of the Legion of Christ meeting in an Extraordinary General Chapter this week approved a wide-ranging communiqué.   The document is an effort by the chapter members to define conclusively the posture of the congregation with respect to the behavior of Fr. Marcial Maciel and his role as founder in continuity with the decisions of the Holy See and previous statements by the Legion.  It concludes with an apology to any and all who have been hurt of the congregation’s shortcomings.
Fr. Eduardo Robles Gil, LC, the newly elected General Director of the Legion, summarized the intention of this communiqué in the following way: “The Chapter marks both an ending and a new beginning.  This is what many of the chapter fathers feel and that’s how we have expressed it in the chapter hall.  But, so that it can truly be a new beginning, it is necessary to put the challenges of the past in their place.  This is why the Chapter decided to publish a statement for the Legionaries, the members of Regnum Christi and for all those who have been following our recent history.  We can’t erase the past.  We have to learn the lessons, mourn what occurred, trust in God’s mercy and, like St. Paul, run forward in pursuit of the goal of reaching Christ.”
The General Chapter issued this communiqué simultaneously with the publishing of the results of the electionof the new central government.
Regarding Fr. Maciel
The communiqué offers a summary of what has been learned of Fr. Maciel’s misbehavior to date, how his actions influenced the Legion and what the Legion is doing in light of these discoveries.
“When we ponder the magnitude of the evil and scandal caused, we realize that we are under the merciful gaze of God who, with his providence, continues to guide our steps.  United with Jesus Christ, we hope to be able to redeem our painful history and overcome with good the consequences of evil.  Only in this way can we consider what has taken place in light of the Gospel and build our future on the solid foundations of trust in God, of fidelity to the Church, and of the truth.”
 “Our founder died in 2008.  We ask God to have mercy on him.  At the same time, we want to express our deep sorrow for the abuse of minor seminarians, the immoral acts with men and women who were adults, the arbitrary use of his authority and of material goods, the indiscriminate consumption of addictive medicines and the act of presenting writings published by third parties as his own.  We find the incongruity of presenting oneself as a priest and a witness of the faith continuously for decades while hiding this immoral behavior to be incomprehensible.  We firmly condemn this.  We are grieved that many victims and other affected persons have waited so long in vain for an apology and an act of reconciliation on the part of Fr. Maciel.  Today, we would like to issue that apology as we express our solidarity with these persons.”
“Many times we gave undue, universal value to Fr. Maciel’s directives and clung too much to them because of an inadequate understanding of the concept of founder and an excessive exaltation and uncritical way of considering his person.”
“The Pontifical Delegate has first of all led us to an adequate comprehension of the role of Fr. Maciel in relation to the Legion.  In the past, the Congregation stipulated that it cannot propose Fr. Maciel as a model, nor his personal writings as a guide for the spiritual life.  We recognize his condition as founder.  Nevertheless, a religious congregation and its essential features do not have their origin in the person of the founder; they are a gift of God that the Church accepts and approves and that afterwards live in the institute and in its members.”

Apology
The chapter fathers extend various apologies to “all those who in one way or another were hurt by the sad events of these years and our shortcomings.”
“We are grieved that many victims and other affected persons have waited so long in vain for an apology and an act of reconciliation on the part of Fr. Maciel.  Today, we would like to issue that apology as we express our solidarity with these persons.”
“We acknowledge with sadness the initial incapability of believing the testimonies of the persons who had been victims of Fr. Maciel, the long institutional silence and, later on, the hesitations and errors of judgment when setting out to inform the members of the congregation and others.  We apologize for these shortcomings, which have increased the suffering and confusion of many.”
“To all of our brothers, religious and priests, who during this period have left the Congregation, we want to express our sadness that we no longer have you among us.  We sincerely apologize for the times we have not listened to you or been there for you in the spirit of the Gospel.  We would like to maintain your friendship and fraternal dialogue.”
“We would like to apologize and reiterate our desire to reconcile with all those who in one way or an-other were hurt by the sad events of these years and our shortcomings.”

Conclusions of “Outreach Commission”
The communiqué offers a summary of the conclusions of the “Outreach Commission”, established by Cardinal De Paolis in January, 2011, to attend to “the persons that have requested a response from the Legion of Christ because of the events that have a direct or indirect relation with Fr. Marcial Maciel.”
“The commission has completed its task and no case pertaining to its area of responsibility remains open.  In each case, the Congregation has acted in accord with the proposals of the commission.  The opportunity to be listened to and the material help offered to the victims have contributed, insofar as is humanly possible, to relieve their wounds and foster reconciliation.”
Conclusions of “Economic Affairs Commission”
The communiqué offers a summary of the conclusions of the “Economic Affairs Commission”, established by Cardinal De Paolis in February, 2011, in order to analyze “the handling of funds and the financial situation of the Congregation.”  The report of the commission “underlined that they did not find embezzlements of money or other irregularities in the fiscal actions that were reviewed.”
“The first urgent aspect to address in this area is that of the reduction of the debt with banks that has resulted from various causes: the excessively rapid expansion of the institutions of the Congregation, the world economic crisis and the fall-off in donations.  In some countries the debt is very high, but continues to be manageable considering the income and the assets of the Congregation as a whole.
“On the other hand, the Commission has pointed out the need – and this will be a task of the next government – of adjusting and simplifying the administrative structure to foster the responsibility proper to the territorial and local superiors, to both the branches of consecrated members of Regnum Christi, and to the directors of the works of apostolate.”
Commitment to continue journey of conversion
The chapter fathers repeatedly express their awareness that there is still much to be done before the conclusion of “this process of renewal and conversion.”
The communiqué repeatedly pauses to make reflections like: “All of this demands of us not only a change in legislative texts, but also a continual conversion of mind and heart.”
“The consideration of all of these issues has led us to conclude that the journey towards an ‘authentic and profound renewal,’ confirmed by Pope Francis, has advanced, but has not yet ended.  The events of these years will mark the identity and the life of our Congregation.  When seen in light of Providence, we can accept, confront and transform them into a stepping stone towards a new stage in our history.”
“Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows, was a witness of the redemptive power of Crist that conquers evil and sin.  To her, our Mother, we entrust our future with great confidence.”