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Remember the Charism Print E-mail
By Austin Ruse   
Friday, 13 February 2009

There are souls in Heaven because of the charism of the Legion of Christ and of Regnum Christi. This means there are souls in Heaven because of the spiritual insights and writings of the Legion’s founder Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado. The participation of these saints in the beatific vision will not be revoked because of his repugnant and hypocritical behavior, which became public knowledge last week. The charism that was revealed to him by God is no less true today than it was last year or fifty years ago. What a woeful vessel was he for this apostolate, but there will be more saints because, and now perhaps in spite, of him.

We do not know the whole story and the bad news will probably get worse.

The inevitable braying in the media and in the blogosphere is deafening. Leon Podles calls for the suppression of the Legion of Christ and of Regnum Christi. Rod Dreher calls Regnum Christi a cult and oddly uses the crisis to settle an old personal score with the now deceased Father Richard John Neuhaus. Under the guise of a letter to a friend, which in friendly fashion he released to the blogs, Germaine Grisez calls for an investigation, but assumes the Legion must be dissolved. Amy Welborn scratches her chin thoughtfully and pronounces she is not satisfied.

Old clubs are being pulled out to beat the Legion. The Legion only cares about the rich. The Legion is aggressive in recruitment. The Legion is secretive. The Legion held its founder in too high regard. None of these types of charges were enough to catch the attention of successive popes who have supported and even revered the Legion. Still, as much in glee as in sorrow, there is a deathwatch over the Legion.

But what is lost in the babble is that this is first and foremost a family tragedy. It starts with the woman who is the mother of Fr. Maciel’s child and was probably connected to Regnum Christi. Her child has the right to the married love of her parents, something she could never have. But it does not end with them. There are hundreds of thousands of others.

Legion priests and members of Regnum Christi call Maciel Nuestro Padre for good reasons. He is their father in the faith. They read and pray over his words every day. Part of their charism was fostering a family spirit among the members. You can see this in their interactions. You can hear it in the anguished cries of Maciel’s sons. The greatest betrayal is this spiritual father asked his sons and daughters to defend him all the while knowing he was guilty of something abominable.

No matter what Marcial Maciel has done, the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi remain one of the bright lights in this era of the Church. They have brought hundreds of thousands to a deeper understanding of the Gospel message. They have fostered hundreds of good and solid priests who are a beacon of hope for the Church. Their seminaries are packed with what John Paul the Great called the “springtime of the Church,” young men eager to evangelize the world.

A shadow is cast over all of this because of the profound moral failings of their founder. But his failings do not nullify all the good that they have done and will do for the Church and for the Kingdom of God.

When I think of the Legion and Regnum Christi I think of Father Thomas Berg, a faithful Legionary priest who runs a bioethics think tank that is on the cutting edge of public discourse.

I think of Gladys Sweeny who founded and runs the Institute for Psychological Sciences, which is turning out faithful Catholics dedicated to both the Magisterium and to psychological healing.

I think of Father Thomas Williams, the charismatic dean of the theology department at the Legionary university in Rome. I think of that university, Regina Apostolorum, and how it is turning out hundreds of smart dedicated students in many fields who will build up the Kingdom.

I think of Father Owen Kern the avuncular publisher of The National Catholic Register, a bastion of Catholic truth in a wasteland of the printed word.

I think of a young consecrated who used to bring twenty-five other young consecrated women each year to the United Nations. They were so inspirational that I almost joined Regnum Christi on the spot.

I think of all the thousands of the faithful of the Legion and Regnum Christi who are hurting today. To them I say, remember the good and holy priests and all the members of the movement who are the charism. Ignore the idle chatter. Hew close to the charism. Either it is false and will die, or it is true and will be your guide to Heaven.

Austin Ruse is the President of the New York and Washington, D.C.-based Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), a research institute that focuses exclusively on international social policy.

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Comments (42)Add Comment
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written by Megs, February 13, 2009
The last paragraph of this piece may be the best thing I have read in my many months of coming here. I'm glad Mr. Ruse is able to see the bigger picture. Despite the late Father Maciel's behavior, the Legion of Christ has done remarkable works and I hope it continues to flourish.
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written by Michigander, February 13, 2009
I agree that there has been much good done by the Legion. However, I think there should be an investigation so that the Legion and the public will know the truth. This must be done to protect young people in the future.
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Sister
written by Maureen Paul Turlish, February 13, 2009
There is no reason to think that the LC can or should be allowed to reinvent themselves given their horrific history. SUPPRESS THEM. Now the facts are out there and there is no way around them. Denying them, downplaying them or minimizing them in any way is impossible. It matters not now whether or not Maciel was a favorite of Pope John Paul II or defended to the hilt by the outgoing U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican, Mary Ann Glendon or the recently deceased Father Richard John Neuhaus.
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Sinner at Large
written by Thomas Michael Barnes, February 13, 2009
It is obvious that Maciel was a sociopath, a particular type of individual that is not so much immoral as he is amoral. He had no code. He was not capable of having a code. I am no friend of the Legion because their Council of Trent Catholicism hurts more than it helps in my opinion. The world is hurting very badly and needs a practical, hands-on, gritty, down in the mud answer to salve the pain of a Godless existence. The Legion provides a Catholicism that was extant about 1900. Why?
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written by debby, February 13, 2009
HOW PAINFUL-lets pray hard for God's will re:this.
that said, upon hearing this heartbreaking news, a dear friend said, "Who has not denied Christ? Crucified Him? Who can throw stones?" I can't recall the Saint (Francis de Sales?) who, when seeing other's sins, repented himself of the very sin-took the sin as his own(like Christ)& begged mercy.
I know abuse 1st hand so I do not make light. I just beg mercy & healing. we must always keep our eyes on Jesus&the Pope, speaking the TRUTH IN LOVE only.
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Snowdon
written by Ed, February 13, 2009
I've been working with people who were sexually abused by priests for the past 14 years. When the leader of a religious group leads a double life and abuses members of his own organization this creates an atmosphere of sexual license and predatory behaviour among the members. I believe Father Maciel's activities set a negative example that has likely attracted other men to LC priesthood who have abused children. A public call for victims by the order would test if this were true.
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Matthew 18:6
written by William Dennis, February 13, 2009
If it be true that Father Marciel had a sexual proclivity toward some of seminarians and indeed had encounters with them, then, indeed, he is an abomination. No doubt he is responsible for some spirituality in many people. I would hope that none of his followers in LC are tainted by his actions. It is a shame that a pall of suspician is also his legacy. Maybe in this liberal anti-Christian day and age one can look at this as just another life style. He has however scandalized our holy Church.
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written by debby, February 13, 2009
Just read your notable for today.
Funny, st. francis de sales!
Maybe it was him who repented in the place of the sinner (in my post earlier).
lLove that guy! Can't wait to meet him. bet he was the Fr. John Corapi of his day. What a compliment to Fr. John!
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written by Lee Gilbert, February 13, 2009
Benedict of Nursia, Francis of Assisi, Dominic Guzman, Ignatius Loyola, Alphonus Ligouri, John Bosco, Maciel Degollado... Which name does not belong on that list? Obviously the Church cannot have Fr. Maciel in the pantheon of her great founders. The order needs to be dissolved for that reason alone. And there are many others.
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written by Susan R. Gerard, February 13, 2009
It is well to be reminded that the value of the work remains good despite the unworthiness of the worker.
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written by Sam, February 13, 2009
What did he do? I have never heard of him or his order, and I consider myself a pretty informed Catholic. Is this order something along the lines of Opus Dei or something?

The author should have had an intro paragraph setting the stage like we learned in HS English Composition
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written by Mason, February 13, 2009
What exactly is the charism of the Legion and how can it be can it be understood and separated from the weaknesses of its founder? If a continuation of the founder's doctrine and prayers is central to the Legion how can the concomitant evils of the founder be put to rest? This is a genuine question, not baiting.
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written by Greg Bullough, February 13, 2009
"But his failings do not nullify all the good that they have done..."

What about the failings of his followers when they have villified and re-victimized the founder's victims over the past decades?

What about their failing to, even today, make this all about how the Legion and Regnum Christi feel about it, versus making humble amends to the victims who, it turns out, were apparently telling the truth all along?

What does it take to "nullify" good?
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written by Bill, February 13, 2009
Mr. Ruse is to be highly complimented for his positive, upbeat approach to the Fr. Marciel scandal. The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., has a pamphlet of prayers, including a Prayer for Vocations and---most appropriately---a Prayer for Priests including not only "faithful and fervent priests," but also "unfaithful and tepid priests." I recommend it for everyone.
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written by tr, February 13, 2009
Do not be deceived, even the devil quotes scripture.
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na
written by Gloria, February 13, 2009
Not only the LC and all the rest of the RCC's cults out there but there should be an abolishion by our laws, of the entire evil Roman Catholic Church. They, in their evilhood have spauned the whole brainwashed bunch. God did not create the RCC. He created a group of people we call Christians today. He was a Jew and that religion needed help so He came to help. He needs to come again and give us a lot of help to know the real Truth.
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written by Germain Grisez, February 13, 2009
Ruse says: "Under the guise of a letter to a friend, which in friendly fashion he released to the blogs, Germaine [sic] Grisez calls for an investigation, but assumes the Legion must be dissolved." The letter was addressed to three Legionaries whom I know well, but I told them it was meant for all members of LC/RC and would be published. I argued, not assumed, that the Legion must be dissolved and refounded. See http://www.americanpapist.com/...er-to.html
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written by Bill, February 14, 2009
How many souls might be in hell because of Maciel's leading them into temptation?
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Captain
written by Michael Trust, February 14, 2009
Let us not overlook that when an apostolate poses a grave threat to the enemy, namely Satan, the enemy will devote an inordinate amount of effort to scandalize it. We could never know how much spiritual warfare was directed at the LC founder, perhaps more than most of us could bear, which is why Judgement is not for any of us to presume lest we be judged. Satan surely did a number on Fr. Maciel. How sad to see here his earthly enemies now playing into the hands of the Satan himself.
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written by Suzie, February 14, 2009
Thank you Austin Ruse. Your compassion towards those in the Legion and RC is very encouraging. Based on the overwhelmingly unconstructive comments I have read so far, the consensus is that the founder is evil and bad, so the good must be thrown away too. Fortunately for the faithful followers of Christ, that can't happen. Good will always triumph over evil. Even the good that the Legion or RC has done or will do in the future.
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written by Aelric, February 14, 2009
Have there been any canonized saints from the LC or RC - I honestly do not know? If not, however, how can the author make the extraordinary claims given in the article's first paragraph? In any case, it does not logically follow that any LC or RC member now enjoying the BV does so because of their specific membership/charism as compared to the Church's ordinary means of salvation.
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written by JM, February 15, 2009
If the root is rotten, the order is rotten.

Face it.

God have mercy on his soul, but the Church does not need his egoistic poison. We all sin, sure. But we don't all put ourselves forward to start orders/movements.

The Legionairre's are not the only cult in the Church.

God bless those RCs and LCs who are full of love. But best to let the whole think sink and start over...or reclaim the charism of Franciscans, Jesuits, Benedictines, Dominicans...there's nothing wrong with their charism
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written by Wj, February 15, 2009
What is the charism about which Ruse writes and why should we believe it operates ex opere operato, as he seems to assume? Without good answers to these questions there is no reason to follow the counsel of Ruse. But supporters of retaining the Legion as it exists seem to assume the validity of the charism and the questionable theology behind it. This article does a disservice to the church unfailing to address these questions.
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written by Alice, February 15, 2009
Thank you Austin for your insightful and compassionate article. We as a church suffer together for the sins of others and must not condemn the work of God because of the sins of one. How many biblical sinners were used by God for greatness? Each of us are damaged vessels.. We cannot understand what has occurred nor why but will not allow this to stop us from continuing to do God's work and will.
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Feehily
written by Jack, February 15, 2009
I have little empathy with the Legionariesi. Their blind following of one who was called "padre nuestro" has led them to this moment of truth. It appears to me that the present leadership is in hopes of misleading their members once again by suggesting that Father Maciel's problems of the flesh was mainly getting involved with a woman and fathering her child. This is much nicer sounding than the credible allegations that his main problem was sex with boys and his own seminarians at that. Shame.
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Mr
written by Jacque, February 16, 2009
Let's be careful not to jump to conclusions. All we know conclusively is that Fr. Maciel had a child about 22 years ago. None of the abuse charges have been proven and, yes, they do need to be investigated. It's worth noting that the Legion is the one that conducted the investigation into Fr. Maciel in the first place. This isn't something that they were trying to cover up.
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written by Gil Garza, February 16, 2009
Can a person who persisted in grave evils throughout his life transmit anything from the Holy Spirit? Any charism? This seems to be the great unanswered (and rhetorical) question.
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written by Sheila, February 16, 2009
I have been a member of Regnum Christi for 17 years. Thank you so much for this article. It is SO helpful.
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written by A Nonymous, February 16, 2009
Seriously? You drag Amy Wellborn out of mourning for her husband's untimely death to cast aspersions on her reaction? Perhaps she would have been satisfied, if only she hadn't been distracted by the sudden death of the father of her young children. What a shining example of the Legion's "queen virtue."
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written by JoEllen, February 16, 2009
Thank you.
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written by Charles Kopp, February 16, 2009
"There are souls in heaven because of Father Marciel," you say.

But you do not address yourself at all to the downside. How many souls in our age, wanting to believe, trying to sustain real piety in a cynical age, will fall away from the truth BECAUSE of these revelations? I myself was trying to say, there were scandals and the Church has responded to prevent such abuses. Now I see the Church is trying hard to ignore the abuses.

There will be souls in hell because of this man.
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written by Who let the dogs out?, February 17, 2009
I am a former LC. I knew Maciel very well and never SAW anything in his conduct that was immediately disturbing. Knowing some of the accusers personally, I have had my serious doubts. However, the Pope's penalty gave "credence" to the allegations. The LC admits to Maciel's "fatherhood". The sticking point is the alleged abuse. The Vatican needs to clarify the alleged abuse. Then no one will be "defending" Maciel and the LC will be able to get on with their extraordinary work.
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Comment
written by Domenico Bettinelli, February 17, 2009
You ought not have brought Amy into it, for any type of criticism. Not now. That was insensitive and uncalled for.
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written by Mary, February 17, 2009
Dear Austin, Thank you for this encouraging post.
To be fair, some of the criticisms are constructive, like Dr. Grisez'. His effort is aimed at saving all that is good. This is vastly different, imho, than some who do, as you point out, bring out old clubs - hitting them while they are down. This saddens me to no end. My son is a Legionary brother. I am proud of him. His heart is good. When people say these things, they dont know how far their words reach.
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written by Stephanie, February 17, 2009
Mr. Ruse:

It has been intensely frustrating to observe the feeding frenzy in the "conservative" Catholic blog world over the situation of Fr. Maciel. I will be the last person to say that the Legion handled this smoothly, but to try to make their bumbling efforts into some kind of mass conspiracy is immaturity bordering on calumny. To wish for the downfall of an approved order in the church is short sighted at best, perhaps downright malicious. THANK YOU for your calm, rational perspective.
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Rev.
written by Thomas Hennigan, February 18, 2009
There are many people in heaven for having followed their consciences and done very mistaken things. The Legion is so intimatley connected to the founder in every aspect of its being, and the present leadership could hardly have been unaware of the misdeeds of its founder. They have made a miserable reponse to the CDF sanction of 2006. It doesn't seem that they are capable of making the necessary reform. Grisez and Weigel are right in suggesting the urgent need of a Papal Delegate to reform it.
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written by Ex member, February 18, 2009
I invite Who let the dogs out? to do some research on the matter of sexual abuse. Cardinal Medina Estéves, declared in La Tercera, a Chilean newspaper, that if the Pope had imposed the sanction which he did on Maciel, he had good reason for it. Legion superiors need also to imitate him , meet and listen to the victims, also ask for forgiveness and make reparation. They have demonized them. I have no doubt that the recent revelations have come about thanks to pressure from the Holy See . . .
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written by Conor Dugan, February 18, 2009
Stay Classy Austin. Amy's husband died the day she posted about the Legion. Surely you are clued in enough to know that her husband died that day.

Reading this post, it seems that Mr. Ruse is either unaware or unmoved by the many criticisms of the Legion and Regnum Christi from faithful, orthodox Catholics. I am talking of criticisms that pre-exist the latest dance that the leadership of the Legion is doing now. This is not to deny the many good people associated with RC.
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written by Monique Brinkhaus, February 20, 2009
Dear Mr. Ruse,
How thoughtful of you to consider the feelings and afflictions of the members of the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christ. I wonder if you have ever stopped to consider the feelings and afflictions of those who were abused by Maciel, the courage it took for them to come forward, and the persecution and calumniation they endured at the hands of Regnum Christi and the Legionnaries because of it.
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Thank You!
written by Anne D, February 20, 2009
Thank you, for defending the work and character of a Movement that has helped many Catholics focus on growing in their love for Jesus and His Church, and working to build the Kingdom of Christ. I am shocked by the faithful Catholics, salivating like vultures over the suffering, Legionaries and RC members, still reeling from the shock of Fr. Macial's terrible transgressions. They are being guided by good Cardinals and a wonderful Pope, and are struggling to resolve this crisis! Give them time!
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New RC member
written by Nora Merriam, February 26, 2009
I am a new RC member. Thank you for the words of wisdom. During this lenten season let us remember then rejoice that the battle has already been won. Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the world. Mine and Fr. Maciel's. Our God is risen and is a living God that loves us with passion. Let us sit before the Blessed Sacrament in attonement for the sins of each other. Let us carry each other's cross. Meanwhile, Satan will work overtime to eliminate our Faith and appeal to our self rightousness.
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CKINDRY
written by sM, April 28, 2009
ARE YOU FOR REAL? HOW CAN YOU SAY THAT HE MADE ANY POSITIVE CONTRIBUTIONS--ANY GOOD THAT HAS BEEN DONE BY THIS WICKED MAN IS NO MORE--TOTALLY KILLED BY HIS ACTIONS. YOU HAVE CLEARLY BEEN BRAINWASHED BY THIS MAN AND HIS WORKS--YOU ARE FEEDING RIGHT INTO HIS PLANS--AND YOU ARE TOO BLIND AND/OR STUPID TO SEE IT.

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