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Remember the Charism

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 Center for Family & Human Rights (C-Fam), a research institute that focuses exclusively on international social policy. The opinions expressed here are Mr. Ruse’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of C-Fam.