Former Legionary Blunt about LC Visitation
Fr. Joseph Komonchak at Dotcommonweal has picked up the Vatican journalist Sandro Magister's interview on Chiesaexpressonline with Fr. Thomas Berg, a former Legionary of Christ, who is described in Magister's article as follows: Father Berg is "a member of the Legionaries of Christ since 1986, a priest since 2000, professor and confessor at the Legion seminary in Thornwood, New York, and very involved in formation activities. In April, he left the congregation, and asked to be incardinated into the archdiocese of New York. Archbishop Timothy Dolan made him a vicar of the parish of St. Columba in Hopewell Junction. Berg is also the director of the Westchester Institute for Ethics and the Human Person."
"In this interview," [Magister continues] "Fr. Berg explains in measured terms what is truly at stake, what are the strong and weak points of the congregation under investigation, what must be demolished and what rebuilt. He denounces the cult of personality that still surrounds the figure of Maciel. He criticizes the reasons why obedience to superiors often degenerates into blind submission. And he highlights the fundamental question: how it is possible that so many good things have come out of an institution that has been shown to be so full of flaws. It is the first time that an authoritative member of the Legionaries of Christ, a member for many years, has spoken publicly and candidly about the crucial problems that have exploded in this congregation."
Two of Fr. Berg's answers are especially blunt:
"Q: How would you suggest dealing with the centrality given to the writings, the person and the figure of the founder, Marcial Maciel?
A: I hope that the Legion will very quickly accelerate its disavowal of, and disassociation with, Fr. Maciel. On that point, I see no other way forward. All - and I mean all - the pictures of Maciel yet hanging in Legionary houses have to go. They have to stop referring to his writings in public (I understand that at one recent Legionary community mass the homilist still saw fit to quote from one of Maciel's letters). A simple step in that direction, by the way, requires the immediate abrogation of their custom of referring to Fr. Maciel as "nuestro padre" or "mon père" - terms of endearment whose use he allowed and fostered. Amazingly, many if not most Legionaries still insist on using the term."
"Q: What elements do you find more disturbing and in need of special attention from the visitors?
A: Just to name a couple. Why, for example, were approximately 25 Legionary priests convoked yet again - as groups are every year - to a two-month long "spiritual renewal" at the Legion's center for spirituality in Cotija, Michoacan Mexico, housed in the very house (now retreat center and museum) that Fr. Maciel grew up in? Why there? Why in Cotija? Why now?
Why, furthermore, has the Legion continued to engage in vocation work? Now? In these circumstances? It would be a very honest gesture for the Legion of Christ to simply call a halt to all vocational work at least for the duration of the canonical visitation, and even better until it finally gets its house in order.
And one of my deepest concerns is that current Legionary seminarians are not presently in a position to adequately discern what Christ is calling them to do. And this is because they are systematically deprived of the kind of information they not only have a right to know but a fundamental need to know: a complete presentation of the basic facts of Fr. Maciel's double life; the understanding that the religious life, with its norms and internal discipline, they have come to live is deeply problematic and in need of thorough scrutiny and review; a thorough presentation of the reasonable criticisms that have been leveled against the Legion and Regnum Christi; and an honest admission on the part of the major superiors of the Legion's errors. We should all find it deeply disturbing that most Legionary seminarians - and the same can be said of consecrated members of Regnum Christi - to this day live their daily lives largely unaware of most of these things, shielded as they are from virtually all negative information about the Legion and Regnum Christi. Consequently, they lack the requisite interior freedom to genuinely discern God's calling in their lives at present. This is something to which the visitors need to pay careful attention.
A much deeper issue, of course, is the question of the charism. I personally feel the need for the Church eventually - in some formal way - to reaffirm the validity of an institutional charism in the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi. Regnum Christi members especially need to know from the highest Church authority whether there ever really was a genuine charism inspired by the Holy Spirit at work in the Legion and Regnum Christi, or whether what the Church has witnessed in the sixty-eight year phenomenon of the Legion was rather God simply drawing much good out of a primarily human and deeply flawed enterprise.
This question - whether there is a genuine institutional charism present here or not - is very serious and, as it presents itself in the case of the Legion, unprecedented in the history of the Church. I hope that the visitors will turn up useful information that will assist the Holy See in discerning the answer to that question.
Finally, I fear there may be more victims of Fr. Maciel out there. Their welfare has to become more clearly a palpable and obvious priority for the Legionary superiors. I am hopeful that the major superiors of the Legion who may be now have acquired much more information in this regard will be entirely forthcoming with the visitors."