Fighting evil in the Church is nothing new. In fact, that is where Christ warned us where we'd find it. (Mt. 24:15) We shouldn't be surprised. Satan hates Jesus Christ. And while he can't attack Christ directly, he does attack his Bride.
To give some perspective to what we're going through, recently we canonized a pope who unknowingly protected and assisted the very growth of the "filth in the church" that his successor finally confronted and dismantled.
One of Pope John Paul II's most favored and protected groups was the Legionaries of Christ, and he often bestowed great words of blessing and encouragement on its founder, Fr. Marcial Maciel.
It was easy to see why. At a time when vocations around the Catholic world were vastly declining, Maciel built a veritable empire of vocations. No one was producing more priests than Fr. Marcial Maciel and because of it, he was elevated to a special place of personal favor by Pope John Paul II.
In addition, the Legionnaires companion lay organization, Regnum Christi, was growing just as fast, and together, especially due to the massive amounts of money the two groups were accumulating, were becoming the premier force in the church with Pope John Paul II along for the ride.
For years, complaints had been sent to Rome about the sexual molestation of young boys by Fr. Maciel as well as many other cult-like practices of the Legionaries. But even while these complaints poured in, Pope John Paul II continued to laud its founder and bless and "approve" Maciel and his movements.
Pope Benedict, while still the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, apparently knew well what was going but could do little so long as Maciel and his groups were protected by the pope.
Upon being elected pope himself, one of Benedict's first acts was to investigate the Legionaries and remove its founder who died soon after. The investigation and reordering of the Legionaries and the Regnum Christi group continued under Benedict and is apparently still going on under Francis.
In 2009, Cardinal Edwin O'Brien, the then Archbishop of Baltimore, had some things to say about the Legion that sound ominously familiar to us in Guam. (The difference is of course that Baltimore had a bishop who was looking out for the good of the whole diocese.)
- Concerned that the Legion of Christ stifles the free will of its members and lacks transparency, Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien told the religious order’s director general that he cannot in good conscience recommend that anyone join the Legion or Regnum Christi, its affiliated lay movement.
- “It seems to me and many others that this was a man (Fr. Maciel) with an entrepreneurial genius who, by systematic deception and duplicity, used our faith to manipulate others for his own selfish ends,”
- Saying that the Legion’s founder “leaves many victims in his wake,” the archbishop called for the “full disclosure of his activities and those who are complicit in them or knew of them and of those who are still refusing to offer disclosure.”
- He added that the finances of the order should be opened to “objective scrutiny.”
- Archbishop O’Brien said he has grave concerns that the Legion fosters a “cult of personality” focused on Father Maciel.
- “While it’s difficult to get a hold of official documents,” Archbishop O’Brien said, “it’s clear that from the first moment a person joins the Legion, efforts seem to be made to program each one and to gain full control of his behavior, of all information he receives, of his thinking and emotions.”
- The archbishop said many members who leave the order suffer “deep psychological distress for dependency and need prolonged counseling akin to deprogramming.”
- Saying that “I know that there are good priests in the movement” and acknowledging that Legion members are in full accord with the theological teachings of the church, the archbishop also said some of the practices of the movement are unhealthy.
- “This is not about orthodoxy,” he said. “It is about respect for human dignity for each of its members.”
- The archbishop noted that he has heard reports that the movement claims that the first duty of a Legionary is to love the Legion.
- Such policies subject a person’s use of reason not to one’s own judgment, Archbishop O’Brien said, but to a spiritual director.
- “It’s been said that the founder is alone called ‘nuestro padre’ (‘our father’) and that no one else can have that title,” Archbishop O’Brien said. “All are bound to identify with him in his spirit, his mind, his mission and in his life. This would suggest that the very basis of the Legion movement should be reviewed from start to finish.”
Now notice what its defenders say. Also sounds ominously familiar. The only difference with the neocats is that their founder has not yet been deposed and is still alive:
- Jim Fair, a U.S. spokesman for the Legion who said that revelations about Father Maciel have been a “great shock” and “great disappointment” to members, but that the order has achieved “very positive things” for the church.
- “We’re processing that mystery, that the Holy Spirit could use what was very clearly a flawed instrument to do good,” Mr. Fair said. “The Holy Spirit does that with all of us. We think it did it with Father Maciel. So while this is certainly disappointing, we have a charism that is approved by the church and we’ll continue to work on behalf of the church on our various apostolic works.”
I am normally not a fan of the exposes of the Church done by the likes of PBS and the History Channel, but enough now is known about the history of the Legionaires and its founder to substantiate most of what is said on this PBS special about the Legion. The program is about an hour long. You'll shake your head when you realize that Kiko and his Way have cultivated the same path to power that enabled Maciel to ultimately severely damage many people even if sexual abuse is not (yet) part of Kiko's legacy.