Home > General > Fr. Maciel: The Essence of an Order

Fr. Maciel: The Essence of an Order

With all of the shock and scandal surrounding the rather recent discovery of Fr. Maciel’s duplicitous lifestyle floating around the news, it’s very easy to get yourself hooked on the individual details of his life. It’s almost like reading the end of a novel when the mysterious details of the main character’s personality are all laid out; his influences, his secrets, and in general those things which finally make sense of his actions. And though such news satisfies that part deep inside of us which longs to hear gossip and personal secrets, we would be doing the Legion, and more importantly, the Catholic Church, a disservice by dwelling on the details and not using them to support an understanding of the situation. And although our opinions as individuals don’t exactly matter in the long run, we owe it to our catholic culture to at least try to arrive at an idea of what justice would be in this particular situation. Especially in this interim period while the Vatican is still deliberating over the details of the order’s re-founding.

Rather than try to put all of the pieces together ourselves, let’s begin by looking at the course of action that the Legion is itself suggesting.
According to a Catholic news site :

“Fr. Scott Reilly, LC, Territorial Director in Atlanta, Georgia, announced to all those who work in the Territorial Direction of the Legion of Christ, that Marcial Maciel had a mistress, fathered at least one child, and lived a double life. For this reason, the Legion is renouncing him as their spiritual founder.” [1]

This certainly seems a suiting course of action given the circumstances, but it leaves one wondering about the exact character of the relationship that an order has with its founder. It would appear that an order grows organically around the person and spirituality of an individual. That is, an order owes much of what makes it unique to the character of its founder. So how can the Legion “re-found” under a different person? What are they if not the spirituality of Fr. Maciel? One would of course say that taking St. Francis out of the Franciscans and calling it the same order would be ridiculous. It’s almost like failing to recognize the difference between a living person and a dead one. Although they might still look the same, their animating principle, their form, that which makes them to be what they are, has been removed. Now, I know what some of you might be thinking, the Legion will not even still technically be the same order after their re-founding, and to you I would say this: your right, it ought not be. Especially in light of what they say in their own manual, which reads:

“Since it has been ordained by God that the person and life or Our Father Founder cannot be separated from the life and spirituality of the Legion, we the Chapter Fathers recognize the necessity to carefully gather and conserve all material dealing with the person, life, work and word of Our Founder…” [2]

Fr. Marcial Maciel

Fr. Marcial Maciel

First of all, this makes it very clear that the essence of the Legion is, at least in the order’s own understanding, intrinsically tied to the person of Fr. Maciel; and furthermore, this intrinsic connection has been ordained by God! The second part of the quote sheds light on what many people refer to as a part of the legion which should persist even after its re-founding, that is, its message. This message is the intention of the order, which can, according to some, safely be separated from the corruption of its founder and continue to help form people spiritually. But again, the Legion itself says that the writings of her founder and other manifestations of her message should be gathered together and safeguarded for no reason other than that they garner insight into the person of Marcial Maciel.

Given the depth of the connection between the heart of the Legionaries of Christ and the person of their founder, I would be hard-pressed to say that their persistence as an order would be just. But of course, what about all of those people who were brought to the church by the legion? What about all the people that the order helped drag from the depths of depravity and sin? Well, to those people I would respond that their questions are not driven by principles, and are unfounded. The argument essentially boils down to:

-Organization X has helped people
-Helping people is good
——Organization X is good!

It simply doesn’t work that way; good effects do not necessitate a good cause, otherwise we wouldn’t have the saying “the ends don’t justify the means.” Now, granted, the means by which the people who were helped by the legion were probably good and wholesome, but they were still helped by the Legion, an order which has identified itself time and time again as something inherently inseparable from the person of their deeply corrupt founder.

All in all, it really doesn’t seem to matter what they’ve done, they could have bought everyone on earth a happy-meal and it would all be the same. The fact of the matter is that the Legion has an essence, and that essence is Marcial Maciel.

The point is, if in its re-founding the legion is not rid of all connections with Fr. Maciel, then I would have to argue that the mission of the re-founding has not been accomplished; being that he is the sole reason for the investigation in the first place. And if it is re-established with no affiliation to him, to what extent can we continue to call it the Legion of Christ? If it is re-founded properly then it will have undergone an essential change rendering it an entirely new entity. Properly speaking, the Legion should not be undergoing a re-founding, it should be, and in effect will be, abolished and replaced with something entirely new, if it is to be replaced at all.

[1] http://www.angelqueen.org
[2] Manual of the First General Chapter of the Legionaries of Christ. Page 19, Paragraph 469

  1. July 5, 2009 at 12:28 am

    Yes. I agree completely. They should be absorbed into the Jesuits, the original Ignatian Order that they attempted to replace.

    • July 5, 2009 at 12:21 pm

      Mr. Barnes,

      Just to facilitate the dialogue a bit, would absorption of the Legion into the Jesuits really solve the problem? As far as my own experiences with Jesuits go, they’re quite a mixed bunch themselves. Certainly under a saintly charism, but in need of a top-down reform as well. How do you propose such could happen?

    • Maria
      July 7, 2009 at 11:18 pm

      Good Lord! The Jesuits wouldn’t touch them with a bargepole…! LC people have a dismal education and very shaky theological training. Anyway, the Jesuit Constitutions specifically do not approve accepting people from other orders.

  2. Mimi Callahan
    July 5, 2009 at 9:04 pm

    I agree almost completely. Fr. Maciel is not the sole reason for the Apostolic Visitation, broaden your research horizons.

    • Walter Kovacs
      July 6, 2009 at 12:18 am

      Although I would probably do well to broaden my research horizons, I do not know of any (nor can I find any) information which would lead me to believe that the reason for the Apostolic Visitation is anything other than the matter of Fr. Maciel’s “misbehavior”

      In the letter from Cardinal Bertone to Reverend Corcuera in which the Holy See officially announces its intention to conduct the Apostolic Visitation, the only mention made to the reason for the investigation is the Legion’s “present difficulties” [1]. Now, granted, it is possible that one might interpret the legion’s present difficulties as being other than those connected to their founder; maybe reverend Corcuera got food poisoning? But, again, to my knowledge there are no other difficulties that the legion is experiencing which would warrant an investigation.

      The only thing that I could fathom as a possibility might be the bit in the letter about “truth and transparency” which seems like it might be a reference to the Legion’s famed vow of secrecy. But, even if this is something that the Vatican doesn’t like and would like to change, one could hardly cite it as a reason for the Apostolic Visitation.

      Given your comment, however, I’m sure that you know of other reasons and I would be genuinely interested in hearing them.

      [1] http://www.zenit.org/article-25527?l=english

  3. Mimi Callahan
    July 7, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    Mr. Kovacs,
    I have been a member of Regnum Christi for 12 years (recently resigned) and have had my children in a Legionary prep school for 13 years. While I acknowledge that the charism, spirituality and methodology came from Fr. Maciel,so it could be argued that Fr. Maciel (MM) is the sole reason for the AV.
    Perhaps you are aware that LC/RC have been banned from the dioceses of L.A., Minneapolis/St.Paul, Baton Rouge, Columbus, Ohio, Richmond, VA and very close to being banned from Baltimore. all because of the coercive, secretive methodology.
    I invite to read the interview that Arch. Edwin O’Brien of Baltimore gave to Jason Berry of the National Catholic Reporter on June 12, 2008, http://ncronline3.org/drupal Hopefully this link will get you directly to article. For further insights by Arch. O’Brien go to
    I also recommend cassandrajonesing.blogspot.com
    read the first apostolic visitation of the Legion
    then click search blog and scroll down and read Visitation Material 3:Fish Tank Education
    Visitation Material 2: Academic Incompetence
    Visitation Material 1: Not just Fr. Maciel.
    I would suggest you visit these sites Regainnetwork.org and life-after-rc.com and read the testimonies of the young men and women who have been in the legion insitutions, after all of this reading you should get a pretty good sense of how utilitarian and hurtful the “methodology” is.
    Thank you for your interest.

  4. Juan J. Vaca
    July 8, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    Mr. Barnes, and Mr Kovacs,
    Just by reading my name, you might know my thirty years in the Legion: sexually and psychologically abused by the predator and criminal Marcial Maciel, later on, religious superior of f the LC hearquarters in Orange Ct (1970-197). For over fifteen years, I tried to dissuade Maciel from his corrupt behavior and depraved modus vivendi..You might know that such a personality -Maligtnant Narcissist, with pedophile tendencies- are incapable of cure….

    Concerning your analysis of the Vatican Visitation into the LC, I partially agree with your last statement -“the Legion should no be undergoing a re-founding, it should be abolished”. Correct. If the tree is rotten, its branches and fruit by natural process are rotten as well. Such a tree must be uprooted and ABOLISHED for the sake of other good trees.

    One more suggestion: Why you don’t investigate on the silence and injustice the Vatican officials keep doing to the many victims of Maciel’s depravety and criminal behavior?

    Respectfully submitted. Juan J. Vaca

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