Christ among the Doctors of the Law



Friday, February 06, 2009

Fr. Thomas Berg, LC, has it right

[second post today]

Fr. Thomas Berg, LC, directs The Westchester Institute for Ethics & the Human Person, a think-tank specializing in exploring and responding out of the wisdom of the Church to vexing moral, especially medical-moral, issues. Fr. Berg has just issued a short, superb statement regarding the Maciel debacle. Read it carefully first, so as to better follow my observations on it.

Notice: Instead of oblique references, Berg calls Maciel by his full name and title; Berg expressly identifies the grave offenses which he now knows Maciel to have committed, and he makes no claims, for or against, the possibility of other crimes which have not been disclosed to him.

Berg issues no cost-free, third-party apologies for things he (Berg) did not do, but instead expresses his profound personal sorrow for the victims of Maciel. Berg has no power to make material reparations to the victims, but he has pledged the power of his priestly prayers and personal penances on their behalf. Berg recognizes that the Maciel crisis is not simply some sort of internal Legion imbroglio, but a crisis for the whole Church. Berg clearly understands what "communion of the saints" demands of us in this life, as well as what it portends for the next.

Finally, Berg makes no rash and premature predications about the future of the Legion, but asks for prayers toward discernment of that future, keeping Christ and his Church first in view, and not just focusing on a small part of it.

In sum, Berg's is a moving statement from an accomplished priest and scholar; I hope it's a break-through statement for the Legion at large, or at least for many of Berg's brothers who doubtless feel exactly as he does.

+ + +

Update, 7 February 2009: Fr. Richard Gill, LC, has published a statement in the same healthy vein as that released by Fr. Berg yesterday. Inevitably, comparisons between the two letters will be made, but in the meantime it is heartening to see that at least two individual Legionary priests are willing to step forward, even while their leadership dithers day after day.

One demurral seems in order, however, concerning Gill's expression of confidence that Legion "superiors are working closely with the appropriate dicasteries of the Holy See to chart the best course forward for the Legion of Christ". I see not a shred of evidence that such is happening.

To contrary, not only is the picture of Maciel's salacious conduct worsening by the day, but more credible assertions of Legion leadership's long awareness of it are emerging, along with new questions as to how long some dicastery officials might have known of Maciel's guilt. Thus, what Gill's describes as 'confidence' about Legion superiors and Roman officials, I could only call 'hope'.

I repeat, if Pope Benedict XVI chooses not to direct motu proprio an intervention in the Legion crisis, an intervention conducted independently of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life, then, I feel sure, no truly effective ecclesiastical action will ever be taken in this case. I need hardly say that the secular media and civil authorities await no authorization from the Vatican to act in their respective spheres; but history suggests that they are, if anything, even more likely to act in the face of real or perceived ecclesiastical paralysis than they would if they saw a firm hand being taken by the competent Church authorities.