Christ among the Doctors of the Law



Friday, February 13, 2009

L/RC: Reform from within? Carry on the charism?

I think that Fr. Alvaro Corcuera's apparent claim that he knows nothing about Maciel's behavior, except that Maciel sired a daughter, is utterly unbelievable. I have nothing else to say about this kind of stone-walling. I will simply re-endorse Dr. Germain Grisez's and Mr. George Weigel's proposals for direct intervention by the Holy See. (See also Robert Moynihan's Feb 13 editorial at SperoNews.)

In the meantime, I'll offer some brief comments on two assertions that have surfaced in discussions about the Legion, namely, the "reform-from-within" assertion, and the "carry-on-the-charism" assertion.

Assertion 1. Because the Legion and Regnum Christi have within their ranks many obviously good and faithful Catholics, they should be allowed to try a reform from within. Response: the presence of good and faithful Catholics within an organization, particularly when the organization (in terms of Church history, if nothing else) is so young, says almost nothing about whether the organization itself is sound and/or salvageable. History affords us many examples of organizations or movements that were fundamentally and even fatally flawed, but which for a time attracted and held good Catholics in membership; but that only shows that good Catholics, too, can be duped. That's not their fault, certainly, but their innocence does not guarantee the basic soundness of the organization in which they serve. Membership is distinguishable from institution.

Assertion 2. Maciel's canonical crime spree was a grave personal failing, but it does not negate the L/RC 'charism', and they should be allowed to continue their work. Response: This argument misses the key question, namely, whether in fact Maciel ever bequeathed an authentic charism to the L/RC, or whether he left instead a legacy of systemic deception clothed in an attractive rhetoric that trusting men could mistake for a new route toward Christian perfection. There is, I think, at least as much reason to wonder whether Maciel set up an institute in order to assure himself of ample access to sexual targets and unaccountable funds, or whether he suffered from some warped psycho-emotional condition that enabled him to compartmentalize pious devotional practices and sexual predation for decades on end, as there is to wonder whether he left a real charism to a Catholic clerical, religious, and lay organization.

I do not know whether the L/RC can (following a complete leadership replacement!) reform itself from within, although I am almost certain that they cannot; and I do not know whether Maciel developed an authentic charism for clerical, religious, and lay life, but I have serious doubts that he did. But I do know this: the L/RC must, barely a year after the death of The Founder, extirpate everything associated with Maciel from their spirituality and mission, or face serving as permanent reminders of how high up, how long, and how brazenly the diabolical can work undetected in a Catholic movement.

If I am right, that makes the "reform-from-within" and the "carry-on-the-charism" arguments offered so far quite unconvincing.