Legion -- Maciel's Star Dimmed

By Joan Frawley Desmond
The Cathoholic
March 13, 2009

Yesterday, American Papist blog had an "exclusive" on a recent decision by Legion superiors to discontinue the order's "Prayer for Fidelity," posted on the blog. Why is the order in the process of writing a new prayer for fidelity? Well, now that the latest revelations regarding the founder's double life have forced Legion superiors to confront the truth, they now must show themselves prepared to grapple with a very complex and difficult task: disentangling the order from the founder's influence. The expunging of explicit references to the founder will be a first step in a complex deconstruction of the order's charism and practices. Critics contend the order's superiors should have commenced this process in 2006, after Father Maciel was banished from public ministry. Nevertheless, the re-write of the prayer signals a shift. Here's one portion of the prayer likely to buried permanently:

"Since the Legion and the Movement will be vigorous and will flourish as long as the spirit of our founder is present and active in our lives and behavior, we ask you to open our eyes to the urgency of learning, assimilating and passing on the doctrine, spirit, apostolic methods, genuine traditions, discipline and lifestyle of the Legion and Regnum Christi, just as our founder has made them known to us, since this is our responsibility."

The re-write also may signal that Legion superiors want to show themselves as sufficiently competent to help direct the reforming process, possibly with limited outside interference. But as I speak with experts who have wide experience with confronting and resolving such problems in the church, I have been told that the problem that must be examined and addressed will require a systematic analysis of something less defined and more multi-layered than a prayer.

From what I understand, the Legion's charism will be placed under intense scrutiny. The central concern is its "birdcage" approach to religious formation, before and after ordination: Does the order place too much emphasis on external image and structure, and not sufficient attention to nurturing internal freedom and moral responsibility?

Will the Legion's superiors be able to countenance this kind of rigorous examination and the pain it is likely to inflict? Until we read their long-awaited statement, we won't know what they think, or how they plan to proceed. But as the wait continues, former and present members of the order who have spoken out over the last month have been strongly discouraged from airing any further concerns. That pressure may have come from Legion freelancers, and not from its superiors. Still, given the scope of the crisis at hand, tweaking the order's public image would seem to be a low priority -- unless, of course externals actually do set the agenda.


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