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FUMARE

Law, culture, and Catholicism...up in smoke!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Diogenes on Maciel and the Legion of Christ

The hard-hitting Diogenes has a post on the Legion of Christ story, which I think is very powerful and right on point. Here are some excerpts, but read the whole thing. (HT: American Papist)
Maciel deserves to be reviled by the Legionaries of Christ. By "deserves" I mean his revilement is a debt of justice owed all Catholics by the Legion. This is not on account of Maciel's sin of sexual weakness, nor even on account of the sin of denying his sexual weakness. The fact of the matter is that Maciel was publicly accused of specific sexual crimes, and that out of personal moral cowardice he enlisted honorable men and women to mortgage their own reputations in defense of his lie. The lie was the lie of Maciel's personal sanctity, which Maciel knew to be a myth, and which the fact of his bastard child (putting aside the more squalid accusations) proves that he knew. To the villainy of sacrificing the reputations of others, Maciel added the grotesque and blasphemous claim that the Holy See's sanctions were an answer to his own prayer to share more deeply in the passion of Christ, as an innocent victim made to bear the burden of false judgment in reparation for the sins of mankind. The Legion cannot share Catholic reverence for the Passion and fail to repudiate Maciel's cynicism in portraying himself as the Suffering Servant.

Yet the LC leadership persists in allotting Maciel a role of (somewhat tarnished) honor: praising him with faint damns, and suggesting that his spiritual patrimony remains valuable in spite of his personal life. This won't work.

Many of the greatest saints were repentant sinners. Yet not only did Maciel (as far as is known) go to his death without repenting, but he used wholesome Christian spirituality as a tool in the deception of others.....

Or consider a woman whose husband ingeniously hid his infidelities from her for many years. Once she realized she had been deceived, the gifts he brought back from his business trips would be understood to have been instruments in that deception. Far from cherishing the jewelry he gave her, she'd feel that the diamonds now mocked the affection and fidelity they symbolized. By the same token, Maciel's addresses will be spiritually kosher -- he was after all a highly successful deceiver. But those addresses dishonor the very truths they expound, and it's impossible that they can cause anything but distress and confusion in those who continue to feed on them.

To repeat: the fact that he was a flawed priest is not the reason for repudiating Maciel. The Mexican priest-protagonist of Graham Greene's novel The Power and the Glory was enfeebled by lust and alcoholism and despised by those he served; yet, because of his concern for souls, he kept himself in the arena of danger and died a martyr. Maciel presents Greene's image flipped on its head: he was a Mexican priest with an internationally cultivated reputation for sanctity. He lived surrounded and cosseted by admirers, and yet in reality he held divine retribution so lightly that he went to his deathbed without undeceiving those he'd taken in, leaving behind him shattered consciences and wobbly faith.

When I speak of the Legion's duty of revilement, I do not mean they should issue so many pages of rhetorical denunciation of Maciel's sexual iniquities. What is required is an unambiguous admission that Maciel deceitfully made use of holy things and holy words in order to dupe honest and pious persons into taking false positions -- sometimes slandering others in the process -- in order to reinforce the legend of his own sanctity. Since Maciel's treachery was sacrilegious in its means and in its effect, he should posthumously be repudiated as a model of priesthood and of Christian life.

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