This Is No Time for Happy-Face Stickers
Regardless of how you react to this unfolding tragedy, be sure you look at it in perspective. Judging from what I’ve seen in the blogosphere in the past few days, it appears that some people just don’t seem to understand what this deplorable situation really entails and what ramifications may arise from it.
First, this is indeed very bad news — the worst possible kind — for the tens of thousands of good and faithful Catholics in the Legionaries of Christ religious order and its lay-affiliate, the Regnum Christi Movement — the vast majority of whom have, over the years, steadfastly refused to believe any accusation against Fr. Maciel, however plausible and vehemently attested to by those who claim to have been witnesses.
Yes, many of Fr. Maciel’s ardent followers have been naive in their refusal to consider that there may have been some truth to at least some of the myriad of accusations that mounted against him, but I believe theirs was a naiveté born of sincerity and love for Christ and the Church. This sincere love attached itself firmly (and now we know, undeservedly) to a man who, at least by outward appearances, seemed to merit their trust.
Second, it is true, as some are saying, that, while painful, this bad news is actually a good thing, at least insofar as it entails light shining in a dark place.
This may be exactly the necessary impetus — albeit a horrible one — that will lead to a purification and renewal of an organization that could do great good for souls in ways that go way beyond what many critics say was merely good work that had serving the Legion as its ulterior motive. I make no judgment personally on that criticism, as to whether it is legitimate or not, but regardless, this new chapter in the Legionary saga can become the starting point for a very good thing in the Church. It may in fact be a bitter harbinger of a sweet and long-hoped-for outcome: a Legion of Christ that becomes free from the controversies and complaints that have dogged it for decades, a religious order that is seen by others to be truly at the service of the Church as a whole and not, as many of its critics allege, merely at the service of itself. It could be that, by God’s grace and the prudent courage and honesty of the group’s leadership, there can be a good outcome — possibly a spectacularly good one. There may be a viable effort to undertake a thorough reform and reconstitution of the Legionaries of Christ and the Regnum Christi Movement, although there remain nagging reasons to wonder if that will really happen. It’s too early to know. But we should be praying now for that to happen, if it be God’s will. Time will tell.
Again, we must keep this unfolding situation clearly in perspective and not sucumb to the various myopic temptations that beckon: at one end, to shrug and simply ignore it as a non-issue, and at the other end, to join in a gleeful feeding-frenzy of morose delectation. Already, on the blogs, one can see people falling into both camps.
Third, let’s be realistic. No matter what some of the Internet pundits and commenteers may be saying, THIS IS BAD NEWS. To call it anything else is to badly misunderstand the import of what’s taking place here. These salacious revelations (please God, may there be no more of them) have caused and will continue to cause serious damage, not only to the shell-shocked members of this group (many of whom have spent years in dogged defense of the holiness of Fr. Maciel and who now feel the sharp knives of betrayal and fraud sever the bonds of trust they once had in this man), but to the Catholic Church in general.
Watch and see. You’ll soon notice certain people trying to use this scandal to malign Pope John Paul II (a long-time supporter of Fr. Maciel and the Legion), in a way similar to how some are right now attempting to exploit the recent SSPX Bishop Williamson Holocaust-debacle against Pope Benedict XVI.
As I’ve been saying all along on my blog, what we need to do is pray earnestly for all the people involved in this mess. They need our prayers, now more than ever. Pray for the soul of Fr. Maciel. Pray for the Catholic Church and also for those outside the Church who will be swayed or disoriented by this scandal, many of them seeing in it confirmation of their worst suspicions about Catholics and Catholicism. And let’s not omit to pray forourselves, that we might not fall from our own fidelity to Christ, however firm or tenuous it might be.
Now is a good time to contemplate the famous maxim that “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” If nothing else, these revelations about Fr. Maciel should serve as a cautionary tale to hammer that point home for each one of us.
Finally, it’s worth repeating: Don’t lose your sense of perspective. Don’t think that this bad news isn’t bad news. Let’s call it what it is and avoid the temptation to slap a happy-face sticker on it.