Regnum-Christi Memory Turned Painful


I have had a little crucifix for over twenty years. Every morning when I first wake up, I kiss it and say, “Christ our King, Your Kingdom come.” Same thing when I lay down to sleep at night. “Christ our King, Your Kingdom come.” This little daily ritual with the crucifix is one of the customs of the Regnum Christi movement. Regnum Christi means “Kingdom of Christ.” [Spanish]

Everyone knows that we read the same Sunday readings on a cycle of… how many years? Correct: three. Six cycles ago, on Christ the King Sunday, 2002, we celebrated a large Mass for members of the Regnum Christi movement at the Basilica of the National Shrine in Washington, D.C. The Archbishop celebrated the Mass. The seminarian, who was a deacon, chanted the gospel reading. Same gospel reading as this Sunday, the separation of the sheep from the goats in Matthew 25.

Father Marcial Maciel founded the Regnum Christi movement. He turned out to have been a serial sexual predator, protected for decades by higher-ups in the Church. He victimized countless people and ruined many, many lives. The Archbishop who celebrated that Regnum Christi Mass at the Shrine, Christ the King Sunday, 2002: Theodore McCarrick. The deacon who chanted the gospel: me.

macielIn the gospel passage, the Lord Jesus invites the sheep into the Kingdom of heaven. They have been kind to the weak and suffering. They have acted humbly and gently towards everyone. They’re surprised that the king beckons them, because they never thought of themselves as anything great. They lived obscure lives of daily kindness.

Maybe you know that the Vatican published a “McCarrick Report” last week. For thirty years, the higher-ups in the Church left us seminarians, young priests, and young people at risk. They knew that McCarrick posed a serious danger to us, but they did nothing.

On that Christ the King Sunday, 2002–when McCarrick and I stood next to each other at the altar in that huge church filled with eager Christians–the higher-ups already knew about him. McCarrick had already destroyed a lot of lives. The pope knew it; Cardinals and bishops knew it.

They did not think of the suffering wounded. They thought only about their own reputation. They had comfortable lives with servants at their beck and call. They wanted it to stay that way. It never so much as crossed their minds to seek out the lost souls whose lives McCarrick had destroyed. Most of the prelates who knew the dirty secret hated McCarrick—not because of what he had done to defenseless, innocent people, but because of the danger he posed to the stability of their own coddled lives. They just wanted everyone to shut up about the whole thing.

What if the King has this to say to the goats, before he sends them to hell: “A sexual predator manipulated, demeaned, and abused me, and you did not care. A powerful Church careerist crushed my faithful, innocent soul, and you worried about your own reputation. I tried to tell you that this man is a dangerous criminal, and you said it was all my fault. The predator threw me out on the street for refusing to give into his advances, and I appealed to you. You never even wrote me back.”

My print-out of the McCarrick Report appears to be missing the last page. The page where they all say: “We are terribly sorry. We clearly do not know what we are doing. We have wronged the innocent and defenseless victims for decades, turning a deaf ear to their cries, treating them as the problem. We still have no earthly idea how to handle what they say. We have failed you, dear earnest Christians. You deserve much braver, more honest leaders.”

I cannot tell you how much it hurts to think about that Christ the King Sunday eighteen years ago. Now that I know how the hierarchy betrayed us. They betrayed all of us who were there because we kiss our crucifixes every morning and every night, and long to get to heaven, and just want to treat everyone kindly. We’re no saints or heroes, but we would have known what to do with McCarrick, if we had the information and the power.

The hierarchy offers excuses, rather than take responsibility. The McCarrick Report is 449 pages of “It’s someone else’s fault.” No churchman has ever been willing to own the McCarrick problem. Not for the past 35 years, and not now.

What if the king says, “I came looking for encouragement in living an upright, responsible life, and you passed the buck. I needed someone to give me an example of courage, and you called a lawyer to protect yourself from liability. I came to church hoping to find someone who believes enough in Christ crucified to admit his sins, and you insisted that you have no memory of any conversation having to do with that issue.”

I’m going to keep kissing my crucifix and celebrating my Mass. We live in dark, dark days for His Church, our Church. Let’s hold onto our faith and just keep trying to live in the truth.


3 thoughts on “Regnum-Christi Memory Turned Painful

  1. When it is time for slaughter, they bring in a goat to lead the sheep, who for some reason will follow the goat. What do they call the goat? A “Judas goat.” Now I think of Theodore McCarrick that way.

  2. Forgiveness is your only chance to heal the pain, justice will come but if you are wanting an apology you must wait longer. The apology from the offending people is unlikely but lessens our opportunity to show mercy more. Until the justice is broached with forgiveness, mercy and the unrelenting power of humility it will not come. Persistence is necessary, but with that odd Divine method that requires the juxtaposition of defiance and submission.

  3. The first sentence of the McCarrick report says this: “On 6 October 2018, the Holy Father ordered a thorough study of the documentation present in the Archives of the Dicasteries and Offices of the Holy See regarding McCarrick, in order to ascertain all the relevant facts, to place them in their historical context and to evaluate them objectively.” This claim that the McCarrick report presents an objective evaluation of the facts is not credible in light of how the report was prepared and published. An organization seeking an objective evaluation of the facts would hire an independent investigator to conduct the investigation. Instead, the Church chose Cardinal Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, to publish the report even though his actions with respect to McCarrick are evaluated in the report itself. The Church also selected Jeffrey Lena, its long-serving U.S. Counsel, to gather the information for the report. His financial conflicts-of-interest as ongoing counsel to the Church prevent him from being viewed as objective. These facts demonstrate that the procedure adopted by the Church to produce the McCarrick was not designed to achieve any of the noble objectives stated in the opening sentence of the report.

    I am an attorney. I have seen lots of organizations end up in scandals. It is not good practice for an organization facing a scandal to use its own in-house attorney to investigate the very organization the lawyer represents, nor is it good practice to allow the leaders of the organization who are the subjects of the investigation to review and edit the report before it is published. Penn State’s response to a sexual abuse scandal is a good example. The Penn State board hired Louis Freeh, the former FBI director, to conduct an independent investigation into the Sandusky sexual abuse scandal. It didn’t use its in-house counsel to conduct the investigation and produce the report. It did not allow the subjects of the investigation to edit the report before it was published. Because Penn State allowed Freeh to conduct the investigation and publish his report, many of the Penn State administrators he accused of wrongdoing are now in prison.

    In this case, the Church allowed the Secretary of State, Cardinal Parolin, to publish the report even though he was one of the subjects of the investigation. Parolin’s name appears in the report more than 50 times! How objective was Cardinal Parolin in evaluating his actions with respect to McCarrick? The Church also hired its own U.S. attorney – Jeffrey Lena – to carry out the investigation. Lena has been defending the Church in the U.S. for years. He has been paid by the U.S. Church for years to advocate for the interests of the institution. He is not independent; he is essentially the U.S. Church’s in-house counsel. He may have even advised the Church on issues related to McCarrick and other U.S. abusers, which would make him an investigator of legal matters on which he was also an advisor. Even if Lena never advised any Nuncio about McCarrick or other reports of abuse, Lena knows that his future paychecks depend on him developing the facts in a way that is acceptable to those in Church leadership pay his fees. The manner in which the McCarrick report was produced demonstrates that the purpose of the report was not to provide us with an objective analysis of the facts.

    If the Pope wanted to give us a truly objective analysis of the fact that we could trust, he would have hired an independent investigator to conduct the investigator and prepare the report. He would also have allowed the investigator to publish the report without it being edited by anyone whose actions were reviewed in the report (including his own). Given that the Secretary of State produced and edited the report, and the Secretary of State used the Church’s own counsel to review the files and prepare the narrative, we cannot really trust that this is a full accounting of the facts. We do not know whether certain documents that are incriminating to some in Church leadership were intentionally omitted, downplayed, or placed in a “historical context” that is self-serving to those in leadership. Only a truly independent investigation would have produced a report we can trust.

    This same lack of objectivity is a real problem for the Church in other areas as well. For example, Cardinal Pell pushed to have an independent financial audit of the Vatican’s finances by a major outside accounting firm, but he ended up in jail in Australia for crimes it appears he never committed. Instead of moving ahead with the outside audit of its finances, the Pope allowed Cardinal Becciu to cancel the audit. The result is that the Vatican is now in another terrible public relations mess because it cannot explain how it used our donations, including donations to Peter’s Pence that were intended for the poor. Had the Pope allowed the outside audit to occur, the Church could have refuted any allegations that funds were misused, or it could have owned up to any misuse of funds and instituted safeguards recommended by its outside auditor to prevent future abuses from occurring. It could have given the faithful confidence that the Church was moving in the right direction.

    The Church’s refusal to really put its house in order under the spotlight of independent, outside investigators and auditors means that these scandals will continue and the faithful will continue to suffer. The failure of Church leaders to pursue the truth objectively breeds disunity in the Church and inhibits the Church from carrying out its evangelical mission. At some point, the Church’s leaders will need to believe with supernatural faith that the truth will set us free or they will have to settle for being managers of the worst-run NGO in the world. I am hoping they will choose option #1; some of those in leadership seem to be pushing hard for option #2. Let’s pray for the strength to resist them.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s