Regnum-Christi Memory Turned Painful

sheep-goats

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.

Centenary of JPII’s Birth

st john paul ii

On Monday, we marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of Pope St. John Paul II. Pope Francis celebrated Mass at the late pope’s tomb. The Holy Father said:

John Paul went to find the people. Throughout the whole world, he went to visit his people, searching for his people, making himself close… A priest who is not close to his people is not a pastor. He’s a hierarch, an administrator, maybe even a good one, but he’s not a pastor.

Saint John Paul II gave us an example of this closeness, to the great and the small, to the close and the far away. He always drew them near.

cropped-me-with-pope-jp-ii.jpg
Yes, that’s me on the left, on my way down to kiss the fisherman’s ring, March 9, 2000.

Twenty years ago, meeting John Paul II gave this particular seminarian great hope. I had read every word he ever wrote. I regarded him as the wisest man on earth. I wanted to become a priest like him.

But some other people could not see him this way. And for good reason.

On the occasion of the beatification of Pope John Paul II, Mr. Peter Isely wrote an essay. He got to the heart of a problem that has since come to preoccupy me a great deal.

We victims of priest abuse didn’t need a papal saint. We needed a Citizen-Saint, who embodied catholic citizenship as much as catholic sanctity, and who was as adept and insistent at forming such citizens among his seminarians, priests, and especially his bishops.

It is as a fellow citizen, humbly assuming this most ordinary role, where John Paul’s sanctity really fails. This failure is all the more dramatic with the late pope because he advocated so passionately as a “citizen of the world” for human rights around the world.

That advocacy clearly and decisively ended at the front door of the church.

Fellow citizens report child molesting clerics to the police. Fellow citizens eject sex offenders from professional employment with children and families.

The pope, who had the power to do both of these urgent citizen acts, never did the first, and made the second virtually impossible.

Citizenship, like holiness, requires sacrifice, defending if necessary, and dismantling if required, practices and traditions that attack the equality of rights regardless of one’s status (such as the basic human rights, say, of children inside the church). Concerning criminal priests, John Paul was never prepared, or saw no need for, the kind of sacrifice citizenship requires.

jp ii habemus papamIsely did not muse idly here. He wrote from personal experience:

In 1991, a group of some 30 survivors of childhood sexual molestation by priests and I wrote to Pope John Paul II in painstaking and excruciating detail of our harrowing experiences of being raped and sexually assaulted as youngsters while attending a boarding school for boys operated by the Capuchin Franciscan religious order in rural Wisconsin.

We delivered our letter, along with newspaper clippings, supporting legal documents, and videotaped depositions to the papal nuncio in Washington.

What we were hoping for from Pope John Paul II was justice.

What we received instead was a certified letter from the nuncio curtly informing us that our letters and documents had been acknowledged. We never heard anything more.

Hans Hermann Card. Groer
Hans Cardinal Groër

You may remember, dear reader, how we considered the Hans Card. Groër case. Between 1995 and 1998, evidence piled up against the Cardinal Archbishop.

The Vatican at first refused to act, then tried to lower Groër’s profile. Pope John Paul II visited Austria, apparently intending to smooth everything over by ignoring the problem. The visit just made the problem worse. The results of a Vatican “investigation” never saw the light of day.

Finally, the bishops of the country–over Vatican objections–publicly declared themselves “morally certain” that Groër had, in fact, sexually abused minors. Which was the closest to a guilty verdict that Groër ever came.

You also may remember, dear reader, how we considered Jason Berry and Gerald Renner’s book Vows of Silence, when we reviewed James’ Grein’s accusation against the late Joseph Card. Bernardin.

maciel

In the 1990’s, nine victims of the founder of the Legion of Christ found the clarity and courage to speak about the crimes they had suffered at the hands of the man they had trusted with their young lives.

On multiple occasions, different Church authorities in Mexico and the U.S. reviewed and endorsed the testimony, and sent it to the Vatican. Nothing happened.

Berry and Renner wrote, in 2004:

The Vatican is under no obligation to assist investigative journalists. In the seven years since we first contacted the office of the papal spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, for comment on accusations by nine ex-Legion members that Maciel had abused them, the Vatican refused comment.

No Vatican official ever told us Maciel was innocent. There was simply no answer to the accusations in media reports.

The charges that Vaca and others filed against Maciel in a Vatican court of canon law in 1998 were shelved: no decision. Instead, Pope John Paul in 2001 praised Maciel at a sixtieth anniversary celebration of the Legion’s founding.

That symbolic acquittal from a pope who championed human rights under dictatorships is a numbing message on the state of justice in the church.

Pope John Paul II died on April 2, 2005. I remember it like yesterday. I felt I had lost a father.

Maciel died in 2008, never having faced a trial. In 2010, the Vatican finally acknowledged:

The very grave and objectively immoral actions of Father Maciel, confirmed by incontrovertible testimonies, in some cases constitute real crimes and manifest a life devoid of scruples and authentic religious meaning.

This life was unknown to the great majority of the Legionaries, above all because of the system of relationships constructed by Father Maciel, who was able skillfully to create alibis for himself, to obtain trust, confidence and silence from those around him, and to reinforce his personal role as a charismatic founder.

Not infrequently a deplorable discrediting and distancing of those who entertained doubts as to the probity of his conduct, as well as a misguided concern to avoid damaging the good that the Legion was accomplishing, created around him a defense mechanism that for a long time rendered him unassailable, making it very difficult, as a result, to know the truth about his life.

The sincere zeal of the majority of Legionaries led many people to believe that the increasingly insistent and widespread accusations could not be other than calumnies.

Therefore the discovery and the knowledge of the truth concerning the founder gave rise among the members of the Legion to surprise, dismay, and profound grief.

Do those of us who loved and admired Pope St. John Paul II have to undergo some form of the same grief?

Not that JPII himself abused anyone. But that, as a pastor, he had a willful blind spot? A blind spot the size of Texas, when it came to sexual abuse by the clergy?

Peter Isely put it like this:

It is likely John Paul, during his long tenure as pope, received hundreds, if not thousands of letters denouncing abusers in the clergy. Not one survivor, in writing or in person, was ever known to have received a direct reply from him.

The legacy of John Paul II has been, literally, sanctified by Popes Benedict and Francis as official church history. Part of that legacy, whose vast dimensions are still being uncovered, includes thousands of unprosecuted child molesting clerics.

Public and Private

I do not want to dwell on Fr. Maciel. I believe that many of my readers are not directly affected by the Legion of Christ or Regnum Christi. Many of you may never even have heard of Fr. Maciel.

I would much rather write about Christ, Shakespeare, and basketball. Nonetheless, I feel obliged to say the following.

Continue reading “Public and Private”

Palliative Distractions, more Mark 6, and Father Maciel

Hoyas now a miserable 4-7 in the Big East
Hoyas now a miserable 4-7 in the Big East

Quick! Anything–anything–to distract us from the pain of Total Hoya Meltdown!

Continue reading “Palliative Distractions, more Mark 6, and Father Maciel”

Posse no longer getting laughed at

It was “a January to forget.”

But the Hoyas got the W over Rutgers, and now it is February!

It was not a resounding return to glory. But the Hoyas played a solid game. The clock cannot be turned back to December 29, 2008. But we can hope that better days lie ahead if…

Monroe sinks a sweet hook shot
Monroe sinks a sweet hook shot
…Nikita “Kruschev” Mescheriakov keeps hitting threes and avoids fouling out of every game in ten minutes.

…Somebody pulls down an offensive rebound.

…Wattad stays confident.

…Monroe, Summers, Freeman, and Wright all go for double-doubles every game.

Big East tournament is only 35 days away! Anything can happen.

Also, please pray for the repose of Fr. Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legion of Christ, who died a year ago. Pray for the fathers and brothers of the Legion, and for all of us members of Regnum Christi. May the good Lord be merciful and shower his blessings on this woebegone world.

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