It came out earlier this week that the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, Father Marcel Maciel, had been living a double life and had a mistress and at least one illegitimate child. This is a grave blow to the order that he founded, as well as the the vibrant lay apostolate that it is paired with: Regnum Christi.
As one commentator put it this week, the Legion has attracted virtually equal parts of praise and condemnation. I have never been personally attracted to any of their apostolates, but I have the highest regard for several of their projects; notably the National Catholic Register, the Institute for the Psychological Sciences, and the work of Father Jonathan Morris in media. Besides these outlets, the Legion has an estimated 2,500 men in seminary training for the priesthood - probably about a third of all men in seminary training in the United States.
I can't say much about what the thousands of men, women, and families associated with the Legion are going through right now. Obviously, these revelations have nothing to do with the good works and character of the many thousands who have followed him thus far. I'm sure that the guidance of God will show them the appropriate path to take.
There is one thing that I want to say. In thinking on this issue, I was reminded of a talk that Catholic musician Sean Forrest gave at the Boston Catholic Men's Conference a couple years back. In it, he said to the 2,500 assembled men "You know, you shouldn't have to drive an hour to hear someone like me talk once per year. You should have leaders in your parishes and in your neighborhoods that inspire you and who call you to prayer."
Sean's point, and it's bearing on Fr. Maciel is this: I think we Catholics have a tendency to participate in the media mentality of this age of celebrity. One of the primary criticisms of the Legion was that it bypassed diocesan and parish organs. We have to live and work where we live and where we are planted. We have to live in our parishes and we have to live a life of prayer.
This is not so much a criticism of the Legion as it is a call to personal holiness and prayer. We need saints now more than ever. And it will be you and me, or it will be nobody.
Here's what I think we need, and I will continue to elaborate upon it within these pages. I think we need an authentic and organic Catholic culture in the United States. And it will begin in two places. The first is in your own life as you make a commitment to prayer. As my spiritual father used to say, "If you're not praying at least a rosary a day, then you don't have a spiritual pulse."
The second place that an authentic Catholic culture will be built is in our parishes. Here's an idea that sounds revolutionary: go to your local parish and worship there. Meet the people in your neighborhood and just be with them. Even if the pastor there is a wacko and tells you not to go to confession so much, keep going there. If we form "Orthodoxy Ghettos" within certain parishes, the spirit of Orthodoxy will never penetrate into the heart of American Catholicism.
I will end with a personal story. In the early 00s, I was in an RCIA program at a consummately liberal parish. I had read some books that fired my interest in Catholicism and I was taking the next steps towards re-forming my childhood bonds with the Catholic faith. After a couple of months in this parish I started to wonder if the Catholicism that I had read about only existed in books. Then I met the man who would become my godfather - who was clearly fired about his faith and taking it very seriously. Over time, I learned about the crosses that he bore by going to this particular parish - the misunderstandings, the frustrations, and the patience he practiced. If I hadn't met him, I wouldn't be Catholic today.