“Just another guy with a blog.  No big whoop.”

July 23, 2009

Legionary Troop Movements in High Gear

In recent weeks, there has been a flurry of "troop movements" within the Legionaries of Christ, and it's not entirely clear to me yet what is behind it. To be sure, for a large, multi-national organization such as the Legion to have some level of constant movement of personnel is quite understandable and quite common to any group of this type, secular or religious.

But some of these recent LC perigrinations are unusual both in that they involve priests and lay people abruptly leaving the organization — a number of them high-profile folks (Fr. Thomas Berg, Tom Hoopes, Paul Bernetsky) — and others who are being transferred far afield at precisely the time of the apostolic visitaion, which is undertaking the Vatican investigation of the alleged problems within the order, in the wake of the recently disclosed Father Maciel scandals.

These new movements are in addition to the rumor that upwards of 25 Legionary priests (a dozen of whom are said to be Americans) are soon to depart en masse from the order to establish a new religious congregation. Keep in mind that that is merely a rumor. But given the recent high-level LC and RC defections, it is a plausible rumor.

Legionary-watcher "Cassandra" offers some intriguing tidbits about all this in a recent post. Some of these I've known about, others are new to me. But all of them, taken together, indicate a new pattern of LC personnel changes that is, at the very least, curious.

Father Antonio Rodriguez, for ages academic dean at the Legionary seminary in Cheshire, Connecticut, has removed to Switzerland. How will he now be able to testify to the apostolic visitation about the seminary?

Tom Hoopes, National Catholic Register editor, resigned this week. Together with Brendan McCaffery, Chief Operation Officer for Circle Media, let go last week, these represent decades and decades of experience at the highest level of Legionary operations in Connecticut. Will the visitation seek them out in Kansas or Les Avants-sur-Montreux or wherever or lose forever their testimony?]

Life-after-rc the other day reported that there is evidence that the Legionaries have been moving members around possibly to make them less available for the apostolic visitation to interview.

History may be repeating itself: that’s certainly what the Legionaries did in the late summer of 1956 in the face of
the first apostolic visitation. Legionary Brother José Domínguez, who had recently helped Father Maciel draft the fourth vow, was moved for the duration to Massa Lubrense on the southern extremity of the Bay of Naples. Brother Saúl Barrales spent nine months of 1957 in the Canary Islands. (See González “Testimonios y documentos inéditos” 278 and Berry and Renner “Vows of Silence” 182.)

In light of that, interesting:

Father Jonathan Morris, formerly vice rector of the Legionary seminary in Rome, is now on sabbatical for six months or more at Old St. Patrick’s in Manhattan. (
exlcbloglinks to the Old St. Patrick’s bulletin with this information.)

Yesterday, July 16, the National Catholic Register’s accountant was let go. This may have been another cost-cutting move – in the downturn the Register became a bi-weekly -- though cost-cutting was not the purpose of the
acquisition of Southern Catholic College announced yesterday as well.

Such movements would provoke an important procedural question for the apostolic visitation: will the visitators interview only Legionaries and employees currently in place or will they also seek out former Legionaries, those on sabbatical, and those no longer employed? It’s not as if Father Morris can hide in lower Manhattan, but how can Bishop Versaldi, whose responsibility includes Italy, interview him if he is not in Rome? How will Archbishop Chaput, whose responsibility includes the US, interview him if he is on sabbatical from a Legionary assignment? (continue reading)

New Legionary Imbroglio Erupts Over Probate Fight With Wealthy Benefactress's Family

The Hartford Courant (a newspaper that has for years been vociferously antagonistic in its coverage of the Legionaries of Christ and their founder, Father Maciel) reccently reported the story of a new court fight between the Legion and the family of the late Gabrielle Mee, a wealthy widow who, in her old age, became a consecrated member of the order's Regnum Christi women's branch.

Mee's family is fighting to recover the millions in cash and real estate that she donated to the Legion. They want the money returned to them, arguing that, "Had she been aware of what is going on with the [order and its leader] there is no way she would have left everything to them."

It will be interesting to see who emerges victorious in this struggle over the money, mainly because the court's ruling could portend how future such lawsuits may be adjuticated if more are brought by others who have the same type of complaint against the Legion.

In addition to the Courant's report below, be sure to also read an opposing view of this matter, written last month by someone identifying himself as a relative of Mrs. Mee who disagrees with the arguments the rest of the family are making against the Legion.

When Gabrielle Mee died in May 2008 on the Greenville, R.I., campus of the Legionaries of Christ, her caregivers mourned the loss of the order's "grandmother."

Leaders of the secretive Roman Catholic order rushed from Connecticut and New York to pay their final respects. Six of her consecrated "sisters" carried her plain wooden coffin to the cemetery where she was buried next to her husband, Timothy Mee.

None of her family attended the service for Mee, who was 96 when she died. In fact, many of her relatives didn't find out that Gabrielle Mee had died until nearly a year later when a letter from the Legionaries' lawyer arrived, notifying them that the Probate Court in North Smithfield, R.I., was about to administer her will.

What relatives discovered is that since the mid-1990s Gabrielle Mee steadily turned over real estate and money — upwards of $7.5 million — to the Legionaries of Christ, which is headquartered in Orange, Conn.

Stunned family members are accusing the church of taking advantage of a lonely, deeply religious older woman. They have hired a Providence attorney to contest her will . . . (continue reading)