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August 14, 2009

Analysis: Who Was Father Maciel's Moderator?

As the scandal-drama surrounding the late Fr. Marcial Maciel unfolds, more and more pointed questions are rising to the surface. Former Legionary priest James Farfaglia, for example, raises a series of such pertinent questions on his blog.

New questions arose in my mind recently as I studied an online dossier of "censored" documents, which purports to include lengthy excerpts of the constitutions of the Legionaries of Christ. Father Maciel, who served as the Legion's director general uninterruptedly for decades, mandated that the constitutions not be disclosed to the public and, therefore, few people outside the Legion have any clue what they contain (c.f., 254.2 and 417. §2 & 3).

A careful analysis of the rules which Fr. Maciel put in force yields many remarkable details, such as the fact that he exempted himself from the, now-abrogated, "private vow" in which every temporally or perpetually professed member of the order solemnly promises never to criticize other Legionaries, especially superiors.

What really caught my eye, though, was the section which mandates that a "monitor of the general director" must be appointed who will closely observe and "concern himself with the external aspects of the life of the director general, such as his dress, his diet, and his expenditures."

(I'm pretty sure, by the way, that the whole "expenditure" thing would fall squarely into the category of Father Maciel's now-verified, long-term habit of squandering Legionary money [i.e., benefactor donations] on frivolities such as trans-Atlantic flights on the Concorde, posh hotels, luxury cruises, succulent gourmet meals and, at least in his later years, of supplying an affluent upkeep for at least one child he fathered [it seems as though there may be others]).

According to the official description of the "moderator of the general director," it seems clear that the duties envisioned by the Legion of Christ constitutions was not something akin to those of a confessor or spiritual director, which would concern the internal forum of the conscience and, therefore, would entail a confidential relationship with the subject (Maciel) which could not be revealed to another under pain of serious sin. Rather, the moderator called for by the Legionary constitutions could be likened to a kind of "ombudsman," whose job it would be to help identify and correct problems with Maciel's externally discernible lifestyle (i.e., not in the internal forum).

I hadn't known that the Legionary constitutions required that someone be officially appointed to monitor Father Maciel's activities. But after checking with a few former Legionary priests and religious about this, and after their review of these documents and verification that they are indeed accurate, several intriguing new questions arise, such as:

1) Who exactly was Father Maciel's moderator? The constitutions require that this role be fulfilled by a Legionary priest, appointed by the general chapter, who is " a very spiritual man, with at least ten years of profession in the Congregation, who is at least forty years old, of balanced temperament, gentle and understanding of spirit, faithful and loving of the superiors, with a practical sense, and whose capacity of reserve, discretion, prudence and sensitivity are well-proven and recognized." If this requirement was fulfilled (the term is for 12 years), there will be records of it, which the apostolic visitators to the Legion of Christ will surely want to study.

2) Did the Legion's general chapters ever actually appoint a priest to fulfill this constitutionally mandated role as moderator of Father Maciel's activities? If so, who was he (they), when was he appointed, and what were his findings? Presumably, the Church's apostolic visitation process will, in due course, obtain and evaluate any documents that pertain to the issue of the monitor of the general director.

3) If the Legion did in fact observe this requirement, then how did the moderator fulfill his mandate to moderate, as the order's regulations stipulate, "all things related to the spiritual perfection and personal obligations of the director general, dialoguing with him about these things . . . [and to] concern himself with external aspects of the life of the director general, such as his dress, his diet, and his expenditures"? What, if anything, did he report about this?

Clearly, the frauds perpetrated by Fr. Maciel against the members of his own religious order, as well as the Church, his victims, etc., involved activities that would have, should have, could have been observed — and, one would assume, reported — by a genuinely dedicated, sagacious, honest, man of probity who had been formally entrusted with the task of "moderating" the general director.

So, again, it must be asked: Was there ever such a moderator? And if so, who was he? And if no one was ever appointed to this position, why wasn't it done?

If there was such a moderator, and if he performed his duties to observe Father Maciel's personal life and give advice or admonishment based on what he observed, did he report what must have been an endless series of strange anomalies in the director's travels, activities, and personal habits? If he reported them to the general chapter, why was no action ever taken?

After all, the general impression given is that everyone in the Legion — everyone — was caught completely by surprise when the scandal revelations began tumbling out. No one seems to have had even the slightest inkling of what this man was doing in his free time.

One section of the dossier I mention above, goes to the very heart of the sickness of secrecy at work here. It reads:

576. If the person chosen for this post [of moderator] exposes or criticizes aspects of the life of the director general, he should be removed from his post. In such a case, the council general, at the request of the director general, shall proceed to appoint, by deliberative vote, another to take his place, from a group of three proposed by the director general.

In other words, the Legion's internal laws required that a moderator be appointed to watch closely over Father Maciel's personal life — something that, if it had been carried out according to the LC constitutions, could have spared the Legion, Regnum Christi, and the Church as a whole all the Maciel-induced misery this scandal has engendered.

But those same laws stipulate that if the moderator were to "expose or criticize" any problems he might find, he would be summarily canned.

Huh? Given the Sword-of-Damocles position into which the constitutions encumber the moderator, what good could he be to the order? What beneficial purpose could he serve?

This disjunction in the LC constitutons would seem to explain why the official Legionary requirement of putting such a moderator in place may simply have been ignored. But if it was not ignored, and the order's general chapter did, in fact, appoint a priest to do what the constitutions call for, then let's hope that the appropriate apostolic visitator will have ample opportunity to discuss this issue in detail with that man.

(Read more of my previous commentary on this issue.)

An Impossible Magic Trick

At first, this video clip looked kind of cheesy and lame, but it turned out to be quite amazing. I have no idea how they did this trick, but it is impressive!

Nancy Pelosi says: "I'm a fan of disruptors"

Oh, reeeeeeally?

Congressman Kevin Brady Explains the Health Care Bill

Look Who's Discriminating Now

Belmont Abbey College is under attack for its refusal to offer medical coverage for abortion.

Last week, thanks to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal government took a giant leap toward encroaching on the religious liberty of Catholics. Reuben Daniels Jr., director of the EEOC District Office in Charlotte, N.C, ruled that a small Catholic college discriminated against female employees by refusing to cover prescription contraceptives in its health insurance plan. With health-care reform looming before the country, this ruling is a bad omen for people of faith.

— by Patrick J. Reilly, The Wall Street Journal

In 2007, eight faculty members filed a complaint against Belmont Abbey College in Belmont, N.C., claiming that the school's decision to exclude prescription contraceptives from its health-care plan was discriminatory against women. "As a Roman Catholic institution, Belmont Abbey College is not able to and will not offer nor subsidize medical services that contradict the clear teaching of the Catholic Church," said the college's president, William Thierfelder, at the time.

In March the commission informed the college that the investigation of its employee health insurance plan had been closed with no finding of wrongdoing. Inexplicably, the case was reopened, and now the college is charged with violating federal law. If Belmont Abbey doesn't back down, the EEOC will recommend court remedies.

The ruling against the college is certainly consistent with the commission's published guidance on "pregnancy discrimination." The EEOC has found that contraceptive coverage is mandated by the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act (even though the law concerns pregnant women and does not, by strict interpretation, consider discrimination against all women of childbearing potential). North Carolina also has made its position clear with a law requiring employers to cover employees' contraceptive expenses if other prescription drugs are insured.

The difference, however, between the EEOC's guidance and the North Carolina law is that the latter exempts religious employers such as a Catholic college, whereas the commission fails to consider that the tenets of a faith may preclude an institution from offering such benefits.

And that's the rub: Increasingly it is clear to Catholics and other religious groups that without very clear exemptions for religious employers—and conscience protections for individual doctors, nurses, pharmacists—federal health-care laws and guidelines could severely restrict religious freedom in the U.S. . . . (continue reading)

N.B. If you would like to make a donation of any amount to help Belmont Abbey College protect its Catholic identity in the face of pressure like this, please donate securely online to the new "Chancellor's Fund."