Legionaries of Christ – Communiqué

The leaders of the Legionary of Christ, gathered for their annual meeting, wrote a communiqué to the members of the Legion of Christ and of Regnum Christi, their friends, and to all those affected or hurt by the reprehensible actions of their founder, Fr Marcial Maciel, apologizing for the harm done and for the failure to take seriously those who had brought the issues to their attention.

There follow some excerpts from this communiqué: read the entire document (link is to PDF format).

regarding the current circumstances
of the Legion of Christ
and the Regnum Christi Movement

It has taken us time to come to terms with these facts regarding his life. For many, especially the victims, this time has been too long and very painful….

1. Regarding some facts in the life of our founder, Fr Marcial Maciel, LC (1920-2008)

We had thought and hoped that the accusations brought against our founder were false and unfounded, since they conflicted with our experience of him personally and his work. However… [through the canonical investigation] the CDF reached sufficient moral certainty to impose serious canonical sanctions related to the accusations made against Fr Maciel, which included the sexual abuse of minor seminarians. Therefore, though it causes us consternation, we have to say that these acts did take place.


2. The Legion of Christ and the Regnum Christi Movement in the face of these facts

We express our sorrow and grief to each and every person damaged by our founder’s actions….

We ask all those who accused him in the past to forgive us, those whom we did not believe or were incapable of giving a hearing to, since at the time we could not imagine that such behavior took place.

We also ask our families, friends and benefactors to forgive us, and all other people of good will who have felt that their trust has been wounded.
In addition, as members of the Mystical Body of Christ we feel the need to expiate his sins and the scandal they caused, making reparation with a Christian spirit. We ask all the members of our religious family to intensify their prayer and sacrifice.

For his own mysterious reasons, God chose Fr Maciel as an instrument to found the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi, and we thank God for the good he did. At the same time, we accept and regret that, given the gravity of his faults, we cannot take his person as a model of Christian or priestly life.

Apostolic Visitation

…We will embrace with filial obedience whatever indications and recommendations the Holy Father gives us as a result of the apostolic visitation, and we are committed to putting them into practice.

Looking toward the future

… Humbly and gratefully we acknowledge the blessings and fruits that the Lord has granted us up to now, and we accept our responsibility to deepen our understanding of our history, charism, and spirituality.

We face the future with hope, knowing that our one support is God. We trust totally in him and in his all-powerful love which, as St Paul says, “makes all things work for the good of those who love him” (Rom. 8:28). We know that as we follow this path we will be aided by the Holy Spirit and the Church’s motherly guidance.

Rational Civil Authority and Marriage

How should a rational civil authority regulate marriage, supposing that the state does not accept a particular religious revelation or tradition as definitive, and that the citizens of the state recognize various religious authorities? Since most of us live in civil states like this, the question is not unimportant for us. This is the actual situation.

Two basic possibilities suggest themselves: the state could make the decisions about marriage, or the various religious authorities could make the decisions.

(1) The state could alone make decisions about marriage: e.g., judge what are the conditions intrinsically required to marry validly; establish impediments to marriage; judge whether the requirements of the natural law admit of exceptions, and if so, in what instances exceptions should be made.

(2) The state could leave all decisions about marriage to the various religions.

The first possibility is problematic, since marriage has an intrinsically religious character, and therefore judgment and determination about it should properly belong to religious authority.

The second possibility cannot be consistently upheld, if the state itself is to have any recognition of marriage, and if it is to uphold natural law. For in an instance where the spouses belong to different religions, or after a religious conversion where the second religion has a different view on marriage, one religious authority may maintain that a marriage is valid, while the other religious authority maintains that it is invalid. Moreover, a religion could mandate conditions of marriage contrary to natural law (requiring women to marry even without their consent, allowing divorce and remarriage under any conditions, at the simple request of the spouses, etc.).

It seems therefore necessary to qualify the qualify the second possibility.

(2b) The state could leave decisions about marriage to the various religions, unless the pertinent religions have no position or disagree, or a religion stipulates something about marriage contrary to that which natural law considered in itself requires, in which case the state must decide the case.

Of course, one who is convinced of the truth and reasonableness of his faith will see the ideal as a situation where the state recognizes that revelation as true, and accepts its religious understanding of marriage, but where that is not possible, this second approach seems to be the best.

What are the consequences of this position? Consider the quality of marriage that it be between one man and one woman, and that it be indissoluble. Now, if these qualities belong to natural law, and according to natural law admit of no exception, it seems the state should refuse to recognize the dissolution of a marriage by the Catholic Church (by way of the "Petrine privilige") or through a second marriage in the faith (by way of the "Pauline Privilege"). This consequence doesn't seem very desirable to most Catholics; nor does it seem to be wished for by the 20th-century Papal writings on marriage that address political issues.

If, on the other hand, though the qualities of marital unity and indissolubility belong to natural law, they are the kind of natural law admits of exceptions, then the state can do one of the following: (1) recognize all exceptions that religious authorities recognize; thus the state will accept all divorces accepted by Catholics, protestants, Jews, Muslims, all second marriages recognized by the religions, etc; from a Catholic point of view, this also seems problematic; (2) recognize those exceptions that seem particularly reasonable; this doesn't seem ultimately all that different from the first approach, where the state itself make decisions about marriage; nonetheless, I wonder whether it might not be the most reasonable approach for a civil authority that recognizes natural law but doesn't accept one specific religious tradition as being the recipient of the fullness of truth.

Regardless of the particular answer one might give to the question, "How should the state regulate marriage," I think it's important to reflect on the question, and to have some coherent answer, rather than, with the claim to be arguing from natural law, to push essentially for an assimilation of the state's regulation to that of the Catholic Church–this kind of arguing can give the impression of simple bias and partisanship.

Why We Need Habits

Why do we need habits? If what makes people different from animals is their ability to know truth as such, wherever it is to be found, and not only some limited environment, and again, their capacity to love and seek for goodness, wherever it is to be found, habituation seems to be a kind of degradation of the human being. To act from habit is like acting from instinct, rather than from judgment and choice, insight and love.

To this I would say that it might, indeed, in some sense be ideal if we could have complete insight into the situations in which we live, know all of the implications and effects on human goods and relationships that various possible actions would have, and in view of all this, make a conscious choice before doing any new action.

All this, however, is mere fantasy, or at least speculation (maybe Adam could actually have made decisions that way before the fall). It is totally impossible for us to have every single aspect of a situation in mind, and to explicitly trace all of the particular goods involved in our actions (health, pleasure, the good of laughter, relationship with friends, material goods, etc.) in a detailed manner back to the supreme good, God himself. If we were to attempt to do so, we would take a ridiculous length of time to decide, for instance, when shopping, whether to buy a cheaper but slightly less good tasting or less healthy food  or a more expensive but better food.

In order to make decisions in a reasonable time frame and to act upon our decisions, we need to be immediately inclined to many particular goods to be loved and pursued: to the good of our family and friends, the good of society, the good of studying, the good of music, etc. Moreover, we need to be able to easily and readily make a judgment of the proportion of one good to another, as in the example of spending a little more money for better food.

This "readiness" and inclination to pursue certain goods, to favor one over another, to make a certain balance between them, is the result of a conditioning that occurs over time, as the result of many particular actions and we do, reactions we have to events that happen, our favorable or unfavorable perceptions of other person's behavior, especially those we consciously or unconsciously see as role models. When this conditioning acquires a kind of stability, it is what Aristotle and St. Thomas call a "habit."

In English we reserve the name "habit" for the kinds of conditioning that lead us regularly to a particular action, even without thinking about it. We don't give the name "habit" to primarily perceptive capacities, such as an acquired ability to readily recognize the music of Chopin, or to the acquired capability of quickly weighing up the advantages and disadvantages of one purchase or another. The name "habit" is mostly restricted to inclinations to actually perform a certain action. And even then, we usually don't use the term "habit" to the disposition to perform a certain action if a conscious decision is involved. E.g., if a husband has acquired the readiness to stop watching television, or to take out the trash, or other such things, as soon as his wife asks, we wouldn't tend the use the term "habit." But essentially the same kind of conditioning has occurred that occurs when we get into the habit of pressing the snooze on our alarm clock in the morning, of ruffling our hair, of arriving early (or late), etc. The main difference is that some of these habits (or dispositions) involve mostly our reasoning or perceptive faculties, others involve our instincts, others involve the whole person, with thought, choice, and emotion. We speak of habits mostly in reference to those dispositions that involve instinctive or even mostly unconscious action.

One disadvantage of this usage in speech is that we may not recognize all the parallels between this sort of conditioning, and the conditioning of our person–thought processes,  decision making processes, and emotional reactions–that is essential for virtuous behavior.

More Notes on the Goodness of the Passions

When a man is affected by a passion, things seem to him greater or smaller than they really are, as to a lover, what he loves seems better, and to him who fears, what he fears seems more dreadful. Consequently owing to the defect of right judgment, every passion, considered in itself, hinders the ability of deliberating well. (Summa Theologiae 44:2).

St. Thomas thus argues that while fear inclines us to think about how to avoid the thing or danger we are afraid of, it has the tendency to distort our judgment of the matter. From this it might seem to follow that it would be ideal never to feel fear, that we would thus act most reasonably and humanly. Thomas does not, however, draw this consequence, but affirms the value of fear for human, rational action.

If fear is moderate, not disturbing the reason very much, it conduces to acting well, insofar as it causes a certain solicitude, and makes a man deliberate and act with greater attention. If, however, fear increases so much as to disturb the reason, it hinders action even on the part of the soul. (Summa Theologiae 44:4)

In this passage Aquinas grants the point he made above, that even moderate fear has a certain tendency to incline our judgment to it, and in this way to make our judgment less objective. But when fear is moderate, and when it is directed to something that is a real danger, a real possible evil, then the benefits outweigh the harm.

In general the effect of such emotions, which is to make us focus on certain aspects of what is before us, and to judge them accordingly, has potential benefits and potential risks: (1a) Though an emotion such as fear may make us overestimate the fearfulness of an evil, (1b) if we would otherwise have underestimated it, then it brings our estimation closer to the truth; again, (2a) though the emotion may make us overlook certain things, (2b) it may also bring certain things to our attention, which we would otherwise not have given attention to.

In the larger picture, the largest factor determining whether passions and emotions are beneficial or detrimental for truly human action, is the formation of the emotions, which takes place through the acquisition of virtue. When an emotion itself is a formed and reasonable passion, the overall effect is almost always good.

A note on Aquinas's use of scripture here: In the Sed Contra of 44:4 he cites St. Paul, "With fear and trembling work out your salvation" (Phil 2:12), and remarks in the body of the article that though excessive fear hinders us from acting well, St. Paul is not speaking of this kind of fear. This seems to be an indication that Aquinas is not simply using St. Paul as a "proof text" for an opinion he gets from, say, Aristotle, but sees a real and significant doctrine on the role of emotions in Christian life in the Sacred Scriptures, though of course, in this systematic work, he does not go into all detail of exegetical questions.

With fear and trembling work out your salvation