The e-mail Father Thomas Berg LC sent to members of the Legion of Christ's lay movement, Regnum Christi, in the wake of recent revelations about its founder, Father Marcial Maciel, is courageous and compassionate. At the same time, it testifies to why there is cause for concern about the Legion and Regnum Christi, particularly in Father Berg's reminder that members may seek pastoral care from non-Legionary priests:
Remember you are free to speak with anyone, inside or outside the Movement about your pain, your reactions to this tragic news, and for ease of conscience to speak to whomever you believe can best help you at this time. I would encourage you to reach out to and find guidance from priests whose holiness and sound judgment you trust, whether Legionaries or not.
It reminds me of several of the warning signs from canon lawyer Pete Vere's excellent 2005 article "Sifting the Wheat from the Tares: 20 Signs of Trouble in a New Religious Group"—particularly the one about having "no sense of belonging to the local church."
While members of a Catholic religious institute generally obtain their spiritual direction from that same institute, it always ought to be understood that, as Catholics, we belong first and foremost to Holy Mother Church. A healthy institute does not see Catholic priests who are diocesan or from other orders as outsiders, people of whom one should be wary.
The most generous thing I can say about Regnum Christi members' having to be told it's OK to seek guidance from non-Legionary priests, is that it shows an immaturity in their formation—which is strange for a group that devotes a large amount of its efforts to catechesis. At worst, it reinforces assertions by ex-members that the institutional mentality of the Legion and Regnum Christi impairs its members' spiritual liberty.
RELATED: See regainnetwork.org for a list of pastoral-care resources for those suffering in the wake of the Legion of Christ/Regnum Christi crisis, including contact information for priests and religious who have made themselves available. For news updates on the crisis, visit American Papist.
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