The founder of the Legion of Christ, Father Marcial Maciel, has been accused of terrible crimes. Considering his advanced age — he’s 86 — and his frail health, the Holy See decided not to conduct a canonical trial. Father Maciel is confined to a life of prayer and penance, away from any public ministry.
He becomes like an accused priest awaiting trial. Only, in this case, there will be no trial.
Many newspapers are giving this story big play, repeating the accusations, exploring the nuances of the Holy See’s declaration, and quoting opinions from supporters and detractors as to what the implications for the Legionaries are likely to be.
The Register is not taking that approach to this story, for a couple of reasons.
For one, that’s not what the Register does, ever. We don’t try to hide difficulties in the Church — do a Google search of “National Catholic Register” plus “seminaries” plus “problems” and see for yourself.
But our policy is to focus on the vitality of the Church. If this story were about the founder of another congregation in the Church, we would merely note it and move on.
There’s another reason the Register is not covering it in the common journalistic way: the example of Father Maciel.
He has been a sign of contradiction, starting with expulsions from seminaries, intensifying when he was a priest in his 20s, and continuing all throughout his long life. So it has been for many other founders.
He has always reacted the same way: seeing the cross as coming from God, refusing to defend himself, bearing malice toward none, continuing to do good, trying to serve the universal and local Church with many well formed priests, courageous lay apostles and vibrant works of apostolate.
Vindication has always come, because the Judge’s instructions to the jury have always been the same: “By their fruits you will know them.”
The vocation of a cofounder is to continue the good works of the founder. The Legionaries will continue this as they also accompany their founder in this new stage of his life.
As Father Maciel has taught us, we see this cross as coming from God, the only Owner of our vineyard. Evidently, he has decided that we needed to be pruned in order to bear more fruit.
We are not afraid of this cross — on the contrary, we are honored by it. If you pray for the Legionaries, don’t pray that the cup be taken away, pray that we be worthy of drinking it to the dregs.
As Father Maciel has taught us, we love the Church and the Holy Father. Not abstractly — personally.
We love and trust Pope Benedict. We do not question his decision or his wisdom. We do not doubt his love for us and for our founder. We are entirely at his disposal, to serve the Church.
We are ready.
Father Owen Kearns, LC
National Catholic Register
publisher and editor-in-chief