The Self-Destruction of a Cult of Personality

April 2009

Something's astir in the land of the Legion. In late January, Fr. Alvaro Corcuera, superior general of the Legion of Christ, issued a letter to Legionary priests and seminarians, and to members of Regnum Christi (the Legion's lay affiliate), in which he alluded to "things that have hurt and surprised us" regarding Legion of Christ founder, the late Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado. What are these "things"? Fr. Corcuera did not elaborate in his letter, but darkly declared, "We are living a time of pain and suffering."

Shortly thereafter, in early February, Tom Hoopes, editor of the National Catholic Register, a Legion-owned publication, posted the following comment on Amy Welborn's Internet blog: "All I want to say is, I'm sorry. I want to say it here, because I defended Fr. Maciel here, and I need to be on the record regarding that defense. I'm sorry, to the victims, who were victims twice, the second time by calumny. I'm sorry, to the Church, which has been damaged. I'm sorry, to those I've misled.... I seek repentance and forgiveness, and I leave it at that." That's a heavy, heartfelt apology -- though in a fairly obscure venue for something so momentous from a man who edits a widely read newspaper. But, like Fr. Corcuera, Hoopes didn't disclose why he's sorry for defending Maciel, which is part and parcel of being affiliated with the Legion, or what the victims suffered the first time.

Then, in a mid-February issue of the Register, publisher Fr. Owen Kearns admitted to being "saddened and humbled" by "the news about Father Marcial Maciel." Fr. Kearns did not divulge the "news," but said obliquely that it's "hard to reconcile all of this with the gratitude I still feel for my founder." Fr. Kearns wrote rather elliptically, "We know that ‘for those who love God, all things work together for good.' All things, including these things." Like Hoopes and Fr. Corcuera, Fr. Kearns didn't delineate "these things," but asked that we "pray for those who have been hurt and for the Church we all love and serve."

Around the same time, Jay Dunlap, former communications director for the Legion, wrote on his blog, "It is now clear that Father Maciel did in fact abuse his power and abuse young people in his charge. I personally apologize to his victims and to anyone who was misinformed by statements I made." Well, now we're getting somewhere.


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New Oxford Notes: April 2009

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