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“The Legionaries Aren’t Rich”

We received a letter from Barry Almon of Ossining, New York. He says: “I can’t believe you dissed the Legionaries of Christ. I don’t think you understand just how the Legionaries practice poverty. Their seminarians have to beg for all the food they consume. They eat donated hotdog buns, for instance. They don’t use money to buy food because they don’t have money. It’s really easy to read an article or hear someone talk about how the Legionaries have so much money, but this just ain’t reality. Please accept this letter as my official cancelation of my subscription.”

We also heard from Mary Ann Hogan (letters, June 2005) that at Legionaries’ seminary in Thornwood, N.Y., the seminarians “during the winter months, they live in 40 degree temperatures to help conserve the cost of fuel.”

The Legionaries are still a small order, but are one of the richest organizations in the Church, with a $650 million yearly budget. And Fr. Marcial Maciel, the founder of the order, is known for his opulent lifestyle. According to Vows of Silence by Jason Berry and Gerald Renner, two independent journalists who know more about the Legionaries than anyone else, Maciel has “thought nothing of paying $9,000 a ticket to fly the Atlantic aboard the supersonic Concorde and renting a helicopter to appointments in Mexico, Colombia, and Connecticut.” At the Legionaries’ Rome headquarters, “Maciel courted influential figures in the Curia at lavish dinners…. with fine china, crystal, and a cart of cocktails,” and, for some cardinals, Maciel sent his Mercedes to pick them up.

Mr. Almon: You say the Legionaries’ seminarians “beg for all the food they consume. They eat donated hotdog buns, for instance.” It shouldn’t be too hard for you to figure out what’s going on here — but of course you don’t want to know, because you’ve canceled your subscription.

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