Delegate's Letter to Legionaries of Christ
"Reflections on the Path"
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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 23, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is the letter that Cardinal-designate Velasio De Paolis, pontifical delegate to the Legionaries of Christ, sent to the religious congregation and the consecrated members of Regnum Christi on Oct. 19. The letter is titled: "Reflections on the Path."
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Rome, October 19, 2010
To the Legionaries of Christ
and consecrated members of Regnum Christi
Very dear brothers and sisters in the Lord:
It is now three months since the first letter I wrote you on July 10 last, as I began the task that the Holy Father entrusted to me regarding the Legionaries of Christ and Regnum Christi, the Movement attached to them. This time has coincided with summer vacation, when the pace of work generally slows down somewhat.
Nevertheless, it has been a valuable time in relation to the path which we have undertaken. Many have made their voices heard by writing me or meeting me personally. There have been many. Unfortunately, I have not been able to receive all those who requested it. I hope, however that the path ahead, which I foresee is still a long one, will allow this at a later date. Neither have I been able to respond to so many who have expressed themselves in writing. Quite a few have sent me their good wishes and greetings. Obviously, it is not in my ability to answer each one personally.
I am glad to take this occasion to thank all those who have simply wanted to introduce themselves: those who did so simply by way of a greeting and best wishes; those who also added their vocation story and expressed their desire to remain faithful to their own religious and priestly vocation in the Legion as an act of fidelity to God and the Church; and those who in addition offered their suggestions for the path of renewal we are called to walk – whether to point out the risks involved in getting caught up in the desire for change, or to advocate change and renewal in the Congregation. I am sure that all are inspired by the desire to work for the good, and certainly everyone emphasized aspects to bear in mind as we go forward.
I invite everyone to reflection. Even if we are moved by the greatest goodwill, each one of us is generally limited in his outlook and the way we evaluate the facts and the demands of renewal. Therefore, instead of creating our counter-arguments to make our own view prevail, each one must also look at the others, and be open and ready to have their own ideas assessed by them. From everyone’s assessment and contribution, we are called to a discernment that will lead us along the path of change in the continuity of the very life of the Congregation. In fact, it cannot be denied that not a few things are to be changed or improved after giving them serious thought; others, and these are the fundamental points of religious and priestly life, are to be preserved and promoted.
What matters above all is for each one to be moved by the desire for the good, and by the will to be converted ever more to the Lord, under the guidance of the Church, and so to be open to his will and to progress along the path of fidelity and holiness according to our own vocation. If we are united and respectful of each other as we move forward the journey will be swift and sure, but it will be certain shipwreck to let ourselves get caught up in the desire to win out and impose our own ideas.
Our responsibility is therefore great, and each one must feel it before his own conscience, before God, and before the Church and the Congregation. In this spirit and with this encouragement, I write to you now to update you on some news and give you some thoughts regarding our journey thus far and also looking forward.
I. The team of assistants is complete.
1. When I presented you the papal letter appointing me, I stated that further determinations would be forthcoming with the publication of the decree of the Secretary of State, which came out on July 9, 2010. You have already received this decree and you are familiar with it. The decree clarified a fundamental point to remember: with the appointment of the Papal Delegate, the Legion is not placed under a Commissioner, but rather is given a Papal Delegate to accompany it on its journey forward. In fact, the pontifical decree recognizes and confirms the current superiors. This means on the one hand that the superiors remain in place according to the constitutions, and on the other that they are to act in harmony with the same Papal Delegate. Which means that the first level at which to address the problems of the Legion are its superiors; and I invite the religious therefore to turn to them first and foremost.
2. At the same time, I clarified that my function could only be fully activated once I was provided with the advisors to assist me in my task as Papal Delegate. The news regarding these advisors was recently released. They are:
* Bishop Brian Farrell, LC, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
* Father Gianfranco Ghirlanda, SI, past Rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University.
* Monsignor Mario Marchesi, Vicar General of the Diocese of Cremona.
* Father Agostino Montan, CSI, director of the Office for Consecrated Life of the diocese of Rome and vice Dean of the School of Theology of the Pontifical Lateran University.
3. There is also concrete information relative to the Regnum Christi Movement, particularly the consecrated members. His Excellency Ricardo Blázquez, Archbishop of Valladolid, was appointed as Visitor to the consecrated members of the Regnum Christi Movement. This visitation will be carried out under the responsibility of the papal delegate and in coordination with the responsibility he exercises over the entire Legion of Christ and the Regnum Christi Movement. The Regnum Christi Movement is a treasure that is indivisibly connected to the Legion, which should feel responsible for it and continue offering it its help. Nevertheless, this relationship must also be the object of serene reflection and it is part of the path of renewal regarding the Legion itself and its constitutions, also in relation to the members of Regnum Christi.
4. Beginning a new phase
I clarify further that neither is my task as Papal Delegate that of an Apostolic Visitor, whose brief it is to meet people, gather information for the purpose of getting a picture of the true situation, and offer the competent authority suggestions and proposals to remedy situations that are not in accordance with the gospel ideal of religious life.
The role of Visitor has been carried out by the five Bishops the Holy Father entrusted with the task of visiting the entire Congregation.
This visitation lasted almost a year and the outcome was presented to the Holy Father. By appointing his Delegate, the Holy Father has pointed the way forward, which no longer consists in that of a Visitor or Commissioner, but rather in accompanying you on the path of renewal particularly with a view to a General Chapter which must produce a constitutional text to submit to the Apostolic See. It is a path that must begin from the indications that arose from the apostolic visitation and were adopted by the Holy See, so that based on these we will set out toward the necessary renewal.
Everyone has a share in this task, and therefore all should be involved and given responsibility. But it is evident that this task belongs above all to the superiors who are called to organize, stimulate, move and commit everyone to this renewal in an active and orderly fashion. At this point of the Congregation’s journey, it is extremely important that the superiors fulfill their task well.
That is also the main assistance the Papal Delegate is called to offer. By initiating this new phase of the process, the Holy Father has renewed his confidence in the Congregation. This confidence will lead to a positive outcome only if it is matched by the trust of the Legionaries. I ardently invite you to set aside all suspicion and distrust, and work concretely and positively for the good of the Legion, without lingering still on the past or feeding divisions. The phase of the apostolic visitation is over, and is followed by the new phase of reconstruction and renewal. This is the phase of which we are called to become part.
II. News and evaluations
1. In the three months between the publication of my appointment and that of my advisors—even it was summer and therefore vacation time— I have held several meetings with the superiors of the institute, either to deal with urgent problems that came up from time to time, or to give answers to expectations that were in the air, and to offer clarifications on points that occasionally arose in the normal course of business.
2. Thus I have held several meetings with the general directorate, and recently with the general directorate and the provincial superiors who were in Rome at the time. It was not so much a matter of making decisions, which I postponed until the Papal Delegate’s four advisors were named; rather, we reflected on aspects of a general nature and began to single out some questions to address regarding procedures to adopt, problems to clarify, etc. We presented also some elements emerging from the reflections of the Congregation’s Visitors, though in a quite summarized form. We talked about the relation between the Founder’s personal situation and the charismatic and spiritual reality of the Legion itself; we attempted an initial reflection on the problem of the exercise of authority in the Legion; on the topic of freedom of conscience, confessors and spiritual directors. We also reflected on the path to follow for the revision of the constitutions, with a particular reference to their structure, in the relationship between the constitutional norms and other norms. We also sought to clarify the relationship between the superiors of the Legion and the Papal Delegate, and other topics regarding the government of the Congregation.
3. We picked out some problems that we foresee will probably require us to establish a commission, above all and mainly the commission for the revision of the constitutions; but there also may be a need for a commission to approach those who in some way put forward claims against the Legion, and one for financial matters.
4. There was also a mention of the time frame foreseen to complete the process. On the Legionaries’ side, we see a desire to speed up the process. But we insisted on the need to take all the time necessary, which looks like at least two or three years or even more.
5. In reading the many letters that have arrived, I see generally positive reactions. They thank the Holy Father for his intervention and for appointing the Papal Delegate; they express their own availability to collaborate with the Delegate and assure him of prayers; they thank the Lord for their vocation and express confidence in the congregation of the Legionaries, in which they want to persevere. The seminarians in general simply express their will to persevere in their vocation. Some priests also express suggestions, perplexities, doubts, and difficulties, mainly in relation to order and praxis regarding the internal forum, the exercise of authority, and the appointment of superiors or changes; on formation. One or another asks for time extra domum to reflect, or expresses the desire to leave the Congregation.
III. Some specific points of greater importance
1. The matter of the Founder and reaction of the Legionaries
Most of the Legionaries, faced with the situation of the Founder, have reacted positively, reaffirming their gratitude to God for their vocation and discovering so much good the Legion had done and is still doing. Moreover, the Legion has been approved by the Church and it cannot be said that it is not a work of God at the service of his Kingdom and of the Church. The Founder’s responsibilities cannot simply be transferred onto the Legion of Christ itself.
2. Current superiors and their responsibility
There is one recurring difficulty from more than one place: some feel that the current superiors could not have been ignorant of the Founder’s misdeeds. By silencing them, they must have lied. But we know that the problem is not that simple. The different denunciations published in the newspapers from the 90s onward were well known, also to the superiors of the Congregation. But it is something else to have proof that they were founded and even more that they were certain. This came only much later, and gradually. In such cases, communications are not easy. It is a vital requirement now to recover trust, for the collaboration we need to exercise now.
3. The charism of the Legion
Another very delicate question is that of the charism of the Legion. The absence of a distinction between constitutional norms and norms of law has perhaps hurt efforts to specify the charism. But it seems undeniable that it is sufficiently clear and precise; and it is also more than ever for this time. There is the need to reflect and study this in depth.
I would like to mention just one aspect. Our current culture is secularized, infected with immanentism and relativism. Such a mindset is the hallmark of the culture of our times and of those who today shape opinion or are considered the drivers of culture. It is a matter of culture and therefore a matter of leadership, i.e.: of those who hold the reins of society in their hands. We have before us a society that no longer evinces personalities of Christian and markedly Catholic cultural depth. At the same time, we know that the faith cannot be pushed back merely to the private level.
If today’s society is to be Christianized, it needs people capable of assuming responsibility for the society of tomorrow, and who are formed in schools and universities. It needs priests, consecrated people, and committed lay people, all well formed. It needs apostles for the new evangelization.
The past must guide us in taking our place in the present. The Church shaped the past and contributed to a Christian vision of life, through monasteries, universities, studies and culture. The Church reaffirms this when she speaks of the new evangelization and launches a new Dicastery for the new evangelization. I believe that the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ finds its place to serve the Church precisely in this area. And this brings good hope for the future.
IV. Concluding reflection
It seems to me that we can and must expect a positive path of renewal. There are so many signs on the horizon that give us good hope for a positive outcome at the end of the journey. The shock caused by the Founder’s actions had tremendous impact, on a scale capable of destroying the Congregation itself, as many in fact predicted. Yet it not only survives, but is almost intact in its vitality. The great majority of the Legionaries have been able to read the story of their own vocation not so much in relation to the Founder as to the mystery of Christ and the Church, and renew their fidelity to Christ and the Church, in the Legion.
Their ability to read their situation in a supernatural dimension allowed them not to go astray or become lost. The guiding star of fidelity to the Church and obedience to the Pope saved them from easy discouragement and abandonment. Many have recounted their reaction to the events. The majority affirm that they have not had any doubt in reconfirming their own fidelity and effort before God and the Church. More than one have spoken of their initial reaction of anger and almost fury, with the feeling of being betrayed, but then they recovered. Some even thought of leaving the Legion to join a diocese. But all in all, only a few have opted for that path.
There has been some decrease as regards vocations. In these cases, the difficulty comes especially from parents who, due to the great clamor raised in the media, have not been able to tell clearly enough truth from falsification. Unfortunately, some Legionaries have also let themselves get caught in this whirlpool of public opinion and have desisted in their efforts to promote vocations.
In the road ahead that still has to be traveled, there is perhaps another danger that awaits us and we need to mention, which is typical of this type of situation. In the case of the Legionaries of Christ, we are living a kind of paradox. For religious institutes in general, people lament that in the name of the post-conciliar renewal called for by the Council, congregations lost their discipline and sense of authority, with a certain relaxation also in the practice of the evangelical counsels and an enormous crisis in vocations despite the wealth of theology on religious life that was developed in the same period. For the Legionaries, by contrast, the question now is to open up more to this post-conciliar renewal of discipline and the exercise of authority. The danger of going too far and setting off a process of disengagement from the commitment to discipline and spiritual life is real, and it already is spreading particularly among some priests and religious. The General Superior himself fears this danger, and as he expressed his commitment of obedience and fidelity to the Pope, he nevertheless asked that in this path of renewal the institute would be spared from this danger, that is, the danger of the renewal effort descending into absence of discipline, and laxity.
I renew my invitation to all to intensify your prayer at this time. The Angel of the Lord told the prophet Elijah, “Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you” (1 Kgs 19:7). Thus, we too draw close with confidence to the inexhaustible well of the Eucharist, where Christ himself is our Support and Companion on the journey. May God bless all of you.
+ Velasio De Paolis, C.S.