Was Pope Francis Implicating the Legion of Christ as “Swindlers?”
Recently, Pope Francis pigeonholed problem people in the Church and gives us three particular groups of his concern. L’Osservatore Romano translated the three major groups as “Uniformists, alternativists and advantagists.” This last group, the advantagists is the one that they reported as:
“’look for advantages’. They ‘go to Church but for personal advantage, and wind up conducting business in the Church’. These are the Swindlers, who have also been around since the very start — such as Simon the magician, Anania e Saffira, who ‘took advantage of the Church for their own profit’. Modernizing the discourse, Pope Francis denounced those characters of the type often found ‘in community or diocesan parishes, and in religious congregations’, disguising themselves as ‘benefactors of the Church’. We’ve seen many of them, he said, essentially ‘parading about as benefactors and in the end, under the table, running their scams’.”
Swindlers! They aren’t unique to any particular part of the Church, and we should expect to some degree to see these characters in the life of the Church. Judas was there from the beginning as a guy who used the Church for personal advantage. He was a swindler and advantagist.
What would happen if a group of these swindlers formed a business group?
Recently the past PR chief of the Legion of Christ, Jay Dunlap, unloaded his view from the inside of the Legion of Christ. The New Oxford Review printed his memoirs on this group, and what stands out most is the recurring theme of cash buying them favors and advantages. Or worse, the very silence of those who saw that they were up to no good.
Dunlap concludes that in his opinion “[i]t is one of the profound mysteries of the modern Church that a man could found such a vibrant religious congregation as a cover for his double life as a megalomaniacal thief, philanderer, and pederast.” Carefully parsing that sentence reveals that his opinion is still tainted by bias. There is no mystery, nor is it profound, especially if what Pope Francis said is true that these are a swindlers.
Across Dunlap’s summary, he makes many references to how the Legion used cash to gain advantage:
Starting from the very inception of the Legion, Dunlap reports Maciel was already buttering palms: “during Maciel’s first trip to Rome, the young founder gave Cardinal Micara $10,000 — a ‘huge sum’ in post-World War II Rome. Maciel got his payback thirteen years later when Micara pushed for and won the settlement of the investigation in favor of Maciel and his Legionaries.”
Then he says it again, explaining that the popes only saw good things about the Legion of Christ, because “They knew only what they saw: abundant vocations; young, enthusiastic priests launching new schools and missions; strong support from important curial officials — though the Holy Fathers would not have known that Maciel had ‘purchased’ their favor.”
And again, he observes that they made such an image of themselves and survived investigation by “the successful ‘cultivation’ of well-placed prelates.” “Cultivation” implies money, as he reported earlier.
He speaks of how they preserved advantages to recruit in dioceses, too, through “cultivation.”
The Legion’s method of recruiting vocational prospects and lay members of Regnum Christi in places where they had no permission to operate had to come to an end, so “cultivating bishops” was a priority. And through it all, we made copious use of photographs of Maciel with John Paul II.
Everyone has seen that picture: The one with Maciel kneeling in front of an aged John Paul II who has his hand extended to the head of Maciel.
The Money even silences their own friends.
Dunlap then explains how the Legion money was able to give them an advantage by silencing him: “I should have left then. But I was deeply enmeshed in the culture of defending Maciel. It was my job, and I had young children to feed.”
The Legion is a framework of many priests acting together, and yet, Dunlap still tries to single out this “advantagist” behavior to Maciel:
“[…] Maciel successfully manipulated enough of us to insulate himself for decades against the truth of his crimes. He had an eye for ecclesiastical “rising stars,” charming his way into friendships with many people in important positions and solidifying those relationships by virtue of his total control of Legion finances. Regardless of donors’ intent, Maciel turned his fundraising prowess into lavish gifts for those bishops and Vatican insiders who were most receptive.”
What about the other ones? Maciel didn’t act alone, so there’s plenty of others who learned and abetted his trade. Dunlap doesn’t go there, but we have to wonder if Pope Francis did. Is the Legion of Christ just a giant pack of swindlers? How else could they have all that money to “cultivate” (read: “buy”) advantages if they were not swindling money as Pope Francis says, “under the table, running their scams.”
This article, Was Pope Francis Implicating the Legion of Christ as “Swindlers?” is a post from The Bellarmine Forum.
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