Aug 31, 2014

We Are Legion and We Are Tactless

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

One of the most consistently baffling things to me about the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church is their tone-deafness. Do these Church officials really not know how out of touch they seem when they answer outrage over vile abuses with platitudes about forgiveness for perpetrators? The rush to forgive their own brethren left countless children vulnerable to non-rehabilitatable criminals. This was nowhere more true than with one of the Church's most notorious offenders: Marcial Maciel Degollado.

And they're still doing it.

Even as they are wrestling with lawsuits from his victims, his children, and the descendents of elderly people his organization bilked out of their fortunes, the Legionaries of Christ scramble to protect his legacy and his name. And of course they do it in an attempt to do what Maciel did best: raise money.

They have already raised $40 million of a needed $100 million to support an outrageous land-grab in the Holy Land. On the ruins of an ancient temple, they intend to build a new complex including a luxury hotel -- how very Maciel of them.

At issue is a women's institute promoted with a brochure entitled Magdala: God Really Loves Women. Yes, it's so nice the way God keeps forgiving women for being sexual creatures. Worse, it equates the Magdalene with Maciel. (I actually got a little queasy just typing that sentence.) The brochure text is truly unbelievable.

The priest speaks his heart: "Marcial Maciel's initials are also MM, just like Mary Magdalene. She had a problematic past before her deliverance, so there's a parallel. Our world has double standards when it comes to morals. Some people have a formal, public display and then the real life they live behind the scenes.

"But when we accuse someone else and we are quick to stone him, we must remember that we all have problems and defects. With modern communications so out of control, it is easy to kill someone's reputation without even investigating about the truth. We should be quieter and less condemning."

So in its urgency to absolve their sexual predator of a founder, the Legionaries are now equating sexual abuse, and a lifetime of defrauding people, with prostitution. This, of course, propounds the false narrative that Mary Magdalene was a "fallen woman." But even if that were so, it would still be the most absurd of false equivalencies.

I find it quite interesting that the comments following the article on NCR contain a lot of criticism of the Church's counter-Biblical representation of Mary Magdalene and even concern that the Legionaries co-opting of this sacred site in Israel may fit the Church's agenda of hiding her history. More and more Catholics are fighting back against the Church's denigration of women. For more on the unfairly maligned Magdalene, check out William Henry's discussion The Illuminator here.

Even in the popular narrative, however, Mary Magdalene had her come to Jesus moment. For her there was redemption. When exactly was this "deliverance" for Maciel? Would that have been before or after he lived out the rest of his life in a gated community in Florida, taking regular visits with his  mistress and daughter?

In response to criticism, the Legionaries have agreed to stop distributing the  booklet and apologized.

“I personally and profoundly apologize for my reflections in the booklet, Magdala: God Really Loves Women, published this summer by the Magdala Center in Jerusalem, which is managed by the Legion of Christ,” Legionary Fr. Juan Solana, director of the Magdala Center, said in a statement Thursday.

. . .

In a statement included in a letter from Connor to fellow Legionaries and its consecrated and lay members, Solana stated: “The passages in question suggest a comparison between Mary Magdalene and Legion Founder Marcial Maciel, which clearly is inappropriate and poorly chosen.

“I was trying to make a point about compassion and forgiveness in light of the Legion’s history, but realize now that my words were awkward and suggest a reverence for our founder that we clearly reject. Again, I’m sorry for any hurt this has caused,” he said.

So that's one boneheaded statement retracted. But Solana appears to have foot in mouth disease. In discussing the proposed Magdala Center, he explained his thinking to reporters.

Solana tells ISRAEL21c: “It’s about time for women to be given their proper due.” He says that whenever men are asked to name the most important or influential person in their lives, the answer is almost always a woman – usually their mother or a teacher. “Not their wives, though,” he laughs.

Yeah. Madonna-whore complexes are funny.

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