Interview: Fr. Thomas Berg on Future of the Legion of Christ
'I hope that the Legion will very quickly accelerate its disavowal of, and disassociation with, Fr. Maciel.'
(Pictured: Fr. Thomas Berg) 'I would like to insist again that I bear no hatred, anger or resentment toward the Legion. Much less, do I spend every waking hour thinking about the Legion. I am getting on with my life. Nonetheless, your initiative in posing these questions has afforded me the opportunity to say a number of things that in conscience I believe need to be said at this juncture.'
"An unprecedented question in the history of the Church"
Q: When you recently left the Legion, you expressed in a statement your sympathy for the congregation in which you were formed as a priest. What are your hopes now that the apostolic visitation to the Legion of Christ has been announced?
A: I, like the vast majority of persons in the Church, try to remain positive and hopeful for the Legion and Regnum Christi movement. We only want the best for our brothers and sisters in Christ. We understand that this might involve taking some tough medicine, but I believe it is possible for a majority of these wonderful men and women will rise to the occasion because they really do have a profound love for Christ in their hearts. I would like to insist again that I bear no hatred, anger or resentment toward the Legion. Much less, do I spend every waking hour thinking about the Legion. I am getting on with my life. Nonetheless, your initiative in posing these questions has afforded me the opportunity to say a number of things that in conscience I believe need to be said at this juncture.
Q: How do you predict the visitation will go?
A: It would really be foolish of me to even begin to speculate on this.
Q: What would be your suggestions to the five visitors?
A: I will limit myself to one overall suggestion: help the Legionaries to engage in an honest and objective self-critique. What I have found most unsettling of late is the kind of group-think that has settled in among the Legionaries: "We really don't think there is anything wrong with the internal culture of the Legion, but if the Holy See tells us to change things, we will." The docility to the Holy See, though laudable and correct, masks a huge internal flaw: the Legion's corporate inability to engage in a healthy self-critique. This is no time for a business as usual approach, but that has been the impression one generally gets from the Legionaries over the past five months of the crisis.
That inability to see and honestly recognize the flaws and errors that so many people outside the Legion are able to see speaks volumes. The Legionaries should be reminded that it is not the task of the Holy See to reform the Legion. The Legion will only be genuinely reformed when it reforms itself from within. But that can only begin with a self-examination that arises from within the Legion and owns up to the Legion's errors.
Q: And your suggestion to Regnum Christi members?
A: I am in no capacity to speak to them collectively. In February, a private email I intended to be shared broadly but to remain private was published all over the internet. But if any Regnum Christi member were to ask my personally, my advice would be along those same lines: focus on Christ, work carefully at discerning your own personal way ahead, be engaged in your parish, seek to grow in your interior life, strive to engage in a healthy and informed critique of the Legion and Regnum Christi.
Q: What do you think will happen with the Legion in the long run?
A: Again, it would be unwise for me to even begin to speculate at this point. That is up to the Holy Spirit who fortunately has multiple options open to him!
Q: How would you suggest dealing with the centrality given to the writings, the person and the figure of the founder, Marcial Maciel?
A: I hope that the Legion will very quickly accelerate its disavowal of, and disassociation with, Fr. Maciel. On that point, I see no other way forward. All - and I mean all - the pictures of Maciel yet hanging in Legionary houses have to go. They have to stop referring to his writings in public (I understand that at one recent Legionary community mass the homilist still saw fit to quote from one of Maciel's letters). A simple step in that direction, by the way, requires the immediate abrogation of their custom of referring to Fr. Maciel as "nuestro padre" or "mon père" - terms of endearment whose use he allowed and fostered. Amazingly, many if not most Legionaries still insist on using the term.
Q: What are the strengths you think the Legion and Regnum Christi can count on in this uncertain process?
A: If the Legion is true to its word, then the Church should be able to count on the docility of Legionaries and Regnum Christi members to embrace whatever is ultimately determined about them and their future. The Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi are composed of hundreds of good, holy men and women of God. I have the deepest esteem for so many of them. They, collectively, constitute a reason for ...
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