- Velasio Cardinal De Paolis, C.S.Papal Delegate to Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi
Letter to Cardinal De Paolis from Ex-Precandidates
Regnum Christi as an institution has yet to publicly acknowledge the serious flaws within their life, culture and methodology. These serious flaws have had damaging effects on former Precandidates. Unless the past is truthfully recognized in a spirit of sincere sorrow, Regnum Christi and the Precandidacy cannot move forward with a true reform and the transparency that is necessary to rebuild trust. In the interest of educating parents, pastors and prospective Precandidates, we have written this letter to respectfully highlight many of our damaging experiences in the hopes that appropriate action will be taken by the responsible parties.
- Papal Delegate to Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi
Velasio Cardinal De Paolis, C.S.
Velasio Cardinal De Paolis, C.S.
Papal Delegate to Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi
Palazzo della Congregazioni 00193
Roma, Largo del Colonnato, 3
For over twenty years now, the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi have taken it upon themselves to form teenage girls in preparation for a vocation to the consecrated life in Regnum Christi at their boarding school, Immaculate Conception Academy, also known as “the Precandidacy.” We who write this letter to you are former Precandidates, who lived, worked and studied at this school, as well as some of our former teachers, formators and volunteers. Many of us subsequently spent years in the consecrated life as well.
Around thirty of us recently had the opportunity to spend a weekend together sharing our experiences with one another. A closed discussion group on Facebook with up to 270 members was also formed where those who were unable to attend the weekend were also able to share their stories. It has become clear that the lingering aftereffects and ongoing struggles caused by our time in the Precandidacy are not isolated experiences of individual women, but seem to apply to the majority of us.
These difficulties have included psychological, emotional, and even physical conditions. Psychological and emotional difficulties have surfaced in the form of nightmares and flashbacks, guilt complexes, scruples or inferiority complexes, and difficulties in re-establishing normal, healthy relationships with friends and family given the unnatural and forced nature of relationships encouraged during the Precandidacy. Physical difficulties have included stomach problems, back pain, migraines, and eating disorders, many of which have been diagnosed by doctors as being stress related or lifestyle induced.
Past critics have pointed out three major flaws in the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi, and we believe that our experience attests to the existence of these flaws:
1. Systemic deception and duplicity ingrained in the life and culture of LC/RC. In our experience, this was manifested in the following manners:
- When we decided to become Precandidates, most of the rules and commitments had not been made known to us. They were gradually revealed only after we had already made a commitment and been convinced that any re-discernment on our part, without the approval of the director, would risk failing to fulfill God’s will for us, and even betraying Jesus. Questioning rules was not allowed; we were to accept them as God’s will and conform to them if we wanted to be faithful to our vocation.
- We entered without knowing the truth about Fr. Marcial Maciel and how his double life had influenced aspects of Regnum Christi. We later found out that this truth was still withheld from us several years after it had become known to various personages within the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi Movement.
- Some of us later discovered that personal correspondence from others (family members and friends) had been confiscated by our directors and never given to us without clear reason.
- We also later discovered other forms of deception; for instance, we were given a report card with one set of academic grades, only to find out later that the grades were different on our official transcripts.
2. The cult of the personality and the attachment to the person of the founder in the life of LC/RC. In our experience, this was manifested in the following manners, among others:
- We were required to daily read the founder’s letters and writings and to use them as the basis for meditation.
- There was a culture of idolization of the founder through stories constantly shared about him by consecrated members of Regnum Christi and/or Legionaries of Christ.
- We were encouraged to use the founder as our motivation when doing something difficult. We were asked to recruit specific quotas of new members for the Precandidacy or raise certain amounts of money as “gifts” to the founder.
- Several days during the year were set aside to celebrate the founder – birthday, baptism day, “Founder’s Day” (which later became known as “General Director’s Day”), etc.
3. Lack of respect for the human dignity and freedom of persons. In our experience, this was manifested in the following ways, among others:
- Lack of respect for conscience. We were pressured to confide in spiritual guides and/or directors that were assigned to us, not chosen by us. Several of us later learned that various things shared in confidence had been revealed by the spiritual guides to others, and were used by those people to make suggestions that would influence our decisions and actions in the manner they desired, based on their plan for us within RC.
- Strict regulation of personal relationships. It was normative that we not confide in or seek close relationships with either our peers or, more importantly, with our family. We were to refrain from speaking about our vocational discernment process with our family out of fear that they might interfere. This discernment process entailed deciding whether or not to consecrate our entire lives to God when we were still young adults or adolescents, some even under the age of eighteen. We believe this was an injustice to both ourselves and our parents, as it contradicted the nature of family life as established by God. Furthermore, without having our parents as our confidants, we were expected to turn to our directors at the Precandidacy for advice, and consequently we often ended up making our decision, either to stay or to go, not based on our own desires or discernment, but based on their influence and judgment.
- Abuse of obedience. We were expected to do everything from the motive of obedience. We were instructed that to please God, it was necessary to follow every detail of what our directors/superiors/formators told us, out of a spirit of obedience and faith, without questioning it; if we didn’t obey, we would risk displeasing God and have a bad relationship with him. This internal culture of obedience, in many cases, stunted the development of our capacity to use our reason and inform our consciences to be able to make prudential judgments in the future.
- Lack of respect for human dignity. When one of us chose to leave or was asked to leave, we weren’t allowed to say goodbye to anyone, but had to leave in secret. Also, in spite of being promised continued contact with the consecrated members and spiritual support, or even that in some cases we might be allowed to return, we were often never contacted afterwards, and any efforts on our part to reconnect or make contact were ignored. Some of us were consecrated in Regnum Christi for some years after the Precandidacy and, when leaving consecrated life, were also sent home with no support and no funding, even though we had dedicated years of life and work to Regnum Christi. In both cases, this treatment made our transition back into life outside of Regnum Christi arduous—adding insult to injury.
Since our departure from the Precandidacy and some of us from the consecrated life, we have reflected deeply on our years in the Precandidacy. Based on our experience and the aftereffects, we can only conclude that this is not a healthy environment for teenaged children.
Many of our “formators” were barely older than we were, and acted solely according to the orders of the directors. They possessed no expertise of their own in matters of formation, and yet were given the staggering responsibility of caring for girls in the most vulnerable stages of their development and in almost total isolation from their parents! These actions and methods highlight the lack of pastoral, human, and spiritual wisdom (let alone common sense) of the directors and the major superiors of the Legion, who were ultimately responsible for the nature of formation given at the school and who submitted each of us to the eminently flawed Legionary/Maciel-inspired methodology. If known in their entirety, the elements of this program stand as a grave warning to parents not to entrust their children to any formation program organized by Regnum Christi or the Legion.
To date, there has been no public apology or even acknowledgment of the responsibility of the current leadership in these abuses. In order for the supposed process of reform currently underway to have any credibility, it should be made with a more complete and truthful picture of the abuses of the past system. Only then can there be any true path to reformation.
We are writing to warn parents and pastors to examine the Precandidacy’s real “fruits” very carefully as evidenced in our letter. We call on the Legion and Regnum Christi leaders to face the full truth of how their “pedagogy” and “formation” system have devastated the lives of hundreds of young women. Mere cosmetic changes to norms and rules, such as expanding the amount of time that members can spend with family, is hardly enough. Taking responsibility and understanding how and why so much damage has been done is the necessary first step for any true reform. Therefore we urge the directors to close down every Precandidacy until and unless a true reform is accomplished. Today’s girls deserve more than to be guinea pigs during the experimental stages of the reform process which may or may not prove in the end to be authentic.
The Most Reverend Allen Vigneron, Archbishop of Detroit
1234 Washington Blvd.
Detroit, MI 48226-1875
The Most Reverend Thomas J. Tobin, Bishop of Providence, RI
One Cathedral Square
Providence, RI 02903
Rev. Agostino Montan, C.S.I.
Vicar for Office for Consecrated Life of the Diocese of Rome
Via degli Etruschi 36
Rev. Alvaro Corcuera, L.C.
General Director, Legion of Christ
Rev. Luis Garza, L.C.
North American Territorial Director, Legion of Christ
590 Columbus Ave.
Thornwood, NY 10594
General Head of the Regnum Christi Consecrated Women
Via della Giustiniana 1200
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