Archivo de la categoría: P. Peter Cronin

Gabon III – A Legionary Of Christ In Gabon, West Africa

First General Chapter &, finally, Gabon

 

By One of the First Irish Born Legionaries

 

Conclusion
Story comes full circle as author describes his last years in the Legion, his loss of faith in the superiors and in Fr. Maciel brought to a head by the General Chapter, his exile and departure

 

In 1981 the Legion had celebrated its first ever General Chapter. This is a solemn gathering of the top brass with representatives from all the ranks, to examine and approve or revise the Constitution –the laws which govern the day to day life of the members. At that time I was the Director of the Legion’s house in Rye, New York. I fully expected to go to Rome to the somewhat mysterious General Chapter. We all knew this was a landmark occasion, and most of us knew that the real purpose was to have General Chapter ratify the Constitution during the life of the Founder. That way the rule of life, the Constitution, would to a large extent be “hewn in granite� because, having fulfilled the requirements of Canon Law which govern the frequency of such Chapters, it would be a long, long time before there would be another Chapter. This, politically, was a very smart thing for the Founder, Fr. Maciel, to do because he had a far greater chance of controlling the outcome than he would have if he waited til he was dead. It he had a little more faith he could have waited til he was dead and supervised day to day operations from heaven. It seemed obvious to me that the representatives to the Chapter would be carefully selected. This Chapter was in no way intended to encourage any real examination or to introduce new ideas. It certainly was no place for dissent. The sole purpose, I believed, was to rubber stamp the Constitution and any changes that might be made by the “yes men� at the meeting.

Fr. Anthony Bannon and other “in� people

Indeed, for several years before the Chapter the Congregation had started to take on a “new direction�. Lay members of an ancillary group known as the “Regnum Christi�, R.C. for short, had been given more and more importance. To be precise, the Legion was more a part of the “Regnum Christi�. So, now, the tail was wagging the dog. The Legion which I had joined was now the “clerical section� of a new lay “Movement�. The meanings and implications of the term “movement� was to become a constant topic in the Founder’s writings an in our weekly conferences. Methodology was becoming far more important than the Spirit. Such things as efficiency, integration, and blind obedience had taken the place of an earlier emphasis on the virtue of charity, which had given the congregation its earlier appeal and charism. Coldly calculated tactics were the new name of the game. Deep down the unstated objective was to do better than the rival, secret group know as the Opus Dei. Monsignor José María Escrivá de Balaguer, the Founder of the Opus, a Spanish group, was also alive and, although there was no doubt they were doing well, they were also very vulnerable. We were going to make sure that they did not consume our part of the spiritual pie, and unflattering comments on their style and operations were a constant theme of conversation in the Legion’s inner circle to which, I felt, I belonged. They, just like us, were extremely active in the fertile and somewhat naïve environment of Mexico, and again, like us, the name of their game was secrecy and tight-knit isolation.

Despite all this I was so sure that I had been successful enough and had demonstrated sufficient consistent loyalty to the congregation that I knew I would be invited to the General Chapter. On the other hand, according to Canon Law, in order to participate in the Chapter, one should be an ordained priest and have finished the full course of theological studies. I was O.K. on both counts since I had been ordained by Cardinal Biaggio in 1976, and received my M.A. in theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome. I knew that others, like Anthony Bannon, a cold-hearted right-winger from Dublin, would be excluded because of the studies’ requirement, despite the fact that he was the regional superior for the U.S. He, like so many other Legionaries, had been ordained a priest in a hurry, without formally finishing his studies of theology, while the advance guard like myself and Murphy, had toiled in our “apostolic practices� –a sort of internship introduced to the Church, I think, by the Jesuits. Despite all this, Bannon was called as a delegate. I wasn’t.

The Chapter, which I did not attend, was the central event of that year. The final document became required reading and the subject of private meditation. I was a little disappointed that I didn’t get to go but I wasn’t totally surprised. Besides, I had other exciting things to do so I certainly don’t think I overreacted. Like all the other pious Legionaries I prayed hard for the successful outcome of the deliberations in Rome. I knew that Declan Murphy from Dublin was there, as was David Owen, and I felt that at least they might represent the unstated views of those of us who did not consider ourselves “holy Joes� and yes men. When the final Chapter documents were released I knew that the Congregation which I had joined and to which I pledged my vows had changed. I felt cheated because the rules had been changed during the game. Many of us had longed and hoped for some relaxation of the rules governing visits to our families. There had been some suggestion that this might happen. In fact I had hoped that even in small ways, now that the Congregation was more established and stronger, that some of the more stringent requirements of membership might have been eased. Small things like being allowed to listen to vocal music and not only instrumental; or to become more involved in local parish life; or to be allowed to speak to priests and seminarians from other orders; to have dinner at the homes of benefactor families who supported us and who, especially in the States, could not understand our isolationism. The fact that I had hoped for some of these changes is probably a sign of how far I had drifted from the new order.

Delegates from the Chapter were dispatched to all the houses to inform the entire Congregation of the wonderful workings of the Holy Spirit, mostly though the person our Beloved Founder. Those of us on the east coast of the U.S. gathered at my place in Rye, N.Y. to hear the news from an unlikely representative: fellow Synge Street H.S. graduate, Declan Murphy. Murphy was responsible for Legionary operations in Washington, DC.

Before his conference I found myself in my room, a tiny little place on the top floor of our three storey residence. I had purchased the property 5 years previously when I was assigned to New York. It was quite an imposing mansion, nestled on the edge of the town’s nature center. It was spacious and quite cheery, perched on top of a hill overlooking Rye High School. God knows what I might have been thinking about when, contrary to all Legionary norms which forbade entry into another Legionary’s room, Murphy came right in and, in the limited space with only one chair, made himself at home. As usual, I was happy to see him. Mr. Gregarious, the charming Irish priest which whom I felt particularly friendly. He stood a lean 6’ 3� and considered himself good-looking. This not unfounded belief had probably been reinforced by countless Spanish and Mexican women who thought that any priest who was not a grubby little imitation of the potbellied caricatures they were used to was to be considered handsome and, in a way peculiar to Mexico, somehow very attractive. Both of us were dressed in our long black cassocks. Murphy, despite his jocular friendliness, wasn’t as relaxed as I might have expected. Although I well knew the anxious, insecure side of him, Declan, for most of the time was jovial, competitive and fun to be with. He enjoyed the pleasures of the sense more than most Legionaries, with the exclusion of the Founder. He was more up to date than any of us on the latest music, movies, and news. He traveled extensively with the Founder who used him to great advantage. Declan was probably an excellent companion and gave Nuestro Padre the aura of youthful vitality, charm and good looks that Maciel reveled in. What Murphy got out of this was some great trips to exciting places, the enviable status of “insider�, and the opportunity to spend a lot of time far from the rules and regulations what bound the rest of us. He, too, in a very special way, was above the law.

The Simmer of our Discontent

The problem, it seemed, was that the news he had to deliver was not very good. It became immediately clear to me that the Chapter, as I had feared, was a farce from beginning to end, although I couldn’t quote Declan as saying that. However, the final Chapter document, unanimously approved, had not been seen or read by all those who approved it. Now Declan had to tell us all that this was the Will of God for us. That’s why he was nervous. The bell rang signaling time for the conference. Murphy went down first and I followed a discreet few moments later. There were about 15 of us gathered in the conference area; all of us observed a sort of relaxed relative silence.

The brooding presence of Fr. Anthony Bannon at the back of the room inhibited any subversive jovial activity. I didn’t like Bannon and he didn’t like me. When his mother was gravely ill I had to persuade him to ask for permission to go visit with her. I knew Mrs. Bannon, a kindly woman who lived in a basement flat on Leeson St., Dublin. He did go, but I don’t think he felt any need to be there. His forever gaunt appearance, accentuated by his steel-rimmed eye glass gave him the classic look of a Nazi. He fancied himself as a “hard man�, impervious to heat or cold. On one occasion, in a burst of generosity I bought him an overcoat out our my scarce funds because I felt that his stoic blue-knuckled refusal to admit that he was cold in the freezing New York winter was doing the image of our congregation more harm than good. The feistiest of the men at the conference was Fr. John McCormick, another Dubliner and Synge St. graduate. John and I, although we had been class mates since 3rd grade elementary, were never particularly good friends, though we liked each other. He was raring to go. He couldn’t wait to fire pointed, aggressive, angry questions at Murphy. He obviously wasn’t happy with the outcome of the Chapter. I admired him for throwing caution to the winds and for voicing his concerns with such conviction. I also knew that, sooner or later, this public display would catch up with him and would not go unnoticed or unpunished.

Meanwhile Murphy was saying something about it “not being convenient� for us to listen to music with lyrics, another Chapter mandate. McCormick wanted to know why not. Murphy, trying to think on his feet, said something along the lines of Nuestro Padre –was we called Fr. Maciel- in his wisdom believed that if one vocation were to be lost because of the pernicious influence of contemporary music, it would be better that none of us ever listen to it. Then I asked: “What about the 99 of us who might lose our vocations –not to mention our minds! -because we couldn’t listen to contemporary music? Wouldn’t it be smarter to get rid of the screwed up fool who was going to lose his vocation anyway and make life miserable for the rest of us to boot? Bannon’s dry cough signaled that I too would be included in the little black notebook with McCormick. There was always a Gabon for people like me. Frankly, at that stage, I didn’t give a damn! I knew that his discontent was going to get out of control. Unlike other occasions when the same sentiments had surfaced, this time I did not care. It had taken me a long time to see the light, and God knows I had tried very hard to be faithful to rules I no longer believed in. I also felt that the Rule to which I had vowed obedience had been radically changed by a rigged Chapter. A time comes when carefully considered thoughts, after having been prayed about, need to be acted on. Now, I welcomed these rebellious thoughts and intended to express them and act on them. That’s all I remember from that conference; except that I knew I was not alone.

Gabon Full Circle

Eventually, going to Gabon was compounded by Collette. To understand why, you need to know something of several other women in my cloistered life. I’ll get to them some other time. Meanwhile, “cloistered� may not be the right word. From the early days of the Novitiate I was appointed as community driver; this job carried with it a certain “cachet� –or at least I thought it did!; in hindsight, it probably wasn’t good for me. The brief respite afforded by the various sorties mitigated the wear and tear that the Legion methodology works on the personality. I would be down in the dumps but would revive at the opportunity to get outside and drive to the central post office; later on, in Rome, Italy and Salamanca, Spain I would drive our Mercedes Benz 64 seat bus. That would help bring my spirits back up, and to help me convince myself again that my spiritual directors were indeed right. God was definitely calling me. Doubt and unhappiness were signs of my lack of generosity.

So, now, in Bethesda, Maryland, despite the fact that he did not like the Legion and consequently felt ambiguous towards me, my brother kindly offered to help me survive in Gabon. That is how I came to get my pills from the National Institute of Health. He knew far better than I that Gabon was disease ridden; the big problem being the endemic “river blindness�. He was aware of some research in which he got me involved so as to provide me with some experimental medication; this would keep me immune to the dreaded disease. N.I.H., in order for me to participate in the study and receive the medication, required me to have a physical. Interestingly enough, my cholesterol levels seemed to be fine –despite a diet of two eggs and a quart of milk every day for the past 20 years! Thanks to the medication I did not become ill in Africa. I lost about 30 pounds, grew a decent-looking beard, and developed a refined taste for bananas. Other than that I was fine, although I never really got to appreciate fishes’ eyes. An Italian nurse who worked there with us was less fortunate. She left Gabon the same day I did, in a wheel chair, a victim of loa loa.

The Italian nurse reminds me of two, or perhaps three, Italian missionaries at another mission station in Gabon. What they did was never totally clear to me. What was evident was that they were “wild men�: their idea of fun was to go gorilla hunting for the dangerous black gorilla. In typical missionary fashion they would go out under-equipped and tempting fate every step of the way; probably another instance of the bravado that comes from working directly for your Creator. Luis used to go visit them now and then and I’d tag along. They were quite excited about the first dinner I ever had with them. In fact, it was my first dinner outside Franceville. The vegetable, though unfamiliar, were palatable. The meat was gamey, tending towards white, and not appetizing even thought I have always been a meat and potatoes man. What they were having was a man-eating leopard that had been caught and killed that same day by the villagers. I saw its skin salted and stretched out to dry in the sun in the middle of the compound. The taste did something to me. I excused myself and took a little walk around the Italians’ compound. Someone invited me to peek into their propane powered freezer. The sight of the frozen monkeys, squirrels, and God knows what else finished the work began by the leopard, and I retired to throw up discreetly at the edge of the jungle.

This doesn’t make for good dinner conversation. In a way its indicative of so much that happened in my life. You can tell people about it, but you always remain wondering if they really understand; if they have any sense of the loneliness and sense of isolation that you felt. Now that I’m married I realize that you really “had to be there� to understand what it was all about. You had been through Novitiate, a year of Juniorate –Humanities- in Salamanca, Spain, two years of Philosophy studies and five years of Theology in Rome, Italy; you had almost no feeling, let along sex, no friends in the accepted sense of the term, and very little contact with the “outside world�. A cold discipline reminded you that you were doing God’s Will, and blind obedience kept you on the straight and narrow. Strict poverty kept you detached from things material. You were devoid of most of the experiences of people your age, and yet, had a vast amount of experiences they would never share.

I have read that former military people, who have seen active duty, enjoy a deep sense of satisfaction when they get together with old companions. They need to talk with the “brothers in arms� about things which they believe only they can understand. Those of us who have been so marked by our experience in the Legion probably share a very deep need to “stay in touch�. I know that I do!

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Gabon II- From Brave Enthusiasm To Scary Doubt

Joining, training, questioning

 

Why did I join?

Why did I join such a mysterious organization at all? The answer is probably more complicated that I know. As a Catholic in the 1950s, when I was a teenager, a “vocation� to be a priest was considered a gift from God, and not to be taken lightly. Like countless other Irish youth, I too was concerned with the “black babies� in Africa. Who would feed them and baptize them? The thought of being a missionary in Africa always appealed to me. In hindsight I have to wonder how aware I was of the demands that go along with being a priest [and religious]. How much can you understand of poverty, chastity and obedience when you are fifteen and living with your parents? Anyway, my parents, both devout Catholics, always nurtured the idea of a “vocation�. My mother later told me that she “offered me up to God� shortly after I was born. I was never really sure, deep down, if she wanted or expected to be taken up on the offer. My father was more sophisticated in his approach and understood that a vocation, in order to be deemed valid, had to be sanctioned by the bishop who “called� one to the service of God on behalf of the Church. A pamphlet which an ardent recruiter thrust on me summed it all up. It said “better to have tried and failed than sadly salute the one I might have been�.

The recruiter for the Legion in Legion was an impressive Mexican by the name of Santiago Coindreau. He dressed dashingly by Irish standards in a well-pressed, double-breasted black suit with Roman collar. Allegedly he had turned down a scholarship to the military academy at West Point. The Irish immediately associated his name with the respected Cointreau orange-based liquor. That maybe gave him credibility or a sense of affinity. He still wasn’t a priest but that did not seem to deter him from being called “Father�. He drove a sparkling black Volkswagen beetle. And he drove it fast. He had little respect for the mundane traffic laws, personified by the gardaí on their bicycles or the odd Triumph 250 motorcycle.

Until I got my very first ticket for speeding at age 45 this reality of the law applying to me, just like everyone else, hadn’t fully hit home. However, that “semi-superman� mentality is probably what allowed me to talk my way out of numerous sticky situations with unsophisticated police officers. Their laws didn’t really apply to someone who was working directly for God. Santiago Coindreau had no doubt whatsoever in his mind that he was a legend and that God wanted me in the Legion. This was the newest order in the Church and, although I never realized it at the time, there were only about ten ordained priests (in the order). The rest were “Brothers�, seminarians on the road to ordination. I had skipped second grade in elementary school and consequently had finished high school at seventeen. I figured I could spare a year or two to let God appreciate my generosity and then let me know that he didn’t really want me in the Legion.

The Legion vocation pitch in 1962 Ireland

Father Santiago was very different from your average Irish clergyman, for whom he did not have too much respect and was, consequently, that more appealing to those of us who thought that priests, in some ill-defined way, should be enthusiastic beyond compare. The sort of guy you would want to have in your foxhole if you were under attack. He had, literally, erupted into our senior class room at “Synge Street�, a well respected all boys’ school run by the Irish Christian Brothers. In the final year, as we prepared for taking the “Leaving Certificate� examination, it was customary for four or five recruiters from secular clergy and from religious orders, selected on a rotating basis, to come and make a recruiting pitch. Having heard them, there was little question in my mind that I wanted to be a priest. Apart from knowing that I wanted to be a missionary priest, I found it very hard to decide among the competing orders. Father Santiago Coindreau made that decision a little easier. His energy and enthusiasm were contagious. No question that he knew how to relate to young people. He introduced himself to the class and as he was doing so, he started to throw copies of Communist magazines to anyone who cared to catch one. “The question is simple�, he said. “Do you want to save Latin America from Communism? It’s not complicated. Latin America is already Catholic. There are millions of Catholics there. Do you want to help keep them, or go charging off to other places to convert people for the first time?� Although I was more inclined to Africa myself, this seemed to make sense. “Mexico is the leader of Latin America. What it does, the rest of Latin America will imitate. I represent a brand new order. The founder is only fifty seven years old. He wants to develop a group of highly trained, committed, professional priests to reclaim Mexico. The Mexican clergy, right now, is not up to the challenge. They are not as sophisticated, as smart or as educated as their opposition. Will you help us change this?� This was different! The Legion of Christ, was the order was known, was not obviously for Holy Joes. First the Communist magazines, then a great pitch and, now, we’ll all standing on our feet saying a “Hail Mary� in Spanish, for the success of the Legion of Christ. This order was exactly what the Holy Father needed in Latin America! And, the Holy Father was clearly a friend of the Legion. “Fill out this form and, if you check the ‘interested’ box, we’ll arrange for you to come visit our new novitiate in Ireland, at Hazelbrook House, Malahide (County Dublin)�. This Father Santiago was so enthusiastic that you knew, if you said “yes�, that he and the Legion would be all over you. I signed on the dotted line.

Leaving home and Novitiate

Leaving home had to be the hardest thing I ever did in my life. The thought of not seeing very much of my family again was horrendous. When you are doing the Lord’s work you can’t let human emotion like that get in the way. I’ll never forget the actual moment of leaving my parents and brother and stepping into the cold, inhospitable world of religious life in the Legion. Seventeen other individuals, each for his own reasons, had come to the same place. Brian … because he wanted to save the prostitutes of the world. Michael… because he wanted to pray for people that he felt no one else would pray for, like Marilyn Munroe. I didn’t feel like I had a lot in common with the others although, in general, the Dubliners seemed to understand each other better. David… told me about his girl friend and I told him about mine. That created an instant, deep, unholy bond. He still had her lipstick with him. We decided that was a profanation in such an angelical environment. In our solemn little ceremony he cast it out the dorm window with me as a witness. That was a formal goodbye to the world as we knew it.

Life was hard, tedious and, in hindsight, not very unlike the atmosphere in a concentration camp. That, I know, sounds harsh. But not necessarily untrue. We slept in a converted cowshed on cots borrowed from the Irish Army. The walls were covered in cardboard which Fr. Coindreau had scrounged from some nearly factory. That cold and damp of the Irish climate was exacerbated by the relative silence we observed during the day and the absolute silence imposed at nighttime. Relative silence meant that you could only say what was necessary. Extraverts like myself had views on how much silence was necessary and as a consequence found ourselves continually having to ask for “penances� for breaking relative silence and similar transgressions. All the carefully chosen bed linen, towels and other necessities so loving purchased by our mothers, became communal property. The reality of this manifestation of our life of poverty hit me when my full length sheets never came back from the laundry. The two stained, oversized handkerchiefs that were returned in their place made me feel miserable. The misery was compounded when we were told that we also would not be having a visit from our families at Christmas.

Cilice and flagellum

One day, after the first few weeks, while changing into my shorts, preparing for a game of soccer, with my bare foot I stepped on some sharp object beside my bed. Further examination revealed that the object was what seemed to be a piece of chicken wire about six inches long. The wire mesh was bent into myriad sharp little points and there was a brown shoe lace attached to one end. It obviously belonged to the guy who slept in the next bed. Brian M., all six-foot-four of him, seemed like a nice fellow –but now I realized he was mad. This was some form of penitential instrument in the twentieth century in Ireland you had to be out of your mind to use it. Off I ran with the evidence to the Director of Novices. Visions in my head of poor Brian being hauled off toe Grange Gorman, the local mental asylum. I couldn’t believe it when the Director of Novices, Fr. William (Izquierdo), a totally bald native of the Canary Islands, didn’t share my shock and concern for Brian’s mental health. My disbelief registered and caused Fr. William to ask if I didn’t really understand what it was all about. As it turns out, Legionaries used two penitential instruments. The one which I have referred to was affectionately referred to by some as “the chicken choker�, and was worn tightly around the upper thigh from after the morning shower, through first prayers, medication (one hour), Mass and breakfast. It caused most of use to walk with a mild limp on the Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays that we wore it. If perchance while serving breakfast, you bumped your leg against a table, you saw stars. And then there was the flagellum, a neat little whip, crafted by loving nuns in Avila, Spain. Fifteen strokes to the thigh on alternate days were supposed to keep our carnal instincts in check. A misdirected stroke could indeed have a distinct effect on the exterior embodiment of one’s carnal instinct. I stopped using these instruments, without the requisite permission, after several years because, quite frankly, it didn’t seem like a healthy thing to be doing and, in a peculiar way could serve to arouse the very same urges they were designed to control. So, as it turned out, Brian M. was no more mad than the rest of us.

Two years of intense prayer, stud of exclusively spiritual subjects –with the exception of Spanish (language) – nocturnal adoration, silence and no contact with the outside world have an affect on you. You become immersed in your immediate world. External norms are forgotten. Things that seemed strange and harsh now seem natural. Doubts become translated into a lack of generosity. The Will of God becomes very clear. Reinforced by weekly confession and by-weekly spiritual direction with the Director of Novices there is no doubt that God is really calling you to be a Legionary and you ought to be very, very happy and faithful. So, when you write the one page monthly letter to your family you them how happy you are and how fulfilled you feel. If your happiness isn’t apparent enough the Director, Fr. William, who reads all your letters before they are sent –and any mail that comes to you- lets you know that you might find a better turn of phrase.

Inwardly torn before Gabon

No wonder then that my brother in Bethesda [twenty years later] was somewhat perplexed by my ambivalent attitude about going to Gabon. Twenty years spent trying to persuade him of the correctness of the Legionary methodology had produced their result. Why, I hadn’t even gone back to Ireland for his wedding! Little did he know who hard I’d fought to be allowed to go to Ireland for the ceremony. Little did he know that a confrere, Eddie Farrelly, a fellow Dubliner and schoolmate, had simple absconded from the Legion when he got the chance, following a brief assignment in New York. I found out later that the Legion thought that perhaps, because he and I got along so well together, I might be part of the same conspiracy, and therefore it didn’t do for me to go to Ireland for the wedding where I might meet Eddie and be tempted to follow in his footsteps. Besides, at that time Legionaries were simply not allowed to go to weddings, period, unless they were the officiating priest. Try explaining that this is the Will of God to your brother whom you haven’t seen for ten years. Now, as I got ready to depart for Gabon, I wasn’t sure of anything anymore and I don’t think my brother and his wife were ready for this. That’s not the way it was supposed to be in the Legion. We were the iron men with all the answers, fully “integrated� into the mind and heart of the Legion. And, what were my parents to think? Faithful Legionaries aren’t supposed to share their doubts. I guess my brother, sister-in-law and I worried about how they might react. Better not to tell them. Don’t upset the apple cart. Write another letter letting them know who wonderful everything was.

Unlike most other moves I made in the Legion, going to Gabon was different, upsetting and not a little scary. Clearly I was going there to make up my mind about my future. I needed some mental space to make the awesome decision as to whether or not I should, or could, continue as a priest in a religious order to which I felt I no longer belonged. I also felt, very strongly, that I could not survive as a secular, diocesan priest. I had never wanted to be a diocesan priest; that is why I joined the Legion in the first place.

A Legionary In Gabon, West Africa

Fr. Maciel:“I’m told it is very pretty with lots of rolling hills�.

 

By exlc X

 

EXIT BY EXILE

Over the years, legion-watchers have identified carefully set strategies on how legionary authorities manipulate members who wish to leave or whom bosses wish to dismiss.

Generally, the naive good-intentioned member, still considering himself under a vow of obedience to the Crucified Lord as well as being closely controlled in a secluded and segregated community, is at the mercy of authorities’ decision-making. Where might one freely go, with neither constant communication with family, in-hand college degree, survival money, employer recommendations or, maybe, even passport? Cases of members fondly saying goodbye to all and happily walking out the front door are few and far between.

There are cases of abrupt dismissals, like a seminarian playing soccer in Salamanca, Spain, being mandated by his religious supervisor, (via another seminarian – another tactic) to hop into the college van and change his shoes: a while into the journey, the member notices his suitcase on the rear-seat. Final destination: Madrid airport. After years of divine benevolence with his vocation, God, according to legionary directors, has suddenly changed His mind.

However, the normal procedure is first isolate the member within a legionary community so that his scandalous doubts may be silenced. Being sent by divine mandate to some isolated community might be the next step to reduce the negative influence such individuals may have on “the peace and harmony of the Congregation�. The mission territory of Quintana Roo, Mexico, is the most noted example while Caracas, Venezuela, has such a historic status in legionary lore. In other cases, members are left alone for years, while maintaining their legionary canonical status, such as Fr. James McIlhargey, RIP, in Concepción, Chile. Australia is still ‘convict-land’ in such an ideology, while, in the U.S., Providence, RI, Los Angeles, CA, and Rye, NY, are considered “controlled communities� by big brother legionary. �Hush money� to former members to keep quiet and live their peaceful, and comfortable, lives is part of such an evangelization. Even worse, the gun of blackmail is properly brandished: “you speak badly of us; we’ll foul-mouth you to your Bishop�. Imagine an xLC priest trying to relive the priesthood in a diocese! His silence is almost guaranteed.

An important component to proper, if not Christian, understanding of the “methods in this madness� is the prominent care the Legionaries take of their image at the Vatican. To have members, especially priests, request departure from either congregation or celibacy might question the authenticity of their ‘miraculous growth’ in the Church. The simple answer is to make departing members disappear into silence and oblivion in the bold tradition of militaristic tyrannies. Do the Legionaries not fight for Christ, like an army in battle-array?

The ultimate tactic, witnessed by some of us, is to make life “impossible� if not “hell� for a dissenting member, oft in a far-off place. The underlying Machiavellian, sorry Macielian, ethic of the end justifying the means bears fruit in lies, tricks and desperation. The member, cornered in a non-exit situation, is on the verge of another nervous breakdown and bolts for the door, slammed shut as he scrambles for safety. In fear and trembling, his life-long wish is to forget the monstrous nightmare.

The inherent evil in all of the above is the attempted destruction of a person’s faith and family values. To the last, we legionaries joined to serve Christ and Church. Our right to think, question and leave is divine. The Legion has a right to accept or reject members, but with respect for conscience and liberty. Even later in life, no man has a right to another’s destiny. They cannot play God. We trust in His justice.

The following is one such story of “exit by exile�. The author wishes to remain anonymous.

The bright side to these dramas of hypocrisy by stealth is that by analyzing legionary tactics, we shall be aware, watchful and pro-active. The recent appointment of a Legion survivor as Bishop of Dallas shows Catholics that where there’s a will, there’s a way to exit successfully. The truth shall set us free.

Regain Staff

click here to read introduction by Fr. Peter Cronin

 

Episode One:

AN IDEAL PLACE TO FIND MYSELF

The airport at Libreville, in the early dawn, was pretty much like I expected it to be. Not very different from small city airports, much like Shannon in Ireland or Acapulco in Mexico. Except, that is, for the ubiquitous presence of the troops in full battle dress, complete with automatic weapons. Belligerent looking –even trigger-happy looking- just like you see in the movies. They were very much in control and they knew it. Not many white people and those that were there looked like they felt out of place, pretending to be busy, and anxious to get out of there. I never felt whiter in my life.

The unfamiliar French, laced with what seemed to be large doses of a local language or dialect, made me feel uncomfortable too. French pronunciation always made me feel self-conscious. The atmosphere in the airport, for no reason that was obvious to me, was tense. I found myself thinking that I’d hate to go to jail, perhaps to be shot at dawn, because of some awful mistake due to a mispronunciation of mine. No one was there to meet me and immigration official was decidedly unfriendly. “No�, I didn’t have a work visa or a return ticket. “Yes�, I assured him, in pidgin French, the Bishop of Franceville is expecting me. Somehow that didn’t seem like it should carry a lot of weight. It didn’t. The official didn’t seem at all impressed. A couple of soldiers were called. They took my passport and told me to wait. Blarney and what I thought was a large dose of my native charm wasn’t going to work here.

Like Admiral Stockdale, Ross Perot’s running mate in the US Vice-Presidential debate of 1992, I found myself asking myself “Who am I and what am I doing here?� as I sat on the airport bench with my back to a plate glass window. Father Maciel, the Founder and Superior General of the Legion of Christ, the Roman Catholic order of religious priests to which I belonged, had presented Gabon as an interesting place to make up my mind, for myself, as to whether or not I really wanted to leave the priesthood. “At least you’ll get to see Africa�, was how he put it. “I’m told it is very pretty with lots of rolling hills�. He had even shown me a postcard sent to him by Luis, a fellow Legionary whom I liked and who had actually volunteered to go to Gabon. The countryside, depicted in the postcard, looked more like a giant overgrown broccoli to me. The “rolling hills� must have been buried under the lush tropical rain forest. Yet a stint in Africa seemed to make more sense to my overheated mind as we discussed my future at the Legion’s US headquarters in Cheshire, Connecticut. It certainly beat going back to Rome, despite a promise to let me be the driver of the newly acquired Mercedes Benz bus! “When I was a child I played with the things of children. Now that I’m a man that’s a damn stupid way to try to persuade an educated adult to return to ‘further studies’ to the ‘mother house’ in Rome!� was how I tried to paraphrase St. Paul. Meanwhile I was curious as to what Luis might have done –or to whom he might have done it!- to get himself to a disease-infested country, slap bang on the Equator on the west coast of Africa. There again, I remembered, Luis was always uncomfortably close to a nervous breakdown, and somehow it made sense to me that he should be there. I wasn’t sure it made the same sense for me.

By now the airport was pretty deserted. As I half expected, all the belligerent-looking commando types had to go home, probably to beat their wives. One of them grunted at me, gave me my passport and quite abruptly walked away. Nobody seemed to care what my next move might be. I guess I wasn’t perceived as a threat to national security. Most unflattering! I got into the last of the small taxis and asked, in more ambitious French, to be taken to an address that had been given to me by Luis. Welcome to Africa!

Three days later, after having taken that long to make contact with Luis, the only person I knew on the whole dark continent -I stayed at a parish house of priests known to Luis-, I got to Franceville, my final destination, courtesy of a one-way air ticket sent to me by Luis. The front seats of the modern jet aircraft were folded down to accommodate crates of animals –mostly chickens- as I recall. The combination of people, animals and stale aircraft air created a whole new olfactory experience during flight. The left-over refreshments were given in a plastic bag to a friend of the stewardess. The dark jungle below, devoid of any man-made light, was sort of spooky for our night-time flight. Later we landed in an equally spooky red-dirt “field�, with no paved runways and no buildings, otherwise known as Franceville airport.

Passengers were met by friends and relatives as they descended the ladder from the plane. I was impressed by the handsome women wrapped in colorful cloth up to the bust, most of them wearing a headdress of the same material. And then there was Luis, the man who was to be my spiritual mentor at a very troubled moment in my life. The holy man who, whether he knew it or not, was going to help me figure out God’s Will for me. Gaunt and sweaty, he greeted me, loaded my bags and baggage into the back of his four-wheel drive Mitsubishi truck and told me that he was “out of Gabon on the next flight!� “!Yo me largo de aquí!�, was how he put it in Spanish.

I couldn’t believe it! Luis was actually hell bent on leaving the next day! We got to the Mission where, somewhat apologetically, he showed me the little outhouse which was to be my room. At least it had a shower stall and a mosquito net. I wondered where I’d have to grope my way to it if I needed to take a leak during the night. Would I return with all my body parts intact? The full cast of characters at the Mission included a Gabonese bishop who looked and acted aloof or, in plain Christian terms, plain mean; a French missionary in his early forties, an older Dutch missionary, and a specially trained bull dog which was supposed to help you avoid snakes if you had to walk outside at night. Apart from the dog, none of them were particularly friendly. The Bishop, the boss, was not expecting me and didn’t seem to know who I was or what I was doing there. Not that I wasn’t wondering myself. Finally, after consultation with Lerma, he seemed to agree that it would be alright for me to stay. After dinner, he settled down with the others to drink Johnny Walker Red Label and to watch “Dynasty� in French on a small black and white TV. At the time I couldn’t imagine anything more incongruous: a bishop watching “dynasty on a mission outpost in former French Equatorial Africa. My main priority was to convince Luis that he couldn’t leave, that he had a moral obligation to me and, if he really did leave, I’d be out of there with him “like a bat out of hell�. Speaking of which, that particular phrase took on a whole new meaning for me: my little outhouse bedroom was infested with the biggest and most raucous bats I’d ever seen. The unrelenting humid tropical heat added to the imagery.

Life began the next morning, literally at the crack of dawn. The details aren’t so important. Luis agreed to stay on for a while longer. The staple diet seemed to consist mostly of fish heads for dinner; no body, no tail; just the head, with the mouth open to show the teeth. “You’ll wonder where the yellow went when you brush your teeth with Pepsodent!â€� they seemed to sing. The Bishop used to get really upset if you didn’t eat the eyes, and he would circle the table, toothpick in hand, like a dark Don Quixote, ready to spear the unwanted eye, all the while explaining how delicious they were. I soon discovered a massive supply of bananas in the kitchen and I am living proof that you can survive on a banana diet. This diet was supplemented with three quinine anti-malaria pills a day and eight anti-loa disease pills. Loa is also known as river blindness, a disease which does tremendous harm in Gabon. It is transmitted by the bite of a fairly small yellow mosquito. Untreated it becomes incurable, causes paralysis and, I believe, death. The old Dutch missionary suggested that the anti-malaria pills (quinine) would make me blind and that it was actually smarter not to take them. That way, if I got malaria I would be able to see myself shake and then I could threat the malaria with the quinine. He sounded like he knew what he was talking about. This old-timer from Holland had arrived in Franceville –by canoe! – many moons before. He had stopped off along the way to greet Dr. Albert Schweitzer at his hospital at Lambarene, near the mouth of the river. After a long stint in Gabon, the ex-missionary had retired to Holland only to find himself bored out of his mind. Culture shock would be our euphemism for his re-entry. After a few years he had volunteered to return to Franceville. He drove an ancient, impressive Land Rover of which he was very proud. He lived apart from the Mission most of the time in some outpost that I never visited. His hut was illuminated with Christmas tree lights which he connected to the Land Rover. He performed his morning ablutions in his “showerâ€�: a barrel of water perched on his roof which some local kids would help him tilt over.

I opted to consume my daily ration of pills which I got courtesy of the US Government and my physician brother. He had a hard time understanding why I was going to Gabon at all. To say that he was not an ardent supporter of the Legion is something of an understatement. He married right after he graduated from medical school at University College Dublin. With his wife and his two children he lived in the Washington DC metro area and he worked at the NIH. He seemed to love his job where, working in the pulmonary department, and moonlighting –when financial needs dictated- in the emergency room of a local hospital. I remember him saying that the emergency room experience had made him realize the importance of keeping fit and of not letting his kids use skateboards. I saw more of him than at any other time since I joined the Legion. [Ed. The Legion has a house in high scale Potomac, MD]. Although he and hs wife always made me feel welcome and the children always seemed delighted to see their “uncle X.�. . . I always put it down to the fact that I really didn’t have very much experience of family life and had little, if any, contact with them for the first ten years of their married life. I had joined the Legion in 1962, when I was seventeen years old. The Legion was not the sort of organization that would ever epitomize the warmth and togetherness that one associates with family life. Camaraderie, comrades in arms, yes; family, no. Not only did the Legion seem to be very ambivalent about the role of family in the formation of its members, but also contact with the family was not encouraged unless, of course, they had money to donate. That explains why, during my period of twenty years with the Legion, I spent the sum total of twenty days with my family. Psychologists probably salivate at the prospect of getting into Legionary heads to survey the damage.

The [Ed., weaning] process started when, before joining, you couldn’t get a straight answer on how often you’d get to see your family after you joined. As a special privilege for the eighteen of us who joined in the summer of 1962, we were promised a visit at the following Christmas, and one at the end of the two year novitiate. The novitiate is a period devoted to spiritual formation, lasting, in most religious orders, one year. In our case it was a two-year novitiate. No contact with the outside world. No radio, no TV (except to see the news of the Kennedy assassination), no newspapers. Not even the Osservatore Romano, the Vatican publication; that was reserved for when you were studying philosophy and theology and, I suppose, deemed capable of handling such lurid, torrid, yellow journalism. We were housed in a residential property in a place known as “Hazelbrook Houseâ€�, in Malahide, County Dublin. The connection between “hazelâ€� and “nutsâ€�, i.e. “crazy”, did not strike us then, but it might have been an omen.

Fr. Peter Cronin Wrote In The Summer Of ’93

LC a Sect, Exiled in Gabon, LC Priests who want to leave

 

By Fr. Peter Cronin St Michael the Archangel Parish, Washington DC [RIP 9/19/99]

 

Letter to Network members:
Sect-like Characteristics in Legion
Exiled in Gabon, Prominent exLC tells saga
Supporting members, religious or priests, who want to leave
How to reach members still inside?

 

Dear friends,

Greetings! Those hazy, lazy, crazy days of summer are upon us. I hope you all can get away to enjoy a time of rest at the beach or lakeside or some idyllic mountain resort.

Network has connected us; our common experience can and must be expressed and shared. For years we were members of the Legion of Christ, a religious order that has many of the characteristics of a sect. How did it affect us and how does its affect those who are still in the order?

In this issue of Network X tells us of his assignment to the “front of Gabon� prior to his departure from the Legion.

An interesting development: Network has reached a person within the Legion who is delighted to know there is a support group which can help those who are thinking of leaving –but more about that on another occasion! Some possible channels of discussion for future issues of Network:

a) We are planning a reunion for all members of the Network, to be held in the fall somewhere on the East Coast, a get-together for a long week-end. Please let us know what can be a good time for you.
b) What approach should we follow when a young man, feeling a call to the priesthood, shows interest in the Legion of Christ?
c) We know of priests who are unhappy in the Legion, who disagree with many of the policies, practices and abuses of the order. Is it possible to contact them? It would be helpful to let them know there are many alternatives to staying in the Legion. Many of us have found the priesthood in the diocesan life to be happy and fulfilling.

Please pass on Network to others; our membership list is growing gradually, poco a poco. Quisiera tomar esta oportunidad para decir que si alguno prefiere escribir una carta o artículo en español, que lo haga con toda confianza. Todos hablamos, entendemos y leemos la lengua de Cervantes, así que nuestra comunicación puede hacerse, bien e inglés o en español.

With no further ado, over to you, X

Peter Cronin

Sketching Legion’s Cult-like Nature

Letter from Fr Peter Cronin (R.I.P., 1999) active priest, diocese of Washington, DC, former Legionary of Christ

Editor’s note: this short letter–the second Network Newsletter from Peter-is very important as in it Fr. Peter sketches the ideas he will later flesh out in his critique of the Legion as a sect or cult-like group.

 

Our Father Maciel Who Art In BedNETWORKOur Father Maciel Who Art In Bed? #2

March 21, 1993

Dear Friends,
Greetings and salutations to all and sincerest apologies for the lengthy hiatus in the publication and distribution of our newsletter: Our Father Maciel Who Art In Bedel hombre propone y Dios disponeOur Father Maciel Who Art In Bed? (Editor, Spanish for Our Father Maciel Who Art In BedMan proposes and God disposesOur Father Maciel Who Art In Bed) Time has been a problem of late as I have been taking an interesting but very demanding course at Catholic University (Editor, Spiritual Theology)

I am most happy to present two articles in this issue of Network. Paul Lennon needs no introduction to most of us. At present Paul is working in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area and is in constant touch with (Editor, now Auxiliary bishop) Kevin Farrell and me. Kevin Walsh, who joined the Legion while I was working in Cheshire, introduces himself in his article.

A couple of personal comments: I think you will find Paul’s article most interesting. It reminds me of a conversation Jack Keogh and I had a couple of years before he left the Legion. We walked together along the shore in Rye and shared the feeling that there were too many similarities between our congregation and sects such as the Moonies, e.g.:

    . The high-geared recruiting program; everybody was fair game.
    . The loss of the individual within the group: no free time, a total lack of privacy;
    . Personality cult of the Founder,

Nuestro Padre

    , a typical trait in sects;
    . No questioning of authority was ever permitted;
    . Systematic separation from families; they were never taken into consideration;
    . Contact with outside world strictly controlled;
    . Uniformity in thought, expression, behavior patterns, philosophy and politics;
    . Superior’s authority over one’s outer and inner life; the superior as confessor and spiritual director.
    . Et ita porro, and so on (Editor, Peter would occasionally sprinkle the conversation with expressions in Spanish, Latin, etc., which were familiar to other former LCs, a kind of Legion-speak)

I think that Network is a wonderful opportunity to open up lines of communication. We have a unique experience that only we can fully understand. Much is positive, much not so. Please feel free to send your thoughts and feelings. There is no censorship. Your article will be copied and mailed tal cual (Editor, Sp. as is?).

Yours Sincerely,
Peter Cronin

Fr. Peter Cronin on Leaving the Cult-like Legion

By Fr. Peter Cronin

 

[Introductory number of NETWORK, October, 1992, from REGAIN archives]

 

Dear Friend:

Greetings and Welcome to NETWORK. This newsletter is an effort to create a network of former members of the Legion of Christ, a way to keep in touch, communicate ideas, share our personal experiences (and maybe a few laughs), analyze and evaluate our past and, hopefully, offer support to each other. The past is prologue [Shakespeare].

As you can see from the list of names, we have the beginnings of a network that extends to many states in the US and other countries. Please contact others you know who would be interested, mail the list and articles to them, and invite them to send me a letter or an article, a personal history or bio, thoughts or refelections which I will be happy to copy and send on to all Network members. Send all communications to:

Peter Cronin

St. Bartholomew’s

You can FAX letters to me at… or reach me by phone at (301)…

I think all of us agree that in the realm of social phenomena leaving the Legion of Christ is a unique experience. Is there anything quite like it? It is unique for several reasons:

Firstly, the lifestyle we shared prior to leaving. We progressed through a series of stages – postulancy, novitiate, juniorate, philosophy, apostolic practices, theology and maybe even ordination and the priesthood. We were the Curso Intensivo in Salamanca, Prefectos de Disciplina in Mexico, Vocational Directors in the US and Spain. We moved in a clearly defined world in which we absorbed ideas on the spiritual life, the priesthood, the Church, the apostolate, the Legion. [Spanish] Words such as quiete, Primerisima, Cesare, Cotijas, Cumbres, Kranz, modestia de la vista, Nuestro Padre, Tercer Grado [3rd Degree], Monticchio, la seccion femenina [female section] and so many others became part of our everyday vocabulary and even ingrained in our subconscious…

Secondly, leaving the Legion is unique onto itself.

It is not easy to leave the Legion. One is encouraged, advised and directed to stay by the Superiors. We went through a lengthy period of personal discernment before taking the step.
Prior to leaving we could not share the crisis with anybody except the Superior. This resulted in gradual isolation that we had to cope with and overcome.
Before leaving, we went through a difficult period of disagreement with the Legion on basic issues: aspects of priestly formation, Apostolic Schools, lack of diversity or individual freedom, lack of dialogue, the practice of confession and spiritual direction with the superior, relations with one family. With whom could we share these concerns? Where did we seek counseling? What forum was there for a free, healthy, honest discussion of these issues?
When one leaves the Legion it is kept a secret within the order for as long as possible. Why?
Thirdly, our experience after leaving the Legion is quite special in that we emerged from such a close-knot organization into a world in which we are faced with the excitement and challenge of personal decision-making everyday.

‘Un Legionario se es o se despide’ [You either are a Legionary or you take your leave!]. That is precisely what we did. However, it was our decision. The time came when we realized that it was not what we had originally looked for; the Legion did not meet our expectations or answer our needs for spiritual growth, or respond to our vision of priestly life or religious experience. We left because we had to leave. Personally, I consider my decision to leave and my departure from the Legion as a grace-filled, liberating and ultimately salvific event. It was the will of God!

After I left, I found the company and support of Declan Murphy, Kevin Farrell and Paul Lennon in the Washington DC area to be most helpful. Thanks, guys, if I never said it before! I am very happy now as a priest in the Archdiocese of Washington. I find my ministry to be diverse, challenging and rewarding. If any of you are ever in the DC area you have a place to stay right here. Is that Espiritu de Cuerpo –esprit de corps- or what!

We have all gone our separate ways, adjusting to our new reality; some in the priesthood, others in the lay state, married or single. But, we have a common past and experience –which was wonderful, fulfilling, graced, happy, funny, silly, disappointing, sad, horrendous, unjust, inhuman…(add your own adjective). We have a lot to share. I will try to send out Network every other month. Mail or fax your articles to me or call me on the phone 24 hours a day (although, preferably, in the normal waking hours).

It has been fun putting these thoughts together. I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours truly,

Peter Cronin.

People and Places in Fr. Peter’s Personal History [2] & Peter’s Passing

Notes by an interested bystander

 

By LC 61-84

 

These are comments on the original 10 pages of notes written by Father Peter Cronin circa 1997, summarizing his life in the Legion and expressing his concerns about certain sect-like features of the Legion. They were prepared in 2003 to accompany the original document that was being offered to an exit counselor and an investigative journalist as background material. They may not be totally clear without Peter’s original notes on his Legionary History posted above.

 

Peter Cronin, born Drimnagh, Dublin, January 13, 1949

1965:
On July 10th, two weeks after graduating from high school, at the age of 16.6, Peter entered the Legion of Christ RC Religious Congregation [i.e. order] as a postulant. This was at Belgard Castle, Clondalkin, Co. Dublin, Ireland.

James Coindreau, ‘Jimmy’ in his previous lifetime, recruited Peter and led the Postulancy/Candidacy. Born in Monterrey, Mexico, as Santiago Coindreau Farías. [In northern Mexico it is fashionable for young people in the middle-upper classes to use Anglo names such as ‘Billy, Bobby, Jimmy, Henry…’] In the Legion always addressed respectfully as Father James or Padre Santiago, long before he was ever ordained a priest. Native Spanish speaker who spoke fluent English with a Mexican accent, which made him more endearing to us Irish teens of the 60s. Very ‘simpatico’ with ‘the gift of the gab’. First came to Ireland circa 1960 to found the LC in that country and recruited the first Irish members from the provinces and Dublin. Very enthusiastic leader. James made a tremendous impact on recruiting in Ireland for over a decade. He was ordained in his thirties and continued to do promotional work. He left the Legion on entering middle adulthood and joined the US air force as a chaplain.

Typical Legion ‘flexibility’ with the truth: When James C. worked in Ireland in the 60s he always called himself ‘Father James Coindreau’ despite the fact that he was not yet an ordained catholic priest. It would not have been acceptable for a non-priest to do vocation work in Ireland. But the Legion did not have a suitable English-speaking priest at that moment. James was their best shot. So he dressed like a priest and talked like a priest and called himself a priest and got by. When some of the Irish pastors later found our about this they were pretty upset.I assume Peter Cronin and his buddy, Kevin Carty, [he left after about 7 years, married a Spanish woman, had children, runs an English language institute in Santander, and founded a Legion alumni network still active in Spain;] thought he was a priest when he approached them.

Juan Manuel Correa: a Mexican LC seminarian, also simpático, who was very young at the time, was assistant to James C. He was never ordained to the priesthood but was also good working teen vocations. Possessed a sunny and optimistic disposition. He left about ten years later, before being ordained, and settled in Mexico City becoming a successful businessman. He bonded well with Ireland and the Irish, as did Father James. Remains on friendly terms with the Legionaries in Mexico.

1967
Peter professed simple temporal [for three years] of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience according to the Constitutions of the Congregation of the Legion of Christ.

Juniorate Classical Studies in Salamanca: Spanish, Latin and Greek. Peter was good at Biblical New Testament Greek [koinoné] and later taught it in the LC seminary.

Father Rafael Arumi Blancafort, one of the first Spanish priests recruited to the Legion by Father Maciel, was Peter’s superior. From Catalonia, Spain, Fr. Arumí was, at the same time, Rector, Novice Instructor and Spiritual Director of everyone under his rule, a highly unorthodox triple role according to Canon Law. Peter will refer later to this double/triple role prohibited by RC Church Law [ i.e. Canon Law]

1968
Juan Manuel Duenas Rojas, Rector of the Center for Higher Studies, Via Aurelia 677, Rome, Italy. He was also the Religious Superior and the Spiritual Director to his own subjects. The bystander, studied in Rome from 1963-1970, a theology student while Peter was a philosophy student. Except for the occasional game of intra mural soccer, there was no contact between these two ‘communities’, living on separate floors. So, altough we lived under the same roof, we had never ‘met’ or ‘known’ each other yet.

1969
Pontifical Gregorian [Ecclesiastical] University, Rome, where Peter began his studies in Scholastic Philosophy.

1970
Month-long Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola in Salamanca, Spain, under the guidance of
Don Antonio Oyarzábal. A Basque, like the Jesuit Founder, but not a Jesuit. [There is a whole history of Marcial Maciel’s relationship with the Jesuits. He was in an out of their seminaries, he plagiarized much of their rules and structure, availed himself of their hospitality during the foundation in Northern Spain, but he was always uncomfortable around them. He never invited a Jesuit. I doubt whether they would have come- to direct Spiritual Exercises.] So he would choose diocesan priests who had been trained by the Jesuits to lead the exercises. As the Founder and Superior General, and as the person who was paying them for their services, -generously, I assume- he could give them advice on what points to stress and thus how to direct ‘his’ religious during the week or month of exercises. Therefore, as Legionaries, we never experienced 100% pure Ignatian Spiritual Exercises. It was always ‘according to Maciel’.

1971
Father Dueñas, Peter’s Spiritual Director, College Rector and Religious Superior in Rome, gives Peter orders to interrupt his studies and leave immediately for Mexico to work at the Irish Institute, thus beginning his period of Apostolic Practices. Peter was allowed to visit his home country, Ireland, for three days. The nights would be spent at the Legion house, not in his own home, in accordance with the rules. Apparently he was sent to the Irish Institute in Monterrey, Nuevo León State, Northern Mexico, to see how he would adjust to life outside the seminary and to learn the ropes. Soon he would be sent to the Instituto Irlandés in Mexico City

Irish Institute
The original bilingual middle and high school for upper class Mexican boys, in the Tecamachalco, Mexico City Metropolitan area. Founded in 1966 by [Spanish] Father Juan Manuel Fernández-Amenábar and three Irish ‘brothers’, religious and students for the priesthood, Jack Keogh [Dublin, left Legion and priesthood, married with a daughter], John Walsh [Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford, active Legionary priest, Women’s Section, Mexico], and David Hennessy [Dublin, left before ordination, married with children, successful businessman in Mexico].

Thomas Moylan: By 1971 ordained a priest [Rome,1969], had joined in 1961, beginning his novitiate in Ireland in 1962, a native of Dublin, Ireland, a high school graduate from St. Vincent’s Christian Brothers School, Glasnevin, Dublin, who, together with school mates Paul Lennon and John Devlin, had joined the Legion becoming part of the first official group of Irish candidates [about 20 traveled to Bundrowes House, Co. Donegal, July 1st, 1961]. Father Moylan would be the religious superior of the ‘brothers’ working at the Irish Institute, Mexico City.

1975
Leopardstown: Novitiate of the Legion of Christ, Leopardstown, Co. Dublin. Part of the building was used to house Mexican ‘exchange’ students visiting for the summer or staying the year to learn English.

1976:
Peter is referring to ‘brothers’ Brian Stenson, Desmond Coates [Legionary priest in Australia, on the fringe of belonging to the Legion. His brother Peter Coates LC is still a prominent Legionary priest in in Monterrey, Mexico high society.

October, 1976
Peter is named Assistant [superior] to Philosophy students in Rome. It didn’t last long. I don’t remember how he explained his short career as Legionary superior; maybe something to do with not following the rules closely enough, or letting the students off the hook. That would be typical of him.

1978 Summer:
Peter spent the summer working with male 3rd degree members of the Regnum Christi lay movement in Spain. These were mostly young catholic university students.

1979 January:
Muddle in Mexico: the writer was at the time the first director of the School of Faith in Mexico City. Father Maciel wanted me out of there and sent Peter to replace me overnight. I remember Peter coming into my office and without guile telling me he was my replacement and could I ‘tell him all about the School of Faith as soon as possible’. I was to go to Cozumel, Quintana Roo ‘to accompany Cardinal Eduardo Pironio, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for Religious in the Vatican, a Legion supporter, to help him rest during his vacation’. Provincial Superior of Mexico, Fr. Carlos Zancajo LC, knew nothing of the change. When he realized what had happened, after a couple of weeks, he sent Father Peter to Monterrey and brought me back. A year or so later Father Carlos was demoted. He ended up in Caracas, Venezuela, where, still officially a legionary, he teaches at the local Metropolitan University and as far as is known is still a member.

1979 July 8th,
Peter is sent from Cuernavaca, Morelos State, Mexico to Orange, Ct, USA, and is given the post of Assistant of Candidates.

1981, January 3rd,
Peter is Ordained to the Catholic Priesthood shortly before his 32nd birthday.

AFTER THE LEGION:

As I read his curriculum I am surprised by how long it took Fr. Peter to be ordained and how soon after ordination he started thinking of leaving. He had probably seen and experienced enough during the previous years to realize that the Legion was not for him. He did not want to make a rash decision and leave precipitously. Besides, he probably was not ready mentally or emotionally for the big step. He takes the step in July 1985 with a visit to Ireland. From Ireland he considers his options and prepares his move out of the Legion and into the diocesan priesthood with the help of contacts in the USA, some of them xlcs who have already made that transition. November I, 1985, he flies from Miami to Baltimore-Washington International Airport and is met by Fathers -both then with the archdiocese of Washington DC- Declan Murphy, [exit 83? from the Legion house in Potomac, Maryland] and Kevin Fagan [exit 1984 from Monterrey, Mexico, where he had been spiritual director of Regnum Christi men, presently auxiliar bishop of Washington DC diocese].

At that time the writer [exit from Quintana Roo Missions, Mexico, January ‘85] was at St. Matthew’s Parish in DC. Peter joins the archdiocese of Washington, feels comfortable in this lifestyle, ‘pays his dues’ with difficult assignments, is later incardinated and finally becomes pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Parish, Silver Spring, MD on July 1st, 1994. My reading is that Peter wanted, above all things, to be a priest. His experience with the Legion did not dissuade or make him deviate from his goal and calling. He remained sufficiently intact to be able to detach from the Legion and persevere in his priesthood.
———-

IN RESPONSE TO OCCASIONAL INQUIRIES REGARDING FR. PETER’S PASSING.

Father Peter Cronin,
then pastor at St Michael de Archangel Parish in Silver Spring, MD, diocese of Washington DC, died suddenly at the age of 50 on September 19th, 1999; the cause of death appears to be an aneurysm. Peter was reading the Sunday papers during breakfast at the rectory between Masses when the tragedy occured. We, his friends, can only speculate in hindsight that Peter was experiencing very strong headaches during the months before his demise and that he may not have recognized the danger.

Peter was an organized and orderly person, and in general took good care of his health, visiting his doctor with regularity for check-ups, etc.. He was endowed with a good sense of humor and a hearty laugh [not entirely Legionary-like]. He was a kind, helpful, and wise person and priest. He was an enthusiastic golfer, and loved music, cultural diversity, family, and friends. Peter was an excellent administrator with a very pastoral touch and was at the height of his personal and priestly faculties and productivity when he died; this saddened all who knew him. He is dearly missed.

His friend,

Paul Lennon
————-

Appendix:

September 1992, on ‘retreat’ at a parishioner’s beach-front condo in Myrtle Beach, SC, as he stroll the sands with his friend, now Mr. Paul Lennon, they brainstorm about the isolation of ex-members. Soon after, Peter launches Network, a low key periodic letter to a short list of contacts he has collected in his characteristically friendly and organized way.

Fr. Peter’s Personal History in the Legion of Christ [1]

My 15 year Journey to the Priesthood

 

By Fr. Peter Cronin

 

Written in 1997 as a preface to his critique of the Legion and sent to members of Network. The following is a verbatim transcription of the hard copy in Regain files; parenthesis added for clarification.

 

1965:
July 10th, Joined the Legion of Christ at 4:00 pm in Dublin, Ireland. Began Postulancy [Candidacy] under the direction of Fr. James Coindreau and Bro. Juan Manuel Correa. This was the beginning of a long journey directed and orchestrated by the Legion.
September 29th Began my Novitiate with 16 others under Fr. Guillermo [William, Spaniard]Izquierdo, [Novice Instructor]

1967:
September 29th, [after two years novitiate], Took first [temporal and simple] Vows, for three years. Two days later was sent with whole group of professed to Salamanca [Ciudad Jardín] to start my Juniorate under Fr. Rafael Arumí [rector, religious superior and novice instructor] and Fr. Javier García [Assistant to Juniors]

1968:
October, [after one year’s Juniorate], was sent with whole group [of graduating Juniors] to Rome under Fr. Juan Manuel Dueas [-Rojas, Rector and Religious Superior].
October 16, began studies in Philosophy at the Gregorian University [S.J. Pontifical U. at Piazza della Pilota, Rome]

1970:
Summer, went to Salamanca from Rome with whole community to do month of Spiritual Exercises under Rev. Don Antonio Oyorzabal [diocesan priest, friend of Fr. Maciel, with experience in Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius]. Spent the whole summer there. At the end of the Exercises, I renewed my vows, for another 2 years.
October, returned to Rome to continue studies in Philosophy.

1971:
April 5th, Sunday evening, summoned to Fr. Dueas’ office: he informed me that the following day I would be leaving for Mexico City to work in the Irish Institute.
1971, April 6th, Left Rome for Ireland en route to Mexico
April 9th, [Good Friday], left Ireland for Mexico.
April 15th Left Mexico City for Monterrey with Fr. Pedro Martin LC [Spaniard]. Worked at Irish Institute for 4 months.
August 15, by train from Monterrey, Nuevo Leon State, to Mexico City. Beginning of 4 years under Fr. Juan Manuel Fernandez-Amenabare [Spaniard],LC and Fr. Thomas Moylan [Irish], LC. Beginning of 4 years at the Irish Institute as Director of Primary [elementary school].

1972:
Summer, Cozumel, Quintana Roo, for vacations.

1973:
Summer, Cozumel, Quintana Roo, for vacations.

1974:
Summer, Ireland and Europe with Mexican students. Returned to Mexico City at end of August.

1975:
July, Ireland with Mexican students; stayed on at the LC house in Leopardstown for another 6 weeks.
October, Rome, began my last year Philosophy [STL degree in Scholastic Philosophy].

1976:
Summer spent in Salamanca, Spain, with Sten [Brian Stenson], Des [Desmond Coates; both Irish LC philosophy students and vocational recruiters; now priests, one in, one out]and Spanish Candidates.
October was made Assistant Superior of Philosophy [students] community [in Rome]. Started studies of Theology.

1977:
October, Demoted from position of Assistant
December 11th Dad died. Was in Ireland from 12th to 19th

1978:
Summer Spain with 3rd level RC men

1979:
January [Sent by Fr. Maciel to] Mexico City, School of Faith [to replace] Paul Lennon LC
[sent] Back to Rome for exams by [provincial, (Spaniard) Carlos Zancajo, LC]
February [sent back to] Monterrey, Mexico, for vocational [recruitment gira] tour.
July 8th From Cuernavaca [Morelos State, Mexico] to Orange, CT: Assistant of Candidates for the summer
September, began my 6 years as Assistant of Novices and Director of Studies of the Novitiate

1980:
August, to Mexico City, (Centro Cultural) [-Interamericano, close to Apostolic School, Tlalpan district] for retreat and
ordination deacon on August 15th
December, to Rome for preparation for ordination to the priesthood.

1981:
January 3rd Ordained to the priesthood
February Returned to Orange via Ireland

1982:
July, [LC] Community moves from Orange to Cheshire
Meeting with Maciel: Our Father Maciel Who Art In BedI am leavingOur Father Maciel Who Art In Bed
December, decide to leave; called to Rome

1983:
Jan-February Rome, meeting with Maciel. Rethink it. Return to Cheshire

1985:
July, leave Cheshire for Ireland
October, return to the US. Boston, Rye NY, Florida [checking out possible dioceses to go to]

November 1st [left Legion], from Florida to BWI airport; [met by] Declan [Murphy] and Kevin [Farrell; at that time both exlc priests in the diocese of Washington, DC].

* * * * *

Editor’s note: Fr. Peter joined the diocese of Washington, DC, later incardinated, and became the succesful pastor of a multi-ethic parish, St. Michael de Archangel, Silver Spring, MD

Fr. Peter’s Bio

January 13, 1949: Peter Christopher Cronin was born in north Dublin into a devout Catholic family and later studied with the Irish Christian Brothers.

July 10th, 1965 [age 16]: joined the Legion of Christ and trained in Spain and Rome.

January 3, 1981 [age 32]: ordained to the Catholic priesthood; apostolate in USA and Mexico

November 1st, 1985 [age 36]: left Legion and joined archdiocese of Washington, DC

September 8th, 1992: at bus depot Shallotte, NC, decided to found NETWORK, Regain’s precursor.
October, 1992: First Network Newsletter

January 22, 1995 [age 46]: installed as Pastor St. Michael’s Church, a multi-ethnic parish in Silver Spring, MD

September 19, 1999 [age 50]: died suddenly. Death surprised Father Peter but did not find him unprepared.