Legion of Christ's new head sets out to restore morale
Fr Gil promises no 'spin' on founder's wrongdoings
Father Eduardo Robles Gil (picture: Legionaries of Christ)
- Edward Pentin for National Catholic Register
- July 21, 2014
Legionary Father Eduardo Robles Gil, a native of Mexico, was elected general director of the Legion of Christ in February this year. At that time, the religious congregation, founded in 1941, had just concluded its first Extraordinary General Chapter meeting to draft and revise its constitutions, bringing to a close the Vatican-supervised reform and returning the Legion to self-governance. .
In this wide-ranging interview with the Register in early July, he discusses the health of the religious congregation after its general chapter and the implementation of a program of reform.
The Legion and its lay movement, Regnum Christi, were thrown into turmoil in the late 2000s, after revelations came to light of grave misconduct by the congregation’s founder, Father Marcial Maciel (1920-2008), which the Legionary leadership acknowledged, denounced and apologized for in 2010.
Earlier this month, the Vatican appointed Jesuit Father Gianfranco Ghirlanda as pontifical adviser to advance the renewal and reform of the religious congregation.
In this July 4 interview, Father Robles Gil also explains the congregation’s precise charism, provides details on the new pontifical assistant’s role as a consulter and shares the methodology behind the congregation’s recruitment techniques. He also sheds light on the revised constitutions.
What are your overall hopes and plans for the Legion of Christ?
Right now, our plans are to make the corrections requested to obtain the approval of our constitutions. We need to write our secondary rules and other regulations and updated formation plans. That’s one of our main jobs right now. Then we have to work on the unity and cooperation in the mission with all the other realities in Regnum Christi.
We have consecrated lay women, consecrated lay men and lay members, both married and single, as well as some diocesan priests. We have to figure out a canonical structure, so that, also juridically, we can reflect the communion we strive to live every day. So that’s one of our main tasks for this year. We are still working on that. I also want to visit all the Legionaries in the places where they serve. I have started visiting some places.
In the next months, I will be traveling a lot, so I can understand the reality of the Regnum Christi movement and of the Legion of Christ in each place. That’s very important for good government.
Do you also see your role as being important in trying to restore the morale of the congregation?
Yes, I think most of the Legionaries are enthusiastic now about our apostolic work and their lives, but it’s certainly a task of the new government, the general government, to improve the morale of the whole congregation and also to give it direction. We are analyzing our main lines of our apostolate in family, education, youth and other ministries. We need to evangelize in harmony with what the Church, both universally and locally, is trying to do right now.
What does it mean for the Legion, and for you personally, to live in fidelity to your founder, in accord with John Paul II’s 1996 post-synodal exhortation Vita Consecrata, which states: “It is precisely in this fidelity to the inspiration of the founders and foundresses, an inspiration which is itself a gift of the Holy Spirit, that the essential elements of the consecrated life can be more readily discerned and more fervently put into practice,” and the Second Vatican Council decree Perfectae Caritatis, which states, “Let their founders’ spirit and special aims they set before them as well as their sound traditions, all of which make up the patrimony of each institute, be faithfully held in honor.”?
The Church is not putting this question in this way. In Vita Consecrata, No. 36, St. John Paul II calls for fidelity to the founding charism and says that the inspiration of the founder is itself a gift of the Holy Spirit. Canon law states that religious should live according to the mind of the founders, but never does it equate this with fidelity to the particular individual who received the inspiration.
Following Vita Consecrata, it is important to ask: Who is the real source of the Legion of Christ? It’s God; it’s Christ; it’s the Holy Spirit. The source of all congregations and all works in the Church is the Holy Spirit. In the past years, the Church has asked us to redraw the constitutions, putting aside our founder and what he wrote. So we are in a situation which is not common among other congregations.
It sounds easy to put aside the founder, but is it so easy considering the founder had such an influence over the congregation in the past?
No, it’s very simple. I hope I express myself well here. I think the founder was very, very present in the general chapter, not his person, but the foundational inspiration he transmitted. He was present in the Legionaries who are today the bearers of the charism.
I like to think of myself as a man who tries to live his vocation to be a Legionary of Christ to the full. This means that who I am today, also because of my age, has been influenced to a certain extent by what he said and what he did.
But now we have to decide for the future. We are not placing his ideas, his writings as the source of the charism, nor are we presenting him as a model. We are placing the charism as we live it, and have lived it, under the Church’s guidance and approval.
As Legionaries, we have to look inside, to what the Holy Spirit says in our hearts. It may be difficult to accept that God may use a flawed individual to start a congregation, but that’s how it is. We also have other sources which help us to discern what comes from the Holy Spirit: We have the Church and the magisterium, the tradition of religious life in the Church: so many ecclesial documents, so many things where we can enrich our faith.
In particular, how will Father Maciel be portrayed to your men in formation?
He’s not going to be portrayed. It’s going to be part of the history that our founder didn’t behave properly.
Will they be told about this?
Of course they will. Even if we don’t tell them, it’s all over the place and commonly known. Just a few days ago, a book was published in Italy — The Devil in the Vatican — so it’s common information.
So there’ll be no spinning him, trying to portray him in a better light?
No. That’s what we said in our communiqué on Feb. 6. We were very clear about our position as a congregation regarding the founder and his actions.
Source: National Catholic Register