by Greg Krehbiel on 8 September 2009
That’s what “American Papist” calls Fr. Marcial Maciel. That’s exactly right.
You should remember the Macial story the next time somebody refers to the late pope (a Maciel supporter) as “John Paul the Great.” You should keep it in mind the next time you hear of the need for “deference to authority,” or when somebody blames criticism on persecution. Think of how Maciel duped the Vatican the next time you hear somebody talk about how wise they are, how they see the long game, and how we ought to listen to them so very carefully and respectfully.
It’s true that leaders should get some amount of deference, or else they’d never be able to get their job done. It’s true that the Vatican is full of very smart people. It’s true that some people hate the church and will dig up any kind of dirt to try to discredit priests or the church. Knowing that, we should be a little skeptical of such accusations.
But everything has to be kept in balance — both criticism and deference. And exhortations to “believe the best” and “have charity” can be manipulative and misleading, and are especially suspect when they come from the people who are being accused.
The Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi seem to have perfected the art of manipulation. They twisted, distorted and exaggerated carefully selected Christian teachings to demonize their opponents, to create a haze of phony sanctity around their seriously flawed leader, and to exert pressure on the faithful to stick with the party line.
Psychology students should have material for doctoral theses for years to come.
The true significance of the Fr. Maciel story is that a lot of people need to re-think their either/or, logical, rational approach to these kinds of issues and admit that there’s a tremendous amount of grey. I definitely had to. Maciel didn’t start that process by any means, but his story put the finishing touch on it, so to speak.
This whole concept came to mind over the weekend as I heard Toby Keith’s “God Love Her.” Toby sounds like one of those inconsistent guys. He talks like he believes, but he doesn’t sound much like a Sunday School teacher, or what serious churches might call a “member in good standing.” He seems to have one foot in and one foot out.
I used to criticize that sort of thing. I used to think it was a combination of intellectual sloth — an inability to think through the issues clearly — and moral weakness — an unwillingness to face up to the consequences and make the necessary changes.
In some cases that might be part of it, but in many cases the guy who stands off to the side shows a maturity and wisdom that I haven’t had for most of my life. I.e., the wisdom to see that answers aren’t always clear. That some choices represent a false dilemma. That we often just don’t know enough to be sure about an answer. And that often the wisest course is to be suspicious of anything that seems extreme.
In a way it reminds me of pacifism. I’ve never been a pacifist, but I’m starting to understand them a little better. Each side of a conflict wants you to believe that you have to make a decision (NOW!), to stick with that decision, and to kill or be killed based on that decision. And never mind that you don’t have the whole story!
Maybe there’s another decision — to step aside and refuse to play the game on their terms.
-- 2009-09-08 » Greg Krehbiel