|"I also believe this is a very important time to engage in healthy self-criticism." (Photo courtesy of Octavio Hoyos.)|
Mexico, April 20, 2010. On March 29, four days after
the publication of the recent communiqué by the superiors of
the Legion of Christ, Fr Alvaro Corcuera, LC, General Director
of the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi, was interviewed
by the Mexican reporter Ciro Gómez Leyva of Radio Formula.
A translation of the interview follows.
Ciro Gómez Leyva: Last
Friday, as we noted here, the Legion of Christ, headed
by Fr Alvaro Corcuera its General Director, published a long
document in which they ask pardon for the crimes, for
all the evil caused by their founder and guide, Marcial
Maciel. It is, or at least to me it seems
to be, a decisive document, quite self-critical, very unusual for
a religious community. Nevertheless we heard and heard the comments,
replies, from some of the people offended, hurt, assaulted by
Marcial Maciel, and at least one of them, the leader
of the group of people who have denounced Marcial Maciel
in Mexico, José Barba, considered it insufficient, considered it ambiguous;
that was Friday. We had committed ourselves to speaking with
Alvaro Corcuera. He answered yes, he would speak with us,
and we asked his people if we could do the
interview today and…
(Ciro): Alvaro, how are things, good afternoon or
good evening there in Rome.
Fr Alvaro Corcuera: How are
you, Ciro? It’s my pleasure to be in touch with
you, thank you for taking the liberty, and for the
opportunity to chat.
Ciro: Thank you, Alvaro. How did you
reach the decision to issue this text, the communiqué, asking
for pardon, last Friday?
Fr Alvaro: Ciro, we have
an annual meeting with the superiors of the congregation that
we call “territorial directors” along with the General Council. We
talked a good deal about these problems, this difficult situation
that we have found ourselves faced with, and we all
came to an agreement to issue a communiqué, but naturally
in a communiqué we are unable to express all we
feel inside. But we do truly want to offer, once
again, an expression of the deep sorrow and regret we
feel for all the victims who suffered these acts. It
is an apology whose sole purpose is to humbly open
our heart to each and every one of the people
who have been hurt and, unfortunately, scandalized by the actions
of our founder, Fr Maciel. And sincerely asking pardon too,
Ciro, for the words and actions against them by any
member of our Congregation or any member of our Movement.
I know it’s not easy to find the words to
express it, but I wish to express our support, closeness
and pardon to each one of them. We wrapped up
our meeting last week, I asked the others for their
vote, which was unanimous, and we went over the text.
Ciro, there are a variety of cultures, countries, contexts, differences
in the reactions to it, and finally we all agreed
to sign this document as a way to express the
mind of our Congregation.
Ciro: Some have criticized the date you
chose to issue the communiqué: the Friday before Holy Week.
Alvaro: Yes, Ciro, the truth is that we never had
that in mind at all, because it coincided with meetings
already set in advance from the beginning of the year,
and this year they coincided almost with the start of
Holy Week, but we didn’t have any other purpose. I
simply didn’t want to wait any longer, because I see
it was needed, and it was the right time to
take definitive action that would be clearer and firmer. Yes,
then they pointed out that Holy Week was coming up
and all the situation that came, with the Holy See,
etc…, but it wasn’t at all being opportunistic. It was,
in all honesty, a sincere request for forgiveness.
Ciro: Is that
the end of Fr Maciel for the Legionaries of Christ?
Alvaro: Well, I do not believe we can recognize Fr
Maciel as a model when we have come to the
conclusion of these acts; they were not only reprehensible, they
are terrible. We have found it very difficult to admit
to them, as they didn’t match what we experienced, what
we saw, what we heard. I can’t say I didn’t
personally receive lessons totally opposed to such behavior. Thus, with
very deep pain, we must say that we cannot take
him as a model in this sense, in these actions
that are totally foreign to what we profess and try
to teach and do our best to communicate to people.
OK, Fr Alvaro, general director of the Legionaries of Christ.
I understand, but what are you going to do with
the historical figure of Fr Maciel, will it disappear from
your history; in the telling of the Legion of Christ,
what are you going to do with his historical figure?
Alvaro: It is clear that we have to rebuild our
history. I sincerely think this is a time that we
have to accept as a challenge in regards to our
future. We need to have a Chapter, totally reorient his
figure. This is the most painful blow you can receive
as a congregation because you are talking about your own
founder. I think this presents us with a time to
reflect deeply, sincerely on the truth, on which the future
of our image of him will depend, which for certain
has totally changed after these acts.
Ciro: Alvaro, on Friday, the
Legion’s spokesman Javier Bravo told us, and on Friday evening
José Barba who is among those who denounced Fr Maciel
said on television in more detail, that you had privately
apologized to at least three of Fr Maciel’s victims. Will
you continue to do so after the communiqué?
Yes. I had that intention even when I went to
Mexico, just that right then, all that we have lived
through recently in Mexico broke out. I had the opportunity
to speak with Fr Félix Alarcón, who was one of
the first to denounce these actions. I went to see
him in Madrid, I was with him for a good
while, and I received a really extraordinary response from a
very good man. He told me, “You didn’t do these
things.” I told him that I feel the need to
accompany him, to ask his pardon, pardon for what was
implied, for not having believed. Fr Maciel himself had denied
these actions. Later, I have had some conversations with other
people, with other priests other members, who asked for privacy.
I spoke with them too, and found very positive reactions,
amid the pain. Some of them also recognized the good
things they received. I’ve been able to speak twice on
the phone with Juan José Vaca, whom I admire, and
whom I had met a short time before I became
a Legionary of Christ. I also had two short conversations
with Mr Saúl Barrales, who has my sympathy for his
illness, but who is an extraordinary person. And in the
future, as soon as I can get to Mexico, I
certainly want to reach out to the other people, whom
I deeply respect, and whom I am sure need a
word and an expression of closeness.
Ciro: Alvaro, one of those
people is José Barba, who has been the leader of
the group that denounced Fr Macie. He said on Friday
that there is no explicit apology for them in the
communiqué you issued.
Fr Alvaro: I think there are other
people as well who have been affected by these deeds
that are so distressing, so difficult. I think it would
be difficult to list everyone, but certainly there is Fr
Félix Alarcón, José Barba, Saúl Barrales, Alejandro Espinosa, Arturo Jurado,
the Pérez Oliveros brothers, Juan José Vaca, and also Francisco
González Parga – in whose case I find something providential
from the perspective of faith but also when you look
at it humanly. When I was in Ireland many years
ago trying to learn English, he was the first one
to speak to me about the priestly vocation. I didn’t
join at that time, I finished my university studies and
then entered. I am deeply grateful to him, I am
very happy as a Legionary of Christ. I am very
happy with my priesthood and I find for him words
of deep gratitude.
Ciro: The criticism being made now is that,
after Friday´s communiqué you are now unloading all the responsibility
on Fr Maciel, and there is no critical examination of
the structure of the Legionaries of Christ, I mean, Alvaro,
the structure of the Legionaries of Christ from 1955 to
Fr Alvaro: Yes, Ciro, I believe that is in the
communiqué itself, though as I said it is very difficult
to express it in a communiqué, which might be long
but is still synthetic. You can’t express all that is
on your mind. We also expressed our apology for not
believing it, Fr Marcial Maciel himself had denied it, and
I also believe this is a very important time to
engage in healthy self-criticism. I know the Legion of Christ
for many years now, I know extraordinary people, the good
that has been done to society. But I also believe
that now is a time of renewal, where you have
to keep directing all of the good things that benefit
society, and personally as a priest I firmly believe in
the good that the Gospel is called to bring for
the benefit of each person, and we also have to
focus, correct, and improve several facets of our congregation. The
apostolic visitation is also helping us in this regard. And
so the General Chapter, I don’t know yet when exactly
we will have it but it will be an opportunity
in which with input from everyone and listening also to
the difficulties and mistakes we have made, we can orient
ourselves in the best direction.
Ciro: Do you have information
yet as regards how the people of the Legion of
Christ and Regnum Christi have reacted to the document, the
apology you sent out on Friday?
Fr Alvaro: I’m a
little embarrassed to tell you, Ciro, but these have been
very intense days and I have not been able to
gather all the necessary information. Up to now the response
we have received is generally positive. People wanted this communiqué.
People needed to hear that what we preach and profess,
what we have done our best to communicate, does not
correspond to these actions. I think it is a reaction
that people have been grateful for. There will always be
a variety of opinions: that it was weak, that it
was clear…, but in general, up to now, Ciro, I
have gotten positive impressions.
Ciro: But, Alvaro, have they been few,
have they been many?
Fr Alvaro: The truth is, I haven’t
read them all because of the amount of work in
the last few days. What has been given to me
is still in the folders and I have seen positive
Ciro: When will you be in Mexico?
Fr Alvaro: I’m
planning on May. I will be here in Rome for
a some days. Afterwards, I have commitments in Spain. Then
I return to Rome, and please God I will be
there in May, around mid-May.
Ciro: Mid-May. Maybe, but of
course this will depend on Vatican time, but maybe by
mid-May the results of the investigation the Vatican is doing
on you will be out. As general director of the
Legionaries of Christ, what are you hoping from this Vatican
Fr Alvaro: I sincerely hope that it will set a
course, be a watershed moment for the Congregation, where all
the positive elements – you know that we were born
in Mexico, we love our country deeply, we want to
join all our efforts not only as a Catholic Congregation
but also with other groups to greatly help society, especially
Mexico— where the Holy See is going to help us
to correct, reorient definitively the figure of the founder of
our Congregation, and also to examine ourselves and effect a
deep self-criticism. And we are ready to bring to fruition
whatever we receive.
Ciro: After all this, will the Legion of
Christ live on and continue?
Fr Alvaro: I believe so, Ciro.
I believe that the Legionaries of Christ – for me
as a priest I see it as coming from God,
I know that it has done great good, it has
to do much good. I have absolute confidence that it
will continue and that we have to learn lessons of
humility. I hope that we really learn them, lessons in
the various facets of our spiritual, human, apostolic, and pastoral
life, and that we can dedicate ourselves to doing good
to society, both to the leadership and to the neediest
classes, so as to focus there our work.
do you feel, Alvaro, how does Alvaro Corcuera, General Director
of the Legion of Christ feel? It’s coming up on
five years that you’ve been at the head of the
Legion. And finally, finally, the Legion has asked for pardon.
Finally, you have clarified, as I said, it seems to
me obviously some haven’t, but finally it has happened. How
do you feel today, Monday of Holy Week, after what
you did on Friday with your clarification, your severe criticism
of Fr Maciel’s biography?
Fr Alvaro: Thank you very much
for this question, Ciro. I am, I feel that I
have no right to manifest what we as members and
the Congregation have suffered: confusion, desolation, hurt, deep sorrow. I
wouldn’t want to say that I…, obviously, I have had
a very rough time of it but I am very
serene, at peace in my conscience, because I have sought
to follow my conscience, with all my errors and limitations.
I am very pained and I have suffered. It’s something
I never could have imagined the day I was elected
in the General Chapter. If I’d known all that was
in the offing, I think we would have had a
funeral there, I would have had a heart attack. But
nevertheless, I am proud of this family. I am very
happy with all I see in my brothers, in society.
On the one hand, I feel a great pain, an
enormous responsibility, but I don’t want to dwell on what
I am going through, but on the people who have
suffered, all those men who have had situations of deep
pain, deep sorrow, and, Ciro, I would give my life
to be able to lighten the burden and suffering of
so many other people.
Ciro: OK, Alvaro Corcuera, then we’ll be
seeing each other. Thank you for this conversation. I hope
that mid-May, when you have told us you will be
back in Mexico, we will have the opportunity to chat
once again with you, with the information that will surely
be forthcoming in the meantime.
Fr Alvaro: Of course, Ciro.
You know, this morning I was reading something by Einstein,
that speaks about crises and difficulties, may I read you
a few paragraphs?
Fr Alvaro: He says, “Let’s not expect
things to change if we keep on doing the same.
A crisis is the best thing that can happen to
people and countries, because a crisis is always a source
of progress. Creativity is the child of anxiety, as the
day is the child of the dark night. Incentive, discovery,
virtue are all children of crisis and difficulty. If you
overcome crisis, you overcome yourself without being overcome. If you
attribute your failures and miseries to a crisis you violate
your talent and have more respect for your problems than
their solutions. The real difficulty is the crisis of incompetence.
The problem of individuals and countries is that they are
lazy to find solutions. If there is no crisis there
is no challenge, and without challenge life become routine, a
slow death. If there is no crisis there is no
merit. In times of crisis is where the best of
every man blossoms, because without crisis every wind is a
caress.” I believe, Ciro, also and above all in the
words of the Gospel, during this Holy Week, to know
that every difficulty, every suffering and trial always open our
eyes to a better future.
Ciro: Thank you, Alvaro.
Alvaro: And, sorry if my answers are a bit long,
Ciro. God bless you.
Ciro: Alvaro Corcuera, General Director of
the Legion of Christ, in his own words.