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Turn to Jesus (Article)

Radio Interview with Fr Alvaro Corcuera, LC
General director asks forgiveness of victims and expresses Legion’s willingness to embrace Holy See’s recommended reforms.

Fr Alvaro purple background
"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.

Fr 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?

Fr 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.

Ciro: 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?

Fr 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?

Fr Alvaro: 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 2005.

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 reactions.

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 investigation?

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.

Ciro: How 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?

Ciro: Please.

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.

Fr 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.

(©Radio Formula. Authorized use.)



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