On the Future of the Legion of Mary
I recently read Msgr. Falls' booklet, "The Legion of Mary in the Church of Today," and have found much in it to spark my imagination. I would like to share with you a vision I have for the future expansion (and perhaps even survival) of the Legion. Before getting to that vision, I would like to share my thoughts on that wonderful booklet, and also a real concern I have for the future of the Legion. I was quite impressed to see in it that the Legion (and very probably uniquely the Legion alone) has the distinction of having come through the ravages of the Post-Vatican II "modernism madness" entirely unscathed, and that at the explicit direction of none less than Paul VI himself when he wrote that "with regard to the Constitution of the Legion of Mary, the Sovereign Pontiff would have me assure you that there is no intention to change these ... this information will prove useful and of consolation to you and your colleagues."
Msgr. Falls then speaks of four areas that pressure has been especially placed on the Legion to "get in step" with the current program, to relax disciplines, to de-emphasize Mary, to replace conversion with "ecumenical dialogue," and to become politically involved. I deeply appreciate his firm stance on these issues, and if this stance causes the Legion to be seriously "out of step" with what many (including prominent bishops and cardinals, etc.) take to be the current and future direction of the Church, then that is to the Legion's advantage, in my opinion.
It is only in the fourth area where I sense room for concern. I do admit that there certainly can be room for a valid application of "True Devotion to the Nation." I believe I have witnessed such in my own Praesidium where, every several months, it comes the turn of [our local] parish to run the "community kitchen" which is to feed the hungry, poor, and homeless. A number of our members are involved in this, as are other members of the parish community.
As legionaries, it is not enough (as it is for the other people involved) to merely bring, cook, and serve the food, but also to follow that with "crowd contact," talking with the people so helped and getting to know them personally on a one-to-one basis. This seems entirely proper, since having cooked and served food to those so helped, we have earned the privilege of speaking with them and of learning of their needs and concerns.
However, it is easy enough to see that such a precedent could open the door to many abuses, especially since "the Legion of Mary is at the disposal of the Bishop of the diocese and the Parish Priest for any and every form of Social Service and Catholic Action which these authorities may deem suitable to the Legionaries and useful for the welfare of the Church." That makes it at least theoretically possible for certain "at risk" Praesidia to be compelled to perform, as if performing Legionary works, those works which the Handbook explicitly forbids, as Legionary works, namely corporal works of mercy (see Handbook, 1994 Edition, pages 291-293, 10. Material Relief Prohibited, and 11. The Collection of Money) or political activism (see Handbook page 293, 12. No Politics In the Legion).
The fact that many of us Legionaries do perform such works outside the scope of our Legionary involvement in no way makes it possible for such works to be our assigned Legionary works, and I will rue the day the Legion should ever be forced to delete or water down those passages in the Handbook (or otherwise find itself obliged to ignore them) for then it would truly cease to have any continuity with the Legion as envisioned by Frank Duff and inspired and led by our Lady.
This introduces my chief concern for the future of the Legion, which Msgr. Falls does not satisfactorily address in the booklet (after all, the purpose of the booklet was to answer and resolve certain questions and concerns which had come up, not to raise new ones). As time goes on, the Legion (or at least certain Praesidia, Curia, and even Senatus, are finding themselves answerable to persons whose hostility to the Church and to the lawful purposes of the Legion (Conversion, Conservation, and Consolation) is an open and well known fact.
True, we do seem to have begun to win back the goodwill of Fr. XYZ of [a parish in a neighboring city which used to have a Legion Praesidium, but had shut it down a few years previous because he didn't like the Legion] at our Columban drive, and the problem really does appear to have been merely that some ill-suited Legionaries had in some way been unnecessarily unpleasant to him in the past, so perhaps he may yet return to a more friendly stance toward the Legion, but there remain many other parish priests, bishops, and even cardinals who are hostile, not merely to certain individuals in the Legion, but to the Legion itself, exactly because it refuses to downgrade Mary, replace conversion with ecumenical dialogue, or relax its disciplines.
Don't think that there may have been some troubles in the past, but now "the pendulum is swinging back," since it is not. While it is true that there are still some good priests and some good bishops and cardinals, the fact is that they all operate barely on the fringe, and in some cases, have been pushed over it (e.g. Abp. Lefebvre). Gresham's Law so far continues to apply as much to ecclesiastics as to money: The bad drives out the good. The good are still hideously outvoted at Bishop's congresses, etc.
What do you think the Legion ought to do if some parish priest or bishop were to tell some Praesidium or Curia to begin distributing contraceptives (or Pro-Planned Parenthood literature) in their regular door-to-door work? Could such a lame excuse as "Well, we just give these to teenagers who might otherwise get pregnant and have to have abortions without them," which would certainly be given, possibly be accepted? I wouldn't accept it, and I hope and presume the Legion would not either. What then, should we do?
Don't think that it is impossible for such a thing to happen; I would not be surprised to learn that the highest echelons of the Legion may already know of several such instances, and if not of that specifically, then at least of other examples at least as flagrantly opposed to the teaching of the Church. Such cases are only becoming more and more frequent, and more and more serious.
Even in our own Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the Legionaries have been recently subjected to a forced reading of a booklet on Homosexuality. This booklet positively scandalized one of our newer members who, upon her first reading of it thought it was granting approval to such behavior. Granted, upon a rereading of it she had to admit that it did not quite go that far, but the fact that it could seem to do so on a first reading is certainly quite dangerous. It seems to me that all of us Legionaries have long understood the policy of loving the sinner while hating the sin, regardless of what the sin may be, and also to appreciate the heroic virtue of those who overcome such disorderly desires and live by the rules of the Church.
We had among us some years ago a young man afflicted with this condition, but he was living a proper celibate life as the Church requires of such, and not only did we accept him in the Praesidium, but even had him serving in an officer's position until certain other time commitments on his part forced him to step down from active Legion membership.
How close does such a book come to lending itself to the agenda of those who march for "gay rights" etc.? And more is on the way. We have been asked to order copies of "Always our children" which will no doubt advance this agenda further. Yes, we will be good, obedient Legionaries who will purchase, study, and discuss these booklets as directed, but don't be surprised if some of that discussion consists of criticism against its soft stance against that particular sin.
As you can see, the balance we make as Legionaries between the eternal and unchanging Magisterium of the Church and our Faith on the one hand, and our attempts to obey the conventional diocesan authorities on the other is only getting more and more precarious. Something must one day give, and I only hope that the Legion does not have to go through the same agony that many faithful priests (and some bishops) have gone through over the past 35 years.
All of this brings me to that which is most near and dear to my heart (with a possible exception of my family), namely my thoughts on a new direction for expansion of the Legion:
In view of this increasing irregularity on the part of many of the conventional diocesan authorities, more and more priests worldwide are finding it impossible to carry out their faithful adherence to their calling and ministry to the souls God has place in their care within the conventional diocesan structures. I am not referring to those who enter schisms and heresies against the Church, but to priests (and a few bishops) who adhere to the entirety of the Magisterium and the Barque of Peter, who staunchly defend (and that to a heroic degree) the papacy and all that the Pope stands for, and has ever stood for.
In many dioceses, such priests are ill-spoken of, even calumniated for their stand for the Roman Catholic Faith, and that by officials who by virtue of the offices they hold, ought to be most liberal in their praise of such priests. It is not appropriate to suggest that maybe such priests should transfer to a more friendly diocese, even though many such would gladly accept them, because there is also the matter of the souls in their care who find the anti-Catholic modernistic spirit which pervades their diocese morally unacceptable, and who would have no access to the Sacraments except by the heroic sacrifices of these faithful priests.
Interestingly enough, even the 1983 Code of Canon Law gives approval to sacraments given and received by such priests and their faithful outside the conventional structures of the Catholic Church (Canons 844 and 845). With regards to the Legion I find an even more interesting precedent in the fact that "Rome granted (and this in 1940!) permission to the Legion of Mary to receive Orthodox (as in, schismatic Eastern Orthodox, who deny the primacy of Peter and possess several other heretical or heterodox opinions) members into its ranks for the purpose of imbibing them with a missionary spirit." (See Msgr. Falls' booklet, page 17).
If those who reject the primacy of Peter can be accepted (and that before Vatican II and all of its talk of ecumenism!), how much more could the Legion accept into its ranks members who DO believe in the primacy of Peter, and who find themselves on "the outs" with the current diocesan authorities for precisely that reason! With all of this talk of ecumenism in striving to reach out and have "cultural exchanges" with Baptists and Buddhists, Mormons and Moslems, etc., what about the all-too-essential-yet-neglected INTRA-CATHOLIC ecumenism? That is the essence of the Church's mark of Unity. What nonsense it is to try and unite the world when we ourselves are scattering, to clean up the world when our own backyard is in such a mess!
Here are many pockets of faithful Catholics, who take their Faith very seriously and actually practice it in full. What an appropriate place for the Legion to flower and bloom when all else is declining and shrinking, and finding it harder to function simply and purely as Frank Duff and Our Lady intend.
What I propose is this: That Legion Praesidia be set up within the "independent" parishes of such priests, made up of members of that priest's congregation. This is not, therefore, talk of changing the Legion into anything other than what it has always been, but of recognizing and pursuing an as-yet untapped resource of Catholics to be recruited as members of the Legion. And certain "protocols" need to be drawn up which will allow the Legionary Praesidia which are attached to the dioceses and the Legionary Praesidia which are attached to the "independent" priests and bishops to cooperate in the Legionary work in the community, using the following protocols:CLICK HERE FOR PROTOCOLS
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