The Author Michael Ledden tells why the The Legion was important to research,

The Legion of Christ has had a presence in my family as long as I can remember. A mystical status was afforded in my childhood to family members who would only be seen once every few years. Visits by these family members were akin to a visit from Santa Claus when I was growing up. However, as I grew older, I began to notice the strangeness in the interactions, the rigidity and the separateness. When the scandals in the Order broke it was never talked about at home, only snippets of information got through to me. When the fuller picture became clear I read so much about the cult like characteristics of the Order that I knew I would have to research it. The notion of a cult and the behaviours that motivate people to join were always of great interest to me. The kind of cults I would have read about when I was younger felt so detached from my reality that I considered them something from another world. Combining my research with personal experience I am hoping, above all, to remain objective and to use this dissertation as a vehicle to better understand the processes family members went through, why they did so, and what can the future hold for them.  



By: Michael Ledden

Date: 22/03/12




The Legionaries of Christ as a Cult?      i

Can we apply cult language to the Legion of Christ and its lay movement Regnum Christi            i

Introduction: The Legion of Christ as a Cult       1

Cults in our Midst         1

Motivation        1

The Sources     2

Outline 2

Chapter One    4

1.1: Are our Terms Correct?     4

1.2: Cults and NRMs as a Media Stereotype    5

1.3: Historical Overview           6

1.4: How or why do people join Cults or NRMs?         7

1.5: Techniques used to Control?          9

1.6: The Role of the Leader      10

1.7: Identity in the Unit  11

1.8: Exiting NRMs        12

1.9 Conclusion 13

Chapter Two    15

2.1: Foundation of a New Order           16

2.2: Next Stage of Development           17

2.3: ‘’The Great Blessing’’        18

2.4: Expansion  20

2.5: Exposure of Maciel            22

2.6 Conclusion 23

Chapter Three  24

3.1: Conversion            24

3.2: Sirkins scale of Involvement in NRM’s and LC and RC      25

3.3: Was Control Exerted?       27

3.4: Formation and Identity Held in the Unit       28

3.5: Special Rules of the Congregation  30

3.6: Exiting as Experience with LC and RC       31

3.7 Conclusion 32

Chapter Four    33

4.1: Maciel’s End         33

4.2 Imbedded Charisma           34

4.3: The Principles of Charismatic Leadership    35

4.4: Maciel the Man      37

4.5 Question of his Legacy        38

4.6 Conclusion 39

Chapter Five    41

5.1 The Cult in the Church        41

5.2: Sources     42

5.3: Answering the Question     43

5.4: The legion and the future    44

Final Conclusion           46

Appendix One: 48

Interview with Seamus Hayes 26/02/12 48

Bibliography of Sources            55




Ireland of recent years has been rocked by widespread revelations of sexual abuse scandals that have transformed the nation.  These scandals have brought social change on a massive scale in Ireland as our country’s relationship with the Catholic Church has been transformed. What has been less visible, in the press and in popular consciousness, is the role Irish men and women played in a unique Catholic group, now widely renounced, who claimed to have the path to righteousness and truth. The Legionaries of Christ first came to Ireland in 1962 and with their special selling points they brought scores of young Irish people out of the country to be part of their organisation. The poor quality of expression, freedom and independence these people enjoyed has been a talking point of recent years, brought on by the exposure of the orders founder and the investigation in recent years of their practices by a papal delegate. Media representation and testimonies from numerous ex members have raised the question about the movements possible status as a ‘’cult’’.  In this thesis I propose to examine this situation to try and gain an understanding of whether or not we may classify the Legionaries of Christ and their lay wing, Regnum Christi as a cult. In doing this I also wish to examine if their founder Marcial Maciel Degollado legacy has a purpose to preserve the group  and if as a group they have a future. I propose to do this in five chapters, in which I will draw on personal testimonies from people who were in the group to fulfil criteria established in the realms of History, Sociology, Psychotherapy and Psychology for the identification of cults. These testimonies appear on a number of blogs, support websites and in memoirs. I have also interviewed a former member of the Legionaries for additional first-hand information.



The Legion of Christ has had a presence in my family as long as I can remember. A mystical status was afforded in my childhood to family members who would only be seen once every few years. Visits by these family members were akin to a visit from Santa Claus when I was growing up. However, as I grew older, I began to notice the strangeness in the interactions, the rigidity and the separateness. When the scandals in the Order broke it was never talked about at home, only snippets of information got through to me. When the fuller picture became clear I read so much about the cult like characteristics of the Order that I knew I would have to research it. The notion of a cult and the behaviours that motivate people to join were always of great interest to me. The kind of cults I would have read about when I was younger felt so detached from my reality that I considered them something from another world. Combining my research with personal experience I am hoping, above all, to remain objective and to use this dissertation as a vehicle to better understand the processes family members went through, why they did so, and what can the future hold for them.



Originally sources were quite a problem for this work as the topic is not well covered academically. I have tried to balance out the kind of sources I have used as much as possible. For the initial investigation into the rhetoric of Cults and the background on Cult language and phenomena I have tried to use a broad range of sources and theory’s, to draw up a set of criteria by which to evaluate the Legion. Later, one of the main sources I will use is the official Legion of Christ history published in 2004. Although this source is mentioned in other sources as biased and as propaganda, I will be using it for insights into the order’s own understanding of its foundation and into certain practices in the Order and the Founder. I also refer to the biographies of two former Legion of Christ priests from Ireland for first-hand information, Paul Lennon and Jack Keogh. The former of these, Paul, and I have been in correspondence, he also came to speak to the Trinity College Theological Society on the 12/03/12. I have also had the privilege of interviewing Seamus Hayes an ex-LC (seminarian), I met Seamus where I work and am truly blessed that he has shared his story with me: it is in the form of an interview included in an Appendix at the end. I will also be using Jason Berry’s and Gerald Renner’s book, “Vows of Silence”, published in 2004. Jason Berry, who was involved in bringing the story of Maciel’s deviance to the world and in seeking justice to those abused, will also be used as a source. I will also be using testimonies placed online from other people who have left the Legion of Christ and have shared their stories. These will be my main sources for the work along with other named sources.



In Chapter One I propose to examine how a religious organisation becomes something negative for its members. This will involve an examination of our use of terminology and the media’s role in influencing our perception. Following this we will embark on a detailed analysis at the modern idea of cults and destructive cultic behaviours. Included in this is an examination of what constitutes so-called ‘’New Religious Movements’’. Furthermore a detailed look at the typical workings, recruitments, leadership and physiological methods used by these controlling groups will be investigated. In Chapter Two we will be moving on to the Legionaries of Christ themselves. I will be looking at the rise of the founder, Maciel Marcial Degollado, and the primary steps he took to found his congregation. This chapter will also look at the rise of the group and its dealings in Rome. These are crucial to later understand their meteoric rise through stages of official recognition and the expansion of their mission. I will be looking at the alleged abuses committed by the founder, firstly in the 1950s, in order to give context to later Legion history. Then I turn to further developments, as the movement became one of the most respected organisations in the Catholic Church. Following this an investigation into the founder and the delays in his trial will be explored in order to give us the knowledge of where the group stands today. In the        Chapter Three we will be investigating the compatibility between the criteria established in Chapter One using the aforementioned testimonies from former members. This should bring us towards an understanding of whether or not the Legion has the characteristics of a typical cult.  Chapter Four will contain an examination of the leader of the Legion. This will be in order to examine if he fits into the role of the “charismatic leader” as defined in Chapter One. However this chapter will also be used to examine his personality, motives, and traits to give some more information on his demise to ultimately ask can we say that this charismatic founder’s legacy has a purpose in advancing the group. For Chapter Five we will then be hoping to bring the matter to a close where we can discuss the final linkup between the theory and the reality given in the testimonies. Moving on from this I would like to discuss issues around sources and then go to offer my conclusions on whether or not the Legion of Christ can be considered a cult. Based on this conclusion we will finish on whether this investigation concludes that the individuals left in the group have a purpose in the group context.




For the purposes of this first chapter I intend to review the methodological issues of studying these groups in terms of categories, perceptions and individual experiences. I intend for this investigation to frame the rest of the work using the findings and criteria I establish in this chapter as it pertains to the Legionaries and their lay wing Regnum Christi. The criteria established here, when shared with the later review of the history of the Legionaries of Christ and their founder will be the tools I use when seeking to fulfil the aims of the investigation as outlined in the introduction.

We will frame this, throughout the thesis, by investigating if our terminology is correct for these groups and ultimately for the Legionaries. Following this we will investigate if the modern convention of cult is of our own and/or the media’s invention. Thirdly, I intend we look briefly at the historical concept of the cult as it affected society. Next we will explore the work of several scholars, investigating how these groups recruit people. We will go on to show that this has been the subject of much study and debate. Later, this will be my framework for examining the practices of the Legionaries. Subsequently, in the same vein as our fourth section, we will be exploring the means of control used typically by these organisations to manage people. This issue and the Legionaries methods will be examined in relation to these means of control using primary and secondary sources available to me. Following this as a sixth theme I intend we look at the specific role of the leader in these organisations. This will be used later to look at the role of Father Marciel Maciel Degollado in his role as founder of the Legionaries and Regnum Christi. Seventh, we will be looking at the individual and his or her identity as distorted within these groups. This will be the lens through which some of the experiences and testimonies of ex Legionaries will be evaluated. Finally we will be investigating some of the evidence available regarding the experiences of exiting these organisations. Though let me begin by examining the fundamental issues of categorisation of the Legion of Christ as a cult.


Can a word with serious connotations, loaded with baggage be appropriate for the study of a sociological event? Ottenberg describes cults as having the characteristics of (a) a group of people following a strong, living leader; (b) a group making absolute claims about the leader’s abilities, character, or knowledge; (c) a group accepting the leader’s claims; (d) a member demonstrating complete loyalty to the leader; and (e) a membership dependent on total willingness to obey the leader.  The term ‘cult’ is ever present in modernist vocabulary when we are dealing with new religious organisations. This term effectively always has a negative connotation in these contexts. The term ‘cult’ according to Annabelle Mooney is something that can be applied to groups considered ‘’unreasonable by the mainstream’’.  She demonstrates the point that this term in its general usage can be applied to a number of groups central to society. Mooney, at the end of her book, offers the view that all corporations could be classed in this manner as cults. With these problems in mind should we then remove ‘’cult’’ from our language? In the face of these challenges for the unbiased study of so called ‘’cults’’ scholars have used the term New Religious Movements (NRM) to solve the problem. The context of the NRM is primarily that of the 60’s and 70’s explosion of such groups in the USA. However, in this work we will seem if a NRM can form within the context of a century’s old established order such as the Roman Catholic Church. To back this up the results of the 2003 NASIS survey reveal that, at least in Nebraska, the general public certainly does not view cults in a neutral way. Richardson says: ‘’because the use of the term has such potentially severe consequences, we must be extremely careful with it and, I believe, that it is time that we become “cultphobic” and do our research with more neutral terminology’’.  The term itself however is useful for the study of such groups as it does not have the negative connotations, though, does not propose to pull punches about the kind of problems found in such movements.



We all know about the negative view held by society en masse about so-called cults and what they have done to peoples lives and indeed what they might do if permitted. It has been said that fixed notions of cult or NRM involvement are problematic in at least two ways: (a) a group that may not be considered harmful may actually be harmful depending on the individual’s experience; and (b) a group that is considered harmful may not be experienced as harmful by those who participate as regular visitors, distant consumers, or confirmed believers. It would be difficult to say outright that one group is harmful and that another is not. It may be more reasonable to consider possible harm occurring in any organized religious group, as has been shown by sexual and psychological abuses of children and adults in mainstream established churches and indeed by what has happened in the Legionaries.  If we are to go by this, then the need for an investigation into the very practices of such groups across the board may be necessary to ensure that they are not harmful. Indeed an organisation does not have to be new to be flawed in the ways I will outline. Paul J Olson says that the anti-cult movement popular in America is part of the reason for the mistrust in our vocabulary. These so called ACMs have brought negative connotations toward the idea of cults. Secondly, he discusses that the mainstream media has a lot to do with the sensationalising of the phenomena. In this they have used the descriptions utilised by the ACMs to describe many NRMs . This conception of the religious group as harmful to the individual however, has been in the popular consciousness strictly aimed towards the new movements that have risen up. Whilst these may be more blatantly destructive, the idea that so called ‘’cults’’ could exist in the mainstream of religion has been generally ignored. The general population as shown in the Pfeifer study of 1992 has subscribed to the type of sensationalizing trend in the media and the ACM. In this study eight two percent of participants “described the ‘average’ cult member in a negative fashion”. Despite their overall negative feelings toward cults and cult members, 80.2 percent of the participants admitted that they had no contact with a cult member. Moreover, 91.7 percent of the participants “were basing their perceptions on some form of media presentation”.  For me this poses a problem for the language. The idea of a ‘’cult’’ brings forth the aforementioned negative connotations, though, the terminology itself is over loaded with allusions to non-mainstream organisations. This is wrong as there are only subtle differences in the processes people go through when joining mainstream groups as when they join one of these new, therefore destructive groups. This we will further examine in the later parts of this chapter, though first I will briefly look at the idea of so called cults throughout history.



Having looked at how the terminology of cults has become an overloaded media stereotype, I wish to review historically the idea of a cult. Cults of various deities and creeds have been common place throughout human history and in fact integral to the compounding of the established order of today. Cults existed all over the ancient world where polytheism was common. Even among the Jews, there were cults, notably at Qumran. Here they practiced a tiered level of initiation, vows of poverty, celibacy, ritual meals and a form of purifying baptism.  Indeed for the first two centuries after Jesus there existed several different interpreters or sects devoted to his teachings, most notably the Gnostics and Manicheans.  Other cults included those of Attis and Cybelle, Orgiastic Cults, the Eleusinian Mystery Cults, the Cult of Mithras, the Celtic Druids and the Mexican Death Cults.  However in a more violent time many of these cults were allowed to survive because they posed no threat to society. However, the response given by the ACMs and the media was due to the already established order being challenged. However, as I have said throughout human history sects and cults have appeared and disappeared over time. It was only when they challenged mainstream established ideas that they solicited such a negative reaction. Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses in the USA had been NRMs; they, however, have withstood and became an accepted part of the establishment. In 1996, Stark raised few conservative Christians’ eyebrows when he characterized early Christianity as a messianic “cult,” as he described the faith’s dramatic growth in the Greco-Roman world. Elsewhere, Stark argues that a religious cult can be defined as “a cohesive spiritual group separate from established religions, in high tension with the surrounding socio-political environment, and requiring great levels of sacrifice and commitment from its members”.  Marion S. Goldman gives a definition of three criteria that a religious group needs to fulfil to be considered cultic; separation, cohesion, and tension.  This point shows that the cults from the past were not so extremely different for the groups of today. It is perhaps the social norms that have changed not the group’s criteria. It has been observed that a cult is a small, adaptable spiritual grouping, and the term need not always carry negative connotations. In this way many high commitment groups could be looked at through the cultic lens. The term ‘’cult’’, if used to define a small religious culture requiring exclusive membership, fits a number of contemporary groups to which sociologists devote considerable attention: the Family/Children of God, People’s Temple, , Raelians, Branch Davidians, Rajneeshees, to name a few.



Zimbardo offers a simple explanation for this question, why do people join cults: ‘’no one joins a cult, rather they are recruited’’.  Recruitment can happen in a number of different ways. For the Legionaries of Christ the most likely of these, as Annabelle Mooney suggests, is a desire in the individual is cultivated that can only be filled by the group.  Other techniques include love bombing, affection that flatters and deceives though it does not render the person incapable.  These ‘’cultivation’’ tactics that make the person drawn to the NRM differ extensively from the traditional understandings of conversion to a group. A good definition of conversion for this study is: ‘’the word conversion comes from Christian theology and is defined in Christian terms as a turning to God in which our intellect, emotions and wills are all involved’’.  The process, described by many adherents past and present of conversion to NRMs does not match this statement. Unlike prior religious experience, new religious experience within the context of the NRM is recognized as coming from the group or the group’s practices. New religious experiences are recognized and interpreted through the group’s lens. The teachings, practices, and philosophy of the group become intertwined with the individual’s religious experience. The NRM appears to become the catalyst for religious experience and growth. Therefore association with the group may become increasingly important for further spiritual growth. Howell (1997) found that spiritual experience is very important in fostering commitment to a group. Although religious or spiritual experience and growth are a major part of the context of a NRM, the person in this time may not see that they are becoming intensely involved in a group passing the level for normal religious commitment. Sirkin identified five stages in the process of cult affiliation: hooking, joining, intensification, social disengagement, and realignment.

1.         Hooking is the stage in which individuals initially contact group members and find them interesting.

2.         The second stage, joining, involves the recruits becoming strongly attracted to the group and its philosophy.

3.         In the third stage, known as intensification, critical thinking is compromised and individuals are encouraged to view their families of origin and the non-cult world as bad or evil, whereas the cult beliefs and activities are all seen as good.

4.         The fourth phase, social disengagement, involves building a lifestyle on the good/bad worldview. Cults provide isolation from the world and self, induction of a dissociative state, and indoctrination techniques that criticize the non-cult world and reinforce the exclusive closed system of the cult (Ash, 1985). In the social disengagement stage, individuals are encouraged to distrust family members and to sever ties with them. Most cult groups encourage members to initiate an emotional cut off from the family.

5.         In the final stage of cult affiliation, realignment, individuals develop a new identity structure as members of a cult.

Some who oppose NRMs have said that these groups gain members through coercive persuasion. This is to say that free choice and the use of intellect from the definition of conversion haves been distorted by the religious group. Contrary to this, leaders and supporters of such groups have rallied to state that their opponents have used equally destructive methods to ‘’deprogram’’ members of religious groups against their will.  Later in this work I will be looking at where the Legionaries of Christ’s practices fit into these models.


Some of the first few things that come to mind with the mention of cults are brainwashing, coercion and misuse of power. This has come into the popular consciousness through the media and the very vocal ACM. However, as with the word cult, the word “brainwashing” is misleading. Although the topic of brainwashing has been discussed for many years, ”there is little consensus about the actual effects that brainwashing can have’’.  Marion S. Goldman: “Brainwashing is no longer a central issue for discussion! While there are elements of extreme group pressure and/or brainwashing within NRMs, most conversion and commitment develop through social interaction’’. Most sociologists agree that elements of extreme social control and totalism may be found within some high-commitment groups, but those mechanisms may be found in many other groups that range from political cells to football teams.  From this conclusion the interaction is reduced to a person to person level where social pressures and manipulation take control of the situation, not brain control. To say that brainwashing is not used is now a common argument to declare that alternative manipulation can often be there in abundance. NRMs and indeed as I intend later to illuminate the Legionaries of Christ, tell members ’’that the only reason to leave are weakness, insanity, temptation, brainwashing (by deprogrammers) pride, sin and so on.’’  Through the social disengagement mentioned above, the individual is fed a simple premise that the world is bad, we are good, and so s/he should become a part of us. Viewing the world in this way is not, in and of itself, destructive; and many mainstream religious and political movements embrace similar philosophies. However, cult leaders often reinforce this view with a frightening intensity while simultaneously inducing dissociative states among their followers through extensive and repetitive prayer.  There have been numerous cases where this kind of manipulation has been recognised in the courts as distorting the individuals view and judgement. In 1989 a court case was taken against the group the Bible Speaks in the USA. The case considered a wealthy donor who after exit counselling sought reimbursement of the large sum of donations she had given the organisation on the basis of undue influence by the group. The court found that the group had induced the plaintiff to believe that her donations were influencing temporal events and they encouraged her detachment from disapproving relatives and attempted to accelerate her giving. In this case the plaintiff was successful in getting her money back. Many others are not so lucky having disassociated from family and friends and sold all of their worldly belongings for the NRM. The key element that typifies the charisma necessary to make people give so generously and easily is normally common to all NRMs that may be defined as destructive. In my next Paragraph I will be looking at this issue, the role of the leader.



The role of the charismatic leader can be found throughout all of human history. The leader is necessary to dictate the work to the others and to inspire confidence. This is true in every competitive field be they business, military or sports related. The role of the leader in the new religious movement is even more crucial due to the levels of social control involved. For some the role has the importance to call the movements themselves as the ‘’manifest expressions of greedy and ultimately destructive leaders’’.  When we consider the context of the new religious movements they all have some kind of leader. Max Weber says they each may be considered a prophet or bearer of charisma that proclaims alternative if not entirely new revelation.  M. Barker says there is a stifling of questions and debate often leading to slavish obedience to a charismatic leader. There is strong disciplining by the minder, enabler, prophet or teacher resulting in high emotional dependency.  In the Legionaries of Christ there is evidence of such high emotional dependency and for obedience to the founder Marciel Maciel Degollado. I will be examining this further in Chapter Four. For this purpose the following definition will serve the purpose for my later examination of Maciel: ‘’Charismatic leadership is a process of interaction between individuals with unique leadership qualities and followers whose needs for guidance and emotional protection can be met through direct and/or symbolic relationship with the leader.’’ . Lorne L. Dawson sets out 6 principles of how Charismatic leaders maintain control over their religious groups. They are as follows:

1.         To keep the congregation focused the leader might change the focus or the emphasis of his teachings, perhaps suddenly, in order to keep them focused on his words

2.         They may increase demands of sacrifice placed on followers thus ensuring their complete control of the group

3.         They may play on follower’s sense of fear of persecution to create perceived threats in the world; this can also take the shape of creating a severe us and them scenario.

4.         Internal forces seeking change within the group can be ridiculed and personally marginalised and expelled from the group by the charismatic leader

5.         The leaders may employ some kind of loyalty tests in order to increase the follower’s emotional dependency. This may take the form of limiting personal relationships in the group

6.         Leaders may seek to consolidate their control by disrupting the routines of their followers by relocating groups or individuals.


By use of these techniques the charismatic leader is able to exert his or her will over the group and keep the devotees in line. However, these practices can be very damaging to the individual. In my next paragraph I am going to look at how this is documented working and possibly harming the individual and their personal identity.



The level of disassociation seen in participants in NRMs, from their former lives is of epidemic scale. Classically the group becomes all that the person lives for and all they live to serve it. Steve Hassan’s personal testimony of his reaction to his deprogramming shows, how tied to the group he had become: ‘’ while it might be hard to believe, my first impulse was to escape by reaching over and snapping my father’s neck. I actually thought it was better to do that than to betray the messiah! As a member I was often told that it was better to die or kill than leave the church’’.  In most cases this kind of intense attachment comes from the leader and the real or imagined connection to him or her. This attachment, resulting in detachment from the old self and the old values is typically begun through the charisma of the leader. Charisma is classically the only way in which it is assumed the leader exerts control and implements the six steps above. However Weber, informs us that this only begins with the personality of the leader and that the charisma is a phenomenon produced by what those involved put into it and by how they influence each other. This means that ‘’charisma thus grows out of the give and take between a leader and those who come to see him or her as embodying charismatic authority’’.  Salande and Perkins suggest that the role of object relations theory is very important in the cult experience: that is the theory that in childhood our experiences with our parents have featured in how we adapt to our environments. They say that the cult experience taps into unconscious attachment needs that motivate and direct the cult member’s behaviour. They base this ego repression on intense disassociation and manipulation. They contend that this reactivates early attachment needs that make the person cling to the group and indeed be highly suggestive and defensive of the group. They say ‘’it is the emergence of these defensive operations that indicate the cult member is indeed operating, if only temporarily, at the borderline range of personality organization’’.  This follows on the common assertion that the brainwashing argument is now redundant. Instead fierce attachment to the NRM is an effect of the trials and isolation that the person goes through after being taken in by the group initially. The cultivated suggestively is used to tell the devotees that they are ‘’the chosen ones of humanity, there to lead the rest to the light. This elitist mentality is typical of many new religious organisations’’ . This is something typical to all such movements who proclaim that they have the answers. I will be looking into the Legionaries’ accounts to see if we can find these characteristics. With these kinds of demands and expectations placed on the individual, life in these groups can be very demanding and indeed confusing at times.  Members go through the ups of finding the ultimate truth and exploring this, then the downs of when they may be told they are inadequate. This comes in the form always of that, the problem lies always with the individual and not the group. This problem also comes in the form of punishment when one questions the authority held within the group’’.  Analysing these criteria for how the person’s individuality is manipulated within these groups, it is clear to me that the process of exiting and re-emerging into mainstream society is a terrifying prospect for long time members. Next in the final section we now examine how this might be achieved.



As mentioned we have said the prospect of exiting a group that has been so integral to the inner workings of one’s mind and daily routine, such as a NRM, may be inconceivable and daunting for people. The exiting of such as group is far different from changing religion or denomination through, the process definition of conversion previously described. That is involving your will, intellect and freedom. Facing this a way that became popular for families of NRM members to regain access to their loved ones was by utilising deprogrammers and deprogramming. This was in light of the assertion of the ACM that ‘’cults’’ were using ‘’brainwashing’’ to control and get people to enter their communities. In response to this, deprogramming was developed as a way to break the brainwashing. A sort of coercive persuasion in itself where the person is broken down and rebuilt to see that the activities they were engaged in were not wholesome. Legally there have been problems with the use of such methods as several court cases in the USA have seen the tide turned against the deprogrammers. The People Vs. Patrick (1982) saw a well-known deprogrammer receive a conviction for kidnapping as the jury found that he was not acting to prevent immediate harm to the person he was hired to deprogram.  This method is now widely criticised and Eileen Barker makes the case that the anti-cult deprogramming could even be described as cultic in itself.  However despite the dismissal of this kind of activity the vulnerability of those who have left NRMs is still worrying. Galanter’s systematic work with 66 Unification Church dropouts showed a 36% rate of serious emotional problems after leaving.  Perhaps the answer to this lies in the less abrasive exit counselling that Hassan describes as a process of ‘’exit counsellors using therapeutic techniques that are well established in the mental health profession, along with the latest techniques in counselling’’.  It has been said that treatment needed for those exiting NRMs should emphasize restoring psychological and personality development and a normal adjustment to self, others, and society. Some may need adjustments such as improving coping skills and critical thinking, decision making, and reality testing. Common things that need tackling are overcoming guilt, insecurity, anxiety, and or depression. A solid environment may be needed to induce a stable life situation combined with support to gain personal growth. Sometimes after a person leaves this can be impacted by the cult itself remerging into the situation and also sometimes from well-meaning friends and family who do not understand the situation.



In attempting to answer my question of who are these groups, I have broken it down into the following criteria. These criteria will be used to access if the Legionaries of Christ can be considered a ‘cult’. Firstly as we have seen the term ‘cult’ is loaded terminology springing from the ACM. Instead I will be examining the Legionaries of Christ to see if they have characteristics similar to NRMs that have destructive tendencies.  We have expanded on some examples of cults throughout history to give some context to the phenomenon. Following this we have outlined the requirements as given by Sirkin for becoming initially drawn and involved in NRMs: this we have compared to the traditional Christian idea of conversion. Later in the work I will attempt to relate the experiences of my primary and secondary sources to these requirements. Following this there was an analysis of the techniques used to control in typical NRMs with cultic characteristics and how brainwashing has been discredited as practical for this study. However later we will examine the manipulative and repetitive controls as illustrated above to see how they correlate to Legionary practices. Subsequently we examined the role of the leader as a bearer of charisma that proclaims new revelation. The relationship of the follower to the leader will be important later as will Dawson’s six principles of how leaders control such groups. These progresses lead to the change where personal identity becomes held in the group. This fits with the previous paragraphs to show how the person becomes completely dependent on the NRM. Then in the last paragraph we described the process of exiting NRMs and the alternatives to deprogramming.


All of this leads me to conclude here that these groups are extremely sensationalised yet they are very real parts of society today that will use their powers of control to take in and limit a person’s individuality, agency and freedom for the benefit of the group. I wait to see if the Legionaries can be classed in this definition. This chapter will be placed in relation with the preceding chapter on the history of the Legionaries of Christ and their aims. This is to ultimately investigate if we are able to define the Legion as having destructive characteristics commonly held by groups relatable to the mainstream population and the Thesis title as ‘cults’





The purpose of this chapter is to look at the development of the Legionaries of Christ in terms of their foundation, expansion and development as a force to be reckoned with inside the Catholic Church. This historical refection will be used later in harmony with the first chapter to ask are the practices used by the Legionaries of Christ destructive in nature to the individual. Particular attention will be paid to the actions of the founder Marcial Maciel Degollado help co-ordinate the impending chapters in asking can he be cast in the role of the living leader common to the NRM phenomenon.

According to their official website, the Legionaries’ mission is to extend the Kingdom of Christ in society according to the requirements of Christian justice and charity, and in close collaboration with the bishops and the pastoral plans of each diocese. Today the Legion has three bishops, 889 priests, and 2,373 religious, novices, candidates, and students in apostolic schools and houses in twenty two countries.  The Legion also runs a lay branch called Regnum Christi with 70,000 members worldwide at various levels of commitment.  In Mexico this group is known as the Millionarios de Cristo , a name alluding to their massive annual budget which has been estimated at $650 million with assets totalling around $25 billion worldwide.  Yet for all their success they are relatively young compared to all other fully fledged orders in the Catholic Church. It is this stellar rise and the means used to achieve it that we will examine in this chapter before later going to look at the specific practices for which they have been so maligned of late. To do this I will assess the reasons for the foundation of the Legionaries of Christ and what constituted the early path they took. Following this I will be looking at some of the founder’s and the early leaders’ practices used to gain political sway in Rome when looking to give the Legion a foothold in Europe. Following examination of these initial successes, I will be looking at the murky lead up and conclusion of the period known in Legionary history as the ‘’Great Blessing’’. This will be very important later in terms of its consequences. Following this I will be briefly looking at the ascent the order took following this period leading it to become a shining light for the Church. This part of the chapter will bring us up to the very recent past before problems began to appear for the group and its supporters. Finally we will be looking at the recent allegations against the founder and the structures of the organisation that he set up. This will set a back drop for the investigation into the practical practices of the group and the role of their leader due to be taken up in chapters three and four. For this task in Chapter Two I will be using the information readily available on the internet and also the official Legionaries of Christ history published in 2004 as my main source .


Father Marciel Maciel Degollado was born in Cotija de la Paza in Michoacan state Mexico in 1920 where from a young age he was faced by issues pertaining to the church.  For Maciel, the concept of founding his congregation was self-evident from a young age.  The issue was simple: ‘’God loved him and he loved God, and God was asking this of him. That meant his response would be an unconditional ‘yes’ as to founding his group’’.  He went through several seminaries on his road to becoming ordained before, during and after officially setting up the group. It was his third attempt at setting up the congregation that proved successful, earlier ventures failing due to lack of support from local church figures. In his first seminary the superiors became unhappy that Maciel had created a group within the seminary and was intent on founding a new congregation. ‘’They decided he would have to be expelled’’.  This was in 1938 in Mexico City, with the official reason being for “misunderstandings”, according to Legion history.  After this, Maciel, under the guidance of his Uncle, a Bishop, was placed into an American seminary in New Mexico, however, he was expelled in 1940 for similar reasons to his first expulsion. Father Gabriel Soto has said that there was a bishop opposed to him and that was the real reason why, Maciel was forced to leave Montezuma in 1940.  However, no official documented evidence has ever been found, yet a Jesuit who was there allegedly said “He was not considered apt for the priesthood, He was not emotionally or psychologically balanced.”  Through this, Maciel still pressed his mission to establishing the order after these abortive attempts. Following the setbacks, he partook in private lesions from his uncle, Bishop Francisco Arias Gonzalez of Cuernavaca, so he could continue his mission to enter the priesthood.  From this the bishop of Cuernavaca gave him permission to found his group in his town, though, Maciel thought it would be better to go to Mexico City, so it was there that the 20 year old Maciel was able to set up the Legionaries of Christ originally known as the ‘Missionaries of the Sacred Heart’.  Maciel got money for this through donations from local wealthy people canvased in the wealthy zones of Mexico City. According to the official Legionaries of Christ website Maciel founded the group on the 3rd of January 1941.  Maciel began on a small scale with thirteen young seminarians though in the first few years his group grew steadily. Maciel’s dream was to develop the congregation to become a fully-fledged order on par with the Jesuits, the Franciscans and the Dominicans. To begin this process, he would need a constitution, which he himself would have to hurriedly rewrite, after the scholar who had written it held the original to ransom and stole it.  He would also need a personal religious reference in order to get recognition in Rome. This he got from a Father Onate: ‘’He is a man of profound, deeply rooted piety and sound virtues that have been proved true by many years of hard trials and setbacks borne with exemplary patience and authentic Christian charity. He is young (25 years old), but his experience and maturity exceed his age. The sound judgement and prudence he has shown, knowing how to bring the work to its current state, are noteworthy’’.  Reading this we could assume that Maciel was devoutly piteous, however, he also possessed a shrewd business mind and a charisma that kept those under him in line. Having outlined some of the main points in the rise of the organisation and the founder we will explore some of the ways they managed to take a foothold in Europe.



Maciel had to go to Rome to seek official recognition as opportunity would have it the Franco government was giving grants for Latin Americans to set up seminaries in Spain. This, however, was dependant on official recognition. Maciel first went to Madrid where he got families to donate sums of money to him.  With funds from several of Mexico’s wealthiest families, its president, Miguel Alemán Valdés, and funds from the Madrid families he managed to set up a meeting with Cardinal Clemente Micara. Micara was a newly named cardinal and veteran papal diplomat. Maciel gave Micara $10,000 which was a huge sum at the time  According to Legion history, Monsignor Gregorio Araixa had entrusted to Maciel an envelope containing a confidential document and a sum of money destined for the Holy See: Maciel was instructed to bring it to Rome and give it to Cardinal Canali in person. The Cardinal ‘’got along with Father Maciel immediately and trusted him’’.  These kinds of gifts are not considered bribes in the view of Nicholas Cafardi a canon lawyer, who states: ‘’under church law (canon 1302), a large financial gift to an official in Rome would qualify as a pious cause’’. Large gifts for a purpose should be reported to the cardinal-vicar for Rome. However an expensive gift, like a car, need not be reported”.  These kinds of gifts to individuals in the Vatican will colour the history of the group. From this initial meeting, Maciel managed to meet the Pope and gained permission to move 34 seminarians to Spain. In 1948, after another meeting with the Pope, the Congregation of the Religious approved the newly titled ‘Legionaries of Christ’.  The Legionaries carried on recruiting and expanding in Mexico and indeed in Spain after the recognition on a steady basis. However, the financial backing the young group was cultivating was becoming substantial.  In 1948 when Maciel needed 20’000 dollars ‘’it occurred to him to call Mrs Delfina Castorena de Munoz from Zacatecas, in Mexico. She turned out to be willing to write him a cheque for the whole amount’’.  Indeed donations in the 1950s poured in with benefactors like Venezuelan woman, Josefina Gomez de Delfino and Mexican banking Chief Manuel Santos offering to give massive funds for ambitious building projects.  Combined with their growing fundraising capacity, the Legion was developing great success for getting vocations at a very young age, ‘’in order to keep the person enthralled in the Legionary spirit’’.  It is said that the order had one of the most high-powered recruiting programs of any order in the Catholic Church. One source, an ex-Legionary even went as far as to say they worked to ‘’gain access to a young person then they turned all of their powers of persuasion and attraction on the unwitting target’’.  We will be examining this in the memoirs and interviews later. In sum the Legionaries in this phase of development were said to be: ‘’preoccupied with power and money, and frequently called Machiavellian’’


The idea of the pure being persecuted in serving the Church is a theme that rings through the history of all the orders and through the lives of many of the saints. Accordingly there was an expectation within the Legion of Christ that such treatment would not be long in coming for Maciel. While the group may have been carried initially by the personal zeal of the founder and the financial power he gave them, much of their conditioning was not dissimilar from other groups of the time. Father Peter Cronin has described the Legionaries as an ‘’extremely conservative order which has modelled the formation program for its students on the early Jesuits and much of its apostolate is copied from Opus Dei’’.  So in their formation technique they have not strayed too far from other groups founded on similar principles. Nevertheless, problems in the form of criticism arose from a very early stage. Due to the sometimes opulent surroundings in which they lived, due to their financial stability, there were accusations of improper poverty. The explanation given in the Legion history was ‘’to refute the allegation in the simplest of ways, it would have been enough to read a copy of the Legionaries’ detailed daily schedule, or watch them doing manual work to see the implications of their poverty. They have no possessions to call their own, and each room (then and now) has only what is strictly necessary: a bed, a desk, chair and lamp, a kneeler, a closet for suit and cassock, and a crucifix on the wall nothing else.’’  Similarly in 1948 there were accusations that Maciel had forced boys to go only to confession to him. In this incidence, the accusations were refuted as the boys’ sworn testimonies would indicate that this was not the case.  This would become a growing trend, where young men in the Legion would be forced to give personal testimonies on irregularities. After the initial allegations were made about the Legionaries the early 1950s, there was a period where Maciel gained growing influence in Rome. He took it upon his congregation to build the Our Lady of Guadeloupe Basilica in Rome. This he sought to do with donations from wealthy patrons from Mexico. However, despite this continued success, accusations around the founder arose that he had become addicted to painkillers by injecting them and that he had been over friendly with young seminarians.  The men appointed to investigate, Bontempi and Van Vlierberghe, interviewed the seminarians in the Legion on the matter of the founder’s life. They found that there was no case to answer and that a ‘’grave injustice is being committed’’.  Many who made statements vindicating the founder have since claimed that they were lying.  This, they have said was down to the fear instilled in them, by their secret vows which we will scrutinize at in the next chapter. This opened the door for Maciel to be reinstated on the 13th of October 1958 in the interval between popes Pius XII and John XXIII. The letter reinstating Maciel was signed by Cardinal Micara who had undeniably turned out to have been a very good friend to Maciel.   This point of information and much of the other details about the period were not included in the Legion’s official history. This brought to an end three years in Legionary history where their founder was discredited. The founder would later go on to call this period ‘’the great blessing’’ as it fulfilled the idea that all great leaders went through some kind of persecution. Just before he was vindicated, the Legion finished their basilica in Rome and their first main Novitiate in Salamanca in Spain. This would be where many of the Irishmen who turned out to be part of my primary sources studied for priesthood. Following this vindication and with the novitiate and the basilica finished the Legionaries embarked upon an impressive period of expansion that we will cover in the next section.



Following the founder being found innocent of the charges and re-instated by the very man he had given money to years earlier, there was a great surge in Legionary activity which brought them to the point they are at today. As mentioned, the novitiate in Salamanca, Spain and Basilica in Rome were built towards the end of the ‘’great blessing’’ , with other advances came shortly after this. In 1962 the Legion opened a novitiate in Ireland, and then they opened a Pan American cultural centre in Mexico City in 1963. Following this the Legion opened what would become their educational flagship, Anahuac University in 1964. Anahuac was designed to fit in with the new Legionary model where educating the rich was seen as the primary way to maintain influence.  The year 1965 saw the first house in Madrid and in 1966 the Irish Institute School in Mexico City was opened partially founded by one of the later sources for this work . In 1969 the Dublin Oak Academy and Irish institute of Montgomery were opened indicating that the Legionary’s Irish connection was already bearing fruit.  The Legion looked at Ireland as the perfect place to get young motivated, English speaking Catholics to serve the order’s growing power bases.  It was in this period too that Maciel began to embrace the idea of a lay branch for his movement. The Legionaries of Christ history describes it as such ‘’Maciel had no desire to found two different institutes, one religious the other lay. He wanted a single ‘’family’’ sharing a single spirit and charism (gift for good from God)’’ In this time, as donations flourished, the first Fame Institute Family Centre was opened in Mexico City.  Also the first of their many Mano Amiga (helping hand) schools was opened in Mexico City.  Further in 1969 the ECYD (Educational, Culture and Youth Development) opened. They aimed at getting the youth involved, though they also focused on adults. They ran youth camps and focused on moulding the youth. They were extremely popular from the 70’s onwards. Today, they run a network of clubs and youth centres across twenty five countries.  After this decade of solid growth, the Legionaries were given the region of Quintana Roo in Mexico to develop for the church. The area was given to the Legionaries as their missionary testing ground; the area had thirty churches when Legionaries first came and it has now expanded significantly . From the 70s onwards this region grew in importance as a central tourism area of Mexico where the Legionaries found themselves privy to more power. Their power base in Rome did not diminish either as Maciel is said to have renovated the residence in Rome for the Argentine cardinal who was prefect of religious from 1976 to 1983, the late Eduardo Francisco Pironio.  This was a continuation of the policy they had been using from the start. Following the election of Pope John Paul II, the Legions fortunes took further skyward turns, as he turned out to be a great benefactor and believer for the organisation. He even asked Maciel to accompany him on his 1979 trip to Mexico.  The group held in 1980, their first ever General Chapter Meeting, where all things from the head of the congregation to the simple rules by which members lived were examined. This is the right of all fully formed religious movements and was a great step forward for the Legion. The outcome of this will be the focus of part of Chapter Three, of its impact on the lives of those who desired to remain under the Legion banner.  On the 30th of June 1983 full papal approval of the constitution of the Legionaries of Christ was given, making them into a fully-fledged order of the Catholic Church.  From here the Legion established more houses in America including their headquarters in Connecticut and their first house in Brazil. The 1990s saw further novitiates in Colombia, Germany, Italy and Mexico.  The expansion explained above received great praise from the Vatican, where Maciel was seen as a bright light for the Church in Latin America and in the rest of the world. This was rewarded by praise from the Pope in a special celebration in 1991 for the Legions 50th anniversary.  Supplementary to these successes they opened the pontifical Regina Apostolorum University in Rome and the Francisco Apostolorum University in Madrid, the former opening the world’s first bioethics facility.  These advances show the influence of the Legion and their founder had developed from their modest beginnings. This power and influence would lead them into contact with an untold number of people’s lives. Any mention of the uncertain past would have been seen to be blemishing the reputation of an upstanding organisation and their majestic founder. This was the reputation taken on by a number of men who brought forward allegations against him that opened the floodgates for an investigation into strange practices and the founder’s irregular behaviour. This investigation we will address next.



The tale of how the founder was exposed began in 1976 with Fr. Juan Vaca who had left the religious order.  Vaca, with the backing of his new bishop, sent a letter in Spanish to Maciel, accusing him of sexually abusing twenty Legionary seminarians. His bishop, John McGann, who supported him included this letter in a dossier sent to the papal nuncio to America seeking action against the Legion’s founder.  When this failed to turn up any results he sent the same material, including Vaca’s letter accusing Maciel of sexually molesting Vaca and twenty other children to the Vatican. Receipt of the material was acknowledged by the Vatican, but with no other action. Elsewhere, as discontent grew with ex victims of Maciel, he was fathering children in the 1980s. In 1980 Jose Raul Gonzalez Lara was born in Mexico, the son of Blanca Gutierrez Lara and one “Raul Rivas”, the alias utilized by Fr. Maciel.  In 1987 Maciel is said to have sexually abused Jose Raul for the first time and to have continued to sexually molest Jose Raul for more than a decade. Maciel would go on to have six children with three different women. In 1989 Juan Vaca, having left the priesthood, sent a letter to Pope John Paul II, asking for leave of his clerical vows and outlining a history of Maciel’s sexual abuse of him and others. The leave of the vows was given, though he heard no response to his accusation.  In 1997 a Hartford Courant investigation by Gerald Renner exposed Maciel’s drug habits and abuse of seminarians, it went widely ignored and was refuted in most circles.  No one inside the organisation seems to have heard word of it. In 1998 Jose Barba and Arturo Jurado brought the case of eight, now fully grown men who had suffered at the hands of Maciel. To do this they employed canon lawyer Martha Wegan, who filed a request at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, operated by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. This officially was to have Maciel punished for the sexual abuse, and for violating the sacraments by absolving the then boys of their “sins”.  According to Wegan, Cardinal Angelo Sodano hampered and eventually halted the investigation against Fr. Maciel.  For the next six years, Maciel had the staunch support of three pivotal figures: Sodano; Cardinal Eduardo Somalo the head of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life; and Msgr. Stanislaw Dziwisz, the Polish secretary of John Paul. During those years, Sodano pressured Ratzinger not to prosecute Maciel.  Evidence shows that over the years all three of these high ranking men received some kind of support from Maciel or the Legion. Sodano had become allied with Maciel when the two met in Chile during the Pinochet dictatorship.  For Somalo, it has been noted he was a recipient of cash donations.  For Dziwisz’s support, it has been noted that he frequently received cash donations for personal charity in order to secure Masses with the pope  Indeed in 2004, John Paul, ignoring the canon law charges against Maciel, honoured him in a Vatican ceremony.   However one cardinal who rebuffed a Legion financial gift was Joseph Ratzinger”.  With John Paul ailing he reopened the case against Maciel and when he became Pope he banished him to a life of prayer and penance. Maciel died in the last week of January 2008. Maciel’s 21-year-old daughter Normita reportedly travelled from Spain with her mother to the Miami hospital where he was dying.  He was buried in his native Mexico after plans to bury him in the Basilica he had built were blocked by his exposure. With the reputation of the founder already tarnished by the time of his death the stories of the children began to surface. After his death Raúl brought a lawsuit against the Legion, who he accused of trying to cut him and his family off, this induced a legal battle over Maciel’s estate with the other children.  The case is still pending with Raul claiming he was offered $26 million dollars in silence money.



In terms of esteem, the fall of Marciel Maciel has proven to be just as dramatic as his impressive rise. In this section basic information about the group has been set out to lays the basis for the following chapters. The first section in this chapter has framed the irregular rise of the founder and demonstrated the charismatic style of his leadership. In the second part important aspects of the operational tactics of the organisation were shown. These included their handing out money for privilege and the advanced fund raising system employed. Following this the first example of a turbulent period for the group was shown. This period demonstrated how the indoctrination in use by the group and the cult of the leader had twisted the minds of the young men, who lied to protect Maciel. This vindication was important, as it was used to stiffened people against listening to accusations against the founder again. Next the outline of the scale of the Legion’s operation and how it grew to be that way was given. Then, finally, we discussed the terrible aspects of Maciels double life, the victims and how they sought justice leading to Maciels being exposed. The aspects talked about in this chapter will be used in unison with the first chapter to ask can a high powered order of the Catholic Church be talked about in the same terms as a destructive NRM.





The idea that a group that could be identified as a ‘’cult’’ might exist within the Catholic Church would seem strange to most Catholics in Ireland. That an order with such high papal and constitutional approval should be brought into such a comparison would be alarming to many Catholics. Although not well known in Ireland, the Legionaries of Christ are considered a church institution in Latin America, where they have come to epitomise the Catholic Churches fight against other growing popular forms of Christianity. The Legionaries charitable work in the area of Quintana Roo and other areas, combined with their numerous educational institutes around the world have brought them into contact as a force for good with thousands of people across the globe. In light of this it is hard to see where at their core, they can be classed alongside groups where blatant abuse of members is apparent. In this forthcoming chapter I will use the criteria established in Chapter One, framed by the narrative from Chapter Two, to examine their rules, regulations and their impact on individuals in the organisation.

To do this we can start by re-examining the process of conversion as outlined in Chapter One. Next we will be looking at how the experiences of people new to the organisation fit in with Sirkin’s scale of initial engagement with a NRM: from chapter 1.4. Following this in the third section here we will be looking to see if the levels of social control as outlined in Chapter 1.5 can be found in the Legion of Christ. Next we will examine the special concept of the formation of priests held in the Legionaries of Christ, this will compared with ideas about identify becoming held in the unit following initial entry and prolonged exposure to a group. Finally we take on the issue in the Legionaries of Christ to see are there difficulties leaving the group. This will cover the range of typical psychological punishments and physical barriers outlined in Chapter one.



As mentioned in Chapter 1.4, the process of conversion can be defined as: ‘’ conversion comes from Christian theology and is defined in Christian terms as a turning to God in which our intellect, emotions and wills are all involved’’. In the case of the NRM, the turning to God can be seen as an outright separate form of God, as in the Church of Scientology, or other pious object contrary to the mainstream religious groups. However the situation in joining the Legion of Christ involves serving the established church, yet in a different way. The way that the Legion has been said to recruit, according to my sources did not fully utilise the intellect, emotions and wills of those involved. In many incidences, according to my sources, recruiters in Ireland especially played on the inbuilt missionary ideal of glory. Seamus Hayes speaks about how in many incidences ‘’the missions came up in daily life and were mentioned in schools’’.  Keogh has suggested that in his case the recruiter ‘’knew how to relate to intelligent, competitive and ambitious Irish boys’’.  On the face of this there should be no problem, but it appears many of those recruited were fed lines about the organisation and its mission. The young were routinely targeted, one incidence noted where the mother of Arturo Jurado Guzman who would later be abused by Maciel, had his mother berated by Maciel for not wishing for her 10 year old son to go with the strange priest.  This kind of attitude has seemed to pervade most Legionary recruitment. Lennon talks about how he was made feel that the school of faith he had set up in Mexico was being pushed into aggressive recruitment for Regnum Christi, this led to his voicing his disapproval and to his being removed from his position.  Regnum Christi itself has been associated with the term ‘love bombing’.  That in recruitment the Legion are noted to be very aggressive is undisputed, as their relationship with the dioceses shows. The Legionaries are barred from recruiting or holding meetings in at least seven American Dioceses; Baltimore, St. Paul-Minneapolis, Baton Rouge, Richmond, Fort Wayne-south Bend, Columbus, Miami, Seattle. There have also been serious concerns raised by the Archbishop of Toronto and Cardinal George Pell of Sydney.  There tactics seam to be common to other high commitment groups, religious or otherwise, deemed inappropriate. In the next section we will see if the legions initial involvement with individuals fits into Sirkins scale for involvement in NRMs.



In this section we will be seeing if Sirkin’s scale can be applied to the Legion of Christ. As in Section 1.2, Sirkin identified five stages in the process of cult affiliation: hooking, joining, intensification, social disengagement, and realignment. To refresh, hooking is the stage in which individuals initially contact group members and find them interesting. This can be found in any organisation where recruitment is possible. The Legion identified the interests in the person and appealed to them. Annabelle Mooney’s idea of cultivating the desire in the individual would seem to fit this situation.  Keogh says he was sold on the idea of going out to save Latin America from Communism.  Whereas Hayes gave interesting insight into their pulling power when he said ‘’they caught our imagination. Guys who I would have never thought had anything for the priesthood would come down for a chat with them’’.  The second stage, joining, involves the recruits becoming strongly attracted to the group and its philosophy. In intensification, Father Peter Cronin describes continuous conferences, talks, retreats, exhortations used to reinforce the essential message.  The Legionaries’ official history brings light to this by discussing the initial interaction with a person as ‘’Each day, stone by stone, consecrated men and women try to forge virtue, temper their wills, and from their personality with the help of God’s grace, learning what it means to parry and teach the gospel’’.  In the third stage, critical thinking is compromised and individuals are encouraged to view their families of origin and the non-cult world as bad or evil, whereas the cult beliefs and activities are all seen as good. Keogh, relates how his parents were lied to about Christmas visits and how this resulted in problems when it was restricted to one hour.  Newly entered religious in the Legion of Christ are told that conversations with outsiders must be reported to superiors.  This separation from people outside has been said to lead to interactions with outsiders becoming matters where the categories of recruiting someone, getting financial support from them or receiving some other kind of positive support for the movement is all there is seen to be gained.  The fourth phase, social disengagement, involves building a lifestyle on the good/bad worldview. Cults provide isolation from the world and self, induction of a dissociative state, and indoctrination techniques that criticize the non-cult world and reinforce the exclusive closed system of the cult. The elitist attitude pervades where one is not allowed to speak to those outside. Dissociative states and lying to others can be seen in Keogh’s example: we were told to explain away to others the opulent surroundings by saying that a cardinal had donated it.  Russo recounts how he was not allowed to eat lunch with the other teachers where he worked for the Legion; this was enforced by a disciplinary force whose jobs were to ensure the other brothers were well behaved.  The building of a worldview composed of good and bad was outlined in the weekly ‘’Chapter of the Faults’’ where the brothers would be forced to tell in public when others had broken rules or shown pride or sarcasm etc.  Indeed again in the Legionaries’ official history, it is documented that ‘’from the day he founded the Legion, Maciel dedicated the best of his time , attention and effort to human and spiritual formation of his religious, a formation that encompasses not only general ideas but the smallest of particulars.  This kind of complete desire to control adherents would correlate with criteria outlined by Sirkin used to achieve control of the individual. Indeed isolation from family and friends would have been maintained the longer the person remained in the group. Lennon recounts how he was 17 years old when he went to the Novitiate at Salamanca, ‘’he would not see his family nor them him for the next nine years’’.  The final stage on the scale which can be looked at through the experiences of the sources is the stage of cult affiliation and realignment where individuals develop a new identity structure as members of a cult.   Lennon recounts how after some time in the Legion rules were to be followed without exception, methods followed and systems implemented without question; all members had to conform uniformly to the norm.  Keogh said that they ‘’were encouraged to work on integration and lose their nationalistic traits. We considered ourselves Legionaries’ – an identity to transcend national culture’’.   This uniform nationality could also be interpreted through the experiences of the members of Regnum Christi, who are told to always appear happy around family and friends , in summary total group thinking prevails. Next the other criteria for control as typically used by NRMs will be explored.



For this I refer back to my point in Chapter One that most sociologists agree that elements of extreme social control and totalism may be found within some high-commitment groups, but those mechanisms may also found in many other groups that range from political cells to football teams.’’  However, there is a difference between high commitment groups and groups that gain complete control of a person like a destructive ‘’cult’’ or NRM. The idea of brainwashing is an area I would like to move away from at the outset, as academically it is not grounded in factual verification. Rather I will be examining the issues of social, personal and environmental controls, as well as the intellectual, spiritual and emotional manipulation exerted on the members of the group.  One of the simplest ways of exerting such controls would have been by over working those you wish to control so that they cannot take time to interpret what is happening to them. Keogh says in his book that ‘’the multiple chores of daily life distracted us, and the relentless schedule left little time for personal thoughts’’.  The purpose of this work could have been described as disorientating. Hayes, in our interview, brought up the point ‘’there were a lot of little jobs, there was a certain thing about the jobs, little things to do, the driver’s job was coveted as it got you out and about. So we didn’t get out. I lived in Rome for five years, though, when I went back two years ago I didn’t know my way around at all’’.  This would have been compounded by the social isolation from the family. Another example of this is that of Keogh’s who recounts ‘’during 20 years in the Legion he saw his family for a combined total of 20 days’’.  In the Legion, this was combined with strict limitation of what the person had access to as regards the flow of information. Lennon, in his autobiography, explained how from a very young age in the organisation, he uncovered how his letters to a Father James were being read.  Cronin reinforces this point, saying that all letters to family and friends even those of priests are opened and read by superiors.  Nat Russo goes a step further in his story stemming from the early 1990’s. He discusses how the Legion even went further with his letters, by making sure they didn’t get to him or his weren’t delivered.  Letters were one aspect of control, though universal control over media is the norm in LC and RC also ‘’Novices did not read the papers or watch television, they always viewed in groups and only for special occasions like Papal elections or other Vatican events, or special treats like the World Cup or carefully edited movies’’.  This testimony is repeated all over the personal accounts of those who have written of their experiences in the Legion. Both Regnum Christi and the Legion also prefer the use of a buddy system as a further means of control . These rules mentioned and most of the other extraordinary rules of LC and RC were exerted mainly on the instruction of the founder. This we will be looking closer at in Chapter Four on the role of the founder. Next in this chapter we will be exploring the theory of identity becoming held in the unit in comparison with the process of priestly formation as utilised uniquely by the Legionaries of Christ.



Priestly formation has been a matter of pride for the Legionaries of Christ in the past, though now their rigid rules are being held up to higher scrutiny. Maciel received massive praise for the priests he was managing to assemble fresh off his Legionary production line. In examining this process I would like to go back to Max Weber’s notion from 1.7  that ‘’ Charisma thus grows out of the give and take between a leader and those who come to see him or her as embodying charismatic authority’’.  So in short, the power Maciel held over his adherents originated in him. It also involved the imagined relationship they would have had with him. The Legion of Christ history again gives insight into Maciel’s charismatic powers to this end, it recounts ‘’Maciel taught the novices how to pray, he would frequently accompany them to morning meditation, speaking to Jesus out loud, contemplating and reflecting on the mysteries of the incarnation, life, death and resurrection.’’   This initial interaction, aiming to impress novices combined with some of the testimony of Maciel’s prowess with the individual as outlined by Hayes; ‘’He always gave the impression that he knew about you what you were doing, he really was a charmer’’ , shows how Maciel’s charismatic persona could cultivate in the individual the kind of give and take relationship outlined above. Salande and Perkins observations on object relations theory that the control exerted and loss of freedom to the individual would have made the candidates primed to, after initial interaction with the Legion, to become indoctrinated to their way of thinking. The Legion of Christ history informs ‘’the preparation of a Legionary comprises several distinct periods of formation: Novitiate, Juniorate, Philosophy, Theology and a period of apostolic internship. This means that a seminarian will usually spend between 13 and 15 years in the Legion before getting ordained’’.  This is a very long period of to endure under the influence of a leader of assumed divine mission and a regime that limits personal freedom and expression. In this period, the much spoken about ‘Private Vows’’ in the Legion are taken. Apart from the standard three vows for priesthood, poverty chastity and obedience, the Legion expects of members two additional vows, first to promise never to criticize the superiors and the second to never seek office for oneself or others. Both vows had the requirement to inform on anyone else caught breaking them.  With these vows members must bare their souls only to their spiritual director, however, must never air personal feelings or problems to anyone else. Lennon talks about how this became second nature, even whilst writing to loved ones.  Limiting of social relationships within the group encouraged this process as they were told to strive for the idea of the universal person.  In summary the Legion of Christ official history put it as; ‘’ A priest’s human and social make-up (his way of thinking and acting, his personal presentation and manners, his way of expressing himself, etc.) opens or closes the door to dialogue, trust and friendship.’’ – ‘’the main goal of formation for the seminarian is full human maturity’’.  Or put another way as by Nat Russo ‘’becoming nothing more than a clone of your fellow Legionaries at best’’.  The experience of undergoing prolonged contact, in formation with the Legion leads to attachment issues, problems of individuality and thought processing just as exposure to NRMs would bring about the same. In the next section we will be looking at some of the more particular rules enforced in order to understand better the position this group finds itself in.



The need for this additional part of Chapter Three is testament to the unique situation of the Legion of Christ, as they are a group working inside Catholic norms and rules. However they have rules for their committed that go beyond the following of a normal religious work schedule. Their members especially since the 1980 General Chapter discussed in 2.4 have been under the force of rules governing their behaviour unlike any other group in the Catholic Church. Lennon talks about the ‘’Legionary abrazo’’, the only time members were allowed physical contact was a hug when they were leaving each other’s company or arriving.  The very notion of personal friendships in the Legion and Regnum Christi is frowned upon, as Hayes said ‘’you had to keep a distance, even the superiors would be after you if you were getting too close’’.  Self-flagellation was also practiced; the tools were the flagellum for lashing and ‘the chicken choker’ for around the leg.  Following the second Vatican Council the loosening of rules on the religious was a large portion of that doctrine, trying to modernise the Catholic Church. However from the testimonies of Jack Keogh and others it is known that the regulations in the Legion and Regnum Christi were tightened after the 1980 general chapter meeting. The main document from this chapter meeting was leaked by Wikileaks, parts of which I will share here, ‘’none of our religious are to be let read newspapers, magazines or books which, although not prohibited, threaten their faith or their religious spirit and habits. Moreover, none of our religious, least of all our students are to read novels or other worldly compositions unless it is for legitimate and weighty reasons that the Rector or Superior of the Centre is to seriously reflect on.’’. This expounds further on the point that the access to outside information was controlled.  Further to this, other examples from the leaked document show that tight personal controls were used on the members, this excerpt shows how all members are supposed to dress uniformly; ‘’In your personal hygiene be sure to attend to 1) a shower once a day or more frequently if necessary. The Legionary ought to smell clean; 2) the cleanliness of your hair, making sure it is always combed and cut. Avoid worldly fashions with a feminine affectation; 3) shave once a day, keeping the sideburns at the middle of the ear; 4) the cleanliness of your mouth after each meal. Avoid bad breath; 5) the cleanliness of your nose making sure no internal hairs are sticking out; 6) the cleanliness of your ears making sure no internal hairs are sticking out’’.  This personal control also correlates to emotional controls such as; ‘’Do not expose others to animated states, difficulties or problems. Reserve those things for the persons designated to deal with them & avoid becoming involved in the problems and temporal matters of your own family’’.  These rules can even be seen on how things as trivial as bread should be eaten; ‘’Bread should be broken discreetly with the hands in small pieces, slice by slice, as is necessary, without dropping too many crumbs. Do not split it in half, or in several pieces at once, or pull it apart, or cut it with a knife, or by any means directly bite into it’’.  The examples go on and on of how total obedience is necessary for membership of the group. This kind of existence where the world is so scripted and dominated could bring all of the attachment problems spoken about in 1.7. Finally for this Chapter I want to explore the processes of leaving the Legionaries of Christ or Regnum Christi to see if experiences I have documented can be placed in conversation with 1.8.



For the purpose of this section I would like to examine if the level of trauma associated with exiting NRMs is consistent with the experience of leaving the Legion of Christ. The Legions main weapon against exit, according to many sources is another tool used to control the adherents of the group. Many tell of the mantra existing in the Legion of ‘’lost vocation, sure damnation’’, this has stayed with many long after exit.  This has also been related to the guilt of leaving as you have to remember all of the souls who will be lost because of your move.  This tactic can be compared with similar tactics of fear of persecution and damnation used to keep people in line with NRMs. This psychological aspect aside, it has been noted that Legionaries hold onto their members passports when they are in foreign countries, which by Legion standard means a high percentages of the time.  Russo also speaks of the Legion taking his money which he never recovered even though he was only a lay person considering full priesthood with the group.  As I mentioned in 1.8 the emotional ups and downs of being in favour in a NRM can be very demanding. This kind of emotional rollercoaster appeared to have permeated in the Legionaries as Keoghs testimony shows ‘’ Recruitment was the key imperative for most Legionaries. We were judged by our ability in this regard’’.  For women in RC the message preached is that they are special brides of Christ, this brings euphoria followed by lows as they are told that they are routinely not living up to their potential.  As if the thought of exiting such a group was not daunting enough, many knew that they would be written out of the history; as Lennon says even though he was one of the first Irish candidates in the Legionaries and he played a critical part in the setting up of important offices in Mexico he was ‘’written out of their History’’.  This ruthlessness taken with those who leave under the wrong conditions, show how they sought to control their remaining members even more. Hassan in 1.8 described the process of exit counsellors using therapeutic techniques that would be needed after leaving a group with established criteria like the Legion. From my interview this is reflected  ‘’you find that you are never really at peace, you need to be detoxed, I wasn’t, and a lot of what I did later was hinged on it, though, in recent years I’m able to reflect on it’’.  In many cases of exit from the Legion there have been positive stories of departure, however, lives have been drastically damaged also by the failure to identify some of the practices of this group as destructive to the individual. That these individuals, depending on the manner of their experience, needed exit work not dissimilar than what Hassan prescribes is testament to the position of this group.


In the six sections of this Chapter we have investigated similarity in the characteristics of the Legion of Christ’s internal regulations and norms to those of typical NRMs. This has been done through examining their recruiting philosophy. Then by comparing them to NRM models for initial engagement with the individual. Next by looking at controls they place upon their religious in the general sense. Then by looking at their priestly formation process in comparison to established formulas for ‘cultic’ attachment. Upon this by exposing some of their more tightly controlled regulations then finally by examining their resistance to losing members through psychological threats of damnation and physical barriers as well. Although the Legion has a mainstream religion behind it and full approval of the Catholic Church, its characteristics are similar to NRMs in terms of control, manipulation and destructive capability. In the next Chapter the investigation will turn to the crucial area of the leader of the Legionaries to see if this special aspect of this particular ‘mainstream’ religious order can have a bearing on the outcome of the study. Though to take note so far of the work I will apply this quote by Lennon; ‘’Here lies the paradox: the Legion, founded in 1941, and thus to all intents and purposes ‘’modern’’, isolates its members from the outside world more than many ancient monastic and contemplative orders: no phone use, no access to the internet, no viewing TV or listening to the radio’’.  In relation to its sharing characteristics with the groups maligned as ‘cults’ throughout the 20th century, this is a damming indictment indeed.





The purpose as outlined for this penultimate Chapter will be to investigate the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, Father Maciel Marcial along the lines that have been established in 1.6. This investigation will go further to elaborate on whether his legacy can hold a purpose for sustaining the group. ‘’He was handsome man about five feet eleven inches tall, his hair was thinning and his black rimmed glasses accentuated his tiny features’’.  This man, as pointed out in Chapter Two, completed incredible things with the time available to him, however, he also committed terrible acts against those he should have been obliged to protect.

In this Chapter’s first section we will go back to the start to examine Maciel as a bearer of charisma, whose double life was exposed in this last decade. This will involve re-examining briefly some of the terms mentioned in 1.6 as typical of leaders of this sort. In this we will shed light on the final count of crimes that can be attributed to him against his children and followers, those who believed in him completely. Next, I will be looking at some of the ways he managed to maintain such a high level of charismatic leadership behind the lies and falsehoods, this will reinforce already discussed points about his relationships with his followers mentioned in Chapter Three. Following this we will examine how he fits into Lorrain Dawson’s six criteria for the charismatic leader. Next, we will search through some of Maciel’s personality traits to see if we can gain any more insight into his condition and modivations.  Subsequently, we will look to his life to try and understand him either as a man of God or as a manipulative egotist who found pleasure in unspeakable evils. Then, finally, I want to ask can his legacy have a purpose with the group. As a man of great deeds in certain corridors of his life, can it be possible for him to receive a kinder reflection than the one he has received since death?



Drawing back to what Max Weber said ,’’the leader of such groups may be considered a prophet or bearer of charisma that proclaims alternative if not entirely new revelation’’.  The role that Maciel played in proclaiming a new revelation may be questioned, as he held true to many tenets of Christianity from the norm. He was, however, the ultimate confidence trickster who committed unspeakable evils. His own children tell of times he raped them “When I was 7 years old, I was lying down with him like any boy, any son with his father. He pulled down my pants and tried to rape me” taken from an account given to a newspaper.  Behind all his holiness, his work for the Church and his acclaimed accomplishments I must ask; do his actions speak louder than his words?  No doubt from Chapter Three he fills the criteria set for charismatic leadership; ‘’a process of interaction between individuals with unique leadership qualities and followers whose needs for guidance and emotional protection can be met through direct and/or symbolic relationship with the leader’’.  In Maciel’s case he used the position of power, this position that afforded him to lie, disguise his actions and seduce. The Maciel account of establishing his first Papal meeting to gain approval for the Legion shows these attribute as it has proven to be a fabrication. Maciel claims that in June 1946 he managed to speak to Pope Pius XII after the Holy Father had celebrated a solemn Mass of beatification. However Berry and Renner have discovered that Pius XII never beatified anyone in June of 1946.  The powerful organisation he built from the ground up allowed Maciel to make up these lies on whim without being challenged. Fitcher gives account of how even those at or near the top never dared to question the aura of personality he had created for himself. “When Fr. Maciel would leave Rome it was my duty to supply him with $10,000 in cash — $5,000 in American dollars, and the other half in the currency of the country to which he was travelling,” explained Fichter. ‘’I never questioned that he was not using it for good and noble purposes. He was so totally above reproach that I felt honoured to have that role. He did not submit any receipts and I would have not dared to ask him for a receipt.”  This kind of unerring devotion would eventually be thrown back in the faces of his highest followers upon his death bed. The men who gathered around Maciel on his deathbed were left aghast when two women appeared; Norma his lover and Normita, his twenty three year old child. Maciel reportedly said of the women: “I want to stay with them.”   Rumours abound that Maciel refused to make a final confession, a point which may have been an acknowledgement of his sordid double life, though who this is unknown. Leading from this, Jason Berry has highlighted how; ‘’In announcing his ascent to heaven, immediately following Maciel’s 2008 death, the Legion high command took propaganda to a level beyond category’’.   What gave this manipulator such complete control over such a high performing group of individuals? In my next section we will explore this in closer detail.



What did Maciel have over the group that made him so immune to scrutiny? Paul Lennon has said that ‘’Maciel was presented to us as a living saint with the wonderful name Nuestro Padre’’.  This kind of introduction gives Maciel’s myth more power as it forms part of the initial conversation between the new or potential devotee and the bearer of charisma. The personal myths that he maintained in the order would have kept him in an immutable position, for example stories of his helping the Christero’s in Mexico and other constructed acts of heroism.  Sensational beliefs held in the seminaries are again exposed by Lennon when he says ‘’I was never gullible or superstitious enough to believe that he could read my mind or soul as some of the other Legionaries did’’.  This shows that he was effective in maintaining control through the impression he had made on others. Keogh reflects on him as having two personalities, ‘’one who was an austere, but audacious priest and the other the manipulative, entrepreneur who lived a different life to the one he prescribed for his religious’’.  This I would say is true, though in my view, where Maciel’s skills and effectiveness lay, was in his ability to switch between the two lifestyles almost in the blink of an eye. Hayes reflects on his religious manipulation of the rules; ‘’Maciel would let things slip every now and again, when we were abroad we were not to wash the busses on a Sunday though he had us doing it anyway, when people noticed he hid the busses and made us do it, when asked he said you’re consecrated it doesn’t apply to you. He had a lot of little things like that’’.  The way control over the vows of poverty in the Legion was maintained was crucial, just as he controlled the flow of information, this would have kept those who he held sway over in line. Fichter again recounts how; ‘’ the sad thing is that we were so naive. We were scrupulously trying to live our vow of poverty and yet never questioned [Maciel’s] own fidelity to the same’’.  In terms of character we have established Maciel’s betrayal of his followers and children and also how his personal effectiveness kept these people in line even after the fact in certain cases. In the next section we will compare if Maciel can be held up to Loraine Dawson’s principles of Charismatic leadership.



For this section we refer back to 1.6 where Lorne Dawson’s six principles of how charismatic leaders maintain control over their religious groups were outlined. I will be applying this to facts and perceptions around Marciel Maciel. To refresh, the first principle is ‘’To keep the congregation focused, the leader might change the focus or the emphasis of his teachings, perhaps suddenly in order to keep them focused on his words’’.  Maciel’s position of being the founder of an alternative way of adhering to an established religion rather than the proclaimer of a new religion, make this characteristic hard to relate. However there were certainly emphatic changes in the use of material to strike comparisons too. In the official Legionaries of Christ history little is made of the founder’s irrational emphasis on the change of days for a forthcoming celebration of the Legion. The history says the Mass in question was supposed to be on the 23rd though on the day of the 13th Maciel ran to the home of the presiding bishop with the beating ‘’today, today, today’’ going around his head.    As usual, Maciel got his wish and the Mass was brought forward. This example of irrationally changing the plans of the group would keep the congregation focused on the leader’s words and not on his flaws. Indeed the book that is attributed to him the “Psalter of my Days”, a reflection on his time during the ‘’Great Blessing’’ is used to prepare his followers for the coming persecution that will befall all ‘’Church Leaders’’. Changing the emphasis of Christian ideals in this way was in essence building protection for himself as leader .  The next criteria for charismatic leaders, is they may increase demands placed on followers of sacrifice thus ensuring their complete control of the group. Several examples of this have been given throughout this Chapter and Chapter Three already, though perhaps the most telling of loyalty tests was the continuation of an exceptionally disciplined and rigorous lifestyle imposed on Legionaries after Vatican II and especially 1980.  Thirdly they may play on a follower’s sense of fear of persecution to create perceived threats in the world; this can also take the shape of creating a severe us and them scenario. The interpersonal strangeness and rigid social control as extensively outlined in Chapter Three would have taken care of this in abundance for Maciel. Fourthly that internal forces seeking change within the group can be ridiculed and personally marginalised and expelled from the group by the charismatic leader. For Jack Keogh this was apparent as he was sent to Gabon on a mission derived to keep him quiet and loosen his resolve to remain in the Legion as a priest.  Father Michael Caheny shares how ‘’Young Legionary priests who just vanished overnight and were never heard from again’’.  This experience is retold all over Legion of Christ testimonies, as those who stood up to Maciel were quickly dispatched. The fifth point is that; ‘’the leaders may employ some kind of loyalty tests in order to increase the follower’s emotional dependency. This may take the form of limiting personal relationships in the group’’. This quotation from the principles of charismatic leadership in its latter part categorises Legion of Christ procedure completely. For loyalty tests I would like to point to the secret vows as the perfect exmple. The Wikileaks document shows the uncompromising reasoning of the vow;  To never openly criticize, either with words, writings or by any other means, any act of governance of any person or director of the Movement, and to immediately report to the director any subject [person] who has done so’’.  By its sheer all-encompassing nature this is a loyalty test and is integral to keeping personal relationships to a minimum as a bonus. Indeed it would seem that this kind of submission was the only way to move up in the Legionaries of Christ. One source quotes; ‘’Maciel’s inner circle as all those who were either his victims or his lackeys, to gain power in the group you had to submit to him totally’’.  Finally in the criteria of Dawson (6) Leaders may seek to consolidate their control by disrupting the routines of their followers by relocating groups or individuals.  Keogh recounts how Maciel had confessed to him that he had rigged the results of the 1980 general chapter in order to get the results he wanted.  Tightening these rules would surely disrupt routine and shift focus, however, it can be brought further by testimony from Nat Russo; ‘’once every month or so we were required to move, this involved enter our cells collecting our belongings and moving to a new cell, we were timed in this activity’’.  Lennon, Hayes and Keogh were all moved personally by Maciel in incidences where their thinking grew out of line with his own, this kind of leadership surely fulfils criteria number six of this scale, if not, it at least shows his brutality in dealing with dissenters.  In summary, although Maciel is not the founder of a NRM as such, in his role as charismatic leader in the Legion of Christ he seems to satisfy the conditions set out by Dawson. Next we will be looking at some of the more extravagant aspects of the founder’s  personality to link with the last section on can we say his legacy has any purpose?



Maciel, whilst being a man of terribly evil deeds, may have not have had the understandings in himself to correctly assess his faults. Maciel himself was most likely abused as a child. Juan Vaca said that he, Maciel, had once told him of such an incident occurring in the field where he was molested by a man.  The correlation between child abuse and the eventual child abuser is well documented.  Nonetheless Maciel was responsible for molesting an untold number of boys and there can be no defence of such actions. A source, Father Dominguez, was on record to say Maciel raised concerns in him as he always surrounded himself by all the good looking boys, though sadly as one of the only ones who suspected anything he was unable to express his concerns to the right people.  As well as these faults, Maciel was lavish; he thought nothing of spending large amount of money on taking the Concorde or helicopters to meetings.  His demands and expectations could sometimes move into the exceptional. Hayes remembers trips to the airport for Maciel in Madrid where he would be going to pick up single pieces of fruit flown in on airplanes for the founder ‘’ they could get bruised on the way. But sometimes it would have taken me all morning to get this to him for his lunch. He would put a lot of emphasis on this kind of stuff. I remember one time I wasn’t able to get it, he wasn’t happy.  Maciel, in recorded incidences, was nothing short of lacking any moral culpability when he brought his own children to the Vatican when Raúl was 10 and Norma 4, where there they received Holy Communion from Pope John Paul II.  That a man proclaiming and enforcing such controlled restrictions of purity on his followers would take his illegitimate children, who he himself was molesting, to receive Communion as guests with him to the Pope surely paints Maciel as more of a sociopath than a charming, well intentioned church builder who lost his way. Linking this to the testimony from the seminary he was expelled from in New Mexico, plus the countless misunderstandings brushed away in the Legionaries official history, there is a picture painted of a very flawed man indeed. Even near his death his controversy continued, when he reportedly refused confession, leading to an exorcist being summoned.  Maybe this was just the real Maciel finally being honest with himself and others or perhaps it was the senility of old age or the delirium of disease. Either way, it leaves us with good indication of the contradiction that was Marciel Maciel.



If Maciel built a group that while promoting Catholicism around the world restricts personal freedom and choice in its adherents and he led a double life of unusual cruelty, can we rightly say his legacy has any purpose? Following his banishment into a life of prayer and penance by Pope Benedict XVI the official Legion website released the following statement ‘’Father Maciel, with the spirit of obedience to the church that he has always characterised has accepted this communiqué with faith, complete serenity and tranquillity of conscious knowing that it is the new cross that God, the Father of Mercy, has allowed him to suffer’’.  Seemingly in 2004 the Legionaries’ commanders felt that he did have a legacy to be protected. Perhaps this is reflective of the conditioning he left with them and not of what their powers of deduction should have been telling them. Nonetheless many other aspects of this man’s character have been exposed as fraudulent. He has been exposed as lying in letters to his supporters, exaggerating things from student figures to his own accomplishments.  Even the writings he claimed to be his own, his book “The Psalter of my Days”, we can now look at as a rehashing of the “Psalter of my Hours” by little known Spanish Author Luis Lucia.  Even the original material used for the Regnum Christi folders were all developed from a book written by a separate Spanish author about ‘’The Kingdom’’.  Maciel’s credibility as an author takes a further hit when you think that the Legion themselves purchased 16,000 copies of his book to make it a best seller.  He was a sexual predator who sought to control the sexuality of his devoted so totally to the point where Legionaries in the seminaries were not allowed to even touch their penises when they went to the bathroom.  All in all the legacy of this man may not be best summed up by me, perhaps it’s better to use the words of someone who knew him; ‘’it is no exaggeration to say that Marcial Maciel was by far the most despicable character in the twentieth century Catholic Church, inflicting more damage on her reputation and evangelizing mission than any other single church leader’’  – Fr. Richard Gill, Ex LC. While this may serve to say that indeed his legacy will serve no purpose, perhaps there is a lesson to the Catholic Church, that nothing that seems perfect ever is.


In conclusion I have examined the unusual character of Father Maciel for the purpose of giving balance of the good deeds of his life with the bad deeds. In his case, for me, it is clear that his actions did in life speak louder than his words and that he was at kindest, a very flawed man. He manipulated and charmed, using his charisma to lead a life for himself that was different to the one he preached for his religious. In the criteria given by Dawson, Maciel is able to match every behaviour indicating that he shared many similarities with the leaders of what the media have generally called ‘cults’. In his eccentricity he leaves questions, how did he keep people fooled for so long? This and the final question posed in the general argument will be answered in the next chapter. Though for Maciel, I asked if his legacy has a purpose. As an author, an example to others, a father and a priest I can say categorically no. Perhaps it is best to think of certain parts of his legacy as his own and of other parts as not. According to the Legionaries’ own spokesman, “he himself [Maciel] said he was an instrument of God, emphasizing that the work was not his but God’s”.  Maybe this is a comforting thought to many who have served by Maciel’s principles in the unerring believe they were doing God’s work. However, perhaps it has some truth. In my Final Chapter we will be looking at this issue, weighing all that has been said to ultimately ask can we say that the Legionaries of Christ are as destructive as a dangerous modern NRM and as such can we say they have a future.





The Legionaries of Christ have been shown to display some of the characteristics outlined in Chapter One. Their meteoric rise outlined in Chapter Two, as well as ethical faults, show that their unmitigated success has been accompanied by an element of ruthlessness. That their rules and regulation fit so precisely into models for understanding NRMs is interesting because they hold influence in the mainstream Church. The leader displays charismatic personality traits but at the same time, was also a deeply corrupt man. As he fulfils the roles of the charismatic leader we can discern this element of the Legion as an NRM, but there are still some issues that must be addressed before arriving at the conclusion about their nature as a NRM.

To do this I would like to refer back to human history’s long affiliation with ‘cults’ as referred to in 1.1. This will involve a brief reflection on some of the characteristics of other mainstream groups that would have emerged from the Catholic Church as well as Church norms in the past. Following this I wish to problematize some of my sources and the media frenzy that exists around the idea of ‘cults’. Then I would like to draw some of my own conclusions on the matter for the purpose of answering my original question: can we legitimately deem that the Legionaries of Christ and their lay wing are a cult? Finally, I will be looking at the state of affairs within the group since the founder’s death to ask can there be any purpose in the legacy of a group, whose founder’s reputation is blatantly tainted. The conclusion to this pivotal chapter shall be contained in a general conclusion directly hereafter.



The problem discussing cults, as outlined in Chapter One is that there are probably as many definitions of ‘’cult’’ as there are groups labelled as cults. For the Legionaries their standard argument against such labelling is that ‘’they contain and profess no heresy or schism and that they are in fact faithful to the magisterium and thus not a sect or a cult’’.  This point is accurate in a classical understanding, though when brought into contrast with the already given cult definition from Ottenberg some questions may arise. To remind us, he describes cults as having the characteristics of (a) a group of people following a strong, living leader; (b) a group making absolute claims about the leader’s abilities, character, or knowledge; (c) a group accepting the leader’s claims; (d) a member demonstrating complete loyalty to the leader; and (e) a membership dependent on total willingness to obey the leader . In Chapters Three and Four of this work we have viewed that all of these characteristic to some degree can be found among the Legionaries of Christ. To explain this I would like to make the point that many of the techniques used in the formation Maciel’s followers received was of standard church practice. As Father Peter Cronin points out all the norms and rules of the Legion were all taken from the rules of St. Benedict and later adapted.  Other groups of the Catholic Church have had unsavoury attention for alleged ‘’cult’’ like behaviour. Opus Dei, a group older than the Legionaries, tracing their foundation back to the 1920s have received criticism in the past for unsavoury recruitment practices involving teenagers and for misleading parents.  The Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, a group set up in America under the charismatic Father Leonard Feeney, were indeed excommunicated for extremism for nearly twenty years. Their practices included ‘’separation of adults by gender and children from parents, isolation from secular news and entertainment, and corporal punishment of children’’.  So the trend even within the Catholic Church is that the behavioural and formative traits of a ‘’cult’’ or New Religious Movement can exist within a mainstream church or group. However in many cases as said, the practices used are not completely different from previous norms held within the church itself. This I shall come back to in my conclusion in 5.3. Next however I would like to problematize my sources before moving onto my conclusion.



As stated in 1.2 the mention of a group being a cult brings mistrust, presupposed by our attitude towards a media buzz-word. The prominence of the ACM and the mainstream media have coloured many people’s interpretation of what and what is not a cult. For some people the revelation that perhaps; they were involved in a group of this kind may colour their memory in this regard. Not to say that any of my sources have deliberately lied in their testimonies, but a certain amount of understanding on the part of the interpreter should be applied. From my sample interview it was felt that there is a lot of anger in the people who were treated poorly by the group.  This is important to note in the analysis of the information collected here. The history of the Legion of Christ which I have used is clearly full of romanticised accounts of the founder’s activities. However there may be as much of this in the newspapers and other articles I have used as well as certain sensationalising undercurrents. Nevertheless in trying to weigh these things up, the sheer volume of accounts from the victims who suffered under the severity of the LC procedures or the personal abuse of Maciel show the real underlined problem within the organisation was that secrecy was placed around Maciel and his activities. That this awareness, is something that dawns after the fact is clear in the testimony of Jack Keogh who says  ‘’there was little doubt I had been brainwashed by the Legion. Worse yet, unwittingly, I had brainwashed others, I didn’t see it that way for most of my time in the Legion. But my doubts with regard following the first extraordinary General Chapter in 1980, had festered into an awareness that the Legion was not unlike a cult’’.  Moving into my conclusion here I hope to remember that no testimony is perfect and that no model for understanding will ever epitomise the range of reactions induced in humans when encountering a group where abuse of power to this level has been practiced.



I feel that the criteria established in Chapter One have been met by the human testimonies given around the Legion of Christ. However, the problem of the popular notion of cult still pervades the issue. As stated I have dismissed brainwashing as an appropriate term, as understood in its most dramatic sense, as anything that would have been used here or in most if not all NRMs. This leaves me asking; did Maciel learn from pre-existing cults or did the source of his powerful controlling techniques come from somewhere else? I feel that in his group the rules and regulations used would not have been copied from anywhere except for the existing Catholic formation techniques used pre Vatican II. Indeed if a NRM were to look for their best way to dominate their followers they would not have to look further than the way a commune of Christians was governed in the past. This is relatable to the unerring support the Catholic Church enjoyed in Ireland for many years, Similar to the way that any political party, mainstream ideology or religion maintains support amongst its main followers.  The kinds of lives that the Legionaries undertook were not so strange when compared to the ways their forefathers entered the church. However, in my view, it is when you combine the ancient formation techniques with the unique living founder and the secret vows used to protect him when you find the most startling cultic comparisons. Surely the matter comes down to this; the idea that a ‘‘cult’’ can exist in a mainstream religious organisation is wrong in the language used. A ‘’cult’,’ in the way we understand it, is not a perfect understanding; it should instead be taken as a cultism measuring scale of the controls applied by a group on its individual members, where the lower end of the scale is standard of the everyday group people can come into contact with and safe high commitment groups in the middle. It is in the higher end of this scale where we find the media sensationalised ‘’cults’’ or the academically correct NRMs, and it is here that I would place the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi. That they both fit the criteria for NRMs has already been established in this argument, however that these criteria should only be applied to ‘’New’’ religious movements shows how the otherness of the stereotypes have pervaded even certain parts of academic language. The legacy of this group cannot just be reduced to whether or not they are a cult. It should now be judged on whether or not its members, whose experience in my view are the gauge for its position on the scale mentioned above, have a future and a mission in a de-regulated Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi. In my final section I am going to look at the status of the investigation into the Legion of Christ and whether, in this sense, their legacy can have a purpose.



The Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi have Schools, Colleges, Helping Hand Centres and many more charitable ventures besides all over the world. That their good work should be stopped would be a tragedy for Catholic mission and charity. However it is clear despite any good work done, their modes of operating are unsustainable in the light of their formation and moral difficulties. To this end, following the revelations on the founder and the rules used in the organisation, they have been under investigation by the Vatican into their practices and their protection of the founder. Italian Archbishop Velasio De Paolis, president of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See is currently leading the investigation of the Legionaries. He has been described as one of the top experts on religious life from the canonical standpoint.  The Pope appointed Spanish Archbishop Ricardo Blázquez as the apostolic visitor who will lead the investigation into Regnum Christi. Blázquez was one of the team of five Episcopal visitors who investigated the Legion.  Clearly in this regard, the pope understands that the issue is of a fundamental nature and he has given the two men as long as they need to right the ship.  Their work has involved things like deregulating the rules of the Legion with those of Regnum Christi. De Paolis announced in November 2011 that the 1,000-plus rules were invalid since they had no legal status and would be whittled down to a core set of norms.  A point of major concern has been the status of the Legion’s some 900 consecrated women. De Paolis showed the severity of the problem by admitting that some 300 at least, are taking time out to consider their future. He wrote ‘’ of particular concern is that the women have no legal status in the church. In other words, after years of fundraising, serving as unpaid teachers in Legion-run schools, running youth programs, and recruiting new members, these ladies enjoy none of the legal protection nuns have that make it difficult for their orders to kick them out’’.  With this disorder inside the order going on, where can the legacy of all the good work be found? The Rev. Thomas Berg, an American who left the Legion in 2009, said the only way forward for the Legion is for them to emerge and “step outside the Legion shell and propose a renewed form of religious life”.  As of the 14th of February 2012 this is happening with some of the consecrated Women of Regnum Christi in Rome. What makes the exodus of the 30 consecrated members significant is that they are seeking to continue living out their religious vocations under bishops.  The future and indeed the enduring legacy of the group may come from this kind of venture away from the rules that controlled the lives of the followers. This is a point shared by my interviewee Seamus Hayes as he states in some of his closing remarks ‘’I could imagine this, but the latest thing going on in the women’s movement could bring massive waves of change to the movement as a whole’’.  With this break in mind perhaps the legacy of the good with great intentions and drive to serve God, that involved so many with the Legionaries and Regnum Christi in the beginning, may be able to overcome the problems and remove the barriers in bringing the individuals and the group forward. Despite these good intentions the break away from the rules and old norms must be total. Whether a new Legion-like group or the Legion and Regnum Christi themselves can do this remains to be seen. In this regard the years they have spent under such rules will count against them as they try to organise themselves into a group, where lower control is exerted on members. On this note I would like to move to the final conclusion of our investigation into whether the term ‘’cult’’ can be applied to the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi.




In this dissertation I have tried to bring the reader through the world of the Legion of Christ and their lay wing, Regnum Christi. We have examined established criteria for understanding the processes utilised by NRMs to control their members. Following this we have analysed primary and secondary sources to compare the experiences gained in the Legion and Regnum Christi to criteria laid out in Chapter One. Following this we have looked at the character of the founder and sought to see if he fits the profile of the charismatic leader as primarily outlined in particular in 1.6.   My ultimate goal has been to understand if the entire Legion group may be identified as a ‘’cult’’. Secondary to this I have sought to understand if their leader, whose life story, principles and influence serves as background to their ideological formation, has a legacy of worth. In this I hoped to understand if the individuals and the remnants of the group now have a purpose and a future.

The conclusions drawn here are that the Legion and its relationship to their leader fulfils the criteria as laid out in Chapter One and as such may be defined as similar to a NRM. However problems with cult language abound and with their status in the Church considered, I prefer to place them on a more neutrally termed cultism measuring scale for groups who seek control over their adherents. This places them alongside the groups condemned by the media and ACM. However by the terms of the investigation I cannot define them as a pure cult in this flawed terminology.

However, as a group similar in so many ways to NRMs as defined in Chapter One, I have asked does their founder, Maciel, have a purpose in his legacy. Our conclusion here has been that, if anything, there is only something to be learned from him when scrutinising other seemingly perfect characters. Whilst his achievements were impressive, the damage he caused to countless lives will continue to scar until his influence can be cleansed from the memory of the group and the individuals involved.

Finally we have asked does this group now have a purpose. The answer here is that the group as it has existed cannot be sustainable. However, if they are able to completely detach away from the levels of control associated with the past they may have a future. This is dependent on this complete detachment and/or reformation of the group entirely. As in 5.4, I reiterate this remains uncertain, however, every year under the strict controls make it harder for those at the top to detach from what had become their norm.

With this conclusion in mind I would like to finish with something Father Maciel said in 2001 when discussing the prospect of losing his congregation during the great blessing: ‘’I believe that it can only be compared to the pain, the hurt, that fathers or mothers feel when they lose one of their children, when death snatches a child away’’.  Following his complete discrediting and exposure as one whose example must not be followed, this hurt and confusion must now be felt by the thousands of his ‘’children’’ who have seen their ideological ‘’father’’ snatched away.







Question: What was religion like for you growing up?

SH: I’m a child of the 50’s and 60’s would have had religion around a lot, I would have gone to the Presentation Brothers. It would have been around you a lot, and talked about in school a lot, where the missions would have come up as well. Argentina would have been mentioned as a place for this, I would have had a notion from a very young age that this was what I was going to be doing, even as a child I would have played Priest games. So the religion was there, my mother was very devout, my father was less spectacular, as a kid it used to be what would you get him for his birthday, rosary beads, though, then you would have gotten a clout in the ear, he wanted cigarettes. I would have been very conscious that he was not practicing to my mother’s standard. I never felt that I was pushed in any direction.

Question: So when did you come across the Legion of Christ?

SH: Around 1965, a cousin of mine joined in 61/62, so I would have met the famous Father James at that time as well. In spite of the fact I knew my parents didn’t think a lot of them. They thought they were too strict. Father James, he was a dynamo, a force of nature. He was Mexican but also Tex-Mex so the accent was there ya know. Always very well put together. If you ask any of the guys they’ll say the impression was made by Father James. And I think we were the last group that he recruited. After that I think it was someone else. I subsequently worked with him. He went to Mexico. Though he missed being in community. He’s not in the Legion now either. I think he joined the US military as a chaplain.

ML: So even their most impressive recruiter is now gone out?

SH: I think he’s gone for years Mick, he used to being people in for three or four months in Mexico in 73. Some of the guys who were there I see they have also left. One of the top Mexican families would have left who were there too.

ML: Was being told to keep a distance from each other a thing instilled from the start?

SH: Yes it was. I had never heard of personal friendships, you had to keep a distance, even the superiors would be after you if you were getting too close. The idea that it had been brought into us about gayness wasn’t there, we had no notion of it, our innocence was astounding. You needed to have personal space. When they the Legion first set up in Donegal they weren’t even officially allowed to be there. My cousin had joined in Malahide (showing video of the foundation in Ireland). Taking the uniform, would have been a kind of, very Nazi like, salutes and all.

ML: I have seen salutes before, and wasn’t Maciel very sympathetic to Franco in his thinking,

SH: He would have been, yes. It’s funny looking at these, as the amount of guys they had, look at the numbers, they had huge numbers, they just didn’t hold onto them, 62 that’s when my cousin joined. He made his profession in 64, I joined in 65. He was in Salamanca. Usually the thing lasted one year so he would have been going to Rome in 65. Between the end of 65 and 66 I was called and told that he was gone back to Ireland. I heard after that he was asked to leave. The reason I heard was that he wasn’t coping with his studies. For the video go to the monk who stole the cow. They made an impression to come to South America; it would have been spoken about in school. They caught our imagination. Guys who I would have never thought had anything for the priesthood would come down for a chat with them.

ML: What did he cultivate in you to come to the Legion of Christ?

SH: I was already decided, they came to us during the year. The idea was in me, but that would be how it went, it was before I went in I got involved a bit with a girl, though that was to test myself a bit. She didn’t know I would be going. I brought her to meet my parents the day before I left. Me and another guy had a picture of our GF’S though we both decided that we shouldn’t hold onto them. I think Keogh did something similar,

ML: Yeah I read that. She hung on for him for a year or two though his mother didn’t pass on the calls.

SH: Yeah the girl I was seeing made some calls too, but I never got them. Another guy joined and his girlfriend became a nun though they both left and got back together

ML: What kind of message was given about the founder when you joined?

SH: He was everything, he was the main man, there were excuses made for him at every corner. Not even by the superiors but by second year novices. One of the rules was not to cross your knees and he was constantly at it. So I asked and got back that he was sick and could do it. From the beginning there was a separation, he was different and he was not able to be challenged. He was a charmer. He always gave the impression that he knew about you what you were doing, he really was a charmer. I think I saw this, I think I have a gift for not getting taken into things 100 percent,

ML: you mentioned before you thought your letters were being read?

SH: When you’re in there that happens, they put you in charge of something, there were a lot of little jobs, there was a certain thing about the jobs, little things to do, the driver was the job that was coveted as it got you out and about. So we didn’t get out. I lived in Rome for five years though when I went back two years ago i didn’t know my way around at all. From the time you went in you got to see your parents twice a year, I do know that parents were not happy being separated. The Legion did themselves a huge PR disaster in Ireland with this. I remember my parents thinking I was not happy. The mothers used to know each other. I remember defending the Legion over stuff and even thinking Jaysus this isn’t right though still doing it. I know my cousin’s family were thinking that we were being brainwashed. The vows were there and the fear of losing a vocation though to my surprise Maciel didn’t push it when I left. You find that your never really at peace, you need to be detoxed, I wasn’t, and a lot of what i did later was hinged on it though in recent years I’m able to reflect on it. I can distinguish between that and the spirituality that he brought to it, that should stick though the problem is that distinguishing him from the good stuff is what matters.

ML: Do you think the ‘’great blessing’’ was used to prepare people for accusations?

SH: According to the gospel that would be the case, the period they call the war, I never really thought about it, Maciel would let things slip every now and again, when we were abroad we were not to wash the busses on a Sunday though he had us doing it anyway, when people noticed he hid the busses and made us do it, when asked he said you’re consecrated it doesn’t apply to you. He had a lot of little things like that; again it would get you thinking like that. He did a lot of things like that he was an entrepreneur, like one time about products (just put water into it), I always thought he was a pragmatic person.

ML: Do any other rules stick out in your mind?

SH: We had rules for everything, as Maciel was going along he was adding more of these (1980), it was like inside you feel like they should be relaxing though it wasn’t the case. Novitiate was long and hard and they added another year, though. I hated Salamanca, at that time there was poverty there so food was a problem, though Spaniards and Mexicans felt different they had gone through some apostolic schools, there was some friction there. The first time we got there left Dublin at 9am got there at 11pm, long bus journey, no tea, no bread and butter, you get guspacho. The staple diet there was beans, harsh climate, so it was hot summers and sharp winters that came on suddenly, it was common place to see us hanging onto our reading lamps to stay warm. Remember feeling very put down, one guy made another cry in class over Spanish though I felt ashamed that I didn’t stand up for him. There was a lot of that kind of stuff, arrogant pricks. Then we went to Rome. So again I was pushing myself to stay there. Then Mexico where it was not as Legion; met Maciel’s family. His aunt was fresh air. It was free over there it was community. It was relaxed to the extent that we were doing stuff, movies etc. we even thought we could be getting into trouble for this. Then in my last year after 73, during summer 73 I was working with Santiago who was very understandable, when I came back to Rome again I was full of enthusiasm. Then somebody said something to me, my superior ……. it was a time even before the end of my time in Mexico I felt that I had practical application after time in missions for my Theology. Though I was not satisfied. It was around this time that I jumped over the wall in a suit that I had borrowed. I wasn’t going anywhere in particular, I just wanted to be out, though the brothers pulled up in the car before I had even gotten out that far. From there I was bought up to chat with Maciel. It was strange it was the first time I would not have been nervous about something like that. This was when we took the decision, well really he took the decision that I should finish my studies and then I should decide where I want to go to spend a year to think about it, New York, Mexico, Madrid or Dublin. I chose Madrid. My parents were angry they had bought the hats for my pending ordination ha, so that was it. I think I’ve held onto the legion as something that was something I would have been better just letting go, when I was out I never had a legionary circle, Facebook changed a lot of things in the last years, you suddenly see a lot of people are out and have kids now as well. Looking at the video we watched there are only three of them left in the legion, some of the others are priests somewhere else but only three in the legion. I would have been aware that Maciel could be very cynical about people and that when he started working on RC we were second in his eyes and he made no qualms about it. Maciel: personally I felt he was even not in the know about certain parts of the Mass, so for a man of his position to not have some of these attributes was of some worry to me, though he was always so good at hiding it. That’s why I was so impressed with Jack Keogh’s way of getting things out of him, though for me and say Paul Lennon we would have been categorised as rationalists. Which is bad in the Legion if they think you’re not working on certain aspects of faith. Do you see that the different years aren’t allowed to talk to one another the only communication you could have was football matches. I don’t really like football though I was always happy on a Thursday because it was football day. Though I found there was no superior I could open up to. In Salamanca there was a guy called Declan. Declan was a talker like Jack Keogh, he smiled and you could have a laugh, for us he was great. If we were to look at how again this polarised us, if Declan and Jack were on the left, me and Paul would be on the right. We were at extremes though the Legion I don’t think was able to stick this. When the Legion started getting stricter we couldn’t handle it. Before when we were in the colleges we weren’t able to talk to the other guys, though when the RC got going we were told to get out there and make connections. The rules had changed though when you look at it we were the first English speakers.

ML: Jack Keogh mentions losing nationalistic traits, would you agree that this was involved?

SH: Idea of the universal person that would have been the thing that would have existed, when you look at Maciel’s way of doing things all part of Maciel’s thing, the Mexican guys who had been there for ages would have gotten this more. They were there longer Changing emphasis, he seemed to do that a lot he’d change his outcomes.

ML: You mentioned to me before you thought that the natural leader in you was not encouraged?

SH: That would be very personal though it would have coped with the person, anything I was in before I was always the.  I was always surprised that that never happened in , maybe not fair in this context as I don’t know what I was destined for, total control in the legion I don’t think did me any good, it was too strong, because I would be naturally introvert. So that’s just a perception I have.

ML: Did Father Maciel ever exhibit erratic behaviours?

SH: There was a Mexican woman who used to send him food wherever he was around the world. She would send him special foods. When I was in Madrid it was the fruit, the Mexican fruit, I can’t remember the name now, I’ll think of it later, I remember going out to the airport to collect one of these at a time, and they would get bruised on the way. They’re heart shaped. But sometimes it would have taken me all morning to get this to him for his lunch. He would put a lot of emphasis on this kind of stuff. I remember one time I wasn’t able to get it, he wasn’t happy.

ML: This kind of thing is what I’m looking at in Maciels erratic behaviour, like bringing his children to Papal Mass

SH: Maybe it wasn’t erratic, Keogh would put him down as a self-serving egotist with a strong tendency towards pleasure, in the Legion we had poverty, Very strict poverty, If I wanted bus fare I needed receipts, if you missed the college bus you walked, the model of poverty explained is that it applies to you not to your mission, you could take that as follows: if you need to be somewhere you go first class if it’s important enough, the way you dress is important to embrace leaders above you though that keeps the level below you, you have to look good. So that meant we were using material in our suits that was particularly good, though the way they would say it was well this one last longer, one for 150 pesos last four times longer than the one for 50.  Though at the same time you as a person were poor. So they were pragmatic about it. With Maciel if you challenged anything like that about him or him there was so much flexibility there that it was never taken seriously it was just the given. That’s what father James used to talk about.  They called us the millionaires of Christ, Millionarios de Christo. We didn’t have working visas in Mexico so we had to go to the states every now and again in order to get visas renewed. One time when I stayed in a separate room with we both got chewed out because they wanted us to share. Even though there was a lot about people going off on their own. Though there was a thing about a prostitutes being sent up so we were meant to go in twos, gospel quote “he sent his disciples in twos and twos”.

Brother’s wedding jack Keogh, ….. Inaudible

SH: Once you have a decision made to leave you don’t want to talk to them they’ll only try to convince you not to go,

ML: There seems to have been more abuses in the Regnum Christi than in Legion of Christ?

SH: I could imagine this but the latest thing going on in the women’s movement could bring massive waves to the movement as a whole. I do feel now that there is a lot of exaggeration and personalisation, criticism for the sake of criticism

ML: You mentioned before when Peter Cronin came out about stuff you were surprised?

SH: I was surprised at this, though the thing with a lot of these guys is that when you meet them outside it might as well be the first time you meet them again. Though in the novitiate you felt you weren’t doing something right a lot of the time, for me I had pains in my chest which I took as my consciousness, but I think now it was just stress. So again its lots of stress, when you’re in it you don’t know that’s what it is. One of the things, Maciel was a hard bastard one you wouldn’t want to cross; you saw what happened with Jack Keogh. It’s things like that that make me angry and it set John Lennon off too,

ML: Did you ever pick up about the sexual abuse with Juan Vaca or anyone else?

SH: Juan Vaca was my assistant as in superior, Vaca was a highly structured very strict man. When we joined they wanted things to be structured. Juan had that down to a t, he would go through you, no shit. He used to produce a weekly or bi monthly magazine,  we were there at that time another guy abused by Maciel, Fransico Pardalla, I remember him for his time, his reaction to the abuse was severe, he tried to kill himself and what saved him was he fell in love with his nurse in the hospital. The number of cases like that must have been astounding. I can look at it from other ways. There were times in the Legion where I felt God was shining on us. At one time we lived in brutal conditions with rats etc. That we didn’t die made me feel there really was someone looking after us.

SH: Speaking on recruitment, Michael, it surprised me you never got any attention for recruitment. There was a time where if they were in touch with you it was important. However, they did give me dispensation from my vows. In our time if you had brothers or sisters you were out there. You would break all the rules to get there and see if you could get them in.






Barker, Montague, G. Psychology, religion and metal health, T. J International Ltd, Edinburgh, 2000,

Berry. Jason, ‘New Maciel revelations’, National Catholic Reporter, 46, 13, 2010,

Berry, Jason, ‘How Maciel built his empire’, National Catholic Reporter, 46, 14, 2010,

Blancarte, Roberto, Direct to Hell,,

(last accessed 17/02/12)

Burke, E. Rochford Jr, Social Building blocks of new religious movements: organisations and leadership, Teaching new religious movements, Oxford university press, New York, 2007

Caheny, Michael Francis, Maciel’s cynicism outrages Irish victim from the 60’s,

(last accessed 24/01/12

CAN staff, Legion of Christ discloses Fr. Maciel’s plagiarism to its members,

(last accessed 25/02/12)

Censored Legion de Cristo and Regnum Christi document collection, document_collection/en#Chapter_II:_Religious Vows Article

(last accessed 16/03/12)

Cronin, Michael, Legion of Christ as Cult-like,


(last accessed 16/03/12)

Conde, Angeles & Murray, David J.P., The Legion of Christ: a history, Circle Press, USA, 2004

Dawson, Lorne. Comprehending Cults: the sociology of new religious movements. Oxford university press, New York, 1998,

Dunne, Susan, Courant Investigation, Book, Basis For Documentary On Legionaries,

(Last accessed 17/03/12)

Father of a Female Consecrated Member, Mind control techniques used by Regnum Christi Movement,

(last accessed 20/11/2010)

Former Member, Typical Legionary Propaganda and omissions,

(last accessed 17/12/11),

Galanter, M.(1983). Unification Church (“Moonie”) drop outs: Psychological readjustment after leaving a charismatic religious group. American Journal of Psychiatry, 140,984-989.

Goldman, Marion S.  Cults, New Religions, and the Spiritual Landscape: A Review of Four Collections Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion (2006) 45(1)

Hassan, Steve, Combating cult mind control, Park Street Press, USA, 1988.

Hayes, Seamus, Interview, Appendix 1, 28/02/12.

Healy, John Paul, Involvement in a New Religious Movement: From Discovery to Disenchantment, Journal of Spirituality in Mental Health, 13:2–21, 2011.

Keogh, Jack, Diving Straight on Crooked Lines, Iveagh Lodge Press, USA, 2010.

Lennon, John Paul, Our Father Who Art in Bed, USA, 2008.

MacHovec, Frank. Cults: Forensic and Therapeutic Aspects, Behavioural Sciences and the Law, Vol. 10,31-37 (1992)

Mooney, Annabelle, The Rhetoric of Religious ‘Cults’, Palgrave Macmillian, Great Britain, 2005. 25

Ogloff, James R. P. and Pfeifer, Jeffrey E, Cults and the Law: A Discussion of the Legality of Alleged Cult Activities. Behavioural Sciences and the Law, Vol. 10,117-140 (1992)

Olson Paul J. The Public Perception of “Cults” and “New Religious Movements” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion (2006) 45(1):97–106

Ottenburg, D. Therapeutic community and the danger of the cult phenomena, Cults and the Family, New York: Hayworth Press. 1982

Pritchard, Colin, The Child Abusers: Research and Controversy, Open University Press, Maidenhead, England: 2004

ReGAIN Staff, How did the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi become associated with the term cult,

(last accessed 15/02/12)

Renner Gerald & Berry, Jason, Vows of Silence, Free Press, USA, 2004.

Ross, Rick, Cults: Public perceptions Vs. Research,

( last accessed 12/02/12)

Rose, Michael S, Why Orthodox Catholics Are Angry with the Legion of Christ,

(last accessed 13/02/12)

Russo, Nat, Psychological Abuse in the Legion,


Salande, Joseph D. Perkins, David R. An Object Relations Approach to Cult Membership, American Journal of Psychotherapy, Vol. 65, No. 4, 2011.

Sirkin, M. I. (1990). Cult Involvement: A systems approach to assessment and treatment. Psychotherapy, 27(1), 116-123.

Schroeder, Robert, Cults, Secret sects and radical religions, Calton books, Dubai, 2007.

Stolz, Joelle, In Mexico, the Legion of Christ forms Elites.

(last accessed 13/01/12)

Staff LARC, as we approach the crèche,

(last accessed 02/03/12)

Unknown, Comment on LC,

(last accessed on 13/01/12)

Unknown, Education, Culture, and Youth Development,

(last accessed 13/02/12)

Unknown, History,

(last accessed 14/01/12)

Unknown, Members,

(last accessed 14/01/12)

Unknown, Timeline of Father Marcial Maciel Degollado…/Timeline-of-Father-Marcial-Maciel- Degollado

(last accessed 13/12/11)

Unknown, Scandal-hit Legion of Christ’s female branch in turmoil as director resigns, group splits off 13/02/12

(last accessed 06/03/12)

Unknown, Legion of Christ, Operation rescue,

(last accessed 14/01/12)

Unknown, The “Super Catholic” Syndrome,

(last accessed 13/01/12)

Unknown, Who are we,

(last accessed 14/01/12)

Weber, Max. Economy and society. Vol I. Ed. Guenther Roth an Claus Wittich, University of California Press, California, 1978

Winfield, Nicole, Vatican investigating Legionaries of Christ “Cult,”

(last accessed 16/03/12)

Young, John L. and Griffith, Ezra E. H. A Critical Evaluation of Coercive Persuasion as Used in the Assessment of Cults,

Behavioural Sciences and the Law, Vol. 10, 89-101 (1992)



One Response

  1. The world needs to stop using antique methods of spiritualities. New approaches are needed that can be founded in how we understand the world/universe today.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: