Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Andrea's Story

I didn’t WANT to be a nun.  I was raised Catholic. I read stories of the saints. I believed in God. I prayed. But I didn’t go looking for any sort of religious lifestyle. They came looking for me. Consecrated women, with fake happy smiles, began by encouraging me to go to youth group (and encouraging my mother to send us). While there, we were told we were called to “incorporate” into ECYD. I remember when my younger sister refused (always the rebel  :P ), they told her God spoke to them and told them she had to incorporate into ECYD. They were mad when she outright told them to leave her alone. This should have been my first clue. Other friends later were told the same thing. God told them… but didn’t send a message along to the girls themselves? But I didn’t need convincing. Why would I? It was a way of joining with other girls, being part of something. Looking back, I realize it was just the first step in indoctrination.
When I went to the summer program, I was hesitant. But the consecrated women promised fun and laughter and swimming. It was supposed to be a summer camp. No one told me I might stay. They especially never mentioned that I would be manipulated into staying.
I wasn’t there long before I knew I was staying. Conversations revolved around Christ’s calling. How could you say no? Vocation story upon vocation story told of girls as young as 12 and 13 fighting for their vocation, no matter the cost, personal, familial, or otherwise. Leave your father and mother and follow me. How could I be selfish and not give myself to him? And besides, look how HAPPY the PCs are. Look at them, not discussing anything other than their joy, their triumphs. No one dared say “run for your life”.
Other ex-PCs have done a fine job illustrating the mental and physical anguish. Some might say it’s typical teenage pain but I only stayed the one year, grade 9, before my parents refused to let me return. The typical teenage pain I experienced in 10th -12th grades (fighting with friends, highschool heartbreak, deaths of friends and peers) , although plenty traumatic in certain situations, is nothing like this.
I was a shell of myself when I returned home. Having spent an entire year crying every single day, being berated for my emotions, being told to be an example for others and not let them know my pain, being so far removed from my family (being out of country meant missing the thanksgiving visit, and the possible one visit a month for those that lived close)- it nearly broke me. Luckily, my family held me up. Luckily, I’d lost only one year, not 4, not some undetermined amount of time I most definitely would have spent consecrated had my family not intervened (and yes, I HAD decided I was called to be consecrated, at the very mature age of 14).
So parents, do not suggest this “program” for your children. And if they tell you it’s God’s will, if they beg and plead and tell you “Please Mom, this is my vocation. I don’t know if I’ll ever be strong enough to follow it again. It’s your vocation to let me”, be the parent. Realize you have a teenager who is good and loving and wants to love God, but it’s your duty to protect her. She needs you now more than ever.
14 is not old enough.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Sheila's Story

To read Sheila's story, clink on this link, then read from the bottom of the page to the top.

Sarita's Thoughts

The schedule was remarkably structured and left very little downtime. We have 5 and 10 minute free times sprinkled throughout the day, but it mostly just gave us enough time to get from one activity to another. As part of our Human Formation, we were also supposed to have a Free Time Program where we designated which free time we would clean our lockers, ask for permissions, try to write a letter home, etc. Literally every second of our day was accounted for, from 6:00 am when we woke up till lights out at 9:30. I had a great deal of difficultly fitting myself into such a rigorous and demanding schedule because it left no time to think, relax or even unwind.
Since the reform within RC has begun, it has been noted that the consecrated were attempting to live a fully apostolic and fully contemplative lifestyle. There simply wasn’t enough time in the day to fulfill all of the prayer commitments, run an apostolate and have time for free time. During my 3 year stay in RI, we cycled through various different prayer books that were supposedly approved for the PC’s (at one point we were using the consecrated’s prayer books). I never saw a handbook or written set of rules that laid out the many norms that governed our day. I don’t believe the PC was ever an apostolate that was well thought through, we lived our lives as mini-consecrated because no one had ever had the time to actually define what was appropriate for high school girls. However I was 14 years old, I never took promises of poverty, chastity, obedience and charity and I certainly did not possess the maturity to discern this decision. I was presented with a lifestyle (that was already very harmful to adult women) and informed that it was God’s Will that I follow these rules.
Will of God
One of the most damaging aspects of the PC was the manipulation of conscience and God’s Will. Everything was considered God’s Will: the norms, the schedule, your director, and your spiritual director. If you were told to do anything you were expected to obey instantly with a spirit of supernatural obedience and without questioning. Anytime we were late (even if it was minutes) we were considered outside of the schedule and therefore not living God’s Will for us. I was told by one Spiritual Director that disobeying the norms was a mortal sin and that I needed to confess my infractions in confession (that Legionary must have been bored to death listening to our confessions). When we found ourselves outside “the Will of God” (e.g. the schedule and norms) we were expected to “depend” to our formator and ask for a penance. A penance could be anything from a visit to the chapel to all free times in absolute silence. Absolute silence was kept in the dorms and from the period of time after night prayers till after mass the next morning. It could not be broken, and if you absolutely needed to ask a question, you wrote it down on a piece of paper. Once I asked for a penance because I was having trouble keeping silence in the hallways (never mind the fact that I was a talkative 14 year old girl) and I was told to be in absolute silence for all my free times all day. I’m sure my schoolmates were really confused when I insisted on writing everything down for a whole day.
Because my spiritual directors and formators represented the absolute will of God for me, I obeyed everything they told me without question. If they told me I was proud, I felt I must have been riddled with hubris; if I was late to activities, I must have been lazy and needed to put my desires aside in order to live the Will of God for me more fully; if I was spending too much time with a particular girl, that must be stopped because it was against universal charity. God had put the consecrated in my life to guide me and I never questioned this principle. We were encouraged to be 100% open with our spiritual directors and to “depend” about every thought and struggle we encountered. I have since discovered that our spiritual directions were never confidential and were discussed among our formators and used to decide how to manipulate us.
Openness was a key concept for a PC, if you were not open with your directors; you were not being open with God. In the name of complete openness, we were given the “option” of letting our spriritual directors read all of our incoming and outgoing mail. In 10th grade I struggled with the concept of being unable to communicate with family and friends without every word being read by someone else. I spoke of sending letters without letting my spiritual director read them, but it was “highly discouraged”. In a burst of creativity I wrote my little sisters several letters in pig latin because I knew my Spanish speaking spiritual director wouldn’t understand it (plus my sisters would get a kick out it). I’ve also discovered that my mail wasn’t always forwarded to me if it was deemed harmful to my spiritual progress. My childhood friend wrote me many times about friends at home and the trouble they were getting into, however I only received one letter from her during my entire time at the PC.
The primary goal of the Precandidacy was to encourage girls to become consecrated. Within a few weeks in the school I noticed that certain girls were targeted, they were the “leader girls” being groomed for higher positions. They had better houseworks, more personal attention, were team leaders, went as leaders for retreats, assigned to sit a specific tables, etc. Every single facet of our lives was designed to manipulate us into perfect little “Women of the Kingdom” .
My personality type appreciates rules; I’ve always feel that rules are put in place for a logical reason and therefore they should be followed. So when I was presented with a huge laundry list of norms and rules that dictated my every single action, I was swamped. It was physically impossible to be on time to every single distribution of the schedule, to keep perfect silence, to remember to always be focused during meditation, to have my clothes perfectly ironed, etc. I internalized every single criticism, rule and norm and within a month of becoming a PC, I found myself becoming depressed and I withdrew into myself.
Perfect” Charity
Another key concept that was practiced was “universal charity”. In theory, it sounded like an excellent idea, everyone would be friends with everyone and there would be no risk of cliques or exclusion. In practice, universal charity meant that no one was allowed to form deep or meaningful friendships with each other. If it was noted that we spent more time with a certain girl, we would be pulled aside and told to spend time with the other girls in the name of universal charity. We were told to be “discrete” and never discuss health concerns, our struggles, or anything negative that would bring down the spirit of the Precandidacy. Our conversations were pretty much limited to “oh this is wonderful; I’m so happy here; aren’t you excited for the outing on Saturday; isn’t Nuestro Padre (Father Maciel) such a saint?” All of our negative thoughts or concerns were to be directed to our spiritual directors or director.
I remember being given many penances for starting to form “particular friendships” with certain girls and I was told that I had a velcro heart that attached to everything in sight. It was my job to cut off all of these attachments and trust only in Christ and my formators. As a result, we were deeply isolated from each other and lived lonely lives surrounded by others. If I saw a companion crying or struggling with an issue I was expected to walk by discretely (perhaps say a prayer for her) and tell my director that “so and so seemed to be having a problem with X”. I deeply regret never reaching out to my companions in true charity instead of the false “universal charity” that I was told to practice. Speaking with my school mates now, we both have to ask “wait, we were friends, right? I always felt like you were a particular friend, but I wasn’t sure because I couldn’t ask.”
The practice of charity also extended to the institution itself. We were told to never criticize either the Movement or our directors and if we had an issue with something we were to take it our spiritual director or proper formator. When I left the Precandidacy, this aspect of charity remained ingrained within me and I refused to look up Regain or any other news source about RC because it was “uncharitable” and contrary to the spirit of the Movement. When I finally began to tentatively voice my opinions about RC, I felt that I was committing some sort of sin: “speak no evil of Regnum Christi” was a principle that I had a very hard time shaking off.
The Cult of Maciel
In hindsight, the level of adoration that was directed towards Fr. Maciel was disturbing. I fell for the “he’s a living saint, we should emulate his every action” party line whole heartedly. His image was all over the school, he was quoted in homilies, talks, and casual conversations. We had prayer cards with his face on them and his quotes plastered on the back and we memorized his poems (the plagiarized El Salterio de mis días) and letters. His letters were read aloud in spiritual reading and during dinner and lunch. When we did our weekly Encounters with Christ (similar to a bible study) we would offer “cases” that were relevant to the bible verse were studying and 9 times out of 10 these cases were about “Nuestro Padre” (Spanish for Our Father) and looking back they were outlandish and definitely untrue. “I know a case about Nuestro Padre when he had a stomach operation. When a LC brother came in, Nuestro Padre sat up because he wanted to give that brother a good example of a Legionary. This is an example of how we should always be good and faithful cofounders and sacrifice our comfort to give good examples to others regardless how much pain we are in.”
Over the years I saw Maciel at many different RC functions. Every time he arrived, he was always surrounded by his “inner circle” LC’s and arrived in a luxury car (and once in a helicopter). When I was in 9th grade we were told that “Nuetro Padre” was coming to visit us and we were beyond ourselves with excitement. In my journal I wrote, “Today, we had to prepare the house just in case Nuestro Padre comes. We don’t know when or where Christ comes. Um… I mean Nuestro Padre.” It never occurred to me that I had just casually mixed up God with a man or that this was an attitude that was cause for concern.
There were very limited contact with our parents and family members while I was a PC. I don’t remember the exact time frame, but we were expected to call our families during a scheduled time for around 30 minutes. Many times I would skip my calling time because I would be too busy with other scheduled activities. We spent very little vacation time with our families: 2 weeks in the summer, 4 days after Christmas and the possibility of 3 days at Thanksgiving. There was a story told that it was a PC who had requested this limited time because spending too much time at home was a danger to her vocation. We were expected to fulfill all of our prayer commitments, wear the long skirts, avoid improper situations (aka boys) and many other norms. We were told that we weren’t supposed to go to movie theatres, amusement parks, etc because it was a public spectacle. If our parents insisted that we attend one of the “public spectacles” we could go, but we were to avoid it if at all possible.
One of the cardinal (unspoken) rules was “speak no evil of RC” and this carried over fully into our relationships with our parents. Even though I struggled with life at the PC from the very beginning, I never told my family. I didn’t want to reflect badly on the Movement and I believed my struggles were my own problems that I needed to address. Parents were very much kept out of the loop, my parents never knew about my dramatic weight loss in 11th grade nor the extent of my “rebellion” and failing grades in 10th grade. When I went home to visit I spoke only good things about the PC, how much I was learning, how much I loved Christ, and how being a PC was such a wonderful vocation. I don’t blame my parents for sending me to the PC, I asked to go and I never confided in them about the true state of my soul. From the outside, the Precandidacy looks like a wonderful place, and if I were in my parents place with the same amount of information, I wouldn’t hesitate to send my daughter to such a “wonderful school”.
During my stay in the PC we were given many formation courses on the methodology of the movement. In fact we were steeped in every aspect of RC in hopes of transforming each of us into the “integral woman of the kingdom”. We had dialogues (meetings) with our formators regarding our spiritual, apostolic, human and intellectual formation. Within each area we were expected to have programs that were neatly outlined that had a goal and means for us to help transform us into happy little drones in Maciel’s army.
Within Apostolic formation we were taught the steps of recruitment, the various tactics used to recruit the leaders and how important it was to spread the kingdom of God to every corner of the earth. It was never said outright, but there was an implied attitude that RC was the absolute best way to be Catholic and therefore everyone should be RC. Parish life and every other movement was only second best therefore it was our responsibility to educate everyone about the wonder that was RC. Recently I started to go through all the papers that I had saved during my time as a PC, I found charts where I listed my siblings and friends and which steps of recruitment I thought they were in as well as my ultimate goals (long term cultivation for the Precandidacy, recruit them for the summer program, etc.) I had listed concrete steps such as make phone calls and letters in order to move them along the prescribed steps. I had ceased to view my friends and family as people that I loved and cared about instead they were means to an end, a way for me to further the Kingdom of God in a methodical and planned manner.
As a whole, the Precandidacy employed a very manipulative and damaging system that failed to take into account the inherent value of each human person. I understand that RC is attempting to reform and I hope with all my heart that each person will find a healthy holy life within the Catholic Church, no matter the route. I’m speaking out in order to find closure and to move past the chapter in my life. In many ways writing these pages have been extremely cathartic and healing. I hope that by writing down both my testimony and thoughts I will be able to finally close the RC chapter of my life and move forward without a hint of guilt.

Sarita's Story

I’ve been trying to write down my testimony about my time at the Precandidacy for over a month. Each time that I’ve tried to write down my thoughts, I’ve gotten overwhelmed with the amount of complexity and emotion that I feel regarding those years (in fact this is my fourth attempt to write a coherent account of those 3 years of my life). The PC was a very complex and confusing time in my life and I have a very difficult time explaining it to people because there were so many levels of dysfunction that just sharing anecdotes could never fully explain the toxic environment we lived in. Up until the creation of this blog, I had thought that I was alone in my negative experience of the PC. For years I have kept silent about the psychologically damaging system that I lived with during the most formative years of my life simply because I thought I was the “defective cog” in a perfect system. There were so many rules and norms that dictated our everyday lives and it’s impossible to fully explain the atmosphere it created. If I was to write about every single damaging or strange rule we followed I would be writing a book not a blog entry.
One point that I want to make absolutely clear is that I do not blame Regnum Christi and the Precandidacy for every single hurt or mistake in my life. While the methodology of the Precandidacy damaged my sense of self and gave me an inaccurate picture of God, I am responsible for my actions. Everyone who entered the Precandidacy came with their own baggage, family backgrounds and weaknesses. Certain personalities reacted differently with the system of Regnum Christi and while one girl may not felt that she suffered apparent damage, other girls have suffered intense psychological and psychosomatic results. I believe that even those who had a relatively good experience within the PC may bear hidden wounds because the problems of the PC were systemic; it took a beautiful thing (generosity with God) and used it to mold us into robotic “Women of the Kingdom”
One of the fundamental problems with the PC was the fact that it took very wonderful virtues and principles of the Catholic Church and twisted them in order to manipulate us. Because of His infinite love, God does have a plan for each individual human being. But the concept of God’s Will was transformed into a label that was slapped on every single aspect of our lives and used to ensure our obedient compliance to the schedule, the directors, the norms, etc. However I do no blame any of my formators or the consecrated at all. They were especially integrated within the Regnum Christi mission and I know all of the things they told me were not meant to harm me; they were also following a set of rules. Some of our formators were as young as 21 or 22, they were barely adults themselves and had absolutely no training or experience in the formation of teenage girls.
Not every aspect of the Precandidacy was harmful or damaging. I am extremely thankful to have received an excellent education from several amazing teachers. There was also an incredible amount of international exposure and I was given opportunities to travel to places I would have otherwise never seen. During my time in the Precandidacy I was able to go to Rome, New York City, Boston, Providence and expand my cultural knowledge. But without a doubt the biggest benefit of the Precandidacy was the utterly amazing women that I had the opportunity to meet. I believe that Regnum Christi’s sole redeeming feature is the many holy, sincere and enthusiastic members that simply trying to live their lives according to God’s Plan. I have many fond memories of the times I did spend living with these absolutely amazing girls. But the fact that the institution wasn’t thoroughly evil only confuses the issue. If Regnum Christi appeared to be an evil institution with only evil fruits, people would reject it outright. But a glass of water that is only 75% poisoned is still poisonous, even though there were a few positive aspects of the Precandidacy, this did not outweigh the psychologically damaging ones.
Before I entered the PC in 1998, I was a chatty, outgoing and cheerful 14 year old girl. But within a month of starting school I started to talk about being sad and I walked next to walls with my arms folded, I rarely made eye contact and buried myself in books. I was very sincere in my attempts to be a faithful PC but I was constantly getting bogged down in all of the details and began developing a very scrupulous conscience.
Once I started 10th grade something switched in my mentality, I knew that I was utterly miserable and I wanted to go home. As I began to talk to my Spiritual Director about the possibility of returning home and how unhappy I was, I was constantly asked “are you being generous? Isn’t God asking you to be a PC? Wouldn’t it be so selfish of you to go home when you’ve been called to live this vocation?” Of course when I was faced with this thought, I felt obliged to stay. If God had called me out of thousands of girls to be a Precandidate, it would be so selfish of me to leave just because I was unhappy. I felt that by leaving not only would I be letting my formators down, I would be spitting in the face of God.
I begged my spiritual director to send me home, but she insisted that I had free will and I needed to make the choice. However, I felt the only option I had was to remain at the PC because going home meant betraying God. So I stayed. I began to “act out” in order to force my formators to send me home. I skipped classes and sports, I hid from the consecrated and read my books during meditations and study periods. Even though I knew that skipping all of these activities on the schedule was a sin and I was disobeying God’s Will for me, I was hoping that I would cause enough trouble that the consecrated would give up and send me home. If I was sent home, I wouldn’t be responsible for “abandoning my vocation” and I could finally go home with a clear conscience. But I was so convinced that my formators were the Will of God for me that I would constantly “depend” to them about every single thought I had (including where I would hide, so I constantly had to find new and creative places to hide). Once in a fit of conscience I apologized to my director for all of my infidelity and she suggested that I publicly apologize to the whole school for giving them such a bad example of a Precandidate. Thankfully I didn’t take her suggestion and opted to write individual memos to several PC’s.
After a whole year of misery and being repeatedly told that the Precandidacy was the will of God for me, I was abruptly informed that I was “poisoning the spirit of the Precandidacy” and putting several other girl’s vocations in danger. My formator implied that just because I had a conversation with a certain girl that she had started to skip sports too. I was horrified. I made the decision to leave even if I was abandoning my vocation because I was hurting my friends. I was told that I was such a danger that I should leave before final exams. When a PC leaves, we were not allowed to tell our friends about or decision or say goodbye to them. We typically packed our things and left after Mass. Once I returned home, I was seized with regret and immediately began begging to return to the Precandidacy. At the time my dad was running a Regnum Christi Retreat Center which allowed me to throw myself into apostolate as soon as I returned home. I was given work as a team leader for the girls club and I began work on a new apostolate that focused on chastity. I was very eager to help with anything that involved RC and I immediately focused all of my energies on helping the team of consecrated and coworkers that were stationed there. I gave talks, wrote schedules, balanced checking accounts, wrote financial reports and set up the filing and administration system for the new apostolate. During this time I was still petitioning the territorial direction for permission to return to the PC. All of my enthusiastic work for the RC section must have been noticed and I was given permission to return to the PC even though I was suffering health complications. It was almost unheard of for a PC to return to the school after leaving, in most cases once you left that was it. But thanks to my dedication, I must have been seen as an asset to the Movement.
I returned to the PC in the second half of 11th grade. I was ecstatic to be back in my beloved Precandidacy and I threw myself wholeheartedly into the schedule, school work and openness with my directors. Thanks to my health problems and the stressful lifestyle, I began to rapidly lose weight. My parents were never informed that I had lost over 20 lbs. in five months and that my skin had begun to take on a gray and unhealthy tone. I was told to eat a plate of candy at evening snack every night in order to help put some weight back on. I remember going to evening snack every evening and gulping down candy in silence wondering if they really thought a plate of jelly beans and chocolate was going to fix things. I was told at the end of 11th grade that I didn’t have a vocation and that I should go home. A big part of me was really relieved, I had given God the first chance, and I was finally in the clear.
When I returned home, my parents were shocked. I had lost well over 20 lbs and my face had a gaunt and drawn look to it. I was almost immediately hospitalized under the suspicion of an eating disorder, I tried to explain to them that I didn’t have a problem with body image, I simply wasn’t hungry. After changing my medication and my lifestyle I slowly began to return to a healthy weight. I expressed a desire to be a coworker once I finished high school and I spoke with my 3gf Spiritual Director about the possibility.
Every time I asked my spiritual director about the coworker program, I received a very evasive answer: “well we have to wait and ask the directors”. Slowly the deadline for the program passed and I still hadn’t received an answer, it was suggested that I should go see a counselor. Given my history with the Precandidacy and my difficulties adjusting to “normal life”, it shouldn’t have surprised me that I was diagnosed with depression with clusters of social anxiety and symptoms of OCD. I firmly believe that many of these mental health problems are a direct result of my time in the PC and the very psychologically oppressive system that I lived with.
When it became apparent that I would not be allowed to enter the coworker program, my depression became all-consuming and I turned my anger on God. After years of being told that the Precandidacy and the consecrated life were the highest vocation anyone could aspire to, I felt that I was inadequate in the eyes of God. If I wasn’t good enough to be a PC or even a coworker, how could I be worthy of God’s love? I had screwed up, big time.
When the PC discussion board opened, I realized I had blocked out 75% of my memories associated with the PC, so I’ve been tearing through my journals, memos, practical exams and assorted paraphernalia (yes, I’ve been toting around an enormous amount of PC stuff for almost 10 years) in order to figure out exactly what happened to me during this period of time. What I discovered was both sad and revealing. I found a journal entry that summed up my post-PC thoughts perfectly “Why do you hate me God? You don’t want me as a precandidate, a consecrated or even as a coworker. Why do you keep rejecting me? Do you love me? Why don’t you just kill me off and then you won’t have to keep toying with my life. I hate myself. Do you hear me? I HATE ME!!” The amount of self-loathing and despair was astounding. The system of RC was so preoccupied with fixing all of our little imperfections so that when I felt that I couldn’t measure up to the standard of RC perfection, I gave up.
I was unable to differentiate between Regnum Christi and God, in my mind they were one in the same. Frankly, I was suicidal. I was unable to relax among my peers and I turned to alcohol and drugs to take the edge off of my social anxiety and depression. I was also highly unprepared to deal with both relationships and attention from the opposite sex. Sex ed was almost nonexistent at the PC and was not geared towards those who would not be pursuing a vocation as a consecrated woman. The Catholic Church has such a beautiful view towards the vocation of women and sex and to not educate hundreds of young women about these truths was a grave disservice. I made every single stupid choice with the full knowledge that it was extraordinarily harmful to me and I felt that I deserved every single minute of misery. While I was a PC there were many whispered conversations (spoken under the guise of charity of course) that “so and so had left the PC and now she desperately needed our prayers because she was partying, pregnant, etc.” Faced with the rejection of RC and God and buried under a mountain of guilt, I had turned into “that ex-pc” and I felt more lost and alone than ever.
Despite my outright defiance and anger towards God, He never deserted me. While I never made an overt attempt on my life, I was living an incredibly risky lifestyle and a very large part of me hoped that I wouldn’t wake up in the morning. If couldn’t be worthy of God, I couldn’t be worthy of happiness much less life. At the age of 19 I found myself pregnant with my oldest daughter. While I was exceptionally shocked and frightened about the turn my life had taken, I was profoundly grateful. Through the haze of my overwhelming depression I recognized that God was giving me a second chance at life by giving me this huge responsibility for a new life. I named my daughter Eliana which means God has answered my prayer. I knew that my daughter was the answer to the prayer I didn’t even know I was praying.
My journey has been incredible and no one can ever accuse me of living me a boring life. I am sharing these details of my life in the hopes that what I experienced can help others who may find themselves in a similar situation. I also firmly believe that the system that was put in place by Maciel is deeply flawed and psychologically damaging. As a direct result of my time in the Precandidacy I lost my faith for over 8 years and I only recently began to live my life as a practicing Catholic. I’ve suffered from strange nightmares about being trapped at the PC where I’ve been handed schedules, pushed into Spiritual Direction, being told to smile and cover up my sadness, etc. It is my hope that our stories will be heard by those who are recovering from their time in RC and those who are attempting to reform it with the guidance of the Vatican.
While it may be argued that my experience is dated because I left the school in 2001, I believe the dangers of the Precandidacy are far more than just “the schedule was too strict” or “we spent too much time in silence.” The schedule, silence, and strict dress codes were merely symptoms of a very damaging systemic problem. The very foundation of RC is based on deceit and manipulation by a very evil man, those who have lived through “Maciel’s Reign” will have a very difficult time rooting out these very hidden yet flawed thinking patterns. It has come to the attention of the former Precandidates that RC is still actively recruiting to the Precandidacy. Not only does this seem to be a sign that the culture of Maciel and his doctrine of recruitment is alive and flourishing, but it is grossly unfair to the prospective Precandidates. From what I understand the consecrated have made many changes to the PC program, they have more free time, they interact with the outside world a bit more, and they have “formation dialogue” instead of spiritual direction, etc. I’ve spoken with one of the consecrated who is still involved with the PC program and she seemed very saddened about the negative effects that I suffered. However neither RC nor the Precandidacy has publicly acknowledged the very damaging effects that hundreds of girls have suffered. The Vatican has urged the Legion and Regnum Christi to throw off the mantle of secrecy and lies that they have been practicing for so many years and to adapt an attitude of transparency. In order to heal from the past, the Precandidacy needs to recognize their flaws and attempt to make amends for them.
Continuing to recruit minors is irresponsible until Regnum Christi has completed their process of reform. If a house is suffering from crumbling foundations, doesn’t it make sense to repair and rebuild the foundation before inviting new members to live in that house? It is my sincere hope that many people will hear the voices of the former Precandidates and that Regnum Christi will take the appropriate action for the sakes of the current and prospective Precandidates.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Tricia's Story

At 15 years of age, after attending many summer pre-candidacy programs, I
officially became a pre-candidate. I was eager to begin my formation as a young woman
whose sole purpose was to try to grow in grace and sanctity. With the eagerness of
youth, I threw myself into the program, divulging my thoughts and actions without
question in spiritual direction. And so began my discovery of Godʼs Will.
I was told to distance myself from those around me and to be detached from all worldly
things. If I felt the least attachment to clothes or the way I looked, I was told that I was
full of vanity which needed to be eradicated. If I questioned why we did certain activities
or even why they occurred at the time they did, I was told that was my deep-seated
pride which needed uprooting. The continual need to find fault with each and every
action and report my failings not only to my confessor but often to my spiritual director
and sometimes even peers created a deep sense of insecurity and self loathing.
The Regnum Christi Movement implemented several activities to find and express oneʼs
faults to the point of creating a scrupulous conscience. More importantly, the danger
that persists is that you begin to have a disgust for yourself. Especially for a child, this
can become the way that they see themselves their whole life. Combined with no
emotional connection to family or friends, and a life controlled by a strict schedule, many
turn to other ways of control such as bulemia/annorexia of which I began a battle during
that year. Never did we dwell on the idea that we should love and respect ourselves
because we are made in His image or that God loved us completely including our faults.
Instead we were asked to rid ourselves of our faults in order to be loved by Him.
! A vital flaw within Regnum Christi is the separation from the family. As parents,
we are entrusted with our children and they are placed under our authority and care. It
is very hard to find a parent who does not intrinsically love their child and want only
good for their child. The Movement sought to disrupt and usurp the natural parent child
relationship replacing it instead with a distrust between the child and his/her parent. For
me, throughout my childhood, I saw my parents sacrificing everything for my well-being.
Before they made decisions for me, I knew that they prayed and discerned Godʼs will for
me. As my parents, they were given the authority and grace by God to discern what was
best for me because they loved me. My parents could tell that something was not right
when I told them that I was certain that I was going to give my life to Christ as a
Consecrated. This would be the same concern any parent would have if your 15 year
old told you they were going to be married in a year. My parents told me that I needed to
come home for my last year of highschool before making that step. I wasnʼt sure what to
think, but it became very clear in spiritual direction. This was the moment when the
warning bells went off in my head. I was told that my parents did not know what Godʼs
will for me was. That they were trying to take me away from my vocation; that I should
resist their decisions. Iʼll never forget the clarity of my thoughts when this was
suggested. I knew I was my parentʼs daughter and under their authority. More
importantly I knew they loved me no matter how full of faults I was. They wanted what
was best for me and that was really Godʼs will. This was the first time I had resisted
anything in spiritual direction. Maybe it was because it was no longer me that was the
“problem” but my parents. It was easier to stick up for others than oneself.
The Regnum Christi movement is dangerous because they demand that you subject
yourself to the “will of God” as proposed by an inexperienced spiritual director who
cannot themselves offer more than the mind games they have been indoctrinated with.
This brings me to what I find to be a fundamentally divisive view within the Movement:
The idea that Godʼs will is not what makes you happy, but the ultimate sacrifice that you
have to do please Him. This idea rejects the fundamental Truth that God is Love. It
perpetuates the notion that we are bound by rules simply to avoid punishment and
misery. Godʼs will is not a path we are forced to follow, but a path that he presents to us
so that we can CHOOSE to follow to find the Truth and peace and ultimately happiness.
Yes, there are sacrifices, or crosses, that will happen along those paths, but God is
there to provide the grace to grow and be sanctified in them. The subtle distinction that
was never mentioned in Regnum Christi is that our vocation is not supposed to be a
cross. Choosing to be married or becoming a priest, nun or consecrated in itself should
be joyful and without the fear of being punished by Him if we turned away from it. I used
to think that being a consecrated or a nun would be the ultimate sacrifice, the hardest
thing in life. Therefore, because it was hardest and thus would be a cross, I needed to
sacrifice myself for Godʼs will. We are not meant to choose a life that will make us
miserable like virgins preparing to be sacrificed to a pagan god. God gives us a vocation
in which we can find happiness. It took years for me to finally realize that Godʼs will is
not to make you miserable. His will for us is a path to bring us closer to Him so we can
discover how much He loves us.
Finally, I have not been as affected by Regnum Christi as some others, but I have seen
first hand many who have suffered greatly. For this reason, I am writing this letter. I think
it is important to voice my story to make clear how the loss of faith and despair is a
direct result of the scandal of Fr. Maciel and other priests within the Movement and the
measures used to attain and grow the “kingdom” on earth. Regnum Christi deceptively
attaches itself to the church. Many people have pointed to “all the good fruit that has
come from the Movement.” That is not the way to look at it. Christ never said “ Just pick
out the bad fruit and look at the good fruit thatʼs left then youʼll know itʼs from Me.” No, if
He is truly present in an order, there can be only good fruit. I firmly believe that the good
that came out of our situations was Godʼs grace working and answering the prayers of
those young girls and boys, men and women, crying to out to Him to show us His will.
God can bring such good out of such evil. People can be deceitful, but God never can.
Strangely enough the greatest gift that I received from this environment of deception
was trust. I learned to trust in the only thing that does not change, God Himself. Over
the years, while I struggled to build up my confidence and regain a sense of self worth, I
could throw myself completely in the arms of Christ knowing that He would heal my
insecurities. He guided me through life to a point where I am happily married and a
mother. Finding Godʼs will in my life has brought its many struggles and will continue to
bring many more, but it is my ultimate joy in life as it is the path towards Him.

Saturday, June 23, 2012


We have put two new pages on the blog - they're linked at the top.  One is a glossary of terms, which we will continue to update in response to your comments of confusion.  RC has it's own language.  The other page is an account of our ongoing effort to prevent the consecrated of Immaculate Conception Academy from recruiting young girls to the Precandidacy through Facebook.  Click over and check them out - both are worth your time.