This letter was given to Bishop Ricardo Watty Urquidi in Mexico City in February of 2010 during the visitation of the Legion. Bishop Watty also listened very patiently to my story and in a private aside, told me how sorry he was for what I went through. For personal reasons, I am withholding my name from this document as I do not want my life to be linked to Regnum Christi on the internet anymore, but I can be reached by means of this blog and will happily confirm my identity and the details contained within. I am so grateful to the other precandidates and consecrated who have shared their stories as it has filled me with great peace to know that after all these years we are finally supporting each other and able to say what we really think. I am sad when I think that we suffered so much in silence, isolated from each other by the rules regarding silence and not having friendships.
I have been pondering this letter for about a week since I knew I would have the opportunity to present this letter to you, and my mind began to fill with ideas and emotions. I have written so many stories about the pain and suffering Regnum Christi left in my life, an anguish so severe that I tried to take my own life. I’m sure you don’t have time to read the screenplay that I created to express in story form what I went through as a member of the Third Degree of Regnum Christi. Or the 150 pages I wrote about my “vocation story” while I was recovering from my overdose. Or the numerous short stories and articles that I composed in moments of therapeutic renewal. Long before I was convinced by the consecrated women that being consecrated was the only true vocation to happiness, I knew that my vocation in life was to be a writer. So let me poetically give you the numbers that may be the most effective way of expressing the depth of the loss and utter devastation that was my life as a consecrated member.
0 – the number of members of my family still in the Movement
0 – the number of consecrated who called me and wrote me to see how I was doing once I got home from Mexico. That is also the number of events they invited me to. I tried to start a Regnum Christi group at my college so they would include me, but after crying at one retreat, I never came back. My former directress, Pilar, did all that she could to help me, but I was bound by my Promises of Charity not to speak badly of my spiritual guide, even though I was being psychologically destroyed
0 – my clinical depression before consecration in Regnum Christi. During my second year, we were given MMPIs (the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory) and made to draw psychoanalytic images. Not surprisingly, I drew a weeping willow tree, a classic symbol of depression, and my MMPI scores were higher than I ever saw when working in a clinical practice
0 – the amount of writing opportunities I was given as a consecrated
0 – the number of times I was able to come home while I was a consecrated member until I left
1 – the number of times I read the Statutes even though my then spiritual guide told me it was not necessary, that the ones about finances were not important to know. I also read the complete Manual of Principles and Norms and the lesser known Manual de Urbanidad which talked about how to walk, how to dress, how to hold one’s spoon, etc. We were told that all of those documents represented God’s will for us and were approved by the Church
2 – the years I spent in the Precandidacy when my Dad let me go after 2 years as I was so crazed by my supposed vocation and all the brainwashing I received about true happiness only being with “God’s Will” and their promises about their happiness that I broke a window
2 – the number of people I was allowed to say goodbye to when I left consecrated life. They were from another section and so they didn’t know I was leaving for good and I couldn’t tell them for “charity.” I just said, “goodbye” when they dropped me off at the airport. My directresses did not say goodbye or hug me either. One supervised my packing and never said anything like a goodbye or “I will miss you.” Another saw me in the chapel before I went to the airport and did not say a word.
2 – the number of my sisters’ weddings that I had to miss even though my family offered to pay for my trip as I was not allowed to attend as a consecrated member. One sister still does not forgive for not having asked for “special permission” to go. I was so faithful to the norms that I would not ask to be considered different from other members.
2 – the number of people I told about how suicidal I was as a consecrated: my spiritual guide and my Mom. My spiritual guide continued to emotionally abuse me by constantly picking on every weakness I had. My Mom told me that I probably had an illness called depression and it could be treated with medication and therapy. My spiritual guide was very angry and since my Mom knew I was unwell, they told me they had to send me home. In retrospect, that person was probably trying to follow the rules of the Movement, but they were harmful to me and left deep wounds on my psyche for many years that followed.
2 – the amount of people in my family who no longer consider themselves Catholic as a result of seeing horrible hypocrisy in the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi. Yes, I am one of them.
2 – the number of years it took for the Movement to send me my transcripts from my years of formation so that I could graduate from college after leaving. I had to threaten to sue them before they would tell me where I could get my transcripts, and they tried to charge me exorbitant sums for what most schools consider a free service
3 – the number of children in my family that they managed to convince they had a vocation to the Movement or the Legion
3 – the Third Degree of Regnum Christi. We were told that we were like St. Claire to St. Francis, the modern “nuns” to the Legion. Please pay attention to these women who have always gone ignored and will continue to be ignored unless you hear their stories. Many of them are good women who have been brainwashed and used to become recruiting and fundraising machines
3 – the amount of vocations the Church lost from my family due to bad experiences with Regnum Christi and the Legion of Christ
4 – years. how long I spent as a Precandidate and consecrated member
4 – the Private Promises that we made on August 22, 2000 in the presence of Fr. Anthony Bannon, L.C., which we also signed a form for
4 – 4.0 out of 4.0. my Master’s level GPA
5 - the steps of recruitment. I still remember them after 8 years. Friendship, Interest, Trust, Commitment, Surrender. Regnum Christi uses “redes” or nets to recruit people. They hide under other names and earn people’s friendship. Then, one piqued their interest in the Movement. Eventually, after one won their trust, one had to gain their surrender to “God’s will for them” which surely was Regnum Christi, because, as they explained, Regnum Christi was so wonderful. I spent many years in the Movement before I learned these steps as a consecrated. It was then that I realized I had been deceived and this was something totally different than what I had signed up for. I gradually realized I was being pressured to do 2 things – recruit and fundraise – and I had never wanted to do that with my life
5 – minutes. the average amount of free time we had in between each activity so that we were unable to have time to think or for self-reflection
5 – the years for which I endured traumatic flashbacks in which things that I had dissociated came back to me suddenly in a terrifying way
6 – the number of girls in my Precandidacy class who got consecrated. I think one might still be consecrated, but I am not sure. The rest are all out. One girl in our class was anorexic and the rest of the girls began to eat as little as possible. When she was in the hospital, I overhead the directress of the school telling the priest not to give her Communion unless she ate
7 – the age at which I remember the Movement first in my life
7 – the number of days I spent under medications after my overdose while the doctors saved my life. My life was saved because as I was about to die from internal bleeding, I received a picture in my head that I could not die because there existed the possibility that I could have a family and a happy life as a writer. Because of that possibility, I was taken to the hospital
8 – the number of years I have spent in psychotherapy recovering from the Movement, beginning at 3 times a week and gradually going down to once a week when I could hold off my depression that long
9- the age at which they began to recruit me. Please note that I was not at an age in which children have yet developed complex reasoning
9 –the number of years my brother lasted in the Legion
10 – the number of pounds I lost when I got the rotavirus after telling my spiritual guide that I didn’t understand how the Movement would fulfill its mission if all we did was work in schools and she told me that I was talking like an enemy of the Movement. My directress ordered me to gain back the weight over the next months but I was so depressed I was barely able to chew food
11 – the number of books of Green Volumes or Cartas de Nuestro Padre we had to meditate on during Evening Prayer
12- the age at which I felt called to the Precandidacy, or boarding school for girls discerning consecrated life
12- the number of spiritual guides I had throughout my time in the Movement. Often, it was pure torture because they were chosen for me, and only Maricarmen Perochena really liked me as a person. My spiritual guide during my second year of consecrated life emotionally abused me because of my “pride” until I became suicidal
13- the age at which my Dad allowed my brother to enter the Apostolic School after long disagreeing with Fr. Bannon, the then Territorial Director of the US, and the head of the Apostolic School about how boys were separated from their families as being non-Catholic in spirit
14- my older brother’s age when upon the story of another then-Apostolic they witnessed a Legionary at the bed of a third Apostolic at night
15 – the number of ReGAIN members, more or less, who comforted me and guided me when I was the Movement’s garbage and had no one to give me insight into my situation. I was given the equivalent of free therapy, many great friends, and healing
16 – my younger sister’s age when she spent a semester at the Precandidacy in Rhode Island
17 – my age when I made a spiritual consecrated approved by my spiritual guide in the chapel in Rhode Island
20 – the amount of visits I made to the Blessed Sacrament every day for which I was constantly sent back to clean my room and make my bed better because you can’t have both
24- my age when I accepted that I had been badly treated by the Movement and left to die of depression by them. I decided not to die, but to live and to find a new meaning in my life even though I could not imagine anything outside of consecrated life
26 – July 26, 2002, the day I flew home from Monterrey, Mexico so suicidal I could no longer think clearly, but so integrated into what being consecrated meant that I could not help myself from recruiting members on the airplane
28 – the number of days a year I was allowed to spend at home as a Precandidate. My Dad was especially upset that we were never allowed to come home until the day after Christmas
30 – the number of students that were in the 6th grade class I gave Spiritual Direction to in Monterrey as we started to recruit them to consecrated life. I feel guilty as I remember their names and their faces and afraid of what the Movement might have done to them in their futures
40 – the number of times I estimate that I wrote to Maciel in Rome over the years. I’m sure it was more, and I actually got some 4 or 5 letters back from somebody praising my fidelity. I often wonder what kind brother wrote that to me and what inspired him to feel pity for me
150 – the number of Aspirin I took on Sept. 11, 2003 when I could no longer bear the thought that happiness could never be mine as I was not good enough to be consecrated
500 – the cost of the airline flight home when I was suicidal which the consecrated ordered my parents to pay for. They gave me $50 to take in case I needed to buy food and instructed me to return the rest of the money and the suitcase upon my arrival to my home. They also looked over my clothes and books and told me what I could take home. I was advised to leave as many clothes as possible so other consecrated could use them and only allowed to bring back my personal journals and letters from Maciel. When I got back home, I had a mostly empty suitcase and no clothes to wear at home since I had last been living at home at age 15, and not a cent to my name. All of my savings had been spent as a teenager going to conventions and retreats.
2,000 – the amount of money I was expected to obtain as a consecrated to fund the mandatory trip to Rome in 2001
2,921 – the number of days in 8 years. how many nightmares I estimate that I have had since leaving consecrated life as symptoms of Post-traumatic stress disorder. I have one that I remember about once a week, so it would be safe to say that I have one every night during the other dreams that I don’t remember.
8,000 – probably a low guess for what my parents paid for my overdose hospital bills. I don’t know how much it costs to save someone’s life, but considering half of my blood was replaced, I guess a lot.
10,000 – a very low estimate as to the amount of money my parents gave to the Legion of Christ. If you count $5,000 a year for each one of us children, as what the Legion requested for school years and later as full-time members, it would probably be at least $60,000 USD. How much of that money was spent to fund Maciel’s sexual escapades or will be given to his sons? Did any of that money go to pay for our formation?
17,280 – an estimate of how much I personally have paid into 8 years of therapy plus gasoline and parking, plus all that my parents have put in. I would guess it surpassed $40,000. Try going to school full-time, working full-time while depressed, and paying living expenses, school, and therapy while it is a struggle every day just to figure out if you want to be alive. The consecrated told me I would not regret giving Christ the first chance, and he turned out to be a nice person, but I most definitely regret giving Regnum Christi the first chance in my life
? – the number of papers I signed when I left promising not to reveal secrets about the Movement and not to speak badly of it. At least, I think that was what it said but I was so suicidal I mostly just signed as I was incapable of understanding the forms
Thousands – the number of girls still involved with Regnum Christi and the Third Degree who are being used, brainwashed and manipulated into thinking their lifestyle is the only true way to happiness, that Marcial Maciel was a living saint who brought God’s message to them, and that Regnum Christi is the only true path to holiness for them. I hold constant sadness in my heart for these women and I can only hope that the Church may free them from this terrible situation.
Dear Bishop, I came out of Regnum Christi suicidal, depressed with dissociation and symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. I am not alone. Many young girls have been tossed out of consecrated life like garbage, just as I was, and left without guidance, support, or any sort of help in creating a new life. I do not believe that I was called by God to that life. I believe that I was brainwashed from the age of nine, and that when they got what they wanted out of me, I was thrown to the curb. Please believe that this cannot be a work of God, and it is only from my own experience of the loving hand of God in my life that I still believe in him. However, I cannot ever return to a Church that knew about the horrors within the Movement and chose to ignore it for more than fifty years, long before I ever would have joined, and could have prevented me from ever suffering what I did. I cannot return to a Church where the Pope praised the Movement and Marcial Maciel so many times in public, which was crucial to my entering and believing in it, when the evidence about the group was so craftily being hidden. It is too late to win me back to the Church, but if you act quickly and deftly, you may still be able to save the faith of others.