Gospel Charity Cuts Both Ways: Lifting the Veil on How the Legion Builds their Kingdom
The Familia Saga
One of the most widely respected apostolates of the Regnum Christi Movement has always been Familia. Known nationwide as a four-year program of catechetical formation, this course was written by Paul and Libbie Sellors of Minneapolis, MN and launched in the early 1990?s. The series moves brilliantly from encyclical to encyclical, and then through the Universal Catechism in a coherent way that creates the building blocks of faith
a faith that is personal, reasonable, and inspiring.
It is the last part /the inspiring part - that has proven so helpful to the Church at large and to the Movement specifically. One discovers in Familia a gold mine of catechesis - because once one discovers God?s plan for the family, God?s personal plan of salvation for each soul, and the meaning of our existence, it is nearly impossible to hide one?s joy. Year after year, men and women finally learned the faith they had taken for granted (or were not taught in the hastily revised CCD programs after the Second Vatican Council) and they wanted to share it with others. They turned gratefully to the group who had taught them
found it was something called Regnum Christi and signed up to spread the Good News.
It is important to know that the Sellors created Familia independently of the Legion, writing the materials themselves. Joining the Movement early on, their apostolate seemed an excellent fit with the stated goals of Regnum Christi, and the Legion moved in quickly to lend a hand. As long as the Sellors were members of Regnum Christi and saw eye to eye with the Legionaries of Christ about catechizing the faithful, all was well. Familia quickly became the top recruiter for the Legion because of its comprehensive approach to the family. Thus, fathers and mothers joined Regnum Christi, their daughters considered vocations in the consecrated branch, their sons tested their call to the Legion, and everyone raised funds for seminarians and other projects of the Movement. Everything was golden - or was it?
What Was the Real End-game of Familia?
A rift opened quietly, behind closed doors as those who signed up for Familia quickly found themselves invited to Legion-sponsored retreats, other courses, and conventions, which each suggested that they join the Movement because of the urgent need to build the Kingdom. While joining was usually quite appealing, the Sellors were increasingly frustrated that the members who incorporated into Regnum Christi dropped out of Familia. Since the demands of the Movement (daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly) required significant commitments of time and money, one could not participate in both, and Regnum Christi prevailed. Knowing that all four years of formation were important, they begged that the recruiting of their participants be delayed until they had graduated from the complete course, but the Legion persisted.
Only in hindsight did Paul and Libbie realize that there had been a deliberate attempt to drive them out. In about 1999, the Legion began a conscious effort to throw many obstacles in the Sellors? path to overburden them. Thus in 2002, through deceit, the Legion was able to oust the Sellors and take legal control of Familia for themselves. Finally, the Legion removed the Sellors as directors of the program in 2002 with the excuse that laymen would have a greater respect for the program if they could see that it was run by priests.
Besides revealing the questionable
clericalism of a mindset that permeates the Legion, this would prove to be the first of many very visible lies that the Legion would tell concerning this apostolate - lies, no doubt,
for the good of the Kingdom. Having been well-trained in
gospel charity and loathe to spread scandal, the Sellors accepted their removal from their own program, seeking to learn humility, trust, and abandonment to the will of God. So great was their oblation that they didn?t tell anyone of the change - but then neither did the Legion! For the excuse - to enhance credibility of Familia by showing the members that it was in the control of a priest was a lie. Indeed it was run by the Legion completely, but the masthead never changed. Everyone was soothed knowing that the Sellors were still in charge, because the Sellors had earned widespread trust. It took a year for the story to leak out third-hand that the Sellors had been cast aside, after writing the program, using their home for the apostolate, and working doggedly over many years to form souls in the truths that had transformed their own marriage.
Since then, the Sellors prayed and embraced their quiet humiliation. In that time of reflection, many truths have dawned on this couple and they knew they had to act. They saw that the Legion was not interested in building the Church at large, but simply in growing its own numbers. For all the talk of formation, fund-raising is a far greater priority. Looking back, they could see that the Legion had actually tried to water down the course materials in order not to
rattle the cages of Catholics who may have embraced contraception as an integral part of their married life. Finally, the scooping of Familia members before completing the courses was deliberate, because the actual Year Four material of Familia (which studied Christifidelis Laici) could easily inspire members to build up the Church in areas not related to Legion apostolates, thereby undercutting the effectiveness of Familia?s recruitment for Regnum Christi.
Prayer Leads to Legal Action
The feedback over the years from those who participated in Familia had been overwhelmingly positive. Marriages were saved, relationships were deepened, new children were conceived, families turned their hearts towards Christ. With this in mind, the Sellors knew they wanted to continue the work to which they were clearly called. Realising that they needed the materials they had created in order to continue the mission of forming the families that they loved so dearly, they quietly resolved to sue the Legion simply in order to win back permission to use their own courses. There was no public axe to grind, no visible act of vindictiveness. They just wanted access to the foundation they had laid over the years.
The proceedings are available as follows:
See Case Number: 0:04-cv-02895-RHK-AJB Sellors v. Legionaries of Christ et al.
US Federal Court, Minnesota District
Home page: http://www.mnd.uscourts.gov/
Use Pacer System to access the court documents. Cost for downloading info is $0.08/page.
Probably about 200 pages.
The case proceeded through a federal court because copyright law is covered by federal statute. In 2004, the Sellors took the Legion to court over the materials, and late last year, or early this year, Familia (now owned and run by Legion) arrived at a confidential settlement in court with Paul and Libbie Sellors. Although Regain does not know the exact terms of the settlement (and the Sellors are not permitted to divulge them) we have read the court documents. Clearly, the Sellors retained the rights to publish their material under a new label: Together! at the same time that the Legion has permission to use it under the auspices of Familia. The records show the input to the settlement "ratification" but not the actual settlement
ratification itself. However, a careful reading of these documents reveals what really happened and the games that the Legion played since then.
The Legion Response: To Lie, to Obscure, to Bully (LOB)
Sadly, the Legion is not even abiding by the judgment against them in civil court, and beyond that is lying concerning the whole situation. Seeing the real possibility of losing potential Regnum Christi recruits to Together!, which contains the same course material without the recruitment angle looming in the background, they have chosen to slander and harass the founders and to lie about events that can be easily researched.
First, the Legion relates that Together!?s programs are for couples only, which is quickly countered simply by going to their web site: www.togetherinc.net. There, it is clearly stated that the programs are for any small group: Husbands and wives, Young Adults, Engaged, Single, Recently married, and Mature Single Adults.
Secondly, the Legion has told members,
The couple that has started Together! were once involved in Familia for a short period of time, took the programs, and have set up a program in parallel to us. But their program is not as developed nor as effective as ours. It has already been shown that the Sellors created Familia on their own, being both founders and directors for years. Anyone who went through the program during the time in question knew them to be in charge and they traveled extensively both domestically and abroad to spread this work. (Truly, if the Legion stood by this tremendous accusation, then wouldn?t they counter sue, or at least have won in court? They have never been hesitant to intimidate and attack when it comes to legal action and rights.)
Moreover, since leaving Regnum Christi and the Legion, the Sellors have re-edited and re-published their own work and have already added two new programs. More programs are on the way, and the imprimatur is being sought for all materials. The Legion, Regnum Christi, and Familia combined have drawn up nothing significant to add to the Sellors? original work. Time and again in other venues, the Legion co-opted other people?s contributions, exactly as they did with the Sellors? material. In fact, it would not be a stretch to say that the Legion has made a habit of using the intellectual property of others and then passing it off as their own.*
There is an accusation concerning the pricing disparity between Familia materials and those of Together!. The Legion says that
the reason Together! can offer its programs for a fraction of the price Familia charges is that Familia has to pay royalties to the theologians who wrote the programs. This statement is sheer nonsense because of who authored the program: Paul and Libbie themselves and a few academic theologians. Other than the material written by the Sellors, Familia added only one
new program, which was written by a Legionary priest, who was, of course, unpaid. Although the Legion pressed his work on the Sellors, they considered his work substandard from the outset. The theologians who were consulted by the Sellors and by the Legion were paid well for their contributions many years ago. Theirs was a one-time fee, not an ongoing royalty. (Interestingly, Together! continues to give credit to the theologians who have contributed to the programs written during the time of their work with Familia. The Sellors receive no such courtesy
for their past contribution.)
Another explanation of the higher fees for Familia material is that reprint fees are so high. This, too, is nonsense, since the printing fee is the same for both - other than the complete and expensive reformatting that Together! had to undergo in order to change its name. Their format is visibly more costly and attractive, although they graciously did not factor that into their price.
Not only is the Legion passing on misinformation to potential Together! subscribers, but they are now actually harassing parishes and pastors who openly support Together! instead of Familia. Such was the recent experience of a parish in the Archdiocese of Minneapolis-Saint Paul that published a story written by a parishioner in the parish newsletter and later appeared on a web site. (Recall that it is the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis where Archbishop Flynn made it abundantly clear to the Legion and to Regnum Christi that they and their apostolates were banned in his recent statement. click here to read the statement.
The parishioner wrote:
for nine years the Church of xxxxxx has been blessed with the teachings of John Paul II through the programs now called Together! (formerly Familia). Shortly thereafter, a lawyer hired by the Legion sent a threatening note to the pastor telling him that he is in violation of a
confidential agreement between the Sellors and the Legion, which purportedly inhibits making such a connection. This is a patent lie. The priest to whom they sent the letter was simply supporting his bishop, both in the pursuit of offering good formation to his parishioners and in breaking the ties to the Legion, which is banned in the archdiocese.
Whisper campaigns are well-known to those who have interfered with the kingdom being built by the Legion. Bishops, priests, laymen, colleges, and apostolates have all experienced the quiet buzz of criticism and disdain that the Movement sends along the channels of unofficial communication. Families become divided, parishes take sides, and the Mystical Body of Christ suffers wounds that are unconscionable - especially at the hands of those who purport to love the Church. No Movement can sanction vice - even to build up the People of God, for the creation built on the good reputations of well-meaning people is a sham, built on a false foundation for the wrong reasons. Even Familia, as still packaged and marketed by the Legion, would attest to that.
* Other than the example of Familia, in which the federal court agreed that the Sellors had full rights to this material, see the reference to the book New Woman at http://www.life-after-rc.com/cutting_corners/index.html; also consider the foundations used in the Pontifical Catechetical Center in Mexico City, the School of Faith  http://www.regainnetwork.org/article.php?a=47245912
The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
To discuss this article, or your personal experiences (both positive and negative) with Familia, visit: www.life-after-rc.com