Scandal: the story of Fr Maciel

By Gerald Renner

 

 

The founder of the Legionaries of Christ, Marcial Maciel, revered by many as a saint, has finally been disciplined by Pope Benedict for sexually abusing seminarians. But why did he escape censure for so long?

He was a priest for 62 years and a respected church leader for half a century. Now Fr Marcial Maciel Degollado’s ecclesiastical career has reached a most ignominious end. The 86-year-old cannot say Mass, give lectures, or give interviews to the media. He is instead to observe a life of penitence and prayer following the Vatican’s request that the founder of the conservative Legionaries of Christ observe a series of restrictions on his ministry following a decade-long investigation into allegations of sexual abuse.

But the most puzzling question about these Vatican sanctions imposed on the accused paedophile is: how did he escape for so long? Part of the reason must be sheer disbelief, particularly among his defenders on the right wing of the Church. This is a man who for much of his life was respected as a charismatic figure and master fundraiser who built up a fast-growing religious order of Spanish-speaking priests, seen by the Vatican as a counter to the inroads that evangelicals are making in Latin America.

The order, which Maciel founded in Mexico in 1941 when he was a 21-year-old student, has a significant presence in that country, where it runs a number of schools for well-heeled children. Today its numbers include 650 priests and 2,500 seminarians in 20 countries. It has 11 universities, including its first in the United States, the newly incorporated University of Sacramento in California.

Maciel was repeatedly praised by senior church leaders, particularly Pope John Paul II, who threw a protective arm around him from the beginning of his pontificate in 1978 and continued to shield him up almost to his death. He was used to smear campaigns against priests by Communists in his native Poland, and he was obviously convinced when the dynamic Mexican claimed that others were out to defame him.

Then there was the gratitude the Pope clearly felt for the way Maciel engineered the first foreign trip of his pontificate to Mexico in 1979. Maciel arranged a personal invitation to John Paul from the then Mexican president, José Lopez Portillo. It was considered a diplomatic coup in a country that had strong anti-clerical laws and a legacy of bloody persecutions of Catholics in the 1920s and 1930s.

John Paul’s successor, Pope Benedict XVI, harbours no such illusions of the saintliness of those working in the vineyard. As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he had been given charge of handling priestly sexual abuse cases from all over the world. It opened the eyes of the scholarly theologian to the extent that he complained in a widely reported Good Friday meditation last year, shortly before he was elected Pope: “How much filth there is in the Church and even among those who, in the priesthood, ought to belong entirely to him [Jesus Christ].�

In late 1994, as John Paul was steadily failing, Cardinal Ratzinger authorised an investigation into the long-dormant canon law case that Maciel had abused young boys and teenagers in seminaries in Spain and Italy. Rumours had long dogged the Legionaries’ founder, with complaints as long ago as the 1950s that he had been involved in excessive control over seminarians and in drug abuse.

The complaints about sexual abuse first surfaced in the 1990s when nine former members of the Legionaries went public with their complaint that they had been abused by Maciel as seminarians and young priests as long ago as the 1940s. Maciel was also charged with having given persons with whom he had committed a sin absolution in confession, an excommunicable offence. John Paul never responded to formal complaints against Maciel made through official church channels in 1978 and 1989. The first exposé of the charges was published in The Hartford Courant in 1997 and picked up by others, but there was no response from the Vatican. A canon law case against Maciel was quashed without explanation in 1999.

After the case was reopened in 2004 on the order of Cardinal Ratzinger, more testimonies against Maciel were collected. The result of the investigation, concluded at the end of 2005, and announced last week, is in effect a life suspension as a priest, although the Vatican stated that it was “bearing in mind Fr Maciel’s advanced age and his delicate health� to avoid a canonical trial.

Indeed, the restrictions placed on him are most gentle compared to what the penalty could have been had a canonical trial been held – defrocking (or “laicisation� as the Church calls it), suspension or even excommunication. But the lack of a canonical trial leaves an ambiguity that Maciel quickly seized on. In a statement released by the Legionaries, Maciel, retired in his home town of Cotija, Mexico, proclaimed his innocence but said he would abide by the Vatican’s decision. The Legionaries compared him to Jesus Christ, deciding “not to defend himself in any way�.

Canon lawyers and other church observers say that no sanctions would have been imposed had not at least some of the accusations against him been well-founded. But that does not matter to the Legion and its supporters, who can expect to continue proclaiming their leader to be saintly and heroically accepting of an unjust verdict.

Richard John Neuhaus, a leading American conservative who has been at the forefront in defence of Maciel and is editor of the magazine First Things, admits that “It is reasonable to believe that [the CDF and the Holy Father] think Fr Maciel did do something wrong�, but also compares Maciel to Joan of Arc, as someone the Church has unjustly persecuted.

Maciel’s accusers are not entirely satisfied either. “We feel some element of vindication in that the Vatican recognised that he has been guilty and he has been condemned,� said Juan Vaca, 68, of Holbrook, New York, one of the nine who brought the canon law case. But “the Vatican is double-talking again� in not clearly specifying Maciel’s degree of guilt, he said.

Vaca said he joined the Legionaries from a small Mexican village when he was recruited at the age of 10 by Maciel, who began abusing him when he was 12 in a Legion seminary in Spain. Vaca came to be head of the Legionaries in the United States, but left the order in 1976 to join the Diocese of Rockville Centre in New York. He and another priest who had been abused, Fr Felix Alarcon, sent letters to the Pope through official church channels accusing Maciel in 1978 and 1989 but never got a response. Vaca left the priesthood and is now a college teacher of psychology. Fr Alarcon, who established the Legionaries’ US headquarters in Connecticut in 1965, is a retired priest in good standing in Madrid.

He sees the decision by Pope Benedict to take action against Maciel as significant. “The Church has for the first time put herself on the side of the victims. The other Pope [John Paul] wasn’t able to do this. This Pope will force them to keep their feet on the ground,� Fr Alarcon, 72, said in a telephone interview.

Bitterness at the way John Paul dismissed their complaints is a recurring theme among those who repeatedly tried to gain his attention. Saul Barrales, 74, who was fired from a Catholic school in Mexico after he publicly joined those who accused Maciel of abusing them, said, “I congratulate the Vatican in that finally the Pope did something. Pope John Paul II supported [Maciel] but I think he was deceived or he wasn’t totally informed of the truth. But the present Pope is doing the right thing.�

After the case was reopened in 2004, a year-long investigation conducted by Mgr Charles J. Scicluna, a Maltese priest who is “permanent promoter of justice� for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, led to other people surfacing who had not come forward before to say that they too had been abused by Maciel. There were still others, who knew nothing of sexual abuse, but who testified to what they called the psychological abuse and coercive tactics of the Legion and its mostly lay auxiliary, Regnum Christi.

In some parts of the world the Legionaries have suffered a major downturn in their fortunes following the scandal over Maciel. Recruitment of seminarians has fallen dramatically in Ireland in recent years, as many Irish bishops have refused to cooperate with the order. In the United States bishops have barred or severely restricted the Legion and Regnum Christi in five dioceses: St Paul-Minneapolis; Los Angeles; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Richmond, Virginia; and Columbus, Ohio – because of its secretive methods of operating. Archbishop Harry Flynn of St Paul-Minneapolis has accused the order of setting up a “parallel Church�. Those who were abused have voiced their disappointment that the Vatican had thanked the Legionaries of Christ and Regnum Christi for their work when what is really needed is reform.

As José de J. Barba Martin, 66, a university professor in Mexico City and a leader among the former Legionaries who brought the canon law suit against Maciel, put it: “When the stem is corrupt so are the branches.�

Gerald Renner is a former religion writer for The Hartford Courant in Connecticut and co-author, with Jason Berry, of Vows of Silence: The Abuse of Power in the Papacy of John Paul II, published by Free Press.

 

Anuncios

Gerald Renner Reports for the Hartford Courant and the Tablet on the Sentencing of Maciel

Gerald Renner, Special to the Tablet
May 27, 2006
Scandal: the story of Fr Maciel
click here for link to article on ReGAIN
click here for link to article on the The Tablet (UK) (external link)

May 19, 2006:
Legion Leader Faces Sanctions; Report: Vatican To Restrict Ministry Of Maciel, Accused Of Sex Abuse

click here for link to article on ReGAIN
click here for link to article on the Hartford Courant website (external link)

May 20, 2006:

Maciel Escapes Harshest Actions
But Sanctions Signal This Pope’s Resolve

click here for link to article on ReGAIN
click here for link to article on the Hartford Courant website (external link)

May 21, 2006:

Accusers’ Victory Not Complete; Sanctions Against Maciel Don’t Spell Out Guilt
click here for link to article on ReGAIN
click here for link to article on the Hartford Courant website (external link)

 

Cardinal Jorge Medina discusses the situation of the Legionaries of Christ Founder

THE POPE HAD VERY SERIOUS REASONS TO TAKE SUCH MEASURES AGAINST MARCIAL MACIEL�

 

By Sebastián Vásquez R.

 

A Cardinal in Rome, Prefect of Divine Worship, says the Pope had very serious reasons to take action against Maciel.

La Tercera, May 25, 2006
http://latercera.codisa.cl/lt/edicionparam.html?20060525,52,13

 

From Rome, the prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship endorses the resolution of Benedict XVI to retire the Mexican priest from public ministry after accusations of abuse.

However, he adds that this “is not meant to discredit the commendable congregation”. The measure that the Vatican took against Marcial Maciel (86), the founder of the Legionaries of Christ accused of sexual abuses by ex- seminarians, which invited him to resign from public ministry and to retire to a life of prayer and penance, has not left Cardinal Jorge Medina indifferent. From Rome, the prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship explained to La Tercera that he has a “very good relationship with the legionary fathers” and says that “the day before yesterday (last Monday) I sent a letter to the superior general, Father Alvaro Corcuera, and, later, I called him on the phone, to express my concern and my support for him, because I understand that for them
this is a painful moment.”

Medina is aware of the repercussion that the decision to remove Maciel from public life has on the Church. “There are many people who are worried and hurt”, he says, but he emphasizes that “there is no danger of revolt”, because the resolutions of the Pope are obeyed and respected. Going beyond discussions, the Chilean Cardinal – who has a long career in the Holy See, explains the sense of the measure taken by Benedict XVI. “I believe that it is a decision of the Holy Father that he must have taken after taking many precedents into account. I know that he is an extremely sensitive person in his judgments who does not act in haste, so that if he took action in this way, it means that he had very serious reasons”. He emphasizes that “this measure does not mean to discredit in any way the commendable congregation of the Legionaries of Christ. The distressing situation of the Legionaries’ Founder is one thing, but that does not in any way signify mistrust of the congregation”.

Regarding the statements of Fr. John O´Reilly, spokesman for the Legion in Chile, who affirmed he was absolutely “convinced” of Maciel’s “absolute innocence”, Cardinal Medina is concise: “I offer no comment in relation to Fr. O´Reilly”. The prelate goes on to describe the decision against Maciel as “an administrative, prudential and pastoral measure”, because from the point of view of Canon Law a process was not opened against the religious due to his age and health. In his opinion, “to show no mercy towards an aging person would not be in accordance with Christian charity”. Nevertheless, he insists: “the Pope would never have made a decision of this type without fairly substantial precedents”. Medina invites the followers of the Legionaries in Chile to adopt “an attitude of faith”.

“It is necessary to trust the Pope and to see that if he made a decision of this type, it is because in his conscience and before God he believed it was the best solution he could give to a public and consistent problem”, he adds. And he emphasizes: “when there is a serious deed that has good factual substance, well, measures must be taken, because nothing should prevent authority from being exercised”.

 

Father Maciel suspended: New allegations against other Legionary priests on the horizon?

By Brian Mershon

 

For the Wanderer, June 1, 2006 issue

May 25, 2006
http://www.renewamerica.us/columns/mershon/060525

 

“And He (Our Lord Jesus Christ) said that whoever receives one such little child in my name, receives me. But he that shall scandalize one of these little ones that believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone should be hanged around his neck, and that he should be drowned in the depth of the sea.

Woe to the world because of scandals. For it is necessary that scandals come: but nevertheless, woe to that man by whom the scandals come.” (Mt. 18: 5-7)

On the morning of May 19, the Holy See issued a short statement on the status of Father Macial Marciel, L.C., founder of the Legionaries of Christ.

“Beginning in 1998, the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) received accusations, already partly made public, against Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ, for crimes that fall under the exclusive competence of the congregation. In 2002, Fr. Maciel published a declaration denying the accusations and expressing his displeasure at the offense done him by certain former Legionaries of Christ. In 2005, by reason of his advanced age, Fr. Maciel retired from the office of superior general of the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ.

“All these elements have been subject to a mature examination by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and — in accordance with the Motu Proprio ‘Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela,’ promulgated on April 30, 2001, by Servant of God John Paul II — the then prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, authorized an investigation into the accusations. In the meantime, Pope John II died and Cardinal Ratzinger was elected as the new Pontiff.

“After having attentively studied the results of the investigation, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under the guidance of the new prefect, Cardinal William Joseph Levada, decided — bearing in mind Fr. Maciel’s advanced age and his delicate health — to forgo a canonical hearing and to invite the father to a reserved life of penitence and prayer, relinquishing any form of public ministry. The Holy Father approved these decisions.

“Independently of the person of the Founder, the worthy apostolate of the Legionaries of Christ and of the Association ‘Regnum Christi’ is gratefully recognized.”

Msgr. Charles Scicluna, the CDF’s promoter of justice, reportedly had received signed affidavits and/or conducted in-person, or telephone, interviews with more than 100 ex-seminarians and/or priests of the Legion of Christ, with essentially corroborating stories about alleged violations, including sex abuse, by Father Maciel.

News outlets from National Public Radio, The New York Times and the major network news stations have reported the news. There will be no public ministry for Father Maciel any longer. He has accepted a request by the Holy See to a life of penitence and prayer for the rest of his days. There will be no canonical trial, nor official ruling on his guilt or innocence.

New Accusations Against Other Legionary Priests?

However, one of Father Maciel’s original accusers, Paul Lennon, M.A., dropped the following bombshell in what may be yet another nuclear bomb for the Legion of Christ and its Regnum Christi apostolates in this exclusive interview with The Wanderer: Since the May 19 statement on Father Maciel from the Holy See, more alleged victims have come forward claiming sexual abuse, not only by Father Maciel, but from other priests of the Legion of Christ. He said that due to the stigma attached particularly to male sexual abuse, the new accusers wish to remain anonymous at this time. Lennon was with the first class of Legionary priests ordained from Ireland back in 1969.

What Does It All Mean?

“Among canon lawyers, there is an expression, where there is smoke, there is fire,” said Pete Vere, J.C.L. “As more and more allegations come forward, it is very difficult to believe that something may not have happened,” he said.

However, Vere added that while he personally believes that based upon the actions of the Holy See with Father Maciel, “many of the allegations have been substantiated,” he was quick to caution that that he “did not have access to the evidence.”

“Inviting Fr. Maciel to live the remainder of his days as a penitent, without the public exercise of his ministry has a twofold effect: it affirms that the Church takes the charges seriously, considers them to be credible and punishable; secondly, it attempts to affect the ultimate salvation of Fr. Maciel by urging him to repentance,” said Timothy Ferguson, J.C.L., a 38-year-old canonist from Clair Shoals, Michigan.

“It is more than a mere slap on the wrists,” he said, “as it affects the one thing most people hold very dear, his reputation.”

“Since this is referred to as an ‘invitation’ rather than an ‘imposition,’ it doesn’t fall under canon 1342.2, which forbids the declaration of perpetual penalties without a judicial process,” Ferguson said. As an invitation, there would seem to be no means for recourse or appeal against it,” he said.

In other words, if Father Maciel had refused the Holy See’s invitation to serve the rest of his life suspended from public ministry in penitence and prayer, Ferguson said he believed it “would necessitate the initiation of a penal process.”

“I think what we’re seeing with Benedict XVI’s papacy, he is standing for what is not popular, but what is right,” said canonist Vere. “With someone like Fr. Maciel and his stature, it is going to be cleared through the Pope, and this is just another example of him showing he will do the right thing even when it is very painful,” he said.

What does the future hold for the Legion of Christ and the Regnum Christi movement whose “charism” is so tied to the person of “Nuestro Padre,” Father Marcial Maciel?

Repeated requests for an interview with Father Anthony Bannon, L.C., superior for North America, or Father Owen Kearns, L.C., publisher of National Catholic Register, went unanswered by the Legion of Christ.

So in lieu of receiving answers to specific questions, the official media statement by the Legion of Christ (found here http://www.legionariesofchrist.org/eng/index.phtml ) reaffirmed that Father Maciel continues to deny any allegations brought forward by at least 100 accusers. However, the statement does make the following admonition, perhaps revealing more about the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi’s “spirit of obedience and faith” through their “spiritual” lens than perhaps they intended to reveal.

One particular part of the statement read: “Facing the accusations made against him, he declared his innocence and, following the example of Jesus Christ, decided not to defend himself in any way,” read the second point of the Legion’s media statement.

One Interpretation: The Church is Sanhedrin; Pope is Pilate; Maciel is Jesus

For those “with eyes to see and ears to hear,” it appears the Legion’s statement is at the least implying that Father Maciel is living a dry martyrdom, somewhat similar to the real martyrdom as Our Lord Jesus Christ, by not defending himself against made-up and false charges, except that one of the charges against Jesus Christ He was condemned for was true. He claimed to be the Messiah.

This analogy to Jesus Christ Himself is apparent upon reading the simple words of the statement. But who is the judge and who is the jury? Canonically speaking, due to Father Maciel’s “advanced age and frail health,” there will be no judge and jury. But effectively, based on the media statement from the Legion, who is Pontius Pilate and who is the jury, the Sadducees and the Pharisees in this “spiritualized” scenario?

“New Catholic” at http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/ wrote the following commentary on the Legion of Christ’s response to the Holy See’s ruling on Saturday, May 20.

“Now, the imitation of Christ is a duty of every Christian — but this proclamation of Christ-like qualities surpasses every measure of virtue. For here, the accusers are the victims (or even the supposed victims) of most horrendous crimes. Even if the accusations were false, which does not seem to be the case, is it appropriate to compare a man accused of these most grievous offenses to the Spotless Lamb? The Lord was accused of specific points of law, not of offenses committed against specific victims: and was convicted for the “blasphemy” of declaring that He was, indeed, the Son of God and, thus Divine.

“Yet, that is not all: By comparing Maciel Degollado to Christ under trial, the ‘official response’ makes clear the indirect reference it wishes to make. Maciel is Christ; the competent Church authorities — the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Holy Father himself — are the Sanhedrin and Pontius Pilate (and Herod, the only one before whom Christ was actually completely silent).

“The man was accused of serious misdeeds. The investigations led to ‘results’ — this means (let no one be fooled by the Vatican’s diplomatic words!) actual results, tangible results, which could have led to much harsher measures. Yet, in his exercise of Petrine authority and Christian charity, the Holy Father guided his ministers “to invite the father to a reserved life of penitence and prayer, relinquishing any form of public ministry” and gave his approval to this charitable measure.

“It is certainly fair to call this ‘invitation’ a ‘cross’: even fair punishments are crosses we are to bear. Yet, here once again, the ‘official response’ crosses the boundary of appropriateness: ‘He [Father Marcial Maciel] has accepted this communiqué with faith, complete serenity and tranquility of conscience, knowing that it is a new cross that God, the Father of Mercy, has allowed him to suffer and that will obtain many graces for the Legion of Christ and the Regnum Christi Movement.’ The troubling messianic aspects of this paragraph are evident.

“Instead of remaining silent (which one would expect from a “obedient” son) or of THANKING [emphasis in original] the competent ecclesiastical authorities for the unbound concern they showed for the health and age of the man, and for the future fortunes of the movements he founded, the ‘official response’ even presents the ‘suffering’ as a privileged means of grace for the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi. This, while the Holy See itself was careful to distinguish the person of the founder from the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi.

“‘Salus animarum suprema lex’ (Can.1752): it was wonderful to watch the Holy See apply this overarching principle of law once again. What a misfortune that such a beautiful spirit had to be squandered by sectarian gall. This official response only deepened the links between the Founder and his movements, which the Holy See had been careful to separate; and instead of the spirit of a Saint Joan of Arc, was filled with the spirit of self-righteousness. There may have been Pharisees in this succession of events — but they were not in the Vatican,” New Catholic concluded his exegesis.

The influential Lutheran convert Father Richard John Neuhaus has previously strongly backed Father Maciel, the Legion of Christ and the Regnum Christi movement.

“It is reasonable to believe the CDF and the Holy Father that he did something wrong or it is nearly impossible to defend the decision,” Neuhaus said.

In fact, Father Neuhaus had previously written that he was morally certain the initial charges against Father Maciel were false.

“Moral certainty is not absolute or metaphysical certainty,” he said, while adding that he had been publicly supportive of Fr. Maciel and the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi.

Father Neuhaus said that he had read the Legion of Christ’s official statement regarding the suspension of Father Maciel’s public ministry and offered the following interpretation:

“Obviously, they view this as a cross that a holy man is bearing in a Christ-like manner, and they solidly affirm solid Catholic teaching that one is purified through suffering,” he said. “There are many instances in Church history where actions taken by the Church’s leadership turned out to be unjust,”

And seemingly offering Pope Gregory the Great as a possible analogy to the Father Maciel situation, Father Neuhaus, quoting Pope Gregory, said, “I loved righteousness, and I hated iniquity so I die in exile.”

“That is obviously the spiritual interpretation I expect most members of the Legion or Regnum Christi will have, with which I have no formal connection; that is their interpretation,” he said.

When questioned about whether a contrarian perspective might be that this suspension of Father Maciel’s public ministries might never have occurred under the pontificate of Pope John Paul II, Father Neuhaus opined that it was “reasonable speculation” to hold.

He also admitted that this news would most likely not be beneficial to the robust and aggressive recruitment efforts and fundraising engaged by the Legion of Christ throughout the world.

Another prominent canon lawyer, who wished to stay on background, explained the real meaning behind the carefully worded Vatican statement. “The mere fact that the CDF assumed jurisdiction over the case is because there was sufficient evidence, approximating probable cause,” he said. Also, he continued, “There was enough evidence of probable cause specifically regarding the crimes against either the sacrament of Holy Penance [the absolution of an accomplice in a mortally sinful action] or the abuse of minors,” he said.

So many are still questioning whether the measure taken by the CDF, with direct authorization by the Holy Father, is essentially an act of caution with an undecided verdict. This indeed seems to be the interpretation given by the Legion of Christ’s media statement.

“As there is no full exoneration, it is presumed that Maciel is guilty of at least one delict reserved exclusively to the CDF under the instruction Sacramentum Sanctitatis Tutela since he has been ‘invited’ to fulfill penance as a result of a canonical investigation into heinous crimes for which there exists serious evidence of wrongdoing,” the canonist concluded.

What About the Victims?

One key perspective seemingly lost in all of this “spinning” of the facts is that a priest who has been entrusted by thousands of parents with the futures of their sons and daughters quite possibly sexually abused as many as a hundred of them. What about the victims?

Paul Lennon, M.A., one of the original accusers of Maciel, and the founding teacher at the Legion’s original School of Faith, said that the original eight victims “are disappointed with the Vatican statement as it seems to leave them hanging.”

“They are disgusted with the Legion’s attempt to cast Maciel, the perpetrator, as a martyr. Dr. Jose de Jesus Barba said that “by wrapping themselves in the flag of orthodoxy and hiding behind Pope John Paul II’s white cassock, in an astute juxtaposition of ‘holiness by association,’ Maciel and the Legion have been shielded against the legitimate complaints of their victims.”

“The victims hope the Vatican statement may reveal the true abusive nature of this pseudo-Catholic Movement and free more victims to come forward, tell the truth, and continue their healing and recovery,” Lennon said.

Extreme Secrecy, Psychological and Spiritual Coercion in Seminary

A young home-schooled high school graduate, who asked to remain anonymous, was excited about testing the call of God and his possible vocation when he entered the Legion of Christ’s seminar in Cheshire, Connecticut, in the autumn of 1989. He said he had to work all summer after graduating from high school in order to be able to afford to pay for a cassock prior to entering the order to “test his call” as the Legion literature dubs it.

He had experienced a visit from Father Anthony Bannon, and was impressed by the Legion’s orthodoxy and dedication to the Church and Pope John Paul II. But as the young man soon learned, orthodoxy does not necessarily mean solid human or spiritual formation, at least in 1989 based upon his experience.

He was at the seminary for 6 weeks “because they wouldn’t let me leave sooner,” he said.

“I was told repeatedly that I could not leave from Cheshire,” he said.

Now a devout Catholic husband and father, the former Legionary of Christ seminarian said the seminarians were exposed to daily psychological manipulation when he attended. He said the techniques were “powerfully psychologically coercive.” He relayed that the Legion priests opened all seminarians’ incoming and outgoing mail, as well as listened in on telephone conversations with family members.

“Absolutely,” he said. “They read all of my letters; they were listening to telephone calls; I have no doubt,” he said.

“I kept asking to leave and they wouldn’t let me,” he said. “I told them I didn’t feel comfortable taking the cassock, and I met with the novice master more than one occasion and said I didn’t understand why they did the things they did.”

After six weeks, in desperation one evening, he stayed up late and penned a 14-page letter of questions and presented it to his superior the next day. “At 10 a.m. the next day, they said I was lying about them and said I need to retract everything I said,” he said. After he refused to comply with their demands, he said they finally allowed him to go home the next day.

The elements of extreme secrecy were apparent throughout, he said. Although he said in his six weeks in the Cheshire seminary, he did not witness any sexual abuse, he did watch as one brother was on his way to a total mental breakdown, he said. “They preyed on some guys’ insecurities, but I did witness the beginning of the breakdown of one of the brothers,” he said.

“He was an eloquent speaker and a really good guy, but 10 months later after he left, he was a completely different guy,” he said. “Later, I found out he had suffered a total mental breakdown and had left,” he said. “The level of psychological pressure was always there.”

Advice to Current Regnum Christi Parents: Buyer Beware!

Lennon advises extreme caution should be exercised by parents when contemplating sending their sons to boys activities, camps, “test your call” weekends and/or the Legion’s apostolic school. “Catholic Kids Net,” summer camps for boys and girls, “Familia” and other such Regnum Christi apostolates are designed as “capturing” grounds for first parents, and then eventually their children, particularly boys for possible early “formation” in the Apostolic School.

Lennon said that if he were a parent with children, “I would demand that the credentials of all Legion of Christ priests working at these activities, including the Apostolic School, be made available to parents. and that they see these documents,” he said. According to Lennon, if parents decide to send them, this extra precaution is necessary because “the Legionaries lie through their teeth to a degree that Americans do not even suspect,” he said.

Lennon also cautioned against the Legionaries tactic of control at early ages through “spiritual direction,” so-called. “I would not allow my children to have ‘spiritual direction’ with people who are not trained spiritual directors,” he said. Especially in light of the fact that most young children, and even teenagers, are just learning how to pray, the actual need for spiritual direction is questionable, both spiritually and psychologically.

“I don’t believe children who are so young need spiritual direction,” he said. “Isn’t confession enough?” Lennon asked.

When asked what advice he would give to current members of Regnum Christi with sons in seminary, the apostolic school or daughters in the Rhode Island girls’ school discerning the consecrated life, the now father and husband, anonymous former seminarian said, “Legionaries don’t just leave their families, they [are taught] turn their backs on their families.”

“It broke down into disparaging comments about their fathers and mothers and their families,” he said. “It was shocking.”

Finally, the former seminarian said that some of the young men in seminary [often from Mexico] had been shipped off to Legionary school in Spain when they were 6 and 7, and when they came back to the U.S. seminary, “They hated their parents and their families.”

“These folks who are very invested in the Legion — they need to investigate how much the Legion is invested in them.”

[Editor’s note: Both anonymous sources quoted here asked not to be named due to fear of future reprisals from the Legionaries of Christ. Other potential interviewees who said they would like to be interviewed to relay their personal testimonials with the Legion of Christ, and particularly their seminary experiences, refused to be interviewed to avoid suspected possible reprisals from the Legionaries of Christ.]

——————————————————————————————-
Brian Mershon is a commentator on cultural issues from a classical Catholic perspective. His trade is in media relations, and his vocation is as a husband to his beloved wife Tracey and father to his six living children. He attempts to assist his family and himself in attaining eternal salvation through frequent attendance at the Traditional Latin rite of Mass, homeschooling, and building Catholic culture in the buckle of the Bible Belt of Greenville, South Carolina.

© Copyright 2006 by Brian Mershon
http://www.renewamerica.us/columns/mershon/060525

Accusers’ Victory Not Complete; Sanctions Against Maciel Don’t Spell Out Guilt

By Gerald Renner

 

May 21, 2006
http://www.courant.com/news/local/
hc-maciel0521.artmay21,0,6875592.story?coll=hc-headlines-home

 

They finally feel vindicated by the Vatican’s imposing of sanctions on the high church leader who they say sexually abused them when they were young boys and teenagers.

For years they tried futilely to call to the attention of church authorities the indignities they suffered in seminaries under the man they called “Nuestro Padre,” Our Father, the Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado.

The former members of Maciel’s Legionaries of Christ are now old men who have made a success of their lives after leaving the legion.

But burning in their souls has been a desire to seek justice and a recognition by the Vatican of the wrongs done them in seminaries in Spain and Italy in the 1950s and ’60s.

That recognition came Friday when the Vatican announced, after a year’s investigation, that Maciel, 86, had been asked to give up appearing in public as a priest and to live “a reserved life of penitence and prayer.”

Still the victory is not complete.

“We feel some element of vindication in that the Vatican recognized that he has been guilty and he has been condemned,” said Juan Vaca, 68, of Holbrook, N.Y., one of the accusers who flew to Mexico City to be with his companions. At the same time, he said Saturday, “the Vatican is double-talking again” in not clearly specifying Maciel’s degree of guilt.

The Vatican’s statement, approved by Pope Benedict XVI, said it was “bearing in mind Father Maciel’s advanced age and his delicate health” to avoid a canonical trial.

Canon lawyers and other church observers say that no sanctions would have been imposed had the Vatican not found him guilty of at least some of the accusations.

But the fact there was no canonical trial to reach a definitive judgment of guilt left an ambiguity which Maciel quickly seized on. In a statement released by the Legionaries, Maciel, retired in his hometown of Cotija, Mexico, proclaimed his innocence but said he would abide by the Vatican’s decision.

That hasn’t set well with some of Maciel’s accusers, eight of whom brought a canon law suit against him in 1998. Others who said they were abused are reported to have come forward to the church’s investigator, according to the National Catholic Reporter, an independent news weekly, which broke the news of Vatican sanctions against Maciel.

“We feel thankful to some extent. We feel a sense of trust and a new stream of air have entered the church,” said Jose de J. Barba Martin, 66, a college professor in Mexico City and a leader among eight former Legionaries who brought the canon law suit against Maciel.

Nevertheless, Barba said in a telephone interview from Mexico City, “Arturo [Jurado] and I feel this statement has left an opening for the Legionaries to say Father Maciel is innocent.”

Jurado, 66, recently retired as an instructor at the U.S. Defense Department School of Linguistics in Monterey, Calif., and moved to Mexico. He was with Barba and two others of the eight men who brought the Vatican suit in Mexico City Saturday. They were interviewed by the Mexican media.

The story was also big news in Madrid, where the Rev. Felix Alarcon is now retired after years of working in Rockville Centre, N.Y., and Venice, Fla. He too was one of the eight accusing Maciel.

“The church has for the first time put herself on the side of the victims. The other pope [John Paul] wasn’t able to do this. This pope will force them to keep their feet on the ground,” Alarcon, 72, said in a telephone interview.

Barba and Jurado said they spoke to their Vatican-sanctioned lawyer, Martha Wegan, who was “very pleased and happy” with the verdict. But they said they are demanding direct recognition by the Vatican through her.

“We have asked our lawyer to demand we have a written communication [from the Vatican] to us,” Barba said. It wasn’t enough that the Vatican make a public statement, he said.

Barba said he and the others were very disappointed that the Vatican thanked the Legionaries of Christ and Regnum Christi, its mostly lay auxiliary, for their work when what is really needed is reform.

“When the stem is corrupt so are the branches,” Barba said.

Another accuser with the group in Mexico City was Saul Barrales, 74, who was fired as a teacher in a Catholic school when he came out against Maciel in the first public expose of the accusations in The Courant in 1997.

“I congratulate the Vatican in that finally the pope did something,” he told The Associated Press. “Pope John Paul II supported [Maciel] but I think he was deceived or he wasn’t totally informed of the truth. But the present pope is doing the right thing.”

Maciel founded the Legionaries in Mexico in 1941 and it has a significant presence in that country, where it runs a number of schools for children of the elite classes. It has grown to be an order of 650 priests and 2,500 seminarians in 20 countries. It has 11 universities, including its first in this country, the newly incorporated University of Sacramento in California. It also has about 25 elementary and high schools run directly by the Legion or by Regnum Christi.

Its U.S. headquarters are in Orange, it has a seminary in Cheshire and a fundraising operation in Hamden. It has been barred from four dioceses – Minneapolis-St. Paul; Los Angeles; Baton Rouge, La.; and Columbus, Ohio – because of its secretive methods of operating. Archbishop Harry Flynn of Minneapolis-St. Paul accused the order of setting up a “parallel church.”

Throughout his reign, Pope John Paul II ignored accusations against Maciel, whom he repeatedly praised. Vaca sent letters to the pope outlining his charges against Maciel through official church channels in 1978 and again in 1989. He never received an answer.

John Paul made the first public trip of his pontificate to Mexico in 1979, after having been elected in 1978. Maciel paved the way, securing a personal invitation to the pope from the then-Mexican president, José Lopez Portillo. It was considered a great diplomatic coup in a country with strong anti-clerical laws and which endured bloody persecutions of Catholics in the 1920s and ’30s. Maciel became a regular member of the pope’s inner circle on subsequent trips to Mexico.

Coincidentally, the Vatican announced April 28 that one of Maciel’s uncles, Rafael Guízar Valencia, bishop of Veracruz, Mexico, who died in 1938, will be declared a saint. He went underground during a period of bloody persecution and ran a clandestine seminary, which Maciel attended when was 16. The day after Guízar died, the seminary administrator expelled Maciel in what Maciel later called a “misunderstanding.” He was later expelled from another seminary, in New Mexico, in another “misunderstanding,” but was eventually ordained in 1944 by another bishop who was a close relative.

No date has been announced for Guízar’s canonization, but as a suspended priest it is unlikely that Maciel will be able to attend.

Maciel Escapes Harshest Actions; But Sanctions Signal This Pope’s Resolve

By Gerald Renner

 

May 20, 2006

 

The Vatican’s sanctions against the Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado serve notice that under the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI, such high-ranking insiders will no longer get a pass when serious allegations of sexually abusing children are raised against them.

The charismatic founder of the conservative religious order, the Legionaries of Christ, Maciel avoided for nearly 30 years answering complaints that he abused young boys in seminaries.

Pope John Paul II never responded to formal complaints against Maciel made through official church channels in 1978 and 1989, and a canon law case against him was quashed without explanation in 1999.

But now, in the wake of his experience handling sex abuse cases as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Benedict is bent on removing what he called “filth” in the church in a widely publicized sermon last year.

In the most high-profile case on his watch so far, Benedict has moved against Maciel, who had been repeatedly praised by John Paul over the years and had highly placed friends all over the Vatican.

As a result of Benedict’s action, Maciel, 86 and ailing in his hometown of Cotija, Mexico, finds himself stripped of his public persona as a priest, no longer able to preach, say Mass in public or speak to the media.

It is a most ignominious end for a man who has been a priest for 62 years and a respected church leader for half a century.

The restrictions placed on him after a year’s investigation are most gentle compared to what the penalty could have been – defrocking (or “laicization” as the church calls it), suspension or even excommunication had a canonical trial been held.

Instead, the Vatican expressed compassion. It placed a statement on its website Friday (www.vatican.va) saying that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith “decided – bearing in mind Fr. Maciel’s advanced age and his delicate health – to forgo a canonical hearing and to invite the father to a reserved life of penitence and prayer, relinquishing any form of public ministry.”

The statement indicated that the decision was made by the new head of the congregation, American Cardinal William J. Levada, and approved by Benedict.

“It’s a polite way of saying he has been suspended for life,” said the Rev. Thomas P. Doyle, a Dominican priest and canon lawyer who has been a strong advocate for sexual abuse victims. The sanctions against Maciel would not have been imposed had the congregation not found some of the charges against him well-founded, Doyle said.

The Vatican “showed an extraordinary degree of compassion for the accused, but I have seen other cases where older priests have not been laicized because of their age,” Doyle said.

The Vatican did not publicly specify what the accusations against Maciel were, but referred to the canon law case brought against him in 1998, which entailed sexual abuse charges brought by nine former Legionaries. The charges were first made public in The Courant in 1997. The accusers claimed Maciel abused them during the 1950s and 1960s when they were young boys or teenagers, ages 10 to 16, in seminaries in Spain and Italy.

In canon law, sexual abuse charges have an effective statute of limitations of 10 years, but that can be waived by the pope. However, in the eyes of the church, the most serious charge against Maciel has no limitation – that he absolved in confession some of the boys he is accused of abusing. Such a charge under canon law amounts to a sacrilege of the sacrament of reconciliation, which incurs automatic excommunication.

During the yearlong investigation by Monsignor Charles J. Scicluna, a “permanent promoter of justice” for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, other people surfaced who had not come forward before and said they had been abused by Maciel. Scicluna interviewed more than 30 people in the investigation, which concluded at the end of 2005.

In a statement released from the Legionaries’ U.S. headquarters in Orange, Conn., Maciel continued to proclaim his innocence.

“Facing the accusations made against him, he declared his innocence and, following the example of Jesus Christ, decided not to defend himself in any way,” the statement said.

“He has accepted this communique with faith, complete serenity and tranquility of conscience, knowing that it is a new cross that God, the Father of Mercy, has allowed him to suffer and that will obtain many graces for the Legion of Christ and the Regnum Christi Movement,” the most lay auxiliary of the Legion.

Glenn Favreau, a former Legionary who worked with Maciel in his Rome headquarters and is now a leading critic of the Legion, said he expects the Vatican to quietly focus attention on reforming the religious order. He said many of the people Scicluna spoke to in his investigation were people who knew nothing of sexual abuse.

They testified about what Favreau said was the intensely secretive and psychologically abusive way that Maciel set up the Legion to operate. Favreau, a recent graduate of the University of Michigan Law School, said for instance the Legionaries must take private vows not to criticize actions of superiors and to report on those who did. He said the confidentiality of spiritual counseling is often violated.

Maciel founded the Legionaries of Christ in 1941. The order says it now has 650 priests and 2,500 seminarians in 20 countries. One of those seminaries is in Cheshire.

Although the Vatican statement said it “gratefully recognized” the work of the Legionaries and of Regnum Christi, Favreau said that was just cover.

“It will be handled silently,” he said. “No one said everything was hunky-dory.”

Gerald Renner is a retired Courant religion writer.

 

Vatican Punishes a Leader After Abuse Charges

By IAN FISHER and LAURIE GOODSTEIN

 

 

ROME, May 19 — The Vatican cautiously acknowledged today long-standing allegations of sexual abuse by the founder of a prominent Catholic order, asking him to give up his public ministry in favor of a quiet life of “prayer and penitence.”

The Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado, seen in Spain in 2001, was asked to renounce celebrating public Masses and live a life of “prayer and repentance.”

The Rev. Marcial Maciel, with by Pope John Paul II in 2004, was warmly regarded the pontiff.

The statement by the Vatican did not address the allegations themselves. But it marked a significant action by Pope Benedict XVI on a sensitive issue for the church, veering close to a finding of guilt against the highest profile church figure to be accused of sex abuse: the Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado, 86, founder of the fast-growing Legionaries of Christ, who was often praised by Pope John Paul II.

The statement said that Father Maciel, who founded the order in Mexico, would not undergo a church trial for the allegations against him because of his “advanced age” and “weak health.” The Vatican did not disclose the allegations, but at least nine men have accused him of molesting them when they were young.

But the statement said the Vatican’s doctrinal office had decided “to invite the father to a life restricted to prayer and penitence, renouncing any public ministry. The Holy Father has approved these decisions.”

The Legionaries, now based in Connecticut, released a statement noting that Father Maciel has long “declared his innocence,” but decided not to defend himself, “following the example of Jesus.”

The group said he “has accepted this communiqué with faith, complete serenity and tranquillity of conscience, knowing that it is a new cross that God, the Father of Mercy, has allowed him to suffer.”

Father Maciel stepped down from the order’s leadership last year.

Reactions to the Vatican decision varied, with some praising the Pope for taking so public a stand and others saying it did not go far enough given the seriousness of the allegations against Father Maciel himself and the wider crisis of confidence in the church over sexual abuse.

“It’s tempting and easy to want to believe that this is a positive long-term sign,” said David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, who praised the Vatican for a statement that he said “sanctioned” Father Maciel.

“But I think one act, even a brave one, isn’t necessarily indicative of a trend,” he added.

Juan Vaca, a former priest in the Legionaries who said Father Maciel abused him over 10 years starting in 1950 when he was 12, said he felt Father Maciel should be removed from the priesthood entirely — something the Vatican decision did not do.

“It’s not enough,” Mr. Vaca, an adjunct professor of psychology and sociology at Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., said in an interview on Thursday as reports of the decision began leaking out. “Because this man has done a lot of damage to a lot of people — to children and supporters and even the hierarchy of the church.”

The decision was first made public on Thursday on the Web site of National Catholic Reporter.

The Vatican document did not specify exactly what duties Father Maciel would be barred from, but the National Catholic Reporter quoted anonymous Vatican officials as saying he could not celebrate mass publicly or give speeches or interviews.

Since its founding in 1941, the Legionaries have tracked an impressive arc of growth and influence with Father Maciel as its charismatic helmsman: It now has 650 priests worldwide, 2,500 seminarians in 20 countries and 50,000 members in its lay affiliate, Regnum Christi. The order runs a dozen universities, and recently opened its first degree-granting college in the United States, the University of Sacramento.

Todd Carpunky, a lawyer in New York City who belonged to the Legion for six years as a religious brother, said, “The Vatican’s move is going to be devastating because, unlike a lot of religious orders like the Jesuits, the Legion is the cult of the persona of Maciel. When you go to a Legion home or a Legion center, there are pictures of Maciel hanging next to pictures of Jesus. The Legionaries always call him ‘Nuestro Padre,’ which in Spanish means ‘Our Father.’ ”

Pope John Paul II had repeatedly praised Father Maciel and his work, most recently at a public audience on Nov. 30, 2004, for the 60th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood.

In 1994, in a trip to Mexico, Pope John Paul II called him “an efficacious guide to youth” — a statement that several victims said prompted them to make complaints.

Two years later, nine victims came forward in newspapers articles and a book, “Vows of Silence,” (Free Press: 2004), alleging that Father Maciel had abused them when they were between the ages of 10 and 16.

As an indication of Father Maciel’s influence, a number of influential American Catholics wrote testimonies defending him on the Legionaries website in 2002. They included George Weigel, the Rev. Richard John Neuhaus, Mary Ann Glendon, William Bennett and William Donohue.

On Friday, Father Neuhaus, editor of ‘First Things,’ an ecumenical magazine based in New York, said he still believed that the charges against Father Maciel are “unfounded.”

“There is nothing in the Vatican statement that suggests that the word ‘penance’ is meant as a punitive measure,” he said.

Asked why then the Vatican would take any action then, he said, “It wouldn’t be the first time that an innocent and indeed holy person was unfairly treated by church authority.”

The Maciel case has presented a complex tableau for the church’s willingness to confront allegations of sexual abuse, the legacy of Pope John Paul II and what many church experts say is the evolving view on the issue of sex abuse by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who last year became Benedict XVI.

John Paul has often been criticized for minimizing the scandal as it broke in the United States, and many accusers cited as one grey area in his papacy his long friendship and public support of Father Maciel.

“I don’t think he could ever get his mind around this business,” said John Wilkins, the former editor of the influential British Catholic magazine, the Tablet. “For him the priesthood was such a high ideal.”

The issue is more complicated for the pope, who as Cardinal Ratzingerheaded the church’s doctrinal office. He was cited in “Vows of Silence” as wondering in 1999 whether it was “prudent” to pursue the allegations against Father Maciel, given his contributions to the church. That year, he reportedly halted the case against Father Maciel.

And in 2002, as the American church was in an uproar over abuse, Cardinal Ratzinger said the because of the media attention given to it, “one comes to the conclusion that it is intentional, manipulated — that there is a desire to discredit the church.”

But colleagues and other church experts said his view began to change as his office was flooded with allegations of sex abuse. In 2004, his office reopened the case against Father Maciel, interviewing dozens of victims and other witnesses. Then, before he became pope, Cardinal Ratzinger spoke last year of the need to remove “filth” in the church, widely interpreted to mean priests who abused children.

Jason Berry, co-author of “Vows of Silence,” said that the judgment shows that the Vatican is still uncertain about how to deal with the sex abuse issue or how to apply church law evenly in the face of the mountain of allegations. While some priests have been defrocked, he noted, the better-connected Father Maciel received a lighter sanction.

“It is a judgment that falls far short of a penalty commensurate with what he did,” he said. “He sexually abused a great number of boys who carried that trauma like a cross upon the soul through their lives.

“You could look at it as an attempt to be Solomonic, cutting the baby down the middle,” he added. “And yet what it really does is raise more questions about the inability of the canon law system to function.”

Legion Leader Faces Sanctions; Report: Vatican To Restrict Ministry Of Maciel, Accused Of Sex Abuse

By Gerald Renner

 

May 19, 2006

 

Pope Benedict XVI has restricted the ministry of the Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Rome-based Legionaries of Christ, who has been accused for years of having sexually abused young seminarians in his charge, according to a report published Thursday.

The Vatican would not confirm the report but said it would issue a statement about its investigation into the charismatic, 86-year-old priest as early as today.

The restrictions were reported online by the National Catholic Reporter, an independent weekly newspaper, following a week of rumors of some kind of action against Maciel.

John Allen, Vatican correspondent for the newspaper, reported that Vatican sources said the restrictions placed on Maciel amount to a finding that at least some of the accusations against him are well founded.

According to the story, which cited Vatican sources, Maciel is restricted from publicly acting as a priest. He is not defrocked – “laicized,” in church terms – but he cannot celebrate public Masses, give lectures or other public presentations, or give interviews for print or broadcast. The pope approved the restrictions shortly before Easter, the story said.

The first public allegations against Maciel surfaced in a Courant report in February 1997. Nine former members of the Legionaries said Maciel abused them in the 1950s and ’60s when they were young boys or teenagers, ages 10 to 16, in seminaries in Spain and Italy.

The Vatican did not respond directly to the allegations. Later that year Pope John Paul II appointed Maciel as his personal representative to a high-level meeting on the Americas, signaling his full support for the priest.

Maciel, a native of Mexico, founded the Legionaries of Christ religious order in 1941. The order says it now has 650 priests, and 2,500 seminarians in 20 countries. Its U.S. headquarters is in Orange, Conn., and it has a seminary in nearby Cheshire.

Maciel was repeatedly praised by John Paul and other high church leaders. Maciel and the Legionaries vociferously proclaimed his innocence. Maciel accused the nine men of a conspiracy to defame him.

David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said Thursday that “Maciel is the most powerful Catholic official to ever face Vatican sanctions for child sexual abuse.”

“It would have been easy to let this case quietly go unresolved, as so many similar cases have,” Clohessy said. “We deeply appreciate that, at the highest levels of the church, action has been taken against such an extraordinarily high-ranking Catholic leader.”

The Rev. James Martin, associate editor of the Jesuit magazine America, said the Legionaries had enormous support in the Vatican because of their loyalty to the church, their conservative views and their success in recruiting candidates for the priesthood.

“So to take action against their founder is absolutely stunning,” Martin said. “Benedict shows his independence by taking on a darling movement of the conservative right.”

Spokesmen for the Legionaries in Rome and in Orange said that they had no comment because they knew nothing of any Vatican action against Maciel.

Juan Vaca, a former priest who headed the Legionaries’ U.S. operations in Connecticut from 1971 to 1976, and who said he was abused by Maciel beginning when he was a 12-year-old boy, was cautious Thursday.

“My reaction is I am still in my state of expectation until I see the official document and the official statement from the Vatican. We have been waiting for so long,” said Vaca, who lives in Holbrook, N.Y., and teaches psychology at Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.

Vaca left the Legionaries in 1976 to join the Diocese of Rockville Centre in New York. He and another priest, the Rev. Felix Alarcon, sent letters to the pope accusing Maciel through official church channels in 1978 and 1989 but never got a response. Vaca left the priesthood. Alarcon, who established the Legionaries’ U.S. headquarters in Connecticut in 1965, is a retired priest in good standing in Madrid.

Vaca and Alarcon were among eight former Legionaries priests and seminarians who filed a canon lawsuit against Maciel in 1998 with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which was assigned by Pope John Paul to handle sex-abuse charges against priests. The case lay dormant and no action was taken.

In January 2005, several months before he was elected to succeed John Paul, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger authorized the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which he headed, to investigate the charges. Within days Maciel announced he was retiring because of his age and moved to his hometown of Cotija, Mexico.

A yearlong investigation was concluded at the end of 2005. It was conducted by a Maltese priest, Monsignor Charles J. Scicluna, a “permanent promoter of justice” for the congregation.

Scicluna traveled to the United States and Mexico, where he interviewed more than 30 people, several of whom claimed abuse but had not publicly come forward. Others were summoned to Rome.

Those Scicluna interviewed included former Legionaries priests and people associated with Regnum Christi, an auxiliary of mostly lay people who support the Legionaries. Two who spoke on condition of not being identified said in interviews with a reporter last fall that they knew nothing of sexual abuse but had complaints about what one called “psychological abuse.”

News reports of Scicluna’s investigation triggered confusion after the Legionaries of Christ in Rome sent out a press release last May saying that “the Holy See” informed the order that “there is no canonical process under way into our founder … nor will one be initiated.”

The Legionaries’ statement was confirmed to the press by the Rev. Ciro Benedettini, vice director of the Vatican Press Office. “There is no investigation now, and it is not foreseeable that there will be another investigation in the future,” Benedettini said.

He made no reference to Scicluna’s investigation or how that squared with his statement that there was no investigation.

It turned out that the denial of an investigation originated in the office of Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican secretary of state and a staunch supporter of Maciel. His office had nothing to do with investigating allegations of sexual abuse. Only the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith could speak to it, and its members are bound by an oath of secrecy.

Gerald Renner is a retired Courant religion writer. An Associated Press report is included in this story.

 

Communique Concerning Founder Of Legionaries Of Christ

This communique comes from the Vatican Press Office. ReGAIN awaits an official document from the Sacred Congregation for the Docrine of the Faith.

The response of the Legion of Christ can be found on http://www.legionofchrist.org

Following the Communique, we offer the text of the introduction to the Motu Proprio Document mentioned which gives the proper context of this decision.

 

VATICAN CITY, MAY 19, 2006 (VIS) – With reference to recent news concerning the person of Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legionaries of Christ, the Holy See Press Office released the following communique:

“Beginning in 1998, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith received accusations, already partly made public, against Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ, for crimes that fall under the exclusive competence of the congregation. In 2002, Fr. Maciel published a declaration denying the accusations and expressing his displeasure at the offence done him by certain former Legionaries of Christ. In 2005, by reason of his advanced age, Fr. Maciel retired from the office of superior general of the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ.

“All these elements have been subject to a mature examination by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and – in accordance with the Motu Proprio ‘Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela,’ promulgated on April 30 2001 by Servant of God John Paul II – the then prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, authorized an investigation into the accusations. In the meantime, Pope John II died and Cardinal Ratzinger was elected as the new Pontiff.

“After having attentively studied the results of the investigation, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under the guidance of the new prefect, Cardinal William Joseph Levada, decided – bearing in mind Fr. Maciel’s advanced age and his delicate health – to forgo a canonical hearing and to invite the father to a reserved life of penitence and prayer, relinquishing any form of public ministry. The Holy Father approved these decisions.

“Independently of the person of the Founder, the worthy apostolate of the Legionaries of Christ and of the Association ‘Regnum Christi’ is gratefully recognized.”

OP/LEGIONARIES CHRIST/MACIEL VIS 060519 (320)

SACRAMENTORUM SANCTITATIS TUTELA

POPE JOHN PAUL II

APOSTOLIC LETTER

GIVEN MOTU PROPRIO

by which are promulgated Norms concerning the more grave delicts reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

The Safeguarding of the Sanctity of the Sacraments, especially the Most Holy Eucharist and Penance, and the keeping of the faithful, called to communion with the Lord, in their observance of the sixth commandment of the Decalogue, demand that the Church itself, in her pastoral solicitude, intervene to avert dangers of violation, so as to provide for the salvation of souls “which must always be the supreme law in the Church� (Codex Iuris Canonici, can. 1752).

Indeed, Our Predecessors already provided for the sanctity of the sacraments, especially penance, through appropriate Apostolic Constitutions such as the Constitution Sacramentum Poenitentiae, of Pope Benedict XIV, issued June 1, 1741;[1] the same goal was likewise pursued by a number of canons of the Codex Iuris Canonici, promulgated in 1917 with their fontes by which canonical sanctions had been established against delicts of this kind.[2]

In more recent times, in order to avert these and connected delicts, the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office, through the Instruction Crimen sollicitationis, addressed to all Patriarchs, Archbishops, Bishops, and other local Ordinaries “even of an Oriental Rite� on March 16, 1962, established a manner of proceeding in such cases, inasmuch as judicial competence had been attributed exclusively to it, which competence could be exercised either administratively or through a judicial process. It is to be kept in mind that an Instruction of this kind had the force of law since the Supreme Pontiff, according to the norm of can. 247, § 1 of the Codex Iuris Canonici promulgated in 1917, presided over the Congregation of the Holy Office, and the Instruction proceeded from his own authority, with the Cardinal at the time only performing the function of Secretary.

The Supreme Pontiff, Pope Paul VI, of happy memory, by the Apostolic Constitution on the Roman Curia, Regimini Ecclesiae Universae, issued on August 15, 1967,[3] confirmed the Congregation’s judicial and administrative competence in proceeding “according to its amended and approved norms�.

Finally, by the authority with which we are invested, in the Apostolic Constitution, Pastor Bonus, promulgated on June 28, 1988, we expressly established, “[The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith] examines delicts against the faith and more grave delicts whether against morals or committed in the celebration of the sacraments, which have been referred to it and, whenever necessary, proceeds to declare or impose canonical sanctions according to the norm of both common and proper law,�[4] thereby further confirming and determining the judicial competence of the same Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith as an Apostolic Tribunal.

After we had approved the Agendi ratio in doctrinarum examine,[5] it was necessary to define more precisely both “the more grave delicts whether against morals or committed in the celebration of the sacraments� for which the competence of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith remains exclusive, and also the special procedural norms “for declaring or imposing canonical sanctions.�

With this apostolic letter, issued motu proprio, we have completed this work and we hereby promulgate the Norms concerning the more grave delicts reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which Norms are divided in two distinct parts, of which the first contains Substantive Norms, and the second Procedural Norms . We therefore enjoin all those concerned to observe them diligently and faithfully. These Norms take effect on the very day when they are promulgated.

All things to the contrary, even those worthy of special mention, notwithstanding.

Give in Rome at St. Peter’s on April 30, 2001, the memorial of Pope St. Pius V, in the twenty-third year of Our Pontificate.

Pope John Paul II

Full text of the Document may be found by clicking here for the link.

 

Vatican to Issue Statement on Sex Abuse

May 18, 2006

 

By By NICOLE WINFIELD , Associated Press

 

http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/V/
VATICAN_SEX_ABUSE?SITE=FLTAM&SECTION=INTERNATIONAL

 

VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican said Thursday it would issue a statement on its investigation into allegations the Mexican founder of the conservative order Legionaries of Christ sexually abused seminarians decades ago.

The statement is expected to be issued Friday, Vatican officials said. The National Catholic Reporter said on its Web site Thursday that the Vatican had asked the Rev. Marcial Maciel to limit his public activity by not celebrating public Masses or giving lectures or interviews.

The reported action was taken after the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith concluded its long-running investigation into allegations by former seminarians that the 86-year-old Maciel sexually abused them. Nine former seminarians accused Maciel in the 1990s of having abused them when they were boys or teenagers from the 1940s to 1960s.

The Vatican officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the statement had not been issued, declined to say what the Vatican’s findings were or what action, if any, was taken against Maciel.

Maciel and the Legionaries have strongly denied the allegations.

“Before God and with total clarity of conscience I can categorically state that the accusations brought against me are false,” Maciel said in a 2002 statement. “I never engaged in the sort of repulsive behavior these men accuse me of.”

Asked Thursday to comment on the reports of the Vatican action against Maciel, Jay Dunlap, spokesman for the Legionaries in the United States, said in an e-mail: “We have nothing to say. We don’t know anything about this.”

The order is based in Orange, Conn.

The case against Maciel has been followed closely by victims of the clerical sex abuse scandal because Maciel in particular, and the Legionaries in general, curried such favor in the Vatican under Pope John Paul II.

In January 2005, John Paul hailed Maciel for his “paternal affection and his experience.” A few months earlier, the late pope praised Maciel on the 60th anniversary of his ordination, citing his “intense, generous and fruitful” priestly ministry.

Maciel declined last year to be re-elected head of the order, citing his age.

Any Vatican sanctions against Maciel, who founded the Legionaries in 1941 in Mexico City, also would be significant since this represents the first major sex abuse discipline case decided by the Vatican under Pope Benedict XVI. The former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger headed the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith until his election as pope last year.

The Rev. James Martin, associate editor of the Jesuit magazine America, said the Legionaries had enormous support in the Vatican because of their loyalty to the church, their conservative views and their success in recruiting candidates for the priesthood.

“So to take action against their founder is absolutely stunning,” Martin said. “Benedict shows his independence by taking on a darling movement of the conservative right.”

Victims groups hailed the reported sanctions.

“It would have been easy to let this case quietly go unresolved, as so many similar cases have,” said David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Accused by Priests. “We deeply appreciate that, at the highest levels of the church, action has been taken against such an extraordinarily high-ranking Catholic leader.”

Jason Berry, who along with Gerald Renner wrote “Vows of Silence” about the abuse claims against Maciel, said church officials must have felt compelled to take action when the allegations against Maciel spread and prompted additional accusers to come forward after the original nine seminarians unsuccessfully lobbied the Vatican to take action.

Berry said any punishment of Maciel would be “a stain on John Paul’s legacy” because the late pope had praised him so “extravagantly.”

The Vatican investigated Maciel in the 1950s for alleged drug use, trafficking and misuse of funds but not for sexual misconduct. He was suspended from his duties as head of the order then reinstated after being cleared of all allegations.

The status of the sex abuse investigation into Maciel has been particularly confusing. In May 2005, the Vatican’s Secretariat of State informed the Legionaries there was no canonical process underway against Maciel, implying the investigation had been closed.

However, it was the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that was actually responsible for the case and was continuing its investigation at that time, the Vatican officials said Thursday in explaining the discrepancy.