Interview with Fernando Gonzalez / A Call Not to Close the Marcial Maciel Case

Reforma (Feb. 12, 2008)
Translation by ReGAIN Staff.

 

According to writer Fernando Gonzalez, a review of the Marcial Maciel case should go beyond the man himself to also look into the inner workings of the Legion of Christ because of its possible complicity and coverup of crimes involving pedophilia and absolution of accomplices.

In an interview with Reforma, the sociologist and psychoanalyst a member of the Institute for Social Research at the National Autonomous University of Mexico explains that Maciel’s accusers do not consider this case closed as a result his death on January 30, 2008

Maciel did not die unpunished in the sense that the Vatican asked him to retire. He died without facing justice and without his victims being able to prove anything. The Legionaries will be labeled as an organization whose founder was a pedophile.

What must now be made clear is that the congregation was complicit and that many of those still alive were his victims as well as his silent accomplices.

What will happen to the Legion?

Maciel’s death does not solve the problem. It will go on because the Legion is implicated and its internal pedophile networks continue to operate. The problem is no longer Maciel; it is the network and its social relationship.

For example, in 1992 there was an accusation against Fr. Fernando Martinez of having abused four girls at the Cumbres Institute in Cancun. At one time he himself had been abused by Maciel, who himself had been accused by a family from Michoca?n of having abused their son at the Cumbres Institute in Mexico City.

Will they go forward with legal proceedings?

There is a viable accusation in Geneva against the Vatican hierarchy and by extension against the Legion for coverup and complicity with Marcial Maciel.

There is proof in the Vatican archives of enormous complicity by three of its offices: the Secretariat of State, the Sacred Congregation of the Faith and the Sacred Congregation of Religious. All of them had information about Maciel when he was young, and they let him go.

From the canonical point of view it’s impossible because Ratzinger mandated in 2001 that the crime of absolutionis complicis be prescribed after ten years.

What does the Legion hope for?

For people to forget and for the possible canonization of its pedophile at some point in the future. The Legion started a dual beatification operation. On the one hand there is Maciel’s mother, Maura Degollado Guizar, who right now is considered a servant of God. On the other there is the canonization of Rafael Guizar y Valencia, his great uncle. They are waiting for Mexicans to forget, and to later transfer him to Rome, where they have built a mausoleum for him.

Is internal reform possible in the order?

In October 2007 they eliminated two vows, one of which was charity, which implied no criticism of the superior and no coveting of positions [within the congregation]. With this action, which occurred four months before Maciel’s death, it seems plausible that a minority within the Legion is taking a risk and beginning to talk about reforming the institution. The past of the Legion of Christ is now open and uncertain.

What does the Maciel case represent?

As a case it is a paradigm that has allowed for a number of things. On the one hand, it has exposed the sexuality and pedophilia of certain priests. Looking at it over a ten-year period, it has allowed for the creation of a fledgling plaintiff culture.

At the same time, if we look at the case of Joaqui?n Aguilar [a Mexican priest accused of pedophilia], it allows us to analyze the institutional conduct of the Catholic Church in covering up these cases. There is the relocation of the accused by moving them out of parishes, the use of confession to convert what is a crime into a sin, the lack of statistical evidence, which allows the problem to be ignored, and the discrediting of plaintiffs by claiming they are doing it for money.

 

Direct to Hell

By Roberto Blancarte, Director of Milenio
From Milenio, Tuesday, February 5, 2008
http://www.consejomexicano.org/index.php?id=5,5114,0,0,1,0

Marcial Maciel was a pederast, pedophile, abuser of minors, liar, manipulator, ambitious and cruel to his victims. He was also a man who gave a lot to the Catholic Church: schools, money, vocations, political power. In the end, there is an attempt to find a balance in all that he did. For some his work within the Church is enough to redeem him. For others his sins and crimes cannot be absolved, especially since he never asked for forgiveness from his victims and never publicly admitted them. The way the Catholic church operates, it would seem, is that, as long as work is done to benefit the institution, everything else can be forgiven. However, as far as my knowledge of the matter goes, a man can only be forgiven if he truly and sincerely repents, and if God (not the church) pardons him. Because, for those who believe, it will not be the church, which renders the final judgement, but God.

I doubt that Marcial Maciel would have ever truly and sincerely repented. According to the Legionaries’ own spokesman, “he himself [Macie] said he was an instrument of God, emphasizing that the work was not his but God’s.� So, as far as I am concerned, Marcial Maciel is in hell right now — assuming that such a place exists. Of course, I cannot know or prove this. What’s more, it doesn’t interest me. I believe the real hell is being tortured daily by the enormous incongruity with which you have to live for your entire life, knowing that what you have done is both a sin and a crime, and that, no matter how much you might do for the Church, it will never really be able to provide you redemption or peace. And this hell had to have been made worse the Vatican’s condemnation when those sins and crimes were made public, and by your own shame and that of your unreflective and uncritical admirers. The end cannot justify the means and the accomplishments do not justify the crime.

Mexico’s Catholic hierarchy does not seem to be in agreement with me, and the worst of it is that it insists on denying Maciel’s abuses. As reported in an article in Milenio, the vice president of the Mexican bishop’s conference asked for respect for Maciel’s memory in regard to the accusations against him of pedophilia, saying that, if the father founder of the Legionaries of Christ committed “some error,� this is the moment to pray for him and to ask for the salvation of his soul. According to the same article, upon being asked if the accusations of pedophilia would tarnish the legacy he left the church, the vice president of the Catholic bishop’s conference answered, “We are all tarnished — all of us, who are the children of Adam, are tarnished by sin — but God is merciful. His [Maciel’s] good intentions are not in question and he served the church.� After these comments it is perfectly clear to me that the Church has permitted and continues to permit all manner of abuse, including that perpetrated on innocent children. If we are all tarnished, no one may judge another, and no one may call abusive priests to account, and no one may demand honesty from them either. If that is so, it is better that I pray for the salvation of the church.

Otherwise, there is probably God’s judgement, but certainly there is also the judgement of history. And with time, as more becomes known, there is a tendency for new personal testimonies or documents to come to light which prove or confirm what is already known. But even if this were not the case, Maciel’s dossier already contains enough elements to prevent not only any attempt at beatification or canonization, but also glorification of him within his own order. In fact, his legacy, no matter what efforts his followers might make, will be that of a pedophile, who was condemned by the Vatican. The Holy See does not ask the founder of an order to retire from public life for a minor offense. Any attempt to improve his image will be met with the reaction of his victims and the possibility of further exposing the sewer inside the order — although perhaps that is what some are hoping. In any event, the Legionaries and their followers know that, as long as Benedict XVI is alive, restoring the image of Maciel is impossible and even counterproductive.

The problem for the Legionaries remains the same: surviving the presence and personal leadership of Marcial Maciel. As with other orders and religious organizations, the central problem is getting past the period of transition of being an association led by a charismatic leader to an organization with a clear vocation, different from others, but with the capacity to build for some a new religious imperative. However, in the case of Maciel’s legacy, which is more of a shameful stigma, the past is a burden, which legionaries will want to forget, or at least to conceal. I really do not see how the order will be able to construct a glorious past based on its founder’s original sin of pedophilia. Beyond its questionable pastoral practices, the Legionaries of Christ will have to do a lot to make one forget what their founder did while shielding himself in his work and in the alleged complicity of God. I would just as soon do away with all the pretension; Marcial Maciel must be rotting away in hell.

 

A Cloud of Impunity

By Pedro Miguel

From La Jornada, Tuesday, February 5, 2008
Perhaps the spirit of Marcial Maciel Degollado can now be found seated at the table of the Lord, forgiving those who slandered him. Or maybe he is roasting in hell, condemned to eternal damnation for his crimes. The only thing certain is that his body is decaying under a headstone in a cemetery in Cotija, Michoacán [Mexico] and that his final status does not matter to anyone, not even to himself, since he has ceased to exist. Some lament his death because they think he was a good person. Others deplore the fact that he has left this world without him or anyone else having had the opportunity to clear up his victims’ serious and credible accusations, which should have merited a full investigation, and either an exoneration, or a legally binding punishment.

Shamefully, secular and religious authorities prevented any sort of investigation for decades. There was no official moved to investigate the accusations presented, or the charges, which indicated that the priest was a routine sexual predator of minors. The leaders of his church rejected as out of hand and in a sustained manner the most remote possibility that these charges might be true.

The protection offered to Maciel by officials in high political, judicial, business and clerical positions reinforced rather than dissipated suspicions. If the man was as innocent as his protectors knew him to be, it was hard to understand their enthusiastic determination to save him from a either a civil or ecclesiastical trial. This not only denied the opportunity for his alleged victims to see justice done, but it also condemned Maciel to live a life marked by permanent doubt. His sentence was to be that of a man perpetually linked to the term pedophile. The image of the Legionaries of Christ — the organization he founded and which, according to the recently deceased priest’s accusers, saw sexual attacks against minors increase under his leadership — was irreparably undermined.

What is certain is that between 2002 and 2005 church officials in the diocese of St. Paul, Minnesota, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Columbus, Ohio, Richmond, Virginia and Los Angeles, California restricted the order’s activities because it refused to comply with local guidelines regarding the protection of children and minors and because it was trying to recruit young people secretly without informing even local religious authorities. Why such furtive methods? Could it be for the same reason that powerful people do not want to shed light on Maciel’s adventures? Perhaps it is because some devout parents might now think that putting their children in the care of a legionary is tantamount to turning them over to Jean Succar Kuri and his pals. [Translator’s note: Jean Succar Kuri is a Lebanese-born Mexican businessman accused of child pornography, child sexual abuse and statutory rape, and of being involved in a sexual exploitation ring.]

In 1996 six former members of the organization founded by Maciel testified to the abuses he committed against them, and became the objects of a moral lynching campaign in which [Mexico City archbishop] Norberto Rivera Carrera, of course, participated. Twelve years passed from that time until the death of the priest from Cotija — a period in which no civil authority deigned to take note of the matter. John Paul II’s arm was twisted to open an investigation, but he still allowed Maciel to continue kissing his ring. For his own part, Joseph Ratzinger hid the results of his inquiry.

After becoming pontiff, the now Pope Benedict XVI — with exemplary hypocrisy and ambiguity — ostracized the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, and ordered him to retire from public life, though without imposing any formal sanction on him. In other words, Mexican government officials and church leaders in both Mexico and Rome had more than a decade to establish the veracity or falsehood of the charges, and threw it all away. From the Vatican to Los Pinos [the Mexican White House] two popes and three presidents, along with their respective subordinates, gave Maciel protection. They granted him de facto immunity as a consequence of this position, which in itself is an insult to decency, and condemned him to die under a cloud of impunity.

Legion of Christ Founder leaves a flawed legacy

By Jason Berry
Special to NCR
Analysis: Posted on Feb 5, 2008 15:56pm CST.

 

Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, 87, the scandal-plagued founder of the Legionaries of Christ, died in Houston, Texas, Jan. 30, several weeks after suffering a stroke.

Maciel was arguably the greatest fundraiser of the modern church. Using Pope John Paul II’s many endorsements, he generated huge support for the Legion’s educational network, which required a $650 million annual budget, according to The Wall Street Journal. Benefactors include billionaire Carlos Slim of Mexico City, reportedly the world’s richest man.

The Legion has 21 prep schools in America, a fledgling University of Sacramento, and operates the nation’s only three seminaries for teenage boys. Conversely, prelates have banned the Legion from operating in Los Angeles; St. Paul-Minneapolis, Minn.; Columbus, Ohio; Richmond, Va.; and Baton Rouge, La. St. Paul-Minneapolis Archbishop Harry Flynn called the Legion “a parallel church.�

The coffin arrived at 5:30 a.m. Feb. 2 in Cotija de la Paz, his hometown in south central Mexico. Milenio, a Mexico City daily known for harsh editorials about the sex abuse cases that disgraced Maciel, called the Mass “understated and solemn.â€� There was no public ceremony in Rome (his primary residence for years), nor words of sympathy from Pope Benedict XVI. The only notice of his death in Rome was a small ad, as is customary, that religious orders place in L’Osservatore Romano when a founder or superior dies. On Feb. 2, L’Osservatore carried an ad from the Legionaries that said: “Based on the desire of Fr. Maciel, the funeral rites will take place in a climate of prayer and in a simple and private form.â€� A brief news item said the same thing.

In May 2006 the Vatican, under Benedict, ordered Maciel to a “life of prayer and penitence� after an investigation of the allegations that had been filed in 1998 in then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s office at Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Church law has no statute of limitations when a priest abuses confession to “forgive� his own victims, as was alleged of Maciel by several former seminarians. Still, Maciel was spared a trial and harsher punishment.

Maciel’s demotion came as he anticipated the fall canonization of an uncle, Bishop Rafael Guizar Valencia, whom he had nominated for sainthood. Guizar led a clandestine seminary in the 1930s amid Mexico’s bloody persecution of the church. Citing Vatican sources who were permitted to see the evidence against the Legion founder, John L. Allen Jr. reported in NCR that Maciel had “more than 20 but less than 100� victims.

To Legionaries and Maciel’s followers in Regnum Christi, a 50,000-member lay group central to the fundraising, Maciel died a victim of false accusations, a conspiracy that duped Pope Benedict.

To bedrock followers, Nuestro Padre — Our Father — as they refer to Maciel, was a saint.

He nominated his mother for canonization (to date, without success). In 1992, he told a Legionary priest at a canonization ceremony in Rome: “Wait 30 years before you begin my process� for sainthood.

Between these poles — a falsely-accused saint, or predator dripping hubris — roamed a double life, shaped by wealth and propaganda.

Born in 1920 into a prominent family with four uncles as bishops, Maciel was expelled from two seminaries for reasons that have never been explained.

He became a priest only when one of his uncles (not Guizar, the future saint) ordained him after private studies. Recruiting boys in the late 1940s from families whose parents remembered the religious persecution, and saw the priesthood as a path to distinction, Maciel secured scholarships for his seminarians in Spain from the Franco government. “We were like an army, the army of Jesus Christ,� recalled Alejandro Espinosa, the author of a searing memoir, El Legionario, a best-seller in Mexico.

By the 1950s Maciel had a seminary in Rome. Cultivating wealthy supporters, he also built Our Lady of Guadalupe Basilica in Rome, honoring Mexico’s patron saint. But in 1956 Pope Pius XII removed him as the Legion’s director when Maciel was hospitalized for morphine addiction. Seminarians who had taken vows never to speak ill of Maciel defended him in a Vatican investigation into his secret life. Says Juan Vaca, now a psychology professor in Long Island, N.Y.: “I lied.� From age 12 to 24, Vaca, in what he termed a twisted psychosexual relationship with Maciel, “loved the figure of the founder, the priest … not the predator.�

Another victim, Jose Barba, now a college professor in Mexico City said: “We all lied.� Barba earned a doctorate in Latin American studies at Harvard after leaving the Legion in 1962. “I said simply that he was a saint … as I had been taught.�

In the interregnum between Pius XII’s death and the election of Pope John XXIII, Cardinal Clemente Micara, the vicar of Rome, re-instated Maciel, although under Vatican rules he lacked the authority to do so.

Defended by his victims, Maciel had a protective wall in the secret vows the boys took never to criticize any superior. A Legion mantra, “lost vocation, sure damnation� sent certain of his victims into therapy in later life. The early victims reconnected with one another slowly, over many years.

Maciel went on to build seminaries, prep schools and several universities in Mexico, Spain, Chile, Italy and the United States. Students were taught that Nuestro Padre was a living saint, chosen by God to lead a rejuvenation of the church. Each year on March 20 children acted in skits honoring his life.

In 1996, Hartford Courant reporter Gerald Renner wrote a story on the Legion’s purchase of the National Catholic Register newspaper, and found not a single reference to Maciel in press reports. The Legion’s U.S. headquarters had been in Orange, Conn., for 30 years. Officials shunned Renner. Maciel had orchestrated information about his life and organization via Legion schools, newsletters, and, later, Web sites. After Renner’s article, several ex-seminarians called him, complaining of dictatorial tactics that drove them out of the Legion.

By then, Arturo Jurado, Mexican by birth, a teacher at the U.S. Defense Languages Institute in Monterrey, Calif., had contacted this writer after reading my 1992 book Lead Us Not Into Temptation, an investigation of the clerical sex abuse scandal. Claiming that Maciel had repeatedly abused him as a seminarian in Rome, Jurado put me in touch with seven other men who gave sworn statements echoing his. Juan Vaca included a detailed letter about Maciel he had sent to Pope John Paul II in 1989.

Until then, I had never heard of Maciel. One summer day in 1996 a call came from Gerald Renner, wondering if I knew anything about the Legionaries. Soon after, the Courant hired me as a freelance writer for a joint assignment with Renner.

We had eight men on the record with in-depth accounts of Maciel and well-corroborated information on a ninth victim, who had died. These dignified professionals included a Spanish priest, Felix Alarcon, serving in Florida.

When Renner contacted the Legion to interview Maciel, a Washington law firm, Kirkland and Ellis, responded with statements from Legion supporters purporting to show Maciel’s innocence. The Legion alleged a “conspiracy� by the accusers, but lacked serious proof. Despite legal threats, the Courant published a story on Feb. 23, 1997. The report drew immediate attacks from Legion supporters and a letter of self-defense from Maciel.

The Vatican was silent in response to interview requests. In fall 1998, Jurado and Barba traveled to Rome and filed the canon law case. For several years, it seemed the case was doomed to gather dust.

In 2002, The Boston Globe’s investigation of Cardinal Bernard Law for sheltering abusive priests ignited a chain reaction of media reports in the United States and other countries. In April 2002, John Paul summoned American cardinals to a special meeting about the crisis.

In November 2004, about the same time an ailing John Paul celebrated Maciel’s career in a ceremony, Ratzinger, perhaps realizing the Maciel case would haunt whoever the next pope might be, ordered Msgr. Charles Scicluna, Promoter of Justice for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to reopen the case against the Legion founder.

It is unclear how the order, which claims 700 priests and 2,500 seminarians, will move forward after Maciel’s death, since its spirituality is rooted in Maciel’s life and words, a life now known to be deeply conflicted.

The Legion never admitted Maciel’s guilt. Like Christ before Pilate, runs the order’s story line, Maciel refused to defend himself. After the 2006 punishment, he accepted his “new cross� with “tranquility of conscience.�

Until 2006, the Legion promoted his outright innocence on its Web site with testimonials by Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, writer George Weigel, former drug czar William Bennett, Harvard Law professor Mary Ann Glendon, Catholic League president William Donahue, among others, alongside the order’s rebuttal of the victims and denunciations of Renner and me.

After the 2006 decision, those materials disappeared from the Web site. History was erased. The Web site still contains numerous articles about Maciel’s achievements. His history is their history, and can’t all be airbrushed.

The Legion cultivates celebrities. Former CNN religion reporter Delia Gallagher joined Bennett in speaking at the Legion’s fall 2007 fundraiser. Jeb Bush spoke at the Legion’s summer 2007 conference in Atlanta.

Benedict has ordered the Legion to stop requiring the secret vows. NCR has learned that witnesses have given Scicluna new material on Legion inner workings.

A new set of Legion lawyers recently filed suit in Alexandria, Va., against a http://www.regainnetwork.org, a Web site run by ex-Legionaries, accusing them of conspiracy to damage the Legion’s ministry, essentially the same charge leveled against Maciel’s sex abuse victims, only now in an expensive legal arena.

The Legion demanded the return from Regain of its constitutions, which include the now-invalidated secret vows that Maciel had once dictated and that were posted anonymously on Regain’s discussion board. The lawsuit has entered the discovery phase, demanding names of those who posted information and the computer files of Regain founder Paul Lennon.

Maciel promoted a militant spirituality to save the church from a corrupt world and used the secret vows to shield his double life. The Legion is now waging a legal battle to keep that shield in place.

[Jason Berry is coauthor, with Gerald Renner, of Vows of Silence, a book about Maciel. He has directed a forthcoming documentary film, based on the book.]

The Conspirator of Silence

By Roberto Rock
From El Universal, February 4, 2008
http://www.eluniversal.com.mx/columnas/vi_69733.html
The death of Marcial Maciel provides an opportunity for the church and society to shed light on the personality of this man and the methods employed by the Legionaries Christ.

They call it the “fourth vow.� For those ordained as priests, it complements the three canonical promises of chastity, poverty and obedience. It allowed for the construction of a hermetically sealed world of the religious order known as the Legion of Christ — a type of secret society, created in 1941 by Marcial Maciel, who died on January 29, 2008.

This “private vow,� as it is also known, creates a religious obligation not to criticize the organization’s directives and to snitch on any member of the organization who does so.

Maciel’s drive came from a family with deep Catholic roots — one which included three bishops, one of whom, Rafael Guízar y Valencia, was canonized. Born in 1920, he witnessed the Cristero Revolt (1926-1929) as a child. He had an undeniable gift for captivating popes (no less than four), cardinals and especially wealthy men and women. This gift allowed him to create an empire, which today includes 17 universities, 127 centers of higher education and 175 schools in which more than 120,000 young people are educated and indoctrinated. In addition, there are 20 seminaries, 9 novitiates and 4 centers devoted to the study of philosophy and theology. It operates in more than 20 countries, but its most obvious power base, its social and economic food source, can be found in Mexico.

Out of the Legionaries’ ranks have come three bishops, 750 priests, and 2,500 novices and religious, who work in 40 countries around the world. Its most powerful social arm, “Regnum Christi� (the Kingdom of Christ), is an elite entity within the Legion. It is marked by the strictest secrecy and includes high-ranking officials, directors and important Mexican business owners, representing fields such as government, construction, banking and communication media.

Not bad for a man who is continuously described in testimonies as a charismatic and visionary priest, but also as a man of mediocre academic training, a pedophile, morphine addict, money chaser, hypocrite, devious schemer, corrupter of high church officials, prevaricator, manipulator. . .

He boldly led the Legion — which he originally christened the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart and the Virgin of Sorrows — for 67 years, during which time he played the roles of founder, father superior and perpetual virtual saint. His path to canonization, which involved his mother — Mamá Maurita, spiritual progenitor of all things legionary — is now so very uncertain, however, that it could even derail the cause for beatification of his principal protector, Pope John Paul II.

In addition to a large number of writings, which emphasize only Maciel’s exemplary traits, various works have been published which cast a critical eye on his life, the most rigorous being perhaps “Marcial Maciel, the Legionaries of Christ; Testimonies and Unpublished Documents� by Fernando M. González.

The debate, however, has been focused on the complex personality of this priest without delving deeply into the methods, which continue being applied within this type of religious cult.

The sexual practices of priests have become a common topic for the entire Catholic church and a review of the Maciel issue would force the hierarchy — finally — to send a healthy message of repentance and correction, not only to seminarians, who for years were victims of Maciel, but also to the followers of his movement and to society at-large, which remains concerned about the possibility that this pattern of abuse might continue.

The same goes for the almost coercive process of recruitment — whose dimension is being ignored — which the Legionaries follow, especially the recruitment of young people who attend their schools, a number of whom are incorporated into Regnum Christi and a subsidiary, Missionary Youth. This quite possibly includes thousands of boys and girls pushed to “consecrate themselves� in the service of Christ.

In the case of one of the Legion’s novitiates located in Monterrey, young adolescent women are recruited with or without the consent of their parents, who are permitted to see them only a few times a year for no more than 30 minutes. The families of these “consecrated women� receive constant exhortations to contribute large sums of money so that these youths might “circle the globe,� serving God in other countries.

Juan José Vaca, one of Maciel’s accusers, sent a letter to the priest more than 30 years ago, in which he deplored the way things were being done. To judge by the evidence, little has changed.

In 1976 he wrote, “You know quite well that the way of life you are forcing these young women to live is, first of all, taking place behind the back of the Holy See, and is devoid of any canonical status or any ecclesiastical approval. The Regnum Christi Movement, with its methods of secrecy, absolutism and systems of mentalization, more closely follows the practices of secret societies than the open ways and evangelical simplicity of our Holy Mother Church. . .�

This entire situation, therefore, calls for the Legionaries to decide what they want in the future for their institution. But it also imposes an obligation on the Catholic hierarchy and on the Mexican state itself, which through omission or infiltration have failed to listen or have actively looked the other way. The death of Maciel should offer the chance for a historical correction, for the good of all.