The death of Michael Jackson and all the attendant press coverage has intrigued me because some of his story parallels the life of Fr. Maciel of the Legion of Christ. It's pretty mind blowing to see the effects charismatic pedophiles have on people around them, and how some of those people can be so completely blinded by the light of that charisma. Both Jackson and Maciel had their share of very high profile defenders and enablers who couldn't seem to see through the charisma no matter how credible, consistent, and long term the accusations of pedophilic behavior were detailed.
Another common denominator for both men was the amount of money they had access to, and the numbers of other wealthy supporters they could consistently rely on. Great wealth allows access to all kinds of strategies which support private obsessions. It buys both silence or intimidation depending on which strategy will work. Michael Jackson's use of both financial strategies is fairly common knowledge. Maciel's is not.
This is a major reason why the Vatican must insist on transparency in Legion finances. My educated guess is there is most likely substantial sums of money spent by the Legion to keep Maciel's truth from exposure. The rank and file have a right to know the truth of this because it was their efforts which fueled the wealth Maciel could draw on. It is inconceivable to me that Maciel did not employ the same kinds of strategies that Michael Jackson and his people employed. Each man had way too much to lose and neither one was capable of controlling his impulses. When one can't control the impulses one has to control the environment in which the consequences get played out. Money is very useful for that.
Both men were also drug addicts, although it seems Maciel was better at controlling his addictions than Michael Jackson was at controlling his. Either that or we just don't have the information on Maciel that has come out about Michael Jackson. It may also be that Maciel ran in a circle in which drug use and addiction was not nearly as prevalent nor as accepted. Maciel had a greater need to conform on this issue, as he ran in the circles of ecclesiastical and old world wealth. No such pressure existed for Michael Jackson.
In many respects both men created a fantasy world around themselves which served to both enable procurement of boys, but also underscored their rationalizations for why they did what they did. I was asked last night if I though Michael Jackson was a pedophile and I replied, "Absolutely, but not in his mind. In his mind he was just a twelve year old having sleep overs with other twelve year olds and they played doctor and discovered some stuff about sexuality. It was all just innocent play, and no adults were allowed." Hence he built fortress Neverland. Maciel built the 'Legionares' and seminaries just as strictly under his control as Neverland was under Michael Jackson's.
I strongly suspect that Jackson never forced himself on any young boy, but that doesn't mean he didn't purposefully lead them to agree to where he wanted them to go. Maciel was different. From reports I've read from his accusers, he didn't spend near the time grooming his victims that Jackson did, and his rationalizations were more power based in that he expressly used his position over them to demand obedience. Maciel had Legionaries in training, Michael had 'friends'. I suspect there will be far more ambivalence in Michael Jackson's victims toward Jackson, than the outright hostility shown by some of Maciel's victims towards him. Neither set of victims will have an easy time processing what happened to them. Abuse, even if it's sugar coated, is still abuse.
One account I read this weekend described Michael Jackson as a 'dancing personality disorder'. That's pretty apt. Michael sure had his share of identifiable personality disorders. Maciel could just as easily be described as a 'praying personality disorder' because he shared some of those same readily identifiable personality disorders. Both of these men needed serious help, not the boat loads of enablers who profited from being in the flame of their charisma. The inner circle of Legionare priests may not think of themselves in the same terms as Michael Jackson's inner circle, but there isn't much difference. Neither inner circle seems to have seriously tried to bring either man to any kind of accountability. Maybe they suspected neither man would listen and knew they were easily replaced. That's all too true, but it still begs the question as to why no one ever seriously tried to expose these guys. When does protecting fans or faithful from scandal become active compliance in an on going evil? Lots of people seem to have been unable to come to grips with that question.
Marcial Maciel had the support and encouragement of an entire Church institution in which to live out his fantasy. He died in old age, still surrounded by his supporters, having had decades to wreak his particular combination of personality disorders on unsuspecting faithful. The lasting legacy of his particular fantasy is the Legionnaires, Regnum Christi and his particular brand of orthodoxy.
Michael Jackson found no such similar situation. He certainly tried, but the entertainment industry is far more fickle than the Roman Catholic priesthood. In the end he died relatively young and mostly isolated and alone. His lasting legacy is his music and his escalating weirdness as his unchecked combination of personality disorders left their mark. Both men have left their legacies in total disarray. The Legionnaires are under a Vatican investigation with the potential dissolution of the order not out of the question. It will take years to sort out the legal mess left by Michael Jackson, right down to the biological parentage of his three children. Which I guess proves as in life, so in death.
I don't know who the real Marcial Maciel was because I haven't been able to find much about his early life. I do know who the real Michael Jackson was and where so much of his fractured personality stopped maturing. We have a pretty good clue on video. It was when he was about twelve and had the hit song 'Ben' from the movie of the same name. It's a plaintive song which he sang in all innocence about a deep lasting friendship with a rat. It propelled him to fame and freed him from his parents and brothers. Unfortunately freedom from our personal demons is not always what it's cracked up to be. If we're too young to work through the demons, we just find others and those tend to be much stronger and even more controlling.
If there's a lesson in these two stories it's that personality disorders can be very powerful in their consequences. They are not infrequently accompanied by great talent and charisma and those two things function as the best defense mechanisms in the world. Michael Jackson and Marcial Maciel may have come from two entirely different cultures but their personality disorders played out eerily similarly. It's always a mistake to conflate talent and charisma to the point where it blinds one to the total package and that maybe the biggest lesson in these two stories.