Saturday, November 27, 2010

On Maciel And The Legion, Pope Benedict Picks Money Over Vatican Accountability

Maciel with Pius XII and some of his original victims.  Maciel is the one wearing glasses off the Pope's right shoulder.  How does Benedict expect me to believe Maciel was active for over 50 years and the Vatican didn't know?

There was more in Pope Benedict's statements in "Light of the World", than his comments on condoms and HIV.  Some of those statements concerning the Legion of Christ are probably more indicative of his true mindset than his comments on condoms--as least as far as the supremacy and untouchable nature of the clerical system.  It's been remiss of me to let these statements go this long without comment. In my own relationship with Catholicism three issues have stood out as symbolic of the devastation protecting clerical power and authority have had on the laity.  The first was condoms and HIV.  The second was continual protection accorded Maciel and the Legion of Christ.  The third was the response to clerical abuse. Today I deal with the second and tomorrow I will address Benedict's comments on the abuse scandal.

Pope: Vatican acted slowly, late in Legion scandal

By ALEXANDRA OLSON Associated Press - 11/23/2010

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI lamented that the Vatican acted “slowly and late” in a scandal surrounding the Legionaries of Christ, and a Vatican official called Tuesday for an investigation into who covered up for the conservative order’s disgraced founder.

The pope insisted, however, that the order has done good and should not be dissolved despite the double life of the late Rev. Marciel Maciel, who was discovered to have abused seminarians and fathered at least three children. (And raped two of them.)

“Unfortunately we addressed these things very slowly and late,” Benedict said in a book released Tuesday. “Somehow they were concealed very well, and only around the year 2000 did we have any concrete clues.”........ (Maybe you should have looked through the blindfold provided by those who wear Cardinal red.  In any event the Vatican had been investigating Maciel for almost 50 years by 2000. This is a BS statement.)

.........Monsignor Rino Fisichella, who heads the Vatican’s evangelization office, said the Vatican would be wise to look at who covered up for Maciel inside the Legion — “those who took his appointments, those who kept his agenda, those who drove him around.”  (Those who held high posts in the Vatican and took bribes to look the other way.)

Fisichella was responding to questions at a news conference in Rome about the pope’s comment that Maciel’s crimes had been concealed, amid reports that the reverend had high-ranking supporters in the Vatican who protected him for decades.

Maciel is known to have been a favorite of Pope John Paul II because of his orthodoxy and his ability to recruit priests and raise money from wealthy patrons.

But Fisichella said the Vatican suggested looking inside the Legion. “We must be able to verify how well-covered up it was inside his congregation, not outside it,” he said. (Wrong.  You need to look inside the Vatican for those bribed to look the other way.  Or are you afraid to take such a step?)

Jim Fair, the Legion’s communications director, said “the Legion agrees with the pope’s comments in the new book.”
The order announced Tuesday that its powerful vicar general, the Rev. Luis Garza, was giving up some of his duties. Garza has insisted he knew nothing about Maciel’s crimes until recently(Amazing how you can name your own price when you have access to all the security codes to all the money.)

The Legion said in a statement that Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, the Vatican official whom Benedict appointed to profoundly reform the disgraced order, has also expanded the group’s governing general council and will appoint the two new members himself.

In the book, Benedict said the order deserves to continue its work.

“Maciel remains a mysterious figure. There is, on the one hand, a life that, as we now know, was out of moral bounds — an adventurous, wasted, twisted life. On the other hand, we see the dynamism and the strength with which he built up the congregation of Legionaries,” the pope said. “Naturally corrections must be made, but by and large the congregation is sound. In it there are many young men who enthusiastically want to serve the faith. This enthusiasm must not be destroyed. Many of them have been called by a false figure to what is, in the end, right after all.” (All those enthusiastic young men could serve in another order or in dioceses with priest shortages.  Maciel was not 'adventurous, he was Satanic.  All that 'dynamism' was all about the money.)

The revelations have thrown the Legion into chaos, with several prominent priests leaving the order over the past year, and dozens of consecrated members of the Legion’s lay branch, Regnum Christi, quitting.
In October, the order suffered one of the biggest blows with the resignation of the Rev. Santiago Oriol, who headed the Everest School in Madrid and was a member of a wealthy Spanish family that for decades helped the order raise money. (Kudos to Fr. Oriol.  Maybe he can now raise money for AIDS orphans.)


I strongly suspect there is a great deal of fear in the Vatican when it comes to the Legion.  I'm not sure if that fear is about physical retribution or about who will be uncovered as complicit in Maciel's money making scheme inside the Vatican.  Maybe it's both.  Whatever, Benedict's babble about the Legion is pure double speak. He has to know how much corruption both internal and external surrounds this outfit. It's pampered sheltered existence should be another nail in the coffin of any canonization process for John Paul II. 

Archbishop Fisichella is not fooling anyone in his purposeful oversite concerning Maciel having Vatican insiders protecting his flanks. Fisichella didn't address direct questions about the information uncovered by Jason Berry as reported by the NCR.  He deflected those questions, instead referring to an  internal investigation of the Legion.  Berry uncovered a whole bunch of interesting stuff about Vatican personnel accepting 'favors' and 'pious contributions':

"Maciel wanted to buy power," said the priest who facilitated the Mexican family's opera carita to Dziwisz. He did not use the word bribery, but in explaining why he left the Legion, morality was at issue. "It got to a breaking point for me [over] a culture of lying [within the order]. The superiors know they're lying and they know that you know," he said. "They lie about money, where it comes from, where it goes, how it's given."

When Martínez Somalo, a Spaniard, became head of the congregation overseeing religious in 1994, Maciel dispatched this priest to Martínez Somalo's home. The young priest carried an envelope thick with cash. "I didn't bat an eye," he recalled. "I went up to his apartment, handed him the envelope, said goodbye. ... It was a way of making friends, insuring certain help if it were needed, oiling the cogs.

Martínez Somalo did not respond to NCR interview requests.

Glenn Favreau, a Legionary in Rome from 1990 to 1997, and today an attorney in Washington, D.C., recalled: "Martínez Somalo was talked about a lot in the Legion, always in the context of 'our superior' because he was our friend. Un amigo de Legion." Favreau, who knew nothing of the donation to Martínez Somalo, continued: "There were cardinals who weren't amigos. They wouldn't call them enemies, but everyone knew who they were. Pio Laghi did not like the Legion." Cardinal Laghi, former papal nuncio to the United States, was then prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education.

Martínez Somalo's office took a new name: Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. But the job description stayed the same. From 1994 to 2004, the Spanish cardinal's duties included investigating any complaints about religious orders or their leaders.

In the files of that congregation, according to several former Legionaries, sat letters that dated back many years, accusing Maciel of abusing seminarians. When the wrenching accounts of nine seminary-victims of Maciel made news in the 1997 Hartford Courant, Martínez Somalo did nothing. That was the reaction throughout the Roman curia.

I've felt for a long time the Legion is the perfect symbol of what is wrong with institutional hierarchical Catholicism.  It's not just Maciel's personal perversions, it's how he was able to continue for sixty years by preying on the greed of those Vatican personages who had supervisory power over him and his money collection scheme. That this protection went all the way to the top demonstrates just how internally corrupt the Vatican was under JPII. When the heart of an organization is riddled with this kind of cancer, the institution needs a heart transplant or it deserves to die. 

Benedict to his credit refused to take Legion bribes on his own behalf, but to his current discredit,  he seems  all too willing to continue accepting Legion money on behalf of the Church. I wish he would just bite the bullet and disband this order.  I wish he would have the moral fortitude to let Garza and his security codes sail off into the same sunset as Maciel.  

If the Legion and Regnum Christi members have true vocations, those vocations should be to Jesus Christ not 'Nuestro Padre'.  It shouldn't matter to them where the Church assigns their vowed service, or how it chooses to use their gifts. In fact, Benedict could go a long ways towards healing  if he assigned those gifts in a manner more befitting the people who gave those vows rather than defending the organization who betrayed those vows. But unfortunately the treatment of the Legion is not about honoring the honest members who have given so much to the Church in terms of human service, it's about protecting the organization and personalities through which the Vatican has received so much money.  As Catholic mythology would have it, Satan is still calling the shots when it comes to his Legions. 


  1. Benedict says in his new book about the legionaries : “In it there are many young men who enthusiastically want to serve the faith. This enthusiasm must not be destroyed. Many of them have been called by a false figure to what is, in the end, right after all.”

    What of that false figure looms in the imaginations of those young men? I wonder and so should Benedict.

    If Benedict wants to get serious, he needs to look at all the “young men” with strong erotic connections especially to the same sex who want and who have served the church. Is that how they have been called by a false figure?
    When Benedict and the church can honesty address that call, then the church, the RC church may have some credibility.

    At least the book is an opening of the door. Not something so bad on the first Sunday of advent.

    Colleen, you have been so thorough on keeping up with these stories with your research. Thanks!

  2. This is a very strong article. I was touched when you mentioned the 3 issues. Ten years ago I was not that aware of these issues. I was a John Paul II Catholic. He was my hero. It makes me so sad to read of these things, of what went on in our Church. How Father Maciel was promoted is truly awful. He bought his influence. Money talks, how true. It is too bad that Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict) had to look the other way because John Paul II supported Maciel. What a tragedy. It is painful to me to know that Pope John Paul II would never meet with abuse victims. To him they were just defiled outcasts, I suppose. We have lost so many good people because of this. Pope Benedict has reached out some to the victims but much more needs to be done.

  3. This is all so incredibly infuriating and heartbreaking. I idolized John Paul II. I can't believe he would do this to us.

  4. If the Pope wishes to keep most of the LC intact, with just eliminating the figure of Maciel, that's like when the Russian Communist leaders kicked Stalin's body out of its honored tomb beside Lenin, while keeping the Stalinist concentration camps with all the prisoners still going strong...

  5. "Many of them have been called by a false figure to what is, in the end, right after all.” So it's okay for the church to do evil if the end result is good???? What a bunch of hipocrites.

  6. sorry, meant hypocrites.........

  7. I think JPII sort of captured the same essense as JK Rowling did with Harry Potter, at least for some of our younger Catholics. JPII became a sort Dumbledore figure and the Church a kind Hogwarts. JPII and his Vatican curia made a real attempt to enforce this imagery, which is exactly why they attacked the Harry Potter series. They would brook no competition. It also served to keep way too many Catholics from looking behind the curtain.

    I've always liked the Wizard of Oz as an archetypal fantasy story about the Spiritual path. In the end we need to get passed the smoke and mirrors and find our own way home. We have to trust that we do have brains, we do have hearts, and we do have to find the courage to transcend our fears. We have to become self empowered. Self empowerment is a threat to any spiritual system which relies on obedience.

    Harry and company were educated towards self empowerment, most JPII Catholics were not, nor was anyone in the Legion. In the end JPII was no Dumbledore, and Maciel was very close to being a real live Voldemort.

  8. KG that is a great analogy. It's precisley what is happening with the Legion. Removing the head while leaving the pyramid scheme in place and virtually untouched.

    Or as anon says, in this case Benedict seems to be saying the good he sees in the end somehow purifies the evil means.

  9. Colleen, your writings and the group's responses over the last 8-9 days have been fascinating and prayerful for me. Just before this condom controversy and general book discussion broke, I was very disturbed by an NCR story at this link:

    The article discusses holy relics and generally says that, if you use them to pray, they've done their job and don't have to be ......true? authentic? valid? Let me try this one more time: as long as mythos is intact and served, logos is unimportant and can be backgrounded.

    The same problems go on in my parish as I see in the general church. We've become infantilized again, with every word that drips from God through his holy faucet the priests to be greedily lapped up and savored. We are back to talking about the pernicious effects of porn, and contraception is a "strong" topic when Father asserts his right to chastise the faithless. Our social justice group, previously full of vitality and now dormant, is relabeled "Christianity in Action". Remove one space between the words to discover the real effect. We'll be leaving the parish at the end of the year, with six years of trying to be heard enough time to shake the dust from our feet.

    I've been working on listening more than sharing lately. Sometimes I need all of you to know that your writing helps ground and grow my faith, that your high arcing, world view concerns hit on a personal level for me. Thanks, and keep going.

  10. mjc, that's an interesting article, I can't believe I missed it.

    Sometimes myth will wind up creating logos, especially on an individual basis. Belief is a powerful creator of reality.

    I like the Native tradition of personal medicine bundles because the best and most potent relics are the ones we put the time, focus, and effort in creating for ourselves.

    Focused consciousness creates the connections necessary to manifest a different reality. My problem with veneration of relics is that it promotes a disempowering explanation for what actually is the creative spiritual ability of humanity.

    Plus, if a person truly believes a given bone is John the Baptist's finger, that is that person's operative reality. Connections will be made, things in our objective reality can change.

    It's like the story about the woman who was cured by touching Jesus's cloak. It was her belief that drew the power she felt through His cloak. Her belief was the operative issue, not just His own power. A skeptic would never have been healed, a point Jesus makes repeatedly.

  11. "I've always liked the Wizard of Oz as an archetypal fantasy story about the Spiritual path. In the end we need to get passed the smoke and mirrors and find our own way home. We have to trust that we do have brains, we do have hearts, and we do have to find the courage to transcend our fears. We have to become self empowered. Self empowerment is a threat to any spiritual system which relies on obedience."

    Colleen, if I have learned anything from following your blog for quite some time now, it is that much, not all though, of what we witness is smoke and mirrors early in our spiritual walk. It is in consistent contemplative prayer, patience, perseverance and compassion for ourselves and our neighbor, and transcending to the spirit of forgiveness, all of which Jesus teaches us, that we are enabled to see the difference between what is real and fantasy, deception and illusion.

    We all seem to go down a yellow brook road in our lifetime, from our enculturation and what the world feeds us in our youth & in its history and the Vatican and the Papacy, priesthood and laity, the secular world surely have too, no matter where they are in the political spectrum. Fear, sickness, confusion, interior blindness, living in denial, too much pride of self, or in a ghetto of limiting thought, will often take us on a trip to meet the Wizard. The Wizard leads the innocent Dorothy's and her friends who are lame in one form or another on a mission to destroy the witch. (This symbolizes to me the engagement of the church and secular world in wars, one after the other). Within the framework of fantasy and illusion, self-deception, pride, fear, the world behaves according to those rules of Oz. The rules of fantasy, deception, war, take us all down the wrong spiritual path and to many dangerous places; a culture of death.

    The Land of Oz is sort of what people create in the world, a consensus, when he/she is still not mystically aware or connected to the power of the Spirit of Love within.

    We do have to become self-empowered, like Dorothy in realizing she had the power already within her to get home. (Home to where God is within / as in Interior Castle by St Theresa of Avila) In order to bring Christ into the world it takes more than the self or self-empowerment to do that. It takes Divine assistance and the willingness and humility to see the man behind the curtain within ourselves that creates the illusions of our having any power at all over God, or in any illusions about following yellow brick roads leading one "home."

  12. "The Land of Oz is sort of what people create in the world, a consensus, when he/she is still not mystically aware or connected to the power of the Spirit of Love within."

    Well stated butterfly, and I take some hope in the fact that there are more folks in all religious traditions who are beginning to understand this.