The Dark Legacy of Pope Benedict XVI
By Matthew Fox Posted: 02/20/2013 12:32 pm
The pope has chosen to step down, the first pope in seven centuries to do so. As a Christian, I witness his legacy, and that of his predecessor, with profoundly mixed feelings: outrage over the crimes committed against the people of God, and relief that the masks covering the corruption of the papacy have at last been removed.
I see that the 42-year reign of the past two popes has so destroyed the church we once knew that now the Holy Spirit can give birth to a community far more attuned to the revolutionary Gospel of Jesus than the current and dying structures ever could be. More than ever, we recognize the warning of historian Lord Acton after Vatican Council I defined papal infallibility: “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
We have witnessed how Cardinal Martini on his deathbed, issued a damning call to action to a church “200 years behind the times.” We have witnessed the retaliation of the past two popes against theologians and pastoral ministers who have dared to dissent for the sake of social justice, eco-justice, gender and gender preference justice: 105 and more have been and continue to be hounded, silenced and expelled.
So as one of these dissidents, speaking now from outside the Vatican’s punitive reach, I offer a short list of some of the issues for which history will hold Ratzinger accountable, both as cardinal and as pope (I offer page numbers of my study on his life and papacy in my book, “The Pope’s War: How Ratzinger’s Crusade Imperiled the Church and How It Can Be Saved,” to see the backup evidence).
- His silence for years about the notorious pedophile priest Father Maciel, who was so close to Pope John Paul II that he was often invited on the papal plane — and who sexually abused dozens of his seminarians, had two wives on the side and sexually abused his own children. Fr. Maciel was not fully investigated until 2005 even though a New York bishop reported his actions to Ratzinger’s office in 1995 (125-130).
- His attacks while head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (formerly “Office of the Holy Inquisition”) on theologians and pastoral leaders the world over who dared to do their job which is to think (they are listed on page 238-241 but the list keeps growing).
- His (and his predecessor’s) bringing back the Inquisition and dumbing-down the church, educing theology to 1) a catechism and 2) agreement with the dictates of the pope and his curia. History does not remember Torquemada as a theologian; neither will they remember Ratzinger as one.
- His unrelenting attacks on base communities and Liberation Theology even though this movement, like the civil rights movement of the U.S., was the most Christ-like movement for democracy and justice and freedom in centuries (41-62).
- His (and the previous pope’s) promotion of neo-fascist sects as the new “religious orders,” including Opus Dei, which is now embedded in places of great power including the financial headquarters of E.U., the U.S. Supreme Court, the CIA (especially under George Bush the first), FBI and the U.S. mainstream media (106-124).
- His and the previous pope’s support for extreme right wing groups from Maciel’s Legion of Christ to Communion and Liberation to Opus Dei (130-144). Opus Dei members are being placed as bishops and cardinals in Latin America and now in North America: Los Angeles, the biggest North American diocese, is run by an Opus Dei bishop. Likewise the diocese of Kansas City, whose bishop is convicted of covering up for a predatory priest but refuses to step down.
- His destroying the integrity of the canonization process by eliminating the role of “devil’s advocate” in pointing out the shadow side of the candidate. With this obstacle out of the way, Ratzinger pushed through the canonization of the founder of Opus Dei, Fr. Escriva — a recognized fascist who praised Hitler — faster than any saint in history (106-125).
- His covering up the scandal of pedophile clergy and putting the image of the Catholic church ahead of the rights of young children in the U.S., in Ireland and elsewhere. The recent HBO film “Mea Maxima Culpa” tells the facts about some of these horrors and how the buck stopped with Ratzinger (134-174).
- His public disrespect for other faiths and disavowal of religious ecumenism. Ratzinger as pope managed to insult Islam, Judaism, all Protestant churches (saying they are not churches) and the mind-body-spirit practice of yoga. As cardinal he presaged this anti-ecumenical attitude, unbelievably calling the globally revered Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hahn, “the anti-Christ” (260).
- His absolute reaffirmation of a “morality” of sexism (no women priests ever; Catholic sisters in America are now being subjected to inquisitions as theologians have been; priests who support women are dismissed — but pedophile priests are not!).
- His un-Christlike diatribes against gay persons, borne out in not one but two documents: his ignoring scientific research on homosexuality has created another Galileo moment in church history.
- His irresponsible positions against condoms even in an age of AIDS and against birth control in a time of excessive human population on a crowded planet. His positions on sexuality are all about St. Augustine’s antiquated ethics and not anything Jesus ever taught.
- His interference in the presidential election of 2004, wherein Ratzinger instructed American bishops that any “Catholic politician” (i.e. Kerry) who did not denounce gays and abortion could not receive communion. This resulted in three states having very unusual Republican votes from Catholics — if just one of them had had a more normal Catholic vote, Kerry, not Bush, would have been president.
With such a track record as this, Father Ratzinger is right to retire. Unfortunately, because he and his predecessor appointed only yes men as cardinals, one should not expect any improvement in the next pope.
Instead, we should recognize that history has passed the papacy by. Now is the time for the Holy Spirit to push the restart button on Christianity — both Catholic and Protestant versions — so as to strip down to the essence of Jesus’ teaching and the Cosmic Christ tradition.
Christianity can be rebuilt without basilicas on our backs but mere backpacks. Travel lightly. Walk humbly. Do justice. And peace will follow.
Pederast Marcel Maciel and His Partners in Crime
From the link: http://www.envio.org.ni/articulo/4169
It won’t be possible to save the Legion from its greatest Legionary, pederast Marcel Maciel, a sex abuser for sixty years disguised as a priest. The networks of collusion that allowed this monster to hide his perversions implicate former Pope John Paul II and the current Pope Benedict XVI. The scandal has shaken Mexico and the wound in the Church won’t easily heal over.
The Mexican Marcial Maciel was born in the Michoacan town of Cotija, in 1920. Twenty-one years later he founded the Legion of Christ. Its members call themselves and are known as “Legionaries.” Maciel’s theological and historical education was too meager to allow him to understand that Christ made disciples, while legions were an instrument of domination belonging to the Roman Empire.
Years of violations
Maciel was ordained a priest in 1944. Two years later he traveled to Spain with a first group of young people. In 1950 he set up a study center of the Legion in Rome and in 1959 a lay movement he called Regnum Christi. During that time he published a document he called “The Psalter of my days,” which the Legionaries considered their spiritual guide. It was actually brazen plagiary: 80% was a copy of a book by Spanish Catholic politician Luis Lucia, who died in Valencia in 1943.
By the late fifties Marciel was already subjected to a canonical process for accusations of pederasty. Despite the evidence, the Roman Curia chose to take no action. In 1965 Rome officially recognized the congregation of Legionaries. Maciel had a knack for ingratiating himself with important people in the Vatican bureaucracy and the religious elites of the business classes in the countries to which his organization spread. From the end of the seventies right up to the early nineties he was an active promoter of John Paul II’s trips to Mexico.
At the end of the nineties the Vatican received documentation on another suit against Maciel for pederasty, this time from several former Legionaries. Ratzinger, who was the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the time, chose to shelve it so John Paul II wouldn’t have to quarrel with Maciel. Not until 2006, once he was Pope Benedict XVI, did Ratzinger decide to punish the Legion’s founder, but tried to do it with a low profile. He ordered Maciel to leave Rome, renounce all priestly public ministries and lead the life of a recluse. In early 2008, Maciel died without ever facing justice for his serious crimes.
They protect, silence, transfer, scatter…
In 2006 Mexican academic Fernando González published Marcial Maciel. Los legionarios de Cristo: testimonios y documentos inéditos (The Legion of Christ: unpublished testaments and documents) (Tusquets, 2006), a meticulous investigation into the pederasty of the Legion’s founder and the network of accomplices to it both in that organization and the Catholic ecclesiastical elite. Later, he gave another turn of the screw with revelations and analyses of these criminal practices in the book: La Iglesia del Silencio. De mártires y pederastas (The Church of Silence. Of martyrs and pederasts) (Tusquets, 2009). In the second part of this book González offers new data and new sources about the sexual abuse of Pope John Paul II’s protégée. Emphasizing how difficult it is to investigate the sexual activity of the clergy, he documents accusations that have been made all over the world in recent years by those who have suffered sexual abuse, silence and subterfuge from priests.
The most discordant aspect of these cases is that the abusers betray the trust placed in them and make defenseless victims out of those delivered into their care. Those who have been raped become entrapped as partners in crime and the pederasts protect themselves from accusations by invoking a supposed “moral martyrdom”. The author examines the Catholic Church’s diverse institutional strategies to deal with the perverted sexuality of these religious officials, protecting the institution over and above the human rights of those affected, revealing it as institutional behavior and structural hypocrisy. They silence, control, relocate and scatter. Trying to avoid scandal, they undermine the accusers and hearten the protected abuser into continuing his abuses in the many places to which they transfer him.
John Paul II: An institutional accomplice
González’s book details the case of Marcial Maciel, drug addict and pederast. Every time he was accused, his organization and a variety of bishops rallied to his defense, alleging the Church was being attacked. The organization Maciel set up was based on business logic with many links to powerful economic and religious interests.
The author examines how the victims, through shame and a feeling of guilt, usually keep quiet about the abuse. In order to cover himself, Maciel invented a special vow that obliged members of his congregation to maintain silence on the subject of his perversions and dirty business, in which they would swear not to criticize their superior. He was accountable to no one. He lived a double life in an organization that shielded him. The Legion became a cult to the personality of its founder.
In the first wave of accusations in the fifties, most of the accusers ended up lying before an incipient and soon aborted Vatican investigation. The accusers were maligned and the abuser transformed into a martyr. John Paul II was his institutional accomplice. When Ratzinger was a cardinal, he too protected Maciel. In 1998 he blocked the case and in 2001 modified the Canonical Code of Law to give Maciel a way out: the crime of absolving an accomplice would have a 10-year statute of limitations. This gave the abuser an escape route and left the victims with no possibility of proving their accusations in court. The book shows that Maciel went unpunished thanks to this collusion.
Faced with a landslide of evidence
González shows that when the mounting evidence of Maciel’s excesses and crimes could no longer be hidden, ecclesiastical logic dictated that the Legion’s founder be removed from the scene, thus saving the organization. After Maciel’s death the Vatican preferred to condemn him publicly for having women and children without mentioning his pederast habits and his addiction to drugs. Instead of recognizing its founder’s crimes and the complicity of many of the organization’s members, the Legionaries took refuge in a watered-down acknowledgment that Maciel was human and as such had “failings”.
González’s book shows that the group of accusers, who demanded justice for years, made thinkable what had hitherto remained in the realm of the improbable. In spite of the religious authorities’ tendency to neutralize protest, the accusations began to find their own way. It was proved that relations existed between money, power and sex in the religious world. The network of complicity woven by the Catholic hierarchy was also revealed. It became clear that John Paul II protected the pederast Maciel in both practical and moral terms. Negotiations between Vatican authorities and the Legion’s leaders got them to accept that Maciel had fathered children, but both in Rome and in the congregation of Legionaries, highly stultified arguments were advanced to try and save the figure of Maciel, rhetorically asking how a pederast, if that’s what he really was, could possibly have managed to set up such an important educational enterprise, as if being a pederast prevented one from being a good businessman…
The far-reaching network of complicity woven by Maciel was weakened in the end by a landslide of evidence. Accusations by former Legionaries brought down the vow of silence, the wall raised by the founder, his congregation and the Catholic hierarchy. But one question remains to be answered: how could Maciel have seduced so many? Fernando González admits there is still much to investigate, but there’s no doubt that an institutional wound has been opened in the Catholic Church that won’t heal.
Sex and money went hand in hand
The Legion numbers 125 religious houses, 900 priests, 3,000 seminarians, 70,000 lay volunteers, 150 schools and 9 universities in 22 countries. In Rome it had one of the main pontifical universities. Its assets are estimated to be worth 20.5 billion Euros.
Among the Legionaries there’s a “charisma” of pretence, lies and pederasty bequeathed by the founder that isn’t dispelled just by taking his portraits off the walls. González provides important information on a network of pederasts in one of the Legion’s schools, showing how durable inter-generational chains are being forged.
The author emphasizes that Maciel conducted his racket with savoir faire and his disciples have gambled on not being discovered. González points to a crucial vein: that of money. The organization’s current authorities say they don’t know how their founder managed the money for his double life, but they want us to accept that they, of course, do it honestly. If a truly serious ecclesiastical investigation were opened into the Legionaries, it would have to analyze the provenance and use of the organization’s money.
The second part of González’s book has three annexes. The first shows how Maciel’s supposed pardon of his critics was very limited and how he used a great deal of money to sue his accusers, some of whom were obliged to reach a “deal” for lack of economic resources.
The second annex talks about secrets that explain Maciel’s pederast behavior, given that he himself was abused as a child by the muleteers with whom he traveled. His father thought that going on journeys with muleteers would help make him a man.
In the third annex one finds the reflections of a former legionary about a charge he brought before the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith based on an accusation against Maciel by a group of ex-legionaries. There it is proved that the Holy See acted discretionally in favor of the accused. According to testimonies from the forties, fifties and sixties, Maciel was repeatedly guilty of the crime of absolving an accomplice; thus the canonical modification introduced by Ratzinger avoided due process. As well as protecting the criminal, the victims’ rights were infringed.
Who was Maciel really?
At the end of 2008 and beginning of 2009 the Vatican changed tack on Maciel’s case. The Vatican secretary visited Mexico in December 2008 and in February 2009 went to Madrid where one of Maciel’s daughters lived. On March 10, 2009, the Vatican ordered an apostolic visit to the Legionaries. In May the names of inspectors responsible for investigating the Legion were announced.
While the Vatican commission was examining the Legionaries, the international press published a heap of revelations about the Maciel case. It documented his drug addiction, and accusations were leaked that he’d had contacts with drug traffickers. Traces of his fat bank accounts in different parts of the world were presented. Several false identities he used officially were detected. Versions of the period before his death were divulged: his resistance to going to Mass after receiving a life of prayer as his penance, and his rage against the religion he professed because Rome had expelled him. It was also learned that one of his concubines and a daughter of his had arrived to attend to him on his death bed, a situation known by the Legion’s authorities, one of whom threatened to reveal to the media who Maciel really was.
The appearance on Carmen Aristegui’s radio show of two young men who said they were Maciel’s sons and had been sexually abused by him was widely disseminated after the story was confirmed publicly by their mother, another of his concubines. It also came out that the Legion’s leaders had known about their founder’s licentious life for some time. They seemed to have less resistance to admitting Maciel’s heterosexual activities than to accepting publicly the overwhelming proof of his homosexual pederasty.
A monster sheltered by Pope John Paul II
Given this avalanche of proof, the names used in the media to refer to Maciel became increasingly harsh: faker, fraudster, impostor, hypocrite, vice-ridden, drug addict, con artist, libertine, sexual obsessive, compulsive pederast, child sex abuser, delinquent, pervert, criminal, devil in priest’s clothing… Many wrote about his long and prolific history of pederasty, drug addiction, polygamy, deceit, illicit wealth, religious and political influence trafficking, false identities and mythomania. It became increasingly obvious that the monster Maciel had flourished in the shade of his defenders.
Maciel’s main protector was John Paul II, whose collusion was complete. In 1991 the Pope designated Maciel a member of the Ordinary Assembly Bishops’ Synod for priests’ education; in 1992 a member of the IV General Conference of the Latin American Bishopric; in 1993 a member of the Bishops’ Synod on the Consecrated Life and its Mission in the Church and the World; in 1994 a permanent consultant for the Congregation for the Clergy; in 1997 a member of the Special Assembly for America of the Bishops’ Synod. And after he was already aware of the accusations against Maciel, he publicly praised him as a promoter of pastoral work and commended him as an example to youth.
Many Mexican bishops and heads of big business
Various analysts have wondered why this happened and have had to agree that the basic reason is rooted in the money Maciel gave to the Vatican. Writer Rubén Aguilar indicated in the magazine Milenio that the investigation into pederasty didn’t prosper due to the close relationship between Maciel and Pope John Paul II based on money Maciel obtained for the pope to finance his war on communism. A network of bishops, with whom Maciel had contact thanks to the positions John Paul II gave him, were also accessories and accomplices. When at the end of the 20th century the accusations of pederasty were made public, several bishops vigorously defended Maciel and harshly denigrated his accusers.
Mexican big business has also been an accomplice. They proudly presumed that Maciel would hold Mass at their anniversary celebrations and would marry and baptize family members. Thanks to this proximity they didn’t hesitate to use their economic power to protect Maciel and attack those who called for justice for atrocities he committed. Most of the families belonging to the Mexican high bourgeoisie had some relative connected with Maciel’s Legion. For them, defending Maciel and the Legion became a family mission, a role not far removed from mafioso codes.
Ratzinger the surgeon
The Vatican’s inspectors finished their work in mid-March of this year, but there are no great expectations of what might come out of this examination. It’s feared that everything has already been cooked up and there’ll be a lot of pretence to make it look like the Catholic hierarchy is responding to the crisis. Rome has made clear that it will take some time to release the results of the Vatican inspection. There is no reason to expect transparency, since the hierarchy isn’t used to being accountable to either its faithful or society.
As there’s no way to defend Maciel, the most probable outcome is that his memory will be condemned and some changes will be made in the Legion’s leadership so that the ‘reestablished’ organization can carry on, with some cosmetic adjustments. There are many networks of money and power and many accomplices in the ecclesiastical and business structure with interests in the Legion’s continuation. One factor that could carry a lot of weight in the Vatican’s decision is the amount of resources the Roman See continues to receive from this institution.
Fernando González, accustomed to doing penetrating analyses, has underscored the Vatican’s perversity in sending a commission of investigators to examine the Legionaries as if this commission were only a judge and not a link in the chain of collusion between three Vatican authorities that have intervened in the Maciel affair: the Secretary of State, the Sacred Congregation of the Religious and the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. González refers to the current pope as “surgeon” Ratzinger who invented the figure of the “solipsistic pederast,” a sort of oxymoron or reconciler of opposites. It will fall to this surgeon to decide just how far to cut the Legion’s body without touching the complicit Vatican authorities, which would inevitably lead to himself and John Paul II.
The Vatican’s behavior in other recent pederasty cases gives some clues as to how it might proceed in this one. In late March of this year it was revealed that the Vatican hadn’t punished a US priest accused of having abused 200 deaf children, arguing he was sick and old. Faced with the scandal of scores of pederasty cases among the Irish clergy and emphasizing that the Roman declaratory was not limited to that country alone, the Vatican asked the victims of pederasty for forgiveness and admitted that inappropriate procedures had been used. It also asked for an investigation, but announced no punishment for the child raping priests.
González has pointed out that Benedict XVI addressed the Irish bishops as if he hadn’t headed the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for over 20 years, as if he had been above and beyond the whole conflict.
The clamor of the survivors
There have been demonstrations by sexual abuse victims both in St. Peter’s Square and in front of the Vatican Embassy in Washington, demanding that the files of pedophile clergy be opened and that they be defrocked. The Vatican replied to this demand and to an editorial in The New York Times, regretting what it called an attempt to attack the Pope and his close advisers. The paper responded with the information that when Ratzinger was bishop of Munich he had authorized therapy for a pedophile priest and approved his transfer to another parish.
Victims’ associations went public with their disappointment at the papal role in the Irish cases. They were hoping for more forceful signs and gestures, not just in Ireland but in other countries affected by this serious crime. Rome was saving the top-ranking hierarchy, complicit in such an abominable practice, from the courts. The general demand is for those who have victimized innocent children and those who have been their accomplices to appear before both ecclesiastical courts and civil ones, particularly the latter. The victims must also be compensated. Many of them not only suffered sexual abuse but also persecution, denigration and slander at the hands of the religious hierarchy and their unconditional allies in the world of money. Victims of pederasty have proved they suffer extremely serious and long-lasting psychological damage.
The Legionaries speak
Trying to save their necks after the apostolic visit, the Legion’s director general, vicar general, four general counselors and ten territorial directors of different world regions issued a press release on March 25, in which they followed the Vatican script: cut the tie with Maciel. They admitted Maciel had fathered a daughter in the context of a long and stable relationship with a woman and that two men had also appeared claiming they were his sons, the fruit of a relationship with another woman. They asked forgiveness of people who had accused Maciel in the past to whom they had given no credit and offered them spiritual and pastoral help. They said that if there had been any guilty collaboration they would act in accordance with the principles of justice and Christian charity. They offered to tell the truth about their history, provide security to minors in their institutions and seek reconciliation and a coming together with those who had suffered.
The document also refers to “other serious behavior” of its founder but doesn’t specify what this is. It says the Legionaries could no longer regard Maciel as a model of Christian and priestly life. They make out to be stunned by Maciel’s abominable behavior and stress they previously believed the accusations to be false, despite the information that the leaders were fully aware of many of Maciel’s crimes and covered up for him.
They continue to call Maciel their founder and thank God for the good he did. They also express their gratitude to the pope for having offered an apostolic visit, thank the five inspectors for their fatherly concern and call on the Legion and its followers to intensify their prayers.
This document offers an excellent exercise for those dedicated to analyzing discourse. By alluding, it eludes. It never explicitly mentions Maciel’s pederasty, everything remains between the lines. They ask for forgiveness and say they are convinced of the meaning and beauty of forgiveness, but appear to be referring to the forgiveness they bestow on their founder. They offer no concrete acts to repair the damage but rather pastoral attention and prayers. But neither they nor the Church will resolve the serious problem of pederasty with prayers. Subsequently, the Legion’s director general wanted to exonerate his organization’s existence, assuring that God knew how to write straight (them) on twisted lines (Maciel). He announced that his organization would begin anew.
A tainted congregation
Maciel’s victims replied that the Legion’s document of forgiveness was insufficient and superficial. They pointed out that it made no reference to compensation for damages. Roberto Blancarte, a specialist in religions, agreed that the press statement, which was intended to preempt whatever conclusion the Vatican might reach, was insufficient. José Barba, one of Maciel’s main accusers, considered the apology of the Legion’s management reflected its usual rhetoric and lacked repentance and justice. He insisted that the Legion didn’t truly take the victims into account and didn’t even call them by their names. He argued that the Vatican’s apostolic inspection wasn’t enough and that a high-level international group was needed to conduct a parallel investigation in order to be accountable to society later on.
He asserted that the Legion couldn’t disassociate itself from the actions of its founder and begin a new era without that model, and that the Legion resolved the affair facilely by saying Maciel was the tainted one and the rest of the congregation had nothing to do with it. Barba insisted that the entire organization needed to be scrutinized in depth, as opposed to the hasty way the Legionaries were attempting to ignore their founder’s influence. In response to the Legion director general’s remark that the Legionaries were “orphans,” Barba agreed that they were indeed, but were spiritually orphaned.
Accomplices and accessories to crime
Journalist Carlos Puig referred to León Krauze’s analysis, which demonstrated that it’s impossible to understand the Legion or its Regnum Christi work without Maciel. Puig argues that one must distinguish three important aspects: Maciel’s atrocities, the cover-up operation on which the Legion and the Catholic hierarchy embarked years ago and the machinations of the Mexican elite to crush both the victims who denounced Maciel’s abuse and the reporters who revealed the monster he was.
The Legion couldn’t salvage its greatest legionary. The words they used in their press statement, attempting to disassociate themselves from Maciel, only sounded pathetic when they asserted that what their founder and moral guide had done was reprehensible. Sexual abuse, lies and cover-ups are rather more than reprehensible; they are criminal. In its statement the Legion made no reference to the civil laws under which their founder deserved incarceration. The Legion’s management acknowledged Maciel hadn’t been a good Christian, but didn’t admit he was a sexual criminal and a pederast. To top it all off, they asked that their founder be forgiven and offered the victims nothing more than to carry on praying for them.
Just like Maciel had done, the Legion’s leaders used faith as a weapon to justify criminal actions. Puig emphasized that the Legion’s statement left out anything to do with the long-standing operation of those close to the founder to protect and cover up for him. It was crucial to ask how many of those who signed the statement had kept quiet for years, how many helped hide their founder’s crimes, how many worked together in silencing his victims. Puig questioned them: when would the Legion start to denounce Maciel’s accomplices, because what they had done was cover up not a “sin” but a crime.
The Legion’s leaders, Fernando González warns us, issued their plea for forgiveness early, a mechanism that generally serves to leapfrog justice and avoid deeper probing into the facts. One can call this “the forgiveness short circuit.”
González stresses that the protection and complicity that allowed Maciel to continue his criminal career for more than 50 years included not only the Legion’s elite but also middle-ranking and even minor congregational authorities that have been his partners in crime right up to the present day. Maciel injected the establishment he founded with his own institutional code. Not everything has come to light; an exhaustive investigation is needed into funds and their misuse.
Another element noted by analyst León Krauze is related to Maciel’s other victims. From information gained from a family dedicated to the Legion, Krauze relates how this family’s sons were raised on Maciel’s teachings and bears witness to the terrifying transformation suffered by those who dedicate themselves to the Legion’s position. A sort of brainwashing and dehumanization goes on that changes them into automatons. To them, Maciel is not only the founder but the very dogma. The Legion owes a debt not only to the victims of Maciel’s sexual abuse, but also to the thousands who participated in a movement created, guided and inspired by a “cruel and hypocritical monster.”
Is it enough just to reestablish the Legion?
Vaticanologists and specialists in the study of religions have hazarded a guess that, given the deluge that has battered the Legion, this congregation is facing the Vatican’s choice between abolishing it, which is unlikely, or look for a way out that will permit it to continue functioning by means of “reestablishing” itself. The latter appears to be what it will go for, cutting out the tumor represented by Maciel from the congregation he founded. Nevertheless, no few analysts consider this solution unviable, arguing that it’s impossible just to turn the page because Maciel represents the entire book for the Legionaries. The cancer in the Legion has metastasized. Maciel isn’t an expendable part of this institution but rather its backbone and marrow, the origin of an entire way of being and doing.
One can’t forget the deeply rooted and boundless cult to Maciel instilled in the Legionaries and its followers over many years. Many still have little household altars to Maciel and close their eyes to the plethora of evidence. Another scandalous issue that can’t be avoided is the existence of pederast networks among the Legionaries and their followers who, aware of the double, triple and even quadruple lives Maciel led, promoted his canonization by the Vatican, even while he was still alive. Writer Sanjuana Martínez recalled that Mexico’s archbishop had declared that Maciel would always be the Legionaries’ founder, despite the punishment handed down to him by Rome.
The Legion’s response to the crisis and its actions when faced with the examination to which it was subjected suggests that Maciel left behind a habitus they are unable to forsake. Thus, far from feeling real remorse when confronted with the accusation by Maciel’s sons that he had abused them sexually, they tried to make themselves look like the offended party of an extortion threat rather than accepting that the victims were only asking for economic compensation for the serious damage suffered. Another indication that they had learned to imitate Maciel well came in the context of the Vatican’s punishment of their founder. At the time, they denied it was a punishment, referring to it just as a “spiritual retreat.” Subsequently, faced with the announcement that the Vatican would subject them to an examination, they wanted to present it as assistance given them by Rome.
The perverse Legionary psycho-pathology
One former legionary and Maciel victim has pointed out that legionary psychology—one would have to say psycho-pathology—isn’t going to change given that these people have spent six decades working with Maciel’s convictions and learning his way of doing things: his skillful use of deceit. The Legion’s leaders prepared for the questioning by Vatican inspectors by sending the members possible questions they might be asked so they would know what replies to give. The investigators were thus met with learned answers, while the Legion’s management announced that everyone had answered “freely.”
Sheldon S. Wolin, an experienced specialist in democracy, has demonstrated that liars want the untruth to be accepted as reality and that lying is an expression of power’s resolve.
Reactions of Mexico’s civil authorities
Writer Roberta Garza states that the Church has always known how to convert its crimes into sins so as to expiate them in obscurity. She thus called for an analysis of how pederasty, cover-ups and money laundering had become the Legion’s real “charisma,” and stuck her neck out by saying that the Church would not see real justice done. Another Mexican columnist wrote that the overdue apologies weren’t enough, damage had been done and the moral authority of the Catholic priesthood was being severely questioned. Various Mexican analysts expressed astonishment that such a sustained and wide-reaching violation of human rights hadn’t been subjected to an investigation by the Mexican civil authorities. Maciel had died, but his organization continued to enjoy enormous power and complete impunity. The current demand is for the Mexican civil authorities to ensure that justice is done rather than collude.
In Mexico all three major parliamentary benches in the House of Representatives asked the Church hierarchy to compensate the people damaged by the criminal activity of the Legion’s founder. Juventino Castro, a former Supreme Court justice, thinks the Legion should assume responsibility for its founder’s excesses and believes there are enough contributing factors to abolish the organization. Legislator Leticia Quezada demanded that Mexico’s attorney general investigate the Legion given the probability that it sheltered a network of pederasts. Nevertheless some senators refused to comment on the case with the argument that their children studied in the Legion’s schools.
Jail for the accomplices
The Catholic hierarchy’s attempt to shield itself by alleging that no more pederasts can be found in the ranks of the clergy than in other professions is extremely clumsy. A pederast is highly condemnable wherever he appears and if it is in the Church, the assumed bearer of a saintly mission, he’s even more abominable. It is a major miscalculation for the hierarchy to respond to pederasty cases with comparisons that come nowhere near the root of the problem. If it offers highly unconvincing solutions to get out of its fix, it will only dig itself deeper into a crisis of enormous proportions.
Esteban Garaiz, who has shown himself to be a responsible and trustworthy public figure in Mexico, has reasoned in one of his articles that pederasty is a social evil and not just a sin based on firsthand testimonies of Maciel’s pederasty and direct proof of the Legion’s complicity. And being a crime, he argues, the criminals should be subjected to civil law and punished in accordance with the serious damage inflicted. Furthermore, the Catholic hierarchy has the moral and civic obligation to ask for forgiveness and rehabilitate and compensate the victims, identifying them and acknowledging that they weren’t liars but brave men who have been demanding their rights. He further emphasized that Mexican business leaders who gave their unconditional support to a social criminal such as Maciel are obliged publicly and in writing to ask forgiveness of the pederasty victims they slandered and harassed. Finally he makes it clear that Maciel’s accomplices should go to prison too.
Maciel’s sons were also his victims
González looks in depth at the dramatic case of Maciel’s two sons who ended up admitting they had demanded $26 million in compensation and accepting they had effectively offered their silence for money. Their tragedy is that they ended up with nothing and on the same level as their father for having even suggested the exchange, when the crucial element was their story of the lie they lived and the abuse to which Maciel subjected them. One major difference should be pointed out, however: at least they admitted what they had done, while their father never acknowledged his true personality, the one the whole world now knows.
In their souls and their bodies they both distill the two most significant aspects of Maciel’s sexuality. It was pitiful how the institutional network, with its sustained silences, ended up provoking the media testimony in which Maciel’s sons were compelled to malign their own father in public. Speaking up is in itself very difficult for any survivor of sexual abuse; now the coercion to continue talking will become a new source of shame for them if they don’t do it.
The moment of truth
Fernando González reflects that, unlike other similar cases, the longevity of the case of Maciel and his Legion has allowed it to pass from the improbability to which it was long consigned by the Vatican, Episcopal bodies, the Legion, their related elites and the parents of families at their schools. It therefore turned into probability and now into acceptance of the evidence. The first Vatican version and that of the entire Legion has fallen to pieces before the eyes of a large part of Mexican society. Whatever the Vatican leaves of the Legion will remain a closed, authoritarian institution, now without Maciel’s public figure, but with his seal and fundamental nature forever.
The Maciel affair has become a crucial element with which to analyze the organization that gave rise to it. It has involved the exposure of a hubris that has unleashed a tragedy in the Catholic hierarchy. Independent of any decision the Vatican might take regarding the Legion, neither the Catholic elites nor the Legion itself will be spared history’s condemnation. If there are really Legionaries who don’t want collusion on their conscience, they will have to push for its dissolution, since the case isn’t about one of its members but the founder himself. Finally, this serious crisis is about those at the top and very clearly brings to light their corruption, hypocrisy and double standards.
Jorge Alonso is a researcher for CIESAS West and the envío correspondent in Mexico.