Tuesday, February 17, 2009


I was glad to see, earlier today, that Rod Dreher had picked up this excellent piece from First Things: On the Square, in which Fr. Raymond J. deSouza discusses his disappointment with the National Catholic Register for thus far failing to do much reporting on the Father Maciel situation. From Fr. deSouza's essay:

The twelve years I have been associated with the National Catholic Register correspond exactly to the time since the public allegations against Fr. Maciel were published for the first time in February 1997 in the Hartford Courant. Over that time, the approach of the editors has been not to cover the story save when absolutely necessary, and then to give it minimal coverage at best.

That is not surprising. After all, Fr. Maciel was the ultimate proprietor until 2005. To be fair, as a general rule the National Catholic Register has not given wide attention to scandals in the Church, preferring to focus on areas of Catholic vitality. Even taking that into account, however, those who write and edit for the newspaper must confess now that our coverage of Fr. Maciel’s case has been inadequate. Even the decision to cover this breaking news with wire stories continued that practice.

The newspaper was used on occasion to defend Fr. Maciel, and the newspaper’s officers did so elsewhere. The publisher, Fr. Owen Kearns, LC, as American spokesman for the Legion of Christ in 1997, could not have been more direct: “Each of these allegations is false. Fr. Maciel has never engaged in sexual relations of any sort with any seminarian or novice, nor has he engaged in any of the other improprieties alleged.”

Fr. Kearns believed then that he was speaking the truth. We now know that he was not. He was not the publisher then, but he is now. It is awkward, to say the least, to have the current publisher on the public record saying things on a major news story that are not true. Sooner rather than later, he and many others will have to recant and repent of all that Fr. Maciel allowed them to do in his defense. [...]

We now know that what the National Catholic Register reported about Fr. Maciel was not the whole truth. That may be understandable, as it appears that Fr. Maciel devoted his considerable energies and talents to obscuring the whole truth about his life. If what we have heard repeatedly is true—that those who lived with him for years had no inkling that anything was awry—then the National Catholic Register was just another in a long line deceived by a master fraudster.

Yet that does not let the Register off the hook when, as a newspaper, it chose not to pursue the truth with any vigor. Even at this late date, it has never reported the full extent of the accusations against Fr. Maciel. Worse still, it published what was false. Even if we once thought it to be true, we now know it to be false. Ordinary Christian morality demands of that the newspaper correct what it published. Fundamental journalistic ethics demands the same. Simple justice demands it.

I think Fr. deSouza ought to be commended for saying this so forthrightly. The National Catholic Register likes to be thought of as the "good NCR," as Rod puts it; thus do they distinguish themselves from the oft-heterodox National Catholic Reporter, lovingly nicknamed the National Catholic Distorter by orthodox Catholics tired of dissent peddled as news. Yet the Reporter has covered the sex abuse scandals; the Register has, thus far, been extremely minimal in its terse mentioning of the fact that Father Maciel had at least one mistress and fathered at least one child.

Thomas Peters at American Papist has been staying on top of this whole situation; here, he links to Fr. deSouza's article, and adds:
{update: for online newsies, Catholic.net is also run by the Legionaries of Christ/Regnum Christi, and similarly has nothing to say about the Maciel scandal, from what I can tell.}
I don't think any of the Legion's various news outlets have spoken much about the scandal; the few things I've seen have linked back to the original Zenit or NCR article, with no further information. The impression being given is not that this was earth-shaking, devastating news which has serious ramifications for the whole organization, but instead that it was something of minor importance about a deceased former Legionary (who just happened to be "Our Founder") with no specific consequence whatsoever to the current operation of the Movement's ministries and practices.

Some quiet changes have been made. though; the "Our Founder" page on the Legion of Christ website has been changed to read, simply:
Father Marcial Maciel, LC, is the founder of the Legion of Christ and the Regnum Christi Movement. He was born on March 10th, 1920, in Cotija de la Paz, Michoacan (Mexico). He founded the Legion of Christ on January 3rd, 1941 and started the Regnum Christi Movement in 1959.

The Second Vatican Council says: : “It redounds to the good of the Church that institutes have their own particular characteristics and work. Therefore, the spirit and aims of each founder should be faithfully accepted and retained.” (Perfectae caritatis, 2).

For that reason, Legionaries and Regnum Christi members try to become familiar with the life and work of their founder: Father Marcial Maciel, who under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit established this new religious family, which has since been approved and welcome by the Catholic Church.

There was a much longer, more admiring biography there before; but even this seems problematic. How can the "spirit and aims" of Father Maciel be "faithfully accepted and retained" when the Legion itself can't possibly know how many of Fr. Maciel's rules and practices for the Legion were put into place to cover up his sinful lifestyle? How can the Legionaries become familiar with the "life and work" of their founder when so much of that life, and thus, necessarily, so much of that work, are now suspect?

Much has been said about the Legion's need for transparency in the process of distancing themselves from Fr. Maciel and moving forward into a new, post-Maciel reality with their organization. But remaining silent about the deficiencies of the founder isn't really being transparent about the problems, which may subtly infect so much of the Legion's organizational structure. Fr. Maciel was the one who created the notion that "charity" meant putting on a positive face and refraining from criticizing the Legion in public, espeically to "outsiders." This practice, from much of the Legion's response to the Maciel scandal, still seems to be standard operating procedure--which raises the question as to how many of Maciel's practices, which may have aided him in his double life, still remain in force in the Legion.


opey124 said...

About as transparent as a brick wall, I would say.
I agree with his sentiments but object to the use of "Fr" in front of Maciel name.
They, L/RC, do not realize yet that they are doing more damage when they can not/will not come out with everything, truthfully and candidly. I too liked the NCRegister vs the Reporter and am pained that the Reporter will have articles on the sexual abuse scandal whereas the NCRegister is very quiet. Hoopes did apologize on Amy's blog:
"All I want to say is, I’m sorry. I want to say it here, because I defended Fr. Maciel here, and I need to be on the record regarding that defense: I’m sorry, to the victims, who were victims twice, the second time by calumny. I’m sorry, to the Church, which has been damaged. I’m sorry, to those I’ve misled. I did it unwittingly, but this isn’t a time for excuses.

The Church gave me great, great good in Regnum Christi. The Church did bring justice, and did penalize this man. Thank God for the Church. I seek repentance and forgiveness, and I leave it at that."
But the penalty he speaks of was not brought about by repentance, because even when he was asked to leave, he held that this was just another cross he would have to suffer; he never admitted that he deserved that and more.

Anonymous said...

It is so sad that they are not coming out and admitting this. It is as though they are trying to sweep it under the rug and keep going hoping people will forget. And the fact that the main stream media has not covered it too much, they might be successful. Our kids go to a school run by Regnum Christi and the LC and nobody has said a word. I have brought it up to some of them and they tow the party line which gives credibility to the cult accusations.
Very sad.

freddy said...

This is so important. There's a huge difference between a person who struggles with sin, admits it, and takes appropriate action, and one who consistantly and shamelessly lies and uses the people around him.

In spite of any of the goods of the LC/RC, their leadership was formed around a man who lived a lie. That leadership and its formation must be thoroughly examined and reformed -- and not from within -- if they are to become an order consistant with Catholic ethics.

Just as in any other ingrained problem, the first step is to admit that a problem exists. This is what the LC/RC has yet to do. Individual members have made attempts, but the leadership has done nothing but dance around the issue. Healing cannot begin, restitution cannot begin, reformation cannot begin until this is done.

Tony said...

This is a horrible situation, and the result of forming your life around the cult of personality of a charismatic living human leader.

But I'll leave the reporting of this to people like Dreher who seem to revel in rubbing Catholic noses in the failings of their clergy.

This has been his M.O. since he left the Mother Church over some failings of her human leaders.

Red Cardigan said...

Tony, Rod's a friend of mine. More importantly, though, I think you're playing into the hands of people like Maciel when you "leave the reporting" of sex abuse scandals to people outside the Church.

In point of fact, Rod has only linked to a couple of *Catholic* writers who are demanding clarity and transparency from the Legion. He's not muckraking, unless you think the Catholic writers and bloggers who've been staying on top of this story only want to damage the Church by sharing information about Father Maciel and discussing the situation as it impacts the Legion.

If we're serious, as Catholics, about making sure clerical sex abuse doesn't ever happen again, we can't afford to ignore news and information about these cases, no matter how much we want to blame the media for stirring up trouble. One of the most disturbing things I've seen coming from the Legion is the attitude, "Oh, Fr. Maciel is dead. There won't be any more victims, so we should just move on." This overlooks two realities: one, that the damage done by Fr. Maciel lives on after him, and two, that there's a serious question: if an organization ignored sex abuse perpetrated by its own founder, what else might they ignore?