Monday, February 8, 2010

A pattern emerges

It has been a little while since I looked around for news about any developments regarding the Legion of Christ. Consequently, I've missed a few interesting stories.

This first one, published back in December, is a startling admission of something many inside the Legion suspected all along:

m (CNA).- In an effort to distance itself from the wrongdoings of its founder, the Legion of Christ has recently circulated an internal memo detailing how a long venerated work of spirituality attributed to Fr. Marcial Maciel was actually a slight re-writing of a book from a little-known Spanish author.

“El Salterio de mis días” (The Psalter of my Days), according to the Legionary tradition, was regarded as written by Fr. Maciel during the period of the "great blessing," (1956-59), when the Mexican founder was submitted to a canonical process by the Vatican that was finally called off.

The memo now reveals that the text, very popular among the Legion in its original in Spanish and partially translated into English for internal use, was “based” on the little known work of a Spanish Catholic politician, Luis Lucía.

The article goes on to mention that about 80% of the book purportedly by Maciel is thought to be taken from Lucia's work.

The next thing I missed came recently, toward the end of last month:

(CNA).- In a recent letter sent to members of the Legion of Christ, Director General Father Alvaro Corcuera, L.C., urged members to be charitable towards each other during their internal discussions regarding the future of the congregation.

In response to a growing exchange of emails between Legionaries about two main issues: the role their founder should play in the future of the congregation, and also the measures that should be put in place to prevent similar situations from happening, Fr. Corcuera called on members to “console each other and accompany each other mutually,” as Simon of Cyrene did for Christ.

Fr. Marcial Maciel founded the Legion of Christ in 1941. Though he died in 2008, revelations of his inappropriate behavior as a priest and leader surfaced early in 2009.

Responding to criticism by some in the Legion who accused their current leaders of being accomplices in the misconduct of their founder, Fr. Corcuera asked members to help one another “live this gift of peace, mutually encouraging one another, understanding one another, truly loving each other, mutually forgiving one another, without recriminating or judging each other, much less humiliating each other.”

A veteran Legionary who spoke with CNA to provide the context of the letter, explained that Fr. Corcuera has asked that the email exchanges, which express “charitably but energetically” conflicting positions regarding the future of the congregation, come to an end.

In most orders a request by the director general that a matter not be discussed might not raise eyebrows, but for this particular order in the context of what has happened such a request can't help but seem like part of a pattern, a strategy of limited communication and of using the word "charity" to mean "quit thinking for yourself and go with the flow." Given that, Fr. Corcuera's request is unfortunate.

This final one is an article published in the Spanish paper El Mundo, and translated by the blogger at Exlcblog:

Marcial Maciel was one, triune, or even quadruple. He had, at least, five different identities. He was Raul Rivas, Norma Hilda's lover and father of little Norma (both live comfortably in Madrid) and Jaime Alberto Gonzalez Ramirez, the partner of a Mexican woman and father of three children in Switzerland. Sometimes he was Juan Rivas. And he was always Marcial Maciel, founder of one of the most powerful religious congregations, fundraiser of incalculable fortunes of doubtful origin, and pederast punished by the Pope in 2006 with retirement and prayer. They all died on January 30, 2008, two years ago. His personal secretaries were in charge of killing them all. How, if they didn't, were they going to update all of the documents of "Nuestro Padre" as they still called him? There were million dollar accounts, properties scattered throughout the world, trust funds in the Bahamas.... An empire calculated at some 20,500 million euros between what he had in himself, in all of his versions, and what he had put in the name of his Legion.

This is how his gift of being in many places at the same time can be explained, and how Marcial Maciel died, at the same time, in Houston (Texas); Washington; Cotija, his hometown in Mexico; and in Jacksonville (Florida). A few hours after he left this world and much before the media came to know the news, Wikipedia reported his death in Florida. Just minutes later, suspiciously, the on-line encyclopedia eliminated the place of Maciel's death in his biography. Two days later, the first obituaries appeared in the press. The Denver Post and the El Paso Times reported that the founder of the Legion died of natural causes in Houston (Texas). [...]

He was in the Miami hospital for three days. On the second day, the Normas appeared in his room and stayed by his bed, taking care of him, much to Maciel's pleasure and creating scandal for the Legionaries.

-Father, you have to come with us- they told him when he was to be discharged.

But, by then, Maciel was much closer to being Raul Rivas than the founder of a religious congregation and he indicated the two women, responding firmly: "I want to stay with them".

The Legionary priests, alarmed by Maciel's attitude, immediately called Rome. The then number three person of the institution, Luis Garza, knew right away that this was a grave problem. He consulted with the highest authority, Alvaro Corcuera, hopped on the first plane to Miami and when directly to the hospital.

His indignation could be read on his face. He faced the once all-powerful founder and threatened him: "I will give you two hours to come with us or I will call all the press and the whole world will find out who you really are". And Maciel let his arm be twisted.

I will freely grant that I have no idea what the journalistic standards of El Mundo are or whether this account can in any way be taken without a very large grain of salt. But the problem is: it has been a year since the world learned that Marciel Maciel was living a double (at least!) life. We still know almost nothing more than that, and while no one needs salacious details or to wallow in the immorality of the tale, it is not at all asking too much to ask to know if there was ever a time when the Legion was not seriously tainted beyond repair by its strong association with this man.

It is my hope that this is exactly what those conducting the apostolic visitation have been asking, with serious diligence and attention to the details (which, whatever they may be, as yet have not appeared in any American media source). A clear pattern, though, is emerging, a pattern of a man who was willing to pass off another's spiritual writings as his own, who was able to create a climate of secrecy so strong that even after his death and disgrace it still surrounds the Legion he founded, and who may well have been engaged in sinful and deceptive behaviors from the earliest days of the Legion. What that pattern will mean to the organization which he not only founded but influenced deeply in ways that may be impossible to measure is not yet clear, but as the pattern is revealed, the picture of the Legion's future--if any--will begin to be seen with the utmost clarity.


Siarlys Jenkins said...

It is good if the responsible church authorities are cleaning house on this scandal. But I can't help thinking that the authoritative nature of church doctrine and governance has a lot to do with making such events possible. After all, once this five-person man is in a position of leadership, he is due a good deal of deference.

The same is true in Protestant scandals. It is almost always in denominations which emphasize authority and obedience (there are many of them) that the greatest financial and sexual scandals seem to emerge. There is a reason you don't hear things like this about Quakers.

Jack Keogh said...

I was LC for twenty years - in the early days. So I remember the charismatic days of Maciel, before I had any idea of the disgusting double life. The Legion is tainted by the founder, just as any dysfunctional family is affected by an errant father. I pray that it is not tainted beyond repair. It has the resources to start anew. Much will depend on the collective will power of its members to accept the harsh reality and to move beyond endemic denial. Ultimately, I believe the Good Lord may save the day - it seems to me that the Church should do everything possible to help the good priests and religious break out of the dysfunctional relationship with the sick founder. Whether he is evil incarnate is not for me to decide. I enjoy your blog; I comment on some of these themes at

Anonymous said...

Much of this information has been available for a while. Jason Berry & Gerald Renner wrote a book called "Vows of Silence" published in 2004 documenting Maciel's sexual abuse of seminarians, drug addiction, fundraising tactics, and the secrecy and adulation of his order. Both writers have excellent journalistic credentials.

I had the pleasure of hearing Juan Vaca, who was a LC priest for many years and then became a psychologist. He was also a victim of Maciel's. When asked why he went into psychology after leaving the priesthood, he replied "I needed to know where the sickness ends and the evil begins."

It seems that Maciel constructed this organization to shield his sickness/evil. He used his family connections within the church and his personal charisma to keep himself above reproach. As Mark Shea says, the organization will continue to do what it was set up to do. Time to disband and start over.

Paul Pfaff

Anonymous said...

I write this because of your quote,
"Writng about an idea frees me from
it". My recurring idea is: If I were a visitator, would it occur to me that (1)the children involved
are not at fault and deserve justice and truth (biological children,seminarians former and now, all wounded in anyway). (2)If
justice was tendered, all Catholics
would have civil/class action suites. (3)What then are the odds
of transparency, justice and truth
coming from this?