Friday, June 10, 2005

Legionaries and Fr. Maciel revisited

One cannot help feeling terrible ambivalence about the questions being raised about Fr. Maciel, the founder and Director of the Legionaries (see my post of June 1, 2005: "Why orthodox Catholics are angry with the Legion of Christ"). The Legionaries themselves are recruited from the ranks of the most robustly devout Catholic families one could expect to find. I personally know a number of them. They are remarkably transparent, devout Catholic men. They are true believers. A woman whose apostolate with the Legion's seminary in Thornwood, NY, for the past 10 years has allowed her to observe these seminarians up close concurs. Much of their food, she said, is donated. During the winter months, they live in 40 degree temperatures to help conserve fuel costs. They are holy, straight, zealous young men with radiant smiles and cold hands, but their hearts are on fire with the love of Christ.

Meanwhile, it is hard to read, in Vows of Silence, that Fr. Maciel "courted influential figures in the Curia at lavish dinners" with "fine china, crystal, and a cart of cocktails," and would have them chauffeured to and from their residences in his Mercedes. I have no way of personally verifying whether these claims, or the sexual accusations against Fr. Maciel, are true, although the accumulating charges are troubling. On the one hand, one wants to think best of those who profess to be one's friends and allies in the Faith, and there is certainly virtue in giving one's professed friends the benefit-of-a-doubt under fire. A reputation is a fragile thing, and one is obliged to protect the good name of one's true friends. On the other hand, given the recent climate of scandalous sex abuses by predatory priests in the Church, one recoils from the prospect of sheltering and coddling those who may be guilty. One prays for discernment.

One of the benefits of having Cardinal Ratzinger as our current Pontiff is that he knows more about the clerical sex scandlas than any other cardinal, since the cases have landed on his desk when he was head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), and he personally attended to them. He knows -- as far as it is possible for a Church leader to know -- what is going on. In his Good Friday sermon in 2005, he said, "How much filth there is in the Church, even among those ... in the priesthood ...." In this regard, it is highly significant, as New Oxford Review editor Dale Vree has recently observed, that Cardinal Ratzinger himself has reopened the case of sexual abuse against Fr. Maciel. "It's a full-sale inquiry," he said, in an editorial (NOR, June 2005, p. 5). Further, Fr. Maciel is reported to have resigned as General Director of the Legionaries on January 23rd, citing his age. This has led to speculations whether he did so in order to avoid further scruitiny by Cardinal Ratzinger. If so, it clearly hasn't worked. The case is going forward. Msgr. Charles J. Scicluna, the Promoter of Justice at the CDF, traveled to Mexico in late March of this year to "interview more than 20 people, among them several men who maintain that Father Maciel sodomized them when they were boys..." (The New York Times, April 23). And in early April, "a Vatican investigator began taking sworn statements" in New York from alleged victims (, April 21).

The Ligionaries' publicity offices have long maintained that there is no official Vatican investigation. One waits and prays, imploring the Lord for His mercy, as well as His truth and justice.

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