3rd part of Legionaries’ Paradise
(written by Emiliano Ruiz Parrra, originally appeared in Spanish on the Gatopardo blog:Gatopardo )
The Dog, the Wine and the Psychiatris
Fr. Pablo Pérez-Guajardo walked around in a stupor all day every day.
His “depression” did not get better despite taking medication.
Until he decided to stop taking his Legion-prescribed medication, Diazepan, and gave it to one of the guard dogs in the mother house at 677 Via Aurelia, Rome. Pablo gradually became less drowsy. The dog, for its part, slept all day and lost its zest. “The superiors became very concerned about the dog. More than about me,” he recalls testily.
Once fully awake, Fr. Pérez-Guajardo has became one of the Legion’s harshest critics. He never was a superior in the order but during his time in Rome he was close to the Legion’s leadership cadre and to Fr. Maciel, the founder. From 1986 until 2006 he belonged to the community that lived at the mother house, first as a seminarian and later as an ordained priest.
One can find Fr. Pablo in the old photos of the Legionaries at St. Peter’s Basilica from January 3rd, 1991. To celebrate the Legion’s 50th Anniversary (it was founded in 1941), Fr. Maciel orchestrated having 50 Legionaries ordained to the Catholic priesthood by Pope John Paul II. Fr. Pablo appears with prayerfully joined hands, scarcely a few steps from the pope. He was being ordained a priest after 15 years of Legion training.
He is pictured again in Una Iglesia de corazón misionero, libro de nuestra historia, the booklet the Legionaries published to mark the Chetumal-Cancun Prelature’s 40th anniversary. He is pictured three times in the booklet: inside the back cover with all the other Legionaries in Quintana Roo, and on pages 132 and 133. We find him in a panoramic view surrounded by scores of people, mostly children, his community at the chapel of San José in the working-class Colonia Guadalupana, Playa del Carmen. On the next page he appears microphone in hand as he approaches a little boy.
These images portray the years of his close attachment to the Legion. But on September 29th, 2011 he sent a scathing, “Carta de Fuego” letter to the then superior general of the Legion, Fr. Álvaro Corcuera, in which de demanded the Legion cut all ties with the founder, Marcial Maciel.
“A drunken pedophile womanizer dressed in priestly garb. (…) Not only did he mock God, the Church and us, the members, but you and many other superiors have mocked the pope’s authority by accompanying our pedophile founder on trips with his concubine and his sacrilegious daughter. (…) Your lips have kissed the corpse of a false prophet which you and the major superiors have presented to us as Another Christ while he was in reality an Anti-Christ.”
Another dozen letter followed after in which he denounced money-laundering, systematic cover-up of pedophile Legionaries, the cult of Maciel’s memory, the financial exploitation of the Legion’s educational enterprises and many other abuses.
Slightly built, with green eyes, pointed ears and scant hair, Fr. Pablo Pérez-Guajardo was officially expelled from the Legion in May 2015. They had already kicked him out of the San José chapel in Playa del Carmen in September, 2012; after that his lifestyle became nomadic. When he was interviewed by the reporter in September, 2014 he had transformed a garage in a poor neighborhood into a chapel. “The bishop (Monsignor Pedro Pablo Elizondo, LC) has forbidden me from entering Catholic schools and hospitals” (to perform my priestly duties).
The interview lasted three hours. Fr. Pablo’s most traumatic stage of Legion life was in Rome. In 1986 he had been posted to the mother house in Rome.
Legionary life took a heavy toll on Fr. Pablo’s emotional state. He became very depressed. The Assistant Superior General at the time, Fr. Luis Garza Medina, asked him to go visit Dr. Francisco López -Tibor, son of the very renouned Spanish psychiatrist, Juan José. Pablo refused. But later, founder Marcial Maciel himself suggested Fr. Pablo see the famous psychiatrist. Fr. Maciel’s suggestions were orders for a Legionary. Fr. Pablo obeyed -though he was unaware at that time how Maciel was in the habit of sending problematic Legionaries to the Madrid clinic. There Pablo was evaluated and put on medication. Every four months he would obediently travel to Madrid to have his prescription refilled: The meds kept him drowsy, listless and lifeless.
In Rome Fr. Pablo was able to get on the Internet. Surfing the net he found that his dose of “antidepressants” was heavier than needed and he realized his despondency was due to stresses of the religious life, loneliness, long term separation from his family of origin (he hadn’t seen them since he joined the Legion aged 18), and lack of incentive. That was what prompted Fr. Pablo to start giving his meds to the German shepherd zealously cared for by house superior, Fr. Juan Manuel Dueñas-Rojas.
Stopping the meds, he gradually became more energetic and alert. But this had a price. His emotions awakened with angry outbursts and bouts of deep sadness. His parents were getting old and ill and he wanted to spend their last years with them. He never reached his father in time. When Pablo’s plane touched down in Mexico City the family was already mourning his passing.
Memory of a particular Legionary life scene provokes Fr. Pablo’s indignation during the interview. Regular priest members were allowed to drink only one glass of wine with dinner in Rome. The superiors had two or three “because they had special permission from Fr. Maciel.” Pablo’s displeasure got the upper hand and he decided to raid the wine cellar and hide bottles of wine in the bathroom and in the air ducts.
One evening a superior called Fr Pablo to his quarters to rebuke him. Padre Pablo had been expecting something like this. When he entered the office he was hiding two bottles of uncorked wine under his cassock. To the superior’s surprise, Pablo began pouring the two bottles over the superior’s desk.
-“How dare you!, fussed the superior, you know there are Letter sof Nuestro Padre [Maciel]! here” (And what if there were, muses Fr. Pablo many years later! When most of these Letters of Nuestro Padre were plagiarized or written by others –Maciel was such a fraud!)
Tired Fr. Pablo’s insubordination, his superiors allowed him to live in a Mexico City house, where he would be closer to his mother who was suffering from cancer.
Spilling the wine was the beginning of Fr. Pablo’s disobedience. Looking back he sees it as a calculated action to get his superiors’ attention and prompt his transfer. In perspective, it could even be considered a prank. His real opposition came later when he began to publicly denounce the Legion in hundreds of pages and when he opened up in his “Confessions,”a flood of memories which gradually put together the jigsaw puzzle of the Legion’s frauds and abuses.
The evening of the interview, some of those scenes popped into Fr. Pablo’s head:
- The night before Fr. Pablo took his vows, Fr. Maciel called one of Pablo’s companions to his bedside and spent the whole night with him! Once ordained, this priest was sent to the Chetumal-Cancun Prelature. After it became public that Maciel had a daughter, the abused priest –now aged fifty- could not stop telling the story of his abuse to anyone who would listen.
- Or about the time Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican Secretary of State, told a group of Legionaries: “Blessed are you because there are many bishops and cardinals but there is only one founder!”
- Or when he learned that Assistant Superior General, Fr. Luis Garza-Medina –a brother of Dionisio Garza-Medina (Monterrey, Mexico, Alpha Group) – had hatched a plan to get full control of the Legion and how he had hired a group of private detectives to trail Maciel; once he had the dirt on Maciel’s double life he planned to blackmail him to hand over control of the Legion’s finances.
- During his forty years in the Legion, Fr. Pablo Perez has seen and heard hundreds of stories but he kept silent because of his Private Vow
After his assignment to the religious house in Mexico City his superiors sent him to the Chetumal-Cancun Prelature. According to his story he was told to live at the Church of the Sacred Hearth, at that time the cathedral, residence of Legion bishop emeritus Monsignor Jorge Bernal. He revitalized morning Mass and went out into the streets to offer baptisms “free of charge” to the poor. When new bishop Pedro-Pablo Elizondo saw this he called Fr. Pablo to Playa del Carmen to take charge of a working class neighborhood.
Fr. Pablo has many pleasant memories of his time working at the Colonia Guadalupana in what he calls, using a Mexican play on words, la zona atolera (referring to the simple native corn drink, atole) in contrast to the zona hotelera (hotel zone). In this article we will focus on his remarks on the Chetumal-Cancun Prelature.
He first formalized his impressions of the apostolic work of the Legionaries in a letter he wrote to Bishop Pedro-Pablo Elizondo on September 24, 2012. In it he states that Legion founder, Marcial Maciel, used the Prelature from its inception as a place to warehouse undesireable members of the order; meaning those members who did not buy Maciel’s vision, either because they did not want to work in schools for the rich or as, in the case of the Irish, they had joined the Legion to become missionaries and did not savor being chaplains for the upper classes.
The Prelature had espoused three causes/businesses, according to Pérez:
- The glamorous weddings celebrated in the luxury hotels: he accused the Legion priests of becoming the “escorts” to rich and famous Catholics: always impeccably dressed, with the hair always cleanly parted to the right, so as to adorn the weddings of the well-to-do. Pablo notes that hotel employees, the proletariat, were excluded from theses Masses.
- The second favorite project was The City of Happiness (La Ciudad de la Alegría), a complex housing orphans, seniors and terminally ill patients. According to Fr. Pablo it is used to furnish some local businesses/benefactors with tax free receipts. Fr. Pablo refers in particular to the businesses owned by one, Fernando García Zalvidea, a Legion favorite and protégé.
- A third source of income for the Prelature are the donations from the United States and Europe which are spun as “for the Missions”, the evangelization of the Maya peoples. “They have never received these moneys – complains Fr. Pablo- Most of these poor areas and colonies lack medical dispensaries, Catholic schools, churches, parishes and social services.”
When he was expelled, Fr. Pablo left the Prelature. He sought support in his home diocese of Saltillo, under Bishop Raúl Vera-López, a promotor of human rights and antagonistic to the Legionaries. The firebrand from Playa del Carmen clashed with the charismatic bishop –accusing him of using the poor to his own benefit, Vera-López, for his part, accused Fr. Pablo of being a plant- and after only eleven months their relationship came to an end.
 Diazepam (also known as Valium) is a benzodiazepine (ben-zoe-dye-AZE-eh-peens). It affects chemicals in the brain that may be unbalanced in people with anxiety. Diazepam is used to treat anxiety disorders, alcohol withdrawal symptoms, or muscle spasms. Diazepam is sometimes used with other medications to treat seizures.
This medication would be counter indicated for Depression and would increase Depressive symptoms instead of reducing them. Its recommendation in the case of Fr. Pablo demonstrates either ignorance or a purposeful plan to keep him dumbed down.
 Members of religious orders take three vows: poverty, chastity and obedience. But the Legion had a fourth vow: “Never to criticize a superior in any way and to tell your immediate superior about it if you became aware of another member breaking his vow.”
Slightly built, with green eyes, pointed ears and scant hair, Fr. Pablo Pérez-Guajardo was officially expelled from the Legion in May 2015. They had already expelled him from the San José chapel in Playa del Carmen in September, 2012, after which his lifestyle became nomadic. When he was interviewed by the reporter in September, 2014 he had transformed a garage in a poor neighborhood into a chapel. “The bishop (Monsignor Pedro Pablo Elizondo, LC) has forbidden me from entering Catholic schools and hospitals” (to perform my priestly duties).
“Where could I go now that I was sixty?” the priest asked himself. So he traipsed back to Playa del Carmen, to the working class neighborhood, setting up a chapel in a garage of a house under construction. When the reporter met him Fr. Pablo was going around in an old dirty Chevy, with the seats falling apart. He was living with a family, surrounded by bags of cement and dust curtains. The Legion had expelled him in 2015. “In canonical terms I do not have ministerial faculties, although I am not sanctioned for any reason nor do I have any canonical censure against me because I have not committed any ecclesiastical crime (pedophilia, sexual partner, fraud, doctrinal problems or errors in moral or doctrinal teachings).”
As they spoke the reporter noted the Padre’s fatigue after four years of accusations and no success except to keep trudging along performing baptisms and building his chapel. When asked why he had spent so much energy writing the hundreds of protest pages. He had hope, hope that the Vatican would hear his plea and would depose the Legion of Christ from the Prelature. “Quintana Roo needs a Franciscan, Jesuit or diocesan bishop who will dress in sandals and jeans, carry a backpack and rub shoulders with the workers and native peoples of the interior and not with the hotel zone magnates.”
The Legend of the holy money launderer
Fernando García Zalvidea was one of the thousands of immigrants attracted to Cancun tourist growth. Driving his limousine he would offer excursions to gringos fascinated by the Caribbean paradise. One of them exclaimed to him on a certain occasion: This is my best day! Fernando liked the phrase and he made it his. Cancun was growing in leaps and bounds and it was fertile soil for an entrepreneur such as García Zalvidea who with his meteoric rise as a hotel baron created a public relations network of public, political and religious dimensions with the Quintana Roo elite. His savvy made him owner of a whole chain of hotels, Real Caribe, and Best Day, pioneering all-inclusive travel on the web.
But came the day in 1998 when his empire began crumbling. The Mexican Attorney General named him in association with “Maxiproceso,” an investigation into drug smuggling and money laundering for the Juarez Cartel in the state of Quintana Roo. State governor, Mario Villanueva-Madrid, nicknamed El Chueco (the crooked one), stood accused of having placed the state prosecutor at the service of drug boss, Ramón Alcides-Magaña, alias El Metro (One Meter). García-Zalvidea was accused of money laundering for the cartel in the purchase of the Gran Caribe Real hotel. He was detained and sent to the infamous Reclusorio Sur in Mexico City.
The investigations results were ambiguous. Former governor, Villanueva-Madrid was detained, imprisons and extradited to the USA where he is still incarcerated.
His punishment was unusually harsh by Mexican standards. Most of the accused were absolved of their crimes. García Zalvidea was released on March 4th, 2000 after only fourteen months.
Three years later, a magazine called Contralínea published a series of phone conversations between former Attorney General Antonio Lozano-Gracia, ex presidential candidate for the PAN party, Diego Fernández de Cevallos, and García-Zalvidea’s lawyer, Germán Rangel-González in which the PAN members discussed “political moves” to free the hotel owner and eventually have his case closed by the country’s attorney general.
Upon his release Fernando García-Zalvidea became the Legion’s greatest benefactor in Quintana Roo. He helped to build the City of Happiness in 2000, the largest social work of the Prelature, a center embracing schools, retirement home, homes for orphans and the terminally ill and a center for addiction treatment.
But the man in question went far beyond that, extending his political network through his brother, Juan Ignacio, El Chacho who became a member of the house for the PAN party in 2000 and later jumped ship to the Green Party. Under the green banner he won the election for Lord Mayor of the Benito Juárez Delegation (which includes Cancun) in February 2002. He was the first major of the opposition party (not from the PRI) in the city of Cancun. In 2004 El Chacho approached the leading candidate for the Mexican presidency, leftist Andrés Manuel López-Obrador.
Juan Ignacio proclaimed that he wanted to be a candidate for governor of Quintana Roo state representing the opposition. A few months after making his aspirations public he lost his seat in congress and later incarcerated on charges of over-spending the Cancun treasury. He was incarcerated for over a year until his brother, Fernando, paid a bail of 71 million Mexican pesos (five and a half million dollars.)
The García Zalvidea were one of the most powerful families in Quintana Roo state. El Chacho demonstrated his allegiance to the ruling party, PRI’, by participating in the present governor, Roberto Borge’s, campaign. While on the other side, Fernando was supporting the PAN party in 2012, organizing fundraisers for the PAN presidential candidate, Josefina Vázquez-Mota, among hotel owners. Bishop Pedro-Pablo Elizondo was invited to one of these events.