Reply to Fr. Neuhaus : The Weight of Sex Abuse Victim Testimonies and Deeper Knowledge of Fr. Maciel
From: “J. Paul Lennon” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: “Richard John Neuhaus” <email@example.com>
Richard John Neuhaus wrote:
Mr. Paul Lennon
“Dear Mr. Lennon,
I am familiar with, but not persuaded by, some of the standard distinctions employed in the discussion of sexual deviancies.
I appreciate your thoughts on the Legion and Fr. Maciel. Permit me to suggest, however, that you move with startling rapidity from â€˜having no reason to doubtâ€™ that â€˜something like that could be true,â€™ to the assumption that Fr. Maciel is guilty of the crimes and sins alleged by his accusers.
If you have not already, you might search the FIRST THINGS website for the article in which I explain why I do not believe the charges against Fr. Maciel.
Thank you for writing.
(The Rev.) Richard John Neuhaus”
Today, 9/30/04, reviewing my postings on the Regain discussion board [7/29/2003 at 05:08 PM], I found the following, which I now edit:
“My Days in Salamanca 1960s ”
Subject: Revelations against Father Marcial Maciel and personal first hand knowledge of Accusers
Dear Arturo J.:
i received the videotapes you sent on Tuesday and started watching them last night [4/4/02], beginning with the first video, the ‘rough’ version of the testimonies of three brave xlegionaries. I was able to see on the screen the face of Jose Barba whom I haven’t met for many years; and there he was, full of dignity, ruefully talking about his abuse. I was saddened and angry at Father Maciel by Jose’s story. I, who love to sleep in, did not sleep well. I got up a six, a record for me. As I continue with the second tape, the Mexican “Canal 40″ report, I continue to understand the nature, and grasp the reality and seriousness of this abuse. On hearing/watching Alejandro Espinoza talking about the recruitment of ‘pretty’ boys, I had a weird sense of the wisdom of my own vague ‘intuition’ regarding the Founder. The realization of Maciel being an ‘ephebophile’, a ‘lover of handsome youth’ –in the Greek tradition, shall we say– seems to have fully dawned on me a few days ago when I shared some other reflections with the forum.
Memories and names from my own experience come to my mind. When I arrived in Salamanca in early September 1961, I do remember seeing an Arturo Jurado. He belonged to another community, already a Philosophy student in apostolic practices? From what i remember, although i could not talk to him, he did seem to be a particularly gentle and quiet individual. I do not remember crashing into him during one of our â€˜friendlyâ€™ intercommunity soccer matches. ”
I also found this Testimony I wrote for unitypublishing.com
ME AND MACIEL
An ex-confrere of mine just attached your issue on the LC and RC to me. You’ve done a fine job. I was with the LC from 1961-1984. In fact I was one of the first ‘founders’in Ireland [which Maciel targeted as a stepping stone to the US and English speaking world.] Father Maciel: MASTER OF THE GAME, -think Graham Greene and John Le Carre spy novels- a diabolically clever strategist. Maciel is so clever at drawing the wool over peoples’ eyes he has John Paul II eating out of his hand!
And a very strange bird, Dangerous, perhaps EVIL. Utterly bereft of human compassion, and therefore, at least in my book, no way a saint!
I instinctively disliked him and was never one of his closer entourage. My lack of wholehearted and narrow-minded adulation for him and ‘the movement’ also precluded me from ever holding a position of authority even though I was bright, earnest and hardworking, and one of the first Irish Legionary priests, ordained in Rome in 1969. [I did spearhead the ‘Schools of Faith’ among Mexico City’s upper classes from 1975-82].
I have the privilege of being one of the few ‘brothers’ who ever questioned Maciel’s judgment at community gatherings when he, NUESTRO PADRE, [the name the Jesuits give to Saint Ignatius] would instruct his disciples. He would shoot me down and humiliate me in front of the others, calling me a ‘rationalist’ and ‘lacking faith’. Once you stand up to Maciel, you’re out. You cannot question his authority.
I never experienced his pedophilia personally but did know some of the witnesses personally -especially Juan Manuel FernÃ¡ndez AmenÃ¡bar- and have no reason to doubt them. The twisted manipulation described in some of the testimonials is vintage Maciel: ‘I have a special dispensation from His Holiness…’ I can easily picture him telling those little boys not to worry after abusing them. I had a couple of major depressive episodes during my ‘career’ in the Legion and no director or superior ever suggested I see a therapist.
When I had my Major Depressive Episodes -I self diagnosed after leaving the Legion!- I did not know what was wrong with me. I was told it was my lack of faith, to ‘sit tight and pray and it will go away.’ I suppose I’m resiliant so I didn’t loose my mind.
The abuse rampant in the LC/RC system is, therefore, MUCH MORE THAN PURELY SEXUAL; it is also
â€¢ emotional; of the
â€¢ mind; of the
â€¢ conscience, of the spirit, of the
Based on 23 years of contact with Maciel, my humble MA Counseling and Post masters in Marriage and Family Therapy -which, by the way, is more real supervised mental health training than he or any other ‘formators’ have received- I would venture to say he is a
1. Narcissistic person: he believes himself to be totally special, and therefore beyond or above rules that bind ordinary people. -It has its advantages to be ‘God’s chosen one’-. There have always been strong strains of
2. Hypochondriasis in all the illnesses he has always had and that require special medical treatment, specialists, hospitals, medications, rest in luxury hotels and spas, people tending hand an foot, etc., etc, Maciel is above all a
3. Magalomaniac, with an insatiable thirst for power, control of peoples’ souls and lives, and adulation. It’s not hard to see where multiple abuser fits into all this…
PS. The Legion and RC is a very toxic place where one is not ‘individuated’ as an individual person, and does not possess sufficient self-awareness to take care of oneself. You have to get out before you can realize how sick you were.
Church authorities need to stop, question, analyze Maciel and the Legion instead of just going along with this priest increase apparent success story.
Paul Lennon, Mental Health Therapist and ‘disgruntled ex-member’
Back to my Neuhaus letter
HOW I REACHED MY CONCLUSIONS REGARDING
FR. MACIEL SEXUALLY ABUSING THESE SEMINARIANS
Thanks for replying so quickly to my letter to the editor. I appreciate your interest in the issues at hand and your willingness to engage in an enlightened discussion. Let me just make a couple of replies to your replies, which I will insert for the sake of clarity.
1- â€˜I am familiar with, but not persuaded by, some of the standard distinctions employed in the discussion of sexual deviancies.â€™
Respondeo dicendum quod
Primum: I believe you were the one who in your article referred to distinctions such as ‘pedophilia’ and ‘ephebophilia’. I pointed out before that when there is a serious discrepancy in age/power/authority/
knowledge between those engaging in sexual activities such behavior is generally considered ‘AND ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP’, and results, for treatment purposes, in one of the parties being considered ‘the perpetrator’ and the other ‘the victim’.
I did not use the term ‘sexual deviancies’, as it is nebulous, and belongs to a more academic, philosophical and psychological realm which would lead to endless intellectual discussions.. I believe I referred to ‘sexual abuse’ in my letter to you. This is more concrete, morally and legally.
2- “I appreciate your thoughts on the Legion and Fr. Maciel. Permit me to suggest, however, that you move with startling rapidity from â€˜having no reason to doubtâ€™ that â€˜something like that could be true,â€™ to the assumption that Fr. Maciel is guilty of the crimes and sins alleged by his accusers.”
As regards Father Maciel’s sexually abusive behaviors,
respondeo dicendum quod:
As a Legionary I only heard about the investigations [1956-9] of Father Maciel in and through superiors who were loyal to him: Frs Rafael Arumi, Octavio Acevedo, Alfredo Torres, Juan Manuel Duenas, etc. The nature or causes of ‘La Guerra” [The War] –in Legion parlance of the early 60s– were never explained to members, except to attribute them to ‘enemies’, ‘trying to destroy the Legion’. I believe the term applied to the Vatican investigation has been revised since then to something like ‘La Gran Bendicion’ [The Great Blessing]. Nothing of a sexual nature regarding the troubles of those years was ever mentioned within my hearing. We were told that a number of early Legionaries rebelled against Father Maciel because they were ill-intentioned and wanted to â€˜destroy the Legionâ€™. The gist of the story was that they had gotten too big for their boots and began to interfere with Fr. Maciel, the Founder. While inside the Legion –23 years–I never heard anything about the true nature of the accusations against Father Maciel.
There was an informal list of ‘traitors’ which circulated hush-hush through the superiors and was gossiped in the community: names like the Isla brothers, Federico Dominguez, a certain Rizo, and others I vaguely remember. Jose Barba, one of the accusers, was from that same generation, but I donâ€™t think he was considered a ‘traitor’ to Nuestro Padre. Later, in the 80s, I learned Jose had left the Legion on friendly terms and made a pretty good transition out of the Legion into the academic world. As a matter of fact, and I don’t know how we managed this, together with Fr. Amenabar and another Legionary of the time, I visited exlc Jose Barba when he has teaching at a university [Universidad de las Americas?] in Puebla, Mexico.
I, personally, had no inkling of any sexual abuse in the Legion. But while a member, 1961-1984 I had personally known at least five of Father Maciel’s accusers : Arturo Jurado, Felix AlarcÃ³n, Juan Jose Vaca, Jose Barba and Juan Manuel AmenÃ¡bar, in varying degrees of closeness. I never had a personal conversation with any of them, though this is not strange as Legionaries are so guarded in their interpersonal disclosure, that even if I had been their direct confrere, I would probably not have learned anything either. These Legion norms would also preclude the accusers discussing their abuse among themselves while in the Legion. Besides, the Private Vow was drafted just before the Vatican investigation began. I am not sure whether Fr. Maciel did this purposely to nip any criticism or revelations in the bud.
‘Knowing’ the assusers explains how, when I read the first articles in 1997/8, they were not just names to me, and I had to take them seriously. But I still doubted, or did not want to believe, that I had been so close to something as outragious as pedophilia. I also ‘knew’ Father Maciel more than most contemporary members. He had been a part of my life since he traveled with the first Irish group to Lourdes in August 1961. He had heard my ‘general confession’ before taking the habit, my regular confession on several occasions; I had exchanged Spiritual Direction Letters with him on a montly basis for about 20 years, and had face to face Spiritual Direction on several occasions. I had more frequent dealings with Father Maciel when he chose me to found and direct the ‘School of Faith’ in Mexico City 1975-82. I had some tussles of authority with him from the 80’s on. Finally, I had confronted him in Cotija, Michoacan, in the fall of 1984 regarding the fate of those who disagree or leave the institution. We lashed out at each other.
[added on September 17, 2004:
AN ENIGMA TO ME
Thus,I had felt his verbal and emotional abuse of myself and other confreres over the years. More than that, I had experienced his leadership style which I knew could be ruthless and full of disregard for feelings and dignity, a kind of coldness and cruelty, which shocked me in a person considered a saint. I knew he would stop at nothing to reach his goals. Thus, I lost my esteem for Father Maciel over the course of those 23 years. Nothing would surprise me about him. But I had no conscious experience or awareness of his sexual wrongdoing. The accusations of sexual abuse, for me, however, were not so much a purely sexual thing, nor a questioning of his holiness –I was sure he had none– but rather: was Father Maciel capable of misusing his power to this extent? Although I had never thought of Father as a sexual predator, I had always had questions about his psycho-sexual make up, his –to me– ‘strangeness’. He always seemed to be cut off or disconnected from his deep or tender feelings, from what I would consider ‘normal’ emotions. I had often heard him express himself with contempt about women. Because of my own very affectionate nature, I could never understand HIS affectivity: whether he had one in the ordinary sense of the word: whether he really ‘cared’ about anyone. It seemed like he ‘used’ people. And I had always been struck by Augustine’s: ‘Use things, love people.’ I had never met a person quite like Maciel before, and often wondered ‘what made him tick’. Or was he always ‘on guard’ around others, always calculating, scheming? Could he be so controlling of his own emotions, in all his human relationships and interactions?
Last year when I listened to Barba and Vaca tell me their stories –separately and without the other knowing– over the phone, I was very moved by their undeniable pain, shame and honesty. I met them both earlier this  year, together with Jurado, in conjunction with the 20/20 interviews in New York and became more convinced of the truth of their persons and testimony. I saw with my own eyes how they were re-traumatized by the harrowing lengthy TV interviews [which spawned a few moments of air time!]. I have read Alarcon’s letter describing his abuse and apologizing to the others for his collaboration with Maciel and it rings true. I met another accuser/victim called Alejandro Espinoza in April of this year who regaled me with the most horrible details of his sexual abuse [see ‘El Legionario’, his testimony]. All the pieces fell into place without that having been rehearsed. The details of the places they referred to, of the others involved…all sounded real, all rang true.
I find it very hard to believe that these men would willingly deceive me. I find it even more difficult to understand why any man at their age, and without benefit to himself, should want to reveal such an intimate and painful part of his life, if it were not true. I find it even harder to believe that they would make up stories that in some cases
‘incriminate’ themselves as accomplices of these crimes [one admits having called other brothers into the infirmary to be fondled, masturbated and sodomized by Father Maciel] unless they were still struggling with the aftermath of untreated abuse and still needed to ventilate their trauma.
Your ‘incredulous’ response is common and does not surprise me. The spontaneous, ‘natural’, response to talk of sexual abuse is denial and minimization. Where a priest is concerned it makes it just that more â€˜incredibleâ€™ and â€˜impossibleâ€™. But we have to admit that some priests commit these horrendous crimes. I believe Father Bruce Ritter the Founder of Covenant House overstepped boundaries with some youth from Covenant House, though this does not prevent me continuing to support this worthy charity. I believe Father Maciel, despite his marvelous social skills and wonderful gifts as entrepreneur, also committed sexual abuse. But he gets off Scot free thanks to having powerful friends which he has cultivated so well and carefully over the years. Thanks also to the knee-jerk reaction of ‘it can’t be true!’ and other forms of unexamined denial from the public in general, and from the conservative right wing Catholic public in particular.
Not to make a big deal out of this, but in hindsight some things begin make sense to me. I was a witness to very clear favoritism of Father Maciel towards certain ‘brothers’, who happened to be good looking or with better social skills and graces. and in the communities I belonged to later. In the 60s and 70s we had much more exposure to Fr. Maciel’s presence in the community. This was true specifically in Rome. Nuestro Padre had his own room on the 2nd floor and would be up and about the community in the corridors and in the gardens conducting business. We could bump into him any time during the day.
I remember very clearly that Raul de Anda,LC, a dark and handsome Mexican with fine features, was his personal secretary for a period in the 60s in Rome. Juan Manuel Correa, another Mexican, was another of these personal secretaries to Nuestro Padre. We three were students together at Via Aurelia 677. Bro Raul, –in the LC Theology students are called ‘Padre’– is now Dr. Raul de Anda, thanks to a PhD in experimental psycology. He was never ordained, and after leaving the Legion remained on good terms with Fr. Maciel. He is one of the ‘psychologists’ to whom Legion superiors will refer suffering members. Raul, then –as now– a Legion employee, worked the LC Marriage and Family Center in Mexico City, ‘ALFA Y OMEGA’, in the mid to late 70s just as the School of Faith was taking shape a few blocks away in the wealthy Lomas de Chapultepec neighborhood. Fr. Juan Manuel Fernandez-Amenabar, later an MM accuser, –because of his personal charisma with Mexican upper class women, their husbands and purse strings– was appointed founder, chaplain, spiritual director and lecturer at ALFA Y OMEGA by Fr. Maciel.
The ‘favoritism’ I referred to above happened within my own group of candidates. Fr. Maciel did single out one or two in our group of eight co-founders and give them preferential treatment: more individual attention, confidencies, greater access to his private quarters, special assignments, more travel, time with their family and the ‘privilege’ of traveling with him as his personal secretary. During these times of ‘accompanying Nuestro Padre’, the religious were totally unsupervised and ‘dispensed’ from the normal duties of the religious life, sometimes even neglecting their ‘Acts of Piety’, prayer life. These seminarians are now in their 50s and 60s. Some are still in the Legion and others have left. None of them have wanted to comment on the sexual abuse issue, except the odd one who allowed his name to be used in the official LC ‘conspiracy theory’ cover-up.
All that has been said up to now cannot strictly â€˜proveâ€™ Fr. Maciel is a sexual abuser or pedophile. But the least it should do is give you pause, Fr. Nauhaus, before foolhardily endorsing him without sufficient information. The accusers stand steadfast by their claims, despite the tepid response of the Roman Curia and some conservative right wing intellectuals. Though many active Legionaries and Regnum Christi members aggressively defend a Father Maciel they do not know personally. Several ex-Legionaries with up close and personal experiences give credence to the charges. I firmly believe truth-searchers, like yourself, should continue to question Fr. Maciel and themselves regarding these ‘questionable’ relationships with his seminarians. Because of the serious doubts that remain regarding these relationships, it is not unreasonable to seek another ‘injunction’ against him until these doubts have been cleared up. When such charges were made against the Cardinal Archibishop of Perth, Australia, he stepped down until they finished.
I have been able to read the testimonies in the original Spanish as well as in English and this can also have a bearing on their power. I have also met and spoken with the witnesses in their native language. Perhaps there is an element of ‘faith’ to believing the ‘testimonies’ of the accusers. But that is precisely what ‘faith’ is all about: ‘believing witnesses’, ‘eye-witnesses’, ‘participants’, if possible. I do believe the testimonies of these confreres in their accusations against Marcial Maciel. In an almost blasphemous paraphrase of Saint John’s First Letter they state:
‘Regarding Maciel Maciel, we were there at the beginning, what we have heard with our own ears, what we have seen with our own eyes, what we have looked upon, what we have experienced in our own bodies that his hands have handled… [see IJn 1,1]
Final note: my original letter to Fr. Neuhaus has been slightly edited for clarity, without altering the content. The last paragraph was added 9/15/04, jpl
FR. NEUHAUS’S RESPONSE
Thursday, 12 September 2002 16:57:33 -0500
From: ‘Richard John Neuhaus” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Mr. Paul Lennon
Dear Mr. Lennon,
I thank you for your thoughtful response.
Not for the sake of argument, but because i would really like to understand: Why do you think the accusers have come forward at this time and in this way? If they had the access they seek in Rome, what would they say they think should be done with regard to Fr. Maciel and the LC, and why?
(The Rev.) Richard John Neuhaus