Letter to Fr. Neuhaus and Orthodox Catholics Regarding Sexual Abuse Investigation of Fr. Maciel, Legion of Christ Founder

By An Orthodox Catholic


April 30, 2005

From exlegionaries.com discussion board.



I have to say it is a huge relief that they are investigating Marcial Maciel. I have felt like an ecclesial Cassandra (not that Iâ€m mythic) on the whole issue of the abuse crisis. Way before it exploded in the U.S., anyone who did any reading on it would know where the whole mess was heading.

With the Legion two factors came into play: assuming that “orthodoxyâ€� can prevent such perversity, and the fear of persecuting a saint. Thatâ€s why “Orthodoxâ€� Catholics often had no problem condemning U.S. bishops or priests but would defend the cassock-wearing encyclical-quoting Legion. This is the type of thinking: “after all wasnâ€t Padre Pio accused of sexual misconduct.â€�

I must admit I am furious with Rev. Neuhaus and George Weigel. They put their concern for orthodoxy above their concern for children and their common sense. As a believing Catholic, I have to admit arguments such as Neuhaus†Feathers of Scandal really cut deep.

I know people who were abused by priests. I have priest friends who would agree with us who know people who were abused by priests. They even know of suicides caused by the abuse. Unfortunately these compassionate priests would be regarded as “not Catholic enough� by the Marcial Maciel fans.

The Church, because of the “never say a bad thing about a priest� and the “scandal is the worst evil, even greater than child abuse� has been the perfect hideout for depraved, pathological liars.

The Cardinal Groer case is the perfect parallel to Maciel.
I started to have some hope about this issue when Bishop Kurt Krenn had to step down after his response to the scandal in his seminary in Austria. As you will recall he was also a defender of Groer.


Hurt, Disgusted, Sorrowful and HOPEFUL

My only consolation is in the words of Our Lord, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be consoled.�

I wish you would forward this to Fr. Neuhaus.

See responses to Fr. Neuhaus’s ‘Feathers of Scandal’ on this webpage:

New Pope, Same Crisis

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/24/opinion/24berry.htmlNew York Times
New Pope, Same Crisis

Published: April 24, 2005


ALTHOUGH his papacy is not yet a week old, Benedict XVI is already assured a prominent place in the culture wars. Admirers and critics alike will pay close attention not only to his pronouncements on issues like bioethics and birth control, but also to his response to the crisis of sexually abusive priests.Historians will debate why the politically visionary Pope John Paul II, who was well briefed by many bishops on the sex abuse scandals that erupted in 1993, stood passive, offering minimal leadership as criminal and civil actions mounted around the world. And they may yet be surprised by Pope Benedict XVI: if he stays true to his moral absolutism, the Vatican could take a stronger stance against priests who have molested children.

The notorious case of the Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado, a powerful Mexican priest who founded his own order and lives in its seminary in Rome, suggests that the pope’s approach to this issue may be evolving. While the case is yet to be decided and all legal proceedings are secret, it may offer some hope to victims of abuse looking for a change in Vatican policy under Benedict, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

In 1998, when Cardinal Ratzinger was head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a legal tribunal of the congregation accepted a case by nine seminarians who accused Father Maciel, founder of the Legionaries of Christ, of sexual assault. The allegations, which stretch back to the 1960’s, have been presented to the Vatican on several occasions. The response has always been silence. Initially, Cardinal Ratzinger as well failed to respond; in 1999 he shelved the case, later telling a Mexican bishop that it was not “prudent” to proceed against a man who had helped the church by attracting young men to the priesthood.

Late last year, however, even as John Paul praised Father Maciel, Cardinal Ratzinger quietly reopened the case, dispatching Msgr. Charles Scicluna, a canon lawyer on his staff, to investigate the charges. Monsignor Scicluna is not allowed to speak publicly about his work. The men who charged Father Maciel, who have spoken to reporters in the past, also agreed not to speak about his investigation.

How long will the world have to wait for a verdict in the Maciel case? In the meantime, it may be useful to ask another question: why did Cardinal Ratzinger reopen the case?

Foreseeing that he might become pope, perhaps he realized that the Maciel scandal would tarnish him. Or perhaps there is a deeper reason: Cardinal Ratzinger, as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, knew more about the crisis than anyone in the Roman Curia; all requests to defrock priests were sent to his office. As a theologian of fundamentalist convictions, he may have felt he had to confront a crisis tearing at the central nervous system of the church.

“How much filth there is in the church, and even among those who, in the priesthood, ought to belong entirely” to God, he said on Good Friday services last month in Rome. He later likened the church to “a boat about to sink, taking in water on every side.”

Those are remarkable words from a theologian who considers the church as the seat of divine truth. Cardinal Ratzinger wielded a strong hand in silencing or disciplining theologians deemed errant. His comments on Good Friday suggest he has an emerging sense of how seriously this crisis threatens the church, by contradicting the mystery of faith as espoused by ecclesiastical authority. This crisis is an epic challenge to Benedict’s papacy.

The lay reform group Voice of the Faithful has renewed a call it first made to John Paul, asking Benedict to meet with an international delegation of abuse survivors. That would be a great act by the pope to promote healing – and introspection at the Vatican. The pope should also make permanent the American bishops’ 2002 youth protection charter, which was due to expire last month and has been only temporarily extended. He should also make it apply to all priests, not just those in the United States.

Undoubtedly Benedict does not much care how he is perceived in the culture wars, and in the past he has attributed the sexual abuse scandal to “a planned campaign” by the news media “to discredit the church.” Yet he has also urged bishops not to be afraid to confront Catholics “with the authority of the truth.” Benedict’s first press conference, scheduled for yesterday, was an opportunity for him to clarify his position on these and other issues.

In the case of Father Maciel, and the larger crisis of which he is a symbol, Pope Benedict XVI must move forcefully in the tradition of St. Augustine: “Justice is that virtue which gives everyone his due.”

Jason Berry is the co-author of “Vows of Silence: The Abuse of Power in the Papacy of John Paul II.”

Legion of Christ Forced to Respond

Contradictions Abound


Press Release of the Legion of Christ in Response to Re-openning of Sex-Abuse Investigation of Marcial Maciel


April 23, 2005

Some coverage of our new Holy Father, Benedict XVI, has focused on his response as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) to the sexual abuse crisis in the Church. In this context several media outlets have again mentioned demonstrably false allegations against Father Marcial Maciel, LC, founder of the Legionaries of Christ. The coverage often neglects to quote Father Maciel’s statements of innocence and the evidence that supports him. Therefore the Legionaries of Christ wish to repeat what has already been declared in several public statements in the past:

From the first moment these allegations of abuse surfaced -through the media- in 1996, decades after any alleged abuse would have happened, Father Maciel has proclaimed his innocence: “Before God and with total clarity of conscience I can categorically state that the accusations brought against me are false. I never engaged in the sort of repulsive behavior these men accuse me of, and nothing could be further from my way of dealing with others, as is evident to any of the thousands of Legionaries who know me” (Statement, April 22, 2002).

The testimony of others and the historical record all point to his innocence. One of the original accusers swiftly recanted, admitting the allegations were fabricated to make Father Maciel look bad. Four other former Legionaries have sworn they were approached to join in the lies but refused.

Recent media reports suggest the CDF is proceeding with an investigation of Father Maciel. Neither he nor the Legionaries of Christ has been contacted about any such past or present inquiry.

It should be mentioned that the Vatican conducted an intense investigation of Father Maciel and the Legion from October 1956 to February 1959. During that period, Father Maciel was not allowed to function as general director. Vatican-appointed investigators interviewed members personally and in depth; the Legionaries were invited to raise their concerns or allegations. The investigators found Father Maciel not only innocent but exemplary; they concluded the Legion held great promise for the Church. In 1996, one of these investigators, Bishop Polidoro Van Vlierberghe stated: “I am surprised that more than forty years later, Father Maciel is accused of sexual abuse by some of the same individuals who did not hesitate to accuse him in the 1950s of so many other faults and grave crimes that were proven totally false. We, the Apostolic Visitators, gave them every opportunity to level any accusation they had, but not once was this type of offense mentioned” (Letter, December 12, 1996)

Father Maciel and with him the Legionaries of Christ keep no ill will against those who make these allegations. Rather, we offer our prayers for them and express once again our total commitment at the service of the Church, the Holy Father and all men and women.

Further documentation establishing Father Maciel’s innocence is online at http://www.lcfacts.com.

For general information on the Legionaries of Christ and Father Marcial Maciel visit http://www.legionofchrist.org.

Jay Dunlap

Pope-to-Be Reopened Mexican Sex Abuse Inquiry



Published: April 23, 2005
by The New York Times
International Section


MEXICO CITY, April 21 – During Pope John Paul II’s final days, the cardinal who would replace him, Joseph Ratzinger, reopened a Vatican investigation into longstanding allegations that the Mexican founder of an influential Catholic order had molested teenage students under his tutelage.

Cardinal Ratzinger, who was elected Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday, made the decision in early December to open a full-scale inquiry into accusations that the Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado, the 85-year-old founder of the Legionaries of Christ, had sexually abused at least eight young students between 1943 and the early 1960’s.

The decision came just days after Pope John Paul II publicly praised Father Maciel and awarded his organization control over an important Catholic center in Jerusalem.

Yet as Pope John Paul II lay on his deathbed in late March, a Vatican investigator, Msgr. Charles J. Scicluna, traveled to Mexico to interview more than 20 people, among them several men who maintain that Father Maciel sodomized them when they were boys, according to two people interviewed.

“It is better late than never,” said José Barba Martín, a history professor at the Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico and the leader of the group of men who have contended they were sexually abused. “This is a good sign.”

The decision to reopen the investigation represented an about-face for the cardinal who was soon to become pope. Cardinal Ratzinger shelved the inquiry in December 1999, and as late as November 2002 he had rejected the pleas for action from Mr. Barba and others who allege they were abused, people familiar with the case said.

It remains unclear why Cardinal Ratzinger changed his mind and reopened the investigation. He has never commented on the matter. Among those who have raised the complaints and others who are closely following the case, one theory suggests that he knew he would be a candidate for pope and did not want the matter hanging over his head when the conclave was held. Another suggests that Cardinal Ratzinger did not want Pope John Paul II’s reputation to be tarnished by allegations that the pope had done nothing to pursue charges against a friend. It is also possible that Cardinal Ratzinger received new information.

“Why that happened is anybody’s guess,” said Gerald Renner, a freelance journalist who with Jason Berry last year published a book, “Vows of Silence: The Abuse of Power in the Papacy of John Paul II,” about the accusations against Father Maciel. “Of all the cardinals who could have been chosen pope, he certainly knows more about this case than anyone.”

Monsignor Scicluna, the Maltese investigator who holds the title of the promoter of justice within the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, declined on Thursday to comment about the investigation.

Jay Dunlap, a spokesman for Father Maciel and the Legion, dismissed the accusations as lies and asked why the men had not brought up the allegations in the 1950’s, when Father Maciel was investigated for alleged drug abuse and later exonerated. “The idea that there were all these victims and nobody said anything to these investigators is beyond belief,” he said. “The Legion is entirely confident that any full investigation will only serve to exonerate Father Maciel.”

Over the years, the allegations against Father Maciel have been the subject of newspaper articles in The Hartford Courant and The National Catholic Reporter, as well as an ABC television report and several books. The accusers sent letters to the pope by diplomatic pouch in 1978 and 1989, but got no reply, according to Mr. Renner and Mr. Berry, who first wrote about the accusations in The Courant in 1997.

This led Mr. Barba to make an accusation that the inquiry had been squashed because Cardinal Ratzinger knew it would displease the pope.

Mr. Barba and seven other former members of the Rome-based Legion, most of them Mexicans, first lodged a formal complaint with the Vatican in 1998, maintaining that Father Maciel had sexually abused them when they were students ages 10 to 16. Some said Father Maciel, a charismatic man who was highly successful at fund-raising, contended that he had permission from Pope Pius XII to engage in sex acts in order to relieve stomach pain.

Because the allegations were too old to be investigated under criminal law, the group brought a suit against Father Maciel under the Vatican’s canonical law. They said they had been motivated to take action after decades of silence because Pope John Paul II had praised Father Maciel as “an efficacious guide to youth” during a 1994 trip to Mexico.

There was no sign of action from the Vatican. In 1999, a Mexican bishop, Carlos Talavera, traveled to Rome and personally handed Cardinal Ratzinger a letter outlining the charges against Father Maciel. The letter had been written by another Mexican priest, Alberto Athié Gallo. In 1995, Father Athié said, he heard the deathbed confession of the Rev. Juan Manuel Fernández Amenabar, a university president who said he had been sexually abused.

Bishop Talavera later told Father Athié that the future pope had read the letter in his presence. According to Father Athié, Cardinal Ratzinger had then said the matter was delicate and it would not be prudent to open an inquiry into Father Maciel’s past.

“Cardinal Ratzinger said that, lamentably, the case of Father Maciel could not be opened because he was a person very loved by the pope and had done so much good for the church,” Father Athié said in an interview. “This is what Bishop Talavera told me.”

Neither Bishop Talavera nor Cardinal Ratzinger has ever confirmed that the conversation took place. Bishop Talavera did not return messages left by a reporter on Thursday and Friday.

Shortly after Cardinal Ratzinger rejected Father Athié’s letter, in December 1999, the Vatican informed Martha Wegan, a canonical lawyer representing the group, that the inquiry had been suspended indefinitely, Mr. Barba said.

Mr. Barba and another complainant, Arturo Jurado Guzmán, tried again in November 2002 to reach Pope John Paul II. They presented a letter in Polish to a Vatican official, the Rev. Gianfranco Girotte, asking that it be sent to the pope’s personal secretary, Msgr. Stanislas Dziwisz. Father Girotte informed them he would give their letter instead to Cardinal Ratzinger. Again, there was silence from the Vatican, Mr. Barba and Father Athié said.

Late last year, as the pope’s health was failing, the Legion was planning a series of ceremonies to pay homage to their founder’s 60th anniversary as a priest. Neither Cardinal Ratzinger nor Monsignor Dziwisz attended the main event, held Nov. 26 at the church of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls in Rome.

A few days later, on Dec. 2, Ms. Wegan received a message from Cardinal Ratzinger’s office asking whether the men who had alleged abuse still wished to give testimony to investigators, Mr. Barba said.

Since Father Maciel founded the Legion here with a handful of students in 1941, it has grown at a furious pace. The order currently has about 500 priests and 2,500 seminarians in some 20 countries, including Spain and the United States. It has a budget of about $60 million.

As news of the investigation rippled through the church, Father Maciel, who lives in Rome, declined to be elected again as general director of the Legion on Jan. 20 at the order’s annual meeting. He handed over the reins to a younger priest, the Rev. Ã�lvaro Corcuera.

Mr. Dunlap, the order’s spokesman, said Father Maciel’s decision had nothing to do with the investigation, as some critics have suggested. He questioned the credibility of the men who have brought the charges, who include two university professors, a lawyer, an engineer, a retired priest, a private rancher, a schoolteacher, and a former language instructor for the United States Defense Department. Mr. Dunlap said none of them raised the issue of sexual abuse during the 1956 inquiry.

Laurie Goodstein contributed reporting from Rome for this article.

Ex-seminarian, authors clash over priest

Ex-seminarian, authors clash over priest
Matt C. Abbott Matt C. Abbott
April 20, 2005
I received the following e-mail from Joe Stong, a former seminarian with the Legionaries of Christ and current member of Regnum Christi, regarding the assertions of authors Jason Berry and Gerald Renner in their 2004 book Vows of Silence:

I met [Jason Berry and Gerald Renner] in Dallas in June, 2002 at a reunion of former Legionary seminarians. They claimed they’d been invited, whereas the anti-LC, former LC priest who ran the show claimed they ‘just showed up.’

So someone wasn’t telling the truth.

I discussed the Legion and Fr. Maciel with them at length — as an eyewitness — during which they repeated many charges which even on face value they had no proof for, other than the accuser’s word for it. No circumstantial, physical, or character logical proof of Fr. Maciel being bad. No reference was ever made to his actual words, works, or achievements. It became evident that they had no independent understanding of what a religious congregation of Pontifical rite is supposed to be, much less what the Legion is per se, but were basing everything on what the accusers claimed was so.

Noteworthy is the fact that all the major accusers left the congregation decades ago and thus simply don’t know what the Legion is like today. It’s as though a person was accusing the U.S. Army of using B-17s in Afghanistan because those were the bombers his grandpa flew back in the days of the U.S. Army Air Corps.

No mention is made of the fact that a group in time of foundation has special privileges or graces, or still needs much organic growth simply because it doesn’t have enough men to fill all positions. Instead, the authors confuse such changes as ‘schemes’ to fool the unwary when, in reality, the Legion simply is growing and moving into new apostolates all the time.

They confuse recruiting with sinister conspiratorial ambitions and fundraising with money grubbing. They repeatedly asked me why the LC needed fundraising at all ‘since they have all those big buildings.’ In other words, these ‘distinguished journalists’ don’t understand the concept of mortgages and liability. They confuse property with money machines.

And their mistakes just kept growing, snowballing. The more claims or rhetorical questions they proffered the deeper their confusion and mistakes became.

They confused their own affirmations for conclusions. Innuendo and hyperbole were taken later as prima facie evidence. Like a snowball, the tale against Fr. Maciel and the Legion grew with each telling. The accusers, like the two dirty old men in the story about Susanna in the Bible, went long on lewd details about supposed sex abuse. But they were short on any specific points of fact of time, place, people, and circumstance which their peers, dozens and dozens of whom are still alive, could corroborate and prove either way.

Again and again they confused the private vows as gag rules. Nothing could be further from the truth. If anything, those vows commit Legionaries to report abuses, not hide them! And what are we to say about supposedly highly trained and good young seminarians in pre-Vatican II Catholicism when masturbation was very well understood as a mortal sin. Thinking that anyone could ‘have permission from the pope’ for it? That whopper, especially in a seminary setting where such sins would be commonly preached against in public and private, is just too fantastic to believe.

The accusers are hoping the rest of the world is too stupid to think critically and hope to cash in on today’s instant endowment of infallibility and impeccability we bestow on anyone who claims to be a victim.

And Berry and Renner, if they were truly ‘investigative’ reporters would know better than to just take every word of the accusers at face value. Especially since they never went to Fr. Maciel’s home town, to Rome or any other place he’s lived to interview character witnesses — like neighbors. Nor did the authors ask for or take the literally hundreds of testimonies available from many of us former Legionaries who knew the accusers, know Fr. Maciel, and know the Legion. It’s as if they had a pre-conceived notion of what their ‘investigation’ would reveal, and only looked as far as they needed to sketch the barest outline of a book.

If you read ‘Vows of Silence’ (which is a misnomer because Legionaries don’t vow anywhere to be silent about sin or abuses), you notice that only about a third of the book is actually about the Legion and Fr. Maciel. This means that after ‘years’ of investigation, they didn’t have enough material to fill a slim book. That’s investigative journalism’?

I was a Legionary for 11 years. A lot, if not all, of what these ‘authors’ have penned is simply unbelievable and wrong on many crucial points. And the supposedly iron-clad accusers’ testimony is likewise full of holes. I found it highly interesting at the time in Dallas that they didn’t feel capable of talking to a fellow former Legionary who doubted their tale. They claimed it would be too devastating for their weak psychologies. And so, on threat of having the police called, I was told to leave the ‘reunion’ which had been published as ‘open to the public.’

Yeah, there are a lot of questions that need to be asked by some investigative reporter, but they haven’t been asked. Maybe someone will take up the trail and see where it leads.

Jason Berry responded to Stong’s e-mail as follows:

Three Legionaries of Christ people arrived uninvited at the first Regain conference and were thrown out because the hosts considered them spies. Renner and I interviewed the three about 45 minutes before they left; they were transparent apologists for Maciel and his movement. That they tried to sneak in says something, does it not?

The Legionaries specialize in disinformation — about Maciel, the internal dynamics of the order, and the enemies they must create in order to continue raising money when honest people question or expose things about the man and his movement. I stand by what I have written on these matters and speak for my colleague Gerald Renner in saying so. ‘Vows of Silence’ is the product of many years’ careful research. No one of repute in history or journalism has disproved what we have written. The Legionaries’ attack on us is one prong in their disinformation campaign which informs us on what kind of people they are.

Gerald Renner then e-mailed me and had this to say:

I’m with Jason on this. All I want to add is to ask Stong why the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis and the Diocese of Columbus have outright banned the Legion and Regnum Christi and why the Archdiocese of Los Angeles has severely restricted their activities. Archbishop Flynn damns them with his words that they are deceptively trying to set up ‘a parallel church.’ Nuff said.

Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic columnist with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication, Media and Theatre from Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago, and an Associate in Applied Science degree in Business Management from Triton College in River Grove, Ill. He has worked in the right-to-life movement and is a published writer focused on Catholic and social issues. He can be reached at mattcabbott@gmail.com

© Copyright 2005 by Matt C. Abbott