Legion Leader Faces Sanctions; Report: Vatican To Restrict Ministry Of Maciel, Accused Of Sex Abuse

By Gerald Renner

 

May 19, 2006

 

Pope Benedict XVI has restricted the ministry of the Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Rome-based Legionaries of Christ, who has been accused for years of having sexually abused young seminarians in his charge, according to a report published Thursday.

The Vatican would not confirm the report but said it would issue a statement about its investigation into the charismatic, 86-year-old priest as early as today.

The restrictions were reported online by the National Catholic Reporter, an independent weekly newspaper, following a week of rumors of some kind of action against Maciel.

John Allen, Vatican correspondent for the newspaper, reported that Vatican sources said the restrictions placed on Maciel amount to a finding that at least some of the accusations against him are well founded.

According to the story, which cited Vatican sources, Maciel is restricted from publicly acting as a priest. He is not defrocked – “laicized,” in church terms – but he cannot celebrate public Masses, give lectures or other public presentations, or give interviews for print or broadcast. The pope approved the restrictions shortly before Easter, the story said.

The first public allegations against Maciel surfaced in a Courant report in February 1997. Nine former members of the Legionaries said Maciel abused them in the 1950s and ’60s when they were young boys or teenagers, ages 10 to 16, in seminaries in Spain and Italy.

The Vatican did not respond directly to the allegations. Later that year Pope John Paul II appointed Maciel as his personal representative to a high-level meeting on the Americas, signaling his full support for the priest.

Maciel, a native of Mexico, founded the Legionaries of Christ religious order in 1941. The order says it now has 650 priests, and 2,500 seminarians in 20 countries. Its U.S. headquarters is in Orange, Conn., and it has a seminary in nearby Cheshire.

Maciel was repeatedly praised by John Paul and other high church leaders. Maciel and the Legionaries vociferously proclaimed his innocence. Maciel accused the nine men of a conspiracy to defame him.

David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said Thursday that “Maciel is the most powerful Catholic official to ever face Vatican sanctions for child sexual abuse.”

“It would have been easy to let this case quietly go unresolved, as so many similar cases have,” Clohessy said. “We deeply appreciate that, at the highest levels of the church, action has been taken against such an extraordinarily high-ranking Catholic leader.”

The Rev. James Martin, associate editor of the Jesuit magazine America, said the Legionaries had enormous support in the Vatican because of their loyalty to the church, their conservative views and their success in recruiting candidates for the priesthood.

“So to take action against their founder is absolutely stunning,” Martin said. “Benedict shows his independence by taking on a darling movement of the conservative right.”

Spokesmen for the Legionaries in Rome and in Orange said that they had no comment because they knew nothing of any Vatican action against Maciel.

Juan Vaca, a former priest who headed the Legionaries’ U.S. operations in Connecticut from 1971 to 1976, and who said he was abused by Maciel beginning when he was a 12-year-old boy, was cautious Thursday.

“My reaction is I am still in my state of expectation until I see the official document and the official statement from the Vatican. We have been waiting for so long,” said Vaca, who lives in Holbrook, N.Y., and teaches psychology at Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.

Vaca left the Legionaries in 1976 to join the Diocese of Rockville Centre in New York. He and another priest, the Rev. Felix Alarcon, sent letters to the pope accusing Maciel through official church channels in 1978 and 1989 but never got a response. Vaca left the priesthood. Alarcon, who established the Legionaries’ U.S. headquarters in Connecticut in 1965, is a retired priest in good standing in Madrid.

Vaca and Alarcon were among eight former Legionaries priests and seminarians who filed a canon lawsuit against Maciel in 1998 with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which was assigned by Pope John Paul to handle sex-abuse charges against priests. The case lay dormant and no action was taken.

In January 2005, several months before he was elected to succeed John Paul, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger authorized the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which he headed, to investigate the charges. Within days Maciel announced he was retiring because of his age and moved to his hometown of Cotija, Mexico.

A yearlong investigation was concluded at the end of 2005. It was conducted by a Maltese priest, Monsignor Charles J. Scicluna, a “permanent promoter of justice” for the congregation.

Scicluna traveled to the United States and Mexico, where he interviewed more than 30 people, several of whom claimed abuse but had not publicly come forward. Others were summoned to Rome.

Those Scicluna interviewed included former Legionaries priests and people associated with Regnum Christi, an auxiliary of mostly lay people who support the Legionaries. Two who spoke on condition of not being identified said in interviews with a reporter last fall that they knew nothing of sexual abuse but had complaints about what one called “psychological abuse.”

News reports of Scicluna’s investigation triggered confusion after the Legionaries of Christ in Rome sent out a press release last May saying that “the Holy See” informed the order that “there is no canonical process under way into our founder … nor will one be initiated.”

The Legionaries’ statement was confirmed to the press by the Rev. Ciro Benedettini, vice director of the Vatican Press Office. “There is no investigation now, and it is not foreseeable that there will be another investigation in the future,” Benedettini said.

He made no reference to Scicluna’s investigation or how that squared with his statement that there was no investigation.

It turned out that the denial of an investigation originated in the office of Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican secretary of state and a staunch supporter of Maciel. His office had nothing to do with investigating allegations of sexual abuse. Only the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith could speak to it, and its members are bound by an oath of secrecy.

Gerald Renner is a retired Courant religion writer. An Associated Press report is included in this story.

 

Communique Concerning Founder Of Legionaries Of Christ

This communique comes from the Vatican Press Office. ReGAIN awaits an official document from the Sacred Congregation for the Docrine of the Faith.

The response of the Legion of Christ can be found on http://www.legionofchrist.org

Following the Communique, we offer the text of the introduction to the Motu Proprio Document mentioned which gives the proper context of this decision.

 

VATICAN CITY, MAY 19, 2006 (VIS) – With reference to recent news concerning the person of Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legionaries of Christ, the Holy See Press Office released the following communique:

“Beginning in 1998, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith received accusations, already partly made public, against Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ, for crimes that fall under the exclusive competence of the congregation. In 2002, Fr. Maciel published a declaration denying the accusations and expressing his displeasure at the offence done him by certain former Legionaries of Christ. In 2005, by reason of his advanced age, Fr. Maciel retired from the office of superior general of the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ.

“All these elements have been subject to a mature examination by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and – in accordance with the Motu Proprio ‘Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela,’ promulgated on April 30 2001 by Servant of God John Paul II – the then prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, authorized an investigation into the accusations. In the meantime, Pope John II died and Cardinal Ratzinger was elected as the new Pontiff.

“After having attentively studied the results of the investigation, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under the guidance of the new prefect, Cardinal William Joseph Levada, decided – bearing in mind Fr. Maciel’s advanced age and his delicate health – to forgo a canonical hearing and to invite the father to a reserved life of penitence and prayer, relinquishing any form of public ministry. The Holy Father approved these decisions.

“Independently of the person of the Founder, the worthy apostolate of the Legionaries of Christ and of the Association ‘Regnum Christi’ is gratefully recognized.”

OP/LEGIONARIES CHRIST/MACIEL VIS 060519 (320)

SACRAMENTORUM SANCTITATIS TUTELA

POPE JOHN PAUL II

APOSTOLIC LETTER

GIVEN MOTU PROPRIO

by which are promulgated Norms concerning the more grave delicts reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

The Safeguarding of the Sanctity of the Sacraments, especially the Most Holy Eucharist and Penance, and the keeping of the faithful, called to communion with the Lord, in their observance of the sixth commandment of the Decalogue, demand that the Church itself, in her pastoral solicitude, intervene to avert dangers of violation, so as to provide for the salvation of souls “which must always be the supreme law in the Church� (Codex Iuris Canonici, can. 1752).

Indeed, Our Predecessors already provided for the sanctity of the sacraments, especially penance, through appropriate Apostolic Constitutions such as the Constitution Sacramentum Poenitentiae, of Pope Benedict XIV, issued June 1, 1741;[1] the same goal was likewise pursued by a number of canons of the Codex Iuris Canonici, promulgated in 1917 with their fontes by which canonical sanctions had been established against delicts of this kind.[2]

In more recent times, in order to avert these and connected delicts, the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office, through the Instruction Crimen sollicitationis, addressed to all Patriarchs, Archbishops, Bishops, and other local Ordinaries “even of an Oriental Rite� on March 16, 1962, established a manner of proceeding in such cases, inasmuch as judicial competence had been attributed exclusively to it, which competence could be exercised either administratively or through a judicial process. It is to be kept in mind that an Instruction of this kind had the force of law since the Supreme Pontiff, according to the norm of can. 247, § 1 of the Codex Iuris Canonici promulgated in 1917, presided over the Congregation of the Holy Office, and the Instruction proceeded from his own authority, with the Cardinal at the time only performing the function of Secretary.

The Supreme Pontiff, Pope Paul VI, of happy memory, by the Apostolic Constitution on the Roman Curia, Regimini Ecclesiae Universae, issued on August 15, 1967,[3] confirmed the Congregation’s judicial and administrative competence in proceeding “according to its amended and approved norms�.

Finally, by the authority with which we are invested, in the Apostolic Constitution, Pastor Bonus, promulgated on June 28, 1988, we expressly established, “[The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith] examines delicts against the faith and more grave delicts whether against morals or committed in the celebration of the sacraments, which have been referred to it and, whenever necessary, proceeds to declare or impose canonical sanctions according to the norm of both common and proper law,�[4] thereby further confirming and determining the judicial competence of the same Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith as an Apostolic Tribunal.

After we had approved the Agendi ratio in doctrinarum examine,[5] it was necessary to define more precisely both “the more grave delicts whether against morals or committed in the celebration of the sacraments� for which the competence of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith remains exclusive, and also the special procedural norms “for declaring or imposing canonical sanctions.�

With this apostolic letter, issued motu proprio, we have completed this work and we hereby promulgate the Norms concerning the more grave delicts reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which Norms are divided in two distinct parts, of which the first contains Substantive Norms, and the second Procedural Norms . We therefore enjoin all those concerned to observe them diligently and faithfully. These Norms take effect on the very day when they are promulgated.

All things to the contrary, even those worthy of special mention, notwithstanding.

Give in Rome at St. Peter’s on April 30, 2001, the memorial of Pope St. Pius V, in the twenty-third year of Our Pontificate.

Pope John Paul II

Full text of the Document may be found by clicking here for the link.

 

Vatican to Issue Statement on Sex Abuse

May 18, 2006

 

By By NICOLE WINFIELD , Associated Press

 

http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/V/
VATICAN_SEX_ABUSE?SITE=FLTAM&SECTION=INTERNATIONAL

 

VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican said Thursday it would issue a statement on its investigation into allegations the Mexican founder of the conservative order Legionaries of Christ sexually abused seminarians decades ago.

The statement is expected to be issued Friday, Vatican officials said. The National Catholic Reporter said on its Web site Thursday that the Vatican had asked the Rev. Marcial Maciel to limit his public activity by not celebrating public Masses or giving lectures or interviews.

The reported action was taken after the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith concluded its long-running investigation into allegations by former seminarians that the 86-year-old Maciel sexually abused them. Nine former seminarians accused Maciel in the 1990s of having abused them when they were boys or teenagers from the 1940s to 1960s.

The Vatican officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the statement had not been issued, declined to say what the Vatican’s findings were or what action, if any, was taken against Maciel.

Maciel and the Legionaries have strongly denied the allegations.

“Before God and with total clarity of conscience I can categorically state that the accusations brought against me are false,” Maciel said in a 2002 statement. “I never engaged in the sort of repulsive behavior these men accuse me of.”

Asked Thursday to comment on the reports of the Vatican action against Maciel, Jay Dunlap, spokesman for the Legionaries in the United States, said in an e-mail: “We have nothing to say. We don’t know anything about this.”

The order is based in Orange, Conn.

The case against Maciel has been followed closely by victims of the clerical sex abuse scandal because Maciel in particular, and the Legionaries in general, curried such favor in the Vatican under Pope John Paul II.

In January 2005, John Paul hailed Maciel for his “paternal affection and his experience.” A few months earlier, the late pope praised Maciel on the 60th anniversary of his ordination, citing his “intense, generous and fruitful” priestly ministry.

Maciel declined last year to be re-elected head of the order, citing his age.

Any Vatican sanctions against Maciel, who founded the Legionaries in 1941 in Mexico City, also would be significant since this represents the first major sex abuse discipline case decided by the Vatican under Pope Benedict XVI. The former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger headed the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith until his election as pope last year.

The Rev. James Martin, associate editor of the Jesuit magazine America, said the Legionaries had enormous support in the Vatican because of their loyalty to the church, their conservative views and their success in recruiting candidates for the priesthood.

“So to take action against their founder is absolutely stunning,” Martin said. “Benedict shows his independence by taking on a darling movement of the conservative right.”

Victims groups hailed the reported sanctions.

“It would have been easy to let this case quietly go unresolved, as so many similar cases have,” said David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Accused by Priests. “We deeply appreciate that, at the highest levels of the church, action has been taken against such an extraordinarily high-ranking Catholic leader.”

Jason Berry, who along with Gerald Renner wrote “Vows of Silence” about the abuse claims against Maciel, said church officials must have felt compelled to take action when the allegations against Maciel spread and prompted additional accusers to come forward after the original nine seminarians unsuccessfully lobbied the Vatican to take action.

Berry said any punishment of Maciel would be “a stain on John Paul’s legacy” because the late pope had praised him so “extravagantly.”

The Vatican investigated Maciel in the 1950s for alleged drug use, trafficking and misuse of funds but not for sexual misconduct. He was suspended from his duties as head of the order then reinstated after being cleared of all allegations.

The status of the sex abuse investigation into Maciel has been particularly confusing. In May 2005, the Vatican’s Secretariat of State informed the Legionaries there was no canonical process underway against Maciel, implying the investigation had been closed.

However, it was the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that was actually responsible for the case and was continuing its investigation at that time, the Vatican officials said Thursday in explaining the discrepancy.

Vatican restricts ministry of Legionaries priest founder; Move seen as confirmation of sex abuse allegations against Maciel

Media Reports growing by the minute

 

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Ireland OnLine:
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Much more to come

 

Posted Thursday May 18, 2006 at 9:12 a.m. CDT

Vatican restricts ministry of Legionaries priest founder
Move seen as confirmation of sex abuse allegations against Maciel

By John L. Allen Jr.
Rome

Capping a decade-long on-again, off-again investigation of accusations of sexual abuse, the Vatican has asked Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, to observe a series of restrictions on his ministry.

In effect, Vatican sources told NCR this week, the action amounts to a finding that at least some of the accusations against the charismatic 86-year-old Mexican priest are well-founded.

Maciel has not been laicized, but the restrictions issued shortly before Easter by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith limit Maciel’s public activity, such as his capacity to celebrate public Masses, to give lectures or other public presentations, and to give interviews for print or broadcast.

The restrictions have been approved by Pope Benedict XVI, and the Vatican is expected to issue a brief statement shortly.

Vatican sources stressed that the action against Maciel should not be read as an indictment of the Legionaries of Christ or its lay branch, Regnum Christi.

A spokesman for the Legionaries, asked to comment on the development, replied in an e-mail, “We have nothing to say. We don’t know anything about this.”

According to sources who spoke to NCR, the congregation’s investigation was closed sometime toward the end of 2005. In the early months of 2006, the cardinal members of the congregation in Rome were invited to review the documentation. The decision to impose restrictions was then reached sometime before Easter.

Sources described the documentation collected by the congregation as involving the testimony of at least 20 accusers. The acts in question, according to these sources, reached into the 1980s.

One cardinal who serves on the congregation told NCR that, in his view, the material left little doubt as to the validity of the charges, though he said he was less clear how Maciel understood what he had done. Under canon law, intent and state of mind are sometimes taken into consideration in meting out punishment.

Within the Vatican, the Maciel case has long been seen as particularly sensitive, in part because it could tarnish the reputation of the late John Paul II, who warmly praised and repeatedly honored Maciel. The case could also call into question the action of Benedict XVI, who as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith stopped the case against Maciel in 1999. However, he reactivated the case in 2004 and ultimately approved the disciplining of Maciel.

A senior Vatican official told NCR that the decisive break came only in late 2004, when a number of additional accusers came forward. Prior to that, he said, both John Paul and then-Cardinal Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI, were operating on the assumption that the charges were not justified.

Maciel becomes perhaps the highest-profile priest in the Catholic church to be disciplined for allegations of sexual abuse.

He has a distinguished Catholic lineage. Two of Maciel’s great-uncles were Mexican bishops during the anti-clerical persecutions of the early 20th century. One, Bishop Rafael Guízar Valencia of Veracruz, was beatified by John Paul II in 1995, and a decree recognizing a miracle that clears his path to sainthood was signed by Benedict XVI April 28. Maciel’s uncle, Jesús Degollado Guízar, was the last commander-in-chief of the Cristeros army that took up arms in defense of the church.

Founded by Maciel in 1941, the Legionaries of Christ has become one of the most influential and rapidly growing communities in the church. Today the order numbers some 650 priests and 2,500 seminarians worldwide. The lay branch of the Legionaries, Regnum Christi, reportedly has 50,000 members worldwide.

The case against Maciel has followed a circuitous path.

Rumors of various sorts have long dogged the Legionaries’ founder. In 1956, he was deprived of his faculties to govern the Legionaries and sent into exile in Madrid while a canonical investigation was carried out. Charges at the time did not include sexual abuse but other matters such as excessive control over seminarians, theft and drug abuse. In 1959, the investigation cleared Maciel, and he was restored to his functions as superior general.

Read More
Read nine years of NCR coverage of Fr. Marcial Maciel and the Legionaries of Christ: Archive of NCR stories about Fr. Marcial Maciel.

Maciel later referred to this period of trial as “the Great Blessing.”

Complaints of sexual abuse first surfaced in the late 1990s, when nine former members of the Legionaries filed a canonical complaint against Maciel with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, alleging that they had been abused by Maciel as seminarians and young priests. Those acts, according to the accusers, dated to a period from 1943 to the early 1960s.

The Legionaries, and Maciel personally, strenuously denied the charges.

“Before God and with total clarity of conscience I can categorically state that the accusations brought against me are false,” Maciel wrote in April 2002.

One of the original accusers later recanted; another died.

The accusations became public through 1997 articles in The Hartford (Conn.) Courant by Jason Berry and Gerald Renner and in the National Catholic Reporter, based on the Courant story. The two reporters filed another major piece on the case for NCR in December 2001, noting that canon lawyers in Mexico and the Vatican had found the accusations to be credible but that then-Cardinal Ratzinger had halted the investigation of the charges in 1999.

According to Renner’s and Berry’s earlier reporting, the nine who originally brought accusations claimed that Maciel “first abused them when they were between the ages of 10 and 16, sometimes telling them he had permission from Pope Pius XII to engage in sexual acts with them in order to gain relief from pain related to an unspecified stomach ailment.”

After the case was reopened in 2004, the congregation’s promoter of justice, Maltese Msgr. Charles Scicluna, began to collect additional testimony. Sources told NCR that the eventual number of accusers who came forward against Maciel was “more than 20, but less than 100.”

On Jan. 20, 2005, Maciel declined reelection as the superior of the Legionaries of Christ and was succeeded by Fr. �lvaro Corchera Martinez del Rio. Around the time of the death of Pope John Paul II in 2005, Scicluna traveled to Mexico to collect testimony from additional accusers. Later, Scicluna prepared a final dossier, which went before the cardinal members of the congregation and eventually Pope Benedict XVI.

Even for those convinced of Maciel’s guilt, the outcome of the case was long in doubt because of his strong track record of papal support.

Maciel accompanied John Paul II on visits to Mexico in 1979, 1990 and 1993. During the 1993 trip, it was John Paul’s public tribute to Maciel as an “efficacious guide to youth” that prompted the original nine accusers to come forward.

As late as 2002, when John Paul visited Mexico City, Maciel was in the front row at a papal Mass at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and was greeted by the pope. In a 2004 letter, John Paul II congratulated Maciel for 60 years of “intense, generous and fruitful priestly ministry.” The pope said he wanted to join in the “canticle of praise and thanksgiving” for the great things he had accomplished.

In a book-length 2003 interview with journalist Jesús Colina of the Zenit news agency published as Christ is My Life, Maciel described dining with John Paul in the Apostolic Palace on several occasions. John Paul also appointed Maciel as a delegate to three synods of bishops, as well as to the 1992 meeting of the Latin American bishops in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. In 1994, John Paul made Maciel a consultor to the Congregation for Clergy.

Vatican observers suggest that at the time John Paul II regarded the charges against Maciel as malicious, ascribing them largely to hostility to Maciel’s doctrinal conservatism and his tenacious defense of the papacy.

The original accusers, however, earlier told NCR that they tried for many years to reach John Paul II with information about Maciel. Two of them said they sent letters in 1978 and again 1989, both by diplomatic pouch, but received no reply.

Other Vatican officials have also spoken positively of Maciel.

“Dear Father, I’ve seen the great work that you do,” Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, said to Maciel while embracing him during a November 2003 visit to Regina Apostolorum.

On May 20, 2005, the Secretariat of State under Sodano released a statement indicating there was no canonical case against Maciel, nor was one foreseen. It is the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, however, that has responsibility for sex abuse cases, and the congregation continued its inquest.

Now-Cardinal Franc Rodé, a Slovenian and the Vatican’s top official for religious orders, celebrated a Mass marking the conclusion of the Legionaries’ General Chapter at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in January 2005, and used the occasion to praise Maciel.

Rodé called Maciel “the instrument chosen by God to carry out one of the great spiritual designs in the church of the 20th century.”

Speaking on background, Vatican officials explained these comments in much the same way as they did John Paul’s praise for Maciel. At the time, they argued, the evidence against Maciel was not yet complete, and looking at what these officials regarded as the positive works of the Legionaries and Regnum Christi, they assumed “by their fruits you shall know them.”

The Legionaries maintain a Web site defending Maciel, which can be found here: http://www.legionaryfacts.org/FATHERMACIEL.html.

[John L. Allen Jr. is NCR Rome correspondent. His e-mail address is jallen@natcath.org.]

May 18, 2006, National Catholic Reporter

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