Understanding the Curious Role of Stanislaw Dziwisz in the saga of Marcial Maciel

By ReGAIN Staff

Thursday, May 24, 2007
In relation to the long-simmering case against Marcial Maciel, who is credibly charged with sexually abusing young men, serious allegations have now been made by both the Polish periodical Głos Wielkopolski and the Italian newspaper La Stampa against Archbishop Stanisław Dziwisz of Krakow. For forty years, this man served as personal secretary to Karol Woltyla, twenty-six of which were after Woltyla’s elevation to the papacy. Specific anecdotes have been related about evidence of sexual misconduct by high-ranking clergymen being personally given to Dziwisz to be handed on to John Paul II – only to have it hidden away undelivered.

In the case of Archbishop Paetz of Poznań, Austria, the periodicals relate that Dziwisz was personally informed of scandalous behavior of the ordinary by the distressed members of local clergy and yet Dziwisz did nothing – he took no action himself, nor did he give the information to the Holy Father for whom it was intended. We can assume for the sake of charity, that he wanted to spare the Pope, that he wanted to avoid a public scandal, that he wanted to maintain the integrity of the institution – but all for naught. The pope eventually found out and acted quickly, the scandal only grew because of the delay, and the integrity of the institution suffered enormously.

Likewise, a Mexican priest and canon lawyer, Fr Antonio Ornelas brought the charges against Maciel to the attention of Msgr. Dwizisz – in Polish to bridge any language gap – to no avail.
The newspaper claims that, similar to the case of the letter concerning Archbishop Paetz, the attempt by Fr. Ornelas regarding Stanisław Dziwisz was in vain. It is almost certain that John Paul II was never informed about the situation, otherwise he would have taken steps leading to an investigation (as he did so when he found out about Archbishop Paetz).

Interestingly, the way that he did find out about this scandalous facts about Maciel was through a close personal friend, doctor and author Wanda Póltawska. Priests associated with the problem knew that she dined occasionally with John Paul II (with whom she had collaborated decades earlier on the “theology of the body”) and thus they entrusted to her the delicate task of passing along the information that had previously been unable to gain a hearing. As a result, the case against Maciel was opened quietly and actions have been taken.

Did Dziwisz Interfere with Justice?

Is it possible that a close relationship between Msgr Dziwisz and the Legionary founder clouded his judgment in this matter? Regain member Glenn Favreau, who worked closely with the present head of the Legion, Alvaro Corcuera, remembers vividly that Dziwisz kept in very close touch with Corcuera – even making sure to send him postcards from every trip taken outside the Vatican. Additionally, the Legion, which regularly sends its benefactors letters to beg for food, toiletries, and money to pay the heating bills for poor but enthusiastic seminarians, had the resources to finance the finest cars – not only for their founder – but for Dziwisz and other Vatican officials, for who showed their gratitude in various ways.

The Legion itself boasts of its close relationship with the Dziwisz, who chose their seminary, Regina Apostolorum on via Aurelia, for a very special celebration (which included the pope) after he was made a bishop in 1998.
Bishop Dziwisz had arranged a luncheon reception for family and friends. John Paul II ate lunch with more than 600 guests, most of whom were lifelong friends from the archdiocese of Krakow or other Polish pilgrims. Since the Pope arrived to the college before his secretary (Bishop Dziwisz was detained by well-wishers at the Vatican), John Paul was able to briefly meet with members of the young religious congregation and then personally greet his secretary upon his arrival, accompanied by Fr. Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legionaries of Christ.

This scene was repeated in March, 2006 when Dziwisz was made a cardinal.
A great celebration this evening in Rome for the new cardinal Stanislaus Dziwisz who met about four hundred people who in the course of these last two decades had had to do with Pope Wojytla for a great variety of reasons. Ecclesiastics of every rank, medics of the dead Pope, beginning with Professor Renato Buzzonetti and a large group of doctors from the Gemelli Hospital, men of the bodyguard, led by the head of Vatican surveillance, Camillo Cibin, but also simple faithful friends of the many years passed in Rome and some journalists, participated in the celebration at the University of the Legionaries of Christ…

“I thank God,” the cardinal concluded, “for all the wonders He granted me to share in during the years spent next to Pope Wojtyla.” The choir of the Legionaries of Christ animated the evening with multi-ethnic songs and Italian regional songs. The executions of O sole mio, Romagna mia and Funicolì funiculà were particularly applauded, but a jazz version of Emanuel, one of the hymns of the World Youth Days, also had great success.

The importance of Dziwisz’ role was clarified by John Paul II himself when he spoke these words at the Episcopal ordination of his dear friend and secretary:

“The Spirit of the Lord consecrates you, my dear friend Stanisław, from my own archdiocese of Krakow,” he said haltingly. “Thirty-five years ago, I myself ordained you priest in the Cathedral of Wawel, and three years later, named you my chaplain. From the beginning of my Petrine ministry, you have been at my side as a faithful secretary, sharing with me the exhaustion and the joy, the hopes and the emotions.” The Pope has just named him adjunct Prefect of the Pontifical Household, since his work as personal secretary involves him in determining the papal agenda. John Paul II himself said to Bishop Stanislaw, “As adjunct Prefect, you will put your great experience to work for the Pontifical Household, to the benefit of all those who approach the Successor of Peter for their ministry or as pilgrims.”

Thus, Dziwisz – who thought highly enough of the Legion to choose their house of formation for two of the most important celebrations of his career – was the one who determined the papal agenda and the essential gatekeeper through which the faithful could access His Holiness the Pope.

Personal experiences of Regain members can attest to the fact that the gatekeeper could – and did – keep that gate firmly shut to critical information that related to the allegations against Maciel. José Barba-Martin, PhD gives one specific example of how protocols became meaningless when applied to the Maciel case:
Canon lawyer Don Antonio Roqueñi and I sent a letter in Polish to then Monsignor Stanislaw Dziwisz on November 11th, 2002 requesting action be taken in the Maciel case. The letter was signed by Don Antonio, Arturo Jurado and me. I also included a Spanish version of the same letter for Cardinal Ratzinger, together with an extra note in Latin; attached was a return address in Mexico City and two contact phone numbers in Rome. Contrary to international agreements signed by the Vatican, its Post Office at Piazza San Pietro (St. Peter’s Square) refused to give me a receipt. As an alternative, the Italian Post Office did. I am still waiting for an official note in Italian from the Palazzo Pontificio (Vatican Palace) acknowledging receipt of that letter.

If one could make the case that – for a variety of reasons – the papal secretary thought it best to keep such information from John Paul II, it would explain much, but even refusing to acknowledge official correspondence beggars one’s patience in the matter. In this way, efforts to protect the institution instead have allowed aspersions to be cast on the victims, tarring them maliciousness troublemakers. This is unconscionable.

Dziwisz’ hidden ability to run interference as he did fueled the constant refrain of the Movement’s defenders: If the allegations had merit, they would have been made earlier, and How could Pope John Paul II have been so blind to the scandals involving Maciel? Faithful Catholics assume that the charges were contrived later to vent an animus against the Church, against her teachings on sexuality, or to undermine her ability to preach the Gospel. Presumption in this case (as with countless rumors over the years relating to clerical misbehavior) always lay with the pious man in a cassock, as opposed to the confused child, the unreliable adolescent, or the “failed” ex-priest. Conventional wisdom is that those closest to God are systematically subject to a host of undignified attacks … and yet perhaps “conventional wisdom” can also be a most handy refuge for the clever malefactor.

So what have we learned from the Church scandals?

In the first lesson, we see that the general public has been rattled to its core to find that dysfunction and shameful actions are ubiquitous – even among the faithful. Piety, uprightness, and visible success in the worlds of business, the arts, or the religious sphere are no guarantees of integrity. Indeed, the most difficult lesson to absorb is that no one is immune from the possibility of having toxic defects that lie hidden from the world. “We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” and, interestingly, “judge not lest ye be judged” as a platitude for avoiding casting aspersions can be turned on its head – for we know not the predilections of each heart – good or ill.

Secondly, what we have learned from seeing respected individuals fall from grace is that institutions are not well-served by patching over the dysfunction of individuals. The more that such indiscretions are covered up to “protect” the wider public, the more the institution itself is indicted as a fraud. Even if there were good intentions in “saving face,” the insult to the wider world is the insinuation that people are incapable of processing individual defects, that the office was more important than the person who held it, or more importantly, that some people simply are incapable of grievous sin because of their vested responsibilities. What sheer and utter nonsense.

Thirdly, we find that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is absolutely true: “the truth shall set you free.” Just as Christ could not be conquered by death, just as the apostles insisted on preaching despite opposition (and whose words come down intact to our very generation), and just as so many long-suffering Christians kept the faith in gulags, amidst tortures, and despite relentless persecution – the truth will prevail. The Church has been used as scapegoat, as stick to beat others, as a step-stool for self-promotion, as leverage against enemies, as convenient enemy herself – but no matter the historical twist, the Bride of Christ bears the Christ-child in season and out, in order to offer the Eternal One to a dark and thirsty world. God is faithful to His promises.

So as we return to the specifics of the case against Marcial Maciel, is it possible that some in the Church were capable of misreading the truth about integrity?

Is it possible that the cassock of a holy man allowed people to assume that he was above such reproach?
Is it possible that the desire of highly-place ministers to have the Church appear as a bastion of integrity allowed them to ignore indications to the contrary?
Is it possible that the truth about sexual abuse of the innocent could be hidden forever without disastrous consequences?
As events have unfolded in the last five years, we find that the answers to the first two questions are “Yes.” Certainly many highly respected individuals have been found sorely wanting due to a variety of defects. Likewise the best intentions of some people have only exacerbated the harms, due to a misreading of what we now know to be highly toxic behavior. And finally, truth is a hammer that will not respect convention, human respect, or empty platitudes.

God will not be mocked, and the truth will not remain hidden forever. Years of scandal have shown the world that poison has inevitable consequences. Dysfunction is now something that families everywhere are learning to identify, dissect and treat. The Church’s ministers must do likewise – or be risk something more terrible: willful obstinacy, intransigency and sin.

Sources: (click on links)





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