Direct to Hell

By Roberto Blancarte, Director of Milenio
From Milenio, Tuesday, February 5, 2008,5114,0,0,1,0

Marcial Maciel was a pederast, pedophile, abuser of minors, liar, manipulator, ambitious and cruel to his victims. He was also a man who gave a lot to the Catholic Church: schools, money, vocations, political power. In the end, there is an attempt to find a balance in all that he did. For some his work within the Church is enough to redeem him. For others his sins and crimes cannot be absolved, especially since he never asked for forgiveness from his victims and never publicly admitted them. The way the Catholic church operates, it would seem, is that, as long as work is done to benefit the institution, everything else can be forgiven. However, as far as my knowledge of the matter goes, a man can only be forgiven if he truly and sincerely repents, and if God (not the church) pardons him. Because, for those who believe, it will not be the church, which renders the final judgement, but God.

I doubt that Marcial Maciel would have ever truly and sincerely repented. According to the Legionaries’ own spokesman, “he himself [Macie] said he was an instrument of God, emphasizing that the work was not his but God’s.� So, as far as I am concerned, Marcial Maciel is in hell right now — assuming that such a place exists. Of course, I cannot know or prove this. What’s more, it doesn’t interest me. I believe the real hell is being tortured daily by the enormous incongruity with which you have to live for your entire life, knowing that what you have done is both a sin and a crime, and that, no matter how much you might do for the Church, it will never really be able to provide you redemption or peace. And this hell had to have been made worse the Vatican’s condemnation when those sins and crimes were made public, and by your own shame and that of your unreflective and uncritical admirers. The end cannot justify the means and the accomplishments do not justify the crime.

Mexico’s Catholic hierarchy does not seem to be in agreement with me, and the worst of it is that it insists on denying Maciel’s abuses. As reported in an article in Milenio, the vice president of the Mexican bishop’s conference asked for respect for Maciel’s memory in regard to the accusations against him of pedophilia, saying that, if the father founder of the Legionaries of Christ committed “some error,� this is the moment to pray for him and to ask for the salvation of his soul. According to the same article, upon being asked if the accusations of pedophilia would tarnish the legacy he left the church, the vice president of the Catholic bishop’s conference answered, “We are all tarnished — all of us, who are the children of Adam, are tarnished by sin — but God is merciful. His [Maciel’s] good intentions are not in question and he served the church.� After these comments it is perfectly clear to me that the Church has permitted and continues to permit all manner of abuse, including that perpetrated on innocent children. If we are all tarnished, no one may judge another, and no one may call abusive priests to account, and no one may demand honesty from them either. If that is so, it is better that I pray for the salvation of the church.

Otherwise, there is probably God’s judgement, but certainly there is also the judgement of history. And with time, as more becomes known, there is a tendency for new personal testimonies or documents to come to light which prove or confirm what is already known. But even if this were not the case, Maciel’s dossier already contains enough elements to prevent not only any attempt at beatification or canonization, but also glorification of him within his own order. In fact, his legacy, no matter what efforts his followers might make, will be that of a pedophile, who was condemned by the Vatican. The Holy See does not ask the founder of an order to retire from public life for a minor offense. Any attempt to improve his image will be met with the reaction of his victims and the possibility of further exposing the sewer inside the order — although perhaps that is what some are hoping. In any event, the Legionaries and their followers know that, as long as Benedict XVI is alive, restoring the image of Maciel is impossible and even counterproductive.

The problem for the Legionaries remains the same: surviving the presence and personal leadership of Marcial Maciel. As with other orders and religious organizations, the central problem is getting past the period of transition of being an association led by a charismatic leader to an organization with a clear vocation, different from others, but with the capacity to build for some a new religious imperative. However, in the case of Maciel’s legacy, which is more of a shameful stigma, the past is a burden, which legionaries will want to forget, or at least to conceal. I really do not see how the order will be able to construct a glorious past based on its founder’s original sin of pedophilia. Beyond its questionable pastoral practices, the Legionaries of Christ will have to do a lot to make one forget what their founder did while shielding himself in his work and in the alleged complicity of God. I would just as soon do away with all the pretension; Marcial Maciel must be rotting away in hell.


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