Documents that were released on Friday, February 15 from the Mrs. Gabrielle Mee estate court case included new details on how the Legionaries of Christ leaders solicited money from an elderly widow, eventually persuading her to bequeath it $60 million. The Legionary lawyers had appealed in an unsuccessful attempt to keep the documents regarding the Mrs. Mee case sealed from public view after Superior Court Judge Michael Silverstein had called the rights to fully scrutinize the facts about Mrs. Mee’s case paramount.
Associated Press writer Nicole Winfield in an article in the Wall Street Journal reports that the testimony confirmed that Father Luis Garza Medina, who was the Legion’s Second in Command at the time was aware in 2006 of the Legionary founder’s secret life including his use of aliases, his women and his children. Father Garza and other Legionary leaders chose to keep this discovery secret for years because he claimed:
founder, the late Rev. Marcial Maciel, had already been sanctioned by the Holy See for having sexually abused seminarians and forced into a lifetime of penance and prayer.
Nicole Winfield commented that
Legion scandal is significant because it shows how the Holy See willfully ignored credible allegations of abuse against Maciel for decades while holding him up as a model of sainthood for the faithful because he brought in money and vocations to the priesthood,and that
scandal, which has tarnished the legacy of Pope John Paul II, is cited as an especially egregious example of how the Vatican ignored decades of reports about sexually abusive priests because church leaders put the interests of the institution above those of the victims.
In a subsequent article released by Fox News, Former Legionary Financial Father Stephen Fichter, who was in a position similar to a chief financial officer between 1998 and 2000 testified that there were large amounts of money that were unaccounted for. When questioned by Mrs. Mee’s niece’s lawyer where Father Maciel got the money to support his family outside the Legion, Fichter’s testimony indicated it was coming from the Legion, which got it from donors including his client’s aunt. His client’s lawsuit argues Mee would not have given the Legion money if she knew about Maciel’s double life.
Father Fichter’s testimony served to verify stories previously reported by Jason Berry and others that gifts authorized by Maciel and Garza were provided to influential persons in the Vatican to
thank” (influence) them. Although this information is not new to those who have followed the Legion scandals, sworn testimony by a former Legionary priest increases the credibility of financial irregularities.
It is sad that the stench from Legionary founder’s hidden life continues to damage the image of the Roman Catholic Church and in particular, the good name of its beloved former Pope John Paul II, who promoted the infamous Father Maciel as an efficacious example for young people. The same Legionary leaders who have made legal efforts to prevent the true facts regarding the Mrs. Mee case for years after the Vatican sentenced Father Maciel to a life of prayer and repentance maintained a pretense that he had been the victim of false witnesses (thus denying the valid conclusion of the Vatican). They feigned shock in 2009 when the existence of the founder’s “wives” and children became public knowledge. As recently as early 2013, they made costly legal efforts to suppress the truth about how they (not just their founder) cultivated an elderly widow to get at her fortune.
Significantly, this case belies the Legionary illusion that their founder was the only one who took advantage of people. There were many Legionary and Regnum Christi leaders involved in keeping Mrs. Mee isolated from outsiders and ignorant about significant facts regarding the founder’s secret life. This is a typical example of how cult groups are able to control their members by controlling (or deliberately withholding) significant information from the outside world to achieve their objectives (in this case, an elderly lady’s $ 60 million).
The Legion paid costly legal fees in an attempt to suppress the truth about the Mrs. Mee case. Like an alcoholic, who isn’t ready to admit he or she has a problem, the Legion has shown a cult like desire to continue to control information. Fortunately in this case the judge recognized wrongdoing and felt people had a right to know the facts of this case.
ReGAIN recognizes the professionalism, courage and integrity of writers including Nicole Winfield, Gerald Renner, (deceased) Jason Berry and others, who are encouraging positive changes in the Church by shining the light of truth in dark areas. The Holy Spirit seems to be raising up people in the media instead of within the Church to speak the truth and to provide initiative for genuine reform. In the information age it has become impossible for religious leaders in the Legion or their supporters within the Vatican to sweep unpleasant facts under the carpet. Having said that, we realize that there is a danger in relying on the media to be the ones driving change (because they have a much different agenda than does the Church). Wouldn’t it be safer and better for the Legion and Regnum Christi leaders with some effective guidance from the Vatican to come clean, show repentance, pray for God’s help, develop a spiritual charism and an action plan to change from what they are to become a genuine religious order and movement.
We applaud Pope Benedict XVI for his efforts to attempt to bring about positive changes in spite of opposition from some of his senior members of the Vatican. We hope and pray that whoever succeeds Pope Benedict will find practical ways to address the Church’s problems in an effective manner to restore it’s dignity as the One True Church of Jesus Christ. This would require developing a much more authentic and effective plan to either reform the Legion and Regnum Christi or suppress them.