Fr. Maciel’s Saga In Northern Spain, 40’s And 50s, The Real Story
Asked to leave the Marquis de Comillas Palace, then the Jesuit run Seminary University of Comillas, then the Trappist Monastery in Cobreces, finally purchasing the Ontaneda Spa.
El Legionario summation: 1948.[See Regain webpage]
Two years after the students arrived at the University of Comillas, the rector, Fr. Francisco-Javier Baeza SJ, and the spiritual director, Lucio Rodrigo SJ, heard about Maciel’s devious conduct through spiritual direction and confession but they felt sworn to silence because of the seal of confession and confidentiality. Worried, nevertheless, by the influence he could have on their students, they prudently advised him to reform his behavior.
Philip, a rather naive disciple, asked:
How can this possibly ever come to light if it is part of Fr. Maciel’s Confession or Spiritual Direction? This makes no sense and if true, cannot be countenanced. All confessions are confidential forever, even Maciel’s. What am I misunderstanding here?!
Then realistic Levi, suggested:
Good point. However, it may be referring to the kid’s confession and spiritual direction, not Maciel’s. If that is the case, the Jesuits could have obtained permission from the kids to discuss it with Maciel. I don’t know if it means SD and Confession with MM. I don’t think Maciel gets SD…and I wonder to whom he goes to confession…. I would have to see the original-El Legionario- in Spanish.
1 September 2, 1946: Fr. Maciel takes first group of 34 teenagers from Mexico City via Havana, Cuba, aboard the Marques de Comillas to study at the Pontifical University in Comillas, Bay of Biscay, Northern Spain, run by the Jesuits.
2 The local count offers the young Mexican priest his family palace as a residence/seminary. Fr. Maciel begins recruiting Spanish born seminarians studying at the University of Comillas.
3 1948 Fr. Maciel is asked to leave with his students.
4 He takes them to the nearby town of CÃ³breces, finding hospitality on the grounds of the Trappist Monastery, in a converted farmhouse.
5 1952 they are asked to leave the monastery property, and move to the Ontaneda-Alceda Spa bought by Fr. Maciel
So the Disciple explained:
“I have read the e-mail exchange. There is always the understandable problem of innocent people, of good faith, who, in spite of having read certain passages from the Gospel about false prophets, simply cannot imagine how a person as devious as Marcial Maciel could exist. If you all patiently bear with me I feel I could add some clarity to the question recently raised by Philip and commented on by Levi and others.
Arturo Jurado, one of Fr. Maciel’s sworn accusers, arrived in Comillas on October 1949. Being close to the facts, he can offer a very valuable testimony. So can I because I arrived from Mexico at the LC Major Seminary in Cobreces, Santander, twelve kilometers from Comillas, in August 1951. This was just two years after the Jesuits had asked MM and his students to leave Comillas. Reverend Fr. Yague, the Abbott of the Trappist Abbey of Santa Maria, adjacent to our school, and Fr. Cid were both former Jesuits who still kept some contact with their former religious brethren at Comillas. Fr. Cid and a couple of other Trappist monks used to help us, the Mexican Legionary students and few Spaniards in the school with our sacramental life and spiritual direction.
Non-Legionary priests involved early on with Legion seminarians because of lack of LC priests Between early April and late October 1949 Fr. Maciel was assisted in the spiritual attention of LC seminarians in Cobreces by Fr. Luis Ferreira. Ferreira was a Mexican diocesan priest and former companion of Maciel at the Jesuit Seminary in Montezuma, New Mexico, from where the Founder had been expelled in 1939. Fr. Ferreira, on loan from his diocese, began helping MM at the Quinta Pacelli Apostolic School in Tlalpam, Mexico, in 1947. Fr. Ferreira became a member of the LC in an improvised manner and in haste in June 1948. [Editor: This is part of the story of the Legion’s
canonical erection as a congregation of diocesan right in Cuernavaca, Morelos State, Mexico. Fr. Maciel relishes telling how he got a jump on the Vatican in June 13 that year, prevailing on Bishop Alfonso Espino y Silva to canonically erect the Legion by witnessing the religious profession of the first Legionaries just days before a letter from Rome told him to standby.]
I bring this up to explain how we, first LC members, for several years did not receive spiritual ministry from LC priests and relied on
outsiders. This also explains how communication with non LC priests was inevitable (Though this information might in turn provoke more questions).
Calumnies and Misunderstanding dogged Fr. Maciel
Regarding how the Jesuits would have found out about Maciel’s immoral behavior I can testify that one of the very first LC founders, belonging to the January 3rd 1941 group, told me in person that it was he who informed the Jesuit authorities in Comillas about the Maciel’s misconduct. Unfortunately for our cause, in December 1996 this very same person wrote a note to journalist Gerald Renner opting out of making any public statement about his Legionary past. On the other hand, Fernando Perez Olvera, an engineer, and brother of Jose Antonio Perez Olvera, MA, told me, early in January 1994, that there were undeniable signs of obscure sexual desire in Cobreces in 1948 through 1950, and that he believes that one or more of the LC apostolic boys had informed the Jesuits about this. IN NO WAY DID HE MENTION THIS INFORMATION BEING PART OF ANY FORM OF SACRAMENTAL CONFESSION OR ANYTHING OF THE SORT. The LC seminarians were living close by the Trappist Monastery and studying at the University in Comillas, where their teachers were Jesuits.
For me it has always been very significant that MM, who usually tried by all means to string people along -keeping them in the Legion as much and as long a possible- in the case of the 1948 – 1950 Cobreces boys did just the opposite. In a very short period of time he energetically sent back to Mexico and dispersed about ten seminarians.. Pedro Anaya, Pedro LeÃ³n, Cesar Fernandez, Fernando Perez Olvera, Hector Lozano, Antonio Alcala?, Guadalupe Herrera, Javier Bilbao, Salvador Mendoza. Seminarians were in the group mentioned by Fernando Perez Olvera. According to what Fernando Perez Olvera told me, early in January 1994, it was a member of this group who revealed Maciel’s immoral behavior to the Jesuits at Comillas. Three other students, either from this group or one near it, were interned for a while at the Psychiatric Hospital in Madrid run by military doctor Antonio Vallejo NÃ¡jera: Juan Hernandez, Octavio Garcia, and Ricardo Ojeda. Other students were sent to same mental institution later: Francisco Lapez and Rodolfo Sada. Ricardo Ojeda was given electroshock at that hospital, a method used by the Mussolini regime on its dissidents, and one that, it was believed, could make them lose certain parts? of their memory.
We also have a very important testimony given in July 2002 by the then octogenarian priest Francisco Montes de Oca, himself a former graduate student of theology at Comillas in the late forties. According to Montes de Oca, when the Jesuits first suggested to MM that he and his boys had to leave Comillas, MM fabricated false letters that he presented to the Comillas authorities as purportedly written by His Eminence Joseph Spellman, the archbishop of New York, who had been recently made cardinal by Pius XII in 1946. The Cardinal’s prestige was enormous. He and NY major Fiorello La Guardia had saved Italy from starvation on two occasions. And Rolf Hochhuth in a note to his drama
The Deputy? says that the diocese of NY alone contributed with more money for the financial support of the Holy See than the rest of the Western World together.
The false letters presented by MM to University president, Fr. Francisco Javier Baeza and to the dean of the School of Theology, Fr. Lucio Rodrigo, alleged that Card. Spellman would gladly receive MM and his boys into his diocese if the Jesuits expelled them from Comillas. MM knew through his contacts in Madrid that Cardinal J. Spellman was considered by Martin Artajo, the Spanish
minister of Foreign Affairs, as a key political factor in achieving certain political leniency from the US towards Spain, and economical help for a country that was practically excluded –with the exception of Argentina and Santo Domingo from the community of nations, and suffering from hunger and dire living conditions.
Very probably, through their contacts at Fordham University (also a Jesuit institution) in NY City, the Jesuits in Comillas discovered MM’s machinations. The fact is that MM and his boys were never taken by Card. Spellman to NY, and MM had to search for a new place for the “Major Mexican Seminary” in Spain. MM and the boys had to move to the
Instituto Agracola Quiroz?, a property of the Trappist Monks of Santa Maria de Via Caeli, in Cobreces, Santander, in 1948. There we students lived and studied for four years with former U. of Comillas teachers, now laymen, except for former Jesuit, Fr. Jose Maria Casado, our prefect of studies. Information similar to that of Comillas regarding MM’s misconduct probably reached Fr. Yague, the Abbott of Santa Maria de Via Caeli. After a while, he in turn asked MM to leave the Trappist premises before the summer of 1952.
Thus we Legionary students were forced to leave Cobreces township on October 7th 1952. MM had found the old 19th Century Spa of Ontaneda-Alceda in the foothills of the Cantabria (Santander) range. Maciel befriended Don Leopoldo, the paterfamilias of the formerly wealthy Cortines family. In his usual way, MM tried to charm his son, Leopoldo, into the LC. He failed. But, with the Cortines family financially ruined, he got another wonderful deal, and bought the Gran Hotel? for peanuts. It was the ex-Comillas seminarian now LC priest, Gregorio Lopez, Superior at Ontaneda, who actually made the payment in CASH. (In Franco Era Spain financial operations of this kind were illegal)
And about MM going to confession or not, I simply have this to say: during the fifties in Rome, we knew that Pius XII’s confessor was Cardinal Bea. But in the fourteen years I lived in the LC I never witnessed or heard of MM having a confessor.
One day I might finish a book on many points on MM and the LC that I know need clarification. If God gives me time, health and concentration, I will try to write it in a methodical, perhaps academic manner, different from these fast e-mails of mine, most of the time written
on the road, like an Edwin Newman reporter of the seventies- but looking further into the past…
The imminent Christening of my first grandson, Daniel Thomas, this Easter Sunday, 2003, has made me meditate
on the meaning of being a Christian, though I am a poor disillusioned Catholic.
With best spiritual wishes for all of you,
Joseph of Jesus B-M