1956-59 Vatican Investigation Of Fr. Marcial Maciel Lc: Investigators Identity & Polidoro Controversy

New and Clear Historical Information re Main Investigators…


By LC 1950-60


An exLegionary from the 1950′ presents the facts regarding the Vatican 1956-59 Investigation of Fr. Maciel and the principal actors at that time. Light is shed on the controversial Polidoro letters


Note: see open discussion re this period on

REGAIN Ex Legionaries Forums » History of LC & RC » SEX ABUSE ‘WAR’ AND ‘BLESSING’ IN THE 50s


Dear Regain,

As you requested, I am sending you my answers to the questions regarding the Apostolic Visitation (investigation) conducted by the Vatican regarding Fr. Marcial Maciel from October 10th 1956 until (apparently) mid-February 1959. Allow me to also add a few other pieces of information.

Let me just preface this by saying there was a previous investigation. I will write about it on another occasion, but not for now. I will clarify then.

About your questions concerning the 1956-1959 Vatican investigation of Marcial Maciel I want to state the following:


A prominent figure in the investigation was Father Arcadio Larraona (CMF); a Basque Claretian, Cordis Mariae Filius?, that is, a member of the Congregation of the Sons of the Heart of Mary, founded by the Catalonian priest Antonio Mara Claret (1807-1870). As we know, it is not unusual for members of different religious Congregations to work together under the direction of an appointed Vatican dicasterio [department] president [director] on Vatican projects. In Larraona’s case, he worked under Cardinal Valerio Valeri (in the 50s, Prefect of the Congregation for Religious).

[Editor’s note: Fr. Maciel cordially hated Larraona’s guts]

Cardinal Valeri appointed Fr. Larraona as director of the 1956-1959 investigation of the Rev. Marcial Maciel, Founder and Superior General of the Legion of Christ. Larraona, in turn, chose Italian Fr. Anastasio del Santissimo Rosario, Superior General of the Carmelite order, and Belgian Fr. Benjamin Lachaert, the Carmelite Superior General’s secretary, to be directly responsible for the Vatican visitation and inspection of the LC in Italy.
These Carmelites conducted the first part of the inspection, beginning on November 16th, 1956. They returned again on February 2nd, 1957 to ask us if there was anything we wanted to modify or add to our previous statements. I must say that by that time the psychological pressure on us had been increased by two Spanish Legionaries recruited from the Jesuit-run Comillas seminary, Fr. Antonio Lagoa LC and Fr. Rafael Arumi LC. These two superiors railed against “traitors� within our poor mother the Legion?, etc. So as far as I know/nobody changed his testimony.

I am not sure whether Josa Doma?nguez [brother of Federico Doma?nguez, one of the two Legionaries who initially brought their concerns to Vatican authorities]had the chance to be questioned this second time. Jose had been secretly sent to a convent in Naples during the first inspection, : THIS IS IMPORTANT BECAUSE it was this same Bro. Josa Doma?nguez who had been ordered by Marcial Maciel to put in writing the text with therationale? for the doctrine? of the Forth (private) vow? of SILENCE, JUST TWENTY FIVE DAYS BEFORE the date (October 10th, 1956) when MM was to be expelled from Rome by the Vatican. Professor Josa Doma?nguez told Arturo Jurado PhD and me about the sending away in a face to face interview in San Diego in late March 2003. Arturo Jurado can confirm what I state. WHY TWENTY DAYS EARLIER? Cardinal Valerio Valeri had caught MM completely passed out from a drug overdose at the Roman Salvator Mundi Clinic in the month of April of the same year 1956, according to Juan Jose Vaca’s testimony. So both the articulation of the private vow, against criticizing a superior, and the sending away of Fr. Maciel’s ‘private secretary’ was a kind of pre-emptive strike by the master chess-player.

Monsignor Arcadio Larraona appointed Fr. Polidoro Van Vlieberghe, a Belgian Flemish Franciscan, as inspector for the LC houses in the Mexican province?. The two aforementioned Carmelite priests also visited the Apostolic School in Ontaneda, Santander, Spain.

Larraona also appointed Italian Monsignor Alfredo Bontempi in November 1956, not as an ‘inspector’, but rather as interim Rector of the Collegio Massimo, Via Aurelia 677, Rome, mother house and generalate of the Legion. Later, one rainy afternoon the same month, in the Collegio Massimo’s Aula Magna Conference Room, and in the presence of us students, Bontempi handed back this power to Fr. Antonio Lagoa LC, our CollegeRector?.
[See Vows of Silence, pages 180-184]

Regain Strategy Note
When discussing unfavorable facts, official Legion spokespersons will usually:

Attempt to discredit the opponent[curveball]

Throw in some extraneous unsubstantiated facts of their own [fastball]

State they have some [new] unsubstantiated evidence, e.g. spurious letters, in favor of their stance [slider]

This all plays out in the case of the 1956 investigation of Father Maciel, where the Legion defense inflates the importance of minor players such as Monsignors Bontempi and Polidoro and creates the existence of two dubious letters to buttress its case.

As a Paradigm of Legion reactions to testimonial evidence.

Monsignor Bontempi was IN NO WAY, AT ANY TIME, a Vatican visitor.

I formally make the above statement because just before Christmas 1996 Owen Kearns, LC apparently under the direction and personal guidance of Father Maciel took action. Through their legal representative, the super-expensive powerful Law firm of Kirkland and Ellis, Legion leaders presented to Mr. Eliot –The Hartford Courant lawyer — a package containing seventy pages. These documents included a pair of fabricated letters attributed to Fr. Polidoro Van Vlieberghe. The first one (undated, but intended to appear as written in 1959) was addressed to Monsignor Luis (Luigi) Raimondi, then Apostolic Delegate not Nuncio of the Vatican in Mexico. Here Fr. Van Vlieberghe purportedly states that Monsignor Alfredo Bontempi was -at that same time- the other Vatican visitor. ABSOLUTELY FALSE!-

[see Vows of Silence, page 181: A third priest, Monsignor Alfredo Bontempi, was an official observer of the seminary, the oversight for which he passed to Fr. Antonio Lagoa, LC.] He never met individually with the students; only in group.

In 1996 we (the ex-LC complainants) were not privy to the content of those two letters because it was never revealed to us by Renner and Berry. We understand that this was because of a confidentiality agreement between The Hartford Courant’s legal representative and the Marcial Maciel/Owen Kearns/Kirkland and Ellis party, regarding the contents of the respective documents.

Almost two years later, on August 16th 1998, I received a fax from Mexican reporter and TV host Ciro Gomez Leyva containing copies of the two alleged Polidoro Van Vlieberghe letters, together with an invitation to lunch. I personally had known Fr. Van Vlieberghe from contacts in 1959 and 1960. I was also very familiar with Maciel’s peculiar writing style: his overuse of adjectives to emphasize certain nouns; for example: Un amor PERSONAL a Cristo [a PERSONAL love for Christ]… or the frequent use of superlatives:educadísimos, i.e. highly educated, referring to LC students, etc. Another revealing clue to their fabrication were some of the common LC typing obsessions, such as the peculiar way of justifying? the right margin with two dashes etc. The content of the letters also appeared immediately suspicious to me. So I asked Ciro Gomez Leyva to please publish them as soon as possible. He said he had to consult with the person who had sent them to him, Don Federico Arreola, at that time a journalist with El Diario de Monterrey in northern Mexico. Arreola said he would consider the idea.

In a stubborn effort to convince Arreola to authorize publication, Jose Antonio Perez Olvera, Ciro Gomez Leyva, and I had breakfast with him at the Balmoral Cafe, Hotel Presidente Chapultepec Mexico City on February 20th, 2001. There I tried to convince Arreola to publish the letters. He replied that a person in Monterrey had given those letters to him privately, telling Arreola that they were being distributed to a select group of peopleunder the table, and that F. Arreola should not publish them. Consequently Arreola felt he had a moral obligation not to make them known. “What if we publish them? – I asked him- “Would you mind commenting publicly?” He again agreed to reconsider the matter. But he never did make them public.

Meanwhile, I had noticed an allusion to the letters on the Rick Salbato internet page [unitypublishing.com], describing how “a friend of Maciel and the LC” had read the content of those two letters. This anonymous person (the alleged friend of MM/LC), who signed with an “R”, had sent the letters to Salbato explaining to Salbato how we, the accusers, were evil exLC on whom the Vatican had a large (damaging) dossier, but that the Vatican –out of Christian charity– had wanted to keep it secret… I am sure I am not the only one who read that on Salbato’s page.

When the Polidoro letters were first brought into play by the defendant Legion it was alleged that Mons Polidoro was dead or dying. This was a ruse to prevent others from examining them more closely and questioning the ‘author’ re their authenticity. In late 2000, Arturo Jurado PhD and I, the two legal mandate holders of the LC complainant group since October 1998, discovered that Father, now His Excellency, Van Vlieberghe was still alive! As soon as we could we traveled to the Monastery of Our Lady of Luja?n located at Nunoa, in Santiago, Chile. There old Polidoro Van Vlieberghe, now a bishop, and still a member of the Franciscan Order, categorically told us at midday on Saturday, January 13th, 2001, those two letters are false. Arturo and I placed a phone call to journalist Gerald Renner from our hotel in Santiago the very afternoon we came back from the monastery in Nunoa. I also sent an e-mail to Mr. Renner that same afternoon after our visit, using Arturo’s e-mail. Mr. Renner called back to our hotel the next day about 2:30pm. By this time we had met personally with Fr. Carlos Salgado, OFM (Franciscan), with Sergio Novoa (Bishop Van Vlieberghe’s lawyer), and Juan Ruz, friend and assistant of the bishop. They all acknowledged, so they stated, that Monsignor Van Vlieberghe had told them before that the letters were false.

Since making those statements, under pressure from somewhere, Fr. Carlos Salgado has unfortunately denied what he had previously told us about the bishop tell- ing him the letters were false. Juan Ruz, questioned later by a female reporter, told her that he didn’t know. Sergio Novoa (lawyer and notary public!) and the bishop has as far as we knowremained silent…

we have in our possession, in files deposited at a bank safe deposit box, letters from Fr. Camilo Maccise, until very recently Superior General of the Carmelite Order. There Fr. Maccise personally proves the LC assertions to be false regarding the identities of the Vatican investigators. This letter has an official stationary heading. It is duly signed, and shows the official seal of the Carmelite Order.
I gave Mr. Jason Berry a copy of Fr. C. Maccise’s letter two years ago, but -unless I am mistaken- I believe no reference is made to it in Vows of Silence. But I will send a scanned copy to you of the typed and signed letter by Fr. Camilo Maccise.

I want you to see and verify the two attachments I am presently sending to you:

First: the letter I sent to Fr. Camilo Maccise asking him to respond in charity and justice regarding the identities of the official Vatican investigators.

Second: the precise e-mail and attachment containing his formal official statement that I received from him, as a response to this personal request.

I was already in possession of another letter of his regarding this same painful matter. Years ago, while he was still Superior General of the Carmelite Order, he had sent me a letter to the same effect on official stationary, sealed and signed, via special mail.

[Letters on file in Mexico City; a copy of Fr. Camilo Maccise, OCD, Superior General’s letter on file at Regain]

Jose Barba Martin, PhD, one of the eight accusers of Fr. Maciel.

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