A recent two part article in the National Catholic Reporter by Jason Berry, author of “Lead Us Not Into Temptation” and co-author with Gerald Renner of the book “Vows of Silence” has revealed new allegations that Father Marcial Maciel, Founder of the Legion of Christ, used large sums of money to lavish gifts on the Roman Curia to ingratiate himself and to secure support and protection. Jason Berry said that Fr. Maciel “sent streams of money to Roman curia officials with a calculated end” and revealed that he had Legion priests dole out envelopes with cash and expensive gifts, including for example expensive wines, rare brandies and Spanish cured hams that alone cost upwards of $1,000 each.
Even though strictly speaking the Vatican does not have a constitution or statutes that would make such transactions illegal the Legion donations raise ethical questions regarding the impartiality of Vatican officials responsible for overseeing the Legion and Regnum Christi. Jason Berry links Legion funding of costly renovations for a former cardinal’s residence to the later signing and approval of the controversial Legion constitution, which required Legionaries to never speak ill of their founder and rewarded spying on each other as an expression of their obedience. Mr. Berry also reported how the Legionaries facilitated a large transfer of funds from a Mexican family to someone very close to Pope John Paul II.
Reportedly Legion members arranged for large sums of money in the tens of thousands of dollars to be transferred to Vatican officials. Such large sums of money are not considered bribes under canon law if their use qualifies as a “pious cause” and in such cases do not have to be reported.
Based on Jason Berry’s findings, Fr. Maciel delayed Vatican justice by issuing cash payments and expensive gifts to those who would later be responsible for dealing with complaints against him. The report also showed a connection between the cash transfers and the softening of the wording of the Vatican communiquÃ© at the conclusion of the Vatican 2005 -2006 investigation into Fr. Maciel’s life. The soft tone of the Vatican statement enabled the Legion to claim that their founder had been an innocent victim, similar to Jesus Christ, and apparently they continued for years to teach their seminarians that Fr. Maciel had led a virtuous life.
Regain recognizes and applauds the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI in his personal honesty, solid leadership and the actions he has taken to initiate the 2005 Maciel investigation even while under considerable pressure to avoid this, and later to conduct an investigation into the Legion after he became pope. It is not our role to be critical of the Vatican or of members of the hierarchy.
However, on behalf of past, present, and future victims of sexual and emotional abuse, we deplore any attempts that were made by the Legion to influence those in power to prevent disciplinary action on their founder. We hope and pray for the introduction of needed reforms to close up any loopholes in the Vatican policies to provide true justice that all Catholics can be proud of.
In part 2 of his article, Jason Berry provides details of Fr. Maciel’s life, including how he took advantage of an opportunity during a period between popes to be reinstated before the first visitation in 1956 had concluded. Father Maciel’s connections to the extremely wealthy Garza-Sada families resulted in Maciel securing millions of dollars for his growing empire.
Jason Berry goes on to describe Fr. Maciel’s relationships with his different families and how he even risked exposure by daring to bring two of his children to receive communion from Pope John Paul II.
The article has some details of the controversial personal and financial relationships among Maciel, Cardinal Sodano, Sodano’s nephew Andrea Sodano and his involvement in a very questionable business scheme that ended up in Andrea’s associate Raffaello Follieri being sentenced to prison. It is alleged that a large amount of money was paid to Andrea Sodano for engineering services that were not performed.