1948. 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 Macielâ€
The university authorities felt a moral obligation to find canonical ways to curtail Macielâ€
The falsity of such an explanation was obvious. The students at Comillas were not Jesuit seminarians but rather seminarians for the diocesan clergy. So the Jesuits never complained of robbery or betrayal, nor were they moved by resentment. On the contrary, they proved their support by allowing Macielâ€
Maciel used the supposed opposition of the Jesuits to his advantage, ignoring the reality. The Jesuits were not interested in recruiting the men that joined the Legion. Au contraire, their mission had been to recruit vocations in Latin America, train them in their universities and send them back to the diocesan priesthood. This was their strategy to resolve the lack of priestly vocations in a Mexico, still devastated by Calles anti-Catholic persecution.
Maciel always held that his enemies were constantly at his back, like a malevolent shadow, trying to poison him. His vices did not allow him to acknowledge that loving wings protected his children, adolescents and youth, educating them with magnanimous care. His self-imposed amnesia led him to believe that everything depended on him and he owed nothing to others. Later a blanket of obscurity would envelop the past. Once he had power he would create a smoke screen behind which the hardworking Fathers Lucio and the rector of Comillas University, Francisco-Javier Baeza, would disappear into oblivion. Did the Vatican ever learn about the accusations? Marcial Maciel refers in his letters on several occasions (May 1947, May 1953 and October 1953) to accusations and defamation against him, without ever describing the nature of the accusations or the names of his accusers.
1954. New accusations from his disciples forced the Vatican to supervise the conduct of the Founder more closely. But it was not until after Cardinal Valerio Valeri found him in Romeâ€
1963. The writer. A year after leaving the Legion in August, 1962, I could not find peace of conscience. I felt I was obligated to alert the authorities to the abuses, to denounce the illicit actions. On the one hand, I never considered approaching civil authorities, which I have never trusted. When people asked me about why I left my priestly vocation my excuse was the heavy burden of celibacy, although I inwardly reproached myself for this lie. I began to seek spiritual help. I approached the Episcopal office of the diocese of Mexico. I spoke of the problem several times in confession. The invariable advice was to â€˜leave it all in the hands of Godâ€
1976. Juan JosÃ© Vaca. Depressed by his sinful relationship with Maciel, he left the Legion in 1976 and entered the diocese of Rockville Center on Long Island, New York. As an active priest, in 1976 he made a statement following canonical protocol, through official channels and the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, regarding the experiences that tortured his soul. He went as far as to ask for a leave of absence from the priesthood.
He swore that Maciel began abusing him in 1949, when he, Vaca, was 13 years old. The assault not only attacked his body but also damaged his immature psyche, too tender to resist the attack. He showed his bishop, Msgr. John R. McGann, the 12-page letter addressed to Maciel, which he stated he handed to Maciel, explaining the reasons why he was leaving the Legion. For thirteen years, full of anguish and confusion, he had been Macielâ€
-â€˜You sleep like a horse, on your feet!- Maciel would joke, amid the cascade of laughter of the community. Juan JosÃ© was in no position to explain the reason he was so tired.
Despite the seriousness of his allegations, the Vatican did not respond. He never even received a bureaucratic response when his complaint was lodged according to Vatican protocol: his bishop sent the letter by diplomatic courier to the Vatican. By that time Maciel had become a friend of Pope John Paul II. The Pope must have heard by then the accusatory rumors of ex-legionaries trying to open an investigation, or, at least, trying to alert authorities to the sexual deviations of the founder of the Legionaries of Christ. It was to no avail. Macielâ€
1976. FÃ©lix AlarcÃ³n. The priest FÃ©lix AlarcÃ³n Hoyos, born in Madrid, Spain, joined the Legion at an early age, 16, in 1949. He left the Legion in 1966, already an ordained priest, and he joined the diocese of Rockville Center, New York, which would later welcome Juan JosÃ© Vaca. In 1976 a letter from FÃ©lix was sent in the same diplomatic briefcase, corroborating Vacaâ€
1983. Juan JosÃ© Vaca made another attempt with all the means at his disposition in order to find inner peace. Receiving no response from the Church to his petitions, or any consolation for his troubled soul, he decided to leave the priesthood. In his petition for dispensation he wrote a shorter, seven-page letter, in which he stated he had not been properly trained for the obligations inherent to the priestly life. With great personal courage and humility he went as far as to say that the sexual abuse of which he was a victim had left him vulnerable to impure impulses to which he had fortunately never given in. The Vatican again did not answer his accusations but did grant him a dispensation from celibacy. He was thus later able to be married in the Church, and now teaches psychology at a college in Jamaica, New York. He has one daughter and is a practicing catholic.
1989. JosÃ© Barba. This is the year JosÃ© reconnected with Juan-Manuel FernÃ¡ndez AmenÃ¡bar, a patient at the Sanatorio EspaÃ±ol in Mexico City in 1990. FernÃ¡ndez-AmenÃ¡bar was suffering from a stroke that affected his speech and lead to partial paralysis, and also from a spiritual illness that led him to lose his faith. These were the first contacts of men who were later to be called â€˜conspiratorsâ€
Maciel held onto JosÃ© two years in Mexico City with promises of a scholarship to a foreign university. I tried to dissuade my friend Barba on several occasions, as Maciel himself had told me he would string JosÃ© along until JosÃ© got tired of waiting. JosÃ© eventually was able to register at Tufts University and got an MA in Romance Languages. Then he taught school while doing his doctorate in Latin American Studies at Harvard. He has had a brilliant career. At present he is a professor at the ITAM Institute in Mexico City, having previously been a respected professor at the Universidad de la Americas.
The conversations between Barba and AmenÃ¡bar [as he was called in the Legion], for his part a retired chancellor of the Anahuac University, led them to compare notes. They came to the conclusion there was a pattern and they should take their case to Church authorities. Psychologist Francesca TÃ³fano encouraged them. From this moment on they would only have to remember who else had been victims and let them know of their decision to denounce Marcial Maciel. Without any formal invitation, those of us who signed the accusation all joined in our plea for justice, not to vindicate ourselves but essentially to inform Holy Mother Church about this impostor.
Naturally, some of the accusers knew nothing about our intentions until Jason Berry came to Mexico to interview us, months after the death of Juan Manuel, and after conversations with canon lawyer Antonio RoqueÃ±i and sociologist Alberto AthiÃ©.
1991. Juan-Manuel FernÃ¡ndez-AmenÃ¡bar: For a very long time AmenÃ¡bar hid his conflict with Maciel because of the prestigious positions and honors with which Maciel showered him as a way to win his silence.
He had become aware of my accusations against Maciel before the local Church authorities in Mexico City and he mentioned this when I visited him as principal of the Irish Institute in 1971. He did not want to talk to me. He pretended not to recognize me until I pronounced his name out loud several times, â€˜AmenabÃ¡râ€
AmenÃ¡bar was not the only one who had received my 1963 accusations with skepticism and even with disgust.
After leaving the Irish Institute, I noticed a dramatic change in Juan Manuel. While on that occasion he pretended not to recognize me, afterwards I came upon him playing dominoes in Chapultepec Park â€“maybe to take his mind off his troubles- and we talked like old friends about that mission where the â€˜Love of Christâ€
I had left Mexico City for the state of Tamaulipas and lost contact but I learned AmenÃ¡bar had left the Legion in 1984, abadoning his position at the Anahuac and the priesthood. I understood his crisis: I myself had lived it to the point of losing my faith; the same thing happened to him. The friends who were close to him spoke of the terrible conflict caused by the sexual abuses of his superior. He immigrated to San Diego after getting married in Mexico City. Separated after five or six years of married life, he returned to Mexico City. In 1985 we heard the rumor spread by the official Legion about Juan Manuel having died in Houston, Texas, where he had gone to get his pacemaker replaced [he actually did have one]. The Legion thought that this way the people that knew him would stop asking about him, particularly those friends of the Legion who loved him, among whom he had prestige and influence, and who wanted to know why he left. They knew nothing of his interior struggle.
In 1991 he had suffered the thrombosis that prostrated him and led him to the Sanatorio EspaÃ±ol where he would die five years later. A Father Alberto AthiÃ© visited the sick patient, trying to revive his faith and alleviate his suffering soul. It was hard for AmenÃ¡bar to open up, not only because of the shame involved but also because of his lack of faith and rejection of priests who he felt had done him so much damage. AthiÃ©â€
The one-time chancellor of the Anahuac University, suffering the consequences of a stroke, worked hard on his rehabilitation with the help of Dr. Gabriela Quintero-Calleja who watched his progress in language and movements. That is when he began to write a serious accusation against Marciel Maciel regarding the sexual abuse suffered during his childhood and adolescence.
At the end of his life he made AthiÃ© promise that he would make his accusations known by all possible means and that, thought he wanted to forgive his perpetrator, he also demanded justice. With the hope that AthiÃ© would be his spokesperson he â€˜feel asleep in the Lordâ€
AthiÃ© himself was aware of the climate of fear among those who dared accuse the founder, even before he knew the players personally. He stated to the National Catholic Reporter that â€˜AmenÃ¡bar was very vigorous in his rejection of Maciel. He refused to forgive him.â€
1994. Contact begins. JosÃ© Barba called me on the phone. Obviously, in his talks with AmenÃ¡bar they had decided to alert the Church to the danger of this â€˜wolf in sheepâ€
A lady friend of one of the abused children and lawyer JosÃ© Antonio PÃ©rez-Olvera mediated to reach Jason Berry, the reporter. At that point, without believing that Church authorities would pay attention â€“I already knew how useless that would be: â€˜leave it all in Godâ€
JosÃ© Barba and other companions visited Juan Manuel at the Sanatorio and they told me about his condition. I got the idea of visiting him the next time I went to Mexico City. The first time I saw him was in October 1994 and afterwards I visited him periodically, bringing him medications from the States that were hard to get in Mexico. I was close to his physical suffering, the pacemaker he had installed in Houston. But above all I became aware of the incurable uneasiness which made him depressed and which would not let him rest as long as he remained silent.
1995. Cardinal Dalyâ€
1996. Accidentally, without a conspiracy or anything like it, Jason Berry tracked down several of the first ten accusers. Despondent as we were because of the same lack of response, he had to find us one by one, helping us rise from our individual ruins of formerly chosen souls. Gerald Renner, his colleague, knew about Juan JosÃ© Vacaâ€
[El Legionario, pages 22-32; to be continued]