Questions for His Holiness Pope John Paul II

Regarding His congratulatory Letter to Fr. Maciel
By ReGAIN staff member
the Pope’s congratulatory letter to Fr. Maciel is part of his ‘ordinary’, not special, or solemn, ‘magisterium’. As such it deserves to be treated respectfully by Catholics. But the Pontiff is far from teaching ‘ex cathedra’, or invoking the power of infallibility. He is not teaching faith or morals to be held by all Catholics. The letter does not, therefore, demand the same –if any- ‘religious submission of mind and will’. [See Vatican II dogmatic constitution on the Church, number 25]. Hence the ‘audacity’ of our questioning, part of which focuses on the letter’s ‘authenticity’. The most the Pope is doing here is congratulating Fr. Maciel on his anniversary. It would be folly to infer from this document any confirmation of Fr. Maciel’s personal ‘holiness’ or moral integrity.EDITOR’S NOTE:
in due honesty it must be noted that the Vatican appears not to have published the Pope’s letter to Fr. Maciel on its official website, at least as of this posting, 12/20/04

Dear Holy Father:
I address you today as one of many ex-Legionary of Christ priests and religious who wander the world -with or without proper canonical dispensations- after exiting this religious congregation. I write full of amazement at the praise you recently appeared to lavish on Fr. Maciel, founder and self-appointed director ‘ad vitam’ of the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi Movement. Your Holiness did not mention either Fr. Maciel or the Regnum Christi among your favorite Catholic Lay Movements in your latest memoir RISE, LET US BE ON OUR WAY. Whither comes the present enthusiasm? Though lacking any worldly or eclesiastical honors, I dare pose such questions to You with the confidence and dignity of my Baptismal consecration, as Saint Augustine bishop says.I must mention that some ex-confreres of mine addressed you in the same vein seven years ago, and have yet to receive any kind of response from the Holy See. They expressed their consternation in a Spanish language open letter published in the Mexican news-magazine Milenio, in December, 1997 [1]. On that occasion they were scandalized by your words of praise for Fr. Maciel, a priest they maintain sexually abused them as seminarians. I bring this to your attention as perhaps you were not aware of that cri de coeur. I also wonder are you at all aware of the allegations against Fr. Maciel, or whether you have been shielded by those around you from such unsavory matters. If this is the case, in vain did my confreres suffer, struggle and write, and in vain will this second cry seek your pastoral attention. Even so, let my eight confreres be comforted by the words of Our Divine Savior: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet without your Father’s knowledge not one of them shall fall to the ground. As for you, even the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than any number of sparrows.â€�[2]The present letter is prompted by a message to Fr. Maciel on the 60th anniversary of his priestly ordination, attributed to your Holiness. Based on a rudimentary knowledge of the workings of Vatican bureaucracy and your reported failing health, some preliminary questions spring to mind as I try to make sense of this phenomenon:

First of all, Holy Father, are you aware of the existence of the letter I am referring to?
Did you, Holiness, have anything to do with this letter attributed to you?
Did you actually read and/or familiarize yourself with this letter’s content?
Did you, as Supreme Pontiff, sign your signature?
Or was this letter of praise the work of some other Vatican dignitary, some other ‘friend of Fr. Maciel’?

If yes is the answer to the above questions, I would venture to say, with all due respect, that you are not sufficiently informed about Fr. Maciel, the Legionaries, or the Regnum Christi. It may give you pause to discover that a growing number of American bishops, successors of the Apostles, are gradually having misgivings about how the Legion and Regnum Christ operate stealthily within their dioceses. Your, or the writer’s, lack of knowledge is confirmed by some of the very words attributed to Your Holiness in number 1 of the letter: describing Legionaries as “priests totally dedicated to the preaching of the Gospel and to the moral and social improvement of the poorest and most marginated of our brothers.� Such words ring bold and poetic, but, alas, lack truth. The Legion of Christ’s specific apostolate is not to the poor, marginalized, excluded and deprived sectors of society [to use a better English translation than previously cited]. Au contraire, it is to the rich and powerful. The LC Constitutions state textually: ‘Form select groups of leaders in the various branches of society especially in the working class, intellectuals, the industrial community and other various professions, and train them for a person-to-person action to permeate the life of society deeply with the Christian spirit.’[quoted from memory]

The Legion has never targeted the ‘working class’ in its 60 years of existence. It’s apostolates to the ‘poor and marginated’ consist of the one single Mission, or Prelature, in Mexico, assigned to the congregation by the Holy See circa 1970. Though a limited percentage of inhabitants of the state of Quintana Roo -not to be confused with the State of Yucatan, which has a higher density of native people- are of Mayan descent, in reality places such as Cancun, Playa del Carmen and the Maya Riviera are a Mecca for international tourism and commerce. These industries generate sufficient resources for the local church. The Legion also fundraises through ‘World Mission’, using this same Mission as a facade, but it is not clear whether generated funds ever reach the Quintana Roo communities. The Mission is also used by LC leadership to distance some members from the Legion mainstream or ‘specific apostolate’, in which they may not choose, or are not invited, to participate. On other occasions, the Mission serves as a holding place, or exile, for dissident, distressed or doubting members. The Legion devotes limited religious and priests, and none of its own financial resources, to the Mano Amiga educational project, a kind of tinsel on the gigantic Legion Christmas tree of properties, buildings, investments and foundations. Legionary schools, even those ‘serving the poor’ are expected to be financially self-sufficient, and to contribute in turn to the central administration’s coffers. These and other fundraising activities make the Legion of the Christ the fasted growing self enriching religious congregation –per member capita- in the Catholic Church.

Your praise for Fr. Maciel’s ‘constant concern for an integral promotion of the person, especially as regards the human formation’ could not be further from the truth. Regain [3], an organization of ex-Legionaries and ex-Regnum Christi members, family members and friends, was founded precisely because of the Legion’s inhumanity to some ex-members. Employing sect-like strategies, Legion superiors systematically cast aside, neglect, isolate and ostracize members who doubt or disagree, or who will not accept the Legion’s control of their transition process. Even if dissenters dismissed by the Legion, classified by the Order as ‘disgruntled old men’, were indeed ‘envious of the Legion’s and Fr. Maciel’s success’, do not our voices and our numbers demonstrate the reality of our complaints? On another note, serious concerns have been expressed repeatedly regarding the Legion’s disregard for Canon Law mandating respect for the secrecy of Confession and freedom of conscience [5]. Are you unaware of the breach of Church law that forbids the same person to be superior, confessor and spiritual director in Catholic seminaries? Such abuses abound in the praxis of the Legion and Regnum Christi. Are you not afraid that with such abuses of human rights a ‘Third Reich’ may be gestating in the Church’s womb?

When you, Holy Father, conclude with: ‘I entrust you, dear Father Maciel, to the heavenly protection of the Virgin Mary,’ my human and Christian conscience revolts. Serious allegations of sexual abuse against Fr. Maciel were ‘summarily dismissed’ by Church authorities not long ago, through influence of Cardinals Ratzinger, Sodano [5] or others. Perhaps, human wisdom has prevailed up to now: ‘it is better for eight innocent victims to suffer ignominy rather than thousands of Catholics be scandalized by one perpetrator’s fall’. In the name of these men, in the name of all victims of priestly sexual abuse, how can you mention Maciel in the same breath as the Blessed Virgin Mary? Our Catholic Faith is further put to the test as so generously invoke Her protection for Fr. Maciel. I wonder what the Mother of Jesus thought when those several young men were sexually abused in the seminary infirmary on Via Aurelia 677, Rome, not far from the Vatican. And, finally, I am personally very saddened that you, Holy Father, seem to have succumbed to Fr. Maciel’s spell of ‘glittering images’ -numbers of ordinations and bursting seminaries- as well as to his, albeit ecclesiastical, ‘glamorous powers’. Such choices ultimately result in real ‘scandalous risks’[6] for the Body of Christ. They are causes of stumbling for the ‘little ones’, favored and protected by Our Divine Savior, Jesus, and his Heavenly Father [7].

2. Matthew 10, 29-31


4. Canon Law Codex 239,2; 246,4; 630 in article ‘LC Constitutions vs. Canon Law’ on website, under ‘Critique of LC/RC’

5. Bone fide sources attest that Cardinal Sodano’s brother is the builder of Fr. Maciel’s secret mausoleum under the Legion’s Guadalupe Basilica on Via Aurelia 675, Rome. For a description of Card. Sodano’s relationship with Chilean dictator Pinochet see

6. ‘glamorous powers’, etc, titles of British novelist, Susan Howatch’s books on Anglican Church ministers and maneuvers, Alfred A. Knopf, publisher

7. Luke 17,1-3; see also 9,46-48; 10,21, et alibi


Text of congratulatory letter to Fr. Maciel attributed to his Holiness, John Paul II

1. “I am pleased to unite myself spiritually to the joy and to the thanksgiving that from you, Reverend Father, and from the hearts of all the members of this religious family rise up to God, source of all good, on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the priestly ordination, that was conferred upon you November 26, 1944 in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico City. On that day, the path of formation to the priesthood which you began at 16 years of age, with the heartfelt dream of stirring up priests totally dedicated to the preaching of the Gospel and to the moral and social improvement of the poorest and most marginated of our brothers. This project of love for Christ, fidelity to the Church, and service to mankind came alive in Mexico City on January 3, 1941 with the birth of the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ, whose Constitutions were later on definitively approved by me in 1983.

2. Your sixty years of priestly life, Reverend Father, have been marked by a noteworthy spiritual and missionary fruitfulness, with various apostolic works and activities such as the Regnum Christi Movement, the network of Mano Amiga schools, numerous educational and charitable institutions today present in 16 countries of the 5 continents with the purpose of promoting family and human values, university centers for study and formation. And what should we say about the apostolate of the priests of the Legionaries of Christ, as well as the effort of the entire Congregation for the integral formation of future diocesan priests, especially through the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum and the two international seminaries, Mater Ecclesiae of Rome and of Sao Paolo, Brasil?
I cannot, of course, forget the service that you have rendered in these years to the Holy See, which has benefited on various occasions and manners by your generous and competent collaboration, whether during one of my apostolic trips or in the activity of branches of the Roman Curia.

3. The profound inspiration which has guided your educational, cultural, and pastoral action – an inspiration that you have transmitted as a precious treasure to the religious family you founded – has been the constant concern for an integral promotion of the person, and especially as regards the human formation, that as I had the opportunity to write in the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores dabo vobis, “when it is carried out in the context of an anthropology which is open to the full truth regarding the human person, leads to and finds its completion in spiritual formation� (n. 45).
Reverend Father, the joyful recollection of your 60th anniversary of priestly ordination falls during the Year of the Eucharist. This providential coincidence constitutes an invitation to meditate upon the centrality of the Eucharist in the life of the Christian community and especially in the formation of future priests and in their subsequent dedication to ordained ministry. This is what I underlined in the previously cited document, recalling “the essential importance of the Eucharist for the priest´s life and ministry and, as a result, in the spiritual formation of candidates for the priesthood� (n. 48).

4. For all these reasons I am happy to join in with the canticle of praise and of thanksgiving to the Lord that rises up from many hearts for the “great things� (cf. Luke 1:49) that the grace of God has accomplished in these 60 years of your intense, generous, and fruitful priestly ministry.
As I invoke a renewed outpouring of the gifts of the Holy Spirit so that your priesthood may continue to bear abundant good fruits, I entrust you, dear Father Maciel, to the heavenly protection of the Virgin Mary, Mother of priests, and I send you affectionately a special apostolic blessing, which I willingly extend to all the Legionaries of Christ, to the members of the Regnum Christi Movement, and to all who participate in the jubilee celebration.�

From the Vatican, November 24, 2004
Joannes Paulus II

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