ReGAIN Press Release at News of Marcial Maciel’s Death

By ReGAIN Staff


ReGAIN members received the news of Marcial Maciel’s death with a mixture of relief, frustration and hope: relief because he cannot continue to abuse, frustration that he was not held more accountable during his lifetime, and hope that his death may bring at least some closure to his victims. Some members may also wish that after his passing the work he founded become more human and Christian. Other members are glad to be free of the founder, the Legion and the Regnum Christi.

In a sense, this death has little if any impact on ReGAIN: our mission to inform the public, heal the wounded and hold the Legion and Regnum Christi leaders accountable continues until it becomes superfluous. As believers we commend Marcial Maciel to the Mercy of God and pray for the healing and recovery of all those negatively effected by him and his followers.

The Legionaries of Christ have lost their founder – ReGAIN calls them to take to heart the Communique of of May 2006 in which Vatican officials asked them to separate themselves from Maciel and to renew their apostolic zeal for the good of the larger Church. If the Legion cannot come to grips with this, ReGAIN will have to assume that Maciel cannot be separated from his creation and that the means to promote his ends cannot be reconciled with the mission of the Catholic Church.

What follows is an obituary in the UK Telegraph:

The Reverend Marcial Maciel

Last Updated: 3:18am GMT 02/02/2008

Father Marcial Maciel, who died on January 30 aged 87, founded the Roman Catholic order the Legionaries of Christ, but was forced to resign its leadership after accusations that he was a cruel and long-term sexual predator.

The Reverend Marcial Maciel with Pope John Paul II
Maciel with Pope John Paul II, who thought him an ‘efficacious guide to youth’, though nine men accused him of abusing them in their childhood

An imposing international figure who commanded intense loyalty, Maciel raised enormous sums of money and won the special favour of Pope John Paul II. Until the evidence became overwhelming, he indignantly protested his innocence, but there were those who had long described the Legionaries as cult-like, secretive and fanatically disciplined.

Founded in Mexico in the early 1940s, the order comprises theologically conservative priests and laymen, and runs a chain of universities and schools. It is especially powerful in Mexico, Spain and America.

The American liberal-leaning National Catholic Reporter was highly critical of Pope John Paul II’s support for Maciel, who had accompanied him on three Mexican visits.

When John Paul offered a public tribute to Maciel as an “efficacious guide to youth” during his third tour, in 1993, nine men came forward alleging that Maciel had abused them as children.

By then in their sixties, they included two university professors, a lawyer, the president of the Legion’s American branch and the order’s one-time treasurer.

One subsequently retracted his story, claiming that it had been a fabrication intended to damage the Legion. The others persisted while the Legionaries continued to protest not only Maciel’s innocence, but his saintly qualities.

The accusations did not stop John Paul congratulating Maciel for 60 years of “intense, generous and fruitful priestly ministry” in a letter of 2004. Some concluded that the Pope had failed to listen to the victims, and believed for far too long that the scandal was the work of those who opposed the Legion because of its loyalty to him.

Despite the accusations, which came in the form of letters to the Pope and a formal canon law complaint seeking Maciel’s excommunication, the Vatican initially remained silent while Maciel himself declined to discuss the allegations. After they first surfaced publicly in 1997 he called them “defamations and falsities with no foundation whatsoever”.

Legion spokesmen in Mexico and the US said that a Vatican investigation cleared Maciel. But the accusers claimed it failed to examine the case properly, and that they went public only after exhausting internal Church channels. They said Maciel led a double life, displaying strict religious devotion during the day and taking boys, sometimes two at a time, to bed in the evenings. Juan Vaca, the Legion’s former American president, said he was 10 when Maciel started abusing him.

Yet among his powerful advocates were the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, and Fr Richard John Neuhaus, a former Lutheran pastor who became a prominent Catholic theologian in New York. In 2002 Neuhaus wrote of his “moral certainty” that the charges against Maciel were “false” and “malicious”, but later acknowledged guardedly that they could have some substance. The Mexican primate, Cardinal Norberto Arriva Carrera, was also a Maciel supporter.

In 2004 Monsignor Charles Scicluna, Promoter of Justice to the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, re-opened the investigation with the support of the Congregation’s then Secretary of State, Cardinal Josef Ratzinger. This involved interviewing witnesses on several continents and extensively questioning victims, including more than 100 former seminarians and priests. Ratzinger and Scicluna became convinced that there was more to the claims of the victims than they had first believed.

The following year Maciel stepped down as head of the order and, a few days before John Paul II died, Ratzinger announced his intention of removing “filth” from the Church; many believed he was referring specifically to Maciel.

In 2006 Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, removed Maciel from active ministry, inviting him to spend the rest of his days in prayer and penance.

Marcial Maciel Degollado was born on March 10 1920, at Cotija de la Paz, a small town in the state of Michoacan. His childhood was marked by the social and religious crisis in Mexico during the 1920s which was brought vividly to life in Graham Greene’s novel The Power and the Glory. In 1936 he moved to Mexico City to begin studying for the priesthood at a minor seminary directed by his uncle, Rafael Guizar Valencia, the bishop of Veracruz.

According to his critics, “misunderstandings” led to Maciel’s transfer to other seminaries in Veracruz, Chihuahua and Cuernavaca, all directed by relatives. He was expelled from two of them before he was 20. He was ordained priest in 1966 by another uncle, Bishop Francesco Gonzalez Arias of Cuernavaca.

Maciel had founded the congregation of the Legionaries of Christ aged 21, and during the final three years of his priestly training he began to direct the formation of young seminarians. In 1946 he took the first Legionaries to Spain for further studies at the Pontifical University of Comillas and visited Pope Pius XII who, according to the Legionaries, “showed a lively interest in his apostolic and educational project and blessed the new congregation”.

Another account said that in 1948 Maciel got wind, through Vatican contacts, that it would withdraw canonical approval of the congregation at the last minute. That Sunday Maciel and two priestly supporters burst into the office of his uncle, Bishop Arias, and bullied him into giving canonical approval on the spot. The next day the Vatican realised Maciel had pulled the rug from under its feet.

Maciel pursued his mission with zest. In the 1950s he established the Legion centre for higher studies in Rome, the Cumbres Institute in Mexico City and many other schools and universities in Latin America, North America, Italy, Ireland and Switzerland.

Even at this period there were rumours about Maciel’s personal life. It was said that he raped teenage boys while telling them he had a special dispensation from Pope Pius XII to have sex with them, and then absolve them from sin, because he suffered from acute pains in the stomach. It was also alleged that he was addicted to a morphine drug known as dolantine. In 1956 the Vatican removed his faculties, but he was reinstated three years later when he founded a lay associate movement, Regnum Christi.

Maciel cultivated the friendship and support of successive popes. In 1965 Paul VI awarded the Legion the “Decree of Praise” in recognition of various accomplishments. These included schools and training centres for catechists and missionaries.

To raise the necessary funds Maciel would persuade a rich donor to host a party for wealthy friends, who were then challenged to outdo the host’s donation. Having secured their pledges, the Legion would covertly refund the original donor’s money.

Maciel reached the peak of his influence under Pope John Paul II, who appointed him in a series of advisory roles to the bishops. These included the formation of candidates for the priesthood and the just distribution of clergy in 1991, the fourth General Conference of Latin American Bishops (1992), the 1993 Synod of Bishops, and the Synod of Bishops’ Special Assembly for America (1997). From 1994 until his forced resignation, Maciel was a permanent consultant to the Congregation for the Clergy.

Though the Vatican forced Maciel to resign from office, it stopped short of a canonical trial. Through the medium of the Legion Maciel likened himself to Christ before Pilate by declaring his innocence and deciding not to defend himself.

He was allowed to attend the beatification of his uncle, Bishop Rafael Guizar Valencia, in 1995, but was absent when Rafael was canonised in May 2006.


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