“La Orden Maldita. La historia oculta de la legión de Cristo” (The Perverse Order; The Secret History of the Legion of Christ)
Following is an article, translated by ReGAIN, which looks at “A fact-based novel about the life and work of a man who, in spite of the crimes he has committed, remains free.”
New Book: a novel by an eye witness (Spanish Language Text)
La Orden Maldita / The Perverse Order
By José Manuel Ruiz Marcos
“La orden maldita. La historia oculta de la legión de Cristo”
(The Perverse Order; The Secret History of the Legion of Christ)
Author: José Manuel Ruiz Marcos
Publisher: El Aleph Editores
Series: Modernos y Clásicos, 248
“I have learned to live with grief, dealing with it as though it were a part of my anatomy. I have learned to speak again, without breaking into tears in the middle of each sentence. I have learned to squelch the violence unleashed inside of me whenever someone brushes against my skin. I have learned all this during these past years, but I have not yet learned to forget.”
With these words Pablo, a boy barely thirteen years old, sums up the deep humiliation and aftereffects he suffers as a result of terrible acts of sexual abuse to which he was submitted during childhood by the founder of the religious order known as the Legion of Christ, Marcial Maciel.
Throughout the pages of a book filled with intrigue the author, José Manuel Ruiz Marcos, a former member of the Company of Jesus (more commonly known as the Jesuits), thrashes out one of the darkest episodes in the Church’s history: abominable acts committed by a monster in connivance with the highest ecclesiastical authorities.
A fact-based novel about the life and work of a man who, in spite of the crimes he has committed, remains free.
A story sure to raise consciences.
Born in Ujo in the province of Asturias in 1926, a theologian and doctor of political science and economics, Ruiz Marcos is author of the novel Amar en Comillas (To Love in Comillas), which received the Triángulo Rosa de la Asociación Xente Gai Astur prize. He was a seminarian in Comillas and a member of the Company of Jesus from 1947 to 1964. He was also a university professor in Bielefeld, Germany and for a time was chief editor of the editorial page of the Nicaraguan newspaper, El Nuevo Diario. Married with children, Ruiz Marcos now lives in Germany.
“La Orden Maldita” (The Perverse Order)
The facts of the novel have for the most part already been addressed and dealt with in detail in the books listed at the end of this article. The names of the main actor, his collaborators, and victims are spelled out in these works. The latter have participated in panel discussions on Mexican television and radio and have made courageous statements to the national and international press. They are figures well-known to the general public. Their perpetrators remain silent, shun publicity and say that they “forgive those who cause them offense.”
Though they have not had wide public exposure, the books written about Maciel (see below) — with the exception of “El Legionario,” which belongs to a separate genre and has not been widely distributed in Europe — are excellent studies on the investigation into “the Maciel case.” “La Orden Maldita” is an intentionally short novel, though not for lack of factual material. It is intended for the man on the street, for those with the most limited of economic means, to be read so that the truth might be more widely known.
The author personally met the founder and some of his victims in Comillas in 1946. For nine years he studied with some of Comillas’ first seminarians, who as adults would later join the legion. He spent three weeks in Mexico in March, 2005 interviewing mature men, whom he had known as boys and who were now the plaintiffs in a Vatican legal case against Maciel and signatories to a related letter sent to Pope John Paul II.
“La Orden Maldita” aspires to be a new and perhaps more attractive type of novel by blending accounts of what actually happened, however improbable, with fictional elements, thereby establishing links which allow it to be a work of compact action. At the end of the novel the key to what is fictional and what is real, and to the founder’s personality based on actual psychological studies, is revealed.
Only the full names of the principal character and of three now deceased and innocent players appear in the novel. All the others, living or dead, are given fictitious names, including two who passed away after the book went to press.
The time span of the novel (1946-1958) precludes the inclusion of neither well-merited criticism of Pope John Paul II, a protector in the extreme of Maciel and the person most responsible for covering up his crimes, with an unchristian disdain for his victims, nor the Legion’s exultant triumphs in the years following 1958. While there is much to deplore in the ecclesiastical world in the twelve years in which the novel takes place, it is all openly criticized without “La Orden Maldita” becoming an essentially anticlerical work. On the one hand there are shady figures such as the founding priest, who can well be considered unworthy of holy orders, as well as members of the episcopate and college of cardinals, who both foolishly and naively support him, with Eugenio Pacelli cast in an uncertain half-light. The novel does, however, portray priestly figures with believable sympathy — models all of religious observance and devotion to their ministry — the polar opposites of Maciel. There are three such characters: Ramiro, a Dominican from the Spanish province of Asturias, and two Carmelite friars in charge of Rome’s investigation.
The novel in brief
The first chapters portray the founder of the legion and in turn deal with the secret of his obsession with the Pontifical University of Comillas from which he recruits his first adult followers. These chapters also describe his sexual practices with minors in Tlalpan. The character of Pablo, the boy who flees from the Apostolic School after being violated by the founder, is central to the novel.
At the end of Chapter 11 the action shifts to Rome. The “true” story went something like this: Faced with two envoys from the Congregation of the Holy Office (formerly the Inquisition) and required to answer two key questions — whether or not there had been sexual abuse and whether or not the father founder was a drug addict — all of Maciel’s pupils lie. The founder is absolved of all charges and the order carries on up to this very day. The likable Carmelite friars in charge of the investigation are deceived by Maciel’s followers, who do not see their lies as immoral actions because they are lying by virtue of holy obedience.
At this point the novel ostentatiously breaks the nonfiction mold. Ramiro and Gabriel is a legionary priest from Comillas who, disgusted with the company of the founder and determined to finally escape from his obsession, decides to abandon the order. He organizes a rebellion of legionaries in Rome in which, as fiction has it, the youths do an about-face and tell the truth.
The historical fact of Maciel, in temporary exile from his base in Rome, having ordered his provisional successor at the order’s headquarters to be to put out of commission with laxatives is amplified in fiction when the criminal act of poisoning is further extended to the two friar investigators. As a result the Italian police enter the scene — a decisive factor in not allowing ecclesiastical authorities free reign to carry out the normal cover-ups. Faced with the incarceration of Maciel and two of his principal disciples in Rome by the Italian state, Pope Pius XII is left with no other option than the dissolution of the order. The founder, foreseeing his imprisonment, manages to flee and disappears with out a trace until the present.
A quick synopsis of the three central chapters will reveal to the reader the substance of the novel.
Chapter 5 describes an extreme but not uncommon case of sexual abuse by Maciel and the canonical crime of absolution of an accomplice, which automatically excludes him from the Church. A Dominican from Spain gets to the bottom of the case and will return at the end of the novel to organize the revolt against Maciel.
Chapter 9 deals with a high-ranking cleric’s complicity in Maciel’s abuses. It details the central elements of submission to the founder, which explain the excesses and abuses and what makes them possible: 1) identification and obsession of the leader with unconditional and total adherence, 2) subjugation of his subjects by means of holy obedience, infractions of which are punishable by eternal damnation, which transform the will of the superior into a faithful echo of the will of God; 3) the subsequent loss of a sense of morality and of an ability to discern good from evil in the those subjected to this treatment.
In Chapter 21, the final chapter, the author reveals the historical precedents in the Church and in the Mexico of the last century which made the development and acceptance by the Church of a personality like the founder of the Legionaries possible.
The fictional aspect of the novel, in which things “happen which should have happened but did not happen,” is a condemnation of the infamous historical reality, of the venality of the Church hierarchy, then and now, of the continuous lies of the legion’s superiors, of their repeated refusal to ask the victims for forgiveness, and of the Vatican intrigues which have made the survival of a religious institution with such ominous antecedents possible. In 2006 the congregation continues in existence and has a new “director” general, who continues covering-up the facts and exalting the criminal.
Works related to “La Orden Maldita:”
– Alfonso Torres Robles, “La prodigiosa aventura de los Legionarios de Cristo”, Ediciones Foca investigación, Madrid, 2001.
– José Martínez de Velasco,“Los legionarios de Cristo – El nuevo ejército del Papa” second edition, La esfera de los libros, Madrid, 2002.
– from the same author, “Los documento secretos de los legionarios de Cristo”, Ediciones B, Barcelona, 2004.
– Alejandro Espinosa Alcalá, “ El Legionario”, Grijalbo, México D.F., 2003.
– Salvador Guerrero Chiprés and other authors, “El círculo del poder y la espiral del silencio” -La historia oculta del Padre Marcial Maciel y Los Legionarios de Cristo, Grijalbo, México D.F., 2004.
– Carlos Fazio,“En el nombre del Padre”, Depredadores sexuales en la Iglesia, Editorial Océano de México, México D.F., 2004.
– Elio Masferrer Kan, “¿Es del César o es de Dios?” – Ún modelo antropológico del campo religioso, Ed. Plaza y Valdés, México D.F., 2004.
– Roberto Blancarte, “Entre la fe y el poder”- Política y religión en México, México D.F., 2004.