Pope Francis addresses the Fr. Marcial Maciel, Legion of Christ Founder, scandal for the first time

Improved translation from the original Spanish

Pope Francis speaks for first time about the Marcial Maciel scandal

ROME, 14 Mar 15 / 3:17 a.m. ( CNA ) .

In his interview with Televisa Mexico’s Valentina Alazraki , Pope Francis spoke for the first time in his pontificate about the scandal of Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legionaries of Christ, whom he considers “a very sick person” and he recalled how both St John Paul I and his predecessor, Benedict XVI behaved correctly by investigating the case.
When asked about whether he knew Maciel or heard about a cover-up in the case, the Holy Father stated “I never had contact with the Legionaries of Christ. Because they were not in Buenos Aires and the first parish was given (to the) by my predecessor, the parish of Santa María de Betania; the parish had been left (vacant) by the previous religious, the Picpus (Congregation of the Sacred Hearts). There were three of them (Legionaries); there were three LC religious in Buenos Aires; in other words, I never met them. I heard about  them.”
“When I came (to Rome) to take, not the course, not the course for new bishops but the Ecclesial Movements Encounter, I stayed with, in other words the course was held at their building, a university, no? This was the other contact I had with them. In other words, I never got to know them,” he stated.

Francis recalled that “when I heard about the big scandal (uses popular Spanish: “el escandalazo”) it hurt me a lot. I was shocked.”
“How could this person go that far?
Evidently, he was a very sick person because besides all the abuses I think there were two or three women mixed up in it, children, with one or the other of them, I don’t know, like there was something going on there, and a lot of money. It all goes back to the same; that corruption begins with deep pockets. Right? But I believe it has to do with a sick person. A very sick person.”
The pope indicated that when the Vatican “became aware of it, it began to act firmly.”
“Then Cardinal Ratzinger took up the case and he kept working on it –Pope St John Paul II gave him the green light; and when he (Ratzinger) became pope he took action because the process was ripe.”
“But I want to make it very clear that then Cardinal Ratzinger and Pope St John Paul II were aware and they decided: Let’s go ahead. One in the investigation; the other in giving the green light.”

Responding to the concern about if “there was cover-up” Francis indicated that one can presume there was, although in all justice you are presumed innocent. But it would be unusual if there were not, if he did not have some kind of “godfather” around, half duped, half suspecting who would not know. Well, I have not researched that.”

The Pope went on to clarify that “the (Sex Abuse) Commission is not for the abuses but for the protection of minors; in other words, to prevent it. Right? The problem of child abuse is serious; most abuses occur in the family and neighborhood environments.
I don’t want to give numbers so as not to make mistakes. Just one priest who abuses a minor is enough to shake the whole Church structure to confront the problem. Why? Because the priest has an obligation to educate this boy, this girl, in holiness, in the encounter with Jesus. And what he does is destroy the encounter with Jesus.”
The pope underscored that “we have to listen to the abused. I listened for a whole day to two Irish, two English and two Germans. Their interior destruction…I mean they (the abusers) are cannibals. It’s as if they devoured the children. They destroy them, right? Even if it were just one priest it would be enough to fill us full of shame and make us do what needs to be done.”
The pope stressed that “we have to keep going ahead and not turn back. I mean, to destroy a creature is horrible, just horrible.”
“And that is why I am so grateful both to Pope Benedict who had the strength to state it publicly and to Pope St. John Paul II who had the courage to give the green light to the case of the Legionaries,” he reiterated.

You can read the full interview in its original Spanish at the following link: https://www.aciprensa.com/noticias/nueva-entrevista-el-papa-francisco-explica-como-fue-su-eleccion-hace-dos-anos-82104/

2 thoughts on “Pope Francis addresses the Fr. Marcial Maciel, Legion of Christ Founder, scandal for the first time”

  1. A comment was made in English to editorial introduction to the first posting of the Spanish language article: the writer made interesting points about the editor and Church leadership “missing the point”:

    “from your comments here, I’m not sure if you get it. The issue is not so much how could Fr. Maciel found this order, but it is the profound effect of Maciel on the Legion and how that effect is being propogated in the heart of the church around the world, including a few minutes from where I live. It seems so much easier to talk about Maciel and not Maciel’s effect on this order. The scandal that nobody is mentioning is thousands times larger than anyone, even you, apparently, will even talk about. The stones are crying out!”


  2. Has Jose Barba’s book ever been translated into English?
    I am frankly annoyed that the Pope used the term “ripe” to praise Pope John Paul for giving Ratzinger the “green light” to investigate Maciel and the Legion.To me “ripe” means the scandals were already getting out to the public via word of mouth and the media .
    In 2000 I spoke about the Legion and RC directly to a Polish Monsignor who was alleged to be an emissary field worker who reported directly to the Pope. The next day the pastor said at Mass the Polish priest flew out that night to Rome for an “emergency”. He had been visibly shaken when I told him what I knew was going on with the Legion from home schooling parents.
    It just appears that I am reading history being rewritten to appear the Vatican acted quickly when they knew children were abused.


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