(Full English text + Video en Francais) The Legion of Christ’s “Ministry for Truth” Rewrites History: Paper delivered at I.C.S.A. annual Conference, Stockholm, July 4th, 2015
The Legion of Christ and the constant endeavor to re-write history/ La Legion du Christ, la re ecriture de l’histoire continuelle
by Xavier Léger, MA
Ladies and Gentlemen, good afternoon!
The conference that I’m about to give you today is quite painful. It is the culmination of years of reflection, of questioning, of doubts … It is both the result of a long period of disillusionment and a conviction rooted in the depths of my conscience: that we should never build the Kingdom of God upon lies, and if someone endorses lies “believing he may defend the Church in such a way”, in the end, he is always the one who really hurts and destroys the Church from within. Believing that we can condone evil, that it happens sometimes, that the end justifies the means, that : “we do not make an omelette without breaking eggs”, is a nonsense, and an insult to the Spirit of Christ which is always on the side of the victims, the poor, the little ones.
Christ called his disciples to walk in his footsteps, in the truth, always in the truth, even if it hurts our pride, even if it is shameful; even if it contradicts the very image that we have of the Church. You do not defend the honor of the Church in hiding its flaws, but in assuming its faults and acting in righteousness and truth.
For many, it is unacceptable to admit that people call themselves “victims” of the Church. This statement would have too heavy consequences. So they prefer to look away and hope that the so-called victims may be good victims: and a good victim is a victim who is silent.
I’m not a good victim, and that’s why I refuse to be silent.
I. Marcial Maciel, a genius of historical manipulation
George Orwell, in 1984, described a world bending under the yoke of the worst dictatorships in history. The central pillar of this dictatorship depended on the sinister work done by the “Ministry of Truth” in charge of constantly re-writing its own history. By controlling all publications, all books, all history textbooks, the Powers That Be (the “Angsoc”) ensure their blamelessness, their influence on consciousness and their sustainability.
In the 50s, the private secretaries of Father Maciel (the founder of the Legion of Christ) had already noticed with amazement the propensity of the latter to re-write his own history and the history of his group in order to always appear as a saint and a hero, and to create a kind of mystical and providential atmosphere among his followers.
Being able to lie is the first step in the art of manipulation. Maciel needed to arouse the admiration of his flock to get total submission from them. He began his congregation with a group of children from 10 to 11 years old. A child is always easier to manipulate than an adult.
When I was in the Legion of Christ, the lies about the life of Father Maciel were circulating under the aspects of extraordinary secrets, which we were not allowed to share with anybody … but that would be released one day after his death:
It seems that Father Maciel knew the day of his own death!
It seems that Father Maciel had apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary, just like Saint Bernadette!
It seems that Father Maciel fought against the demon as did Saint Jean-Marie Vianney, the Curé of Ars!
It seems that Father Maciel has performed a couple of miracles along his life!
It seems that Father Maciel can read the consciences of people just like reading an open book!
Father Maciel sometimes disappeared for a couple of weeks, or even a couple of months. This is because he has received a second call from the Lord, a very special call. He disappeared to serve the poor and to fulfill other missions for the Church.
But hush! Father Maciel is very humble, and he does not want to talk about that. One day after his death, the whole truth will be revealed and finally we will know all his wonderful deeds and miracles!
Beside all these rumors that created around the figure of the founder an aura of holiness, there was also the official historical lies, invented by Father Maciel or by his most faithful disciples.
Thus, Maciel used to tell the story of his close friend, a young martyr of the Cristero War, the Blessed Jose Luis Sanchez del Rio. He counted with many details the agony of this young man, who died for not having agreed to apostatize his Catholic faith. As a child, Maciel wondered why his friend José Luis had received the grace to become a martyr, but not him.
Maciel also told how, as a young seminarian, he had intervened as a mediator during a revolt in Orizaba, because people were demanding the reopening of the churches and were prohibited to do so. Thanks to his negotiations for peace, he avoided a bloodbath.
But everything was lies. Everything. Father Maciel was a psychopath without scruples, and he spent his life lying. Lying to defraud people from whom he wanted to take their money, lying to manipulate his followers, lying to convince children under his care to masturbate with him, lying to hide his double life, lying to always appear as an unfortunate victim.
After several years of investigation, the Vatican decided it was better to move on and not dwell on the past. “Let it all rest in God’s hands. We shall not judge Father Maciel! ”
That’s how the Church has chosen to assume the lies of Father Maciel. The only difference is that nowadays, they try not to speak about the founder. It became a kind of “mystery.” They no longer say “Father Maciel founded the Legionaries of Christ in 1941,” but “The Legion of Christ was founded in 1941”. It’s magic. Magic!
Today, in 2015, several years after the investigation of the Vatican, we still find on the French website of Wikipedia the lies of Father Maciel about his own history and the origins of the religious order. It says, for instance, that the young Maciel, when he was 16 years old, received on June 5th of 1936, day of the feast of the Sacred Heart, the divine inspiration to found a congregation devoted to the Sacred Heart! We can also read all the other lies I mentioned earlier. Or still more incredible: it says that in 1938 Maciel had been expelled out of the seminary because his superiors were against his projects of foundation… when in fact he had brought children into the seminary and had been caught sexually abusing them …
When we know the devious mind of Father Maciel, who was a pathological liar, can we give any credit to his fairy tales? Do you really think that God would have called a polymorphous pervert, a child rapist and a swindler without scruple to found a religious order dedicated to educating young boys?
Yet serious studies have been carried out, including by a Mexican academic, Fernando Gonzalez, who had access to hundreds of secret documents. His investigations have allowed him to reconstruct with startling accuracy, not only the setbacks of this flawed man and his cult-like group, but also to show how during 70 years of existence, the Vatican received hundreds of letters of denunciation written by victims, by ex members, by teachers, by priests and even by bishops … Just reading these documents produces nausea.
They knew everything, and have never did anything.
They even made inquiries, and established a list of all the lies, abuses and crimes of Father Maciel … but as the conclusions of these investigations did not fit with their preconscieved ideas and plans, they buried them and decided to whitewash the founder.
The dysfunctions were coming from the upper echelons of the Church, who were fascinated by this young founder, capable of inspiring so many vocations, of having so much success in his apostolic works …
So, the charges could not be true.
You understand here the tragedy of this kind of reasoning: if the Church authorities decide from the beginning that all complaints raised against the founder are slanderous, then the founder enjoys a total impunity.
It is not so much a presumption of innocence that is given to the founder but a presumption of slander that is given to the victims.
How many lives were shattered because of that ?
II. Pope Benedict protects the Legion of Christ and participates in the process of re-writing of history
When the revelation about the double life of Fr Maciel finally came out on February 4th of 2009, we discovered, little by little, the whole truth despite the Legion’s efforts to cover up the scandal.
It was then said that Pope Benedict was personally working on this issue and was about to clean out the Augean stables. Some catholic journalists depicted him as the hero who had had the courage to punish Maciel and to face all the network of corruption among the Roman Curia.
At this time, I confess that I also believed it naively. I was personally convinced that the Pope could not manipulate or produce a false inquiry ! Why? Because the Pope is the Pope; so he is inspired by God in some ways. A Pope cannot lie, nor cheat. That’s impossible!
Alas, I was wrong.
The main argument for claiming the integrity of Pope Benedict is based on an anonymous testimony is that one day, some member of the congregation tried to give Cardinal Ratzinger a wad of cash, that he immediately refused.
But this is a legend: the way corruption works in the Legion of Christ is more subtle than that. Legionaries of Christ are not so stupid as to give a wad of cash to the most feared of the Roman Curia cardinal, known for his integrity and incorruptibility.
The truth is that Cardinal Ratzinger has always been a great admirer of the Legion of Christ; and we have every reason to think that he was one of those who blocked the investigations for years.
In 1998 the former victims of Fr Maciel filed a canonical complaint with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (the former Inquisition, “Holy Office,” custodian of Catholic orthodoxy headed by Cardinal Ratzinger. But Cardinal Ratzinger refused to deal with this issue, as testified a Mexican bishop who went to support the cause of the victims in 1999. Cardinal Ratzinger told him that Father Maciel was very appreciated by Pope John Paul II, and had done much good to the Church, and therefore it was not prudent to open a trial against him.
In the summer of 2000, as I was a novice in Italy, I spent one month in Rome with my community. One day I remember that a superior came to us with a great revelation: Cardinal Ratzinger had come incognito to the new center of the Legion. This center is a huge, ultra-modern center, intended as a showcase to seduce the Roman authorities. The secretary of the cardinal, who was a friend of the legionaries, called the superior of the center to tell him what happened during this visit. He told us that cardinal Ratzinger had made two comments:
“I have to change my concept of miracle! ”
“Here begins the counter-reformation! ”
For Cardinal Ratzinger, the Legion of Christ was the future of the Church, the starting point of the new evangelization called to fight the battle against “the dictatorship of relativism.”
Yet the cardinal was discreet, surprisingly discreet.
I think his fascination with the Legion blinded him.
Despite having at his disposal a huge file containing hundreds of letters of accusations, he choose not to intervene.
Let me show you a summary of this file. It comes from the secret archives of the Vatican that a group of religious leaked, out of disgust by the attempts of Church leaders to cover up the scandal and to protect the Legion of Christ. As you can see, the letters of accusations appear in blue and green and the letters of support in red or orange. The latter were usually requested by Maciel himself from his disciples in order to neutralize the critics.
In the book “Light of the World”, when asked about the Vatican’s inaction regarding Maciel, Pope Benedict said: “Unfortunately, we addressed these things very slowly and late. Somehow they were concealed very well, and only around the year 2000 did we have any concrete clues.”
“Only around the year 2000 did we have any concrete clues”.
Among the 212 documents making up the file, about a third are letters of denunciations of the crimes and lies of Maciel starting in 1946 until 2002.
All that the Vatican has ever done, was to request him to retire to a life of prayer and penance in 2006, after about 60 years of denial and protections.
And by the way, Maciel fulfilled neither the prayer nor the penance. He died in 2008 surrounded by his followers, in the United States, without having acknowledged his crimes and without having asked forgiveness.
The proponents of re-writing of history explain: “Ah ah, look: Pope Benedict XVI did justice! He condemned Maciel!”
But please, stop the nonsense: Pope Benedict gave Maciel a slap on the wrist. If a robber enters your house, steals your property, abuses and beats your children, would you expect justice to tell the robber: “That’s not nice, please say your prayers!” Where is the justice here?
Maciel has ruined families, destroyed entire lives. We are talking about lives destroyed, and we are told: please be good victims, shut up and admire as the judge is right!
Are you kidding?
Victims need justice, and they never have been seriously heard by the Church.
Although Cardinal Ratzinger received the canonical complaint in 1998, nothing happened to the order until 2009: during this 11 years, thousands of Legionaries of Christ and members of the Regnum Christi lay branch kept devoting cultic homage to the founder, learning the legends about his life and reading his writings with the most holy devotion.
In 2009 an Apostolic Visitation of the Legion of Christ was announced. We were told: “This is it. Don’t worry: Pope Benedict is acting and will soon get rid of the corruption! You can trust him! He knows what he is doing!”
But this visit began strangely: a halt was not called to the Legion’s activities and there was no removal of Maciel’s accomplices.
I mean: When you discover that the founder of one of the most influential religious order in the Vatican has been found to be a criminal, a child rapist who lived several lives under multiple identities, had several children with several women, who took drugs and had even raped his own children … it seems to me that common sense would dictate:
“Stop, we were wrong! We were completely wrong about this man… So… there’s maybe something that we did not understand about the congregation. Let us not take the risk of training young boys in a flawed congregation: stop the recruitment, stop priestly ordinations, … until we know for sure that the environment is really safe.”
But this was not done. Nothing was stopped.
Some former legionaries who were still in the congregation at this time told us that the Apostolic Visitor said them “Do not quit! The pope believes in the Legion! He wants to save the congregation! He recognizes the charism of the congregation! “.
Vatican expert Sandro Magister, who was a great admirer of Pope Benedict, had entered into a very perverse game. Trying to give the impression of being on the side of the victims, he played the intermediaries, and turned out to be a kind of hypnotist … launching false hopes, giving aberrant interpretations on what was going on with the work of Pope Benedict. “Do not worry, the Pope knows what he is doing. He is placing his men, and removing bad people… He is cleaning out the congregation ! So please, be a good victim: shut up!”.
Woe to you Sandro Magister because you prevented consciences to rebel, and you played a sinister role in the historical imposture of this apostolic visitation!
Among the five bishops sent by the Vatican to investigate, only one was commissioned to meet the victims of Father Maciel: Bishop Ricardo Watti Urquidi, a sick elderly bishop, who died a few months after the visit: “He looked depressed”, one of the victims told me. “He listened with half an ear, without taking notes “.
When the Apostolic Visitation was announced, I immediately contacted one of the investigators, Spanish Bishop Blazquez. I just wanted to be heard. I also sent him a list of ten individuals and families who had the same desire. There were their names, email addresses, telephone numbers.
And we waited, waited, waited.
Alas, we were never contacted.
We later learned that Bishop Blazquez had gone to France, but had not found it worth his while to meet with us.
Why carry out an investigation when its conclusions have already been decided?
Some friends of ours had asked the Legion’s Territorial Director in France to be notified of the bishop’s arrival.
But, oh, damn! He forgot about it! Just their bad luck!
Funny thing, the TD did not forget to call some other families who were completely in blissful awe of the Legion of Christ to make sure they met the Vatican Investigator.
It is not so difficult to manipulate an apostolic visitation. You just need to arrange it so that investigators only encounter people under your influence, and to remove or discredit any critics. Maciel played this game throughout his whole life. Legionaries have learned from him.
In 2010, after this false apostolic investigation, Pope Benedict appointed a bishop to guide the congregation in its process of renovation. During a conference, Cardinal De Paolis, faced with the despair of a large number of members, confessed that Pope Benedict was the one who saved the congregation despite all the heavy judgments and conclusions of the investigation.
The same year, the Papal Delegate wrote a long letter to the Legionaries of Christ in which he said: “There has been a decrease in the promotion of vocations. In such cases, the problem comes from parents, who amid the great vortex of the media, did not know enough to discern between truth and falsification. Unfortunately, in this whirlpool of public opinions, some Legionaries were carried away and refused to work on recruitment for the Legion”.
So: after 70 years of blindness and denial, the Church leaders discovered suddenly that Father Maciel was actually a horrible child abuser, an unscrupulous crook, a drug addict, a con man and a criminal. And despite these late revelations, what does the representative of the Holy See tell us? He is accusing the religious who have simply asked to wait for a serious investigation before recruiting children in the order.
Woe to you, Cardinal De Paolis! Woe to you for your blindness and the hardness of your heart!
III. When media get involved in the process of re-writing of history
Most French journalists who has worked on this case contacted me to get some information for their research.
One of them, from an important catholic newspaper, thanked me immensely for all my work and for the help I gave him. He stated I was a very courageous person. And he encouraged me to write a book.
His article was quite good… even if he was still defending Pope Benedict.
As evidence was accumulating against the role of Pope Benedict in the Maciel case, I sent en email to this journalist to share my doubts about the Holy Father.
Since then, he no longer contacts me.
When a TV report, in which I actively participated, was broadcast on the French channel Canal +: he did not put a single word about it in his newspaper.
When I published my testimony with prestigious publisher Flammarion in 2013, he did not write a single word.
It’s so hard to be heard when the Pope is wrong.
Woe to you because you have trampled the truth and trampled the victims!
Woe to you because you have led God’s people into error!
Woe to you because you have not been able to be the prophet who could make a difference and raise awareness among Catholics!
On January 31st, 2011, Cardinal De Paolis set up an “Outreach commission to Victims” to examine complaints from victims of Father Maciel and to deliver compensation. Scarcely one year later, he expresses extremely scathing contempt for these same victims, “Along the way, we met other problems and difficulties. The problem, so to speak, of the victims of Father Maciel … We thought it useful to give a contribution, to end this case. But we can not spend all the money of the Legion of Christ to respond to the excessive demands of those seeking compensation. These are goods that the Legion of Christ has received from its benefactors, monies for his apostolic works. One may make a gesture, of course, but certainly not squander the heritage of the institute. This is not possible! These are excessive demands. “
Excessive demands? But this is only a question of justice … We are speaking about young boys who were caught in the nets of an organization that lied to them, that manipulated them… They escaped completely destroyed after undergoing sexual and psychological abuses during 10 or 20 years… Then, when they decided to fight for truth and justice, they were slandered, threatened, they lived in terror for years simply for having told the truth.
And you call them problems?
And what? You think it is enough to distribute a few dollars to get rid of the problem?
Last year, my great friend Paul Lennon went to meet the victims of Father Maciel, in Mexico. Here’s what he shared in his blog :
“When I asked Gonzalez-Parga why he would not meet with the Outreach Commission to Victims set up by Cardinal De Paolis, he reminded me that four Legionaries (including superiors hand-picked by Maciel such as Frs. Corcuera and Florencio Sanchez-Soler) were sitting on the board of six examining the legitimacy of the claims: It is so humiliating! Why should I subject myself again to my abusers in order to seek compensation clearly due in all justice?
Francisco & Maria Esther are a good example of the plight of many aging former Legionaries. While presently solvent, they have a lot of catching up to do financially. At retirement age they must continue to work full time. They do not have pensions, health insurance or protection against unforeseen crises in their later years. They have paid out of pocket for costly medical interventions. But there are other survivors who are even less fortunate.”
In March 2012, Pope Benedict traveled to Mexico for a pastoral visit. The victims of Maciel hoped that the Pope would receive them and they sent formal requests to the Nunciature. In vain. So strange: Pope Benedict had received victims of sexual abuse in all his previous trips, but he refused to receive the victims of Father Maciel, that many historians consider to the most terrible case of clerical sexual abuses in the history of the Church.
The process of re-writing of history is a surprising mechanism.
It can even go very far, beyond the Christian press.
The story I’m going to tell you is perhaps the one that hurt me the most. I have no anger against Father Maciel: after all, he was ill and should have been stopped a thousand times. But I admit I feel nauseous when I discovered how some media re-write history to please their readers, or to please the Roman hierarchy, or for some other reasons.
In 2013, I published a book in which I simply told my story, and explained my disappointment regarding the role of Vatican authorities in general, and of Pope Benedict in particular.
A few days after the release of my book, I was contacted by a journalist from a very important News Agency. She had read my book and she was very moved. She told me that the reality described in this book was terrible. We spent two hours on the phone, and I gave her all the information she needed.
I thought: If this News Agency released a strong article about my book, it would draw a lot of attention.
So I waited for the article. One week, two weeks … and then the journalist called me back. What a shame, she said: it was already too late to make news item. She explained that she had been ill, but that she was still willing to support my cause by writing an article.
And a few days later, her article was published. But it had no impact. For the simple reason: the journalist had removed all my accusations, and written the exact opposite of what I had written.
That night, I cried. I could not imagine that people could manipulate and lie to this point, on matters of such gravity.
Specifically, her article was a review of my book: the title of the article was the title of my book “Moi ancien légionnaire du Christ.” The first part took up just a few descriptions of life in the Legion of Christ … but nothing very new. In the middle of the article, the journalist announced that “dozens of legionaries deserted the ranks” … yet I had explained to her that we were several thousand, and we even had lists.
In the second part of the article, the journalist did not make any mention of my conclusions about the role of Pope Benedict. Still worse: she returned to the official version of the Church and explained that Pope Benedict was a real hero: the first who dared to take action against Maciel and one of the few who refused all attempts at corruption.
You see the point I am making?
What is most shocking here is that this is not a question of freedom of the press. If the article had been investigative, presenting contradictory arguments, that would be OK for me. But here it is different: it was a review, a review of my book. People who read this article would think I I also agreed with this rewriting of history.
As the article was translated into Spanish, I had to write to the victims of Father Maciel, who fought for years against the Ratzinger administration, to excuse myself and explain that the journalist had not given my conclusions.
What have you done? This is a serious professional fault.
You could have at least outlined my conclusions, before giving the official explanations of the Church.
Woe to you, because you have once again trampled the victims, and the truth!
You do not have the right to belive that Pope Benedict made mistakes. So, please, be a good victim, shut up!
After that, the pseudo-historians launched the process of re-writing of history. It’s incredible, absolutely incredible, but they did it. They achieved it!
“Get out of here! Here I am, and I am about to tell you the truth!”
And they re-write history.
One of them even wrote a book citing several pages of my book … (without asking me for permission, by the way), then explained how Pope Benedict had managed this case with so much justice and wisdom.
Woe to you, unscrupulous Scribes and Pharisees who re-write history for your own interest. By trampling the truth and trampling victims, you are trampling Christ !
In January 2014, the Legion of Christ reached the end of its process of renewal. We were a bit surprised when we learned that the Vicar General of the congregation, with a honeyed tone, wrote a beautiful letter to former legionaries asking them to give their opinions on these reforms.
The congregation did all it could during a couple of years to prevent us from intervening in the process of reform, and then, this letter… ??
But once again, they tried to fooled us. This letter was released 2 or 3 weeks before the beginning of the General Chapter, a council that would ratify the reforms. This way, nobody could have time to answer seriously, and the Legionaries could claim they had been listening to the former members.
Moreover, I received that letter by chance, thanks to an ex member from Mexico who was still in touch with me on Facebook. Legion’s superiors have not sent me this letter.
But that does not matter: I have answered them anyway.
I took several days and nights to send them a long long letter in which I said: You say that you have changed, that you have repented: Well, good, prove it!
And I sent them a number of specific questions on different subjects: how the congregation deals now with former members? Will the Legion publish all the real statistics of the congregation, including the number of departures? Of depressions and even suicides ? How does the Legion deal with her founder Father Maciel and with her history? What’s about the victims of Father Maciel? the other cases of sexual abuses in the Legion? What’s about the way the Legion handled the apostolic visitation? What’s about the relationship of the Legion of Christ with those who criticize her? What’s about recruitment and discernment in the congregation? Etc.
The response of the Legion, as always, was … a contemptuous silence.
This is the technique of… the steamroller.
Now people may wonder how a theologian of the caliber of Pope Benedict could accept without explanation that a man whose life was beyond morality could have founded a good religious community (congregation, order)
His conclusion prevents any solution to the problem of cultic aberrations: “do not destroy the enthusiasm of youth”. That is the argument we keep hearing all the time.
But the enthusiasm justifies nothing. Many joined the Communist Party with enthusiasm for a good cause, the construction of a classless society, etc.
Having saved the Legion of Christ, Pope Benedict has saved all corrupt congregations: for if the Legion, the worst one of all, was saved, what about other congregations that deserve to be dissolved?
Yet in government, the Pope is not infallible. If the Pope is manipulated, if the Pope get blinded by appearances, succumbs to the temptation to encourage and support flawed communities, the true Christian who loves the Church and who is consistent…[final sentences missing, editor]
Here is the correct links to French former Legionary, Xavier Leger’s Presentation at the conference.
French version Xavier Leger’s Presentation at the International Cultic Studies Conference in Stockholm, July 2-4, 2015