The Maciel Affair



The Maciel Affair.

19 May 2006 – 19 May 2016

Ten years ago today one of the most extraordinary cover-ups was played out in public. It was so public that it was hidden in plain sight.  The Vatican emitted a 23 line communiqué of which only six lines were truly significant. The first 15 lines reviewed a process of investigation that purportedly had started in 1998. Then the communiqué goes on to say:

“ After having submitted the results of the investigation to an attentive study, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under the guide of its new Prefect, his Eminence Cardinal William Levada, decided – taking account of the advanced age of the Reverend Maciel and his delicate health- to renounce any canonical process and to invite the Father to a reserved life of prayer and penance, renouncing every public ministry. The Holy Father has approved these decisions”  (Translation of communiqué from original Italian emitted by Vatican Press office 19th May, 2006)

                It is a sublime masterpiece of Machiavellian literature.  What makes it so cunning?

Firstly and most importantly it makes absolutely no mention of the victims. It does show great concern for Maciel, his health and his age, but nothing for those who had been abused. This outrageous attitude towards Maciel’s victims has never changed. Pope Benedict refused to meet with them in his visit to Mexico in 2012 as did Pope Francis in his visit in 2015.

The second noticeable element is the use of age as a factor in avoiding a canonical hearing. Canon law has no canon that excludes a person because of their age from being submitted to due process. The great minds in the Vatican conjured up a loophole so that Maciel could escape justice and conveniently avoid a situation where the Vatican’s own complicity might be made evident.  The age of the victims wasn’t an issue but the age of the perpetrator was.

And if age itself was not enough of an excuse to exonerate him from a trial. The Vatican also uses Maciel’s health as a pretext .  What about the health of the victims? What about the years of pain, vilification and guilt to which they had been submitted? That didn’t really matter to the Vatican.  It was never mentioned.

But the use of Maciels health is a masquerade, a pantomime of justice. To what health checks was he submitted ? Which doctors reviewed him to declare him unfit for trail? What diagnosis was required for him to become exempt from the law? The answer is of course; there was no health check, there were no doctors, there was no diagnosis. … there was no proper procedure. It was all a lie.

A person is deemed unfit for trail if he is unable to understand the charges brought against him. This was not the case with Maciel, the same day the communiqué was published Maciel declared his innocence through a Legionary note:

“Father Maciel, with the spirit of obedience to the Church that has always characterized him, has accepted this communiqué with faith, complete serenity and tranquillity of conscience, knowing that it is a new cross that God, the Father of Mercy, has allowed him to suffer and that will obtain many graces for the Legion of Christ and the Regnum Christi Movement”  (Statement of the Legionaries of Christ, May 19th 2006, published in

It was all a farce. In fact Maciel was in good health for his age. After the 19th May 2006 he was well enough to made long intercontinental flights and was able to live independently with his concubine and daughter in Mexico and later in Jacksonville, USA.

A third element that stands out in the note is the “invitation” to a life of prayer and penance. He was declared unfit to stand trial then deemed fit to do penance.  The logical conclusion for a person deemed incapable to stand trial would be for that person to be sent to a hospital or put into care.

But the “invitation” itself is a travesty. An invitation can be declined, turned down or snubbed. An invitation is certainly not a punishment nor a declaration of guilt.  Maciel had no intention of accepting such a pious invitation. It was a get-out-of jail- card which he played with great delight.

In what court or process have we ever heard a person being invited to a life of prayer and penance. The “invitation” mocks the victims, mocks the process and mocks the Vatican. It signifies the lack of sincerity there was in bringing Maciel to justice and it highlights the utter disregard there was for the sufferers of abuse.

No one was ever held responsible for the injustices that were meted out to Maciel’s victims in this fake process. There was no independent investigation,  no cardinals were called to explain how a whole legal procedure was forged to let Maciel off the hook; no one lost their job; no one went to jail. Ten years later Maciel’s victims are still ignored by the Vatican.


                Peter Francis Byrne

“All it takes for evil to advance is for good men to do nothing”

3 thoughts on “The Maciel Affair”

  1. I was on one the formator’s courses in Rome in July of 2001 and met with Maciel Marcial during lunch at General Directorate. It was the first time i met the man, but not the last. I entered the Legion the following year. I never felt comfortable around him, and i hated reading his letters during my entire 7 year tenure with the Legion. At the time I felt like a substandard Legionary. I never wanted to be around him. I always wondered why i felt that way and would blame it on my one sinfulness in the presence of such a holy man. Now I know it was the Holy Spirit protecting me. I left the Legion 8 years ago. It was the happiest, more peaceful decision of my life!


  2. PS. If the author if this article is Fr. Peter Byrne from the course, I have a confession to make. I was the one who chucked the water balloon out the window of the CES! Not sure if you remember me, but i was the one who got his copy of witness to hope signed by JPII.


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