Category Archives: Sexual Abuse

The Incest of Our Father – Part I

This multi-part exposé is a journey into the mind ofJuan J. Vaca, a child and victim of abuse, deception, evil and lies. These excerpts are from an original letter to Maciel begging him to stop the lies. Translated from the original Castillian.


To: Marcial Maciel, L.C.
Superior General of the Legionnaires of Christ
Via Aurelia Nuova, 677
Rome, Italy

Dear Father Maciel:

I will begin this letter by giving you my most sincere thank you for sending me a photocopy of my Rescript of Laicization and for the included letter. However, I must inform you that I did not receive it until last week, on October 12 to be exact. Continue reading The Incest of Our Father – Part I

Fr. Maciel Is Disciplined by the Holy See: What Will the Legionaries Do Now?

By Dale Vree
Dale Vree is Editor of New Oxford Review.

Fr. Marcial Maciel, the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, is probably the most prominent priest to be disciplined by the Catholic Church for homosexual predation, that is, pederasty. Former Legionary Juan Vaca sent the first petition to the Holy See in 1976. He identified himself and 20 others as victims of Maciel’s homosexual activity. It took 30 years for the case to be resolved. The case was reopened in 2004 by Cardinal Ratzinger of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). Ratzinger sent Msgr. Charles Scicluna to investigate the matter. According to John L. Allen Jr., the ace Vatican correspondent, Msgr. Scicluna gave the number of accusers as “more than 20, but less than 100” (NCRonline.org, May 18, 2006).

The official communiqué for the CDF on May 19, 2006, said in part: “Beginning in 1998, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith received accusations, already partly made public, against Fr. Marcial Maciel…for crimes that fall under the exclusive competence of the congregation…. After having attentively studied the results of the investigation, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith…decided — bearing in mind Fr. Maciel’s advanced age and his delicate health — to forgo a canonical hearing and to invite the father to a reserved life of penitence and prayer, relinquishing any form of public ministry. The Holy Father approved these decisions.”

The Legionaries and Regnum Christi (the Legion’s lay affiliate) followed with an official statement on May 19, which said in part: “Facing the accusations made against him [Maciel], he declared his innocence and, following the example of Jesus Christ, decided not to defend himself in any way.”

The Church certainly does allow for self-defense, so it’s obvious that Maciel could not defend himself. And if Maciel was “following the example of Jesus Christ,” who were the villains? The Sanhedrin, the Pharisees? In this melodrama, the villains can only be the Holy See.

Moreover, Jesus was not accused of sexually violating innocent boys. If Maciel really wanted to follow Jesus, he would do as Jesus says: “Whoever causes one of the little ones who believes in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea” (Mk. 9:42). Oh no, not that!

As for “following the example of Jesus Christ,” and deciding “not to defend himself in any way”: When the Hartford Courant in 1997 accused Maciel of molesting boys, Maciel’s lawyers threatened legal action against the newspaper. Was this following the example of Jesus Christ? It’s so obvious that Maciel could not defend himself against the Holy See.

The Legionaries’ statement also said that this is “a new cross that God, the Father of Mercy, has allowed him [Maciel] to suffer and that will obtain many graces for the Legion of Christ and the Regnum Christi Movement.” Fr. Owen Kearns, a Legionary priest and Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of the National Catholic Register (controlled by the Legionaries), said in an Editorial in the Register (May 28-June 3): “We are not afraid of this cross — on the contrary, we are honored by it.” Oh, really? Kearns has been the point man defending Maciel against charges of pederasty.

Kearns continues: “If you pray for the Legionaries, don’t pray that this cup be taken away, pray that we be worthy of drinking it to the dregs.” This is a play on the words of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane: “O My Father, if it is possible let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (Mt. 26:39; also Mk. 14:36 and Lk. 22:42).

Does Maciel consider himself to be a messianic figure? Certainly his followers do. Maciel even surpasses Christ when Kearns says, “Don’t pray that this cup be taken away” (Jesus says, “if it is possible let this cup pass from Me”), and Kearns says, “pray that we be worthy of drinking it to the dregs” (whereas Jesus says, “not as I will, but as You will”). Is Maciel greater than Christ?

Neither the Legionaries’ statement nor Kearns’s Editorial contained a hint of mea culpa. The Legionaries and Regnum Christi have been called cults, and their response would certainly indicate that. Only a zombie would believe what the Legionaries’ statement and Kearns’s Editorial say. The Legionaries and Regnum Christi were founded on a lie, a monumental lie. Of course, we would assume that most Legionaries and Regnum Christi members are not zombies. They were duped and betrayed, and we must feel compassion for them.

Because of Maciel’s “advanced age [86] and delicate health” (which is common for elderly clerical sex abusers), he was not subjected to a canonical trial. He was lucky to get off so easily, considering the dastardly crimes he committed. It was a settlement out of court, something like a plea-bargain. If it had gone to a canonical trial, Maciel would likely have been defrocked.

All this talk about Maciel’s “cross” and his “cup” is just hocus-pocus. Jesus was crucified; Maciel was not. Jesus was innocent; Maciel is not.

The communiqué from the CDF also said: “Independently of the person of the Founder, the worthy apostolate of the Legionaries of Christ and of the Association Regnum Christi is gratefully recognized” (italics added). This would indicate that the Holy See wants the Legionaries and Regnum Christi to separate themselves from Maciel. However, the Legionaries’ statement said: “The Legionaries of Christ and the members of Regnum Christi, following the example of Fr. Maciel and united to him…” (italics added). There will be no “independence” from Maciel. The Legionaries and Regnum Christi are Fr. Maciel; they consider him a “living saint.” Go to the Legion centers and you’ll find a picture of Maciel next to a picture of Christ. Maciel is highly charismatic, and, from several accounts, is thought to be a megalomaniac.

In Kearns’s Editorial he says: “The Legionaries will…accompany their founder [Maciel] in his new stage of his life…. We love and trust Pope Benedict. We do not question his decision or his wisdom.” But Kearns says Maciel will be “vindicated,” and refers to Maciel’s “cross.” So obviously Kearns does question Pope Benedict’s wisdom. The Legionaries’ statement also said that they “accept and will accept always the directives of the Holy See with profound spirit of obedience and faith”; but they also say Maciel is “innocent.” The Legionaries cannot make a martyr of Maciel and then give fidelity to the Holy See with “faith.” You can see why the Legionaries are known for their Machiavellian stratagems. But it’s an outright contradiction. No doubt some of the Legionaries and Regnum Christi members will fall for this.

By the way, after Kearns’s Editorial on Maciel — this being the biggest story affecting the Legion-controlled Register — there were no letters to the Editor, pro or con, in the Register. Hush, hush!

It’s clear that the Legionaries are still loyal to Maciel. This is flat-out defiance. The Holy See will quietly have to get rid of the leaders of the Legionaries. This is the Holy See’s test. Moreover, it’s hard to imagine that the culture of cronyism and dishonesty does not extend to other leaders of the Legionaries as well.

The best friends of the Legionaries in the U.S. were the neoconservatives. The usual neocon suspects rallied to Maciel’s defense against the pederasty charges. They included Deal Hudson, William Donohue, Richard John Neuhaus, and Mary Ann Glendon. More oblique were George Weigel and William Bennett. Boy, do these neocons have egg on their faces.

The accusers of Maciel were vilified and scorned. For example, in First Things (March 2002), Neuhaus called the accusations — and therefore the accusers — just about everything in the book: “slanderous attacks,” “malicious gossip,” “vicious gossip,” “repugnant,” “muck,” “false and malicious” (twice), “detraction,” “slander,” “calumny,” and “odious.” Of the neocons (as far as we know) only Neuhaus was still defending Maciel after the Vatican communiqué (on the First Things website, May 19, and on The New York Times website, May 19). Neuhaus went to great lengths to defend Maciel, and he must realize that much of his credibility is on the line. Yes, it’s hard to admit when one is wrong. But, Fr. Neuhaus, you were wrong.

Lo and behold, Fr. Neuhaus did admit he was wrong — for all intents and purposes — in First Things (Aug./Sept.). Well, good for him.

The Church owes the accusers a debt of gratitude and appreciation: Maciel has ruined or distorted the lives of many boys. Maciel has in effect been found guilty, and justice has been done (and so has mercy).

As you know, the NOR has told you what’s wrong with Maciel and the Legionaries for years, and we’ve gotten many cancelations and nonrenewals because of it. (We’ve also printed many letters defending Maciel and the Legionaries — it’s tempting to reveal all their names, but we won’t.) Yes, the truth can sometimes be hard to take. But you can trust us to tell the unpleasant truths and inconvenient facts. We can’t think of any other orthodox Catholic periodical that told you the truth about Maciel — that is, before the Holy See’s communiqué.

We know all about the unreliable, unprincipled, or unscrupulous people on the other side. In addition to that, we tell you about those on our side. As our Lord said, there will be false messiahs and false prophets who will perform deeds so great as to deceive the elect (to paraphrase Mt. 24:24). Surely, you don’t want to be deceived.

We again plead with you for your support. The NOR is not a knee-jerk, ideological magazine, and that’s why we are not funded by knee-jerk, ideological foundations. If you want a Pavlovian magazine, the NOR is not for you. But if you are an intelligent person, you want the uncompromised truth, and that’s what we give you at the NOR.

We are funded by our subscribers. As you know, as of last September, we’ve been trying to raise $176,000 (so far we have reached $111,145). Much of what we’re asking for is for our reconstructed website (where you can subscribe or renew — or make a donation — by credit card). At present our website is a huge financial drain. We hope that in time it will pay for itself. At our website, you will find our Archives, our Ad Gallery, NOR Dossiers, our En Español section, the NOR Gear Shoppe, our New Oxford News Link, and the current issue. Some are free and some you have to pay for. For an additional $10 annual fee above the print subscription price, you get everything. (That access, however, may only be ordered online with a credit card; we do not accept online-access orders at the office.) Our Forum is up and running, so online subscribers can post their comments relating to what they’ve read in the magazine and at our website.

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Legion’s news traced to Vatican ally

By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.

Rome

In a potentially significant twist to the case involving the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, NCR has learned that the office that recently released a statement saying there is no case against Fr. Marcial Maciel regarding sex abuse accusations is not the office with responsibility for making that judgment.

On May 20, the Legionaries of Christ issued a news release stating that the “Holy See” had informed them that “at this time there is no canonical process underway regarding our founder, Fr. Marcial Maciel, LC, nor will one be initiated.” Subsequently, the Catholic News Service and other press agencies quoted the Vatican Press Office as confirming the statement.

That news startled some observers, since an official of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican agency charged in 2001 by Pope John Paul II with responsibility for reviewing cases of sexual abuse of minors by clergy, traveled in early April to New York and Mexico City to collect testimony from alleged victims. Those efforts by Msgr. Charles Scicluna, the promoter of justice within the congregation, suggested that a preliminary investigation was underway.

Most observers assumed that the new communication to the Legionaries must have come from that congregation, the office once headed by Pope Benedict XVI.

In fact, however, the communication came from the Secretariat of State, the department that handles papal diplomacy and acts as a coordinator for the work of other Vatican agencies. It came in the form of a fax, which was unsigned but bore a seal from the Secretariat of State indicating official status. Italian Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican’s secretary of state, is a longtime supporter of Maciel and the Legionaries of Christ.

What this means is that the statement did not come from the Vatican agency that ultimately has responsibility for deciding Maciel’s fate. Officials of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith have refused to make any comment on the recent news reports, but a senior Vatican official told NCR May 25 that the congregation has made “no statement” on the Maciel case, even to the Secretariat of State.

The official stressed this does not mean that there eventually will be a canonical case against Maciel, merely that the agency charged with making that decision has not yet communicated its intentions. Given the preeminence of the Secretariat of State within the Vatican, at a minimum these recent developments suggest there are grave doubts within the Holy See about proceeding.

Asked for comment, a spokesperson for the Legionaries of Christ in New York said that he did not believe the distinction of which office issued the statement ultimately made any difference.

“We believe the Holy See is speaking with a unified voice on this issue,” Jay Dunlap, the Legionaries’ communications director for North America, told NCR May 25. “The way in which it was communicated was intended to make that clear.”

In terms of what force the communication enjoys, the precise wording of the communication from the Secretariat of State is important. In Italian, it went as follows: “Non vi è nessun procedimento canonico in corso né è previsto per il futuro nei confronti di P. Maciel.” Literally translated, it reads: “There is no canonical procedure in course nor is one foreseen for the future with regard to Fr. Maciel.”

The communication thus did not say categorically “nor will one be initiated,” but that one “is not foreseen for the future.” The formula “is not foreseen” is sometimes used in Vatican argot for a development that is not officially in the works, but that is not completely outside the range of possibility. When papal trips are first rumored, for example, spokespersons sometimes say they are “not foreseen,” only to have them eventually materialize.

The official who spoke to NCR stressed again that this does not mean there will be a procedure, only that such a procedure cannot be definitively ruled out until a statement is issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

In 2000, Sodano went to the Regina Apostolorum, the Roman university sponsored by the Legionaries, to inaugurate a new facility. In 2003, he made another visit to the university, at which time he praised Maciel.

“Dear Father, I’ve seen the great work that you do,” Sodano said to Maciel while embracing him. “You’re always young, always strong,” Sodano said.

Maciel in turn thanked Sodano for his support, recalling his 2000 visit, which is marked by a plaque at the Regina Apostolorum.

“Three years later, you accepted our invitation with fraternal charity to return, and I’m very grateful,” Maciel said. “You have always encouraged this university in its birth and growth.”

The charges of sexual abuse against Maciel first surfaced in 1997, when eight former members brought a canonical complaint related to incidents that allegedly took place decades before. Maciel and the Legionaries have strenuously denied the charges.

“We hold no grudge against those who accuse us,” the May 20 statement from the Legionaries said with regard to the accusers. “Rather, we keep them in our prayers while expressing our humblest gratitude to the countless people of goodwill who in these circumstances have reiterated to us their support and esteem.”

John L. Allen Jr. is NCR Rome correspondent. His e-mail address is jallen@natcath.org.

To Pope Benedict XVI: This Church is all of us.

To Pope Benedict XVI: This Church is all of us.
By Ruth Bertels

Somehow, it seems to me that Pope Benedict XVI is already into the second act of his papacy. The first weeks were simply a flash-back to the days before and during Pope John Paul II’s final illness.

The then Cardinal Ratzinger delivered a Good Friday homily guaranteed to make everyone in the Vatican sit up and take notice of the dire straits in which the Church found herself. Not just anyone is asked to give the Good Friday homily. It is a distinct honor, and, therefore, carries a good deal of weight. Ratzinger was up to the challenge. Or was he?

A Vatican homily is meant, not only for the Curia and the members of the hierarchy present, it circles the globe in minutes, leaving either chaos or the peace of Christ in its wake.

Chances are, Ratzinger’s words did more than astonish his listeners; they may well have caused deep-seated sadness in the hearts and minds of ordinary Catholics on Main Street, Anywhere-in-the-World. Jason Berry reported the harsh judgment in the New York Times:

How much filth there is in the church, and even among those who, in the priesthood, ought to belong entirely to God.

Later, he compared the Church to a boat about to sink, taking in water on every side.

Here, Ratzinger appears distraught over the scandals that have rocked the Church, though one cannot help but wonder why, since they have been in the Vatican files since 1993, but dismissed by him as a planned campaign by the news media to discredit the church.

Somehow, Ratzinger appears to have forgotten that this is a mighty big Church of ours, a holy Church, a Church of sinners, yes, but, also, of millions of everyday saints, whose names will never guarantee them a Mercedes limo if invited to Rome, nor dining in the finest restaurants, nor a private audience with Pope Benedict XVI.

Yet, it is these people who staff the soup kitchens, keep vigil for the dying, do the volunteer work that keeps parishes going year-round, support the Vatican, and lift the spirits of their fellow pilgrims by their courage and humility, patience and perseverance. They give us joy in the morning and peace at even-tide. They are the Church.

What might be upsetting the new pope, Berry tells us, is the case he recently reopened against Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado, a powerful Mexican priest who founded his own order and lives in the seminary in Rome.

Berry goes on to say that in 1998, when Ratzinger was head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a legal tribunal of the congregation accepted a case by nine seminarians who accused Father Maciel, founder of the Legionaries of Christ, of sexual assault, an allegation that first surfaced in the 1960’s. (Please refer to the articles in the Archives: Vows of Silence.)

In 1999, Ratzinger told a Mexican bishop that it was not “prudent” to proceed against a man who had helped the church by attracting young men to the priesthood.

However, since Ratzinger reopened the case, Berry asks, “Why?” Was it because he thought that he might be pope one day, and wouldn’t want the case clouding his standing before the world?

Since the Vatican is an independent country, it may be easy for those living and working there to be lulled into a false sense of security, far from the eyes and questions of the ordinary folks in ordinary little and big towns. How else can one explain the congratulatory, lengthy letter sent by Pope John Paul II to Marcial Maciel on the anniversary of his ordination, November 24, 2004?
Here is a brief quote from it:

Your 69 years of priestly life, Reverend Father, have been characterized by significant spiritual and missionary fecundity with different apostolic works and activities, such as the Regnum Christi Movement …

I cannot, of course, forget the service that you have rendered in these years to the Holy See, which has made use – on several occasions and in different ways – of your generous and competent collaboration, whether on the occasion of some of my apostolic trips, or in the activity of organizations of the Roman Curia.

Personally, it is impossible for me to doubt that Ratzinger cleared this letter, especially considering the poor health of the pope at the time. What was Ratzinger thinking? Didn’t he understand that the message would see the light of day and cause scandal upon scandal? Because he is so brilliant, does he consider the little people so ignorant they would not be repulsed at the sight of a founder of a religious order, accused of molesting nine seminarians, receiving accolades from the Holy Father?

I’m sorry. I just don’t understand this.

A number of times, the pope has said he would favor a smaller Church, implying one where the faithful were unquestioningly faithful. The problem is that this is not his Church; it is Christ’s Church, and the Church is all of us. Jesus told his apostles to feed his lambs and sheep. Not only the ones who stay quietly on the hillside, but those who wander off, especially those who wander off, and must be rescued by an alert, caring shepherd.

Some have said we must be willing to give Pope Benedict XVI a chance. That we are most willing to do. But in turn, we ask him to give us a chance, a chance to find peace and respect and love within the Church that belongs to all of us. Amen.

Sexual Abuse Allegations Against a Top Catholic Re-examined

An investigation into the sexual abuse allegations against a high-ranking priest of the Roman Catholic Church has been reopened, seven years after the formal complaint was first filed with then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, according to people familiar with the case.

Ratzinger’s office ordered the case against the Rev. Marcial Maciel reopened in December, around the time there was growing speculation Ratzinger was a leading candidate to be the next pope. In fact, a Vatican investigator began taking sworn statements from the alleged victims just two weeks ago in New York, the day Pope John Paul II died, according to sources close to the case.

The men who brought the allegations against Maciel had thought their case was dead, having heard nothing but silence in the seven years since they brought the allegations to the attention of Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI.

“They knelt and kissed his ring, filing these charges in his tribunal, and after that it was simply stuffed, it was shelved,” said Jason Berry, co-author with Gerald Renner of a book on the case, “Vows of Silence.”

“This pope is at a crossroads. He has to resolve the Maciel case or it will stalk him like a shadow in the sun.”

The charges against Maciel, the founder of a well-connected and well-financed order called the Legion of Christ, a conservative sect of the Catholic Church, date back to the 1950s. Eight men allege that Maciel sexually abused them as young seminarians in Rome, something Maciel has always strongly denied.

Unspoken Truths?

Juan Vaca, now a college professor in New York, told ABC News in 2002 that he reluctantly brought the charges as a way to get over the trauma he says he suffered.

“I was the one who called them from their bedrooms to go to see Maciel,” he said. “In some instances, two were together with him, myself and another one.”

The men making the allegations have been told they cannot talk about the case now that it has been reopened.

Maciel, now 84, resigned as head of the legion in January. But as recently as late last year, he was praised by Pope John Paul II for his “intense, generous and fruitful priestly ministry” during the 60th anniversary celebration of Maciel’s ordination.

Ratzinger repeatedly refused to discuss what happened to the Maciel case, and when ABC News attempted to ask him about the allegations outside the Vatican three years ago, he became upset and slapped the hand of the ABC News correspondent on scene.

“You come to me when the moment is given,” Ratzinger said. “Not yet.”

‘Temptation Is Natural, Even for the Priest’

As head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, Ratzinger was put in charge of dealing with the church’s worldwide sexual abuse scandal. But he was at first slow to act and downplayed the scandal as part of a campaign to discredit the church.

“In the United States, there is constant news on this topic, but less than 1 percent of priests are guilty of acts of this type,” Ratzinger said in a rare interview in 2002. “The constant presence of these news items does not correspond to the objectivity of the information nor to the statistical objectivity of the facts. Therefore, one comes to the conclusion that it is intentional, manipulated, that there is a desire to discredit the church.”

Ratzinger was also surprisingly forgiving of priests guilty of sexual abuse.

“Never will it end,” he said. “Temptation is natural, even for the priest. So we have to accept that.”

Berry said that Ratzinger made grave mistakes in his treatment of the Catholic church’s sexual abuse scandal.

“He made a series of terrible blunders in the 1990s and well into 2002,” Berry said. “He made statements that were inaccurate and terribly misleading.”

But some, including Berry, see the reopened Maciel case as a hopeful sign.

“If he removes Maciel, he makes a statement that he is serious about a crackdown on this world abuse scandal,” Berry said of Ratzinger. “If he doesn’t remove Maciel, then the pope himself is part of the problem.”

Rhonda Schwartz, Avni Patel, and Jessica Wang contributed to this report.