Letter from Pope John Paul II to Marcial Maciel on Anniversary of Ordination

To the Reverend Father Marcial Maciel Degollado
Superior General of the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ

1. I am pleased to unite myself spiritually to the joy and to the thanksgiving that from you, Reverend Father, and from the hearts of all the members of this religious family rise up to God, source of all good, on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the priestly ordination that was conferred upon you November 26, 1944, in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico City. On that day was completed the journey of formation for the priesthood, initiated by you at 16 with the dream of giving rise to priests totally dedicated to the proclamation of the Gospel and the moral and social uplifting of the poorest and most marginalized brothers. This project of love of Christ, fidelity to the Church, and service to man was able to be realized with the birth in Mexico City on January 3, 1941, of the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ, whose Constitutions were, later, approved definitively by me in the year 1983.

2. Your 60 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, the network of schools called ‘Mano Amiga’ [Helping Hand], the numerous educational and charitable institutions — present today in 16 countries of the five continents — whose objective is to promote the values of the family and the human person, [and] university centers of study and formation. And, what to say, moreover, of the apostolate of the priests Legionaries of Christ as well as the commitment of the whole congregation in favor of the integral formation of future diocesan priests, particularly through the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum, and the two Mater Ecclesiae international seminaries of Rome and Sao Paulo in Brazil?

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.

3. The profound inspiration which has guided your educational, cultural and pastoral action — an inspiration that you have transmitted as a precious treasure to the religious family you founded — has been the constant concern for an integral promotion of the person, and especially as regards the human formation that, as I had the opportunity to write in the postsynodal apostolic exhortation “Pastores Dabo Vobis,” “when it is carried out in the context of an anthropology which is open to the full truth regarding the human person, leads to and finds its completion in spiritual formation” (No. 45).

Reverend Father, the joyful recollection of your 60th anniversary of priestly ordination falls during the Year of the Eucharist. This providential coincidence constitutes an invitation to meditate upon the centrality of the Eucharist in the life of the Christian community and especially in the formation of future priests and in their subsequent dedication to ordained ministry. This is what I underlined in the previously cited document, recalling “the essential importance of the Eucharist for the priest’s life and ministry and, as a result, in the spiritual formation of candidates for the priesthood” (No. 48).

4. For all these reasons I am happy to join in with the canticle of praise and of thanksgiving to the Lord that rises up from many hearts for the “great things” (cf. Luke 1:49) that the grace of God has accomplished in these 60 years of your intense, generous and fruitful priestly ministry.

As I invoke a renewed outpouring of the gifts of the Holy Spirit so that your priesthood may continue to bear abundant good fruits, I entrust you, dear Father Maciel, to the heavenly protection of the Virgin Mary, Mother of priests, and I send you affectionately a special apostolic blessing, which I willingly extend to all the Legionaries of Christ, to the members of the Regnum Christi Movement, and to all who participate in the jubilee celebration.

From the Vatican, November 24, 2004
Joannes Paulus II

Reply to Fr. Neuhaus : The Weight of Sex Abuse Victim Testimonies and Deeper Knowledge of Fr. Maciel

10/10/04 -A Scholastic Response to: “You are jumping to conclusions regarding Fr. Maciel�

 

By J. Paul Lennon, MA

 

Date: Mon, 9 Sep 2002 19:19:47 -0700 (PDT)
From: “J. Paul Lennon” <irishmexican43@yahoo.com>
Re: Maciel
To: “Richard John Neuhaus” <rjn@firstthings.com>
Richard John Neuhaus wrote:

Mr. Paul Lennon

“Dear Mr. Lennon,

I am familiar with, but not persuaded by, some of the standard distinctions employed in the discussion of sexual deviancies.
I appreciate your thoughts on the Legion and Fr. Maciel. Permit me to suggest, however, that you move with startling rapidity from ‘having no reason to doubt’ that ‘something like that could be true,’ to the assumption that Fr. Maciel is guilty of the crimes and sins alleged by his accusers.
If you have not already, you might search the FIRST THINGS website for the article in which I explain why I do not believe the charges against Fr. Maciel.
Thank you for writing.

Cordially,
(The Rev.) Richard John Neuhaus”
===================================

 

REV NEUHAUS DEFENDS MACIEL PART II

PREFACE:

Today, 9/30/04, reviewing my postings on the Regain discussion board [7/29/2003 at 05:08 PM], I found the following, which I now edit:

“My Days in Salamanca 1960s ”

Subject: Revelations against Father Marcial Maciel and personal first hand knowledge of Accusers

Dear Arturo J.:
i received the videotapes you sent on Tuesday and started watching them last night [4/4/02], beginning with the first video, the ‘rough’ version of the testimonies of three brave xlegionaries. I was able to see on the screen the face of Jose Barba whom I haven’t met for many years; and there he was, full of dignity, ruefully talking about his abuse. I was saddened and angry at Father Maciel by Jose’s story. I, who love to sleep in, did not sleep well. I got up a six, a record for me. As I continue with the second tape, the Mexican “Canal 40″ report, I continue to understand the nature, and grasp the reality and seriousness of this abuse. On hearing/watching Alejandro Espinoza talking about the recruitment of ‘pretty’ boys, I had a weird sense of the wisdom of my own vague ‘intuition’ regarding the Founder. The realization of Maciel being an ‘ephebophile’, a ‘lover of handsome youth’ –in the Greek tradition, shall we say– seems to have fully dawned on me a few days ago when I shared some other reflections with the forum.

Memories and names from my own experience come to my mind. When I arrived in Salamanca in early September 1961, I do remember seeing an Arturo Jurado. He belonged to another community, already a Philosophy student in apostolic practices? From what i remember, although i could not talk to him, he did seem to be a particularly gentle and quiet individual. I do not remember crashing into him during one of our ‘friendly’ intercommunity soccer matches. ”

**************

I also found this Testimony I wrote for unitypublishing.com

ME AND MACIEL

Dear Rick:
An ex-confrere of mine just attached your issue on the LC and RC to me. You’ve done a fine job. I was with the LC from 1961-1984. In fact I was one of the first ‘founders’in Ireland [which Maciel targeted as a stepping stone to the US and English speaking world.] Father Maciel: MASTER OF THE GAME, -think Graham Greene and John Le Carre spy novels- a diabolically clever strategist. Maciel is so clever at drawing the wool over peoples’ eyes he has John Paul II eating out of his hand!
And a very strange bird, Dangerous, perhaps EVIL. Utterly bereft of human compassion, and therefore, at least in my book, no way a saint!

ME
I instinctively disliked him and was never one of his closer entourage. My lack of wholehearted and narrow-minded adulation for him and ‘the movement’ also precluded me from ever holding a position of authority even though I was bright, earnest and hardworking, and one of the first Irish Legionary priests, ordained in Rome in 1969. [I did spearhead the ‘Schools of Faith’ among Mexico City’s upper classes from 1975-82].

MACIEL
I have the privilege of being one of the few ‘brothers’ who ever questioned Maciel’s judgment at community gatherings when he, NUESTRO PADRE, [the name the Jesuits give to Saint Ignatius] would instruct his disciples. He would shoot me down and humiliate me in front of the others, calling me a ‘rationalist’ and ‘lacking faith’. Once you stand up to Maciel, you’re out. You cannot question his authority.
I never experienced his pedophilia personally but did know some of the witnesses personally -especially Juan Manuel Fernández Amenábar- and have no reason to doubt them. The twisted manipulation described in some of the testimonials is vintage Maciel: ‘I have a special dispensation from His Holiness…’ I can easily picture him telling those little boys not to worry after abusing them. I had a couple of major depressive episodes during my ‘career’ in the Legion and no director or superior ever suggested I see a therapist.

When I had my Major Depressive Episodes -I self diagnosed after leaving the Legion!- I did not know what was wrong with me. I was told it was my lack of faith, to ‘sit tight and pray and it will go away.’ I suppose I’m resiliant so I didn’t loose my mind.
The abuse rampant in the LC/RC system is, therefore, MUCH MORE THAN PURELY SEXUAL; it is also
• emotional; of the
• mind; of the
• conscience, of the spirit, of the
• soul!

Based on 23 years of contact with Maciel, my humble MA Counseling and Post masters in Marriage and Family Therapy -which, by the way, is more real supervised mental health training than he or any other ‘formators’ have received- I would venture to say he is a
1. Narcissistic person: he believes himself to be totally special, and therefore beyond or above rules that bind ordinary people. -It has its advantages to be ‘God’s chosen one’-. There have always been strong strains of
2. Hypochondriasis in all the illnesses he has always had and that require special medical treatment, specialists, hospitals, medications, rest in luxury hotels and spas, people tending hand an foot, etc., etc, Maciel is above all a
3. Magalomaniac, with an insatiable thirst for power, control of peoples’ souls and lives, and adulation. It’s not hard to see where multiple abuser fits into all this…

PS. The Legion and RC is a very toxic place where one is not ‘individuated’ as an individual person, and does not possess sufficient self-awareness to take care of oneself. You have to get out before you can realize how sick you were.

Church authorities need to stop, question, analyze Maciel and the Legion instead of just going along with this priest increase apparent success story.

Paul Lennon, Mental Health Therapist and ‘disgruntled ex-member’

Back to my Neuhaus letter

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

HOW I REACHED MY CONCLUSIONS REGARDING

FR. MACIEL SEXUALLY ABUSING THESE SEMINARIANS

Father Neuhaus:
Thanks for replying so quickly to my letter to the editor. I appreciate your interest in the issues at hand and your willingness to engage in an enlightened discussion. Let me just make a couple of replies to your replies, which I will insert for the sake of clarity.

1- ‘I am familiar with, but not persuaded by, some of the standard distinctions employed in the discussion of sexual deviancies.’

Respondeo dicendum quod

Primum: I believe you were the one who in your article referred to distinctions such as ‘pedophilia’ and ‘ephebophilia’. I pointed out before that when there is a serious discrepancy in age/power/authority/
knowledge between those engaging in sexual activities such behavior is generally considered ‘AND ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP’, and results, for treatment purposes, in one of the parties being considered ‘the perpetrator’ and the other ‘the victim’.

Secundum:
I did not use the term ‘sexual deviancies’, as it is nebulous, and belongs to a more academic, philosophical and psychological realm which would lead to endless intellectual discussions.. I believe I referred to ‘sexual abuse’ in my letter to you. This is more concrete, morally and legally.

**************************************************

2- “I appreciate your thoughts on the Legion and Fr. Maciel. Permit me to suggest, however, that you move with startling rapidity from ‘having no reason to doubt’ that ‘something like that could be true,’ to the assumption that Fr. Maciel is guilty of the crimes and sins alleged by his accusers.”

As regards Father Maciel’s sexually abusive behaviors,
respondeo dicendum quod:

Primum:
As a Legionary I only heard about the investigations [1956-9] of Father Maciel in and through superiors who were loyal to him: Frs Rafael Arumi, Octavio Acevedo, Alfredo Torres, Juan Manuel Duenas, etc. The nature or causes of ‘La Guerra” [The War] –in Legion parlance of the early 60s– were never explained to members, except to attribute them to ‘enemies’, ‘trying to destroy the Legion’. I believe the term applied to the Vatican investigation has been revised since then to something like ‘La Gran Bendicion’ [The Great Blessing]. Nothing of a sexual nature regarding the troubles of those years was ever mentioned within my hearing. We were told that a number of early Legionaries rebelled against Father Maciel because they were ill-intentioned and wanted to ‘destroy the Legion’. The gist of the story was that they had gotten too big for their boots and began to interfere with Fr. Maciel, the Founder. While inside the Legion –23 years–I never heard anything about the true nature of the accusations against Father Maciel.

There was an informal list of ‘traitors’ which circulated hush-hush through the superiors and was gossiped in the community: names like the Isla brothers, Federico Dominguez, a certain Rizo, and others I vaguely remember. Jose Barba, one of the accusers, was from that same generation, but I don’t think he was considered a ‘traitor’ to Nuestro Padre. Later, in the 80s, I learned Jose had left the Legion on friendly terms and made a pretty good transition out of the Legion into the academic world. As a matter of fact, and I don’t know how we managed this, together with Fr. Amenabar and another Legionary of the time, I visited exlc Jose Barba when he has teaching at a university [Universidad de las Americas?] in Puebla, Mexico.

Secundum:
I, personally, had no inkling of any sexual abuse in the Legion. But while a member, 1961-1984 I had personally known at least five of Father Maciel’s accusers : Arturo Jurado, Felix Alarcón, Juan Jose Vaca, Jose Barba and Juan Manuel Amenábar, in varying degrees of closeness. I never had a personal conversation with any of them, though this is not strange as Legionaries are so guarded in their interpersonal disclosure, that even if I had been their direct confrere, I would probably not have learned anything either. These Legion norms would also preclude the accusers discussing their abuse among themselves while in the Legion. Besides, the Private Vow was drafted just before the Vatican investigation began. I am not sure whether Fr. Maciel did this purposely to nip any criticism or revelations in the bud.
‘Knowing’ the assusers explains how, when I read the first articles in 1997/8, they were not just names to me, and I had to take them seriously. But I still doubted, or did not want to believe, that I had been so close to something as outragious as pedophilia. I also ‘knew’ Father Maciel more than most contemporary members. He had been a part of my life since he traveled with the first Irish group to Lourdes in August 1961. He had heard my ‘general confession’ before taking the habit, my regular confession on several occasions; I had exchanged Spiritual Direction Letters with him on a montly basis for about 20 years, and had face to face Spiritual Direction on several occasions. I had more frequent dealings with Father Maciel when he chose me to found and direct the ‘School of Faith’ in Mexico City 1975-82. I had some tussles of authority with him from the 80’s on. Finally, I had confronted him in Cotija, Michoacan, in the fall of 1984 regarding the fate of those who disagree or leave the institution. We lashed out at each other.

[added on September 17, 2004:
AN ENIGMA TO ME
Thus,I had felt his verbal and emotional abuse of myself and other confreres over the years. More than that, I had experienced his leadership style which I knew could be ruthless and full of disregard for feelings and dignity, a kind of coldness and cruelty, which shocked me in a person considered a saint. I knew he would stop at nothing to reach his goals. Thus, I lost my esteem for Father Maciel over the course of those 23 years. Nothing would surprise me about him. But I had no conscious experience or awareness of his sexual wrongdoing. The accusations of sexual abuse, for me, however, were not so much a purely sexual thing, nor a questioning of his holiness –I was sure he had none– but rather: was Father Maciel capable of misusing his power to this extent? Although I had never thought of Father as a sexual predator, I had always had questions about his psycho-sexual make up, his –to me– ‘strangeness’. He always seemed to be cut off or disconnected from his deep or tender feelings, from what I would consider ‘normal’ emotions. I had often heard him express himself with contempt about women. Because of my own very affectionate nature, I could never understand HIS affectivity: whether he had one in the ordinary sense of the word: whether he really ‘cared’ about anyone. It seemed like he ‘used’ people. And I had always been struck by Augustine’s: ‘Use things, love people.’ I had never met a person quite like Maciel before, and often wondered ‘what made him tick’. Or was he always ‘on guard’ around others, always calculating, scheming? Could he be so controlling of his own emotions, in all his human relationships and interactions?

Tertium:
Last year when I listened to Barba and Vaca tell me their stories –separately and without the other knowing– over the phone, I was very moved by their undeniable pain, shame and honesty. I met them both earlier this [2002] year, together with Jurado, in conjunction with the 20/20 interviews in New York and became more convinced of the truth of their persons and testimony. I saw with my own eyes how they were re-traumatized by the harrowing lengthy TV interviews [which spawned a few moments of air time!]. I have read Alarcon’s letter describing his abuse and apologizing to the others for his collaboration with Maciel and it rings true. I met another accuser/victim called Alejandro Espinoza in April of this year who regaled me with the most horrible details of his sexual abuse [see ‘El Legionario’, his testimony]. All the pieces fell into place without that having been rehearsed. The details of the places they referred to, of the others involved…all sounded real, all rang true.

Quartum:
I find it very hard to believe that these men would willingly deceive me. I find it even more difficult to understand why any man at their age, and without benefit to himself, should want to reveal such an intimate and painful part of his life, if it were not true. I find it even harder to believe that they would make up stories that in some cases
‘incriminate’ themselves as accomplices of these crimes [one admits having called other brothers into the infirmary to be fondled, masturbated and sodomized by Father Maciel] unless they were still struggling with the aftermath of untreated abuse and still needed to ventilate their trauma.

Your ‘incredulous’ response is common and does not surprise me. The spontaneous, ‘natural’, response to talk of sexual abuse is denial and minimization. Where a priest is concerned it makes it just that more ‘incredible’ and ‘impossible’. But we have to admit that some priests commit these horrendous crimes. I believe Father Bruce Ritter the Founder of Covenant House overstepped boundaries with some youth from Covenant House, though this does not prevent me continuing to support this worthy charity. I believe Father Maciel, despite his marvelous social skills and wonderful gifts as entrepreneur, also committed sexual abuse. But he gets off Scot free thanks to having powerful friends which he has cultivated so well and carefully over the years. Thanks also to the knee-jerk reaction of ‘it can’t be true!’ and other forms of unexamined denial from the public in general, and from the conservative right wing Catholic public in particular.

Quintum:
Not to make a big deal out of this, but in hindsight some things begin make sense to me. I was a witness to very clear favoritism of Father Maciel towards certain ‘brothers’, who happened to be good looking or with better social skills and graces. and in the communities I belonged to later. In the 60s and 70s we had much more exposure to Fr. Maciel’s presence in the community. This was true specifically in Rome. Nuestro Padre had his own room on the 2nd floor and would be up and about the community in the corridors and in the gardens conducting business. We could bump into him any time during the day.

^^^^^^^^^^^
[Added 10/18/04]
I remember very clearly that Raul de Anda,LC, a dark and handsome Mexican with fine features, was his personal secretary for a period in the 60s in Rome. Juan Manuel Correa, another Mexican, was another of these personal secretaries to Nuestro Padre. We three were students together at Via Aurelia 677. Bro Raul, –in the LC Theology students are called ‘Padre’– is now Dr. Raul de Anda, thanks to a PhD in experimental psycology. He was never ordained, and after leaving the Legion remained on good terms with Fr. Maciel. He is one of the ‘psychologists’ to whom Legion superiors will refer suffering members. Raul, then –as now– a Legion employee, worked the LC Marriage and Family Center in Mexico City, ‘ALFA Y OMEGA’, in the mid to late 70s just as the School of Faith was taking shape a few blocks away in the wealthy Lomas de Chapultepec neighborhood. Fr. Juan Manuel Fernandez-Amenabar, later an MM accuser, –because of his personal charisma with Mexican upper class women, their husbands and purse strings– was appointed founder, chaplain, spiritual director and lecturer at ALFA Y OMEGA by Fr. Maciel.
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

The ‘favoritism’ I referred to above happened within my own group of candidates. Fr. Maciel did single out one or two in our group of eight co-founders and give them preferential treatment: more individual attention, confidencies, greater access to his private quarters, special assignments, more travel, time with their family and the ‘privilege’ of traveling with him as his personal secretary. During these times of ‘accompanying Nuestro Padre’, the religious were totally unsupervised and ‘dispensed’ from the normal duties of the religious life, sometimes even neglecting their ‘Acts of Piety’, prayer life. These seminarians are now in their 50s and 60s. Some are still in the Legion and others have left. None of them have wanted to comment on the sexual abuse issue, except the odd one who allowed his name to be used in the official LC ‘conspiracy theory’ cover-up.

CONCLUSION:

All that has been said up to now cannot strictly ‘prove’ Fr. Maciel is a sexual abuser or pedophile. But the least it should do is give you pause, Fr. Nauhaus, before foolhardily endorsing him without sufficient information. The accusers stand steadfast by their claims, despite the tepid response of the Roman Curia and some conservative right wing intellectuals. Though many active Legionaries and Regnum Christi members aggressively defend a Father Maciel they do not know personally. Several ex-Legionaries with up close and personal experiences give credence to the charges. I firmly believe truth-searchers, like yourself, should continue to question Fr. Maciel and themselves regarding these ‘questionable’ relationships with his seminarians. Because of the serious doubts that remain regarding these relationships, it is not unreasonable to seek another ‘injunction’ against him until these doubts have been cleared up. When such charges were made against the Cardinal Archibishop of Perth, Australia, he stepped down until they finished.

I have been able to read the testimonies in the original Spanish as well as in English and this can also have a bearing on their power. I have also met and spoken with the witnesses in their native language. Perhaps there is an element of ‘faith’ to believing the ‘testimonies’ of the accusers. But that is precisely what ‘faith’ is all about: ‘believing witnesses’, ‘eye-witnesses’, ‘participants’, if possible. I do believe the testimonies of these confreres in their accusations against Marcial Maciel. In an almost blasphemous paraphrase of Saint John’s First Letter they state:

‘Regarding Maciel Maciel, we were there at the beginning, what we have heard with our own ears, what we have seen with our own eyes, what we have looked upon, what we have experienced in our own bodies that his hands have handled… [see IJn 1,1]
—————-

Final note: my original letter to Fr. Neuhaus has been slightly edited for clarity, without altering the content. The last paragraph was added 9/15/04, jpl

======================================================

FR. NEUHAUS’S RESPONSE

Thursday, 12 September 2002 16:57:33 -0500
Subject: LC
From: ‘Richard John Neuhaus” <rjn@firstthings.com>
To: irishmexican43@yahoo.com

Mr. Paul Lennon

Dear Mr. Lennon,

I thank you for your thoughtful response.

Not for the sake of argument, but because i would really like to understand: Why do you think the accusers have come forward at this time and in this way? If they had the access they seek in Rome, what would they say they think should be done with regard to Fr. Maciel and the LC, and why?

Sincerely,

(The Rev.) Richard John Neuhaus

The Seven Capital Vices of the Movements, According to “La Civiltà Cattolica”

By Sandro Magister

Three “dangers” and four “challenges”: through the magazine of the Rome Jesuits, the Vatican makes a critical appraisal of the movements. A warning for the Neocatechumenal Way, Focolare, Sant´Egidio, and Bose

Click Here for Link from Chiesa

ROMA – With John Paul II, the communities and movements that have arisen within the Catholic Church during the past few decades have enjoyed a mild climate, wrapped up in the friendship of the pope. But shadows gather where light shines. A recent editorial in “La Civiltà  Cattolica” listed the “dangers” and “challenges” posed to the Church by many of these movements.

The editorial – dated June 19, 2004, entitled “The ecclesial movements today,” and signed by Jesuit Fr. Giuseppe De Rosa – is all the more important insofar as it was reviewed and authorized before printing by the Vatican secretariat of state, as is the rule for every edition of “La Civiltà  Cattolica.” Reading it is like glancing over a reminder note, not for the use of the current pontificate, but for that of the next, with a list of unresolved questions. And the answers must be found.

In making a survey of the “dangers” and “challenges” posed by the movements, the magazine does not mention names. But it´s not difficult for the experts to identify the institutes under criticism, point by point.

According to the editorial by “La Civiltà  Cattolica,” “the most serious and difficult challenges that the ecclesial movements pose to the Church today” are the following four.

THE LEGISLATIVE VACUUM
The first is “the lack of an overarching law.” “The present code of canon law does not deal explicitly with the ecclesiastical movements,” and this generates confusion. They must be “given canonical systemization”: an undertaking “which, however, shows itself to be particularly difficult.”

This observation is valid for most of the movements. An important exception is represented by Opus Dei, which, since it became a personal prelature – the only one in the Church today – has enjoyed a solid and untouchable juridical framework.

DUAL MEMBERSHIP
The second concern is the presence in some movements of religious men and women belonging to other institutes: this “has provoked an identity crisis for some of them and has induced others to leave their own institutes or to establish a sort of dual membership.”

This phenomenon is observed especially among the Charismatics and members of the Neocatechumenal Way. It frequently happens, for example, that Jesuits or Franciscans become part of these movements. Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, official preacher of the papal household, is a famous case of dual membership: he is a Franciscan friar, and at the same time he is part of the Charismatic movement Renewal in the Spirit. There are many cases of dual membership among the Charismatics. In the Neocatechumenal Way, on the other hand, it happens more frequently that a religious abandons his own institute of origin and shifts completely to the movement founded by Kiko Argüello e Carmen Hernández. It is understandable that ancient and glorious religious families would not look with a kindly eye upon the exit of their own consecrated men and women, and the passage of these into new movements.

NON-CATHOLICS IN THE HOUSE
The third challenge “is constituted by the fact that some ecclesial movements […] admit baptized non-Catholics”: if these “were to become very numerous, they might influence the general assemblies to make substantial statutory changes, putting in danger the Catholic nature of the movement itself.”

This brings to mind the Focolare movement founded and headed by Chiara Lubich, which counts among its members thousands of non-Catholics and non-Christians, among whom are many Muslims and Buddhists. It is true that the non-Catholics belonging to Focolare do not enjoy any deliberative power, but the fear is that they might gain influence as a pressure group and weigh upon the public image of the movement and of the Church, in a relativistic sense.

More substantial is the case of the monastic community of Bose, the founder and prior of which is Enzo Bianchi. There are some non-Catholics who have full membership in this community: the Swiss Reformed pastor Daniel Attinger, two other Protestants, and the Orthodox monk Emilianos Timiadis, previously the metropolitan archbishop of Silyvría. And this is enough to make it impossible for Bose to receive canonical approval from the Holy See, not to mention the other obstacle constituted by its being a mixed community, with monks and nuns in the same monastery.

PRIESTS TORN AWAY FROM THE DIOCESES
The fourth critical point mentioned by “La Civiltà  Cattolica” deserves to be cited in full:

“The most delicate challenge is that of the participation of priests in the movements. It must be remembered, in the first place, that some movements have created their own seminaries, in which the students are formed according to the charism of the movement and prepared to be priests at the service of the movement itself. Then there remains the open question of the canonical incardination of these priests: if the movement has as its marks universality and missionary activity, which are recognized and approved by the Holy See in granting the movement the status of a public association, who should incardinate its priests? Generally, recourse is had to an instrumental incardination, in which a bishop well disposed toward the movement incardinates the priest into his diocese, while leaving him available – in general full time and with full freedom of movement – to the movement itself, through a written agreement. This means that a priest thus incardinated is at the service of the movement, wherever it may need him. But difficulties can arise if a bishop is succeeded by another who does not agree with this type of incardination, or if urgent and grave pastoral needs require the presence of the priest in the diocese: in this case, it can happen that the bishop tends to restrict the freedom of the priest and ignore the written agreement. Among other issues, such an agreement has more a formal than a juridical value, as it is not provided for in canon law.”

Many movements correspond to this profile. The most visible case is that of the Neocatechumenal Way, with more than fifty “Redemptoris Mater” seminaries throughout the world, from which thousands of priests have emerged and been juridically incardinated in the dioceses, but are often, in fact, at the exclusive service of the Way.

Analogous cases include the Community of Sant´Egidio, Focolare, the Marian Oases, the Missionary Community of Villaregia, and many more: all with priests at their service, ordained or contributed by friendly bishops.

The solution proposed by “La Civiltà  Cattolica” is that “the movements that are by nature universal and missionary should obtain the faculty of incardinating their own clergy,” as is the case for the Franciscans, Dominicans, and Jesuits, and for the institutes of consecrated life in general.

In effect, among the movements that have arisen during the past few decades, some have already obtained the faculty of incardinating their own priests: the Legionaries of Christ, the Lefebvrists who re-entered the Catholic Church, the Missionaries of St. Charles Borromeo – linked with Communion and Liberation and with superior general Fr. Massimo Camisasca – and, naturally, Opus Dei, as it is a personal prelature.

The Neocatechumenal Way has tried, in the past, to obtain the status of a personal prelature. But without success. Many of the new movements have characteristics that make them unsuitable for full approval by the Vatican Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life. The Marian Oases, for example, apart from having a woman as superior general, have communities of men and women together: under these conditions, it is unlikely that they would obtain from the Holy See permission to incardinate their own priests.

* * *

To this list of four unresolved problems, the editorial of “La Civiltà  Cattolica” adds three warnings of other dangers inherent to the movements.

The First Danger:
“The tendency to make absolute their own Christian experience, holding it to be the only valid one, for which reason the ´true´ Christians would be those who are part of their own movement.”

The Second:
“The tendency to close themselves off; that is, to follow their own pastoral plans and methods of formation for the members of the movement, to carry out their own apostolic activities, refusing to collaborate with other ecclesial organizations, or seeking to occupy all the territory themselves, leaving scarse resources for the activities of other associations.”

The Third:
“The tendency to cut themselves off from the local Church, making reference in their apostolic activity more to the methods of the movement and the directives of its leaders than to the directives and pastoral programs of the dioceses and parishes. From this arises the sometimes bitter tensions that can be created between the ecclesial movements and the bishops and pastors.”

Fr. Maciel Sex Abuse Victim Explains Silence (Revised 11/23/04)

Children and Cults in Latin America. Why Victims of Cultic Sexual Abuse Keep Silent in Latin Cultures: A Psychological Perspective
By Juan J. Vaca, S.T.L., Ph.L., M.Ed.
Presentation at the American Family Foundation Conference
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, June 11, 2004
INTRODUCTION

It has been objectively illustrated and methodologically established by the previous presenters of this panel that Latin America is historically and socially a favorable field for the flourishing of cultist groups. Not only because of the authoritarian and paternalistic influence imposed by the Spanish dominance for over four centuries on those countries, but also because of the dogmatic authority exercised by the Catholic church in parts of the world where the 92% of the population is considered Catholic (1).

The question of the present study, “Why Victims of Cultic Sexual Abuse Keep Silent in Latin America�, intends to be answered with substantiated facts from a psychological point of view. And, at the same time, within the context of a culture that promotes respect and unquestionable adherence to religious authority, as is the case of Latin American society.

It is important to point out that this presentation is based, first, on recent specialized studies of the subject, and, secondly and most importantly, on verified testimonies of victims who were sexually abused as minors.

On discussing the serious topic of children sexual abuse, we must not ignore the following psychological realities surrounding these specific victims:

(1) To begin with, child-victims of sexual abuse by adults are usually assaulted when in physical and/or emotional isolation (2) from their families (away from their parental and protective supports). This favorable situation for the perpetrator causes traumatic reactions in the victims, such as emotional shock, fear, shame, guilt and confusion.

All these psychological realities trigger in the psyche of the victim a renunciation to denounce the abuser’s assault to any authority. We already possess some recent statistics that substantiate these facts. For instance, in Mexico (3), The Institute for the Protection of Women and Children has concluded, on February 2004, that only 1% of sexual abuses of women is reported to the authorities. In the USA, the authoritative study conducted by The John Jay College of Criminal Justice, in February 2004, in Part Two, 2.3 The Prevalence of Sexual Abuse of Children by Priests,(page 14) states: “Only 5.1% of the incidents were reported to the police; 26% of the incidents were not disclosed to anyone prior to the study�. And this part of the report concludes: “Furthermore, females were more likely than males to disclose such information; however, disclosure rates are quite low regardless of the victim’s gender� (4).

(2) We may fairly induce from the above reality that the reasons for the extremely low percentage of denunciations is due to the presence of various psychological and sociological obstacle-factors that make such a denunciation by the victims very difficult.
We will elaborate on this subject in Part One.

(3) The lapse of time, between the date when the abuse occurred and the denunciation was made, is another variable that must be considered. The statistics of cases at hand suggest that these reports of sexual abuse of minors usually were made after an average of 7-10 years from the date when the abuse was perpetrated (5).

(4) The scope of this study is limited to enunciate the main psychosocial reasons that tend to delay the legal denunciation of sexual abuse committed by religious leaders in Latin America. Part Two will deal with this topic.

Mexico has been selected for this study because –due to its ethnography and religiosity (87.5% are Catholics) (6)- it is a country highly representative of the rest of Latin America. At the same time, we may legitimately consider some observations regarding Latin American culture within the United States, as an extension of the Hispanic world.

(5) “Why until now?� is the big question addressed again and again to the victims of sexual abuse in different contexts:
• In police precincts, this question is immediately posed, for instance, to women victims of rape or sexual assault.
• Journalists and Media reporters ask the same question as soon as they decide to investigate accusations of sexual abuse of minors by priests and the clergy.
• “Why did it take you so long?� Is the same question asked by Defense lawyers, at the cross-examination of these victims in front of the jury in Court.
• Even parents of victims ask the same question, when their children confide to them their silenced tragedy, time after the abuse was perpetrated (“Why didn’t you tell us before?�).

(6) “Why until now� is a question that might reflect an unjustified escepticism, which tends to re-victimize again and again those innocent victims who have the courage to denounce their abusers. Or this question might be a mere indication of total or partial ignorance regarding the psychological dynamics involved in the sexual abuse of minors. Finally, this question might be legitimately asked in order to investigate the causes of sexual aggression against children.

PART ONE: GENERAL PSYCHOLOGICAL CAUSES

Very often, the first emotional reaction of a minor, after being sexually abused by a figure of authority, is paralyzing shock. “How come that this beloved, admired figure (father, leader, protector) has done such an evil thing to me?� The victim can not find any reasonable explanations to the assault. On the contrary, he/she usually experiences the following:

(1) Threats.
If the victim has the ability to question the perpetrator, this one, either denies he committed such an act (“I don’t know what you are talking about�, or “I was not aware of my actions�). Often, perpetrators threaten (7) the victims with serious consequences (“Don’t tell any body, otherwise something terrible is going to happen to you�. “Nobody is going to believe you�). So, the victim’s psychological reaction is often a decision to remain silent, in this instance, for personal convenience and self-protection (8)

(2) Fear and Confusion.
The victim, at this point, feels a painful fear from thinking that no adult is going to believe (“The abuser belongs to the adult category. No grown-up is going to believe me� –is usually the victim’s conclusion).

This fear, aggravated by an overwhelming confusion, becomes even more intense, when the perpetrator (priest, religious leader, or parental figure) has a close relationship of authority with the abused minor. These psychological dynamics at play are activated in proportion to the gravity of the abuse and the quality of the abuser’s authority. The greater the authority of the perpetrator, the longer silence tends to be the victim’s response (9).

(3) Ignorance
Victims of sexual abuse keep silent, in many cases, because of plain ignorance, which in connection with their state of confusion prevents them from discerning that the abuse has no connection with the involuntary erotic arousal, and which can produce sexual stimulation of erogenous zones. Even if we take into account the fact that not all sexual abuses are violent and, in some instances, such stimulation might trigger pleasurable sexual responses on the victims, we may conclude that these responses are totally involuntary and unwelcome. In other words, the victim keeps silent, because he/she doest not know what an abuse or delinquent act is, and is ignorant of the body functions.

(4) Stockholm syndrome.
At this point, we must remember the Stockholm syndrome (a confusing mix of fear and dependency), as another cause of silence on the part of the victims of sexual abuse (10).

(5) False guilt.
A false sense of guilt is another major reason for minors to keep silent. The profile of the pedophile indicates a highly manipulative personality. Abusers tend to blame the victim for their criminal acts, instilling feelings of guilt. The perpetrators make their victims feel responsible of their abuse, in order to project their own guilt on the victim and, in this way, be able to maintain the dynamics of manipulation and psycho-sexual exploitation.

(6) Shame.
In Western cultures, and predominantly in Latin American countries, a stigma related to males who have been sexually abused is combined with feelings of shame that tend to prevent any denunciation.

(7) Distrust.
A profound sense of distrust, facing the shaky possibility of obtaining some justice, is another cause of silence on the part of victims. These abused minors ask themselves, “Is it worth it to endure all this process of shame, possible stigmatization for life, and the various inferences that might be applied to my sexual identity, when there is no certainty for the acceptance of my credibility and the outcome of justice?�

(8) Cultural taboos.
In the Latino culture, there are deeply engraved taboos that stereotype, for example, sexually abused women as seductresses and sources of temptation. On the other hand, in the case of males, many stigmatizing inferences are made, related to personal sexual preferences in a Macho and patriarchal culture. Hispanic people say, “If he has been sexually molested, he might be gay –“maricón�).

In summary, minor-victims of sexual abuse take many serious risks, without any assurance that denouncing the aggression will be useful for attaining justice and repairing the horrendous harm inflicted on them. This statement is even more valid, if we consider the high index of corruption, widely known, within the judicial systems in Latin American countries (Mexico is a typical example). If we take into account the cultural insensitivity towards the abuse of children in all of its forms, from sexual to physical violence, from neglect to ill treatment of all kinds, the scenario is most eloquent and difficult.

The conclusion is that minor victims of sexual abuse keep silent because they gain almost nothing by their denouncing and, on the contrary, they lose a lot in terms of safety, personal reputation, suffering, security and social repercussions.

PART TWO: SPECIFIC PSYCHOSOCIAL CAUSES

When perpetrators of sexual abuse against minors have a religious investiture accepted in their social circle, factors, even more complex, are introduced into this scenario.
These will difficult and delay in a special manner denouncing the crime by minors. I will mention five crucial factors:

(1) Social reverence
In Spanish speaking cultures, very special reverence exists towards religious figures. These leaders assume a shaman symbolism, due to the syncretism involved with religions of pre-Hispanic origin. The religious leader is perceived as a powerful entity in the spiritual world with supernatural powers (for example, the founder of the Legion of Christ sect is believed to read his followers’ minds and consciences, to forecast the future, to have been seen in two continents at the same time – “bilocation,� etc.).

It may be testified that a superstitious reverence refrains both adults and minors from denouncing abuses when they occur. So far, for example, as to believe that you will stop receiving certain spiritual blessings, or your family members are going to be spiritually harmed, or you will go into eternal damnation.

(2) Divine representation
Religious leaders are frequently considered unquestionable God representatives (13). By virtue of this parallelism with God and the superimposition and representation of God, these leaders’ moral actions cannot be evaluated nor criticized as in the case of other adults. The rationalization in the mind of the followers abused by the leader goes like this: “If he lies and commits all these sexual abuses that normally are evil acts for other persons, these acts are okay for my leader because he is God’s representative� (14).

These religious status, as pastors or priests, shamans or prophets, make these leaders avatars, role models, and interpreters of all moral values. Because of all the above reasons, the abuse perpetrated by these leaders provokes a dramatic confusion in the minds of the minor victims. And such confusion leads the victims towards a kind of conscience paralysis that prevents them from questioning, criticizing, and evaluating the leaders’ actions.

(3) Social representative
The leader, by the force of his own condition as God’s representative, becomes the natural and authoritative representative of his institution and community. He is the institution, he is the community, in the same sense as when King Louis XIV of France said, “La France est moi� (“I am France�). One of the peculiar characteristics of the psychological nature of the Latin American people is their sense of community. They tend to identify themselves with their ethnic communities (Tarascans, Mayans, Incas, etc.), religious groups (Catholics, Protestants, etc.), sport clubs (soccer or baseball fans). This strong sense of community offers tremendous challenges when a victim feels the responsibility of denouncing a religious leader.“They (the leaders) are untouchable�. The denunciation becomes almost impossible to be made because, by doing so, it is believed that the reputation of the whole institution might be tarnished, all the believers’ community will be hurt. Such is the case in the Catholic Church with the present crisis provoked by the scandals of sexual abuse of minors by priests.

Religious sociopaths tend to manipulate such arguments, offered by their identification with their communities in order to lock the conscience of the abused minors and prevent them from denouncing them.

(4) Family considerations
It is a fact that faith, religion, and institutional affiliation are very important factors for many Latin American families. In this context, it becomes a tremendous inhibitor for the victim the thought of hurting the faith of the entire family, or the fear of being rejected by the family, if he/she speaks out. It is not infrequent the case of a family that continues being loyal to the institution that represents the abusive leader. This situation is easily explained by the social dynamics influencing the Latin American people, in such a way, that the family identity, and even the national identity, tends to be strongly defined by its religious affiliation.

The alternative for a minor who has been abused, and faces a decision to denounce a religious aggressor, is emotionally stressing and enormously exhausting. The denunciation may imply losing the family or hurting that valuable and intangible symbol called faith.

(5) Damage to personal interests
Please allow me to illustrate this point with the following example: A girl abused in an orphanage run by nuns, might be completely deprived of shelter and education, if she speaks out.

We all know our natural instinct of self-preservation, which is a very pragmatic principle. Depending on the abuse type and frequency, the abused girl of our example may put on a scale the cost-benefits of denouncing or not denouncing. If the option is between dying from cold and hunger on the streets, or enduring some occasional abuses that are not extremely physically violent, this girl might opt to remain silent. The instinct of self-preservation prevails in this and similar situations of abuse. It is as simple as that.

In cases of adults who are evaluating or resolving in retrospective abuses perpetrated on them by religious leaders, within an institutional context, these adults may utilize a similar logic in reference to their professional future. This is true, especially in cases when adults are still connected (by jobs, work, paychecks) with the institution. These adults may lose their work positions and salaries, or see their careers being destroyed, if they present a complaint. Cases after cases testify to this reality, especially if the institution closes ranks around the religious leader who perpetrated the abuses, and decides to initiate a campaign of character assassination against the victim and/or decides to take legal action. This scenario is very common in Latin America.

There is no need for an ethical judgment on these cases in order for us to understand that such a situation constitutes a strong factor, which benefits the culture of silence and prevents any denunciation.

As colophon of Part One and Two, let me propose the following: All factors mentioned above – the general psychological causes, as well as the specific psychosocial ones related to the religious leaders and to the Latin culture in particular – are tightly interrelated, enmeshed, to create a wall of silence and endlessly delaying, in some instances, even to entomb forever most denunciations of sexual abuses perpetrated by religious leaders and suffered by countless numbers of Latin American children.

Analyzed in the proper context, the delay on denouncing abuses has a substantially simple explanation. It is just part of a process with many complex factors that have been mentioned above.

Faced with such a scenario, the question should never be “Why until now?� but, instead, “How many victims have had the courage to speak in the course of their life?� And because of those factors mentioned before, we should ask “How many victims will be silent forever�

EPILOGUE

Until now, I have been talking as a professor of Psychology and Sociology – a profession that I have been practicing for over fifteen years and a position that I presently hold at the Manhattan Campus of Mercy College since 1999. Nevertheless, my professional commitments and clinical experiences have been confirmed by empirical data that back the findings of the specialized literature dealing with the topic of silence and child sex abuse by religious leaders.

All facts discussed from Psychology and Sociology in this presentation, during the previous 25 minutes, you will see them now present in my own personal life.

I am a former catholic priest. For almost 30 years I belonged to the Catholic order and ultraconservative group, known as the Legion of Christ. Founded in Mexico in 1941 and presently active in more than 20 countries, it has 53,000 active lay members in Regnum Christi and 2,500 priests.

At the age of 10, I was personally recruited by the founder of the Legion, the Reverend Marcial Maciel, and taken two years later to his seminary in the north of Spain for training within the high-demand sect. I was separated from my family contact and home supports, and away from all social relationships for 12 years. Being isolated from all contact with the outside world, with the channels of personal communication controlled and my mail censured, the founder, Fr. Marcial Maciel, perpetrated on me sexual and psychological abuse that I endured for several years.

When he started to abuse me and I immediately confronted him, he excused himself by explaining that he suffered certain alleged excruciating pain in his genitals that only could be alleviated by frequent masturbation. Soon, I started to witness and see that the founder was abusing some other 23 of my child-schoolmates.

This psychosexual relationship of abuse was prolonged for almost ten years with the concomitant traumas that triggered an intense ethical and spiritual confusion, fear, shame and anxiety. I endured countless days of severe stress, and nights of debilitating sleeplessness.

Twelve years passed until I was permitted to see my parents, again in the midst of confusion and feelings of guilt. I stayed in the institution while trying to resolve deep derived internal conflicts. When at the age of 22 I decided to confront again the founder and denounce his abuse, he punished me with six years of painful exile from the company of my companions and schoolmates, at my residence in Rome. I was shamefully ordered to be immediately removed to the north of Spain. Finally, when he mistakenly sensed that I would remain silent for the rest of my life, he convinced me, under pressure, to be ordained into the priesthood.

The first position the founder assigned to me was of vice-rector and spiritual director of the above-mentioned seminary in the north of Spain. In that capacity, four adolescent students came to me denouncing individually that the rector had been sexually abusing them (Years before, I knew that this rector was also one of the founder’s abused victims when we were pre-adolescents as well, like in my own case).

I immediately reported these incidents to Fr. Maciel, who gave me instructions to cover up all the traces of the abuse. The perpetrator was fired on the spot and transferred secretly to a mission territory in the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico. For my good job at the cover-up of that mess, the founder rewarded me with the appointment of superior and president of the Legion of Christ in the U.S.A., position that I held for five years (1971-1976), until the day when, frustrated and exhausted, I presented my resignation to the founder and left the Legion of Christ without any remorse whatsoever. I then decided to offer my priestly services to the diocese of Long Island, New York. Three months later (October 1976), I formally denounced the sexual abuses of the Legion’s founder to the Vatican, through the proper channels of my current bishop, the Reverend John R. McGann (presently deceased), and the Vatican Embassy in Washington, D.C. Three years later, I wrote a second denunciation to the Vatican through the same official channels. Again, in 1996, this time eight of us, all professionals and former sex child victims of the Reverend Marcial Maciel, sent an open letter to John Paul II. We never received any response from the Vatican, not even a beaurocratic note of receipt.

After years of personal therapy and liberating process of discernment, I left the active ministry and started to dedicate my time and energies to the field of Psychology and Sociology with the purpose of understanding a reality that this Pope has called “Mysterium iniquitatis� (“the mystery of iniquity�), a reality that mercilessly destroys so many innocent children in our society. In this way I have been trying to determine where sickness ends and evil begins. In a sociopath personality, as is the case of the founder of the Legion of Christ, these two realities – sickness and evil – are extremely difficult to be separated. Malignant Narcissism is pathology, but it does not annul personal responsibility.

In spite of all denunciations and efforts made in the last eight years, the Vatican still supports this founder and ignores all accusations made by the victims against this abuser. The Legion’s founder has built his own mausoleum in Rome and openly talks about the process of his eventual canonization (the Vatican procedures towards sainthood).

Maciel’s defenders argue that all accusations are falsities and calumnies because his “life accomplishments� speak for themselves. Maciel’s disciples and followers even have the audacity and cynicism to quote in their favor Mathew 7, 4:“by their fruits you shall know them� (Math. 7,4). But we know that History is full of figures that have deceived entire nations and committed horrendous crimes and all kind of abuses against humanity, in spite of their accomplishments. Sociopaths like Hitler, Stalin, Saddam Hussein and the like. This defenders’ argument is both scholarly invalid and worthless.

Experiencing a profound peace of mind, product of arduous but liberating convictions, I got happily married in September 1989. My wife and I were especially blessed with a beautiful daughter, now almost 10 years old. My hope is that my personal experience and professional contribution will help to prevent any more innocent children from being abused by sociopaths and predators, such as the founder and current leader of the Legion of Christ.

In closing, please allow me to express my deep appreciation to Dr. Jorge Erdely for organizing this panel on Children and Cults in Latin America. My sincere thanks also to Dr. Michael Longone, the members of the AFF staff and the University of Alberta for putting together a great conference.

I thank all of you for listening to this presentation. Thank you very much.
_______________

References

(1) World Census. United Nations. April 2004.

(2) John Jay College of Criminal Justice. March 2004.

(3) Estadistica Nacional Mexicana. Secretaria de Educacion. 2003.

(4) A Research Study Conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice: The Nature and Scope of the Problem of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests and Deacons in the United States. (The Final Report was published by the USCCB in March 2004). [My note: See Afterword of the Report].

(5) John Jay College of Criminal Justice. The U.S.A. Conference of Catholic Bishops. March 2004.

(6) World Census. United Nations. April 2004.

(7) The Sexual Abuse of Children. A CUNY Conference presentation by Juan J. Vaca and a panel of professors, Department of Behavioral Sciences, CUNY (City University of New York). 2003-2004.

(8) A Perspective on Clergy Sexual Abuse, by Dr. Thomas Plante – 2003.

(9) Doctoral Dissertation (unpublished), by Juan J. Vaca. 2000.

(10) Child Sexual Abuse – Psychological Aspects, by Tenna M. Perry. 2004.

(11) “Silence of the Lambs: Why Survivors Keep Quiet,� by Jennifer Merrill. 2003.

(12) “Silence is Complicity, Isn’t It?�. Referred in Subversive Harmony, May 14, 2004.

(13) Marcial Maciel “Mi Vida Es Cristo�. By Jesus Colina. 2003. Page 67.

(14) El Legionario. By Alejandro Espinosa. 2003. Page 127, 207.

(15) Vows of Silence, The Abuse of Power in the Papacy of John Paul II, by Jason Berry and Gerald Renner, Free Press, 2004

Who Can Believe Legion Leaders?

Who Can Believe Legion Leaders?

 

On Feb 28, 2004, Father Bannon issued a letter to members and relatives of Legionary and Regnum Christi members warning them at the time about the Vows of Silence book that was about to be released.

 

He referred to demonstrably false allegations that our founder, Father Marcial Maciel, sexually abused a few young men (then members of the Legion) back in the 1940’s and 1950’sand despite all the evidence available to the authors and of which they are aware, the accusations are rehashed in a new book to be released in March 2004 attacking Pope John Paul II, especially his staunch defense of the Church’s discipline of priestly celibacy and its unchanging sexual ethic.

 

ReGAIN Comment:

 

Fr Bannon made a statement that the allegations were demonstrably falseand referred toall the evidence available to the authors. At the time how could Fr Bannon have felt so sure that Fr Maciel was innocent? He does not claim any research into the subject. Joining the Legion in the 60s in Ireland he had no first hand information regarding the 1940-60 period when the abuses were alleged to have happened. In truth there was an absence of evidence of any kind regarding those obscure years. Fr. Bannon was basically appropriating the Legion line of the time.

 

Fr Bannon went on to say that on behalf of the Legion and the Movement I assure you once again that Father Maciel is absolutely innocent. He has made it clear ever since the allegations first arose in the late 1990’s – decades after any alleged abuse could have happened – that he has never committed any such act ever.

 

ReGAIN Comment:

 

Fr Bannon declared Fr Maciel to be absolutely innocent. But Fr. Bannon must have known about some accusations in the 1950s when Fr. Maciel was exiled to Spain by the Vatican, a period (1956-59) referred to in frequent talks such as Explanation of Rules asThe War(La Guerra). So he knew accusations were not surfacing for the first time in the 1990s. He states the source of his confidence in assuring members and their families that Fr Maciel was absolutely innocent: Fr Maciel had said so himself. This is jumping to conclusions. Was this naivety, gullibility, or a deliberate attempt to manipulate Legionaries and to discourage them and their family members from reading the Vows of Silence book?

 

Later in his letter, Fr Bannon adds:

 

Moreover, Nuestro Padre continues to insist on responding to these allegations in the most Christian way possible: forgiving them, saying as little as possible, simply laying out the facts, letting his record speak for itself, avoiding personal attacks and harboring no ill will or rancor for the accusers. This has set an extremely high standard for those of us who want to come to his defense.

 

ReGAIN Comment:

 

Fr. Maciel met all accusations with blanket denial. Fr Bannon said that Fr Maciel’s record spoke for itself and that he believed this had set a high standard for those who wanted to come to his defense. Considering recent revelations we wonder if Fr Bannon now regrets making this statement and how much of the real truth he was aware of. If he was totally unaware then we wonder about his ability to discern what is going on around him.

 

Fr Bannon commented: Anyone who would take an objective look at the facts will see where the truth lies.

 

ReGAIN Comment:

 

Considering the real facts it is evident where the truth lies. Was Fr Bannon sincerely seeking the real truth at the time or was he into denial?

 

Fr Bannon referred to independent, documented facts from the time when the alleged abuse would have happenedand that Vatican investigators moved in and lived with the Legionary communities in Rome and elsewhere. They interviewed each Legionary personally and in depth. Not only did they find the charges empty and baseless, they reported that the Legion and Father Maciel were exemplary, holding great promise for the Church.

 

ReGAIN Comment:

 

The reality is that the results of that Visitation/investigation were never released. How could Fr. Bannon know the results? A few years ago Mexican historian Fernando Gonzalez was able to unearth some of the reports written by the Carmelite Friars investigating Maciel for suspected sexual abuse, drug abuse, abuse of power, and leaving his foundation abandoned for long periods. These are available in Spanish in his book, Marcial Maciel, la Legion de Cristo, Testimonios y Documentos Ineditos (Unpublished Testimonies and Documents; Ed. Tusquets, Mexico City, 2009). Allegations of sexual abuse are mentioned, together with Fr. Maciel’s powers of persuasion and intimidation, as well as his use of the morphine derivative, Demerol. Fr. Bannon did not have access to any serious documentation when he wrote. He based his statements on Legion Spirit and Mystiqueand Fr. Aruma’s explanation of rules in Salamanca. Fr. Aruma was one of the Legionaries Fr. Maciel left in place when he was forced out in 1956.

 

In the letter, Fr Bannon explained that every member (was) interviewed personally and in depth, and none of them corroborate (d) a single allegation of any wrongdoing – let alone sexual molestation then added that every alleged victim had the perfect opportunity to reveal any abuse right after it would have been happeningand that the facts of the investigation and its findings overwhelm the accusers and their story.

 

ReGAIN Comment:

 

With this statement Fr Bannon demonstrated not only a lack of empathy but a total ignorance of how sexual abuse victims are traumatized and would rarely be prepared to testify against their predators right after it happened. Fr Bannon also fails to point out that in this case the victims were totally and completely dependent upon Fr. Maciel as their sole provider of all the necessities of life and that he had made them agree to a secret vow to never speak ill of him or any of their superiors. Fr. Maciel prepared his victims for the interviews by telling them the Visitators were coming to destroy the Legion and their God-given vocation.

 

Fr Bannon stated in his letter that the book will apparently argue that a Vatican-inspired ‘vow of silence’ keeps the accusers’ allegations from being taken seriously. But the Vatican knows the Legion’s history; it knows what its decades of scrutiny have revealed about the Legionaries of Christ and Regnum Christi. That is why the Vatican has done what any court does when a case has no basis: the court refuses to hear it.

 

ReGAIN Comment:

 

How did Fr Bannon draw such conclusions? Was he attempting to influence the LC and RC members and their families by falsely implying in writing that there was no basis at the time to the case of the victims? It is probable that the influence peddling by Fr Maciel among senior members of the Vatican had far more of an effect on the case that had been presented by credible witnesses.

Fr Bannon added: Seeing these false charges aired in public is upsetting to us all. There is enough to do without having to deal with patent falsehoods. I trust that you will look at the facts and what God has worked in your family since you met
Regnum Christi and the Legion of Christ
.

 

ReGAIN Comment:

 

Fr Bannon here referred to false chargesand patent falsehoods. In other words he declared in writing that the victims of Father Maciel were liars.
Usually people gather facts before they make such charges against others, especially if they put such claims in writing. Did Fr Bannon conduct his own investigation by interviewing at least some of those who claimed to be victims? Based on his own words, it seems that his main proofwas that Fr Maciel had declared himself to be innocent and he expected others to do the same. For the majority of those who had been under the influence inside the Legion or Regnum Christi, this was an effective argument because Fr Maciel was perceived by them to be a living saint and the main source of their unique spirituality. What seems like empty unsupported statements to outsiders were at the time believable for those who had been conditioned to believe everything that came fromofficialLegion sources of information. Any outside information that was critical of the Legion or of their founder, especially that which came from those evil detractorswas not even allowed and was considered to have no credibility.

 

It is unknown what prompted Legion leadership to reveal the existence of Fr. Maciel’s daughter in Spain. Fact is that this revelation opened the floodgates to further revelations of his double life and behavior unbefitting a priest. This scandal contributed to the Vatican’s Visitation of the Legion. As the Legion began to toss some members jumped ship, others cut their losses apologizing, and all distanced themselves desperately from Fr. Maciel, vowing ignorance. Fr. Bannon has remained in the backwaters.

 

Day by day the truth continues to unfold and as slowly some of it seeps inside the walls, Legion spin doctors are now having a more difficult time explaining away their mistakes or misdeeds! ReGAIN encourages everyone involved in this situation (inside and outside) to seek the truth and to act on it. That painful – truth will set them free.

 

The entire letter is available at Click here Then scroll down to Revisiting 2004article.