Time for the Vatican to take a new stand on sexual abuse

By Ruth Bertels

It was an ordinary August morning, Thursday, the 7th, to be precise, not yet too hot, filled with promise of a completed column, at least by mid-afternoon, with the possibility of a long walk to follow.

Then, there came the news on CNN that orders for the cover up of abused children by priests came from the Vatican, and had been kept secret for 40 years, according to CBS News correspondent, Vince Gonzales.

The policy was written in 1962 and was stored in the secret archives of the Vatican by Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani, who died on August 3, 1979. The document focused on crimes initiated as part of the confessional relationship and what it calls the ‘worst crime,’ sexual assault committed by a priest or attempted by him with youths of either sex…”

Bishops were instructed “to pursue these cases in the most secretive way …restrained by a perpetual silence … and everyone (including the alleged victim) …is to observe the strictest secret, which is commonly regarded as a secret of the Holy Office … under the penalty of excommunication.”

That evening, John Allen, reporter for The National Catholic Reporter, explained on CNN that the letter referred to an older period in the Church and to only the treatment of clergy abuse as an internal matter. Another representative from the New York-based Catholic League echoed Allen’s statement and demanded a retraction by CNN.

Personally, like many Catholic writers, I find such news difficult to treat, so much so that this piece was put up on the site last week, then taken down. Of course, it was the wrong decision. A document hidden in the Vatican archives concerning the abuse of children cannot be ignored, no matter how distressful it might be to either the writer or reader, nor how long it has been buried..

Richard Sipe, a former priest, who has written at length on the subject of sexual abuse by priests in his book, Sex, Priests, and Power: Anatomy of a Crisis, is quoted by CBS, in reference to the newly discovered document, as saying: “This is the code for how you must deal with sex by priests. You keep it secret at all costs. And that’s what’s happened. It’s happened in every diocese in this country.” He concludes his work with these thoughts on celibacy:

“What of real value will remain if we reject a celibate/sexual power structure based on categories of superiority, and in turn demand personal application of the gospel message – a universal call to love? Won’t the religious world fall apart? Won’t chaos reign? No. Celibacy will persist – celibate love – and the process of celibacy genuinely entered into and honestly pursued. Marital love equally will remain, integrated and enhanced. The value of sex and its responsible use will be enhanced. Life will be more greatly treasured.” (Italics, mine)

That last sentence: “Life will be more greatly treasured” contains the heartfelt prayer of every sincere Catholic on both sides of the ocean. Treasuring life implies the willingness on behalf of shepherds to protect their flocks from every harm, no matter the personal cost.

While such protection may include one’s fellow bishops, or others in authority, it must not be offered at the expense of the most vulnerable, the little people in the pews.

Rome fails to understand, or refuses to face the reality that, despite, Ottaviani’s efforts long ago, there is nowhere to hide sexual abuse secrets forever, certainly not when they involve such a public figure as the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, Rev. Marciel Maciel Degollado.

When a reporter approached Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger on the subject, he was angrily brushed off. Apparently, abuse of boys doesn’t rank up there with fighting off the evils of inclusive language in the liturgy, a married priesthood, or the ordination of women.

However, one would think that a prelate, versed in both moral and dogmatic theology, would take time to consider the special kind of scandal Rome’s ignoring Maciel’s moral turpitude presents to the abused, now-grown men, their families, and the entire Catholic world, for the order ( more properly described as a cult) has become world-wide, and continues to grow more powerful after the pattern of Opus Dei.

Does not the praying, thinking Body of Christ see the Vatican’s position as indifference to God’s people, indifference that philosophers tell us is the opposite of love, for it judges certain people as of no-account, expendable sheep, lost and not worth the finding? Protect Maciel at all costs, no matter who gets hurt in the bargain.

What is the result of such indifference? We have no way of measuring. The other day, over a cup of coffee, a mother of a large family looked at her friend and asked, “Do you ever get the feeling we’ve been had?”

When the laity begin to feel that they are expected to follow laws not required of those in authority, it doesn’t take long for bitterness to settle in, followed by confusion and sadness over their personal, tarnished Holy Grails.

Most hurtful of all is a mother’s scalding tears over the lessons she has taught her children down the years, which now appear to be meaningless. Lately, I’ve been receiving e-mails from such mothers, wondering what they are to say to their children, who tried the Legionaires way of life, and are now living in a desert of disillusionment.

An excellent Web site on this sect is: www.regainnetwork.org. You will find there testimonials of those who have been abused, along with excellent professional advice on recovering from the brain-washing common to all cults.

We on this side of the pond will continue to hope that the Vatican will follow O’Malley’s example, defrock Maciel, strip him of his position as head of the Legion, and set Rome on a new path of openness and compassion for the members of the hierarchy, priests and laity, who hunger for real leadership from Peter’s Throne.

Maciel’s abuse of the boys in his care is scandalous, yet Rome’s refusal to acknowledge the scandal by keeping him in power is another kind of scandal, and one is hard put to decide which does the greater harm to God’s people.

What we find in O’Malley’s prompt actions since taking over the Boston Archdiocese is his determination to shepherd the wounded sheep in his care, which includes everyone. No one has escaped the heartache of the moral failure of sexual abuse. .

As far as the question goes: “Do you think we’ve been had?” I’ve been pondering it a bit and have decided that we probably have “been had.” That hurts our pride some, doesn’t it? Yet, perhaps, in the Gospel sense, we’ve ended up “being fools for Christ’s sake.” And that’s a different story altogether.

By Ruth Bertels
August 18, 2003

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Catholic gathering gets mixed reaction Legion of Christ faces its critics

By Joshua S. Howes Tribune staff reporter Published July 17, 2003

Depending on one’s point of view, the Legion of Christ’s visit to Chicago this weekend is either cause for celebration and religious recommitment or an insult to the Roman Catholic community, especially survivors of sexual abuse by the clergy.

The Rome-based order of priests, whose founder has faced allegations of sexual abuse but is said to be a personal friend of Pope John Paul II, will hold a Youth and Family Encounter from Thursday afternoon through Sunday at Navy Pier.

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The agenda includes speeches, masses, apostolic training seminars and a keynote address by Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.). Organizers say they intend to renew participants’ spiritual drive and commitment to the faith, particularly for teenagers who might be confused by “all the negative headlines recently” about the Catholic Church.

But controversy has followed the Legion to Chicago. On Saturday the group announced that its 83-year-old founder, Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado, will not attend the Navy Pier conference, which requires registration to attend, because of urgent business in Rome.

The Legion’s chorus of critics, led by former priests, say Maciel is ducking out to escape further scrutiny regarding allegations made in 1997 by nine former Legionaries that Maciel molested them when they were teenage seminarians in Italy and Spain in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s. Maciel also skipped last year’s conference in Baltimore.

A spokesman for the Legion, Jim Fair, dismissed the accusations against Maciel and the organization, saying the Vatican looked into the allegations and found no evidence of abuse.

Critics say the investigation was flawed and incomplete. They allege top Vatican officials protect Maciel because of his fundraising abilities, conservative politics and friendship with the pope.

To the group’s opponents, the Chicago conference is objectionable whether or not Maciel attends.

“To place Maciel, or his organization, as a model for the youth in Chicago or anywhere, my God, that is an aberration,” said Arturo Jurado of Monterey, Calif., a former priest who contends Maciel sexually molested him in 1957.

Others say the Legion’s leaders manipulate priests and seminarians into a cult-like devotion to Maciel. In addition to the traditional vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, Legionaries take a vow never to criticize or question the order.

Former seminarian Todd Carpunky, now a Chicago lawyer, said he worries that the conference’s unstated goal is to recruit teenagers. The archdiocese of Chicago, he says, should warn young Catholics about the Legion’s recruiting and control techniques.

Warning from ex-member

Carpunky said that after he joined a Legion seminary in Connecticut at age 16 in 1991, his superiors censored his mail and reading material, lied to him when other members left the seminary, encouraged him to flagellate himself and for months refused permission to see a doctor when he was suffering from a gall bladder infection that spread to his liver and almost killed him.

“The archdiocese and the church in general know what the Legion does,” he said. “We are their flock, and [the Legion] are the wolves preying on their flock, and they’re doing nothing about it.”

Legion supporters say such accusations are groundless and the product of disgruntled ex-Legionaries.

Fair, the group’s spokesman, said similar charges of abuse were brought against St. Francis of Assisi when he founded the Franciscans and many other founders of religious orders.

“With success and growth comes calumny and slander; it’s an almost consistent pattern across the board,” said Fair.

A spokesman for the Chicago archdiocese said the Legionaries are not within its jurisdiction. “The Catholic Church is a big tent,” said James Dwyer. “A wide variety of Catholic organizations meet in Chicago, and just because they do does not imply endorsement of what they do … nor condemnation.”

Cardinal not attending
Cardinal Francis George does not plan to attend the conference, Dwyer said.

Organizers of the event say more than 6,000 Chicago-area residents have registered to attend, many of them members of the Legion’s international lay movement, Regnum Christi, which they say has more than 60,000 members. The organizations also operate two K-through-12 schools and numerous outreach ministries in the Chicago area.

Scholars said the Legion’s evangelism and continued growth is consistent with the increase in the power and numbers of conservative Catholic organizations under Pope John Paul II.

“The [conservative movement] perceives itself to be under a threat that is growing, and is pushing back,” said Jay Demerath, a professor of sociology specializing in religion at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. “I suspect [the Legion] is trying to send a message to American Catholics that traditions are important and need to be upheld … that all is not moving in a liberal direction.”

Copyright © 2003, Chicago Tribune

Catholics plan Mather university

The Legion of Christ, a Roman Catholic congregation of priests active in 20 countries, plans to create a private Catholic university at two locations in the Sacramento region.

The proposal, which they’d call the University of Sacramento, is the latest of several higher education ventures to target the capital area.

The group plans to open a graduate school of education by 2005, followed by a 250-acre, full-service residential campus in 2007 that would ultimately have 7,000 students plus 800 faculty members and other employees. A feasibility study for a bioethics institute is also under way.

The Legion is talking with Sacramento county and city officials about buying land to build the campus at Mather Field, and leasing at least 55,000 square feet in downtown or midtown Sacramento for a graduate school of education.

The project is so enticing that officials here are mulling special efforts on a real estate deal to land the school.

The first full Legion university slated for the United States, the project could be a $1.2 billion economic bonanza for the area. Construction alone is expected to cost upwards of $350 million, with ripple effects of a large local payroll and spending in the community by faculty, staff and students.

The Legion raises about $20 million a year to cover its programs. It would also seek to raise money locally.

Area is rich in Catholics: “It is a massive project. We’ve been talking to the Legion for some months now and hope they can build the campus at Mather,” said county economic development director Paul Hahn. “It’s a good use the community needs. From an economic standpoint, we lack a private university and the array of talent it attracts.”

The Legion is looking for a break on the land in exchange, Hahn said. “We need to put together the deal points. It’s no mystery the county is very interested and willing to do some things we haven’t done for a while.”

The pitch is one of three private university proposals to surface in recent months.

Mather Eyed for Catholic College

The Legion of Christ considers the former Air Force base as the site for a private four-year university.
By Terri Hardy — Bee Staff Writer
Published 2:15 am PST Friday, November 8, 2002

A conservative Catholic order is moving forward with plans to build a private university in the Sacramento region and has been in serious discussions with city and county officials about where it could locate a campus.

As its first step, the Legion of Christ wants to open a downtown graduate school with an eye toward establishing a four-year core campus in another location — possibly at the former Mather Air Force Base.

The group has secured the name “University of Sacramento,” said Barry Sugarman, vice president of institutional development for the university project.

“We’re committed to the Sacramento region,” Sugarman said. “We’re ready to go.”

The Legion of Christ is a conservative Roman Catholic order of priests founded in 1941 in Mexico. It operates 11 universities in Mexico, Spain, Chile and Italy and a graduate school of psychology in Virginia.

The Legion has been looking for about two years for the right area in the United States to build its first full-fledged university. After analyzing several locations for their economic strength, household income and Catholic population, they zeroed in on the Sacramento region, Sugarman said.

Their choice was decided when Legion officials discovered the metropolitan region was the largest in the state without a private four-year university.

Legion officials have toured possible buildings and met with Betty Masuoka, Sacramento’s assistant city manager who oversees economic development, Sugarman said. They envision starting with a graduate school of education, which would include a credential program and perhaps a school of ethics.

Once they start operations there, the Legion plans to build its four-year residential campus.

Sugarman and others have met with Sacramento County officials on several occasions about settling at Mather Field. County officials said they were impressed after touring the Legion’s Mexico City university recently while on a trade mission with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Paul Hahn, Sacramento County’s economic development director, said.

Now, the only thing left is to ink the deal, Hahn said.

“We’ve pretty much said we’re open to hearing any offers,” Hahn said.

Hahn said county officials are unconcerned about allegations resurrected this year surrounding the Legion’s founder, Marcial Maciel Degollado.

In 1997, nine former priests accused Maciel of sexually abusing them during the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s. Legion officials have denied the allegations.

Legion spokesman Jay Dunlap said Vatican officials did not investigate the charges because they believed the claims to be without merit.

Closer to home, some parishioners at Sacramento’s Our Lady of Guadalupe have complained about the Legion’s priests there, saying they were aloof and made some people feel unwelcome. In September 2000, several parents became angry when a priest asked some teenage girls what they considered to be sexually inappropriate questions during confession.

The Sacramento diocese investigated the confession complaints and the priest involved said he had been trained to ask such questions in Mexico. Dunlap called the incident a “cultural clash.” He said the church is vital and thriving.

Earlier this year, developer Angelo Tsakopoulos proposed donating land west of Roseville for a private college campus. A team of education, business and civic leaders — many with ties to Tsakopoulos — formed the Regional University Committee to find a likely candidate.

But developer Eli Broad offered another Placer County parcel for a college. Tsakopoulos responded by identifying several other sites in the region — either near or on land he would like to develop — as possible university locations. Mather Field was one of the targeted properties.

In July, the Diocese of Sacramento paved the way for the Legion to locate in the region when Bishop William Weigand gave formal permission to develop a campus here.

“It has always been Bishop Weigand’s dream to have a Catholic University in Sacramento,” the Rev. Jim Murphy said Thursday. “We’re tired of rooting for San Francisco (Catholic) teams. It’s time we had our own.”

Legion Considers Former Air Force Base (CA) for Catholic College

The Legion of Christ considers the former Air Force base as the site for a private four-year university.

 

By Terri Hardy

 

Sacramento Bee
Friday, November 8, 2002

 

A conservative Catholic order is moving forward with plans to build a private university in the Sacramento region and has been in serious discussions with city and county officials about where it could locate a campus.

As its first step, the Legion of Christ wants to open a downtown graduate school with an eye toward establishing a four-year core campus in another location — possibly at the former Mather Air Force Base.

The group has secured the name University of Sacramento, said Barry Sugarman, vice president of institutional development for the university project.

We’re committed to the Sacramento region,” Sugarman said. We’re ready to go.”

The Legion of Christ is a conservative Roman Catholic order of priests founded in 1941 in Mexico. It operates 11 universities in Mexico, Spain, Chile and Italy and a graduate school of psychology in Virginia.

The Legion has been looking for about two years for the right area in the United States to build its first full-fledged university. After analyzing several locations for their economic strength, household income and Catholic population, they zeroed in on the Sacramento region, Sugarman said.

Their choice was decided when Legion officials discovered the metropolitan region was the largest in the state without a private four-year university.

Legion officials have toured possible buildings and met with Betty Masuoka, Sacramento’s assistant city manager who oversees economic development, Sugarman said. They envision starting with a graduate school of education, which would include a credential program and perhaps a school of ethics.

Once they start operations there, the Legion plans to build its four-year residential campus.

Sugarman and others have met with Sacramento County officials on several occasions about settling at Mather Field. County officials said they were impressed after touring the Legion’s Mexico City university recently while on a trade mission with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Paul Hahn, Sacramento County’s economic development director, said.

Now, the only thing left is to ink the deal, Hahn said.

We’ve pretty much said we’re open to hearing any offers, Hahn said.

Hahn said county officials are unconcerned about allegations resurrected this year surrounding the Legion’s founder, Marcial Maciel Degollado.

In 1997, nine former priests accused Maciel of sexually abusing them during the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s. Legion officials have denied the allegations.

Legion spokesman Jay Dunlap said Vatican officials did not investigate the charges because they believed the claims to be without merit.

Closer to home, some parishioners at Sacramento’s Our Lady of Guadalupe have complained about the Legion’s priests there, saying they were aloof and made some people feel unwelcome. In September 2000, several parents became angry when a priest asked some teenage girls what they considered to be sexually inappropriate questions during confession.

The Sacramento diocese investigated the confession complaints and the priest involved said he had been trained to ask such questions in Mexico. Dunlap called the incident acultural clash. He said the church is vital and thriving.

Earlier this year, developer Angelo Tsakopoulos proposed donating land west of Roseville for a private college campus. A team of education, business and civic leaders — many with ties to Tsakopoulos — formed the Regional University Committee to find a likely candidate.

But developer Eli Broad offered another Placer County parcel for a college. Tsakopoulos responded by identifying several other sites in the region — either near or on land he would like to develop — as possible university locations. Mather Field was one of the targeted properties.

In July, the Diocese of Sacramento paved the way for the Legion to locate in the region when Bishop William Weigand gave formal permission to develop a campus here.

It has always been Bishop Weigand’s dream to have a Catholic University in Sacramento,” the Rev. Jim Murphy said Thursday. We’re tired of rooting for San Francisco (Catholic) teams. It’s time we had our own.

About the Writer
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The Bee’s Terri Hardy can be reached at (916) 321-1073 or thardy@sacbee.com.

 

Religious Groups Awareness International Network

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