Statement on Maciel not issued by agency responsible for sex abuse cases

New Legionaries intrigue:
Statement on Maciel not issued
by agency responsible for sex abuse cases

By John L. Allen, Jr.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We hold no grudge against those who accuse us,” the May 20 statement from the Legionaries said with regard to the accusers. “Rather, we keep them in our prayers while expressing our humblest gratitude to the countless people of good will who in these circumstances have reiterated to us their support and esteem.”
John L. Allen Jr is NCR Rome correspondent. His e-mail address is

Bertone Will Be Named Secretary Of State

here in translation – The item comes from both an online news service called Affari Italiani and from the newspaper Il Giornale


Tarcisio Bertone, Cardinal Archbishop of Genoa, will be Benedict XVI’s new Secretary of State. Sources at the Vatican said this was “90% sure” and that the announcement could be made on June 29, feast of Saints Peter and Paul.

In the intricate course of deciding the successor to Angelo Sodano, who is 3 years overdue for retirement, this is a triumph for the 70-year-old Bertone, who served for years as second in command to Cardinal Ratzinger at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith [and his good friend and next-door neighbor at Piazza della Citta Leonina, 1].

A native of Vercelli (halfway between Milan and Turin), tall and distinguished-looking, Bertone is a canon law expert who is very prepared and equally strict on doctrine, capable of dealing with complex questions in a clear and decisive way.

In short, he is not a diplomat, but will be a good executor of decisions that come from the Papal apartments.

It is well-known that the Pope and Sodano have little love lost between them. Sodano, who was Apostolic Nuncio to Chile in Pinochet’s regime, son of a Christian Democrat who was a member of the Italian Parliament, and who is said to have harbored papal ambitions in the last conclave, was at odds with Ratzinger even during John Paul II’s Papacy.

The German was too strict, the Italian too diplomatic. Among other things, under Papa Wojtyla, Sodano defended Father Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legionaries of Christ, who has been accused of sexual offenses and was recently sanctioned by the Vatican without holding a canonical trial because of his age and poor health.

And now, Benedict XVI, after starting to reassign certain prominent personalities from the Curia(like Cardinal Dziwisz, now Archbishop of Cracow, or Cardinal Cresencio Sepe, assigned to Naples), is proceeding with his Curial reform. First, with the men in charge, and next with legislative action that will incorporate pontifical councils with similar functions and thus help reduce administrative personnel at the Vatican.

It is interesting to note that the two top nominations to the Curia – assuming Bertone is confirmed – would both be alumni of the CDF under Ratzinger. Cardinal William Levada, whom the Pope named to be his successor at the CDF, worked with him at the CDF for years in the early 1980s.

In this way, the Pope is reaffirming the key principle in his ‘cleaning up’ of the Church: he needs men who are at the service of the Pope, who follow his line without stepping too much out of line as some did under the previous Pope. Above all, they should know not to speak ahead of the Pope.

And Bertone, who does not take part in talk shows although he has commented on some football games with his beloved Juve, appears to be the right man for the Pope at the Secretariat of State. A man who is sober and moderate, in keeping with the discreet style of this German Pope.

Additional bonus: Many sources say that the present Archbishop of Monreale, Sicily, Mons. Cataldo Naro, is in line to take over as Archbishop of Genoa. Which would put him on tap to become Cardinal at age 55, and a possible new Curial aide in Benedict XVI’s government.


Did Fr. Maciel Use Money to Stall Vatican Justice?

A recent two part article in the National Catholic Reporter by Jason Berry, author of “Lead Us Not Into Temptation” and co-author with Gerald Renner of the book “Vows of Silence” has revealed new allegations that Father Marcial Maciel, Founder of the Legion of Christ, used large sums of money to lavish gifts on the Roman Curia to ingratiate himself and to secure support and protection. Jason Berry said that Fr. Maciel “sent streams of money to Roman curia officials with a calculated end” and revealed that he had Legion priests dole out envelopes with cash and expensive gifts, including for example expensive wines, rare brandies and Spanish cured hams that alone cost upwards of $1,000 each.

Even though strictly speaking the Vatican does not have a constitution or statutes that would make such transactions illegal the Legion donations raise ethical questions regarding the impartiality of Vatican officials responsible for overseeing the Legion and Regnum Christi. Jason Berry links Legion funding of costly renovations for a former cardinal’s residence to the later signing and approval of the controversial Legion constitution, which required Legionaries to never speak ill of their founder and rewarded spying on each other as an expression of their obedience. Mr. Berry also reported how the Legionaries facilitated a large transfer of funds from a Mexican family to someone very close to Pope John Paul II.

Reportedly Legion members arranged for large sums of money in the tens of thousands of dollars to be transferred to Vatican officials. Such large sums of money are not considered bribes under canon law if their use qualifies as a “pious cause” and in such cases do not have to be reported.

Based on Jason Berry’s findings, Fr. Maciel delayed Vatican justice by issuing cash payments and expensive gifts to those who would later be responsible for dealing with complaints against him. The report also showed a connection between the cash transfers and the softening of the wording of the Vatican communiqué at the conclusion of the Vatican 2005 -2006 investigation into Fr. Maciel’s life. The soft tone of the Vatican statement enabled the Legion to claim that their founder had been an innocent victim, similar to Jesus Christ, and apparently they continued for years to teach their seminarians that Fr. Maciel had led a virtuous life.

Regain recognizes and applauds the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI in his personal honesty, solid leadership and the actions he has taken to initiate the 2005 Maciel investigation even while under considerable pressure to avoid this, and later to conduct an investigation into the Legion after he became pope. It is not our role to be critical of the Vatican or of members of the hierarchy.

However, on behalf of past, present, and future victims of sexual and emotional abuse, we deplore any attempts that were made by the Legion to influence those in power to prevent disciplinary action on their founder. We hope and pray for the introduction of needed reforms to close up any loopholes in the Vatican policies to provide true justice that all Catholics can be proud of.

In part 2 of his article, Jason Berry provides details of Fr. Maciel’s life, including how he took advantage of an opportunity during a period between popes to be reinstated before the first visitation in 1956 had concluded. Father Maciel’s connections to the extremely wealthy Garza-Sada families resulted in Maciel securing millions of dollars for his growing empire.

How Fr. Maciel Built His Empire by Jason Berry

Jason Berry goes on to describe Fr. Maciel’s relationships with his different families and how he even risked exposure by daring to bring two of his children to receive communion from Pope John Paul II.

The article has some details of the controversial personal and financial relationships among Maciel, Cardinal Sodano, Sodano’s nephew Andrea Sodano and his involvement in a very questionable business scheme that ended up in Andrea’s associate Raffaello Follieri being sentenced to prison. It is alleged that a large amount of money was paid to Andrea Sodano for engineering services that were not performed.

ReGAIN Press Release at News of Marcial Maciel’s Death

By ReGAIN Staff


ReGAIN members received the news of Marcial Maciel’s death with a mixture of relief, frustration and hope: relief because he cannot continue to abuse, frustration that he was not held more accountable during his lifetime, and hope that his death may bring at least some closure to his victims. Some members may also wish that after his passing the work he founded become more human and Christian. Other members are glad to be free of the founder, the Legion and the Regnum Christi.

In a sense, this death has little if any impact on ReGAIN: our mission to inform the public, heal the wounded and hold the Legion and Regnum Christi leaders accountable continues until it becomes superfluous. As believers we commend Marcial Maciel to the Mercy of God and pray for the healing and recovery of all those negatively effected by him and his followers.

The Legionaries of Christ have lost their founder – ReGAIN calls them to take to heart the Communique of of May 2006 in which Vatican officials asked them to separate themselves from Maciel and to renew their apostolic zeal for the good of the larger Church. If the Legion cannot come to grips with this, ReGAIN will have to assume that Maciel cannot be separated from his creation and that the means to promote his ends cannot be reconciled with the mission of the Catholic Church.

What follows is an obituary in the UK Telegraph:

The Reverend Marcial Maciel

Last Updated: 3:18am GMT 02/02/2008

Father Marcial Maciel, who died on January 30 aged 87, founded the Roman Catholic order the Legionaries of Christ, but was forced to resign its leadership after accusations that he was a cruel and long-term sexual predator.

The Reverend Marcial Maciel with Pope John Paul II
Maciel with Pope John Paul II, who thought him an ‘efficacious guide to youth’, though nine men accused him of abusing them in their childhood

An imposing international figure who commanded intense loyalty, Maciel raised enormous sums of money and won the special favour of Pope John Paul II. Until the evidence became overwhelming, he indignantly protested his innocence, but there were those who had long described the Legionaries as cult-like, secretive and fanatically disciplined.

Founded in Mexico in the early 1940s, the order comprises theologically conservative priests and laymen, and runs a chain of universities and schools. It is especially powerful in Mexico, Spain and America.

The American liberal-leaning National Catholic Reporter was highly critical of Pope John Paul II’s support for Maciel, who had accompanied him on three Mexican visits.

When John Paul offered a public tribute to Maciel as an “efficacious guide to youth” during his third tour, in 1993, nine men came forward alleging that Maciel had abused them as children.

By then in their sixties, they included two university professors, a lawyer, the president of the Legion’s American branch and the order’s one-time treasurer.

One subsequently retracted his story, claiming that it had been a fabrication intended to damage the Legion. The others persisted while the Legionaries continued to protest not only Maciel’s innocence, but his saintly qualities.

The accusations did not stop John Paul congratulating Maciel for 60 years of “intense, generous and fruitful priestly ministry” in a letter of 2004. Some concluded that the Pope had failed to listen to the victims, and believed for far too long that the scandal was the work of those who opposed the Legion because of its loyalty to him.

Despite the accusations, which came in the form of letters to the Pope and a formal canon law complaint seeking Maciel’s excommunication, the Vatican initially remained silent while Maciel himself declined to discuss the allegations. After they first surfaced publicly in 1997 he called them “defamations and falsities with no foundation whatsoever”.

Legion spokesmen in Mexico and the US said that a Vatican investigation cleared Maciel. But the accusers claimed it failed to examine the case properly, and that they went public only after exhausting internal Church channels. They said Maciel led a double life, displaying strict religious devotion during the day and taking boys, sometimes two at a time, to bed in the evenings. Juan Vaca, the Legion’s former American president, said he was 10 when Maciel started abusing him.

Yet among his powerful advocates were the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, and Fr Richard John Neuhaus, a former Lutheran pastor who became a prominent Catholic theologian in New York. In 2002 Neuhaus wrote of his “moral certainty” that the charges against Maciel were “false” and “malicious”, but later acknowledged guardedly that they could have some substance. The Mexican primate, Cardinal Norberto Arriva Carrera, was also a Maciel supporter.

In 2004 Monsignor Charles Scicluna, Promoter of Justice to the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, re-opened the investigation with the support of the Congregation’s then Secretary of State, Cardinal Josef Ratzinger. This involved interviewing witnesses on several continents and extensively questioning victims, including more than 100 former seminarians and priests. Ratzinger and Scicluna became convinced that there was more to the claims of the victims than they had first believed.

The following year Maciel stepped down as head of the order and, a few days before John Paul II died, Ratzinger announced his intention of removing “filth” from the Church; many believed he was referring specifically to Maciel.

In 2006 Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, removed Maciel from active ministry, inviting him to spend the rest of his days in prayer and penance.

Marcial Maciel Degollado was born on March 10 1920, at Cotija de la Paz, a small town in the state of Michoacan. His childhood was marked by the social and religious crisis in Mexico during the 1920s which was brought vividly to life in Graham Greene’s novel The Power and the Glory. In 1936 he moved to Mexico City to begin studying for the priesthood at a minor seminary directed by his uncle, Rafael Guizar Valencia, the bishop of Veracruz.

According to his critics, “misunderstandings” led to Maciel’s transfer to other seminaries in Veracruz, Chihuahua and Cuernavaca, all directed by relatives. He was expelled from two of them before he was 20. He was ordained priest in 1966 by another uncle, Bishop Francesco Gonzalez Arias of Cuernavaca.

Maciel had founded the congregation of the Legionaries of Christ aged 21, and during the final three years of his priestly training he began to direct the formation of young seminarians. In 1946 he took the first Legionaries to Spain for further studies at the Pontifical University of Comillas and visited Pope Pius XII who, according to the Legionaries, “showed a lively interest in his apostolic and educational project and blessed the new congregation”.

Another account said that in 1948 Maciel got wind, through Vatican contacts, that it would withdraw canonical approval of the congregation at the last minute. That Sunday Maciel and two priestly supporters burst into the office of his uncle, Bishop Arias, and bullied him into giving canonical approval on the spot. The next day the Vatican realised Maciel had pulled the rug from under its feet.

Maciel pursued his mission with zest. In the 1950s he established the Legion centre for higher studies in Rome, the Cumbres Institute in Mexico City and many other schools and universities in Latin America, North America, Italy, Ireland and Switzerland.

Even at this period there were rumours about Maciel’s personal life. It was said that he raped teenage boys while telling them he had a special dispensation from Pope Pius XII to have sex with them, and then absolve them from sin, because he suffered from acute pains in the stomach. It was also alleged that he was addicted to a morphine drug known as dolantine. In 1956 the Vatican removed his faculties, but he was reinstated three years later when he founded a lay associate movement, Regnum Christi.

Maciel cultivated the friendship and support of successive popes. In 1965 Paul VI awarded the Legion the “Decree of Praise” in recognition of various accomplishments. These included schools and training centres for catechists and missionaries.

To raise the necessary funds Maciel would persuade a rich donor to host a party for wealthy friends, who were then challenged to outdo the host’s donation. Having secured their pledges, the Legion would covertly refund the original donor’s money.

Maciel reached the peak of his influence under Pope John Paul II, who appointed him in a series of advisory roles to the bishops. These included the formation of candidates for the priesthood and the just distribution of clergy in 1991, the fourth General Conference of Latin American Bishops (1992), the 1993 Synod of Bishops, and the Synod of Bishops’ Special Assembly for America (1997). From 1994 until his forced resignation, Maciel was a permanent consultant to the Congregation for the Clergy.

Though the Vatican forced Maciel to resign from office, it stopped short of a canonical trial. Through the medium of the Legion Maciel likened himself to Christ before Pilate by declaring his innocence and deciding not to defend himself.

He was allowed to attend the beatification of his uncle, Bishop Rafael Guizar Valencia, in 1995, but was absent when Rafael was canonised in May 2006.


Misplaced Papal Praise

By National Catholic Reporter


Regain Editorial Note to article: the author would seem to imply that the Pope visited with Fr. Maciel or the Legionaries on November 30, a Tuesday. This is not true. The Legionaries were visited by Monsignor Rode at their college and by Cardinal Sodano at St. Paul Outside the Walls; LC/RC members and relatives attended a regular Wednesday public Papal audience around the end of November, 2004.


Issue Date: December 10, 2004

Like a president, potentate or prime minister, how a pope spends his time, and with whom he chooses to spend it, is significant. At a minimum it sends a signal — who is in or out of favor, whose ideas have proved triumphant, who, bottom line, has the man’s ear.

Style over substance? Perhaps. But still important.

Which brings us to with whom Pope John Paul II chose to spend time Nov. 30: Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legionaries of Christ. As readers of this publication are aware, Maciel is a papal favorite. The Legionaries, with 500 priests and 2,000 seminarians, shares John Paul II’s theological outlook. At the closing celebration of events marking the 60th anniversary of Maciel’s ordination, the pope heaped praise on the Mexican priest and honored the work of the Legionaries and their lay affiliate, Regnum Christi.

Maciel, however, is also an accused child molester. Eight former Legionary seminarians say he abused them. As this paper previously reported: “The men say Maciel first abused them when they were young boys or teenagers between the ages of 10 and 16, sometimes telling them he had permission from Pope Pius XII to engage in sexual acts with them in order to gain relief from pain related to an unspecified stomach ailment.”

Maciel vigorously denies the allegations. The Vatican, by all indications, has whitewashed its investigation into the charges.

But, and here’s a key point, his accusers exude credibility. They include an engineer, a schoolteacher, a lawyer, a rancher, a Harvard-educated scholar, a professor at the U.S. Defense Languages School, a psychology professor and a retired priest. A distinguished group, united only, they say, in an effort to expose the truth about the man who sexually abused them.

If Maciel were a U.S. priest, under procedures approved by the American bishops and recognized by the Vatican in 2002, he would be removed from active ministry, declared unfit to wear a Roman collar. Instead, he is honored by the Holy Father (see story).

Meanwhile, despite numerous requests, Pope John Paul II has yet to meet with victims of clergy sex abuse.

There’s a tendency, an understandable one in some respects, to make excuses for the way the pope has dealt with the worldwide clergy sex abuse crisis: He is ill, it is said, or he must keep the big picture in mind, or these are issues that local bishops must resolve.

But John Paul II has made a choice. He praised Maciel, but refuses to meet with victims of those who, in the church¹s name, hold themselves out as the image of Christ on Earth. The pope’s priorities are, to say the least, askew.

On Dec. 1, the day after honoring Maciel, the pope told a public audience that leaders need to be “honest and just, promote peace and take care of the weak and needy.” Leaders who carry out their roles in this fashion, he said, “will enjoy the respect of [their] people.”

The pope is sending a confusing mix of messages.

National Catholic Reporter, December 10, 2004
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Questions for His Holiness Pope John Paul II

Regarding His congratulatory Letter to Fr. Maciel
By ReGAIN staff member
the Pope’s congratulatory letter to Fr. Maciel is part of his ‘ordinary’, not special, or solemn, ‘magisterium’. As such it deserves to be treated respectfully by Catholics. But the Pontiff is far from teaching ‘ex cathedra’, or invoking the power of infallibility. He is not teaching faith or morals to be held by all Catholics. The letter does not, therefore, demand the same –if any- ‘religious submission of mind and will’. [See Vatican II dogmatic constitution on the Church, number 25]. Hence the ‘audacity’ of our questioning, part of which focuses on the letter’s ‘authenticity’. The most the Pope is doing here is congratulating Fr. Maciel on his anniversary. It would be folly to infer from this document any confirmation of Fr. Maciel’s personal ‘holiness’ or moral integrity.EDITOR’S NOTE:
in due honesty it must be noted that the Vatican appears not to have published the Pope’s letter to Fr. Maciel on its official website, at least as of this posting, 12/20/04

Dear Holy Father:
I address you today as one of many ex-Legionary of Christ priests and religious who wander the world -with or without proper canonical dispensations- after exiting this religious congregation. I write full of amazement at the praise you recently appeared to lavish on Fr. Maciel, founder and self-appointed director ‘ad vitam’ of the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi Movement. Your Holiness did not mention either Fr. Maciel or the Regnum Christi among your favorite Catholic Lay Movements in your latest memoir RISE, LET US BE ON OUR WAY. Whither comes the present enthusiasm? Though lacking any worldly or eclesiastical honors, I dare pose such questions to You with the confidence and dignity of my Baptismal consecration, as Saint Augustine bishop says.I must mention that some ex-confreres of mine addressed you in the same vein seven years ago, and have yet to receive any kind of response from the Holy See. They expressed their consternation in a Spanish language open letter published in the Mexican news-magazine Milenio, in December, 1997 [1]. On that occasion they were scandalized by your words of praise for Fr. Maciel, a priest they maintain sexually abused them as seminarians. I bring this to your attention as perhaps you were not aware of that cri de coeur. I also wonder are you at all aware of the allegations against Fr. Maciel, or whether you have been shielded by those around you from such unsavory matters. If this is the case, in vain did my confreres suffer, struggle and write, and in vain will this second cry seek your pastoral attention. Even so, let my eight confreres be comforted by the words of Our Divine Savior: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet without your Father’s knowledge not one of them shall fall to the ground. As for you, even the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than any number of sparrows.â€�[2]The present letter is prompted by a message to Fr. Maciel on the 60th anniversary of his priestly ordination, attributed to your Holiness. Based on a rudimentary knowledge of the workings of Vatican bureaucracy and your reported failing health, some preliminary questions spring to mind as I try to make sense of this phenomenon:

First of all, Holy Father, are you aware of the existence of the letter I am referring to?
Did you, Holiness, have anything to do with this letter attributed to you?
Did you actually read and/or familiarize yourself with this letter’s content?
Did you, as Supreme Pontiff, sign your signature?
Or was this letter of praise the work of some other Vatican dignitary, some other ‘friend of Fr. Maciel’?

If yes is the answer to the above questions, I would venture to say, with all due respect, that you are not sufficiently informed about Fr. Maciel, the Legionaries, or the Regnum Christi. It may give you pause to discover that a growing number of American bishops, successors of the Apostles, are gradually having misgivings about how the Legion and Regnum Christ operate stealthily within their dioceses. Your, or the writer’s, lack of knowledge is confirmed by some of the very words attributed to Your Holiness in number 1 of the letter: describing Legionaries as “priests totally dedicated to the preaching of the Gospel and to the moral and social improvement of the poorest and most marginated of our brothers.� Such words ring bold and poetic, but, alas, lack truth. The Legion of Christ’s specific apostolate is not to the poor, marginalized, excluded and deprived sectors of society [to use a better English translation than previously cited]. Au contraire, it is to the rich and powerful. The LC Constitutions state textually: ‘Form select groups of leaders in the various branches of society especially in the working class, intellectuals, the industrial community and other various professions, and train them for a person-to-person action to permeate the life of society deeply with the Christian spirit.’[quoted from memory]

The Legion has never targeted the ‘working class’ in its 60 years of existence. It’s apostolates to the ‘poor and marginated’ consist of the one single Mission, or Prelature, in Mexico, assigned to the congregation by the Holy See circa 1970. Though a limited percentage of inhabitants of the state of Quintana Roo -not to be confused with the State of Yucatan, which has a higher density of native people- are of Mayan descent, in reality places such as Cancun, Playa del Carmen and the Maya Riviera are a Mecca for international tourism and commerce. These industries generate sufficient resources for the local church. The Legion also fundraises through ‘World Mission’, using this same Mission as a facade, but it is not clear whether generated funds ever reach the Quintana Roo communities. The Mission is also used by LC leadership to distance some members from the Legion mainstream or ‘specific apostolate’, in which they may not choose, or are not invited, to participate. On other occasions, the Mission serves as a holding place, or exile, for dissident, distressed or doubting members. The Legion devotes limited religious and priests, and none of its own financial resources, to the Mano Amiga educational project, a kind of tinsel on the gigantic Legion Christmas tree of properties, buildings, investments and foundations. Legionary schools, even those ‘serving the poor’ are expected to be financially self-sufficient, and to contribute in turn to the central administration’s coffers. These and other fundraising activities make the Legion of the Christ the fasted growing self enriching religious congregation –per member capita- in the Catholic Church.

Your praise for Fr. Maciel’s ‘constant concern for an integral promotion of the person, especially as regards the human formation’ could not be further from the truth. Regain [3], an organization of ex-Legionaries and ex-Regnum Christi members, family members and friends, was founded precisely because of the Legion’s inhumanity to some ex-members. Employing sect-like strategies, Legion superiors systematically cast aside, neglect, isolate and ostracize members who doubt or disagree, or who will not accept the Legion’s control of their transition process. Even if dissenters dismissed by the Legion, classified by the Order as ‘disgruntled old men’, were indeed ‘envious of the Legion’s and Fr. Maciel’s success’, do not our voices and our numbers demonstrate the reality of our complaints? On another note, serious concerns have been expressed repeatedly regarding the Legion’s disregard for Canon Law mandating respect for the secrecy of Confession and freedom of conscience [5]. Are you unaware of the breach of Church law that forbids the same person to be superior, confessor and spiritual director in Catholic seminaries? Such abuses abound in the praxis of the Legion and Regnum Christi. Are you not afraid that with such abuses of human rights a ‘Third Reich’ may be gestating in the Church’s womb?

When you, Holy Father, conclude with: ‘I entrust you, dear Father Maciel, to the heavenly protection of the Virgin Mary,’ my human and Christian conscience revolts. Serious allegations of sexual abuse against Fr. Maciel were ‘summarily dismissed’ by Church authorities not long ago, through influence of Cardinals Ratzinger, Sodano [5] or others. Perhaps, human wisdom has prevailed up to now: ‘it is better for eight innocent victims to suffer ignominy rather than thousands of Catholics be scandalized by one perpetrator’s fall’. In the name of these men, in the name of all victims of priestly sexual abuse, how can you mention Maciel in the same breath as the Blessed Virgin Mary? Our Catholic Faith is further put to the test as so generously invoke Her protection for Fr. Maciel. I wonder what the Mother of Jesus thought when those several young men were sexually abused in the seminary infirmary on Via Aurelia 677, Rome, not far from the Vatican. And, finally, I am personally very saddened that you, Holy Father, seem to have succumbed to Fr. Maciel’s spell of ‘glittering images’ -numbers of ordinations and bursting seminaries- as well as to his, albeit ecclesiastical, ‘glamorous powers’. Such choices ultimately result in real ‘scandalous risks’[6] for the Body of Christ. They are causes of stumbling for the ‘little ones’, favored and protected by Our Divine Savior, Jesus, and his Heavenly Father [7].

2. Matthew 10, 29-31


4. Canon Law Codex 239,2; 246,4; 630 in article ‘LC Constitutions vs. Canon Law’ on website, under ‘Critique of LC/RC’

5. Bone fide sources attest that Cardinal Sodano’s brother is the builder of Fr. Maciel’s secret mausoleum under the Legion’s Guadalupe Basilica on Via Aurelia 675, Rome. For a description of Card. Sodano’s relationship with Chilean dictator Pinochet see

6. ‘glamorous powers’, etc, titles of British novelist, Susan Howatch’s books on Anglican Church ministers and maneuvers, Alfred A. Knopf, publisher

7. Luke 17,1-3; see also 9,46-48; 10,21, et alibi


Text of congratulatory letter to Fr. Maciel attributed to his Holiness, John Paul II

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, the path of formation to the priesthood which you began at 16 years of age, with the heartfelt dream of stirring up priests totally dedicated to the preaching of the Gospel and to the moral and social improvement of the poorest and most marginated of our brothers. This project of love for Christ, fidelity to the Church, and service to mankind came alive in Mexico City on January 3, 1941 with the birth of the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ, whose Constitutions were later on definitively approved by me in 1983.

2. Your sixty years of priestly life, Reverend Father, have been marked by a noteworthy spiritual and missionary fruitfulness, with various apostolic works and activities such as the Regnum Christi Movement, the network of Mano Amiga schools, numerous educational and charitable institutions today present in 16 countries of the 5 continents with the purpose of promoting family and human values, university centers for study and formation. And what should we say about the apostolate of the priests of the Legionaries of Christ, as well as the effort of the entire Congregation for the integral formation of future diocesan priests, especially through the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum and the two international seminaries, Mater Ecclesiae of Rome and of Sao Paolo, Brasil?
I cannot, of course, forget the service that you have rendered in these years to the Holy See, which has benefited on various occasions and manners by your generous and competent collaboration, whether during one of my apostolic trips or in the activity of branches 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 Post-Synodal 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� (n. 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� (n. 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

Maciel Prepares Own Multimillion Dollar Tomb


By ReGAIN editorial staff

An expensive monument to one man’s own earthly pride.

Early in the spring of 1996, writes our author, I was privy to certain letters which were generated in the Offices of the General Direction of the Legion of Christ in Rome in the Administration office. One of these letters gave the official response to a request to replace a decorative ball located on top of the façade of the minor basilica, Our Lady of Guadalupe, built by the Legion in 1958. The letter authorized an expenditure of $1,000.00 to replace the marble piece, rejecting a higher estimate sent by the Legionary pastor, Fr. Fidel Quiroz, for a more ornate piece at a cost of $2,000.00. The General Administrator explained that the Legion was going through a difficult financial situation at the time. The marble piece was then commissioned and the façade repaired.

Angeles Conde and David Murray chronicled the plans for building this same church back in the 1950s, describing the legendary fundraising efforts of the young founder, Marcial Maciel. The following is an extract from their book, “The Legion of Christ: a history”:

“In 1956, [Maciel] re-commenced work on the future Legionary novitiate in Salamanca, Spain. He also dedicated himself to fund-raise for the construction of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Rome. The greater part of the Mexican bishops let him take up a special collection for this project among the faithful of their respective dioceses […] Mexicans are incapable of denying anything to Our Lady of Guadalupe, their “beloved Virgin of Tepeyac”, and with a great deal of sacrifice they succeeded in covering the costs of her new basilica in Rome. Those who could give more gave more: some pledged a monthly contribution until construction was finished. Those who could give less perhaps gave only once, perhaps only a small amount, but they gave their donation with an abundance of affection, digging deep into their almost-empty pockets. Poor fingers reached out to offer the Virgin of Guadalupe a token of their love.”
(Conde, A. & Murray, D.J.P. (2004). The Legion of Christ: a history. New Haven, CT: Circle Press, page 217)

Interior of Our Lady of Guadalupe Minor Basilica

Location of Church

A few weeks later, I saw another letter. The contrast surprised even me, then a Legionary for eleven years. By direct order of Fr. Marcial Maciel it instructed the Legion’s financial manager to release millions of dollars for the construction of a tomb for Maciel under the altar of that very same Our Lady of Guadalupe minor basilica.

The funds were subsequently drawn upon an account with Pictet & Cie, Private Bankers of Geneva, Switzerland. The Legion hired an architect for the project and subsequently a construction company was contracted. The permit granted by the City of Rome to the Legion was for building a parking lot. Legion members were never informed of this project. When a construction fence was erected around the back and sides of the church, Legion superiors in Rome explained to the religious that the foundations of the building needed extensive repair work.

Before the barriers came down, I went down the construction ramp with another legionary brother to see the work. We did so covertly one day, as access to and knowledge of the project were strictly limited. Under the main altar, we entered an area, still in unfinished concrete, of approximately 150 by 70 feet, equal in extention to the presbytery above. The space was crowned by large arches, resulting in a height of about 20 feet: a truly impressive sight. The intention was to build it up into a fully decorated burial chapel after Maciel’s death. At that time the tomb would be presented as being totally constructed after the founder’s death. The entrance to the mausoleum was located on the back corner of the church on the west side. An arched walkway was added to provide covered access from the street side of the church. The entrance itself was bricked over, sealing the space from any outside access, and hiding it totally from view. On-site inspection provides little inkling of its existence.

A series of photos showing the entrance to the mausoleum from the back of the General Direction House of the Legion in Rome

Legionary religious know nothing of the tomb’s existence. When confronted with this, Fr. Anthony Bannon denied the existence of any subterranean tomb and asserted that a small open air burial place had been set aside for Maciel on the property of Our Lady of Guadalupe minor basilica.

After the construction project was finished, the Legion ran into many difficulties trying to get permission to eventually bury Maciel there due to the fact that the church is too close to the neighbors and, according to Roman law, a person cannot be buried within the city walls too near residential dwellings. The Legion then tried to pull a few political strings with Oscar Luigi Scalforo, then President of the Italian Republic, to have an exception made for them. At this time, I do not know whether the Legion was able to successfully complete that political maneuver with the help of Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican Secretary of State, as they have done so many times in the past.
Exterior of Our Lady of Guadalupe Minor Basilica in Rome

The saga of Marcial Maciel’s efforts to construct his own secret tomb in Rome reveals some very disturbing trends, typical of the workings of the Legion of Christ. Maciel often states that he does nothing for himself, but only for the Church and the Legion; but his many eccentric habits show the real truth. A huge chapel tomb, built shortly after the creation and dedication of a similar structure following the death of the canonized founder of the Opus Dei, demonstrates Maciel’s unnatural attachment to his own glory. Large sums of money were spent in secret, without any knowledge of the many present day contributors to the coffers of the Legion. Would they have been so generous if they had known that the millions they had donated would be spent by a man accused of sexual abuse of minors to build a massive monument to himself? The rank and file Legionaries, those who work so hard to bring even more glory to their beloved founder were lied to when the construction was begun, and are clueless as to its existence. Many of these same priests and brothers have had to endure great sacrifices due to the “difficult financial situation” that they are constantly being told the Legion is passing through. The fact of the matter is that the Legion lied to the Italian government, lied to their own members, lied to their benefactors, lied to their prospective vocational recruits, and lied to the public at large.

Many hold that we must judge the Legion of Christ by its many fruits in both vocations and apostolic works. But among those fruits are the hundreds of broken lives of ex members, the hapless benefactors who are lied to and whose money goes to build pyramids to holy Maciel, and the many millions amassed in Swiss banks by and for the pharaoh. How would those rank and file Legionaries react if they knew the facts, if they could learn the facts, if they were told the truth, and if their founder were not protected from all criticism by a Private Vow of his own making?

Latitude: 41°53’37.97″N
Longitude: 12°25’0.37″E