Upon discovering the Pandora Papers on October 3, the most passionate about the news of the Catholic Church were surprised to come across the name of the Legionaries of Christ. This holy family, involved in a vast financial package, is involved in one of the biggest scandals in the field. For several decades, multiple accusations of pedophile sexual assault have been brought against members of the Legion of Christ, made up of about 900 priests and present in Europe, America and Asia
Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church: The Unspeakable Scandals of the Legionaries of Christ
Quoted in the Pandora Papers, the congregation of the Legion of Christ has been immersed in dark affairs for several decades. At the heart of one of the biggest scandals of the Catholic Church: Marcial Maciel, its founder, whose actions have been repeatedly pointed out.
Their actions were covered up for a long time before the scandal really broke out in the 2000s, more precisely after the death of the founder of the congregation, Marcial Maciel, in 2008. The Mexican priest resigned in 2006 after several accusations of sexual assault committed between 1956 and 1997. The man had been implicated in 1948 and briefly suspended the time of the opening of an investigation, stopped by the death of Pius XII. After regaining his functions thanks to the Cardinal Vicar of Rome, all the allegations against him in Mexico were automatically relegated to the rank of slander.
Many years later, in 1998, eight members of the Legion of Christ denounced his actions in the 1950s and 1960s on victims between the ages of 11 and 16. After a vast investigation by Benedict XVI, the Holy See ordered in 2006 the withdrawal of Marcial Maciel who was asked to “lead a withdrawn existence in prayer and penance.” This existence turned out to be full of secrets, some details of which were revealed shortly after his death in 2008. The New York Times then explained in its columns how the founder of the Legion of Christ had led a double life in which he had several identities, managed an immense fortune in all opacity and raised his own daughter. “Poverty, obedience, chastity”. The vows pronounced by each Legionary of Christ before committing themselves apparently had no place in the life led by Marcial Maciel.
At least 175 minors abused
These revelations were truly publicly acknowledged in 2010. An investigation by the Legion of Christ concluded that Marcial Maciel had indeed committed “acts of sexual abuse of minor seminarians” and said he regretted not having believed the people who had testified before. The same year, the congregation underwent a profound overhaul as part of its trusteeship by the Vatican, determined to take the subject head on. Apart from Father Maciel, other priests have been incriminated in this case, such as the French episcopal vicar Pierre Dufour, sentenced to 15 years in prison for “rape and sexual assault” – who had admitted his actions on at least a dozen young adults for several years – and Henri Le Bras for acts committed in the late 1990s.
In 2019, a new report reported at least 175 minors who were sexually assaulted by priests of the same congregation from 1941 to 2019, at least 60 of whom were attributed to Marcial Maciel. If these acts are recognized, their instigators are still present in the ranks of the Legion of Christ. At least in part. We learned then, still in the same report, that 18 of the 33 religious accused of pedophilia were still in office, but had nevertheless been excluded from tasks related to minors. More importantly, half of the perpetrators were themselves victims of the same abuses. “In this sense, it is emblematic that 111 minors abused in the Congregation were victims of Father Maciel, one of his victims or a victim of his victims,” the report reads. That same year, Pope Francis made the fight against sexual assault in the Catholic Church one of his priorities.
The extent of the suffering inflicted by these clerics is revealed at the rate of the publication of new reports. The last one, dating from March 2021, revealed new figures and the identity of 27 priests. Among them, “two have died without trial, sixteen have been sanctioned, eight are currently in canonical trial and one has received a dispensation from the ministry without trial.”
More broadly, the Ciase (Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church) delivered a report on October 5 led by Jean-Marc Sauvé, former vice-president of the Council of State. His conclusion is alarming: in 70 years, there are 216,000 victims of sexual abuse by clerics and 3,000 predator priests.
Twelve bishops in Mexico are being investigated for covering up the abuse of minors and vulnerable adults, although no conclusions have so far been reached, the Vatican ambassador to the South America nation has revealed.
Archbishop Franco Coppola, the Apostolic Nuncio to Mexico, said that some of the investigations, carried out on the basis of new norms established by Pope Francis, have been referred to the Vatican itself.
With the Nuncio’s revelation that more than one-sixth of Mexico’s Bishops are under suspicion of concealing abuse, the image of the Church in the overwhelmingly Catholic nation is likely to be further tarnished.
In 2019 one bishop revealed that at least 103 Catholic priests in Mexico have been suspended in the past nine years for sexual abuse against minors, out of more than 271 priests have been accused of sexual abuse.
In 2020 the Pope sent the team of investigators he directed to Chile in 2018 to Mexico, in a move suggesting problems of abuse and cover-up in Mexico could be as severe as the Chilean crisis. Although the visit was cancelled, Archbishop Coppola, the Papal representative in Mexico, has made confronting the abuse crisis a personal priority.
An internal report by the religious order in 2019 concluded that Maciel had abused at least 60 minors over decades – during which Maciel, and the legion, were regularly lauded by the institutional Church.
The consequences of the scandal continue to unfold. When Archbishop Coppola released his personal email and appealed for victims of abuse to come forward, most of those who contacted them wanted, he said, to talk about the Legionaries of Christ.
With 84 million Catholic residents, Mexico has one of the highest number of Catholic inhabitants in the world, second only to Brazil. The moral authority of the Church in Mexico has been eroded in recent years, however, with protestant denominations making inroads in the north and south of the country. Across Latin America, the portion of people who identify as Catholic has declined in recent decades, from around 90 per cent in the 1960s to 69 per cent in 2014.
Like everything else produced by the Legionaries of Christ, this document needs to be examined with a fine-tooth comb. Not that this analysis will be so fine. But it will explain the nature of sexual abuse of minors and point out some of the document’s limits or deficiencies.
What is child sexual abuse? FACT: The definition of child sexual abuse is broader than most people realize. Often a traumatic experience for children and teens, child sexual abuse is a criminal offense punishable by law in many societies. Child sexual abuse includes: • any sexual act between an adult and a minor, or between two minors, when one exerts power over the other.
forcing, coercing or persuading a child to engage in any type of sexual act.
non-contact acts such as exhibitionism, exposure to pornography, voyeurism, and communicating in a sexual manner by phone or Internet.
What is the magnitude of the problem?
FACT: Child sexual abuse is far more prevalent than most people realize.
FACT: Even with declining rates of sexual abuse, the public is not fully aware of the magnitude of the problem. • The primary reason is that only about 38% of child victims disclose the fact that they have been sexually abused. Some never disclose. (The author believes that disclosure in Catholic and Latin American countries may be lower because of taboos, shame, and machismo). There are also privacy issues surrounding cases of child sexual abuse. For instance, public police reports do not name the victim, and most media concerns have a policy that precludes naming victims.”
Superiors/directors/assistants/spiritual directors/employees who Aided and Abetted Abuse
Not mentioned in Legion Official Report.
The report mentioned superiors who were abusers; for example, Canary Islander Fr. Guillermo (William) Izquierdo, a novice master whose fetish was to contemplate naked novices under his pastoral care – Greek statues in human flesh. (the author has this first-hand from one of the several victims).
But the official report does not mention the grave problem of people in authority who hushed up abuse:
knew about it,
did nothing about it,
expelled offender and victim indiscriminately,
gave them no help -spiritual, emotional, psychological, financial-
With these new official publications, the next step (before they die from old age) is for current directors to demand that “former directors” or anyone in positions of moral responsibility and with knowledge of the issue:
– one: come forward via social media and beg forgiveness (that is the minimum they must do, even if as a result they suffer public harassment).
– two: such people resign from any position of responsibility they may occupy (including economic, legal within the institution and foundations, associations or companies created by the same).
– three: (internal human and spiritual resolution) let himself be crucified. Is today not Friday of Sorrows? (….). I take advantage of this occasion and make a connection with (Divine) Providence (which I no longer practice, because I am an abuser of ecclesiastical authorities).
– And I add a fourth point: let yourself be helped: physically, emotionally, in your rationality, mentally, spiritually, and humanly: It’s much more than a “comprehensive repair.” It is a need of anyone within a FAMILY: to go to the origin for true reconciliation. Why not?”
Con estas nuevas publicaciones oficiales, el paso siguiente (antes de que fallezcan por vejez) es que los directores actuales obliguen a los “exdirectores” o cualquier persona que tuviera cargos de responsabilidad moral, con conocimiento de causa en esta materia:
– uno: que salgan a la luz vía redes sociales pidiendo perdón (es lo mínimo que deben hacer, aunque sufran acoso público).
– dos: dimitir de cualquier puesto de responsabilidad (y económica, jurídica, legal dentro de la institución y fundaciones, asociaciones o empresas creadas en el entorno de la misma)
-tres (resolución interna humana y espiritual) dejarse crucificar. ¿Es hoy viernes de dolores? (…). Aprovecho la casuística del día y la relaciono con la (Divina) Providencia (que yo ya no la vivo, por ser un abusivo eclesial). Señalo a
Es mucho más que una “reparación integral” . Es una necesidad de cualquier persona dentro de una FAMILIA: ir al origen para una verdadera reconciliación.
Vatican’s Flawed Investigation
The above reflections point to a Vatican problem beyond the Legion/Regnum Christi problem. Readers can check ReGAIN and see that we have seldom, if ever, engaged in “Vatican bashing”. So, we do not come to this issue lightly.
After the latest scandalous post-mortem revelations regarding Founder, Fr. Marcial Maciel, LC (ever a priest and ever a Legionary) hit the headlines, the Vatican ordered an investigation into this religious congregation in 2009
The Vatican’s, always-carefully-drafted document, named Monsignor Velasio de Paolis as Apostolic Delegate (mark, not as a commissioner) to help the Legion renew itself (mark, no mention is made of “reform”). Charmed by then then Superior General, Fr. Álvaro Corcuera, R.I.P., the Vatican delegate did not to dismiss the leadership cadre (Corcuera, Garza, Sada and other members of the Monterrey, Mexico powerful elite who manage the Legion’s financial empire), choosing to make documentary changes. Many of Maciel’s hand-chosen men remained in their positions. Critics alleged substantial change, cleaning out of the Augean stables, was not accomplished. Cosmetic changes were made; key movers -including Maciel die-hards- and systemic problems remained. And they remain to this day, as we have briefly demonstrated above. Further disillusioned former members coined the term el Fracasado Pontificio (The Pontifical Failure) for now deceased Archbishop De Paolis.
Why is the Legion always treated by the Vatican with kid gloves? Is it because it is the priest-and-money-making machine? Sad question for us believers hanging onto our Faith, and hard questions for the Vatican, during Holy Week 2021.