A Swiss Cheese Riddled with Holes
by José Barba Martín, PhD
Book Review and Commentary on Christ is My Life, Interview with Marcial Maciel by Jesus Colina
“The psychoanalyst’s question facing a psychotic text is: ‘what should I do with it?’ which means, as far as psychoanalytical discourse is concerned, ‘what should I say about it?’ (…) Lacan states that the psychoanalyst should serve as a secretary to the alienated. But this does not mean that he should simply be ready to take notes. To be a secretary to the alienated is also to do what Freud did: introduce the subject.”
(Eric Laurent, La psychose dans le texte)
“The essence of evil is its unredeemed ambiguity (…) Evil pretends to be a contemporary, an equal and a twin brother of Goodness.”
(Emmanuel Levinas, Humanisme de l’autre homme)
ENCYCLOPEDIC FATHER MACIEL IN THE LIMELIGHT
To a true believer and a spiritually well-read Catholic the title of this book evokes Saint Paul’s words- “Vivo ego, iam non ego, vivit vero in me Christus” (“I live, but it is not I who lives. It is Christ who lives in me”). It also calls to mind the title of the saintly Irish abbot of Maredsous, Dom Columba Marmion’s prestigious spiritual conferences- Le Christ, Vie de l’ ame. One might immediately conclude the interviewee has certainly been in good religious company.
And yet, to those who have heard things up close the enchanting music has a different sound. It must have been in 1953 that a young victim, frustrated by Senator McCarthy’s shameless public interrogation tactics, asked the evil persecutor during one of the last hearings- “Haven’t you any decency left, senator?” This came to mind as I finished reading the complete Christ is my Life in the original Spanish.
For the book, far from an ‘interview’, is a collection of recipes gathered from other “official” Legion of Christ sources. The date of the publication (April 2003) demonstrates how it is another of Marcial Maciel’s ‘impersonations’, intended to counteract former Legionary of Christ Alejandro Espinosa’s devastating memoir, El Legionario. At the same time, it creates a gnawing sense of perplexity, distressing unease, and increasing mistrust in the informed reader and many other Catholics, lay and clerical, who read it.
The book is also used to highlight Marcial Maciel’s “wisdom” on every possible issue: “the Christ-centered life”, Protestant sects, Marxism, Theology of Liberation, the cultural revolution, Globalization, September 11, the Jews, the “collective imagination”, bio-ethics, “Faith and Reason”, Marcial Maciel’s ‘own’ writings, Descartes, Kant, Edith Stein, Don Quixote, time and eternity, “psychology as a human science”, “the world of the Internet” (of which -revealingly enough- says he: “we should not be afraid”(!). Even Samuel Huntington cannot feel snubbed: his The Clash of Civilizations was included too. And a trenchant proof that Marcial Maciel is quite up to date (and of the fact that this book was prepared as a riposte to last February’s exposé of Maciel by Alejandro Espinosa) is that the recent Iraq war build up is also mentioned. So Marcial Maciel’s “answers” cover, definitively, “De omni re scibili“, every possible issue, past, present, and future. It is also noteworthy that, making the most of the occasion, the book intends to methodically sing the praises of Marcial Maciel and the Legion of Christ. At the same time, one by one and step by step, the book exposes all the “misunderstandings”, “accusations” and “calumnies” raised for decades, and especially in recent years, against them.
For the book has taken good care to cover each and every one of the Founder’s and the Legion of Christ’s “weak spots”. It justifies the Legion’s curriculum of studies for the priesthood, its sect-like praxis, the conveyor-belt, robot-like formation of its members, the peculiar understanding of Evangelical poverty, the “secret vows to protect charity and humility”, the lack of respect for individual freedom and personal spiritual discernment, the premature vocational decision, the manipulation of spiritual direction, the “gospel a la carte”, the businessy use of “efficiency”, the long forgotten attention to the poor, and, the most ineffable topic here, “temptations”, “authenticity” (or lack of), and the Erick Fromm-like “being and having”.
The word “calumnies” appears on nine different pages, opportunely correlated with the concept of “pardon”. The word “chastity” appears only on two pages, and -most amazingly- the word “conscience” shows up on no less than fourteen pages! “Culture”, surprisingly, is repeated on ten pages. “Contemplation” and other concepts of inner life show up on fourteen pages. His Holiness Pope John Paul II, -this is a must! – gets a good ration: he is mentioned on no less than forty-five pages. On the other hand, for the Legion of Christ, “a socially minded institution”, the word “workers” is mentioned much less: three times. “Women” are mentioned condescendingly on four pages. And, since everything had to be covered according to a pre-rehearsed program, already drafted in the sixth part (“A Vision of the Church”), the “journalist” at one point must suddenly exclaim: “But we have not talked about the bishops!”
Analyzing the content of the book, its structure, its disposition, the encompassing purpose of its one hundred and fifty-two carefully numbered apologetic “answers” and the timely inclusion of important names of highly influential co-involved contemporary Vatican personalities is revealing. It becomes perfectly evident that the target readers are churchmen of high and medium rank, people knowledgeable in religious affairs, “traditional enemies of the Legion of Christ”, the common legionaries of posterity, and very specifically the Mexican bishops. How come? The Mexican bishops, through their spokesperson, Monsignor Abelardo Alvarado, have been pressing Marcial Maciel lately to respond formally to the increasing accumulated oral and written testimonies against him. Marcial Maciel’s first typical response was his argument “by dignified silence”, his usual stalling tactic. This is then followed by the choreographed visit of Maciel’s personal and official representative, Fr. Octavio Acevedo, LC, to the bishops’ spokesperson. On the coattails of the useless emissary follows this book of “interviews”, meant to answer all questions, without having to be specific, and avoiding the thorny ones.
The “interview” book (Madrid, Fundación Logos Ed., April 2003, 289 pages), is divided into eight parts preceded by a prologue supposedly written by Jesús Colina, the “interviewer”, who incidentally â€“caveat emptor- is (was) a member of the Legion’s lay branch, Regnum Christi, and the founder and director of the Legion’s Zenit Information Agency.
The first three parts of the book’s eight are biographical dealing with Marcial Maciel’s childhood, his vocation, and the foundation of the Legion of Christ. The fourth part treats the Legion of Christ: its “charisma”, mission, and its members. The fifth part presents the Regnum Christi Movement. The sixth offers “A Vision of the Church”. The seventh returns to “personal experiences”, and the eighth offers a perspective on the world today and tomorrow.
Far from being a spontaneous encounter between the “journalist” and the founder and director general of the Legion of Christ, each part of the “interview” is divided into a series of obviously highly structured questions and desk-crafted reflective ‘answers’; both, quite evidently, written by the same person. Marcial Maciel has been for an exceptionally long time a pioneer in what the Spanish writer Vicente Verdú, in his recent book El estilo del mundo, calls “fiction capitalism”: an atmosphere where everything is subject to copy and imitation, where deceit and undeclared substitution play a vital role. But, since undoubtedly their kingdom is indeed of this world, why should Marcial Maciel and the Legion of Christ be more honest than Enron or Xerox, Christie’s, and Sotheby’s. And, regarding publishing, why not try the strategy of New York Times reporter Jayson Blair who stole information from other journalists, invented statements and simulated notes dated in places where he had never been?
THE GREAT IMPERSONATOR
The book attributed to Marcial Maciel and the “journalist” as an “interview” seems to those of us familiar with the Great Deceiver and his tactics like one more of the impersonations he pulls off with extraordinary ease. We must admit: Marcial Maciel deserves the Pulitzer Prize for impersonation, mimicry, and disguise, for he is as versatile in spiritual-looking matters as certain rock singers imitating better vocalists and musicians, with rhythms a la mode, surrounding chorus catch-phrases, sensationalist limelight and all. He is the perfect actor, without ever having opened Stanislavski. To those of us who remember Saint Paul’s words: “Induimini Jesum Christum…” (‘Let us put on Jesus Christ’) they sound terribly ironical in this context. Marcial Maciel, perfect actor as he is, has paraphrased them as a title for his book, Christ is my Life, and unmistakably aimed them at those who do not know him well enough.
But Marcial Maciel overlooks the fact that -as Vittorio Gassman once remarked to fellow-director Luciano Lucignani in a real interview- “theater is a dangerous profession (…) in the sense that it has to do with a kind of mental illness. It is a profession with components of pathological dimensions (!). The actor, like the witchdoctor of primitive societies, is an individual with special powers, true or simulated (…) who has become the guide and the path on a risky journey, a voyage towards something that does not exist (…). The actor, or whoever makes this journey, runs the risk of fracturing his individual personality, exposing himself to schizophrenia (…). For, in fact, what is an actor? He is someone who by profession, by choice, by nature, function or whatever, lies continuously (…). The actor lies always, he is always ready to become, to become somebody, who wants and accepts to “be” somebody else (!) Camouflage, garments and disguise are the tools of the actor’s profession.”
If Vittorio Gassman’s intention had been to go deeper into the analysis of certain men’s psyche, he might have considered the serious point of coincidence between a medieval jurist and a contemporary essayist. For “according to C. Braun, quoted by Enrico Pozzi in Le paradigme du traitre: “De façon générale les traitres sont tous ceux qui expriment ouvertement quelque chose par leur actions tandis que ills agencent autre chose en cachette dans leur esprit.
In the light of our past experiences the great performer, Marcial Maciel, who usually only sings “solos”, now, in this “interview” performs his longest duet ever, throwing in lots of falsettos; in more than one sense.
STRUCTURES OF DECEIT
Once again, we are facing another case of authorship by proxy. We know that on a previous occasion Fr. Gonzalo Miranda, LC, was the de facto author of The Complete Formation of the Priest (La Formación Integral del Sacerdote, Madrid, Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos, 1990). This volume was included in the convenient, though totally undeserved, company of Saint Augustine, Saint Therese of Avila, Saint John of the Cross, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Marcelino Menéndez y Pelayo, Werner Heisenberg! All this happening just a year before the 50th anniversary of the Legion of Christ. After half a century it was embarrassing for Marcial Maciel and the Legion of Christ to appear bereft of doctrine, and it was urgent to show the world that Marcial Maciel did have some ideas after all. Besides, permission to start the Regina Apostolorum Athenaeum in Rome had to be obtained, and it was particularly important to influence bishops in Latin America to send their best priest candidates to be taught by Legion of Christ instructors.
We think the “interview book”, the way it is fabricated, can only be possible because everything, specifically people, are mere instruments to Marcial Maciel. This is basic. “I like to move my men like checkers”, Marcial Maciel is reported saying. Once in Cóbreces, Santander, Spain, in the Summer of 1952, he asked one of us to bring him a table game. A game of chess was brought to him. He immediately said- “No, I want checkers!” And we saw how much he enjoyed gobbling up his opponent’s pieces, tongue in cheek, in a fast mode. And that is an example of how Marcial Maciel, who says he believes in long-term preparation, at the same time expects, attempts, gets and enjoys fast, expedient results. Which corresponds to a man who, as we sadly know, has been subject to hidden, personal, licit and illicit caprices for most of his life.
Concerning the spirit and intention of Marcial Maciel’s 289 pages “interview”, we think one could most accurately apply certain lines from one of Jorge Luis Borges’ Fictional short stories: “… a long novel written in the first person, in which the narrator omits or deforms the facts and falls into contradictions which allow a few readers -but only a few- to occasionally decry an atrocious, sometimes totally false reality…”
In no part of the book are we told that Jesús Colina is an ex-member of the Legion of Christ and now a Regnum Christi member. Or that the Zenit News Agency and the Logos Foundation are directly or indirectly financed, manned, and run by Legion of Christ or Regnum Christi members; even tho’ they are. The whole work is imbedded in ambivalence. Even visually: its front cover shows the ambiguous face of the androgynous Christ of Salvador Dalí’s “Last Supper”, raising a finger of his right hand in a way that very narrowly falls short of an obscene gesture. Marcial Maciel most probably did not know that Dalí chose his wife’s (Gala’s) face to portray Christ’s. He most surely did not know either that Dalí titled one his paintings “The Great Masturbator”. Again it is the Legion of Christ’s cult of the façade, which eventually betrayed Marcial Maciel so many times. But his goal was, as always, to promptly charm the non-thinking viewer; a spectator whom the Legion of Christ describes later, with a Robert Heilbronner title, as the true believer. This is the ‘true believer’ in manifold multiplied large quantities: for, how many of today’s readers check the facts in this hasty world of ours?
Yes, as the ancient Latin writers would say, the book “redolet oleo”- “it smells of oil”, meaning here that it is not the true record of natural, personal, direct conversations, but rather the product of nocturnal desk homework. Thus, not his own “oil” but somebody else’s, under obedience, and with the help of Legion of Christ history files, Marcial Maciel’s letters, etc. Probably imposed on someone like Fr. Javier García, LC, who, most probably wrote it, thoroughly lectured as to its “necessity”. For Marcial Maciel could be described with Andrew Carnegie’s epitaph: “(Here lies) a man who knew how to group together men more capable than himself.” A man who, like Carnegie, knew that “the secret of success lies in the art of making other people do your work.”
The style of the book contradicts the claim of really reporting true spontaneous answers to free, open questions. And, yes, the content shows that “Marcial Maciel’s” letters, memoirs and other LC treasures are obviously and constantly being used and intermingled with quotations from pontifical documents. “How right Pope John Paul II was in writing the “Fides et Ratio” Encyclical Letter!”, and well-chosen long scriptural passages readily and impeccably quoted “by heart” in such an admirable way that, as is commonly known, was never ever one of Marcial Maciel’s fortes. Besides, earnestly speaking, did MM ever once read the complete New Testament?
We repeat: it seems quite clear that most probably Fr. Javier García, LC, and a small, secret ad-hoc team of LC members were the ones who were instructed to concoct the new numbered catechism on Marcial Maciel’s life, views and “doctrines”. Fr. Javier Garcia LC, a professor of Christology for some time and a man of Maciel’s complete trust, began to write on these topics back in 1957 with learned essays such as MamÃ¡ Maurita [the unselfish mother], MarÃa Neri, the Cotija elementary school teacher,[who put up with Maciel!] and The Margarita, the heroic, generous cow, etc. Besides MMâ€™s collected letters (many of them not written by him), the commissioned writer of Christ is my Life used and freely adapted or copied verbatim complete lines and entire sections from another source. Both the late Fr. Ignacio Mendozas, LC, ingenuous, home-spun, ingratiating personal memoirs, and J. Antonio Villasana’s (now ex-LC) historical essays on Maciiel and the LC were milked. Common background for all of these being the revered, largely apocryphal, Christmas tales, “Historical Outlines (guiones) of the Legion of Christ”. So, in contrast with the purported journalistic “interview” work attributed to Jesus Colina, and contrary to normal interviewing style (cf. Nicolás González Ruiz or John Gunther of old, or Luis Pancorbo -Diálogos italianos- and today’s Vittorio Messori, Oriana Fallaci, Germán Sopena, etc.), the book’s style betrays itself. There are no references whatsoever to any setting, as we usually find in real journalistic interviews, or, for that matter, in Plato’s Dialogues or in the castillian classic Fray Luis de León’s dialogue On the Names of Christ. The so-called long “conversations” and “encounters” between Jesús Colina and Marcial Maciel reveal less credible flesh and blood reality than Juan Bonet’s imaginary interviews as published in Don José, the humoristic magazine directed by the Spaniard Laborde and famous Madrid cartoonist Mingote many years ago.
FALSE MEMORIES, COMPLETE AMNESIA AND FRAUD.
Marcial Maciel’s memory, at his 83 years of age, as previously mentioned, appears too minute and felicitous. Whereas, suddenly, in the middle of the very first part, he has a blackout and states as facts events that never happened: for instance, that cardinal Francis J. Spellman received him and his boys in New York in September 1946. The meeting simply never happened. A minor point? No! Marcial Maciel needed to construct this apparently unimportant anecdote to support the alleged veracity of some false letters he fabricated in 1949 and that he showed to the Jesuits at the University of Comillas. In those false letters Maciel had Cardinal Spellman purportedly saying he would readily take him and his boys into the New York diocese, were they expelled from Comillas. There are three witnesses who can testify to the contrary. For their part, professionals such as Carlos de la Isla (LC 1941-1957), Saul Barrales (LC 1945-1957), Gabriel Cortés Ávila (LC 1943-1959), and others who accompanied Marcial Maciel on the first transatlantic voyage disavow the false story narrated on the very threshold of the “interviews”.
Another blunder: in the first part of the “interview”, taking advantage of certain poorly documented regional reports on the Church-state conflict in Mexico, Marcial Maciel promotes himself as a hero. He portrays himself at age seventeen (!) as the daring leader who enters the local government palace in Orizaba, Veracruz, to mediate between the government forces and an inflamed Catholic crowd… “I was asked to harangue ‘the masses’ from the government palace balcony and to persuade them to calm down and leave” (page 30). What a consoling dream for the psychologically diminished Mexican adolescent who might have seen Mussolini declaim at the central balcony at Palazzo Venezia or the impressive Pius XI on the central loggia of Saint Peter’s Basilica in contemporary film documentaries! It is either pathetic or comical. I refer the reader to the daydreams of the funny character in The Double Life of Walter Mitty by James Thurber. For the rest, simply stated, what a pity there is not one single witness! Maciel makes a vague reference to the doubtful “proof” of a bayonet wound scar. Unfortunately, nobody has ever seen the scar, not even those disciples who were exposed to some of the master’s intimate parts.
What’s more, Maciel suffers total amnesia regarding his innumerable continuous acts of sexual abuse on the many boys he had taken away from their Catholic families “to lead them to the holiness of the priesthood, to save souls and fight Communism in Latin America.” He forgets that for years he performed his pedophile actions, scarcely a forty-minute walk from the Vatican, under the Pope’s very windows. He does not remember the time when in 1959, in Mexico City’s Quinta Pacelli Seminary, faced with the homosexual encounter of two seminarians, he ordered the immediate expulsion of “the active partner” while allowing “the passive partner” to stay¦
Not a word is said about his life-long dependency on morphine. There is nary a memory of that day when the Spanish police followed him from San Sebastián to Salamanca, or of the time when, completely passed out, he almost drowned in a hotel room bathtub in Morocco. Maciel seems to have forgotten the day when an Irish archbishop had to rescue him from the premises of the Dublin Police; they had detained him while he was under the effects of the drug a certain day in the early sixties. Obviously, he has also committed to total oblivion the terrible predicament in which he put several of us, his own seminarians, when in Spain, Italy, France and even in the United States, as he induced some of us to recklessly obtain morphine for him with tricks and lies.
Little reference is made to his use of money: not a word about his illegal transactions in the Spanish money black market of the forties, fifties and sixties. There is total silence about the multiple murky sources of the Legion of Christ’s actual immense wealth.
And why should Maciel recall the early days of June 1949 when in Tlalpan, Mexico, Brother Alfredo Torres and he rehearsed and performed the now famous “gun attack by Communist students”. The brim of the saint’s black hat was punctured several times while his privileged head “miraculously” escaped unscathed. And what about the mysterious death of our companion Francisco Javier Orozco Yépez at Rapallo, near Genoa? Two different versions of his mysterious “accident” were officially imposed, one after the other, on the Legionary student community in Rome. No mention is made either of the desperate suicide of our other friend Jose Luis Fernández. Thoroughly disheartened by his Legionary experience he lost his Christian faith very shortly after leaving the order and took his own life in Russia. What about other suicides occurred in the Legion of Christ? What about our companions sent from Rome to be interned at military doctor Antonio Vallejo Nájera’s mental hospital in Madrid during the fifties and sixties? Nor can Maciel explain why he was banned from entering Venezuela for a period during the middle fifties.
THE VATICAN CONNECTION?
Maciel “talks” of his personal friendship with Pope Paul VI, but draws a blank regarding negative predictions about Cardinal Giovanni Battista Montini’s chances as a possible Sovereign Pontiff during the Conclave that elected him Pope! Not a single phrase describes the circumstances in which the “secret vows” rule (never to criticize a superior and to snitch on any companion who might do so) was predated precisely twenty-five days before his expulsion from Rome by the Vatican in 1956. The exile was imposed scarcely six months after Cardinal Valerio Valeri caught Maciel completely drugged out at the Salvator Mundi Clinic in Rome in April of the very same year 1956!
Talking of Lady Poverty, Maciel forgot to mention the time when in Tangiers, in 1957, he bought, for cash, an exclusive, deluxe, all electric, two- tone Chrysler model of the year. He later chose to justify it as a personal present given to him by Josefita Gómez Delfino, one of his devout benefactors from Caracas, Venezuela. Nor does he mention the Legion’s long tradition of elaborate gifts to powerful Vatican dignitaries. Nothing is said of the apartment and automobile given to Argentinean Cardinal Eduardo Pironio, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for Religious, who approved the public version, as opposed to the private/secret one, of the LC Constitutions. And what about the Mercedes Benz cars given as presents to high Vatican officials? Regarding Sister Humility, not a hint about the multimillionaire crypt the LC built for The Founder under the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Via Aurelia Nuova. The building contractor happens to be the brother of an influential and prominent Cardinal Sodano.
How does the Founder fare as regards historical fairness and social sensitivity? Marcial Maciel “talks the talk” regarding the Jews. Does he not remember the Hitler eulogy he enthusiastically wrote in one of his letters, snatched from the copier by Fr. Rafael Arumí LC in 1955 in Rome. His frequent praise of the “young members of the admirable Hitler Youth” was evident in the World War II documentaries shown to us repeated times at the Junior Seminary in Cóbreces, Santander. Some of us also witnessed his very ironical, harsh criticism of the Jews in Lugo, Spain, in the early September 1957.
Regarding The Master’s recent flood of deeply spiritual ideas, does he not remember how once he had to ask Brother Alfonso Samaniego, LC, to help him with outlines for his “spiritual talks”. In the early 19 50s it so happened that some Legionary philosophy and theology students from the Gregorian University began to feel queasy at the Inspired One’s evident lack of doctrine.
And what can be said about Maciel’s love of the truth vis-a-vis his special knack for fabricating false letters? An inveterate artist: in 1946 Maciel fabricated and predated letters attributed to Jesuit Father Lucio Rodrigo and addressed to Carmelite Fr. Arcadio Larraona. Two years later the Great Forger produced letters attributed to Cardinal Joseph Spellman and addressed to the Jesuits in Comillas. Later, one, strangely undated, letter and another dated 1996, both attributed to bishop emeritus Polidoro Van Vlierberghe were sent to the Apostolic Delegate in Mexico, Monsignor Luigi Raimondi, and to the staff of the Hartford Courant. All of them possessing the same deceitful intention, pathetic style, incredibly shameless, arrogant self-praise, and, to top it off, even the original typing on our old school Smith Corona number 12 and Remington manual typewriters to fake authenticity.
Those facts are etched in the memory of witnesses and have been collected, attested in duly signed revelations or videotaped testimonies of ex members of the Legion of Christ. They are safely held in bank security boxes for their presentation in due time. When the judgment opens, what was hidden will appear.
“Judex autem, cum sedebit, quidquid latet apparebit” (When the judge sits in judgment, what was hidden will appear).
On the other hand, during his interviews the aggrieved Father never misses an opportunity to mention here and there how evil persons -usually religious ‘false brethren’- emerged along his life journey who always ‘misunderstood’ him, gratuitously “defamed” him and “lied against” him. Didn’t he refer to the very same thing, too, in his letter from the city of Chihuahua, Mexico, on March 20th, 1953, and on so many other occasions? But faced with these exact questions Marcial Maciel seems to skittishly scamper away like a cat on a hot tin roof.
Knowing Maciel’s personal modus operandi, and his creative gifts, one might predict right now that, if it suited him, he and his official spokesmen could very soon show ‘notarized letters’ to the public attesting to his “true authorship” of the “interview book”. The same previous experience with the man and his twisted manners allows us to foresee immediate denial and new lies of different sorts. Inveterate liars are quite resourceful.
Nevertheless, we should not disregard these “interviews” by simply stating we definitely suspect they never occurred, and change the topic. No! Because many people of good faith cannot distinguish truth from falsehood in cases like this. The book should rather be researched and studied as a double impersonation: that of someone -as we suspect, most likely, Fr. Javier Garcia LC- playing “the journalist” and ghost writer, and the other, that of Marcial Maciel himself, impersonating a saintly follower of Christ. “Christ is my Life”: a bold and offensive title for the life and thoughts of a man who, according to so many written revelations and oral testimonies, has betrayed the most elementary virtues. Christ had harsh words for the Scribes and Pharisees.
THE ‘JUXTAPOSITION PRINCIPLE’
Why all this farce? Independent readers, please consider the strength and economy of “the juxtaposition principle”. This is largely based on the lack of due analysis of carefully crafted images of someone or something that takes advantage of his or its appearance. Maciel identifies himself with men, groups, societies, institutions and objects whose nature, prestige the uncritical mind will associate him favorably. The favorable elements with which he associates himself are legion: a saintly uncle bishop, a Cristero War guerrilla fighter uncle, a former Secretary of Education as the main guest speaker at a dinner where Maciel is going to receive public recognition, a favorable photograph in which Maciel is being undeservedly embraced by His Holiness Pope John Paul LL, a famous personal phrase that Pius XII never said to him in a meeting that never took place, the lecture given by a former government press director, whose portraits will look at you from the corridor walls of one LC university for entire months, the visit of an innocent member of royalty exploited to the maximum in LC propaganda pamphlets, etc. Simply stated- it is a chameleon-like exercise metaphorized from the animal planet to the social and moral worlds. It is a practical principle, which requires no great intelligence or energy, and certainly no scruples, to apply, while in our undemanding, careless milieu it harvests spectacular “results”. But clearly, for men who want to be more than worth their salt and really save their souls, it belongs to the land of pure opinion, not to the realm of true judgment. The final verdict from above is God’s. Indeed, but we, while on this earth, as citizens, for our own social preservation, have the right, nay the duty, to judge. And responsible moral investigation should be conducted in an open, honest, well-organized manner.
Because Marcial Maciel has always relied so much on the power of images, he in some way anticipated Marshall McLuhan’s theory that “the medium is the message” or Andy Warhol’s dictum that “the appearance is all”. In the same sense Maciel had perfect insight into the power of the movies’ “Kolokoff effect” (you “are” what you seem to be). Thus, Marcial Maciel is a perfect postmodern man. Particularly when most of his followers are just eager to believe what they have already been indoctrinated into. The Latin Vulgate version of the Biblie says “Vulgus vult decipi” (˜The masses want to be deceived). And Maciel has had the magic touch to make people see themselves as an Elite, while an outside independent observer can see how he manipulates them as members of a very convenient uncritical mass. Maciel’s book illustrates, besides, this sad truth: people have a very short historical memory. That is why he and the Legion of Christ can deform events with impunity and freely use old-fashioned tactics that the Nazis and Italian Fascists schemed and used successfully seventy years ago. And do so even in countries, like the United States, which fought those foes of yore, or like Spain that suffered the effects of their tyranny. Marcial Maciel’s psyche got deformed precisely at that time, and his scarce, scattered, disorganized readings left in his undeniable natural intuition the tempting taste of fast, easy recipes to capture submissive consecrated minds.
Some people will say that there are “great thinkers” in the Marcial Maciel camp and among Legion of Christ defenders. Embarrassingly enough, Benito Mussolini, too, had his Giovanni Gentile in his day. In fact, we must expect that the same way as the book we are commenting was created, likewise a chorus of well-orchestrated, friendly, “independent” reviewers will very soon begin to be heard. Like dolphins around the triumphant vessel, they will leap in praise of the “depth and amplitude of thought”, the “simple directness”, the “lucid patriarchal wisdom”, etc. of the never sufficiently praised Marcial Maciel.
This marvelous “juxtaposition principle” will be applied time and time again. The same also should be noted with the frequent mention of Vatican personalities, past and present, particularly the late Pope Paul VI, who, “even as a Pope, used to receive me whenever I asked him.”(!) (Page 184). This brings back Marcial Maciel’s most daring classic “naive” story. His self-cultivated legend tells how on his first trip to Rome in 1946, after a formal ceremony at Saint Peter’s Basilica, Pope Pius XII personally gave Maciel -then an obscure twenty-six-year-old priest- a private appointment just twenty-four hours after bumping into him for the first time (page 50).
Readers should continue to consider the fruits of “the juxtaposition principle”: Christ said that “the children of Darkness are more astute than the children of Light”. Despite his now internationally known crimes, Maciel has managed to survive thus far, not only without punishment but even with pomp and circumstance. And done so for a longer time than several infamous men of the past. They fell because of their many personal, hidden weaknesses, their injustice, for social reasons and historical conditions, and for several important tactical mistakes of a varied nature. Their greatest mistake was, however: THEY DID NOT HIDE BEHIND THE CHURCH, THE ALTAR, OR THE POPE; this being the most productive juxtaposition of all!
And yet, the fact remains that truth is stubborn by nature, and will come out eventually. To conclude this unorthodox review and commentary, and in order not to ‘appear’ less informed than Marcial Maciel’s ghost writer, let me cite a recent speech by John C. Byrd, democratic senator for West Virginia and dean of the American Congress. The speech, which I invite you to read complete, begins with these words of ancient and perennial value:
“Truth, in spite of all the attempts to suffocate it, has the means to reaffirm itself. Distortion affects it only for a while. No matter to what extremes we, humans, go so as to obscure facts, to deceive our neighbors, truth always finds the way to get through the cracks and reemerge in the long run.”
In other words -and returning now to the opening subtitle of this book review and commentary- in the end truth manages to fill in all the holes of this Swiss cheese of questionable origin.
The Literary Analyst