Holy Father Removes Founder of Legionaries of Christ
By Richard Salbato
The Vatican Press Office released the following communiqué today, May 19, 2006.
COMMUNIQUE OF THE PRESS OFFICE OF THE HOLY SEE
In reference to news reports diffused concerning the person of the Founder of the Legionaries of Christ, the Reverend Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, the Press Office of the Holy See communicates the following:
Beginning in 1998, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith received accusations, already in part made public, against the Reverend Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ, for offenses reserved to the exclusive competence of the dicastery. In 2002, the Reverend Maciel published a declaration for denying the accusations and for expressing his displeasure at the offense provoked by some ex-members of the Legionaries of Christ. In 2005, for reasons of advanced age, the Reverend Maciel withdrew himself from the office of Superior General of the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ.
All these elements were the object of mature examination on the part of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and, in accordance with the motu proprio “Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela” promulgated April 30, 2001, by the Servant of God John Paul II, the then-Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, His Eminence Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, authorized an investigation of the accusations. In the meantime, the death of Pope John Paul II happened and the election of Cardinal Ratzinger as the new Pontiff.
After having submitted the results of the investigation to an attentive study, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under the guide of its new Prefect, His Eminence Cardinal William Levada, decided – taking account of the advanced age of the Reverend Maciel and his delicate health – to renounce any canonical process and to invite the Father to a reserved life of prayer and penance, renouncing every public ministry. The Holy Father has approved these decisions.
Independently of the person of the Founder, the worthy apostolate of the Legionaries of
Christ and the Regnum Christi Association is recognized with gratitude.
“Move is seen as confirmation of sex abuse allegations
against Maciel.” John L. Allen Jr.,
Maciel has not been laicized, but the restrictions issued shortly before Easter by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith limit Maciel's public activity, such as his capacity to celebrate public Masses, to give lectures or other public presentations, and to give interviews for print or broad-cast.
One cardinal who serves on the congregation told NCR that, in his view, the material left little doubt as to the validity of the charges, though he said he was less clear how Maciel understood what he had done. Under canon law, intent and state of mind are sometimes taken into consideration in meting out punishment.
Sources described the documentation collected by the congregation as involving the testimony of at least 20 accusers. The acts in question, according to these sources, reached into the 1980s.
Speaking of the support Maciel received from Pope John
Paul II and other
The restrictions have been approved by Pope Benedict
XVI, and the
A spokesman for the Legionaries, asked to comment on the development, replied in an e-mail, "We have nothing to say. We don't know anything about this."
History of Investigation
According to sources who spoke to NCR, the congregation's investigation
was closed sometime toward the end of 2005. In the early months of 2006, the
cardinal members of the congregation in
Maciel becomes perhaps the highest-profile priest in the Catholic Church to be disciplined for allegations of sexual abuse.
He has a distinguished Catholic lineage. Two of
Maciel's great-uncles were Mexican bishops during the anti-clerical
persecutions of the early 20th century. One, Bishop Rafael Guízar
Founded by Maciel in 1941, the Legionaries of Christ has become one of the most influential and rapidly growing communities in the church. Today the order numbers some 650 priests and 2,500 seminarians worldwide. The lay branch of the Legionaries, Regnum Christi, reportedly has 50,000 members worldwide.
Rumors of various sorts have long dogged the
Legionaries' founder. In 1956, he was deprived of his faculties to govern the
Legionaries and sent into exile in
Complaints of sexual abuse first surfaced in the late 1990s, when nine former members of the Legionaries filed a canonical complaint against Maciel with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, alleging that they had been abused by Maciel as seminarians and young priests. Those acts, according to the accusers, dated to a period from 1943 to the early 1960s.
The accusations became public through 1997 articles in
The Hartford (
According to Renner's and
After the case was reopened in 2004, the congregation's promoter of justice, Maltese Msgr. Charles Scicluna, began to collect additional testimony. Sources told NCR that the eventual number of accusers who came forward against Maciel was "more than 20, but less than 100."
On Jan. 20, 2005, Maciel declined reelection as the
superior of the Legionaries of Christ and was succeeded by Fr. Álvaro Corchera
Maciel’s Vatican Support
Even for those convinced of Maciel's guilt, the outcome of the case was long in doubt because of his strong track record of papal support.
Maciel accompanied John Paul II on visits to
As late as 2002, when John Paul visited
In a book-length 2003 interview with journalist Jesús
Colina of the Zenit news agency ( owned by the Legionaries) published as Christ
is My Life, Maciel described dining with John Paul in the
The original accusers, however, earlier told NCR that they tried for many years to reach John Paul II with information about Maciel. Two of them said they sent letters in 1978 and again 1989, both by diplomatic pouch, but received no reply.
"Dear Father, I've seen the great work that you
do," Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the
On May 20, 2005, the Secretariat of State under Sodano released a statement indicating there was no canonical case against Maciel, nor was one foreseen. It is the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, however, that has responsibility for sex abuse cases, and the congregation continued its inquest.
Now-Cardinal Franc Rodé, a Slovenian and the
Rodé called Maciel "the instrument chosen by God to carry out one of the great spiritual designs in the church of the 20th century."
Statements of the victims of clerical sex abuse
"Maciel is the most powerful Catholic official to ever face Vatican sanctions for child sexual abuse," said David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, a
"It's hard to imagine a single act that would more strongly show that child sex crimes within the church will not be tolerated," Clohessy said. "Voluntary restrictions on Maciel will, to some, seem too little, too late."
The case is significant because Maciel is one of the most prominent Roman Catholic Church officials disciplined by the
Benedict's approval of the sanctions showed that he is not beholden to John Paul's legacy when it comes to dealing with what he once called the "filth" in the Catholic Church - a widely understood criticism of clerical sex abuse.
Since 1998, the
alleged victims came forward.
Sad Compromise by
Instead, it said the congregation had "invited the priest to a reserved life of prayer and repentance, renouncing every public ministry." But such a serious sanction against as prominent a churchman as Maciel - which would prohibit him from celebrating Mass and other sacraments in public - is a clear indication, some say, that the Vatican found at least some validity to the charges.
The Rev. Jim Martin, associate editor of the Jesuit magazine
"The distinctive (spirit) of the order comes from the founder," Martin said. "His life is studied, his words are quoted, his picture and statues are everywhere. Any critique of the founder, especially one that's so serious, is a huge mark against the order."
It will be amusing to see what Zenit has to say since it is owned by the Legionaries.
Now let us investigate the rest of the Legionaries and other false fruits