Saturday, May 1, 2010
(01 May 10 – RV) Below we publish a Vatican Radio translation of the Press Office Statement released Saturday May 1, at the conclusion of a two day meeting in the Vatican on the outcome of the Apostolic Visitation of the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ:
1. On the days April 30 and May 1, the Cardinal Secretary of State chaired a meeting in the Vatican with five bishops in charge of the Apostolic Visitation of the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ (Bishop Ricardo Blazquez, archbishop of Valladolid, Msgr. Charles J. Chaput OFM Cap., Archbishop of Denver, Mgr. Andrella Ricardo Ezzati SDB, Archbishop of Concepción, Mgr. Giuseppe Versaldi, Bishop of Alexandria; Mgr. Ricardo Watty Urquidi, M.Sp.S., Bishop of Tepic). It was attended by the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life and the Substitute for General Affairs of the Secretariat of State.
One of the sessions took place in the presence of the Holy Father, to whom the Visitors presented a summary of their report, which had been previously submitted.
During the visitation over 1,000 Legionnaires were met in person and hundreds of written documents were examined. The Visitors have visited almost all the religious houses and many of the works of the apostolate directed by the Congregation. They heard, orally or in writing, the opinion of many diocesan bishops of the countries where the congregation operates. The Visitors also met several members of the "Regnum Christi" Movement, although it was not the subject of the visit, especially men and women religious. They have also received considerable correspondence from laity and family members of the Movement.
The five Visitors testified to a sincere reception and a constructive spirit of cooperation shown them by the congregation and individual religious. While acting independently, they have reached a widely convergent evaluation and a shared opinion. They testified that to having met a large number of honest and talented religious individuals, many of them young, who seek Christ with genuine zeal and offer their entire lives to spread the Kingdom of God
2. The Apostolic Visitation was able to ascertain that the behaviour of Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado has caused serious consequences in the life and structure of the Legion, so much so, to require a journey of profound re-evaluation.
The serious and objectively immoral behaviour of Fr. Maciel, supported by incontrovertible evidence, at times constitutes real crimes, and manifests a life devoid of scruples and of genuine religious feeling. The large majority of Legionaries were unaware of that life, particularly because of the system of relations created by Fr. Maciel, who had skilfully managed to build up an alibi, to gain the trust, confidence and surrounding silence and strengthen his role as a charismatic founder.
Not infrequently the lamentable disgracing and expulsion of those who doubted his upright conduct, and the misconception of not wanting to harm the good that the Legion was doing, had created around him a defence mechanism which made him untouchable for a long time , thus rendering knowledge of his real life difficult.
3. The sincere zeal of the majority of the Legionaries - which also emerged from the Visitation of the congregation houses and their many works, and which is appreciated by many - led many in the past to believe that the charges, which gradually became more insistent and widespread, could only be slander.
Therefore the discovery and knowledge of the truth about the founder resulted in surprise, dismay and deep sorrow among members of the Legion, as clearly evidenced by the Visitors.
4. From the results of the Apostolic Visitation it has emerged clearly, among other elements:
a) the need to redefine the charism of the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ, preserving the core truth, that of "Militia Christi", which characterizes the apostolic and missionary action of the Church and which is not identifiable with efficacy at any cost;
b) the need to review the exercise of authority, which must be conjoined to the truth, in respect of conscience and to develop in light of the Gospel as an authentic ecclesial service;
c) the need to preserve young people's enthusiasm of faith, the missionary zeal, the apostolic dynamism, through appropriate formation. Indeed, disappointment about the founder could call into question the core of this vocation and charism that belongs and is specific to the Legionaries of Christ.
5. The Holy Father would like to assure all Legionnaires and members of the "Regnum Christi" Movement that they will not be left alone: the Church has a strong desire to accompany them and help them in the path of purification that awaits them. It will also mean sincere confrontation with all those who, inside and outside the Legion, were victims of sexual abuse and of the power system devised by the founder. It is to them, at this time, that the thoughts and prayers of the Holy Father go, along with his gratitude to the many who, even in the midst of great hardships, had the courage and perseverance to demand the truth.
6. The Holy Father, in thanking the Visitors for the delicate work which they competently carried out with generosity and deep pastoral sensitivity, assured them that he will soon indicate the modalities of this process of accompaniment, starting with the appointment of a Delegate and a Study Commission on the Constitution.
The Holy Father will send a Visitor to the Regnum Christi Movement, in response to insistent requests from consecrated members thereof.
7. Finally, to all Legionaries of Christ, their families, committed lay people in the Regnum Christi movement, the Holy Father renewes his encouragement during this difficult time for the Congregation and each one of them. He urges them not to lose sight that their vocation, which originated from Christ’s call and is animated by the ideal to witness his love to the world, is a true gift from God, a treasure for the Church, the indestructible foundation on which to build their personal future and that of the Legion.
Friday, April 2, 2010
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
But even as more questions swirl around Benedict and his alleged role in the cover-ups of pedophile priests, John Paul's stellar reputation is suddenly taking a subtle beating.
A miracle ascribed to John Paul that is a prerequisite for his canonization has been questioned, and one of church's highest-ranking officials has said that John Paul ignored Benedict's pleas to mount a full investigation into sex abuse accusations against the archbishop of Vienna.
A Polish newspaper, Rzeczpospolita, reported that the former head of the Vatican's saint-making office, Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, has said that doctors may have doubts about a nun who said she had been cured of Parkinson's disease after praying to John Paul. They are investigating whether she might have had a similar condition that can go into remission. (Martins, who remains one of Benedict's top aides, also told reporters there was "a conspiracy" against the church, without specifying who was responsible.)
And in another blow to John Paul's legacy, the controversial order the Legion of Christ formally apologized last week for the behavior of its founder, the late Marcial Maciel Degollado, whom John Paul staunchly defended despite allegations of abuse dating back to the 1950s. Maciel is believed to have sexually abused young seminarians and fathered at least three children.
As doubts were being raised about the spotlessness of John Paul's 26-year reign, a Vatican spokesman on Tuesday responded forcefully to those calling for Benedict to resign, saying that they clearly did not understand how the church operates.
"This is not some multinational company where the chief executive is expected to take responsibility," Federico Lombardi told The Washington Post. "The pope is not personally directing the actions of priests around the world. He is their spiritual leader, and he is one who has acted very clearly to confront this problem."
Lombardi's statement meshed with remarks made by Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn of Vienna. On Sunday, Schoenborn told Austrian TV that Benedict, then Joseph Ratzinger and head of the Vatican office in charge of clerical sex abuse, pressed John Paul in vain to fully investigate then-Archbishop of Vienna Hans Hermann Groer, who stepped down in 1995 after being accused of sexually molesting a schoolboy.
After Groer resigned, allegations that he had also sexually abused monks surfaced.
Reuters reported that Schoenborn said other curia officials persuaded John Paul not to investigate Groer because of the bad publicity it could bring.
"The other side won," Schoenborn said. He added that Benedict is not "someone who covers things up. Having known the pope for many years, I can say that is certainly not true."
Recent reports involving the current scandals also note that John Paul seemingly rewarded Cardinal Bernard Law after he was implicated in some of the cover-ups of clerical sexual abuse in Boston when cases there exploded in 2002.
After Law's resignation, John Paul appointed him in charge of the grand Basilica St. Mary Major's in Rome, where he remains part of the Roman curia and lives in a nearby palazzo.
March 31, 2010
The resolution of the Legionaries of Christ case also will be a test for its conservative American supporters.
By Tim Rutten
One of the decisions confronting Pope Benedict XVI as he struggles to contain an abuse scandal whose tendrils now appear to extend into the Vatican may have a particular resonance in the United States.
That decision involves what to do about a wealthy and influential order, the Legionaries of Christ, and the worldwide lay movement it operates, Regnum Christi. The former includes 800 priests and the latter as many as 75,000 members. Around the globe, the Legionaries operate 120 seminaries, universities, schools and Catholic newspapers. Their ability to recruit future priests in an era of declining vocations has impressed the Vatican; today 2,600 are preparing for ordination in their seminaries.
The Legionaries were founded in Mexico in 1941 by a seminarian, Marcial Maciel, who went on to lead what quickly became the church's fastest-growing religious order and one of its most powerful. That power came from the socially well-connected Maciel's ability to raise astonishing sums of money, and from his insistence on unquestioning loyalty to papal authority.
All of this made Maciel and the Legionaries great favorites of Pope John Paul II, who believed new, traditionalist orders -- like the Legionaries and Opus Dei -- would provide a bulwark against secularism. The pontiff publicly called Maciel "an efficacious example to youth" and took him along as a key adviser on his trips to Latin America.
This papal approval tended to obscure the Legionaries' creepy internal organization, which involved a cult of personality built around Maciel, internal spying and demands for absolute obedience. At ordination, Legionaries swore a vow -- since abolished by Benedict -- never to speak ill of a superior and to report anyone who did.
In retrospect, it all seems perfectly designed to shield Maciel from scrutiny -- something he desperately required because he was a lifelong sexual predator who molested numerous seminarians and fathered at least one child.
Allegations of molestations circulated for years but broke into the open in 1997, when two reporters from the Hartford Courant produced a series that exposed Maciel's misconduct. The Legionaries denied everything and hired top-drawer law and public relations firms to discredit the Courant and its reporters. An investigation was opened by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, then headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, but went nowhere, reportedly because John Paul didn't believe the charges.
By the time Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI, further revelations had occurred, including the exposure of Maciel's mistress and daughter in Spain. The investigation was reopened, and Maciel was ordered to retire from public life and spend the rest of his days in prayer and penance. He died in 2008 at 87, still a priest.
The new pontiff also ordered five bishops to look further into the Legionaries. Earlier this month, they reported back to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, now headed by Los Angeles-born Cardinal William Levada. Levada is expected to recommend that Benedict either dissolve the order or, more likely, completely reorganize it under new leadership.
What's interesting about all of this is that a list of Maciel's most vociferous defenders reads like a who's who of the conservative Catholic intellectuals who, in recent years, have insisted that Catholicism and membership in the Democratic Party are all but incompatible. Among Maciel's defenders have been the late Father Richard John Neuhaus, whose journal, First Things, is a bible for conservative Catholics; William Donohue of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights; Harvard law professor Mary Ann Glendon, who refused to accept an award from Notre Dame because it invited President Obama to speak at its commencement; former Secretary of Education William J. Bennett, now a talk-show host and commentator; and Deal Hudson, President George W. Bush's Catholic liaison.
In fact, when the Vatican ordered Maciel into retirement, Neuhaus -- who earlier had written that he knew the man's innocence as "a moral certainty" -- told the New York Times: "It wouldn't be the first time that an innocent and indeed holy person was unfairly treated by church authority."
Do Bennett, Glendon, Donohue and Hudson still agree with Neuhaus? The resolution of the Legionaries of Christ case will be a test not only for Benedict but also for those conservative American intellectuals who have yet to explain how they came to give such unstinting support to a malevolent sexual predator.
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
"In a shocking, graphic expose, New Orleans journalist Berry documents scores of cases of sexual abuse of boys by Roman Catholic priests across the U.S. Tracking this tragic story from Louisiana to Washington, D.C., and then to New York, Berry reports that most child-molesting priests are simply reassigned to a different parish. He accuses the Catholic bishops of evasion and cover-up, compounded by moral myopia and an appalling indifference to the victims of pedophilia. He also cites cases of women seduced and discarded by their pastors. Further, Berry probes the homophobia within a clerical culture which, he maintains, allows ample freedom to gay clergy provided they keep their sexual orientation a secret. He describes the organized movements of women and men within the Church who are challenging the bishops' silence. Berry ends with a plea to abolish mandatory celibacy for priests. Greeley, in his foreword, notes that sexual abuse "may be the greatest scandal in the history of religion in America."
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc."
Benedict is grappling with an unfinished crisis that drew media coverage in America in 1992; victims' lawsuits revealed bishops who had sheltered predators from prosecution. By 1994 the coverage had ebbed. Then, in 2002, The Boston Globe gained access to voluminous documents, exposing a vast clergy sexual underground. Pope John Paul II called the American cardinals to Rome for an emergency conference. In June, the U.S. bishops enacted a youth protection charter. Lay review boards would comb clergy files and investigate new accusations. Bishops began weeding out sex offenders.
The Vatican drew the line, however, at giving these review boards the authority to investigate bishops. That decision has come back to haunt the church.
Cardinal Bernard Law, who resigned in disgrace as archbishop of Boston in late 2002, remains today part of the Roman Curia and pastor of a great basilica, St. Mary Major. In recent years, at least 16 bishops who sexually abused children quietly "stepped down." One was a cardinal, Hans Hermann Groer of Austria, who has since died. A Vatican double-standard -- priests subject to defrocking, bishops quietly moving on -- has made the pope vulnerable to even greater criticism amid a new round of investigative reports.
Benedict's most immediate task is to change the Vatican's archaic system of closed tribunals, which prize secrecy. The pope is final arbiter on canon law, a sovereign who has the power of a one-man Supreme Court to intervene, halt or change a canonical decision. But changing that system is a much tougher reform than meets the eye.
Ironically, for all the bad press he is getting, Benedict has done more to confront the abuse crisis than anyone else in the Vatican. But he must choose between governing and upholding his theological vision as a moral absolutist. As many a president and prime minister has learned, the shift from an ideological stance to a pragmatic one can be laden with risk.
The root crisis lies in the church's view of apostolic succession. The pope and bishops consider themselves descendants in a spiritual lineage from Jesus's apostles. Apostolic succession is as much a part of Catholicism as icons and stained glass windows. But Judas was also an apostle -- a reminder that all humans, regardless of proximity to the Word, are capable of betraying the faith. Apostolic succession has fallen victim to hubris, the pride and entitlement of a religious elite who consider apology or penance a substitute for human justice.
Bishops answer directly to the pope, also known as Supreme Pontiff. But this monarchical system of governance is colliding with two pillars of democracy, a court system and a free press. As abuse victims clamor for the punishment of bishops, information from America holds a stirring of hope. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops released data that show a 32 percent decline in reported cases of clergy abuse from last year. Most involved priests were deceased or out of ministry. The USCCB reported six victims in 2009 who were younger than 18. Six too many, yes; but after an estimated $1.8 billion in losses from payouts to victims, legal fees and therapy for sex offenders, the youth protection charter is taking hold. Moreover, 96 percent of Catholic school students have "safe environment" training to warn against improper adult behavior.
The Vatican has no youth protection charter, nor binding procedures for the world's bishops. Some church leaders, however, now see a crisis in that aloofness. Cardinal Walter Kasper of Germany bravely distanced himself from the Roman Curia in telling Italy's La Repubblica, "We have to seriously clean up the church."
Benedict faces a stark dilemma. To "clean up," he must challenge apostolic succession, start a process of sacking bishops who abused children, and demote prelates who grossly betray the trust. Such as:
- Frank Rodimer, who as bishop of Patterson, N.J., used church money to pay $250,000 after he was personally sued in a case with a priest who for several summers had sex with a boy in a beach house they shared with Rodimer. The priest went to prison. Rodimer stepped down, on reaching the retirement age at 75, and simply moved into a house the diocese bought.
- Archbishop Rembert Weakland of Milwaukee, who used church money to pay $450,000 in 1998 to silence a former male lover. When ABC News broke the hush money story in 2002, Weakland resigned his office -- but not his title. As archbishop, he was high-handed toward victims while playing musical chairs with pedophiles.
- Anthony O'Connell, who resigned as bishop of Palm Beach, Fla., in 2002, admitting that he abused a seminarian years before. He moved into a South Carolina monastery.
To defrock bishops who abused children would send a vital signal to all Catholics that Benedict is serious about reform. His recent letter to Irish Catholics, which followed lengthy government investigations of the church, was strongly worded. Citing "grave errors and failures of leadership," he said: "I can only share in the dismay and the sense of betrayal that so many of you have experienced on learning of these sinful and criminal acts and the way church authorities in Ireland dealt with them." His words evince a deeper struggle: "I openly express the shame and remorse we all feel."
Still, his delay on the offer of four Irish bishops to resign spurred more outrage, as did his role as archbishop of Munich, decades ago, in approving treatment for a pederast. Will Benedict demote bishops for "grave errors"? That would mean a new juridical standard.
As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he was decisive in running the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which is housed in a 17th-century palazzo where Galileo the astronomer was convicted of heresy. On issues ranging from the Vatican prohibition of birth control devices to Liberation Theology of Latin America, the C.D.F. used anonymous investigators to critique the works of suspect scholars. In closed tribunals, Ratzinger and his assistants interrogated those out of step with doctrine, punishing some by excommunication or orders to keep silent for periods of time. Catholic liberals were aghast as Ratzinger clashed with some of the church's leading thinkers. The Swiss theologian, Father Hans Küng, famously called him "The Grand Inquisitor," after Dostoevsky's religious persecutor in "The Brothers Karamazov."
Ratzinger's belief in absolute moral truth drove him to confront the pedophilia scandals when just about every other Vatican leader recoiled from it.
John Paul, so brilliant a geopolitical figure, stood passive as scandals jolted America, Ireland, Canada and Australia in the 1990s. In 2001, Ratzinger persuaded the pope to take the authority for such cases from scattered Vatican offices and consolidate them in his tribunal. Insisting on secrecy from bishops sending the files, the C.D.F. began defrocking scores of priests.
Küng wrote in a March 18 essay for National Catholic Reporter: "Honesty demands that Joseph Ratzinger himself, the man who for decades has been principally responsible for the worldwide cover-up, at least pronounce his own 'mea culpa' " -- Latin for "my fault."
Küng is an esteemed scholar, but this opinion is off base. The Roman Catholic Church is the largest organization in the world, and as split as Congress in its warring tribal camps. Who could orchestrate a global cover-up of anything? The crisis arose in countries that share a base in English common law with surgical discovery procedures for secret documents. Italian law is more restrictive; Italy has reported far fewer cases. Most cardinals in the Curia look to Italy as a base line, which has created a huge myopia, to put it charitably.
In a 2005 Good Friday sermon, Ratzinger decried the "filth" that had crept into the priesthood. Several days later, in a sermon opening the conclave that would elect him pope, he gave a cri de coeur on Europe: "We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive."
The crisis of moral relativism he faces now is internal. Consider the dean of the College of Cardinals, Angelo Sodano, 82. As secretary of state under John Paul II, Sodano defended to the hilt the notorious Father Marcial Maciel. Maciel, who died in 2008, was a Mexican who founded the Legion of Christ, a small religious order known for militant spirituality, papal loyalty and a $650 million budget. The Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, who lent The New York Times $240 million, was a major benefactor.
In 1997, nine ex-Legionaries opened their lives for the Hartford Courant, telling me and Gerald Renner how Maciel had sexually abused them in seminary. Asserting his innocence, Maciel refused to be interviewed. The Vatican was utterly silent on our questions about victim accusations against Maciel that went through church channels to Paul VI in 1976, John Paul II in 1978 and 1989. In 1998, the men filed a prosecution request in Ratzinger's tribunal. Sodano pressured Ratzinger to halt the case. Maciel and Sodano were close friends for years. As secretary of state, Sodano was effectively John Paul's prime minister. Finally, with the pope dying in 2004, Ratzinger broke ranks with Sodano and ordered an investigation. In 2005, Sodano's office stated, falsely, that the investigation was over. In 2006, Benedict banished Maciel to "a life of prayer and penitence."
The Legion then compared Maciel to Jesus for refusing to defend himself. When he died in 2008, the Legion Web site said Maciel had gone to heaven. In 2009, the Legion revealed with "surprise" that Maciel had a grown daughter. On March 4, in Mexico City, Maciel's three grown sons (by a second woman) publicly accused the Legion of denying them financial compensation. Two of the sons said Maciel had sexually abused them as boys.
A new investigation of the Legion, ordered by Benedict, is under way. If he follows his theological bearings, Benedict has the capacity to engineer radical reforms (from the Greek, meaning roots or primary things). He should disband the Legion of Christ. If he holds listening sessions with a representative group of victims, he will dramatize reconciliation to a scandal-wearied church that aches for moral leadership.
He should also convene a group of legal scholars to create a Vatican criminal court system. By forcing bishops and cardinals who have done the most damage out of the hierarchy, he can restore integrity to the concept of apostolic succession. It is probably beyond him to make the celibacy law optional; but if he takes these other hard steps to reverse the scandal, he will put himself on the right side of history. To stall or continue making merely symbolic gestures will produce an even worse spectacle.
Monday, March 29, 2010
But John Paul himself had long championed the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, the conservative order that fell into scandal after it revealed that its founder had fathered a child and had molested seminarians.
The Vatican began investigating allegations against theof Mexico in the 1950s, but it wasn't until 2006, a year into Benedict's pontificate, that the Vatican instructed Maciel to lead a "reserved life of prayer and penance" in response to the abuse allegations — effectively removing him from power.
"Subsequently, Benedict ordered a full-on investigation of the order since its entire existence was so closely intertwined with that of its discredited founder.
Saraiva Martins said historians who studied the pope's life as part of the sainthood process didn't find anything problematic in John Paul's handling of abuse scandals.
"According to them there was nothing that was a true obstacle to his cause of beatification," he said.
The OK from historians led to Benedict's decree last December that John Paul had led a virtuous life. As a result, all that's needed for him to be beatified is for the miracle to be confirmed."
From AP on Yahoo news. Read the whole article here.
A little known fact is that until 2001 there were explicit rules in place, issued by The Vatican, to every bishop in the world, on how to deal with allegations of abuse.
These rules included a vow of the utmost secrecy under threat of excommunication, to be sworn by clergy receiving complaints AND sworn by victims.
In 2001 then Cardinal Ratzinger, sent another set of instructions to every bishop in the world, stating that allegations were to be dealt with "exclusively" by the church
and were subject to "The Pontifical secret", which means one risks excommunication by discussing matters of abuse outside of the church.
If you are interested in copies of these documents they can be found here:
1922 an 62 instructions from rome to all bishops in the world which remained rules until 2001
Letter from Ratzinger regarding abuse and "pontifical secret"
Text of the oath sworn by clergy and victims: "I will never for any reason directly or indirectly, by gesture, word,writing or in any other way and under any other pretext, even that of a greater good, or of a highly urgent and serious reason, do anything against this fidelity to secrecy, unless special permission or dispensation or dispensation is granted to me by the supreme pontiff".