The truth of "The Great War" or "The Great Blessing" finally comes out.
Read Part I here
Read Part II here
Read Part III here.
Read Part IV here.
On July 10, 1957 to succeed Anastasio in Rome Valeri named Msgr. Alfredo Bontempi, 62, rector of the Nepomucenum, the Czech Pontifical College in Rome. Born in 1894 in Castelfidardo, a town in the Marches, Bontempi served as rector from 1950 until his death in 1963. He would be ordained bishop and granted a titular see in 1962. After six months of his own experience with the Legionaries, Bontempi told the Congregation of the Affairs of Religious on January 24, 1958, that the Legionaries had warmed to him and that he was impressed by the “spirit of piety” in their seminary. He noted that the library lacked the works of Congar, de Lubac, and Maritain; he liked the vow of charity; he had told Arumí that his report would reflect favorably on the founder because “the tree is known by its fruits.”
Also appointed that day was a new visitator for Legionary houses in Mexico and Spain, a Belgian Franciscan missionary to Chile, Polidoro van Vlierberghe, 48, who from 1961 would become apostolic administrator and territorial prelate of Illapel, Chile. Polidoro became mouthpiece for Maciel’s versions of events: Anastasio should have been more balanced; ambitious Ferreira and the Jesuits had intrigued against Maciel; accusations came from bad sources; the institute has borne its sufferings with faith. In January 1958 Anastasio criticized Polidoro’s perspective to Larraona -- the Jesuits must be given a chance to respond to so serious an accusation, for one thing -- but did not prevail.
Photo at right: Bishop Polidoro Van Vlierberghe
Though a 1964 curial summary of earlier documents noted that “the conclusions don’t appear to correspond to the logic of the facts,” the Maciel case was concluded along the lines of a compromise proposed on September 10, 1958, by Redemptorist Domenico Mozzicarelli, an official in the Congregation of the Affairs of Religious who dealt with apostolic visitations. Even if Maciel’s removal seemed advisable, the Legion was built on his “mysterious” personality and no new superior could replace his “heroic mysticism” or his ability to fundraise. Because of “its great good mixed with bad” the institute should continue. A smoldering wick should not be quenched. So a compromise: leave to Valeri when eventually to restore Maciel, reserve the right to further visitations, appoint the counsel general and financial officer required by canon law, and absolutely forbid Maciel from giving spiritual direction, much less hearing confession, or otherwise intruding on the internal forum of members of the congregation. (This last in accordance with 1917 Canon Law Code canon 530, which strictly forbade religious superiors from coercing a manifestation of conscience from a subordinate under obedience.) The Congregation of the Affairs of Religious wrote Cardinal Clemente Micara on October 13, 1958 reinstating Maciel on roughly those terms. On February 6, 1959 Micara wrote Maciel.
Photo above left: Cardinal Clemente Micara
Pope Pius XII died October 9 and Pope John XXIII was elected October 28. It has never been clear why the reinstatement of Maciel was issued in the papal interregnum or why it fell to Micara, Cardinal Vicar General of Rome from 1951 to his death at 85 in 1965, to deliver it, or why he delayed it for four months. In any event, another curial summary from 1962 states that in settling the Maciel matter the Congregation of the Affairs of Religious could not go further than the Mozzicarelli compromise because of the “recommendations and interventions of high persons.” Who those were we don’t know, but in his autobiographical interview, Christ is My Life, for helping him survive the visitation Maciel thanks Cardinals Micara, Pizzardo, Gaetano Cicognani (Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura), Giovanni Piazza (Discalced Carmelite Secretary of what is now the Congregation for Bishops), and Federico Tedeschini (Apostolic Datary).
Photo above right: John XXIII greets the crowd in St. Peter's Square for the first time after his election as pope.
So Maciel and the Legion were cleared and moved on. The discontinuity in Vatican administration in October 1958 may account for why Maciel was never held to the stipulated restrictions on his ministry. After Maciel’s reinstatement, Ferreira left the Legion to serve in the archdiocese of Morelia (Michoacán) Mexico until he died in 2001. Domínguez transferred to Maynooth seminary in Dublin, in fall 1957 also left the Legion, eventually married, and lived in Los Angeles. Lagoa, at 80 in 2001, and Arumí, at 79 in 2006, both died as Legionary priests. In 2003 Maciel eulogized Lagoa as “close to me in the great trials and tribulations of the Legion: he remained faithful, unmoved, and he unconditionally bore witness to his love for Christ by fulfilling his mission.”