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.
Ferreira and Federico Domínguez, who had reported Maciel to authorities, were marginalized. Domínguez said, “None of my old friends would talk to me. It was circle the wagons… The Carmelite was not getting any information from the people there.” Vaca admitted that, at the suggestion of Maciel himself, he would stir laxative into Ferreira’s morning coffee. Ferreira developed severe diarrhea, and, unable to discover its cause and sick for months, returned to Mexico in December.
Even from exile, Maciel managed a “mischievous presence” to his institute, in Alejandro Espinosa’s phrase. He would secretly meet Legionaries once a month on the outskirts of Rome or in a bus and joke, “I’m on a bus, not on Roman soil. I’m not disobedient!” The administration of Lagoa and Arumí served in some respects as a dodge for Maciel to continue to run the congregation.
Anastasio conducted his investigation of the Legionary College in Rome from October to February 1957, assisted by his own Discalced Carmelite vicar general, Benjamin (of the Holy Trinity) Lachaert. He interviewed each seminarian briefly and studied the Constitutions and the founder’s letters. Carmelite Father Ippolito (of the Holy Family) visited the Legionary apostolic school (minor seminary) in Ontaneda (Santander) Spain in the first week of December.
Photo above right: Legion's house in Rome, in the 1950's.
Conflicted young Legionaries were agonized, bound securely by vow of charity to the Legion and Father Maciel. If Maciel was a saint, as they believed, if the Church had approved the Legion, why was the Church now investigating? A Mexican seminarian, 19, José Antonio Pérez Olvera, remembers the visitator’s threatening him with excommunication unless he told the full truth, but lying even so: “I felt proud of my fidelity to Father Maciel. He was above canonical right, above the Church, its precepts, its magisterium. He had breakfast daily with the Sacred Heart… Still, my conscience would not let me rest… Canonically I was excommunicated.” “I lied,” says Barba. “I lied,” says Vaca.
Anastasio did not develop evidence about drug and sex abuse sufficient to render judgment. But in four months he nevertheless learned enough to reach harsh conclusions in his report, dated February 11, 1957. In the report, he recognized that the seminarians were reticent, uncomfortable, and coached and that he hadn’t gotten the full truth. The institute was “juridical chaos” with structures in violation of canon law and spiritually fragile. Its young members had been “fanaticized” by the founder, “but it is substantially healthy and well-intentioned and offers hope insofar as it can be freed from fanaticism. Which seems doubtful.”
Anastasio therefore recommended: return Legionary headquarters and schools to Mexico from Rome and Spain; allow the Legion new members only at the discretion of the Holy See; add Mexican episcopal oversight; forbid new initiatives; name an appropriate new superior from outside the institute; revise the Constitutions radically, abolishing the idiosyncratic Legionary vows. “Maciel must be removed from office as fundamentally and solely responsible for the many serious juridical irregularities and administrative abuses. Silence about the rest appears prudent for internal and external reasons, at least for the moment.”
Anastasio had worked briskly, taking time from administering his own order, filed his report, asked to be relieved, and must have thought that the work was done. But two new and less critical apostolic visitators succeeded him (for what reason is unclear) and they neutralized his recommendations.
Continue to Read Part V here.