The Daughter of the Legionary of Christ Sinner
by Idoia Sota/José Manuel Vidal
Sunday, August 9 2009
"I would have never chosen this path for my life...When I met this man, I was under aged. Neither my daughter nor I knew who this man really was until the very end." It is the first time that Norma Hilda Baños puts her story in words, and with these words, the long guarded secret, the sin which pursues her, finally takes shape. Thinking about it brings tears to her eyes. They found her in her sanctuary, in a luxurious residential area of Madrid, Spain. She seems to be taken aback. Dialogue is not easy. Beyond the opening, which stretches out from the doorway, there is a space of 3,500 square feet. She has live here for years with her daughter. The home has no husband or father. It has never had one. Her daughter is the fruit of a prohibited relationship. Who knows what kind of stories this woman had to invent when asked about the father of her child? Anything but telling the feared truth: he was the founder of the Legion of Christ, Fr. Marcial Maciel, who left her pregnant when she was 26 years old.
They gave the baby, Norma Hilda Rivas, now 23 years old, the last name of some layperson without vows of chastity. Or maybe it was a last name that Maciel used in one of his multiple false identities which he employed to seduce rich women, from whom he wanted to squeeze out the very last penny. [Exlcblogger knows for certain that on one of his false passports, Maciel used "Rivas" as a last name] She does not carry his real last name, but there is something she cannot deny: his blood. She is the daughter of the sinner. And she is heir to the Legionaries' fortune that some would compare to that of Repsol YPF, a [Spanish] company with almost 20.5 billion Euros in liquid assets.
"She is having a very hard time," her mother complains. "At least I was the one who opened the door to you", she sighs, worried for the fragile state of her daughter's psyche. "All this has been very painful, you cannot imagine." Norma is devoted to protecting her intimacy and now more than ever since the Vatican has ordered an complete investigation into this and all the disasters-- sexual abuse, pedophilia, lovers, secrets, spying, economic scandals...-- which Marcial Maciel left in his wake.
Norma no longer uses her cell phone. To speak to her, you have to leave a message, which she listens to hours later, surely in the early morning, when no one can call her. She lives in a secure neighborhood, watched constantly, part of what this 48 year old woman has imposed on herself in order to preserve her anonymity. "I don't even know how I let you come in here... excuse me if I do not ask you to come in." she says while the maid, wrapped in her checked blue and white uniform topped off with a hair net, passes behind towards the service area.
She remains silent for some seconds until she is sure that no one will hear. She wants to say something, but she has been quiet for a long time. Meanwhile, others have spoken for her. On internet blogs, comments abound since the secret daughter of the founder of the Legionaries was revealed: "Norma (daughter) is an excellent person, but I can also tell you that she was abused by her father, Maciel [...] she suffers from severe trauma from her childhood and I don't believe that she's ever going to get over it," comments someone who signs off as Angélica Galas. She even insinuates that Norma could have been complicit in this abuse. "Many lies have been told", mutters Norma Baños (the mother) from her Madrid home. "I want to clarify that I was a minor [when the Maciel thing happened]." Norma insinuates abuse. She speaks without saying it. It is her way of recovering some of the ground in her life that she lost when she met Marcial Maciel.
It was in Acapulco, a prosperous city in the third poorest state in Mexico, Guerrero, characterized by enormous social differences. She was part of the privileged class. She has indigenous features, brown skin, small stature..., but the tone of her voice is controlled, correct, and her dress is simple and elegant, in dark tones, the way she addresses the maid shows that Norma Hilda is an educated woman, probably wealthy like the rest of the women seduced by Maciel.
He left two homes in her name in the exclusive Madrid building where she lives and three places in the garage on the property, all valued at about two million Euros. On top of that, mother and daughter get a succulent monthly stipend, part of the price that the ultra catholic organization would have themselves pay for the silence of these two women by an agreement which was supposedly reached a few months ago. With others, like Flora Barragán, the great benefactor of the Legion, Maciel did not have the same generosity. He milked her for 35 million Euros.
MEN AND WOMEN
The list of women Maciel seduced and exploited economically does not end here, according to Alejandro Espinosa, an ex Legionary who, despite being Maciel's own nephew, was not spared from falling into his clutches. Talita Reyes, Pepita Gandarillas, Pachita Pérez, Deme de Galas, Dolores Barroso, Guillermina Dikins, Josefita or Consuelo Fernández, widow of a Spanish diplomat assigned to Mexico, among others succumbed to the man with the mask of piety and holiness. He always referred to it as his "sickness", an alleged illness consisting in the retention of semen, which closed the urinary tract and caused much prostate pain. According to him, he needed sex as a cure. All those who gave it to him were devote ladies and benefactors with whom he had relationship between the '40s and '70s, when he wasn't getting it from seminarians and priests from the schools he had opened around the world.
Many of these women can not sue for their share now. But with time, new voices will be heard. There is talk of one more child, or two, or three...Some would be able to claim and inheritance through lawyers as did José Bonilla, the only one to win a law suit against the Legion for pedophilia in Mexico. Others, like the Spanish daughter, have, for the moment, been content with a financial agreement.
-You deserve much money now that the Legion has, not only for inheritance, but also for all the moral damage...
-Of course, we [feminine plural] have suffered very much.
Norma's silence has been her only currency for years. While Maciel was alive (he died in the US on January 31, 2008), she lived with her daughter in luxurious apartments in Sevilla and Madrid. They arrived in Spain with a visa "without a work permit", according to the Spanish consulate in Mexico. In the Andalusian capital, they occupied a apartment which, in the 1970s, was billed as "This is of high category: in the apartments of the Estadio Building. Apartments with class; marbles and fine woods, individual air conditioning and heating, ambient music, bronze and crystal chandeliers, textured paint, storage, garage, grand entrances."
After, they moved to Madrid, to a gated community in the Pilar neighborhood. All was paid, according to Bonilla, who quotes as a source a Legionary priest, "tormented by guilt", with money from benefactors of the congregation. Maciel's Spanish daughter also took some courses at the Anahuac University (Mexico City), owned by the Legionaries, where "they knew her identity"; and, according to some sources, she was also formed at the Francisco de Vitoria en Madrid, also belonging to the organization.
According to José Bonilla, the Legionaries knew for years of the existence of Maciel's daughter. "He introduced her to Pope John Paul II. There are photographs to prove it." Bonilla assured us that he can produce even more documents: "I have letters, photos and recordings of a highly placed functionary", which he promised to make public very soon.
Was Norma an accomplice in the secret life of Marcial Maciel? "I didn't know who he was," she says painfully. It is possible that the deceit went on until Benedict XVI obliged Maciel to retire in 2006? Did mother and daughter know who he was when he presented them to Pope John Paul II? Norma Rivas always called him "daddy", even in front of the Supreme Pontiff...
To answer all of these questions, Benedict XVI has named an army of visitors with full powers, among them, the vice-president of the Episcopal Conference of Spain, Ricardo Blázquez. He is also the bishop of Bilbao and has been working intensely since July 15th. Time is short: Rome wants the first report from him by October. Blázquez has abandoned plans for his annual vacations in Villanueva del Campillo (Ávila). But it is not important. He lives for God, for his diocese and for the orders of the Pope.
In an eloquent proof of how he holds Rome in esteem, the Basque Prelate will be in charge of supervising, intervening in, and revising centers of the Legion in Spain, France, Germany, Switzerland, Ireland, Holland, Poland, Austria, and Hungary. In his agenda, there is time for an interview with the secret daughter of the founder of the Legion and her mother. "He is really gone on vacation, but for a month of this!" according to his assistant.