Friday, August 14, 2009

New questions about Legionaries of Christ

--Now the question everyone is asking: Who knew what, when and for how long? And yes, it does matter.

A woman claiming to be the mother of Fr. Maciel's daughter speaks.

By Jason Berry — Special to GlobalPost
Published: August 13, 2009 20:49 ET

NEW ORLEANS — On Dec. 5, 1994, seven daily newspapers in Mexico City ran half-page ads with a photograph of the Legionaries of Christ founder, Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, kissing the ring of Pope John Paul II. An open letter from the pope, celebrating Maciel's 50th anniversary as a priest, called him "an efficacious guide to youth."

On Tuesday in Mexico City, an attorney named Jose Bonilla announced that Maciel had six children. Two daily papers, La Jornada and Milenio reported that Bonilla was taking legal action against Maciel's estate on behalf of three of them, who are now adults. Bonilla is seeking legal recognition for his clients as heirs to Maciel. Only one has been identified.

Norma Hilda Rivas, 23, reportedly born in Mexico, now lives in Madrid "and enjoys a level of affluence such that she does not work [and] lives in a luxury apartment ... acquired by Marcial Maciel with money from the congregation's benefactors," according to La Jornada.

Bonilla's announcement is just the latest action against Maciel, who died in 2008 at the age of 87. In 1941, Maciel founded the religious order the Legionaries of Christ and became the greatest fundraiser of the modern church.

John Paul never wavered in his support of Maciel, even after a 1998 canon law case filed in a Vatican tribunal by eight former Legionaries accused him of abusing them as seminarians.

The case gathered dust until 2004, when Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in the final months of John Paul's life ordered an investigation of Maciel. A few months later Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI. In 2006, Benedict dismissed Maciel from active ministry, though without specifying why.

In February, the Legion shocked its followers by disclosing that Maciel had fathered a daughter out of wedlock. The Vatican announced a new investigation, this time of the Legion itself. Catholic blogs have raised questions about the daughter, her mother, whether they have financial support from the Legion, how much — and how long — Legion officials knew about them.

In June the Holy See named six bishops from as many countries as "visitators" to gather information from Legion schools, seminaries and colleges in Latin America, North America and Europe.

As the investigation progresses, it seems that one of Maciel's hidden connections has gone public. Rivas's mother was interviewed in an Aug. 9 report in the Madrid webmagazine PeriodistaDigital. "When I met this man I was under aged," Norma Hilda Banos, identified as 48 and a native of Acapulco, said of Maciel. "Neither my daughter nor I knew who this man really was until the very end."

The daughter "was abused by her father, Maciel," PeriodistaDigital quoted Hilda Banos as saying. "She suffers from severe trauma from her childhood and I don't believe she is ever going to get over it."

The site further reports that Maciel left Hilda Banos "two homes in her name in the exclusive Madrid building where she lives and three [other] places, all valued at about 2 million euros."

The report states that mother and daughter receive a generous monthly stipend from the Legion in exchange for their silence, citing Bonilla as a source.

Bonilla won a civil judgment against the Legion several years ago in a suit on behalf of his own child, who was sexually abused by a teacher at the Legion's elite Oxford School in Mexico City, according to Milenio.

As the Holy See presumably awaits the results of the Apostolic Visitation by the investigating prelates — including Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput and Bishop Ricardo Blazques of Balboa, Spain — a larger question concerns the church itself.

How long have Vatican officials known that Maciel had a child, or children?

Father Alvaro Corcuero, the Legion director-general chosen by Maciel to succeed him when the founder stepped down in 2004, undoubtedly had access to the Legion's financial records. At what point did he advise Benedict of what he knew?

The decision by which Corcuero began disclosing that Maciel had "a double life" to Legionary members last February clearly was not his alone. The Vatican understandably wanted to put distance between Benedict and the Legionaries. In that sense, the bishops' investigation of the Legion is also providing cover for the pope.

The issue now is not just Maciel's sordid secret life but financial accountability. If the Legion gave material support to one or more children of Maciel, any number of benefactors he cultivated in establishing a religious order with a $650 million budget for schools and colleges in North America, South America and Europe were duped, if not defrauded in a legal sense.

The Legion's legendary fundraising operations drew heavily on videotapes in which Maciel appeared with Pope John Paul II. In one video, John Paul tells a large gathering from the balcony at St. Peter's, "You are all sons and daughters of Father Maciel."

Jason Berry is coauthor of "Vows of Silence," a book about Maciel, and producer of a documentary about the 2006 Vatican prosecution.



Anonymous said...

They have surely found a way by now to receive adequate care.

Anonymous said...

Oh really?

Fr Paolo Scarafoni, LC said...

I concur.

Anonymous said...

Just because time has passed? or do you think that money is the only care that people need? or do you know that Maciel was especially generous with his love to his children?

Is there a real possibility that Maciel sexually abused his own children? If so, is there anything that can even come close to "adequate" care?

Anonymous said...

It was a joke. That was what Fr Paolo, spokesman for the Legion in Rome, said when he was asked whether they would provide care for the original victims. Obviously it wasn't Fr Paolo responding here, don't get your panties in a wad. It was just the biggest dumbass statement I could think of in this whole stinking mess.

astrid said...

Fr Scarafoni you are made of ice, it is obvious that your formation has completely disabled you from seeing just how much damage and scandal your founder has done to the Church and to the papacy of JPII. In addition, how would you know just how much pain and damage MM has caused his victims, including his children? You are tragically blinded by your formation and your comments and causing further untold scandal!

Anonymous said...

Why so cynical? Do you think every last Legionary approves of MM's perverseness? Only a devil or a halfwit would not concur with the justice of compensating the victims, insofar as that is possible. I don't think Fr Paolo is so wicked he would not concur. It's quite possible that he is a good man, like many others, that were used by Maciel. Probably he is another victim of MM's deceits. Among the injured, a fair person has to include the good LCs themselves, who were taken for a ride, and worked their backs to breaking raising funds so that this pederast could go through the money so shamelessly. Now what are they to do? They invested the best part of their lives for the running of a whore house, and it is not (most of)their fault. Only a few are the con artists, specially trained and nurtured by MM. I guess it has to hit closer to home to understand what this means for many of them.

Anonymous said...

reiterating, it was NOT Fr Paolo writing here. I was making a (not funny) joke.

Don said...

I thought it was funny -- of course I remember Fr. Scarafoni's original comment, so the context was apparent.

Anonymous said...

To anonymous who began "why so cynical?" - Yes, it is possible there are suffering LCs who know Maciel was deceitful, and who are victims of his deceit. What are they waiting for? They need to pack up their toothbrush and their conscience and leave the Legion. They should go find a place where they can live their vocation in the true dignity of the priesthood, and not under the cloud of scandal.

People like me (now an Ex-RC) need to see these good holy men leave. If these good holy priests truly trust God's will for their lives, they know He will not abandon them if they leave a blighted Legion to go to a priestly vocation outside of the Legion! Do they trust God's will?

I am sad for them, but they are priests! Do they know truth or don't they? If not, then yes, they should wallow in the paralysis of playing it "safe", and sticking with the Legion.

I would like to remind some of these priests - it is because of you that I was drawn in to this thing. You vouched for it! You told me it was good! How is it that I am so well-formed from your good influence, yet YOU cannot find YOUR way out?

If one of you walks, that will give courage to others to walk too. Walk! Trust God!

Anonymous said...

It is not obvious that the Legion of Christ is INTRINSICALLY evil. If that were the case, the Pope could suppress it easily (at least in theory). Sons obedient to God listen for his voice in the Voice of the Successor of St Peter. Discernment is not just running out on what was a vocation -- it may still be a vocation to refound a new congregation. This is why real and faithful Legionaries who made vows earnestly will not simply cut and run. Respect for Jesus Christ trumps disgust with an earthly, not founder, but organizer of a "congregation". No, I hold it wrong to leave the Legionaries without careful discernment of WHY one leaves, and where one will go.
You offer poor counsel. It may apply to running out of a burning building, but not to a vocation or life commitment. Much wiser is to wait till October and November to see and hear the determinations made for the Legion by the Pope. The the Legionary has solid elements for starting to make a determination on his life. I respect the Legionaries that have left before, of course, supposing they left for other reasons independent of the trauma the Legion is passing through right now.

Anonymous said...

For years we listened to the voice of John Paul II, and that voice was wrong. We gave the Legion our money, our time, our hearts, our sons and daughters and our very selves in part due to having listened to that voice and that voice was wrong. God give's us the intellegence to make our own decisions as well as having the opportunity for the guidance of the pope, infalible in matters of faith and morals only, as carefully defined.
Personally, I would much rather have been right without the pope back then, than wrong with him.

Anonymous said...

Where did I say it is "intrinsically evil"?

"Sons obedient to God listen for his voice in the Voice of the Successor of St Peter" is just another cop-out, much like "our Constitutions are approved, so there!"

The "Voice of Peter" is not ordering anyone to stay in their LC vocation. The priest will all be welcomed with open arms in a Catholic world short on priests. Bring new life to the Church!

"Respect for Jesus Christ" is not thrown out the window by continuing the priesthood elsewhere from the Legion. It is just moved to a new venue.

All your arguments scare me, I am worried for you. God blessed you with a conscience and an ability to reason, unless of course you have sacrificed both in the name of obedience to your LC vows.

Of course healthy discernment is involved in the decision to leave! Please tell me you have been doing some discerning over the past 6 months?

This "burning building" has been on fire for years. You can jump out the window, and risk a mere ankle break, but know you will survive. Or you can sit, and wait, and tell your fellow priests and RC members to wait and see, the fire department is going to put this fire out any time now....

I am scared for you and for all LCs I have known and care very much about. I know you are victims too.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if the Pope would even have to suppress the Legion because my suspicion is that it has no juridical basis. Yes, constitutions were approved, but do we know what exactly the Vatican approved? We don't. I have reason to believe that Maciel didn't give the members the version approved by the Vatican, but another verison. If this is so, the vows of the members would be based on fraud and there would be no need to suppress it, becauseit is likely that what was approved doesn't even exist. Besides, it also seems to me that the General Chapters have been invalid because not convoked in accordance with the approved norms. If that is so, the Alvaro Corcuer's election would be invalid and that of all the appointments made by him, so that members would not be obliged to obey them because they would not be legitimate superiors. I am asking the Visitators to investigate this matter.