The Legionary who died four times and did not want to go to confession. Up until now, thanks to the "Cronica", it is known that he had at least six children and various identities. On the second anniversary of the death of the founder of the Legion of Christ, we reveal his last hours, in the presence of an exorcist.
IDOIA SOTA | JOSÉ M. VIDAL
The day that Marcial Maciel died, like in Pedro Paramo, a insistent whisper was heard as that which the wind makes when it whips the branches of a tree in the night. When we tune our hearing, just like in the above mentioned novel by Juan Rulfo, this murmur, pressed like a swarm of insects, comes together as words almost empty of sound, and full of piety: "Pray for us".
The day that Marciel Maciel died (yesterday it made two years), the luxurious Legionary house in Jacksonville (Florida) was converted into a constant flow of cassocked men. Even to this day, they have a strange look on their faces. A sign in which we can guess that the Marcial Maciel's end does justice to an excess laden existence, lived totally on the margin of any civil or divine law. Something horrible happened in the room where the founder of the Legionaries of Christ died.
More than a dozen people were chosen to accompany him in his last moments, and, from that day on January 30, 2008, they were left with only one certainty - and for some even a consolation - that the founder of the Legion of Christ was dead. What was the cause, what happened or even when did it happen are questions that have given rise to more than one answer.
Marcial Maciel was one, triune, or even quadruple. He had, at least, five different identities. He was Raul Rivas, Norma Hilda's lover and father of little Norma (both live comfortably in Madrid) and Jaime Alberto Gonzalez Ramirez, the partner of a Mexican woman and father of three children in Switzerland. Sometimes he was Juan Rivas. And he was always Marcial Maciel, founder of one of the most powerful religious congregations, fundraiser of incalculable fortunes of doubtful origin, and pederast punished by the Pope in 2006 with retirement and prayer. They all died on January 30, 2008, two years ago. His personal secretaries were in charge of killing them all. How, if they didn't, were they going to update all of the documents of "Nuestro Padre" as they still called him? There were million dollar accounts, properties scattered throughout the world, trust funds in the Bahamas.... An empire calculated at some 20,500 million euros between what he had in himself, in all of his versions, and what he had put in the name of his Legion.
This is how his gift of being in many places at the same time can be explained, and how Marcial Maciel died, at the same time, in Houston (Texas); Washington; Cotija, his hometown in Mexico; and in Jacksonville (Florida). A few hours after he left this world and much before the media came to know the news, Wikipedia reported his death in Florida. Just minutes later, suspiciously, the on-line encyclopedia eliminated the place of Maciel's death in his biography. Two days later, the first obituaries appeared in the press. The Denver Post and the El Paso Times reported that the founder of the Legion died of natural causes in Houston (Texas).
Were they natural causes? Some Legionaries affirm that he had liver cancer. Others talk of open heart surgery in Houston in 2003, And there are those who dare to say that he suffered from dementia. "They had to invent different ailments, each with its own cause, for each one of his identities", explains Jose Bonilla, attorney for the Mexican children of the Legionary.
Whatever the cause, the real Marcial Maciel died in a chalet in Jacksonville (Florida), but his remains were taken to Cotija (Mexico), the city where he was born. It was a small house with some 10 or 11 Legionaries, organized ad hoc for the founder to rest in a year before he was to go into "heavenly glory", the exact term used on the official website of the ultra-catholic congregation. On January 30, 2008, the inhabitants of the house saw a sudden increase in their numbers, by at least 8 people. The following met together in Maciel's room: Alvaro Corcuera, the current General Director of the Legion of Christ; Luis Garza Medina, Vicar General; Evaristo Sada, General Secretary; Marcelino de Andres, who Maciel left as trustee of the fund for his children; Alfonso Corona, a superior; John Devlin, the founder's personal secretary, and the two Normas. And, as if this conclave were not surreal enough, there was even an exorcist present in his rooms to assure that the soul of the father was not taken by some demonic spirit.
Why? It seems that for the previous two years, the founder had lost the faith. He did not go to mass, did not pray... The Legionaries who took care of him came to know that he felt "repulsed by religion". And aversion to religious objects is an unequivocal sign of possession. In fact, they say that from as early as 1946, the first Legionaries witnessed rare phenomena of the mephistophelian type. The father had at that time "a room in the house of the Sacred Heart", un chalet con a statue of this devotion. A "strange room". First, it had no bed. "Maciel slept in a coffin". Second, it was strange due to the odd phenomena that occurred there. One night, his companions heard strange noise in Maciel's room and, upon entering, they were met with "balls of fire which circled the founder's room and then the fire vanished".
Others attest that, one day in the sacristy, fierce dogs appeared. Maciel ordered the young men that were with him to leave the room and, the same way that the dogs appeared, "the dogs disappeared from the room whose door was closed". Another time, he was in the chapel. Upon hearing a noise, the Legionaries "opened the door and found the pews thrown about and Maciel under one of them". Presence of the Evil One?
Maybe many of these stories are mere fables. A hint of magical realism in a life filled with fantastic episodes.
Whatever the case may be, someone must have seriously considered possession and had an exorcist called to his deathbed. Luis Garza himself had already had to deal with the founder's rebellion. According to Legion sources, Maciel became quite ill six months before he died. The Legionaries took him from Jacksonville to a hospital in Miami "which was very discrete". The disgraced founder arrived there accompanied by three priests and a consecrated woman (lay women with a vow of chastity)."I WILL STAY WITH THESE WOMEN"
He was in the Miami hospital for three days. On the second day, the Normas appeared in his room and stayed by his bed, taking care of him, much to Maciel's pleasure and creating scandal for the Legionaries.
-Father, you have to come with us- they told him when he was to be discharged.
But, by then, Maciel was much closer to being Raul Rivas than the founder of a religious congregation and he indicated the two women, responding firmly: "I want to stay with them".
The Legionary priests, alarmed by Maciel's attitude, immediately called Rome. The then number three person of the institution, Luis Garza, knew right away that this was a grave problem. He consulted with the highest authority, Alvaro Corcuera, hopped on the first plane to Miami and when directly to the hospital.
His indignation could be read on his face. He faced the once all-powerful founder and threatened him: "I will give you two hours to come with us or I will call all the press and the whole world will find out who you really are". And Maciel let his arm be twisted.
His physical stature had been deteriorating a lot since 2005. "He did not walk well. He had the illnesses of old age. In the last months, he experienced various organ failures. I imagine that a medical report could say that he died of cardio respiratory failure. He was 87 years old: he was an old man", a Legion of Christ spokesman told the Cronica.
But the few elect who were with him at the end of his life had a hard time seeing him as an old man. For them, the last hours of the founder were a real calvary. Marcial Maciel refused to confess his sins. He did not want to and did not believe in God's pardon. Maybe he had spent too many years accostomed to fooling the divine representative in the confessional. How to suddenly declare him a pederast, he has relations with both men and women, he had at least six children who he never took care of like a real father, the abused drugs, he coveted and obtained great quantities of money, he plagiarized the spiritual guidelines of his congregation, he lied and damaged hundreds of people without it bothering him in the least way, and God knows what more. This, God does know. So, why confess his sins? "I said no!" he blurted out to Alvaro Corcuera, who was trying to anoint the dying man with holy oils.
In the end, Corcuera could have made Maciel do a profound examination of conscience. He explained more to his subjects. "Nuestro Padre" died in front of an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe and his last works were written on a paper: "et verbum caro factus est" (and the word was made flesh). Actually, he just gave him a piece of paper conveniently scribbled. The two versions are compatible. Maciel could have denied confession and been forced. He could have confessed what he considered appropriate and been absolved. He could have died in sin and written something to console the future generations of Legionaries. The truth is know only by those at Maciel's bedside as he died. Outside, the Legionaries of Jacksonville waited impatiently. Some entered and exited. "It was awful", said one of them. "I can't say more. Awful."
Would Fr. Alfredo Torres say this, one of the founders of the Legion, about Maciel's end? "You have done well seeking out my opinion. In your article, you can write 'I have tried to get Torres to comment, but he did not wish to'". At 83, Torres is the only one of the first Legionaries still alive. He runs the Hispanic-Mexican school which the Movement has in Madrid, and, in the midst of the crisis that the institution is passing through, he has become a reference point. "Many priests come to speak to me. From Rome, Mexico, Italy... All of them are not content with writing me and come to speak to me and I put them on the straight road". This is because, in his view, the congregation is at a crossroads. "There are two roads; that of the Church, and that of the street. I will always go by the road of the Church which is Christ. I will accept what the Pope says. Whatever that may be".
Concerning the appropriateness of going public with the fact that Maciel refused to confess and that there was an exorcist at his bedside, Fr. Torres advised: "Publish it. You have to make a living, and, it will also serve to make those involved reflect on their actions".
Reflect? At the moment, the directors of the Legion have faced the visitation with a certain opaqueness.
The superiors sent every center a list of answers to give to journalists, curiosity seekers, and the emisories of the Vatican. The guide offers, mostly, the answer "no" and "nothing" to many questions. "What did Fr. Maciel do? Were there financial irregularities? What do you say about the accusations from past years [concerning pedastry]? Did the superiors know of these things?... But, as well, the formulary offers an argumentative thread for conversations which result from these questions. It suggests that members of the Legion and the Regnum Christi (the lay branch) ask forgiveness for the damage caused by Maciel, that they show consternation that the scandal may have contaminated the Church, and that they manifest that those who may have suffered are in their prayers and that they be sure to try to act according to what Christ would do in their place.
In mid March, a decision is expected from Benedict XVI. Right now, there are between 100 and 150 Legionary priests awaiting this report to define the there path within or outside of the congregation. For the moment, it seems that the most plausible option for the Pope is to appoint a representative of confidence who will give a new direction to the movement. But it is possible that Benedict XVI could order a re-foundation, or directly opt that the Legion of Christ be dissolved.
Meanwhile, the legal counsel for the three children who Maciel left in Mexico, Jose Bonilla, continues with the fight for recognition for the three young people who are desendants of the founder. The first step, as the Cronica was able to uncover, is a letter that Alvaro Corcuera, General Director of the Legion, sent to the lawyer. In it, he recognizes the middle one of the three, Jose Gonzalez, as son of "Our Father". Two more are left. On top of the trust fund in the Bahamas, that Maciel devised him and which has been handed over, the descendants of the founder would have a right in a part of the property that the founder left dispersed all over the world. And, in less than 30 days, the children will file suit to reclaim that property. "The children speak every week with Bishop Ricardo Watty, the visitator in Mexico, who is very worried by the whole affair. More, perhaps, than Maciel ever was. In fact, the father founder of the Legionary of Christ never said goodbye to his three children. They were not even told of his death.