“Damnation Or Glory?”: Proceso on Father Maciel

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“The networks of political and economic power that Marcial Maciel managed to extend to some 20 nations through the Legions of Christ began in Spain, with the support of dictator Francisco Franco. But now, with its formidable educational empire of a dozen universities an 145 private high schools throughout the world, the order’s protectors include members of the Spanish royal family and powerful figures from politics and finance. For example, José Maria Aznar, Juan Villalonga and his wife Adriana Abascal (previously married to [late Televisa owner] “The Tiger Azcárraga) and Emilio Botín, president of Santander Bank …”
Source: Proceso No. 1631 (February 3, 2008).

El infierno o la gloria: “Damnation or Glory.” The cover story of this week’s Proceso (Mexico) interviews former members of the Legions of Christ who claim to have suffered sexual abuse at the hands of its founder.

Para quienes se consideran víctimas de los abusos sexuales de Marcial Maciel, el fallecimiento del fundador de los Legionarios de Cristo no representa el fin de sus demandas de justicia. Llevarán su caso –ahora contra la orden– ante los tribunales civiles y la ONU, e incluso ante el Vaticano. Los delitos: “encubrimiento” y “asociación delictuosa”. En contrario, apoyada en su influencia dentro de los círculos del poder político y el poder económico, la propia orden se dispone a presionar para que el clérigo, acusado múltiple y documentadamente de pederastia, sea convertido en santo por la vía rápida.

For those who consider themselves victims of sexual abuse at the hands of Marcial Maciel, the death of the founder of the Legions of Christ does not represent the end of their legal battle. They will take their case — now directed at the institution — to civil courts and the United Nations, and even to the Vatican. The [alleged] crimes: “cover-up” and “criminal conspiracy.” On the other hand, the order, supported by its substantial influence in political and economic circles, is prepared to press for fast-track canonization of the priest who faced multiple, documented accusations of pederasty.

The Order’s press release on the death of Father Maciel makes no mention of the controversy.

The Vatican issued the following statement on the matter on May 19, 2006:

“Beginning in 1998, the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) received accusations, already partly made public, against Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ, for crimes that fall under the exclusive competence of the congregation. In 2002, Fr. Maciel published a declaration denying the accusations and expressing his displeasure at the offense done him by certain former Legionaries of Christ. In 2005, by reason of his advanced age, Fr. Maciel retired from the office of superior general of the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ.

“All these elements have been subject to a mature examination by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and — in accordance with the Motu Proprio ‘Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela,’ promulgated on April 30, 2001, by Servant of God John Paul II — the then prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, authorized an investigation into the accusations. In the meantime, Pope John II died and Cardinal Ratzinger was elected as the new Pontiff.

“After having attentively studied the results of the investigation, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under the guidance of the new prefect, Cardinal William Joseph Levada, decided — bearing in mind Fr. Maciel’s advanced age and his delicate health — to forgo a canonical hearing and to invite the father to a reserved life of penitence and prayer, relinquishing any form of public ministry. The Holy Father approved these decisions.

“Independently of the person of the Founder, the worthy apostolate of the Legionaries of Christ and of the Association ‘Regnum Christi’ is gratefully recognized.”

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The National Catholic Reporter recapped the case history:

On Feb. 23, 1997, the group went public with their accusations in The Hartford Courant, a major newspaper in Connecticut, where the Legion has its U.S. headquarters. The men include Fr. Felix Alarcon, a retired priest in good standing in Madrid; Juan Vaca, a psychology professor in New York; Arturo Jurado, a professor at the U.S. Defense Languages School in Monterrey, Calif; and in Mexico, Jose Barba, a Harvard-trained scholar of Latin American studies; Jose Antonio Perez, a lawyer; Alejandro Espinosa, a rancher; Fernando Perez, an engineer; and Saul Barrales, a school teacher. A ninth accuser, Juan Manuel Fernandez Amenabar, a former priest and university president, left a statement of alleged abuse and gave accounts to several witnesses before his death in 1995.

Without desiring to offend friends who labor to make the empire of the bridge-builder more closely resemble the Kingdom of God — including some Chilean in-laws I am looking forward to playing guitar with this year — it is at moments like this that I give thanks for being a theologically unsophisticated — “It’s a mystery to me” — “C&E” Anglican.

My stepfather, for example, is a married (to my mom) clergyman, and its seems to have done his mojo no end of good.

Proceso also cites a book on the man, La prodigiosa aventura de los Legionarios de Cristo, by Alfonso Torres Robles.

Agrega el libro que Marciel también supo ganarse a la cúpula empresarial mexicana:

The book adds that Marciel also knew how to court the Mexican business elite.

“No falta ninguno: Carlos Slim, banquero y empresario, considerado el hombre más rico de América Latina; la poderosa familia Azcárraga casi al completo, incluidoslos tres Emilios, abuelo, padre e hijo, fundador y continuadores del imperio Televisa, respectivamente; la multimillonaria familia Garza Sada, principal accionista del Grupo Alfa; los hermanos Servitje, propietarios del grupo panificador Bimbo; Plácido Arango, fundador de cadenas comerciales como Vips y Aurrerá… Ellos son los primeros de una larga lista de bienhechores con que cuentan los Legionarios de Cristo entre la crema de la burguesía mexicana”. Asegura el libro que Marcial era “el sacerdote de cámara de la familia Slim” …

“Not one was left out: Carlos Slim, banker and businessman, considered the richest man in Latin American; almost the entirety of the powerful Azcárraga clan, including the three Emílios, grandfather, father and son, heirs to the Televisa empire; the multimillionaire Garza Sada family, principal shareholders in the Alfa Group; the Servitije brothers, owners of the Bimbo bakeries; Plácido Arango, founder of retail chains like Vips and Aurrerá … These are the main figures on a log list of benefactors of the Legions of Christ among the cream of the Mexican bourgeoisie.” The book states that Marcial was “the intimate confessor of the Slim family …”

Torres is a Madrid-based journalist and university professor from Colombia. The book came out in 2001. Excerpted from a contemporary review:

Lejos de ser un libro religioso, estamos ante una obra en la que los lectores pueden ver cómo los legionarios, empeñados en formar y ganar para Cristo a los líderes de América Latina y el mundo, han logrado captar a numerosos altos cargos de los gobiernos de España y México, a no pocos barones nacionales y locales de formaciones como el español Partido Popular (PP), los mexicanos PAN y PRI; y la chilena UDI, y a una larga lista de personalidades de empresa, las finanzas, la ciencia y el arte. Activos cazadores de vocaciones, los Legionarios de Cristo disponen de un ejército integrado por más de 50.000 sacerdotes y seglares de cuarenta nacionalidades -El regnum christi-, lo que les ha convertido en una de las congregraciones mimadas del papa Juan Pablo II y de sus cardenales más próximos, quienes protegen a Maciel contra viento y marea ante las voces que cuestionana la conducta privada del fundador. De todo ello también se trata en este libro revelador …

Far from being a religious book, this is a work that shows readers how the Legions, in their effort to shape and win over Latin American leaders for Christ, have succeeded in capturing a number of high offices in the governments of Spain and Mexico, as well as not a few national and local leaders of political parties like the Spanish PP, the Mexican PAN and PRI, and the Chilean UDI, as well as a long list of prominet names from business, finance, science and the arts. Active hunters of vocations, the Legion fields an army of more than 50,000 priests and lay members of 40 nationalities — the so-called Regnum Christi — which made them one of the congregations most in favor with Pope John Paul II and the cardinals closest to him, who protect Maciel at all costs against voices that question his private conduct …

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