Analysis: Who Was Father Maciel’s Moderator?

August 14, 2009 by  
Filed under Fr. Maciel, Legionaries of Christ

As the scandal-drama surrounding the late Fr. Marcial Maciel unfolds, more and more pointed questions are rising to the surface. Former Legionary priest James Farfaglia, for example, raises a series of such pertinent questions on his blog.

New questions arose in my mind recently as I studied an online dossier of “censored” documents, which purports to include lengthy excerpts of the constitutions of the Legionaries of Christ. Father Maciel, who served as the Legion’s director general uninterruptedly for decades, mandated that the constitutions not be disclosed to the public and, therefore, few people outside the Legion have any clue what they contain (c.f., 254.2 and 417. §2 & 3).

A careful analysis of the rules which Fr. Maciel put in force yields many remarkable details, such as the fact that he exempted himself from the, now-abrogated, “private vow” in which every temporally or perpetually professed member of the order solemnly promises never to criticize other Legionaries, especially superiors.

What really caught my eye, though, was the section which mandates that a “monitor of the general director” must be appointed who will closely observe and “concern himself with the external aspects of the life of the director general, such as his dress, his diet, and his expenditures.”

(I’m pretty sure, by the way, that the whole “expenditure” thing would fall squarely into the category of Father Maciel’s now-verified, long-term habit of squandering Legionary money [i.e., benefactor donations] on frivolities such as trans-Atlantic flights on the Concorde, posh hotels, luxury cruises, succulent gourmet meals and, at least in his later years, of supplying an affluent upkeep for at least one child he fathered [it seems as though there may be others]).

According to the official description of the “moderator of the general director,” it seems clear that the duties envisioned by the Legion of Christ constitutions was not something akin to those of a confessor or spiritual director, which would concern the internal forum of the conscience and, therefore, would entail a confidential relationship with the subject (Maciel) which could not be revealed to another under pain of serious sin. Rather, the moderator called for by the Legionary constitutions could be likened to a kind of “ombudsman,” whose job it would be to help identify and correct problems with Maciel’s externally discernible lifestyle (i.e., not in the internal forum).

I hadn’t known that the Legionary constitutions required that someone be officially appointed to monitor Father Maciel’s activities. But after checking with a few former Legionary priests and religious about this, and after their review of these documents and verification that they are indeed accurate, several intriguing new questions arise, such as:

1) Who exactly was Father Maciel’s moderator? The constitutions require that this role be fulfilled by a Legionary priest, appointed by the general chapter, who is ” a very spiritual man, with at least ten years of profession in the Congregation, who is at least forty years old, of balanced temperament, gentle and understanding of spirit, faithful and loving of the superiors, with a practical sense, and whose capacity of reserve, discretion, prudence and sensitivity are well-proven and recognized.” If this requirement was fulfilled (the term is for 12 years), there will be records of it, which the apostolic visitators to the Legion of Christ will surely want to study.

2) Did the Legion’s general chapters ever actually appoint a priest to fulfill this constitutionally mandated role as moderator of Father Maciel’s activities? If so, who was he (they), when was he appointed, and what were his findings? Presumably, the Church’s apostolic visitation process will, in due course, obtain and evaluate any documents that pertain to the issue of the monitor of the general director.

3) If the Legion did in fact observe this requirement, then how did the moderator fulfill his mandate to moderate, as the order’s regulations stipulate, “all things related to the spiritual perfection and personal obligations of the director general, dialoguing with him about these things . . . [and to] concern himself with external aspects of the life of the director general, such as his dress, his diet, and his expenditures”? What, if anything, did he report about this?

Clearly, the frauds perpetrated by Fr. Maciel against the members of his own religious order, as well as the Church, his victims, etc., involved activities that would have, should have, could have been observed — and, one would assume, reported — by a genuinely dedicated, sagacious, honest, man of probity who had been formally entrusted with the task of “moderating” the general director.

So, again, it must be asked: Was there ever such a moderator? And if so, who was he? And if no one was ever appointed to this position, why wasn’t it done?

If there was such a moderator, and if he performed his duties to observe Father Maciel’s personal life and give advice or admonishment based on what he observed, did he report what must have been an endless series of strange anomalies in the director’s travels, activities, and personal habits? If he reported them to the general chapter, why was no action ever taken?

After all, the general impression given is that everyone in the Legion — everyone — was caught completely by surprise when the scandal revelations began tumbling out. No one seems to have had even the slightest inkling of what this man was doing in his free time.

One section of the dossier I mention above, goes to the very heart of the sickness of secrecy at work here. It reads:

576. If the person chosen for this post [of moderator] exposes or criticizes aspects of the life of the director general, he should be removed from his post. In such a case, the council general, at the request of the director general, shall proceed to appoint, by deliberative vote, another to take his place, from a group of three proposed by the director general.

In other words, the Legion’s internal laws required that a moderator be appointed to watch closely over Father Maciel’s personal life — something that, if it had been carried out according to the LC constitutions, could have spared the Legion, Regnum Christi, and the Church as a whole all the Maciel-induced misery this scandal has engendered.

But those same laws stipulate that if the moderator were to “expose or criticize” any problems he might find, he would be summarily canned.

Huh? Given the Sword-of-Damocles position into which the constitutions encumber the moderator, what good could he be to the order? What beneficial purpose could he serve?

This disjunction in the LC constitutons would seem to explain why the official Legionary requirement of putting such a moderator in place may simply have been ignored. But if it was not ignored, and the order’s general chapter did, in fact, appoint a priest to do what the constitutions call for, then let’s hope that the appropriate apostolic visitator will have ample opportunity to discuss this issue in detail with that man.

(Read more of my previous commentary on this issue.)

New Allegations Against Fr. Marcial Maciel Surface in Mexican Press

August 11, 2009 by  
Filed under Fr. Maciel, Legionaries of Christ

The left-leaning Mexican daily newspaper,
La Jornada, is reporting an explosive new set of paternity allegations against the late Father Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legionaries of Christ.

Earlier this year, the religious order was rocked to its foundations by revelations of its founder’s fraudulent double life (see my February 3, 2009 commentary on this). New allegations surfaced today in a La Jornada article, which I have translated from the original Spanish and excerpted below:

Three More Children of Marcial Maciel Claim Inheritance Rights

Mexican lawyer José Bonilla Sada has made it known that three [additional] children, born in Mexico, will contest the Legionaries of Christ [claiming] that they should recognize their existence and their rights as heirs to the goods of the religious order’s founder.

The litigant, who has as his assistant one Joaquín Aguilar — a victim of sexual abuse committed by ex-priest Nicholas Aguilar — said that he is confident that there is sufficient proof to demonstrate that even the late Pope John Paul II, along with the Legion, knew of the existence of Maciel’s three other children, now adults, who were legally recognized by their father but whose names will be kept confidential.

Some months ago, the order founded by the late priest, [who was] accused of sexual abuse against minors, admitted the existence of one of his daughters. Her name, according to Bonilla’s account on his blog, is Norma Hilda. She lives in Madrid, Spain, where, along with her mother of the same name, she obtained a non-work related residence visa.

Originally from Guerrero [Mexico], she is approximately 23 years old and maintains a comfortable lifestyle level, such that she does not have to work; she lives in a luxury apartment building and also has other income [rents] from the same building in which she lives. They were acquired by Marcial Maciel with money from benefactors of the congregation.

It was precisely because of this blog that the late priest’s three children contacted José Bonilla to represent them; after which they furnished him with a series of documents that verify their relationship to Maciel: photographs showing that they had met with John Paul II, all kinds of letters, and recordings of high-level leaders in the Legion of Christ discussing this issue.

The litigant maintains that the calligraphic [i.e., handwriting] evidence is sufficient to demonstrate that the letters were written by Maciel’s own hand, and that his children can be subjected to DNA testing to demonstrate their blood relationship [with him].

At present, the lawyer is studying [the evidence] and composing a civil law suit, in which it would be determined that his clients have inheritance rights, although he admits that before coming to that point he hopes to reach a settlement with the Legion of Christ.

“I suppose,” said Bonilla, “that he [Maciel] did leave them money. Our team is working on this, and some informants have have told us that it is a significant amount. One must remember that the Legion surrounded and was for [i.e. at the disposal of] the founder; practically speaking, everything was his.

He indicated that the deceased [priest’s] children seek their existence be acknowledged and, eventually, they are contemplating making known [publicly] the life they had at their father’s side, in the sense of how it developed, which is to say, what he counseled them, what he taught them, and that they have rights of inheritance. (link to original La Jornada article in Spanish)

Developing . . .

Legionary Priest Expresses “Shock and Sorrow” at Fr. Maciel’s Moral Failings

February 6, 2009 by  
Filed under Fr. Maciel, Legionaries of Christ

I’ve known and admired Father Thomas Berg, L.C., as a friend for many years. I admire him even more after reading his brief but forthright statement, posted publicly today, which reads in part:

“In shock, sorrow, and with a humbled spirit, I want to express my deepest sorrow for anyone who, in any way, has been hurt by the moral failings of Fr. Maciel. Of my readers, I ask your prayers for each of them. They count not only on my prayers, but also on the personal acts of reparation that I intend to do to implore for each of them the grace, healing, and comfort that only God can give. I am so sorry for each of them, and for the scandal this has caused to the entire Church.” (read more)

This Is No Time for Happy-Face Stickers

February 3, 2009 by  
Filed under Fr. Maciel, Legionaries of Christ

Last night, as many of you are learning this morning, some very sad allegations about Fr. Marcial Maciel’s duplicitous actions began seeping into the mainstream. While a significant number of people knew ahead of time that this was coming down, no specifics were disclosed publicly until yesterday, and more details will come tumbling out soon in the mainstream press.

Predictably, the range of reactions to this bad news spans the gamut from outrage and stunned incredulity to something approaching despair to blasé “I-told-you-so” unconcern.

Regardless of how you react to this unfolding tragedy, be sure you look at it in perspective. Judging from what I’ve seen in the blogosphere in the past few days, it appears that some people just don’t seem to understand what this deplorable situation really entails and what ramifications may arise from it.

Some have prattled on about how this really isn’t bad news. It was long expected and now that it’s been proven and publicized, and the temptation to lounge smugly in the worldly-wise posture of “I-told-you-so” may be something too difficult for some to avoid. But we should avoid it, because this story is bigger than just the sum of the embarrassing details of sexual (and other) sins. Let’s keep in mind a few important points.

First, this is indeed very bad news — the worst possible kind — for the tens of thousands of good and faithful Catholics in the Legionaries of Christ religious order and its lay-affiliate, the Regnum Christi Movement — the vast majority of whom have, over the years, steadfastly refused to believe any accusation against Fr. Maciel, however plausible and vehemently attested to by those who claim to have been witnesses.

Now, these faithful and dedicated Legionary priests and seminarians (there are thousands of them, don’t forget) and the tens of thousands of good-hearted Regnum Christi folk are realizing that they have been duped. They are faced with the stunning, crushing, irrefutable evidence that their trust in this man was in vain, their unshakable faith in his goodness and innocence has finally been shaken to pieces. The gleaming giant of holiness they had admired for so long has been shown to have feet of clay (Daniel 2:31-32).

Yes, many of Fr. Maciel’s ardent followers have been naive in their refusal to consider that there may have been some truth to at least some of the myriad of accusations that mounted against him, but I believe theirs was a naiveté born of sincerity and love for Christ and the Church. This sincere love attached itself firmly (and now we know, undeservedly) to a man who, at least by outward appearances, seemed to merit their trust.

If nothing else, this sordid saga proves the powerful truth of Scripture’s warning: “Put not your trust in princes, in man in whom there is no salvation. When his spirit departs, he returns to his earth, and on that day his plans perish” (Psalm 146:3).

Second, it is true, as some are saying, that, while painful, this bad news is actually a good thing, at least insofar as it entails light shining in a dark place.

This may be exactly the necessary impetus — albeit a horrible one — that will lead to a purification and renewal of an organization that could do great good for souls in ways that go way beyond what many critics say was merely good work that had serving the Legion as its ulterior motive. I make no judgment personally on that criticism, as to whether it is legitimate or not, but regardless, this new chapter in the Legionary saga can become the starting point for a very good thing in the Church. It may in fact be a bitter harbinger of a sweet and long-hoped-for outcome: a Legion of Christ that becomes free from the controversies and complaints that have dogged it for decades, a religious order that is seen by others to be truly at the service of the Church as a whole and not, as many of its critics allege, merely at the service of itself. It could be that, by God’s grace and the prudent courage and honesty of the group’s leadership, there can be a good outcome — possibly a spectacularly good one. There may be a viable effort to undertake a thorough reform and reconstitution of the Legionaries of Christ and the Regnum Christi Movement, although there remain nagging reasons to wonder if that will really happen. It’s too early to know. But we should be praying now for that to happen, if it be God’s will. Time will tell.

One thing is for sure, though. If the Legionaries of Christ and the Regnum Christi movement are going to emerge from this crucible in one piece and remain in existence for the long haul, they cannot lapse into robot mode, they cannot don a happy-face mask and attempt to deny that this is a very serious problem for them. At this precise juncture, denial and dismissal of the clear and present danger that this situation poses to the Legion, will, I believe, sooner or later, prove fatal to its efforts at sustaining itself.

Again, we must keep this unfolding situation clearly in perspective and not sucumb to the various myopic temptations that beckon: at one end, to shrug and simply ignore it as a non-issue, and at the other end, to join in a gleeful feeding-frenzy of morose delectation. Already, on the blogs, one can see people falling into both camps.

Third, let’s be realistic. No matter what some of the Internet pundits and commenteers may be saying, THIS IS BAD NEWS. To call it anything else is to badly misunderstand the import of what’s taking place here. These salacious revelations (please God, may there be no more of them) have caused and will continue to cause serious damage, not only to the shell-shocked members of this group (many of whom have spent years in dogged defense of the holiness of Fr. Maciel and who now feel the sharp knives of betrayal and fraud sever the bonds of trust they once had in this man), but to the Catholic Church in general.

Watch and see. You’ll soon notice certain people trying to use this scandal to malign Pope John Paul II (a long-time supporter of Fr. Maciel and the Legion), in a way similar to how some are right now attempting to exploit the recent SSPX Bishop Williamson Holocaust-debacle against Pope Benedict XVI.

As I’ve been saying all along on my blog, what we need to do is pray earnestly for all the people involved in this mess. They need our prayers, now more than ever. Pray for the soul of Fr. Maciel. Pray for the Catholic Church and also for those outside the Church who will be swayed or disoriented by this scandal, many of them seeing in it confirmation of their worst suspicions about Catholics and Catholicism. And let’s not omit to pray for ourselves, that we might not fall from our own fidelity to Christ, however firm or tenuous it might be.

Now is a good time to contemplate the famous maxim that “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” If nothing else, these revelations about Fr. Maciel should serve as a cautionary tale to hammer that point home for each one of us.

Finally, it’s worth repeating: Don’t lose your sense of perspective. Don’t think that this bad news isn’t bad news. Let’s call it what it is and avoid the temptation to slap a happy-face sticker on it.

Click for more on the Legionaries of Christ situation.