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Monday, April 7, 2014

Forcing the Hand of God: Is Santo Subito a Good Idea?

Written by  Father Celatus
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■ As one advocate for victims stated, “In his more than 25 years as the world’s most powerful religious figure, we can’t think of a single predatory priest or complicit bishop who experienced any consequences whatsoever for committing or concealing heinous child sex crimes.

Did you hear what one English writer, Jerome K. Jerome, said to the other English writer, Ford M. Ford?

“There’s something, old boy, which I’ve always abhorred: When people address me and call me, ‘Jerome’, Are they being standoffish, or too much at home?” Said Ford, “I agree; it’s the same thing with me.” There is something about reduplicated names that is not only repetitive but just a bit odd. I have an inherent distrust of those so named.

And while his name is not a perfect reduplication, a truly untrustworthy person with a now infamous name was Marciel Maciel. Marciel Maciel Degollado was a Mexican born Roman Catholic priest who founded the Legion of Christ and later the Regnum Christi movement.

Decades ago these two groups were attractive to countless conservative Catholics as an alternative and antidote to the ecclesiastical liberalism so prevalent in the Church. Some seminarians, faced with a choice between diocesan heterodox hellholes and seemingly orthodox formation as Legionaries, closed their eyes and took the plunge.

I know a few such souls, who sometime later returned home to their dioceses, seeking refuge from what had become a cult. Similar stories have been told by the faithful, who once championed the Regnum Christi movement, but now feel betrayed.

It took decades to uncover what was really going on with Marciel Maciel, who is now known to have been a prolific biological father as well. But secrecy was the name of the game and is the custom of cults.

One former Legionary priest told me that even though he was not cloistered, he was forbidden to speak to anyone he met in public who was not a member of the Legion. 

Secrecy is also the modus operandi of sexual predators and abusers, which terms are synonymous with Marciel Maciel.

During the course of his long life of nearly ninety years, Marciel Maciel was the subject of several investigations, to include for drug abuse, sexual abuse of minors and sexual relations with women. The first of the investigations, regarding drug abuse, occurred in the late 1950’s, during the pontificate of Pope John XXIII; allegations of sexual abuse spanned several decades, most within the pontificate of Pope John Paul II. In the words of one of several children who were fathered by the later Father Marciel Maciel, “From at least the 1950s until 2002, the Legionaries, Fr. Maciel, the presiding Pope, the Vatican, and its officials engaged in a conspiracy to conceal their knowledge of Maciel’s abuse of children.”

Among the more damning allegations of sexual abuse were those publically alleged in 1997 by a group of nine men, who credibly claimed that they had been abused by Marciel Maciel while studying under him in Spain and Rome in the 1940’s and 50’s. This respectable group included priests, professors and other professionals. They described themselves as former members of a favored group, known as the “Apostolic Schoolboys.”

They described the Maciel technique, which was to feign illness and pain in his groin, claiming that he had papal permission to receive massages from others in this area of his anatomy. Wow, talk about a papal indult! This group lodged a formal complaint with the Vatican in 1998 but was told the next year that their case had been shelved by the Vatican, apparently on orders from Pope John Paul II.

Such an order from the Pope would have been no surprise. After all, Maciel had carefully cultivated a relationship with Pope John Paul, accompanying him on papal visits to Mexico on three occasions and appearing in promotion videos with the Pope, distributed to Legion benefactors.

In 1994 Pope John Paul honored Marciel in an open letter on the occasion of the founder’s 50th anniversary as a priest, celebrating the man as “an efficacious guide to youth.” Ten years later and after more accusations against Maciel, Pope John Paul II hosted special ceremonies at the Vatican to honor his 60th anniversary.

Following that 2004 celebration, accusations against Maciel continued, including allegations that he had fathered half a dozen children by two women.

Some investigators allege that the total number of sexual abuse victims of this predator may be one hundred or more.

Pope Benedict removed Maciel from ministry in 2006, to a life of “prayer and penance.” A 2010 Vatican investigation determined that “very serious and objectively immoral acts” of the late founder, “confirmed by incontrovertible testimonies,” represent “true crimes and manifest a life without scruples or authentic religious sentiment.”

No wonder, given all the credible accusations against this predator priest and other clergy that were ignored or covered up, victims of sexual abuse have been critical of Church leadership.

No wonder so many have called into question the rush to canonize Pope John Paul II, in light of his failure to act on allegations. As one advocate for victims stated, “In his more than 25 years as the world’s most powerful religious figure, we can’t think of a single predatory priest or complicit bishop who experienced any consequences whatsoever for committing or concealing heinous child sex crimes.”

A headline from The Irish Times blames Pope John XXIII as well: “Two Popes to be canonized did nothing about Maciel allegations.” Justification offered for the canonization of Pope John Paul II in the wake of the abuse scandal is that he will be regarded a saint for his personal sanctity and not for his performance as pope. That argument is not convincing to abuse victims. A better response would be an 11th hour reprieve and reevaluation of these canonizations, allowing this crisis to pass and wounds to heal. Failing that, the enemies of the Church may soon label Pope Saint John Paul II as “Patron of Predators.”

Marciel Maciel is dead and has been judged by God. Popes John XXIII and John Paul II are dead and have been judged by the Church; judged that their souls are in Heaven and worthy of the title “Saints.” As the Church Militant continues to lower the standard for heavenly evidence that souls are within the Church Triumphant, one wonders whether canonization is now more a matter of what man himself declares and less a discernment of what God determines.

Jesus promised that what is bound on Earth is bound in Heaven but in these canonizations, might not the Church be forcing the hand of God? ■

 

 

Last modified on Monday, April 7, 2014