5 Dec 2010

Mexican Legionaries damage families, take away children in order to brainwash and control them

New York Times - May 12, 2010

A Priest’s Legacy Survives, and Divides, in Mexico


MEXICO CITY — Roberta Garza, a Mexican newspaper editor from a prominent family, recalls how the Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado would stare into the eyes of Mexico’s elite and go into a very persuasive fund-raising pitch: God himself expected them to share their wealth.

When her father, an industrialist from Monterrey and a big supporter of Father Maciel’s Legionaries of Christ, died in 1991, the priest began working his magic on her mother and the eight Garza children. The family’s financial devotion yielded benefits that included more than one private meeting with Pope John Paul II at the Vatican.

The Vatican’s decision to take control of the powerful religious order and to label Father Maciel “devoid of scruples and of genuine religious sentiment” because of his long history of sexual abuse is causing particular soul-searching in Mexico, where many of the country’s upper crust helped the Mexican-born priest build his religious empire.

It is in Mexico where Father Maciel founded the Legion in 1941 and courted a Who’s Who of the country’s well-heeled entrepreneurs and rising politicians. But most of his victims were also from Mexico and it was in this country that he fathered several children. Criticism of Father Maciel is fiercest in Mexico, although even after his public shaming, he still has supporters.

Father Maciel, who died in 2008, created a vast network of private schools and universities across Mexico for the children of the elite, which helped bring in money for his movement’s worldwide expansion. There were philanthropic efforts as well, like 23 Helping Hand schools for poor Mexican children. With scandal tarnishing the Legion, some insiders are concerned that the empire might implode and the funds dry up.

José Luis Damián Zúñiga, a member of the Legion’s lay affiliate, Regnum Christi, acknowledged that the scandals were testing the faith of some members. “Donations will be more difficult to obtain, and explanations will be required as to how the money will be spent once it’s received,” said Mr. Damián, who vowed to stick with the order.

It is not clear what changes will be made to the leadership or to the order, which reports worldwide membership of 800 priests and 2,500 seminarians as well as more than 70,000 lay members.

Anabel Mellado, who raises money for the Legion’s foundations, said she believed its charitable work would continue in Mexico because so many prominent Mexicans were Legion members who felt shamed by the founder’s actions and wanted to salvage the order.

The directors for the Legion’s charitable wing include executives of some of Mexico’s largest corporations, including the cement multinational Cemex; Copamex, a large paper producer; and Banco Compartamos, the country’s largest microfinance group. Benefactors include some of Mexico’s top tycoons, including Ms. Garza’s brother, Dionisio Garza Medina, who recently stepped down as the chief executive of the industrial conglomerate Alfa; and Carlos Slim, the telecommunications magnate and investor in The New York Times.

Mr. Slim’s relationship with Father Maciel and the Legionaries goes back decades and he continues to donate to the group’s charitable work, said his spokesman and son-in-law, Arturo Elías Ayub. Mr. Slim, now the world’s richest man, has donated a “good amount” of money to the Legion’s network of low-cost universities and plans to continue giving, Mr. Elías said. “We like the way the Legionaries educate,” he said.

Mr. Slim appeared publicly with Father Maciel as late as 2004, long after the first allegations surfaced.

The power that the Legionaries wield through their allies became evident in 1997, when a small Mexico City television station began investigating the evidence against Father Maciel. Javier Moreno Valle, who owned the channel then, said that the Legionaries refused to comment for the program but, unsuccessfully, lobbied to keep the story off the air. “They started pressing through every channel they could,” he said.

Roberto Servitje, part of the powerful family that controls Grupo Bimbo, a giant baked goods multinational, called for an advertising boycott of the station. He was seconded by Alfonso Romo, then a wealthy businessman from Monterrey with interests in cigarettes and insurance. A friend of Mr. Moreno Valle, an executive from Televisa, the country’s main broadcaster, also called.

The Servitje family declined to comment on the episode.

Father Maciel himself worked his political contacts to try to save his reputation. Mr. Moreno Valle received a call from the communications minister, Carlos Ruiz Sacristán, who asked him not to broadcast the program. Father Maciel also spoke to President Ernesto Zedillo’s private secretary, Liébano Sáenz, who called Mr. Moreno Valle and asked him to cancel the program.

Under the presidency of Vicente Fox, which began in 2000 and ended in 2006, the Legionaries’ more covert political influence burst into full view. His wife, Marta Sahagún, is a supporter of the order and the couple married last year in a religious ceremony presided over by a Legionary priest, eight years after they married in a civil ceremony.

One of Father Maciel’s legacies will be the Mexican families he divided.

Anxious that a relative might storm out of the house, Ms. Garza largely avoids speaking of the Legion around her family. “We talk about the weather,” said Ms. Garza, 43, the youngest of the eight children and one of those in the family who, despite going to Legion schools as a girl, broke with the group.

When she does talk about the Legion, she pulls no punches, even though her brother is one of the highest officials in the order in Rome.

“The damage they did to families is huge,” said Ms. Garza, who grew up in Monterrey, a conservative city that was a gold mine for Father Maciel. “They didn’t just take people’s money. They took away their children to live lives in the Legion and they controlled them.”

Juan Vaca, a former Legion priest and one of Father Maciel’s victims who now lives in the United States, said he was estranged from his sister for years because she, a consecrated Legion member, did not believe his allegations. “She thought I was making false accusations against this holy man,” he said. “Now, she knows everything I said was the truth. She appreciates my courage.”

Juan Carlos, who asked that his last name not be printed because his relatives work in the order, provided a glimpse of the scandal’s impact on his upper middle class family.

He attended the Cumbres Institute in Mexico City, the first of what is now a national network of schools for the sons of Mexico’s elite. Two brothers joined the order as lay workers and continue to work for it, although one is having second thoughts. His mother began to attend regular meetings for Legionary women and met Father Maciel’s sister there, whom she revered, he said.

His sons have gone to Cumbres, and he does not intend to pull out the remaining one. “I am convinced that there is a lot more to the Legionaries than Father Maciel,” he said. “They have done great things and helped many people.”

But he was relieved when a school retreat for his son was canceled after the revelations about Father Maciel. “They brainwash you in those retreats,” he said, adding later, “They ask for money to fix the school pool, but they raise enough to build 15 pools.”

(Antonio Betancourt contributed reporting.)

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Vatican finally decides to reform Legionaries years after founder exposed as immoral religious fake 

Conservative Catholic order admits 5 years after investigation that founder, who fathered 3 children, was abusive pedophile

Vatican investigates sexual abuses by founder of conservative Catholic cult, Legionaries of Christ

Catholic Legionaries founder praised by Pope John Paul II sexually abused seminarians and raped his own children

On Sex Abuse: The Pope, the Bishop and the Mexican Priest

Founder of influential, conservative Catholic order fathered a child and molested seminarians


  1. Ridding Catholicism of the stench of this Legionary of Christ

    By Hugh O’Shaughnessy September 21, 2011

    At last, the Vatican begins to move in earnest to clean up the scandalous mess of the egregiously wealthy rightwing Legionaries of Christ. Their members are known to some as the "millionaires of Christ" and their stench has been in the nostrils of Catholics for too many decades.

    A start was made on 15 July to repair the enormous damage to the church done by the late Marcial Maciel Degollado, who founded the Legion of Christ in 1940. The pushy Mexican priest was the bisexual pederast, drug-addicted lover of several women and father of three who hoodwinked a succession of popes from Pius XII and who was eventually run to ground and disgraced by Benedict XVI in 2006.

    At the start of 2011 Richard Gill, for 29 years a US priest of the Legionaries of Christ but who had left the Legion last year, wrote: "It is no exaggeration to say that Marcial Maciel was by far the most despicable character in the twentieth century Catholic Church, inflicting more damage on her reputation and evangelizing mission than any other single Church leader."


    Maciel Degollado left a series of dirty marks wherever he passed. Gill, for instance, wonders why the Vatican department that deals with religious orders gave its approval in 1983 to a new constitution for the Legion, which has proved to be irregular and defective. Cardinal Eduardo Pironio, who headed that department and was one of the few senior Argentine clerics to have come out of his country's dirty war with credit, clearly committed an error in approving an unsatisfactory constitution. Paradoxically he also happened to be one of the few leaders of the church in Argentina who stood up to the sort of raging conservatives who were attracted to the Legion. Because of this, Pironio received death threats from rightwing extremists in his homeland and had to flee to Rome. Worse, his reputation was gravely damaged.

    How did Maciel Degollado fool such a succession of popes? The literal meaning of his mother's surname – which in Spanish fashion is inserted after his father's surname Maciel is fascinating. The literal meaning of "degollado" is "a man whose throat has been ripped out". How weird!

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  2. Pope’s envoy for cult-like group linked to disgraced Legion of Christ says rules invalid

    By Associated Press, November 24, 2011

    VATICAN CITY — The pope’s envoy running the disgraced Legion of Christ religious order says the 1,000-plus rules governing the cult-like life of some of its members are invalid and will be whittled down to a core set of norms.

    The rules that the Legion’s consecrated women and men live under cover everything from how to eat a piece of bread (tear off bite-size pieces, don’t bite into it) to what they can watch on television to how they interact with outsiders and family members.

    Pope Benedict XVI took over the Legion last year after the order admitted its Mexican founder sexually abused seminarians and fathered three children. A Vatican investigation determined he was a fraud and discovered serious spiritual and psychological abuses within the Legion and its consecrated branch — abuses the pope’s delegate says he’s now trying to fix.

    The Legion scandal ranks as one of the worst in the 20th century Catholic Church since Pope John Paul II held the Legion’s late founder the Rev. Marciel Maciel up as a model, even though the Vatican knew for over a decade about credible allegations he was a pedophile.

    One of the greatest scandals concerning the Legion’s consecrated members is that for years they were told that the 1,000-plus rules they lived by had been approved by the Vatican, when in fact only 128 general statutes had been approved.

    Former members have complained that they were told that disobeying any one of the rules was tantamount to disobeying God’s will — a heavy onus that created an unhealthy striving for perfection over the most meaningless of norms.

    But in a Nov. 21 letter, the pope’s delegate for the Legion, Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, said the rules had no legal status since they were never officially approved. He said a small commission would be formed soon to “extract” from the rules only those that are “strictly necessary” for the life and governance of the group.

    This core set of rules will guide the consecrated until their whole governing statutes are revised, he wrote. Significantly, this revision process will be carried out almost independently of the Legion — part of the autonomy De Paolis envisages for the consecrated members.

    The rules aren’t public but were at one point posted on Wikileaks. The etiquette norms specify how to eat specific types of food: an orange (with a knife and fork); spaghetti (cut, not rolled around a fork) and chicken (with a knife and fork, except on picnics when it can be eaten with fingers).

    Members have defended the rules as a way to create unity in an international movement with people from different cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. Critics have said the excessiveness of rules masks a lack of spirituality and constitutes a red flag about the cult-like nature of the movement.


    The consecrated women live like nuns, teaching in Legion-run schools and running retreats, youth programs and other initiatives to raise money and attract new members to the Legion’s lay branch Regnum Christi.

    They have no legal status in the church, however, since they’re not members of a religious order like nuns are and aren’t members of an independent institute of consecrated life.

    In his Nov. 21 letter, De Paolis said members must now reflect on what type of canonical status they should have as an autonomous movement from the Legion.

    Some “dissident” Legion priests and many former Legionary priests have complained that De Paolis isn’t moving decisively enough to reform the order and that none of the Legion’s superiors have been disciplined for having covered up for Maciel.

    Dozens of priests, more than 200 seminarians and hundreds of consecrated women have left the movement since the scandal broke in 2009.

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