29 Apr 2011

How can Pope John Paul II be a saint when thousands of children were raped or molested by priests under his leadership?

Time - April 28, 2011

Pope John Paul's Path to Sainthood: A Rush to Judgment?

By Stephan Faris

When hundreds of thousands of Catholics gather in Rome Sunday for the beatification of Pope John Paul II, not everyone will be celebrating. For the victims of sexual abuse by predatory priests, the ceremony — a major step towards sainthood — is too much too soon for a Pontiff they say failed to adequately confront the crimes committed by members of his church. "It's the rubbing of salt into the already deep and still fresh wounds of thousands of victims," says David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "The signal that his beatification basically sends to church employees across the globe is that no matter how many children are harmed because of your inaction, your clerical career won't suffer."

Nobody denies the accomplishments of the famously charismatic pope, who died in 2005: his confrontation of the Soviet Union, his travels in the name of evangelism, and his courage under the ravages of Parkinson's diseases. But when it came to confronting the rot within his own institution, says Clohessy, the late pope was all but absent: "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."

For much of John Paul's papacy, the church's sex abuse crisis bubbled mostly underground. But when it did break through the surface, the pope's response was most noticeable for its absence. Hans Hermann Groer, an Austrian cardinal accused of abusing more than 2,000 boys over several decades, was made to retire as bishop of Vienna when the scandal broke in 1995, but was never punished or forced to apologize. (Groer died in 2003.) The Mexican priest Marcial Maciel Degollado continued to receive John Paul's support after allegations emerged in the late 1990s that he had abused seminarians. [see related articles below]

"Time and again, John Paul simply refused to take the hard decisive steps that a visionary leader would take," says Jason Berry, author of Render unto Rome: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church, and two books on the sex abuse scandal. "The way he responded to the accusations against Father Maciel by basically ignoring them, acting as if they didn't even exist, is not only a sign of a terrible denial on his part, but also an unwillingness to confront the full impact of evil." Maciel remained unpunished until after the John Paul's death in 2005, when Benedict XVI ordered him to leave the ministry for "a life of penitence and prayer." Maciel died in 2008.

John Paul's admirers acknowledge that the pope could have done more, but they say that his failings during the sex abuse scandal fail to blot out his greater virtues. "Do I think he could have done better?" says Phil Lawler editor of CatholicCulture.org. "Yes. But the idea that all of it comes home to roost at the Vatican is an idea that I've never found persuasive. He was in a position where he had limited options and limited power. If you consider the man's whole life as a body, that's in the negative column, and there's so much in the positive column."

John Paul II's accelerated path to sainthood — beatification usually takes decades — means that the late pope is being honored even as his legacy regarding his handling of the sex abuse case continues to be examined. A report by the Irish government is expected next month on recent failures by the church to confront sexual abuse in the rural diocese of Cloyne. The bishop in charge during the period under examination previously served as a private secretary to three popes, including John Paul II.

The Polish pope's ascent toward canonization can be compared to another papal candidacy for sainthood. Pope Pius XII was also revered during his lifetime, but has since become a much more controversial figure for his public silence in the face of the Holocaust. More than 50 years after his death, he remains on the path towards sainthood, but his case the process faces increasing opposition and he has not yet been beatified. "I don't think that John Paul was ever taken to full account by the news media during the last decade of his life," says Berry. "Hagiography at this point is premature at best and at worst an insult to the many people who have been harmed. There's a good chance it could backfire."

This article was found at:


The Independent  -  Ireland    May 2, 2011

'He didn't do enough to help victims of clerical sex abuse'

By John Cooney Religion Correspondent

A PROMINENT survivor of clerical child sexual abuse last night said many victims would not still be suffering if Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Sean Brady had done their jobs properly.

Dubliner Andrew Madden was responding to comments made in Rome at the beatification ceremony which defended the late Pontiff from criticisms that he did not deal quickly and adequately with paedophile priest scandals that came to light during his reign.

Entering the controversy, the Primate of All-Ireland Cardinal Sean Brady said: "I don't know how much he knew about the abuse. Perhaps he should have done more. I don't know."

But Dr Brady, who last year resisted calls for his resignation over his role in pledging to secrecy young victims of paedophile monk Brendan Smyth, insisted that if Pope John Paul "felt that he should have done more, he would have done it".

Dr Brady added: "So I think we will just have to leave that to the mercy of God."

But Mr Madden, who was the first Irish victim to make public his abuse by the notorious former priest Ivan Payne, said he had spent the day thinking of the victims who suffered from the ''cover-ups'' of Pope John Paul and Dr Brady.

"It was a day when it came into my mind the welfare of all clerical sex abuse victims which need not have happened if John Paul and Cardinal Brady had done the right thing," he told the Irish Independent.

Meanwhile, last night at a special Mass in Dublin's Pro-Cathedral in celebration of Pope John Paul, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin prayed for renewal in the church.

This article was found at:



The Bay Citizen   -   San Francisco     May 1, 2011

Amid Celebration, Abuse Victims March on SF Mass


As the Catholic church moved closer to declaring Pope John Paul II a saint, a handful of Bay Area residents who were sexually abused by priests gathered Sunday outside St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco. They came to tell church members that there is still a crisis in the Catholic Church.

“Our message today is to remind people of the importance of protecting children in light of the speeded-up beatification of the pope,” said Tim Lennon, a victim of clergy abuse and the San Francisco leader of SNAP, the Survivor’s Network of those Abused by Priests. “The speeded-up sainthood of the pope, to us, is merely a publicity action to regain some of their good name that they’ve lost because of all the thousands -- maybe tens of thousands -- of victims of clergy abuse.”

After John Paul II died in 2005, his successor, Pope Benedict XVI waived the traditional five-year wait before beginning the late pope’s canonization process. Sunday’s beatification marked a major step toward sainthood.

But critics of the church’s handling of the global sex-abuse crisis, which broke open during John Paul II’s tenure, say he was complicit in the long-suspected church practice of covering up instances of abuse and reassigning rather than punishing predatory priests.

“If nothing else, he failed in the absence of doing anything,” Lennon said.

The demonstration was part of a worldwide action over the weekend that took place in 60 cities in seven countries. It was a quiet gathering in San Francisco, not so much a protest as a solemn statement to church members in the midst of their celebration.

Lennon, some of his relatives and four other abuse survivors stood on the sidewalk near the church during Sunday’s 11 o’clock mass, handing out flyers asking parishioners to pledge that they will report suspected child abuse in the church or anywhere else they find it.

Halfway through Sunday’s mass, George Wesolek, communications director for the Archdiocese of San Francisco, stepped outside and strolled across the empty sun-washed plaza that separates the cathedral from the sidewalk along Geary Blvd., and introduced himself to Lennon. Both commented on the lovely spring weather before Lennon traded a flyer for one of Wesolek’s business cards.

As he walked back across the empty plaza, Wesolek read over the pledge.

“We’re supportive of the concept, definitely,” he said, nodding his head and reading on. “It’s great. It’s most worthy that they’re doing this.

Lennon and more than a dozen Bay Area abuse survivors have been meeting with the Archdiocese of San Francisco in recent months to demand the church improve its policies around sex abuse of children. Local bishops have taken the group’s proposals under advisement but have yet to decide whether they will take any action.

This article was found at:


Jesuit priest being considered for sainthood among order's leaders who protected "the Hannibal Lecter of the clerical world"

Canada's newest Catholic saint belonged to order under investigation for widespread sexual crimes against students

Best city in the world honours man who protected notorious Catholic child abuser

Vatican refuses to shut down corrupt Legionaries order for fear of imposing ideas on others, yet indoctrinating kids ok

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

Son of priest-founder of Catholic Legionaries sues order for fraud and negligence, says his father sexually abused him

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

TV report from 1990s shows then Cardinal Ratzinger slapping reporter for asking awkward questions about evil child abuser Marciel Maciel

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

Mexican reports reveal more children sired by founder of conservative Catholic cult Legionaries of Christ

Corrupt Legionaries exposed

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

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

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

Vatican names Spanish archbishop to investigate cult of consecrated women associated with disgraced Order

Former members of Catholic women's group Regnum Christi allege cult-like practices of psychological and spiritual abuse

Pope's promise to restore the purity of Catholicism almost impossible with scandals implicating entire church hierarchy

Hundreds of people in U.K. are abandoned, secret children of Catholic priests


  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!

    read the full article at:


  2. Ratzinger altered canon law to soften Maciel punishment, book argues

    By Jason Berry, National Catholic Reporter March 24, 2012

    On Saturday, as Pope Benedict XVI makes the first appearance on his March 23-28 trip to Mexico and Cuba, three authors will hold a news conference in the same city, Leon, Mexico, discussing a book that quotes Vatican files on the pedophilia and drug abuse accusations that trailed Fr. Marcial Maciel, the founder of the Legion of Christ, for decades until his death in 2008.

    Maciel, a native of Mexico who died at 88, was a subject of long-running concern at the Vatican congregation that governs religious orders, according to La Voluntad de No Saber – “The Will Not To Know,” published by a Mexico City imprint of Random House international.

    The authors are Alberto Athié, a former priest who directed a Mexican bishops’ charity; José Barba, a retired college professor and former Legion seminarian who filed a 1998 canon law request in Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith tribunal, seeking Maciel’s excommunication; and Fernando M. González, a scholar in Mexico City and the author of a biography of Maciel.

    In late 2004, with Pope John Paul II in failing health, Ratzinger finally ordered an investigation of Maciel. In 2006, Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, banished him from active ministry to a life of prayer and repentance. That stopped short of excommunication as Barba and seven other victims wanted. The Legion continued defending Maciel until 2009 when its leaders abruptly reversed course, revealing that he had sired several out of wedlock children, now grown.
    NCR received a PDF of the book. Grijalbo, the publisher, is posting selected excerpts on a website www.lavoluntaddenosaber.com, the AP reported.

    In the book’s most striking accusation, Barba, who holds a doctorate from Harvard in Latin American studies, writes that in 2001 Cardinal Ratzinger and his chief canon lawyer, Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, modified the statute of limitations in church law regarding sex with minors “retroactively in favor of the Legionary founder, and injuring the human rights and legitimate interests of us, his victims.”

    Bertone subsequently left the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to become Archbishop of Genoa. In that capacity he wrote a glowing preface to the Italian edition of an oral memoir by Maciel in 2003, Christ Is My Life, that denied the accusations still pending from the 1998 case. Bertone became Secretary of State under Benedict in 2006. He has never explained why he promoted Maciel’s sagging reputation as he stood accused in Bertone’s old office.

    Athié, who championed the Maciel victims in correspondence with then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, left the priesthood in disgust at the failure to prosecute Maciel. Athié blames John Paul II for “a moral double standard.”

    The Vatican failure to punish Maciel over many decades was examined by this reporter and Gerald Renner in Vows of Silence (2004). The documents cited by González spotlight harsh internal criticism by investigators of Maciel, from the 1940s through the 1980s, that higher Vatican officials chose to ignore. A turning point came in 1956, when Maciel was hospitalized for abuse of a morphine painkiller. Cardinal Valerio Valeri, prefect of the Sacred Congregaton for Religious [orders] sent Carmelite priests to investigate Maciel of addiction and sexually abusing seminarians. One investigator notes: “I am going to give my personal opinion. It seems to me this is about a split personality.”

    Referring to Maciel’s “double life,” González reveals that two Mexican bishops suggested Maciel was sexually dissolute; but time and again, when the time came for a forceful decision, no one made the hard call.

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    As NCR reported in 2009, Maciel gave $10,000 to Cardinal Clemente Micara, the vicar of Rome, in 1946, a huge sum in a city reeling from aftershocks of World War II. Micara signed the order reinstating him in 1959 after Pius XII’s death.
    In 1962 Maciel got in trouble again, after a brush with Spanish police when he tried to procure drugs; but in another round of internal probing by the religious orders’ congregation, a priest complained of “the most unjust prosecution of the innocent Father Maciel,” a remark that in light of the abundant evidence of his addiction spotlights the tentative, hand-wringing way church officials treated a priest who had built a basilica in Rome and, we now know, doled out money like a potentate from Tammany Hall.

    Gonzalez refers to the "omerta," or code of silence, culture that Maciel created in the Legion. He levels heavy criticism against Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, the canon lawyer in Rome who functions as overseer of the beleaguered Legionaries. De Paolis guided the drafting of a new set of bylaws for the Legion to supplant the discredited constitution, which mandated expulsion for those who did not obey the secret vow never to criticize Maciel or any Legion superior, and to report on those who did.

    De Paolis has stated that a full investigation of Maciel’s past would serve no purpose, a position that draws scorn from González in light of the ongoing investigation of Regnum Christi, the lay group whose members studied Maciel’s writings and fueled the fundraising operation.

    Gonzalez calls De Paolis "complicit" with Legion superiors in concealing the truth about Maciel, as reflected in the secret documents. He further criticizes the cardinal for taking a "vow of charity" toward Maciel's inner circle, who remain in their positions.

    La Voluntad de No Saber is nevertheless a strangely uneven book. The accusations against John Paul II, Ratzinger and Bertone are devastating in the implication of justice suborned. But the pope as supreme arbiter of canon law can do largely what he wishes. The international scandal that has stained Benedict’s papacy stems from an archaic justice system that gives cardinals and bishops a de facto immunity from prosecution.

    The documents in the book, which are being posted to the book’s website, offer a fascinating look at the ambivalent nature of “Vatican investigations.” What the authors fail to do is link those flawed investigations with Maciel’s history of channeling large sums of money to favored Vatican officials, as reported in NCR in 2009.

    The prefect of Congregation for Religious from 1976-1983 was the late Cardinal Eduardo Francisco Pironio, whose apartments in Rome were renovated at Legion expense. González includes documents that confirm the close link between Pironio and Msgr. Stanislaw Dziwisz, the private secretary and gatekeeper to John Paul II. Dziwisz, as reported previously in NCR, regularly received cash gifts as high as $50,000 at a time from Legion intermediaries to place their wealthy supporters in the tiny chapel where John Paul said Mass each morning. “An elegant way of giving a bribe,” is how a Legionary priest described it in those reports.

    González expresses outrage at the way Pironio and Dziwisz arranged for John Paul to approve the Legion constitutions that upheld the notorious vow never to criticize Maciel. The financial favors to Pironio undoubtedly helped. His successor, Cardinal Eduardo Martínez Somalo, ignored the mounting accusations against Maciel in the 1990s. He received a $90,000 gift in the late 1980s, according to a former Legion priest who said he put the envelope with cash in his hand. The cardinal rebuffed my interview requests in 2010.

    [NCR contributor Jason Berry is author of Render unto Rome: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church and producer of a film on Maciel, “Vows of Silence.”]


  4. NSS call for Northern Ireland child abuse investigation

    by: National Secular Society May 7, 2012

    The National Secular Society has called on the Northern Ireland Justice Minister to launch an investigation into child abuse in the Catholic Church.

    The NSS wrote to Justice Minister David Ford following a serious allegation made in the BBC’s This World programme that a church inquiry in 1975 involving Brady, then a priest, was given the names and addresses of children abused by a serial paedophile priest. The programme claimed that this information was then not passed on to the families or the police, allowing the abuse to continue for at least another decade.

    As a number of Catholic dioceses straddle the border, this is an issue that involves Northern Ireland too. In 2011 the NSS wrote to the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland urging him to consider and all Ireland investigation. That request as ignored but the National Secular Society says it now hopes the Justice Minister will take the necessary steps to ensure that individuals within the Catholic Church are not permitted to evade the law which others are expected to follow.

    In a letter to the Justice Minister, the National Secular Society said:

    The Criminal Law Act (NI) 1967 makes clear that it is the duty of anyone aware of a criminal offence having been committed to inform the police. We therefore call on you to investigate whether Cardinal Brady – or anyone else in the church – broke the law by withholding the knowledge of crime from the police in Northern Ireland.

    However, Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) Assistant Chief Constable George Hamilton yesterday said there would be no knee-jerk decision on whether to launch a police investigation.

    Mr Hamilton did however confirm that the offence of withholding information from the police was on the statute in Northern Ireland in 1975 but said it had not yet been established whether the BBC documentary provided prima facie evidence the law had been broken.

    He said officers would “do the right thing” based on where the evidence led them.

    Keith Porteous Wood, Executive Director of the National Secular Society commented: “Brady not feeling any need to resign, or the Church any need to sack or even suspend him, are the actions that speak louder than words. Such a response confirms that the Curia right up to the Pope himself continue to consider the Church to be beyond the law for its officials’ criminal actions, however heinous or widespread.

    “The time has come for Governments and international organisations, including the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and the International Criminal Court, to apply pressure onto the Vatican to release all the incriminating evidence it holds to justice agencies in the relevant countries.

    “We include in this the UK Government, who should have raised this on behalf of the thousands of abuse survivors when Baroness Warsi visited the Vatican earlier this year. Victims of abuse are being are being abused again by the Church in denying them justice.”


  5. Vatican Inquiry Reflects Wider Focus on Legion of Christ

    By ELISABETTA POVOLEDO, New York Times May 11, 2012

    VATICAN CITY — The Legionaries of Christ, a powerful but troubled worldwide religious order whose founder became enmeshed in a sex scandal years ago, said Friday that the Vatican was investigating seven Legion priests over allegations of sexual abuse of minors.

    The investigation cast a new shadow upon an order already struggling to move beyond revelations that its charismatic founder, the Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado, had fathered several children and molested under-age seminarians.

    On Friday, the order said that after looking into “some allegations of gravely immoral acts and more serious offenses” committed by some Legionaries, internal preliminary investigations “concluded that seven had a semblance of truth.” Those cases were forwarded to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican office that handles investigations of sexual abuse, the Legionaries said in a statement.

    The Vatican confirmed that the Congregation was investigating “cases of abuse” carried out by Legionaries but did not address the allegations. The inquiry was first reported by The Associated Press.

    Officials at the order followed the existing canonical procedures and brought these cases, “which for the most part date back decades,” to the attention of Vatican authorities, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said in a statement.

    With nearly 900 priests and 70,000 lay members worldwide, the order was founded by Father Maciel in Mexico in 1941. Over the decades, the charismatic leader, who was a prodigious fund-raiser, built it up into a wealthy and politically influential group, and Pope John Paul II singled out Father Maciel as the model for dynamic priesthood.

    But that legacy crumbled when revelations emerged that Father Maciel had fathered several children, abused seminarians and misappropriated funds. In 2006, Pope Benedict XVI removed Father Maciel from priestly duties and restricted him to a life of prayer and penance. He died two years later.

    In 2010, the pope decided against dissolving the order and instead appointed his own delegate to oversee it and make reforms. The Vatican said at the time that the majority of Legionaries had been unaware of Father Maciel’s double life, “a life devoid of scruple and of genuine religious sentiment.”

    But many critics contend that the order’s leaders must have known of the wrongdoings of Father Maciel, who was born in Mexico and began his religious empire there. A request for an investigation brought to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1998 was quashed a year later by the current pope, who was then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and head of the Congregation. He reopened the inquiry in 2004.

    The Legionaries said Friday that the order examined all accusations — or well-founded suspicions — it received involving its members, even as it reached out to victims and sought to protect the rights of those involved. It also said that in some cases the police had carried out preliminary investigations.

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    Of the seven cases referred to the Congregation at the Vatican, all but one involved sexual abuse dating back decades. One case referred to more recent abuse, the Legionaries said.

    The cases of two other priests accused of other crimes had also been referred to the Congregation.

    The Legionaries also said that civil or canonical investigations had exonerated an unspecified number of priests accused of abuse, but did not elaborate.

    In all cases, the priests accused of wrongdoing have been restricted in their ministries for the duration of the investigation, though this did not constitute an admission of guilt. “The protection of children and of communities is of the utmost importance for the Legion,” the statement said.

    In Mexico, people who said they had been victimized by the order have sought to keep up pressure on the church. During the pope’s visit to Mexico in March, the victims demanded a meeting with the pontiff, and a book was released detailing multiple cases of abuse by Father Maciel.

    “As with everything in the Vatican, it comes many years too late,” Roberto Blancarte, a professor and expert on the Mexican Catholic Church at Colegio de México, said of the latest inquiry.

    Karla Zabludovsky contributed reporting from Mexico City.

    A version of this article appeared in print on May 12, 2012, on page A4 of the New York edition with the headline: Vatican Inquiry Casts New Shadow on Order.


  7. Popular Priest Fathered Child and Says He’ll Step Aside

    By LAURIE GOODSTEIN, New York Times May 15, 2012

    A telegenic American priest, widely known for his media commentary from Rome on popes, prayer and personal morality, has publicly acknowledged having an affair and fathering a child — the latest jolt to hit his scandal-torn religious order, the Legionaries of Christ.

    The priest, the Rev. Thomas D. Williams, apologized in a statement on Tuesday “for this grave transgression” and “to everyone who is hurt by this revelation.” He said he would take a year off from public ministry to reflect on his transgressions and his “commitments as a priest” — a decision he said he made with his superiors.

    Father Williams was the most visible American member of the Legionaries, a powerful and conservative Roman Catholic religious order that has been in turmoil since 2006, when its charismatic founder was banished by the Vatican to a life of prayer and penance.

    The order’s founder, a Mexican priest named Marciel Maciel Degollado, died in 2008 amid revelations that he had sexually abused young seminarians, misappropriated money and fathered several children, some of whom say they were also victims of his sexual abuse. Only last Friday, the Legion acknowledged that seven of its priests are being investigated by the Vatican in connection with the sexual abuse of minors.

    Pope Benedict XVI appointed a delegate in 2010 to oversee the order. Although priests have been abandoning the Legion, it still claims 800 priests and thousands of laypeople in Regnum Christi, an affiliated group.

    The Rev. Luis Garza, the order’s leader in North America, said in a statement to the members: “I know that this will be shocking news to you. In the wake of all that we have been through as a Movement in the past several years, it won’t surprise me if you are disappointed, angry or feel your trust shaken once again.”

    Jim Fair, a spokesman for the Legion, said the order had not paid any financial support to the child or the mother. He added that Father Williams was staying with his parents in Michigan and was recovering from cancer surgery.

    Father Williams said in the statement issued by the Legion that his relationship occurred “a number of years ago.” The Associated Press and The National Catholic Reporter broke the news on Tuesday after learning of allegations made by a Spanish association of Legion victims about multiple sexual improprieties by Father Williams.

    Father Williams, who joined the Legion in 1985, was ordained a priest in 1994, and rose to become superior of the Legion’s general directorate in Rome. He is the author of many books on spirituality, including “Knowing Right From Wrong: A Christian Guide to Conscience,” and “The World as It Could Be: Catholic Social Thought for a New Generation.”

    In recent years, he taught ethics and Catholic social doctrine at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum, a Legion university in Rome, and served as a Vatican analyst for NBC, CBS and Sky News in Britain. During the funeral for Pope John Paul II and the conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI, he was often seen on American television.

    “He was the face of the church at the time of the conclave,” said Susan Gibbs, the spokeswoman at the time for the Archdiocese of Washington and now a media consultant for Catholic organizations. “He really helped people understand how the church worked.”


  8. Legion of Christ head admits sex scandal coverup

    The Associated Press May 22, 2012

    The head of the embattled Legion of Christ religious order admitted Tuesday to covering up news that his most prominent priest had fathered a child and announced a review of all past allegations of sexual abuse against Legion priests amid a growing scandal at the order.

    The Rev. Alvaro Corcuera wrote a letter to all Legion members in which he admitted he knew before he became superior in 2005 that the Rev. Thomas Williams had fathered a child years earlier. He said he had heard rumours of the child even before then when he was rector.

    Corcuera said that after becoming superior in 2005, he confirmed Williams's paternity yet did nothing to prevent him from teaching morality to seminarians or preaching about ethics on television, in his many speaking engagements or his 14 books, including Knowing Right from Wrong: A Christian Guide to Conscience.

    Williams, for example, was the keynote speaker at a Legion-affiliated women's conference last month in the U.S.

    Williams admitted last week he had fathered the child after The Associated Press confronted the Legion with the allegation. In a new statement Tuesday, Williams said he had resisted his superiors' encouragement to keep a low profile after the allegations were known to them.

    "I foolishly thought that I had left this sin in my past, and that I could make up for some of the wrong I had done by doing the greatest good possible with the gifts God has given me. This was an error in judgment, and yet another thing I must ask your forgiveness for," he wrote.

    Williams has not identified the mother or said whether he was supporting the child or in any way involved in the child's life. The Legion has said the child is being cared for.

    Revelations of Williams's child have compounded the scandal at the Legion, which in 2009 admitted that its late founder, the Rev. Marcial Maciel, had sexually abused his seminarians and fathered three children with two women. He died in 2008.

    The scandal is particularly grave given that Maciel was held up as a model for the faithful by Pope John Paul II, who was impressed by the orthodox order's ability to attract money and young men to the priesthood.

    Maciel's double life, and the well-known problems of the cult-like order, have cast a shadow over John Paul's legacy since the Vatican knew of Maciel's crimes as early as 1950, yet he enjoyed the highest Vatican praise and access until he was finally sanctioned in 2006.

    In 2010, the Vatican took over the Legion after determining that the order itself had been contaminated by Maciel's influence and needed to be "purified." The Vatican cited problems of the Legion's culture, in which silence reigned and authority was abused, as being in need of reform, as well as the need for its constitutions to be rewritten and its charism, or essential spirit, to be defined.

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    Following an AP investigation, the Legion on May 11 admitted that seven priests were under Vatican investigation for allegedly sexually abusing minors, an indication that Maciel's crimes were not his alone. Corcuera provided an update Tuesday, saying two of those cases had been dismissed, leaving five abuse-related cases under investigation by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

    Corcuera also revealed that a Legion priest is currently under criminal investigation in the U.S. for alleged sex abuse and that three others had been cleared. Three former Legion priests have been referred to civil authorities, he said.

    In his letter Tuesday, Corcuera announced that the Legion was going to review all past cases of allegations of sexual abuse to ensure that they were handled properly. Victims of Legion priests and critics of the order have said there are many more cases of abusers, many of which have been well-known to the leadership but covered up for decades.

    "Are there other cases waiting to be discovered, more scandals ready to attack your faith and trust? I can never say for sure," Corcuera wrote. "I can, however, tell you that we are following the lead of Pope Benedict XVI in dealing with abuse and sexual misconduct in the Legion."

    Corcuera's letter is unlikely to stem the outrage among the members of the Legion's lay branch Regnum Christi, for whom Williams was a major point of reference in the United States and a top public defender of Maciel when the allegations of his crimes were levelled years ago. Many had forgiven the Legion for its decades of deception concerning Maciel, thinking it was an isolated case. The recent revelations show otherwise. Corcuera said that after confirming in 2005 that Williams had indeed fathered the child, he asked him to start withdrawing from his public work. But only in 2010 did he limit Williams's work as a priest. Williams, however, continued to write books, speak at conventions, author articles and, most significantly, teach morality to seminarians at the Legion's university in Rome.

    He only stopped teaching in February, abruptly, after a Spanish association of victims of the Legion forwarded the allegations against Williams to the Vatican.


  10. Abuses At Legion Of Christ-Run High School, Immaculate Conception Academy In Rhode Island

    by Nicole Winfield, Huffington Post July 9, 2012

    VATICAN CITY — Dozens of women who attended a high school run by the disgraced Legion of Christ religious order have urged the Vatican to close the program, saying the psychological abuse they endured trying to live like teenage nuns led to multiple cases of anorexia, stress-induced migraines, depression and even suicidal thoughts.

    The women sent a letter this weekend to the pope's envoy running the Legion to denounce the manipulation, deception and disrespect they say they suffered at the hands of counselors barely older than themselves at the Rhode Island school. For some, the trauma required years of psychological therapy that cost them tens of thousands of dollars.

    A copy of the letter was provided to The Associated Press by the letter's 77 signatories, a dozen of whom agreed to be interviewed about their personal problems for the sake of warning parents against sending their children to the program's schools in the U.S., Mexico and Spain.

    "I have many defining and traumatic memories that I believe epitomize the systematic breakdown of the person" in the school, Mary told The Associated Press in an email exchange. She developed anorexia after joining in 1998, weighed less than 85 pounds when she left and dropped to 68 pounds before beginning to recover at home. "The feelings of worthlessness, shame and isolation that are associated with those memories are still vivid and shocking."

    Mary, who asked that her last name not be used, blamed her eating disorder on acute loneliness – girls were prevented from making close friends or confiding in their families – and the tremendous pressure she felt as a 16-year-old to perfectly obey the strictest rules dictating how she should walk, sit, pray and eat.

    It's the latest blow to the troubled, cult-like Legion, which was discredited in 2009 when it revealed that its founder was a pedophile and drug addict who fathered three children. The Legion suffered subsequent credibility problems following its recent admission that its most famous priest had fathered a child and the current Legion superior covered it up for years.

    The Legion saga is all the more grave because its late founder, the Rev. Marcial Maciel, had been held up as a living saint by his followers and a model of holiness by Pope John Paul II because of his ability to recruit men and money to the priesthood, even though the Vatican knew for decades that he had sexually abused his seminarians.

    Pope Benedict XVI took over the Mexico-based order in 2010 and appointed envoy Cardinal Velasio De Paolis to oversee a whole-scale reform of the Legion and its lay branch Regnum Christi. But the reform hasn't progressed smoothly, with defections from disillusioned members and criticism that some superiors remain locked in their old ways.

    The all-girl Immaculate Conception Academy, located in Wakefield, Rhode Island opened two decades ago to serve as a feeder program for the Legion's female consecrated branch, where more than 700 women around the world live like nuns making promises of poverty, chastity and obedience, teaching in Legion-run schools and running youth programs.

    Because of dwindling enrollment – 14 seniors graduated last month – the school recently merged with a Legion-run school in Michigan; in Mexico two programs merged into one that produced 10 graduates this year.

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    The school's current director said things have changed dramatically recently and many of the spiritual and psychological abuses corrected. But she acknowledged the harm done, apologized for the women's suffering and asked for forgiveness.

    "For any errors made by our order in the past, we do apologize," said director Margarita Martinez. "We are sorry these young women have suffered and been harmed in any way."

    In an email response to AP, Martinez noted that not all students experienced the same "level of negativity" as those who wrote the letter, and that regardless the movement was listening to everyone's experiences as it undergoes a process of Vatican-mandated reform.

    Megan Coelho, 30, recalled how pairs of consecrated women would visit her regularly as a child in northern California where she was homeschooled; they told her tales of the wonderful high school in Rhode Island where she might find a vocation and grow closer to God. Coelho, who wanted to be a nun, left home when she was 14 to join.

    By junior year, the occasional migraines she had suffered became frequent and debilitating as pressure to conform to the rules and highly structured schedule increased. The migraines would paralyze one side of her body, making her collapse at times. She developed facial tics. Her eyesight became blurry.

    "As sweet as they (her consecrated directors) were I was counseled not to tell my parents about it because then my parents would take me home," she said, referring to the movement's goal of keeping members at almost any cost. "No one contacted my family. Nobody took me to the ER or got me a doctor's appointment."

    Eventually, Coelho got so sick she returned home, and the migraines stopped. Feeling better she returned, only to suffer a migraine her first day back. She left for good six months before graduation.

    Coehlo's story is the first on a blog she and other former pre-candidates, as the girls were known, started this past spring, a seemingly cathartic experience since many had never shared their pain with their onetime classmates. The blog, , is an astonishing read – testimony of a twisted and cruel methodology applied to girls at their most vulnerable age, when even under normal circumstances girls are prone to self-esteem issues, peer pressure and bouts of depression. www.49weeks.blogspot.com

    Instead of finding support from friends and family, these teenagers were isolated from their families 49 weeks a year, told to unquestioningly trust their spiritual directors and confide only in them. Obedience to the minutest of rules, they were taught, reflected their acceptance of God's will.

    They write about their feelings of inadequacy, humiliation and loneliness, and of idolizing their smiling consecrated counselors. They paint the depths of their depression when seemingly overnight they were told they didn't have a vocation and should go home.

    "Looking back, I was suicidal," said Sarita Duffy, now a 28-year-old mother of three in Fort Cambpbell, Kentucky. "I never took a bottle of pills or slit my wrists, but I was fully content with the possibility of never waking up again."

    In a phone interview, Duffy said she equated being rejected by the movement with being rejected by God, and lost her Catholic faith for years as a result. She acknowledged she can't blame the movement for all her problems but said the "zero self-worth" she felt after being rejected precipitated her descent into depression and rebellion.

    "Why do you hate me God? I hate me," Duffy wrote in her journal on June 10, 2002, four years after she entered as a freshman and about a week before she received the final "no" to work in the movement's missionary program.

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    One of the blog entries was written by Lourdes Martinez, a former counselor or formator at the school from 2000-2005. She admitted that she and her consecrated colleagues would classify the girls into potential leaders, "normals" and those who should be sent home. This would enable the directors and counselors under them to manipulate the girls and prey on their vulnerabilities, giving special attention to those they wanted to keep as potential consecrated leaders and devise strategies to get rid of those they wanted to send home, she said.

    Often, information from the weekly reports written about each girl's development would be shared with the priests who heard her confession – a striking violation of privacy. The priests could then reinforce the directors' decisions in confession with the girls, she said.

    "So she's hearing this from everyone and thinks it's the Holy Spirit talking. And we would say `Yes, of course,'" Martinez told the AP in a phone interview from Monterrey, Mexico.

    Martinez described an almost "Lord of the Flies"-like situation in which the counselors were barely older than the girls under their care, with no experience in adolescent development. The counselors themselves lived with the fear that they must obey the rules and their superiors or risk violating God's will.

    Martinez signed the letter to De Paolis because she wanted to show solidarity with those who suffered. But she stressed that she believes the reform will work because she knows and trusts the new leadership and is working with them to improve.

    Not everyone suffered so much, and not everyone has joined the call to close the program; of the 270-odd people on a closed Facebook group that served as the basis for the blog, 77 signed the letter.

    And by many indications, things have changed dramatically for the better at the school, with girls allowed more time with families and much less emphasis on sticking to the rules.

    "People who are going into the pre-candidacy and are starting out will not find the same experience as those people did," said Sasha Jurchak, 25, who left consecrated life in May because she simply decided it wasn't for her – not because of any problem with the program.

    In an interview, she noted that De Paolis has instituted new regulations that forbid consecrating girls as young as 18 after a six-week candidacy program. The new rules require a years-long process of assessment similar to that of traditional religious orders. Recruitment is no longer the primary aim, she said. The girls' mail is no longer screened and they have more free time. Girls can wear shorts and pants for athletic activities instead of long skirts and stockings.

    Margarita Martinez, the school director, said other changes include better reflection from counselors on when to invoke "God's will" in requiring something of the girls.

    She disputed claims that the school failed to provide adequate medical care for sick girls, saying the policy has always been to notify parents and get proper care.

    Asked if Regnum Christi was prepared to provide financial assistance to women who needed psychological counseling when they left, she said each case would need to be considered individually.

    "The reform process has taken time. It has been a learning process for everyone involved. And we still have a long way to go," she wrote. "But I strongly believe we are moving in the right direction, with the Holy Spirit as our guide."

    The letter to De Paolis from alumni said it's too risky to wait and see how it all turns out.

    "Today's girls deserve more than to be guinea pigs during the experimental stages of the reform process which may or may not prove in the end to be authentic," it concluded.

    Regnum Christi is at http://www.regnumchristi.org


  13. Father Benedict Groeschel, American Friar, Claims Teens Seduce Priests In Some Sex Abuse Cases

    By Meredith Bennett-Smith, The Huffington Post August 29, 2012

    In a recent interview with the National Catholic Register, Father Benedict Groeschel, of the conservative Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, said that teens act as seducers in some sexual abuse cases involving priests.

    It's been close to a decade since an investigation into clergy sex abuse cases by The Boston Globe unearthed a shocking scandal and cover-up that rocked the foundations of the Catholic Church in the U.S. and around the world.

    Ten years may have passed, but the wounds have yet to fully heal in America, especially in light of the recent Penn State allegations, as well as the trial of Monsignor William Lynn, former secretary for the clergy in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

    In light of this, the recent comments by Groeschel seem both puzzling and jarringly out of step with current sentiments.

    In an interview with the National Catholic Register posted this week, Groeschel was asked about his work with the very conservative Friars of the Renewal, a breakaway order he founded 25 years ago. The conversation took an interesting turn, however, when the editor asked about the 78-year-old's work with sexual abuse perpetrators.

    "People have this picture in their minds of a person planning to — a psychopath," Groeschel said. "But that’s not the case. Suppose you have a man having a nervous breakdown, and a youngster comes after him. A lot of the cases, the youngster — 14, 16, 18 — is the seducer."

    Pressed for clarification, the New York State-based religious leader explained that kids looking for father figures might be drawn to priests to fill an emotional hole in their lives.

    Furthermore, Groeschel expressed a belief that most of these "relationships" are heterosexual in nature, and that historically sexual relationships between men and boys have not been thought of as crimes.

    "If you go back 10 or 15 years ago with different sexual difficulties — except for rape or violence — it was very rarely brought as a civil crime. Nobody thought of it that way... And I’m inclined to think, on [a priest's] first offense, they should not go to jail because their intention was not committing a crime."

    The fact that the interview was published, without comment, in the National Catholic Register was significant due to the publication's affiliation with disgraced Legion of Christ religious order.

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    In 1995 the legion was part of a group of investors who saved the National Catholic Register from closing. (The Legion later sold the paper, which is now owned by the Eternal World Television Network.)The powerful clerical order was also part of one of the most damaging scandals, involving its one-time leader, the Rev. Marcial Maciel, the highest-profile Catholic clergyman ever to be accused of sexual abuse, according to Time magazine.

    In 2005, the Vatican scrambled to try to minimize the damage done by revelations that the extremely influential Mexican priest had been abusing seminarians for years.

    Groeschel is an influential voice in the American Dioceses and continues to maintain a high-profile in the church, writing several books and appearing weekly on a religious television network.

    The priest received a doctorate in psychology from Columbia University in 1971 and now lives in Larchment, N.Y., where he assists with Trinity Retreat, a center for prayer and study for the clergy he founded.

    Trinity House stirred controversy in 2006 when the press learned that New York priests credibly accused of sexually abusing children, but not legally convicted, had the option of a life-long close supervision program that began with a stay at the retreat. In the wake of community objections, the Archdiocese later removed Trinity House from the list of program's offered facilities, according to the Larchmont Gazette.

    Groeschel is also a professor of pastoral psychology at St. Joseph’s Seminary of the Archdiocese of New York.

    To view the links embedded in this article go to:


  15. US judge rules in favor of Legion of Christ in contested will, but details money tactics

    By Associated Press The Washington Post September 14, 2012

    Vatican City - A U.S. judge has thrown out a lawsuit contesting the will of an elderly widow who gave some $60 million to the Legion of Christ, the disgraced Roman Catholic religious order.

    But Judge Michael Silverstein of Rhode Island Superior Court found evidence that the woman, Gabrielle Mee, had been unduly persuaded to change her trusts and will and give the Legion her money, detailing the process by which the Legion slowly took control of her finances as she became more deeply involved in the movement.

    Pope Benedict XVI took over the Legion in 2010 after a Vatican investigation determined that its founder, the late Rev. Marcial Maciel, had lived a double life: he sexually molested seminarians and fathered three children by two women. The pope ordered a wholesale reform of the order after finding serious problems with its very culture, and named a papal delegate to oversee it.

    The Maciel scandal has been particularly damaging for the church given that the Mexican-born priest was held up by Pope John Paul II as a model for the faithful, admired for his perceived orthodoxy and his ability to bring in money and new seminarians.

    It was that high esteem that attracted Mee, a devout Roman Catholic, to the Legion in the first place, Silverstein wrote in his Sept. 7 order throwing out a lawsuit filed by Mee’s niece contesting the will.

    The niece, Mary Lou Dauray, had alleged that Mee was defrauded by the Legion and unduly influenced by its priests into giving away her fortune. Mee died at age 96 on May 16, 2008. Her late husband was a one-time director of Fleet National Bank.

    Silverstein, however, ruled that Dauray had no standing in the case. Dauray’s attorney, Bernard Jackvony, said his client was considering an appeal.

    Legion spokesman Jim Fair said Friday the order was pleased with the ruling and believed it would prevail if it is appealed.

    “Although the decision states that there are certain factual issues in dispute between the parties, the court did not decide any of those issues; they would only be determined by a trial,” Fair said in a statement. “But since the plaintiff does not have standing, there will be no trial.”

    While siding with the Legion in the case, Silverstein took pains in his 39-page ruling to cite evidence submitted by Dauray’s attorneys that detailed the process by which the Legion wooed Mee, bending the rules to let her become a “consecrated” member of its lay movement, giving her privileged access to Maciel and inviting her on special trips to Rome and Mexico.

    He cited letters from the Legion thanking Mee for her money, emphasizing how her generosity was “pleasing both the Lord and assisting his mission” while also satisfying her late husband’s wishes.

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    Such fundraising tactics have long been a hallmark of the Legion: critics have pointed to the process by which typically good-looking priests would shower wealthy patrons with praise, access and spiritual guidance while persuading them to donate their fortunes.

    “The transfer of millions of dollars’ worth of assets — through will, trust and gifts — from a steadfastly spiritual elderly woman to her trusted but clandestinely dubious religious leaders raises a red flag to this court,” Silverstein wrote.

    Maciel himself, whom Mee considered a living saint, gave her financial advice, and another Legion priest helped her with her estate planning, Silverstein wrote. He detailed how Mee, after she became consecrated, created a Legion-appointed committee to determine distributions from her trust and eventually gave the Legion full control over her finances.

    Silverstein cited the Legion’s own admission that consecrated women, who like nuns make promises of chastity, obedience and poverty, must donate half their assets to the Legion within 15 years and all their assets within 25 years.

    At the same time, the Legion withheld full information from Mee about Maciel’s misdeeds, which first came to light in 1997 with a newspaper article alleging the sexual abuse, Silverstein wrote. By 2006, Legion leaders say they knew of Maciel’s child although they only made that information public in early 2009.
    The Legion claimed in court filings that Mee was told about Maciel’s double life, but Silverstei
    n cited evidence disputing that and noted that she had cut off support to another religious movement as soon as she learned that one of its founders had had sexual relations with another man.

    “Plaintiffs argue, and the court recognizes, that this could reasonably indicate how Mrs. Mee would have acted if she had known of the allegations (or the extent of the allegations) against Father Maciel,” Silverstein wrote.
    The Legion has been facing a serious slump in fundraising following the revelations of Maciel’s double life. Properties have been sold off and schools have been closed as the Legion’s once exponential growth has contracted, with dozens of priests leaving the order and fewer seminarians joining.

    According to testimony cited by the order, the Legion’ $35 million purchase of a property in Thornwood, New York, in 1996 was made possible by guarantees from the Legion and Mee that her trusts would pay the Legion’s $25 million bank loan. The Legion announced in April it was selling the property, where seminarians studied philosophy, to help reduce its debts.


  17. Lawyer pushes to unseal Legion of Christ documents

    by Michelle R. Smith, Boston Globe Associated Press September 24, 2012

    Providence, USA - A Rhode Island Superior Court judge heard arguments Monday on whether to unseal documents in a lawsuit contesting the will of an elderly widow who gave some $60 million to the Legion of Christ, a disgraced Roman Catholic religious order.

    Bernard Jackvony, a lawyer for the niece of the late Gabrielle Mee, argued to Judge Michael Silverstein that it is in the public interest to release the documents, while Joseph Avonzato, a lawyer for the Legion of Christ, said that would compromise the order’s right to a fair trial. The judge didn’t immediately issue a decision.

    Pope Benedict XVI took over the Legion in 2010 after a Vatican investigation determined its founder, the late Rev. Marcial Maciel, had sexually molested seminarians and fathered three children by two women.

    Silverstein this month threw out the lawsuit, saying the niece, Mary Lou Dauray, did not have standing to sue, though he wrote in his decision that Mee had been unduly persuaded to give the Legion her money.

    Jackvony on Monday said information related to the case had an important public interest. He said the Legion has facilities in Rhode Island, has been the target of a petition from women once associated with the order and is being sued in Connecticut by a man who says he is Maciel’s son and was molested by him. He said many facts that were discovered in the course of the lawsuit are still not known by the public.

    ‘‘Those are facts that should be known. Why? Because the Legion is still out there,’’ he said. ‘‘That is information the public needs to protect itself.’’

    But Avonzato said Dauray had once said that she wished to subject the Legion’s actions to the ‘‘disinfecting sunlight of public view.’’

    ‘‘That has ‘taint the jury pool’ written all over it,’’ he told the judge.

    Steven Snow, a lawyer for Bank of America, which is named in one of three lawsuits surrounding Mee’s will, joined in opposing the effort to unseal the documents.

    ‘‘This is a private dispute that happens to be in a public forum,’’ Snow told the judge. ‘‘There is no public interest in this private dispute.’’

    Avonzato argued that the judge’s ruling this month related only to whether Dauray has standing to sue, and so he may only consider whether to release to the public evidence that relates to that issue.

    Jackvony is considering an appeal of the decision to throw out the case.
    Associated Press writer Nicole Winfield contributed to this report from Vatican City.


  18. RI judge orders Legion of Christ papers unsealed

    Wall Street Journal Associated Press January 23, 2013

    Providence, R.I. — A judge on Wednesday ordered the unsealing of documents related to a disgraced Roman Catholic organization called the Legion of Christ as it faces questions about its relationship to wealthy elderly patrons, but the religious order immediately moved to block it.

    Superior Court Judge Michael Silverstein called the public's right to fully scrutinize the documents "paramount."
    The Associated Press, The New York Times, The Providence Journal and the National Catholic Reporter had asked the judge to unseal the documents, which are from a lawsuit filed by a woman contesting the will of a wealthy aunt who left the Legion of Christ $60 million. The media organizations' attorney, Joseph Cavanagh, argued the documents could shed light on the Legion's operations and there was no justification to seal them.

    The Legion, founded in Mexico City in 1941, calls itself a religious congregation of pontifical right and says its mission involves "extending the Kingdom of Christ in society," according to its website. The Vatican took over the Legion in 2010 after determining that its late founder, the Rev. Marcial Maciel, had sexually molested seminarians and fathered three children by two women. The Legion has faced other complaints, including one from someone who claims to be one of Maciel's children.

    The Legion's lawyer, Joseph Avanzato, had argued that the information in the documents ordered unsealed could taint prospective jurors in the case about the wealthy aunt's will and wanted them to remain hidden from public view.
    Shortly after the judge's order, the Legion filed a motion to block the documents' release, Legion spokesman Jim Fair said. The judge is expected to hear arguments on Friday, Fair said.

    "Obviously we don't want the documents released; that has not changed," he said. "We'll see what happens going forward."

    A message was left for Cavanagh.

    The judge, in his ruling, called the Legion's interest in keeping the documents sealed "diminished" because the case isn't likely to go to a jury trial. At the same time, he called the public interest "extremely significant."

    "The public has a great interest in the openness of its courts," he wrote.

    The wealthy aunt, Gabrielle Mee, a widow, died in 2008. Mee's niece Mary Lou Dauray had sought to challenge her will, saying Mee had been defrauded by the Legion into leaving it her fortune. The judge last year threw out the challenge because he determined the niece lacked standing, and her attorney plans to appeal.

    Avanzato, the Legion's lawyer, argued that the media organizations are attempting to intervene in a case that's already settled. He said that should Dauray appeal, however, the documents must be kept under seal to ensure potential jurors approach the case with open minds.

    Dauray's attorney, Bernard Jackvony, also had sought the documents' release. He said the documents, compiled in the course of the lawsuit and sealed by a probate court judge in 2009, contain information about the Legion that isn't known by the public.

    The Legion, which has facilities in Rhode Island, has been the target of a petition from women once associated with it and is being sued in Connecticut by a man who says he's Maciel's son.

    Another Connecticut man also is suing the Legion, alleging it used "predatory" means to persuade his ailing father to hand over hundreds of thousands of dollars. The Legion has denied the allegations in that lawsuit and said it doesn't pressure anyone to make a contribution.


  19. Legion of Christs deception, unearthed in new documents, indicates wider cover-up

    By Jason Berry National Catholic Reporter, February 18, 2013

    Newly released documents in a Rhode Island lawsuit show that the scandal-tarred Legion of Christ shielded information on their founder's sex life from a wealthy widow who donated $30 million over two decades.

    In 2009, the widow's niece, Mary Lou Dauray, sued the Legion and the bank that facilitated key transactions, alleging fraud. At Dauray's request, backed by a motion from NCR and three other media outlets, Superior Court Judge Michael Silverstein revoked a protective order the Legionaries had secured and released discovery findings Friday.

    The thousands of pages of testimony, financial and religious records open a rare view into the Legion culture shaped by its Mexican-born founder, Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado.

    Maciel built a power base in Rome as the greatest fundraiser of the modern church. He won the undying support of Pope John Paul II, who called him an "efficacious guide to youth" and praised Maciel in lavish ceremonies even after a 1998 canon law case at the Vatican in which the cleric was accused of sexually abusing Legion seminarians.

    The Vatican is not a defendant in Rhode Island, but decisions by John Paul and Pope Benedict XVI permeate a larger story rising from the files.

    A key strand in the new material aligns with an admission by Cardinal Franc Rodé, who told NCR and Global Post in a recent interview that "in late 2004 or early 2005" he saw a videotape of Maciel "with a mother and child represented as his." A Legionary, whom Rodé did not identify, showed him a tape of Maciel with a girl identified as his daughter.

    The cardinal did not confront Maciel about paternity, but says he told a Vatican canon lawyer who was under orders from Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, then head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to investigate the pedophilia accusations. On that front, Ratzinger, as Pope Benedict, dismissed Maciel from ministry in May 2006, but the Vatican communiqué did not specify why or acknowledge the victims. Those explanations only came in 2010, after a Vatican investigation of the Legion prompted by news reports of the order's disclosure that Maciel had a daughter, a fact the Vatican had known since 2005.

    Two sons by a second woman, with whom Maciel had a longstanding relationship, came forward later.

    The Rhode Island documents, coming less than a week after Benedict announced his resignation from the papacy, add another chapter to the scandals that apparently were on his mind when, in his final public Mass as pope, he spoke of the face of the church that "is, at times, disfigured."

    Fluent in French, Gabrielle Mee was conservative and refined; she felt she had found a spiritual home with the ultra-orthodox Legionaries for her twilight years. She became a consecrated woman in the order's lay group, Regnum Christi, living in a religious home while steadily ceding her enormous wealth to the Legion by giving power of attorney to Fr. Anthony Bannon, an Irish-born Legionary who divided his time between Connecticut and Rhode Island.

    Like everyone else in the order's closed environment, Mee was taught that Nuestro Padre, as Maciel was called, had his enemies, but that he was a living saint for his leadership as an evangelist, drawing the church back from liberal abuses of the Second Vatican Council and attracting young men to a strict religious life. That was the Legion message.

    By all accounts, she believed that message until her death at 96 in May 2008, just four months after Maciel's funeral in Mexico. She never knew Maciel had sired three children, two of whom, as previously reported in NCR, he secreted into private papal Masses celebrated by an apparently clueless John Paul.

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  20. At his death, the Legion website announced that Maciel had gone to heaven. Yet at that very time, Fr. Luis Garza and other top Legionaries were scrambling to decide how, and when, to reveal that Maciel had a grown daughter -- a fact the Vatican had known for three years.

    Mee had long embraced the Legion's public campaign against nine men who in 1997 accused Maciel of abusing them as seminarians. This is referenced in a bank document.

    Mee's husband, Timothy, was on the board of trustees of Fleet Bank. By the time he died in 1985, he had established a charitable trust in his name and a separate trust for Gabrielle. Three years later, she gave her first donation of $1 million to the Legion after her close friend Marguerite Garrahy, a former first lady of Rhode Island, spoke favorably of the Legion. Mee and Garrahy attended daily Mass together.

    Bannon immediately notified Maciel in Rome of the million-dollar gift. But, he insisted in a deposition, "I did not control her checkbook."

    Maciel made a practice in Mexico of cultivating wealthy widows and the wives of wealthy men. The Legion prep schools catered to affluent families, recruiting parents to Regnum Christi. The schools fed young men into the Legion. Bannon, referring to Mee, also testified on how Regnum Christi and Legion members donate their own assets to the order:

    She would assign the management of those assets to somebody she trusts, and then before taking her final commitment would decide what is to be done with those assets. When there are assets that come as an inheritance, the same. ... It's my belief in the premise, and the way I've always acted is a person's assets is something God has given to him through family or through their own good work, and they are the owners and managers of that, and it's up to them to see what God wants them to do with the money.

    I always speak to them about the needs that we have, but always respect their decision.

    Troubles emerge

    A bank memo suggests Bannon acted with greater self-interest when the order was threatened.

    On Feb. 23, 1997, Gerald Renner and this writer published an investigative report in the Hartford Courant detailing a long history of sexual abuse by Maciel based on lengthy on-the-record accounts by nine former seminarians or ex-Legion priests. Maciel refused to be interviewed but claimed innocence. The Vatican refused any comment.

    The Legion at the time had several major accounts with Fleet Bank and a mortgage on a former IBM complex in Thornwood, N.Y. It had plans to establish a college that involved zoning issues that were drawing strong resistance from Westchester County residents. The Legion purchased the property for $33 million in January 1997 with major help from Mee and carried a mortgage balance at the time of almost $25 million.

    Prior to the Courant publication, the Legion sent affidavits of Maciel supporters to the newspaper, purporting to show Maciel's innocence in the face of a conspiratorial effort by the men to defame him.

    Meanwhile, Garza, the order's vicar general, traveled to Legion houses in several countries to warn of the forthcoming article, claiming it would be based on lies and telling Legionaries and Regnum Christi members not to read the report should they see a copy.

    Legionaries took a special vow never to criticize the founder, or superiors, and to report on anyone who did. This "special vow" -- which Benedict abolished many years later -- protected Maciel from criticism and rewarded spying as an act of faith.

    In this environment, five days after the article was published, Bannon and another Legionary met with two Fleet officials at the bank. A summary memo from a bank official explains:

    We discussed the Legion's public relations strategy and we will all follow any further developments in the news media.

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  21. We determined the most effective way to measure the health of the Legion's fundraising stream and cash flow on a real time basis was to monitor monthly cash flows to determine whether there has been any fall-off in revenues.

    The memo states that Bannon asked Fleet to write a letter to the Courant "to complain about the story." The bank never did.

    The memo continues:

    In terms of additional credit concerns the Legion was concerned about the impact of the surprise on Fleet. Father Bannon offered to pledge the cash flow stream from the Mee trust funds in order to provide additional security in this uncertain period. I thanked him, but communicated that it would be a significant conflict of interest if we were to seek a perfected security interest in the Mee funds because we are also a trustee [for Gabrielle Mee and for the Timothy Mee Charitable Trust].

    "There is no evidence that Mrs. Mee knew of the detailed allegations against Maciel nor the existence of the Hartford Courant article," plaintiff attorney Bernard Jackvony told NCR. "Rather, it shows that she was in the dark."

    Regnum Christi posted a notice in its residences saying that Nuestro Padre was under attack in a false article. But that, it appears, is the extent of what Mee knew.

    "She was totally unaware that the Legion was using her wealth as a negotiating tool with the bank," Jackvony said. "It shows how the Legion at that point essentially treated her money as theirs. They took such liberties with her funds without her even knowing, and treating [it] like they were entitled to it."

    In 2001, Bannon obtained sweeping power of attorney, drafted by the Legion's lawyers, for Mee's affairs. The Legion sued Fleet to obtain greater access to the combined Mee funds, with Gabrielle testifying for the Legion. The two sides settled out of court. Fleet later merged with Bank of America. Because of the 2001 agreement, Dauray's lawsuit includes the bank as a defendant with the Legion on allegations of fraud.

    Just how many Legionaries knew of Maciel's secret life -- or how Maciel funded it through the coffers of a religious charity -- is unclear from an initial review of the documents. But Maciel was drawing $20,000 a month from the Legion in his later years, according to the transcript of a speech by Garza, the longtime vicar general, to a Regnum Christi group in Monterrey, Mexico, after the Legion divulged existence of the daughter in 2009.

    Garza's speech was not evidence in the lawsuit, nor was he questioned about it. A Legion spokesman told NCR he could not respond to questions.

    Garza's testimony is a pivotal part of the legal action. As vicar general, he was Maciel's second in command and "responsible for overseeing key areas of logistical governance," according a Regnum Christi profile, "involving constant analysis of numbers and personnel, structures and organizations, risks and opportunities."

    Garza grew up with five siblings in Monterrey, a scion of one of Latin America's wealthiest families, often compared to the Rockefellers.

    Maciel cultivated the Garza family for years, ingratiating himself with the parents. Three of the siblings became immersed in Regnum Christi; the other half reacted against Maciel's tactics.

    "Our family is hopelessly split to this day," said Roberta Garza, the youngest sibling. "One of my aunts gave Maciel a house."

    A 1978 graduate of Stanford with a degree in engineering, Luis Garza joined the Legion after a period in Regnum Christi. The family made huge donations over the years, with Luis reported by one former Legionary as donating several million of his own. He earned a canon law degree from the Jesuits' Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. Maciel named him vicar general as a sign of his rising authority.

    In 1989, Mee went to Rome and met with Maciel to see the progress of the Legion seminary being built with her generous help.

    continued in next comment...

  22. Jackvony, a former Republican lieutenant governor of Rhode Island, asked Garza in deposition: "Were you aware of a gift [Mee] made to the Legion in 1989 of a million dollars?"

    "No, I was not aware."

    "Did you ever become aware of that in your official duties?"


    "Did you become aware of it later?"

    "I don't remember."

    Jackvony bore down: "In 2002, there were a total of four million dollars in gifts, including a condominium in Narragansett?"

    "The only thing I know about this is it's a condominium."

    "In 2003," Jackvony continued, "there were gifts totaling about $3,600,000. Are you aware of any of those gifts?"


    In contrast, Fr. Stephen Fichter, chief financial officer for the Legion in the late 1990s, gave often detailed answers despite 11 years' distance. Fichter left the order in 2000, uneasy with the internal rigidity, yet believing then Maciel was innocent of the seminarians' accusations. In 1997, before the Hartford Courant investigation profiled nine ex-Legionaries recounting how Maciel abused them as boys, Garza had traveled to Legion houses in three continents, telling Legionaries and Regnum Christi members that certain accusations soon to be published were lies and none of them should read the media account if they came across it. Computer access was tightly limited in those years.

    Fichter joined the Newark, N.J., archdiocese and earned a doctorate in sociology. He divides his time as a New Jersey pastor and in a research position at Georgetown University's Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate in Washington.

    "While I firmly believe that God can write straight with crooked lines, and that he brought some good into my personal life through the Legion," Fichter testified, "I personally feel deceived, defrauded, lied to" by the scope of information on Maciel that surfaced by 2011.

    Fichter recalled reviewing Gabrielle Mee's bank investment files in Rome and storing her donation records "in paper form in some filing cabinet."

    Maciel drew money in a manner "totally inconsistent" with ordinary Legionaries. "I would always have to give him $10,000 in cash; 5,000 in American dollars and 5,000 equivalent in currency to the country he was traveling," Fichter said. "I do not know what he used that money for. He never gave an accounting of that money."

    "Rhode Island's attorney general [Peter Kilmartin] has the right to intervene in our case because it involves a charitable trust," Jackvony said. "The fraud by Maciel and the Legion of Christ demonstrated in these documents also deserves immediate attention to determine whether laws against financial abuse of the elderly have been violated."

    Maciel hid his pathological sex life behind a wall of wealth and an image of militant orthodoxy, charming John Paul II. He capitalized on footage of a beaming pope, celebrating Maciel and his cheering Legionaries at a public audience. A 30-person fundraising office at the Legion's U.S. headquarters in Cheshire, Conn., marketed cassettes of the event as a pivotal item in the Legion fundraising. A scene of John Paul embracing Maciel at the altar dramatized his standing for wealthy benefactors, like Mee.

    By 2004, the Legion had a $650 million budget and $1 billion in assets for the prep schools, seminaries and universities in Latin America, Europe and North America. In 2005, with John Paul's death, Ratzinger broke with the pope's resistance to prosecuting Maciel and ordered Vatican canon lawyer Msgr. Charles Scicluna to investigate. Scicluna worked at Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which is housed in the majestic palazzo called the Holy Office where Galileo was convicted of heresy. The upper floors house certain Roman Curia officials, including Rodé, 78, now retired as the prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

  23. A secret safe

    In 2004, Rodé became prefect of the congregation that governs religious orders. His predecessor, Cardinal Eduardo Martínez Somalo, took a $90,000 gift from Maciel, according to the priest who carried the envelope. Martínez Somalo refused interview requests.

    Rodé said he took no cash gifts from the Legion.

    "I esteem the charism of the Legionaries," Rodé told NCR in a Nov. 29 interview at his apartment at the Vatican. He saw young men of rock-solid orthodoxy, their numbers rising in Latin America as vocations sank in Europe and North America. Rodé gave celebratory speeches for the Legion in Brazil and Chile and praised the founder after Maciel's ouster.

    Asked whether that was a mistake, he couched his answer in the context of papal loyalty. "It is difficult to say it was a mistake by the pope," he said, referencing John Paul's praise of Maciel long after the 1998 case filed in the doctrinal congregation. "I don't know. I wasn't there" to know what John Paul knew, or would not consider, about Maciel.

    Rodé defends the Legionaries as a phenomenon apart from Maciel, a position Benedict took in the Vatican takeover to reform the order.

    A former Legion priest, speaking on background, said he met with Rodé after Maciel's death and the cardinal told him of a VHS he had seen when Maciel was superior general of Maciel and his young daughter.

    Asked about this, Rodé gave a somber nod, saying it was "late 2004, or early 2005." The Legionary who showed it wanted him to have the information before the order's election for superior general, the position Maciel held for decades. Rodé says he persuaded the 84-year-old Maciel, by then under investigation, to step down. Maciel was re-elected and then retired.

    What did Rodé do about the videotape showing Maciel's daughter?

    "I told Msgr. Scicluna all about the problem," the cardinal said.

    Scicluna reported directly to Ratzinger.

    As the prefect over religious orders, why did Rodé not punish Maciel?

    "It was not for me to pronounce the penalty," he said. "But he was, in the end, corrected" -- by Benedict's 2006 Vatican order sending Maciel to a "life of prayer and penitence."

    Did the cardinal confront Maciel about his child?

    "It was not my obligation."

    Why not?

    "I was not his confessor." Rodé paused. "It was my obligation as prefect for religious to get him to step down, and I did."

    The cardinal's interview lends validity to another dimension of Garza's testimony: his mounting suspicions about Maciel having a child and what it took for him to confirm it. This occurred almost two years after another Legionary showed Rodé the videotape.

    By 2005, Maciel was showing "basic evidence of dementia, like forgetting things, repeating things in a conversation," Garza stated in his Rhode Island testimony.

    After he stepped down as superior general, Maciel left Rome and began traveling. He spent time that spring in his birthplace, Cotija de la Paz, Mexico, where the Legion has a religious house. Photographs of a reunion with his former paramour, Norma Hilda Baños, and their daughter, Normita, 23, later appeared in a Mexican gossip magazine.

    Maciel's final months

    Yet even as he battled dementia, Maciel was a domineering figure. Who oversees an ex-superior general long revered as a living saint? But the Legion high command worried about Scicluna's investigation as well as Maciel's stability following a visit he made to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Garza's testimony reveals his concern that Maciel, in a slow mental decline, was still traveling whenever and wherever he pleased. After the visit to Mayo Clinic, Maciel in the spring of 2006 checked into Sawgrass, a five-star hotel in Jacksonville, Fla. The Legion, as always, paid his expenses. The evidence suggests he was in Jacksonville that May when the Vatican announced his dismissal to "a life of prayer and penitence."

  24. There is no indication from the lawsuit that Garza, born 1958, had knowledge of Maciel abusing seminarians a generation before. The Legion's counterattack on the original accusers insisted that those men in their late 50s from Mexico and Spain hatched a conspiracy to bring Nuestro Padre down. The motives were never explained, but Maciel's charismatic personality and the many financial gifts he dispensed to curial officials and others over many years were among the reasons a chorus of defenders spoke out in the late 1990s. Among those who echoed John Paul's admiration for Maciel were Fr. Richard John Neuhaus; William Bennett; George Weigel, a biographer of John Paul II; and Harvard Law professor Mary Ann Glendon, who later became the U.S. ambassador to the Vatican.

    The Vatican order of dismissal threw Garza into an awkward situation. The Legion's response contained contradictory elements. The order proclaimed its loyalty to Benedict while comparing Maciel to Christ as falsely accused, facing his new life with "tranquility of conscience." In this bizarre fandango of language -- the Vatican ordering Maciel into penitential life while praising the Legion, and the Legion comparing their founder to Christ -- Maciel was running up charges in a Florida luxury hotel.

    And so the Legion bought a house in a Jacksonville gated complex and installed several priests to live with Nuestro Padre.

    "And what was the purpose of them being there?" Jackvony asked in the deposition.

    Garza replied, "To create a community."

    "Why?" Jackvony asked.

    "For Father Maciel to live a life of penance and absence from public ministry," Garza said.

    Yet even with his new home, Maciel pined for Rome. He flew back in September 2006, hoping to attend the canonization ceremony of one of his uncles, a bishop in Mexico. The timing of Benedict's dismissal order was undoubtedly tied to that canonization. Vatican officials did not want a beaming Maciel at the ceremony knowing, as one official later told NCR, that he had molested "more than 20 but less than 100" victims.

    Garza does not specify how they persuaded Maciel that he could not attend the canonization, but he returned to Jacksonville.

    Garza by then was suspicious of Normita, 23, and her mother, Norma Hilda Baños, in her late 40s, who had been at the Sawgrass Hotel and were spending time with Maciel in his life of penance at the Legion house with the pool.

    Among the group at the house was Javier Maciel, Nuestro Padre's brother. The priests and Javier, Garza testified, "knew the women" but would not say who they were. As Garza's suspicions grew, he stayed at a less-expensive hotel on his trips to Jacksonville, not at the "community" in the newly purchased house. In October 2006, Garza asked Norma "if the girl was the daughter of Father Maciel," he testified. "She confirmed that."

    continued in next comment...

  25. Garza tracked down her birth certificate and determined that Normita had studied at a Legion college in Mexico.

    Garza was, like all Legionaries, beholden to the "private vows" never to speak ill of Maciel or superiors, never to seek higher office in the Legion, and to report to the superiors any criticism overheard about the founder. Maciel had imposed the vows to safeguard his sexual secrets. Benedict would later order the vows abolished. But at that time, Garza had only one person in whom to confide: the new superior general, Fr. Alvaro Corcuera.

    By early 2007 the Legion was in an existential drama with the Vatican. Maciel was gone, sort of. Corcuera and Garza, who had long defended him of the pedophilia accusations, faced a huge internal issue: how to tell Legionaries, Regnum Christi members and the donor base about Maciel's shadow family.

    Garza was also concerned about the impact on the women. Normita, he testified, said "she had this father that was very caring for her but in many instances very absent." Norma supported herself by "property that she leases," raising further questions of fraud in the legal action. How did she gain title to rental real estate when she apparently did not work?

    Maciel met Norma in Acapulco, Mexico, in 1980. Normita was born three years later. In 1997, he moved them to Madrid, providing support in an upscale apartment, according to Spanish reports.

    Through the year 2007, Maciel's paternity stayed hidden. The Vatican made no disclosure, nor did the Legion. How much each side knew about the other is not clear from the available evidence.

    Maciel's dementia was getting worse by the end of that year, according to Garza's testimony. He sank into his final illness in late January 2008. According to a report in Madrid's El Mundo, as Norma and Normita joined the priests closest to Maciel in the Jacksonville house, Corcuera, his successor as superior general, tried to anoint him, to which he reportedly yelled, "I said no!"

    The body went back to Cotija de la Paz for burial in a family tomb. The Legion announced that he had gone to heaven. Garza and Corcuera were trying to decide how to reveal the truth as Vatican officials looked on.

    Gabrielle Mee died four months later in Rhode Island.

    In July 2008, the Legion's American communications director, Jim Fair, traveled to Rome to discuss ongoing media strategy. Fair gave a deposition in the litigation too. In the Rome meeting, he stated, Corcuera revealed that Maciel had a daughter: They had to prepare for news coverage when it was disclosed. "We were very emotional in our response to this," Fair testified. "I think the only question any of us asked is, are you sure, and [Corcuera] said yeah."

    continued in next comment...

  26. In a telephone interview with NCR on Sunday, Fair said no Vatican official attended the meeting, nor did they discuss Vatican involvement.

    Why did the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which had investigated Maciel and then the Legion, not release the information or prod the Legion to do so when Benedict dismissed Maciel in 2006?

    Why did the Vatican sit on the information all those years?

    José Barba, the retired Mexico City college professor who filed the 1998 recourse against Maciel in the doctrinal congregation tribunal, argues that the paramount issue for Benedict was protecting John Paul II's reputation.

    "Ratzinger wanted to elevate John Paul to beatification," said Barba, coauthor of La Voluntad de No Saber ("The Will Not to Know"), an analysis of Vatican documents on Maciel. The book's publication last March and Benedict's refusal to meet with Maciel victims on a trip to Mexico ignited an onslaught of bad press for the pope. Benedict had to reckon with the embarrassment of John Paul's praise of Maciel after the 1998 case, in essence scoffing at allegations against one of the most notorious sexual criminals in church history. By keeping a lid on Maciel's secret life, Barba said, Benedict hoped "to defend the sainthood case against the accusations that John Paul protected predators."

    More in this series:

    Deposition shows Legion of Christ benefactor was dedicated to order, by Joshua J. McElwee http://ncronline.org/node/45466

    Woman brought lawsuit against Legion of Christ on behalf of aunt, by Brian Roewe

    Banker served as Legion of Christ benefactor's insulator, facilitator, by Tom Gallagher

    [Jason Berry, author of Render Unto Rome: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church, is a longtime NCR contributor on a joint assignment with GlobalPost for its new religion blog, Belief. Support for this report came from the Knight Grant for Reporting on Religion and American Public Life, sponsored by the Knight Program at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism; the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting; and the Investigative Fund of the Nation Institute. Additional reporting from Rome is part of a joint project by Berry for NCR and GlobalPost.]


  27. Vatican to announce John Paul II miracle

    The Vatican has secretly attributed a mystery miracle to the late John Paul II, clearing the way for him to be declared a saint.

    By Nick Squires, The Telegraph UK Rome June 19, 2013

    The Holy See has yet to reveal what the miracle was or where and when it took place but Vatican sources said it would “amaze the world”.

    It concerns the “extraordinary healing” of a Costa Rican woman who was cured of a severe brain injury after her family began praying to the memory of the late Polish pope, according to reports in the Italian media.

    Details of the miracle are likely to be announced at the end of this month or at the beginning of July, a Vatican insider told The Daily Telegraph.

    John Paul II was beatified — the first step towards sainthood — in a lavish outdoor ceremony in St Peter’s Square in May 2011.

    The second miracle — which is required in order for him to be given full sainthood — reportedly occurred on the very day of his beatification.

    t has reportedly been recognised by theologians from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints, which is in charge of examining the “dossiers” of candidates for sainthoods.

    It now has to be signed off by a commission of cardinals and bishops, which is expected to happen within the next few weeks.

    John Paul’s first attributed miracle was the apparent healing of a French nun, Sister Marie Simon-Pierre.

    Her recovery from Parkinson’s disease after praying for the late pope’s “intercession” had no medical explanation, the Catholic Church maintains.

    The Polish pontiff is likely to be formally made a saint in the autumn — either on Oct 20 or Nov 24.

    The canonisation ceremony is likely to be attended by hundreds of thousands of Catholic faithful and will be presided over by Pope Francis, who was elected in March.

    “The canonisation of Karol Wojtyla will be the crowning glory of the recent history of Catholicism, linking the last three pontificates,” Saverio Gaeta, who wrote a biography of John Paul II, told La Stampa newspaper.


  28. John Paul II Cleared For Sainthood By Pope Francis

    By NICOLE WINFIELD, Huffington Post July 5, 2013

    VATICAN CITY -- Pope Francis on Friday cleared two of the 20th century's most influential popes to become saints, approving a miracle needed to canonize Pope John Paul II and waiving Vatican rules to honor Pope John XXIII.

    In a major demonstration of his papal authority, Francis decided that John XXIII could be declared a saint even though the Vatican hasn't confirmed a second miracle attributed to his intercession. The Vatican said Francis had the power to dispense with such requirements and proceed with only one confirmed miracle to his name.

    The ceremony is expected before the end of the year. The date of Dec. 8 has been floated as one possibility, given it's the feast of the Immaculate Conception, a major feast day for the church. Polish prelates continue to press for October, to mark the 35th anniversary of the Polish-born John Paul's election, but Vatican officials have suggested that's too soon to organize such a massive event.

    The announcement came on a remarkable day melding papacies past and present: It opened with Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI attending their first Vatican ceremony together, sitting side-by-side on matching papal chairs for the unveiling of a statue in the Vatican gardens. It continued with the publication of Francis' first encyclical, a meditation on faith that was largely written by Benedict before he retired. And it climaxed with Francis' decision to canonize two other predecessors.

    Each event, historic on its own, would have captured headlines. But the canonization announcement capped them all, reflecting the priorities of this unique pontificate that has already broken so many rules, from Francis' decision to shun papal vestments to his housing arrangements, living in the Vatican hotel rather than the stuffy Apostolic Palace.

    To anyone who has been paying attention, Francis' decision to canonize John Paul and John XXIII should come as no surprise: The Jesuit was made a cardinal by John Paul and is very much a pope of the Second Vatican Council, the ground-breaking church meetings that brought the Catholic Church into the modern world. John XXIII opened Vatican II a year before his death in 1963.

    "Two different popes, very important to the church, will be announced saint together - it's a beautiful gesture," said the Rev. Jozef Kloch, spokesman for Poland's Catholic bishops, who like most Poles was overjoyed by the news of John Paul's impending canonization but impatient to know the date.

    Francis will set the date at an upcoming meeting of cardinals.

    The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, confirmed that the miracle that brought John Paul to the ranks of saints concerned a Costa Rican woman.

    The Spanish newspaper La Razon has identified her as Floribeth Mora, and said she suffered from a cerebral aneurism that was inexplicably cured on May 1, 2011 – the date of John Paul's beatification, when 1.5 million people filled St. Peter's Square to honor the beloved Polish pontiff.

    continued below

  29. La Razon reported last month that Mora awoke with debilitating head pain on April 8, 2011 and went to the hospital, where her condition worsened to the point that she was sent home with only a month to live.

    Her family prayed to John Paul, and the aneurism disappeared.

    La Razon quoted her doctor, Dr. Alejandro Vargas, as saying: "It surprised me a lot that the aneurism disappeared, I can't explain it based on science."

    The Associated Press traveled to Mora's home in Costa Rica this week, but was told that she was bound by secrecy and couldn't discuss her case. With the miracle now approved by Francis, she planned to tell her story Friday at a press conference organized by the Costa Rican church. Outside her home is a colorful shrine to John Paul, with a photo of the late pope next to a statue of the Madonna and surrounded by flowers, candles and Christmas lights.

    John Paul, who was pope from 1978-2005, revolutionized the papacy, traveling the world and inspiring a generation of young Catholics to be excited about their faith. He was the first Polish pope and the first non-Italian in 455 years – a legacy that continued with the German-born Benedict XVI and Argentine Francis.

    On the anniversary of John Paul's death this year, Francis prayed at the tombs of both John Paul and John XXIII – an indication that he sees a great personal and spiritual continuity in them.

    Benedict spent much of his pontificate trying to correct what he considered wrong interpretations of Vatican II, insisting it wasn't the break from the past that liberals believed. The council opened the church to people of other faiths and allowed for Mass to be celebrated in the languages of the faithful, rather than Latin.

    While not disagreeing outright with Benedict, Francis seems to take a more progressive read of Vatican II and its call to go out into the world and spread the faith – a priority he has shown in the first months of his pontificate.

    The two popes, however, clearly get along.

    "Your holiness, good day and thank you!" Francis beamed on Friday as he greeted Benedict in the Vatican gardens for the unveiling of the statue. Benedict, 86, appeared in good form, walking slowly but on his own and greeting well-wishers.

    The Vatican's complicated saint-making procedure requires that the Vatican certify a "miracle" was performed through the intercession of the candidate – a medically inexplicable cure that is lasting, immediate and can be directly linked to the prayers offered by the faithful. One miracle is needed for beatification, a second for canonization.

    Benedict put John Paul on the fast track for possible sainthood when he dispensed with the traditional five-year waiting period and allowed the beatification process to begin weeks after his John Paul's death. Benedict was responding to chants of "Santo Subito!" or "Sainthood Immediately" which erupted during John Paul's funeral.

    continued below

  30. There has been some concern that the process has been too quick. Some of the Holy See's deep-seated problems – clerical sex abuse, dysfunctional governance and more recently the financial scandals at the Vatican bank – essentially date from shortcomings of his pontificate.

    Thus the decision to canonize John Paul along with John XXIII can be seen as trying to balance those concerns, as well as the shortcomings of each pope.

    Such was the case in 2000, when John Paul beatified John XXIII, dubbed the "good pope," alongside Pope Pius IX, who was criticized by Jews for condoning the seizure of a Jewish boy and allegedly referring to Jews as dogs.

    As soon as the announcement was made, John Paul's critics came out: Juan Vaca, one of the victims of notorious pedophile priest the Rev. Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legion of Christ religious order, said the decision to canonize John Paul was "appalling and shocking" given the thousands of victims of sex abuse who were ignored under his 27-year pontificate.

    The Vatican has argued that sainthood cases are based on the record of the person, not the pontificate.

    The Rev. James Martin, a Catholic author, said the joint announcement could be seen as a clever move on Francis' part to cover his political bases, but that regardless millions of Catholics would rejoice.

    "The two popes are seen to appeal to different types of Catholics, and so this announcement will serve to unite these groups," he wrote on the website of the Jesuit magazine America.

    Asked how John XXIII, elected in 1958, could be canonized without a second miracle, the Vatican spokesman insisted that many theologians believe that a second miracle isn't required. He said Francis had approved a decision by the cardinals and bishops of the Vatican's saint-making office.

    "Certainly the pope has the power, in a certain sense, to dispense of the second miracle in a cause, and this is what happened," Lombardi said.

    He stressed that this decision didn't represent any relaxing of the Vatican's overall standards for canonization, but represented a unique situation, given that the church this year is marking the 50th anniversary of Vatican II.

    "John XXIII is someone who we know is beloved in the church, we're in the 50th anniversary of the Council which he started, and I don't think any of us have any doubts about his virtues," Lombardi said.

    In Poland, the reaction was overjoyed, as expected.

    Rev. Kazimierz Sowa, the head of Religion TV channel, said on TVN that Poles are expected to flood to Rome for the ceremony.

    "John Paul II was extremely popular during his lifetime and he still continues to inspire people," Sowa said. But he insisted that an October date was preferable, to accommodate the throngs expected at the outdoor ceremony.

    "In their interest, I think we should expect the canonization in the fall," he said.


  31. Argentine Priest Jailed for Sex Abuse

    An Argentine priest who was once defended by Pope Francis against sex-abuse allegations has been ordered to prison to complete a 15-year sentence for sexually abusing an adolescent boy at a youth center over a decade ago.

    By Shane Romig
    Wall Street Journal
    September 24, 2013

    Buenos Aires—An Argentine priest who was once defended by Pope Francis against sex-abuse allegations has been ordered to prison to complete a 15-year sentence for sexually abusing an adolescent boy at a youth center over a decade ago.

    Rev. Julio Grassi, a well-known priest who ran a shelter for troubled youth, was ordered to jail by a Buenos Aires provincial court late Monday, days after the priest lost his appeal to the province's high court. Father Grassi was convicted of aggravated sexual abuse in 2009, but had been allowed to stay in his house across the road from the center while he appealed the case.

    Father Grassi said he would again appeal the case to the country's Supreme Court. I don't "have a trace of pedophilia," he told judges before they ordered him taken to the Ituzaingó prison.

    Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi declined to comment.

    The case is the most prominent abuse case in the pontiff's native land. Father Grassi was a high-profile figure in Buenos Aires during the 1990s and 2000's, running the Fundación Felices los Niños, or Happy Are The Children Foundation. He was frequently seen on television and rubbing elbow with celebrities, politicians and businessmen as he sought backing for the foundation.

    That lifestyle ended in 2002 when local news program Telenoche Investiga aired a segment in which several youths said they had been abused by the priest.

    Accusations from two of those boys were later dismissed, but four years ago he was convicted of sexual assault of a 13-year old boy, among the initial group that was under his care in 1996.

    In 2002, the priest said the charges were trumped up by disgruntled former employees of the foundation and accused the minor of extortion, and has maintained his innocence since.

    The Argentine Church at the time backed Father Grassi. In a 2006 interview with Argentine magazine Veintitres, the current pope, who was then Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, said "justice will determine" if Father Grassi is guilty or innocent. "But there is a media campaign against him, a condemnation in the media." He said Father Grassi hadn't been suspended from his priestly duties because his case was "different" from other cases of alleged sexual abuse that had emerged at the time.

    After Father Grassi's first conviction in 2009, the Argentine Bishops Conference, headed by Cardinal Bergoglio at the time, commissioned a legal study defending the priest. The introduction, written by an Argentine jurist, said Father Grassi was innocent and that many sexual abuse cases were part of a strategy to defame the church.

    In a statement Tuesday, the diocese of Morón, the town where Mr. Grassi was a priest, said the legal study created "doubts about the guilt" of Father Grassi, and would wait for a final sentence to begin canonical proceedings that could end in his losing the priesthood.

    Criticism of the Catholic Church's handling of Mr. Grassi's case has been harsh. "I'm ashamed that they say Father or Priest to a pedophile like Grassi. It's not fair for the honest priests that battle and fight against this scar inside the church," Hebe de Bonafini, president of Argentine rights group Madres de Plaza de Mayo said in an open letter published on the group's website.


  32. Abuse Case Is Opportunity for Pope

    http://www.bishop-accountability.org/ The Monitor | | September 25, 2013 [received by email]

    Dear Friend:

    A pedophile priest in Argentina who has stayed free since his criminal conviction four years ago in part because of covert lobbying of judges by the Argentine bishops' conference, headed by then-Cardinal Bergoglio, finally has started serving his 15-year sentence. This week, an Argentine criminal court ordered Father Julio César Grassi immediately to go to prison for molesting a 13-year-old boy in the late 1990s.

    According to news reports, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303983904579095421654943540.html

    Cardinal Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, led a private campaign to exonerate Grassi and discredit his victims after Grassi was convicted in June 2009. See our analysis of the Grassi case and dossier of articles and documents, which we made public this week.


    Now, as leader of the Catholic church, Pope Francis has an opportunity to order a full account of child sexual abuse by clerics in Argentina, and the cover-up by Argentine bishops. Six months into his papacy, the Pope has addressed financial corruption but not the corrupt shielding of sex offenders by bishops. He has expressed solidarity with nearly every vulnerable population except for those who were sexually abused within the church.

    We are especially troubled that the Pope lobbied for Grassi so recently – in 2009 and 2010, years after the worldwide cover-up scandal broke and bishops in the US and Europe began implementing reforms, and soon after Bergoglio was nearly elected Pope in 2005.

    Pope Francis in his America interview was contrite about his management failings as provincial of the Jesuits in Argentina during the dirty war, though he doesn’t mention his Jesuit subordinates, Orlando Yorio and Francisco Jalics, who were arrested, tortured, and released, let alone Mónica María Candelaria Mignone and her friends, who were arrested with the priests, tortured, and murdered. The Grassi decision is the moment for Pope Francis to use the discernment also discussed in the interview to bring transparency to his time as a high archdiocesan official, archbishop, and cardinal in Buenos Aires. We urge that he order the release of a complete list of all credibly accused clerics with whom he dealt, both as an archdiocesan official and a Jesuit provincial, and that he compel Argentine bishops and religious superiors to publish similar lists, as 26 US bishops and religious superiors have done.


    Pope Francis is no longer cardinal archbishop in a great and deeply Catholic country. He is Pope to all Catholics and inheritor of the revelations and changes obtained by sexual abuse victims from Los Angeles to Dublin and Brussels to Sidney. He is overdue to embrace this legacy and extend it. We assume Pope Francis eventually will meet with clergy sex abuse victims, as Benedict XVI often did. We urge him to set up his first meeting with the victims of Grassi and other victims of Argentine abusers. And we trust that he will exercise his unique power immediately to remove Grassi ex officio from the priesthood. The compassion so evident in Pope Francis’s first half-year as Pope must be extended to the church’s own wounded – in the terms of Francis’s battlefield hospital metaphor – the child victims of “friendly fire.” They are grievously wounded, some of them near death, and they need and deserve Pope Francis’s care.


    Anne Doyle & Terry McKiernan Co-Director & President, Bishop Accountability

  33. Francis to Canonize John XXIII and John Paul II on Same Day

    By ELISABETTA POVOLEDO and ALAN COWELL, New York Times September 30, 2013

    VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis said Monday he would canonize two of his most influential predecessors, John Paul II and John XXIII, on the same day next spring, a highly unusual move that was taken as a gesture designed to promote unity within the Roman Catholic Church.

    The two popes, who have disparate followings among reformers and conservatives within the church, will be declared saints on April 27, Francis said during a meeting with cardinals at the Vatican. Each achieved considerable international stature: John Paul II for encouraging the fall of communism in his native Poland and across Eastern Europe, and John XXIII for assembling the liberalizing Second Vatican Council, which ran from 1962 to 1965.

    “To celebrate them together is a sign of appreciation of the holiness of two popes who paid witness to our time,” the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said during a news conference on Monday.

    The pope announced in July that he would canonize the two men but did not set a date, and there were initial indications that he would act this year. Father Lombardi said April 27, the first Sunday after Easter, would be “a good date for pilgrims who might already be in Rome.”

    The date is also known as Divine Mercy Sunday. John Paul II promoted the devotion to the Feast of the Divine Mercy and was beatified — a step toward canonization — on that day in 2011, Father Lombardi noted.

    Candidates for sainthood usually have two miracles attributed to them. But Francis approved the canonization of John XXIII with only one — the curing of an ailing woman — which Father Lombardi said in July was a result of eagerness to honor “the great pope of the Second Vatican Council.”

    On Monday, he said the canonization should be seen “in the context of the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, and the universally heartfelt fame that surrounds John XXIII.” He said that while John was the council’s initiator, John Paul was “its great implementer.”

    He added that Francis described John Paul II as a “great visionary, the new St. Paul,” during an impromptu news conference on the papal plane returning from World Youth Day in Brazil in July.

    A Vatican committee credited John Paul II with interceding to cure a French nun, Marie Simon-Pierre Normand, of Parkinson’s, the disease he died from in 2005.

    His second designated miracle was the healing of a woman who prayed to him on the day of his beatification.

    At that ceremony, which drew 1.5 million people to Rome, Benedict XVI, now retired, lauded John Paul II as a central figure in the history of the 20th century and a hero of the church.

    “He was witness to the tragic age of big ideologies, totalitarian regimes,” Benedict said, “and from their passing John Paul II embraced the harsh suffering, marked by tension and contradictions, of the transition of the modern age toward a new phase of history, showing constant concern that the human person be its protagonist.”

    On Monday, Father Lombardi said that Benedict might join Francis in the canonization ceremony.

    “There is no reason — either doctrinal or institutional — that he couldn’t participate in the public ceremony,” Father Lombardi said, responding to news reports from Poland that the retired pope would be present.

    Benedict stepped down in February and has been living in self-imposed isolation in a monastery inside the Vatican walls.

    Elisabetta Povoledo reported from Vatican City and Alan Cowell from London.


  34. Disgraced priest to wed pope advisers daughter

    Legion priest who resigned after fathering child to marry daughter of top Vatican adviser


    Associated Press

    VATICAN CITY (AP) — Thomas Williams, the onetime public face of the disgraced Legion of Christ religious order who left the priesthood after admitting he fathered a child, is getting married this weekend to the child's mother, The Associated Press has learned. The bride is the daughter of former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See Mary Ann Glendon, one of Pope Francis' top advisers.

    Glendon, a Harvard University law professor, is one of the highest-ranking women at the Vatican as president of the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences. She is also one of five people on Francis' commission to reform the scandal-marred Vatican bank. Her daughter, Elizabeth Lev, is a Rome-based art historian and columnist for the Legion-run Zenit news agency, which Williams published for over a decade while he was in the order.

    Williams, a moral theologian, author, lecturer and U.S. television personality, admitted last year that he had fathered a child several years earlier.

    At the time, Williams apologized for "this grave transgression" against his vows of celibacy and said he had stayed on as a priest because he hoped to move beyond "this sin in my past" to do good work for the church. The Legion's retired superior later admitted he had learned about the child in 2005 but allowed Williams to keep teaching and preaching about morality.

    After taking a year off for reflection, Williams left the priesthood in May to care for his son. According to their wedding registry, he and Lev are due to marry on Saturday in the United States.

    Asked for comment Thursday, Lev confirmed the wedding plans in an email, adding: "We have no intention of ever discussing our personal life in this forum."

    She had initially denied an intimate relationship with Williams, though they frequently appeared together in American circles in Rome, particularly with visiting U.S. student and Catholic tour groups.

    Their wedding closes a circle of sorts, even as it raises some uncomfortable questions: Who beyond Williams' superior in the church knew about the child while the couple tried to cover it up? Was Williams already in a relationship with Lev when she became a regular contributor to the magazine he published? And did the family ties to Williams influence Glendon in her defense of the Legion and its disgraced founder despite credible reports that the founder was a pedophile?

    The questions swirled Thursday as the Legion dropped a bombshell of its own, admitting that a superior who was in charge of the bulk of its American priests-in-training for over a decade sexually abused a minor at the Legion's novitiate in Cheshire, Connecticut. The Legion said a second accuser had also come forward with an allegation against the Rev. William Izquierdo, who was novice director at the Cheshire school from 1982-1994 and in Ireland before then. Izquierdo, now 85, has dementia.

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  35. The saga of the Legion of Christ represents one of the most egregious examples of how the Vatican ignored decades of reports about sexually abusive priests as church leaders put the interests of the institution above those of the victims.

    The Rev. Marcial Maciel founded the cult-like Legion in 1941 in Mexico and oversaw its growth into a large and prominent congregation despite credible reports that he was a drug addict and child molester. After Maciel's death in 2008, the Legion admitted that he fathered three children and sexually abused his seminarians.

    In 2010, the Vatican took over the order and a papal delegate has been overseeing a reform and "purification." In January, the Legion will elect a new leadership and approve a new set of constitutions.

    The Legion scandal has been particularly damaging to the Vatican because Maciel was held up by Pope John Paul II and his cardinals as a model for the faithful, with the order admired for its orthodoxy and ability to bring in money and new priests.

    Like all Legion priests, Williams had been a staunch defender of Maciel. When Maciel's double life became public in 2009, Williams told the Catholic ETWN program that the revelations were a "very, very hard blow to all of us."

    Until he left active ministry, Williams was the most publicly prominent priest in the 950-strong order. He is the author of such books as 2008's "Knowing Right From Wrong: A Christian Guide to Conscience," and was a commentator for the U.S. broadcaster CBS. He was the superior of the Legion's general directorate in Rome in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

    The Legion's revelation about a senior cleric having abused a novitiate was contained in a report on the steps the Legion has taken to address sexually abusive clergy within its ranks and respond to the victims of Maciel. According to the report by the Legion's superior, the Rev. Sylvester Heerman, 35 priests have been accused of sexually abusing minors; nine were found guilty and 14 were acquitted in a church trial. Two had left the priesthood when the allegations were made, so no church sanctions could be imposed, and 10 cases are still under review. In addition, two Legion superiors were found guilty of sexually abusing adults under their case and three were acquitted.

    The Legion said the numbers indicate that less than 1 percent of the 1,133 priests ordained in the 72-year history of the order had been found guilty by a church trial of abuse, and less than 4 percent had been accused. A Legion spokesman said he didn't know what the percentage was for the current number of Legion priests.


  36. Popes envoy for Legion ends mandate

    By NICOLE WINFIELD Associated Press Yahoo! News February 25, 2014

    ROME (AP) — The pope's envoy running the troubled Legion of Christ ended his three-year reform effort Tuesday, declaring the order "cured and cleaned" but acknowledging it bears the guilt of its pedophile founder and the superiors who delayed admitting his crimes.

    Cardinal Velasio De Paolis celebrated his final Mass as papal delegate Tuesday and left to a round of applause from a congregation eager to regain the autonomy that Pope Benedict XVI wrested away in 2010.

    "The Legionaries are reconciled with themselves, with their history, the world and the church," De Paolis said.

    Benedict intervened after a Vatican investigation determined the Legion had been infected by its founder, the late Rev. Marcial Maciel, who sexually abused his seminarians, fathered at least three children and built a cult-like system of power based on silence, deceit and obedience.

    De Paolis was named to oversee a process of purification that concluded with a 2-month-long general assembly that ended Tuesday. It elected a new governing council and approved new constitutions.

    Pope Francis must now decide whether to sign the new document. The Vatican intervened in the election itself, naming the No. 2 Legion director and one of the general counselors.

    Dozens of priests and hundreds of seminarians have left the order in recent years, horrified by the revelations about Maciel or disillusioned over the reform process.

    De Paolis said the Legion itself could be considered a "victim" of Maciel's crimes, even though some superiors bore responsibility "in particular for the delays in which they operated."

    He said the general assembly asks forgiveness from Maciel's victims, but also "realizes that the Legionaries are called to assume the consequences of these guilts on themselves."

    But he said God has cured the Legion through the purification process leaving it with a hopeful future.


  37. New head of Legionaries of Christ weighs burden of founder's sins

    By Francis X. Rocca, Catholic News Service, February 6, 2014

    ROME (CNS) -- When accusations of sexual abuse against Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder and then-general director of the Legionaries of Christ, were first published in 1997, Father Eduardo Robles Gil was running one of the congregation's schools in Mexico City.

    Father Robles Gil did not believe Father Maciel had molested boys in his own seminaries, yet the accusations troubled him, and he asked himself what he would do if they turned out to be true.

    "I said, 'I am happy being a priest, it is where God wants me, and he called me to the Legion, so I would continue being a Legionary priest,'" he told Catholic News Service Feb. 28. "Having made that decision, I was no longer affected so much by what might come out in the newspaper."

    Today, Father Robles Gil is the troubled congregation's new general director. He is the congregation's first elected leader after nearly four years of Vatican-supervised reform that, he said, have left members full of "hope, enthusiasm (and) optimism."

    The Mexican priest was chosen during the Legionaries' extraordinary general chapter, which closed Feb. 25 after approving a new constitution, which remains unpublished pending final approval by Pope Francis.

    The seven-week gathering of 61 Legionary priests from 11 countries also issued a letter condemning Father Maciel's "reprehensible and objectively immoral behavior," including "abuse of minor seminarians," "immoral acts with adult men and women," "arbitrary use of his authority and of material goods," "indiscriminate consumption of addictive medicines" and plagiarism.

    Father Robles Gil told CNS neither he nor any other Legionary leader knew about Father Maciel's crimes before 2006, when the Vatican disciplined the founder, instructing him to follow a "life reserved to prayer and penitence, renouncing all public ministry."

    It was only after Father Maciel's death in 2008, when his successor personally told him the accusations were true, that Father Robles Gil believed in the founder's guilt.

    "Father Maciel handled himself in a very intelligent way in order to be able to hide his things," the general director said.

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  38. Although the founder often withdrew thousands of dollars of cash at a time, supposedly for travel, he kept his biggest illicit dealings separate from the congregation's finances, said Father Robles Gil, who served as treasurer of the Legionaries' Mexican branch for two years in the early 1990s.

    The new general director later sat on a commission dealing with some of Father Maciel's victims, seven of whom received what he describes as "symbolic" amounts of financial compensation for sexual abuse.

    Now, the general director said: "I don't know anyone inside the Legion who says it is not certain Father Maciel did these things."

    Father Robles Gil does not rule out, nor does he lament, the possibility that some members still feel close to the founder.

    "Someone can have a father who committed sins, who abandoned his mother, and continue loving his father," he said. "Someone can read the books of Oscar Wilde and enjoy the books of Oscar Wilde without worrying whether he was a sinner or not."

    Although Father Maciel's published works are free of doctrinal error, the Legionaries no longer assign them to their seminarians, the general director said.

    "If you cannot present someone as a teacher, neither can you present his writings for the purpose of priestly formation," he said.

    Father Robles Gil said Father Maciel's disgrace is a serious handicap for the congregation, because canon law calls on religious orders to be faithful to their founders' spirit, but Father Maciel can no longer serve as such a "reference point" for members.

    Legionaries have thus been forced to "leap over" their founder and discover their charism in the Gospel, church teachings and their own experience of spirituality, the general director said.

    That God chose to found the congregation through an instrument as flawed as Father Maciel is an example of the "mystery of human liberty," he said.

    "But tell me what good work, in the whole church and the whole world, wasn't made by a sinner?" he asked. "The size of this sin may be bigger and more incoherent, but all the good things in the world, in history, have been made by sinners."


  39. Benedict XVI: It was clear John Paul II was a saint

    In his first interview since his abdication, Pope Emeritus Benedict has revealed how he became convinced that his Polish predecessor John Paul II was a saint.

    Polskie Radio S.A March 7, 2014

    The former pope's reflections come less than two months before the canonisation of the late Polish pontiff, marking the final stage in his path to sainthood.

    “The reality that John Paul II was a saint became increasingly clear to me in the years that I worked with him,” the retired pontiff stated in a written interview published in Italian paper Corriere della Sella. “John Paul II did not ask for applause, and he never looked troubled when he was taking decisions.

    “He acted in accordance with his faith and his beliefs, and he was also willing to endure blows against him,” he added.

    “I could not and should not have imitated him, but I did try and continue his legacy and endeavours as best as I could.”

    Pope John Paul II will be canonised in the Vatican on 27 April.

    The interview with the retired pontiff will be published among others in a book of reflections on Pope John Paul II by Polish journalist Wlodzimierz Redzioch, who writes for the Vatican's official newspaper L' Osservatore Romano.

    Benedict XVI, who will be 88 next month, stepped down from the papacy in February 2013, being the first pontiff to do so since 1294. He cited his deteriorating health, noting that God had told him that abdication was the right choice. (nh)


  40. Two popes to be canonised ‘did nothing’ about Maciel allegations

    Allegations against Legionaries of Christ founder ignored, documentary reveals

    by Patsy McGarry, Irish Times March 9, 2014

    Three popes, including two who will be canonised at the end of next month, were aware of abuse allegations against Legionaries of Christ founder Fr Marcial Maciel Degollado, but did nothing about them.

    It has also emerged that unsuccessful attempts were made to recruit the current papal nucio to Ireland Archbishop Charles Brown to the Legionaries. Later, he worked at the Vatican’s Congregatoin for the Doctrine of the Faith when Maciel was stood aside from ministry by Pope Benedict XVI in 2006
    He was instructed to retire to a life of “prayer and penitence” and died at Jacksonville, Florida, on January 30th 2008, aged 87. Acccording to subsequent revelations Maciel sexually abused numerous underage seminarians and fathered at least three children with two women

    In 2010 the Vatican denounced himl for creating a “system of power” that enabled him to lead an “immoral” double life “devoid of scruples and authentic religious sentiment” and allowed him to abuse young boys for decades unchecked.

    A Would You Believe special investigation on RTE One television, presented by Mick Peelo at 9.30 tonight, discloses that the popes who did not act against Maciel, while aware of allegations against him, included John XXIII, Paul VI, and John Paul II.

    In 2004 Pope John Paul II hosted special ceremonies at the Vatican to mark the 60th anniversary of Maciel’s ordination to the priesthood. Both John Paul and John XXIII are to be canonised in Rome on Sunday April 27th next.

    Maciel was already under investigation by the Vatican in 1956 for drug addiction when he established the Legionaries in Ireland. At the time the Vatican had removed him as superior of the Legionaries and was investigating allegations that he abused morphine. None of this was disclosed to the Irish bishops then.


  41. Closer look at the greatest stain on John Paul II's legacy

    by Nicole Winfield, The Associated Press April 21, 2014 CTV News

    VATICAN CITY -- Pope John Paul II is rightly credited with having helped bring down communism, of inspiring a new generation of Catholics with a globe-trotting papacy and of explaining church teaching on a range of hot-button issues as Christianity entered its third millennium.

    But the sexual abuse scandal that festered under his watch remains a stain on his legacy.

    John Paul and his top advisers failed to grasp the severity of the abuse problem until very late in his 26-year papacy, even though U.S. bishops had been petitioning the Holy See since the late-1980s for a faster way to defrock pedophile priests.

    The experience of John Paul in Poland under communist and Nazi rule, where innocent priests were often discredited by trumped-up accusations, is believed to have influenced his general defensiveness of the clergy. The exodus of clergy after the turbulent 1960s similarly made him want to hold onto the priests he still had.

    Pope Francis has inherited John Paul's most notorious failure on the sex abuse front -- the Legion of Christ order, which John Paul and his top advisers held up as a model. Francis, who will canonize John Paul on Sunday, must decide whether to sign off on the Vatican's three-year reform project, imposed after the Legion admitted that its late founder sexually abused his seminarians and fathered three children.

    Yet the Legion's 2009 admission about the Rev. Marcial Maciel's double life was by no means news to the Vatican.

    Documents from the archives of the Vatican's then-Sacred Congregation for Religious show how a succession of papacies -- including that of John XXIII, also to be canonized Sunday -- simply turned a blind eye to credible reports that Maciel was a con artist, drug addict, pedophile and religious fraud.

    By 1948, seven years after Maciel founded the order, the Holy See had documents from Vatican-appointed envoys and bishops in Mexico and Spain questioning the legitimacy of Maciel's ordination (by his uncle, after Maciel was expelled by a series of seminaries), noting the questionable legal foundation of his order and flagging his "totalitarian" behaviour and spiritual violations of his young seminarians.

    The documents show the Holy See was well aware of Maciel's drug abuse, sexual abuse and financial improprieties as early as 1956, when it ordered an initial investigation and suspended him for two years to kick a morphine habit.

    Yet for decades, Rome looked the other way, thanks to Maciel's ability to keep his own priests quiet, his foresight to place trusted Legion priests in key Vatican offices and his careful cultivation of Vatican cardinals, Mexican bishops and wealthy, powerful lay Catholics. Vatican officials were impressed instead by the orthodoxy of his priests and Maciel's ability to attract new vocations and donations.

    John Paul, who in 1994 praised Maciel as an "efficacious guide to youth," wasn't alone in being duped. His top advisers were some of Maciel's fiercest supporters, convinced that the accusations against him were the typical "calumnies" hurled at the greatest of saints. They were swayed instead by numerous testimonies from bishops and others of his greatness -- documentation which also features in the Vatican archives, which were leaked and put online in 2012 by some of his Mexican victims.

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  42. Two years after the Vatican sentenced Maciel to a lifetime of penance and prayer for sexually abusing his seminarians, John Paul's No. 2, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, in 2008 was still praising the spirit of Maciel and his "humility" in stepping aside after the Vatican finally confronted him with the accusations.

    John Paul's prefect of the Congregation for Religious, Cardinal Franc Rode, told Legion priests that same year he had absolved Maciel and praised the good "fruits" that Maciel's Legion had given the church.

    "The fruit is good. The fruit is extraordinarily good. It is excellent," Rode said, according to his November 2008 speech made public online by Mexico's El Zocalo newspaper. "Can we say the tree is bad then? Purely from a logical standpoint, I would say no. I absolve Father Maciel. I do not judge him."

    Maciel's fraud, one of the greatest scandals of the 20th-century Catholic Church, raises uncomfortable questions for today's Vatican about how so many people could have been duped for so long. It also brings into question how the church's own structure, values and priorities enabled a cult-like order to grow from within and how far accountability for all the harm done should go.

    Finally, it begs the question of whether the order has really been purged of the abuses that allowed generations of priests to subject themselves to blind obedience to a false prophet.

    In his 2013 book "I Lived With a Saint," John Paul's longtime Polish aide, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, said his pope knew "nothing, absolutely nothing" about Maciel's misdeeds.

    "For him, he was still the founder of a great religious order and that's it. No one had told him anything, not even about the rumours going around," wrote Dziwisz, the leading force behind John Paul's remarkably fast canonization.

    He blamed the Vatican's "extremely bureaucratic structure" for preventing such information from reaching John Paul and denied that his pope was slow to react to the abuse scandal.

    Juan Vaca begs to differ.

    Vaca was the Legion's superior in the U.S. from 1971-1976, when he left the order and joined the diocese of Rockville Center, New York. In 1979, a year after John Paul was elected, Vaca's bishop sent the Congregation for Religious a bombshell set of documents in which Vaca and another ex-Legion priest detailed the sexual abuse they and some 19 other priests and seminarians had endured at Maciel's hands.

    He later was one of a half-dozen former Legionaries who brought a canonical case against Maciel at the Vatican in 1998. It took eight years -- and the death of John Paul -- for Pope Benedict XVI to sanction Maciel.

    "I feel once more outraged, furious with feelings of deception and rebellion at the circus process to make 'saint' a pope who did nothing to preserve the Catholic Church and society from the horrendous crisis inflicted upon them by the Catholic clergy sexual abuse," Vaca told The Associated Press in an email.

    The Rev. Robert Gahl, a moral theologian at Rome's Pontifical Holy Cross University, said it's in the church's interest to fully investigate just how the Legion scandal unfolded -- including in those "corners of the Vatican" where Maciel's original supporters still wield influence -- since John Paul "would never have knowingly allowed sexual abuse to fester."

    "He who stared down dictators would never have shirked the responsibility to bring the perpetrators of moral or sexual abuse to justice," Gahl said. "History will demand such clarity and the time for it is now."


  43. John Paul II and John XXIII: A rush to sainthood?

    by Josephine McKenna | Religion News Service April 22, 2014

    VATICAN CITY (RNS) Hundreds of pilgrims wind their way around St. Peter’s Square as tour guides shout in multiple languages. Beggars have their hands outstretched amid warnings of an invasion of pickpockets from abroad.

    Across Rome, hotels are full, streets are clean and the cash registers in the souvenir stalls are singing as the faithful pour in to the Eternal City for the dual canonizations of Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII on Sunday (April 27).

    Italian authorities are expecting at least a million pilgrims, including heads of state, prime ministers and diplomats from 54 countries. One group of Polish pilgrims is making the 2,000-mile trek on horseback, dressed in medieval costumes, to celebrate Poland’s most famous native son.

    Yet despite the vast popularity of the two popes, there is intense debate about whether these canonizations are nothing more than an elaborate public relations exercise — and whether they should be taking place at all.

    John Paul II will hold the record for the fastest saint to be canonized in the history of the Catholic Church. John XXIII is even more controversial since Pope Francis approved his canonization with evidence of only one miracle — instead of the two normally required.

    “It’s controversial among the saint makers at the Vatican, who consider themselves sticklers when it comes to the miracle requirement,” said longtime Vatican watcher John Thavis, author of “The Vatican Diaries.”

    “But Francis was actually using an ancient practice when he waived the second miracle requirement for John XXIII, recognizing that the faithful already know him to be a saint.”

    In fact, Francis — who has shown himself as a man not easily bound by tradition — is quickly making his mark on the sainthood process. Last year, he also waived the second miracle requirement for his favorite fellow Jesuit, Peter Favre, who died in 1546 and whose sainthood cause has languished since 1872.

    It is not unprecedented to have a pope waive the second miracle requirement. The last one to do so was John XXIII himself, who in 1960 waived it for St. Gregorio Barbarigo, a 17th-century Venetian cardinal for whom John XXIII had a particular veneration.

    Santo subito!

    When John Paul died in 2005, the streets of Rome were filled with shouts of “santo subito!” or “sainthood now!” His successor, Benedict XVI, waived the normal five-year waiting period so his sainthood could be fast-tracked.

    Recognizing a miracle is a rigorous process. It is usually based on evidence of a cure that has no medical or scientific cause after an intense and lengthy investigation by a team of independent doctors, theologians and other consultants.

    Monsignor Slawomir Oder, the Polish postulator responsible for spearheading John Paul’s canonization, on Tuesday insisted that the Vatican has strictly adhered to canon law and that John Paul is a worthy candidate.

    “He was very reflective with a great capacity for prayer and meditation,” Oder said. “John Paul II had that mystical depth of those who find God the source of life.”

    Born in Poland, Karol Wojtyla survived Nazi occupation of his homeland and as pope played a major role in the fall of communism. He is considered one of the most influential leaders of the 20th century.

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  44. Recognized around the world for his humanity and charisma, he survived an assassination attempt in 1981, traveled to 129 countries and touched the hearts of millions. He became the most traveled pope in history and proclaimed more saints than all his predecessors combined.

    A tarnished legacy

    Still, questions remain about whether John Paul did enough to respond to the clerical sex abuse scandal, in particular the activities of the founder of the Legion of Christ movement, Marcial Maciel Degollado.

    Accused of abusing several boys and fathering several children, the Mexican priest was eventually removed by Pope Benedict XVI in 2006 and died two years later.

    “We conducted a specific inquiry for maximum clarity,” Oder told reporters on Tuesday (April 22). “ From the documents we studied, there was a clear result: There was no sign of John Paul’s personal involvement in this incident.”

    John Paul and his closest advisers had held up the Legion and its founder as a model, even though the Vatican reportedly had documentation with credible allegations that Maciel was a pedophile with a questionable spiritual life.

    “One of the questions here is whether a pope can be a saint and also make managerial mistakes,” Thavis said, “and I think Vatican officials would say yes.”

    “Most people would agree that, as bad as the sex abuse scandal has been, it cannot be used to define John Paul’s legacy.”

    In fact, the Vatican’s chief spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, stressed that a canonization was expected to generate debate within the church and no one was saying the pope was “perfect.”

    “No one says the pope is infallible,” he said. “Someone might say John Paul is likable; others say less so. This is the beauty of the church.”

    While millions of Catholics remember John Paul, far fewer recall John, known as “the good pope,” but he remains a popular figure in Italy and a patron saint of the church’s more progressive wing.

    “When he was elected, he urged us to do more for the sick and those who suffer,” recalled Paola Pesaresi, a former schoolteacher from the city of Rimini. “He was like a father, like a friend. I remember I cried when he died.”

    ‘No one doubts his virtues’

    Born Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, John was the fourth of 14 children and came from the region of Lombardy. His brief pontificate lasted from 1958 until his death from cancer in 1963, yet the aftershocks of his papacy continued to rattle the church.

    He revolutionized the Catholic Church through the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), which reviewed doctrine, replaced the Latin Mass with vernacular language and opened up the church to a broader ecumenical agenda.

    His postulator, the Rev. Giovanni Giuseppe Califano, said John had “the perfume of his sainthood” when he was a priest, bishop and pope. When John’s sainthood was announced last year, Lombardi deflected questions about the process, saying, “No one doubts his virtues.”

    John’s sainthood may have been fast-tracked to mark the 50th anniversary of his death, but others like Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who was beatified in 2003, are still waiting.

    “Every canonization is a public relations exercise, in the sense that it promotes what the Catholic Church considers a saintly life,” Thavis said.

    “What makes canonizing popes more problematic is that they bring with them the politics of their pontificates. And although the church tries to keep the focus on personal holiness, most people see it as a judgment on their performance as pope.”


  45. A Saint, He Aint

    by Maureen Dowd, New York Times APRIL 22, 2014

    WASHINGTON — There were some disturbing elements to the Easter Mass I attended at Nativity, my childhood church.

    The choral director sang “Amazing Grace” to the tune of “Danny Boy.” The pews were half-empty on the church’s most sacred day.

    My sister reminisced about my christening, when the elderly Monsignor Coady turned away while he was dedicating me to the Blessed Virgin and I started rolling off the altar, propelling my gasping mother to rush up and catch me.

    But it was most upsetting as a prelude to next Sunday. In an unprecedented double pontiff canonization, Pope John Paul II will be enshrined as a saint in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Basilica.

    The Vatican had a hard time drumming up the requisite two miracles when Pope Benedict XVI, known as John Paul’s Rasputin and enforcer of the orthodoxy, waived the traditional five-year waiting period and rushed to canonize his mentor. But the real miracle is that it will happen at all. John Paul was a charmer, and a great man in many ways. But given that he presided over the Catholic Church during nearly three decades of a gruesome pedophilia scandal and grotesque cover-up, he ain’t no saint.

    Sometimes leaders can be remarkable in certain ways and then make a mistake so spectacular, it overshadows other historical achievements. Lyndon Johnson deserves to be secularly canonized for his work on civil rights, but he never will be because of the war in Vietnam.

    Just so, John Paul deserves major credit for his role in the downfall of Communism. Even though neocon Catholics who idolize and whitewash John Paul don’t like to dwell on it, he also directed consistent and withering moral criticism at the excesses of capitalism long before Pope Francis did. During his first tour of America as pope in 1979, the rock-star pontiff spoke in Yankee Stadium and warned about “the frenzy of consumerism.” (Although John Paul did encourage the royal lifestyle among his own cardinals.)

    Perhaps trying to balance the choice of John Paul, who made conservatives jump for joy because he ran a Vatican that tolerated no dissent, the newly christened Pope Francis tried to placate progressives by cutting the miracle requirement from two to one to rush John XXIII’s canonization. That pope was known as “il papa buono,” the good pope. He reached out with Vatican II, embraced Jews and opened a conversation on birth control.

    “This is a political balancing act,” said Kenneth Briggs, the noted religion writer. “Unfortunately, the comparisons are invidious. John opened up the church to the world and J.P. II began to close it down again, make it into a more restricted community, putting boundaries up.”

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  46. John XXIII, whose reign lasted from 1958 to 1963, comes out “free and clear,” Briggs noted, while John Paul has a “cloud hanging over his papacy.”

    One of John Paul’s great shames was giving Vatican sanctuary to Cardinal Bernard Francis Law, a horrendous enabler of child abuse who resigned in disgrace in 2002 as archbishop of Boston. Another unforgivable breach was the pope’s stubborn defense of the dastardly Mexican priest Marcial Maciel Degollado, a pedophile, womanizer, embezzler and drug addict.

    As Jason Berry wrote last year in Newsweek, Father Maciel “was the greatest fund-raiser for the postwar Catholic Church and equally its greatest criminal.”

    His order, the Legionaries of Christ, which he ran like a cult and ATM for himself and the Vatican for 65 years, denounced him posthumously in February for his “reprehensible and objectively immoral behavior.”

    The statement followed a United Nations report upbraiding the church for turning a blind eye to child abuse by priests and the sins of Father Maciel, who had serially abused adolescent seminarians, some as young as 12, and had several children with at least two women. His sons also claimed he abused them.

    It is wonderful that John Paul told other societies, Communist and capitalist, to repent. But his tragedy is that he never corrected the failings of his own society, over which he ruled absolutely.

    His defenders say that the pope was kept in the dark, and that he believed that the accusations were phony ones, like the efforts to slime the church in his homeland, Poland, during the Cold War.

    Given the searing damage the scandal has done to so many lives and to the church, that rationalization doesn’t have a prayer. He needed to recognize the scope of the misconduct and do something, not play the globe-trotting ostrich.

    The church is giving its biggest prize to the person who could have fixed the spreading stain and did nothing. The buck, or in this case, the Communion wafer, doesn’t stop here. There is something wounding and ugly about the church signaling that those thousands of betrayed, damaged victims are now taken for granted as a slowly fading asterisk.

    John Paul may be a revolutionary figure in the history of the church, but a man who looked away in a moral crisis cannot be described as a saint.

    When the church elevates him, it is winking at the hell it caused for so many children and young people in its care.

    A big holy wink.


  47. Man crushed by giant crucifix dedicated to Pope

    ITV April 24, 2014

    A man has been crushed to death after a giant crucifix dedicated to Pope John Paul II collapsed, just days before a historic Papal canonisation in Rome.

    The 30-metre-high (98ft) wooden and concrete cross fell during a ceremony in the Italian Alpine village of Cevo, near Brescia. Another man was taken to hospital.

    The structure was dedicated to John Paul II on his visit to the region in 1998.

    In a strange co-incidence, the 21-year-old man named as Marco Gusmini by local media, was reported to live in a street named after Pope John XXIII – who will also be canonised in the ceremony on Sunday, Italian media has reported.

    The two giants of Roman Catholicism in the 20th century will become saints on Sunday at a twin canonisation, an event unprecedented in the 2,000-year history of the church.


  48. On a roll in the Holy Land, Legion compares Maciel to Magdalene

    Jason Berry | The National Catholic Reporter August 26, 2014

    The scandal-battered Legionaries of Christ, still facing the unresolved consequences of a disgraced founder, may be seeing a turn in their fortunes with the development of the Magdala Center at the Sea of Galilee in the Holy Land. The order is conducting a major fundraising drive to cover the projected $100 million cost.

    The complex, with newly discovered ruins of a synagogue Jesus may have visited, will contain an archaeological park, women's institute, media center and a luxury hotel the Legion will own. Eduardo Guerra, the center's assistant director, said that the Legion has raised $40 million from benefactors toward the finished work.

    Whether the center can overcome its founder's reputation and the fallout from the prolonged scandal is an open question. While the order is still reeling from revelations that its founder, Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, was a sexual predator, abusing young seminarians and living a double life that included fathering three children by two women from Mexico, he still has his loyalists.

    A booklet intended to promote the new center, Magdala: God Really Loves Women, contains material demonstrating Maciel's posthumous hold on certain top-rank Legionaries. The booklet compares Maciel to Mary Magdalene and portrays the Legion founder as harshly judged. In the quotation from the text that follows, the speaker is Fr. Juan María Solana, who heads the Magdala project:

    The priest speaks his heart: "Marcial Maciel's initials are also MM, just like Mary Magdalene. She had a problematic past before her deliverance, so there's a parallel. Our world has double standards when it comes to morals. Some people have a formal, public display and then the real life they live behind the scenes.

    "But when we accuse someone else and we are quick to stone him, we must remember that we all have problems and defects. With modern communications so out of control, it is easy to kill someone's reputation without even investigating about the truth. We should be quieter and less condemning."

    The Legion's expansion in the Holy Land stands out in stark contrast to the "fire sale" of assets in the Americas, as one priest calls it, sparked by the fallout from the line of scandals involving the Legion. The Legion's economic boom in Israel also occurs against the backdrop of ongoing legal problems in the United States.

    In Connecticut, the Legion has been sued by Maciel's son and the son's half-brother, alleging that Maciel sexually abused them as teenagers in America.

    Separate Rhode Island lawsuits seek to recover millions of dollars from the wills of two elderly Catholics who, relatives allege, were defrauded by Legion fundraising practices that promoted Maciel as a saintly figure.

    Solana, director of the Magdala Center project, is a native of Mexico with many years' experience at Legion headquarters in Rome. He appears on the center's website in a video fundraising appeal. The order's lay wing, Regnum Christi, worked closely with Solana and Fr. Eamon Kelly, an Irish Legionary, to cultivate donors for this project.

    After Legion superiors' 2009 disclosure that Maciel had children and the order's admission that he had abused seminarians, dozens of priests left the order. The donor base was imperiled. But the Legion was already shifting its fundraising focus to Holy Land pilgrimages, courting donors for the Magdala Center. Solana purchased land there before the discovery of the religious ruins that have now given it a high profile.

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  49. In a striking contrast to the $40 million the Legion claims to have invested at Galilee, the order took a $16 million loss on the sale of its Thornwood, N.Y., center, once envisioned as the site of a college campus. The Legion sold the property to Efekta IA Inc., a Boston-based affiliate of EF Academy International Boarding Schools, for $17 million, according to the Westchester County Business Journal.

    "The Thornwood property was sold at a fire-sale price. Properties everywhere are being sold, but the Legion is still going ahead with big projects in Israel," Fr. Peter Byrne, a Legionary in Dublin, told NCR. "How can they be expanding?" he asked. Byrne is leaving the order to join the diocesan clergy.

    The new venture in Israel is an ambitious undertaking for an order facing so much legal action and in such internal chaos that a Jesuit canon lawyer, Fr. Gianfranco Ghirlanda, was recently appointed as a special adviser to the order. The Legion has yet to receive approval from Pope Francis for reworked constitutions, which were submitted to the pope months ago.

    Meanwhile, the downsizing in other parts of the world has been extensive. The Legion has:

    · Sold a 10-acre portion of its 25-acre center in Orange, Conn., the site of the order's original headquarters in America, for $800,000.
    · Closed the University of Sacramento in July 2011 for lack of funds. When the school opened in California in 2005, the order planned for it to become its flagship college in America.
    · Closed Gateway Academy, a prep school outside St. Louis, at the end of the 2011 school year, citing "diminished financial capacity of the Legion of Christ."
    · Closed seminaries in Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Canada, two novitiates in Ireland and another in Spain, because of funding problems and people leaving the Legion and Regnum Christi, according to a March 23, 2014 report in the Mexican daily Milenio.
    · Sold six properties in Spain, according to Milenio, and two schools north of Madrid merged to operate on the same campus.

    For a religious order with global reach, the Legion is small. It has 800 priests and about 2,400 seminarians. At its peak, in 2004, the annual operating budget of $650 million covered the network of schools, seminaries and colleges in Latin America, North America and Europe.

    Early this year, at the Legion's first general chapter meeting in 10 years, the order elected new leaders and issued a lengthy statement apologizing to Maciel's victims, reflecting on its failures with a pledge of reform.

    "Several of us expected that the chapter would put in place objective means of communicating the internal changes -- and what that would mean," Byrne said. "But there are no watchdogs to see if the Legion actually fulfills its roles or promises -- no outside evaluators. The same culture is still present."

    The 138-page Magdala: God Really Loves Women seems a case in point. The suggestion that Maciel lost his reputation unfairly, "without even investigating the truth," contradicts Benedict's statement in Light of the World (2010) by journalist Peter Seewald. Benedict alludes to the two-year investigation that culminated in the 2006 dismissal of Maciel from ministry.

    "Unfortunately, we addressed these things very slowly and late," said the pope. "Somehow they were concealed very well, and only around the year 2000 did we have any concrete clues."

    Benedict said Maciel's life was "out of moral bounds -- an adventurous, wasted, twisted life. On the other hand, we see the dynamism and strength with which he built up the congregation of Legionaries."

    That same year, the Vatican said Maciel's life was "devoid of scruples and of genuine religious meaning."

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  50. Magdala: God Really Loves Women was prepared in time for the media events the Legion held in advance of Francis' trip to the Holy Land in May. The copyright is credited to Hermana Viljoen, of Pretoria, South Africa. Printed in Jerusalem, the book states: "Overseen by the Legionaries of Christ."

    It was at a Nov. 30, 2004, ceremony celebrating Maciel's 60th year in the priesthood that Pope John Paul II gave the Legion administrative control of the Pontifical Institute Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center. The move was pushed by then-Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano. Allegations of pedophilia brought by ex-Legionaries against Maciel had been gathering dust in Ratzinger's office at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith since 1998, but with Sodano's weight behind the proposition, the Jerusalem center was given over to the Legion. In video footage of the 2004 ceremony, Maciel kneels before the ailing pope, the two exchange kisses in an embrace.

    "Brokenness, shame and trauma do not happen to women only," explains Magdala, citing "the stories of women who have suffered tremendously because of moral problems." The text continues:

    When the facts surrounding Marcial Maciel came into the news, it sent shockwaves throughout the world. Having been the founder the Legionaries of Christ, many looked up to his example and trusted his integrity. "For us he was a holy man, the leader of a big spiritual movement," says Father John [Solana]. "He initiated many dozens of universities, hundreds of schools, hundreds of youth centers, thousands of vocations. ... All of a sudden his reputation collapsed like the twin towers. When you have idealized him for years and he was the model, your spiritual father and suddenly poof, he was nothing. It was extremely painful."

    "Many dozens of universities" is inaccurate. The Legion at its height, even if one counts collegiate-level seminaries, had about two dozen.

    Sodano was papal nuncio in Chile during the Pinochet regime when he befriended the Legion founder; Maciel was making inroads for prep schools and seminaries. Back in Rome, Sodano became a beneficiary of the Legion's financial gifts; he pulled out the stops in trying to halt Ratzinger from prosecuting Maciel.

    As a Vatican property, the Pontifical Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center is a huge asset, with a library, five-star hotel accommodations, conference space and a hospitality school for Arab Christians. The Vatican gave the Legion control for 49 years. All revenues to Notre Dame of Jerusalem go back into operations, Legionary Fr. Benjamin Clariond explained by email from Rome. Solana makes an annual report to the Vatican.

    The Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center is a required stop for any papal visit because the Vatican owns it. Benedict stopped there during his visit to Israel. Francis, on his recent whistle-stop visit, met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center. In a separate event, he blessed the tabernacle and altar to be used in the Magdala Center, according to the Magdala Center's website.

    The Legion of Christ -- not the Holy See -- is in charge of Magdala Center, Clariond told NCR. "The project includes the archeological park, the spirituality center, a restaurant, and a house for pilgrims [a hotel]. Investment dimension for the whole project would range between 80 and 100 million USD. Donations to the project go strictly to the project."

    Clarond said that the hotel would not return profits to investors. Does the Legion own the hotel? "That is the plan," he answered by email. "But the lodging for pilgrims has not been completed yet."

    [Jason Berry produced "Vows of Silence," a documentary on Maciel, and is author of Render Unto Rome: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church.]


  51. Did Pope John Paul II Have a Secret Lover

    A stash of secret letters between Pope John Paul II and a married woman hint at a relationship that was more than a little friendly.

    by Barbie Latza Nadeau, Daily Beast February 15, 2016

    ROME — This is exactly how rumors get started: a stash of intimate letters between two consenting adults—both hindered in one way or another from acting upon their forbidden love—is found hidden in a museum vault. Those letters, backed up by yellowed photos of shared vacations and secluded walks in the forests, seem to imply that the relationship was something more than platonic. If this were a Hollywood film script, we know how it might end. But this particular story is anything but. It is about Pope John Paul II and an attractive married American woman.

    The treasure trove of loving letters was discovered in the museum by the BBC, which will air an investigative documentary into the affair, if that’s what it was, on Monday evening in London on its Panorama program. A sneak preview of the letters was dispatched early Monday, undoubtedly ensuring maximum viewership.

    The woman in question is Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka, a respected Polish-American philosopher who wrote to the would-be pope in 1973 when he was still Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, the Archbishop of Krakow. She admired his recent tome on philosophy and wrote to see if they might meet to discuss future work. She then flew to Poland a year later, where they met and decided to collaborate on an updated version of the book called The Acting Person which is described as a work that “stresses that Man must ceaselessly unravel his mysteries and strive for a new and more mature expression of his nature.”

    The BBC makes sure to point out that, “There is no suggestion the Pope broke his vow of celibacy.” And then goes on to suggest just that through a series of photographs of the prelate and the philosopher on ski trips together and standing in front of a tent in the forest. In the tent photo, he is wearing swimming trunks and a t-shirt and she is wearing a long skirt. They are holding what look like letters and the then cardinal has a look of confusion on his face. They could be talking about their forbidden love. Or, they could be talking about the weather.

    The BBC then teases one of the letter’s salutations. “My dear Teresa, I have received all three letters. You write about being torn apart, but I could find no answer to these words.”

    The letters, some written in what amounts to a secret “philosophical code” between the two, according to the BBC, were part of a collection kept in the back vault of the Polish National Museum, which acquired them when Ms. Tymieniecka sold them for a seven-figure sum in 2008 under the condition they would be kept secret until she died.

    She passed away six years later, but the museum only recently got around to cataloguing them. The BBC was not shown any letters from Tymieniecka to the Pope which are understood to be under lock and key in a Harvard University library, according to Carl Bernstein and Vatican expert Marco Politi who interviewed her and dedicated 20 pages to her in their 1996 book His Holiness.

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  52. They describe Tymieniecka as one of the most important influences in the pontiff’s life: “In 1974, a vivacious, cosmopolitan Polish aristocrat entered the cardinal’s office convinced she had found a kindred philosophical spirit. Her name was Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka, and for the next four years she and the cardinal embarked on a philosophical dialogue that resulted in a recasting and definitive English language edition of his most important written work.”

    They also wrote that she, in fact, made him papabile or electable as pontiff: “Her interaction with the cardinal—weeks spent writing together, taking walks, laboring over the text of The Acting Person—and her introduction of Wojtyla first to the European philosophical community and then to American audiences were formative experiences for the young cardinal.”

    The authors explain how the two worked together at her country home in Vermont where he “held mass each morning at a picnic table in the backyard,” and how he “borrowed her husband’s shorts to wear beneath his swimming trunks when they swam in a neighbor’s pond.”

    They also worked together in Rome, Krakow, Switzerland and Naples, and, according to the book, she says that on at least two occasions, “they quarreled seriously,” although she declined to say what their argument was about.

    She spoke of him lovingly, telling the authors, “He makes a person feel there is nothing else on his mind, he is ready to do everything for the other person. … Due to his innate personal charm, which is one of his greatest weapons, he has in addition a poetical nature, a captivating way of dealing with people. These are all evidences of his charisma—even the way in which he moves.”

    Bernstein and Politi also write about photos of the would-be pope at Tymieniecka’ piano in Vermont, describing her as “a fetching, diminutive woman in a miniskirt, her blond hair pulled back in a short ponytail.”

    The authors even asked her if she had developed a romantic relationship with the cardinal “however one-sided it might have been.” She responded, “No, I never fell in love with the cardinal. How could I fall in love with a middle-aged clergyman? Besides, I’m a married woman.”

    Dr. George Huntston Williams, who is also quoted in the Bernstein-Politi book, begs to differ. “Yes, of course there was that,” he says. “Eros is the basis of philosophy in a way. You have to love. She is a passionate human being. Hers was a Catholic passion towards Wojtyla, that is to say, it was restrained by his ecclesiastical dignity and her own understating of what restraints there would be. But there would be a lot of emotion, within those limits, on her part.”

    No one may ever know exactly just what their relationship was really about. After all, they are both deceased, and buried with them is whatever secret, if any, they shared.

    But Tymieniecka did remain close to the pontiff until his death. In fact, she visited Pope John Paul II on the day before he died in April 2005.

    Tymieniecka herself died in 2014, just two months after John Paul II was declared a saint.