Maciel’s Enablers


One thing remains: to hold to account those who protected Maciel, denied the charges, covered up the evidence, intimidated witnesses, and slandered good reporters. Chief among these enablers was Pope John Paul II, a close friend of Maciel, who essentially sided with his archconservative friend against the victims of sexual abuse for years, and even granted him honors at a time when the accusations were well known. In this, Pope John Paul II was no better than Cardinal Law. The evidence against Maciel was overwhelming, but John Paul refused to take it seriously. John Paul II’s complicity in his own church’s record of covering up child-molestation has still not been fully elaborated or publicy understood. Somehow, he ducked blame for a crisis that occurred on his watch and, in the Maciel case, with his active, criminal collusion.

But we should not forget Richard John Neuhaus either, the chief theoconservative, editor of First Things, defender of Maciel and slanderer of the journalists who tried to unmask Maciel’s crimes. Here’s Neuhaus on Berry and Renner:

It is not the kind of stuff you would find in any mainstream media, but then Berry and Renner are not practitioners of what is ordinarily meant by responsible journalism. Berry’s business is Catholic scandal and sensationalism. That is what he does. Renner’s tour at the Courant was marked by an animus against things Catholic, an animus by no means limited to the Legion.

Neuhaus owes both men a public apology. Here is Neuhaus on the Maciel case itself:

I can only say why, after a scrupulous examination of the claims and counterclaims, I have arrived at moral certainty that the charges are false and malicious. I cannot know with cognitive certainty what did or did not happen forty, fifty, or sixty years ago. No means are available to reach legal certainty (beyond a reasonable doubt). Moral certainty, on the other hand, is achieved by considering the evidence in light of the Eighth Commandment, ‘You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.’ On that basis, I believe the charges against Fr. Maciel and the Legion are false and malicious and should be given no credence whatsoever.

The italics for the words "moral certainty" are Neuhaus’s, not mine. For Neuhaus, what mattered was defending an arch-conservative institution within the Catholic church, and describing the sexual abuse crisis as one caused by liberals and homosexuals. He was wrong on both counts. And the beauty of it is: the Pope himself has now corrected him. Is Neuhaus going to accuse the Holy Father of anti-Catholic bias now, as well? Or will he do the decent thing and apologize?

(Photo of Richard John Neuhaus from Time, courtesy of "First Things.")