The sexual abuser, liar and cult-leader, Marcial Maciel, was protected for years by Pope John Paul II and then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Many have rightly focused on the fact that the Legionaries of Christ was a vast conspiracy for sexual abuse of the young, but they tend to miss the fundamentalist cult of authority that was at its heart. This affected the lay ministry too, called Regnum Christi. Thnk of it as a distilled version of Benedict’s vision for the entire church – obedient, fanatical and fundamentally self-protective. A Catholic who managed to leave the cult writes about his experiences here and here. Money quote:
I saw so much deception. So much disregard for the value of individual persons. And though I wouldn’t participate – I didn’t like being told to tell the person on the phone that Father was out when he was sitting right next to me – I allowed myself to be blind to what they were doing for too long. The power of spiritual leadership over willing followers is not to be underestimated.
And when it is conflated with political authority, it is downright terrifying.