Among the many truly horrifying aspects of John Paul II's favorite cleric and theocon idol, Marcial Maciel, was his rape and abuse of his own children. When Maciel was 60, he began a secret relationship with a 22 year-old Mexican woman, who already had one son and who had another with Maciel, the purportedly celibate upholder of traditional Catholic morality. Jason Berry has now interviewed the biological son, Raul, and coverage is scheduled tonight by ABC News' indefatigable Brian Ross (blotter story here). We knew all this before, but the details still hint at the evil harbored by John Paul II as Pope:
By Gonzalez's account, he was 10 when Maciel sexually abused him and Omar on a trip to Madrid, in 1989, and photographed them in the process. "My dad told me his uncle, this guy, used to masturbate him, and I have to masturbate him. … Why do you say that to a kid?"
He was nearing eleven when Maciel arranged for Gonzalez to live in Dublin with an Irish family, attend private school and learn English. When the call came to join his father for a weekend in London, he was homesick for his mother. "I started crying. And I said, 'I want to see you, you know.''"
In London, "I saw my dad, and he took me for a walk."
At this point in the interview he began sobbing.
"I knew this was going to happen," he said, of his emotions.
He described a stroll in London as Maciel bought magazines, took him back to the hotel and showed him "hard-core pornography" to arouse and then abuse him.
Jason Berry publishes the second part of his latest expose of the cult of Marcial Maciel, John Paul II’s favorite, who used money to set up a church within a church, where his morphine abuse, multiple marriages and countless sex abuse victims could be protected and financed. The money was the key to everything from the beginning – money, combined with Francoite politics and reactionary theology. He began his lucrative career by targeting very wealthy Mexican widows. This was a movement fueled by the wealthy, not the poor. Money quote:
After the patriarch’s death, Maciel courted one widow for support. “My mother gave him jewels and a lot of money,” said Roberta Garza. Her mother, now quite aged, “never learned about his kids. He targeted women in Mexico of a certain class who were not allowed to work. I had to fight to go to college. For cultured women who were bored, Maciel offered a sense of purpose.”
Roberta Garza studied as a boarder at Catholic schools in France and Germany, reading voraciously, “developing a critical mind that got me into trouble back in Monterrey.” She returned in 1980 for a Legion high school but found it “rigid, highly traditional, and not analytical. One of my in-laws had a daughter who was not learning English. She complained to the Legionary priest. He actually told her: ‘The final judgment will not be in English.’
“They were grooming us for Regnum Christi — the Movement. If your family had money, power, influence, they wanted you. They kept telling me, ‘God gave you everything, you must give back by fighting the forces of evil.’ … Their whole discourse was this paradise of moral rectitude. After France, where I could think freely, I was crying every night, thinking this is my family, my home, I don’t want to be here. I almost cracked up.”
Maciel, we now know, also abused his own sons when they were children. He wooed their 19 year-old mother, Blanca Bonilla, by posing as “‘Raúl Rivas,’ 57, a self-described widower and international detective for oil companies.”
Though they didn’t marry, he became adoptive father of her 3-year-old son, Omar, from a previous relationship. Bonilla said that the adoption paper and the birth certificates for their natural sons, Raúl, and Christian, now 17, are “legally a mess. Maciel made up his name and gave it to the younger boys.” He was away long stretches as the boys grew. But Blanca Gutiérrez, who grew up poor, had a house and income. “I loved him very much,” she told Aristegui. “I never suspected.”
On the program, Raúl bristled: “When I was 7 years old, I was lying down with him like any boy, any son with his father. He pulled down my pants and tried to rape me.”
Self-effacing in Cuernavaca, careful to not be photographed, “Rivas” began taking Omar and Raúl on trips to Europe, molesting them between the ages of 8 and 14. “As teenagers they began pushing him off,” said Bonilla.
What did the church do when confronted by the first accusations?
This was John Paul II’s favored darling of the church, the man feted by Bill Bennett and Mary Ann Glendon and the entire theocon machine. When a church has become so corrupt it not only allows but celebrates the rise of a pederastic cult within it, it needs not just reform but reformation.
(Photos: Pope Benedict XVI greets seminarians and priests of the Legion of Christ during his weekly general audience on January 7, 2009 at the Paul VI audience hall at the Vatican. By Christophe Simon/Getty.
Jose Barba(L) and Saul Barrales, former seminarians of Legionaries of Christ and victims of Mexican priest Marcial Maciel (85), founder of the order, give an interview to AFP, 19 May 2006. Barba considers that the punishment for sexual abuse the Vatican imposed to the clergyman, does not repair the damage caused during decades to 200 minor seminarians. The Vatican sanctioned Maciel demanding him to stop conducting his ministry in public and live a life of ‘prayer and repentance’. By OmarTorres/AFP/Getty Images)
If you wonder why I find the protection of multiple rapist, Marcial Maciel, by both Woytila, Ratzinger and the entire theoconservative establishment among the worst instances of Vatican corruption, check out this simple but powerful reminder from Brian Ross.
Grant Gallicho notes a remarkable continuity in the leadership of the cult that has now disowned its founder:
According to some of the testimonies given to the apostolic visitors in recent months, some in this group knew about the founder’s double life, about the carnal acts he performed with many of his seminarians over the span of decades, about his lovers, his children, his drug use. But in spite of that, a fortress was built around Maciel in defense of his virtues, devotion to him was fostered among his followers, all of them unaware of the truth, his talents were emphasized, even among the upper hierarchy of the Church. This exaltation of the figure of the founder was so effective that even today it inspires the sense of belonging to the Legion among many of its priests and religious.
A serial child-rapist, cult-leader and secretly married confidant of John Paul II and Benedict XVI is finally disowned by his own cult. John Paul II called this multiple child-rapist "an efficacious guide to youth". Of course, he was never subjected to any criminal sanctions, was protected by Woytila and Ratzinger for years, even as they knew full well what was going on, and the euphemized statement just released is what the Catholic hierarchy believes is contrition. In 2006, the Vatican decided not even to subject him to canonical hearing because of his advanced age. So if you live long enough, and bring enough cash into the church, you can be allowed to molest countless children and your only punishment is an invitation to spend the rest of your life, supported by the church, in "prayer and penance, renouncing to any public ministry”.
The person who approved of this non-punishment is now the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the American Cardinal Levada. Punishing Maciel for decades of child-rape with a paid retirement and invitation to prayer was also approved directly by Pope Benedict XVI.
But it is important to remember that this child-rapist was also defended openly and strongly by several leading American theoconservatives. Richard John Neuhaus wrote he knew Maciel's innocence as a matter of "moral certainty." Even when the Vatican finally asked Maciel to step away from public ministry, Neuhaus commented:
"There is nothing in the Vatican statement that suggests that the word penance is meant as a punitive measure. It wouldn't be the first time that an innocent and indeed holy person was unfairly treated by Church authority."
The other leading American intellectuals who endorsed Maciel on the Legion's own website were George Weigel, Mary Ann Glendon, William J. Bennett and William Donohue. To his credit, Weigel has since reversed himself but, so far as I can find, has never personally apologized or taken responsibility for having backed Maciel to the hilt previously. Let us review the record:
8 March 1997 Father Richard John Neuhaus writes: “One cannot help but be greatly impressed by both the discipline and the joy evinced by so many young men who have followed the vision of Father Maciel in surrendering their lives to Christ and His Church. I confidently pray that your apostolate will survive and flourish long after these terrible attacks have been long forgotten.”
Deal Hudson in Crisis calls on the Courant to “withdraw its false article and apologize to Father Maciel, the Legionaries of Christ, and faithful Roman Catholics.”
30 April William Bennett writes, “The flourishing of the Legionaries is a cause for hope in a time of much darkness. I look forward to continuing my involvement with and support of the Legion of Christ.”
23 May Mary Ann Glendon writes, “The recent revival of long discredited allegations against Father Maciel would come as a surprise were it not for the fact that the U.S. is currently experiencing a resurgence of anti-Catholicism. One would have thought that Father Neuhaus's meticulous analysis of the evidence in First Things had put the matter to rest once and for all. As one who sat near Father Maciel for several weeks during the Synod for America, I simply cannot reconcile those old stories with the man's radiant holiness.”
Neuhaus went so far as to attack the journalists who first broke the story as being bigots:
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…
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.
I am unaware of any public accountability for these intellectuals' defense of a figure whose crimes were so great and so clear and so vile that he rightly qualifies as a monstrous hypocrite, child-rapist and cultist. If I had vouched for this man's innocence, I would feel a public responsibility to apologize and explain. If I have missed such a statement from any of the above (Neuhaus, of course, is no longer with us and unable to explain) I'd be grateful if someone forwarded them to me. I have searched Google in vain.
For a brilliant documentary on this pedophile cult protected by John Paul II and Benedict XVI check this out.
Dreher comments on a new wrinkle in a story the Dish has long followed:
Who in the order knew that the hero-worshiped Padre had impregnated several women? Who signed off on this "hush money"? Who in the Vatican knew what Maciel had done? Did Pope John Paul II know — and did he approve of the cover-up? (You will note that despite ample evidence that something was very wrong with Maciel and his scheme, the Vatican made no moves against him until Cardinal Ratzinger became pope).
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.
I wrote this morning that, to the best of my knowledge, Richard John Neuhaus never retracted his defense of Maciel. A reader points me to this article where Neuhaus did qualify his remarks:
When the charges against Fr. Maciel first surfaced, I studied the matter with care and had detailed discussions with knowledgeable people on all sides of the ensuing controversy. I said in First Things and elsewhere that I was “morally certain” the charges were false. Moral certitude, it should be noted, is a very high degree of probability that justifies action, but is short of certitude described as absolute, mathematical, or metaphysical. I do not know all that the CDF and the Holy Father know, and am not privy to the considerations that led to their decision. It is reasonable to believe that they think Fr. Maciel did do something wrong.
This is what counts as a retraction among theocons. It is, of course, merely more deference to the very ecclesiastical authorities that covered up the abuse in the first place. And that is the core message of theoconservatism: obedience to authorities who have already betrayed the most basic trust.
Until the practice’s dissolution in 2007 at the behest of Pope Benedict, even criticism of Maciel by Legionaries was banned under a secret vow made by members of the society.
The key thing to understand about the Legionaries is that they were ultra-right-wing and brought in lots of cash to the Vatican. Hence they were allowed to run an international child-abuse ring, and got cover from both Popes to get away with it.
They are both now dead, but that doesn’t mean their alliance is not worth noting. Father Marcial Maciel founded and ran an authoritarian theocon cult within the Catholic church for many years, aided and abetted and celebrated by the Wojtila-Ratzinger papacy. Maciel was credibly accused of molesting and abusing countless young men in his care and is now exposed as someone who also had a secret female lover and even child. The accusations of abuse were made by men who had absolutely no reason to sacrifice their lives and careers in Mexico and any objective review would have led someone to be horrified. But former theocon-in-chief, Richard John Neuhaus, demonized the journalists who uncovered the evidence and wrote the following in First Things:
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.
The usual theocon tack: accuse critics of being anti-Catholic bigots. Then this:
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.
He never retracted this to my knowledge. For a remarkable documentary on the truth about Maciel, check this out.
I posted about the Legionaries of Christ yesterday. Here’s an interesting and new John Allen interview with the archbishop of Baltimore who’s finally trying to prevent the cult’s "one-on-one spiritual direction with anyone under 18."
One of the most powerful and well-connected child-abusers in the Catholic hierarchy, Marcial Maciel Degollado, has died. Rocco’s obit is here. Benedict made some efforts to hold him accountable for countless crimes, but, like most of the child-abusers with strong Vatican connections, Maciel was never prosecuted:
The community’s formal notice said that Maciel passed away "in the bosom of the Catholic church."
"The recent revival of long discredited allegations against Father Maciel would come as a surprise were it not for the fact that the U.S. is currently experiencing a resurgence of anti-Catholicism. One would have thought that Father Neuhaus’s meticulous analysis of the evidence in First Things had put the matter to rest once and for all. As one who sat near Father Maciel for several weeks during the Synod for America, I simply cannot reconcile those old stories with the man’s radiant holiness.
The most powerful refutation, however, comes from the spiritual vibrancy of the great organization he founded, and the thousands of lives that have been touched and transformed by the men and women he has inspired. As Our Lord has told us, "By their fruits ye shall know them." That irresponsible journalists keep dredging up old slanders is perhaps best viewed as a tribute to the success of Regnum Christi and the Legionaries of Christ in advancing the New Evangelization," – Mary Ann Glendon.
Bill Donohue came to Maciel’s defense in this letter to the Hartford Courant:
The headline story of February 23 on the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, Father Marcial, might have been more persuasive if you didn’t expect your readers to be so gullible. After all, what am I to make of the third paragraph: "Several [of the accusers] said Maciel told them he had permission from Pope Pius XII to seek them out sexually for relief of physical pain." To think that any priest would tell some other priest that the pope gave him the thumbs up to have sex with another priest ‚Äî all for the purpose of relieving the poor fellow of some malady ‚Äî is the kind of balderdash that wouldn’t convince the most unscrupulous editor at any of the weekly tabloids. The wonder is why this newspaper found merit enough to print it.
Bill Bennett also backed the Legion against the claims of the victims of teen molestation. Duh.
A quite astonishing development has occurred in Rome. The founder of the Legion of Christ, Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, has finally been disciplined for what was a long and brutal history of sexual abuse and harassment of young seminarians in his care. The case against Maciel has been voluminous and exhaustive. The best account of it appeared in the Hartford Courant, under the by-lines of Jason Berry and Gerald Renner. ABC News also ran a splendid segment, which included the unforgettable footage of then-Cardinal Ratzinger prissily slapping the wrist of Brian Ross, while stonewalling on the inquiry. In Benedict’s defense, Maciel has finally been held to account. But the puny disciplinary measures brought against him are a sign that the Vatican still doesn’t get the gravity of the crimes committed by Maciel against innocents. The statement by the Legion of Christ is even more astonishing:
1. Fr. Marcial Maciel has received during his life a great number of accusations. In the last few years, some of these were presented to the Holy See so that a canonical process would be opened.
2. Facing the accusations made against him, he declared his innocence and, following the example of Jesus Christ, decided not to defend himself in any way.
3. Considering his advanced age and his frail health, the Holy See has decided not to begin a canonical process but to "invite him to a reserved life of prayer and penance, renouncing to any public ministry."