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We have already run two articles on the crisis within the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi. The first, by George Weigel , highlights the gravity of the situation and the need for a legate directly responsible to the pope to take charge of the Legion and save what can be saved. The second, by Fr. Raymond de Souza , takes the National Catholic Register to task for its lack of up-front, honest reporting on the matter, especially given that it is owned by the Legion and has defended the order and its founder vociferously in the past.

Since last Monday, when Fr. de Souza’s article was published, I have not seen much written on the Legion and its ordeal. That changed when I found a piece by Diogenes , the sharp-penned blogger from Catholic Culture , calling for the Legion not only to cease their obfuscation and tell the full truth about their founder, but also to revile him. Why so strong a word? Should a priest receive such harsh posthumous condemnation for fathering a child?

Well, Diogenes writes, there is more to it. Maciel allowed himself to be made a public model of sanctity, which, given that he fathered a child, he knew to be a lie:

The fact of the matter is that Maciel was publicly accused of specific sexual crimes, and that out of moral cowardice he enlisted honorable men and women to mortgage their own reputations in defense of his lie. The lie was the lie of Maciel’s personal sanctity, which Maciel knew to be a myth, and which the fact of his bastard child (putting aside the more squalid accusations) proves that he knew. To the villainy of sacrificing the reputations of others, Maciel added the grotesque and blasphemous claim that the Holy See’s sanctions were an answer to his own prayer to share more deeply in the passion of Christ, as an innocent victim made to bear the burden of false judgment in reparation for the sins of mankind. The Legion cannot share Catholic reverence for the Passion and fail to repudiate Maciel’s cynicism in portraying himself as the Suffering Servant.
. . .

To repeat: the fact that he was a flawed priest is not the reason for repudiating Maciel. The Mexican priest-protagonist of Graham Greene’s novel The Power and the Glory was enfeebled by lust and alcoholism and despised by those he served; yet, because of his concern for souls, he kept himself in the arena of danger and died a martyr. Maciel presents Greene’s image flipped on its head: he was a Mexican priest with an internationally cultivated reputation for sanctity. He lived surrounded and cosseted by admirers, and yet in reality he held divine retribution so lightly that he went to his deathbed without undeceiving those he’d taken in, leaving behind him shattered consciences and wobbly faith.

When I speak of the Legion’s duty of revilement, I do not mean they should issue so many pages of rhetorical denunciation of Maciel’s sexual iniquities. What is required is an unambiguous admission that Maciel deceitfully made use of holy things and holy words in order to dupe honest and pious persons into taking false positions—sometimes slandering others in the process—in order to reinforce the legend of his own sanctity. Since Maciel’s treachery was sacrilegious in its means and in its effect, he should posthumously be repudiated as a model of priesthood and of Christian life.

That, Diogenes writes, is true regardless of any accusations of graver sin. But of course there are those as well, chiefly that the mother of the child was fifteen at the time and that Maciel abused the sacrament of confession and absolved the woman (or girl, as the case may be) of her part in their sexual wrongdoing. Concern for the Church, her sacraments, and Maciel’s victims demands a forthright, full disclosure of whether or not these accusations are true—a disclosure as vigorous as the defenses of Maciel once were. The Legion needs it, the Church needs it, and, most of all, Maciel’s accusers need it. Offerings of prayers and support, while good, are not enough. As Diogenes concludes, “If you were a victim of Maciel, and had been denounced as a slanderer for accusing him, and that denunciation had never been unsaid, would you feel spiritually buoyed by the promise of prayers offered on your behalf?”



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