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One of the keys to Fr. Maciel’s influence was money, and after the revelations of his sexual misbehavior, those who’ve been less than trusting of the Legion have long been waiting for the other shoe”the news of dubious financial dealings”to drop.

Here at First Things , we’ve been pursuing for several months now an essay on the finances of the Legion in Mexico, but it has proved nearly impossible to find the real figures and the documented level of reporting necessary.

And, as it turns out, we may have been looking at the wrong end of the conduit. The National Catholic Reporter finally drops the long-awaited shoe with reporting from Rome .

The piece is very thinly sourced. Here, for example, is the leading indictment in the piece: “One of the ex-Legionaries in Rome told NCR that a Mexican family in 1997 gave Dziwisz $50,000 upon attending Mass.”

That ain’t exactly what any real journalist would call a smoking gun, and the National Catholic Reporter has clearly rushed the story in a patent effort to link up with the media attention focused on the priest scandals in Europe. (And in a effort to tar with the Maciel scandal the conservatives the paper dislikes.) Not a stunning moment in professional Catholic journalism.

But even though the National Catholic Reporter is fumbling here, I’m convinced they are fumbling toward the truth. The secrecy of the finances of the Legion that Fr. Maciel built was an open invitation to corruption”and we already know that he was not a man to resist such invitations.

Joseph Bottum is editor of First Things .

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