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More on Maciel

Another former priest and seminarian with the Legionaries of Christ has come forward with allegations against Fr. Marcial Maciel, the suspended founder of the Legionaries. Brian Mershon has the story, and the letter alleging the abuse. Mershon also notes that Jim Fair, U.S. spokesman for the Legionaries, repeats the familar refrain that allegations of abuse made against Maciel are akin to the persecution of Jesus.

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Grant Gallicho is an associate editor of Commonweal. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.



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The Maciel case, it seems to me, counts as a powerful counterexample to the account of the roots of the sex abuse problem put forward by people like Neuhaus and Weigel. They argue that it is largely a problem of "liberal Catholicism" --dissent from Church teaching, suggesting that it is a slippery slope from aproving the use of contraception by married couples to abusing young boys. I read their argument as implying as well, that loyal Catholics are not subject to the same flaws. Maciel is no liberal Catholic.The theoretical problem with this argument, it seems to me, is that it intellectualizes sin. As I've said before, I'm Augustinian on these matters. If you asked Maciel whether he "dissented" on Church teaching he would say no. I suspect that if you asked Goehegan the same thing, he would say no.But what they affirm intellectually is one thing, what they do is something else.Sin and akrasia--weakness of the will -- do don't follow political or ecclesiastical fault lines.

Commonweal referencing an article in the Wanderer? What next? The National Review?

Dr. Paul McHugh of Johns Hopkins characterized the priest abuse scandle as "a problem of homosexual predation." Would Maciel's case fall under that? Is the question even apposite here?

I don't know enough about the Maciel case to say. I certainly don't think all homosexuals are predators, any more than I think all heterosexuals are predators. I don't think we know a whole lot about the problem; it's, I suspect, a combination of sickness and sin. And there isn't just one problem; experts point to differences between pedophilia and ephebophilia. Most pedophiles, I've read, are married men. I think the problem of child sex abuse is serious enough (not just clergy sex abuse; it's a wider problem). My heart sinks when people turn it into one more weapon in the ecclesiastical culture wars --on either side.

There's a video produced by SNAP--made to encourage PA lawmakers to change the statue of limitations--that includes some harrowing testimony from victms of abuse by priests. Several of the accounts complicate simplistic notions of the "typical" sexual abuser. Two that I found most troubling included the case of a priest who forced his male victim to dress like a girl, and a female victim, now 50, whose abuser began violating her at a very young age, and continued into her teenage years. I'll see if I can dig up a link.

Although dissent from Catholic teaching about homosexuality had a role in abuse committed by priests, an older and larger and deeper problem is the misunderstanding and misuse of obedience.Maciel, like the abusive Cardinal Gror, whom John Paul II personally chose as Archbishop of Vienna, inculcated a military, unquestioning obedience in his followers, kadavergehorsam, corpse obedience. Obedience, not charity, was seen as the ultimate virtue. This type of obedience was useful to the ecclesiastical autocracy that developed in post-medieval Catholicism in response to threats from Protestantism and the Enlightenment. The conception of obedience was supported by the nominalist and voluntarist currents in Catholic moral theology, stemming from Occam and entering modern Catholicism through (according to his critics) Suarez. The clerical culture permeated by this conception of obedience was attractive to those men who had sexual desires (pedophile and homosexual) that they wanted to control. When they failed to control the desires, they instead controlled and manipulated their victims by appealing to the obedience that the laity (and especially minors) owed to clerics.Obedience is certainly a virtue, but it is the obedience that friend gives to friend, so that one friend can learn from another and become more equal. According to Aquinas, caritas est amicitia, charity is friendship, and the love that should unite the church and will eventually unite the divinized redeemed to God is that of friendship, which either finds or makes friends equal

:The following if from Sandro Magister's summary of the analysis of Lorenzo Prezzi:."The article underscores that 'at present, the Holy See, the Legionaries, and bishops have converged in emphasizing the charism of the foundation itself as opposed to the charism of its founder, the fruits of the Legion's apostolate rather than the personal intuitions of Fr. Maciel,' and observes that 'this is not unprecedented in the history of religious orders.'Cab anyone actually think of a comparable precedent?

Allowing Maciel to retire to a reserved life of prayer and penance without making a clear-cut public statement about the justice of the accusations against him left the way open for the impudent spin the Legionaries have given their founders story. The charges against Maciel should have been heard and dealt with openly, in justice to his accusers. Since the Congregation for the Defense of the Faith apparently found enough credible evidence of abuse to force Maciel out, the organization he founded and supervised also merits investigation, vigilant oversight, and appropriate reform. Yet the Legion seems to be leading a charmed life, and if you check out their website, it still features a heavily air-brushed biography of their holy founder with no mention of the accusations against him. Maciels followers now include 600 priests and 2, 500 seminarians. Some dioceses have banned the Legion, but they seem to be welcome in New York, where they are planning a large university in suburban Westchester. I daresay it will put Ave Maria in the shade.

Citing Dr. McHugh is a minority opinion and issues of sexual maturity and opportunity to exercise power and control are relevant, according to both my criminal justice experience and experts I've read. Part of the problem is we tend to conceptualize the problem assexual rather than assaultive.The legionairres problem is that they want to, as do most criminals unfortunately, miimize the issue of crime by denial or self serving statements.

When Maciel was suspended, I thought this step by the pope was reasonable. After all, the Legionaries founder is in his 80s.After reading Susan Gannon's comments, I've changed my mind. His accusers deserve their day in court. I'm convinced now that Benedict must bring this matter to a proper conclusion, namely, begin a canonical trial so that the matter of legal guilt or innocence can be laid to rest.Since the pope's decision, the Legionaries have never acknowledged the possible/probable guilt of their founder. Instead, they have portrayed him as a good and humble suffering servant of the suffering Christ. This organizational response is pure crap! And we all know what crap smells like.

Susan, there is a link to the press releases readily available on the site. I've worked for 4 Fortune 50 companies, and I can assure you they aren't in the practise of posting allegations (of which all have many of every type and variety), proven, unproven, disputed or otherwise.Sadly, so many convict without a trial. Isn't it interesting that none of the alleged victims have pursued any legal avenues through civil means. Is it possible they are fully aware that they don't stand a chance of a conviction in a real court, but they certainly seem to be winning in the court of public opinion on websites and blogs like this one.

In reviewing my comments, it appears that I am also assuming Fr Maciel is innocent. The truth is, I don't know - just like everyone else on the post doesn't know - we weave together diverse threads of details and draw conclusions. I only present the opposite view to the thread - and a strong question mark in the fact that the accusers haven't gone to any civil trial, which we've seen in the Boston and other diocese scandals so frequently. Father Maciel maintains his innocence, the Vatican announcement is hardly a definitive finding of guilt (despite the mental gymnastic attempts of "experts" to derive clear finding of guilt find it), and the Legion is a growing, faithful movement that continues to receive the blessing of the Church proper. The new general director met recently with BXVI who again reiterated his thanks to and blessings upon the Legion. Wish a few more rank and file Catholics would take heed.

I beleive Maciel is guilty; otherwise, why would the Vatican have acted as it did. His proclamation of innocence is to be taken im context that sex offenders almost invariable practice denial.As to the legionairres, if Fortune 500 companies are to be models of religious orders, we are in deep doo doo.

As to whether Maciel is guilty or not, if it looks like crap, smells like crap, etc., then it is probably crap. Bring this matter to trial so we can have proper closure (and the alleged victims can have their day in court). If the Legionaries believe their founder is innocent, they should be pressing Benedict to convene a trial. Under the circumstances, however, they should not be trying to portray their founder as victim. This is not a matter of fairness. It is a matter of justice, and justice is not being served by Benedict.

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