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Gerald Renner, RIP

Jerry Renner, former RNS editor and longtime religion writer at the Hartford Courant, has died. Jerry was born a Catholic and raised a journalist, and brought honor to both vocations, perhaps most notably in his investigative work on the Legionaries of Christ. He started digging in the 1990s, before anyone else caught on, and teamed up with Jason Berry to produce the definitive accounting of alleged abuses by Legionaries founder Father Marcial Maciel Degollado. That work allowed the victims to be heard, the truth to be known, and at least some small measure of justice to be done.

Jerry was an old hand at the trade and in the guild. He could spin yarns at the bar and saw through every imaginable tall tale. The Courant has a fine obit. The best part: A colleague recalls Jerry interviewing a local cult leader (not Maciel) who claimed to be Jesus Christ himself (with huge real estate holdings). The man told Renner, "If I blinded you right now physically, would you believe that I'm God?" Jerry shot back: "No, I'd have you arrested for assault."

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We are greatly indebted to Gerald Renner for his dogged perseverance. His work is an indictment on the JP II papacy which courted Maciel instead of censuring him. In La Mahoney is fighting back with his own website while making no acknowledgment that it is from the diocese. http://la-clergycases.com/The coverup does not stop.

Bill, it's interesting you provided a link to the site. I remember "contacting" the site and asking who ran it (or something to the effect).Never heard back from 'em!:)

Renner did more good for the Body of Christ than many others, too much admired and best left in decent obscurity. Will he be canonized?

I would have been more accurate had I said "better consigned to decent obscurity", as, no doubt, some fellow grammarian will have noticed.

Encyclopedic knowledge, fair-mindedness, and such command of the data that, in the words of Fr. Richard McBrien,, the Legion "couldn't lay a glove on Renner because the facts were so solid" --what a great example Renner's due diligence at his craft gave to other journalists covering the religion field.

Thank you, David, for posting this tribute. I had the great privilege of meeting Jerry at the first VOTF convention in 2002 and again at a SNAP gathering last year. Juan Vaca, a Maciel victim whose story opens " Vows of Silence" ( the book Jerry co-authored with Jason Berry), was there as well. Too bad Maciel received only a slap on the wrist that leaves Juan and the other Maciel victims without a verdict on their abuse. They are left hanging in some ether, where Maciel and his followers find loopholes to evade the truth of Maciel's vicious abuse.Jason Berry is making a movie about the Maciel victims, so at least their story can be heard somehow. If anyone wants to contribute, email me for the contact information. I pray it gets a major venue. The truth matters, or ought to. What a fine tribute to Jerry, if the film (I've seen about 40 minutes of it), becomes part of h is legacy. Perhaps it will be dedicated to him, as well as the Maciel survivors living and dead.

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About the Author

David Gibson is a national reporter for Religion News Service and author of The Coming Catholic Church (HarperOne) and The Rule of Benedict (HarperOne). He blogs at dotCommonweal.