[UPDATE: On an interesting – but not as serious – side-note, Berry and Renner confirm that St. Rafael Guiza was among portly saints canonized by the Church. He reportedly struggled with obesity and diabetes, which I find interesting given last week’s discussion on how one rarely encounters portly priests in the Legion (click here).]
I picked up Jason Berry and Gerald Renner’s Vows of Silence tonight (click here for the DVD with the same name, which includes a Spanish version), after RC Is Not My Life asked me to check the Jesuit connection to Fr. Maciel’s expulsion from the second seminary he attended. It seems that Maciel wasn’t just paranoid – the Jesuits were suspicious of Maciel and the Legion. Berry and Renner report that the Jesuits from the beginning suspected his sexual proclivities.
Yet what caught my eye in re-reading their chapter on Maciel’s seminary days was his expulsion from his uncle’s seminary, the first seminary Maciel attended. Particularly how it relates to the death of St. Rafael Guizar Valencia, who was Maciel’s uncle, sponsoring bishop and rector of the first seminary Maciel attended. Maciel always claimed expulsion due to a “misunderstanding” after his saintly uncle’s death. Berry and Renner explore the alleged misunderstanding, shedding the following light (carefully footnoted) on page 155:
Bishop Guizar died on June 6, 1938. The Legion history says that “misunderstandings” arose. “Marcial had to leave the seminary.” [LC priest and biographer Fr. J. Alberto] Villasana reports that two months after the “holy death” of his uncle, “the vicar-general of the vacant see and the new provisional rector expel from the seminary ‘the Bishop’s spoiled nephew who is planning a foundation‘”–a religious order. The italics are Villasana’s; the quotation is clearly Maciel’s interpretation of what the two churchmen of his uncle’s diocese thought of him. The self-absorbed Maciel misses the implication of two church superiors, in a persecuted land, washing their hands of a seminarian from an influential family. “Spoiled” begs the larger question: what in his character made them recoil?
An even darker explanation may underlie the expulsion. The day before Bishop Guizar died, he had been heard shouting angrily at Maciel. He was giving his eighteen-year-old nephew a dressing down after two women had come to the bishop’s house to complain about Maciel, who was their neighbor. Father Orozco, who was among the original group of boys to found the Legion of Christ in 1941, said he heard the women had complained about the “noise” Maciel was making with children he had brought into his home to teach religion. He said that the seminary officials blamed Maciel for his uncle’s heart attack.
Berry and Renner are careful in their presentation of the alleged incident. They don’t accuse Maciel of molesting children or indirectly causing his uncle’s death. Rather they present the testimony of someone who was present, noting unusual circumstances, and leave us to draw our own conclusions. But given what we now know of Maciel’s double-life, along with what we know about St. Rafael as a holy bishop who sought always what was right in the eyes of God despite the persecution he would suffer, I think we can conclude fairly that this incident concerned more than a mere “misunderstanding”.
As Berry and Renner point out in subsequent passages, the Catholic Church in Mexico was undergoing a severe persecution. The Church was starving for priests. Maciel was from an influential Church family that included two bishops. Yet as Berry and Renner state, two church superiors nevertheless expelled Maciel from his uncle’s seminary.
But let’s look at this from the perspective of other parties who were present. What would compel two church ladies – who, in allowing their children to be catechized during a time of persecution, were likely risking their lives and the physical welfare of their children – to come forward and denounce the seminarian nephew of a bishop much beloved by the Catholic faithful?
One might argue they were anti-Catholic agents who were trying to bring embarrassment upon the Church, but this doesn’t fit the circumstances. First, they approached St. Rafael with their allegations, rather than civil authorities who were looking for any stick with which to beat the Church. Second, St. Rafael acted on their complain, jacking up his nephew in anger. What would compel this holy man of God to tear down his own flesh and blood seeking to follow in his footsteps unless he found the women and/or their allegations credible?
So once again we find Maciel’s life as murky as his sexual proclivities. Which begs the question, who were Maciel’s first victims?