There’s an old expression among canon lawyers, taken from Roman legal principles: Semel malus semper praesumitur esse malus. “Whoever has been convicted of evil is always presumed to be evil.” This principle comes to mind as I consider Richard Sutcliff’s following objection vis-a-vis the LC/RC scandal: “It seems as though you are very willing to publish and believe anything bad about the Legionaries, yet subject anything that might make them look at all good to the most rigorous scrutiny.”
Let’s look at this from another angle. For decades we believed the LC/RC when they told us Maciel was a living saint, that he had never said no to God, that the victims were inventing allegations against him, that they were motivated by jealousy and anti-Catholic agendas. Only we know now that the victims were telling the truth vis-a-vis the crux of this controversy, namely that Maciel was a serial pervert.
So the question arises: What else were these victims, long denounced as liars, telling the truth about? Whether or not LC/RC leadership wishes to acknowledge it, the benefit of the doubt has now shifted to the victims from Maciel and his movement. As one former RC apologist said to me recently, “Pete, we cannot tell after all these years which [alleged] victims are telling the truth and which are not. But we’d be in a much better position to face this scandal if we just assumed they’re all telling the truth.”
A second thing to keep in mind when reading this blog. I have both a telephone number and a private email address. So does Giselle. We’re quite accessible to folks inside RC/LC who share our concerns, but who don’t feel tin a position to speak out publicly. Perhaps they rely on the LC/RC for their paycheck, perhaps they have a son with the Legion or a daughter with the 3gf. Perhaps they themselves are LC or 3gf. The same is true of those who comment in our comboxes. As blog hosts, Giselle and I see the email addresses and many are recognizable from inside the movement.
The point being? Many still inside the movement find themselves frustrated by their leaders’ response to this crisis. These insiders now believe the evil they hear, in some cases claim to have witnessed it themselves, and many are alleging even more serious accusations that have not yet been reported. I can vouch that Giselle and I are sitting on several such allegations that we won’t blog about until some other media source reports it, the individual making the accusation agrees to go public, or some other credible source corroborates it. So Giselle and I keep it quiet until we can attribute it. Nevertheless, this private information often pans out.
Along the same lines, more than one high-profile member of LC/RC has copied me or summarized for me their correspondence with the apostolic visitator for their region. Other bloggers and journalists report receiving similar inside information shared with the apostolic visitators. (I suspect many readers would be surprised to learn just who inside the movement has joined the throng of bloggers expressing outrage over the leadership’s handling of this scandal.) And some of this correspondence requests that the movement be shut down completely or reconstituted with new leadership. So while pontifical secrecy binds the visitators, who can be disciplined by the Holy See for leaking information, it’s much more difficult to control the flow of information leaked by those being visited.
So to answer Richard’s question, I find many of the new allegations surfacing in the media to be credible because I’m hearing similar stories from people still highly active in the movement. Some of these people played a role in the persecution of Maciel’s victims, doing so in the mistaken belief that Maciel was a living saint incapable of such moral perversion. They feel horrible about what they perpetuated on the victims. And they’re angry about having been misled into misleading others.
Which is another reason why I believe the movement’s only shot at survival is reconstitution under a new leadership. It appears that the current leadership lacks the confidence of many of its current members, including some in high-profile positions. A movement cannot survive for long if its rank-and-file and middle management lack confidence in its leadership.