A legion of inheritors


A discussion is brewing on Life After RC about Fr. Maciel's child(ren) possibly inheriting the Legion's property. Unfortunately, in death, as in life, Maciel's legacy remains a tortured mess to navigate.

The issue would be simple if Maciel had owned and run a business like any other during his life. His child(ren) would inherit his property as well as his share in the business.

However, an institute of consecrated life is not a business. It's a highly-public spiritual work of the Church. Its property does not belong to the individual who founded it, but to the Church. So from a strict canonical perspective, Maciel's mistress and daughter would have rights against the Legion as victims, but not as inheritors.

Secondly, as Church property, all spending on the part of the Legion must conform to the intention of the donors.

In canon law, the "intention of the donors" when it comes to managing ecclesiastical goods is almost as sacrosanct as the inviolability of the sacrament of confession. Donations are to be used according to the intentions expressed by the donors in making the donation.

The reason this issue is treated so seriously is because the Church lives and dies by the donations of the faithful. No donations, no apostolate. Clergy and religious take vows or promises of poverty, but they still need to eat, sleep and have access to the basic necessities of life. If the donation process is called into question, or falls into disrepute, then everyone is hurt as the faithful become wary about donating to the Church.

So....the Church does not mess around with the intention of donors.

Having said that, it is doubtful that the majority of faithful donated to Fr. Maciel and the Legion with the intention of contributing to a luxurious upkeep of his mistress(es) and child(ren). Rather, although I have no statistic or empirical evidence to back me up on this point, I would imagine most probably donated to Fr. Maciel with the intention of "furthering the apostolate" of the Legion's spiritual undertakings. Thus it was probably donated with assumption that the money was not going to Maciel personally, but to the Legion.

Therefore, from the perspective of the Church, the money and property belongs to the Legion (and not Fr. Maciel) to be administered according to the intentions of the donors. This is why the Church cannot simply turn a chunk over to Maciel's mistress(es) and child(ren) as an inheritance.

That being said, what about the natural rights and inheritance of Maciel's daughter as his daughter? Keep in mind she is not suppose to exist as siring children contravenes the promise of chastity Fr. Maciel made prior to his ordination. Hence the great mess as her rights as inheritor clash with the rights of the Catholic faithful as donors.

I don't know the answer, except to pray for Pope Benedict who has a real mess on his hands to sort out.


Thanks for shedding a little light on this aspect of the scandal. It is certainly not the daughter's fault that she exists or finds herself in such a position. At the same time, does the Legion and the Church owe it to her mother and her to allow them to continue to live in the luxery to which they are accostumed?

In addition, how does paying the daughter or mistress further the scent of scandal in looking like a "settlement" or, worse yet, like "hush money"? I think settlements in the U.S. in clergy sex-abuse cases have contributed to the view that the Church simply wants to pay people to "be quiet" about the whole sordid affair(s) and further erodes donors' confidence in what is being done with their donations . . .

Don't be disingenuous about "mistress." The
chronology suggests that this woman was a minor when she became pregnant which takes the story
into another level. I think the point that people donate for the apostolate is well taken. But who is responsible for these people whom Marciel exploited and left behind? It has to be addressed.

This is a rather confused discussion. Maciel didn't have ownership rights in the Legion. Indeed, nobody "owns" the Legion since it is presumably organized as a nonprofit religious organization, however that might be constituted in any given jurisdiction. There are no owners, only trustees. As you point out, Maciel was given donations in order to benefit the works of the Legion, not himself or anyone else personally. What "rights as inheritor" then, can any offspring of Maciel have against the Legion, and by extension the Church, if he himself had no ownership rights? Unless assets were held by him personally - which I wouldn't put beyond him - they cannot be passed on through inheritance. This is not just the perspective of the Church, but the civil law as well. What do you mean by "natural rights and inheritance"? Because someone has a child, they therefore have a right to inherit?

Nemo Dat, the discussion is confused because the whole situation is confusing. Priests who make promises of chastity and belong to institutes of consecrated life are not suppose to have mistresses, let alone children from these mistresses. Moreover, they are not suppose to re-direct funds to their secret mistresses and children.

And this is before getting into the promise of poverty...

Having said that, one of the allegations is that not all of Fr. Maciel's assets were held by the Legion, but that some were held by him personally. If true, it is from these assets that his children could claim an inheritance.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Pete Vere published on August 10, 2009 6:28 PM.

The mother of Fr. Maciel's daughter speaks was the previous entry in this blog.

As Rome investigates, let us turn to St. Joseph is the next entry in this blog.

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