Cough up the truth or choke on the pope


The French have saying that whoever eats of the pope will choke on him. This saying comes to mind as I survey those questioning the canonization process of Pope John Paul II in light of recent revelations about Fr. Maciel's "double life." The secular press and certain anti-papist strains within protestant fundamentalism aren't the only ones questioning the appropriateness of John Paul II's potential canonization. Adding their voice to the chorus this week are CrunchyCon's Rod Dreher and Renew America and Liberal Traditionalist blogmeister Eric Giunta.

For the record, I believe Pope John Paul II probably was not aware of the evidence against Fr. Maciel. Given what we know about JPII, I put the odds of him knowing and not doing anything about it (and in fact continuing to praise Fr. Maciel publicly as an excellent example for youth) at about the same percentage as several young women, independently and years apart from each other, breaking into the hospital room of an elderly priest-founder and stealing his semen to impregnate themselves.

Possible? Yes. Probable? I'd sooner bet on the state lottery.

Having said that, this incident may still slow down Pope John Paul II's canonization process. Because of the nature of canonization, it's important that we know everything we can about the late Supreme Pontiff. Especially when allegations are as high-profile as those concerning Fr. Maciel. Thus the devil's advocate will have his job cut out for him.

Nevertheless, over at the other end of the Church spectrum, some LC/RC supporters are still using the pope to try and shut down discussion of their movement's charism. A recent example of this comes from Mark Polo in the comments section of the AmericanPapist blog. Mr. Polo writes:

The charism is not the same as the founder. The charism is the gift of the Holy Spirit, which at this point, is guaranteed by the Church in its approval of the Constitutions. While this is not an infallible act of Pope John Paul II, and Pope Benedict would be fully free to make changes or even remove this approval of the Church entirely, the assumption at this point has to be in favor of the validity of the charism. Any other attitude is really moving away from the respect that is due the Holy Father. (If we can decide that John Paul II was obviously wrong about this matter, and abused his power as Pope to approve these Constitutions, the next step is to start questioning everything else the Holy Father says. This is not a road I want to see people going down.)

Others commentators have refuted his errors in logic, so I'll set those aside for now. The road that ought to be avoided is that of eating of the pope by continuing to invoke an approval of one's founder and movement that was gained through deception of the founder's piety. This was the deception used to gain papal approval, to provide oneself with the cover of Catholic orthodoxy, and persecute the founder's victims while silencing the movement's legitimate critics.

That being said, I am sure that many orthodox Catholics like myself, who are part of the Pope John Paul II generation of Catholic activists, will continue to defend our pope during this time. This is not to say, however, that we will be silenced by the mere mention of Pope John Paul II's name, or that in his name our anger toward the LC/RC will dissipate.

Unlike other attacks against Pope John Paul II, this recent volley was completely avoidable. HAD THE REST OF THE CHURCH KNOWN THE TRUTH ABOUT FR. MACIEL. The controversy also could be cut short by the LC/RC coming forward with the truth and apologizing to Fr. Maciel's victims.

Nevertheless, Fr. Maciel and his movement chose to invoke the pope as shield against serious allegations concerning the founder's proclivity towards violations of the Sixth Commandment. An example of this can be seen in Sandro Magister's 2003 interview with Father Miguel Cavallé Puig, LC - a Spaniard who at the time was part of the LC's general secretariat (click here). In responding to former LC seminarians who accused Fr. Maciel of sexual impropriety, Fr. Puig states: "the true target of the accusations is not so much Father Maciel, but the church, and the pope."

In short, Fr. Puig, like his founder Maciel, ate of the pope in the name of the movement. And for all we know, the movement may have bitten off a chunk of the Holy Spirit in proposing Maciel's mother - Mama Maurita - for potential canonization. Do we have any outside corroboration of holiness and heroic virtue? Is anyone outside the LC/RC putting forward her cause? (Unlike the case of Gabrielle Lefebvre, whose cause has always been independent of the SSPX, Mama Maurita's cause appears completely driven by the LC/RC and its supporters)

And thus the LC/RC finds itself choking on the very lie which it ate. Yet the movement's supporters continue biting off more chunks of the pope, warning others of choking hazards in an attempt to stop them from noticing that the movement is choking.

Please, dear LC/RC member, I beg you. For the sake of Maciel's victims, for the sake of your own members, for the sake of the Church and Pope John Paul II supporters embarrassed by your founder's lies, please come forward now with the truth. You've eaten of the pope. So please cough up the truth and stop the choking.


It's so much more than violations of the 6th commandment; it's thorough deceit, it's coveting and getting what is not yours, it's aiming false witness at victims, there seems to be more than one false god in the works here, it's taking resources collected for one purpose and using them for another, it's the dishonoring of persons. Let's not make this all about sex as if that were the only morality worth noting. As for JPII's knowledge---there is such a thing as maintaining your blind spot. When you do this in traffic there's accidents. When you do this in leadership, there are consequences usually for other people. What he may not have intended, he most thoroughly facilitated with harmful consequences for many, many people.

Your argument for why it is preposterous to believe that JPII knew anything of Maciel's sexual exploits is the same one that the likes of Father Neuhaus used back in the day to defend the mighty Maciel. Neuhaus just couldn't bring himself to believe that this man he knew to be so holy and who had done so much "good" for the Church could possibly have been a complete deviant and a pervert. That line of argument no longer holds any kind of water.

But whether the Pope knew for sure or not seems irrelevant to me when it comes to his canonization. Even if he didn't have one inkling about Maciel, he SHOULD have. Would the Church canonize a mother who for decades ignored the cries of her sexually molested children and chose instead to listen to her coworkers who were telling her that their abuser was a wonderful and holy man? Perhaps she truly did believe it for herself. And she may have been a pious and holy woman in many other areas of her life and may have done fabulous things for the Church. But should she be canonized??!!

The Pope was the spiritual father of these abuse victims (and all the other thousands of victims of Maciel's fraud and deception). He had a duty to investigate the matter for himself. He was not in prison. The internet was readily available to him. He could have interviewed the accusers himself. He surely should have known what kind of intrigue was going on in the Vatican. It was his responsibility to know about such intrigue. You do not have the luxury of naivete when you are the Vicar of Christ.

Canonization of a pope who failed his spiritual children so utterly in a matter of such great importance would be a massive scandal in my eyes. I hope the process is at the very least slowed considerably so that the test of time will lend some perspective and clarity to the situation.

There are two questions: is JP2 in heaven and is he worthy of veneration? (which cannot exclude his years as pope). I'm at peace with the thought of him having entered heaven, perhaps having been purged of this and that, but I'm doubtful of the value of venerating his papacy. I love the man to death, have my own strong reasons for believing that he didn't know the details of MM's depravity, and I think he did tremendous things to restore many elements of Catholic culture. But if honouring him dishonours the victims (or overlooks their years of suffering in any way) then let it go. The "smoke of satan" entered the highest levels of the Church and a back-slapping session over John Paul the Great would do more harm to the Church overall than good. We can privately ask his intercession (for what he didn't know then, he surely knows and grieves for now) and through his prayers we'll get past this mess. Canonisation wouldn't be a good idea.

In trying to figure this out, I tend to look to those who are much more knowledgeable and authoritative than I. It would seem that Pope Benedict is in favor of JPII's canonization from what I have read. That tends to temper my thoughts that maybe he should not be--at least not in the near future.

I hope the Investigators will put a stop to this evil organization. I have no doubt it is evil becuase of the terrible loss of faith it has already brought about in the souls of so many good catholics. It is only through much struggle and healing that some of us and family members too, have been able to cling to our faith after it was so abused and blasphemed, all in the name of "souls for the kingdom". That is the greatest tragedy, how many priests , how many true religous vocations, have been subverted or lost because of this group and its sycophantic leaders ( not just Maciel). Stop it. Save what good reputation is left of the Church and the priesthood. Show us the Holy Spirit still guides the Holy Roman Church. Please.

I think it very unlikely that JPII knew about Maciel's misbehavior and still promoted him, although it's possible that he knew about some of it and didn't consider it a deal breaker.

The larger issue in my mind is that it shows a lack of discernment. Maciel was (IMO) a transparent fraud from the beginning. That he fooled JPII shows a lack of judgment.

That has very little to do with his canonization, since a lack of judgment is not a sin. But it should make us think twice about JPII's wisdom.

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This page contains a single entry by Pete Vere published on August 16, 2009 9:47 PM.

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