Why we believe what we hear


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.


A call for a reconstitution seems rather optimistic, because everyone at every level in this organization has been horribly malformed, starting at the root and going through out all the branches.

Even if you lop off the leadership, most of the "middle management" is also badly formed and badly educated--I think that's what we've been reading about for quite a while.

So what's the value in reconstitution if you're starting with heavily-damaged goods, and if the foundational values of the institution were corrupt to begin with?

Seems like there's really no option other than to shut down the whole thing and end the suffering of all involved.

Pete, in connection with this process of the LC/RC having to in essence prove its lack of guilt in view of the general reputation in the blogosphere, I found this, in a study, by David Oakley, of St Thomas More’s defense of English inquisitorial procedure, at

Here is the quote to chew on:

“Inquisition was devised as a more comprehensive and satisfactory alternative to ‘accusation.’”8 Under the procedure known as accusation or accusatio, a private party would accuse someone of a crime and attempt to prove it. Thus, the judge did not take sides but simply decided the contest between two independent parties. In contrast, inquisition required publica fama, that is, reputable opinion that a certain person is guilty of a given crime. Here one finds the advance in procedural fairness. Fama takes the place of the accuser; and the judge himself levels the charge and prosecutes the case.9
8 H. A. Kelly, “Thomas More on Inquisitorial Due Process,” English Historical Review 123 (2008), unpublished manuscript, 10.
9 Ibid.
Maybe this is what we have here: an inquisition, for good or for ill.

Of course, the above assumes the blogosphere to be capable of "reputable opinion"!

Funny how fama publica (the way I have seen it stated elsewhere) does not seem to be in use in modern procedure, no? Except in the blogosphere, yes?

Yes, this would allow each person to start afresh in Christ truly. And then it would be much less likely that people would continue to be victimized in various ways.

Clarification: My yes was in response to Lucien's comment at 12:59PM

Pete, yes, what you say is true as far as it goes, but what would be the reconstituted "charism"?

Take away Maciel's particular (corrupt) style and the whole drive to expand the Legion, and what's left? General Catholicism. No order needed for that.

Woody, Individuals are presumed innocent 77 times 7. But organizations aren't entitled to a fresh slate. Especially after decades of denial about who groomed them for what.

"Remember that the bulk of LC/RC membership didn't sign up with the movement to cover-up for a pedophile or malign his victims."

What? This must be hyperbole. No one signs up with an organization to defend a pedophile or malign his victims; give me a break.

This is completely typical of the mob psychology thast has overtaken the blogosphere on this tipic. Adios.

Please let it be known to all who know of abuses that there is a duty to protect others by reporting. One of the ways the plague of sexual predation spread in the church was that each individual instance was kept quiet by this and that person for this and that "good reason." AS JPII said of the Dubrovnik attacks, when you see someone attacking your neighbor, you have a moral duty to intervene. I do believe that silence of those who know of harm done by someone makes them accomplice to whatever future harm might be done by that person.


How in the world do you know that nobody signs up to defend a pedophile or malign his victims?? Newsflash: Evil people exist in this world. When evil people see an opportunity to abuse others, they tend to seize upon it.

Now, I am not saying that we know for sure than ANYBODY ever signed up to the LC/RC with full knowledge of what the organization was (other than Maciel, who created it with full knowledge of exactly what kind of atrocities he intended to perpetrate under its guise), but it is equally ridiculous to insist that nobody would ever do such a thing.

Back in the day, Legion supporters would argue that it was "preposterous!", "ridiculous!", etc, that a Catholic priest would start up an order of priests in order to have uninhibited access to little boys, women, money, power, and drugs. Now we know it ain't so preposterous after all. In fact, it happened.

So while I would agree that we can't know for sure any evil person saw the Legion for what it was and signed on (after all, you can't con a con---I am sure they were other con artists who knew exactly what the ole pervert was up to and may have blackmailed him into letting them in on a cut of the deal), it certainly is not out of the question that such evil opportunists took advantage of such a situation.

Of course, I'm sure the Legion would define any group of vocal critics a "mob". They are ever so persecuted. Funny how they never considered themselves a mob when they were attacking and maligning sexual molestation victims.

Meanwhile, they continue to express their deep gratitude to the lying pederast. I wonder what it feels like to be a parent of a sexually molested child and have to hear an order of Catholic priests continually giving thanks to the monster who did it. Or to be the victim of childhood rape and have to hear that 25 priests of this order just went down to the Museum of the Foundation and lived in the monster's house for a two-month retreat.

I can hardly wrap my head around a scandal of that magnitude! What a terrible example that is for non-Catholics to witness!

So two or three (or more) are gathered in Christ's name, praying for discernment, asking for justice, sharing experiences and working towards healing.

Previously, we tried it the Legion way, but that isolated each in his own confused thoughts. So we began to collaborate, and Woody steps in to call us a "mob."

How would you have us make sense of this, Woody?

Anonymous @ 8:13,
It's true that the single most painful part of trying to spread the truth about the LC these past four years has been that until extremely recently, my own pastor didn't believe Maciel's victims; since my own childhood pastor was also "invited to a private life of prayer and penance" with a much weaker case, it's been very difficult to have a good Catholic experience* with a pastor on the "pervert priest side of the fence". If it weren't for the Eucharist, I probably would have left the Church by now.
It's true, though, that if I didn't have the childhood I had, I probably wouldn't have taken the LC/RC encroachment so seriously and then acted on it.

*sorry, poor vocabulary by 11 PM

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This page contains a single entry by Pete Vere published on September 23, 2009 10:56 AM.

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REPORT - Maciel's nephew offers his own DNA is the next entry in this blog.

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