UPDATED: Extortion?


UPDATE: Joe Catholic offers an excellent critique of my position in the comments section.

Initial entry

Legion of Christ/ Regnum Christi contacts have asked me privately, behind the scenes, what I think of the LC/RC attempt to portray Maciel's son Raul as an extortionist for demanding his inheritance in addition to compensation for having been sexually abused by Maciel? Let us suppose, for the sake of the argument, that the LC/RC are correct about Raul. Let us suppose that Raul engaged in extortion rather than follow proper legal procedure.

So what?

Speaking as a parent to children who are around the same age Raul was when Maciel began to abuse him sexually, including (allegedly) taking photographs, I don't care if Raul is engaging in extortion. I really don't.

Extortion just isn't a big deal to me when I'm thinking about having one's childhood innocence ripped from you, on camera, by the man (supposedly living a vow of chastity) who conceived you while taking advantage and lying to your mother. And unlike Maciel's spiritual children, Raul can never renounce Maciel as his biological father.

Thus even though I don't believe the official LC version of the story, it would change nothing for me as a parent if they were telling the truth this time. My concern is that Raul and his siblings receive just compensation from the LC/RC and/or Maciel's estate for the horrible abuse they suffered at hands of Maciel.

Moreover, I find it absolutely scandalous as an orthodox Catholic layman that despite reportedly knowing of Raul's existence since 2008, the family has been unable to receive justice from the Church in Mexico. No wonder there are so many anti-clerical Freemasons in the Mexican government and media. Bl. Miguel Pro - one of my favorite Jesuits - must be shedding tears from Heaven knowing that the Catholic peasants for whom he gave his life have now been forced to turn to their former persecutors for justice and protection from Churchmen who put their checkbook before the welfare of children.

But I suppose we ought not be surprised. After all, as Christ Himself states in Matthew 6:24: "No man can serve two masters. For either he will hate the one, and love the other: or he will sustain the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon."

In sustaining the Legion's finances, at least we're now clear on which master Fr Carlos Skertchly, LC serves. Pray that he discovers his Creator in this lifetime, for the sake of his soul. However, it is now time for other individual LC and RC to decide which master they serve.


Let's just take your hypothetical case (that Raul was trying to extort the LC) to its logical conclusion... what you are saying in a nutshell is that catholic morality says that it is OK to do evil (extort) in order that a greater good come out of it (dissolution of the LC).

Please be careful or someone might begin confusing "catholic light" for "catholic lite".

I really do understand gut parental instinctual reactions, but I thought as Catholics we were supposed to live differently then instinctual reactions (parental or otherwise).

This, by the way, is not support for Fr Marciel or the way the Legion hierarchy is handling this latest public revelation. It is only a comment on how we, as Catholics, should respond to the evil that we see (in the church or out), in order to give testimony to the transforming power of God's grace in our weak human nature. I hope you can see the difference between the evil Fr. Marciel did, and preoccupation I have for how WE should respond and not take criticism of one as support for the other. If we simple act like the world, we have failed.

It may be appropriate to recall Catholic moral teaching on the other sites where you have been posting so that your well respected authority can help to form consciences.

God bless...


Fact is, if the man deserves compensation for injustice, "extortion" is a morally valid means of making sure he gets it. We think of extortion as always wrong because it's used by people who don't deserve the money to get it from people who shouldn't have to pay. Fact is, this isn't that. If you want to call any agreement that payment will gain silence extortion, then a lot of things that aren't necessarily immoral are added to what's covered by the definition, it's no longer necessarily a form of stealing, which is really what's wrong about it. No, there is no moral demand that the truth always be trumpeted to the world (husband and wife certain have things in private), and there is no moral demand that whether someone receives just compensation cannot affect whether the world should have the truth trumpeted -- quite the contrary, when you phrase it that way, it's rather obvious that there could be a situation where you'd prefer to be silent but can't unless you get what you deserve.

So, frankly, I'm not seeing where it can be real extortion unless the allegations aren't true. If, however, you want to ask what if he did propose just compensation comes with the exchanged bonus of cesation of spreading the issue, regardless of what you want to call that, then Pete's right on: such an exchange is hardly immoral.

This pretty much mirrors my own gut reaction.

Also, just off the top of my head (so this isn't airtight, but I do think it's worth something). In Ethics, e.g., if we discuss the virtues (or vices), there is an objective element and a subjective element.

Temperance, for example, is--objectively--the virtue that deals with moderation. But in order for me to be temperant, it is an objective standard/virtue that applies subjectively to me. (If I eat in moderation, I eat just enough for *me* not Shaquille O'Neal.) Similarly, I could be charitable in a specific instance. I may be patient and cheerful with unruly children who are not my own, if it is not my place to discipline them, whereas to be the same with my own children, in a similar circumstance, might not qualify as charity if I were shirking my parental duty to discipline them and really, as it were, were being "charitable" ("patient" and "cheerful") because I didn't want to bother to be firm and discipline them.

In a sort of similar way, I think virtues or vices that impact the community (our families, church, town, the word) have an objective and subjective dimension. The individual virtue or vice is still practiced by an individual acting subject (of course individual culpability for vices enters here, too, which can vary widely). There is still an objective dimension; the action is either good or bad for the community at large.

But we also subjectively consider the community being impacted. The same vice (getting high, singing a lewd song, and running around naked)could be performed in front of children or one's fellow businessmen. Causing scandal to children is obviously worse. To take another example, President Clinton's behavior was objectively and subjectively worse, both individually and for the community--because he was married and the President--than the exact same action might have been for a 25-year-old single politician holding some minor political position.

I would say that we take into consideration the nature of the vice (which may in fact be much less worse than it can appear on the surface if culpability is diminished), the degree of the vice, and the nature of the community (children or adults, well-formed persons or those impressionable, etc.).

It is in light (not lite!) of this last idea that I can say: If Maciel's sons tried to extort the Legion, I DON'T CARE!.

Of course I do care in some sense. If they did actually engage in extortion, I care that they are in such a place that they acted in a way that was objectively harmful to them and others. I care that such a sad situation has arisen in our Church where the illegitimate, molested sons of a priest are extorting his order for money. If that were to be the characterization of the case, it's sad, and extorting is always wrong and harmful to everyone concerned.

But in relation to the bigger picture, to the wider community, the action of these sons (if they did extort) is not even a blip on the screen compared to Maciel's evils and the Legion's evils in covering for him. It is in that sense that I can say, relatively, I could care less about how the sons have acted. Not only can I imagine all sorts of reasons why their culpability could be hugely diminished, if they would be culpable in the end at all--but in relation to our Church and the world--their actions are simply incomparable to Maciel's and the Legion's.

If the entire U.S. Military went rogue, invaded the nation's capital, massacred the women and children, and took the teenage boys hostage to train them up to do their own dirty work, I could care less if some of the teenage boys, after 4 weeks in captivity, managed to escape by using excessive force (i.e., they shot not only their jailers with the weapons they managed to get and hide, but also on the way out, in the heat of the moment, and out of pent up rage, unnecessarily shot and wounded the doorman and the camp doctor). Who. Cares.

Seems to me that saying "I don't care" is not to excuse or justify the now admitted extortion attempt (http://dailycaller.com/2010/03/05/mexican-priests-alleged-son-admits-seeking-money/).

It is merely to say that the real story here is the character of "Nuestro Padre" and the character of those he groomed for decades and who now hold the reins in the Legion.

The story here simply is WHAT KIND OF MAN MACIEL WAS and WHAT KIND OF ORGANIZATION THE LEGION IS. Everything else is irrelevant.

The Legion's attempt to change the subject demonstrates again that their vaunted "exquisite charity" is a self-serving mantra rather than a deeply held conviction, and that this "last best hope for the Church" is a morally corrupt brood of vipers.


I was thinking the same thing after I posted, Pete.

It seems reasonable to conclude that Maciel's children are, in justice, entitled to *something*. But, how in the world are his children going to get that money from the Legion?

There are good reasons to believe the Legion would never pay the money merely out of a sense of justice. This is especially the case because the payment would itself be an admission that "Nuestro Padre" was not an "efficacious guide to youth" who was building the Church a "rocket ship to heaven."

So to compel the Legion to give his son what he is entitled to as a matter of justice, his son offered the Legion something they value in return (which wouldn't be justice): the opportunity to preserve Maciel's reputation, and by extension their own.

I'm not justifying the son's actions, but I can appreciate the frustration of not being able to get justice, especially from an order of Catholic priests!

You're doing exactly what the legion wants. You debate extortion and money instead of focusing on the fact that MACIEL RAPED HIS OWN CHILDREN AND WAS A CHILD PORNOGRAPHER.


First of all private settlement of damages can include silence thereafter and that is NOT extortion.

Second of all even if it was extortion your 'gut comments' are being analyzed as though you are a theologian proposing lesser of two evils. Whereas you are a canonist. Only the most imbecilic magistrate would wade into this debacle and prosecute the petitioner.

Your gut tells you that the magistrate would determine that justice demands dealing with the beam not the mote. The divine magistrate faced with hypocrites trumpeting the sins of a victim could fill a desert with very small writing.

Don't worry, anonymous. We aren't doing exactly what the Legion wants. We know the real issues! We are simply mulling over extortion while we wait and pray that the Vatican Shuts. It. Down.

Uncritical thinking is for the Legion.

Shut. It. Down.

I think common sense tells us that Raul's "extortion" attempt and "Father" MM's abuse of his own sons and his common law marriage of 20 years, are really not comparable. Sin is sin, but then again, there is sin, and there is sin.

As the bible tells us, prostitutes and tax collectors will enter heaven. We could add to that abused sons of Maciel who made an attempt at "extortion."

And the fact is that it really wasn't extortion. It couldn't be b/c he had already told Watti everything. It was simply asking for a quiet settlement similar to the Normas to keep this out of the media.

An insight, here...

...would itself be an admission that "Nuestro Padre" was not an "efficacious guide to youth" who was building the Church a "rocket ship to heaven."

Alright, this gives me a thought. They said they were building the Kingdom. In actuality, they were attempting to build their own tower to the heavens, a second Babel. Consequently they of their own work have made a curse on their language abilities: "charity" is nothing less nor more than rejection of justice in favor of their leaders, "compassion" is saying empty words about apologies while carefully avoiding recognising that there's anything to apologise for, and "extortion" means being willing to let the matter rest if damages are justly paid. Plus all those places where they confuse the pirate ship Legion with the Barque of Peter, and such.

Makes one wonder: when God confused the languages of the builders of the first Babel, did He bother to do so directly, or did He merely allow their prideful work to twist everything they said till they were thrown into disunity in their self-centered ways of framing the world?

Luke 18:1 : "In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, 'Grant me justice against my adversary.'"

So the importunate widow intended to complain and make noise until her demand for "justice" would be met.

Thanks to the Legion, we now know that she was really just an extortionist, and deserved to be locked up.

To Peter and the rest… thank you for your comments. I should have also said in my original comment that I don’t think that Raul was extorting the Legion, but, as other blogs have stated, was looking for an “out of court” settlement (perhaps similar to Norma’s). I was only taking Peter’s “hypothetical” as a point of departure. As one commenter said, we don’t need to continue distracting ourselves with whether it is extortion or not.

My main point was to thoughtfully take a step back and analyze how Catholics should apply moral teaching to our reaction of the Marciel scandal because we still need to strive to imitate Christ under all circumstances, even the gut wrenching, disgusting, revolting… scandal which continues to develop before our eyes. This is true even if, and especially if, our adversary does not.

I realize this is not the main issue by a long shot. And it is not meant to diminish the evil done by Marciel or the LC or limit discussions of its manifestations. There are many forums in which we can do that. Hopefully we will be able to condemn evil, seek justice and at the same time live our call to holiness. This is a delicate balance with such provocations appearing every day.

I have felt at times that in some circles our zeal for justice (in the face of such unspeakable evil) has cause us to lower our standards. Saying “It should be closed down” does not go against moral teaching. Saying “I don’t care” if evil is done so that good can result is a bit grayer. I hope you see the difference. Some might say, “the whole issue does not matter, the injustice is too great.” But it seems to me that the Chruch says it is important.

The only close analogy I can think of is the horrendous crime of abortion. As evil as it is, moral teaching still states we can not harm abortion practitioners. And I don’t think it is correct to think it either.

I have felt hard pressed to comment on the issue, not wanting to not distract the treads or to appear to support or condone Marciel. Perhaps the best thing to do would be to solicit the opinion of American moral theologian Germain Grisez, but in the meantime I would be interested to hear any further comments.

The issue for me is not so much one of justice, but one of prudence. Is it wise to let a group that was founded and FORMED by a man such as Maciel be allowed contact with young people?

If you put this in a different context it would be so easy to see why it would be insane to allow this group to continue. Envision a charter school that was started by someone who proceeded to sexually abuse and psychologically wound his first students and future teachers. Would ANYONE send their children there once they learned of that facts of the school? Of course not, but since we have a religious element involved, people think all kinds of crazy things.

This group, if one thinks clearly, has never been of God. This group exists to gain recruits for immoral purposes, to destroy the Church, and to make lots of money. What is the great good that they do? They have schools and activities to attract families and children, (boys, primarily), to become priests who control the families that have the schools and activities to attract families and boys, etc, etc. Does it not sound like a pretty closed circle system? What are they doing for the Church and the world?

It doesn't matter whose "fault" it was. What matters is that it is an unhealthy and corrupt system that needs to be shut down. They need to be disbanded for their own sakes so they may have some chance in the future to begin to think and act in healthy ways. They need to be stopped to prevent others from getting sucked into this sick system.

"Perhaps the best thing to do would be to solicit the opinion of American moral theologian Germain Grisez"

Joe Catholic,

Not sure why your appealing to authority when Pete AGREES with you on the moral judgments involved.

A moral theologian ought to agree with Pete and with you that extortion is never morally justifiable.

A canonist would find considerable wisdom in a judge saying "I don't care (i.e. I'm not interested)" when the petitioner with the beam demands justice re: the mote.

There is nothing wrong with looking at this with both the theological and canonical viewpoints. We have an excellent model for both in John 8:

They said to him, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery.

Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?"

They said this to test him, so that they could have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger.

But when they continued asking him, he straightened up and said to them, "Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her."

Again he bent down and wrote on the ground.

And in response, they went away one by one, beginning with the elders. So he was left alone with the woman before him.

Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?"

She replied, "No one, sir." Then Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you. Go, (and) from now on do not sin any more."

@Joe Catholic
What you wrote about abortion is true. We must try to end abortion, but not kill the abortionist.
It is not however a good analogy to the LC or Regnum Christi Movement organization in the way you phrased it. Remember that though the existence of the Regnum Christi Movement organization has enabled problems and is causing problems to its members and the Church, no one wishes to harm any individual person in the LC or Movement. Rather, they are trying to consider a solution which would put an end to the very serious problems the group has caused the Church and people of good will. Remember Joe, do not elevate the Movement or LC organization to equal the Church or think of it as having personhood. This is what has caused so much delusion, hurt and derision for members of the Movement and the LC.
Using your analogy of the abortion we could say that we hate abortion - the act. We love abortionist even though we hate the act of abortion. We hope that Planned Parenthood is shut down because it is the organization which is enabling the abortionist to commit his crimes and it is also corrupting youngsters. Even if the bad crimes are no longer being commited, we may think that those who worked for the organization and were attached to it would be healthier and less likely to inadvertently harm others if the organization no longer existed in its present state. Notice - how the demise of the organization in its present state does not equal the demise of any person, but rather potential new life even for the ones caught in it.
Try to see it in the light of God's mercy and concern for each person.

I think this whole conversation is off track, starting with Peter's throwing out the word extortion (for argument's sake), and possibly falling right into the trap the LC set.

In my understanding the term "extortion" is completely out of place here. Extortion is "I know something about you and you have to pay me to keep it secret". It cannot possibly be extortion to say, "I know a secret about myself and either you pay me or I am going to reveal it".

Each and every person has full and absolute rights to disclose or not disclose whatever details he wishes of HIS OWN PRIVATE AND PERSONAL LIFE. Thus, if he is able to convince someone to pay him not to disclose something of his personal life, he is absolutely free to do so (and more power to him, in my opinion. I wish I could). It defies reason to think someone is practicing extortion by threatening to say who HIS OWN FATHER is. (I'm not a lawyer but I would be surprised if this is material for a criminal act either.) Indeed, courts have generally (and I believe correctly) decided that an adopted child has the right to demand and obtain information to find out who his biological parents are, even if the adoption papers specifically guaranteed their anonynimity.

Or put the other way around, what moral norm, or who, pray tell, has the authority to prohibit you or me or Raul from publicly saying who our father is? No third party interests can morally or legally prohibit me from publicly saying "Hi Dad", but if for whatever reason someone out there doesn't want me to (because it is not in THEIR interests), why can't I ask them to pay me for prescinding from the free exercise of my rights?

Besides, in this case, if anything, the Legion would have been in the position of extorting Raul by threatening to reveal his paternity if he did not want it revealed.

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This page contains a single entry by Pete Vere published on March 5, 2010 3:40 PM.

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