Jason Berry follows the money to Rome


UPDATE: Currently reading Berry's piece. Was heartened by Berry's following admission, given his past criticism of Cardinal Ratzinger's handling of the Maciel case (prior to Cardinal Ratzinger being elected Pope):

One cardinal who rebuffed a Legion financial gift was Joseph Ratzinger.

In 1997 he gave a lecture on theology to Legionaries. When a Legionary handed him an envelope, saying it was for his charitable use, Ratzinger refused. "He was tough as nails in a very cordial way," a witness said.

Good for His Holiness. And good for Jason Berry for showing journalistic integrity in pointing this out.

Jason Berry's first installment of a two-part series investigating Legion of Christ finances was published today. You can read the article by clicking here. For those new to this whole controversy, Jason Berry is one of two Hartford Courant journalists who in 1997 broke the story of Maciel's sex abuse of minor seminarians. This afternoon has been pretty busy so I have not yet had time to read his latest expose. But Giselle has posted some comments here.


In Mexico, the system functions on morditas (bribery) and envelopes of money.

Organized crime, the Mafia, functions on money.

This article says that the entire governance of the Church is likewise based on morditas, envelopes of money, and favours granted.

MM was not the exception, but a man who knew how the system worked.

That is quite the story.

Why would any of those people shut the Legion down?

One cardinal who rebuffed a Legion financial gift was Joseph Ratzinger. In 1997 he gave a lecture on theology to Legionaries. When a Legionary handed him an envelope, saying it was for his charitable use, Ratzinger refused. "He was tough as nails in a very cordial way," a witness said.

That says nothing about his attention to the Legion. All it says is, from all appearances, that the Cardinal is humble. In fact, to know whether he truly rejected the money because of what he knew about the Legion or because he wished to be humble, to say nothing of the possibility that he didn't know about the Legion's founders' sins, it would require either occultic knowledge of his heart or someone asking him personally about his intentions of not receiving the Legionary's money.

What that anecdote says is simply that there are different trees rooted in a forest of bribery. The Legion is nothing more than a vehicle for the real story. The real news is that the buying influence with large envelopes of money is the way that the Vatican functions.

I'm sorry; I'm naive, maybe, willing to give people the benefit of the doubt until they prove themselves to be unworthy of the doubt, but Pope Benedict XVI does deserve to be trusted. And kudos to J. Berry for this. Maybe that will shut up the absolutely horrendous, slanderous, sinful comments about him on NCReporter. John Allen is the only reason to read this rag anymore; J. Berry, a second.

So Cdl. Ratzinger turned down the Legion gift in 1997.

The canonical case against Maciel was filed in 1998, so Ratzinger definitely knew about the charges then.

However, charges had already been aired publicly before that. Was Ratzinger turning down the gift because he already knew of the accusations?

So you are saying that Ratzinger refused the Legion bribe under one circumstance but would have accepted others? For example, from those he had no intention of taking down?

I think that you are so focused on the Legion that you are missing out on the big picure of what J Berry is saying about the Church.

Poor Benedict. He didn't deserve this smear job on the entire institution, particularly not now.

It is also interesting to see who financed Berry's research, and what their agenda is. I wonder if any one else googled that. The left has never had the reputation of being pro-Catholic. Hence, you get a story, not of financial mismanagement within a particular institution, making it an exception, but a huge take-down of the Vatican itself and its modus operandi.

If this story spreads, the little fire that Laurie Goldstein and Der Spiegel set under the Vatican, is about to get a big dose of gasoline. It will be interesting to follow.

So you are saying that Ratzinger refused the Legion bribe under one circumstance but would have accepted others? For example, from those he had no intention of taking down?

I think Mr. Vere and Mr. Chonak are saying they don't know. I strongly doubt that they are accusing His Holiness of any impropriety.

That is precisely my point, Pete. Outside of your Legion-obsessed circle, who is going to make that distinction? The Vatican functions by the exchange of envelopes of money. Period.

I am not saying to google Berry, but to google the foundation that funded his research into the NCR article: ". A grant from the Investigative Fund from The Nation Institute supported research for this article."

Google describes the Nation Institute as: A liberal-left independently funded and administered organization, committed to a just society and the principles of the First Amendment."

I am sure anyone who chooses to google The Nation will find the same facts.

This article is not about MM's double life, or even about the Legion per se, but about the culture of bribery existing at the Vatican. The Legion is merely there as a pretext for this larger story. Of course, it plays into your agenda, as the ABC story demonstrates, but I doubt that it will stop there.


Like a pebble cast into a pond, our every action ripples out toward the edges, reaching farther than we intended, touching what we do not even know, for good and for ill.

The NCR is quite ethical in stating clearly the financial support Berry obtained. Scroll down to the bottom of the article and The Nation Foundation is named as having provided an investigative grant.


Why does this automatically remind me of the movie A Man for All Seasons? Remember the scene at the beginning of the movie where someone gave St. Thomas More a cup that turned out to be an attempted bribe? More just gave it away because he didn't take bribes, though it was used against him later in the film during his trial.

This is what I'm reminded of. Could then Cardinal Ratzinger have refused the money because he suspected it was some kind of bribe, which he didn't take? Whether or not he knew about the charges against Maciel at the time may be irrelevant. Someone in his (former) position at the head of the CDF might be a prime target for bribery, so it would be wise for him to have a general policy of not taking monetary gifts. In fact, maybe the offer itself raised his suspicions toward the Legion? Just a thought... I could be wrong.

I've been waiting for a new wave of investigations to take on the misuse of Church money: so apparently there is influence-buying, cronyism perhaps: certainly cases of embezzlement.

If accurate reporting compels the Church to eliminate cases of corruption, regardless of what the reporters' or their sponsors' goals are, it's helping the Church.

Excellent point Richard Chonak. The NCR piece is as much about the Vatican as it is about Fr. Maciel.

That a journal calling itself national and Catholic would be so ignorant of centuries old traditions of influence peddling at the Vatican (as in most governments and big corporations) is beyond belief.

When the NCR feels the need to add "Benedict is under pressure from a resurgent sex abuse scandal in Ireland, and cases from years back in Germany, Wisconsin and Arizona, in which he reportedly failed to discipline abusive priests" to its breaking news on financial shenanigans I suspect they are subtly pushing BXVI towards the same bus under which they helped throw JP II.

As Joseph Bottum at First Things says - 'the NCR piece is thinly sourced although, they are fumbling toward the truth.' A truth which I think will be another Pandora's box for the Vatican.

Leon Podles is a wonderful writer who blogs about church issues. He said on a previous post that he funded the Vows of Silence documentary.

He also said that years ago he read that Cardinal Ratzinger liked to take mountain vacations but couldn't afford them. Podles sent the Cardinal a large check so that he could take a vacation in a place he liked. Cardinal Ratzinger thanked him from the money, but said he could not use it for a vacation. He would use it for resources for his office which he truly needed.

The point is that Ratzinger took a donation from someone he trusted, didn't use it for merely personal reasons, and refused to accept anything from the Legion.

I think he comes out smelling like roses.

Tedious in its predictability, the responses of those who would like to divert attention from the seriousness of the perfidy of church hierarchy thus far are : "enemies of the Church!" (in this case, the "liberal-left"), "other organizations do it too!!", and "nothing to see here, folks, this has been happening forever", along with a jab or two about poor journalism. I'm just waiting for a comment about how this is just a bunch of "petty gossip."


Dear "Not Richard",

You wrote above:
So you are saying that Ratzinger refused the Legion bribe under one circumstance but would have accepted others?

Other readers have already answered this suggestion of yours. However, I'd like to draw your attention to a point of rhetoric.

To be brief about it: the expression "So you are saying that..." seems to be putting words in my mouth.

I don't know whether you intended to do that, but the effect was untrue: I was not saying what you suggested. I hope you didn't do that consciously, because it would be a failure of civility.

Now, it's reasonable to speculate or extrapolate based on other people's arguments, but if you want to make some contentious claim using charged words like "bribe", I ask you to please present it as your own idea, and avoid presenting it as anything else.

Christ is risen!

So Jason Berry is a critic of the Church? So what! Is what he is reporting the truth? If it is then the Church, who is called to bear witness to Him who is Truth should be paying attention. If not then he could be discredited. The problem is that he was right on Maciel, and the conservative Catholics like me were wrong, very wrong. There are lies, damned lies, and then there are "Legionary Truths".

I am a member of Regnum Christi, and I am working through the issues of leaving vs staying. I have come across a lot of good reasons to leave. I am in contact with LC friends of mine to determine if there are actually any bona fide reasons to stay. So far, I don't like my chances of finding any. But I am prepared to pray and study to get an honest answer to my question. And then act in accordance with that truth.

Likewise, the members of the Church must be honest in their dealings and in their lives. Lying to serve the Truth is like screwing around to be faithful to your marriage vows. It is a blatant contradiction. It can only the benefit the Church if this practice of bribing high ranking Curia officials to turn a blind eye to real issues is brought to an end.

The key difference between Christian ethics and any other ethical system is that in Christian ethics one may not do evil so that good may come of it, whereas every other system is ultimately a form of utilitarianism that encourages that. Only the truth can set you free. Lies will leave you in bondage.

"Only truth will set you free. Lies will leave you in bondage"

Seano - I think you have your answer.

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This page contains a single entry by Pete Vere published on April 6, 2010 4:22 PM.

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