Pope John Paul II and Fr. Maciel

UPDATE: Damian Thompson also weighs in on the controversy, over at the London Telegraph blog.
Cassandra Jones, one of the most insightful commentators on the Fr. Maciel expose, is back. This time Cassandra tackles how this crisis with the Legion of Christ is hurting the papal legacy of John Paul II. (For an earlier blog on this topic, please click here.) I’ve quoted some of Cassandra’s more pithy observations:

The circus nevertheless threatens to distract from the issue more important than Father Maciel’s personal depravity, which, if not fully, we knew about already: accounting for the damage the Legionaries have done to the Church. What interests me is how the scandal now threatens to derail the legacy of Pope John Paul II.
What the Legionaries used to say in their vile and dishonest attempt to discredit [Hartford Courant reporter Jason] Berry’s triumphantly vindicated journalism, that he is an enemy of the pope, was distortedly true insofar as Berry has expressed unsympathy for orthodox Catholic understanding in some matters. To have decoupled truth from Gospel witness in its members is one aspect of the disaster the Legionaries have inflicted on the Church. The National Catholic Register used the same voice both to proclaim pro-life and their loyalty to John Paul and to lie in defense of a serial child rapist.

Cassandra is right. Without some serious evidence to corroborate accusations that John Paul II was aware of the situation, we ought not allow this scandal to undermine our affection for the late pope. However, we must recognize that he was not perfect, and that he made a serious mistake in trusting Fr. Maciel.
Moreover, Legion apologists should recognize that they are doing themselves, orthodox Catholics and the memory of Pope John Paul II a great disservice in invoking the pope’s approval.


  1. Affection is a feeling and NOT one that we are required to feel for a pontiff. We are required to respect the office and use our reason to discern rather than being run over by our emotions. But emotions themselves are neither right nor wrong, and I personally feel that it would be unnatural for those of us whose lives were dramatically affected because of JPII’s imprudence to maintain the same level of affection we previously had for him. My affection has certainly diminished considerably, and I don’t feel in the least that I should be required to maintain that feeling of fondness. Quite frankly, I’m pretty mad–the same way I’d be mad at a friend whom I trusted with my well being and the well being of my children, only to find out that imprudence and blindness had led that same friend to give me advice that led to very bad consequences for my family.
    Does this mean I feel JPII was a bad person? Not at all. In fact, he may very well have been personally quite holy and exemplary. I will say that I feel his imprudence in this Maciel situation now leads me to wonder about the quality of his decision-making in many other areas. I don’t think we should be required to feel any level of affection whatsoever, as long as we continue to show respect for his office and do not allow our emotions to cloud our reason when it comes to re-evaluating his papacy in light of what has been revealed in recent months.

  2. The LC/RC under Maciel developed a parasitic PR strategy: get trusted lay leaders, bishops, cardinals and, yes, even popes, to say, “They’re our friends, so trust them — they’re the good guys!” It worked pretty well until the truth emerged. Now, in justice, it has blown up in their faces. Any reformed LC/RC of the future simply has to do good in faith and let their actions speak for themselves, just like any other positive part of the Holy Mother Church.

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