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.

Maciel, Mom and the Messiah

While ExLC was translating the latest news to come from Spain (click here) and Giselle was surveying Regnum Christi membership decline in local sections (click here), I thought I would take a moment to poke through alleged LC constitutions available on Wikileak. (As an aside, has anyone heard from Cassandra or Fr. Damien Karras concerning recent allegations?)
I won’t go into the Legion’s structure, or ask why they include regulations on how to properly tip one’s soup bowl when dining. Rather, what stood out to me in glancing through the documents was the following hagiography of Mama Maurita, venerated among LC/RC as Fr. Maciel’s mother. In fact, the movement is currently pushing her cause for beatification:

Historical material pertaining to Our Founder

472. To gather historical material pertaining the family of Our Founder, especially Mama Maurita [the mother of Marcial Maciel Degollado], the instrument chosen by God to give life to Nuestro Padre and to prepare the earth in which his vocation as a Christian, a priest and the Founder of the Legion of Christ would germinate.[emphasis mine]
473. We consider it appropriate at this time to inform you that the Commission for the Cause of the Beatification of Mama Maurita has now been put in place and will in time be releasing information on the steps which it has been taking. Meanwhile, the Chapter Fathers invite our legionary brothers to intensify their prayers so that God may grant us the grace of seeing in the not too distant future Mama Maurita placed on altars, for the good of the Church, of the Legion and of the Movement.

Okay, anybody else troubled by this?
Not to say Fr. Maciel’s mother wasn’t a holy woman. She may or may not have been – I don’t know and that’s not where I’m going here. However, whatever her level of sanctity, does she deserve the same to messianic hagiography as the Blessed Mother, who prepared the way for Christ? Especially given that Fr. Maciel ended his life a disgrace to the Church.
The contemporary Church doesn’t even use this type of messianic language for St. Monica, who bore St. Augustine – a great convert, confessor, father and doctor of the Church, not to mention founder of the institute bearing his name. However, in Advent-like narrative, Mama Maurita was uniquely chosen by God to prepare the earth for and give birth to Fr. Maciel!
Suddenly, I understand why Fr. Maciel compared himself to Christ suffering on the cross in silence when the Holy See invited him to retire to a life of prayer and penance.

A dozen and counting

I’m wondering whether Rob Zombie will announce that his next film project is a biography of Fr. Maciel…
Yesterday’s El Mundo, which I am told by Hispanic readers is Spain’s second-most-widely read newspaper, and which carried the original interview with the mother of Fr. Maciel’s daughter, has just published a new article alleging that the Fr. Maciel illegitimate children count is up to twelve. ExLCBlog has an English translation here.
The only positive is that at least nobody is accusing Fr. Maciel of sending his concubines off to the abortuary. Of course, who knows what new allegations will arise tomorrow?

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.

Sunday Legion roundup

I’m off to the in-laws for supper, but there’s lots of good discussion on the Legion of Christ (LC) and Regnum Christi (RC) on other blogs:
1 – Life After RC has posted LC communication director Jim Fair’s statement on recent revelations from Spanish-language new sources. You can read the statement here. Some commentators have asked whether the LC have a communication strategy. Sadly, in reading this statement it appears that the Legion has adopted the Clinton strategy during the Monica Lewinsky scandal (minus the heartbreaking apology after it had dragged on for a while): Admit only small bits of information at a time, and only after the media uncovers it first.
2 – Quoting from what appears to be LC constitutions, Pat Madrid asks: Who was Fr. Maciel’s moderator?
3 – Former LC priest Fr. James Farfaglia, who now pastors a Catholic parish in Texas, asks some pointed questions of current LC chief tomato Fr. Alvaro Corcuerra, L.C. here.
4 – Saving the best for last, ExLC blogger Landon Cody has blogged a pithy reflection on this past week. Chief among his insights, in my opinion, is the following:

The unfortunate part of all of this disaster is the fact that the day to day rules and regulations in the Legion and the Movement, the spirituality focus, and the identifying characteristics of the “Legionary Type” radicate in the pathological behavior of a man who created an institute where he could exercise complete power and control with no oversight or accountability, and live a life diametrically opposed to that of the gospel. The key is that the very institute and its rules and way of life was what permitted him to live this life on the margin of clerical respectability while using the typical modus operandi of an abuser: the search for complete power and manipulation. At the same time, the mirror image of this depravity of control became the Legion of Christ: an institute designed with a centralized, top to bottom control structure that Maciel micro managed and taught his successors to micro manage, complete with more rule books and norms and detailed minutia than any other order, congregation, or religious institute in the history of the Catholic Church.

Cody’s entire reflection is well worth a read, as is the ensuing the blog discussion. You can check it out here.