Maciel: Misplaced Outrage

Keith Fournier weighs in on the Maciel matter. I’m not picking on him, but feel the need to make an observation … and it has been building for some time.

All these people are now outraged that Maciel had a mistress and fathered some kids and he misused church money.

As if this is the first time a priest did that.

Let’s consider the big picture. The larger pattern of scandal that has always surrounded this fellow. Scandal that led to his temporary removal in the 1950s. Scandal that took a new shape in the 1970s. Scandal that finally led to his forced retirement when Pope Benedict XVI took over.

These accusations includeda pattern of sexual abuse of boys and young men starting in the 1940s. This is a man who founded a religious order, surrounded himself with young men, cut them off from their families, groomed them into clones of himself (with bizarre regulations requiring them to dress, speak, and even hold a knife and fork as he told them to), created a cult of adoration, having them call him Nuestro Padre–and then he preyed upon them sexually. When his victims tried to obtain justice, popes protected him. He curried favor with the rich and powerful, persuading them to fund his many enterprises, and then he took the credit. He created a myth of himself, a myth in which he was a saint, and even building his own magnificent tomb–a tomb he now will never occupy.

Jason Berry and Gerald Renner said, in Vows of Silence:

In Father Maciel, we confront a papal cover-up. His career is a case study in disinformation–distorting truth to gain power and fabricating a virtuous image out of pathological behavior ….

This is the real scandal, not a couple of children on the side. It’s the scandal of an evil man who created an order in his own image so that he could continue to do evil under a cloak of sanctity.

But there’s too much raw anger–grief–about that, because so many people have been touched by good things the order has done, by good people within the Legion and the lay Regnum Christi movement. Good was done despite Maciel, not because of him.

Can the order and the movement and its apostolates survive? Only if they dump his entire legacy. Only if they start from scratch and get rid of all the obsessiveness about secrecy and conformity that was rooted in Maciel’s warped persona.