Time has an article about Marcial Maciel and the Legion of Christ that touches on a particularly sensitive issue: the promotion of the order by Pope John Paul II, now under consideration for canonization.
The Vatican had investigated Maciel’s personal life as early as the 1950s; but John Paul, whose papacy began in 1978, showered praise on the Legion’s founder, calling him “an efficacious guide to youth.”
Vaca says that remark is what compelled Maciel victims to tell their stories for the book Vows of Silence, published in 2004. They eventually got the Vatican, even under John Paul, to take their allegations seriously, but Church watchers say Benedict’s current mission to canonize his predecessor is another reason Rome won’t want to punish the Legion too harshly. “The Legionaries of Christ are going to withstand this [latest] blow,” says Elio Masferrer, an expert on the Catholic Church in Latin America at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). Rome, he predicts, “will not take any meaningful action” — just as it hasn’t, he argues, in widespread clerical sex abuse cases in Ireland and the U.S., despite Benedict’s vow to remove the “filth” of sex abusers from the priesthood.
But it’s causing the Catholic Church to lose credibility, particularly in Mexico, the home of the Legion; Time suggests that the loss of moral authority is having both political impact and is helping to accelerate the movement of individual Mexicans from Catholicism to evangelicalism.