Ridding Catholicism of the stench of this Legionary of Christ
The Guardian (UK), September 21, 2011
By Hugh O’Shaughnessy
The late Marcial Maciel Degollado did enormous damage, but finally the Vatican is cleaning up his scandalous mess
At last, the Vatican begins to move in earnest to clean up the scandalous mess of the egregiously wealthy rightwing Legionaries of Christ. Their members are known to some as the “millionaires of Christ” and their stench has been in the nostrils of Catholics for too many decades.
A start was made on 15 July to repair the enormous damage to the church done by the late Marcial Maciel Degollado, who founded the Legion of Christ in 1940. The pushy Mexican priest was the bisexual pederast, drug-addicted lover of several women and father of three who hoodwinked a succession of popes from Pius XII and who was eventually run to ground and disgraced by Benedict XVI in 2006.
At the start of 2011 Richard Gill, for 29 years a US priest of the Legionaries of Christ but who had left the Legion last year, wrote: “It is no exaggeration to say that Marcial Maciel was by far the most despicable character in the twentieth century Catholic Church, inflicting more damage on her reputation and evangelizing mission than any other single Church leader.”
Cardinal Velasio de Paolis, the canon lawyer and head of the Holy See’s economic affairs to whom the pope has given full powers over the organisation, has pushed its vicar-general out of his comfortable office in Rome. Father Luis Garza, a member of one of the fabulously rich Mexican families from the northern Mexican city of Monterrey who as a close colleague of Maciel Degollado helped to run the Legion and its assets of $25bn, has just been bundled off to New York to head its activities in the US and Canada.
The cardinal was appointed papal commissioner more than a year ago and moved so cautiously that those who inherited the Legion and its assets sat back and relaxed, assured, they thought, that the crimes of Maciel Degollado, 87, who died in opprobrium in 2008, would be swept under the carpet. According to authoritative Chiesa website, Garza even gave a press interview on 27 June announcing that he would stay on as vicar of the Legion until 2013 or 2015.
Now he has gone, leaving the startlingly handsome Álvaro Corcuera, the Mexican priest who was the closest collaborator of Maciel Degollado, as the senior cleric to take orders from Cardinal de Paolis. And the cardinal has hinted strongly that other heads will roll and stories bubble up about the man who used to be called blasphemously “Our Father” by his followers. One of these tales concerned the time when Maciel Degollado was found taking a break in a retreat house in Mexico with a lady and her daughter – before it was established that they were one of his wives and one of his children.
Corcuera and Garza, far from being left alone, are having to face a cataclysmic situation that Maciel Degollado brought about. The numbers seeking to enter the Legion and its lay section Regnum Christi have tumbled markedly, while rich and powerful allies have split off from the organisation – notably the Oriol family, a rich dynasty which had served to established Maciel Degollado in high society in Spain, helped him to collect money from the rich and had aided him to become acquainted with the dictator Francisco Franco.
Maciel Degollado left a series of dirty marks wherever he passed.
Gill, for instance, wonders why the Vatican department that deals with religious orders gave its approval in 1983 to a new constitution for the Legion, which has proved to be irregular and defective. Cardinal Eduardo Pironio, who headed that department and was one of the few senior Argentine clerics to have come out of his country’s dirty war with credit, clearly committed an error in approving an unsatisfactory constitution. Paradoxically he also happened to be one of the few leaders of the church in Argentina who stood up to the sort of raging conservatives who were attracted to the Legion. Because of this, Pironio received death threats from rightwing extremists in his homeland and had to flee to Rome. Worse, his reputation was gravely damaged.
How did Maciel Degollado fool such a succession of popes?
The literal meaning of his mother’s surname – which in Spanish fashion is inserted after his father’s surname Maciel is fascinating. The literal meaning of “degollado” is “a man whose throat has been ripped out”. How weird!