Ireland, the OSCE and Massimo Introvigne

From January 1st of this year Ireland takes over the chairmanship of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), with Mr. Eamon Gilmore being appointed Chairperson-In-Office. Tánaiste Gilmore described his aims as follows:

Ireland is committed to upholding core OSCE values and promoting peace, security and respect for human rights and rule of law in the Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian region.

We will draw on our own experience of conflict resolution in the context of the Northern Ireland peace process to advance these processes and facilitate engagement by all parties.

The potential of the internet to inform and empower people is clearer than ever. It is unfortunately also clear that the threat to freedom of expression online is growing.

A new representative has been appointed for the fight against racism, xenophobia and related intolerance and discrimination against Christians and followers of other religions. Dialogue Ireland sees this as a potentially significant development given the previous representative, Mr. Massimo Introvigne.

This new appointment takes place in spite of the insistence by 56 foreign ministers and Archibishop Mamberti, Secretary for Relations with the Vatican States, who had praised the exceptional results achieved by the previous representative and had called for a renewal of his mandate. Dialogue Ireland has previously reported on Mr. Introvigne, within the context of his support for, and defence of, Legionaries of Christ founder Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado.

Some examples of Mr. Introvigne defending Fr. Marcial against accusations of sexual abuse from articles he has written are given below. These articles have since been taken down from the CESNUR website that originally hosted them, so we have provided the text as well as a screen shot of the original pages.

From “The Holy See and the Legionaries of Christ: Facts and Fiction” (Screenshot, text):

After ten years of controversies, the Holy See acted on the case of Father Marcias Maciel – founder but after 2005 no longer Superior General – of the religious order of the Legionaries of Christ. Father Maciel had been accused of sexual abuses, most of them dating back to the 1950s, by several ex-Legionaries, while others have testified that money had been offered to them to confirm what they regard as false accusations against Father Maciel. It is worth noting that the accusers, although part of a subculture infested by lawyers ready to seek millionaire damages from the Catholic Church in any case of real or alleged abuses, never tested their case in a secular court. They were well aware that they would have been thrown out of court, together with their clockwork stories of abuses “remembered” after so many years.

The ways of the Church are not the ways of the tribunals of men. In the latter, Father Maciel’s foes would have been easily ridiculed.

Nor did the Holy See give any stamp of approval to the various lurid exposes of Father Maciel and the Legionaries of Christ. The press release does not imply in any way that what these books say about Father Maciel is true. These books attacks Father Maciel in order to attack the Legionaries of Christ, their theology, their apologetics, their schools and their universities.

It is worth noting that since Mr. Introvigne wrote this the Legionaries of Christ order themselves have stated on their website: “We had thought and hoped that the accusations brought against our founder were false and unfounded, since they conflicted with our experience of him personally and his work. However, on May 19, 2006, the Holy See’s Press Office issued a communiqué as the conclusion of a canonical investigation that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) had begun in 2004. At that time, the CDF reached sufficient moral certainty to impose serious canonical sanctions related to the accusations made against Fr Maciel, which included the sexual abuse of minor seminarians. Therefore, though it causes us consternation, we have to say that these acts did take place.

The book Mr. Introvigne refers to is “Vows of Silence: The Abuse of Power in the Papacy of John Paul II” (a review of the book is here) written by Jason Berry and Gerald Renner. We have previously featured some of Mr. Berry’s articles on our blog (Samplings are here, here, here, here and here). Mr. Introvigne discusses the book further in his article “Two Connecticut Yankees in Father Maciel’s Court: Anti-Cult and Anti-Catholic Stereotypes in “Vows of Silence”” (Screenshot, text), and explains some of his reasoning for dismissing the accusations made:

When Mark Twain published his book A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court most European Catholic reviewers were not amused, and accused Twain of anti-Catholic bias. Perhaps, after all, Twain’s bias was more generally anti-religious than anti-Catholic. And the book was funny. Now the humor is gone, and anti-Catholicism, having adapted for its purpose the anti-cult stereotypes, is no longer funny, just plain ugly. That anti-Catholicism is indeed the last acceptable prejudice, and an effective Catholic Anti-Defamation League is badly needed, would be obvious even to the casual reader of Vows of Silence: The Abuse of Power in the Papacy of John Paul II by Connecticut’s Hartford Courant reporters Jason Berry and Gerald Renner

In its central part, the book tries to resurrect a dead horse. In 1997 the authors reported in the Hartford Courant about the accusations af a handful of former members of the Catholic religious order of the Legionaires of Christ. They had accused the order’s founder, Father Marcias Maciel (a close friend of John Paul II), of having sexually abused them in the 1950s, when they were seminarians. By the authors’ own admission, national media in the U.S. showed little interest in the story, perhaps because they had been burned before with instances of alleged abuses reported by the so called victims twenty or even forty years after the “facts”. It is also true that the Legionaries’ attorneys at that time provided the mainline media with affidavits by other former seminarians, stating that they had been offered money to confirm false allegations against Maciel. The accusers had been thrown out of Catholic ecclesiastical courts more than once.

In assessing the Legionaries of Christ and other Catholic groups such as the Opus Dei, the authors rely heavily on the anti-cult literature on brainwashing, mind control, and descriptions of movements where only militant ex-members are free from brainwashing and able to tell the truth. Since actual members, and even former members who did not turn into militant critics, are under the effects of brainwashing, we cannot regard them as believable. The fact that some Catholics did buy the stereotype in order to attack, say, the Church of Scientology or the Moonies, is put to good use by the authors.

It is here that we come to the real source of Mr. Introvigne’s dismissal of the accusation against Fr. Marciel. Ireland, due to events in recent times, has become very aware of the flaw in branding accusations as “anti-Catholic sentiment”. The same flaw applies to Mr. Introvigne’s caricature of what he calls “anti-cult literature”. In both cases the people who have been wronged have been ignored. I think the following, taken from the same Legionaries of Christ communiqué referred to earlier, is worth quoting:

Once again, we express our sorrow and grief to each and every person damaged by our founder’s actions.

We ask all those who accused him in the past to forgive us, those whom we did not believe or were incapable of giving a hearing to, since at the time we could not imagine that such behavior took place.

As noted earlier, the appointment of a new representative may be a potentially significant development. We wish the new representative, former Supreme Court justice Catherine McGuinness, the very best in her new role.

One Response

  1. Good news. Massimo Introvigne is regarded by some as a cult apologist, or at least biased. eg:
    ‘Anti-cult activists and scholars sympathetic to the anti-cult movement such as Thomas Gandow, Stephen Kent, as well as Benjamin Zablocki see Introvigne’s framing of scholars and academics (those who agree with CESNUR) vs. anti-cult movement (those who do not agree with CESNUR regardless of their academic qualifications) as biased, not to mention the term anti-cult terrorism he coined.[16]’

    Incidentally, you mis-spell CESNUR (the organisation Introvigne is associated with) as CENSUR, in your fourth paragraph down (not counting the yellow shaded indented quote paragraphs), where you say:

    ‘Some examples of Mr. Introvigne defending Fr. Marcial against accusations of sexual abuse from articles he has written are given below. These articles have since been taken down from the CENSUR website that originally hosted them, so we have provided the text as well as a screenshot of the original pages.’

    While some might regard CENSUR as a more appropriate name, its actually CESNUR, Center for Studies on New Religions:


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