The National Catholic Review

The jaw-dropping revelations of the appalling double life of Mexico's Marcial Maciel just keep coming. James Ellroy wouldn't write such stuff and expect anyone to buy it. Two years after his death the execrable life and times of the founder of the powerful Catholic religious order, the Legion of Christ, continues to astonish and repulse. Now three men have stepped forward from one of the phantom families apparently maintained by Maciel to identify themselves as his sons and to add their names to the list of Maciel's many victims. The depressing reality of this toxic life with father have been confirmed by the Legion, along with an apparent attempt to extort $26 million from the order. Good grief.

Here's the story from Catholic News Service:


More abuse allegations against Legionaries' founder surface in Mexico

March 4, 2010:

By David Agren Catholic News Service

MEXICO CITY (CNS) -- Many in Mexico -- and beyond -- know Father Marcial Maciel as the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, an influential Catholic order famed for its elite schools and well-heeled followers.

Blanca Estela Lara Gutierrez came to know him in Tijuana by the alias "Raul Rivas," who, she said, "wanted to have a family" and, at various times, masqueraded as either a private detective or a CIA agent.

Her three sons, Jose Raul, Omar and Cristian, came to know Father Maciel as "Dad."

On March 3, the family went public with unflattering details of their life with Father Maciel. Lara told Mexico City radio host Carmen Aristegui of MVS Radio that she and Father Maciel were a couple for some 25 years and raised three sons -- one of whom, Cristian, was not his biological child. Jose Raul and Omar, meanwhile, tearfully said they had been sexually abused by their dad, Father Maciel.

The allegations threaten to further cloud the legacy of Father Maciel, who founded one of the most successful Catholic orders of the 20th century and gained enormous respect among Catholics worldwide, but lived a double life in violation of church teaching.

After an investigation into allegations of sexual abuse against Father Maciel, the Vatican in May 2006 ordered him to stop practicing his ministry in public and live a life of prayer and penitence. Father Maciel died in January 2008 at age 87. Barely a year later, the Legionaries acknowledged its founder had fathered a daughter.

The latest revelations of impropriety come as a five-member apostolic visitation team investigates the Legionaries of Christ.

Jose Raul Gonzalez Lara -- he and his brothers were not given Father Maciel's family name -- dismissed a recent public apology by Father Evaristo Sada, general secretary of the Legionaries, as "very embarrassing."

On Feb. 22, Father Sada asked for forgiveness "from the persons that our founder has affected because of immoral acts in his personal life." He also called on Legionaries to become more "humble" in their behavior and attitudes.

The Legionaries in Mexico responded March 4 by releasing a Jan. 12 letter from Father Carlos Skertchly, the order's general procurator, to Jose Raul. The order said releasing the letter was done "with absolute respect for the person of Raul Gonzalez Lara, bearing in mind that he himself published it on March 3."

The letter recapped a meeting and a phone call in January between Jose Raul and Father Skertchly in which he asked the order for $26 million.

The two met for an hour Jan. 6, according to the letter, and discussed the request, which included $6 million "in fulfillment of what you say was your father's will, expressed orally to you in a conversation." The letter also said Jose Raul asked for "another $20 million as compensation for your sufferings."

Father Skertchly said in the letter that Jose Raul called him Jan. 8, repeating his financial requests and "affirming that 'if you give me the money, I will keep quiet about the truth.'" The letter said that Jose Raul wanted a response from the order by Jan. 13.

"However in no way can we accede to your request for money in exchange for silence," Father Skertchly wrote. "While we value all of the pain and suffering that you have shared with us, and we deplore the evil of scandal that may follow, we will never accept petitions of this sort, which are also illicit. We prefer to seek and face the truth, no matter how painful it may be."

Father Skertchly also told Jose Raul in the letter that the order was willing to "accompany" him and offer "the pastoral support you are willing to receive, since you told me, the deepest solution to your difficulties is not economic."

Father Skertchly also wrote that the order remained committed to "uncover the truth" about Father Maciel's life.
 
Lara said her relationship with Father Maciel began in Tijuana toward the end of the 1970s, when she was 19 and he was 56. Father Maciel, she said, told her he wanted a family, but didn't want to get married. He also told her he worked as a private detective, but at other times said he worked for the CIA.

Jose Raul was born two years later. He said beginning at age 7 he was sexually abused when his father "tried to rape me" while they were visiting Colombia. Omar said he suffered sexual abuse at the hands of Father Maciel, beginning at age 8. Cristian said he was not sexually abused.
 
The three young men spoke glowingly at times of their father, however. They described him as "very loving" and "the patriarch" of the family. Neighbors would say, "He should be a saint," a reflection, they said, of his easy manner with people.

Lara also spoke glowingly of Father Maciel.

"I idolized him," she said. "One time I told him, 'You're my god.'"

He traveled frequently, but would call daily and send letters, Lara said.

Lara said she had no idea of his double life. She raised few questions about Father Maciel's line of work or questioned suspicious happenings, such as Father Maciel registering Jose Raul with the surname "Gonzalez" even though the priest had used the alias "Rivas." Even people -- described as the "elites" of Mexico -- greeting him as "Father," failed to raise red flags.

"When we were eating breakfast, there were some that would say, 'Good morning, Padre,' and we had orders to withdraw ourselves," Omar said.

"We never asked ourselves why they called him 'Padre.' We supposed it was because he had many children."

The charade was exposed in 1997, when the family saw Father Maciel's image on the cover of the Mexican magazine Contenido, which ran a story on allegations of sexual abuse against him. He denied the contents of the story and Jose Raul said the family was sent money to buy all the copies in Cuernavaca, the city near Mexico City where they resided.

Lara believed him.

"I was totally blind," she said. Previous to the story, she said, "I never suspected a thing. I didn't know who I was living with."

She said she stopped believing him in 1999, when Jose Raul told her that he was sexually abused. "I didn't ever not believe my sons," she said.

Jose Raul and Omar were sent to Spain by their father to receive psychological treatment.

Before he died, the Gonzalez Lara family said Father Maciel promised them an inheritance that had been deposited in a trust fund, but that money has not been located. Legionaries' officials have not been of assistance, Jose Raul said.

"We're totally forsaken," Jose Raul said.

Kevin Clarke

 

Comments

Carolyn Disco | 3/6/2010 - 12:06am
The Legionaries of Christ have yet to admit forthrightly that Maciel sexually abused the seminarians who filed the canon case against him in 1998. No acknowledgment of the legitimacy of their specific, disgusting charges, no forthright apology by the leadership to those seminarians and the up to 100 others likewise abused. It's all euphemisms that really perjure the truth; not ''the persons that our founder has affected'' but raped and traumatized, if you please.  
 
The denial of a just verdict for the seminarians is a signal of the cowardice of the Vatican/Benedict, more concerned with saving the wealthy franchise of a cult than with the administration of justice. Maciel got a slap on the wrist when only ''invited'' (imagine!) to a life of penance and prayer instead of pronounced guilty, period.
 
Read the book and see the award winning documentary at www.vowsofsilencefilm.com. The corruption at the highest level of the Legion and the Vatican cries out for redress, but experience indicates that is a very silly hope. Maciel was a cruel, manipulative molester, but who cares as long as the money and the seminarians keep flowing in. Just mouth some pious drivel about faith and carry on the brand.
 
Benedict's handling of this case is a travesty of the highest order. His moral authority is shattered; his actions contemptuous. I can't hear him because his deeds speak so much louder than his bleached words of risk-managing spin.
 
The Legion must be dissolved, and its personnel and assets taken over by legitimate entities.
Anonymous | 3/5/2010 - 10:18pm
As the senator asked [Howard Baker ?]in the Watergate hearings .. 'who knew and when did they know'.. and that mess was caused by a third rate burglary attempt. not a Maciel/Vatican decades long horror..
However, there will be no hearings about Maciel..never asking 'who knew and when did they know?' it will be just a paper passed around in secret written by A/B Chaput..[appointed by the Vatican to investigate Legionaries]. That's if he has time from speachifying around the US and foreign venues about the faults of the US democracy.
When will Catholic laity demand transparancy/accountability in governing Christ's church?
Mona Villarrubia | 3/5/2010 - 10:00pm
I am no longer surprised by stories of lying, abusing priests. I am no longer surprised by the ability of Church authorities to ignore and deny the abuse. I look forward, however, to being surprised by the Church in the US setting up a system of counseling and care for victims like they have in Ireland (see www.Faoiseamh.com). But I won't be surprised if I never see it!
Maciel's children deserve to be supported through college (I hope they have the opportunity for college), and they deserve to receive all the therapy they need for as long as they need. I don't think that trying to extort $26 million from the Legionaries will win them much sympathy. But if the Legionaries wanted to take some of their millions and set up a support organization for victims of priests and religious, and if other orders and dioceses joined in, just think of the healing that could be initiated. What a revolutionary concept that would be: religious orders caring for the sick and the suffering, in this case their own victims.
JIM MCCREA | 3/5/2010 - 9:13pm
- Maciel mess couldn't get any sicker -
But it did, Blanche - it did!
h harvat | 3/5/2010 - 8:12pm
Just when we thought the Maciel mess couldn't get any sicker..............
Gabriel McAuliffe | 3/5/2010 - 5:54pm
I agree.  How sad. Let's pray for all of the victims of this twisted soul. And I do pray for his children, the women he was involved with, the people the people he abused, and the LC and RC, and even Maciel himself. I know members of the order and the apostlate and they are good people. It is very sad.  Truly, God is chastening us.
Beth Cioffoletti | 3/5/2010 - 5:15pm
oh gosh.  I am so very careful now of anyone I meet who comes under "spiritual" guises.  I think it is fairly easy to pick out the charlatans, but even I have been fooled.  Do we all have these hidden twists and dark sides?  lord have mercy.
Michael Laing | 3/6/2010 - 11:14am
Carolyn, in defense of Benedict I noted that one of his first acts as pope was to remove Marciel from the public.  While I agree that this is a weak move, it was certainly better than the suppression of charges that John Paul II perpetuated during his reign.
For me, this action alone would prevent me from seeing JPII cannonized.
As to whether the Legion should be dissolved or not, I do not have an opinion.  I suspect that there are many good men within the Legion, but they could do well elsewhere as well.  I wonder though, is the Legion any worse then any other group?
JIM MCCREA | 3/8/2010 - 5:54pm
Mike L:  there is no question that JPII SHOULD be "cannonized!"