Fair. Balanced. American.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


From an AOL news headline, entitled "Secretive Catholic Order Founded by Accused Pedophile Under Fire."

The sordid story of the Legion of Christ, whose late founder, the Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado, was a close ally of Pope John Paul II before being forcibly retired by the Vatican in 2006, is a microcosm of the crisis currently enveloping the church. [...]

The controversy over the Legion, which is now barred or severely restricted from operating in six U.S. dioceses, is especially awkward for Benedict because he wants to have John Paul, a staunch defender of the order, canonized.

"Maciel was a sexual criminal of epic proportions who gained the trust of John Paul II and created a movement that is as close to a cult as anything we've seen in the church," said author Jason Berry, one of two reporters who broke the Maciel story in 1997 and who directed a 2008 documentary about the priest called "Vows of Silence."

"But he got away with it for years and still in a sense he's getting away with it."

The Vatican ordered a worldwide investigation into the Legion, founded in Mexico in 1941, last year. But its response to decades of allegations involving Maciel has been as slow and often reluctant as its reaction to the long-festering sex abuse scandals now erupting in Ireland, Germany, Austria and the Netherlands. [...]

With a leader said to be a manipulative monster who built a shadowy but powerful organization for elite, wealthy Catholics with schools in 22 countries – and a tradition of grooming handsome, clean-cut priests who all wear their hair parted on the left and black double-breasted suits -- the Legion of Christ sounds straight out of a Dan Brown novel.

But while Opus Dei, the other controversial conservative Catholic order, was made famous in Brown's "The Da Vinci Code," the Legion of Christ is virtually unknown to most Americans – at least on the surface.
The Legionaries and Marcial Maciel, Opus Dei, Benedict XVI, John Paul II. Their names and activities are presently linked. But will they be linked forever?

Credit the Vatican and its conservative allies worldwide for realizing the risk: there was a strong pushback this weekend aimed at European media, who bring news to donor nations, many of who se governments deliver cash to the Vatican (Italian taxpayers alone, for example, deliver over $5 billion a year) and Spain's may deliver even more). They were smart enough to say it was a media witch hunt against the Pope, even though that flies in the face of years of European media inaction on the matter, at least outside of Ireland.

It was a smart second move. An even smarter third move would be an open, strong condemnation of Macial. The odds remain on the side of the Church and the papacy. The media's attention span is fleeting, and unless more documents are uncovered or key witnesses come forward, chances are that Benedict XVI's connection to Munich abuse and John Paul II's elevation and sanctification of Legionary founder Macial, who didn't just abuse seminarians but his own out-of-wedlock sons, will be slowly forgotten.

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