George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington’s Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he holds the William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies. His two-volume biography of John Paul II comprises Witness to Hope and The End and the Beginning. Over time he has been a defender of Fr. Maciel and the Legionaries of Christ, a critic and a proponent of the reform of the congregation and, mostly, a balanced commenter on the role of the Maciel scandal and the place of the Legionaries of Christ in the Church.
He has just made an interesting commentary, in the context of the upcoming beatification of Pope John Paul II, on the the sordid case of the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, whom the late Pope supported.
To focus so much attention on Maciel at the time of John Paul II’s beatification, as if his case offered a privileged window into a 26-year pontificate that changed the history of the Church and the world, is rather like obsessing on the disastrous raid on Dieppe and the bombing of Dresden at Winston Churchill’s funeral. It’s grotesquely disproportionate, from any serious historical point of view.
A recent article by Jeffrey Mirus, President of CatholicCulture.org offers a complementary perspective on Weigel's comments by placing the Maciel scandal in context.
Given this long-standing concern that has surrounded the work of the Legion of Christ, an outsider would be unlikely to share Fr. Gill’s (a former Legionary of Christ priest) assessment that Fr. Maciel has inflicted more damage on the Church’s reputation and evangelizing mission than any other single Church leader. The Legion would have had to be far more successful and far more trusted than it ever was for this to be the case, let alone for an impartial observer to regard the damage as in any sense fatal.
Again, a little distance is salutary. I am not saying that people were not hurt (though I am remembering as well that a great many were also helped). But with a little distance, we find that the Legion’s power and influence over souls was not as great as Fr. Gill might suggest. The Legion was not everything, nor is its current crisis the end of everything. Unless the Church herself falls, there remains to all of the fallen a source of grace and healing. [emphasis mine]
Again, George Weigel suggests
John Paul II was clearly deceived by Maciel, who was a master deceiver. The relevant questions here, in terms of John Paul II’s beatification and its judgment that he lived a life of heroic virtue, are whether John Paul II’s failure to see through Maciel’s deceptions was willful (i.e., he knew about Maciel’s perfidies and did nothing about the situation), or venal (i.e., he was “bought” by Maciel), or malicious (i.e., he knew that Maciel was a sociopathic fraud and didn’t care). There isn’t a shred of evidence that would sustain a positive answer to any of those questions. To even think that such could be the case is to utterly miss the character of the late pope.
But during the period of the reform effort, we must not lose sight of the fact that many Legion priests and members of Regnum Christi continue to do wonderful work. The way forward will be long and hard, but it is not hopeless. Perhaps, above all, that is what I mean by perspective. Things are never hopeless. Not with Christ. And not in Christ’s Church.
"Things are never hopeless. Not with Christ. And not in Christ’s Church." Sounds to me like a fitting comment for the Easter Season.