Over the past several days, timed nicely with the beatification of Pope John Paul II, several Mexican news outlets have run stories suggesting that the Vatican has just released 212 files relating to the Legion of Christ. These documents were allegedly in the archives of the Congregation for Institutes and Societies of Consecrated Life.
I am not citing the media outlets that ran the story because I don’t intend to publicize what, I think, is a blatant attempt to tarnish the reputation of Pope John Paul II. The files are supposed to cover the period from 1944-2002. Of course I cannot know for sure, but I feel pretty confident that all this information has been long since revealed and made public. The gist of the information is meant to suggest that the newly beatified Pope had full knowledge of the Maciel scandal and that, because of this, he should not have been beatified.
The media suggest that the documents were handed over to Fernando M. González, a researcher at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) who already published a damning exposé of the sordid life of Marcial Maciel, the founder of the Legionaries of Christ. Mr. Alberto Athié, a former (Mexican diocesan) priest and José Barba, perhaps the most vocal of Maciel’s victim, are also alleged to have received the secret documents which they intend to publish in a new book they are working on.
It sounds to me like someone is orchestrating some pre-publication public relations. There is nothing new, immoral or illegal there as long as they don’t have a problem with the “ends justifying the means”.
In another posting, I’ve already suggested that Fr. Maciel’s power and influence in the Church was not nearly as great as Pope John Paul’s detractors would have us believe. The Legion was not everything during his pontificate, nor is its current crisis the end of everything. Be that as it may, I find that those who assiduously report or repeat such reporting on blogs concerning the Legionaries of Christ and Regnum Christi reveal a very strong bias – if not overt hostility – to the Papacy in general and to Popes John Paul and Benedict XVI in particular.
Marcial Maciel harmed a lot of people and inflicted severe damage on the Catholic Church. The Vatican, tardily, has acknowledged this and is in the process of overseeing a total reform of the Legionaries of Christ. The problem will not be resolved overnight. The Congregation will probably implement major changes at their next General Chapter. If they do not, my guess is they will self-destruct. But, at the moment, I am confident that the forces for good and for change will triumph. Meanwhile, the relentless drum beat of criticism of Blessed John Paul II in the mouths of the some of the most acerbic Legionary critics serves a useful purpose: it reveals their thinly veiled second agenda. That agenda, nicely packaged in “more Catholic than thou” language and concern for the victims of Maciel suggests nothing less than the rejection of the Papacy. It’s good to know what the real motivation is.
As an aside about Alberto Athié, the former Mexican priest who left the priesthood upon experiencing the hierarchy’s negative response to an alleged near death-bed confession made to him by Fr. Amenábar, I have already stated I struggle to accept the totality of his testimony about my friend. I don’t deny Amenabar may have been abused – I simply don’t know. Although I wasn’t there for the events Athié relates, his account differs in worrisome ways from the version given to me by trusted lay people, mutual friends of Fr. Amenábar and me and who were frequent visitors during his hospital stay. My friend is dead and gone. In his final illness he was abandoned by the Legionaries and by the Founder Fr. Maciel, whom he enthusiastically served with notable and contagious joie de vivre during our 17 years together. I know he bitterly criticized Maciel. I am quite confident he would not want his name involved with Athié's intent to nullify the beatification of John Paul II. And that's why I take Athié's rantings about the Pope with a grain of salt.