“Yo Acuso al Padre Maciel Y a La Legión de Cristo” is a memoir by Francisco González Parga, who was a member of the Legion of Christ from 1951 to 1971. It is a paperback, published through Createspace, on February 14, 2011. Language: Spanish; ISBN-10: 1456411330. Available on Amazon.com.
I met “Fr. Parga” for the first time when I joined the Novitiate of the Legionaries in Dublin, Ireland in 1962. He was stationed there from 1962 through 1966. Like me he spent 20 years in the Legion. He was ordained a priest by Pope Paul VI in 1966. By then, I had been assigned to help start the Irish Institute in Mexico City. My autobiography “Driving Straight on Crooked Lines: How an Irishman found his heart and nearly lost his mind” is mostly about my experience in the Legion – an experience vastly different to that of Mr. Gonzalez Parga but similar enough with regard to the side effects caused by Fr. Maciel’s approach to religious life.
Francisco and I crossed paths several times during our careers in the congregation although I never got to know him well. For most of the time, we were on different continents. I left the Legion in 1982. As I recall, Fr. Parga was often described in some Legionary circles, with a knowing wink from the ones providing the information that he was “different.” That meant Fr. Maciel, the founder of the Legionaries, considered him to be “troublesome" or, perhaps, a little “unstable.”
The short book – a total of 140 pages including some 20 pages of appendices – provides the details that I and, no doubt, many of my peers were unaware of. It is a powerful tale of innocence betrayed by sexual and emotional abuse. It is a cathartic story of survival, of redemption, of faith renewed and happiness regained despite terrible odds.
In my opinion this testimony would benefit from better editing and presentation in order to reach a broader audience. Although the title (In English: “I Accuse Fr. Maciel and the Legionaries of Christ”) and sub-title (“For their innumerable betrayals and sexual, emotional, religious and mental abuse…”) are accurate and descriptive of the testimony, I don’t think they do the content justice. Surprisingly, the narrative is far more “positive” than the title implies. The author does not wallow in bitterness or melodrama as lesser souls might be tempted to do. His perspective is that of a mature adult, telling a shocking story by which he hopes his readers, including Legionaries, their supporters and the Church at large, may learn salutary lessons.
Francisco eventually disentangled himself from the dysfunctional relationship with the Legion and its founder. It was anything but an easy separation. The author candidly describes how his personal life unraveled including his battles with alcohol, drugs and prostitution. He does not indulge in lurid details. Thankfully he does not seek to shock us. His simple acknowledgement of his weakness, and the effects caused by the abuse he suffered, is all the more powerful because he does not dwell on them.
Although the book supplies little new information that is not already public about Fr. Maciel and life in the Legion, the value of this memoir is in the power of the candid, personal testimony of the author.
To the best of my knowledge, there are only four autobiographies written by former Legionaries of Christ. Two of them are written in Spanish. The first one to be written (2003) is called “El Legionario” authored by Alejandro Espinosa. In English, fellow Irishman Paul Lennon was the first to document his story in 2008 when he wrote “Our Father Maciel who Art in Bed.” My book, “Driving Straight on Crooked Lines” (also available in Spanish) was published in 2010. Paul and I cover roughly the same time frame (1961 – 1982); neither of us was aware of the founder’s sexual abuses before we left the congregation. Alejandro Espinosa and Francisco Gonzalez Parga knew Maciel in the early 1950s. Along with several others, they claim to have been sexually abused by him. In a broad sense, all four stories complement each other. Although written from different perspectives, and with different “agendas,” combined they offer an intimate first hand look at the early days of the Legion of Christ when Fr. Maciel wielded absolute authority.
Francisco's story is extremely compelling. It pulled me in from the very first pages and affected me on a deep emotional level. Perhaps it had this effect on me because I met most of the characters mentioned in the book. I am astounded, once again, at how such terrible abuse went unnoticed by most – but not all - of Francisco’s peers and the extent to which Maciel was able to deceive so many people. It is hard to understand how some of those peers who knew what was going on have been able to remain silent for so many years. Based on their denials many of us bought into the founder's manipulations. After all, they were there.... and they assured us that any allegations were no more than malicious gossip.
Francisco came under Maciel's spell as a young seminarian at the age of fourteen. He tells of sexual, emotional and mental abuse by the founder. The author shares extremely personal details of his life as a Legionary and his life after he left the Congregation. He pulls no punches. He mentions many Legionaries I knew and respected, and his narrative includes places and dates I am familiar with. I find his story compelling and eminently believable. As he tells his story, he puts his finger on wounds that still need to be healed and he offers keen insight into the dysfunctional personality of the founder and the serious flaws he bequeathed to the Legionaries of Christ.
Mr. Gonzalez Parga is now 70 years old, married to Maria Esther. Together they own and operate a small business, although most of his post-Legionary career has been dedicated to college level teaching. His story and the way he chooses to tell it, give lie to the gossip that surrounded some of his Legionary career. After reading his book, I feel I know him much better. It makes me sad to realize how much he had already suffered by the time I first met him. I rejoice that, eventually, late in life, he found peace, a measure of happiness and, I think, a deep faith in God. Despite his awful experiences at the hands of a priest to whom he gave his innocent trust, ultimately his book is a tale of redemption.
Father Marcial Maciel, LC, was born on March 10, 1920, in Cotija de la Paz, Michoacán, Mexico. On May 1, 2010, The Vatican ordered the overhaul of the Legionaries of Christ, one of the Catholic Church's largest and most influential organizations following an investigation into decades of sexual abuse by the group's founder and systematic efforts to cover it up. According to the statement, Mexican-born Father Marcial Maciel engaged in "very serious and objectively immoral behavior," the Vatican said -- including fathering at least one child and sexually molesting boys and seminarians. The abuse dates to the 1950s and continued into the 1990s, years in which Maciel led a double life, protected by silence and obedience and his ability to sideline his accusers. Father Maciel, LC, died in the United States on January 30, 2008. His mortal remains are laid to rest in his Mexican hometown.