Like many abusers, Maciel was very charismatic and had many achievements.
Maciel targeted the wealthy, but he also used their money to also help the poor. One report about Maciel’s home town:
The Legion, according to religious observers, was founded with practically nothing in 1941, but flourished as Maciel courted the wealthy — a group that was largely not being ministered to by existing orders.
The Legion founded elite and expensive private schools — the Instituto Cumbres and Universidad Anahuac, to name two — and expanded abroad.
It supported charity projects such as the Mano Amiga schools for children in poor barrios, but was still primarily associated with wealth, status and exclusivity.
The poor appreciated the help he gave them, because no one else seemed interested in them:
In recent years, a Legion foundation worked with the Michoacan governor to build a museum, cultural center and a health clinic that offers doctors’ appointments for just 10 pesos. A private university that charges low tuition fees was also built with Legion money.
These projects haven’t been forgotten. “He did a lot for this place,” said campesino Juan Espinosa, who was selling green beans in the town plaza when interviewed. “There have been so many works.”
Therefore even those who have heard and believed at least some of the allegations still like Maciel:
“It really doesn’t matter to me,” said local historian Elena Silva Trejo, whose father used to make Maciel’s suits. “There are two sides to every coin. You have to look at them both.”
Maciel used his good works to make people admire him, but they were really good works. Maciel made the Legionaries take a vow never to criticize him. He is a classic example of a phenomenon that Richard Sipe described:
They tend to be critical and demanding of others, yet are sensitive themselves to any slight, criticism, or correction from someone else. As priests they can do adequate work for the Church. In instances where they closely identify with their projects, they can accomplish remarkable things. Dr. Richard Gilmartin, a psychiatrist who has treated many priests, refers to this phenomenon as “altruism in the service of narcissism.”
“Altruism in the service of narcissism” – that is why abusers are so successful, and why they have so many defenders when they are finally exposed.