The Vatican and the Legion of Christ have decided to maintain a discrete silence about Maciel. Perhaps a further statement will be forthcoming, as promised, or perhaps the Vatican and the Legion count on the short attention span of the public.
The Legion has admitted that Maciel fathered a child in his old age and was leading a double life. Maciel went to his grave without admitting any guilt. He let the Legion portray him as a wrongly-persecuted saint.
When the Vatican told Maciel to retire to a life of prayer and penance, it showed it believed at least some of the allegations that he had molested seminarians.
There are further allegations and rumors, which I list in roughly descending order of probability:
– That Maciel absolved his sexual partners during confession
– That Maciel misused Legion money
– That Maciel led a luxurious life
– That Maciel used narcotics
– That Maciel became the lover of several rich women to extract money from them
– That Maciel was involved in narcotraffic
– That the mother of the daughter was only 15 when Maciel impregnated her.
The admitted double life and the certain molestations of seminarians are bad enough; the others simply compound the crimes.
From the admissions and allegations about Maciel I have come up with four possibilities, in descending order of seriousness:
1. He was a false prophet who was sent to deceive if possible even the elect. Germain Grisez leans in this direction.
2. He was a charismatic psychopath, totally lacking in empathy for the pain he was causing, and he constructed the Legion to indulge his vices.
3. He was a pathological narcissist, not completely lacking in empathy, but determined to keep everyone centered upon his personality and thereby control everyone. His altruism was in the service of his narcissism: he did good things so that he would be the center of attention.
4. He was himself seriously damaged by abuse and compartmentalized his personality, as men all too easily do. All his good work was in one part of his life; then there was another, sealed-off compartment that contained his sexuality.
I don’t know, and perhaps no human being alive knows, which of these possibilities is closest to the truth. Maciel did a lot of harm, whatever the cause, but clearly one’s attitude to him would change if he himself had somehow been a victim.
There were enough clues over the years to alert authorities in the Vatican that something was wrong, there was at the very minimum too much of a cult of personality and too rigid a control of members. But no one acted until Benedict became pope; he knew something was seriously wrong, and at least took some action. Was it enough? Those who said that Maciel abused them are still being called liars by some members of the Legion.
Members of the Legion want to think that Maciel was simply a sinner, that his one fling showed he had human weaknesses. But clearly Maciel’s personality was severely damaged and distorted to the point that the Legion, which was set up to reflect his personality, itself must suffer from serious distortions.
Can a religious congregation be founded by an unrepentant sinner? Who would want to join a congregation founded by a child molester? But what is the Church to do with the Legion? I would suggest a spiritual Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The assets of the Legion, its members, properties, and endowments, should be distributed to other congregations in the Church.