The Skeletons in Benedict’s Closet: A guide to the sex abuse scandals under Pope Benedict XVI’s watch


If a report on Thursday, Feb. 21, in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica is to be believed, Pope Benedict XVI’s recent decision to resign just got a whole lot more interesting. The paper claims that around the time that Pope Benedict decided to step down, the pontiff learned of a faction of gay prelates in the Vatican who may have been exposed to blackmail by a group of male prostitutes in Rome. The revelations allegedly appeared in a 300-page report by three cardinals that the pope commissioned to investigate the release of internal documents by his butler, the so-called “Vatileaks” scandal. (A Vatican spokesman has refused to confirm or deny La Repubblica’s claims, and the internal Vatican report is reportedly stowed away in a papal safe for Pope Benedict’s successor to peruse.)

who's next?Seen in the context of Pope Benedict’s career in the Catholic Church, it is difficult to understand why revelations of yet another sex scandal would push him to resign. For over a decade, he has served as the church’s point person for responding to allegations of abuse. From 1985 until his election to the papacy in 2005, Benedict served as the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a powerful Vatican body charged with policing church doctrine. In 2001, Pope John Paul II transferred responsibility for dealing with the sex scandals enveloping the institution to then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s office. In that role, Ratzinger received tens of thousands of complaints alleging sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests. Those documents often went into lurid detail, and Ratzinger is said to have been deeply affected by the experience.

As a theologian and head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Benedict gained the not-so-flattering nickname “God’s Rottweiler” for his rigid interpretations of doctrine and his stringent enforcement of church rules. In practice, he has frequently displayed a preference — both as a pope and as a cardinal — for confronting predatory priests behind closed doors and protecting the church’s reputation at the expense of public accountability.

Here’s how Benedict tackled some of the most prominent scandals to have struck the church during his career.

Peter Hullermann, Germany, 1980
While serving as the archbishop of Munich, Ratzinger may have played a role in shielding a pedophile priest, Peter Hullermann, from prosecution, transferring him to different parishes when parents complained that he had abused their children. In 1980, Ratzinger approved a plan to send Hullermann, who was facing allegations (that he did not deny) of abusing children in the German city of Essen, to Munich for therapy. Over the objections of a psychiatrist who was treating the priest, the German archdiocese permitted Hullermann to resume his pastoral work shortly after beginning therapy and did not inform the priest’s new parish of his history. In 1986, Hullermann was convicted of sexual abuse in Bavaria.

Lawrence Murphy, United States, 1996
As head of a Wisconsin school for deaf boys from 1950 to 1974, Father Lawrence Murphy is alleged to have molested upwards of 200 children. Yet when the case was presented to Ratzinger in the mid-1990s, he declined to defrock the priest. In 1996, Ratzinger ignored letters from Rembert Weakland, the archbishop of Milwaukee, seeking guidance from the cardinal on how to proceed against Murphy and another priest. Eventually, the church initiated a canonical trial against Murphy, but when the priest personally appealed to Ratzinger for clemency, saying that he was in poor health, the cardinal intervened to stop the proceedings against him.

2001 Letter to Bishops
After being tasked in 2001 by Pope John Paul II to assume responsibility for sex abuse allegations, and after gaining access to a trove of documents that laid out allegations against abusive priests, Ratzinger took action. He did so in a 2001 letter sent to every one of the church’s bishops. In it, Ratzinger laid out the church’s guidelines for investigating claims of sexual abuse, which asserted that the church — and not civil authorities — still held primary authority over investigations and that the church had a right to keep evidence in such cases confidential until 10 years after a minor turned 18. That assertion led to charges by victims’ rights advocates that Ratzinger had committed worldwide gross obstruction of justice, a charge that critics saw as compounded by Ratzinger’s assertion in the letter that such cases required absolute secrecy. Breaking the code of silence carried a range of penalties, among them excommunication. Ratzinger’s order effectively removed the possibility that sex abusers would be brought to justice in lay courts and guaranteed that the church would retain its investigatory prerogative.

Eamonn Walsh and Raymond Field, Ireland, 2010
In an attempt to help bring closure to victims affected by sexual abuse in the Irish Catholic Church, two auxiliary bishops, Eamonn Walsh and Raymond Field, accused of helping to cover up rampant abuse offered Pope Benedict their resignation in 2010. In a move that stunned critics of the church and victims’ rights groups, the pope rejected their resignation and informed the bishops that they would be allowed to stay on in the church, despite the fact that other priests accused of covering up the scandal were allowed to resign. “By rejecting the resignations of two complicit Irish bishops, the Pope is rubbing more salt into the already deep and still fresh wounds of thousands of child sex abuse victims and millions of betrayed Catholics,” said Barbara Blaine, president and founder of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, in a statement. “He’s sending an alarming message to church employees across the globe: even widespread documentation of the concealing of child sex crimes and the coddling of criminals won’t cost you your job in the church.”

2010 Apology to Ireland
By 2010, the hard-line strategy advocated by Pope Benedict became unsustainable. Explosive and wide-ranging reports of abuse — including allegations against Ratzinger himself during his time in Munich — put the church firmly in the cross-hairs of public opinion. Detailed investigations by the Irish government unearthed widespread abuse, and Ireland became something of a ground zero for the scandal. In response, Pope Benedict issued a public apology to his parishioners in Ireland. “You have suffered grievously and I am truly sorry. I know that nothing can undo the wrong you have endured,” the pope wrote. “Your trust has been betrayed and your dignity has been violated. Many of you found that, when you were courageous enough to speak of what happened to you, no one would listen.” Priests read the letter aloud in church.

But if the apology to Ireland signaled a willingness within the church to more openly confront its past, subsequent guidelines to bishops quashed that notion. In 2011, Pope Benedict issued new guidelines that reaffirmed bishops’ authority in adjudicating cases. Although that letter underscored the importance of stopping the abuse of minors, victims remained dismayed at the lack of an enforcement mechanism.

Complete Article HERE!

Scandal threatens to overshadow pope’s final days

It’s curious to me that Benedict couldn’t bring himself to highlight the clergy abuse nightmare while he was pope, but through his resignation the closet doors have been thrown open to reveal more perpetrators and more of this stinking mess.

By Ben Wedeman and Michael Pearson

Scandal is threatening to eclipse the poignancy and pageantry of Benedict XVI’s historic final days as pope.
Vatican officials were already trying Monday to swat down unsavory claims by Italian publications of a brewing episode involving gay priests, male prostitutes and blackmail when news broke that Benedict had moved up the resignation of a Scottish archbishop linked over the weekend by a British newspaper to inappropriate relationships with priests.

Cardinal-O-Brien-and-Pope-Benedict-XVIBenedict announced two weeks ago that he will step down as pope Thursday, becoming the first pontiff to leave the job alive in 598 years.

At 85, he said he was too old, frail and tired to continue on as spiritual leader of the Roman Catholic Church and its 1.2 billion followers worldwide.

It was a stunningly unexpected announcement that left church scholars poring over Catholic law to answer such basic questions as when the pope’s successor would be chosen and even what he would be called in retirement.

But the scandals — along with lingering questions about how the church has handled claims of abuse by Catholic priests around the world — have dimmed the spotlight on Benedict’s final days as pope.

“Clearly, prior to these scandals erupting, the cardinals had a long checklist of things they were looking for in terms of the new pope,” CNN senior Vatican analyst John Allen said Monday, including finding someone to help spread the message of the church and inspire faith amid flagging practice of the Catholic faith in many parts of the world.

“But in the wake of everything that’s happened in the last 72 hours or so, quite clearly a new item is on that list, which is they also want to make sure they pick somebody who’s got clean hands,” Allen said.

Archbishop’s resignation
The Vatican confirmed Monday that Benedict had accelerated the resignation of Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the archbishop of Scotland.

O’Brien told the pope in November that he would resign effective with his 75th birthday, on March 17. But Benedict decided to make the resignation effective immediately in light of the pope’s imminent resignation, the Scottish Catholic Media Office said.

The announcement comes a day after a Sunday report by the British newspaper The Observer that three priests and one former priest leveled allegations against O’Brien that date back 30 years.

The Observer did not recount details of the claims or identify any of O’Brien’s accusers, but said one of the priests alleged “that the cardinal developed an inappropriate relationship with him.”

O’Brien did not attend Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh on Sunday, but the Scottish Catholic Media Office told CNN that the cardinal “contests these claims and is taking legal advice.”

His accusers took their complaints to the Vatican representative in Britain and demanded O’Brien’s resignation, The Observer reported. At the Vatican, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, a spokesman for the church, told reporters that Benedict has been informed of the allegations.

As late as last week, O’Brien appeared to be making plans to take part in the conclave, when the College of Cardinals gathers in Rome to pick a successor to Benedict.

But in a statement in which he thanked God for the good he was able to do and apologized to “all whom I have offended,” O’Brien said Monday that he would not be part of that gathering.

“I do not wish media attention in Rome to be focused on me — but rather on Pope Benedict XVI and on his successor,” O’Brien said.

Cardinal controversy
While O’Brien will no longer be involved in electing the new pope, another controversial cardinal’s plan to attend is further taking focus from Benedict’s final days in office.
Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles is facing fresh attention for his role in the cover-up of sexual abuse by priests.

Documents recently released as part of the 2007 settlement in a previous abuse case detail what Terry McKiernan, founder of the watchdog group says is “stark” evidence of efforts by Mahoney and others to sidestep authorities investigating sexual abuse.

He recently gave a deposition in a 2010 civil lawsuit filed in the United States by a Mexican citizen suing the Los Angeles archdiocese. The man alleges Mahony and a Mexican cardinal conspired to allow a priest accused of abuse to flee to Mexico, putting an untold number of children at risk. Mahony has denied the allegations.

Two groups seeking to stop Mahony’s participation in the election said Saturday they have collected nearly 10,000 signatures on a petition against his involvement.

“His participation in the conclave would only bring clouds of shame at a time that should bring springs of hope,” said Chris Pumpelly, the communications director for one of the groups, Catholics United. Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests also worked on the campaign.

Church law requires that Mahony attend, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles said.

Father Albert Cutie, an Espiscopal priest who studies the Vatican, said it would be impossible to exclude every cardinal with a hand in the church’s vast sex-abuse problem.

“Unfortunately, if you were going to tell me no one can go to the conclave who has part in any type of cover up, you would probably exclude every cardinal in the church, because unfortunately that’s the way the church is operated,” he said.

Blackmail allegations
As if the controversies over O’Brien and Mahony were not enough, two Italian publications reported over the weekend that Benedict had decided to resign not because of age, but because of a brewing scandal over the blackmail of gay priests by male prostitutes in Rome.

Benedict received a 300-page report in December detailing the possible blackmail, la Repubblica newspaper and the Panorama news weekly reported, citing an unidentified senior Vatican official and dozens of unnamed sources.

The Vatican emphatically denied the allegations this weekend, with Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone criticizing a rash of “often unverified, unverifiable or completely false news stories” as the cardinals prepare for their conclave.

Cardinal Velasio de Paulis, one of the men who will help elect Benedict’s successor, called the claims “guesswork and imagination.”

“There is no proof and these allegations only serve to create a climate of division that helps no one,” he said.
While no one outside the Vatican has seen the document that purportedly details the claims and Vatican officials have not confirmed it exists, Allen said such a claim is not improbable.
“To me that passes the smell test,” he said.

Retirement preparations
Amid the scandal, the Vatican still has a transfer of power to manage.

On Monday, Lombardi said it remains unclear when the gathering of church leaders who will elect the next pope will begin.

While Benedict issued an order Monday to allow the election to begin sooner than the 15 days after the seat becomes vacant mandated by church rules, the date for the election will be set by the cardinals when they first gather, Monsignor Pier Luigi Celata said Monday at a Vatican press briefing.

It still must happen within 20 days of his resignation, the pope said.

After his retirement, Benedict is expected to head to the pope’s summer residence in Rome before eventually settling in a monastery in Vatican City. Church officials have said he will seek no influence over the election of his successor, or over management of the church.

Among other issues, Vatican officials are still trying to work out what Benedict will be called in retirement. One suggestion is “pontifex maximus,” Celata said. The term can be translated as “supreme bishop.”
Vatican officials hope to have an answer next week, Lombardi said.

Complete Article HERE!

Legion of Christ’s deception, unearthed in new documents, indicates wider cover-up

By Jason Berry

Newly released documents in a Rhode Island lawsuit show that the scandal-tarred Legion of Christ shielded information on their founder’s sex life from a wealthy widow who donated $30 million over two decades.
In 2009, the widow’s niece, Mary Lou Dauray, sued the Legion and the bank that facilitated key transactions, alleging fraud. At Dauray’s request, backed by a motion from NCR and three other media outlets, Superior Court Judge Michael Silverstein revoked a protective order the Legionaries had secured and released discovery findings Friday.

The thousands of pages of testimony, financial and religious records open a rare view into the Legion culture shaped by its Mexican-born founder, Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado.

Marcial Maciel Degollado

Maciel built a power base in Rome as the greatest fundraiser of the modern church. He won the undying support of Pope John Paul II, who called him an “efficacious guide to youth” and praised Maciel in lavish ceremonies even after a 1998 canon law case at the Vatican in which the cleric was accused of sexually abusing Legion seminarians.

The Vatican is not a defendant in Rhode Island, but decisions by John Paul and Pope Benedict XVI permeate a larger story rising from the files.

A key strand in the new material aligns with an admission by Cardinal Franc Rodé, who told NCR and Global Post in a recent interview that “in late 2004 or early 2005” he saw a videotape of Maciel “with a mother and child represented as his.” A Legionary, whom Rodé did not identify, showed him a tape of Maciel with a girl identified as his daughter.

The cardinal did not confront Maciel about paternity, but says he told a Vatican canon lawyer who was under orders from Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, then head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to investigate the pedophilia accusations. On that front, Ratzinger, as Pope Benedict, dismissed Maciel from ministry in May 2006, but the Vatican communiqué did not specify why or acknowledge the victims. Those explanations only came in 2010, after a Vatican investigation of the Legion prompted by news reports of the order’s disclosure that Maciel had a daughter, a fact the Vatican had known since 2005.

Two sons by a second woman, with whom Maciel had a longstanding relationship, came forward later.

The Rhode Island documents, coming less than a week after Benedict announced his resignation from the papacy, add another chapter to the scandals that apparently were on his mind when, in his final public Mass as pope, he spoke of the face of the church that “is, at times, disfigured.”

Fluent in French, Gabrielle Mee was conservative and refined; she felt she had found a spiritual home with the ultra-orthodox Legionaries for her twilight years. She became a consecrated woman in the order’s lay group, Regnum Christi, living in a religious home while steadily ceding her enormous wealth to the Legion by giving power of attorney to Fr. Anthony Bannon, an Irish-born Legionary who divided his time between Connecticut and Rhode Island.

Like everyone else in the order’s closed environment, Mee was taught that Nuestro Padre, as Maciel was called, had his enemies, but that he was a living saint for his leadership as an evangelist, drawing the church back from liberal abuses of the Second Vatican Council and attracting young men to a strict religious life. That was the Legion message.

By all accounts, she believed that message until her death at 96 in May 2008, just four months after Maciel’s funeral in Mexico. She never knew Maciel had sired three children, two of whom, as previously reported in NCR, he secreted into private papal Masses celebrated by an apparently clueless John Paul.

At his death, the Legion website announced that Maciel had gone to heaven. Yet at that very time, Fr. Luis Garza and other top Legionaries were scrambling to decide how, and when, to reveal that Maciel had a grown daughter — a fact the Vatican had known for three years.

Mee had long embraced the Legion’s public campaign against nine men who in 1997 accused Maciel of abusing them as seminarians. This is referenced in a bank document.

Mee’s husband, Timothy, was on the board of trustees of Fleet Bank. By the time he died in 1985, he had established a charitable trust in his name and a separate trust for Gabrielle. Three years later, she gave her first donation of $1 million to the Legion after her close friend Marguerite Garrahy, a former first lady of Rhode Island, spoke favorably of the Legion. Mee and Garrahy attended daily Mass together.

Bannon immediately notified Maciel in Rome of the million-dollar gift. But, he insisted in a deposition, “I did not control her checkbook.”

Maciel made a practice in Mexico of cultivating wealthy widows and the wives of wealthy men. The Legion prep schools catered to affluent families, recruiting parents to Regnum Christi. The schools fed young men into the Legion. Bannon, referring to Mee, also testified on how Regnum Christi and Legion members donate their own assets to the order:

She would assign the management of those assets to somebody she trusts, and then before taking her final commitment would decide what is to be done with those assets. When there are assets that come as an inheritance, the same. … It’s my belief in the premise, and the way I’ve always acted is a person’s assets is something God has given to him through family or through their own good work, and they are the owners and managers of that, and it’s up to them to see what God wants them to do with the money.

I always speak to them about the needs that we have, but always respect their decision.

Troubles emerge

A bank memo suggests Bannon acted with greater self-interest when the order was threatened.

On Feb. 23, 1997, Gerald Renner and this writer published an investigative report in the Hartford Courant detailing a long history of sexual abuse by Maciel based on lengthy on-the-record accounts by nine former seminarians or ex-Legion priests. Maciel refused to be interviewed but claimed innocence. The Vatican refused any comment.

The Legion at the time had several major accounts with Fleet Bank and a mortgage on a former IBM complex in Thornwood, N.Y. It had plans to establish a college that involved zoning issues that were drawing strong resistance from Westchester County residents. The Legion purchased the property for $33 million in January 1997 with major help from Mee and carried a mortgage balance at the time of almost $25 million.

Prior to the Courant publication, the Legion sent affidavits of Maciel supporters to the newspaper, purporting to show Maciel’s innocence in the face of a conspiratorial effort by the men to defame him.

Meanwhile, Garza, the order’s vicar general, traveled to Legion houses in several countries to warn of the forthcoming article, claiming it would be based on lies and telling Legionaries and Regnum Christi members not to read the report should they see a copy.

Legionaries took a special vow never to criticize the founder, or superiors, and to report on anyone who did. This “special vow” — which Benedict abolished many years later — protected Maciel from criticism and rewarded spying as an act of faith.

In this environment, five days after the article was published, Bannon and another Legionary met with two Fleet officials at the bank. A summary memo from a bank official explains:

We discussed the Legion’s public relations strategy and we will all follow any further developments in the news media.

We determined the most effective way to measure the health of the Legion’s fundraising stream and cash flow on a real time basis was to monitor monthly cash flows to determine whether there has been any fall-off in revenues.

The memo states that Bannon asked Fleet to write a letter to the Courant “to complain about the story.” The bank never did.

The memo continues:

In terms of additional credit concerns the Legion was concerned about the impact of the surprise on Fleet. Father Bannon offered to pledge the cash flow stream from the Mee trust funds in order to provide additional security in this uncertain period. I thanked him, but communicated that it would be a significant conflict of interest if we were to seek a perfected security interest in the Mee funds because we are also a trustee [for Gabrielle Mee and for the Timothy Mee Charitable Trust].

“There is no evidence that Mrs. Mee knew of the detailed allegations against Maciel nor the existence of the Hartford Courant article,” plaintiff attorney Bernard Jackvony told NCR. “Rather, it shows that she was in the dark.”

Regnum Christi posted a notice in its residences saying that Nuestro Padre was under attack in a false article. But that, it appears, is the extent of what Mee knew.

“She was totally unaware that the Legion was using her wealth as a negotiating tool with the bank,” Jackvony said. “It shows how the Legion at that point essentially treated her money as theirs. They took such liberties with her funds without her even knowing, and treating [it] like they were entitled to it.”

In 2001, Bannon obtained sweeping power of attorney, drafted by the Legion’s lawyers, for Mee’s affairs. The Legion sued Fleet to obtain greater access to the combined Mee funds, with Gabrielle testifying for the Legion. The two sides settled out of court. Fleet later merged with Bank of America. Because of the 2001 agreement, Dauray’s lawsuit includes the bank as a defendant with the Legion on allegations of fraud.

Just how many Legionaries knew of Maciel’s secret life — or how Maciel funded it through the coffers of a religious charity — is unclear from an initial review of the documents. But Maciel was drawing $20,000 a month from the Legion in his later years, according to the transcript of a speech by Garza, the longtime vicar general, to a Regnum Christi group in Monterrey, Mexico, after the Legion divulged existence of the daughter in 2009.

Garza’s speech was not evidence in the lawsuit, nor was he questioned about it. A Legion spokesman told NCR he could not respond to questions.

Garza’s testimony is a pivotal part of the legal action. As vicar general, he was Maciel’s second in command and “responsible for overseeing key areas of logistical governance,” according a Regnum Christi profile, “involving constant analysis of numbers and personnel, structures and organizations, risks and opportunities.”

Garza grew up with five siblings in Monterrey, a scion of one of Latin America’s wealthiest families, often compared to the Rockefellers.

Maciel cultivated the Garza family for years, ingratiating himself with the parents. Three of the siblings became immersed in Regnum Christi; the other half reacted against Maciel’s tactics.

“Our family is hopelessly split to this day,” said Roberta Garza, the youngest sibling. “One of my aunts gave Maciel a house.”

A 1978 graduate of Stanford with a degree in engineering, Luis Garza joined the Legion after a period in Regnum Christi. The family made huge donations over the years, with Luis reported by one former Legionary as donating several million of his own. He earned a canon law degree from the Jesuits’ Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. Maciel named him vicar general as a sign of his rising authority.

In 1989, Mee went to Rome and met with Maciel to see the progress of the Legion seminary being built with her generous help.

Jackvony, a former Republican lieutenant governor of Rhode Island, asked Garza in deposition: “Were you aware of a gift [Mee] made to the Legion in 1989 of a million dollars?”

“No, I was not aware.”

“Did you ever become aware of that in your official duties?”


“Did you become aware of it later?”

“I don’t remember.”

Jackvony bore down: “In 2002, there were a total of four million dollars in gifts, including a condominium in Narragansett?”

“The only thing I know about this is it’s a condominium.”

“In 2003,” Jackvony continued, “there were gifts totaling about $3,600,000. Are you aware of any of those gifts?”


In contrast, Fr. Stephen Fichter, chief financial officer for the Legion in the late 1990s, gave often detailed answers despite 11 years’ distance. Fichter left the order in 2000, uneasy with the internal rigidity, yet believing then Maciel was innocent of the seminarians’ accusations. In 1997, before the Hartford Courant investigation profiled nine ex-Legionaries recounting how Maciel abused them as boys, Garza had traveled to Legion houses in three continents, telling Legionaries and Regnum Christi members that certain accusations soon to be published were lies and none of them should read the media account if they came across it. Computer access was tightly limited in those years.

Fichter joined the Newark, N.J., archdiocese and earned a doctorate in sociology. He divides his time as a New Jersey pastor and in a research position at Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate in Washington.

“While I firmly believe that God can write straight with crooked lines, and that he brought some good into my personal life through the Legion,” Fichter testified, “I personally feel deceived, defrauded, lied to” by the scope of information on Maciel that surfaced by 2011.

Fichter recalled reviewing Gabrielle Mee’s bank investment files in Rome and storing her donation records “in paper form in some filing cabinet.”

Maciel drew money in a manner “totally inconsistent” with ordinary Legionaries. “I would always have to give him $10,000 in cash; 5,000 in American dollars and 5,000 equivalent in currency to the country he was traveling,” Fichter said. “I do not know what he used that money for. He never gave an accounting of that money.”

“Rhode Island’s attorney general [Peter Kilmartin] has the right to intervene in our case because it involves a charitable trust,” Jackvony said. “The fraud by Maciel and the Legion of Christ demonstrated in these documents also deserves immediate attention to determine whether laws against financial abuse of the elderly have been violated.”

Maciel hid his pathological sex life behind a wall of wealth and an image of militant orthodoxy, charming John Paul II. He capitalized on footage of a beaming pope, celebrating Maciel and his cheering Legionaries at a public audience. A 30-person fundraising office at the Legion’s U.S. headquarters in Cheshire, Conn., marketed cassettes of the event as a pivotal item in the Legion fundraising. A scene of John Paul embracing Maciel at the altar dramatized his standing for wealthy benefactors, like Mee.

By 2004, the Legion had a $650 million budget and $1 billion in assets for the prep schools, seminaries and universities in Latin America, Europe and North America. In 2005, with John Paul’s death, Ratzinger broke with the pope’s resistance to prosecuting Maciel and ordered Vatican canon lawyer Msgr. Charles Scicluna to investigate. Scicluna worked at Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which is housed in the majestic palazzo called the Holy Office where Galileo was convicted of heresy. The upper floors house certain Roman Curia officials, including Rodé, 78, now retired as the prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

A secret safe

In 2004, Rodé became prefect of the congregation that governs religious orders. His predecessor, Cardinal Eduardo Martínez Somalo, took a $90,000 gift from Maciel, according to the priest who carried the envelope. Martínez Somalo refused interview requests.

Rodé said he took no cash gifts from the Legion.

“I esteem the charism of the Legionaries,” Rodé told NCR in a Nov. 29 interview at his apartment at the Vatican. He saw young men of rock-solid orthodoxy, their numbers rising in Latin America as vocations sank in Europe and North America. Rodé gave celebratory speeches for the Legion in Brazil and Chile and praised the founder after Maciel’s ouster.

Asked whether that was a mistake, he couched his answer in the context of papal loyalty. “It is difficult to say it was a mistake by the pope,” he said, referencing John Paul’s praise of Maciel long after the 1998 case filed in the doctrinal congregation. “I don’t know. I wasn’t there” to know what John Paul knew, or would not consider, about Maciel.

Rodé defends the Legionaries as a phenomenon apart from Maciel, a position Benedict took in the Vatican takeover to reform the order.

A former Legion priest, speaking on background, said he met with Rodé after Maciel’s death and the cardinal told him of a VHS he had seen when Maciel was superior general of Maciel and his young daughter.

Asked about this, Rodé gave a somber nod, saying it was “late 2004, or early 2005.” The Legionary who showed it wanted him to have the information before the order’s election for superior general, the position Maciel held for decades. Rodé says he persuaded the 84-year-old Maciel, by then under investigation, to step down. Maciel was re-elected and then retired.

What did Rodé do about the videotape showing Maciel’s daughter?

“I told Msgr. Scicluna all about the problem,” the cardinal said.

Scicluna reported directly to Ratzinger.

As the prefect over religious orders, why did Rodé not punish Maciel?

“It was not for me to pronounce the penalty,” he said. “But he was, in the end, corrected” — by Benedict’s 2006 Vatican order sending Maciel to a “life of prayer and penitence.”

Did the cardinal confront Maciel about his child?

“It was not my obligation.”

Why not?

“I was not his confessor.” Rodé paused. “It was my obligation as prefect for religious to get him to step down, and I did.”

The cardinal’s interview lends validity to another dimension of Garza’s testimony: his mounting suspicions about Maciel having a child and what it took for him to confirm it. This occurred almost two years after another Legionary showed Rodé the videotape.

By 2005, Maciel was showing “basic evidence of dementia, like forgetting things, repeating things in a conversation,” Garza stated in his Rhode Island testimony.

After he stepped down as superior general, Maciel left Rome and began traveling. He spent time that spring in his birthplace, Cotija de la Paz, Mexico, where the Legion has a religious house. Photographs of a reunion with his former paramour, Norma Hilda Baños, and their daughter, Normita, 23, later appeared in a Mexican gossip magazine.

Maciel’s final months

Yet even as he battled dementia, Maciel was a domineering figure. Who oversees an ex-superior general long revered as a living saint? But the Legion high command worried about Scicluna’s investigation as well as Maciel’s stability following a visit he made to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Garza’s testimony reveals his concern that Maciel, in a slow mental decline, was still traveling whenever and wherever he pleased. After the visit to Mayo Clinic, Maciel in the spring of 2006 checked into Sawgrass, a five-star hotel in Jacksonville, Fla. The Legion, as always, paid his expenses. The evidence suggests he was in Jacksonville that May when the Vatican announced his dismissal to “a life of prayer and penitence.”

There is no indication from the lawsuit that Garza, born 1958, had knowledge of Maciel abusing seminarians a generation before. The Legion’s counterattack on the original accusers insisted that those men in their late 50s from Mexico and Spain hatched a conspiracy to bring Nuestro Padre down. The motives were never explained, but Maciel’s charismatic personality and the many financial gifts he dispensed to curial officials and others over many years were among the reasons a chorus of defenders spoke out in the late 1990s. Among those who echoed John Paul’s admiration for Maciel were Fr. Richard John Neuhaus; William Bennett; George Weigel, a biographer of John Paul II; and Harvard Law professor Mary Ann Glendon, who later became the U.S. ambassador to the Vatican.

The Vatican order of dismissal threw Garza into an awkward situation. The Legion’s response contained contradictory elements. The order proclaimed its loyalty to Benedict while comparing Maciel to Christ as falsely accused, facing his new life with “tranquility of conscience.” In this bizarre fandango of language — the Vatican ordering Maciel into penitential life while praising the Legion, and the Legion comparing their founder to Christ — Maciel was running up charges in a Florida luxury hotel.

And so the Legion bought a house in a Jacksonville gated complex and installed several priests to live with Nuestro Padre.

“And what was the purpose of them being there?” Jackvony asked in the deposition.

Garza replied, “To create a community.”

“Why?” Jackvony asked.

“For Father Maciel to live a life of penance and absence from public ministry,” Garza said.

Yet even with his new home, Maciel pined for Rome. He flew back in September 2006, hoping to attend the canonization ceremony of one of his uncles, a bishop in Mexico. The timing of Benedict’s dismissal order was undoubtedly tied to that canonization. Vatican officials did not want a beaming Maciel at the ceremony knowing, as one official later told NCR, that he had molested “more than 20 but less than 100” victims.

Garza does not specify how they persuaded Maciel that he could not attend the canonization, but he returned to Jacksonville.

Garza by then was suspicious of Normita, 23, and her mother, Norma Hilda Baños, in her late 40s, who had been at the Sawgrass Hotel and were spending time with Maciel in his life of penance at the Legion house with the pool.

Among the group at the house was Javier Maciel, Nuestro Padre’s brother. The priests and Javier, Garza testified, “knew the women” but would not say who they were. As Garza’s suspicions grew, he stayed at a less-expensive hotel on his trips to Jacksonville, not at the “community” in the newly purchased house. In October 2006, Garza asked Norma “if the girl was the daughter of Father Maciel,” he testified. “She confirmed that.”

Garza tracked down her birth certificate and determined that Normita had studied at a Legion college in Mexico.

Garza was, like all Legionaries, beholden to the “private vows” never to speak ill of Maciel or superiors, never to seek higher office in the Legion, and to report to the superiors any criticism overheard about the founder. Maciel had imposed the vows to safeguard his sexual secrets. Benedict would later order the vows abolished. But at that time, Garza had only one person in whom to confide: the new superior general, Fr. Alvaro Corcuera.

By early 2007 the Legion was in an existential drama with the Vatican. Maciel was gone, sort of. Corcuera and Garza, who had long defended him of the pedophilia accusations, faced a huge internal issue: how to tell Legionaries, Regnum Christi members and the donor base about Maciel’s shadow family.

Garza was also concerned about the impact on the women. Normita, he testified, said “she had this father that was very caring for her but in many instances very absent.” Norma supported herself by “property that she leases,” raising further questions of fraud in the legal action. How did she gain title to rental real estate when she apparently did not work?

Maciel met Norma in Acapulco, Mexico, in 1980. Normita was born three years later. In 1997, he moved them to Madrid, providing support in an upscale apartment, according to Spanish reports.

Through the year 2007, Maciel’s paternity stayed hidden. The Vatican made no disclosure, nor did the Legion. How much each side knew about the other is not clear from the available evidence.

Maciel’s dementia was getting worse by the end of that year, according to Garza’s testimony. He sank into his final illness in late January 2008. According to a report in Madrid’s El Mundo, as Norma and Normita joined the priests closest to Maciel in the Jacksonville house, Corcuera, his successor as superior general, tried to anoint him, to which he reportedly yelled, “I said no!”

The body went back to Cotija de la Paz for burial in a family tomb. The Legion announced that he had gone to heaven. Garza and Corcuera were trying to decide how to reveal the truth as Vatican officials looked on.

Gabrielle Mee died four months later in Rhode Island.

In July 2008, the Legion’s American communications director, Jim Fair, traveled to Rome to discuss ongoing media strategy. Fair gave a deposition in the litigation too. In the Rome meeting, he stated, Corcuera revealed that Maciel had a daughter: They had to prepare for news coverage when it was disclosed. “We were very emotional in our response to this,” Fair testified. “I think the only question any of us asked is, are you sure, and [Corcuera] said yeah.”

In a telephone interview with NCR on Sunday, Fair said no Vatican official attended the meeting, nor did they discuss Vatican involvement.

Why did the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which had investigated Maciel and then the Legion, not release the information or prod the Legion to do so when Benedict dismissed Maciel in 2006?

Why did the Vatican sit on the information all those years?

José Barba, the retired Mexico City college professor who filed the 1998 recourse against Maciel in the doctrinal congregation tribunal, argues that the paramount issue for Benedict was protecting John Paul II’s reputation.

“Ratzinger wanted to elevate John Paul to beatification,” said Barba, coauthor of La Voluntad de No Saber (“The Will Not to Know”), an analysis of Vatican documents on Maciel. The book’s publication last March and Benedict’s refusal to meet with Maciel victims on a trip to Mexico ignited an onslaught of bad press for the pope. Benedict had to reckon with the embarrassment of John Paul’s praise of Maciel after the 1998 case, in essence scoffing at allegations against one of the most notorious sexual criminals in church history. By keeping a lid on Maciel’s secret life, Barba said, Benedict hoped “to defend the sainthood case against the accusations that John Paul protected predators.”

Complete Article HERE!

UK’s most senior Roman Catholic steps down

Another vociferous marriage equity opponent (and closet case) bites the dust!

By Mure Dickie

Britain’s most senior Roman Catholic priest has pulled out of the conclave to elect the next pope, citing concerns about media attention after he was accused by fellow priests of inappropriate behaviour.
Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the 74-year-old leader of the Scottish Catholic Church, was to have been Britain’s only representative in the election for the successor to Pope Benedict XVI.

Cardinal Keith O'BrienThe cardinal has contested the accusations from three serving and one former priest, reported in the Observer newspaper at the weekend, that he committed “inappropriate acts” dating back to the 1980s.

In a statement on Monday, Cardinal O’Brien did not directly refer to the accusations, but asked for God’s blessing on fellow cardinals who will choose a new man to lead the Catholic church after Pope Benedict steps down on February 28.

“I will not join them for this conclave in person. I do not wish media attention in Rome to be focused on me – but rather on Pope Benedict XVI and on his successor,” Cardinal O’Brien said.

The statement also announced the pope had “definitively” accepted Cardinal O’Brien’s resignation, which had been tendered months previously because of his age, saying the decision had been made on February 18 because of the “imminent Vacant See”.

A Vatican spokesman said: “I do not enter in the merit of the [circulated news]. I only stand by the communication of the decision,” and refused to comment further.

Cardinal O’Brien will reach the episcopal retirement age of 75 in March.

It was not immediately clear if the announcement of the decision had been affected by the allegations from the priests from the diocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh, who had demanded the cardinal’s resignation.

The Scottish Catholic Church said at the weekend that he contested the allegations and was taking legal advice.
In Monday’s statement, he said he had valued the opportunity to serve as a priest in Scotland and overseas.

“For any good I have been able to do, I thank God. For any failures, I apologise to all whom I have offended,” he said.

Cardinal O’Brien stepped back from some of his responsibilities last year in the run-up to his retirement. He had been an outspoken opponent of same-sex relationships, opposing Scottish government proposals to legalise same-sex marriage.

Stonewall, the gay rights charity, last year named him its “Bigot of the Year”, sparking complaints from the Catholic church.

In an interview with the BBC last week, Cardinal O’Brien said priests should be allowed to marry and have a family, as many struggled with celibacy.

Complete Article HERE!

Benedict XVI Could Turn into a Shadow Pope

Progressive Catholic theologian Hans Küng, whose authority to teach Catholic theology was rescinded by the Vatican in 1979, spoke to SPIEGEL about the challenges facing the next pope and the need for reform of the Catholic Church.

By Peter Wensierski

SPIEGEL: What will change now that Pope Benedict XVI has resigned?

Hans Küng wird 80Hans Küng: There is now a realization that a pope should step down when the time has come. Joseph Ratzinger made it very clear that he could no longer fulfill his duties. His predecessor felt he had to turn his death into a show. Fortunately, Benedict chose another way, in order to demonstrate that when a pope is no longer capable of doing his job, he should give it up. This is exactly how the office should be approached. In John Paul II’s final years, we weren’t led by a pope so much as by a curia, which governed the Church in his place.

SPIEGEL: Who would you like to see lead your Church as pope?

Hans Küng: A pope who is not intellectually stuck in the Middle Ages, one who does not represent mediaeval theology, liturgy and religious order. I would like to see a pope who is open first to suggestions for reform and secondly, to the modern age. We need a pope who not only preaches freedom of the Church around the world but also supports, with his words and deeds, freedom and human rights within the Church — of theologians, women and all Catholics who want to speak the truth about the state of the Church and are calling for change.

SPIEGEL: Who is your ideal candidate for the office of pope?

Hans Küng: If I were to name anyone, he would most certainly not get elected. But background should not play a role. The best man for the job should be elected. There are no more candidates who belonged to the Second Vatican Council. In the running are candidates who are middle of the road and toe the Vatican line. Is there anyone who won’t simply continue on the same path? Is there anyone who understands the depth of the Church’s crisis and can see a way out? If we elect a leader who continues on the same path, the Church’s crisis will become almost intractable.

SPIEGEL: Is there likely to be friction between the former pope and the incumbent pope?

Hans Küng: Benedict XVI could turn into a shadow pope who has stepped down but can still exert indirect influence. He has already assigned himself a place within the Vatican. He is keeping his secretary, who will also remain prefect of the papal household under the new pope. This is a new form of nepotism, and one that isn’t appreciated in the Vatican either. No priest likes to have his predecessor looking over his shoulder. Even the bishop of Rome doesn’t find it pleasant to have his predecessor constantly keeping an eye on him.

SPIEGEL: So the new pope will have a hard time asserting himself?

Hans Küng: If the next pope is clever, he will appoint a cabinet that will allow him to lead effectively. A solitary pope, isolated from the curia the way that Ratzinger was, will not be able to lead a community of 1.2 billion people. The pope urgently needs a cabinet made up of new, competent men (and why not women, too) in order to overcome the crisis. Unless there is an end to the tradition of the Roman royal household and an introduction of a functioning, central church administration as well as a curia reform, no new pope will be able to bring about change and progress.

Complete Article HERE!