|John Paul II and Father Marcial Maciel|
Here's the picture I get as I read Horowitz's article about the machinations now going on inside the Vatican: corruption. This is not just the run-of-the-mill, par-for-the-course kind of corruption one can count on in any non-transparent, closed, hierarchical organization. What we're witnessing now at the top levels of the Catholic church (insofar as the veil of secrecy is ever pulled aside) is the quite specific kind of decay that takes place as institutional corruption advances and reaches a critical peak. Fighting and in-fighting for the spoils of a corrupt, decaying, wealthy and powerful institution.
Corruption that those on the inside, who have their hands on the purse strings, don't intend to stop, since they have engineered the corruption and stand to benefit from it--because watchdogs never abound when a hermetically sealed and very corrupt institution falls apart, and helping oneself to the spoils is all the easier under such circumstances.
And now here's Jason Berry at National Catholic Reporter discussing some of the revelations emerging from the Rhode Island lawsuit alleging fraud in the case of a wealthy widow, Gabrielle Mee, who gave $30 million to the Legionaries of Christ:
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.
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.
And, regarding Cardinal Franc Rodé, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, who played a key role in getting the investigation of American nuns underway along with the disgraced Cardinal Law:
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.
About that videotape Rodé saw in 2004 or 2005, showing Maciel with his daughter: what did Rodé do after having seen it? He says he reported it to Monsignor Charles Sciculuna, who worked for and reported to Cardinal Ratzinger--now Pope Benedict--at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
It was not his obligation, Rodé maintains, to punish Maciel, though Rodé headed the Vatican congregation overseeing all Catholic religious communities, Maciel's Legion of Christ included. This was a matter between Maciel and his confessor.
It appears that Ratzinger also did nothing at this point to deal with Maciel. Nothing at all.
And Berry's conclusion:
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."
Gabrielle Mee died in 2008 before it was revealed that Maciel had fathered several children. She had been kept in the dark about Maciel's hidden life, and would perhaps not have handed over money freely to the Legionaries if she had known what was going on with Maciel. Nor would the other well-heeled donors who long kept the vast financial empire of the religious community (a budget of $650 million in 2004 and $1 billion in assets, Berry notes) have likely made their lavish donations if they had been in the know.
Note some not-to-miss details and connections suggested by Berry's account:
1. Rodé's predecessor Cardinal Eduardo Martínez Somalo took $90,000 handed to him in an envelope from Maciel--$90,000 that we know about.
2. Is it any wonder that the Congregation overseeing religious communities turned a blind eye to Maciel's years of abuse of seminarians, drug addiction, and fathering of several children as a celibate vowed religious, when that kind of money was changing hands?
3. And, yet, it's this same Congregation that, at the behest of Cardinal Bernard Law, who was forced to resign his position in Boston after his years of covering up sexual abuse of priests by minors became known, has chosen to target American nuns. Not Maciel. Faithful religious women!
4. Ratzinger-Benedict has long known the score with Maciel. He sat on the information as long as John Paul was alive.
5. And he did not release information about Maciel's daughter when he punished Maciel in 2006--though he clearly knew this part of Maciel's story.
6. Paramount in Ratzinger-Benedict's concern was to safeguard the reputation of John Paul II as Ratzinger-Benedict pushed the former pope quickly through to canonization.
7. Catholic officials can move with extreme urgency to defrock a priest who favors women's ordination, to attack faithful religious women, to silence a priest who calls for dialogue about women's ordination and sexual ethics, to excommunicate a nun who concurs with the unanimous judgment of a hospital ethics committee to abort a non-viable pregnancy that threatens the mother's life, to punish nuns and priests (and here) trying to engage in pastoral ministry to gays and lesbians, to censure and silence hundreds of theologians seeking to explore the connections between Catholic teaching and the world around them.
8. And yet a priest who founds a financial empire worth billions of dollars, who sexually abuses seminarians for years on end, is drug-addicted, fathers children in contravention of his vows: this priest enjoys the protection of the highest office-holders of the Catholic church . . .
9. . . . Demonstrating that money (and power and privilege) are inordinately important to the men ruling the Catholic church: is there any other way to read this story that makes sense?
10. And who will be electing Benedict's successor again? How many times does the title "cardinal" occur in the preceding narrative?