Wednesday, April 7, 2010

"How Much Filth There Is in the Church": New Commentary on the Maciel Case

And, because the Maciel story has unique importance at the very center of the abuse crisis, I want to recommend two recent pieces about Maciel and the secret empire he built as head of the Legionaries of Christ, right within the Curia, by greasing one palm after another.  This is a story that will continue to unfold in coming weeks, I suspect.  I also suspect we have only begun to understand the ramifications of this story and of the filth that—sadly—the former pope John Paul II protected in the very heart of the church by shielding and rewarding Maciel. 

For years, when no one else was writing about the abuse crisis and when the mainstream media participated in the cover-up by marginalizing reporters who wanted to pursue this story, reporter Jason Berry was working to document the story.  The following is from his blockbuster report yesterday at National Catholic Reporter: Jason Berry, “Money Paved Way for Maciel’s Influence in the Vatican”:

How much money did Maciel use to support his families? How much did he siphon off for other purposes behind the guise of a religious charity?

Behind these questions loom others about money in the Vatican. Are envelopes with thousands of dollars in cash given to cardinals when they say Mass, give talks or have dinner in a religious house mere donations? The Legion of Christ raises money as a charity. How does it record such outlays? Does anyone in the Vatican have access to Legion financial records?

When Dziwisz* became a bishop in 1998, the Legion covered the costs of his reception at its complex in Rome. “Dziwisz helped the Legion in many ways,” said a priest who facilitated payments. “He convinced the pope to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Legion.”

And Austin Ivereigh’s commentary on Berry’s story at America’s “In All Things Blog”: Austin Ivereigh, “Pope Benedict’s Headache: The Maciel Millions, and the Rot in Rome”:

It is the dovetailing of corruption and the cover-up of sex abuse which is most toxic. Maciel's millions, spread around the Curia in the style of mafiosi throughout the ages, were designed to deflect scrutiny from his life as a drug addict and paedophile. And for most of John Paul II's pontificate, it succeeded.

That's why this is bigger than just the future of the Legion. It is about the ease with which Maciel got away with it because of his powerful backers in Rome -- and the way that support could be bought. What Benedict XVI does with and in consequence of these revelations could well define the rest of his pontificate.

This is rot. And it goes deep.

* Msgr. Stanislaw Dziwisz was Pope John Paul II’s closest confidante, his Polish secretary, and his lifelong friend—and a strong defender and promoter of Maciel and the Legionaries of Christ.

Later the same day: I'm just now seeing that my friend Colleen Kochivar-Baker also blogged about Jason Berry and the Maciel story at her Enlightened Catholicism blog today.  I highly recommend Colleen's posting for further commentary, especially on the role of Vatican Cardinal Angelo Sodano in the Maciel affair.  On a different but related topic—Bill Donohue's attempt to divert the discussion of the problems the church faces at its center off into the cul-de-sac of sexual orientation issues, see Michael Bayly's posting earlier today at Wild Reed.