Saturday, April 9, 2011

Weekend News Round-Up: The Catholic Abuse Scandal (New Hampshire, Legion of Christ, Euteneuer)

I blogged yesterday about the scandalous attempt of Bishop John McCormack of New Hampshire to "out" a John Doe who has filed suit against New Hampshire Catholic officials re: claims of childhood abuse.  And this morning, I'm seeing in Voice of the Faithful's latest issue of the VOTF e-newsletter In the Vineyard that the New Hampshire VOTF chapter is challenging McCormack to "honor his pledge to treat clergy abuse survivors with care and concern, not harassment through punitive legal measures."

And two bits of fascinating editorial commentary coming recently from one of the leading intellectual journals of the Catholic right, New Oxford Review.  Editorials serving up a nice helping of theological and moral Corvus corax for the gustatory delectation of the tightie-rightie contingent of the contemporary Catholic church . . . . Both are editorial statements, and both dated April 2011.

The first is an editorial admitting that there just may have been a few problems with Fr. Marcial Maciel, the founder of the Legion of Christ, and once the darling of the Catholic right.  This statement focuses on a recent article by a former Legionary priest, Fr. Richard Gill, who decided following the revelations of the unsavory history of the group's founder Maciel that he could not longer in conscience remain a member of the Legion of Christ.  To make sense of the New Oxford Review editorial, which is only partially available to non-subscribers, you'll need to read Gill's statement about the Legion of Christ at the Chiesa website which  published it.

Gill asks if the Legion of Christ can be rehabilitated--as the Vatican thinks it can.  As a former Legion member with a long history with the community, Gill concludes that rehabilitating Maciel's religious community will require a steep uphill climb--if rehabilitation is, indeed, possible.  And it will require more transparency than we've yet seen in having answers to a list of still-to-be-answered questions about how Maciel was allowed to pull the wool over so many people's eyes for so long.

I find Gill's questions about the "origins and history" of the Maciel scandal particularly fascinating.  As he puts it, there's a "mystery" about the Maciel saga, which has not yet been adequately addressed or resolved: namely, how can his community and Vatican officials have been so taken with Maciel for so long, when serious questions about his life and leadership had long been raised?  Specific questions that flow from this central one about the "mystery" of Maciel, are, Gill thinks, the following:

  • How did it happen that Maciel was reinstated as Superior General in 1959, after he had been suspended for more than two years while he was under Vatican investigation--when the accusations against him turned out to be true, and he was still permitted to carry on with more abuse and even to father children while remaining Superior General up to 2005?
  • How did Maciel get a Decree of Praise for the congregation from Paul VI?
  • What is the story behind the "disappearance" of Maciel for about a year in the late 1970s? This was the period in which one of of his children was born. How could Maciel regularly disappear for weeks or a month with no questions raised by church officials or his community?
  • How did he get away with the double life, fathering at least three children from two mistresses over decades with no one noticing or colluding?
  • Why did no one see it as a red flag that he rarely said Mass or the Breviary or went on retreats?
  • How did the Constitutions of the Legion get official Vatican approval, when it's now clear that they have serious flaws and conflicts with canon law? 
  • How could Maciel, with his more or less well-known history, have gained such access to John Paul II and apparently misled him for years?
  • How to explain the consistent defense of Maciel by Cardinals Angelo Sodano and Franc Rodé and their encouragement of his community to esteem him, even after the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith censured him in 2006? 
  • "What does it say about the internal culture of the Vatican that while Maciel was being praised at his 60th anniversary in 2004 by Cardinal Sodano, he was being investigated by Cardinal Josef Ratzinger’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith?"
  • How were the Legion's leaders allowed to promulgate a different version of the Statutes of Regnum Christi than the one approved in 2004 by Cardinal Rodé?

As Gill rightly notes, until we know the answers to these perplexing questions, it will be exceptionally difficult to clean up the Legion's act--because (here, switching to my analysis and not Gill's) that act is clearly interwoven with the apparently willing malfeasance of top Vatican officials.  And since we have now amassed abundant evidence indicating that Maciel's clout had everything to do with $$$$, and since $$$$ definitely talks in the Vatican, I suspect we won't ever know the really dark secrets at the heart of the Maciel mystery, which involve payoffs of Vatican officials to buy their silence and support of Maciel.  Of Maciel, whose abundant $$$$ came from wealthy conservative Catholics around the world, who have predominant influence in the Vatican.

New Oxford Review is serving up a savory helping of crow this month not only because of the embarrassment that Maciel has proven to be for traditionalist Catholics (and because a highly regarded former member of his community keeps blowing the whistle on the lack of transparency in the attempt to rehabilitate the Legion of Christ).  It's doing so, as well, because this Catholic journal that makes strong claims about its intellectual vibrancy ("the brightest minds in Catholic journalism today") once also fawned over a now-fallen "American idol," Fr. Thomas J. Euteneuer.  Who turns out to have been perhaps not the bright star in the American Catholic intellectual or moral firmament that New Oxford Review had made him out to be.

And as this editorial statement indicates, when the idol crashed to the ground, "those of us who had interacted with him or admired him from afar were left scratching our heads."  Indeed.  Google the terms "New Oxford Review" and "Euteneuer," and you'll find one article after another by Euteneuer (e.g., "The Demon of Child Sacrifice & the Valley of Slaughter," "The New Rite of Exorcism: A Potent Weapon is Weakened," etc.) that this Catholic journal, whose masthead proclaims that it is "dedicated to delivering sparkling prose on behalf of Holy Mother Church from some of the finest Catholic writers of our times," has published.

When idols turn out to have clay feet and the crumbling of those feet causes the idols to tumble to the ground, those who have bowed before the idols not uncommonly have to consume a healthy serving of crow.  Particularly when those doing the bowing have had a penchant for attacking the "false" religiosity of others.

Having eaten not a few dishes of crow in my own lifetime, I have a tiny bit of advice to offer New Oxford Review, as their Maciel-Euteneuer repast gets underway.  In my experience, nothing makes the tough strands of the old bird go down better than eating it with a helping side dish of humble pie.

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