Saturday, January 25, 2014

National Catholic Reporter Calls for Criminal Investigation of Legion of Christ--"An Agency of Almost Unimaginable Fraud"

National Catholic Reporter's editorial calling for criminal investigation of the Legion of Christ minces no words. An editorial beginning with the following opening sentence is whatever the opposite of word-mincing might be called:

The Legion of Christ has been an agency of almost unimaginable fraud, and that reality alone should be reason for civil authorities to pursue a criminal investigation of its U.S. activities and for the church to proceed with extreme caution in considering allowing the group to continue.

And it only gets better from there. In the very next sentence, the editorial cuts off at the knees the claim of many apologists that the Legion of Christ is, after all, about Christ, no matter how off-course the religious community may have gotten in its development. And it can be rehabilitated, when its tarnished image is buffed up a bit and we see the original charism shining out under the tarnish. NCR's rejoinder to that apologetic:

The Legion, which was of many things but certainly not of Christ, was built on the life of a man, Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, who trafficked in deception, lies and crimes against children.

And then the editorial adds, later,

For millennia, the church has absorbed religious movements and enthusiast groups of every sort. The Legion, however, is of another species entirely. It has no charism save for a fraud of a founder. Its relationship with the wider world and with the church is so tainted by corruption and lies that it is difficult to imagine justification for its continuation.

As the editorial concludes, it's not only members of the public who are outraged at the way in which the Legion has bilked elderly Americans out of fortunes, employing lies and deception in order to accomplish this goal: it's also Catholics who care about these matters, and who want to discover the truth about the Legion and see justice accorded the victims of the Legion. And since we have every reason to suspect that not everything is yet known--by any means--about the Legion's shady dealings, and more is bound to come to light in future, criminal investigation is imperative, so that we can be provided with a complete picture of the Legion's activities as soon as possible.

The editorial concludes,

We deserve to know how the Legion's duplicity went unchecked for so long and how far such institutional behavior reached. How many others were deceived? We know from past experience that getting full accounts of the criminal activity of church leaders is only possible when civil authorities intervene with the power to demand evidence and testimony. The Legion has provided abundant reason for such intervention. We call on the Rhode Island attorney general to open a criminal investigation of the Legion of Christ.

And I certainly concur. Those dirty hands that worry Cardinal Dolan as he wonders about whether gay folks can be made welcome at the Catholic table: I suspect some of those right at the altar or kneeling to receive the papal blessing have been far, far grimier than the ones preoccupying Dolan's attention. 

The photo of John Paul II blessing Legion founder Father Marcial Maciel is from the website of Jason Berry, author (with Gerald Renner) of the award-winning work Vows of Silence: The Abuse of Power in the Papacy of John Paul II (NY: Free Press, 2004).

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