Friday, May 19, 2006

Justice--well, kind of. OK, not really.

Breaking news yesterday that the founder of the Legion of Christ--a group both incredibly influential and luridly reactionary--has finally been restricted from public ministry should come as a bit of relief. Or, perhaps, as a shock, since it took 13 years to finally occur. Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado as been accused by "more than 20 but less than 100" (according to an unnamed Vatican source) of sexual misconduct, usually with seminarians of his own order. (The accounts are blood-curdling; Maciel allegedly told one victim that Pope Pius XII granted permission for the abuse to help Maciel get relief from a stomach condition.) Then-Cardinal Ratzinger shut down a 1999 investigation, which was then reopened in 2004 when more accusers came forward.

One hopes that this will blow the lid off the idea that sex abuse is merely an American problem. Maciel is Mexican, from a culture in which it is probably more difficult to talk about sex abuse as it is; the fact that it took so long to finally get the truth out has most to do with John Paul II's protection of Maciel, along with his refusal to believe that the founder of one of his beloved movements could have used his talents drawing young people (which JPII applauded) for such nefarious purposes.

Still, and this is a sign that the Vatican remains unwilling to really uncover the truth, today's Vatican statement about Maciel merely asks him to withdraw from public life, forgoing a canonical inquiry because of Maciel's "advanced age." (I love how managing to get away with something for a really long time keeps you safe when you finally are found out.) The Legion's statement borders on the repulsive, asserting Maciel's innocence and claiming that he will follow Christ's example by not defending himself from the accusations. Jesus, incidentally, did defend himself--by speaking the truth, not by hiding from it.

The truth is out now, though, and I imagine more victims will begin telling their stories.


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