Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Sins of the founder

It's taken a while, but the media is finally looking at the nearly eternal pontificate of JPII with a critical gaze, thanks to what an L.A. Times editorial calls "the punishment" of Father Marcial Maciel Degollado. That "punishment" should have come a long, long time ago--allegations were first leveled in 1993--but Maciel and his Legion were long protected by John Paul, who just months before his death heaped praise on Maciel on the anniversary of Maciel's priestly ordination.

The Times editorial credits Pope Benedict with this belated action, but he was just as much part of the cover-up. Ratzinger himself reserved sex abuse cases to his own Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith--for reasons that are beyond me, since the CDF deals with doctrine, though it greatly expanded its mandate under our brother Joseph. Any blame for the delay in the investigation belongs as much with Ratzinger as it does with Wojtyla.

And the cover-up continues: In point of fact, Maciel has only agreed with a Vatican request to retire in solitude and penance, following a number of bishops accused of similar wrongdoing. This case deserves a full hearing, and the Legion itself should be conducting its own inquiries. Victims of abuse often become abusers themselves, and, if social scientific research is to be trusted, there's reason to believe that the sins of the father were transmitted to his spiritual sons. If the Legion wants to nip that kind of speculation in the bud, it should openly investigate all the allegations, at least if it wants to continue to exercise pastoral ministry among the people of God.

Maciel's retirement may be a step forward. But it's a baby step, and it needs to be followed by larger ones.


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