Why the Popes Failed to Act

June 2014By Jay Dunlap

Jay Dunlap served as communications director in North America for the Legion of Christ and its lay affiliate, Regnum Christi, from 1998 to 2006 and as a communications consultant from 2006 to 2010. He is currently President of Madonna School & Workshop, the Archdiocese of Omaha’s outreach to children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

This April Popes John XXIII and John Paul II were canonized together. This moment of great rejoicing in the Church arose under a shadow, due in large part to two high-profile television documentaries that detail how the Church responded — or failed to respond — to the criminal actions of Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legion of Christ. A PBS Frontline investigation titled Secrets of the Vatican, and a documentary on Irish television titled The Legion, both dwell on the fact that three Popes — John XXIII, Paul VI, and John Paul II — failed to take action when informed of Fr. Maciel’s sexual abuse, drug addiction, and misuse of funds.

There is a good explanation for why these three Popes did not move against Maciel. The explanation does not excuse inaction, nor does it abrogate responsibility at various levels of the Vatican for having enabled Maciel’s corruption and deception. But such an explanation answers the question raised about these three Popes: Why didn’t they act?

I served as communications director for the Legion of Christ in North America from 1998 to 2006. My responsibilities included media relations and helping the Legion in crisis management. Published reports of allegations against Fr. Maciel kept me and my colleagues busy for long stretches of time. And a central part of the Legion’s response, I am convinced, explains why the three Popes ignored the allegations: “The charges had already been thoroughly examined and found baseless.” Or so we were led to believe, and so we told others.

Though Maciel had been kicked out of two seminaries prior to starting what would become the Legion in 1941, the first record we have of allegations against him comes from 1954, when a Legionary seminarian named Federico Dominguez wrote a letter to the Holy See detailing Maciel’s sexual abuse, drug abuse, misuse of funds, and more. In 1956 the Holy See sent apostolic visitators to seek the truth. Five clerics conducted the investigation. One, a leader of the Discalced Carmelites named Anastasio Ballestrero, found the Legion in “juridical chaos” but otherwise “sound.” Another, a Belgian missionary to Chile, Polidoro van Vlierberghe, was won over by the young Legionaries and became a strong defender of Maciel.

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The Maciel story alone is enough to slow down any canonization process. But it is a minor point of order in comparison to the willful allowance of the destruction of the Church resulting from that "pastoral" council known as Vatican 2. It is a mystery how the "conciliar" popes (J23, PP6 & JP2) could be either canonized (J23 & JP2) and/or in line for "Blessed (PP6 in October). In comparison to the Popes before them, they are champions of modernism and heretics. Period! They have lit the fires and hit the auto-destruct switches to Christ's Church. In the meantime, PP12 is put on the back burner and slow walked for further study..Translation? We don't want to P.O. our Jewish brothers in this age of "ecumenism". Now add PF1 to the mix and it is clear that the short respite of PB16 is over and the modernist are back driving the Barque of Peter on to the rocks. The October Synod on Marriage and the Family will be a watershed event. If it follows/allows/approves Cdl Kasper et all nonsense recommendations on communion reception for divorced and remarried "Catholics" and the PF confirms it, you will see a split in the Church that will make SSPX and FFI look like a prequel. And well it should, for blatant heresy must be resisted and exposed by all faithful Catholics no matter who or where it is promulgated. To even permit the "trail balloons" on the subject is in and of itself a scandal to the faithful. Someone said.."If you permit evil, you will punish the good." Sobering thought. Posted by: Jacobumsays
June 09, 2014 07:20 PM EDT
Thank you, Jay, for a heartfelt and sorrowful timeline of MM's trip of picking the luscious grapes from the vineyard for himself. We are so easy to pluck!

Some may say, "Look! God makes good from evil!"
But they are wrong. God would never do such a thing because he never deceives.

Rather, God overcame evil, as He does when we are clueless, as usual. If He did not, we would hardly be getting up day after day.

Back in the day, 1998 -2000, I was in the lay apostolate of the Legion, and I knew MM was a liar (it's a long story) but most of the LofC and lay members I knew were real and true. (I imagine now that the Apostles had a hard time working through Judas's betrayal, too.) I would still not trade that experience for anything else. But that's a long story, too.
Posted by: Rosemary6
June 17, 2014 11:18 PM EDT
Kudos to the author for his most educational article. It points to dysfunctional reality in our times, namely that some of the cruelest of leaders are idolized and 'venerated' and thus we are easily duped and uncritically support their many offences. This is not only applies to the hierarchical church but across a diverse spectrum including corporations, media, entertainment, education and politics. An ancient saying "Self-deceit is easy, for what each person wishes, that he believes to be true" still resonates even after first spoken by the great Greek orator, Demosthenes. Posted by: pescher
October 02, 2017 12:41 PM EDT
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