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The Double Life of Marcial Maciel

In support of the Pope’s proactive attitude (see the previous New Oxford Note) toward clerical sex abuse and its accompanying culture of secrecy, it is instructive to note that Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, while prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was not inclined to cover-ups. For example, the future pontiff wanted Austria’s Hans Hermann Cardinal Groër fully investigated after a number of accusations against the prominent prelate surfaced. According to Leon Podles, author of Sacrilege: Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church (reviewed in the Jul.-Aug. 2008 NOR), the former Archbishop of Vienna “had molested almost every student he had come into contact with for decades.” After Groër was accused of this abuse, Pope John Paul II continued to receive him socially in the Vatican, while tens of thousands of Austrians were “resigning” from the Church in protest. In an interview with Austrian TV in late March, Groër’s successor, Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, revealed that it was then-Cardinal Ratzinger who tried to persuade John Paul to mount a full investigation of the accused Groër. His efforts, however, were met with stiff resistance at the Vatican. Cardinal Groër was eventually told to remove himself to a quiet monastery to live a penitent life away from the rest of Christendom.

Pope Benedict is also directly responsible for initiating the investigation of Legion of Christ founder Fr. Marcial Maciel, followed by a full-scale investigation of the religious order itself. Already disgraced by the time of his death at the age of 87 in 2008, Maciel was accused of sexually abusing young seminarians for decades. Maciel, a conservative Catholic icon, backed by priests under his tutelage, swore up and down that there was no truth to any of the accusations. Legion spokesmen vilified the victims and implied that the investigative journalists covering the scandal were brazen liars, adding that these “attacks” on Fr. Maciel and the Legion of Christ were due to the order’s militant orthodoxy and loyalty to the Pope. The Legion mouthpieces all maintained this with a united front even after Pope Benedict ordered Fr. Maciel “to retire to a life of prayer and penance” in 2006.

Since Maciel’s death, insurmountable evidence has not only revealed that there was truth to the many allegations of serial homosexual abuse of young seminarians under his care, but it was discovered that the Legion founder sired at least six children with three different women, and that he lived (off and on) in Mexico for twenty-three years under an assumed name with at least one woman, maintaining a “family” with her for decades.

But wait, there’s more: In March one of Maciel’s mistresses, Blanca Lara, revealed to a Mexican radio station that Maciel began sexually abusing their sons when the boys were as young as seven. Blanca met Maciel in 1970 when she was just 19. Maciel was 56 at the time. He told her that his name was Raúl Rivas and that he was a widower. She explained that he passed himself off as an employee of an international oil company, a private investigator, and a CIA agent. Lara said she didn’t find out his real identify until 1997 when she saw a magazine article about previous allegations made against him.

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