The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Wednesday, May 25, 2005  

Misleading the Flock, Again

The National Catholic Reporter has caught the Legionaries of Christ, the controversial Catholic congregation of priests, in a lie.

NCR Rome correspondent John L. Allen, Jr. reports (“New Legionaries Intrigue”):

In a potentially significant twist to the case involving the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, NCR has learned that the office that recently released a statement saying there is no case against Fr. Marcial Maciel regarding sex abuse accusations is not the office with responsibility for making that judgment.

On May 20, the Legionaries of Christ issued a news release stating that the “Holy See” had informed them that “at this time there is no canonical process underway regarding our Founder, Fr. Marcial Maciel, LC, nor will one be initiated.” Subsequently, the Catholic News Service and other press agencies quoted the Vatican Press Office as confirming the statement.

That news startled some observers, since an official of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican agency charged in 2001 by Pope John Paul II with responsibility for the sexual abuse of minors by clergy, traveled in early April to New York and Mexico City to collect testimony from alleged victims. Those efforts by Msgr. Charles Scicluna, the Promoter of Justice within the congregation, suggested that a preliminary investigation was underway.

Most observers assumed that the new communication to the Legionaries must have come from that congregation, the office once headed by Pope Benedict XVI.

In fact, however, the communication came from the Secretariat of State, the department that handles papal diplomacy and acts as a coordinator for the work of other Vatican agencies. It came in the form of a fax, which was unsigned but bore a seal from the Secretariat of State indicating official status. Italian Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, is a longtime supporter of Maciel and the Legionaries of Christ.

What this means is that the statement did not come from the Vatican agency that ultimately has responsibility for deciding Maciel’s fate. Officials of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith have refused to make any comment on the recent news reports, but a senior Vatican official told NCR May 25 that the congregation has made “no statement” on the Maciel case, even to the Secretariat of State.

For their part, the Legionaries appear to be holding fast to the untruthful, or at best highly misleading, statements in the news release. The NCR reports a spokesman for the congregation “did not believe the distinction of which office issued the statement ultimately made any difference.” Says Jay Dunlap, Communications Director for North America, “We believe the Holy See is speaking with a unified voice on this issue. The way in which it was communicated was intended to make that clear.”

But Allen’s close and informed analysis of the language used in the communication from the Secretariat, written in Italian by the way, demonstrates that if anyone is confused, it’s the Legionaries and not the NCR, to say nothing of the Vatican itself.

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