December 20, 2004

Author's view on Legion of Christ controversy

Renew America

Matt C. Abbott
December 19, 2004

Archbishop Harry Flynn of St. Paul and Minneapolis recently threw down the gauntlet at least in one respect. In an Oct. 22, 2004 letter to Father Anthony Bannon, territorial director of the Legionaries of Christ (, Flynn effectively banned the controversial religious order from the archdiocese, citing concerns of a "parallel Church." (To see a copy of the correspondence, visit

I asked journalist Lee Podles, whose upcoming book, A Harsh Light: Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church, was featured in a previous column, what he thinks of, a site dedicated to refuting past sex abuse allegations against the founder of the Legion, Father Marcial Maciel.

"The issues are complex, and I make no judgment," says Podles, who devotes the following passage in his book to the Maciel controversy:

"The potentially most damaging allegations...are the subject of Jason Berry's and Gerald Renner's book, Vows of Silence, which examines in detail what he considers the Vatican's 'failure to investigate serious charges' in which seminarians allege that Maciel abused them in the 1950s. The charges and countercharges are murky, and much depends on one's appraisals of the character of the accusers. The Legion is disliked and even hated by some Catholics (and not only liberal Catholics). A successful attack on Maciel would discredit not only him, but also the Legion. The bishops and the Vatican tolerated abuse by unknown priests for decades; the bishops and the Vatican would have an even greater motive to cover-up allegations against Maciel. The Legionaries are a large and rapidly growing organization, extremely important in keeping Hispanics in the Catholic Church; the Vatican is not eager to discover any evidence its founder might be a pederast and homosexual. But the failure to conduct a thorough investigation means that there will always be a shadow on Maciel's name, even if he is completely innocent."

Posted by kshaw at December 20, 2004 07:33 AM