May 24, 2005

Charges, countercharges on Legionaries' founder

Spirit Daily

May. 23 ( - Despite a flurry of published reports, the Vatican has not released any public statement about an investigation of Father Marcial Maciel, the founder of the Legionaries of Christ.

Last week an Italian magazine published a story including unusually detailed allegations about an inquiry into sex-abuse charges against the Mexican cleric who founded the Legionaries in 1941. In response, spokesmen for the religious movement reported that their founder had been exonerated, and no further investigation was planned. But to date the Vatican has released no public statement on this remarkable exchange.

Jay Dunlap, an America spokesman for the Legionaries of Christ, issued a statement on May 20 saying: "The Holy See has recently informed the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ that at this time there is no canonical process underway regarding our Founder, Father Marcial Maciel, LC, nor will one be initiated."

But critics of the Legionaries quickly shot back with a report that the Vatican press office had not confirmed that there is no investigation underway. The critics quoted Father Ciro Benedeittini, the deputy director of the Vatican press office, as saying that his office "had not received any communiqué about if there exists, had existed, or will exist said investigation."

Under ordinary circumstances, no public statement would be issued about an ongoing canonical investigation. Thus the fact that the press office has not received any statement for public distribution is inconclusive.

By the same token, since Vatican investigations are conducted under rules of confidentiality, it was extraordinary that L'Espresso magazine carried what appeared to be a detailed report of a probe being conducted by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith into charges lodged against Father Maciel by former members of the Legionaries. L'Espresso reported that Msgr. Charles Scicluna, the promoter of justice for the Congregation, had traveled to Mexico and the US in April to interview Father Maciel's accusers at length, apparently compiling a dossier for a canonical case against the Legionaries' founder.

Posted by kshaw at May 24, 2005 10:31 AM