May 4, 2010 § Leave a comment
Abuse Case Offers a View of the Vatican’s Politics By DANIEL J. WAKIN and JAMES C. McKINLEY Jr.
May 2, 2010 The two former Mexican seminarians had gone to the Vatican in 1998 to personally deliver a case recounting decades of sexual abuse by one of the most powerful priests in the Roman Catholic Church, the Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado.
As they left, they ran into the man who would hold Father Maciel’s fate in his hands, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, and kissed his ring. The encounter was no accident. Cardinal Ratzinger wanted to meet them, witnesses later said, and their case was soon accepted. But in little more than a year, word emerged that Cardinal Ratzinger — the future Pope Benedict XVI — halted the inquiry. “It isn’t prudent,” he had told a Mexican bishop, according to two people who later talked to the bishop. For five years, the case remained stalled, possibly a hostage to Father Maciel’s powerful protectors in the Curia, the Vatican’s governing apparatus, and his own deep influence at the Holy See. In any case, it took Cardinal Ratzinger — by then Pope Benedict — until 2006, eight years after the case went before him, to address Father Maciel’s abuses by removing him from priestly duties and banishing him to a life of prayer and penitence, though without publicly acknowledging his wrongs or the suffering of his victims….
A close look at the record shows that the case was marked by the same delays and bureaucratic caution that have emerged in the handling of other sexual abuse matters crossing Benedict’s desk, whether as an archbishop in Munich or a cardinal in Rome. Benedict’s supporters believe he was trying to take action on the Maciel case but was thwarted by other powerful church officials.
But advocates for Father Maciel’s victims say that the Vatican’s eventual investigation and reckoning in the case were too little, too late. The Rev. Alberto Athié Gallo, a Mexican priest who in 1998 tried to bring allegations of sexual abuse by Father Maciel to the attention of Cardinal Ratzinger, said the Vatican allowed Father Maciel, who died in 2008, to lead a double life for decades….Former Legion seminarians have said that Father Maciel abused them from the early 1940s to the early ’60s, when they were 10 to 16 years old. For years, Father Maciel had cultivated powerful allies among the cardinals, through gifts and cash donations, according to reporting by Jason Berry in the National Catholic Reporter. Mr. Berry is co-author of a book about the order and helped break the story of the priest’s abuses….
Father Maciel’s troubles with the Vatican dated to 1956, when his personal secretary accused him of drug abuse and financial mismanagement; he was suspended for two years during an investigation, after which he was cleared and reinstated in 1959. “From that moment on, he was completely protected by all the high offices of the Vatican,” said Fernando M. González, a sociologist who wrote a book about the Maciel case, based on more than 200 previously undisclosed documents from church archives, that was published in 2006. Reports of problems in the order persisted, including sexual abuse allegations forwarded to the Vatican starting in the late 1970s. In 1997, nine former Legion seminarians — a number of them prominent priests and professionals — detailed their abuse at the hands of Father Maciel in a series of articles in The Hartford Courant by Mr. Berry and Gerald Renner….Father Maciel’s dismissal was announced on May 19, 2006. But it was not until Saturday that the Vatican officially spelled out why: Father Maciel’s “objectively immoral behavior” included criminal acts “and showed a life devoid of scruples and authentic religious feeling.” http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/03/world/europe/03maciel.html