Mystery over high-profile abuse case

The Vatican office that recently released a statement saying that accused Legionaries of Christ founder Fr Marcial Maciel has no sex abuse case to answer, is not the office with responsibility for making that judgment.

National Catholic Reporter Rome correspondent John Allen has written fo what he calls a "potentially significant twist to the case involving the founder of the Legionaries of Christ".

Last Friday, the Legionaries of Christ issued a news release stating that the "Holy See" had informed them that "at this ime 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.

But Allen says the 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, travelled in early April to New York and Mexico City to collect testimony from alleged victims". Those efforts by Monsignor 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.

Allen says that this means the the statement did not come from the Vatican agency that ultimately has responsibility for deciding Maciel's fate. He points out that 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 him yesterday that the congregation has made "no statement" on the Maciel case, even to the Secretariat of State.

The official stressed this does not mean that there eventually will be a canonical case against Maciel, merely that the agency charged with making that decision has not yet communicated its intentions.

Asked for comment, a spokesperson for the Legionaries of Christ in New York said that he did not believe the distinction of which office issued the statement ultimately made any difference.

"We believe the Holy See is speaking with a unified voice on this issue," Jay Dunlap, the Legionaries' Communications Director for North America, said. "The way in which it was communicated was intended to make that clear."

New Legionaries intrigue: Statement on Maciel not issued by agency responsible for sex abuse cases (National Catholic Reporter 25/5/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Legionaries of Christ

Roebrt Scheer: A Hypocritical Church's Sex Lessons (Los Angeles Times 24/5/05)
Vatican says no abuse trial for Mexican priest (Reuters 24/5/05)
Vatican reportedly drops probe of Mexican cleric (Boston Globe 23/5/05)
Legionaries of Christ: no canonical process against founder pending at Vatican (Catholic News Agency 23/5/05)
Group says founder cleared of sex abuse (Chicago Tribune 23/5/05)
Charges, countercharges on Legionaries' founder (Catholic World News 23/5/05)
Vatican, religious order say sex abuse investigation is closed (Associated Press/Newsday 23/5/05)
Maciel Investigation Still Underway, Legion of Christ Misinforms the Media (Religious Groups Awareness International Network 23/5/05)
Vatican Reportedly Clears Priest (Washington Post 23/5/05)
Vatican says no church action planned against Legionaries' founder (Catholic News Service 20/5/05)
Vatican says no church action planned against Legionaries' founder (Catholic News Service 20/5/05)
Sandro Magister: The Legionaries of Christ--Fr. Maciel's Trial Draws Nearer (L'Espresso 22/5/05)
Files show diocese masked sexual abuse by shuffling priests (Catholic News Agency 19/5/05)

26 May 2005