Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput will be traveling this week and next and maybe into the fall. He has been asked by the Pope to look into the sex and money crimes of an extremely influential Mexican colleague, Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado, the rich-kid founder of the Legionaries of Christ Catholic order, an arm of the faith that professes a staunch conservative line intent on recapturing the Catholicism of the pre-Vatican II era — that chimeric time before the corruptions of modern life compromised the Holy Church and the members of its flock.
Goes without saying Maciel was a sexual predator as well as a world-class thief and influence peddler who molested young men in his charge and swore them to secrecy using the trappings and machinery of the faith. He also fathered a daughter, who he set up with her mother in a fancy apartment in Madrid. Maciel scored a $650 million budget for his special insider order, which goes a long way to explaining why his crimes have only surfaced in the last few years and especially now, of course, after his death at 88. No fear: Denver’s Archishop will put it all right.
Jason Berry, an author and journalist who has followed the case, has described Maciel as “the greatest fundraiser of the modern church.” Maciel will be as sorely missed by Church accountants as he is loathed by the seminarians he targeted for abuse.
Chaput is the “visitator” in the case for the U.S. and Canada, which basically means he’s the Vatican’s investigator in North America. He is reportedly taking testimony from past and present members of the order.
Jose Barba, a Mexico City college professor who filed a 1998 Vatican case against Maciel, told Berry that bishop-visitators including Chaput should investigate Legion finances.
“Fifty people in the States wanted to give testimony to [the Vatican] on [the legion’s] financial abuses in 1998, but couldn’t get to Rome.”
Among the many questions Chaput will be considering, officially or unofficially, is whether in the end Maciel will cost the Church more in legal fees and settlements after his death than the hundreds of millions he raked in for the Church during his life. Chaput may also be considering the continuing questions of power and arrogance that loom behind the sexual scandals that have come to define the Church in American popular culture today.
Chaput’s report is due in the fall.
Berry’s book on Maciel, “Vows of Silence,” is the basis of a documentary film of the same name.