Jose Barba, PhD, center, standing; Saul Barrales, right, seated, Maciel survivors with the blogger and his wife
MANIFESTO ON THE OCCASION OF POPE BENDICT XVI’S VISIT TO MEXICO
Deceased are, together with our hopes of truth and justice in the Church, several of the former Legionaries of Christ who, together with the signers of the open letter to your predecessor, John Paul II, hoped since 1997 to receive an answer to that message. Instead they were ignored or reprehended by Catholic authorities. Later we trusted that truth, charity, and our rights would prevail in our canonical case against Fr. Maciel which we presented in Rome on October 17, 1998 to the Sacred Congregation for the Faith over which Your Holiness presided at that time.
Scarcely twenty months ago Your Holiness told reporter Peter Seewald “… only around the year 2000 did we have any concrete clues (regarding the accusations against Fr. Marcial Maciel).” But we, following the spirit of the forgotten Council of Sardica, had sent a letter to John Paul II fifteen years before. The letter was in fact delivered to the Vatican by the then Apostolic Nuncio, Justo Mullor García, to be handed to the pope. In that letter we laid out our convictions with a respectful and trusting attitude; and in that letter we also made ourselves available for questioning and judgment so the truth could be known; for the good of society and the Church we wanted Marcial Maciel and us to be the subjects of a canonical process.
We asked John Paul II whether, in historical retrospect, the canonical trial of the Legion of Christ founder would be too onerous a task. And we went so far as to say “for many reasons it would be a shame for the Church not to seek the truth in such a grave matter…” Because by not seeking the truth diligently and by not doing justice, the scandal would spread wider and the Magisterium’s credibility would be questioned by many. And we could not understand how the Church’s ancient wisdom could have been deceived so easily, at such high levels of the Hierarchy, for such a long time, in so many places, in the face so many victims and so many complaints.
But we were not listened to or believed at the right time. For a long time were we ignored for being simple rank and file members of the Church. That is why we, as regular Christians, wish that the words of a German theologian well known to you were taken into account: “Beside, before and above the ministerial hierarchy there is in God’s ministry an often hidden hierarchy of the spirit. There exists a hierarchy of holiness which is not the same as and runs parallel to the ministerial hierarchy. Nearness to God is not a class privilege.” (Karl Rahner)
For You, in your conversation with Peter Seewald, Marcial Maciel was an enigma. For us the problem is the failure of the centuries’ old wisdom of a Church that did not decipher the enigma in time nor has it resolved the institutional metastasis of its works; the problem of a Church intimidated by hidden but nevertheless very real powers. Your Holiness, scandalous too is the presence among the higher clergy of pastors who live disorderly lives tolerated by the Church; for telling the truth about Marcial Maciel we were criminally attacked by them. Concretely, the Mexican episcopal conference, composed in its majority by cowards, has shown no commitment to this case and has been irresponsible and even servile.
We have carefully analyzed the trajectory of our case before the Vatican, especially from 1997 on. We have also studied in great detail documents regarding the Maciel case that were recently handed over to us from inside the Church; our examination of such documents had led us to believe that they were purposely kept hidden in the Vatican; it is humanly inconceivable that the prefects and heads of the Vatican departments in charge of such grave matters would not have been aware of their existence and content. It has been a case of suggestio falsi (false suggestion) and suppressio veri (suppression of truth).
We never received an answer to our rightful complaints lodged according to the rules of the Church’s own Canon Law. And, after reprehending us several times for expressing our opinions publicly in the secular media it is ironic that only through these same media did we learn about the ambiguous and confusing decisions taken by the Vatican regarding the Maciel case. We repeat that we presented our case on October 17th 1998 to the Sacred Congregation of the Faith which at that time was directly under your supervision as prefect (executive director). In this context we cannot but doubt and feel disconcerted by the decree De Delictis Gravioribus (Regarding Serious Crimes)signed by Your Holiness on May 18, 2001; in this decree a very important clause is modified, canon 1378, which had ruled that there was no statute of limitations in the case of a priest guilty of solicitation in confession. The law was applied retroactively and thus affected the complaint we had lodged against Fr. Maciel three years previously on February 18, 1998 through our lawyer Martha Wegan. The change in fact favored the depraved Fr. Marcial Maciel as it left us at a serious disadvantage in pursuing our case against him.
The axiom cited by some clergy to the effect that “it is better that eight innocent men suffer injustice rather than thousands of Catholic lose their faith” has certainly not helped the manifestation of truth, or the exercise of charity or the triumph of justice. Since the 1990s many members have left the Church and many others find it hard to continue to belong and be faithful. Their disappointment has increased as they experience clear pragmatism and moral relativism despite denials by some Vatican spokespersons.
These objective realities, carefully studied and analyzed during years of duress, have demonstrated that more than respect for the rights of the human person, it has been public outcry and the weight of world-wide secular opinion that have been the determining factors in ever so slowly modifying the Hierarchy’s stubborn denial. Many of us faithful expected clarity and reasons to trust. On the contrary we have seen almost systematic ambiguity which, together with contradictions between orthodox doctrine and real praxis, has led us to internal confusion and painful spiritual malaise.
We believe, Your Holiness, with greater conviction than ever, what we expressed to Your Predecessor in our 1997 open letter: “We firmly hold that only a just, transparent and brave Christianity will win the real and active respect of young and old, of intelligent and brave men and women; of people who are healthily critical, living as they do in a shallow world of mass demonstrations, sheep-like movements, and of those who join good causes which often do not lead to effective justice.”
Jose de Jesus Barba Martin and other victim-survivors of Fr. Marcial Maciel's abuse