Rorate Caeli

Church is Sanhedrin, Pope is Pilate, Maciel is Jesus.

Secularists often like to accuse men of faith of "self-righteousness", as if all religion were condensed in pharisaical concern and pride for self.

There are moments, however, in which even a Catholic who is only trying to save his soul must recognize what is charity and religious concern, and distinguish it from what is self-righteousness.

The Pope's decision (it was from first to last HIS decision: HE guided this process, HE knew what was to be offered, HE finally approved the measure) on the affair of Marcial Maciel Degollado was officially recognized through a communiqué which is an example of concern and charity.

Canonical legalism is absolutely irrelevant to this matter: Yes, the Pope could have punished Maciel Degollado with much harsher measures; he could have abolished the movements he founded. Those who dispute this have no idea of the absolute gravity of the charges and of the evidence involved in the case, or wish to portray events through false lights. As Il Giornale's Andrea Tornielli himself titles his article today: "The distress of the Legionaries of Christ: Their leader was a molester". Yet, the Holy Father is a man of justice, but he is first a shepherd: "Feed my lambs... Feed my lambs... Feed my sheep".

Perhaps, one of the regrettable features of the media-dominated environment of this age is the fact that all feel the need to speak, even when silence and restraint are much more appropriate. Hence, while the Holy See's communiqué was clear in the distinction between the founder and the movements he founded ("Independently of the person of the Founder, the worthy apostolate of the Legionaries of Christ and of the Association 'Regnum Christi' is gratefully recognized"), the Legion of Christ institutionalized the personal misgivings of Maciel Degollado and rushed to issue its own "Response" to the communiqué, a response which can only be described as galling and offensive.

Read carefully this passage: "Facing the accusations made against him, he [Father Marcial Maciel] declared his innocence and, following the example of Jesus Christ, decided not to defend himself in any way".

Now, the imitation of Christ is a duty of every Christian -- but this proclamation of Christlike qualities surpasses every measure of virtue. For here, the accusers are the victims (or even the supposed victims) of most horrendous crimes. Even if the accusations were false, which does not seem to be the case, is it appropriate to compare a man accused of these most grievous offenses to the Spotless Lamb? The Lord was accused of specific points of law, not of offenses committed against specific victims: and was convicted for the "blasphemy" of declaring that He was, indeed, the Son of God and, thus, Divine.

Yet, that is not all: By comparing Maciel Degollado to Christ under trial, the "Official Response" makes clear the indirect reference it wishes to make. Maciel is Christ; the competent Church authorities -- the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Holy Father himself -- are the Sanhedrin and Pontius Pilate (and Herod, the only one before whom Christ was actually completely silent).

The man was accused of serious misdeeds. The investigations led to "results" -- this means (let no one be fooled by the Vatican's diplomatic words!) actual results, tangible results, which could have led to much harsher measures. Yet, in his exercise of Petrine authority and Christian Charity, the Holy Father guided his ministers "to invite the father to a reserved life of penitence and prayer, relinquishing any form of public ministry" and gave his approval to this charitable measure.

It is certainly fair to call this "invitation" a "cross": even fair punishments are crosses we are to bear. Yet, here once again, the "Official Response" crosses the boundary of appropriateness: "he [Father Marcial Maciel] has accepted this communiqué with faith, complete serenity and tranquility of conscience, knowing that it is a new cross that God, the Father of Mercy, has allowed him to suffer and that will obtain many graces for the Legion of Christ and the Regnum Christi Movement". The troubling messianic aspects of this paragraph are evident.

Instead of remaining silent (which one would expect from a "obedient" son) or of THANKING the competent ecclesiastical authorities for the unbound concern they showed for the health and age of the man, and for the future fortunes of the movements he founded, the "Official Response" even presents the "suffering" as a privileged means of grace for the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi. This while the Holy See itself was careful to distinguish the person of the founder from the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi.

"Salus animarum suprema lex" (Can.1752): it was wonderful to watch the Holy See apply this overarching principle of law once again. What a misfortune that such a beautiful spirit had to be squandered by sectarian gall. This official response only deepened the links between the Founder and his movements, which the Holy See had been careful to separate -- and, instead of the spirit of a Saint Joan of Arc, was filled with the spirit of self-righteousness. There may have been pharisees in this succession of events -- but they were not in the Vatican.