Thursday, August 20, 2009

Cardinals and coverups

Subtle Legionary theologians are working out the distinction between Father Maciel’s unedifying private life and Legionary “mystique,” their idiosyncratic word for religious “charism,” apparently less concerned with the damage their scandal more and more seriously is inflicting on the wider Church.

As exlcblog made us aware last week, Sanjuana Martínez reported in CIMAC that one of the babymommies alleges that Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican Secretary of State, is implicated in the payment of hush money. That would make for a stupendous scandal if the churchman organizing the apostolic visitation had been previously involved in silencing witnesses, especially after calling for “transparency” in the letter announcing the visitation.

I do not and will not believe that allegation without further evidence. But I wondered if either she or Martínez could have meant to name rather the emeritus Secretary of State, Angelo Sodano, whom we know to have been at the service of the Legionaries in the past.

Now Dean of the College of Cardinals, Sodano in 1999 intervened against the group of Maciel’s victims who were seeking a canonical hearing, according to their lawyer. In May 2005 Sodano’s Secretariat of State issued an unsigned document denying that the CDF investigation begun by Cardinal Josef Ratzinger was even underway, which the Legionaries then used to claim publicly that Maciel had been cleared, as in the May 29-June 4, 2005 story in the National Catholic Register, "Vatican Exonerates Legion's Founder."

In March 2006 Sodano was himself found sending a secret, misleading letter through a surrogate to make life difficult for Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, in the matter of the reappointment of Cardinal Camillo Ruini as Vicar of Rome.

Speaking of misleading leaks, the new reports of the massiveness of Father Maciel’s corruption make the shock professed by Legionary leadership in February seem insincere and their approach then seem just another in a long series of attempts at covering up: surface the one daughter, plausibly spin that it was a one-time indiscretion, and try to move on.

A source representing the thought of Cardinal Franc Rodé, head of the Vatican Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, and foremost Vatican champion of the notion of the existence of a Legionary charism, took this tack with Catholic News Agency in an article on February 8. “An official from the Congregation who spoke with Catholic News Agency” said that the Legionary crisis did not warrant outside intervention.

Those looking for conflicts of interest in the Congregation’s oversight of the Legionaries have noted the presence of Legionary Father Clemens Gutberlet on Rodé’s staff.

Then on Monday, February 23, 2009, Catholic News Agency reported confirmation by “Vatican officials” that Legionary leadership would “release a major statement in response to the controversy surrounding the double life of its founder and the future of the order. The statement will be released on Tuesday ‘or Wednesday at the latest’… The source told CNA that it will be a foundational document that will be decisive in determining future action…”

That leak (was it also from Rodé’s Congregation?) had been coordinated with the showing in some Legionary seminaries that same day, February 23, of a video of Cardinal Rodé encouraging Legionaries.

The source proved incorrect. That statement never was made. But the leak seems part of an attempt to assist the Legionaries to wrap things up quickly and handle the scandal on their own terms. The attempt had involved Catholic News Agency, based in Denver, the archdiocese of current apostolic visitator Archbishop Chaput.

The scenario in which the Legionaries would keep their independence from Vatican oversight did not prevail. Instead, the Legionaries’ statement was deferred and on the next day, Tuesday, February 25, Baltimore Archbishop Edwin O’Brien in his archdiocesan Catholic Review made his famous call for a review of the “very basis of the Legion movement.”

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