Thursday, July 21, 2011

Legionaries' #2: I Had No Idea

In an exclusive interview with the National Catholic Register, the embattled Legionaries of Christ congregation’s No. 2 man discusses the founder, the scandal surrounding him and how the Legion is struggling through this period of reform.


Legionary Father Luis Garza was appointed director of the Legion of Christ’s newly combined North American territory July 15. He had served as the congregation’s vicar general, No. 2 in the congregation’s hierarchy under the general director and founder Father Marcial Maciel from 1992-2005 and Father Alvaro Corcuera from 2005-2011.

Born in Monterrey, Mexico, Father Garza attended the Legion’s primary and secondary schools in Mexico before earning an undergraduate degree in engineering at Stanford University. In Rome, he received licenciates in theology and philosophy and a doctorate in canon law.

Father Garza will oversee the newly combined Atlanta and Thornwood, N.Y., territories into one North American territory. He remains a consultor to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy; he was appointed to that five-year position by Pope Benedict XVI in 2008.

In his role with the once pre-eminent congregation that now faces demands for radical reform in the wake of revelations that for decades Father Maciel led a double life, Father Garza has managed the considerable logistical and personnel challenges generated by the scandal’s impact on the Legion and Regnum Christi.

Throughout the years since the scandal broke, Father Garza and other members of the congregation have been accused of ignoring credible allegations against the founder, while demonizing the victims who came forward over the years.

In a July 19 interview with Register senior editor Joan Frawley Desmond, Father Garza offers a startling portrait of his relationship with Father Maciel. The granting of this interview reflects Legionary efforts to increase transparency but it will likely raise more questions than it resolves. For example, Father Garza says that he didn’t question the founder’s innocence until almost the very end. Also troubling is Father Garza’s revelation that as yet, there has been no investigation to determine who may have known about and thereby been at minimum complicit with Father Maciel in his double life.

When, precisely, did you know about Father Marcial Maciel’s record of sexual abuse?

There had been accusations in the press since the 1990s. The Holy See issued a communiquĂ© in May 2006 that was more shocking. In fact, a month before, the Holy See communicated to us that the founder was found guilty of the charges against him. I didn’t believe that, I am sorry to say.

In June 2006, there was the appearance of a lady with whom Father [Maciel] had a child. At that time, I decided to do an investigation of my own, and by September of that year, I was sure he had fathered a child. Little by little, more evidence came in. By 2008, we had most of the picture.

Some have called for your resignation. Have you offered it?

After the 2005 general chapter [assembly of all members of the congregation], when Father Alvaro Corcuera took Father Maciel’s place, I told him that I was thinking about resigning. Given Father Maciel’s issues, we decided it would be better for me to stay on. Again, in 2009, I presented a letter of resignation to Father Alvaro, and he asked me not to resign during the ongoing investigation and visitation.

When Cardinal [Velasio] De Paolis was appointed the papal delegate, I offered to resign, but he asked me to stay on and help. I told him, “I’m ready whenever you want me to leave my post.” A month ago, the idea about moving to the U.S. came up, and I agreed to go.

Shouldn’t you have known about Father Maciel’s crimes and double life? It’s hard to understand how you and other leaders completely missed or ignored the inevitable red flags.

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