Monday, October 23, 2006

Canonical Monday continues: the case of Marcial Maciel-

In the post I refer to below regarding Sexual Abuse in the Church and Rod Dreher's response to it (i.e., leaving the Church), I allude to the case of Marcial Maciel, the founder of the Legionaries of Christ and Regnum Christi , the order's lay branch. The Legionaries publish the National Catholic Register and operate the on-line Vatican news service Zenit. The allusion has to do with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's decision, given in May 2006, with the approval of the Holy Father, not to pursue a canonical trial against Maciel to resolve allegations of sexual abuse against the 86 year-old priest, but inviting him "to a reserved life of prayer and penance, giving up all public ministry." The Congregation's statement also called upon Maciel to renounce his option to have a canonical trial.

As regards the last, I wrote that "with much feigned piety, Fr. Maciel and his Legionaries with words about cross-bearing and enduring injustices patiently, that make the truly humble blush, obeyed knowing the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has the goods on Maciel and his predatory ways that would be made use of in any further canonical process. " A more objective view is given by R. Michael Dunnigan, JD, JCL in an article entitled For Every Case Its Proper Course Canonical Observations on the Maciel Communiqué, which appears in the St. Joseph Foundation's, 29 June 2006, Christifidelis newsletter:

"The important point is that the Congregation probably needed Maciel’s consent to 'renounce' the trial. (I say 'probably' because it is not known what procedure the Congregation followed in the Maciel case. However, it appears that the right of the accused to grant or withhold consent would have applied in any procedure [see Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela, proc. norms, art. 26].) The canonical principle at issue is that an accused person should have the option to allow the trial to go forward to have his name cleared of the accusations against him. Thus, although the promoter of justice is the person who can decide to renounce the process, the renunciation is invalid unless the accused accepts it (can. 1724 §2). As a result, it is quite possible that Maciel implicitly agreed to the measures described in the communiqué. Agreeing to the renunciation of the canonical process is not exactly the same thing as agreeing to the measures contained in the communiqué. However, there is little difference in actual fact, because it seems clear that Maciel could have insisted on having the trial proceed if he had found these measures unacceptable."

Dunnigan also credits Pope Benedict XVI who, as Prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, in 1999 made the decision to shelve the case and pursue it no further. His approval of the Congregation's invitation to Maciel as Supreme Pontiff is the completion of a change-of-mind regarding his 1999 decision. Dunnigan, citing a report of Sandro Magister from May 2005, still-Cardinal Ratzinger, in 2004, instructed Msgr. Charles Scicluna, the Congregation's promoter of justice "to pull all of the cases from the Congregation’s shelves that had not been adjudicated. 'Every case must take its proper course'". Among these cases was Maciel's. It was not until May 2006, 13 months after ascending to the chair of St. Peter, that action was taken, but it was characteristically decisive.

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