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The (Vatican and other) wheels of justice turn slowly, but they do turn…

19 May 2006

The Legionaries of Christ (their English-version website seems to be down), being an “ultramontane” Catholic order in an anti-clerical country has never been without its detractors. The Wikipedia article (only available in Spanish) mentions that the founder of this Mexican order, Marcial Maciel, was expelled from the Jesuits in 1940 — allegedly for homosexuality. He was later accused of being a morphine addict, and of dishonesty.

The Order runs schools, seminaries and youth organizations in Mexico, and throughout the world, especially in the Spanish-speaking countries. These include the Universidad Anáhuac, one of the best (and most expensive) private universities in Latin America. It flourished best in countries with reactionary governments, Spain under Franco and Chile under Pinochet. In Mexico, it’s associated with the extreme right and the extremely wealthy. The Wall Street Journal had a front-page article on the Order’s economic power on 23 January 2006 (reprint available here).

In Mexico, Spain and Chile, there have been legal actions stemming out of allegations of physical and sexual abuse of seminarians and students by Order priests. The bishop of Richmond Virginia, a few years back, specifically ordered the Legionares to stay out of his diocese. He didn’t want the same troubles other U.S. bishops had when the order expanded into the United States. Teenage “gangs” recruited from Legionare groups (which tend to be very wealthy kids) have terrorized other youths in several Mexican communities. An entire organization, ReGAIN (Religious Groups Awareness International Network) , exists for former Legionares and those “touched or adversely affected by the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi Movement”.

While accusations have swarmed around Father Maciel — and the Order — for years, it was a favorite of the late Pope John-Paul II. Like other observers, I think the late Pope was “misinformed” about the piety of the Mexicans. The elite and wealthy Mexicans who are connected with the Legion are atypical of Mexican Catholics, but it is was through them that the Pope “knew” Mexico. Ironically, the extremely reactionary Legionares are somewhat responsible to the losening of clerical restrictions in Mexico which has opened the way to political actions by Evangelical pastors on the left and the Mormon elders on the right. While I certainly accept that Vincente Fox and the PAN led coalition victory in 2000 were a step towards a more democratic Mexico, I recognize that PAN has this extremist, anti-democratic clerical backing. Mrs. Fox is certainly from this wing of the party, and I do think she’s dangerous.

The Legion, and Father Maciel, has been under investigation by a Vatican-appointed lawyer (surprisingly, a woman). Pope Benedict’s order that the 86 year old priest retire to do penance for the rest of his life MAY be only a first step. If the group falls out of official church favor, either its extremely wealthy supporters will put their money into some other reactionary group not constrained by the traditional taboo on overt political influence by the clergy, or — one hopes, simply pump more money into education and old-fashioned influence peddling without the clerical middle-man.

And speaking of child-molesters and the slow wheels of justice…

Jean Succar Kuri, wanted in Quintana Roo for child-molesting, trafficing in kiddie porn and a few other things, has FINALLY lost his fight to avoid extradition from Arizona. Maybe.

It only took a couple of years, and his lawyers promise to appeal. This is the basis of another important — and slow to be resolved — case. Kuri’s legitimate business was manufacturing blue jeans. One of his business associates is now Governor of Puebla state. A reporter who wrote about Kuri, and the kiddie porn biz in Cancun (which is in Quintana Roo) ended up in a Puebla jail cell, after she was — shall we say — extralegally extradited? (i.e., kidnapped) from QR to Puebla. The Gov. is still in office.

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