Sunday, April 18, 2010

Owning up

Fr. Owen Kearns talks about his past defense of Fr. Marcial Maciel:

I realize, though, that even if I don’t feel quite ready to talk about my role in defending our founder and the harm my words must surely have caused, the readers of the Register are ready and it is better that I speak now. To be honest, they have probably been ready for some time.

I publicly defended our founder as spokesman for the Legion of Christ in early 1997 and as publisher in the National Catholic Register in November 2001 and May 2006. On each of these occasions I believed completely that the allegations against Father Maciel were false. I trusted him and his profession of innocence. I know now that I was wrong.

I feel the same way. I would not believe the attacks on him because so many lies are spread about Catholic leaders, I believed it was part of the pattern.

The 1997 allegations of Father Maciel’s sexual abuse came as a complete shock to the Legionaries of Christ. We couldn’t believe that the allegations against our founder were true, because they were so incompatible with our experience of him. We tended to interpret them as one more attack — something normal in the life of many founders.

I know the Legionaries to be completely faithful and orthodox. I know that people who are orthodox are often maliciously slandered. I saw it as a way to get back at the Legionaries.

Even when the Vatican invited Father Maciel in 2006 to a retired life of prayer and penance, and it was obvious to many that he was considered guilty, the absence of a public explanation for the move allowed me to hope against hope that he was innocent.

Many saints had been falsely punished for perceived misdeeds, like St. John Chrysostom and St. Teresa of Avila. This seemed like the safest course.

Nothing in my experience of our founder prepared me to believe his victims — nothing, that is, until I learned that he had fathered a daughter. The conclusive evidence that he had done things incompatible with religious and priestly life made me rethink everything.

It was a shocking level of duplicity. Very hard to digest. When you live your life to be honest and as simple as possible, it's hard to imagine that anyone would be so two-faced.

Honestly, I don't know how the Legionnaires can carry on with that kind of history. It's so tainted. I'm thinking they should disband and regroup into some other formation.