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Monsignor Harry J. Byrne, JCD * * * Comment/contact:larchstar@aol.com

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February 2, 2008

MUST THE POPE OBEY CANON LAW?

Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legionaries of Christ,died January 30, 2008. The Legionaries have grown rapidly, experiencing many vocations, running several universities, and supervising 650 priests and 2500 seminarians worldwide. Maciel had been investigated for drug use in 1950, but apparently was cleared. Beginning in 1998, accusations began to be made by nine former seminarians that they had been sexually abused by the founder. Despite Maciel's denial of the accusations, an investigation was begun. In December 2001, it was stated that Vatican officials had discontinued the case. Pope John Paul II had been an enthusiastic supporter of Maciel and the Legionaries. Maciel figured prominently with the Pope in the canonization Mass of Juan Diego in September 2002. The Legionaries were entrusted with a special mission in Jerusalem.

Under the aegis of a new Pope, Benedict XVI, the case was reopened in January 2005. On May 19, 2006, the Vatican announced that because of Maciel's advanced age and poor health, any canonical process against him was renounced and he was "invited" to take up "a reserved life of prayer and penance, renouncing any public ministry". Why did Benedict XVI take up the case? Why did John Paul II close it while it was in process?

Had Maciel been in the United States, he would have been suspended under the Dallas Charter since an allegation had been accepted as "credible". Questions arise. The "reserved life..." to which he was "invited" is the identical punishment given to an accused, who is adjudged guilty. How is one "invited" to a punishment without a judgment of guilt or innocence having been arrived at? Is this covered by procedural canon law? Or could it be invoked only by the plenipotentiary power of the Pope? An accused could certainly decline the "invitation" and demand a full judicial process. But is this a procedure that a bishop could use to maneuver an accused out of a due process? To avoid reaching the difficult decision between guilty and not guilty?

There is another question? Was John Paul II orchestrating for some reason, which was compelling for him, the interruption of a judicial process already begun - like protecting his friend or protecting the good name and work of the Legion of Christ? Was he transgressing Canon 1395, which demands that a cleric who abuses a minor must be punished? Like Maciel? Again, the fullness of power of the Pope would seemingly enable him to do this. But would not such an action be comparable to the actions of many bishops in covering up priests, who abused children, to avoid scandal and protect the image of the Church? Hmmm!

1 Comments:

Blogger juanjvaca said...

Absolutely! As the first practicing Catholic, "Servus Servorum Dei", and the role model for all Catholics to follow, the pope must be the first one to obey Canon Law. I don't think "Do as I say, not as I do"should be the pope's praxis.

How come that in the Buresi case the full weight of Canon Law was applied, and no in Maciel's? Any doctor canonist is able to give us a legal and Christian explanation?

February 4, 2008 at 1:58 PM  

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