[I have refrained from commenting, as the victims should have that primary opportunity. Please note the update below which provides important background material from Jose Barba-Martin. Newest update below added to represent the reaction from the rest of us.]
This publisher’s note will appear in the April 25 print edition, due to arrive to subscribers at the beginning of next week.
This is in some way a special edition of the Register, giving our readers an overview of what is involved in the firestorm over the Church’s handling of clergy sexual abuse.
Doing this thoroughly requires setting the record straight regarding previous Register coverage of the abuse scandal surrounding Father Marcial Maciel. I had intended waiting until the Holy See issued its findings after the apostolic visitation of the Legionaries of Christ, mostly to give myself enough time to wrap my mind and my heart around all I have learned about our founder.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In February 2009, in the edition that covered the news, I wrote that I was saddened first of all for all those hurt by his misdeeds, and I asked Register readers to pray for his victims.
Since then, other shameful and reprehensible facts we never imagined about our founder have come to light. All of these revelations have been extraordinarily difficult for me to comprehend, let alone assimilate.
To avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest, the Register recused itself from further reporting of the events. We adopted the objective policy of covering the scandal by using reliable news reports produced independently of the Register and of the Legionaries.
I regret that in my defense of Father Maciel I took to task Gerald Renner and Jason Berry, the writers who broke the story, and their editors at the Hartford Courant. They didn’t get everything about the Legion right but they were fundamentally correct about Father Maciel’s sexual abuse and I ask forgiveness — too late for Gerald Renner, who is deceased.
To Father Maciel’s victims, I pray you can accept these words: I’m sorry for what our founder did to you. I’m sorry for adding to your burden with my own defense of him and my accusations against you. I’m sorry for being unable to believe you earlier. I’m sorry this apology has taken so long.
In the days to come, it is my prayerful hope to join with you in the journey toward healing and reconciliation of our community and our Church.
Former Legionary and victim of Maciel, Jose Barba-Martin, rejects Fr Owen Kearns' apology:
In the morning of December 25th 1996, the late Gerald Renner called me on the phone and told me that Owen Kearns had presented to Mr. Eliot, the lawyer for the Hartford Courant, two non-notarized letters purportedly written by bishop Polidoro Van Vlieberghe against the eight victims accusing Marcial Maciel.
One letter (the first) was supposedly addressed to Monsignior Luigi Raimondi (the Vatican delegate to Mexico in the nineties) about the investigation conducted at the time by Cardinal Valerio Valeri, the prefect of the Sacred Congregation of the Religious. It was UNDATED but referred to matters regarding the first Apostolic Visitation started in October of 1956, and obviously pretending to regard things as they were before February 6th. 1959.
The second letter was dated (December 12th. 1996) and it did not say to whom it was addressed. As Arturo and I found out, at this date Bishop Van Vlieberghe was almost at the verge of death at the Clinic of the Catholic University (before Dec. 2 till the end of that month 1996). The hospital records disappeared, but our detective found out the truth at the published agenda of Cardinal Silva of Santiago, who visited the bishop on Dec. 2nd. and on Dec 16th that year)
We had copies of these two letters since August 18th 1998, and, as we suspected and as Arturo Jurado and I investigated personally in Santiago de Chile in the morning of Saturday January 13th, 2001, talking directly and at lenghth with the retired bishop Van Vlieberghe, the two letters were false (fabricated by the MM/LC).
As Gerald Renner told me that OWEN KEARNS, AT THE TIME THE OFFICIAL LC SPOKESMAN, WHEN ASKED BY HIM (GR) AS A REPORTER ABOUT MONSIGNIOR VAN VLIEBERGHE'S ADDRESS AND ABOUT THE FACT THAT THE LETTERS WERE NOT NOTARIZED (AS OTHER INDEED NOTARIZED FOUR FALSE TESTIMONIES FROM MM'S FRIENDS), THAT OWEN KEARNS -WHO IN SUPPORT OF THE TRUTH HE IS NOW WRITING ABOUT- COULD HAVE INFORMED MR. RENNER, SIMPLY ANSWERED THAT HE DID NOT KNOW THE BISHOP'S ADDRESS OR THE REASON WHY THE LETTERS WERE NOT NOTARIZED.
IF KEARNS DID NOT KNOW, HE COULD HAVE INVESTIGATED AND COULD HAVE INFORMED THE REPORTER, AS INDEED HE COULD HAVE DONE. BUT HE DID NOT. INSTEAD HE (OK) PRESENTED THE HARTFORD COURANT'S LAWYER A SEVENTY THREE PAGES FILE AGAINST OUR TESTIMONIES. IF OWEN KEARNS REALLY WANTED TO SUPPORT WHAT HE TOUGHT WAS TH TRUTH, HE SHOULD HAVE COOPERATED WITH GERALD RENNER. BUT HE KNOWINGLY DID NOT. OWEN KEARNS HAS NEVER EXPLAINED THIS FACTS. HE HAS NOT EVEN WANTED TO TOUCH THE MATTER.
HOW EASY IT IS NOW FOR HIM TO SAY HE APOLOGIZES BECAUSE HE ACTED NOT REALLY BEING INFORMED. IN SPITE OF HIS BEING UNDER OBEDIENCE AT THE TIME, HIS OFFICIAL POSITION SHOULD HAVE PROMPTED HIM TO FIND THE DATA GERALD RENNER WAS REQUESTING (PRECISELY IN SUPPORT OF WHAT HE (OK) SAYS HE THOUGHT WAS THE TRUTH. HOW CAN HE BE TRUSTED?
ADDENDUM: Considering that the victims' responses are most important, I'm pulling Aaron's thoughts out of the combox for the attention they deserve:
Basically Kearns offers a simple apology for his "taking to task" of Jason Berry and Gerard Renner. He offers another simple apology for the victims of Maciel - he is sorry for what Maciel did and sorry for what he himself did to protect Maciel/disbelieve the victims. This apology is a couple of paragraphs at the end of his letter. It is simply not enough, it is not specific enough after a lengthy and sustained attack on the two reporters and the victims he cannot think he can be absolved by a flimsy couple of paragraphs. He also needs to name the victims who he dis-credited and not be oh-so-general about it and indeed he can do more than words, but is perhaps up to those who he has hurt who should let him/us know what they expect as ammendment, if they think it can be achieved. Who comes out of this letter looking good? The victims? And as an afterthought: is it appropriate for Kearns to make these apologies in his paper and NOT face to face or directly with those he apologises to? Cowardice or PR?
UPDATE: Wobbling a bit from my self-imposed protocol, I'll let a "second tier" victim speak for the rest of us, who didn't sustain bodily injury, but only the humiliating reality that we were duped out of many treasures, often including our children and self-respect.
From the Rank and File: "The Rot Goes to the Core"
Some Legionary, somewhere, has to actually DO something!!!
This is maddening. We have been waiting and waiting and waiting for some evidence, somewhere, in the person of some Legionary, somewhere; from a man in whose creation God Himself personally participated; from a man whose love of Christ trumped his love of the Movement--within his heart of hearts--and formed him with a strength that would sheild him from the deformation of Legionary life; from a man within whom the light of Christ himself blazed at the revelation of this horror and stood up as if to an Antichrist himself and shouted "NO!!"
But, to date, we have witnessed no such action. We have seen, even today, with Father Kearn's no-doubt "sincere" apology, that the Legionary rot goes to the core of this abomination.
Why did it not occur to even ONE Legionary that an Apopstolic Visitation never needed to be imposed upon this Congregation? Where was the man who would go himself directly to the Pope, simply to say, like any number of Saints in our history would have said: "Father, Father! We are a broken vessel! Save us!"
I do not doubt Father Kearns' sincerity--for the same reason I have become accustomed to feel sympathy for deluded persons: Every deluded person I have ever met is absolutely sincere. And, in being sincere, finds even more comfort in their delusion.
So, I stand firm with Jose Barba and the other direct victims of Maciel; I stand with Maciel's biological children and his cheated concubines; I stand with the kidnapped children of God whose vocations to the Church, the very Body of Christ, were stolen by Maciel and the Legionaries of Christ; I stand even with the poor and pathetic members of LC and RC who wait with baited breath for instructions from the Pope, in the false belief that they themselves have not been invested by God their creator, in whose image and likeness they were originally made, with a capacity for wisdom that begs now for a courage that they cannot muster . . . .
To Father Owen Kearns I say: "Get thee behind me Satan!"
If he could only find in himself the man he was meant to be, he would get himself to a Benedictine Monestary and, throwing himself face down on the ground before its gates, cry out to be let in! And IF the Abbot permitted his presence within the community, swear "Pax Forem!" and do nothing for the rest of his life but pray and WORK . . . .
Shakespeare's arrogant and pathetic and doomed King Richard cries "A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!" I turn Shakespeare on his head and cry out: "A man! A man! Christ's Kingdom for a MAN!"
I. Am. Disgusted.
God, I pray, save these, your most petulent children.
[I'll give you three guesses as to the author, and the first two don't count...]