The Mexican Catholic Church has not escaped the controversy surrounding the cases of sexual and physical abuse committed by priests against children.
The most famous case came to light in 1997 and involved one of the most important figures in the Catholic Church in Mexico: Marcial Maciel. He was the founder of the Legion of Christ, a congregation with a presence in more than 20 countries, which operates centers of private education. At that time, eight people accused Maciel of sexual abuse.
At the beginning of this month, at almost the same time that four Catholic priests and two nuns were accused of sexually abuse children in Germany’s Diocese of Regensburg, new accusations emerged in Mexico against Maciel.
This time the complaint came from a woman and two alleged sons also victims of the priest. According to the woman, she had a 30-year long relationship with Maciel, who used other identities. It was not until she saw his picture in a magazine in 1997 that she discovered who he really was.
Maciel’s case and many others around the world have shown how difficult it has been for the Catholic Church to recognize its own failures –this week, after 13 years since the first claims, Alvaro Corcuera, the current leader of the Legion of Christ, announced that he will be in Mexico in May to apologize to Maciel’s victims. The cases have also revealed a system of concealment that in the long run has undermined the moral values of one of the oldest institutions in the world.
A Mexican bishop said yesterday that the priests who have abused children deserve to be forgiven, “because they didn’t know what they were doing.” Give me a break! Should he also be “forgiven” because he doesn’t understand the callousness of his barbaric comments?
Expressing regret and sorrow for these cases is good, but it is not enough. As one former member of the Legion of Christ, Jesus Barba, who also was one of Maciel’s victims, said, it is important to break up the Church’s structure of complicity. I would add that it is important to treat all of these cases as crimes, which should be investigated and the offenders punished. And most important, the cases should be judged and punished when the perpetrators are still alive. Maciel is dead now and most likely, his victims don’t find any consolation just thinking that he’s in the purgatory paying for his sins.
Above all, a priest–trained to be a moral compass for his congregation–who commits the crime of abusing a child, should not receive special judicial treatment.