Caveat lector: Fr. Maciel was not “suspended”

by Steve Ray on February 3, 2008

From Canon Lawyer Ed Peters:

The death of Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado [founder of Legionaries of Christ] occasions revisiting the numerous accusations of sexual misconduct made against founder of the Legionaries of Christ over the years. These accusations culminated in a 2006 investigation by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which dicastery declined, however, to subject the elderly Maciel to a canonical trial and instead invited him to a "reserved life of prayer and penance, renouncing every public ministry." The analysis I offered at the time of that unusual directive from CDF still stands.

Precisely in light of that analysis, I would caution against describing Maciel having been "suspended" or "penalized" by the Holy See. Under canon law, and in contrast with civil usage, suspension is a penalty imposed on those found guilty of certain crimes (1983 CIC 221, 1319, 1333, 1400-1401). Make of CDF's directive what one will, but Maciel was not tried and was not found guilty of any crimes; it is, therefore, not accurate to describe him as "suspended" or "penalized".

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