Legion Calls Maciel's Accusers Disgruntled Conspirators

By Gerald Renner and Jason Berry
Hartford Courant
February 23, 1997

The Legionaries of Christ say that the Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado is the victim of a plot by disgruntled former members of the religious order.

Those alleging a conspiracy include four former seminarians. Two are laymen who work for the Legion in Mexico City, Armando Arias Sanchez and Jorge Luis Gonzalez Limon, and one is a man who had worked for Maciel's brother, Javier, in the clothing business, Valente Velazquez Camarena of Guadalajara. The fourth man was Juan Manuel Correa Cuellar, a Mexico City businessman.

Arias and Gonzalez say Maciel's accusers invited them to meetings more than 10 years ago and invited them to lie and say that Maciel had sexually abused them.

"Their proposal was a lie and pure calumny," Arias said, but "they answered that we should give Fr. Maciel a lesson because he was so proud and because he did not have any dealings with us because we had left the Legion."

"Some years later," he said, Juan Vaca and Jose Antonio Perez Olvera, former Legionaries who say that Maciel abused them, renewed the proposal at a breakfast meeting in a cafeteria.

Arias said in a telephone interview he could not remember the details of where the meetings were held or in what years they occurred, but he said he stands by his allegation.

The nine former Legion priests and seminarians making the accusations against Maciel deny that they ever asked anyone to lie or join in any conspiracy, much less turned to men who work for the order and are known to be loyal to Maciel.

"I never had anything to do with any conspiracy. I had my own sorrow, my own pain and my own search. I was in my own tortured world, but I did not attend any meetings whatsoever and I never called anybody," said the Rev. Felix Alarcon, who said he had been abused as a teenager by Maciel. Alarcon is a former Legion priest now doing ministry among Hispanics in Venice, Fla.

The other accusers were equally adamant in denying that they engaged in a conspiracy or asked anyone to lie.

Correa, the Mexico City businessman who is one of the four alleging a conspiracy, names no names, saying only that "some former companions" asked him to "back them up by saying that I was the object of sexual harassment or sexual abuse by Father Maciel; I replied to them that this is false and refused to have any more talks with them."

It was unclear whether Correa was saying that he was asked to make false accusations, or to make an accusation only if it were true. He has a private number and could not be reached for clarification.

Correa said he is sending three of his boys to Legion schools and would not do that "if I had the slightest doubt about the probity of the directors, including Father Maciel."

Jose Barba Martin, a Harvard-trained literary scholar and one of the former Legionaries alleging abuse, said that he had confided in Correa that he and others had been abused and had asked Correa whether he, too, had been abused. Barba said Correa told him he had not been abused. Barba said he did not ask Correa to lie.

Velazquez states that two former Legionaries approached him at his home in 1985. He said the men were Carlos de la Isla and his late brother, Francisco, who Velazquez said were among those who had made allegations against Maciel in the 1950s.

Velazquez said the brothers tried to get him to join in "a matter of calumny and of a sheer, vile lie" against Maciel to depose him.

Carlos de laIsla, 68, was among the first group of young boys that Maciel, at the age of 20, gathered around him in 1941 to form what would become his religious order. Today he is a professor of philosophy and ethics at the Instituto Tecnologico Autonomo de Mexico in Mexico City.

Reached for comment in Mexico City, de laIsla denied being part of any conspiracy, and he is not among the men who today are accusing Maciel of having sexually abused them. He never visited Velazquez in his home, he said.

"I emphatically state that what these men say about my brother and me is a lie, a contemptible calumny," he said. De laIsla said he left the Legion 38 years ago "and I would not accept, under any provocation, to reopen that closed chapter."


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