Oct 9, 2021

CultNEWS101 Articles: 10/9-10/2021 (Legion of Christ, Marcial Maciel, The Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Sexual Abuse, Financial Abuse, Religion and Poverty, NXIVM, Legal)

Legion of Christ, Marcial Maciel, The Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Sexual Abuse, Financial Abuse, Religion and Poverty, NXIVM, Legal

ReGAIN, Religious Groups Awareness International Network: Marcial Maciel & Walter White: Breaking Bad in Meth and Sex
" ... I am called by God to found a Catholic Religious Order, is the conviction that drives Marcial Maciel, a white, blue-eyed, provincial Mexican from the age of fifteen.
Marcial is fully convinced he has a calling from God. His uncomfortable childhood, with an enabling mother and a punishing father, leads him to isolation and mistrust. It is rumored he was sexually abused by one of the farm hands at Don Francisco Maciel's Poca Sangre ranch in early puberty. He determined nobody would ever hurt and humiliate him like that again. It seems he was never attracted to girls and never had a girl-friend like other precocious boys in Cotija, Michoacán. He was not good at sports. The other kids called him "sissy" or "specky-four-eyes" because of his glasses. But that was not important as he was being called by God to follow in the footsteps of his three saintly uncles, all Catholic bishops. He yearned to be admired and famous like the saintly one, his uncle Rafael Guízar y Valencia.
With the mystical calling firmly embedded in his psyche, Marcial read every little event in his adolescence as a confirmation of his vocation. The first step was to enroll in a seminary. Off he went enthusiastically. God seemed to be against him for he was expelled from seminary three times. When he tried to imbue a small group of his fellow seminarians with true devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the superiors accused him of over-familiarity. But Marcial remained faithful to his calling. Hidden astute resources helped him, at the age of nineteen, to wheedle into the trust of his third uncle bishop, Monsignor Gonzalez Arias in Cuernavaca. This uncle bought into Marcial's plans, thus fulfilling the budding saint's dreams.

Marcial continued with his mission recruiting young boys of 9, 10 or 11 for the new order, The Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He liked being close to them, too. He did not want them to be spoiled by others as they approached adolescence. As their spiritual father, he found it natural for him to introduce them to puberty; he showed them how to handle their sexual organs while they helped him lessen the tension in his scrotum. He could not tell anyone about this unique love for his seminarians because they would not understand. And it would also jeopardize his God-given mission to create a new religious order that would be better and greater than the Jesuits who had rejected him in the Montezuma seminary. He used all his guiles to keep his privileged victims silent. He was able to get rid of one irate Mr. De la Isla who accused him of interfering with his son, thus trying to impede the work of God.

The seminarians believed he was a holy man, chosen by Jesus to start a new religious order. They felt privileged to be part of this special and unique group of Christ's commandos. Marcial believed that his little peccadilloes paled in comparison to the gigantic mission he was fulfilling. He knew that God understood.

He was too busy instructing his seminarians, raising funds with rich widows and providing for the boys' every need to be able to study for the priesthood. But his bishop uncle overlooked this minor detail on seeing his nephew's zeal for souls and his vocation as a founder, the first in the family.  And so Marcial fulfilled another dream when he became a priest on November 26, 1944 at the age of twenty-four, ordained in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico City. By this time, he was training his twelve apostles, just like Jesus."
"Leaked files reveal nearly $300 million stashed overseas for the Legion of Christ in wake of Vatican investigation. Millions were invested with a corporate landlord that evicted struggling U.S. tenants during the pandemic."

" ... In January, Carlos Lomena, a truck driver in suburban Miami who lost his job during the coronavirus pandemic, begged a judge to stop his landlord from evicting him.

The 37-year-old Lomena hoped to get a fair shake in court. He'd emigrated from Venezuela after high school with a sense that the U.S. had a more just legal system.

In a letter to the Florida judge, he pointed to a recent extension of the nationwide moratorium on evictions during the coronavirus outbreak and asked for more time to pay his overdue rent.

"I do not have a place to go," Lomena wrote, "nor the money to move into a new apartment."

His landlord — a holding company formed by real estate firms in Miami and Iowa — wasn't moved by his pleas; it had investors to satisfy. The company pressed the court to evict him and, in early February, the judge ruled that Lomena hadn't filed the right form to prevent his eviction. Within days, during the height of the pandemic, the Broward County Sheriff's Office posted a large notice in bold red letters on his door ordering Lomena to vacate his home within 24 hours or be arrested for trespassing.

Lomena isn't alone.

Tenants across the country have faced aggressive tactics — including evictions during the pandemic — from a growing number of massive corporate landlords that draw on pools of money from wealthy investors around the world.

A trove of leaked documents reviewed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and 150 media partners provide an unprecedented view of global financial maneuvers that turn rent payments into big profits that are often hidden in accounts owned by shell companies controlled by anonymous investors.

The investors revealed in the leaked documents include offshore trusts holding hundreds of millions of dollars for the Legion of Christ, a wealthy Roman Catholic order disgraced by an international pedophilia scandal.

The confidential records show that the trusts became a secret partner in the ownership structure of Lomena's apartment complex, working with the landlord to invest $2 million in the complex in 2015. The trusts invested millions more in other modest residential buildings in Florida, Texas, Iowa, Indiana and Illinois.

Soon after the Vatican announced in 2010 that it would seize the operations of the troubled order and launch a new investigation, high-profile Legion of Christ operatives began quietly setting up one of a trio of New Zealand trusts designed to hold money for the Legion, according to leaked records.

Two of these trusts, formed shortly after, secretly moved millions of dollars around the world. This included more than $14 million funneled into investments in apartment complexes that Pensam Capital, the firm that owned Lomena's building, was acquiring across the United States. In comments to ICIJ, Pensam said it has not received information indicating it has received investments from the Legion.

These two trusts would come to hold nearly $300 million in assets devoted to the Legion of Christ, according to leaked records, at a time when victims of sexual abuse by its priests were seeking financial compensation from the order through lawsuits and through a commission overseen by the Vatican.

In response to questions about whether the Legion disclosed the trusts to the Vatican, the order told ICIJ that "religious institutes do not have an obligation to send detailed information to the Vatican regarding their internal financial decisions or organization."

In statements to ICIJ, the Legion acknowledged it had set up one of the three trusts, but distanced itself from the other two, which held the majority of the funds designated for the Legion. The Legion said it had no knowledge of the other two trusts' operations. The two trusts were funded by scions of a prominent industrialist family in Mexico, including Father Luis Garza Medina, one of the Legion's top leaders. A spokesperson responding to ICIJ's questions for Father Garza said that Garza has no control over the trusts.

A review of leaked documents by ICIJ shows deep connections to the Legion in all three trusts, which share the same New Zealand address and have the same trustees managing them.

The spokesperson for Garza said the secret trusts were strictly charitable and devoted to the support of elderly priests and other Catholic causes, and that the trusts have only made charitable distributions.

The leaked documents are part of the Pandora Papers, the millions of secret files at the heart of a global investigation by ICIJ and its media partners, including the BBC, the Washington Post, L'Espresso in Italy, El Pais in Spain and the Mexican publications Quinto Elemento Lab and Proceso. The records involving the Legion of Christ come from Asiaciti Trust, a Singapore-based corporate services provider that helped administer the New Zealand trusts.

The trove contains large amounts of data on various wealthy investors who used offshore entities to channel money into real estate.

They are part of a growing class of international investors in real estate ventures that often use hardball tactics to maximize the rate of return from properties occupied by low- and mid-income renters.

Dozens of current and former tenants at Pensam-owned buildings interviewed for this article described problems with their units, including flooding, mold or mildew, broken appliances and dangerous elevators. Pensam routinely partners with Iowa-based BH Management Services, which takes on the day-to-day administration of its buildings.

A review of more than 100 court cases in Florida showed that the property managers added steep penalties on late rental payments and pursued rapid evictions of tenants unable to pay their rent. Tenants said customer service was difficult to reach and eviction notices appeared to be a go-to tool to manage tenants. In a statement, BH Management said it coordinates rent collection "under strict adherence of lease agreements and the law, including the CDC order on evictions."

The kids asked: 'How are we going to tell people we live in a hotel?' The whole thing is devastating for a family. — Collette Northrop

The high returns that financial firms promise their wealthy investors inevitably lead to vulnerable renters being squeezed, according to Jim Baker, the executive director of the Private Equity Stakeholder Project, a nonprofit organization that monitors private equity firms and other large investors.

"This is the problem of growing global wealth inequality crystallized in one industry," Baker said.

In 2013, Pensam and BH Management evicted Collette Northrop and her children from a Dunedin, Florida, apartment after the family missed a $895 payment, according to court records. Just months before, the trusts holding money for the Legion of Christ had secretly invested at least $1 million toward Pensam's purchase of the apartment complex. Northrop said that the family moved into a motel and that her children switched to a new middle school. "We were homeless at that point," Northrop said. "The kids asked: 'How are we going to tell people we live in a hotel?' The whole thing is devastating for a family."

'The millionaires of Christ'

In 1941, a charismatic Mexican priest named Marcial Maciel founded the Legion of Christ, a Catholic order that would become known for its intense focus on courting wealthy patrons. Some would come to call Maciel's order "los millonarios de Cristo" — "the millionaires of Christ."

Over six decades, a cult of personality grew up around the group's founder. Members of the Legion were taught that Maciel was a "living saint." His creation grew and became a global force as it cultivated ties to Vatican officials, very wealthy Catholics and conservative Republican luminaries in the U.S. such as Domino's Pizza founder Tom Monaghan, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.

Maciel became "the greatest fund-raiser of the modern church" — and "its greatest criminal,"  according to Jason Berry, an investigative reporter who delved deeply into the Legion and its leader.

In early 1997, Berry and a reporter at the Hartford Courant wrote a front-page story that exposed Maciel's decades of sexual predation, reporting that nine men had come forward to accuse him of sexually abusing them when they were boys or young men training to be priests.

Before the story was published, Berry later reported, one of Maciel's confidants, the Rev. Luis Garza, "traveled to Legion houses in several countries to warn of the forthcoming article, claiming it would be based on lies and telling Legionaries … not to read the report should they see a copy."

In 2006, after being plagued for years by accusations against the Legion's founder, the Vatican investigated nearly 100 abuse allegations against Maciel and removed him from ministry with an order that he adopt a "life of prayer and penitence."

When Macial died in 2008, the scandal didn't die with him. Revelations that he'd fathered several children with different women brought more negative attention to the Legion of Christ. The Legion was increasingly viewed as a liability to the Vatican.

Amid the continuing scrutiny, much of the order's leadership passed to Garza, known as an architect of its complex finances. Garza came from the family that has controlled Mexico's Alfa conglomerate for decades. Garza joined the Legion after graduating from Stanford University, and he quickly rose through the ranks to become one of Maciel's most trusted lieutenants.

On May 1, 2010, the Vatican announced that it would seize control of the Legion's operations, the church's most dramatic action against a Catholic order during the global abuse scandal. The Vatican would examine the Legion's finances and possible sex crimes and establish a commission to compensate its victims.

The following month, one of Maciel's sons filed a high-profile lawsuit against the Legion, alleging that the order had knowingly allowed Maciel to abuse him and other children.

In July 2010 — two days before the Vatican-appointed official took the reins of reforming the Legion — Luis Garza quietly helped to establish the first of the three secretive trusts in New Zealand that would hold money for the Legion.

The Vatican did not directly respond to questions about the trusts, but said that its effort to reform the Legion was mostly focused on issues around its founder and its structure.

During its investigation, the Vatican appeared to be operating on the belief that the Legion was low on money. The Vatican overseer of the Legion, Cardinal Valasio De Paolis, wrote in September 2011 that the Legion's financial situation was "serious and challenging" and that some victims were asking for "enormous sums that the Legion absolutely cannot afford," according to a 2014 book by Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi based on leaked Vatican sex abuse records.

At the time the trusts were established, New Zealand was a popular destination for people seeking to hide money offshore using trusts. The trusts holding money for the Legion maintained four Swiss bank accounts, including one at a Geneva-based bank, Lombard Odier, that the U.S. Justice Department later found had helped American clients conceal assets from U.S. tax authorities.

Garza's sister, Roberta Garza, who left the Legion's lay branch after high school, told ICIJ that historically the Legion used offshore structures to divert religious and charitable money to more self-serving purposes, including Maciel's lavish lifestyle, his secret children and his drug habits. "A lot of their money was held outside the Legion by their financiers, by people with power of attorney who are completely faithful to the Legion," Roberta Garza said. "So you're never going to find it."

"We are not aware on what basis Roberta Garza makes her affirmations," Father Aaron Smith, a spokesperson for the Legion said in response. "We have found no proof of the use of offshore structures to divert religious and charitable money from the Congregation to finance what we know about Maciel'́s double life."

As the New Zealand trusts quietly built their investment portfolios, the Legion faced legal threats on multiple fronts."

Economist: Religious belief really does seem to draw the sting of poverty
Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature…it is the opium of the people." So wrote Karl Marx in 1844. The idea—not unique to Marx—was that by promising rewards in the next life, religion helps the poor bear their lot in this one.

A paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Jana Berkessel of the University of Mannheim, in Germany, and her colleagues takes a statistical look at the claim. Ms Berkessel's curiosity was piqued by a counter-intuitive finding in development economics. Researchers know that low socioeconomic status correlates with poor mental health. The assumption was once that, as places became richer, this effect would weaken. Being poor in a rich country was presumed better than being poor in a poor one.

Reason: Interesting Unsealing Decision in NXIVM Sex Cult Case
"Supportive letters submitted by the defendant at sentencing can't remain secret."

"From U.S. v. Rainiere, decided Monday by Judge Nicholas Garaufis (E.D.N.Y.).

Defendant Nancy Saltzman [also referred to as Nancy Salzman -EV] pleaded guilty to one count of racketeering conspiracy and was sentenced to 42 months imprisonment to be followed by three years of supervised release. Prior to sentencing, Saltzman filed a partially redacted sentencing memorandum, with annexed exhibits under seal, in support of her request for a downward variance from the applicable sentencing guidelines range. After sentencing, nonparty newspaper the Albany Times Union submitted a letter to the court seeking public disclosure of her sentencing submission, subject to reasonably tailored redactions….

Saltzman explains that [certain exhibits] contain supportive letters, and contends that disclosure of their identities that could harm the authors and have a chilling effect in future litigation…. Saltzman argues that the presumption of public access that attaches to her sentencing submission is outweighed by her own and by third parties' compelling privacy concerns. She contends that disclosure will have a chilling effect on individuals who wish to speak in support of defendants in other high-profile prosecutions and that her supporters will be targeted if their identities are publicly known….

"[T]he weight to be given the presumption of access must be governed by the role of the material at issue in the exercise of Article III judicial power and the resultant value of such information to those monitoring the federal courts." The presumption is strongest where, as here, the documents at issue have been "used to determine litigants' substantive rights." The materials expressly relied on by defendants are submitted as part and parcel of their legal arguments for a particular sentence to influence the court's sentencing decision. {Motions to compel disclosure of presentence reports, as opposed to the parties' sentencing submissions, are viewed differently given the distinct function performed by the probation department as "neutral information gatherers for the sentencing judge."} …

Saltzman argues that disclosure would have a "chilling effect on those who wish to assist other defendants and courts in future high-profile cases." The court is not persuaded. This is not a case in which a party seeks to seal identities of cooperating witnesses, where unsealing would present a public safety risk and could discourage witnesses from cooperating in other cases. She submitted her supporters' letters as exhibits to her own memorandum, incorporating them into her legal arguments.

Saltzman also argues that significant privacy interests are at stake because the authors of supportive letters may face retribution if their identities are publicly known, given the public attention that has been paid to this case. Specifically, she asserts that "[r]evealing the identities and supportive views memorialized in letters to the court will add little to the record that has not already been stated publicly by the Court and counsel, and will potentially result in harm to those whose aim was to furnish the Court with firsthand information about Saltzman to facilitate a fully informed sentencing proceeding." …

The court understands that Saltzman's supporters may have a genuine interest in assisting sentencing while remaining out of the public eye themselves. The content at issue, however, does not involve traditionally private matters [such as] … "[f]inancial records …, family affairs, illnesses, [and] embarrassing conduct with no public ramifications" as historically private matters …. Nor does the potential newsworthiness of the letters' content or of the authors' relationships with Saltzman establish that publication would inappropriately "gratify private spite or promote public scandal … [or] libel[]." Accordingly, the court holds that the privacy interests identified by Saltzman, while important, do not outweigh the presumption of open access to materials submitted by the defendant in support of her sentencing arguments…."

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