Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Clown - El Payaso

One of the recurring themes in Fr Marcial Maciel's talks and letters was authenticity, being sincere, not putting on masks. Hypocrisy, he would say, being one thing on the outside and another on the inside, could cause mental disorders. He said that no one can hide forever, that internal strife and division will eventually manifest itself externally. Some people develop nervous ticks, others breakdown altogether.
I remember being in a conference with Fr Marciel in Rome. This theme came up. He said someone had played a song for him that he enjoyed, and he wanted to play it for us. It was called “Payaso” (the clown) by Javier Solis. Let me just transcribe the verse for you and then I’ll make my point.
“Payaso, soy un triste payaso
que oculto mi fracaso
con risas y alegrías
que me llenan de espanto

“Payaso, soy un triste payaso
que en medio de la noche
me pierdo en la penumbra
con mi risa y mi llanto”

A Clown, I’m a sad clown
who hides his failure
with laughter and happiness
that surprise even me.

A Clown, I’m a sad clown
who in the middle of the night
I lose myself in the darkness
with my laughing and weeping
(This is my poor translation. If anyone has a better one, pass it on.)

Now I really wonder if Fr Maciel was sending up a smoke signal, like the criminal who wants to get caught. After a number of years the crime is not enough: he starts leaving a paper trail, and that makes it more thrilling. He doesn’t really want to get caught, but the sense of having someone hot on your tail is invigorating.

I am in no way trying to cover for him: I find his way of life appalling, if not horrifying. But I wonder how he kept it up for so long without cracking.

There was a time I think he cracked. It was in the mid-nineties. He had come back from a trip (we never knew where he travelled to). He had strange red blemishes on his cheeks, not abrasions, but more like hemorrhages. He said he had gone through a crisis, he had asked himself if it was worth living amid so much suffering and persecution.

My first impression was that he was hiding something. I admit I always had my suspicions. It was no secret that Fr Maciel would travel alone at times and take sums of money with him. We were told it was for his many acts of charity, a virtue he learned from his mother. The first time I heard this, it didn’t sit well with me. But then again, when you saw him and listened to him, how could this man be doing something wrong?

I guess I’m saying we all wear masks from time to time. I let mine fall not too long ago. For this I have been somewhat of an outcast in the ranks of the legion. I try to be as sincere as possible when I’m dealing with people and in my homilies, and that has made all the difference.


  1. "But then again, when you saw him and listened to him, how could this man be doing something wrong?"

    This is a hallmark cover-up technique used by the abuser. They go WAY overboard in showing their generosity and goodwill in the public arena so that nobody would ever suspect them of the heinous things they are actually doing in private.

  2. Father, this blog is awesome! Please get more of your confrers to blog their life as they make the transition out. It is most helpful for all of us already on the outside.

    I was there in Rome too, when Maciel talked about the Payaso song, and he played it for us. I don't remember exactly when it was, but it think it was around 2003 or 2004. I think it was during that same talk, or another one around that time, that he told us about how divorcees are like spiders waiting to spin their web around innocent brothers, to entrap them into abandoning their vocation and all of the souls entrusted to them. He also talked about how some brothers were using computers to look at pornography. I can't help but think that Maciel was preaching from his own personal experience on both of those subjects. The number one vice that he always preached against was hypocrisy, which he, of course, knew better than any of us. He really was an expert on the subject, no wonder he preached about it so many times.

    God bless you in your healthy journey, Father!


  3. I wish you consolation as you grieve your way out, stumbling toward the light of the truth. Here is a You Tube link with the El Payaso song:


  4. I remember that occasion quite well - I remember him having a tape the song played for us on the balcony in Termini too - and I've thought about it several times over the past months. I think that your interpretation of it is pretty reasonable.


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