Vatican denounces founder of Legionaries of Christ
The Vatican has denounced the “immoral” double life led by Fr Marcial Maciel, the late founder of the Legionaries of Christ in a statement issued on Saturday.
In its statement, the Vatican said a papal envoy and special commission would be named to overhaul the conservative order following revelations that its founder sexually abused seminarians and fathered at least one child and had an addiction to drugs.
The statement lambasted Fr Marcial Maciel for creating a “system of power” built on silence and obedience which enabled him to lead a double life “devoid of scruples and authentic religious sentiment” and allowed him to abuse young boys for decades unchecked.
“By pushing away and casting doubt upon all those who questioned his behaviour, and the false belief that he wasn’t doing harm to the good of the Legion, he created around him a defence mechanism that made him unassailable for a long period, making it difficult to know his true life,” the Vatican said.
The Vatican assured the Legion’s members that it would help them “purify” what good remains in the order and would not be left alone as they undergo the “profound revision” necessary to carry on.
The Vatican issued the statement after Pope Benedict XVI met behind closed doors in the Vatican on Friday with the five ‘visitators’ who conducted the apostolic visitation of the Legion of Christ.
The five bishops met with over 1,000 members around the world between July 2009 and March 2010 to determine its future.
The case against the Legion and its disgraced founder Fr Marcial Maciel is being closely watched as the Vatican faces pressure to aggressively confront clerical sexual abuse.
The Mexican founder of the Legion of Christ and its lay counterpart, Regnum Christi, was accused before his death in 2008 of having abused seminarians and fathered children with at least two mistresses.
He was also renowned for his lavish lifestyle.
The late Pope John Paul II had long championed the Legionaries for their orthodoxy and ability to bring in vocations and money.
In 2006, Pope Benedict ordered Maciel to a life of penitence and contemplation.
The Vicar General of the Legionaries of Christ said ahead of the Vatican statement that the order was ready to accept with obedience any decision the Vatican makes.
Fr Luis Garza Medina told the Italian newspaper, La Repubblica, that when the Vatican took disciplinary action against Maciel in 2006, ordering him to withdraw from public ministry and spend his last days in penance and prayer, he realised that the founder of the Legionaries was guilty of the charges that had been made against him.
Nevertheless, the Legion continued to strongly defend their founder against accusations until finally admitting in March this year that Maciel had in fact led a double life.
Questions still need to be answered over the extent of the Legion’s complicity in covering up Fr Maciel’s misdemeanours.
The Legion operates schools and seminaries around the world, including Spain, Mexico, Ireland, and the US.
The five bishops who conducted the visitation between July 2009 and March 2010 are: Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver; Archbishop Ricardo Ezzati Andrello of Concepcion, Chile; Archbishop Ricardo Blazquez Perez of Valladolid, Spain; Bishop Ricardo Watty Urquidi of Tepic, Mexico; and Bishop Giuseppe Versaldi of Alessandria, Italy.