The Catholic order was founded in Mexico in 1941 by Marcial Maciel and expanded rapidly into 20 countries with over 700 priests and over 1,300 seminarians.
The Legionaries of Christ have been compared to the right-wing Catholic order Opus Dei and are often accused of being a cult. There is even an organization that helps former members cope with the psychological damage of being in the Legionaries.
Despite being investigated for drug abuse and child molestation since the 50s, Macial was the Vatican’s golden boy and close friend of Pope John Paul II. He accompanied the Pope on his trips to Mexico and was appointed to several prestigious positions in the Vatican.
The Vatican knew very well of Macial’s crimes yet continued to shield him from any measure of justice and continued to reward him for his criminal and perverse behavior. It was only in 2006 at the age of 85 that he was asked to retire.
Macial had molested at least dozens of young boys at various seminaries and some of his victims had pleaded with the Vatican to end the continuing molestation of children. At the same time, the Legionaries were running campaigns against homosexuality.
Even though many Legionaries knew what Macial was doing, they were required to privately vow to avoid any criticism of their superiors. They took the vow very seriously, kept their mouths shut and looked the other way. In 2007 the Vatican ordered them to stop making the private vows.
The current Pope, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, had been head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (formally called the Inquisition) when formal charges were brought against Macial by a group of his victims. Ratzinger refused to allow an investigation and actively covered up Macial’s crimes. He even slapped a reporter who dared to ask about the case.
Macial died in 2008 at the ripe old age of 87. Only after he is dead is the Vatican willing to pretend to investigate his crimes and only because the New York times published an article reporting:
“The Legionaries of Christ, an influential Roman Catholic religious order, have been shaken by new revelations that their founder, who died a year ago, had an affair with a woman and fathered a daughter just as he and his thriving conservative order were winning the acclaim of Pope John Paul II.”
The Rev. Fr. Thomas V. Berg, Executive Director of the Westchester Institute for Ethics and the Human Person, has formally apologized to the victims of Fr. Maciel, “In shock, sorrow, and with a humbled spirit, I want to express my deepest sorrow for anyone who, in any way, has been hurt by the moral failings of Fr. Maciel.”
An Apology from a Catholic underling after Macial is dead is an insult to his victims. The inescapable fact is that the Vatican, Legionaries and other Catholics well knew of Macial’s crimes and actively supported them and collectively share in the repsonsibility.
The Vatican should be investigating itself and should investigate Ratzinger’s role in supporting Macial and covering up his crimes.
All Catholics and the public should recognize the Vatican for what it is and demand fundamental change.
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