Chilean Priest Speaks Out As Revelations Sweep the Catholic Church

By Aaron Cantu
Santiago Times
March 29, 2010

CHILE -- Members of Chile's Legion of Christ express sorrow for the actions of its founder

The recent accusations of pedophilic abuse and fatherhood involving Marcial Maciel - the founder of the Legion of Christ, an international Roman Catholic congregation - have moved leaders in Chile's chapter to publicly comment on the matter and express regret.

The Legion, founded in 1941 and brought to Chile in 1980, released a statement on March 26 acknowledging that its founder and former leader, the late Marcial Maciel, engaged in a drug-addled double life of pubescent molestation and sexual affairs at unspecified moments throughout his 64-year post.

"[Maciel] can no longer serve as a role model for us," said Father John O'Reilly, chaplain of El Colegio Cumbres in Chile. "Right now, it is necessary to distinguish between the Legion and the deplorable actions of its founderů We have a lot of respect for our superiors, so this has been very painful for us."

O'Reilly is one of the most emblematic faces of the Legion in Chile to come forward and discuss the scandal.

Although he mentions that Chile's Legion director Father Jose Cardenas "apologized several months ago" for Marciel's actions, he is the first high-ranking priest in Chile to openly discuss it.

"On Friday, we immediately sent the official statement from the Legion to all of our representatives," O'Reilly said, adding, "Above all else, we want transparency [in these matters]."

In response to the Legion crisis, some have speculated that Pope Benedict XVI could designate a special kind of auditing agency to further probe the congregation for more sex-abuse information. "If the Vatican considers an auditor force necessary, we will accept it, because we know that the Pope wants to save us and protect the Legion," O'Reilly said.

Although the recent scandal in the Legion has flowed from the top down, a global frenzy of sex-abuse claims has marred congregations throughout their ranks for the last 20 years. Beyond the Legion controversy, recent accusations of abuse in the United States and Ireland, among others, have dragged the church reluctantly back into the spotlight.

The revelations have been marked by humiliation, trials and resignations, and the Vatican's response has often struck an ambivalent tone of both conciliation and hostility toward the media, for what it claims has been a damaging "overexposure" of coverage.

In Chile, Father José Andrés Aguirre Ovalle was found guilty of nine sexual abuse charges in 2005.



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