Finally, Vatican Investigates Legion of Christ Sex Abuse Allegations

Hartford Courant
May 15, 2012,0,3524158.story

At long last, the Roman Catholic Church is taking action to investigate allegations concerning priests from the Legion of Christ, whose U.S. headquarters is in Connecticut.

Although the Vatican assumed direct leadership of the scandal-plagued religious order two years ago, this is the first evidence that the church will actually do something about accusations that seven of its priests sexually abused minors.

The Legion (also known as Legionaries of Christ) runs a seminary in Cheshire. It has acknowledged that its founder, the Mexican-born Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado, abused underage Legion seminary students over the years and fathered at least one child out of wedlock. But all along, despite complaints to the contrary, the order has insisted that any Legion-based crimes were isolated incidents committed by Father Maciel alone.

Now, to its credit, the Legion has referred the cases of seven priests accused of abusing minors to the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which investigates sex crimes.

As many as 35 years ago, an American bishop reported Father Maciel to Rome, but his standing with the Vatican appeared unchanged. Indeed, Father Maciel remained close to Pope John Paul II until the pope's death in 2005. Once Benedict XVI became pope, Father Maciel was disciplined by the Vatican; he died in 2008.

In 2004, Jason Berry and former Courant religion reporter Gerald Renner wrote in great detail about Father Maciel's lengthy record of abuse in their book "Vows of Silence."

An investigation of the secretive, conservative order, long overdue, must be timely and thorough and its results should be made known to the public. There has already been far too much denial and cover-up. Imagine how much anguish could have been averted if the church had admitted decades ago there was something very wrong going on at the Legion of Christ.


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