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Saturday, December 3, 2016
Vatican disciplines Legionaries founder after abuse investigation
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¬†The founder of the Legionaries of Christ, Fr Marcial Maciel, revered by many as a saint, has been disciplined by Pope Benedict after a ten year investigation into accusations that he abused a number of seminarians. On 19 May the Holy See issued the following statement: "Beginning in 1998, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith received accusations, already partly made public, against Fr Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ, for crimes that fall under the exclusive competence of the congregation. In 2002, Fr Maciel published a declaration denying the accusations and expressing his displeasure at the offence done him by certain former Legionaries of Christ. In 2005, by reason of his advanced age, Fr Maciel retired from the office of superior general of the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ. "All these elements have been subject to a mature examination by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and - in accordance with the Motu Proprio 'Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela,' promulgated on April 30 2001 by Servant of God John Paul II - the then prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, authorised an investigation into the accusations. In the meantime, Pope John II died and Cardinal Ratzinger was elected as the new Pontiff. "After having attentively studied the results of the investigation, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under the guidance of the new prefect, Cardinal William Joseph Levada, decided - bearing in mind Fr Maciel's advanced age and his delicate health - to forgo a canonical hearing and to invite the father to a reserved life of penitence and prayer, relinquishing any form of public ministry. The Holy Father approved these decisions. "Independently of the person of the Founder, the worthy apostolate of the Legionaries of Christ and of the Association 'Regnum Christi' is gratefully recognised." The 86-year-old has been forbidden from saying Mass in public, give lectures, or give interviews to the media. Until this public fall from grace, Maciel was respected as a charismatic figure and master fundraiser. The Legionaries of Christ, which he founded in Mexico in 1941, runs several private schools and 11 universities, including its first in the United States, the newly incorporated University of Sacramento in California. There are 650 Legionary priests and 2,500 seminarians in 20 countries. Throughout his career, Maciel was much praised by senior church leaders, particularly Pope John Paul II. Maciel helped organise the first foreign trip of his pontificate to Mexico in 1979 - arranging a personal invitation to John Paul from the then Mexican president, Josť Lopez Portillo. At the time this was considered a diplomatic coup in a country that had strong anti-clerical laws and a legacy of bloody persecutions of Catholics in the 1920s and 1930s. In late 1994, Cardinal Ratzinger authorised an investigation into the long-dormant canon law case that Maciel had abused young boys and teenagers in seminaries in Spain and Italy as far back as the 1950s. Then nine former members of the Legionaries went public with their complaint that they had been abused by Maciel as seminarians and young priests as long ago as the 1940s. Maciel was also charged with having given persons with whom he had committed a sin absolution in confession, an excommunicable offence. Pope John Paul never responded to formal complaints against Maciel made through official church channels in 1978 and 1989. The first exposť of the charges was published in The Hartford Courant in 1997 and picked up by others, but there was no response from the Vatican. A canon law case against Maciel was quashed without explanation in 1999. After the case was reopened in 2004 on the order of Cardinal Ratzinger, more testimonies against Maciel were collected. The result of the investigation, concluded at the end of 2005, and announced two weeks' ago. In a statement released by the Legionaries, Maciel, retired in his home town of Cotija, Mexico, proclaimed his innocence. but said he would abide by the Vatican's decision. Canon lawyers and other church observers say that no sanctions would have been imposed had not at least some of the accusations against him been well-founded. The Legionaries continue to defend Maciel, comparing him to Joan of Arc, as someone the Church has unjustly persecuted. Some of those who were abused have voiced their disappointment that the Vatican had thanked the Legionaries of Christ and Regnum Christi for their work when, they say, what the order really needs is major reform. But many critics have welcomed what is seen as a sea-change in Vatican policy under Pope Benedict's pontificate. Source: VIS/CBS
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