VATICAN CITY: At least 60 children were abused by Marcial Maciel, founder of the ultra-conservative Catholic order Legionaries of Christ, an investigation has found. The report, published by the Roman Catholic group, said 33 priests in the order abused at least 175 minors since it was founded in 1941.
In 2006, Maciel was ordered to retire to a life of penitence after years of allegations of sexual abuse of minors. He died two years later at the age of 87 without facing his accusers.
“There are probably more cases of abuse than those in the report and the statistics will have to be updated regularly,” the report said. It added that a process of reconciliation and reparation had begun with 45 of the victims.
According to the report, six of the 33 accused priests died without being tried. Only one was convicted, and one is currently awaiting trial. However other 18 are still part of the organization. They have been removed from tasks where they interact with the public or with children.
The report added that 14 of the 33 priests were also victims themselves, which it said highlighted the chains of abuse. The concept in which a victim once becomes the future offender and an aggressor.
Several men publicly accused Maciel before his death of sexually assaulting them. The whole ordeal was observed in a seminary from the 1940s to the 1960s. However, Maciel fiercely denied it, saying in 2002: “I never engaged in the sort of repulsive behavior these men accuse me of.”
In 2006, Pope Benedict XVI ordered Maciel to retire as head of the Legionaries of Christ over the allegations. Although, it had been ignored by his predecessor Pope John Paul II when they first emerged. After Maciel’s death in 2008, it was discovered that he had also fathered several children. It is also mentioned that Maciel also abused some children who himself fathered. He had allegedly illegitimate relationships with at least two women.
Last week, Pope Francis declared that the rule of pontifical secrecy is no longer applicable. The Church previously tried to proceed with sexual abuse cases in secrecy. The step was taken as an effort to protect the privacy of victims and reputations of the accused. Moreover, there are no restrictions on those who report abuse or say they have been victims.