Catholic Church to overhaul scandal-hit Legionaries order

The move comes as the Church faces intense pressure to crack down on abusers and their protectors in the hierarchy.

Catholic Church to overhaul scandal-hit Legionaries order

The Roman Catholic Church will overhaul the ultra-conservative Legion of Christ whose late founder Marcial Maciel was disgraced after abuse scandals, the Vatican said

Pope Benedict XVI will name an interim leader within weeks, said Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi.

The move comes as the Church faces intense pressure to crack down on abusers and their protectors in the hierarchy.

The Mexican-born Maciel, who died in the United States in January 2008 aged 87, was accused of molesting eight seminarians and secretly fathering children.

Many members of the order had been "unaware" of Maciel's misconduct as he "created around him a defence mechanism that shielded him for a long time," said the Vatican.

"Uncovering the truth caused surprise and deep pain," it said.

"Foot-dragging"

Maciel founded the Legion of Christ in 1941 and ran it with an iron fist, requiring a vow of secrecy and barring any criticism of the order's superiors including himself.

While heading an order of priests who take vows of celibacy, he also had a mistress with whom he fathered at least one child in Mexico and perhaps two other children by another woman, the order has previously acknowledged.

Former students for the priesthood accused Maciel of sexually abusing them when they were teenagers but the order denied the allegations for years.

In 2006, after new evidence, Pope Benedict ordered Maciel to retire to a life of "prayer and penitence". But a canonical trial was ruled out because of his advanced age and poor health. Maciel had always denied any wrongdoing. He died in 2008, still a priest.

But the US-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) said it was "disappointed that the Vatican refuses to admit its own complicity in concealing Maciel's crimes."

"The Vatican's lengthy cover-up and foot-dragging, and now its disingenuous denunciation of Maciel, is every bit as 'immoral' as the horrific child sex crimes by Maciel himself," said a statement from the group.

The Vatican statement also said the pope would dispatch an investigator, known in Church terms as a "visitor," to probe the Legionaries' lay branch Regnum Christi, which has tens of thousands of members.


Agencies

Last Mod: 02 Mayıs 2010, 17:48
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