TWO PATHS, TWO VIEWS: Abuse accusations added to Legionaries controversy
Saturday, August 27, 2005
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Much of the Legionaries of Christ controversy resurfaced at the end of May, when the Vatican told news agencies that the Rev. Marcial Maciel, who founded the order in 1941 in Mexico City, had been exonerated of forcing seminary students as young as 10 into sexual acts.
In the late 1990s, former seminarians charged that Maciel abused them in the 1940 and 1950s.
In December, the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, headed by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who in April became Pope Benedict XVI, opened an investigation into Maciel, according to various news reports.
The accusers say they've been interviewed by a Catholic Church prosecutor, who traveled to the United States and Mexico to take testimony.
Jose Barba, a former trainee priest who accused Maciel of abuse, said in April that their claims were deliberately hushed up because the founder was close to Pope John Paul II.
"It would be a human rights folly to close the investigation so fast," Barba told Reuters. "The Church is not that cynical, at least it knows how to maintain appearances, how to make you wait. It would be surprising if it were so precipitous."
Maciel was warmly praised by John Paul on the 60th anniversary of his ordination in November. Days later, a probe into the case was announced.
However, the Rev. Ciro Benedettini, a Vatican spokesman, told The Associated Press in May, "There is no investigation under way and it is not foreseen that there will be one in the future."
Maciel became a favorite of the late pontiff. During a trip to Mexico in 1994, the pope lauded him as an "efficacious guide to youth."
In 1999, Maciel delivered a keynote address to a conference at the Georgia World Congress Center, where he participated in a bilingual Eucharist celebration with then-Atlanta Archbishop John Donoghue.
In a written statement in 2002, Maciel reaffirmed his innocence.
"These charges astonish me, because I have always looked for the good of these persons, both while they were members of the Legion and after they left," Maciel wrote.
"I have in my possession letters from several of these men from the 1960s and 1970s, expressing in very warm, cordial terms their gratitude and friendship.
"I cannot judge these men and the motives they have for leveling these false accusations against me. I can only pray for them, so that God may grant them light and peace, moving their hearts so that they will cease these activities."
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