MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – The Legionaries of Christ will pay more than $20,000 apiece to at least four victims sexually abused by the order’s Mexican founder, Father Marcial Maciel, three years after his death, a spokesman said on Thursday.
Maciel was an influential figure in the Roman Catholic Church who had the ear of the late Pope John Paul II.
But he died in 2008 at the age of 87, disgraced by allegations he sexually abused men and young boys, including a man who said he was Maciel’s son.
The Maciel scandal is just one in a series of revelations about priest sex abuse to rock the Catholic Church.
Founded by Maciel when he was in his early 20s, the Legion is a priestly order that runs private Catholic schools and charitable organizations in 22 countries via its network of 800 priests and 2,600 seminarians.
Accusations that Maciel lived a disturbing double-life, fathered children and was addicted to morphine-like drugs, have weakened the powerful order that boasted members of some of Mexico’s wealthiest families.
Despite years of allegations, Maciel was spared official condemnation until 2006 when Pope Benedict obliged him to retire to a life of “prayer and penitence.”
The payments of between $21,000 and $28,000 will be given to four or five victims and more compensation could follow, said Andreas Schoggl, a spokesman for the Legionaries of Christ in Vatican City.
“It’s a way to repair damage and hopefully it’s a way of healing,” Schoggl said.
The compensation payments are a result of a commission set up in 2010 by the Vatican to probe abuses by Maciel. The sums are modest compared to million-dollar payouts awarded to victims of priest abuse in the United States.
In the largest settlement of its kind, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in 2007 agreed to pay $660 million to 500 victims of sexual abuse dating as far back as the 1940s. The U.S. church has paid $2 billion to victims since 1992.
Schoggl declined to provide details on how many people the commission has interviewed but said at least one of Maciel’s victims is from Mexico.