Times Online - UK April 3, 2009
Press calls Father Maciel 'the Aztec Rasputin' after details emerge of abuse carried out by his Legionaries of Christ
by Richard Owen in Rome
The Italian press yesterday dubbed the late Father Marcial Maciel, the Mexican founder of the conservative "Legionaries of Christ", "the Aztec Rasputin" as allegations emerged that other members of the order imitated his sexual misbehaviour and abuse.
This week Pope Benedict XVI ordered an investigation - known as an Apostolic Visitation - into the Legion of Christ - following sexual and financial scandals linked to Father Maciel, who died last year at the age of 87.
Jose Barba, lawyer for eight former Legionaries who started court proceedings against Father Maciel in 1998, said, "We have testimonies that there have been other Legionaries who followed Maciel's example. The ramifications of the problem exist throughout the Legionaries of Christ".
Mr Barba, who says he was abused by Maciel as a teenage seminarian, told Reuters: "What they have to investigate is to what extent the evil, the gangrene, was spread through the Legionaries of Christ and didn't end just because Father Maciel died".
Allegations against Father Maciel have long existed, but were dismissed by the order and its powerful supporters. However, in February the order admitted there was evidence that Father Maciel had lived "a double life" for decades, indulging in sexual relations with both women and boys.
"The Secret Life of a Legionary of Christ: A Tale of Sex and Money" ran the headline in La Stampa, which described Father Maciel as "a sacriligious tombeur des femmes".
It said that although he imposed vows of celibacy on the order, which he founded in 1941, Father Maciel had a series of often-wealthy mistresses and fathered at least one child, a woman now aged 30 who lives in Spain. In 2006 Pope Benedict ordered Father Maciel to retire to a life of "prayer and penitence" after accusations emerged that he had molested seminarians for decades.
The order, admired for its drive and discipline, has 650 priests and 2500 seminarians in more than 20 countries, and runs the Regina Apostolorum pontifical university in Rome. Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State, said Vatican inspectors would visit and evaluate all seminaries, schools and other institutions run by the Legion around the world.
The order and its lay affiliate, Regnum Christi, which claims 50,000 members, regard Father Maciel as a saintly man whose life should be studied and emulated. The order was admired by the late Pope John Paul II, and is backed by Catholic financiers and businessmen.
However, some Vatican officials are increasingly uncomfortable with its "cult like" practices, including its secretiveness and the limits it imposes on contact between seminarians and their families. Father Alvaro Corcuera, head of the order, said the Legionaries welcomed the Vatican inspection "with deep gratitude" and hoped it would resolve "our present vicissitudes related to the grave facts in our father founder's life."
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