Marcial Maciel, the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, abused 60 children

Newsroom & Agencies
Marcial Maciel, the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, abused 60 children
Marcial Maciel founded the religious order “Legionaries of Christ” and was accused of sexual abuse since the 1940s- Photo: Plinio Lepri/AP

Marcial Maciel, the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, abused 60 children

Newsroom & Agencies
Mexico City
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Marcial Maciel was a Catholic priest who abused dozens of boys, including his own children

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A report issued by the Catholic religious order Legionaries of Christ revealed that its founder, Marcial Maciel, abused at least 60 boys.

This report comes at least a few decades late because since 1940, victims came out to denounce the heinous crimes yet Pope John Paul and the Vatican dismissed accusations by seminarians that Maciel had sexually abused them, some when they were as young as 12.

The Legionaries of Christ said the report, which was released on Saturday and covers the period since Maciel founded it in his native Mexico in 1941 to this year, was “an additional attempt (by the Legionaries) to confront their history”.

Mexican Church suspended 152 priests for alleged abuse

Mexican priest Marcial Maciel, who died in 2008, was perhaps the Roman Catholic Church’s most notorious pedophile, even abusing children he secretly fathered with two women while living a double life.

Years ago, it emerged that Cardinal Angelo Sodano, 92, who was secretary of state under John Paul, was one of the Legionaries’ biggest protectors in the Vatican.
On December 21, Pope Francis accepted his resignation as dean of the college of cardinals and at the same time, changed church law to limit the dean’s position to a five-year term, rather than for life.

The Vatican first acknowledged Maciel’s crimes in 2006, when Pope Benedict ordered him to retire to a life of “prayer and penitence”. But Benedict resisted calls from some in the Church who said the order should be dissolved because it was toxic. Instead, the Vatican took over the order in 2010 and began a process of reform.

The new report says that between 1941 and 2019, 175 minors were victims of abuse by 33 priests in the order. At least 60, or about one-third, were abused by Marcial Maciel himself, it said.

Most of the victims were boys between 11 and 16, it said.

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Who was Marcial Maciel?

Marcial Maciel Degollado was a Mexican Catholic priest who sexually abused dozens of boys, including his own children. He founded the Legion of Christ and secular organization Regnum Christi. He was accused of sexual abuse since 1997 but there were complaints since 1940.

Marcial Maciel: Abuse of power

While the report said the 33 amounted to only 2.44% of the 1,353 priests ordained by the order, it said that nearly 43% of those who committed sexual abuse were in positions of authority, making it difficult to report or punish the abuse.

“(Abuse) was linked to the abuse of power and conscience on the part of some who took advantage of their posts to abuse,” it said.

Of the 33, six have died, eight have left the priesthood, and one had left the order. Of the 18 who remain members, four have “ministerial restrictions” to keep them away from minors and 14 have no public priestly ministry, the report said.

Seventy-four seminarians studying for the priesthood also abused minors and 81% of them were not ordained.

Father Christian Borgogno, a former member of the order, said that the numbers of those abused were “clearly unlikely” to be accurate and believed that they were much higher.

Child sexual abuse increase by 39% in Mexico

“It is difficult to think that this is anything more than a whitewash of the (Legionaries’) image,” he said in a tweet. He said the reported lacked “independent sources”.

After Maciel’s death, Vatican investigations found that he had also fathered several children with at least two women, visited them regularly, and sent them money. He also used drugs.

Moreover, former members of the Legionaries of Christ have said the order was run like a cult, with rules forbidding any criticism of the founder or questioning of his motives.

They also said Marcial Maciel gave huge contributions to the Vatican during the papacy of John Paul, who admired the Legionaries’ orthodoxy and ability to produce vocations.

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The story behind the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi

Marcial Maciel founded the Legion of Christ in Mexico City in 1941 and opens the Cumbres Institute, a school, in Mexico City in 1954. The religious order opens the Anáhuac University in Mexico City in 1964.

In 2006, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith investigates the accusations against Marcial Maciel and publishes its decision to invite Maciel “to a reserved life of prayer and penance, renouncing all public ministry.”

The Legion of Christ has opened 121 schools in 12 countries.

Facing new sex abuse scandals, Pope Francis will address the public


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