Where do allegations of endemic child abuse leave Legionaries?

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The Irish Times online

14 May 2012

The entire order may become as infamous as its founder, paedophile Marcial Maciel, writes PADDY AGNEW in Rome

A ROTTEN fish smells from the head down, or so goes a much-used Italian saying.

The “fish” in this case is the religious order the Legionaries of Christ, and the bad smell left behind is that of its disgraced founder, the late Fr Marcial Maciel Degollado, a serial paedophile, a drug addict and a man who fathered six children by two different women.

The details of Fr Maciel’s immoral behaviour have long been known, with even the order itself asking for forgiveness for it in March 2010.

However, following revelations last weekend, it may transpire that Maciel was not the only child abuser in the Legionaries of Christ.

In this case, the rot seems to have spread through the Legionary body.

The Holy See confirmed last weekend that the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is now looking into allegations of the sexual abuse of minors made against seven Legionary priests. Precise details of the cases are not available but it is believed that six of them go back several decades, while only one is recent.

The question prompted by these new accusations is obvious enough. In the past, the Holy See has always been careful to underline a clear distinction between the criminal behaviour of its founder on the one hand and the “worthy apostolate of the Legionaries of Christ” on the other (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, May 2006).

Will that distinction hold good, in the light of the most recent revelations? Currently, the order comes under the direct control of Italian cardinal Velasio De Paolis, who was appointed papal delegate to the Legionaries in July 2010, in the wake of an apostolic visitation.

It may well be that information relating to the most recent accusations was thrown up during that visitation.

Cardinal De Paolis has moved very carefully, if not to say slowly, as papal delegate, perhaps bearing in mind the order’s once legendary fundraising and vocation generating abilities.

Those abilities saw Fr Maciel completely hoodwink the late Pope John Paul II while they earned him the protection of the then secretary of state, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, ever reluctant to bite a hand that regularly fed the church.

Fr Maciel was able to influence not only John Paul II, his personal secretary Cardinal Stanislao Dziwisz and Cardinal Sodano, but he also recruited the current secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, to his cause.

In 2003, Cardinal Bertone wrote a preface to an “interview book”, Christ is My Life, with Fr Maciel in which he described the order’s founder as “one who lives his mission and in the world and in the church with his sights and his heart fixed on Christ Jesus”.

According to Associated Press, one of those abused by Legionary priests is the 35-year-old Irishman Aaron Loughrey who, as an 18-year-old in 1995, was forced by a superior to masturbate him in bed.

The superior claimed he suffered from mysterious “cramps” that could only be relieved by this particular “massage”.

Loughrey has since left the Legionaries of Christ.

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