January 11, 2005

Vatican reopens sex abuse investigation

The Journal News

(Original publication: January 11, 2005)

The Vatican has reopened an investigation into charges that a powerful Mexican priest close to the pope sexually abused seminarians.

The allegations focus on the actions of the Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado, now 84 and based in Rome. He leads the Legionaries of Christ, a conservative religious order that claims 600 priests in 18 countries. Its U.S. headquarters is in Orange, Conn., but the order has a growing presence in Westchester County.

The allegations surfaced in February 1997. Nine former members of the group said Maciel first abused them years ago when they were young boys or teenagers, ages 10 to 16, in seminaries in Spain and Italy.

Maciel and the Legionaries of Christ have vigorously denied the allegations of abuse. Maciel has accused the nine men of a conspiracy to defame him.

A spokesman for the religious order said Friday that the Legionaries of Christ had not been informed that the investigation was being reopened. Jay Dunlap said the Vatican investigated Maciel in the late 1950s and cleared him of any wrongdoing.

"The Vatican investigated, moved in, questioned the Legionaries individually and in depth, and found absolutely no wrongdoing of any kind," Dunlap said.

Posted by kshaw at January 11, 2005 08:20 AM