February 05, 2005

Catholic hero now faces Vatican inquiry


Jo Tuckman in Mexico City
Sunday February 6, 2005
The Observer

It was nearly 50 years ago, but Josť Barba winces as he remembers Father Marcial Maciel, founder and icon of the Legion of Christ, the secretive Roman Catholic order said to be second only in papal influence to Opus Dei.
'Oh, I felt so very unhappy,' he said, after describing one incident just before the priest said Mass one Easter Sunday. 'I wanted to run, but he was everything to us. He was Our Father and we thought he was a saint. I went to my room and I cried and cried, and then I went to Mass.'

The fear, pain, humiliation and resentment that Barba says once tormented him have faded over the years, but for the Catholic church the abuse he and others claim to have suffered threatens to erupt into a child abuse scandal that reaches the highest Vatican ranks.

Barba wants the church to recognise publicly the crimes he and many others claim Maciel committed. 'We want people to know that the founder of an institution so close to the Pope and who has written so much about chastity is in fact a pederast.'

Along with seven other former seminarians - all now in their sixties - this mild-mannered university lecturer has been trying to get the Vatican to investigate Maciel for years. Several of the eight plaintiffs approached bishops as early as the 1960s, only to be told to leave it all in God's hands. One of the group, Juan Josť Vaca, sent several complaints to the Vatican and got no response. The group lodged formal charges at the Vatican in 1998. A year later they were informed the case had been shelved with the extra-official justification that their suffering could not compare to the risk of disillusioning thousands of Catholics.

Posted by kshaw at February 5, 2005 08:42 PM