May 31, 2005

Legion eager to get past founder's sex abuse charges



The Vatican’s announcement May 20 that Legionaries of Christ founder Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado will face no canonical trial for numerous accusations of sexually abusing seminarians put a spotlight on the new papacy of Benedict XVI, raising questions and drawing harsh criticism from victims.

In many circles, the announcement, widely distributed by the Legionaries, was seen as the Vatican’s way of saying “case closed” on the questions surrounding Maciel and the accusations of sexual abuse first made public by a group of former seminarians and, in recent months, by a growing number of other alleged victims.

Four days after that initial announcement, however, NCR learned that the original statement on the matter was issued not by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which has jurisdiction over priest sex abuse cases, but by the Vatican Secretariat of State, which is run by Italian Cardinal Angelo Sodano, a vocal supporter of the Legionaries and a longtime friend of Maciel.

Whether that fact makes any difference in the eventual disposition of the case against Maciel is unclear. The revelation, however, at least clouds the picture and hints at potentially differing agendas within the church’s highest bureaucracy. For while the Secretariat of State said that there is no canonical proceeding, nor is one expected in the future, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, at least until recently, was engaged in an extensive investigation that was characterized as preliminary to any canonical action.

Posted by kshaw at May 31, 2005 01:55 PM