May 20, 2006

The Pope's Good Call on Sexual Abuse



Posted Thursday, May. 18, 2006
By punishing a powerful conservative ally accused of decades of pedophilia, Pope Benedict XVI has proven that the Vatican's oft-stated commitment to crack down on abusive priests has real teeth. And that in turn, makes Catholic returnees to Mass look a little smarter.

A senior Vatican official has confirmed to TIME's Jeff Israely the news (reported earlier today by theAbuse Tracker ) that just before Easter the Vatican essentially forbade Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, 86, founder of the powerful Legionaires of Christ movement, all further public appearances, including the celebration of the Mass.

The move amounts to a major statement because the Legionairies, which Maciel founded in 1941, have been one of Catholicism's most vital and successful forces in the last few decades. Started in Mexico and now operating aggressively in 20 countries, the theologically and politically conservative group — which, including its lay branch, Regnum Christi, has some 53,000 members — bears some similarities to the Da Vinci Code punching bag, Opus Dei. Unlike Opus, which is almost wholly a lay organization, the Legionaries have been extremely successful at producing priests at a time when the Church faces a severe shortage. They enjoyed enthusiastic support from Pope John Paul II, and from backers of a more doctrinaire Church. Says Fr. James Martin, an editor at the (relatively liberal) Catholic publication America, "For years, people have been saying, 'If only the religious orders were more conservative, like the Legionairies — see how fast they’re growing.'" Maciel's followers, many of whom regard him as a living saint, hoped that after his death he might achieve canonization, as did Opus’s Josemaria Escriva.

Posted by kshaw at May 20, 2006 08:03 AM