May 21, 2006

Conservative Order Faces Tough Future

San Francisco Chronicle

By JOHN CHRISTOFFERSEN, Associated Press Writer

Saturday, May 20, 2006

(05-20) 12:31 PDT New Haven, Conn. (AP) --

As founder of the Legionaries of Christ, the Rev. Marcial Maciel is a central figure for the thousands of followers in the Roman Catholic order. Students study his life, portray him in skits to celebrate his birthday and follow his instructions on everything from table manners to how to wear their hair.

But the controversial order likely will face dramatic changes with the conclusion of a Vatican investigation into allegations that Maciel sexually abused seminarians decades ago. Pope Benedict XVI requested Friday that Maciel no longer celebrate public Masses, and that he should live a life of "prayer and penance."

The church did not say if the allegations were true, but experts say the Vatican would not have imposed a severe penalty without finding at least some validity to the complaints.

"It would be like teaching the Franciscans they shouldn't talk about St. Francis," said the Rev. James Martin, associate editor of the Jesuit magazine America. "I think the order will survive, but it will be a very difficult few years for them."

Posted by kshaw at May 21, 2006 08:19 AM