Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
February 16, 2009
Legionaries founder fathered a daughter
BY CINDY WOODEN
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE
ROME — The Legionaries of Christ only recently found out that their founder had fathered a daughter, said a spokesman for the religious order.
That knowledge has caused the members great suffering, but has not destroyed the gratitude they owe him, said Father Paolo Scarafoni, spokesman at the Legionaries’ headquarters in Rome.
Scarafoni said despite the failures and flaws of the late Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, members of the order are grateful to him for having founded the order and its various ministries.
SEX ABUSE ALLEGATIONS
In the past, Maciel had been accused of sexually abusing young seminarians in the order, accusations that Scarafoni said “have never been proven definitively.”
Because the Holy See decided against conducting a canonical trial to investigate the allegations, but rather ordered the then-elderly Maciel to withdraw to a life of prayer and penance in May 2006, “we do not know what allegations were made and examined at that time,” Scarafoni said.
Maciel died Jan. 30, 2008, at the age of 87.
The pain the Legionaries are experiencing now “is so great precisely because this is something we did not know before,” Scarafoni said.
However, he said, “We are serene. Certainly, it is a time of great trial for us and in the face of this there is great suffering.”
PAIN AND SUFFERING
Father Alvaro Corcuera, director general of the Legionaries and Regnum Christi, acknowledged that the order is “living a time of pain and suffering.”
In an undated letter to the 65,000 predominantly lay members of Regnum Christi, Corcuera did not specifically identify the actions of the Legionaries’ founder, but wrote that “these things that have hurt and surprised us — and I don’t believe we can explain with our reason alone — have already been judged by God.”
A spokesman for the Legionaries of Christ in the United States acknowledged that some aspects of Maciel’s life “were not appropriate for a Catholic priest.
“We have learned some things about our founder’s life that are surprising and hard to understand,” Jim Fair, the order’s U.S. spokesman, said Feb. 4 in a prepared statement.
Fair denied rumours that the Legionaries would renounce Maciel, saying he will always be considered the order’s founder.
The accusations that Maciel sexually abused seminarians first became public in 1997 in a report in The Hartford (Conn.) Courant daily newspaper.
In a letter to the paper, Maciel denied the allegations, saying “In all cases they are defamations and falsities with no foundation whatsoever.”
FOUNDED IN MEXICO
Maciel founded the Legionaries of Christ in his native Mexico in 1941. Scarafoni said the Legionaries have 3,250 male members, of whom 850 are priests; about 1,000 consecrated women; and about 60,000 members of Regnum Christi, the lay branch.