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Vatican Investigates Legion of Christ Priests (1939)

Seven allegations of sexual abuse, with most of the allegations concerning decades-old incidents, under review.

05/14/2012 Comment

ROME -- Legion of Christ priests are under Vatican investigation for seven allegations of sexual abuse, with most of the allegations concerning decades-old incidents.

“The Legion of Christ is firmly committed to receive and examine all accusations presented, reaching out to possible victims and always safeguarding the rights of all those involved,” the Legion said May 11. “We invite everyone to pray for these brothers of ours and especially for the victims.”

In several countries the major superiors of the Legion of Christ have received allegations of “gravely immoral acts” and other serious offenses committed by priests.

An internal investigation ruled that seven accusations of sexual abuse of minors by priests had a “semblance of truth.” These allegations were then referred to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for investigation.

One allegation of the abuse of minors concerns a recent event, while the others are “from decades ago.”

The relevant territorial directors and the general director of the Legion have applied “precautionary measures” and have restricted the priestly ministry of the accused during the civil and canonical investigations.

“(T)he protection of children and of communities is of the utmost importance for the Legion,” the statement added, stressing that the restriction on the accused is not a judgment of guilt or innocence.

The Legion also stated that its territorial directors follow the civil laws of their respective countries when abuse is alleged.

The religious congregation reaffirmed its commitment to safe environments for children and young people, noting its involvement with outside institutions to improve procedures and policies about abuse prevention.

Two other unspecified allegations involving Legion priests, though not classified as more serious offenses, have also been presented to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In addition, the Legion has released a statement about Father Thomas Williams as well.

The Legion’s May 11 statement closed with a quotation of Pope Benedict XVI’s March 2010 pastoral letter to Ireland addressing sexual abuse by clergy.

“All of us are suffering as a result of the sins of our confreres who betrayed a sacred trust or failed to deal justly and responsibly with allegations of abuse,” the Pope said.

The Legion of Christ has undergone turmoil after revelations that its founder, Father Marcel Maciel, lived a double life, sexually abused seminarians and fathered children.

It is presently under the supervision of Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, who was appointed by Pope Benedict to oversee reform of the order.

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