May 22, 2006
Prayer and penance: wipes the slate clean for even the most perverted priest:
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 will likely 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.”
The order, which has its U.S. headquarters in Orange, includes some 600 priests and 2,500 seminarians in 20 countries in North and South America, Europe and Australia. In the United States, it operates boarding schools in New Hampshire, California and Indiana for boys interested in the priesthood.
Some predict a decline in new seminarians and students.
“Any parent who would send their child of that age to a group founded by a monster of that type has to be out of their mind,” said Glenn Faureau, a board member of ReGAIN, a group comprised of former Legionaries.
… The Legionaries has been a favorite of many traditional Catholics in the United States, for the order’s loyalty to church teaching and its success in recruiting priests despite a clergy shortage. Many had defended Maciel, an 86-year-old Mexican priest, arguing that liberals were making the abuse claims to undermine him.
Still, some conservatives questioned the order’s aggressive tactics. The Rev. Joseph Fessio, a conservative Jesuit and founder of Ignatius Press, the U.S. publisher for Pope Benedict, said, “this tremendous zeal for souls of the Legionaries sometimes leads them into kind of exaggerated forms of recruitment.”
Such as molesting potential seminarians, presumably. Still, not all of the Vatican's top clergy are sexual predators: some are loan sharks.
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