.- Members of the Legion of Christ are confident that “a full and fair examination of the facts” will clear their founder of allegations of sexual abuse, reported the Globe. Eight former seminarians with the Legion of Christ allege that the order’s now 85-year-old Mexican founder, Fr. Marcial Maciel, sexually assaulted them in the 1950s.
Fr. Maciel denied the allegations in an open letter posted on the order’s Web site in 2002. He stepped down as the Legion's leader in January, due to advancing age.
The priestly order, founded in 1941, has welcomed the investigation launched by the Vatican last December by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. The investigation had been shelved previously in 1999.
In April, Msgr. Charles J. Scicluna, promoter of justice with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, traveled to the United States and Mexico to collect testimony from dozens of former Legionaries, including Alejandro Espinosa, who wrote about the alleged abuse he experienced in a book, called “The Legion.” The former seminarians alleging abuse are now in their 60s and 70s.
If Church officials determine there is strong evidence against Fr. Maciel, the case will go before the Vatican's Apostolic Tribunal of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Since the claims include an alleged breach of the sacrament of reconciliation, Fr. Maciel could face excommunication if found guilty.
The Legion of Christ is one of the fastest growing priestly orders, with more than 650 priests and 2,500 seminarians in 20 countries. It also operates dozens of universities and elite secondary schools.