MEXICO CITY – The Congregation of the Legion of Christ apologized to everyone that its founder, Mexican priest Marcial Maciel (1920-2008), “harmed with the immoral acts of his private life.”
The apology was offered by the Legion’s secretary-general, Evaristo Sada, in a speech last weekend at a church event that was posted later on the order’s Web site.
“With all my heart I wish to beg pardon of everyone that our founder harmed with the immoral acts of his private life, and of the people who have been injured by the consequences,” Sada said about Maciel, who died amid accusations of sexual abuse.
Shortly after Maciel’s death, it became known that he had children, six according to the attorney of three of them who are seeking legal recognition.
“It grieves us deeply what the church and these people have suffered,” Sada said.
Maciel was accused for decades of abusing seminarians, eight of whom filed complaints that went as far as the Vatican.
In May 2006, Pope Benedict XVI formally urged Maciel to give up “all public ministry” and ordered him to live a quiet life of prayer and penitence.
Last July, five prelates chosen by the Holy See began an inspection of legionaries in centers of the congregation to analyze their training and operating systems and study their psychological state resulting from the founder’s scandals.
“This year has been very difficult, there have been a lot of things all at once: the economic crisis, the serious disorders in the life of our founder...” Sada said in his speech.
He said that, at a meeting he had with one of the visitors from the Vatican, he was asked if he had lost his foundation when his superiors told him “about the immoral acts in the life of your founder.”
“I answered: ‘My foundation was not the person of our founder. My human support crumbled and that was hard, but the rock that is my foundation remains strong. It is the rock of the love of God,” he said.
Later he said that when he lived with Maciel he did not see “the negative things” that are now known. “I didn’t see them, I was only able to see the good and had no idea of the bad.”
“Now that I know about it, it grieves me greatly to talk about it, it grieves me for the people who have suffered, it grieves me that it has discredited the Catholic priesthood. I pray for him, I pray so much for him,” he said.
Today, the order Maciel founded is considered one of the most conservative in the Catholic Church. And the Legionaries’ lay arm, the Regnum Christi, has ties to the political and business establishments of both Mexico and Spain.
The order, which has some 500 priests and more than 2,000 seminarians, runs schools in Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Venezuela, Spain, the United States, Ireland, Italy and other countries.
Maciel was quite close to the late Pope John Paul II, who cited him as an “example of pastoral work for the expansion of the Kingdom of God.” EFE