Capping a decade-long on-again, off-again investigation of accusations of sexual abuse, the Vatican has asked Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, to observe a series of restrictions on his ministry.[snip]
In effect, Vatican sources told NCR this week, the action amounts to a finding that at least some of the accusations against the charismatic 86-year-old Mexican priest are well-founded.
Maciel has not been laicized, but the restrictions issued shortly before Easter by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith limit Maciel's public activity, such as his capacity to celebrate public Masses, to give lectures or other public presentations, and to give interviews for print or broadcast.
The restrictions have been approved by Pope Benedict XVI, and the Vatican is expected to issue a brief statement shortly.
Vatican sources stressed that the action against Maciel should not be read as an indictment of the Legionaries of Christ or its lay branch, Regnum Christi.
One cardinal who serves on the congregation told NCR that, in his view, the material left little doubt as to the validity of the charges, though he said he was less clear how Maciel understood what he had done. Under canon law, intent and state of mind are sometimes taken into consideration in meting out punishment.This is so sad, and I certianly hope the many detractors of the Legion do not debase themselves by indulging in schadenfreude. It is a bit heartening to see that this Pontificate will take all claims of sexual abuse seriously, no matter how high-profile and well loved the accused. Prayers all around, especially for the victims.
Within the Vatican, the Maciel case has long been seen as particularly sensitive, in part because it could tarnish the reputation of the late John Paul II, who warmly praised and repeatedly honored Maciel. The case could also call into question the action of Benedict XVI, who as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith stopped the case against Maciel in 1999. However, he reactivated the case in 2004 and ultimately approved the disciplining of Maciel.
A senior Vatican official told NCR that the decisive break came only in late 2004, when a number of additional accusers came forward. Prior to that, he said, both John Paul and then-Cardinal Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI, were operating on the assumption that the charges were not justified.