Papal envoy to run scandal-plagued Legion of Christ Catholic order

May 2, 2010

Pope John Paul II blesses Father Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legion of Christ, during a special audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican November 30, 2004/Tony Gentile

Pope Benedict will appoint a special envoy to run and reform an influential conservative Roman Catholic priestly order whose late founder was discovered to have been a sexual molester and to have fathered at least one child.

A Vatican statement on Saturday (here in Italian original and English translation) said the pope would also name a commission to review the constitution, or founding principles, of The Legionaries of Christ, whose founder Father Marcial Maciel, led a double life for decades.

The statement said that while Maciel was guilty of “grave and objectively immoral behavior” and had managed to hoodwink many people, most members today were filled with “sincere zeal” and had been oblivious to what it called his “real crimes.”

Maciel, who founded the order in 1941 and who died in 2008 at the age of 87, was a cult figure within the order and for years had the ear of the late Pope John Paul II despite allegations that he had abused young male seminarians and fathered at least one child in his native Mexico and perhaps two other children by another woman.

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