Sexual abuse of minors was a common practice among church leaders at the Catholic Legion of Christ congregation. At least 60 minors were abused by founder Marcial Maciel, according to a group report.
Between 1941 and 2019, 175 minors were abused at the hands of 33 priests. At least 60, about one third, were victims of Father Maciel himself. Most were boys between 11 and 16 years old. Although the report note that the 33 priests are only 2.4% of the 1353 priests ordained by the Legionaries, notes that 43% of those who committed abuses were in positions of authority, making denunciation or punishment difficult.
The report, prepared by the congregation itself, is important because, according to the newspaper PublicFor decades, until 2006, including the entire pontificate of Pope John Paul II, the Vatican denied accusations of seminarians who claimed to have been sexually abused by Father Maciel, some from children.
Of the 33 priests, six have died, eight are no longer priests, and one has left the congregation. Of the 18 remaining, all are away from pastoral practice with minors, four have restrictions on their activity and are subject to a security plan. 14 no longer practice religious practices in public. Seventy-four seminarians also abused minors and 81% were not ordained.
Maciel, who died in 2008, even abused children he secretly had with at least two women. These children were only discovered after Maciel's death. The priest visited them regularly and sent them money. The priest also used drugs.
The Vatican first recognized Maciel's crimes in 2006, when Pope Benedict XVI ordered him to retire to a life of "prayer and penance." However, Benedict XVI resisted the requests of those who considered that the order should be dissolved because it was completely corrupted.
Cardinal Angelo Sodano, 92, who was Vatican Secretary of State and a key figure in the pontificate of John Paul II, was one of the greatest protectors of the Legionaries at the Vatican.
Pope Francis accepted his departure from the position of dean of the Cardinal College on Saturday and at the same time changed the church law to limit the position to a term of five years instead of life.