Nine men accuse Legionaries of Christ founder of sexual abuse Order denies allegations against 76-year-old priest

February 24, 1997|By HARTFORD COURANT

HARTFORD, Conn. -- After decades of silence, nine men have come forward to accuse the head of an international Roman Catholic order of sexually abusing them when they were boys and young men training to be priests.

The men, in interviews in the United States and Mexico, said the Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado, the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, molested them in Spain and Italy during the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.

Several said Maciel told them that he had permission from Pope Pius XII to seek them out sexually for relief of physical pain.

Those making the allegations include a priest, guidance counselor, professor, engineer and lawyer. Some of the men, now in their 50s and 60s, wept during the interviews. All said the events still haunt them.

They said they are coming forward now because Pope John Paul II did not respond to letters from two priests sent through church channels in 1978 and 1989 seeking an investigation, and then praised Maciel in 1994 as an "efficacious guide to youth."

"The pope has reprimanded Germans for lack of courage during the Nazi era. We are in a similar situation. For years we were silent. Then we tried to reach authorities in the church. This is a statement of conscience," said Jose de J. Barba Martin, one of the men alleging the abuse.

Maciel, who is based in Rome and travels often to Mexico, declined requests for an interview. But the Legionaries issued a lengthy denial on behalf of the 76-year-old priest.

"Each of these allegations is false. Father Maciel has never engaged in sexual relations of any sort with any seminarian or novice, nor has he engaged in any of the other improprieties alleged," stated the Rev. Owen Kearns, the Legionaries' U.S. spokesman.

His 19-page statement and other documents were provided by the Washington office of Kirkland and Ellis, a Chicago law firm.

Pub Date: 2/24/97

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