By Debbie Emery - Radar Reporter
Allegations of sexual abuse have once again rocked the Catholic Church and forced the Vatican to launch the first known action -- against the Legion of Christ priests for alleged sexual assault.
The investigation focuses on seven priests accused of sexual abuse of minors and another two for other alleged crimes, and comes in the aftermath of revelations that the Legion’s founder, Reverend Marciel Maciel, raped and molested his seminarians, reported the Huffington Post.
The Legion, which is now under Vatican receivership, has insisted that the crimes of its late founder were his alone, but the new investigation suggests that the culture of secrecy that Maciel created may have allowed other priests to carry out deviant actions against children.
In a statement released by the Associated Press on Friday, the Legion confirmed it had referred seven cases of alleged abuse to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican office that investigates sex crimes. All but one involves alleged abuse dating from decades ago; one case involves recent events, the Legion said. All seven priests have been ordered to be kept away from children for the rest of the investigation.
"Over the past few years, in several countries, the major superiors of the Legion of Christ have received some allegations of gravely immoral acts and more serious offenses ... committed by some Legionaries," explained the statement.
Along with referring the cases to the Vatican as required by church law, the Legion has given information to the police but it is not known if a criminal investigation will follow as the cases are old and the statute of limitations may have expired.
The Legion Of Christ currently has around 900 priests working in 22 different countries and was founded in Mexico in 1941 by Maciel, who directed the congregation as its General Director until January 2005. The Vatican later suspended him from ministry in 2006 over sexual allegations.
The subsequent scandal ranks as one of the worst of the 20th-century Catholic Church, since Maciel was once held up as a model for the faithful by Pope John Paul II.
After living an allegedly debaucherous life that included drug addiction, pedophilia, and a woman who claimed she was abused as a minor and later was impregnated with his child, Maciel died in Jacksonville, Florida, on January 30, 2008, aged 87, and was buried in his hometown of Cotija de la Paz, Michoacán, Mexico.