Nuevo escándalo por paidofilia mancha la gira del Papa

David Adams. Enviado del diario Británico: The Times

A LONG-HIDDEN paedophile scandal is likely to be discussed during the Pope’s private meetings on the Mexican leg of his tour which begins tomorrow.

The allegations concern Father Marcial Maciel, 82, the Mexican-born founder of the Legionaries of Christ. They date back to the order’s creation in 1941 and span two decades of alleged abuse against about 30 seminarians, who were under 16 at the time.

Some Mexican priests say this is one of the most serious cases of sexual misconduct to have been raised so far in the debate over the priesthood.

Despite accusations by nine former members of the order, including letters to the Pope and a formal canon law complaint seeking Father Maciel’s excommunication, the Vatican has remained silent.

The Mexican media have largely kept silent on the issue and Father Maciel has also declined to discuss the allegations. After they first surfaced publicly in 1997 he issued a letter saying they were “defamations and falsities with no foundation whatsoever”.

Although it is not known if the Maciel case will be raised during the Pope’s visit, the issue of sexual abuse is likely to be discussed in private talks with Mexican bishops.

The Mexican Church has recently been under growing public pressure over sexual abuse in its ranks and Church leaders reluctantly broke their silence, conceding that a small number of priests have been involved in paedophilia and other forms of sexual abuse.

During a meeting in April of Mexico’s bishops, some spoke against turning over abuse cases to the civil authorities, saying that “dirty laundry should be washed at home”.

However, Cardinal Norberto Rivera, Mexico’s highest ranking Catholic, considered as a possible future Pope, later issued a statement saying that no one should be above the law. “When these criminal abuses occur, inside or outside the Church, of course they should be denounced to the ... authorities,” he said.

When the accusations were first levelled in 1997, they failed to make an impact. Legion spokesmen in Mexico and the US dismissed the affair as the result of personal envy and frustration by disgruntled former priests who lost a power struggle for control of the order in the late 1950s. They say that a Vatican investigation at the time cleared Father Maciel.

But the nine accusers say the investigation failed to properly examine the case and that they went public only after exhausting internal church channels. The nine men, now in their 60s, include two university professors, and a lawyer, as well as the president of the legionaries’ US branch and the order’s one-time treasurer.

“It was very difficult for us at the time,” said Juan Vaca, the legion’s former USA president, who said his abuse at the hands of Father Maciel began at age 10. “We were young boys and we were raised to believe that Maciel was our ‘father’.” Señor Vaca and other former Legion members say they were obliged to take an oath of secrecy, swearing never to criticise the Legion.

Their stories were buried for years by the Mexican media, which feared offending the order which has close ties to Mexico’s political and business elite. But as Mexico’s political system has opened up the story of abuse in the legion has slowly begun to emerge.

In the last three months the accusers have appeared in an hour-long discussion programme on Mexican TV as well as one top nightly network news programme in the US. The men all say they were lured into sexual acts with Father Maciel, including mutual masturbation.

The men say Father Maciel led a double life, displaying strict religious devotion during the day and taking boys, sometimes two at a time, to bed in the evenings.

The legion is Mexico’s fastest-growing order with 503 priests and 2,500 seminarians operating in 20 countries, including a strong presence in the US, Spain and Ireland. It operates a string of private schools in Mexico, as well as a university in the capital.

Its influence stems in large part from an elite lay movement called Regnum Christi, or Kingdom of Christ, with an estimated 50,000 members, including some of the country’s wealthiest businessmen. President Fox and his wife are said to be members.

But Father Maciel is also highly regarded in Rome where the order has its headquarters. There Father Maciel has distinguished himself as a fundraiser and dynamic recruiter of bright young talent.

He was involved in organising the Pope’s four previous visits to Mexico and is expected to accompany the Pope on his latest visit. In recognition of his work, the Pope has repeatedly praised Father Maciel for his loyalty to the Vatican as well as for being an “efficacious guide to youth”.

It is unclear how aware the Pope is about the accusations against Father Maciel. Critics accuse senior Vatican officials of blocking an investigation.

“I am very angry about the way the Vatican hierarchy has covered this up,” said Señor Vaca. “I would like the Catholic Church to recognise the existence of this criminal behaviour. I cannot be an accomplice to that with my silence.”

 

Fuente: The Times
Fecha: 30 de julio de 2002
Sección: World News, edición online.
Por: David Adams
Título Original: New paedophile scandal taints tour by Pope