A priest who worked in Atlanta in 2012 and was the second-in-command of an influential international religious group—founded by another priest who molested up to 100 children—has now also been accused of child sexual abuse in a lawsuit filed in CT last week.
We are sad, but not surprised. The Legionnaires of Christ was a religious order founded by a man, Marcial Maciel Degollado, who devoted his career to molesting children. It makes perfect sense that he would attract and recruit men like his second in command, Father Luis Garza.
Garza spent years defending Maciel. Now, he has been accused himself. Garza traveled the world forcing Maciel’s victims into silence with “private vows"—telling them is was a mortal sin to tell anyone that Maciel had sexually abused them. We fear that there could be more Garza victims worldwide forced into the same kind of vows of shame and silence.
Atlanta Archbishop Wilton Gregory must immediately reach out to every parish, home, retreat center, and organization where Garza worked and stayed. There may be victims in Atlanta who have no idea where to turn for help and accountability now that Garza is out of the country. Garza has been sent to the Philippines.
We applaud the brave victim in this case. Coming forward to talk openly about child sexual abuse and demanding accountability is never easy, but it is the only way to ensure that sex crimes against children and the cover-up of those crimes stop. We encourage anyone who has been sexually abused to come forward and get help. It is safe to report and find healing.
We also urge anyone who has seen or suspected abuse by Father Garza or anyone to call law enforcement immediately. We fear that there may be men and women in Atlanta who have information about Fr. Garza, but may not have known whom to tell. Even the smallest of information can help a victim and save a child.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 20,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)