The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Statement
For immediate release: Friday, March 26, 2010
Scandal-plagued Catholic order apologizes to victims; sex abuse victims respond
Statement by Mark Serrano, board member of SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (703-727-4940)
Given the Legion's secretive, troubling track record on abuse and other issues, this apology rings hollow. The Legion, like the Pope, only claims to protect kids, rather than acts to protect kids (and even then, only when forced to respond when disclosures, criminal prosecutions and civil lawsuits reach scandalous magnitude).
Its founder is credibly accused of molesting innocent kids, exploiting vulnerable women, fathering abandoned children and numerous financial misdeeds. None of his colleagues or staff ever helped disclose any of this wrongdoing.
We hope every single person who saw, suspected or suffered abuse and misdeeds in the Legion will call prosecutors, get help, expose predators, protect children and start healing.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 22 years and have more than 9,000 members across the country. 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)
Contact David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, 314-645-5915 home), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747), Peter Isely (414-429-7259), Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688 home, 314-503-0003 cell), Joelle Casteix (949) 322-7434
Scandal-plagued Catholic order apologizes to victims
Philip Pullella Mar 26, 2010 - VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - An influential Catholic priestly order whose late founder was discovered to have been a sexual molester and to have fathered at least one child apologized on Friday to victims whose accusations were ignored.
The apology from the leaders of the Legion of Christ "to all those who have been affected, wounded, or scandalized by the reprehensible actions of our founder" came as the Catholic Church is being convulsed over reports of abuse of children.
Last week, the Vatican announced the completion of a one-year inquiry of the conservative order, which involved visits by papal inspectors to its more than 120 seminaries, 200 schools and 600 centres for lay Catholics around the world.
Father Marcial Maciel, who died in 2008 at the age of 87, was a cult figure within the order and for years had the ear of the late Pope John Paul II despite allegations that he had abused young male seminarians.
The order later found that he had lived a double life for decades and the revelations dealt a severe moral blow to the priestly order and its lay branch, Regnum Christi, which has tens of thousands of members.
In a statement believed to be unprecedented in the history of a Catholic religious order, the Legion disowned its founder: "We accept that, given the gravity of his faults, we cannot take his person as a model of Christian or priestly life."
While heading an order of priests who take vows of celibacy, he had a mistress with whom he fathered at least one child in Mexico and perhaps had two other children by another woman.
"We later came to know that Fr Maciel had fathered a daughter in the context of a prolonged and stable relationship with a woman, and committed other grave acts," the statement said.
Former students for the priesthood accused Maciel of sexually abusing them when they were teenagers but the order denied the allegations for years. They were confirmed in Friday's statement.
"We ask all those who accused him in the past to forgive us, those whom we did not believe or were incapable of giving a hearing to, since at the time we could not imagine that such behavior took place," the order said in a statement.
Founded by Maciel, a Mexican, in 1941, the order now has about 850 priests and 2,500 seminarians in 21 countries. It also runs a pontifical university in Rome.
BENEDICT DISCIPLINED MACIEL
In 2006, after new evidence, Pope Benedict ordered Maciel to retire to a life of "prayer and penitence." At the time, the sanctions made him one of the most prominent persons to be disciplined for sexual abuse in the Church's history. He died in 2008, still a priest.
Amid accusations from some critics that Pope Benedict may have looked the other way on cases of sexual abuse before his election -- accusations the Vatican has rejected -- officials have pointed to his firm handling of the Maciel case as evidence of what they say is his tough stand on the issue.
His supporters say he took action while his predecessor John Paul did not give credence to the accusations of abuse.
Like in many religious institutions, the founder became a cult figure among members, even while he was alive, and many refused to believe that he had done anything wrong.
Critics both inside and outside the order said it would have been impossible for Maciel to have led a double life without his top aides knowing about it and the order addressed the issue in its statement.
"If it turns out that anyone culpably cooperated in his misdeeds we will act according to the principles of Christian justice and charity, holding these people responsible for their actions," it said.
But questions have remained over whether any of the current leaders may have had a role in helping Maciel hide his double life. A spokeswoman for the order said she did not know which current leaders were in their roles while Maciel was in power.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests