The Legionaries of Christ:
Who are they?
The Legionaries of Christ was founded by the late Marcial Maciel Degollado in Mexico in 1941, and grew to be a rich and controversial Catholic order with representatives and assets around the world, including in Ireland, where it has had a presence since the early 1960s.
Maciel targeted wealthy and influential families and individuals believing that by working with the rich and powerful he could in turn influence society in general. Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim is among those who have supported the order.
However, it has since emerged that Maciel had a practice of travelling with thousands of euro in cash on his person, that he used multiple identities, fathered two families which he financially supported, and was for decades the subject of serious allegations that he sexually abused the order’s seminarians and ignored the crimes of other abusers in the order.
At the time of the canonisation of John Paul II in 2014, a support group for victims of clerical sexual abuse protested in Rome because of the late pope’s long-time open support for Maciel, who was believed to have powerful defenders in the Vatican despite decades of serious accusations against him that were known at the highest levels.
In 2015, Pope Francis spoke to Mexican TV about Maciel. “Obviously he was a very sick person, because in addition to the abuse, I think there were two or three women in the mix, children... And a lot of money. We’re getting back to the same theme, about how corruption starts in one’s pocket.
“Was there a cover-up? One can presume that there was, even though in justice one should always assume innocence. But it would be very odd for him not to have some little patron somewhere, half-deceived, half-suspecting, who didn’t know anything. I haven’t investigated this.”