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(RNS) American leaders of a conservative Catholic movement have apologized for their founder’s sexual misbehavior and ordered followers to cease honoring his memory with portraits or “inappropriate” references in official literature.
Regional leaders of Regnum Christi, the lay movement affiliated with the religious order the Legion of Christ, made the statements in a letter addressed to members.
The letter dealt with fallout from recent revelations that the Legion’s founder, the Rev. Marcial Maciel, who died in 2008, had fathered at least one illegitimate child, and from longstanding claims that Maciel had molested boys and young men under his authority.
“As priests, our hearts go out to all those who have been harmed or scandalized by (Maciel’s) actions,” wrote the Rev. Scott Reilly of Atlanta and the Rev. Julio Marti of New York. “To all we extend a special apology on behalf of the Legion …”
Reilly and Marti added that Regnum Christi is currently being accredited by a New York-based “risk management organization” to ensure adequate protection for minors under its care, and that portraits of Maciel have been removed from its centers.
Their letter, dated Sept. 1, was posted on the Web site of the Legion-affiliated Zenit news agency, which reported that a similar letter had been sent to Regnum Christi members in Germany.
The Legion (also known as the Legionaries of Christ) claims to have 800 priests and more than 2,500 seminarians in 21 countries, including the United States. Regnum Christi claims 70,000 lay members in 45 countries.
In 1997, nine former Legionaries accused Maciel of sexually abusing them decades earlier, when they were studying to become priests under his authority.
In 2006, the Vatican told Maciel to limit himself to a “life reserved to prayer and penitence, renouncing all public ministry.”
Reilly and Marti acknowledged that Maciel “had a relationship with a woman and fathered a child.” The letter did not exclude the possibility of “other relationships and other children.”
The Legion is currently the subject of a Vatican investigation triggered by the revelations about Maciel.
By Francis X. Rocca
Copyright 2009 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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