A representative of the victims of sexual abuse committed by late Mexican priest Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legion of Christ, on Monday reproached Pope Benedict XVI “for having ignored” that group of people on his just-concluded visit to Mexico.
“Why, in Mexico, did you not want to be close to the victims of that most ignominious priest Marcial Maciel?” former Legion of Christ member Juan Jose Vaca told MVS radio.
The pontiff met with victims of clerical sexual abuse during visits to the United States, Australia, Portugal, Malta and Germany.
Vaca had asked for a meeting in an email he sent to the papal nuncio Christophe Pierre and on his own in the name of the victims of Maciel (1920-2008) before the pope’s arrival in Mexico last Friday.
He said he had hoped that “the proper steps were taken” to receive them, but nothing happened with regard to his request during Benedict XVI’s three-day visit to the central Mexican city of Leon.
Vaca, 75, reproached the pontiff in an open letter written on Sunday and read publicly on Monday in which he said that Benedict XVI “did nothing” to arrange a meeting with the victims.
“Why have you ignored the Mexican victims?” he asked, adding that the pope had “not even (given) the courtesy of a response.”
Benedict left Mexico on Monday bound for Cuba.
Born March 10, 1920, to a deeply religious family, Maciel founded the Legion of Christ on Jan. 3, 1941.
As early as the 1950s, allegations of sexual abuse of seminarians came to the attention of the Vatican, which opened canonical proceedings against Maciel.
In 1996, three former priests of the order went public with accusations against Maciel, who categorically denied any wrongdoing.
The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, then headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger - the future Benedict XVI - recommended in 1998 that action be taken in the case, but Pope John Paul II, who was close to Maciel, rejected the idea.
As pope, Ratzinger formally ordered Maciel in May 2006 to give up “all public ministry” and to live a quiet life of prayer and penance.
The Legion of Christ has 600 priests and some 3,000 seminarians and operates in 18 countries. The order’s lay arm, the Regnum Christi, has ties to the political and business establishments of both Mexico and Spain.