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The Catholic Church looks into cult allegations — and $1,000 hams.
In 2006 Benedict ordered Maciel to “a life of prayer and penitence” after an investigation of pedophilia charges that shadowed him for years. Ex-Legionaries from Mexico and Spain filed the allegations in 1998 in the tribunal of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who was elected pope in 2005.
Maciel, who died last year at 87, was the greatest fundraiser of the modern church. He courted rich supporters in building dozens of elite prep schools and several seminaries and universities, backed by a 60,000-member lay group called Regnum Christi (Kingdom of Christ). The Legion and RC distribute promotional videos in which Pope John Paul II appears with Maciel, celebrating the movement’s resurgent orthodoxy.
The Legion’s biggest benefactor is Carlos Slim, the Mexican billionaire who is by some accounts the world’s richest man. Slim recently lent The New York Times $240 million in its financial struggle. The Oriol family, among the wealthiest in Spain, aided Maciel early and often.
Harvard Law professor Mary Ann Glendon, the U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican under the last President Bush, scoffed at the abuse allegations Maciel faced before his punishment. So did William Donahue of the Catholic League.
Bill Bennett, the conservative Reagan-era official and CNN contributor, has been a featured speaker at Legion fundraisers. Jeb Bush spoke at a 2007 gathering in Atlanta.
The Legion typically pays its speaker and draws support from commercial sponsors, explained insiders in Rome.
Benedict ordered the new investigation after Legion superiors, hand-picked by Maciel, disclosed to followers in February that he had a daughter. In the Spanish press and on websites she has been identified as 23 and living with her mother in Madrid. The question of financial support for his daughter and her mother and how long Legion officials have known about it is a question of the inquiry.
Baltimore Archbishop Edwin O’Brien, not one of the visitators, banned the Legion and Regnum Christi from his archdiocese, all but calling them a cult.
Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput is the American visitator in the case. Earlier this summer Chaput and four other bishops were given a dossier of findings on Maciel at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which Ratzinger as cardinal directed for years.
Starting in 2004, at least 30 witnesses testified to Msgr. Charles Scicluna, the C.D.F. investigator, that Maciel abused them as youths. But the 2006 Vatican order punishing Maciel failed to specify what exactly he had done, nor did it acknowledge the victims.
Legion leaders used the vague wording in a bizarre spin control on its website, pledging support to Benedict while casting Maciel as wrongly accused, a future saint.