Vatican's chief auditor to restructure scandal-ridden Mexican order
Pope Benedict XVI has tasked the Vatican's chief auditor with restructuring a religious order tainted by allegations of sexual and financial misconduct against its late founder, the Vatican said on Friday, DPA reported.
Archbishop Velasio De Paolis, who heads the Holy See's Prefecture for Economic Affairs, will act as Benedict's pontifical delegate over the Legion of Christ.
The Vatican had announced in May that the Legion - one of the most powerful orders in Roman Catholicism - would be overhauled, following recommendations made by several prominent clerics appointed by Benedict to investigate it.
The founder of the Legion, Mexican priest Marcial Maciel Degollado, is alleged to have sexually abused numerous underage seminarians.
Maciel Degollado, who died in 2008 at age 87 - after being removed from active ministry three years earlier - also conceived three children with two women, the order said in an official apology issued earlier this year.
Father Maciel, as he was known, had always denied the allegations of sexual abuse. Until the issuing of the apology in April, the Legion had steadfastly defended him.
But based on the findings of the pontiff's investigators, the Vatican said that Maciel Degollado had led a "double life," also thanks to those within the order's military-like structure who had created a "defence mechanism" to protect the founder.
The Legion has some 800 priests and 2,500 seminarians operating universities and schools in more than 20 countries, from Brazil to Chile and Spain. The Legion's lay movement, known as Regnum Christi, has more than 50,000 followers around the world.
Maciel Degollado, who founded the Legion in the 1940s, used his connections with Mexican businessmen to raise millions of dollars for the Catholic Church.
That, and the Legion's conservative outlook at at time when leftist so-called "liberation theology" was gaining popularity in Latin America, made him a favourite of the staunchly anti-communist Pope John Paul II.
Benedict's apparent eagerness to deal swiftly with the Legion comes as the Catholic Church is grappling with widespread allegations of sexual abuse of minors by priest, as well as accusations that attempts were made by the hierarchy - including the pontiff himself - to cover up the crimes.