Eight Men's Allegations Went
Vaca is not alone. He is one of eight former students, now all in
their 60s, who have signed sworn affidavits submitted to the Vatican
that they were abused by Maciel.
When they were members of the Legion, the accusers were devout
followers of Marciel. But for the last eight years, they have been
trying to get the Vatican to listen or even acknowledge their
detailed allegations of sexual abuse at the hands of Father Maciel.
They say they have not heard a response from the Vatican.
In 1997, they went public, telling their story to The Hartford
Courant, a newspaper in Connecticut.
Courant reporters Jerry Renner and Jason Berry, who wrote
the story, repeated the allegations to the Vatican, yet received no
response from the Vatican. However, later that year, the pope took a
step that surprised them.
Maciel was appointed to represent the pope at a meeting of Latin
American bishops, which Renner and Berry took as a clear signal the
Vatican had ignored the allegations.
"I would say he has the pope eating out of his hand. Who is going
to touch him no matter what he does?" said J. Paul Lennon, a member
of the Legion of Christ for 23 years, who has since left and has
been helping those claiming to be victims. "He's untouchable."
Lennon said Macial is a master of Vatican politics: "He's worked
with several popes, knows the inner workings, knows monsignors,
knows cardinals, knows maybe the men who are really in power, knows
that so well, so well."
Then, four years ago, some of the men tried a last ditch effort,
taking the unusual step of filing a lawsuit in the Vatican's
secretive court, seeking Macial's excommunication.
Once again they laid out their evidence, but it was another
futile effort — an effort the men say was blocked by one of the most
powerful cardinals in the Vatican.
The accusers say Vatican-based Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who
heads the Vatican office to safeguard the faith and the morals of
the church, quietly made the lawsuit go away and shelved it. There
was no investigation and the accusers weren't asked a single
question or asked for a statement.
He was appointed by the pope to investigate the entire sex abuse
scandal in the church in recent days. But when approached by ABCNEWS
in Rome last week with questions of allegations against Maciel,
Ratzinger became visibly upset and actually slapped this reporter's
"Come to me when the moment is given," Ratzinger told ABCNEWS,
"Cardinal Ratzinger is sheltering Maciel, protecting him," said
Berry, who expressed concerns that no response was being given to
the allegations against the man charged with sex abuse. "These men
knelt and kissed the ring of Cardinal Ratzinger when they filed the
case in Rome. And a year-and-a-half later, he takes those
accusations and aborts them, just stuffs them."
Maciel Denies Allegations
As for Father Maciel, he would not agree to speak with ABCNEWS
this week in Rome, although he issued an emphatic, written denial
of the allegations, in which he strongly denied the allegations
of what he called "repulsive behavior." He said the men made up
these allegations only after leaving the Legion of Christ. Click
here for his statement.
"He has many other things to do rather than appear on a news
program," said Father Tom Williams, who said he would serve as
Macial's spokesman. He called the allegations "patently false."
"I know Father Maciel very well," Williams told ABCNEWS. "I've
lived with him for 10 years." Williams has never asked him about the
allegations, but when the Courant ran the story in 1997,
Legion spokesman released a statement denying the allegations.
Williams said the men making the accusations against Macial can't
be believed because they didn't raise the sexual abuse charges in
the 1950s when Vatican investigators were looking into other matters
relating to Maciel. According to Williams, the Vatican investigated
Marciel on counts of mismanagement of funds, drug and substance
abuse and drug trafficking. The Vatican pronounced Maciel innocent
of those charges and reinstated him as superior general to the
In addition, Williams noted, a ninth accuser retracted similar
allegations, claiming he was pressured to lie by the other eight
accusers. Those men stand by their story, now an open challenge to
both the pope and Ratzinger, who just this week proclaimed there is
no place for pedophiles in the church during the Vatican meetings
with American cardinals.
"It does not inspire much faith," said Berry.