NEW HAVEN, Conn. (CN) – A man who says he is the natural son the founder of the Legionaries of Christ claims the Catholic group’s founder – Marcial Maciel Degollado – sexually molested him for 11 years, from the age of 7 to 18. Jose Raul Gonzalez Lara seeks damages from Maciel’s estate and from the order he founded. He claims that every pope since Pius XII knew of Maciel’s serial sexual predations.
Gonzalez Lara says he was born as a result of the priest’s 21-year relationship with Blanca Gutierrez Lara, and that the priest supported his family with money from the Legionaries.
In his Superior Court complaint, Gonzalez Lara claims that the Vatican knew about his father’s sexual predations for decades, and also knew that he was a drug addict, as did “numerous other officials in the Legionaries.”
Pope Benedict XVI denounced the late priest in May this year in the harshest comments yet about the Vatican’s sex scandals, calling him “immoral” and acknowledging that Maciel had committed “crimes.” Benedict said he would appoint a commission to investigate the Legionaries and its lay affiliate, Regnum Christi.
The Legionaries are believed to hold billions of dollars in assets in more than 20 countries, with 800 priests and more than 2,500 seminarians in its 21 prep schools. Maciel founded the order in Mexico in 1941 and directed it until he died in 2008.
The Legionaries’ U.S. headquarters was in Connecticut, Gonzalez Lara says in his 16-page complaint.
The Legionaries’ seminarians had to promise to “never speak ill of the Legion, Maciel or their superiors – and to inform on anyone that did,” and were also told that if they left the legion “their souls would literally go to hell,” according to the complaint. Their entire day was monitored and all contacts with family or the outside world was strictly monitored and rarely allowed.
Gonzalez Lara claims that his father began sexually molesting children he recruited for the Legionaries “beginning in the 1940s and 1950s.” He says Maciel “had an addiction to pain killers,” and “often had boys and seminarians obtain pain killers for him from various pharmacies and hospitals.”
As early as 1956, Maciel was accused “of making sexual advances on youths in the Legionaries’ house in Mexico, by an older seminarian and the priest-rector of the Legionaries. The Legionaries knew of these allegations,” according to the complaint.
A cardinal for Pope Pius XII “suspended Maciel from his duties as Director-General” or the order in 1956, but Maciel was reinstated after Pope Pius died in 1958, the complaint states.
Gonzalez Lara’s complaint quotes a 1976 letter from Fr. Juan Vaca to Maciel, who had sent him to the United States as the Legionaries’ national director. In it, Vaca explicitly accuses Maciel of having raped him when he was 13: “Using the same excuse that you were in pain, you ordered me to remain in your bed. I was not yet thirteen years old; you knew that God had kept me intact until then, pure, without ever having seriously stained the innocence of my infancy, when you, on that night, in the midst of my terrible confusion and anguish, ripped the masculine virginity from me.”
Gonzalez Lara adds, “The Legionaries knew or should have known about this letter and the deviant sexual pursuits of Fr. Maciel.”
According to the complaint, Vaca left the order and went to work for the Rockville Diocese in Maryland, whose bishop, John McGann, “included Vaca’s letter to Maciel in a dossier of materials sent to the papal nuncio in Washington, D.C., seeking action from the Vatican and Pope Paul VI against the Legion founder. The Vatican and its officials did not take any appropriate action in response to this complaint, allowing Maciel to continue in his position of power with unlimited access to children.
“In 1978, at Vaca’s urging, Bishop McGann sent the same material to the Vatican via the nunciature in Washington, D.C. Receipt of the materials was acknowledged by the Vatican, with no other action.”
Despite these, and other complaints of Maciel’s sexual molestation of “more than 20” children, a series of popes continued to celebrate him and his order, and refused to discipline him, Gonzalez Lara says. In 1994, in a paid advertisement in major newspapers in Mexico City, Pope John Paul II celebrated Maciel’s 50th anniversary as a priest and called him “an efficacious guide to youth,” according to the complaint.
Gonzalez Lara was born in Mexico in 1980. He says Maciel told his mother that his name was Raul Rivas. And he says that “Maciel used money and property from the Legionaries to support Raul [Maciel’s alias], his mother and other children.”
Gonzalez Lara claims: “Between 1987 and 1998, while Raul was a minor, Maciel repeatedly sexually molested Raul.” He seeks damages for reckless battery, negligence, emotional distress and medical expenses. He is represented by Joel Faxon of New Haven.
Gonzalez Lara’s complaint buttresses at nearly every point a devastating article by Alma Guillermoprieto in the May 27 New York Review of Books, “Father Maciel, John Paul II, and the Vatican Sex Crisis.” Guillermoprieto, a staff writer for The New Yorker, repeats frequently from Latin America.
Guillermoprieto reported that Maciel maintained his 21-year common-law spousal relationship with Blanca Gutierrez Lara by claiming to be “a private detective or “CIA agent.”
The Vatican finally acted in 2006, when Father Maciel was “invited to lead a reserved life of prayer and penitence.” He died at 87 in 2008.