Two popes to be canonised ‘did nothing’ about Maciel allegations

Allegations against Legionaries of Christ founder ignored, documentary reveals

Three popes, including two who will be canonised at the end of next month, were aware of abuse allegations against Legionaries of Christ founder Fr Marcial Maciel Degollado, but did nothing about them.

It has also emerged that unsuccessful attempts were made to recruit the current papal nucio to Ireland Archbishop Charles Brown to the Legionaries. Later, he worked at the Vatican's Congregatoin for the Doctrine of the Faith when Maciel was stood aside from ministry by Pope Benedict XVI in 2006 .

He was instructed to retire to a life of “prayer and penitence” and died at Jacksonville, Florida, on January 30th 2008, aged 87. Acccording to subsequent revelations Maciel sexually abused numerous underage seminarians and fathered at least three children with two women

In 2010 the Vatican denounced himl for creating a "system of power" that enabled him to lead an "immoral" double life "devoid of scruples and authentic religious sentiment" and allowed him to abuse young boys for decades unchecked.


A Would You Believe special investigation on RTE One television, presented by Mick Peelo at 9.30 tonight, discloses that the popes who did not act against Maciel, while aware of allegations against him, included John XXIII, Paul VI, and John Paul II.

In 2004 Pope John Paul II hosted special ceremonies at the Vatican to mark the 60th anniversary of Maciel’s ordination to the priesthood. Both John Paul and John XXIII are to be canonised in Rome on Sunday April 27th next.

Maciel was already under investigation by the Vatican in 1956 for drug addiction when he established the Legionaries in Ireland. At the time the Vatican had removed him as superior of the Legionaries and was investigating allegations that he abused morphine. None of this was disclosed to the Irish bishops then.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times