Legionaries of Christ

Legionaries of Christ, Roman Catholic order est. 1941 in Mexico by Father Marcial Maciel Degollado. The conservative order, which became wealthy and influential, was noted for successfully recruiting new priests when the vocations were generally shrinking. By the early 21st cent. the order included more than 800 priests and 2,500 seminarians in 22 countries and some 70,000 members in its lay arm, Regnum Christi, and it ran educational institutions, charities, and Catholic news outlets. The personality of Father Maciel, who died in 2008, was central to the group's culture, and when sexual abuse allegations were made against him in 1998 it was particularly damaging. A group of bishops assigned (2004) to investigate concluded that Maciel had abused boy seminarians, fathered several children, and misappropriated funds. In 2006 Pope Benedict XVI removed Maciel from his priestly duties and confined him to a life of prayer and penance, and in 2010 the pope directed that the order be governed from the Vatican.

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