A well-connected Vatican insider who was accused of molesting young priests in training has died. Father Marcial Maciel never faced a trial nor was he punished by the Vatican despite the fact the church had asked him to stop all public ministry appearances.
"Death has freed Father Maciel from being further accountable for his actions," said Paul Lennon, a former follower of Maciel's. Lennon and other former priests in training began speaking out publicly when they became frustrated that allegations of sexual abuse against Maciel had not led to a formal investigation.
A number of former priests had told Vatican investigators they were abused by Father Maciel, the founder of the Legion of Christ, a small but wealthy Catholic order that operates in United States and 25 other countries.
The allegations were presented to Pope Benedict XVI in 1998 when he was a cardinal. Some of the accusers said then-Cardinal Ratzinger attempted to cover up the case because of Maciel's prominence and close relationship with Pope John Paul II.
The then-Cardinal Ratzinger became visibly upset when asked about the Maciel case by ABC News' Brian Ross in April 2002. "You do not ask such questions," he said and then slapped Ross's hand.
While there has never been an official finding of guilt, the Vatican issued a statement in 2006 urging Father Maciel "to lead a reserved life of prayer and penitence."
"Advanced age had already freed him from a full Vatican investigation and trial for sexual abuse," said Lennon.
The Legion of Christ has long stood by Maciel saying that despite the allegations against Father Maciel, "he declared his innocence and, following the example of Jesus Christ, decided not to defend himself in any way."
This post has been updated.