A prominent Catholic priest, praised by Pope John Paul II as "an efficacious guide to youth," Father Marcial Maciel, sexually abused not only young seminarians under his control but also abused his own children, according to a lawsuit filed today in Connecticut by a man who claims to be Maciel's son.
In an interview to be broadcast Monday evening on ABC News Nightline, the priest's son, Raul Gonzalez, 30, says he thought his father worked for the CIA or an international oil company, until he saw the priest's picture in a 1997 magazine article detailing allegations of sexual abuse.
"My mom said, 'Is that you?' and my dad said, 'No, it's not me' and my mom said, 'Yeah, it's you,'" recalled Gonzalez in the interview, conducted by Jason Berry, an investigative journalist who first reported on widespread sexual abuse by Maciel at the Legion of Christ and writes for the National Catholic Reporter.
The Legion of Christ has acknowledged that Father Maciel fathered at least one child as a priest.
Under Father Maciel, the Legion of Christ became one of the Roman Catholic Church's most prominent, conservative and financially successful orders. Among its many supporters is Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim.
The lawsuit claims Vatican ignored reports of sexual abuse by Maciel since the 1950s, until he was forced out of the Legion by Pope Benedict XVI in 2006.
Citing his age, the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith declined to put Maciel on trial but he was ordered to a "life of prayer and penitence."
"Pope Benedict in 2006 moved my father, my daddy, or Marcial Maciel to rest. To pray. Why didn't he bring him to jail?" Gonzalez asked in the interview.
The lawsuit filed by Maciel's alleged son claims the Vatican and the presiding Pope from the 1950's until 2002 "engaged in a conspiracy to conceal their knowledge of Maciel's serial delicts, including the repeated sexual abuse of children."
The lawsuit claims Maciel "gained influence and protection from the Vatican through giving substantial monies to Vatican officials" and providing other benefits and gifts.
There was no immediate comment from the Vatican or the Legion of Christ.
In his interview, Gonzalez said his father was protected by Pope John Paul II.
"My dad told my mom that when John Paul II dies, he was going to be in trouble," Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez said when he was nine, his father took him to Rome for a private mass celebrated by John Paul II.
"I kissed [John Paul's] ring," Gonzalez said.
Father Maciel was 60 when he fathered Gonzalez with a 20-year old Mexican woman, Blanca Gutierrez Lara, Gonzalez said.
They lived a life of comfort in Cuernavaca, Mexico with money secretly funneled by Father Maciel. Gonzalez said his father had a second mistress in Spain, with whom he fathered a daughter. Published reports contend Father Maciel had a third mistress and family in Switzerland.
Gonzalez said his father began to abuse him and his half-brother, Omar, on a trip to Madrid when he was ten years old.