June 21, 2010 -- 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.
"He told me that his uncle sometimes made him masturbate him and basically the idea of my dad was to transmit that idea to me," said Gonzalez.
His father also instructed him to take photographs with a Polaroid camera.
"My feeling is those photos maybe were passing to other people, like pornography," Gonzalez recounted during the interview in which he broke down and cried when describing the abuse by his father.
"He would always tell us how to kiss, and we had to kiss him because that was the way we were going to learn how to kiss a girl when we grew up," Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez says that over nearly a decade of repeated abuse, he never confronted his father about the sex acts or the revelation that he was a prominent priest.
He said his father, even after acts of abuse, always told him, "'Go to mass, don't smoke, don't drink.'"
"I didn't have the words to confront my dad at seventeen years old," he said.
Gonzalez says when his father's health began to fail, Maciel talked to him about going to a bank in Switzerland where there was money for him in an account.
But Gonzalez says his father never provided him with the details. According to the National Catholic Reporter, a trust fund Maciel set up for his family in Mexico turned up empty.
Gonzalez says he has met several times with officials of the Legion of Christ about a possible financial settlement, demanding $26 million.
Gonzalez's lawyer, Jeffrey Anderson, who has represented hundreds of people who have alleged sexual abuse by Catholic priests, says this case represents a new chapter of depravity in the church.
"We are here to tell the truth," Anderson told ABC News.
At a press conference Monday, Anderson asked how the Vatican could explain its failure to act. "How could Vatican officials allow such a dangerous predator to roam the landscape and the globe with the power given to him as the founder of the Legion of Christ?"
Anderson is listed as one of the financial contributors to Berry's documentary film about Maciel and the Legion of Christ, "Vows of Silence."