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The Vatican has launched an investigation into the Legionaries of Christ, a religious order whose secretive founder stands accused of sexually abusing numerous children over decades.
While the Vatican has been rocked by numerous sex-abuse scandals in recent decades, through it all one religious order seemed immune to scrutiny: The Legionaries of Christ, also known as the Legion of Christ, a conservative group with some 800 priests, 2,500 seminarians, and a following of 70,000 across 21 countries, including the United States.
The Pope has convened an "apostolic visitation," or council of bishops, to investigate the group's nearly 70-year-long history, its controversial founder Maciel Degollado, and the accusations of sexual assault and financial mismanagement now swirling around the recently deceased religious leader.
And the investigation may have to grapple with an uncomfortable question: If the entire religious order was based on lies and deception, should it be disbanded?
The issue now is not just Maciel's sordid secret life but financial accountability. If the Legion gave material support to one or more children of Maciel, any number of benefactors he cultivated in establishing a religious order with a $650 million budget for schools and colleges in North America, South America and Europe were duped, if not defrauded in a legal sense.