Vatican City -- The Vatican has confirmed that it plans no canonical process against the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, investigated for alleged sexual abuse of teenagers under his care.
The Vatican confirmation came after the Legionaries issued a May 20 statement saying that "there is no canonical process under way into our founder, Father Marcial Maciel, LC, nor will one be initiated." Father Maciel has consistently denied the accusations made against him.
The confirmation was issued by Passionist Father Ciro Benedettini, a Vatican spokesman, after Catholic News Service asked him about the Legionaries' statement.
The decision not to start a canonical process comes after Msgr. Charles J. Scicluna, an official of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, traveled to Mexico and the United States earlier this year to interview adults who said they were abused by Father Maciel, now 85, when they were teenage seminarians of the Legionaries.
"We hold no grudge against those who accuse us; rather, we keep them in our prayers while expressing our humblest gratitude to the countless people of good will who in these circumstances have reiterated to us their support and esteem," said the Legionaries' statement.
The statement also quoted Father Maciel as denying the accusations.
"I can categorically state that the accusations brought against me are false. I never engaged in the sort of repulsive behavior these men accuse me of," Father Maciel is quoted as saying.
Nine former Legionaries, one of whom is now dead, have publicly accused Father Maciel of sexually abusing them when they were teenage seminarians in the 1940s, '50s and '60s.
One of the accusers is Juan J. Vaca, a psychology professor at Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., and a former Legionary priest.
In a January interview with CNS, Vaca said he was pursuing the case against Father Maciel although "my personal feeling at this point is that I've lost all trust in Vatican officials."
Vaca said that when he was being abused in his seminary days he once told Father Maciel that he needed to go to confession about those incidents. Vaca says Father Maciel tried to dissuade him, but when he was insistent the priest said, "Here, I will give you absolution," and made a sign of the cross over him.
Vaca said several other seminarians reported similar incidents.
After earlier complaints to the Vatican brought no response, in 1998 the eight living accusers drew up another case against Father Maciel, accusing him of giving absolution to an accomplice in a sexual sin.
Earlier this year Vaca and several other accusers were informed by the Vatican that the case was being looked into.
Father Maciel founded the Legionaries in 1941 in his native Mexico. Currently it has about 600 priests and 2,500 seminarians worldwide, including more than 75 priests in the United States.
His work has been praised by Vatican officials, including the late Pope John Paul II.
Father Maciel received public congratulations from Pope John Paul last Nov. 30 at the end of a week of celebrations in Rome marking the 60th anniversary of the priest's ordination.
The late pope praised Father Maciel's "intense, generous and fruitful priestly ministry" and said that ministry has been "full of the gifts of the Holy Spirit."
During the celebrations Pope John Paul also entrusted the Legionaries with administration of the Notre Dame Center, a complex with a conference center, 150 guest rooms and other facilities that serves as the Vatican's main pilgrimage and cultural institution in Jerusalem. The pope also formally approved the statutes of Regnum Christi, a lay movement affiliated with the Legionaries.