Religion and Spirituality

marcial maciel degollado, regnum Christi, kingdom of Christ
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Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado

Leader of Catholic “Regnum Christi” Movement Led Double Life

February 25, 2009 02:57 PM
by Cara McDonough
The late Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado left behind sexual misconduct charges and a daughter, reminiscent of other religious leaders involved in scandal.

Followers Betrayed by Scandal

Rumors about the Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado, who founded the conservative Catholic sect Regnum Christi in 1941, have been around for years. Still, the news came as a shock to the roughly 9,500 Regnum Christi (Kingdom of Christ) families in the United States.

New Orleans writer Jason Berry, along with Connecticut newspaperman Gerald Renner, had uncovered evidence in 1997 that Maciel “was not who he appeared to be,” The Times-Picayune reported this week. The accusations of nine former seminarians who said they were sexually abused by the priest were met with adamant denial by the legion.

However, now that reports have surfaced proving Maciel fathered a daughter—now in her 20s—the former supporters are more apt to believe the original allegations, according to the story. The priest died in early 2008, at the age of 87, proclaiming his innocence. The news was reported earlier this month on the National Catholic Reporter Web site.

Maciel’s alleged “double life” is not the only harsh criticism the sect has received. The groups ran schools and did missionary work, but were also controversial for their insular dependence on their founder. Once embraced by the Vatican, Maciel,  who also founded an affiliated order of priests called the Legion of Christ, was forced into retirement when Pope Benedict XVI investigated the sexual misconduct charges.

Juan Vaca of Holbrook, N.Y., one of the nine who accused Maciel of misconduct, said he was not surprised by the news about the priest’s daughter. “I know his narcissistic personality,” he said.

Related Topic: Religious leaders, double lives

Maciel is not the only religious leader to find himself at the center of a sexual scandal, although in Maciel’s case, allegations were not proven until after his death.

For evangelical preacher Jim Bakker, founder of the PTL (“Praise the Lord” and “People that Love”) religious movement, which included a popular television show, a scandal surfaced at the height of his popularity.

In 1986, former church secretary Jessica Hahn accused the powerful Christian leader of forcing her to have sex with him in 1980 when she was 20 years old. Although Bakker disputed the claim, saying the sex was consensual, the fact that he had had an extramarital affair—he was married to Tammy Faye Bakker, who had helped found the PTL at the time—was enough to irreparably harm his image.

He stepped down from his television ministry in 1987. The debacle wasn’t his only ordeal: Bakker was also indicted on counts of mail fraud and conspiracy during his career.

The Rev. Ted Haggard stepped down as president of the National Evangelical Association in 2006 after “a man claimed to have had drug-fueled homosexual trysts with him,” the Associated Press reported at the time.

Although Haggard said that the accusations made against him were not all true, in a letter read to the New Life Church, which he founded, he stated, “The fact is I am guilty of sexual immorality. And I take responsibility for the entire problem. I am a deceiver and a liar.”

Reference: Legion of Christ official response; Regnum Christi


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