NEW YORK – NEW YORK (AP) — A man who claims the priest-founder of a once-powerful religious order was his father plans to sue the group, saying the Roman Catholic clergyman molested him for years.
Jose Raul Gonzalez of Mexico plans to file the claim of fraud and negligence Monday in Connecticut against the worldwide Legionaries of Christ, said his attorney, Jeff Anderson. The order has its U.S. headquarters in the state.
Gonzalez' mother, Blanca Lara Gutierrez, has said the late Rev. Marcial Maciel led a double life, had two children with her, adopted another, then sexually abused two of the three.
Lara Gutierrez said she was 19 when she met the priest, then 56, who passed himself off as "Jose Rivas," an employee of an international oil company, a private investigator and a CIA agent. She said she didn't discover his real identity until 1997, through a magazine article.
After decades of vehemently denying abuse allegations against Maciel, Legion officials have recently acknowledged the priest fathered at least one child, a girl who now lives in Spain, and sexually abused seminarians. Leaders of the religious order have met several times with Gutierrez but have not publicly affirmed her claim. Maciel died in 2008 at age 87.
Gonzalez has acknowledged previously asking the Legion for $26 million to keep quiet, saying Maciel had promised him and his brothers a trust fund. Anderson said in an interview Friday that Gonzalez had only asked for "what, in effect, had been promised to them."
A U.S. spokesman for the Legion, Jim Fair, said he could not comment because he had not seen the lawsuit.
The Vatican had conducted an investigation of the Legion and concluded last month that Maciel had committed grave and "objectively immoral actions" that constituted true crimes in some cases and showed a "life devoid of scruples and authentic religious meaning."
Maciel created a "system of power" built on silence, deceit and obedience that enabled him to lead a double life that allowed the abuse to go unchecked and unquestioned, the Vatican said.
The statement was stunning, since the priest had enjoyed such favor at the Vatican under Pope John Paul II, who admired the order's conservative outlook and its success in fundraising and recruiting seminarians at a time when the ranks of priests were dwindling.
The Holy See has said that Pope Benedict XVI would appoint a delegate to lead the order after the investigation showed the Legion needed profound reform to survive, given Maciel's enormous internal influence on the group.