Catholic order Legionaries of Christ Founder fathered child with mistress

The founder of an influential Catholic religious order, who was disciplined in 2006 for sexual abuse of boys and men, also fathered at least one child with a mistress, his order acknowledged on Wednesday.

Founded by Maciel in 1941, the order now has about 800 priests and 2,500 seminarians in more than 20 countries. It also runs a major pontifical university in Rome.

Maciel had been accused by some former seminarians of sexual abuse dating back to the 1940s and 1950s, when they were boys as young as 10.

The subject of on-and-off investigations into abuse during his career, Maciel stepped down as leader of the conservative order in 2004 and for decades denied the accusations until the Vatican decided they were true and disciplined him.

Asked if the reports were true, Father Paolo Scarafoni, a spokesman at the order’s headquarters in Rome, told Reuters: “We cannot deny the existence of these facts but we can’t go into detail because we have to respect the privacy of people involved.”

He added: “Recently, we have come to know some aspects of his life that are very difficult to understand, aspects of his life that were not appropriate to the life of a priest.”

In 2006, Pope Benedict instructed Maciel to retire to a life of “prayer and penitence” after years of accusations that he had molested seminarians decades earlier.

At the time, the sanctions against Maciel made him one of the most prominent persons to be disciplined for sexual abuse.

The revelations have dealt a devastating moral blow to the priestly order and its lay branch, Regnum Christi, which says it has tens of thousands of members.

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