PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Newly unsealed documents in a lawsuit brought against the Roman Catholic order Legion of Christ show the group's former second-in-command testified he discovered the order's founder, the late Rev. Marcial Maciel, had fathered a daughter in 2006, but never confronted him about his double life and didn't share the news with the group's broader membership.
The documents, previously sealed in a lawsuit in Rhode Island, include thousands of pages of testimony from high-ranking leaders at the Legion, its members, and relatives of Rhode Island widow Gabrielle Mee, who bequeathed $60 million to the Legion before her death at age 96 in 2008.
The Legion, founded by Maciel decades ago in Mexico City, was taken over by the Vatican in 2010 after a church investigation determined that Maciel had sexually molested seminarians and fathered three children by two women.
The scandal, which tarnished the legacy of Pope John Paul II, has been cited as an especially egregious example of how the Vatican ignored decades of reports about sexually abusive priests because church leaders put the interests of the institution above those of the victims.
The documents released Friday, at the request of The Associated Press and other news organizations, include the first-ever depositions made available of high-ranking Legion officials, including the Rev. Luis Garza, the Legion's former No. 2.
In a deposition December 2011, Garza says he became suspicious while visiting Maciel in 2006 at a Jacksonville, Fla., hotel about two women he saw there. He later learned they were Maciel's daughter and her mother, a fact he confirmed with both women.
Garza said he obtained the daughter's birth certificate as proof — listing the father as "Jose Rivas." Later, it was revealed that Maciel used the "Jose Rivas" pseudonym with his other hidden family, a Mexican woman with whom he had two sons.
Yet Garza said he never asked Maciel about his daughter or discussed it with him, and he didn't think it was necessary to share the news with the Legion's membership or its lay movement, Regnum Christi. He said he only told the Legion's superior and two other priests.
"I didn't think at the time that the fact that fathering a child would change in any way the way we needed to behave vis-a-vis Father Maciel or the actions that we needed to do," Garza said in the deposition. "Because we needed to comply with indications of the Holy See and also because there was an issue of privacy and respect for the mother and the daughter."
The Legion didn't acknowledge Maciel's children or the sexual abuse allegations against him until February 2009, about a year after he died.