Vatican investigates seven cases of priest abuse

The ultra-conservative Legion of Christ movement on Friday said it had reported seven suspected cases of child abuse by its priests to the Vatican for investigation under new anti-abuse rules.

Six of the cases "are from decades ago" and one "refers to recent events," the movement said in a statement, adding that it had taken precautions such as "restricting the priestly ministry of the accused" to protect children.

The Legion did not give further details about the cases but said it had received allegations about abuse "in several countries" and that internal preliminary investigations found that seven "had a semblance of truth."

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said: "The relevant superiors (of the movement) followed the norms in force, signalling to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith some cases that have come to light from decades ago."

The Legion of Christ's late founder Father Marcial Maciel was accused of having an illegitimate daughter and abusing eight seminarians.

The movement expanded hugely under late pope John Paul II and is now present in 22 countries, particularly in Latin America.

It has 800 priests, 2,500 seminarians and 70,000 lay people among its members and it also manages 12 universities.

Maciel died in the United States in 2008 at the age of 87 and Pope Benedict XVI authorised a full review of the order in 2010.

The Catholic Church has been damaged by thousands of child abuse cases in recent years, as well as accusations of cover-ups by senior Church figures.

It established new rules for handling the issue requiring all suspected cases to be reported to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

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