Seven priests from the secretive Catholic religious order the Legion Of Christ are being investigated by the Vatican over claims of child sex abuse, the Associated Press has reported.
Two other priests from the conservative order are also being investigated for other alleged crimes, according to the news agency, after the Legion issued a statement to AP.
The Legion of Christ has already been forced to cope with a wave of scandal after it was proved that the order's late founder, Reverend Marcial Maciel Degollado, had abused and raped students of the Legion.
In the wake of the revelations, the Vatican insisted that the crimes of Degollado, who was also a close ally of Pope John Paul II, had been his alone, and the Legion was to continue under their leadership.
The exposition of Marciel was a severe jolt to the order as the founder had been hailed as an aspirational example of piety. Upon his death in 2008 the Vatican also admitted that he had fathered three children with two different women and admitted he had molested students.
One of the most shocking scandals to shake the Catholic church in 2009, a priest who had left the Legionaires told the New York Post “Father Maciel was this mythical hero who was put on a pedestal and had all the answers,”
"To hear he’s been having this double life on the side, I just don’t see how they’re going to continue.”
However the same closed-lip culture that allowed Marciel's abuse to remain shrouded in the order that manages to pull in thousands of pounds of donations a year, has allowed priests to commit further crimes, according to AP.
A statement seen by the news agency says that six of the seven cases of abuse date back "decades." They have been referred to the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, an organisation ostensively set up to "promote and safeguard the doctrine on faith and morals in the whole Catholic world"
Two other priests have already been referred to the ancient organisation, however they were cleared of any alleged abuse.
The Legion of Christ was put under the control of Vatican in 2010, who are trying to reform the order. However the latest scandal is sure to undermine the Legion's continued existence, and the Vatican's policing of its 900 members worldwide. When the allegations against Maciel came to light in 2006, his only sanction was a lifetime of prayer and penance.
However documentations from the Vatican archives show that the organisation knew Maciel had a history of paedophilia and being addicted to drugs. Those records date back as far as 1950, AP reports.
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