Mexican woman: 2 kids with scandal-tainted priest

By E. EDUARDO CASTILLO, Associated Press Writer
March 3, 2010 at 4:26 p.m.

MEXICO CITY — A Mexican woman charged Wednesday that the deceased, scandal-tainted founder of a conservative Roman Catholic religious order led a double life and fathered two children with her.

Blanca Lara Gutierrez said she met the Rev. Marcial Maciel in the border city of Tijuana in the 1970s, but didn't know he was a priest. She said he passed himself off as an employee of an international oil company, a private investigator and a CIA agent.

The Legionaries of Christ, the order founded by Maciel, acknowledged in February 2009 in connection with other cases that he had fathered a daughter and molested seminarians.

During a radio interview Wednesday, Lara Gutierrez charged that Maciel, who died in 2008 at age 87, sexually abused one of his two sons with her as well as a son she had from a previous relationship. The sons, now adults named Jose Raul and Omar, said the abuse went on for years.

The Vatican, which has been investigating the order over the earlier allegations against Maciel, did not have any immediate comment on what Lara Gutierrez and her sons told MVS radio Wednesday.

The order's Mexican headquarters did not answer its phone. Jim Fair, a U.S.-based spokesman for the Legionaries, said he didn't know anything more than what was broadcast in Mexico about the woman, her children and Maciel.

"I'm shocked and disappointed at what I've heard," Fair said in a telephone interview. "We want to act responsibly and get to the bottom of things and correct what needs to be corrected. We're going to be in the process of doing that."

The accusations could not be independently verified. A short official biography posted on the Legionaries' Mexico Web site did not say where Maciel might have been posted in the 1970s, but he apparently did move around a lot.

Jason Berry, author of the book "Vows of Silence," an investigation of the claims against Maciel, said that by 1976 Maciel traveled so much that he wasn't really based anywhere.

"He was building an international religious order and he flew often and spent periods of time in different countries. He moved most frequently between Mexico City, Madrid and Rome," Berry said. "He was always in Mexico for periods of time. He would come back for events. Mexico was his financial base."

The accusations that Maciel lived a hitherto unknown double life, in which the priest passed himself off as "Jose Rivas," a widower, follow a long series of allegations that he engaged in sexual misconduct in several cities.

Lara Gutierrez said she met Maciel when she was 19 and he was 56. She said she didn't find out his real identity until 1997, when she saw a magazine article about previous allegations made against him.

Asked how she was able to sustain a relationship with a man for around two decades without realizing who he really was, Lara Gutierrez suggested she was blinded by love.

"I never knew who I was living with, I never suspected." she said. "I loved him very much."

Pope Benedict XVI took the extraordinary step last March of ordering a Vatican investigation of the Legionaries of Christ. Church leaders are visiting and evaluating all seminaries, schools and other institutions run by the order around the world.

After its founding by Maciel in 1941, the Legionaries of Christ became one of the most influential and fastest-growing orders in the Roman Catholic Church.

Pope John Paul II championed the group, which became known for its orthodox theology, military-style discipline, fundraising prowess and success recruiting priests at a time when seminary enrollment was generally dismal.

The order says it has more than 800 priests and 2,500 seminarians worldwide, along with 50,000 members of the associated lay group Regnum Christi.
Associated Press Religion Writer Rachel Zoll in New York contributed to this report. ... ed-priest/