Legion of Christ accused abuser removed from priesthood




MEXICO CITY (AP) - The Catholic Church has removed Mexican Fernando Martínez from the priesthood after considering him guilty of various sexual abuse crimes against minors, the Legion of Christ religious order said Monday.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith decided that Martínez could not continue his priestly duties, but allowed him to remain as a member of the Legion of Christ and the church, a decision that upset his victims.

One of them, Ana Lucía Salazar, who had reported being raped by the priest when she was 8 years old, commented with irony on Twitter.

"The Pope decided that the gentleman continue in the church ranks after raping children," Salazar wrote Monday. "There's zero tolerance." The punishment comes nearly three decades after the abuses were reported to Martínez's superiors in the 1990s.

The Legion was founded in Mexico in 1941 by Marcial Maciel. Reports of abuses by its members have been emerging for decades. In 2010, after Maciel's death, the Vatican instituted a reform process following an investigation that showed its founder had created a system of power based on sexual abuse, silence, deception and obedience that allowed him to lead a double life "devoid of any scruples and authentic sense of religion."

In December, the Legion made public a report that identified 33 priests and 71 seminarians who sexually abused minors during the past 80 years. A third of those cited, including Martínez, were also victims of Maciel.

In November, the Legion released a document about Martínez that spoke of abuses that began in 1969 in Mexico City and continued through the 1990s. Cases have been reported publicly as recently as last year and include abuse of girls between the ages of 6 and 8 at the Instituto Cumbres in Cancun. Salazar was one of those cases.

A persistent complaint of the victims of clerical abuse has been the lack of criminal sanctions against the abusers and those who covered up the abuse. Pope Francis has insisted that the church will not tolerate such conduct.

Martínez is currently in Rome and until now had been allowed to continue in the priesthood though not performing duties in public.

The Legion's announcement comes a week before its leadership holds its general meeting.

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The administrator of the elite Catholic school in Cancun, Mexico, used to take the girls out of class and send them to the chapel, where the priest from the Legion of Christ religious order would sexually abuse them. "As some were reading the Bible, he would rape the others in front of them, little girls aged 6 to 8 or 9," said one of his victims, Ana Lucia Salazar, now a 36-year-old Mexican television host and mother of three. Salazar's horrific story, which has been corroborated by other victims and the Legion itself, has sparked a new credibility crisis for the once-influential order, 10 years after the Holy See took it over after determining that its founder was a pedophile.

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