Father Marcial Maciel, founder of the powerful Catholic religious order the Legion of Christ, was banned from active ministry by Pope Benedict in 2006 after testimony from more than 20 men that he molested them when they were teens.
Now Maciel's reputation has been further tarnished by accusations made Wednesday by two Mexican men who say they are his sons, and that Maciel sexually abused them when they were young.
The allegations come as Vatican investigators, already looking into charges that Maciel misused funds and fathered up to six children, are about to deliver their findings to Pope Benedict.
After founding the Legion of Christ in Mexico in 1941, Maciel built a vast network of schools, colleges, seminaries and lucrative real estate holdings. At its peak the Legion had an annual budget of $650 million, more than 650 priests and 60,000 followers in an affiliated lay group also founded by Maciel, Regnum Christi. Its pockets were so deep that Mexicans sometimes called the order the "Millionarios de Cristo."
Pope John Paul II championed the Legion for its unswerving orthodoxy (and Maciel's fundraising prowess), and in 1994 called Maciel "an efficacious guide to youth." The Legion sold videocasettes with stirring images of Maciel with John Paul at a papal audience, the Pope nodding approvingly and smiling at Maciel as Legion followers cheered.
But after John Paul died, his successor, Pope Benedict XVI, shocked the Legion by ousting Maciel from formal ministry. In 2006 Benedict ordered Maciel to a "life of prayer and repentance" after a Vatican investigation of alleged pedophila. At least 20 ex-Legionaries claim that Maciel sexually abused them as teenage seminarians in the 1950s and 60s.
MacielÂ´s alleged victims gave media interviews, but the Legion stood fast behind Maciel. The order never admitted guilt on the part of the priest they called Nuestro Padre, Our Father. The Legion stopped selling videos of John Paul and Maciel together, but claimed that Maciel, who was not formally tried by the Vatican, had acted like Jesus in refusing to defend himself from the charges. When Maciel died in January 2008 at age 87, a post on the Legion's web site said that he had gone to heaven.