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Vatican orders 'purification' after abuse

LOS ANGELES, May 2 (UPI) -- The Vatican says it has ordered the overhaul of one of the church's most influential organizations after investigating decades of sexual abuse by its founder.

The Rev. Marcial Maciel, who founded Mexico's ultra-conservative Legion of Christ in 1941, was found by a Vatican investigation to have engaged in "very serious and objectively immoral behavior," the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday.

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The alleged abuses, including fathering at least one child and molesting boys and seminarians, began in the 1950s and continued into the 1990s, the Times said.

Allegations about Maciel circulated for decades, but he easily deflected them, branding his accusers as slandering liars and receiving continued support from the church hierarchy.

He died in 2008 at age 87.

Legionaries, as they are called, work in almost 40 countries with 800 priests and 2,600 seminarians.

In Mexico, the Legion controls a huge network of schools and universities preaching conservative Catholic values, the Times said.

The Vatican announced Pope Benedict XVI would appoint a special envoy and commission to conduct a "purification" of the order and the "re-definition" of its secretive, militant culture.

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