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Mexican founder of conservative order dies, was disciplined by pope

>VATICAN CITY (AP) – The Rev. Marcial Maciel, a Mexican priest who founded the Legionaries of Christ religious order and was disciplined by Pope Benedict XVI after sex abuse allegations, has died in the United States, his order said Thursday. He was 87.

Maciel died Wednesday of natural causes, the conservative religious order said on its Web site. The statement, which called Maciel the “beloved founding father,” did not say exactly where he died.

The Vatican has not said whether it determined the accusations by former seminarians that Maciel had sexually abused them were true. But in 2006, a year after Benedict’s election as pontiff, the Vatican said Maciel had been asked to conduct “a reserved life of prayer and penance, renouncing every public ministry,” meaning he could not celebrate Mass in public.

The action effectively meant he was a priest in name only.

Maciel was the most prominent Roman Catholic Church official to be disciplined by the Vatican for alleged involvement in child sexual abuse.

He and the Legionaries denied the allegations. When he was disciplined, the order said he had accepted the Vatican’s decision with “tranquility of conscience.”

The Vatican had been investigating allegations against Maciel since 1998.

Initially, nine former seminarians said Maciel had abused them when they were boys or teenagers in Catholic seminaries in Spain and Italy in the 1940s to the 1960s. Later, others came forward.

In 2006, the Vatican said it had decided against proceeding with a full-fledged church trial against Maciel because of his age and ill health.

The Legionaries of Christ, which Maciel founded in 1941 in Mexico City, is one of the fastest-growing Catholic religious orders with more than 600 priests and 2,500 seminarians in 20 countries in North and South America, Europe and Australia.

It was well-regarded by Pope John Paul II in particular because of its conservative views, loyalty to church teaching and because it has been so successful in recruiting.

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