HARTFORD, Conn. – A lawsuit filed by a man who claims he was molested for years by the founder of a once-powerful religious order will go forward in Connecticut, where a judge refused in a ruling released Wednesday to dismiss negligence claims against the Legionaries of Christ.
The lawsuit by Jose Raul Gonzalez of Mexico claims the clergyman, the late Rev. Marcial Maciel, was also his father. He argues that the Legion failed to protect him from a man who was a known pedophile and accuses its officials of covering up decades of sexual abuse by Maciel and other priests.
Hartford Superior Court Judge Grant Miller dismissed some parts of the lawsuit but allowed others alleging negligent supervision to proceed. In the Aug. 30 ruling, Miller said the allegations raised by Gonzalez were enough to suggest the Legion could have foreseen the harm he suffered.
An attorney for the plaintiff, Joel Faxon of New Haven, said the ruling is important because it will allow Gonzalez's side to press for more evidence.
"It allows the floodgates to open up in terms of access to documents of the Legionaries of Christ and our ability to use international treaties to subpoena people within the Vatican, including very high-ranking officials," Faxon said.
A U.S. spokesman for the Legion, Jim Fair, said the organization was also pleased with the ruling. Fair said he did not want to comment further, however, while the case is still pending. He said the order used to have its U.S. headquarters in Connecticut but the main American offices are now in New York and Atlanta.
Maciel, who died in 2008 at age 87, enjoyed favor at the Vatican under Pope John Paul II, who admired the order's conservative outlook and its success in fundraising and recruiting seminarians at a time when the ranks of priests were dwindling.
But a Vatican investigation of the Legion concluded last year that Maciel had committed grave and "objectively immoral actions" that constituted true crimes in some cases and showed a "life devoid of scruples and authentic religious meaning."
Maciel created a "system of power" built on silence, deceit and obedience that enabled him to lead a double life that allowed the abuse to go unchecked and unquestioned, the Vatican said.
In the lawsuit filed in June 2010, Gonzalez said the Legion knew or should have known about allegations dating to the 1940s that Maciel abused children and seminarians. The defendants asked the judge to throw out much of the lawsuit, saying there was no evidence the alleged abuse of the plaintiff was within the scope of Maciel's authority.
Gonzalez's mother, Blanca Lara Gutierrez, has said Maciel led a double life, had two children with her, adopted another, then sexually abused two of the three.
Lara Gutierrez said she was 19 when she met the priest, then 56, who passed himself off as "Jose Rivas," an employee of an international oil company, a private investigator and a CIA agent. She said she didn't discover his real identity until 1997, through a magazine article.