Marcial Maciel, the founder of the Roman Catholic Legionaries of Christ order, was accused of child abuse in the mid-1990s but the Vatican only took action in 2006, possibly due to his links with the late John Paul II.
Father Marcial Maciel, the late founder of the scandal-plagued Legionaries of Christ branch of the Roman Catholic Church, admitted to abusing at least 60 children over decades, according to an internal report published Saturday on ceroabusos.org.
Maciel, who was accused of child abuse during his lifetime, died in 2008 at the age of 87.
Of the other 32 pedophile priests, five are also dead, eight have left the priesthood, one has left the order and 18 are still members, the Legionaries said in a statement following an internal investigation into the order since its founding in 1941.
The Legionaries of Christ order also said that over the last eight decades, 33 of its priests have sexually molested 175 minors.
"Of the 18 who remain: 4 of them have ministerial restrictions, which include a safety plan and no pastoral contact with minors and 14 have no public priestly ministry," it added.
"The Congregation wants to make known the results of this study in order to bring together all its members and collaborators in the effort to eradicate child sexual abuse and to ensure a culture of protection and care for minors," according to the document.
'Chain of abuse'
"The vast majority of the victims were adolescent boys between 11 and 16 years old," the statement said.
Fourteen of the 33 priests who committed child abuse had themselves been victims of the Legionaries, the report said, shedding light on the existence of "chains of abuse" where "a victim of a Legionnaire, over time, becomes in turn an aggressor."
"There are probably more cases of abuse than those in the report and the statistics will have to be updated regularly," it added.
Legionaries said that a process of "reparation and reconciliation" with 45 victims is already taking place.
"The Congregation wants to make known the results of this study in order to bring together all its members and collaborators in the effort to eradicate child sexual abuse and to ensure a culture of protection and care for minors," the statement added.
Vatican's long resistance
The report is significant because for decades the Vatican had dismissed all child abuse accusations against Maciel.
Many say the Vatican's delayed response to accusations was a result of the Legionaries founder's links to the late John Paul II.
Maciel, dubbed the most notorious pedophile in the Roman Catholic Church, also secretly fathered children with at least two women while living a "double life."
In 2006, former Pope Benedict ordered Maciel to retire to a life of "prayer and penitence," resisting calls from within the Church that the Mexican order should be dissolved.
The Vatican instead took over the Legionaries in 2010 and launched a reform process.
shs/mm (Reuters, dpa, AFP, AP)