Much has been made of the power wielded by the secretive Opus Dei under John Paul II, not least by Dan Brown in The Da Vinci Code, but many Vatican watchers believe that the Legion of Christ was bigger, richer, more influential, and even more sinister.
Parents of youngsters recruited as Legionaries described it as a cult that targeted the young and naive in particular, some of them just 13, and then "brainwashed" them. But it is Maciel (pictured) himself who has proved most controversial. Nuestro Padre was, according to one biographer, "a narcissistic sociopath" with a taste for flights on Concorde and five star hotels. He is acknowledged by the Legion to have fathered at least one child, a 23 year old daughter said to be called Norma Hilda and now living in Madrid.
It has also been alleged that he was a paedophile. The first accusation came in 1976 from the former head of the Legion in the US. By 1998, the Vatican had received sworn statements from eight men, all detailing how Maciel had abused them when they were young recruits. - The Independent on Sunday (click below for full article)