- Associated Press - Friday, July 9, 2010

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI on Friday named a senior Vatican official to run the scandal-plagued Legionaries of Christ after an eight-month investigation of the order.

The Vatican announcement said Archbishop Velasio De Paolis, an Italian who heads the Holy See’s financial office, will serve as papal delegate for the Legionaries.

It is the latest in a series of moves aimed at shoring up the church amid a worldwide clerical sex abuse scandal.

The order has been scarred by revelations that its late founder sexually abused seminarians and fathered at least one child.

It is not immediately known what will happen with the cleric current running the order, the Rev. Alvaro Corcuera Martinez del Rio. He met with Benedict last month.

The investigation of the order showed that the Legionaries needed to be deeply re-evaluated and purified to survive, given the enormous influence on it by its disgraced founder, the Rev. Marciel Maciel, according to a Vatican report in May.

It said Rev. Maciel, who died in 2008 and had been supported by the late Pope John Paul II, had created a “system of power” built on obedience and deceit that allowed him to live a double life with abuse going unchecked.

The Vatican continues to grapple with abuse allegations, which began in North America but recently have spread across Europe.

It is expected to soon release a document codifying instructions on dealing with pedophile priests. It is expected to also crack down on priests who prey on mentally impaired adults, sanctioning them with the same set of punishments meted out for clerics who rape and molest children, The Associated Press has learned.

The church’s internal justice system for dealing with abuse allegations has come under attack because of claims by victims that their accusations were long ignored by bishops more concerned about protecting the church and by the Congregation, which was headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger from 1981 until he was elected pope in 2005.