The two former Mexican seminarians had gone to the Vatican in 1998 to personally deliver a case recounting decades of sexual abuse by one of the most powerful priests in the Roman Catholic Church, the Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado.
As they left, they ran into the man who would hold Father Maciel’s fate in his hands, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, and kissed his ring. The encounter was no accident. Cardinal Ratzinger wanted to meet them, witnesses later said, and their case was soon accepted.
But in little more than a year, word emerged that Cardinal Ratzinger — the future Pope Benedict XVI — halted the inquiry. “It isn’t prudent,” he had told a Mexican bishop, according to two people who later talked to the bishop.
For five years, the case remained stalled, possibly a hostage to Father Maciel’s powerful protectors in the Curia, the Vatican’s governing apparatus, and his own deep influence at the Holy Se