NEW YORK – A Mexican man said Monday he is the son of the founder of a once-influential Roman Catholic religious order, and he accused his father of repeatedly molesting him.

In a lawsuit, Jose Raul Gonzalez, 30, accused the late Rev. Marcial Maciel of abuse beginning at age 7. Gonzalez said Maciel led a double life, explaining his long absences from the family by saying he was a CIA agent and oil executive.

Despite the power the Legionaries of Christ once held with Vatican officials, the Holy See recently concluded that Maciel, the order’s founder, led a life that was “devoid of any scruples” and included molesting young boys.

Gonzalez said the abuse began when Maciel took him on trips in South America, England and elsewhere. Leaders of the Legion knew for decades that Maciel was a pedophile and did nothing to stop him, Gonzalez said in his legal claim against the group.

“He always said to us that he was an enemy of the lies, but he was the most liar, the biggest liar,” Gonzalez said at a news conference with his attorney, Jeff Anderson.

Jim Fair, a U.S. spokesman for the Legion, said he could not comment on the lawsuit, but Fair noted that the Legion has said that Gonzalez’ paternity claim “apparently was true.”

Maciel died in 2008 at age 87. Legion officials acknowledge Maciel fathered at least one other child, a girl, and abused seminarians, but insist they only just discovered his misdeeds.

For decades, former Legion members who said they had been abused by Maciel tried unsuccessfully to persuade Vatican officials to take action against him.

Gonzalez’ mother, Blanca Lara Gutierrez, has said that Maciel had two children with her and adopted another. She said she was 19 when she met the priest, then 56, who passed himself off as “Jose Rivas.”

Gonzalez said the abuse began at age 7 and occurred multiple times over the next nine years, whenever Maciel would ask his mother that Gonzalez be sent on trips with him.

Maciel founded the Legion in 1941 in his native Mexico and built the order’s culture around himself. His photo adorned every Legion building, his biography and writings were studied, and his birthday was celebrated as a feast day.

Pope Benedict XVI will soon name an envoy to take over and reform the Legion.