Monday, January 27, 2014

Legion of Christ to be sued for defrauding man's estate

A Rhode Island federal magistrate judge has given a green light for a man's lawsuit against the Legion of Christ seeking more than $1 million for the alleged defrauding of his father's estate.

The case moves forward at the same moment the Legion is gathered in Rome in an effort to reconstitute itself in the aftermath of the scandals of its discredited founder, Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado. 

For some longtime critics, who originally brought to light widespread corruption within the Legion, the ruling is the latest indication that serious questions remain about the Legion and the Vatican process employed to revive the order.

The suit accuses the Legion of preying on James Boa-Teh Chu and defrauding his son, Paul, of an estate with annuities valued between $1 million and $2 million. The suit seeks $10 million in punitive damages.

Paul Chu, an only child, was studying in the Hartford, Conn., diocesan seminary when his father, a Yale professor of mechanical engineering who retired in 2003, went into a mental and physical decline, according to court documents.

Born 1924 in mainland China, Boa-Teh Chu immigrated to America as a young man, and as a professor of mechanical engineering taught at Brown University and State University of New York before taking a faculty position at Yale. A deeply devout Catholic, he lost his wife in 1993 and died in 2009 at age 85. 

His final years were marked by "difficulty assimilating new data, mental tics, fixations and obsessions, some of which exhibited through bizarre hoarding and collecting," according to a summary by U.S. Magistrate Judge Patricia Sullivan, released Jan. 13.

Paul Chu, who eventually left the seminary, lives in Darien, Conn., and teaches as an ad hoc college professor.

Magistrates weigh arguments and evidence in writing reports to the federal court on how to proceed with a case. Sullivan recommends denying the Legion's request for summary judgment or dismissal.

The court can accept, reverse or modify a magistrate's opinion, but in a system designed to reduce bottlenecks, reversals are rare.

Although much of the 29-page document addresses case law, Sullivan's interpretation of facts is highly critical of the Legion.

Boa-Teh Chu " 'incorporated' into the Regnum Christi Movement, the lay branch of The Legion," in 1997. He replaced his Dominican spiritual advisor with a Legionary. "By early 1998, he had been targeted by The Legion for cultivation," writes the judge. 

"On July 16, 1998, Dr. Chu named The Legion as the sole beneficiary of all his annuities, replacing both Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Christ and his son; he named no contingent beneficiary."

The judge writes:

"Dr. Chu's deep regard for the sanctity of Father Maciel was a significant factor driving his commitment to the Legion. In 1999, soon after replacing family and other charities with The Legion, he told Paul that misgivings about The Legion had been dispelled by his intense belief that "[Father Maciel] is a saint."

"After Dr. Chu's death, Paul found documents evidencing that The Legion was fostering this image of Father Maciel in Dr. Chu's mind at the same time that it was aware of the facts being uncovered in the Vatican's investigation. At the end of his life, Dr. Chu was frequently visited by representatives of The Legion and, allegedly as a result, clung to his belief in Father Maciel's innocence. The family affidavits establish that Dr. Chu was aggressively targeted by The Legion's fundraisers in a way that made his family uncomfortable."

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