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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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