A Legion of Christ lawsuit will move forward, with a judge ruling that the family of a late Yale University professor may sue the religious order for $1 million.
The family of the late mechanical engineering professor, James Boa-Teh Chu, claims that the Legion of Christ coerced and defrauded the man into leaving his assets to the Legion. This week a federal magistrate judge in Rhode Island gave the go-ahead for the lawsuit to proceed.
The family claims that members of the order convinced their devout father that the founder of the Legion of Christ, the late Rev. Marcial Maciel, was a saint. In reality, the church was investigating allegations of sexual abuse against Maciel and within a few years the Vatican would seize control of the order.
“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 by the Vatican’s investigation,” wrote U.S. Magistrate Judge Patricia Sullivan in her decision.
The religious order had asked a judge to dismiss the Legion of Christ lawsuit, claiming that there was never any pressure to make a contribution and that Paul Chu as executor of his father’s estate did not have standing to sue.
James Boa-Teh Chu joined the order’s lay movement in 1997, and the following year named the legion as sole beneficiary of his annuities, which were worth between $1 million and $2 million when he died. His family claims that he was suffering from dementia in his later years and fell under the spell of the movement.
The Legion of Christ lawsuit is the latest blow against the Catholic order. In 2009, it came to light that the order’s founder had fathered as many as six children, along with allegations of drug abuse and sexual abuse. When the Vatican seized control it admonished him for “very serious and objectively immoral acts.”