Mar 7, 2014

Rhode Island Legionaries to Face Lawsuit

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

A lawsuit against the Rhode Island chapter of the Legion of Christ will proceed. A previous lawsuit, discussed here, here, and here, was dismissed on the basis that the plaintiff lacked legal standing to bring the suit. That case is on appeal. As discussed Mary Lou Dauray's lawsuit inspired reporters to seek and win a treasure trove of documents pertaining to the Legion of Christ. They revealed the organization's long history of concealing its founder's many abuses and its pattern of extracting large sums of money from its devotees.

Enter Paul Chu whose father also willed a sizable donation to the Rhode Island Legion.

A federal judge in Rhode Island has agreed to let a lawsuit move forward against the Roman Catholic religious order the Legion of Christ, turning down an attempt by the disgraced order to end the lawsuit brought over a late Yale University professor's $1 million bequest.

. . .

It's the second lawsuit making its way through the courts in Rhode Island that raises questions about how the Legion secured large donations from elderly supporters. The other is in state court and involves around $60 million left by a wealthy widow. It was dismissed because the judge found the woman's niece did not have standing to sue, but a state Supreme Court appeal is pending.

In the federal lawsuit, Chu, the son of retired mechanical engineering professor James Boa-Teh Chu, says his father was wrongly coerced, defrauded and deceived into signing over $1 million to $2 million to the Legion before he died in 2009. He says his father, who lived in East Providence, R.I., was led to believe the Legion's founder, the late Rev. Marcial Maciel, was a saint, even as the Vatican was investigating serious sexual abuse allegations about him.

Like the late Gabrielle Mee, James Chu had joined Regnum Christi, a sort of lay monastic order that requires the relinquishment of all assets. The membership of Regnum Christi is made up largely of elderly rich people. They are required to take a vow of poverty that ironically adds to the substantial wealth of the Legion of Christ.

A jury trial could be very embarrassing for the Legionaries of Christ, its Rhode Island chapter, and the Vatican, whose favor towards the organization and its late leader figured heavily into the recent findings by the UN.

Meanwhile, the Vatican deflected the criticism by this international panel of experts by seizing on tangential issues to blame the messenger. It is a pattern so predictable, at this point, that these stories pretty much write themselves.

In a recent editorial, the National Catholic Register called on the Church to take the findings seriously and pick up the pace on reform.

Critics have faulted the U.N. report for not keeping its focus on the sexual abuse of minors and instead also criticizing Vatican policies (we would call them teachings) on abortion, birth control, homosexuality and even corporal punishment. Bringing up these issues -- which the committee may not have been able to avoid because of its wider mandate -- made the report too easy to dismiss by the very people it should have roused to action. It also focused too much on the historical record and ignored some recent progress the Vatican has made. Because of this, the report comes off as dated, giving critics more ammunition to dismiss it. A more politically savvy report could have had greater impact. Commentators even on the NCR website called the report poorly done, sloppily executed and an opportunity squandered.

While acknowledging these weaknesses, we should not lose sight of the truth the report contains: When it comes to sex abuse, church officials continue to cloak themselves in secrecy, deceive the faithful and act with impunity.

NCR goes on to list multiple cases which have underscored just how far the Catholic Church has not come in reform and accountability on its sex abuse crisis. The editorial urges Pope Francis to move forward with an alacrity that is still consistently lacking.

In a typically timely manner, the Legionaries of Christ finally got 'round to denouncing their former leader... last month.

The Legionaries of Christ have elected a new leader, and issued a statement apologizing to the victims of the late Father Marcial Maciel and acknowledging that the order was guilty of “excessive exaltation” of its founder.

Father Eduardo Robles Gil, a Mexican priest, was elected director general of the Legionaries by the general chapter of the order, meeting in Rome. His election was confirmed by Archbishop José Rodriguez Carballo, the secretary of the Vatican’s Congregation for Religious.

In a statement released on February 6 along with the announcement of the order’s new leadership, the Legionaries addressed the difficulties that the order has experienced since the revelations that Father Maciel had led a double life. The statement says that “we hope to be able to redeem our painful history and overcome with good the consequences of evil.”

I can't help thinking that relinquishing their claim to millions of dollars bequeathed by people like Mee and Chu would be a good place to start redeeming themselves but it doesn't look like that's going to happen.

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