PROVIDENCE, R.I. (CN) - The Legionaries of Christ used undue influence to persuade a dying man to leave it $1 million in his will, the late man's son claims in Federal Court.
Paul Chu, of Connecticut, sued the Legion of Christ aka The Legionaries of Christ, several affiliated entities, and Grupo Integer, a Mexican holding company that manages the order's donations. Chu sued individually and as executor of the Estate of James Boa-Teh Chu.
Chu claims that while the Legionaries were soliciting his late father for donations, "the Order was being investigated by the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy in Rome for grave improprieties within the Order."
According to the order's website, "the Legionaries of Christ are a religious Congregation of priests, of pontifical rite, founded in 1941 in Mexico." The congregation includes three bishops, 920 priests and more than 2,000 novices, candidates and seminarians in 22 countries.
The order's leader, Fr. Marcial Maciel, a Mexican priest, made world headlines in 2010 when the order acknowledged that he had committed "reprehensible actions." The Vatican ordered Maciel, who died in 2008, to retire to a life of "prayer and penitence." No criminal charges were filed and the order continued to deny accusations against Maciel until 2009, when a woman accused him of fathering her child. The next year, the order apologized for Maciel's actions, which the Vatican had been investigating, allegedly, since the 1950s.
In his complaint, Chu says that his father, a retired professor of mechanical engineering and devout Roman Catholic, died in November 2009, naming Chu as his only heir.
Chinese-born James Boa-Teh Chu had converted to Catholicism during his marriage, his son says.
"Decedent was an annual charitable contributor to numerous charities over the course of his lifetime," the complaint states. "Decedent made annual contributions to the 'Legionaries of Christ' and related defendants beginning in the 1990s."
Chu says The Legionaries of Christ and affiliated entities solicited donations from his father while he lived in Rhode Island.
"Unbeknownst to decedent, while decedent was being solicited and consecrated as laity to the Legionaries, the Order was being investigated by the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy in Rome for grave improprieties within the Order," the complaint states.
"That investigation determined that the Order's founder had led a 'wasted life,' committed criminal acts and serious immoral behavior, including acts of sexual molestation, financial impropriety, and other deviant behavior repugnant to Catholic teaching and morals.
"The Legionaries pattern of exploitive fund raising activities in the United States has been subject to scrutiny including in the diocese of Baltimore and other areas."
Chu claims that his father would have never made donations or named the order as the beneficiary of his assets had he known about its founder's misconduct.
"During the period 1997 through 2008 and while decedent's health and mental capacity was declining, emissaries of the Legionaries of Christ began to coerce decedent into changing beneficiaries on his TIAA CREFF [retirement accounts] and related accounts, in 2008 so that his most significant asset would pass to defendants," the complaint states.
Chu claims that the order "visited and solicited decedent at his residence in East Providence, through agents and or emissaries of The Legion of Christ, Inc. and solicited decedent in East Providence during his last years while decedent was in declining capacity and in declining health, offering to provide him an attorney to change his will and redirect assets. Said visits were witnessed by family members who were suspicious that the nature of said visits was not to provide pastoral care or spiritual wellness but for the beneficial interest of the Legion of Christ, Inc. and its interrelated entities for its circumspect activities.
"On or about May of 2008, acting under undue influence from the Legionaries, decedent changed beneficiaries on said accounts naming the Legionaries or their related entities as sole beneficiary of his retirement accounts and leaving only a small estate for the benefit of the Estate of James Boa -Teh Chu. Despite direction from the decedent's estate, the Legion of Christ, Inc. converted said funds and failed to report said transactions to the estate of decedent or proper taxing authorities."
Chu says he was unsuccessful in his attempts to recover the money, which exceeds $1 million.
He wants the money returned, and seeks $10 million in punitive damages for undue influence and fraud.
Chu is represented by John Flanagan of Warwick.
Named as defendants are Legion of Christ Inc. aka/dba The Legionaries of Christ, Ocean State Pastoral Center aka/dba The Legion of Christ (RI) Incorporated and/or dba The Legionaries of Christ, Vocation Action Circle Inc. dba The Legionaries of Christ, Overbrook Incorporated dba The Legionaries of Christ, and Grupo Integer dba The Legionaries of Christ.