The family of a Yale professor who left more than $1 million to the Legion of Christ Roman Catholic order has the standing to pursue a lawsuit accusing the order’s members, as the order used coercion and fraudulent tactics for the bequest, a magistrate judge not presiding over the case said last week.
James Boa-The Chu, a Yale University professor, died in 2009 after changing his will to sign annuities worth $1 million to $2 million over to the order, the Associated Press reported.
His son, Paul Chu, sued in 2012, saying his father was misled and coerced into signing over his assets.
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Although U.S. District Judge Ronald Lagueux will make the decision in this case, U.S. Magistrate Judge Patricia Sullivan said in paperwork last week that Chu has a standing and the court should allow the lawsuit to go forward.
In the lawsuit, Chu said members of Legion of Christ convinced his father to believe that the order’s founder, the late Rev. Marcial Maciel, was a saint. Chu said this occurred at the same time the members had knowledge that Maciel was being investigated for sex abuse, according to the AP.
The order was taken over by the Vatican in 2010.
According to court documents, James Boa-The Chu, who stopped teaching in 2003 and subsequently was treated for dementia, had a “deep regard for the sanctity of Father Maciel,” and that was a primary factor in his bequest.
The Chu family is not the first to sue the Legion of Christ over their fundraising tactics. The National Catholic Register reported that another case against the Legionaries of Christ, alleging improper fundraising, was dismissed in 2012 because the family of Gabrielle Mee lacked the legal standing to sue, a judge ruled. However, the case raised questions about the Catholic order.
“The transfer of millions of dollars worth of assets — through will, trust, and gifts — from a steadfastly spiritual, elderly woman to her trusted but clandestinely dubious spiritual leaders raises a red flag to this court,” Superior Court Judge Michael Silverstein said.
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