UPDATE: Details of case here.
The Legion's effort to block the release of documents related to the Mee lawsuit has failed, and the documents will become avaiable at any moment. Here is the AP story:
Documents related to a disgraced Roman Catholic order called the Legion of Christ were released to the public Friday amid a legal battle over a widow's bequest of $60 million to the organization.
A Rhode Island Superior Court judge said last year that the documents raised a red flag because a steadfastly spiritual elderly woman transferred millions to "clandestinely dubious religious leaders." But they had been kept under seal until The Associated Press, The New York Times, the National Catholic Reporter and The Providence Journal intervened, arguing that they were in the public interest.
Pope Benedict XVI took over the Legion in 2010 after a Vatican investigation determined that its founder, the late Rev. Marcial Maciel, had lived a double life: He sexually molested seminarians and fathered three children by two women. The pope ordered a wholesale reform of the order and named a papal delegate to oversee it.
The will of Gabrielle Mee, who died at age 96 in 2008, is the focus of the lawsuit. Mee's niece, Mary Lou Dauray, had alleged that Mee was defrauded by the Legion and unduly influenced by its priests into giving away her fortune. Her late husband was a onetime director of Fleet National Bank, which has since been absorbed by Bank of America.
Superior Court Judge Michael Silverstein ruled in September that Dauray could not sue, but he noted there was evidence that Mee had been unduly persuaded to change her trusts and will and give the Legion her money. Dauray's lawyer, Bernard Jackvony, said Friday that the documents being released show an orchestrated effort by higher-ups at the Legion to get Mee's money and cover up Maciel's misdeeds.
The Legion says its actions surrounding Mee and her estate were appropriate and honorable. It says it did not exert undue influence over her decision-making, and that the gifts she gave to the order were made of her own free will.
Among the documents being released are depositions given by top-ranking leadership of the Legion, including the Rev. Anthony Bannon, who was once Maciel's deputy, and the Rev. Luis Garza, current head of the Legion's North American operations.
The Legion's argument was that these documents might prejudice a jury in the future, and just such a case is on the horizon.A Connecticut man has sued the Legion of Christ, accusing the disgraced Roman Catholic order of using ‘‘predatory’’ means to persuade his ailing father to hand over hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Paul Chu’s lawsuit alleges that the order used ‘‘undue influence’’ to persuade his father, a retired Yale University engineering professor, to make the Legion the beneficiary of his retirement funds. Paul Chu’s lawsuit seeks the return of the more than $1 million he donated and $10 million in punitive damages.
The suit says James Boa-Teh Chu was in declining health when Legion representatives visited his East Providence home to ‘‘coerce’’ him into changing his retirement beneficiaries. Chu lacked the capacity to make decisions about the distribution of his assets and would not have made the Legion his beneficiary if he knew about allegations facing its founder, the lawsuit said.
The elder Chu, who was born in China in 1924, served on the Brown University faculty before working at Yale. He died in 2009. Paul Chu, of Meriden, Conn., is the executor of his father’s estate.
Legion spokesman Jim Fair denied the allegations in the lawsuit and said the order doesn’t pressures anyone to make a contribution.
‘‘We’re very confident that everything regarding him (Chu) was handled appropriately,’’ Fair said. ‘‘We’re always very concerned with respecting the intent of any of our donors.’’
UPDATE: It is important to clarify something related to Mrs Mee. Consider thist statement:
The disgraced Roman Catholic religious order the Legion of Christ bent its own rules for a wealthy elderly woman while it also isolated her from some relatives, according to newly released court documents, and a lawyer says the moves show the order was intent on becoming the beneficiary of her $60 million fortune.
The Legion counters that widow Gabrielle Mee was independent, strong-willed and happy and was never coerced into anything. The fact she led a less-restrictive life than others in its community shows she freely gave them her money, the Legion argues. Mee died in 2008 at age 96.
This very argument -- that she was given more independence than the other 3gf's -- is not a courtesy that denotes more freedom, but is rather a form of pandering. If a congregation has a rule, it is there for a reason. If women make promises of poverty, chastity, and obedience, then that is how they live their consecration (although, remember this is not real consecration).
If Mrs Mee made those promises, and then kept her own money, her own furniture and clothing, and ate her own food, and lived an independent life, then she was not living according to the statutes of her community. I know that elderly Religious (living in authenticly consecrated communities) often can skip portions of the Office, can have special diets, and a more relaxed life, but that is not what we have here. We have a woman with lots of money who was invited to live as a 3gf while not renouncing her money -- or living any sort of obedience.
That unique way of life was combined with the darker form of control -- namely the isolation from others who could benefit from her singular "independence" (i.e. members of her family). To allow her a chequebook and the ability to spend her money, but not allowing particular visits without minders or other forms of subtle control reveals the true nature of the Legion.
The "independence" she was allowed would not have been offered to any others (meaning women without fortunes) and thus it shows that her money created a particular status that the Legion played for their own ends. I don't fault Mrs Mee in the least, but cannot allow the Legion policy of pandering to a wealthy woman to be interpreted as their good will. Rather, it shows a kind of deviousness that played all ends to the middle. The "middle" with the $60 million fortune at their disposal (while keeping a pious elderly woman happy).
[Bernie] Jackvony said in an interview Saturday that the order's decision to bend the rules for Mee was designed to "gain her favor and keep her under their wing."
"The rules did not apply to her, and when you look at it the reason why is clear: because she had the capability of providing enormous amounts of money on a regular basis," he said.