PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — 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.
The Vatican took over the Legion in 2010 after determining that its late founder, the Rev. Marcial Maciel, had sexually molested seminarians and fathered three children by two women.
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.’’
The lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in Rhode Island on Nov. 9, describes the elder Chu as a devout Catholic who made annual donations to the Legion beginning in the 1990s. Paul Chu’s attorney, John J. Flanagan, said his client is as loyal to the Catholic church as his father was.
‘‘He was a very generous man, but he left his entire estate to his son,’’ Flanagan said. ‘‘It should have been Paul Chu who decided what happened to the estate.’’
The Legion, which has facilities in Rhode Island, has been the target of a petition from women once associated with the order and is being sued in Connecticut by a man who says he is Maciel’s son.
The order is also involved in a case in which a woman is contesting the will of her deceased aunt, who left the Legion $60 million. A judge in Rhode Island threw out the challenge because he determined the niece lacked standing. Her attorney plans to appeal.
The Associated Press and other media organizations have asked the judge to unseal documents from that lawsuit. The Legion is seeking to keep those documents under court seal, arguing their public disclosure could taint potential jurors.