Disgraced order paying off victims ahead of lawsuits
Seven sexual abuse victims who say they were assaulted at a private New Hampshire school have filed separate lawsuits against the Legionaries of Christ, the Roman Catholic order founded by incestuous pedophile Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado.
The lawsuits, filed earlier this month in Connecticut federal and state courts, allege abuse against boys aged 12 to 15 perpetrated by priests and brothers of the order, some who had not been publicly reported as abusers by the order. The lawsuits also claim students were perpetrating abuse, and that this was known to school officials. All of the victims are known as John Doe in the lawsuits.
The order operated the Immaculate Conception Apostolic School in Center Harbor unit 2015. Legion spokeswoman Gail Gore did not respond to a request for comment on the lawsuits. A source close to the victims told NH Reporter more lawsuits will be filed in the coming days.
Most of the alleged abuse happened in the early 1990s, according to the lawsuits. Former brother, David Consoli, who at one point was scheduled to be ordained as a priest in 2004, is named as an abuser in three of the lawsuits. The order acknowledged last month Consoli and Fr. Oscar Turrian were credibly accused of abuse, after NH Reporter obtained police reports naming them and others not previously disclosed by the order.
Turrian is listed as an alleged abuser by a Center Harbor student in one of the lawsuits, as is Fr. David Steffy. One of the alleged Center Harbor victims claimed he was sexually assaulted by an older student, a situation allegedly encouraged by Steffy. Five of the male plaintiffs filed in the federal court in Connecticut, and one filed in the New Haven Superior Court. The order is headquartered in Connecticut.
There is also another federal lawsuit brought by a woman, who is going by Jane Doe, who said she was abused while in confession with a Legion priest, Fr. Daniel McCallium. The woman was 13 when she attended a private school for girls in Rhode Island, Immaculate Conception Academy. The lawsuits claim that Legion officials knew about the abuse, and did nothing to stop it, but sometimes had the alleged perpetrators moved.
Neither Steffy nor McCallion had previously been outed as abusers by the order. McCallion did not respond to a request for comment. The Legion reported in 2019 that Steffy was being assigned to a post in Jerusalem. At that time he was a priest in good standing with the order. NH Reporter could not find contact information for Consoli. According to the lawsuits he is currently living in Massachusetts.
The Legionaries first acknowledged the abusers in its ranks in 2019, almost 10 years after the Vatican denounced Maciel and took temporary control of the order. The Legion only listed four credibly accused members in all of North America, with two being stationed at the Center Harbor school; Francisco Cardona and Fernando Cutanda both allegedly abused students at the Immaculate Conception Apostolic School, according to the Legionaries report. Both men would end up being ordained by the order, though Cutanda has since been laicized. Cardona has since died.
Sources tell NH Reporter that the order has been using the process of reporting on itself to identify victims of abuse, and offer payments in exchange for silence. Center Harbor Police Chief Mark Chase has said several victims stopped talking to him after receiving payments.
An attorney who has helped Legion victims told NH Reporter that the victims are required to sign an agreement before getting the money. The lawyer said the Legion was misleading victims by telling them that their legal claims were timed out, and then it offered them each up to $10,000 in exchange for signing the agreement.
“(A) release of claims that is so broadly drafted that it would include anything the Legion would do to them in the future, such as running them over with a car,” the attorney said.
The attorney representing the alleged victims, Patrick Tomasiewicz of Hartford, did not respond to a request for comment.
The Center Harbor school on Dane Road, with views of Lake Winnipesaukee, is currently for sale with an estimated value of $8.9 million. The Legion bought the campus in the 1980s from the La Salette order, which had operated the campus as a seminary.
In 2017, a former student filed a federal lawsuit against the Legion for the rape he allegedly suffered from Cutanda. The lawsuit states that the alleged victim told a Legion of Christ priest, identified in the lawsuit as Fr. O’Carroll, what had been happening after feeling guilt and shame. O’Carroll, whom the legal documents describe as “in charge of I.C.A.S. at the time,” allegedly told the boy to say five rosaries “for his sins” and told him “God will take care of things.”
Fr. Fergus O’Carroll had been the head of the school during the timeframe mentioned in the lawsuit. The Legion settled with that victim in October of 2018.
The Legion of Christ was founded by Maciel in 1949, and it became a fundraising powerhouse in the Catholic Church. Maciel used the money to help shield himself from consequences, and he required that Legion priests take secret vows to never disclose what they saw in the order to anyone outside the Legion.
Maciel now notorious behavior reportedly included drug addiction, fathering several children with at least three different women, the sexual abuse of his own children and others.
In 2019, the Vatican released a statement on Maciel’s crimes.
“The very grave and objectively immoral actions of Father Maciel, confirmed by incontrovertible testimonies, in some cases constitute real crimes and manifest a life devoid of scruples and authentic religious meaning.”
The 2019 report released by the Legion found that 175 minors were abused by 33 Legionaries priests world-wide. That figure includes 60 victims attributed solely to Maciel.
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