Investigation into the Legionaries of Christ - Part 1

Investigation into charges of abuse by priests in a world wide Catholic order with a U.S. base right here in Connecticut. The Legionaries of Christ have a seminary in Cheshire.

Cheshire-WTNH/May 13, 2002
By Alan Cohn

See Part 2 of this Story

The Legionaries of Christ are a international order of some 500 priests and 2,500 seminarians. Pope John Paul II has often expressed his affection for the legion and it's founder, but as you're about to see life inside the Legion has now led some to come forward with charges of abuse.

Surrounded by lush green woods and rolling hills, the Legionaries of Christ live in the relative seclusion of their Cheshire seminary. But the Legion's mission, their leaders say, is very public.

"To penetrate all walks of life with the transforming message of the gospel."

There is, however, a growing chorus of dissent from within the ranks of the Legion, shattering a traditional code of silence to the outside world.

And now for the first time those dissenters are going on television with allegations of physical abuse, and claims of an existence so structured it amounted to what they call "brain washing."

Jacob Beckley joined the Legion of Christ when he was 11.

"If you leave you will be, in not so many words, damned to hell," says Beckley.

Todd Carpunky was 18 when he claims a plea for medical attention was ignored.

"I was told I was being weak. And I was told to offer it up to God," says Carpunky.

Paul Lennon was a priest in the Legion for 15-years.

"I think the problem is the methods the Legion uses which are inhuman," says Lennon.

A former priest and two former seminarians meet each other for the first time to talk about their personal ordeals.

Each joined the legion at a young age and as members of a religious order claim they were told when to sleep, and how to eat, but they say the Legion's control over them went even further. Every phone call was monitored. Every incoming or out going letter was screened.

Father Owen Kearns says,"All incoming and outgoing mail, yes it's known to our superiors."

But when these men decided they wanted to leave.

"I was told I couldn't leave. Although I knew literally I could walk out the door and walk down the street and leave. I had a vocation they told me souls are depending on me."

Father Kearns says,"We would not be able to achieve our mission if we had a bunch of mind control robots who are scared of being damned if they want to leave."

Legion officials have a far different view and they gave us a rare peak inside their Cheshire seminary where we saw seminarians learning, praying, even playing.

But, it's what you don't see former members say that haunts them still.

Like, Todd Carpunky says, what happened to him during the summer of 1993 when he began experiencing severe back pain.

"Did you go to the doctor?" asks Alan Cohn.

"No. I couldn't. I asked to," says Carpunky.

Carpunky says he asked more than a dozen times over a two and a half month period. It was only after he turned yellow that he says he was taken to the hospital and had to have his gall bladder removed.

"I had gone so long with my gall bladder in that state my liver had also become infected from my infected gall bladder so they had to have a tube inserted it went down to my liver to drain the infection fluid," says Carpunky.

The response from one of the Legion officials that Carpunky claims he appealed to says it never happened.

"Do you have any record of him having," says Alan Cohn.

"No," says Rev. Anthony Bailleres

"Kidney problems, gall bladder problem, liver," says Alan Cohn.

"No." says Rev. Anthony Bailleres.

"He says again these are his words that you specifically you told him that he needed to be stronger and offer it up to God and to take a swim," says Alan Cohn.

"No. I don't think so," says Rev. Anthony Bailleres

But medical records we've obtained from St. Mary's Hospital in Waterbury show Carpunky was treated for a gall bladder and liver ailment in 1993.

Legion officials later acknowledged they paid for the surgery and say they didn't get medical help for him earlier because they thought he was a hypochondriac.

"I would describe it as emotional abuse in the case of Todd that's horrific he could have died," says Poletunow.

We asked Dick Poletunow, a family therapist who works with the Catholic Church in Connecticut, to talk with these men and give us his perspective..

"What are we talking about here?" asks Alan.

"Pretty outrageous behavior that lacks basic human, lacks in common sense but also simultaneously establishes controls and conformity," says Poletunow.

And to a man, these former Legionaries say their motivation for talking now is simply to let the public know.

"I just feel they have a lot of control over me still after seven years of being out."

After our interview, the Legionaries have continued to clarify their account of the medical care of Todd Carpunky. Through a public relations firm, they insist that medical treatment is never delayed or denied to any of its seminarians.

Tuesday night at 11 p.m., our investigation continues with former members of the order making charges of sexual abuse.

The Legion of Christ has issued an official response to News Channel 8 about this report.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.