Outspoken Ex-Priest Sued Over Documents

The Legion of Christ accuses John Paul Lennon of Alexandria of
The Legion of Christ accuses John Paul Lennon of Alexandria of "malicious disinformation." Lennon says the order is trying to silence him. (Richard A. Lipski -- The Washington Post)
By Daniela Deane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 6, 2007

Former priest John Paul Lennon says the Legion of Christ is a dangerous and ultra-secretive cult that still idolizes its founder even though the spiritual leader was sanctioned by the Vatican after years of sexual abuse allegations.

The Legion accuses the Alexandria man of distributing stolen property and "malicious disinformation" about a fast-growing Roman Catholic Church order with tens of thousands of followers worldwide.

The argument is unfolding in Alexandria Circuit Court in a lawsuit the Legion filed last month that seeks to block Lennon, a Legion member for 23 years, from disseminating on a Web site letters and documents it says are the order's private property and intended only for internal use.

Some internal documents chronicle the conservative group's strict rules of conduct, including directives on how a legionary, as the order's members are known, must butter his bread, part his hair or sit in a chair. The documents also include the group's "private vows," which say that members must never criticize the order and must report anyone who does.

Under a recent court order, Lennon must turn over any Legion property by Sept. 14, including documents, computer disks and CDs.

Besides Lennon, the Legion is suing Regain Inc., the corporation that owns http://www.regainnetwork.org, a Web site critical of the Legion. Lennon is its president. Other former Legion members and relatives and friends of former Legion members are involved in the corporation and the Web site, Lennon said.

Lennon, 63, a child and family therapist in Arlington, recently found a lawyer to represent him in the suit, which he said came out of the blue. He said the deep-pocketed order, which he left more than 20 years ago because he had grown disillusioned, is trying to silence former members and teach him a lesson.

"They're also trying to scare anybody else who would dare to share these documents with the public," he said. "It's the Alexandria witch hunt instead of the Salem witch hunt. It's like a 21st-century Inquisition."

Jim Fair, a Chicago-based spokesman for the order, couldn't disagree more.

"Regain has some materials that belong to the Legion and that they are using," he said. "They were not granted use of them, and we'd like them to stop doing that." Attorneys for the order declined to comment.

In the lawsuit, the Legion is also asking for the identities of individuals writing on the Regain site and on a Web discussion board, http://www.exlegionaries.com, that was once affiliated with it. Regain severed ties with the discussion board this year after pressure from the Legion, Lennon said.

Many of the documents at issue are private letters written by the group's founder, the Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado. Some of the letters have been posted on the site and the discussion board.

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