Founder of Legion school dead
The founder of the Immaculate Conception Apostolic School in Center Harbor, operated by the disgraced Roman Catholic order the Legionaries of Christ, died earlier this month, according to the order.
Fr. Anthony Bannon, a key figure in the order started by notorious pedophile Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado, was head of the order’s North American branch, and was deeply involved in crafting the constitution for the order, and dealing with the finances. He reportedly died on Aug. 5, and he was last stationed in Mexico by the order.
According to the Irish Times, Bannon helped Maciel deal with offshore accounts for the order. The Legion is believed to have a at least $1 billion in assets, according to the Irish Times.
The Center Harbor school on Dane Road is the alleged location where numerous boys were sexually abused by Legion staff, according to several lawsuits filed against the order. NH Reporter learned of at least one allegation of abuse at Center Harbor that Bannon became aware of in which the accused priest moved.
Bannon was subject of a 1990s Rhode Island lawsuit in which he was accused of defrauding a wealthy widow, essentially lying about the Maciel and the order to get her to leave the Legion $60 million in her will, according to reports. The family contested the will, though they failed in court, and the Legion kept the money.
Former Legion member J. Paul Lennon, said the survivors of Legion abuse hold Bannon in a dim light.
"He was a faithful follower of Fr. Maciel and did his bidding, mostly in the USA where he was superior for many years. He spent his time fundraising, recruiting and 'training' young Legionaries. He embodied some of Maciel's characteristics such as ruthlessness and the end justifies the means," Lennon said. "In my personal experience i found him to be a very proud, cruel and heartless person. May the Good Lord treat him with more kindness than he showed to others."
The Legion bought the Center Harbor campus, with views of Lake Winnipesaukee, in the 1980s from the La Salette order, which had operated the campus as a seminary. The school was shut down in 2015, and the property is currently for sale with an estimated value of $8.9 million.
Sources have told NH Reporter that the order has been reaching out to victims of abuse and offering cash settlements in exchange for silence. Center Harbor Police Chief Mark Chase has said victims have come forward to report abuse only to stop cooperating after a payment is made.
The Legion was founded by Mexican-born 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’s 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 2010, the Vatican issued a statement on Maciel’s crimes after conducting its own investigation.
“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.”
On the Legion website, the order asks for donations for in lieu of flowers.
Legion School in Center harbor
Photo by Damien Fisher