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Records of disgraced Catholic order Legion of Christ detail dubious fundraising practices

FILE - In this Nov. 30, 2004 file photo, Pope John Paul II gives his blessing to father Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legion of Christ, during a special audience at the Vatican. Pope Benedict XVI took over the Legion in 2010 after a Vatican investigation determined that Maciel had sexually molested seminarians and fathered three children by two women. Following a decision Thursday Feb. 14, 2013, by the Rhode Island Supreme Court, documents have been unsealed related to a lawsuit contesting the will of Gabrielle Mee, who left $60 million to the Legion. (AP Photo/Plinio Lepri, File)

FILE - In this Nov. 30, 2004 file photo, Pope John Paul II gives his blessing to father Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legion of Christ, during a special audience at the Vatican. Pope Benedict XVI took over the Legion in 2010 after a Vatican investigation determined that Maciel had sexually molested seminarians and fathered three children by two women. Following a decision Thursday Feb. 14, 2013, by the Rhode Island Supreme Court, documents have been unsealed related to a lawsuit contesting the will of Gabrielle Mee, who left $60 million to the Legion. (AP Photo/Plinio Lepri, File)  (The Associated Press)

Documents detailing the dubious fundraising practices of a disgraced Roman Catholic religious order called the Legion of Christ detail how the organization took control of a widow's finances and persuaded her to bequeath it $60 million.

The records released Friday in Rhode Island includes the first-ever depositions of high-ranking Legion officials. They shed light on the inner workings of a secretive congregation placed under Vatican receivership after the Holy See determined that its founder was a spiritual fraud who sexually abused his seminarians and fathered three children with two women.

The documents had been kept under seal until The Associated Press, The New York Times, the National Catholic Reporter and The Providence Journal intervened, arguing that they were in the public interest.

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Winfield reported from Rome.