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The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Statement
For immediate release: Monday, April 12, 2010
Legionaries exit Orange, CT; sex abuse victims respond
Statement by Barbara Dorris, Outreach Director of SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314-503-0003)
The Legion is a secretive, cult-like organization with a very troubling history of recklessness and deceit with child sex crimes and questionable fundraising. Historically, Legion officials have often exaggerated the size of their membership and seminary enrollment, so this 'cut back' doesn't surprise us.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world's oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We've been around for 22 years and have more than 9,000 members across the country. Despite the word "priest" in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
Contact David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, 314-645-5915 home), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747), Peter Isely (414-429-7259), Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688 home, 314-503-0003 cell)
Legionaries exit Orange; property on the market
New Haven Register, April 12, 2010 - By Brian McCready, Milford Bureau Chief
ORANGE — The one-time U.S. headquarters for the Legionaries of Christ, a conservative order of the Catholic Church that has come under fire after its founder had fathered a child and allegedly molested seminarians, has been vacated and is on the market, town leaders confirmed.
Town Plan and Zoning Enforcement Officer Paul Dinice said he recalls at one time 20 people living at the site, but over the years, the average was around 10 students. He said people were still living there less than a year ago.
“It’s a very nice piece of property. It has paved trails and a pond,” Dinice said. “It may not be ideal for a development proposal, but it’s aesthetically pleasing.”
The Legionaries of Christ was founded by the Rev. Marcial Maciel of Mexico, who has been criticized for fathering a daughter and allegedly sexually abusing seminarians. Those allegations against Maciel began to circulate in the mid-1990s, but did not result in any definitive findings. The initial investigation was headed by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, and by the time he became Pope Benedict XVI, new allegations were lodged against Maciel, who was forced to retire. He died in 2008.
In 2009, the pope ordered an investigation into the Legionaries of Christ, which is still pending. One of Maciel’s accusers in the 1990s was Juan Jose Vaca, who was superior of the Legion of Christ in Orange in the mid-1970s. As a 65-year-old college professor in 2002, Vaca told ABC News he was one of about 30 boys abused by Macial during his studies at the Legion in Rome many years before.
Dinice said the 10-acre Orange parcel is on the market, as a “for sale” sign is located at the front of the 393 Derby Avenue property.
There are four residential buildings on the site, used as dormitories and a school for seminarians who wanted to enter the priesthood.
Dinice said his office has received a number of phone calls from people interested in the property. The land is zoned residential and could accommodate about a handful of single-family homes. Each lot must be situated on at least 1 1/2 acres of land. A Legionaries of Christ spokesperson could not be reached for comment.
According to the Legionaries of Christ Web site, the order’s first home was in the Milford borough of Woodmont in 1965. The order relocated to Orange in 1971, and a few priests from that seminary began to spread into large cities including New York, Washington and Los Angeles in the 1970s and 1980s. Currently, the Legionaries of Christ has 800 priests and 2,600 seminarians worldwide.
The Legionaries operate 120 seminaries, universities, schools and Catholic newspapers. The group was formed in 1941 and rose to prominence within the Roman Catholic Church. The order was known for its strict discipline, but was a favorite of Pope John Paul II because of its ability to recruit priests at a time when numbers were waning. People have criticized the Legionaries of Christ for its secrecy vows including a prohibition on criticizing superiors.
Dinice, who has been employed by the town for 30 years, said he visited the monastery about five times and found the occupants to be “very quiet.”
Economic Development Corp. Executive Director Paul Grimmer said the property has been on and off the market for years, and is once again for sale. Grimmer said because the property is strictly residential, the corporation will not play an active role in its future development. He said the site served as a monastery for years but has been dormant recently.
Former First Selectman Mitch Goldblatt, who is still a selectman, said he has limited knowledge of the site except the land is for sale and was known to be a residential place for priests.
Goldblatt said when he was first selectman, he remembers going to the site because the priests had not received a permit to construct a bridge over a pond.
He said the exchange was pleasant, and that was his only trip there. Goldblatt said the site is set back from the road and is located off Route 34 and Racebrook Road.
“It was a nice piece of property, but it’s hilly,” Goldblatt said.
Contact Brian McCready at 203-789-5719.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests