The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Statement
For immediate release: Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Controversial Catholic group leaves St. Louis, SNAP responds
Statement by Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, Outreach Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 862 7688 home, 314 503 0003 cell, [email protected])
We are thrilled the Legion of Christ is leaving St. Louis. It’s a dangerous cult founded by a serial child molester and staffed by rigid, authoritarian and secretive clerics.
In recent years, we have heard reports from some parents of current and former Gateway Academy students of highly questionable actions by some Legion and school staff. We urge those parents, and anyone else with information, to report any suspected misdeeds to law enforcement.
(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 10,000 members. 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, [email protected]), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747, [email protected]), Peter Isely (414-429-7259, [email protected]), Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688 home, 314-503-0003 cell, [email protected])
Troubled Legionaries of Christ is leaving area, ceding control of school
BY TIM TOWNSEND | [email protected], 314-340-8221 www.STLtoday.com | No Comments Posted | Posted: Tuesday, January 18, 2011 12:10 am
A troubled Catholic order, the Legionaries of Christ, has handed over control of Gateway Academy in Chesterfield to a lay board and will move its clergy out of St. Louis.
The moves are part of a larger reorganization intended to help the order survive a storm of controversy over its founder and a debilitating economic climate. They also raise the question of whether Gateway Academy can remain classified as a Catholic institution, said St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson.
Last spring, Pope Benedict XVI ordered an overhaul of the Legion after revelations of child abuse by the order's founder, the late Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado.
Also last year, parents and former school officials of Gateway met with Carlson to voice complaints that school leaders, including Legion priests, undermined parental authority. Those complaining to the archbishop included the daughter of one of the school's founders and a former executive director of the school. There were no allegations of sexual misdeeds.
The order recently said it was transferring control of the school's operations to the four lay members of the board, according to a memo written by Scott Brown, director of operations for the Legion's Atlanta territory.
"Legionaries will no longer hold positions on the Board of Directors," Brown wrote. "Additionally, it will be announced that, unfortunately, the Legionary and Consecrated residences in St. Louis will be closed and that the Legionary and Consecrated members will be reassigned to other communities at the end of the school year."
Brown wrote that the order would send its clergy to Gateway "on a semi-monthly basis" for spiritual guidance and would allow the lay board to use the school facilities next year free of rent.
In an interview with the Post-Dispatch Monday, Carlson said while he wanted to be supportive of Gateway parents, he would wait to see what the school looks like after the Legion's departure before declaring it Catholic.
"It's premature now to say whether we'll work with them or not work with them, whether they're a Catholic school ... or something else," Carlson said.
According to a Gateway lay board member, Steve Notestine, parents pledged at a meeting last week to stick with the school despite the departure of the founding order.
"The vast majority of parents indicated they'd like to continue to send their children to Gateway even with a reduced interface," Notestine said. "On the basis of that, we've indicated we'll be open next year for school."
Notestine would not reveal how many parents have pledged to keep their children at Gateway through the next school year but said the parents of the 153 students that remain are enthusiastic about continuing. The school plans to still use the Legion methodology and curriculum.
Notestine said the Legion has large communities in Detroit, Atlanta and Dallas, and that it was likely the clergy recalled from St. Louis would move to one of those communities. He said Legion schools in those cities will likely remain open.
Jim Fair, a spokesman for the Legion, said there are 10 schools nationwide with a direct Legion affiliation. "Several of those," Fair said, would undergo restructuring similar to Gateway's and will now be called Legion "client schools."
"The Legion has invested, over time, a huge sum of money in Gateway to cover operating expenses, and in the current financial climate, we can't do that anymore," Fair said.
He said it was possible the order would sell the Chesterfield property, on Wild Horse Creek Road, in the future.
"We're hoping that local lay people will be able to make a go of it, and we'll do what we can to make that easy for them," he said. "But at some point, if there's not sufficient interest to hold school together, we'll have to look at selling the property."
The lay arm of the Legion, called Regnum Christi, ran Gateway from its founding in 1992 until the Legion itself took control in 2005. In 2009, though, the Legion closed the high school because it could not enroll enough students. Enrollment at the school — now pre-K through eighth grade — has continued to dwindle.
Maciel formed the Legionaries of Christ in Mexico in 1941. Today, the order claims 650 priests and 2,500 seminarians in more than 20 countries and says it operates 162 schools and 15 universities around the world.
In 2006, Pope Benedict XVI banished Maciel to a "reserved life of penance and prayer." Later, Vatican officials acknowledged that Maciel had fathered at least one child and molested dozens of seminarians. He died in 2008 at age 87.
The pope ordered an investigation of the Legion in 2009. The resulting report said Maciel's behavior "has had serious consequences for the life and structure of the Legion," and Benedict assigned an outside delegate to take control of the order, examine its constitution and redefine its structure. That examination led to the restructuring affecting Gateway.
Molly Callahan, whose father, Jim Bick, helped found Gateway in 1992 by contributing $2.3 million, sent her children to the school but became disenchanted with the Legion's priorities. She said the Legion was less concerned about education and more about fundraising and identifying future priests among the students.
Some parents said the order's priests singled out children who seemed susceptible to the Legion's message for advancement and rewards, with the intention of replacing the child's loyalty to parents with a loyalty to the Legion. Leaders with the Legion denied the accusations. Carlson at the time told the parents he would monitor the situation.
Callahan said news that Legion priests will leave St. Louis was "bittersweet."
"The whole thing was sort of a failure," she said of Gateway. "I'm looking at this more as prayers answered, not a battle won. ...They've done a lot of damage. And now they're leaving."
Copyright 2011 www.STLtoday.com.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests