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Friday, 04 June 2010 01:33

Parents Raise Concerns At School Run By Troubled Order

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By Tim Townsend
Religion News Service
First Posted: 06- 1-10 08:21 PM

CHESTERFIELD, Mo. (RNS) A group of parents from a school run by a troubled Catholic order says the school coerces their children spiritually and undermines their parental authority--concerns they are bringing to the archbishop of St. Louis.

The concerns of Gateway Academy parents come in the wake of a Vatican move to overhaul the order, the Legionaries of Christ, after its now-deceased founder was accused of sexual abuse and fathering children out of wedlock.

Some Gateway parents are bringing attention to what they say is manipulation of their children, with the goal of funneling students into the Legion's priestly and consecrated life.

"Once they've got your kid, they own your kid," said John Gouveia of west St. Louis County, who sent two children to Gateway. "Their standard MO is to supersede the authority of the family."

Steve Notestine, a Gateway board member and parent of former Gateway students, is a member of the Legionaries' affiliated lay order, Regnum Christi, and said he had not seen the behavior the parents are alarmed about.

"Gateway is always interested in accommodating the role of the parents, because the parents are primarily responsible for the formation of their child, and Gateway just assists," he said.

Parents' concerns come in the wake of a May 1 report from the Vatican that said the Legion required an overhaul after revelations of child abuse by the order's founder, the late Rev. Marcial Maciel.

Gateway parents do not allege any sexual misdeeds at the school. But they say the school's officials, including Legion priests, regularly single out children who are susceptible to the Legion's message for advancement and rewards--positions on the student council, altar boy duty for a special Mass, or exclusive meals with Legion priests.

They say the Legion's intent is to replace the child's loyalty to his parents with a loyalty to the Legion and its founder. Any parents who question their son's loyalty to the Legion are suspect, they said.

Stacey White had two young sons at Gateway until 2008. She and her husband were uncomfortable with some of the one-on-one spiritual direction Legion officials gave Gateway students. When the Whites told the school they didn't want their son to go on a school retreat, school officials began asking the fourth-grader for reasons, she said.

"One of the (religious) brothers would ask him, 'Why aren't you going on the retreat? What's more important?"' White said. "Then he'd come home and ask us that question. It was disturbing."

Parents said Legion priests used guilt and the threat of banishment to hell if older boys resist a call to priesthood.

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