18 January 2011

Ceding Control of Gateway Academy, Now Legionaries Pulling Out of St. Louis

The Legionaries of Christ are ceding control of Gateway Academy in Wildwood to the remaining, lay members of the Board, reports the Post-Dispatch. Furthermore, Legionary priests and consecrated members will be pulled out from St. Louis and reassigned.

The full story from STLToday, excerpted below, is here.

Call this whole thing a woulda, coulda, shoulda. There is a real need for solid, traditional Catholic schools. There is a real need for solid, traditional Catholic priests. The Legionaries were not quite the real thing. Before the traditional Mass was freed in 2007-- or more exactly, before Archbishop Burke gave real impetus to the growth of the classical Roman Rite in St. Louis beginning in 2004, your average Catholic in the pew didn't have the knowledge or means to access the timeless tradition of the Church. Of course, the traditional Mass existed at St. Agatha's, but it was almost a well-kept secret-- no Archbishop before His Eminence promoted it, and there was no parish or oratory devoted exclusively to the traditional forms of sacraments outside of the SSPX. The Latin Mass Community shared digs with a territorial parish; it simply had the Mass.

All the while, and as is true at all times, people are innately hungry for the truth. And the Legionaries of Christ could have seemed to some well-meaning Catholics raised in the wake of Vatican II to be a sort of tap-root for tradition. They promoted sound doctrine, and had lots of young families devoted to its many programs.

The only problem is that is wasn't what it advertised. I say this with regret, and I feel so badly for those Catholics duped by the Legionaries. And this goes beyond the more obvious problems caused by the founder. There was always something a little, well, off, about the whole thing. There is some truth to the allegation made in the article about the insinuation of the Legion into where normal family bonds should hold sway. It should be a lesson to parents that in this fallen world they cannot ultiomately abdicate their responsibilities to any other persons, no matter how good they seem.

The biggest cause of lament is the precarious nature of the continuation of Gateway Academy. Like I said, a Catholic school that teaches the faith is sorely needed. I hope the lay board can pull it together, but the foundation of the Legionaries may make that impossible. Continuing to have Legionary priests provide spiritual direction isn't the best message to send to prospective parents, perhaps.

From STL Today:

Troubled Legionaries of Christ is leaving area, ceding control of school


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."


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."


"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.


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.


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."


Anonymous said...

Having the Legion continue to provide spiritual direction is exactly the wrong message to send, as you correctly point out. Unfortunately the Legion owns the school property so its hard to keep them out if they want to maintain these ties. This will likely end with the Legion selling the property and a few parents trying to find alternate space in which to run the school. This all sounds so familiar - the same thing happened at Linda Vista, now a closed school.

Anonymous said...

It's amazing to me that so many still have such hate for the Legion of Christ. There are many of us who have had impeccable experiences with the Legion religious, whom we have been in direct contact with for years. Routinely on these sites, we are simply played off as "brain-washed" or just plain dumb. If you don't want spiritual direction from the Legion or don't want to go to one of the schools, they won't hold a gun to your head to give it to you. Last time I checked, the school and the interactions with the Legion religious were all voluntary choices. For those who have decided it is not for them, you have that right. But I am tired of those who foster the hate for different reasons, to please move on with your lives and stop trying to make decisions for all of the rest of us. You all seem to think you know what is best for every Catholic in St. Louis, and I firmly disagree.