from Marie Consulaire, a teacher
Someone remarked recently that the Legion of Christ is nothing but a massive propaganda machine. Impressive websites and multiplicity of Legionary “front organizations” are contradicted by the reality beyond the well-polished image. This is as true of the National Consultants for Education (NCE) as any of the other Legionary “front organizations” (see the updated list published elsewhere on the Regain website).
In a recent letter from NCE to an inquirer seeking information about the Legionary/Regnum Christi schools, the NCE writes: “You can find National Consultants for Education at http://nceducation.org. If you go to the link labeled ‘schools’ you will see the location of each of our schools throughout the country.”
Clicking on the site, I was definitely impressed! What a very sophisticated, upbeat, and inviting site (and, of course, linked directly to the Legion of Christ website). The NCE site claims that there are nineteen schools in various locations. I’d heard that another person who contacted the NCE director, Eduardo Grandio, was told that there were 20 LC schools in North America, where, in their own words: “NCE is working with a growing number of schools to implement our educational method.”
The visitor to the site is invited either to click on each city to contact the school directly, or to contact the central office of NCE at http://www.nceducation.org. I moved the mouse to open the school site in St. Louis, but it would not connect, nor open. I clicked on the schools in Chicago, then down south in San Antonio and Naples; no entrance there, either. Then the school in Calgary, Canada, but no go. Baltimore? No, nay, never. I tried them all and found that of the 18 sites (yes, 18, not 19 or 20), there were only five schools that could be accessed: Dallas (The Highlands School), Atlanta (Pine Crest Academy), Detroit (Everest Academy), Edgerton (Wisconsin), and Warwick (Rhode Island). The number went down to three schools if the schools at Edgerton and Warwick were removed, for these are not open to the neighborhood Catholic public, but are boarding schools for wealthy Mexican boys (Edgerton) and for girls (Warwick) who were being groomed to enter “consecrated” life (n.b., According a Church canon lawyer, the “consecrated ladies” of the Regnum Christi have no canonical protection, unlike women in other, authentic religious orders within the Catholic Church).
Regain has heard from those who have been employed at these three Legionary schools (Atlanta, Detroit, Dallas), or had children attending there, that each school has a consistent pattern of very serious, unaddressed problems — and of administrative denial and cover-up of these problems.
For instance at The Highlands, which was intended to be the Legion’s “pilot school” in the USA. But from its beginning in 1986 as a tiny homeschool outgrowth, and especially for the past twelve years, it has had a shameful and tumultuous record. There has been a pattern of initial enrollment build-up, then subsequent loss of half of these families; this pattern of building up, then massive loss, seems to repeat itself every two or three years. Further, there is a very high attrition of teachers every year (90% of the faculty was lost four years ago). Each time this happens, the Legionary administrators claim to a new crop of parents and young teachers that: “This time we’re over our growing pains and won’t make the same mistakes, again.” Yet each time the same mistakes are repeated, despite the promises. There is high turn over of enrolled families, and each new crop of young Catholic teachers are, in their turn, bitterly disappointed with the lack of discipline and faculty backup, with the preferential treatment of the wealthy (especially wealthy Mexicans), with the overall lack of consistency of curriculum. These disappointments make the sacrifice they as teachers have made for their very low salaries to be not worth it.
This year (2003-2004), with enrollment up again for the opening of school, The Highlands School has lost a large percentage of their best families at the end of the first semester because of several cumulative events topped by at least one very serious incident. A gang of older Highlands boys began to do regular group masturbating in the locker room; they attacked/taunted those boys who did not participate, especially the younger boys. This same gang is reported to have attacked a third grade brother of one of their class who reported the perverse activity to school authorities. The third-grader was stabbed by a sharp pencil which penetrated so deeply into his back that its point had to be removed by surgery. When confronted by angry parents the school authorities down-played the stabbing (only a pencil!) and denied that the masturbatory incidents were happening or had ever taken place. There was no disciplinary action taken at all, for either matter.
A few years earlier, an equally bad gang of high school boys at The Highlands regularly took off their uniform pants, stripping down to their briefs, when their shy, young female teacher entered the afternoon classroom. Again, there was total denial and no disciplinary action taken against the boys, who claimed that they were “only changing into soccer shorts.” Nothing was done to stop this on-going harassment until some of the male teachers came to her defense; they took turns teaching their colleague’s class class. She — and the other teachers — have since left Highlands; the bad boys graduated. This website promised a very different kind of moral life and culture.
Not only The Highlands School in Dallas, but also the schools in Atlanta and Detroit are very impressive on the website, too, but have also been rocked with serious incidents and similar administrative cover-up. Incidentally, these three schools are the only true Legionary schools in existence. A “Legionary school” has a Legionary priest in residence. Simply that. All the other schools which the Legion may claim are Regnum Christi schools, that is, they are run under the Legion of Christ “directives” — and the tri-fold “pay, pray, and obey” is joined by one more – “never, ever cross-talk” (gossip) about what happens at the school. Why are these other fourteen or fifteen schools not to be reached by the NCE website? Are they either so tiny as have no regular buildings? Or is it that the schools are a P. R. nightmare — so troubled by internal crisis that cannot be covered up that NCE does not want anyone contacting the schools directly? Yet, the NCE claims that it is creating a unified curriculum for all of the schools, both Legionary and Regnum Christi.
The question is: why does the Legion want to run these schools, anyway? Those who have been formerly connected with the Legion and the running of the schools, whether Legionary schools or Regnum Christi schools, have an explanation. They claim that these schools are the main “birdfeeders” for the apostolic school or the seminary. However, even with a growing number of schools, the numbers of Legionary seminarians has dropped drastically over the past few years. (A misleading recent fund-raising letter from the Legion, claims 400 North American seminarians who need heat for the Winter; this 400 must surely include ALL Legionary seminarians, at all levels of formation, as the number of American novices entering the Legion this year could be counted on both hands! Just who is being included in the 400 that the fund raising letter numbers among their men? Does anyone know for sure?)
There may be a more pressing reason for promoting these schools, however: image laundering.
Perhaps, more accurately, the effort is not so much “image laundering” as “pre-event damage control.” What event? The publication of the upcoming book by Jason Berry and Gerald Renner, The Vows of Silence, that tells the truth about the Legion of Christ and its founder — the abuse of power in and by the Legion and the sexual scandal cover-up.
The propaganda of the National Consultants for Education is as impressive as their name. But behind the “name” is the disappointing reality. And the last thing any of us needs in this day and age is any more disappointment, especially by the Church or even by those who masquerade as the (false) “hope of the Church.”
Pity, then, the families that entrust their children to these LC/RC schools of dubious good-effect, especially those families who were the founders of the little schools before the Legion moved in “to help.” And pity the young teachers who go starry-eyed with the mission of Catholic education, and then are so disappointed with the betrayal of their own hopes and of the authentically Catholic families who are too poor to pay the sky-high tuition (surprise!).
And we should save some pity, too, even for those hard-working and sincere young people at the NCE, who trust the Legion and their claim that they are “transforming society through education.” It is all so sad and bizarre. But as many of us have come to realize, the Legion’s big picture is created and driven by one of the most effective propaganda efforts imaginable.