A talk at an August retreat by a member of a controversial Catholic group set off so much concern among parents of children attending St. Paul’s Pauline Memorial Catholic School in Colorado Springs that a meeting was called this month to quell fears.
Based on the talk by a Legionaries of Christ member, parents worried that teachings of the order would infiltrate St. Paul Church and its school, Msgr. Robert Jaeger, who leads the church and school and helped organize the retreat, said Monday.
On Oct. 14 Jaeger, Bishop Michael Sheridan and Stephanie Burke, principal of Pauline Memorial, led a meeting at St. Paul attended by about 70 parents, Jaeger said. The meeting was designed to assure that no aspect of the order was coming to the church or school.
But many in attendance were not entirely convinced, Jaeger said.
“We had an open forum that got out of hand,” he said. “There were genuine concerns caught up in mass hysteria.”
Legionaries of Christ is a religious order composed of tens of thousands of Catholics worldwide who make vows of chastity, poverty and obedience. Though lauded by Pope John Paul II, the order has been embroiled in controversy in recent years, sparking a Vatican investigation. In May, the Vatican said the order would be overhauled.
The order was founded in 1941 in Mexico by the Rev. Marciel Maciel. It currently operates in the United States, Mexico, Spain and other countries.
After Maciel’s death in 2008, the order revealed that Maciel had fathered three children and that there had been sexual abuse allegations against him during his decades of leadership. In 2006, the Vatican removed Maciel from his leadership role, and Maciel spent the remainder of his life in repentance and prayer, according to the Vatican.
In September, several women who belonged to its lay wing, Regnum Christi, told the Associated Press of cult-like practices, such as being cut off from family, that their daily schedule was detailed down to the minute and that dissent was suppressed.
Jaeger said certain aspects of the Legionaries are noble, such as members’ dedication to live in obedience to Christ and help the needy. ”You don’t disregard a whole community because of a few who misrepresented it,” he said.
But Jaeger says no ideas of the order will be put in place within the Catholic Diocese of Colorado Springs.
“No Legionary (ideas) are in our diocese,” he said. ”We are not Legionary schools.”
No future meeting is scheduled at St. Paul’s to discuss the matter, Jaeger said.