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Some Critical of Cheshire Order (Record -Journal, Connecticut)

September 18, 2004

By Sloan Brewster, Record - Journal staff,

Regain Editor

In order to avoid misunderstandings:
The campus minister mentioned did NOT personally draft or send the letter. That was crafted and sent to parents by the school administration, together with their children's year end report cards. See our corresponding DIOCESAN OFFICIALS... posting.

CHESHIRE The Legion of Christ, a Roman Catholic congregation of priests whose only U.S. seminary is in Cheshire, is receiving criticism from some Roman Catholic dioceses.

Last year, the Rev. Tom Eldringhoff, campus minister of the Catholic School of Baton Rouge, La., sent a letter warning parents about questionable methods he said the Legion uses in recruiting future priests.

Some people who believe the group uses such techniques as brainwashing and is a cult or sect within the Catholic church have joined a group called ReGAIN, whose mission is in part to outreach, unite and support those touched or adversely affected by the Legion of Christ and the Regnum Christi. Regnum Christi is a movement of Roman Catholic laypeople founded by the Rev. Marcial Maciel, who also founded the legion.

Some have said their sons are not allowed to contact them and are not allowed to leave the seminary.

They are the organized opposition, said Jay Dunlap, communications director for the legion and Regnum Christi. He added that they make a lot of crazy allegations.

The Cheshire novitiate, the legion's official term for the seminary, is a wide open place with wide open doors, Dunlap said. Nobody is held there against their will.

The Archdiocese of Hartford does not share concerns dioceses in other states have, said the Rev. Thomas Ginty. It has not received any complaints in his 10-year tenure as chancellor, Ginty said.

They're very well respected and they're an asset to the diocese, Ginty said. Never a complaint. I can't speak highly enough of them.

The Legion has several other novitiates in other countries, including Canada, Mexico, Spain and South America.

In the letter, Eldringhoff writes that the legion and Regnum Christi use secretive methods to get recruits. He wrote that the groups do such things as target very young students, invite them on out-of-town or out-of-state trips that separate children from parents and limit family contact.

The letter was prompted by an account three students gave Eldringhoff after attending a trip to Los Angeles for a pre-release screening of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. The three boys who went were invited by a graduate of the school and were under the impression that it was school-sponsored, Eldringhoff said.

The connection between the screening and the organization was not overt and did not become clear until well after the students left home, Eldringhoff wrote.

While in Los Angeles, the students were put up at a legion house and were given unrequested information about the legion and Regnum Christi. When they returned home, they were contacted more than once by Regnum Christi and were invited to some of the organization's events. It was then that they met with Eldringhoff.

They didn't feel comfortable, he said.

In inviting the students on the trip without first informing diocesan officials, the group did not follow protocol, Eldringhoff said. The diocese has since established a new protocol.

Brother Thomas Flynn of the Cheshire novitiate laughed at such words as brainwashing during a telephone call Friday.

I mean we're approved by the church, Flynn said. I think it's just trying to get people involved in their faith ... That's the whole idea right?

(203) 317-2214

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