Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Legion-affiliated school: advice to a reader (input welcome!)

I recently received the following letter from a reader who is trying to make educational choices for her young child; she gave me permission to post the letter (and my response) here, and to ask my readers for their input/insight also. My reader writes:
Dear Red,

My husband and I have one child (close to kindergarten age) so far, and we've decided that homeschooling is not for us. The reasons are many and varied; the decision is pretty much made.

The public school system in our area is atrocious and considered either the worst or second worst in the state. Thus, that's not an option for us, and actually, based on principle, never really was. Neither my husband or I benefited from our own time in public schools and we just don't generally believe in them, period.

Obviously, we'd love to count on local Catholic parish schools, but quite frankly, we're not impressed. Our child has been in a pre-K program at our parish, and while it's fine, it's not outstanding from the perspective of teaching the Catholic faith, even if at a basic preschool level. Fortunately, or unfortunately, we believe our child is at either the best or second best Catholic parish school in our town. So the fact that we're not overly-impressed with it isn't saying much.

What to do? Well, we started investigating that weird class of independent Catholic schools that are termed "authentic Catholic schools." Generally these are small schools run outside of connection with a parish - some have the blessings of local dioceses and some don't. We could care less whether or not a school has the local bishop's approval or blessing if it's authentically Catholic.

In our area, there are four "authentic" Catholic grade schools. We've ruled out three of them for reasons dealing with distance/traffic, too much of an SSPX presence (students, not staff), and being too small. The fourth school is a dream-come-true, but quite a drive. We're willing to do it.

But then it came to our attention that there was a fifth "authentic" Catholic school on our radar screen that we didn't know about. In a nutshell, it's a Legionnaires'/Regnum Christi associated school - but it's not (more on that below.) So as not to leave any stone unturned, we toured the school (a 2-day process), and absolutely fell in love with the place. Although we're not in love with the price tag nor the drive/commute to it. The cost of this school is naturally the most of the five schools.

Going in, we were aware of the potential financial dimensions that might accompany anything associated with the Legionnaires. You know what I mean: Stories of discrimination by the Legion against families that don't "look good" on financial paper. In fact, we were direct and upfront with the school administrators about that topic and are satisfied with their answers.

Additionally, we were also aware going in of the rumored poaching techniques used by Regnum Christi members to get others into the organization, etc. This, too, we discussed with the administration and are satisfied with the responses we received. As I mentioned above, the school is "no longer" considered an official Legion associated school. As a technical matter, it never really was. But since the scandal, even while the priest serving the school is LC and has chosen to remain with the Legion, the school's only association is that they follow the Legion's-based educational method, which is from the National Consultant's for Education (NCE).

Seeing the Holy Spirit at work in this school was an eye-opener. Even better, the educational techniques and results at this school were almost too fantastic to be believed. Yet, with our own eyes, we saw what can be done with children when teachers who know what they are doing expect nothing but excellence from their students. As an example, this year's 7th grade class have just completed a sophomore-year high school Spanish text book.

Other than the exorbitant cost (for us), we're sold. This is where we want our child, because attending this school would be a golden ticket to life. Our child could basically get into any private high school of our choice and probably on scholarship.

So the problem? Everything in this school looked a little too perfect, straight, and ordered. Which, as I read around the internet, is a signature style of anything associated with the Legion and Regnum Christi. For a while, we were thinking they were putting on quite a show, but then realized they weren't: All the children wearing the exact same pair of shoes, and children rising when we entered their classrooms and saying things like, "Good morning, Mrs. Jones. My name is Richard. Welcome to our school." Examples like this are fine and laudable. We liked it.

But what about three and four year olds being constantly physically guided and turned towards their teacher by a cadre of aides all day - everytime they wiggled or squirmed? Or kindergarten boys wearing formal ties to school? Isn't that sort of unnatural? And what of children who looked happy and well-adjusted, but didn't seem to have the energy and joy of "normal" children as we encountered them at any grade level? I'm not implying that the children in this school seemed like robots or zombies, but something was just "off."

I brought this up to one of the administrators and felt that he was slightly puzzled or offended by my questioning. He explained that the youngest children in the school are indoctrinated into a certain mode and expectation of behavior so that they are primed and ready for the advanced educational curriculum they will experience as they move through the school. This answer made sense to us, as the educational caliber of this school is fantastic, and to achieve what they do there you can't have an unruly, distracted bunch of kids. But still, I'm bothered by the seamless, perfect facade of the school as a whole. Even the teachers were dressed perfectly with big smiles on their faces all the time, which I can't believe is normal. The only "normal" people I encountered there were the Regnum Christi (?) consecrated single women who assist at the school with religious education.

Some would argue, as we have in our discussions between husband and wife, so what? Children are little sponges and capable of great things if they are given the right opportunities and the proper environment to learn. Why not expose your child to such an environment? We'd be idiots not to, right? Parents today push too little and expect even less. What's wrong with setting the bar higher?

But still, what if the price of absolute educational excellence and stellar Catholic catechesis is breaking the individual will and spirit? This is the question I'd like to know your thoughts on: Is a school like this unrealistic? Is it bad news in terms of the Legion connection, or what?

I know you won't hold back, Red. So thanks in advance for your response!
First of all, I'd like to thank my reader for writing. School decisions are never really easy, and when you've decided that homeschooling just can't work (and I do know some situations where it really can't), it can be hard to figure out how best to fulfill the obligation of Catholic parents to see to it that their children are instructed in the faith.

I remember when our oldest, Kitten, was approaching school age. I was torn and agonizing about a lot of things: should we start kindergarten when she was four-and-a-half (December birthday) or wait until she was five? Should I use a pre-packaged curricula or make things up as I went along? Reading and math were the most important things, right? How could I make sure Kitten was progressing properly in these areas without neglecting others?

The result was that our first year was way more stressful than it needed to be, for both of us. I was trying to do things like science and history with a child who should probably have been spending 30 minutes a day printing letters and numbers, followed by some read-aloud and craft time. Instead, I was stubbornly clinging to a math program that was far too advanced for her, doing phonics drills, and insisting on seatwork. Eventually, I got hit upside the head with some common sense, and we slowed down, simplified, and didn't worry about what grade level she was in--and the results were a child who started reading eagerly, still struggled (still does!) with math but found it doable anyway, and slowly recaptured her initial delight with the idea of learning.

What I learned--and this applies to the LC/RC affiliated school my reader mentions--is that trying to make all children embrace a heavy academic, structured program in kindergarten or even first grade is not going to work for every one of them. Some, certainly, will thrive. Others will shut down, and you'll have to spend time undoing the damage.

Now: on to the Legion matter.

My advice here to my reader is as it always is when people mention Legion-related things to me: be very, very, very careful.

Here are the red flags I see in my reader's letter:

1. Cost: the fact that this is the most expensive of the five schools the reader mentions is fairly typical of LC/RC institutions. And certainly the appearance of good educational value is being given--but the LC is so good at appearances. My worry here would be twofold: one, that there will be "hidden costs" (e.g., mandatory fundraisers, "emergency" appeals, etc.) that will only crop up after my reader has decided on this school and her child is attending it. And two: that the cost will continue to rise each year until the reader's family can no longer afford the school, which will have "priced" them and other families out of it. Both of these are things people have experienced with LC affiliated schools.

2. Level of Legion involvement: My reader says the school isn't really LC, an impression the school itself apparently gives. But the priest serving the school is LC, the school uses an LC-based educational method (and some of my readers may have experience with that), and there are Regnum Christi "consecrated" (not really) women serving as (probably) low- or unpaid classroom aides! To me, this sounds like a school that is more Legion than not.

3. Too perfect: Maybe I'm just getting cynical, but when things seem too perfect to be real they generally are. There is nothing wrong with expecting standards of polite and well-mannered behavior from children; I spent a lot of years instructing my children in those things. There is something a little wrong with complete conformity outside of the military, in my mind (and especially when children are involved).

4. Physical correction: My reader mentions that when three- or four-year-olds (!) wiggled or squirmed, they were physically turned toward the teacher by aides! This is just wrong for the following reasons: a) the child's physical boundaries are being violated at a time when he or she is supposed to be learning not to let strange adults touch him; b) three-year-olds should be playing, not sitting in classrooms; c) four-year-olds who are not squirmy are unreal, and d) no method of instruction for the very young should rely on physical reinforcement of a stiff and unnatural posture. What really worries me here is that the administrator my reader asked about all of this acted, in her word, offended by the question! My reader's gut instinct is right, here: no matter how terrific the academics of the school might be (emphasis on might), it is not reassuring to see children as young as three being forced to go through the physical motions of remaining still at a desk for hours at a time just so they will be prepared for the harder material they will encounter in approximately six to eight years.

If I were this reader, I'd choose school number four, and give this one a pass.

Now it's your turn, readers: what advice would you give this reader? I'm especially interested to hear what those who have experience with the Legion, particularly Legion-run or Legion-affiliated schools, have to say.


Maureen said...

No way I'd send one of ours to a LC/RC anything school. They are great at producing a product that does well with math/science/languages and being able to state the tenets of the faith. Not good with critical thinking and discovery/development of individual talents. It seems very formulaic and utilitarian to me, not respectful of the unique and precious soul that each child is. Questioning is a no-no with LC/RC things but I believe questioning is a path towards learning and taking ownership of both knowledge and faith. It's willful doubt that is wrong.
We know folks who are LC/RC as well as former & current employees of their entities + my husband was a nominal RC member for several years. The individuals love the Lord and are wonderful people, the organization continues to be very sick...stay clear is what I would say.

John E. said...

Would I send my child to a school associated with a cult-of-personality organization of which the Vatican had to step in and denounce its leadership?

Well, gosh, no. I don't think I would do that.

Is this really even a tough question?

Anonymous said...

Hi Red,
As the letter writer, I'll expand on a few points, just for clarification purposes (not necessarily to defend the school):

1. The school has never been owned/run by the LC. It was started by a Regnum Christi member who (rightly) believed that a Catholic school could do better than parish schools. Other RC memebers obviously got in on it and that's how it became LC-associated. (I should check and see if it's on that LC list post you once did.)

2. The school, at its inception about a decade ago, had the blessing and approval of the local bishop and still does. It's a big-name bishop, FWIW.

3. As to the exorbitant cost, note that the school is located in a very, very, very monied area where tuition for a year at a local private school (grade school) can cost $25,000. This school is, thankfully, no where near that price. Still, we think it's expensive. But we consider that the standard-of-living in this area is much higher than where we live, and as such, they can ask for more and easily get it.

4. We specifically asked about fundraising, since its a sore point for me. They said there are no requirements other than to contribute to and/or assist with a yearly gala fundraiser. I am inclined to believe them.

5. The 3-year-old program is a 3-hour preschool. The children do not sit in desks (neither do the 4-year-olds), but sit on the floor or at big tables. Still, even on the floor, they were physically guided and gently, lovingly corrected so as to pay attention at all times. Like I said, this made me uncomfortable. Sure, doing it once in awhile is absolutely necessary, but I felt like the aides were watching them like smiling, loving hawks.

6. This system of physical training isn't just in preparation for a difficult academic curriculum in 4 or 6 years. It's immediate. The 4-year-old classroom we toured had ALL of the children reading aloud from books to their class, reading complete sentences and stories, not just simple stuff like "See Dick run." Have to say that was impressive, although I don't know if that's abnormal. The school boasts that at any grade, they are operating at one grade or even a grade and half beyond other schools. In fact, they stressed that they want the kids admitted to the school at the preschool level so that they can keep up, as children who enter the school at later grades often have trouble.

Maureen said...

That's the thing about legion things..not technically founded by LC/RC but by members using their materials and structure and people (often to serve as their "apostolate" suggested to them by their spiritual advisor). If it's people are still in the thrall of LC/RC then it's run the legion way. Smoke and mirrors without outright lying is a hallmark.

JMB said...

I have no experience with LC/RC. But, I do have experience with children in school. My thought is that high school is more important than elementary school re: college. I would save my money for high school, or at the least, middle school, and send my child to the parochial school near my house for pre-K to 5th or 6th grade. You can always supplement at home.

Dilbert said...

Be wary of anything associated with Regnum Christi. Follow up thoroughly on your gut instincts which by your letter have identified some key questions. The main issued that you felt was concern about "breaking the individual will and spirit" of your children.
Our gift of free will from God is one of the most important assets we have as human beings. The "normal" consecrated women have given up their free will and have become virtual slaves for those who benefit from a parallel church with a self serving agenda. They have been indoctrinated to believe that they are "married to Christ". They are wonderful and devout women but misguided by those who would take advantage of them.
One bit of research that would help would be to check exactly what charism the Legion and eEgnum Christi have, not counting recruitment and fund raising for themselves.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

What is SSPX ?

Public schools have similar problems. They think the way to raise dismal test scores and overcome statistical racial disparities is to cram cram cram from an early age.

I recall the young lady who brought her subtraction homework to the library at a Boys and Girls Club. I eventually figured out that her difficulty was, nobody had taught her how to do subtraction. They just gave her homework. It took me four hours to work through it with her. Next day, another tutor worked through another sheet of problems in two hours. Third day, she breezed in, announcing "I already did it."

I also recall writing notes on first grader's homework, "How do you expect this child to read written instructions on this homework... you haven't taught this class to read yet!"

High schools have a similar problem on a more sophisticated level. Textbooks are chock full of everything from "The Crucible" to "Sinners in the hands of an angry God," to some reasonably well written but awfully abstract feminist short story called "The Yellow Room." Geography textbooks are fully of advanced concepts that can't possibly be applied to a given country IN TOTO (there are too many variables even within a country).

No inspiration, just cramming a whole lot of "advanced" material and hoping some of it sticks. It's not particularly "left" as some people like to carp, its a diverse mix of sound and fury, imparting little or nothing.

Rebecca in CA said...

I would run as fast as I can in the other direction. Good reading material to inspire self-confidence about your educational decisions: John T. Gatto, (Weapons of Mass Instruction), Maria Montessori (great Catholic educator), and John Holt (public school educator for 30 years, great observer of how children learn or don't learn).

Turmarion said...

Siarlys, the SSPX is the Society of Saint Pius the Tenth. It was founded by the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who rejected the liturgical changes of the Second Vatican Council. In 1988, without permission of the Vatican, he consecrated four bishops, for which he was summarily excommunicated. The Society has been in schism (though it denies this) ever since. It is a Traditionalist organization with a separate hierarchy, and celebrates only the Tridentine Mass.

A few years later an even more traditional sub-group broke away to form the SSPV--the Society of St. Pius the Fifth. Unlike the SSPX, the SSPV is sedevacantist--that is, they believe there has been no legitimate pope since Pius XII.

Recently Pope Benedict rescinded the excommunication of SSPX members, and negotiations have begun for possible return, but they've stalled and it looks likely that the SSPX will remain separated. About the same time as all this, SSPX Bishop Richard Williamson made a number of anti-Semitic statements, including some indicating the Holocaust either didn't happen or was grossly overestimated. Anti-Semitic remarks, in fact, crop up very, very frequently in SSPX materials. Anyway, the SSPX, as it's developed, is almost a textbook case of a "cult-of-personality organization", as John E. puts it.

I don't have experience with Catholic schools aside from substitute teaching for one twelve years ago, but I've read a lot about the LC/RC over the years, and I'd avoid anything associated with them like the plague. They're supposedly putting their house in order, but the proof of the pudding is yet to come; and I wouldn't want my child to be involved in any such organization so soon after such a massive scandal.

Anonymous said...

The kind of public school cramming you describe isn't even close to what goes on in this LC-associated school. Public schools cram to meet state test standards and the kids walk out the day after the test as stupid as ever. Whereas the LC school is producing stellar academic results.

Anonymous said...

The Legionary schools are very attractive, but they are deadly to the child and to your family. The list of abuses, even criminal abuses, that goes on in the Legionary schools is staggering. I know the system and the schools very well, having helped start the first one in Irving, Texas, and can say with absolute certainty that ANY PLACE is better than the Legionary schools, since they use a good curriculum and the sweetness of the Faith in order to snare children and families into their web of lies and fraudulence. These are the words of one who knows this outfit, inside and out, for the past twenty years. There is nothing good about them. Stay away!

Anonymous said...

We have been extremely involved with an RC/LC school for 15 years. It started like yours with just a few RC people ... in my opinion a school that is a little RC is like a woman being a little bit pregnant... those few RC members are out to recruit everyone else to RC and they adhere to strict RC methodology which is initially attractive. They want you and your kids to "build the church" but they mean build RC. Do some research on RC - the cult label is sadly true. They will start early to mold your kids and it will seem wonderful and before you know it they will be little RC robots and you as parents will be the bad guys. Luckily we saw this and kept distance but it was a hard road to walk. Looking back I wish we hadn't been enticed to take the first steps.

Anyway, we were impressed early on with that commendable student behavior & "one grade level or more ahead" assertion. We were fine for years and dismissed any misgivings by reminding ourselves that every school has problems.

When one child began college on academic scholarship reality dawned - academic preparation had actually been mediocre, despite excellent grades & courting by Ivy league schools. Child is doing well but having to work to catch up in advanced math & science and feels others were much better prepared.

Many things seem too good to be true in RC/LC schools and THEY ARE. The consecrated presence you mention as normal is actually horribly abnormal suffocating to the kids. It molds young girls into carbon copies of each other with no personality save for "working for the kingdom". The guilt we see in these kids in doing anything "normal" that is not connected to God (really RC) such as free time relaxing in summer is staggering.

Be wary in particular of the physical correction and insistence on adherence to dress code and school rules. It can be beyond suffocating and a source of much anxiety for the child. I appreciate school uniforms for a variety of reasons, but one of my children had a challenge with an untucked shirt - to the point that it prompted an action plan (third level of discipline after talking to the child and then notes home to parent). The teacher also left notes on the child's desk & in locker to remember to tuck in, scolded them in front of the class, etc. Horrible for the child! I told the teacher I preferred that the child pay attention to the subject being taught instead of focusing on whether a shirt was tucked in or not, but the tucked shirt was too big a distraction for the perfection-minded teacher (whom we liked for academic reasons). We resolved this by finally buying a size bigger (far too big for the slight body) and the teacher was much happier.

This same child was also routinely scolded (at the same time as the shirt issue) for fidgeting, crossing a leg under the other while sitting, and getting up on knees in the desk to see a class demonstration - resulting in missed questions on a test since they had to sit down and could not see to answer correctly. All this reprimanding for a child who scores in the 99th percentile in all subjects on standardized tests, has straight A's, reads at a high school level in elementary school and is commended for being tremendously creative. All the chastising about "choosing" to be out of uniform, fidgeting and daydreaming is NOT what we expected when we paid dearly for "personalized educational attention."

As a result we are transferring to archdiocesan schools - that are actually much more rigorous academically. I wish it had not taken me so long to make a change. Do some more research and save yourself & your kids the heartbreak of of enrolling in this school. God bless your family & good luck!

Anonymous said...

Why not wait until Kindergarten or first-grade to send your child to this school, and then only as long as you feel it is benefiting your child and your family?

My child attended a parochial Catholic preschool, then went to the first LC school in Irving from K-4th, and now is being homeschooled. We never joined RC or LC. The elementary part of the school was outstanding, and I can only see good effects on my child. He had some adjustment issues at first, but then he flourished! The routine, discipline (none physical), and high expectations greatly helped him! I was most impressed with their orthodox teaching of the Catholic faith.

I would like to know about any abuses referred to, as I was unaware of any, especially not in the lower school. Could my child have been victimized and we still don't know it? Where is this "list of abuses?"

Although my impression of the school was very positive, there were some financial and organizational problems in the upper leadership. There was also too much pressure to give money in annual fund drives and gala auction gifts and tickets, as well as high tuition which increased every year.

The biggest problem we had, and why we are now homeschooling is the distance/traffic (one hour each way). It really took a toll on us. If this is a big issue for you, I would think twice.

I also am glad we left when we did, because I could see a possibility of LC indoctrination beginning in the middle school - they use their own religion series, have mandatory retreats, and eventually individual reviews.

However, I would not hesitate to recommend the lower school.

Charlotte (Waltzing Matilda) said...

#1. The worst indoctrination is the stuff you can't see.

#2. Just because the school in Irving doesn't begin recognizable indoctrination until middle school doesn't mean that an LC/RC affiliated school somewhere else wouldn't start sooner.

#3. From what I've seen from neighbors who were involved in RC, I would be just as much worried, if not more worried, about a school that was RC affiliated with only a slight LC connection as opposed to a full LC run school. The RC women are much more fanatical about their allegiance to LC/RC and will fight for it tooth and nail even as their families and marriages are falling apart around them. Everything is done the "RC Way".

#4. As a homeschooling mom, "stellar academic results" really don't impress me. Education is a lifelong process and elementary school excellence is not the best calculator for future success. And as an ex-school teacher, I can tell you that there are easy ways for a private school to skew those numbers in their favor. Especially with the LC/RC, it's often times all a facade.

#5. To the original reader... take a look at the number of people willing to comment negatively on the LC/RC but only anonymously. That should clue you in a little bit to the scary ways of this cult of personality! They might be trying to get their ducks in a row now, but the damage was done by the founder who poisoned the roots.

JRC said...

I myself studied all my life in a LC school and from my own experience (and that of my siblings and classmates) I found the educational model rather positive. You may find (as in any other school) some people that may have problems dealing with others and things that are normal to human beings with mistakes. If you feel comfortable with what you have seen I do recommend the school. Despite all the negative comments I’ve read. I talk to you from my own experience of being a student at their schools, from first grade to 12th grade. Best wishes with your decision.

Anonymous said...

I sent my kids to an LC school. I was once a big supporter, but no longer. Our family has paid a very big price for entrusting our children to these people, under the mistaken notion that our children would get a better Catholic formation and be spared from the mediocrity of the other Catholic choices.

JRC means well in reporting on his/her good experience, and I don't doubt his/her testimony. But picture this: you send your child to school, and one day, someone will shoot a rifle through the playground and hit one child; would you take the chance that yours is the the child who will be hit? Just because JRC has not been harmed does not mean all is well. Go to Life After RC and Regain and read reams of comments from people who have been burned by this group. If you decide to send your children there anyway, start looking for ways to forgive yourself in years to come if your child is the one to" take the bullet".

I gain nothing by warning you away, except the hope that one parent to another, I can spare you the same anguish we are experiencing.

Anonymous said...

From the original letter writer to all of the anonymous commenters:

Leaving academic issues aside, I don't see anyone here being really specific about why the LC-associated schools are so bad. (And for the record, the school we toured is no where near Texas.)

If I disclosed my identity as a blogger, you will totally understand my devil's advocate position - I firmly believe that if I play devil's advocate with you all, I'll get to to truth.

So, for example, so what if they keep asking for more money and raise tuition every year? (Obviously, I don't really mean that!) How does a change in tuition materially affect your child's education? That's what really matters, yes?

As concerns theology and catechesis, I can't believe that anyone here is claiming that it's shoddy? Using LC curriculum for religion, OK, I can see a potential red flag there IF (*if*) it was loaded with Maciel-worship crap, but I can't imagine any smart school adhering to materials like that anymore? Be more specific, please, in your criticisms.

As far as accusations of "your kid taking the bullet" and going over to to the Life After RC site - really? Would you say the same if I were to want to get involved with Opus Dei? There's loads of anti-OD sites as well, alleging all the same stuff as with RC/LC. I'm not inclined to want to go to the absolute most negative source for information about LC. Even so, give me a compelling reason to do so.

I am NOT defending the LC. The fact that I wrote this letter and asked Erin to host it is proof that I have concerns. I just want people to back up their criticisms with more than just general warnings.

Maureen said...

It can be hard to be specific as it's all dressed up so nicely with the LC/RC stylization. My husband is one of the most gentle souls but he's also a bit crusty on the outside and somewhat introverted. Even though it's been several years since he stopped attending RC functions he still feels guilt for not fitting in and "succeeding" in building "the kingdom" even more. I personally am glad he was strong enough to place the needs of our children and family above the calls for help "just this weekend" again and again. It's an insidious hammering on sacrificng oneself and being open to God's call, as revealed by your director or apostolate, preferably at the drop of a hat (I believe to keep you off balance). It sounds laudable but it's so gradual and subtle that you don't see the twisted aspect of it until you step away. Building the "kingdom" does not take precedence over tending your domestic Church. Oh, and they'll say it's "only" a gala or some other event but it'll morph into so much time and extras it'll make your head spin.

John E. said...

Would you say the same if I were to want to get involved with Opus Dei?

Well, I would, but that's just me.

I avoid anything that looks like cult-groupness on general principles.

But, then again, I'm a childless-by-choice agnostic, so you might very reasonably choose to dismiss my advice on those ground alone.

nat said...

From the horse's mouth:

Principals and Norms of the Legion of Christ : Works of apostolate of the Legion of Christ : Educational Works

341. I hope that in this way the image I have always cherished of our apostolate centers becomes a reality: a fish producing “tank” where fishermen are able to devote themselves to an intensive and unquestionably successful harvest. («un estanque» donde se cultiven los peces para que los pescadores tengan la oportunidad de dedicarse a la pesca con intensidad y con certeza de √©xito.)

343. Therefore, let us consider one my greatest concerns as founder — that of our educational projects. I have discussed this many times and perhaps things are improving somewhat, but it still pains me to see that our schools and universities are not fulfilling their primary goal: the expansion of Regnum Christi, especially through the recruitment of leaders and the cultivation of vocations for the Legion and for the consecrated life of the Movement.

344. Allow me to take advantage of this exceptional opportunity the General Chapter has offered me to once again insist on this: the meaning and goals of our schools — like all apostolic work of the legion and the Movement — must not be worn down by operating solely as teaching facilities. They will not accomplish their true goal in God’s plan for us if they do not bring a large number of students, parents, family members of students and teachers into Regnum Christi. I have said it many times: for us these schools serve primarily as an open means of recruitment and of the recruitment of leaders.

Maureen said...

I just had a thought. You've heard of the homosexual agenda to normalize and applaud non-traditional sexual relationships, yes? That the ultimate goal is not just acceptance but rather the silencing of any questioning or criticism of them, right?
The LC/RC agenda is building up LC/RC for "the kingdom". Except "the kingdom" is not the universal church, it's the legion itself. Individuals may be unwitting pawns in the various apostolates and schools but those running them know the goal and work towards it.

nat said...

If the founder of LC/RC was a well meaning guy who fell late in the game then perhaps the "fish tanks" he promoted are safe to approach.

But the Vatican's 2010 communique observes the Legion was formed by a man "devoid of scruple and of genuine religious sentiment"

John Paul 2 wrote: "Nobody can use a person as a means towards an end, no human being, nor yet God the Creator... Anyone who treats a person as the means to an end does violence to the very essence of the other"

The Vatican communique zeroes in on the central error in Legion thought by contrasting the reality of the Legion to the "'militia Christi' which characterises the apostolic and missionary activity of the Church which is not the same as efficiency at any cost."

For more on the pervasive utilitarianism the Legion needs to overcome read this utilitarianism summary.

As a parent my primary warning would be that there are no proper boundaries wherever the heresy of Macielism "efficiency for the kingdom" has done its work.

Family members thought otherwise at an unaffiliated school run by RC members until their child was pulled into one on one spiritual direction against their written instructions (like you they had some concerns) and told not to tell their parents. Fortunately their child immediately talked to them (and the child was elsewhere next September), but Maciel trained the trainers very well, so don't assume that these nice people respect boundaries:

"Every virtue not only has a contrary vice manifestly distinct from it... but also a sort of kindred vice, alike, not in truth but only in its deceitful appearance"

(St. Augustine)

Anonymous said...

Anonymous: Think for a moment. This whole LC/RC mess comes from a man who was devoid of religious sentiment. He was the guy who told his underlings what, how, and why to think, to move, to learn, to pray, to feel, to not feel, to teach... everything, everything comes from him. And he was a sociopath and had NO religious sentiment. All of the branches on the trees come from him.

Why would you trust your child with this trickle-down poison? OD isn't my cup of tea, either, but it was founded by a saint. LC, by definition, MUST contain poison. Maciel worship crap is still being used by them; it's subtle, but it's there by generating LC/RC worship.

I 100% agree with JMB; things don't really start to matter until the middle and high school years. That's when academics start to really kick into high gear and peer pressure means that good friends are desirable. Remember: they only need a few.

Why not ask giselle, over at Life after RC? I know you'll get a negative response, but she - as well as her readers - might be able to give you more exact reasons why. I know there are readers there who worked for LC schools; I bet they can give you harder facts, instead of generalized warnings.

Geoff G. said...

On the "too perfect" level, I think there's a certain amount of subconscious American bias towards the casual here.

After my family left the US, I continued my education from the 6th grade on in Canada. The schools I attended there weren't Catholic (as my elementary schools in the US had been) but were instead modeled on British public schools (i.e. what we'd call private schools here).

Boys only, school uniforms, including ties and blazers, standing whenever an adult entered the room, etc. I remember a few moments when I was tapped on the shoulder when I hadn't noticed a teacher walk in and didn't get up right away. We ate our lunches at an assigned table with a mixture of students from the second through seventh grades and a teacher at the head.

In short, the whole system was set up not just to educate (which the school did admirably) but also to civilize us little brutes. To this day, I feel very uncomfortable not rising to greet anyone who comes into the room. And I'm really the only man I know who feels absolutely comfortable wearing a suit and tie (properly tied, not loose around my neck!) all day.

Granted, this was in the 6th grade, which is quite a different matter from kindergarten. That particular school started taking students from the second grade at that point (and takes them from the first grade now).

So I wouldn't be overly dismayed if the kids seem too well behaved. Americans often seem completely unaware of the level of politeness and discipline that children are capable of. No doubt it does seem a little odd when you first encounter it.

Anonymous said...

ADVICE? If so many dilemmas, and no need to babysit the child, why not purchase a good, used set of encyclopedias, take the child to weekly piano lessons, and have the child stay home another year?

A child can never experience too much of a healthy, happy and good home life. Why does a child need to attend pre-school if there's no problem with attending and meeting all its needs for happiness and education?

This may be sort of tongue-in-cheek, because the question is why take for granted the presence of an 'awful' school? Unless the national education system average is a very high standard, there will always be 'sub-standard' public facilities, unless people work to improve them.

Not sayin' one SHOULD choose to be a crusader, but my younger son went to the neighborhood school which probably for a long time has had an excellent reputation, but you know what? I was EXTENSIVELY involved in my child's education, and so were most of the other parents, even though many, many of them did not have English as their first language of learning. Still, the school system produced a very high rate of scholastic achievers, many caring, responsible citizens (actually most of the grads are), but not the Juillard level of creativity, which are associated with a major school system in the south of the state if folks want to pursue that sort of thing. (Think Joshua Bell.)

I have always tried to be involved even when my kids went to schools which used decades-old textbooks, had rundown buildings, no air-conditioning, plumbing issues, etc. If there had been problems for children's safety, you betcha my kids would not going there, but the other problems can be remedied and throwing money at something is not the only way to solve problems.

(Trying to be the devil's advocate here--but this is the same argument for a lot of services in this country. We don't have mandates for universal health care standards because we have our company-associated 'private' insurers, and we cannot reform the mess of private insurers because 'we're [poor slobs] are satisfied with what we have'. Who cares about those who are too poor, whose folks were born in a third world country, have different colored skin, smell funny, speak with a lisp, or were born less appendages than the others, ... at least we can get our private health care--we're not happy, but we can eat good food and do all the healthful things or belong to the old boys club and we'll always have our needs met, because we know the right people, are 'good people', etc.

This is what I fear about any 'cult' environment whether the local 'Christian' school, 'outward bound', military academy, etc. The presence of these schools implies (and instills in their pupils) a false sense of 'we are different (and possibly better than others) in society'. Unless safety is the issue, or the schools provide a special-single focused curriculum, one might be inclined to think that public schools SHOULD be providing the necessary educational resources, and the average citizen should be able to sue their school district if they are not providing it!

As for wearing ties and standing when elders enter a room, those are remnants of a changing culture. Forty years ago, that was acceptable even in the Territorial Schools; it's not commonly acceptable in general society!!

Anonymous said...

I am unfamiliar with OD, hence no mention of OD.

I'm sorry you don't like the bullet analogy.

You seem like you've made up your mind, despite warnings. It's difficult to get into specifics of the problematic aspects of the experience of an LC school because I cannot think of a way to do so that doesn't reveal personal details. Sorry I can't be as specific as you would like. Best of luck to you.

Anonymous said...

I'm (we're) not anywhere near making up our minds. Not even close.

Asking for people to back up their assertions and criticisms is hardly making up our minds. Asking for you to explain the bullet analogy wasn't deflecting it, it was asking you to explain why you make the analogy at all - an analogy has to have a realistic something to compare it to. You haven't given that to me. Make the analogy make concrete sense to me, that's all I'm asking for.

Again, I contacted Red because I have a sense/intution that something might (*might*) be off. My intuition needs to be informed by legitimate investigation. My child's future is what's at stake.

Maureen said...

Perhaps Red could anonymously and privately forward the original letter writer more detailed info, if some folks would be willing to provide it that way?

John E. said...

Again, I contacted Red because I have a sense/intution that something might (*might*) be off. My intuition needs to be informed by legitimate investigation.

That sense/intuition is the refined result of thousands of generations of evolution in which a human brain puts together multiple small things together and comes up with a conclusion of "hey, something here is dangerous".

The folks who reacted immediately to that sense would get the heck out of the area and survive to breed more children with a similar mental process.

The folks who did not, but instead said to themselves, "I should probably check this out and see what, if anything, is really wrong," tended to get eaten by tigers.

Think about that...

Anonymous said...

As an observer here I have to say that some of the comments to this person are less than helpful. Talking to you specifically JOhne.

I have a question, though. If Marciel is dead and Rome has denounced LC and they have all these finanacial troubles and their whole group is being dismantled?, then what purpose would they still have in trying to snooker and brainwash peple? If the whole gig is up and exposed, why would the people who run these schools be up to anything nefarious?

Anonymous said...

To the parent who asked for more specific back up for the criticisms. Legionary schools are not to educate the children, they are to recruit the children and their well-to-do parents. Parents do not know that 20-30 per cent of the take for tuition is sent to support the Legion itself. There are two sets of books -- one for public consumption; one for internal. Bookkeepers and fundraisers who have worked in these schools have seen this skimming first-hand, but are required to sign a document saying that they will not sue or speak against the school. There is regular (every 3 years) turn-over of the teachers; that is because the teachers are paid very poorly and they are usually Regnum Christi members, inexperienced in teaching. The young teachers who do come are enticed with the romance of doing something generous and self-giving to the "church," which actually means the Legion. The goal of EVERY LC school is to have all instruction done by TV, with Regnum Christi members simply acting as proctors in the classroom to keep order. There is the desire that all LC/RC schools be uniform, exactly the same, in the USA, Mexico, South America, Canada, and the Philipines. This makes the movement of international students simple -- and Spanish is universally taught from PK on. There is evidence that in the school's missions to Mexico that illegal substances have also been present. It is good to keep in mind that the recent arrests of members of "La Familia" cartel in Mexico have cells in Atlanta,GA where the Legion's offices are located. To see what kind of international schools the Legion operates and for whom, google "Oak International Academies, Legion of Christ." The abuses are many because this is a fraudulent operation that is fleecing the faithful.

John E. said...

>then what purpose would they still have in trying to snooker and brainwash peple?

To get the parent's money and the children's loyalty and future money.

Same as any self-perpetuating cultic group.

Anonymous said...

Money for WHAT? A group that is essentially sort of done-for? i hope someone will take this ? serious.

Maureen said...

To those on the outside it definitely seems that the legion should be in freefall butthat's not how those in LC/RC see it. They don't read critical or even neutral sources, they only look at what their superiors provide/tell them. As recently as this spring a member and employee said tha Holy Father has been so good to us, we're doing so well, we've made some adjustments as the Pope asked and we're now moving forward. And the endless fundraising continues, we rec'd a mailing asking for $$ just 2 days ago. Heck, if you ask about all the priests and members leaving and the markedly decreased enrollment at their apostolic schools you'll get a blank look.

John E. said...

>Money for WHAT? A group that is essentially sort of done-for?

Sure - do the math...

Let's assume that the Top Dogs of the RC number around a hundred.

If you can convince ten-thousand parents to kick in an extra 5% of their income for 'special needs' of the school system, and that 5% goes to fund the lifestyles of the one hundred privileged folks at the top - then those one hundred have siphoned off the equivalent of five average yearly incomes for each of them.

Think my numbers are wrong? Well, adjust them as you like.

But however you slice it, being the top dogs in a system that has no accountability can be very lucrative.

And look at other groups - does anyone take Scientology seriously? How about Lyndon Larouche?

These organizations should be done for, but they have a hard core of intensely fanatical followers that fund the lifestyles of those organizations leader class.

Maryjohn said...

As a survivor of a cult experience (not RC) I can tell you that this whole school smacks of cultish indoctrination.
What looks good, acceptable, and desirable is the pretty icing that hides the rotten, bug-infested cake.

You will do as you wish of course, but I would say those red flags and gut reactions are there for a reason. The Holy Spirit might just be telling you to turn away and go to option number 4.
I truly believe you will end up with a happier, healthier, and better-educated child.

Remember - education should teach us how to think critically and to apply knowledge to life, not just to become proficient in a discipline.

And, I don't care HOW 'lovingly' the RC aides correct the physicality of little children - it is completely wrong. Small children do not sit still for long periods of time. Forcing them into this mold can do a lot of damage later on.

As to those who attended this type of school and defend it, perhaps this just means the indoctrination worked???? I don't know - just a thought.

God bless you and help you in this matter.

Anonymous said...

Some issues I have experienced at an LC school:
1. They allow the same problem to fester for years and do nothing about it. Example: a student who is constantly disruptive and in need of discipline or expulsion isn’t, the rest of the class suffers instead. Example: a teacher who should be fired is instead kept on staff for years, despite constant complaints about misconduct as well as shortfalls in the delivery of curriculum. All in the interest of “charity”.
2. You cannot dare to be outspoken or question the status quo in any way.
3. The vocations promoted are marriage, the priesthood in the Legion and RC consecrated. Don’t ask about other religious congregations; don’t speak of the single life.
4. Students are pressured to discern their vocation at an early age, lest they lose their vocation.
5. Higher education for girls is somewhat discouraged, especially if they discern their vocation is to marriage and motherhood.
6. Quality of teachers – the Legion schools pay their teachers slightly below the going rate in other schools. They don’t attract the best teachers, but rather, teachers who either sign on for the mission (Regnum Christi) or teachers who may have a negative history in the public system and so are willing to work for less pay.
7. RC consecrated giving spiritual direction, which is imbued with the RC agenda.
8. RC agenda is everywhere, yet school is not forthright about the RC underpinnings. New families to the school are sold on the holiness of the LC priests but not informed that there is an active lay group influencing all school matters.
9. School events are a tool of recruitment to RC, but this is a very hidden agenda. Those who are considered RC material are targeted and invited to other events, which again, are not often labeled as RC.
10. Non-stop fundraising. It is hard to say no.
11. There is much "fear of the world" promoted, including criticism of outside schools and their lack of morality and formation, these criticisms are levelled by people who have never even set foot in outside schools. Families are made to feel that if they leave the LC school it is at their peril.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure everyone here will be overjoyed, but we've done much more research on the school and it is definitely RC/LC. Listed on the main RC website, along with a recent testimony from one of the teachers about why she joined RC.

I'm kind of bummed because we directly asked them this question right off the bat about ties to LC/RC, and while the priest is LC, their answer about RC was that "a few people associated with the school are involved in their spare time, but it's not an integral part of the school." Also, I specifically and directly asked them this question: "Will I ever see this school listed on some website, somewhere, as directly associated with the Legion?" The answer given back was "No." Maybe I needed to ask the question with "Regnum Christi" instead of Legion. I never looked into the matter because I believed them, and also because they claimed they were not offically associated with LC.

I feel like I was lied to.

Anonymous said...

Well, Red, this has certainly been an enlightening conversation.

Before discussions of the involved groups and Mr. Marciel previously, I'd never even heard of splinters off the Church like this. Then when this matter was brought up and started looking into websites about these things, I could not believe my eyes.

If these groups are publicly sanctioned by the Church, it's no wonder there is such an element of slime of covering up pedophilic priests, or questionable Irish monasteries and the IRA, Serbia/Kosovo, and rejoicing about seeming friendliness with Russian Orthodox etc. even in this day and age, long past 1517.

The matter just speaks to issues that Red consistently discusses on this blogsite. What do we as Roman Catholic do to perform our calling as CHRISTIANS?

"I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth, in in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, and made man."

Anonymous said...

"I feel like I was lied to."

That's because you were. Typical LC/RC. Nothing changes with them.

"I'm sure everyone here will be overjoyed..." well, yeah, because from our warnings, you just dodged a bullet.

You're welcome.

Red Cardigan said...

Dear reader, I'm just glad you were able to find out for sure before giving the school lots of $$$. So many people have trusted what they were told, and ended up financially poorer and with "damaged" children after getting involved with the Legion.

God bless!

And everyone else: thanks for all of your input; if you have any further reflections to share please be supportive, not gloating or "piling on." I'm sure my reader is disappointed that the school turned out to be more closely tied to the Legion than it advertised itself as being, and we don't need to add to her disappointment by acting uncharitably (in the real sense, that is, not the Legion sense).

John E. said...

I hope you find a school that is right for you and your family!

Maureen said...

I'm glad you dug deeper and found out what you needed to know. We all want the best for our kids and their eternal souls. It's a heavy responsibility to carry. You're not the first and won't be the last to be dazzled by the polished LC/RC front. Please take comfort in knowing that your instincts were alarmed, and that you acted on them despite where it led to. You're doing your job - protecting your child.

Anonymous said...

Also be comforted that your critical thinking skills are alive and well, and take comfort that you never would have fit in anyway. Your natural tendency to question would NOT be welcome. You would have spent a lot of time beating your head against a wall.

Jack said...

Allow me a belated comment on this thread. I am a former LC who helped start the first "Irish Institute" school in Mexico City (1966) and later another one in Monterrey. For many years I was closely involved with the Anahuac University in Mexico City. Eventually, after ordination, I served as principal at the Irish Institute (Mexico).

I wrote a book about my experiences ("Driving Straight on Crooked Lines: How an Irishman found his heart and nearly lost his mind", available on Amazon.) I mention this, not for crass commercial purposes, but because I think the book provides some valuable insight into the evolution of LC schools.

Back in the sixties, our credo was: parents should choose a school that is most in accordance with their family values; our education should include the whole person and not be limited to "technical skills;" LC schools should excel in performance, have the best teachers and prepare our students for the business of life.

Maciel had creative, valuable and entrepreneurial insights. However, the educational "system" was totally refined by the lay teachers (not RC) hired in the early years. We brought a group of top notch Chilean educators to Mexico (after the Allende debacle) who helped refine all LC educational systems. At that time it was against the law in Mexico to teach religion; clerical garb was forbidden and no religious symbols were allowed. Schools were set up as private companies in order to avoid expropriation by the lay, anti-clerical state. Mexican elementary education then - as in many other countries - did not focus so much on "critical thinking." In my experience, students from the LC schools that I knew did extraordinary well and went on to the very best universities in the world.

Then the laws changed in Mexico and RC was founded. In the States the LC attracted extremely conservative (by my standards) Catholics which lead both it, and RC towards a very traditional and conservative approach to the Faith. Of course schools were expected to encourage priestly vocations (later to RC) and the recruiting aspect became quite pronounced. In my time, only a relatively small percentage of students ended up as committed RC members and even fewer as priests.

In sum, I think there is another side to LC/RC education as is depicted in this thread. It is not as bad as portrayed (in my experience) and it offers a host of redeeming features for committed Catholics. Kids do get an excellent, well rounded education, very different from our public school model. (This is not a criticism of public schools - where I sent my 4 kids.)

The main concern at the moment is the internal turmoil within the Congregation as they try to come to terms with the awful scandal of the founder and the need to undertake significant reforms. I don't think these reforms will need to address their approach to education. Most reform relates to internal governance and a healthier understanding of the evangelical counsels. The vast majority of LCs are excellent, well-intentioned men caught up in a situation not of their own choosing. In my international travels I meet many former students of LC schools and the majority seem to look back fondly on their experience. Apart from all the considerations mentioned in other comments, I would check out the "spirit" of the school with other parents and trust my intuition - with the caveat that the LC is now going through difficult difficult times which must have consequences on their short-term performance. Maciel's influence on the LC schools philosophy was not, I think, substantially flawed. His problems were deeper and in another realm. Hope this helps!

Anonymous said...


I too was involved with the Legion and in your "history" you conveniently ignore the fact that Legion, from the beginning, was a cult of personality founded by Maciel to serve his raging, out of control narcissistic need for validation and adulation. Everything the Legion touched was directed towards one end, that is, to add to the numbers of slavish followers of this monster. Church law, rubrics, personal dignity, honesty, and commandments were routinely ignored, broken, and flaunted in service of Maciel and his needs. His schools, according to the Irish, Mexican, and American superiors, were founded to bring in LC and RC vocations. Schools that failed to produce were discussed as problematic, and interventions were planned. If you failed to recognize the true nature and aim of the Legion, I'm sorry. But enough of us have, and we aren't willing to allow this history to be re-written in such a way that Maciel is exonerated in any way. The laity, who you so kindly threw under the bus, were directed by Maciel and his priests; nothing was done by anyone without their approval. There are too many examples of lay people challenging the Legion on several occasions when the Legion was in the wrong who found themselves ostracized by the Legion and RC communities.

Martha said...

I'm not sure if the original letter writer is still checking this, but just in case... I used to be involved with RC and at one point looked into sending my oldest to an LC school. So to answer "so what if tuition rises every year?" : Well, obviously, you might have to pull your child out of school at an age where it is harder to do that (much harder after 4th grade, in my opinion.) Also, every school has charges on top of tuition that the school does not really consider "fundraisers." School pictures (fall and spring), class pictures, yearbooks, water bottles with the school logo, raffle tickets for the school carnival, prizes the school would like you to provide for the raffle, sports fees... So you could conceivably find yourself pretty stretched sooner than you think. Also, consider that many families CAN pay those costs easily, so your child is in an environment of wealth early on. Children from the wealthier families (whom LC definitely tries to attract; it's part of their whole "attract the leaders of society" philosophy) have iphones, ipods, etc. When your child is old enough for sports, there is a lot of pressure to join the team (this happens in a lot of small schools). Because money is no object for some families, you may find, that, for example, most of the boys on the school baseball team play club ball, 8 of them take batting lessons, and 2 have a private pitching coach. Your child may be a sweetheart and very talented, but it's an unusual child who doesn't notice or mind that everyone else gets to play first and gets more of the coach's attention. And the day comes sooner than you think that your child notices he/she is the only one without a phone.

Also, there is social pressure on the children at school to participate in the big fundraiser. The LC school I looked into charged $300 for a Gala ticket (per person, and this was 7 years ago.) Each child was supposed to sell 3. There was a graph in each homeroom showing who had met their goal, and when the class reached 100%, they got a pizza party. The day will come when your child is keenly aware and ashamed that they are the only reason the class did not get a pizza party. (Personally, I dislike this "social pressure" technique, although I admit that the people employing it often do not understand there are people who simply cannot pay $600 for 2 tickets to a party.)
About the commute - I don't know if you have or plan to have younger children, but what seems like a long but doable commute when you have one child changes drastically when you add younger siblings into the mix.

And finally, I think what happens with the long amounts of sitting still, and intense academic work, is that some children can do that in preschool, and some cannot. Many parents know their children cannot do that at a young age and don't even apply; the others get weeded out after a year or two. So when you see all the achievements, you see the achievements of children who probably would have done well anywhere, as they have involved parents and good self-control at a young age. It is hard to know sometimes with your first child if your child will settle in, will thrive there, or will feel like a failure in such an intense setting, but I bet you have some idea.

If you don't go to the LC school now, and it turns out later that you really want to, you can always have your child repeat a grade there. That may not even be necessary, but it is not at all uncommon when families move into LC schools, I have seen it happen many times and no one cares. The kids probably don't know what grade your child "should" be in, and if they do, they have seen this happen with every other child who moved in, so it's not seen as something wrong with your kid. I am sure the school wants your kid to come now, but you can always go later if it turns out that's the right place. I hope some of this helps.

lizsturm said...

Thank you to Red, your reader, and all who commented on this thread. I was just looking for research about LC/RC, because someone started Challenge and Conquest groups at our Parish, and I was uncomfortable. I was looking for up to date information on what was happening since the scandal, and your reflections have totally backed up my reservations. Thanks for taking the time to share your experiences. God bless you all!