ORLEANS — The local leader of the Community ofJesus is named in a complaint of alleged abuse at a Canadian Christianprep school in the 1990s. The allegation is under investigation by theBishop of Ontario in the Anglican Church of Canada.
ElizabethPugsley, prioress of the Community of Jesus at Rock Harbor at leastsince 1993, was implicated in the alleged abuse at Grenville ChristianCollege, according to the complaint filed by Rosalyn Price English, aformer student and staff member at the Brockville, Ontario, school.
PriceEnglish, now 34, whose parents once sought marriage counseling at theCommunity of Jesus, is one of at least four former Grenville studentsor staff who have filed complaints with the Diocese of Ontario allegingmisconduct by two Episcopal priests.
TheDiocese is investigating allegations of abuse by the two priests atGrenville in the 1980s and 1990s, a time when the prep school hadstrong ties to the Community of Jesus in Orleans, according to schoolleaders and ex-students and staff. The abuse allegations arose frompostings over the past 17 months to an Internet discussion group aboutthe Community of Jesus and Grenville school in the category ofReligious Cults and Sects.
Jeffrey Wilkinson,a former Community of Jesus monk and an ex-Grenville staffer, earlierthis month told the Times that the Orleans religious group and theOntario prep school were "intrinsically linked" from at least 1973 to1995. In 1981, then Grenville headmaster Alastair Haig told the Timesthat the Community of Jesus saved the college in 1973 from morale andfinancial problems.
Bishop George Bruce, whois leading the investigation into the abuse allegations involving thetwo priests, has not identified the men. But Price English has namedformer Grenville headmaster the Rev. Charles Farnsworth in hercomplaint.
Among other allegations, PriceEnglish claims she was one of 12 women, ages 17 to 26, who obeyed a1994 order from Farnsworth and Pugsley to live in a "boot camp" ofsorts in a 15-foot-by-15-foot room at Grenville Christian College.
"Initially,we weren't given a choice. You either do this or you can't be here atGrenville," Price English, a married housewife, said during a telephoneinterview with the Times from her Pennsylvania home.
Ina formal letter of complaint to a church official, Price English saidFarnsworth exhibited a pattern of demeaning behavior and statements."We had regular sessions where we were told (by Farnsworth) we werelike 'bitches in heat' and we were too focused on looking good," herletter states.
Steve Hassan, a licensedmental health counselor in Somerville and mind control expert, seescommon ground between the boot camp at Grenville, as described by PriceEnglish, and behavior at the Community of Jesus that he first learnedabout in 1985 after he was contacted by members of the church.
"Inreading this complaint, it sounds like a number of themes have beentouched upon here that have characteristics of a destructive cult,"Hassan said Tuesday after reading Price English's letter.
"Thebreaking down, forcing people to do behaviors that are denigrating, thelanguage, the control of behavior, that if you're not doing what thegroup wants, you're violating God's will," he said. "It's certainlyabusive personality control and it's very much an example of what Iremember from the Community of Jesus."
Price English left the school and never returned.
"Ihad somewhere to go. Others stayed (in the boot camp) for the wholeyear," she said. "It never dawned on me that they didn't have a placeto go."
Price English was raised in aconservative family with parents who are devout Christians. Like othersin the boot camp, she was accustomed to obeying school and churchleaders. "We were so used to doing what we were told," Price Englishsaid. "If you didn't do it, it was hell. So it was easier just to goalong because you were living in a religious community, striving forGod's perfection and ... you were willing to do what you were toldbecause you were following God's will."
TheTimes made several attempts to reach Pugsley for comment, includingrequests for an interview on Friday and Monday. Pugsley's attorney,Christopher Kanaga, who is also a Community of Jesus member, told theTimes Tuesday that Pugsley was unavailable.
Pugsleyalso uses the name Elizabeth Patterson as director of the Gloria DeiCantores choir. She is out of town on tour with the choir this week,Kanaga said. Asked whether Pugsley could be reached by cell phone, hesaid, "Probably not."
The Community of Jesuswas founded in 1968 by Cay Andersen and Judy Sorensen, who met asprayer partners at the Church of the Holy Spirit in Orleans. They latertraveled across the country, visiting Protestant churches andattracting followers to live or visit their Rock Harbor headquarters,according to a 1981 Times series.
In 1973,Sorensen, Andersen and other Community of Jesus members traveled toGrenville Christian College, a K-12 prep school, to train school staffand administration. After that, the two founders were frequentvisitors. In 1981, as many as 60 of 65 Grenville staffers wereCommunity of Jesus members, many of whom regularly came to the Capechurch for retreats. From 1988 to 1993, roughly a dozen Community ofJesus members' children attended Grenville. Community of Jesus lawyerJeff Robbins has said church members' children attended the schoolthrough 1996.
After Farnsworth retired in1997, staff at the school and leaders of the Community of Jesus grewapart, according to school and church sources.
Aspart of his investigating of the prep school, Bishop Bruce isinterviewing former students and staff who filed abuse complaints. Heis expected to continue his probe through the end of the month,according to the Rev. Wayne Varley, Diocesean executive officer.
Price English is scheduled to talk to Bruce in a conference call next week, she said.
Susan Milton can be reached at email@example.com.
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