22 Sep 2007

Community of Jesus leader implicated in 1990s abuse probe

Cape Cod Times

By Susan Milton

STAFF WRITER

September 20, 2007

ORLEANS — The local leader of the Community of Jesus is named in a complaint of alleged abuse at a Canadian Christian prep school in the 1990s. The allegation is under investigation by the Bishop of Ontario in the Anglican Church of Canada.

Elizabeth Pugsley, prioress of the Community of Jesus at Rock Harbor at least since 1993, was implicated in the alleged abuse at Grenville Christian College, according to the complaint filed by Rosalyn Price English, a former student and staff member at the Brockville, Ontario, school.

Price English, now 34, whose parents once sought marriage counseling at the Community of Jesus, is one of at least four former Grenville students or staff who have filed complaints with the Diocese of Ontario alleging misconduct by two Episcopal priests.

The Diocese is investigating allegations of abuse by the two priests at Grenville in the 1980s and 1990s, a time when the prep school had strong ties to the Community of Jesus in Orleans, according to school leaders and ex-students and staff. The abuse allegations arose from postings over the past 17 months to an Internet discussion group about the Community of Jesus and Grenville school in the category of Religious Cults and Sects.

Jeffrey Wilkinson, a former Community of Jesus monk and an ex-Grenville staffer, earlier this month told the Times that the Orleans religious group and the Ontario prep school were "intrinsically linked" from at least 1973 to 1995. In 1981, then Grenville headmaster Alastair Haig told the Times that the Community of Jesus saved the college in 1973 from morale and financial problems.

Bishop George Bruce, who is leading the investigation into the abuse allegations involving the two priests, has not identified the men. But Price English has named former Grenville headmaster the Rev. Charles Farnsworth in her complaint.

Among other allegations, Price English claims she was one of 12 women, ages 17 to 26, who obeyed a 1994 order from Farnsworth and Pugsley to live in a "boot camp" of sorts 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 at Grenville," Price English, a married housewife, said during a telephone interview with the Times from her Pennsylvania home.

In a formal letter of complaint to a church official, Price English said Farnsworth exhibited a pattern of demeaning behavior and statements. "We had regular sessions where we were told (by Farnsworth) we were like 'bitches in heat' and we were too focused on looking good," her letter states.

Steve Hassan, a licensed mental health counselor in Somerville and mind control expert, sees common ground between the boot camp at Grenville, as described by Price English, and behavior at the Community of Jesus that he first learned about in 1985 after he was contacted by members of the church.

"In reading this complaint, it sounds like a number of themes have been touched upon here that have characteristics of a destructive cult," Hassan said Tuesday after reading Price English's letter.


"The breaking down, forcing people to do behaviors that are denigrating, the language, the control of behavior, that if you're not doing what the group wants, you're violating God's will," he said. "It's certainly abusive personality control and it's very much an example of what I remember from the Community of Jesus."

Price English left the school and never returned.

"I had somewhere to go. Others stayed (in the boot camp) for the whole year," she said. "It never dawned on me that they didn't have a place to go."

Price English was raised in a conservative family with parents who are devout Christians. Like others in the boot camp, she was accustomed to obeying school and church leaders. "We were so used to doing what we were told," Price English said. "If you didn't do it, it was hell. So it was easier just to go along because you were living in a religious community, striving for God's perfection and ... you were willing to do what you were told because you were following God's will."

The Times made several attempts to reach Pugsley for comment, including requests for an interview on Friday and Monday. Pugsley's attorney, Christopher Kanaga, who is also a Community of Jesus member, told the Times Tuesday that Pugsley was unavailable.

Pugsley also uses the name Elizabeth Patterson as director of the Gloria Dei Cantores choir. She is out of town on tour with the choir this week, Kanaga said. Asked whether Pugsley could be reached by cell phone, he said, "Probably not."

The Community of Jesus was founded in 1968 by Cay Andersen and Judy Sorensen, who met as prayer partners at the Church of the Holy Spirit in Orleans. They later traveled across the country, visiting Protestant churches and attracting 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 to Grenville Christian College, a K-12 prep school, to train school staff and administration. After that, the two founders were frequent visitors. In 1981, as many as 60 of 65 Grenville staffers were Community of Jesus members, many of whom regularly came to the Cape church for retreats. From 1988 to 1993, roughly a dozen Community of Jesus members' children attended Grenville. Community of Jesus lawyer Jeff Robbins has said church members' children attended the school through 1996.

After Farnsworth retired in 1997, staff at the school and leaders of the Community of Jesus grew apart, according to school and church sources.

As part of his investigating of the prep school, Bishop Bruce is interviewing former students and staff who filed abuse complaints. He is 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 smilton@capecodonline.com.

http://www.capecodonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070920/NEWS/709200341

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