23 Sep 2007

Ontario Police study abuse allegations

Globe & Mail - Canada

Police are 'reviewing the information that's out there,' spokeswoman says, but have not received complaints


September 22, 2007

The inquiry into Grenville Christian College has entered a new phase with the Ontario Provincial Police confirming they are studying allegations from former students who claim they were abused and assaulted at the now-closed private school.

Officers from the Grenville County crime unit are examining what has been posted on websites and published and broadcast in the news media, as well as talking to people with knowledge of what went on in the school, located outside Brockville.

OPP spokeswoman Sergeant Kristine Rae said there is no formal criminal investigation because to date, she said, the OPP have not received complaints.

"No one has come to us. But we are reviewing the information that's out there. We need to know what's out there."

Two former students, who asked not to be identified, have said they will file complaints with the OPP next week.

One of them said he had been advised by Bishop George Bruce of the Anglican diocese in which the school is located, that he might want to talk to the police.

Bishop Bruce has been receiving written and oral complaints from former students over the past two weeks alleging cult practices and physical, sexual and psychological abuse.

The complaints have been made against two priests connected with Grenville: Rev. Charles Farnsworth, headmaster for nearly two decades until he retired in 1997, and Rev. Gordon Mintz, the school's last headmaster when it closed in August. They deny any wrongdoing.

There also have been complaints to Bishop Bruce that his immediate predecessor, retired bishop Peter Mason, knew about cult practices at the school but took no action.

Bishop Mason, who retired five years ago, has previously told The Globe and Mail he was aware of "a controversy around styles of leadership" at the school.

He also said that he visited the Community of Jesus for two or three days because he was curious to learn more about it, and that he was aware of the light sessions, which he described as "situations in a person's life that they felt needed to be addressed and they would do it in a group."

He said: "It might not be my cup of tea and I'm thinking in some ways it wasn't. But I don't recall being of the impression that I would blow a whistle on them."

He said at no time was he aware that students were being subjected to any of the practices engaged in by adult staff. "I am surprised to hear it," he said.

He also said that none of the complaints about Mr. Farnsworth brought to him by staff were serious enough to warrant an investigation.

Bishop Bruce has indicated to those who have met with him that his inquiry will continue until the end of the month.

He has said the Anglican Church and his diocese at no time had control over how the school operated - that it was an institution independent of the church - but he has acknowledged jurisdiction over Mr. Farnsworth and Mr. Mintz.

The diocese's canon laws prescribe that a bishop, after hearing formal complaints against a priest, will decide whether to refer the matter to a rarely convened ecclesiastical court or bring priest and complainant together for reconciliation. At least one former student has told the bishop she will not meet Mr. Farnsworth under any circumstances.

In 1973, Grenville became a satellite of a Massachusetts-based organization known as the Community of Jesus, labelled in U.S. media as a cult. The school staff, with one or two exceptions, swore "oblate" vows of obedience to the community and its leaders.

The school abruptly announced in July that it was closing, citing rising operating costs and declining enrolment.


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