In a letter to the Vatican, seventy-seven women called for the abolishment of a Legion of Christ-run high school that they said psychologically abused them into depression, anorexia and thoughts of suicide, the AP reported.
The Legion - which has been described as a cult-like order - was already under a cloud with the 2009 revelation, which was concealed by the Vatican for decades, that the order’s founder, Rev. Marcial Maciel, was a drug-addicted pedophile.
The signatories of the letter said they were manipulated and isolated by the school, which at the time of their attendance prevented pupils from having any contact with their families for 49 weeks out of the year, the AP reported.
The Immaculate Conception Academy in Wakefield, Rhode Island, identified three categories of female pupils, a former counselor at the school identified these in a blog as, potential inductees into the order, “normals,” and girls who should be forced to leave the school.
The directors would then collude to pay extra attention to the potential inductees, the former counselor, Lourdes Martinez, wrote.
Details about the girls’ progress would be shared weekly with their confessors, who would then deliver the same messages through the confessional, she wrote.
“So she’s hearing this from everyone and thinks it’s the Holy Spirit talking,” Martinez told the AP.
And we would say, ‘Yes, of course.’”
Another former student, who identified herself to the AP by her first name, Mary, developed an eating disorder while at the school, which left her at a low point of 68 pounds before her recovery. She told the AP that the pressure of the school’s strict rules and the loneliness of being cut off from the outside world contributed to her disorder.
According to the school’s current director, Margarita Martinez, many reforms are underway, including lengthening the assessment process for new inductees into the order, changes to the gym uniform, and more restraint in the use of “God’s will” as a tool to motivate the students, she told the AP.
“For any errors made by our order in the past, we do apologize,” Martinez said. “We are sorry these young women have suffered and been harmed in any way.”