Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Abusive Grip of Grenville Christian Cult/Probe Widens to Include Ex-Teachers

Globe and Mail, September 4, 2007

Born into abusive grip of a cult - Community of Jesus parents abandoned their teen daughter at now-shuttered school


Ruth Buddington was 13 when she was brought to Grenville Christian College in Brockville, Ont., as a prisoner of her cult-member parents.

Ordered by a Massachusetts child probation officer to let their daughter see a therapist and to take therapy with her, her parents instead fled the probation officer's jurisdiction and drove Ms. Buddington across the Canadian border to the elite Anglican private school, left her there and didn't see her again for a long time.

Ms. Buddington's account of the next four years of her life at the school - including a story of having her face pushed against a window into the school boiler and being told that the flames she saw inside were the flames of hell she was destined for - echoes the stories told by many former students who have been posting on a website organized by Ms. Buddington and have been interviewed by The Globe and Mail.

Amid widespread allegations that Grenville was run for more than 25 years by a cult, the school abruptly announced at the end of July that it was closing its doors, citing falling enrolment and rising operating costs.

‘I was treated as less than human,’ Ruth Buddington, 33, of Portland, Me., says of her time at Ontario school. (Daniel Limmer for The Globe and Mail)

The school's current and former headmasters, Rev. Gordon Mintz and Rev. Charles Farnsworth, both Anglican priests, have denied in interviews that any student was mistreated. But a former senior administrator at the school, Joan Childs, has publicly apologized for the "hurt and pain that so many experienced" and has spoken of psychological and physical abuse of students.

Ms. Buddington's account of abuse began on the trip to Canada from the self-styled Anglican Community of Jesus, which her hippie parents had joined when they were barely out of their teens (her mother is still a community nun; her father was later kicked out).

She tried jumping out of the car, but was restrained.

Within 48 hours of her arrival at Grenville, Ms. Buddington, now 33 and living in Portland, Me., was pulled from her bed by three staff women in the middle of the night, dragged into a room and berated for several hours for allegedly criticizing the leaders of the Community of Jesus, which had close ties with Grenville. (The cult leaders, known as Mother Cay and Mother Judy, were at the time living on the Grenville campus.) She was then placed on "discipline," not allowed to talk or attend classes or wear the school uniform and spent her days scrubbing pots, floors and toilets and asking God to change her heart. The several-week sentence, she said, ended only after she wrote a series of letters to the headmaster saying her heart had indeed been changed.

That event, Ms. Buddington said in an interview, was the beginning of four nightmarish years at Grenville, where she experienced constant psychological abuse, isolation, punishment and humiliation at the hands of school staff before eventually running away.

"I was treated as less than human," she said. She said she lived in constant fear of punishment and was depressed and frequently suicidal. Repeated requests to get psychological help were denied by school authorities.

The school appeared to have a double image.

The face it showed to boarding students from wealthy Ontario and overseas families was of a strict, religious but otherwise unremarkable private school with a solid academic reputation.

The face it showed to the children of staff members and the Community of Jesus, and the boys and girls sent to Grenville by their frustrated parents to have their behavioural problems "fixed," was of a psychologically bizarre and destructive Christian community.

From a number of accounts, former students tried for years to bring public attention to what went on.

In 1989, for example, they attempted to get the Brockville newspaper, The Recorder and Times, to publish an account.

The paper devoted considerable resources to investigating the school. But in the end it abandoned the project after sources who had agreed to be identified suddenly refused to let their names be used and a high-powered law firm in Toronto threatened the paper with legal action from school authorities.

Ms. Buddington was literally born into the Community of Jesus.

At the age of two months, she was removed from her parents by community leaders who deemed her mother unfit. She was then passed around various community caretakers and returned to her parents at age four.

She described her parents as "in-between people" in her life and completely controlled by the cult leaders. She said day-to-day life in the cult consisted of ritualistic group humiliation and church attendance.

She was so depressed by the time she entered middle school that she was visiting the school nurse daily and begging police to put her into foster care.

Her parents fled with her to Grenville after Massachusetts child-care authorities began to show interest in her.

"I do know that living there [at Grenville] was just as bad if not worse than living at the community. For me it was the same cultural experience, and they [the school authorities] didn't have parents to answer to with me. They had free rein to do with me what they wanted."

She said that when her father was kicked out of the community "they had my mum come up to the school, and they sat me in a room and they told me that my mother represented God and my father represented the devil, and I needed to choose between my parents and therefore whether I was going to follow God or the devil. And they sat me there for hours because I refused to make that choice. Because I was old enough to know that was an insane thing to ask of a child."

She was compelled many times, she said, to take part in sessions where staff members surrounded her in a dark room and demanded that she confess her sins. She had to attend meals with other staff and community children where they were ordered to attack each other for alleged sins.

She was taken to the school boiler room and shown the flames of hell.

As she neared graduation - with grades in the 80s, she said - she asked the school guidance counsellor for help in applying to college and university and was laughed at and told she wouldn't be allowed to apply.

She put a change of clothing into a backpack and ran away two weeks after graduation. She eventually made her way back to the United States and had several troubled years, including some time spent living on the street. However, starting in 2005, she said, she pulled herself together and is now about to graduate from school to become a massage therapist.

"My story is just one of many," she told The Globe. "It's time that people stopped getting hurt."
September 11, 2007

Abuse probe widens to include ex-teachers
Globe & Mail - Canada
September 8, 2007


The investigation into Grenville Christian College has widened with allegations of abuse involving former teachers – allegations that will be heard firsthand Saturday at an inquiry established by an Anglican bishop of Eastern Ontario.

Bishop George Bruce, in whose diocese the now-closed school is located, will hear from former student Richard Van Dusen how one teacher held him down while a second teacher beat him with a heavy wooden object until his underpants were soaked with blood.

Mr. Van Dusen, managing director of Toronto's contemporary dance company, Dancelands, said he sent the bishop a letter on Thursday recounting his experiences and received an e-mail back saying Bishop Bruce was treating it as a “formal complaint” – which in church language means a cause for a disciplinary inquiry where a bishop decides he has jurisdiction.

Other letters and e-mails that Bishop Bruce has deemed to be formal complaints have focused on the alleged behaviour of Rev. Charles Farnsworth, headmaster of Grenville for two decades until 1997. Mr. Van Dusen's letter makes little direct reference to Mr. Farnsworth.

Bishop Bruce has said his diocese “at no time had any contractual or de facto responsibility or control over the operations of Grenville Christian College.” But he has acknowledged he has jurisdiction over the priests connected with the school, Mr. Farnsworth and Grenville's last headmaster, Rev. Gordon Mintz.

In fact, the school flew the Anglican flag, had new buildings dedicated by Anglican bishops – including the primate, the church's national leader – and had compulsory Anglican services of worship.

Predecessors of Bishop Bruce variously sat on the board of directors and had ties with the religious community that ran the school, as well as links with a companion religious community in Massachusetts labelled a cult by the U.S. media. After Mr. Farnsworth retired in 1997, Bishop Bruce's immediate predecessor was called on for help and support as the school's religious community began to crumble.

Bishop Bruce said earlier that he has informed Mr. Farnsworth, 71, who lives in Brockville, Ont., near the school, that allegations have been made against him which the bishop is looking into.

The Globe and Mail for the past week has published accounts from former students alleging cult practices at the school and physical, psychological and sexual abuse. Joan Childs, a former senior administrator at the school, has called it an emotionally, spiritually and physically abusive place and apologized for the “hurt and pain” caused to people.

The school's board of directors met Thursday night, but vice-chairman Don Farnsworth, the reverend's son, said it would make no statements at this time.

Mr. Van Dusen, who was a Grenville student for his last two high-school grades, graduating in 1981, said in an interview: “I know my story is a bad story, a hard story for me to talk about.

“But I know from talking to other people that there are hundreds of worse stories. I just want to get that point across to the bishop, that it is something that happened in a school under the watch of Anglican priests. I have the feeling the church is trying to distance itself from this. I think the church can't really distance itself from something that happened under their watch.”

Bishop Bruce will also talk today with Jennifer Reid, a former Grenville student and now a teacher in Peterborough, Ont. He rejected her e-mail on Wednesday as a formal complaint, but later invited her to meet with him in his Kingston office.

Ms. Reid said: “I'm hoping the bishop and the chancellor [legal officer of the diocese] will see that they have some power and influence to be able to make a difference in terms of preventing this kind of abuse from ever happening again within the Anglican church.”


Rev. Malachy Egan said...

The good people of Boston, Massachusetts, put the run to Cardinal Bernard Law not so long ago: Law had covered up child abuse and moved abusive priests to new parishes to abuse some more. Law did not suffer too much, and he remains exactly where his admirer and friend John Paul II placed him: in a $12,000 per month sinecure in Rome as Archpriest of St Mary Major Basilica. This is good news for Anglican Bishop George Bruce because when the good people of Ontario wake up and chase him from office, Primate Hiltz can create an elaborate post for him as Archdogcatcher with the Anglican General Synod.

Since the scandal broke last summer, Bishop Bruce and the well paid Anglican flunkeys like Paul Feheley, principal secretary to Primate Hiltz and Ven. Wayne Varley, the Ontario diocesan executive officer [whose impartiality is under question because of an undisclosed relationship with a Grenville Christian School former student] have tried all the tricks in the Anglican Book of Obfuscation and Denial [a book which is significantly longer than the Old Testament] in order to avoid taking responsibility.

"Grenville Christian School is not an Anglican school," they pouted to a man, "No mea culpa." Well, Grenville Christian School flew the flag of the Anglican Church of Canada; used the Anglican Book of Common Prayer; Anglican bishops and priests conducted services there; it had a succession of Anglican headmasters... In fact long before Rev. Mintz's incumbency, Bishop Henry Hill of Ontario ordained Al Haig, Charles Farnsworth and Don Spencer-Lee, often referred to with their wives as 'the six pastors' [doubtless their wives would have been ordained too except that the Anglican Church was not ordaining women in 1977] and amazingly Bishop Hill agreed that the pre-ordination retreat should take place at the Community of Jesus! Hill sent Canon John Garrett to act as Chaplain to the Ordinands. The Anglican Church of Canada and the Community of Jesus have been hand-in-hand for over thirty years. The Ordination to the Priesthood took place on the Feast of St Michael and All Angels, at St George's Cathedral in Kingston; amazingly, Bishop Hill invited the Chaplain of the Community of Jesus, Fr Arthur Lane, to preach. If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and swims like a duck, then it's certainly not going to cause the Vatican any embarrassment!

Bishop Bruce convened an internal Anglican inquiry and let Varley bully as much information as he could from the abused students because the bishop knew as sure as God made little apples that a lawsuit would be inevitable and the matter would be then be sub judice. The prevailing philosophy learned through the Indian Residential Schools crisis being that the ACC might as well give the Anglican Church lawyers as much help as possible.

Predictably, Bruce then cancelled the enquiry, once the class action lawsuits started to firm up. It is worth noting that those class action lawsuits seek compensation for psychological, physical and sexual abuse and name as defendants: 226937 Ontario Limited [Grenville Christian College]; the Incorporated Synod of the Diocese of Ontario; Charles and Betty Farnsworth; Alastair and Mary Haig.

Since legal proceedings started Bruce through Varley [the Ontario diocesan executive officer whose impartiality is under question] issued copious denials and placed an Anglican gag order on diocesan staff and clergy.

And then in January, hoping that nobody was looking, [tra-la-la] la piece de resistance from Bishop Bruce; freshly graduated with honours from the Bernard Law School of Cover Up: without investigation; without resolution; without an apology, Bruce delivered to these abused Grenville School Students the ultimate slap in the face and appointed the Rev. Gordon Mintz as incumbent at St Thomas', Belleville, Ontario as Priest-in-Charge starting January 1, 2008. Rumour has it that that despite everything Mintz is still an oblate member of the Community of Jesus.

Back in 2004, the disingenuous Bishop Bruce expressed his concern to Bishop Peter Coffin of Ottawa that a well-known convicted pedophile was performing choir and other duties at a downtown Ottawa church, [he's still there in fact]. Now, with the sky dark with the wings of chickens coming home to roost, hypocritically Bruce embraces Coffin's example when abuse issues surface in his own diocese.

The Rev. Gordon Mintz was faced with a dilemma: either to be honest and become part of the solution, or to join the Anglican cover-up: remain part of the problem and be bought off with a new job. Mintz goes way back with Grenville and the Community of Jesus: Gordon Mintz's introduction to Grenville Christian College was, strangely, through his sister who was a student there. Perhaps he was fascinated by the stories of 'light sessions' and cultic activity; however we might speculate that lacking the academic prowess required to join the student body he chose to gain access to this viper's nest by way of the kitchen door and a job as a dishwasher... Mintz's first job at Grenville was washing dishes, but gradually over a period of years and with a sincere endorsement of the cultic program, he sleazed his way up the ladder to the position of Dean of Men. He was also a teacher at Grenville. [His qualifications are somewhat obscure: the St. Thomas website bio simply says: "More information to come." Ho-hum.]. So he was a staff member at Grenville Christian School: he worked there and was brain washed there.

I understand that there was a staff hierarchy at Grenville [students were lowly creatures who submitted to the authority of all staff regardless of position]; so Mintz the menial dishwasher was already in a position of power and control. The original hierarchy was led by Mintz's predecessor, Anglican priest Rev. Farnsworth and his wife, a delightful lady of various biological dimensions.

The students coined the next layer "The A-team". The A-team was comprised of the principal, all the deans, assistant deans, and some well chosen staff. This A-team was the domain of the enforcers. They ensured that staff and students alike were, "into the spirit of the school". There were punishments; discipline; group light sessions; private light sessions and it all ran with military precision. [Colonel George Bruce; yes this fine Anglican bishop and recent Primatial candidate was a military man before he was ordained, must have admired that regimented approach!]

Under the A-team was the "middle class staff". They were comprised mostly of the favoured teaching staff, and business staff and finally the lowest class were the remaining staff, who comprised the people that did the menial work around the school, although I am told that some of the teachers fell into that class as well. I am also advised that it wasn't just students that were abused at Grenville Christian College. The staff were abused as well. Staff members had their own light sessions, and could be disciplined; nobody was immune from the cultic predations.

Farnsworth retired, Bishop Bruce cancelled the investigation into him too, and as we know Farnsworth was succeeded by Rev. Mintz who is obviously the bishop's favoured boy. Bishop Bruce was aware of everything that transpired at Grenville and more. Mintz did not get to the top of the food chain with out getting his hands dirty. Mintz bore witness to light sessions, and participated in them; he did nothing to stop the abuse; in fact he participated in it. Mintz lied to the Globe and Mail: he stated that the allegations of abuse at Grenville, "Are without foundation".

The Anglican Church of Canada has a terrible history of abusing children; that legacy continues until this day and Bishop George Bruce's actions in the case of Grenville Christian School follow in the tradition of Cardinal Bernard Law who did nothing except move the abusers to fresh territory.

I challenge Primate Hiltz to follow Benedict XVI's example and condemn child abuse of any stripe within the Anglican Church of Canada; I further challenge Hiltz to actually do something about this wanton destruction of people's lives [unlike John Paul II] and defrock Bishop George Bruce and Rev. Gordon Mintz.

Jesus of Nazareth had something to say on the topic of child abuse: "But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. "Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come!"

Heed the Word of our Lord, Archbishop Hiltz, and act before it is too late!

In Christ,


Rev. Malachy Egan said...

Primate Hiltz said recently: "The Anglican Church would gain more ``credibility'' debating homosexuality if it broadened the sexuality discussion and devoted more energy to combatting sexual abuse, sexual exploitation by people in positions of power, and global sex slavery."

As usual fine words in another purely political speech; however, the reality is continuation of the usual Anglican hipocrisy. Hiltz's bishop in Ontario, Rt. Rev. George Bruce has failed to deal with the issues at Grenville Christian School, which according to the law suite filed include allegations of physical, sexual and psychological abuse. Bruce has; however, moved the schools headmaster, Rev. Gordon Mintz twice since the school closed, first time to St. Thomas Belleville Ontario as interim priest for a year where he remained for five months, and now to the Canadian Armed Forces as a chaplain.

Until there is an proper and thorough enquiry [Bruce cancelled the first one] and Mintz's part in the tragic activities at Grenville where he was the faculty leader as headmaster are fully determined it would seem imprudent to place him in another position of power and control over minor children. [The age of military service is 16 to 34, and the age of majority is 18 or 19 depending on the province]

If Primate Hiltz and the Anglican Church really gave a hoot, surely they would deal with the Grenville Christian School issue properly and not just continue to move priests around and hope that the laity do not notice .