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Controversial Catholic order opens third boarding school

ROLLING PRAIRIE, Ind. (AP) — A conservative Roman Catholic religious order has enrolled 18 7th- and 8th-graders in a new U.S. boarding school for boys interested in the priesthood.

The Legionaries of Christ said the minor seminary, Sacred Heart Apostolic School, plans to add a grade level each year and eventually enroll 100 to 120 students, spokesman Jay Dunlap said.

The order also operates schools in Center Harbor, N.H., Colfax, Calif., and Cornwall, Ontario, the South Bend Tribune reported.

The Legionaries claim 65,000 members, including about 600 priests, in 18 countries.

The order's Mexican founder, the Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado, stepped down earlier this year as general director of the order. Maciel has been accused of sexually abusing seminarians — allegations he and the order vigorously denied.

A spokesman for Gary's Bishop Dale Melczek said he gave permission to open the Indiana school but not to operate programs, raise money or recruit future seminarians in diocesan parishes.

The order has been criticized by some former seminarians and others as too rigid, secretive and competitive with other Catholic entities.

Minnesota Archbishop Harry Flynn last year barred the Legionaries and their associated lay group Regnum Christi from work in the archdiocese and the Columbus, Ohio, Diocese, enacted a similar ban in 2002.

However, the Legionaries enjoyed strong support from Pope John Paul II.