The Newark Archdiocese has named a new administrator for a Roman Catholic elementary school after some parishioners charged that a charismatic sect had taken over the school as well as the parish.
Parishioners at Little Flower Church complained last year to Archbishop Peter Gerety that members of the People of Hope, a unit of an international, nondenominational charismatic group, were taking over their church and the 217-student school. Of the parish's 1,100 members, 650 are followers of People of Hope and about 70 of those are leaders in the school and in the parish council and other church committees.
The People of Hope is a branch of the nondenominational Sword of the Spirit, based in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Gerety on Jan. 31 ordered the 70 to sever ties with the Sword of the Spirit or step down. Gerety said the teachers and principal will be fired at the end of the school year if they do not leave the People of Hope.
Other Little Flower parishioners have accused the People of Hope of trying to take over the church by moving large numbers of followers to Berkeley Heights, a New York City suburb with 13,000 residents.
The People of Hope speak in tongues and have brought in their own clergy to perform rites. Critics in the parish accused the group of discouraging social interaction between its members and other parishioners, of arranging marriages for its youth and of moving teen-aged followers into their homes for indoctrination.
Charismatics, a movement characterized by strong emphasis on the Holy Spirit, have substantial representation in the Catholic Church, including some bishops active in the movement. But the church has traditionally drawn the line at groups within the movement that claim excessive authority over followers or extraordinary spiritual powers.