Controversy & The CofJ

As taken directly from (in 2008; has been updated over the years)

“The Community of Jesus has not been without controversy, both in terms of a contentious relationship with many residents of the town of Orleans, where it is based, and with many of its ex-members. Some 150 members have left in the ensuing years, many claiming mental abuse and some seeking counseling as a result of their close experience with the community. All five adult children of Cay Andersen and Judy Sorensen have also left the community, having had similar negative experiences with the group.

The entire community is governed by a “Rule of Life,” patterned in the Benedictine spirit. “Householders” take monastic vows of stability, conversion, and obedience, and “Brothers” and “Sisters” take additional vows of poverty, chastity and absolute obedience. About a dozen ordained clergy from a variety of denominations serve the community under the direction of the prioress. Non-residents can also join the community as oblates. The community observes the daily office (psalms, hymns, and scripture readings (sung in Gregorian chant), gathering for lauds, mid-day, vespers, and compline. Retreatants stay in the Bethany Guesthouse and are offered the opportunity to meet with a spiritual director.

However, the Community of Jesus departs markedly from the true Benedictine tradition in that it does not have a system of visitation whereby the abbot of another monastery (the prioress’s peer) visits every two years and speaks to members privately about their lives and well being. Since the Community of Jesus is not affiliated with or under the authority of any other religious group, its prioress has no peers and therefore there are no corresponding checks and balances.

The Community of Jesus became affiliated with Grenville Christian College in 1973 after Judy Sorensen and Cay Andersen visited the then-newly established institution; after this relationship was started, the community would often send its students to GCC as boarding students. GCC was operated by a similar religious community, called the Community of the Good Shepherd. The school closed in July 2007 and has since been embroiled in controversy amid allegations of abuse from former boarding students and alumnae. One lawsuit naming the Community of Jesus as a defendant has been filed in Canadian courts, and another names a community member as a defendant.

In 2000, the community dedicated the Church of the Transfiguration, arguably the most pristine version of a 4th century–style Roman basilica in North America. Additional buildings are currently under construction, including a Retreat Facility, Paraclete House, Bell Tower, and Chapter House. When complete, the complex will be valued at over 50 million dollars.
The community has several other ministries including Spirit of America band, Gloriae Dei Cantores Choir, and Paraclete Press.

Community members have also routinely received personal secret written messages which, according to community leaders (who publicly deny this practice), are dictated personally by the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus to an undisclosed community member and passed along to the appropriate person.”


There are discrepancies in the accounts of the Community of Jesus’s lifestyle. During Chronicle’s interview with the Prioress, Betty Pugsley (Day 2; Part 1 of 3), she denies that it is the Community of Jesus’s policy to remove children from their parents to live with other members of the Community stating “First of all, we don’t remove children. Now, from time to time I might get a note from, say a 12 year old, that says ‘for the summer I would like to live with my buddy and Mom and Dad said it’s ok’.” She further goes on to say that “All children live with their biological parents” and that this was not a change in practice. These statements contrast earlier statements of the video from an ex-member who says that children were, in fact, removed from their family. His father confirms these statements later in the interview, acknowledging that it was routine for children to live with other families and further stated that he believed this practice had a “really positive affect on his children.”

One ex-member (separate from the Chronicle video) claimed that “Betty Pugley wasn’t just lying to Chronicle and the public to save face, but she was lying to me and everyone who lives in the Community. If separating children from their biological parents as early as 8 years old is not wrong (as was the practice during their time living there), than she shouldn’t have any reason to lie by denying it.” The interview was a critical factor in their decision to leave as it was a clear example that the leadership was “corrupt” because they were not living the doctrine* that it preached.

*One of the Bible’s Ten Commandments states that “Thou Shalt Not Lie”