New Yorkers following Archbishop O’Brien to Rome

Archbishop Edwin O’Brien is on his way to Rome, where he will receive his pallium on Sunday from Pope Benedict XVI.

obrien_web1_2.jpgO’Brien, of course, is the archbishop of Baltimore — and a former auxiliary bishop of New York. I understand that a lot of his old friends from New York are also heading to the Vatican for the big event.

A pallium is a band of white wool that is worn around the neck and shoulders. It is given to “metropolitan archbishops,” who have jurisdiction over at least one diocese beyond their own.

It is supposed to symbolize an archbishop’s authority within his province and his communion with the pope.

O’Brien, long considered a contender to become archbishop of NY, became archbishop of Baltimore last year. He has not been made a cardinal yet — his predecessor, Cardinal Keeler, is still young enough to vote in a conclave — but it will come eventually.

The pallium Mass will be broadcast live by EWTN at 3:30 a.m. Sunday and re-shown at 9 p.m.

What now for the Legion of Christ?

Catholic analyst John Allen writes today about the fall-out from his explosive interview with Archbishop Edwin O’Brien about the Legionaries of Christ. O’Brien talked about asking the Legion to reveal all its activities in the Archdiocese of Baltimore and to stop offering spiritual counseling to minors.

Allen writes:

Since my interview with O’Brien appeared, I’ve had a high volume of responses, much of it from people who long ago made up their minds about the Legionaries. There were, however, a number of other reactions that weren’t quite so according-to-script. One prominent American Catholic commentator, for example, who has a number of friends in the Legion of Christ, called to say that he hopes the O’Brien interview will “jar loose” what he sees as a taboo within the group concerning discussion of charges of sexual abuse leveled against the late founder, Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado.

For the record, those charges were widely publicized in the 1990s, and the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith opened an investigation in 1998. In 2006, the Vatican released a communiqué stating that on the basis of that inquest, it had decided to invite Maciel “to a reserved life of prayer and penance, renouncing every public ministry.” Many observers took the decision as tantamount to a finding of guilt.

060519_maciel_hmed_530ahmedium.jpgAs I wrote a few days ago, the Legion — a fast-growing and generally conservative Catholic order of priests — has a strong presence here in the Burbs. It owns large estates in Mount Pleasant and New Castle, but the order’s development plans have run into lots of community opposition.

Allen writes extensively about how the Legion has dealt with/is dealing with the allegations against its founder (that’s him with JPII). Allen summarizes things well here:

The identity and spirituality of a religious order is deeply tied to the personality of its founder, and there aren’t many ready examples of orders which have flourished despite compelling evidence of moral corruption on the part of the founder. To acknowledge merit to the charges against Maciel, at least in the eyes of some, would therefore be tantamount to jeopardizing the viability of the communities he founded. It could also, of course, jeopardize the vocations of Legionaries intensely devoted to the figure of Maciel.

Archbishop O’Brien takes aim at Legionaries of Christ

Baltimore’s Archbishop Edwin O’Brien has taken a direct and hard shot at the Legionaries of Christ, a conservative and sometimes controversial Roman Catholic religious order.

tjndc5-5b5dj9hpmec7lvuzezi_layout.jpgO’Brien has directed the Legionaries (and its lay movement, Regnum Christi) to disclose all its activities within the Archdiocese of Baltimore and — this is serious — to end one-on-one spiritual direction with anyone under 18.

Furthermore, O’Brien (that’s him) granted an interview about the move to John Allen, the respected and influential journalist for National Catholic Reporter, guaranteeing that his remarks will be widely seen.

Asked by Allen about the Legionaries’ spiritual counseling to teens, O’Brien says:

But what goes on in the one-on-one counseling … there seems to be a tendency to say, ‘We represent God. You can tell us anything, and you better believe that what we tell you is from God too. If your parents disagree, we know better. We’re in the God business, and they’re really not.’ This is a caricature, but it’s there.

They sponsor father/son weekends. The father drives 14 hours, brings the kid up to New Hampshire and drops the kid off at 11:00 at night. Where’s the farther going to stay? Well, there’s a place about 40 miles away you can stay, so the father’s sleeping in the car overnight. Next day they’re ready for the hike, but no, the fathers don’t go, it’s just the counselors and the kids. That’s the tendency.

Who’s in charge of this? Who’s responsible? Each time you meet with an official, [they say], ‘Oh, no, that didn’t happen, did it? You should have let us know right away. That’s not right.’ But it happens over and over again.

This is serious stuff.

O’Brien, of course, is a native New Yorker and widely known figure in these parts. He only became archbishop last year after Cardinal William Keeler’s retirement.

The Legionaries — who have a strong presence in Westchester — are a fast-growing order of priests that has many supporters and many detractors. Their greatest supporter was none other than Pope John Paul II, who never missed a chance to promote them.

Then John Paul died — and Pope Benedict XVI censured Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, the Legion’s founder, who had been accused many years before of sex abuse by former seminarians.

Orthodox Catholics often point to the Legion’s success drawing vocations as proof that Orthodoxy connects with young men. But others question the Legion’s methods. In 2004, Archbishop Harry Flynn of the St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese shut down the Legion’s operations.

Now O’Brien is really piling on. He criticizes the Legion as an outside critic might, in terms not generally heard from an archbishop:

I’ve always suspected the flaws in the organization are endemic to it. There’s no remedying them, because it’s so deeply ingrained. There’s a sense of secrecy right from the seminary. The seminarians move two-by-two wherever they go. If one criticizes anything about the institution, the other one has to report it. … All this flows into Regnum Christi as well. Nothing happens in Regnum Christi without the Legionaries.

And then there is this exchange between Allen and O’Brien about the allegations agains the order’s founder:

Do you believe that any reform in the Legionaries has to involve coming to terms with the charges against Fr. Maciel?

It’s got to be faced. They really have to face it. First of all, they have to come to grips with it themselves, within their own community of Legionaries. They have to squarely face it. They need to be able to say, ‘The evidence seems to be that this man engaged in some activities that were less than honorable, and maybe even sinful.’ Of course, I don’t know what the evidence is, but …

One presumes that the CDF would not have reached the judgment it did without compelling evidence.

Absolutely. Without facing that, I think it casts a pall over any other objectivity, any other integrity, they claim to put forth as their qualifications to deal with lay people and with the Catholic church in general.

The Legion owns large estates in Mount Pleasant and New Castle, but has long been at odds with both towns over development plans. The Legion has plans to build a liberal arts college on part of its Mount Pleasant land.