Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Archbishop who Saw Through the Legion

Archbishop O'Brien leaving Baltimore for post in Rome

He will continue work in Baltimore until successor is installed

August 30, 2011|By Arthur Hirsch, The Baltimore Sun
Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien flies to Rome next month for a new job leading a global order of Catholic knights, a post that likely will lead to his elevation to cardinal, but which also begins his departure from the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
Pope Benedict XVI named O'Brien, 72, grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, the Vatican announced Monday. The predominantly lay order, which traces its history to the 11th-century Crusades, now ministers to Christians and people of other faiths in historical Palestine.

The archbishop is being "promoted" to a post in Rome. But it seems to me he is being "demoted" from his diocese. Was it because he dared to bring down the Vatican's Darling Legion of Christ? "Father, forgive the Church hierarchy for the way it treats its 'faithful servants'?"

This is an old article; after it find a recent article from the diocese of Baltimore on Cardinal O'B's new appointment

Archbishop O'Brien raises concerns about Legion of Christ
By George P. Matysek Jr. The Catholic Review 

Concerned that the Legion of Christ stifles the free will of its members and lacks transparency, Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien told the religious order’s director general that he cannot in good conscience recommend that anyone join the Legion or Regnum Christi, its affiliated lay movement.

In the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Legion of Christ is affiliated with Woodmont Academy in Cooksville. Regnum Christi is also active in several parishes.

The archbishop’s action came in the wake of revelations that Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legion of Christ, fathered a daughter while serving as leader of the international religious order.

Pope Benedict XVI had previously removed the Mexican priest from public ministry in 2006, asking him to lead a life of prayer and penance after Father Maciel faced allegations of sexual abuse of seminarians and financial irregularities.

“It seems to me and many others that this was a man with an entrepreneurial genius who, by systematic deception and duplicity, used our faith to manipulate others for his own selfish ends,” Archbishop O’Brien told The Catholic Review in a telephone interview following his Feb. 20 Rome meeting with Father Alvaro Corcuera, director general of the Legion.

“Father Maciel deserves our prayers, as every Christian who dies does, that he’ll be forgiven and we leave the final judgment to God as to what his life and death amounted to,” Archbishop O’Brien said.

Saying that the Legion’s founder “leaves many victims in his wake,” the archbishop called for the “full disclosure of his activities and those who are complicit in them or knew of them and of those who are still refusing to offer disclosure.”

He added that the finances of the order should be opened to “objective scrutiny.”

Archbishop O’Brien said he has grave concerns that the Legion fosters a “cult of personality” focused on Father Maciel.

“While it’s difficult to get a hold of official documents,” Archbishop O’Brien said, “it’s clear that from the first moment a person joins the Legion, efforts seem to be made to program each one and to gain full control of his behavior, of all information he receives, of his thinking and emotions.”

The archbishop said many members who leave the order suffer “deep psychological distress for dependency and need prolonged counseling akin to deprogramming.”

Saying that “I know that there are good priests in the movement” and acknowledging that Legion members are in full accord with the theological teachings of the church, the archbishop also said some of the practices of the movement are unhealthy.

“This is not about orthodoxy,” he said. “It is about respect for human dignity for each of its members.”

The archbishop noted that he has heard reports that the movement claims that the first duty of a Legionary is to love the Legion.

Such policies subject a person’s use of reason not to one’s own judgment, Archbishop O’Brien said, but to a spiritual director.

“It’s been said that the founder is alone called ‘nuestro padre’ (‘our father’) and that no one else can have that title,” Archbishop O’Brien said. “All are bound to identify with him in his spirit, his mind, his mission and in his life. This would suggest that the very basis of the Legion movement should be reviewed from start to finish.”

Scott Brown, executive director of the Woodmont Academy, declined to comment and referred questions to Jim Fair, a U.S. spokesman for the Legion who said that revelations about Father Maciel have been a “great shock” and “great disappointment” to members, but that the order has achieved “very positive things” for the church.

“We’re processing that mystery, that the Holy Spirit could use what was very clearly a flawed instrument to do good,” Mr. Fair said. “The Holy Spirit does that with all of us. We think it did it with Father Maciel. So while this is certainly disappointing, we have a charism that is approved by the church and we’ll continue to work on behalf of the church on our various apostolic works.”

The spokesman said the Legion is interested in working with the Vatican to address concerns about the movement.

“We’ll be double-checking our policies and procedures to ensure that we’re in a good position to ensure the integrity of the group,” he said.

Mr. Fair said he hoped the Legion will be able to prove to Archbishop O’Brien that “we have some value that would help his ministries and the archdiocese.”

Last summer, Archbishop O’Brien was on the verge of asking the Legion and Regnum Christi to leave the archdiocese. He wrote a June letter to the order’s leader asking that a liaison be appointed who would inform the archbishop of all of the Legion’s activities within the archdiocese. He also asked for more transparency of Regnum Christi programs and for the order to stop giving spiritual direction to minors.

“As far as we can judge, they are responding well to our requests,” Archbishop O’Brien told The Catholic Review, “but these larger questions are looming ever more threateningly.”

Father Maciel founded the Legion of Christ in 1941. He died Jan. 30, 2008, at the age of 87.

Paul McMullen contributed to this story


Pope Appoints Archbishop O'Brien Grand Master of Equestrian Order of Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem

Archbishop to Serve as Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Baltimore Until a Successor is Named
Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien announced today that Pope Benedict XVI has appointed him Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. With the announcement of the appointment, the Archbishop immediately ceases serving as Archbishop of Baltimore, a post he’s held since October 1, 2007; however, he will serve as Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese until a successor is named.
In accepting the new position, Archbishop O’Brien assumes responsibility for the ancient lay Catholic Order whose goal is to promote and defend Christianity in the Holy Land and to support the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.
“It has been a singular privilege to serve as Archbishop of Baltimore,” the Archbishop said. “It is with a heavy heart that I will be departing…I pray that I will carry out the will of God and that of [the Pope] in preserving the faith in the Holy Land.”
The Archbishop made the announcement earlier today at the Catholic Center in downtown Baltimore in front of more than 200 employees of the Archdiocese’s central services offices, Catholic Charities, the Cathedral Foundation and the Basilica.
Archbishop O’Brien succeeds Cardinal John Patrick Foley who resigned in February due to reasons of health. Cardinal Foley held the position since 2007.
"I would like to thank Cardinal Foley for his excellent service as Grand Master,” Archbishop O’Brien added. “He brought great joy and enthusiasm to the position and accomplished much in his effective leadership of the Order. I would also like to gratefully acknowledge the Cardinal's personal words of congratulations and support. Since learning of my appointment I have spent some time with Cardinal Foley and I am sure I will be turning to him from time to time for his continued good counsel."
Archbishop O’Brien said he was unsure how long it will be before his successor is named, but assured those present that the Holy See is aware of the importance of naming a new Archbishop as soon as possible, citing many critical programs underway in the Archdiocese.
During his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI has stressed the urgency of preserving a strong Christian presence in the Holy Land.
As Grand Master, Archbishop O’Brien will reside in Vatican City and will make visits to the Holy Land and to the Order’s lieutenancies, which are located throughout the world. The Archbishop has served as Grand Prior of the Mid-Atlantic Lieutenancy of the United States, based in Washington, D.C., since 2010.
According to the Vatican, the Order’s principal mission is to “reinforce the practice of Christian life by its members…and to sustain and assist the religious, spiritual, charitable and social works of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land; and to conserve and propagate the faith in the Holy Land and the rights of the Catholic Church there.”
Members of the Order must be practicing Catholics of good character and be recommended by their local Ordinary, or bishop, with the support of several members of the Order. Today, there are close to 18,000 members of the order who give generously to the Holy See and its institutions, particularly in the Holy Land, where it gives substantial aid to the humanitarian and religious projects of the Patriarch.
In 2009, members contributed over $10 million to the Holy Land, providing support for the patriarchal schools there and humanitarian relief.
In a statement issued today, Cardinal Foley cited Archbishop O’Brien’s “experience and splendid dedication as priest and archbishop” and said the Archbishop will be “an outstanding leader” of the Order. “I could not be happier that he is my successor,” the Cardinal added.
During his tenure as the 15th Archbishop of the nation’s oldest Catholic diocese, Archbishop O’Brien has focused the Church’s ministry in several key areas, including the promotion of vocations, fostering a culture of respect for the dignity of every person, improving the quality of life in Baltimore City, and to help Catholics in the Archdiocese—young, old, and those who may have left the Church—renew and strengthen the bonds of their faith.
Since arriving to serve as Archbishop of Baltimore in October 2007:
  • Archbishop O’Brien has ordained seven new priests for the Archdiocese and over 120 men have entered the program for priestly formation.
  • The Archbishop’s Annual Appeal, a comprehensive fundraising program designed to aid the parishes, schools and charitable programs within the Archdiocese, has generated more than $23 million in pledged donations and is projected to surpass the $30 million mark this year.
  • The Archdiocese has raised and distributed more than $7.5 million in tuition assistance for children in inner city Catholic schools.
  • More than 3,100 new Catholics entered the Catholic Church in the Archdiocese.

While many areas of Church life have experienced growth in recent years, Catholic school enrollment continued to decline, a trend that was accelerated by the economic downturn that began in the fall of 2008.
To reverse this disturbing trend—one that led to the closing of several Catholic schools in the years prior to his installation as Archbishop of Baltimore--and to head-off the dire consequences that the financial crisis posed for Catholic schools, Archbishop O’Brien initiated an unprecedented review and strategic planning process for the entire school system. These efforts led to the painful but necessary consolidation of a dozen Catholic elementary schools and one high school, as well as the creation of a long-term strategy for strengthening Catholic schools. As well a number of new educational initiatives to help Catholic schools remain competitive were developed, including dual language, Montessori and STEM, with the promise of additional programs to follow.
Guided by a blue ribbon committee of educational, community, business and philanthropic leaders, the Archbishop called for the creation of a new Archdiocesan School Board and a new model for school governance that puts the Superintendent of Schools in charge of school leaders and puts priests in charge of the spiritual identity of the school. The critical issue of bridging the affordability gap many families are facing was also a key area of focus for the Archbishop, as he called on every Catholic parish in the Archdiocese to financially support Catholic school education. This resulted in the implementation of an annual special assessment and a special collection for Catholic education, both designed to help fund tuition assistance and other forms of assistance to families and schools.
“While the thought of leaving Baltimore—which I have come to think of as a permanent and welcoming home—saddens me, the news underscores the fact that the Church is built and ordered on Christ, alone,” said Archbishop O’Brien