Wednesday, January 14, 2009

What's wrong in Baltimore is right in Arlington as Legion priest gives spiritual direction to minors

Baltimore Archbishop Edwin O'Brien last June told Legion of Christ priests to stop giving spiritual direction to minors. But on the other side of the Potomac, in the Diocese of Arlington, Legionaries continue to give such direction to high-school boys, despite concerns from O'Brien and others that the children may be pressured into religious vocations.

The introduction to ZENIT's interview yesterday with Rev. Michael Sliney L.C., "7 Things Teenage Boys Most Need," says the Legionary priest "acts a spiritual director" for high-school boys.

Diocese of Arlington Bishop Paul Loverde has yet to display the concerns of his Baltimore counterpart, whose call for a halt to the Legion's direction of minors was part of a wider demand for "greater transparency and accountability" from the religious congregation and its lay arm, Regnum Christi.

Here are some things parents of teenage boys should know that were omitted from ZENIT's article: the complaints O'Brien received about the "heavily persuasive methods" the Legion uses with young people, as he described them in an interview with the National Catholic Reporter's John Allen:

Can you describe what led you to issue this letter?

When I came into the archdiocese, I was told by our Vicar General that there had been a long series of exchanges between the cardinal and the locals of the Legionaries about programs going on in the archdiocese that our pastors didn’t know about, didn’t know the extent of them, didn’t know the nature of them. There were seemingly heavily persuasive methods used on young people, high schoolers especially, regarding vocations.

Have the Legionaries generated a lot of vocations in Baltimore?

I don’t know. Once again, we don’t know. They have the Woodmont school in our archdiocese. [Note: The Woodmont Academy is a private K-8 Catholic school with an enrollment of over 300 located in Cooksville, Maryland.] Academically, they’re abiding by all the expectations of our Superintendent of Education. We’ve got no problems there.

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. [Read the full interview.]