Saturday, April 4, 2009

Archbishop O'Brien on the Legion: 'So many have been devastated and misled'

From John Allen's interview with Baltimore Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien on the upcoming apostolic visitation of the Legion of Christ:

Do you believe that abolition of the Legionaries should be on the table?

I think everything should be on the table. Of course, the ultimate hope is that what is good [in the Legion] can be preserved, so that it grows into a stronger movement. That's what everyone would like to see. I have said before, however, that there may be something endemic in the whole thing that will not allow that to happen.

... You've been very public in your criticisms of the order. Why have you chosen to speak out?

I saw a lot of the Legion when I was in Rome, and I heard a lot about them back here in the States. When I came to Baltimore, I learned that [Cardinal William Keeler]had been dealing with them on a local basis for three or four years, asking for greater transparency, and basically got nowhere. Our priests were frustrated. When I told them that I would demand accountability and share the results with the priests' council, it got a very positive reception.

When word got out of what I was doing, I was surprised by the response. I've received some harshly negative reactions, but I've also had letters from all over the country saying 'Thank you, here's my story.' I got one just last week, from somebody who had been in the organization for seven years and left last week, saying how guilty they felt and that they're having nightmares. It seems to have such a hold on people, and we need to find out why. I don't know of any other organization that has created this atmosphere of suspicion. For their good, and for the good of the church, the full picture should be laid out.

I had no idea when this started that it would draw such a reception. I don't regret it, but it certainly wasn't planned. In the long run, I believe it will be helpful.

Apart from the details about Maciel, are their broader lessons for the church in what's happened with the Legionaries?

I think it begins with Maciel, with the cult of personality around him, the secrecy. The saints don't need that. We have many saints who are respected and looked up to in ways similar to how so many looked up to Maciel, but the saints don't have that fence around them, that mysterious following.

We can learn from this. So many have been devastated and misled, and it will be good to see how it all came about. It's a lesson about holiness in the church. There's also something to learn about transparency. Of course, there are some areas where the church has to conduct itself in the internal forum, to protect people's rights and consciences, but I do think that at the core of the Legionaries there's been an unnecessary and unhealthy secrecy.
RELATED: If you or someone you know is hurting in the wake of the Legion of Christ/Regnum Christi crisis, help is available from within the Church. Several diocesan priests and members of other religious orders have made themselves available to provide pastoral care. See the list of pastoral-care resources on ReGAIN's Web site.

Comments closed. Please pray for Holy Father, the healing of Christ's Mystical Body, and for the apostolic visitators.