Archbishop O'Brien Will Not Close Legionary Academy

Assures Director That Woodmont Is a «Fine School»

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By Karna Swanson

BALTIMORE, Maryland, FEB. 27, 2009 ( Despite strong criticism of the Legionaries of Christ and its lay movement Regnum Christi, Archbishop Edwin O’Brien of Baltimore does not plan to ask the congregation to leave his archdiocese, or close its school there.

The archbishop said this in a meeting Friday with Scott Brown, director of the Woodmont Academy, a school of the Legionaries of Christ in Cooksville, Maryland.

The director released a letter to parents today, in which he communicated that the archbishop believes Woodmont to be a «fine school which is in full compliance with the Office of Schools for the Archdiocese of Baltimore.»

«He wants us to ‘remain right where we are,'» added Brown, quoting Archbishop O’Brien.

Brown also noted that the archbishop has no plans of asking the Legion or Regnum Christi to leave the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

The director of the Regnum Christi school met with Archbishop O’Brien after the prelate harshly criticized the Legionaries of Christ in a Wednesday article in the archdiocesan newspaper The Catholic Review.

The archbishop of Baltimore asked for «full disclosure» of the activities of the late Legionary of Christ founder Father Marcial Maciel, after it was revealed earlier this month that the priest fathered a child.

Brown shared with Archbishop O’Brien that the prelate’s comments «upset many of our families,» many of whom are members of Regnum Christi.

«While his comments did not address any events at the school, the article in which they appeared drew a connection to the school, which many felt was unfavorable and could be detrimental to its future,» he added. «Archbishop O’Brien says it was not his desire to do harm to the school and he apologizes for any unintended consequences of his words.

«His statements were not meant to be a reflection of his opinion of the school, nor of the opinion of the Office of Schools for the Archdiocese of Baltimore.»

Expressing concerns

Prior to the publication of Wednesday’s comments, the archbishop met last week with the Legion’s superior-general, Father Álvaro Corcuera.  

According to the article, the prelate told Father Corcuera that he cannot in good conscience recommend that anyone join the Legion or Regnum Christi.

The archbishop had already expressed concern since last summer regarding the activities of the Legion in the archdiocese. At that time, the prelate had asked Father Corcuera for concrete information and set certain norms that Regnum Christi should fulfill in its pastoral work in the archdiocese.

Father Corcuera said in July that the order had «already given [the archbishop] all the information that he asked for, and we have also made contact with the parish priests where there are Regnum Christi members or activities.»

With the new information on Father Maciel, Archbishop O’Brien told The Catholic Review that he considers the priest «a man with an entrepreneurial genius who, by systematic deception and duplicity, used our faith to manipulate others for his own selfish ends.»

«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,» the prelate added.

Archbishop O’Brien asserted that the Legionary founder «leaves many victims in his wake.» And he asked 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 also called for an «objective scrutiny» of the order’s finances.

A month after the Legion of Christ revealed that its founder had a relationship with a woman and fathered a child, the congregation has yet to reveal more about the findings of its internal investigation, or its path forward.

The news broke early this month that Father Maciel had led a double life. Jim Fair, the U.S. spokesman for the congregation, issued a statement to the press confirming that the founder of the Legion and its lay movement Regnum Christi engaged in activities that «weren’t appropriate for a Catholic priest.»

Catholic News Agency reported Monday that sources in the Vatican assured a statement is expected soon from the Legionaries of Christ, and that the congregation is actively analyzing its situation in conjunction with «several cardinals» of the Holy See.

[Kathleen Naab contributed to this article]

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