Monday, June 23, 2008

A Frank Dialogue

This is not the usual matter for this blog. Typically, my subject matter is a bit lighter than this. However, as this is an important issue in my diocese (and many beyond are interested too), I thought I would provide some further input on the Archbishop O'Brien - Legionaries of Christ/Regnum Christi matter.

On Saturday, Archbishop Edwin O’Brien met with a group of members of Regnum Christi after the priesthood ordination in Baltimore. Recognizing that they probably had already heard much of what was the impetus for the meeting, the archbishop told the roomful of 150 people, “It is out of pastoral concern that I speak to you. … I want you to hear [these things] directly from me.” He began the meeting by restating the content of his letter that went to Fr. Alvaro Corcuera, the head of the Legion of Christ in Rome. In restating these concerns raised in the letter, O’Brien emphasized again the three areas of concern he had with regard to the operations of the Legion and Regnum Christi in the Archdiocese:

First was the lack of pastoral transparency in the sharing of information about programs and participants. Second was the nature of youth programs and activities that seem to show a lack of respect for parental rights and duties, and a call to cease ongoing spiritual direction with children under 18. And finally was a need to respect the parental role in encouraging and fostering vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life.

After his brief words of explanation, the archbishop opened the discussion up to the concerns and comments of the assembly. Most of the comments reflected the very positive role that involvement in Regnum Christi has had in the lives of the families who participate. They said that they are closer to their Church and Jesus, and that they have been active and integral participants in their parishes as well. They didn’t feel the “coercion” to follow the LCs vocational promotion or the “flaws endemic” to them that the archbishop’s letter had referred to.

Some who spoke acknowledged their skepticism about RC and their schools and programs but did not deny the positive effects that they saw with their families as a result of this ministry. One man asked O’Brien, “Are you open to this dialogue?” noting that his comments – especially those in the interview with John Allen – seemed “offensive” and “not very open” to a process of healing (referring to the comment that priests applauded the archbishop's decision with regard to the LC). Others pointed out that there could have been a tendency on the part of ex-members to “misinterpret” the problems of RC and that their input represented only one, biased side of the issue.

Many things were said in defense of RC and LC, and O’Brien listened attentively. Some folks mentioned that there was an orthodoxy in teaching by the LC that was not encountered from diocesan clergy. This was the attraction of the Legion’s activities. There was a question as to whether or not the Archbishop was conducting the meeting simply to appease members. O’Brien assured them that “I’d be wasting my time if this was for PR.” For him, it is a real issue that must be addressed openly and candidly.

From what I have seen and known about Archbishop O’Brien thus far, to say that this is anything other than true pastoral concern on the part of a shepherd of the Church would be disingenuous. Hopefully, with this dialogue initiated, we are on the way to an open, transparent road to the future. The people spoke, and O’Brien “got what they were saying.” “I love you and what you are doing,” he told them. Now, he says, it is up to them to be open and honest in approaching their pastors – parish priests – and share the best of who they are – something the LC have already taught them to do for God. In a letter sent to Baltimore priests as a follow-up, O’Brien tells us “In my opinion, many members of Regnum Christi are exemplary in doing fine work in this Archdiocese. However, unique among many apostolic groups, LC and RC suffer a strong negative image among many of our clergy in Baltimore and beyond. Until this factor is addressed candidly, tensions will remain. I suggested that members of Regnum Christi speak with their parish priests, relating their account of Saturday’s meeting and seeking ways to collaborate more closely with parish life.”

The dialogue, I seems, has begun. We’ll see where this takes us.


giselle said...

No one disputes the integrity or good will of the rank-and-file members of Regnum Christi. They love the Church, they love orthodoxy and they want vocations to flourish. The archbishop's beef is not with them. They are always the best marketing tool for the Legion. Apb. O'Brien knows full well that they are caught between a responsible and pastorally-minded shepherd and a group that operates behind closed doors by its own rules. This will all wash out eventually.

Fr. Austin Murphy said...

This meeting was specifically meant for the members of RC, as far as I could tell. As the Archbishop noted, it was his concern for them that they understand what he was doing when he made his demands of the leadership of the Legion. The real work, I think remains for the LCs to comply with those demands. So, yes, Giselle, I think you're right. We keep this matter in prayer.

Artsgolfer said...

As an outsider looking in I can see both sides. I have avoided, for myself and my children, any active participation in RC in my area because of their secrecy. I am not in the Baltimore diocese. However, I do see the wonderful prayerful people that this organization helps to foster. And, they do produce wonderful and fun programs for the kids. I was especially appalled though by their statement following the censure of Father Marciel. There was no contrition only arrogance. I hope more Bishops now work to make the LC/RC provide transparancy in their dioceses'. They need to understand that true Orthodoxy in the Faith requires obedience to their Bishops.

victorix58 said...

I am a true outsider; I have no experience with RC (Regnum Christi) or LC (Legionaries of Christ). Could someone fill me in on what the actual issue is?

Are parents objecting to orthodox doctrinal teachings coming from the Legionaries of Christ? Are the Legionaries unorthodox? Can you give an example?

Is there a fear on the part of Regnum Christi or Legionaries of Christ that if they told family and friends about vocational preaching the family and friends would discourage them?

I have heard no actual examples of what either organization has done wrong. Secrecy may be appropriate when you are keeping secrets from people who are unorthodox and will unduly pressure you. For example, St. Francis of Assisi's father.

Jon said...

I am not RC or LC. However, I have had and continue to have experience with both. Here is what I have observed in my diocese:

(1) They operate outside, or “parallel” to, our diocese and under the local LC priests, who are based at a local LC school (which is not diocesan).

(2) Their functions, which I have attended, are never in a Catholic church or even in a Catholic parish building, but in secular establishments or at the local LC school.

(3) Their functions are disguised recruiting tools. Almost never is a function identified as part of RC or LC. But once at the function, invariably one is invited to endless RC and LC functions for you, your spouse, and your children.

(4) Almost all of the RC and LC functions involve splitting the family up: dad one night; mom the other night; mom and dad for long weekends; the girls to Challenge; the boys to Conquest; etc.

(5) RC and LC appear to operate among, and seek as members, only the wealthy and influential. Their functions indeed can be very expensive to attend.

(6) None of the RC children I know attend any of our diocesan schools, although all are from wealthy families. The children are all either home schooled, enrolled in the local pricey LC school, or enrolled in the local pricey secular (VERY secular) private schools. By these actions, then, one senses an “anything but diocesan schools” attitude.

(7) Consistent with the apparent “anything but diocesan schools” attitude, I have personally heard RC, in the presence of LC priests who did not disagree, express the view that local diocesan schools are not Catholic. Think about that – is that not schismatic?

(8) Based on my discussions with RC, I get the sense that they consider LC priests certainly “better”, if not outright “more holy” or “more Catholic”, than diocesan priests.

Now, I am orthodox, and would like nothing more than to see complete orthodoxy from our bishops and priests, who I believe have, as a whole, failed us as shepherds and teachers for the past 40 years. That said, based on my observations of RC and LC, there is no question in my mind that Archbishop O’Brien was justified in doing what he did. Just as Archbishop Flynn of St. Paul-Minneapolis was not without reason to label LC and RC a “parallel church” and ban them from his diocese.

Christ established 1 Church, not 2.

Romanus said...

I am not RC or LC either, but all of the issues mentioned by Jon could have a benign explanation, given the state of catechesis in some parts of the Church, the specific nature of the vocations of girls versus boys, moms versus dads, and so on.

However, the answer to the question "why this way and not another" will be an important part of the transparency that the Archbishop has demanded.