The Archbishop of Omaha has suppressed a group of hermits after he encountered resistance to his attempts at reforming the association.
Archbishop George Lucas suppressed the Association of the Hermit Intercessors of the Lamb after directors of the group’s civil corporation blocked his attempts at reforming the mixed association of hermits, priests and male and female lay people.
The decision came after a long investigation of the association by the archdiocese and was made with the approval of the association’s internal governing council.
The directors of the civil corporation, which owns the association’s buildings and assets, have declared themselves unwilling to comply with the Church’s requests.
Having suppressed the association, Archbishop Lucas offered support to the majority of members – five priests and 43 lay people – while they decide the future direction of their community. With the decree of suppression all their vows and professions were invalidated and they were released from their religious names.
“It was my hope from the beginning that the Intercessors and the archdiocese would move together on this path to the next step,” Archbishop Lucas said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the canonical visitation revealed a number of alarming issues. For reasons that they have refused to share with me, the board of directors does not want to work with the Church to implement the necessary reforms.”
At the end of last year, Mother Nadine Brown, the group’s leader and founder, approached the new archbishop for help in determining the direction of the organisation. With her approval he appointed a canon lawyer. Fr James Conn, a professor at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, oversaw the canonical visitation of the association.
Fr Conn, who was responsible for looking into the governance of the association, as well as looking at doctrinal, spiritual, moral and financial aspects of the group, found a number of serious problems.
Deacon Timothy McNeil, the chancellor of the archdiocese, said these problems included “errors in governing documents, serious disunity within the community, widespread dissatisfaction with leadership, questionable financial practices, violation of its own proper law, use of intimidation tactics to secure obedience from members, inability of members to articulate the Intercessors’ charism, lack of financial transparency, violating norms governing alienation and acts of extraordinary administration, a flawed understanding of prayer and spiritual discernment”. He also found “illegitimate and irreverent custody of the Blessed Sacrament, and confusion over the administration of Mass offerings”.
Mother Nadine Brown agreed to step down as general director at the beginning of last month and Archbishop Lucas appointed Fr Gregory Baxter to oversee the association’s reform. He was appointed as a trustee at the end of September and was given the task of governing and guiding the association.
In a letter to supporters of the association the majority of members now under Archbishop Lucas’s care wrote: “After the canonical visitation, the majority of the community was excited about Archbishop Lucas’s desire to help us grow in various areas of our community life. With the help of Fr Gregory Baxter, that process was underway and things were actually going well.
“We began to feel excitement about the future. There are 56 brothers, sisters and priests who, along with the vast majority of our local lay community, remained obedient to the archbishop throughout that entire process.
“The suppression came because of the unwillingness of Nadine Brown to cooperate with Fr Baxter … and the unwillingness of the majority of the Intercessors of the Lamb, Inc civil board to comply with Archbishop Lucas’s directives.”