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The Deacon's Bench

After weeks of sometimes high-profile controversy, it appears that the Archdiocese of Baltimore is cracking open the door to the Legionaries of Christ:

Warned by Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien that its closely held activities must become more transparent if they are to continue within the archdiocese, the controversial Catholic religious order Legionaries of Christ — and its lay counterpart, Regnum Christi — appears to have seen the light.

“We had a meeting several weeks ago with three priests of the Legion, and they handed over a rather significant volume of information concerning membership and the programs that they run,” O’Brien told The Examiner.

O’Brien, who in June was on the verge of barring the religious and lay orders’ operations within his 153-parish jurisdiction — including the group’s K-8 Woodmont Academy in Cooksville and its Crownsville family center — now tentatively supports the traditionalist congregation’s organizational and evangelical work.

“It depends on their ongoing cooperation,” O’Brien qualified, noting that he has recently written pastors to welcome overtures by Regnum Christi representatives within their parishes, “especially at the grassroots.”

In a June letter to the order’s superior general in Rome, O’Brien — reflecting concerns over the organization’s “sense of secrecy” and “seemingly heavily persuasive” recruiting methods — requested that a Legion priest-liaison be appointed to him who was “fully knowledgeable” of all of the organization’s Maryland activities.

He furthermore requested the names and ministry sites of all Legion priests operating within the archdiocese; the operating details of all Regnum Christi youth programs, summer activities, and other ministries active in the archdiocese; and asked that all spiritual guidance of those under 18 years of age be suspended.

O’Brien, whose initial hand was stayed by Vatican intercession, wanted the information within a month, and he wanted semiannual updates of any changes.

Apparently, the hybrid evangelical group, which dates from the 1940s and now has 70,000 members, 700 priests and numerous schools, institutes and seminaries throughout the world, has complied completely.

“We are fully in agreement with what the archbishop has asked us to do,” said Scott Brown, executive director of the 300-student Woodmont Academy.

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