.- Just two weeks after their leader resigned, the group Intercessors of the Lamb ceased to exist as a Catholic entity. Archbishop George Lucas of Omaha formally suppressed the group Oct. 15, announcing that a lack of cooperation in instituting “necessary reforms” left him no choice.
“It was my hope from the beginning that the Intercessors and the archdiocese would move together on this path to the next step,” Lucas said. “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.”
Consequently, the archbishop explained, it was necessary to suppress the community of hermits, who will no longer be regarded as “in consecrated life or assimilated to it in the Church.”
He specified that “no liturgical or sacramental celebrations are to occur on any property owned by the Intercessors of the Lamb, Inc., within the Archdiocese of Omaha,” that former members are released from any vows, and that they are “to set aside the habit and refrain from using the titles 'Mother,' 'Brother,' or 'Sister'.”
The prelate pointed out that while not all former members and associates of the suppressed community had resisted the reforms demanded after a canonical investigation, a majority of the lay directors in the group's civil corporate entity would neither meet with him, nor accept his directives as canon law obliged them to do.
“What began as a desire for pastoral solicitude and an effort at positive reform,” he explained, “resulted in the refusal to accept the assistance and jurisdiction of the Church by a majority of the lay board members.” Canon law professor Fr. James J. Conn had conducted the previous investigation, which led to the resignation of Nadine Brown as the group's leader on September 30.
Brown's own desire to advance the canonical status of the Intercessors ultimately led to the canonical visitation that would cause the Oct. 15 supression. The group was recognized as a “public association of the Christian faithful” during the last twelve years of their existence.
Fr. Conn's findings, however, uncovered serious problems in the community's administration, spirituality, leadership, and finances.
Deacon Timothy McNeil, chancellor of the Archdiocese of Omaha, said the internal governing council of the group –distinct from its civil corporate board-- had given Lucas their consent to the supression. The archbishop also praised the cooperation of many former members who had welcomed his attempts at pastoral guidance.
Saying his “concern is for the welfare of the individuals who joined the Intercessors with the intention
of doing the Lord’s work,” Archbishop Lucas acted to transport 48 former members from a campus owned by the Intercessors' civil entity, to temporary housing at the archdiocese. The archbishop said that he was “providing for the care of the former members in the short-term,” and would “remain committed to helping them in any way I can in the future.”
Deacon McNeil explained that the corporate board had sealed the community's fate. “When the association asked to be recognized as a Catholic entity in accord with Church law, it agreed to recognize the pastoral authority of the archbishop and follow Catholic practices,” McNeil said. “In other words, you cannot make the claim you’re a Catholic organization and at the same time separate yourself from the teaching, sanctifying, and governing role of the archbishop.”