A public association of the Catholic faithful has now been suppressed by Archbishop George Lucas. The Intercessors of the Lamb, Inc. lived within a secluded community of Ponca Hills.
Friday, after a recent examination of the association by a Canon Law Professor, the Archdiocese of Omaha shut them down.
The community, living under a vow of poverty, has been cloaked in a bit of mystery and secrecy since their beginnings in 1992. They were private then, and they went public in 1998. They have been in controversial positions, while fighting neighbors over expansion, and in achieving tax-exempt status.
The group of lay brothers, sisters and clerics were governed by a civil board of directors. It is that board, said Archdiocese Chancellor, Deacon Timothy McNeil, that was “offended” by the examination this past two weeks, refusing to change certain bylaws to come in line with Canon Law.
"We learned a whole lot of weaknesses. Some we were aware of. Some we weren't aware of,” he said. “Questionable financial practices. I think intimidation tactics to try and control the members."
He said there was also a problem with “spiritual direction and breaches of confidentiality,” he said. In addition, “Not enough controls about protection of adults being with children, just our safe environment policies,” he said. Though McNeil was quick to add no indiscretions involving children were discovered.
Archbishop Lucas sent Saint Margaret Mary‘s Rev. Gregory Baxter to the community to try and work with Intercessors of the Lamb, Inc.’s Board of Directors. Rev. Baxter said he was tasked, “to do some spiritual journey with them,” and “to reorganize their structure within the church.”
But he said, “The board decided not to amend the bylaws to come into concert with canon law and so that was a very difficult situation that had to be dealt with because we can't have this disparity.”
The board declined to speak with Channel 6 News but released a statement reading in part: “The corporation and its board of directors are extremely saddened by the recent events… has provided for the hermits for decades, and has continued to do so after the Archdiocese removed Mother Nadine…
“The board disagrees with many of the actions, statements and findings of the Archdiocese.”
McNeil said, “You cannot have a civil board who rejects the authority of the archbishop over a catholic association. Because of that, he had no choice but to suppress the organization."
Rev. Baxter broke the news to the 48 Brothers and Sisters of the community. "And they've responded marvelously under a time of great stress and duress,” he said. “There were some tears but there was also a sense of relief and joy. They told me so clearly that there were so many things they wanted to change.”
Now, the 32 women and 16 men are without a home and must adjust to life back in the lay world. "They've gone without traditional jobs. Many, especially the women members, don't have any other clothes but their habits which they cannot wear after a few more days here,” he said.
Rev. Baxter said the Archdiocese will take care of their immediate needs of clothing, food and shelter, “maybe see what we can do to reorganize in a different name, different place, but with a new vibrancy and a new desire to continue to do service here in the Archdiocese of Omaha.”
The Board of the Intercessors of the Lamb, Inc. says they, too, are looking at future options. “The board will meet very soon to discuss how to best continue to the corporation’s mission.”