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Bishop says unauthorized group raising money for Arizona priest

Associated Press
Oct 28, 2005

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- An advocacy group for Catholic priests facing legal problems is sending letters to members of a South Bend parish in an effort to raise money for the defense of a former priest at the church who faces child molesting charges in Arizona.

The Detroit-based group, Opus Bono Sacerdotii, is not authorized by the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend to make such an appeal, Bishop John M. D'Arcy said Thursday. The group is seeking money for the defense of the Rev. Paul LeBrun, 49, formerly a priest at South Bend's Little Flower Catholic Church.

D'Arcy said he has never heard of Opus Bono or its president, Joseph R. Maher, who signed the letter.

"I think it's outrageous what they're doing," D'Arcy said. "We never gave them any list."

The letter from Opus Bono Sacerdotii, Latin for "Work for the Good of the Priesthood," describes LeBrun as "an extra special priest and mutual friend" who needs help. Maher said Friday that supporters of LeBrun had given the group about 3,000 names of people living in Indiana and other states from whom to seek contributions for his defense.

"Although I make no statements as to Father LeBrun's innocence or guilt, I do know that everyone is entitled to a competent defense and the fact that he is a Catholic priest with no personal financial resources makes it very difficult for him," Maher said.

LeBrun has been on trial in Mesa, Ariz., on charges of sexual conduct with a minor and molestation. Prosecutors say the charges stem from his relationships with six boys between 1986 and 1991. Allegations of abuse surfaced in Indiana after LeBrun was transferred to Arizona, but he was not charged with any crime in Indiana because the statute of limitations had run out. LeBrun was a seminarian at the University of Notre Dame and later was assigned at Little Flower Catholic Church in the early 1980s and again in the 1990s, with a stint in Arizona in between.

D'Arcy said that the diocese removed LeBrun from his priestly functions in October 1999, and a later request for reinstatement was denied.

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