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Priest advocate cites moral obligation

Leader of group that supports accused priests has South Bend roots.

Tribune Staff Writer

Joseph R. Maher, president of the nonprofit organization responsible for this week's mailings soliciting support for the Rev. Paul LeBrun, said Friday he has a moral obligation to help priests accused of sexual misconduct.

Maher, who attended St. Casimir's School in South Bend before his family moved to the Detroit area, now leads Opus Bono Sacerdotii, a Detroit-based group whose name in Latin means "Work for the Good of the Priesthood."

LeBrun, a former Little Flower Catholic Church priest, is on trial in Arizona, where he is accused of eight counts of sexual misconduct with a minor and five counts of child molestation.

Opus Bono mailed about 3,000 letters to Indiana parishioners asking for donations to fund LeBrun's trial defense.

Maher, who says his organization has aided about 2,000 priests since the group began in April 2002, calls the work "a calling from Christ."

"My heart goes out to these guys," Maher said about priests accused of misconduct who have been banished from public ministry. "The people who allege (misconduct) have plenty of people and groups to help them. Nobody is there to help the priests who are accused."

Maher makes no judgment about the accused priests, he said, believing that everyone is innocent until proven guilty.

"These guys have no place to go, no one to turn to," he said. Opus Bono attempts to provide accused priests with moral support, connections to others in similar situations and sometimes money to replace lost wages.

Maher said it is not his intention to cause hardship or despair for LeBrun's alleged victims and he respectfully disagrees with the comments of Bishop John M. D'Arcy of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, who said Thursday Opus Bono's mailings are "outrageous" and "out of order."

Opus Bono was informed of LeBrun's case from a couple of the priest's supporters, who gathered addresses. Maher has corresponded with LeBrun but has not personally met him.

Since the letters were mailed, Opus Bono has received phone calls ranging from people angered by the letters to those wanting to help, Maher said. No donations had been made as of Friday afternoon.

Staff writer Patrick M. O'Connell:


(574) 235-6357


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