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Miles Jesu founder’s behavior ‘totally unacceptable,’ says current leader

Catholic World News - August 03, 2010

Father Alfonso Durán, a Spanish priest who founded Miles Jesu in Phoenix in 1964, exhibited behavior that was “totally unacceptable and not in accord with the discipline of the Church nor supportable in any way by a healthy sense of consecrated life,” according to a statement issued on July 28 by Father Barry Fischer, CPPS, the current commissary of the ecclesial family of consecrated life.

“In the spring of 2007 the Founder of Miles Jesu, Fr. Alfonso Durán, was removed from the office as Superior General, a position which he filled since the founding of the Ecclesial Family in 1964,” said Father Fischer. “Due to serious mental and physical health problems he was judged unable to continue in his position by the ecclesial authorities. Almost at the same time, 13 members of Miles Jesu presented a request for an investigation into the Institute, indicating in their request alleged irregularities in the practices of Miles Jesu. The Cardinal Vicar of Rome, His Eminence Camillo Ruini, in conjunction with the Congregation of Religious, initiated an Apostolic Visitation under the guidance of Fr. Anthony McSweeney, SSS.”

Father Fischer continued:

During the Apostolic Visitation a number of irregularities and questionable practices came to light in the sworn testimonies of many members. Also the behavior of Fr. Durán in regards to certain questionable conduct and his exercise of authority came to light. The conclusion of the Apostolic Visitation was that an outside person should be called in to work with the Ecclesial Family in order to correct these situations and to work with the members in the renewal of the Institute.

In a Decree issued on March 25, 2009, Cardinal Agostino Vallini, the Pope’s Vicar for the Diocese of Rome, named me, Fr. Barry Fischer, C.PP.S., as Commissary for Miles Jesu invested with full authority. The mandate is to write a new Constitution which defines the charism, spirituality, and apostolic nature of the Institute; to develop adequate vocational discernment and formation policies (ratio formationis); to review the financial policies, and in general to completely revise all its practices and customs.

During the past seventeen months, I have worked closely with the membership in pursuit of this mandate, as well as with former members who have left during or after the Apostolic Visitation. In time it has become clear and undeniable, that the Founder, Fr. Alfonso Durán, presented erratic behaviors that were totally beyond the scope of the powers given to him. Some members have identified wounds caused by the inappropriate exercise of authority under his leadership. The mistaken sense of allegiance and obedience instilled in the membership facilitated his behavior, which was totally unacceptable and not in accord with the discipline of the Church nor supportable in any way by a healthy sense of consecrated life.

Members who challenged his actions or behavior were often ostracized. The internal discipline and customs of the Institute provided protection for the Founder. It must be said in justice, that most of the members had no idea of the improper conduct of the Founder. Some of the allegations against Fr. Duran are hearsay and have not been verified. However, many are factual. It is important for all that the truth be disclosed, which is the reason for this public statement.

During this year and a half of my ministry with Miles Jesu I have come to know and admire the membership and the charitable projects of the Institute. All are filled with love of God and a sincere desire to dedicate their lives to God’s service and to the Church. Members are actively involved in the drawing up of new Constitutions and a complete review of the customs and practices of the Institute in the spirit of the Gospel and in fidelity to the teachings of the Church. Particular attention will be paid to developing new government structures ensuring the proper exercise of authority and promoting an active participation and co-responsibility of the members in the life of the Institute.

“As Commissary and in the name of the Church, I wish to express my deep concern for all those members, former members and family members who may have been hurt in the past due to the manner in which authority was exercised,” Father Fischer added. “I also am personally grateful for those members who had the courage to solicit the intervention of the Congregation of the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, thus bringing to light the situations under question.”

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Show 2 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: rnoller5358 - Aug. 04, 2010 8:12 AM ET USA

    While I understand that one can make the connection between various abuses and a "military sounding" name, there are many good ones we never hear about. I am a member of Militia Immaculata, and I can't even imagine something like this happening. We are consecrated to Jesus and Mary. That pretty much sums up our dedication and thinking.

  • Posted by: filioque - Aug. 03, 2010 7:13 PM ET USA

    Does this pattern sound familiar? "Miles Jesu" is Soldiers of Jesus. Sounds like Legionaries of Christ. Maybe we should avoid naming religious groups in a military style. It seems to engender an exaggerated type of discipline that leads to trouble.

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