Learning from our mistakes. As tragic as the revelations of the abuses committed by the Founder of the Legionaries of Christ – which also perpetuated down the chain of command in some cases, good has risen from those ashes in the form of lessons learned. Other ecclesial communities are reflecting and learning from each other.
Case in point: Miles Jesu. The community has just completed an Apostolic Visitation and a new Commissary has been appointed. Fr. Barry Fischer, C.PP.S. has appropriated and implemented the best practices and lessons learned from the Legion and has applied them to Miles Jesu.
To be frank, this demonstrates a great deal of integrity on his part and the community, which will serve to foster a sense of transparency and healing in the future. Hans Ur von Balthasar is credited with the phrase that “Truth is symphonic.” Fr. Fischer seems to understand that eventually, the truth is revealed. His desire to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit for the good of the community will only service to strengthen the fraternal bonds within the community and its relationship with the greater community of the Church. While my opinion means nothing in the great scheme of things, it needs to be said, “Well done and good form Father!”
Here is the communique that was released yesterday:
STATEMENT ON THE SITUATION OF THE
ECCLESIAL FAMILY “MILES JESU”
- 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. 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, thirteen 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 Emminence Camillo Ruini, in conjunction with the Congregation of Religious, initiated an Apostolic Visitation under the guidance of Fr. Anthony McSweeney, SSS.
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.
- In my personal contact with Cardinal Vallini, I perceive that he wishes to assure the membership and also the lay associates (“Vinculum”) of his concern and of his assurance that he accompanies them in this process with his prayers and with his conviction that the membership today has a right to a future. We are in close communication as he follows with interest the process of renewal we are undertaking.
- 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. 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.
- Though this communication may come as a surprise and be painful to many members, Vinculum members, and friends of Miles Jesu, the truth cannot be hidden. Only in truth can a better and healthier future for Miles Jesu be achieved. The work of renewal is already in progress and there is enthusiasm for the future that the members are building together. United in prayer and in fraternal love, and assured of the Church’s motherly care, we will get through this time of difficulty and come to the dawning of a new day. We walk towards that day in hope and trust in God’s loving care and protection.
Fr. Barry Fischer, C.PP.S.
28 July 2010