The founder of Miles Jesu was removed from office because of “serious mental and physical health problems”, it was announced today.
Fr Alfonso Durán, who founded the ecclesial family in 1964, stepped down as superior general of Miles Jesu in 2007 because of mental and physical problems, Fr Barry Fischer, the priest appointed to reform Miles Jesu, said on the institute’s website today.
Fr Durán is well-known for promoting the Path to Rome conferences, which brought together prominent Catholic converts. One of the conferences took place in Britain in 1999.
After Fr Durán’s removal, 13 members of the institute asked for an investigation into irregular practices. Cardinal Camillo Ruini appointed Fr Anthony McSweeny to conduct an Apostolic Visitation which brought to light “a number of irregularities and questionable practices”.
In 2009 Cardinal Agostino Vallini appointed Fr Fischer to act as Commissary for Miles Jesu and 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”.
Fr Fischer said that in the 17 months he had been working with Miles Jesu “it has become clear and undeniable, that the founder, Fr Alfonso Durán, presented erratic behaviours that were totally beyond the scope of the powers given to him”.
He said that the structures of the institute facilitated Fr Duran’s behaviour, which “was totally unacceptable” and was not “supportable in any way by a healthy sense of consecrated life”.
He said: “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.”
Fr Fischer said that members were reviewing the customs and practices of the institute with a particular focus on “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”.
Stephen Ryan, who was a member of Miles Jesu for 22 years, said: “Fr Fischer reached out to former members of Miles Jesu to bring the truth to light and he should be commended for this. I trust and hope he undertands how essential it is he continue to do so. Knowing and assimilating the fullness of truth is an ongoing process, essential for a better future, as he says.
“We are all entitled to a better future and this public apology by Fr Fischer on behalf of the Church and Miles Jesu is an essential and healing step. It is not, however, the last step. I would like to think His Eminence, Cardinal Agostino Vallini, accompanies us as well and that we also have a right to a future. I believe there are many who may suffer for years to come, and they should not just be forgotten or put to the side because they are no longer official ‘members’ of Miles Jesu. They too are brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, and deserve the Church’s support. Their love of God and their desire to serve Him can be judged to be no less than that which Fr Fischer praises in those members who chose to remain.
“There are those in the Institute who will need much healing as well. There is no monopoly on suffering, both for former and current members. A true sign of healing will be that day when former and current Miles Jesu members might come together in Christian charity, look each other in the eye and say: ‘I forgive you, my brother. I forgive you, my sister.’ I, for one, am willing to take that step.”
Miles Jesu has community houses of celibate members in the United States, India, Spain, Nigeria, Italy, Czech Republic, Ukraine, Poland and Slovakia. The General House is in Rome.