On June 18, 2007 Cardinal Ruini had initiated an investigation of a “disciplinary character,” as stated in his decree. With the appointment of a Canonical Visitor, Fr. Anthony McSweeney, SSS, the investigation was to “ascertain the well-foundedness of the alleged violations of canonical discipline” and to “verify…the real functioning of its [Miles Jesu’s] organs of government.” The aim was also to “examine the community life of each religious” and draw up “a detailed final report to present to the Ordinary of the Diocese of Rome and the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.”
Cardinal Ruini’s decree stated, “I recall to mind finally that it is not licit to deter the Religious in any way from such obligations [of trusting and facilitating the Visitor], nor to otherwise hinder the visit itself. Any act eventually carried out in violation of the present decree by the above mentioned organs of government is to be considered radically invalid.”
Soon after the appointment of the Canonical Visitor, Miles Jesu appealed unsuccessfully to the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life to stop the investigation. However, Miles Jesu was able to prevent the Canonical Visitor from exercising governing power.
The investigation partially resulted from a credible formal appeal to the Vicariate of Rome by ten community leaders of Miles Jesu. Its purpose had been to disclose the “critical situation” of Miles Jesu and to ask for intervention to relieve “injustices” and “great suffering…in the most charitable and prudent manner, under the guidance of the Church,” as the appealing letter expressed. It also made clear that, “a canonical visitation would be of great assistance in the present crisis.”
The investigation was also prompted by a priest's unusual exclaustration request to Cardinal Ruini. A Miles Jesu priest needed to remove himself from community life for reasons of emotional health, but couldn't resolve this need through a standard appeal to his superiors. Given the situation, the priest was instructed by Archbishop Luigi Moretti, the Vicegerent for the Vicariate of Rome, to by-pass Miles Jesu superiors and appeal directly to Cardinal Ruini. The priest was also told to include the full background and details regarding his unusual circumstances and grave need. This instruction resulted in the submission of a 25 page extraordinary appeal for exclaustration submitted to Cardinal Ruini, May 16, 2007.
The Miles Jesu priest gave the following two reasons to Cardinal Ruini for the extraordinary appeal:
“I had explained to Msgr. Moretti that, due to the incompetent states of my own superiors, my request for exclaustration could not possibly be processed in a proper manner. Both my General Superior and his Vicar are in states of emotional, psychological and physical disability, making them unable to govern the Institute, certainly at any time in the near future (cf. Appendix 1). Yet, my need for exclaustration is a matter of urgency. In fact, guided by advice from competent spiritual directors, I have already found it necessary to recently remove myself from the Miles Jesu community environment due to its damaging effects upon me.”
“I also explained to Msgr. Moretti that my own internal superiors...have the prolonged habit of freely sharing subjects’ confidential matters with others, even in public. As I must mention confidential matters while articulating my grave need for exclaustration, I am additionally frankly reluctant to request exclaustration from my own internal superiors. I do not wish that my confidential life be publically revealed and that I would be publically humiliated simply because I am requesting an exclaustration.”
Fr. Giuseppe Tonello, the chancellor of the Vicariate, Fr. Anthony McSweeney, SSS and Fr. Leonello Leidi, C.O., of the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, are the hands on administrators of the investigation. Among other Church hierarchy internationally, Cardinal George of Chicago and Bishop Olmsted of Phoenix, where Miles Jesu has communities, are waiting for the investigation’s outcome.
The concluding investigation of Miles Jesu comes in the wake of the Legionaries of Christ scandal and an emerging plea for the Pope to either suppress or reconstitute that order.
Because of this the Miles Jesu case is sensitive. The investigative results of the Miles Jesu case greet Church faithful now looking to Rome for full disclosure and transparency regarding the Legionaries of Christ. The Miles Jesu investigative conclusion may be consequently held up as a bench mark for Rome’s ability to resolve an order’s inherent deformities.
Together, both cases represent a wakeup call for Rome. They unfortunately expose an evident lack of effective monitoring of newly developing forms of consecrated life, to the serious detriment of members.
An anonymous source intimately knowledgeable of the internal problems of Miles Jesu and the details of the investigation said: “Those who uncovered the internal dysfunctionality of Miles Jesu to the proper Church authorities were truthful and courageous. They concretely testified to an inhumane internal community dynamic. They turned to the proper immediate ecclesial superiors of Miles Jesu as an ultimate attempt to subject the hidden behavior of Miles Jesu to the judgment of the Church. They have waited patiently for the Church to make her judgment and have suffered immensely because of this.”
When this same anonymous source was asked to comment on the actual content of the investigation he said: “The good will and orthodoxy of the group is not the issue. Generally speaking, the core concern is a variety of abuses and inherited governmental incapacities.”
Concerned for the public, this information about the investigation of Miles Jesu is provided as a service to the Catholic faithful. The above general verifiable facts are indispensable for anyone contemplating involvement with this group.
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