When some Catholic family members of young members of the Legion or Regnum, Christi begin to suspect or acknowledge that their beloved family member is making a major commitment of their lives to a controversial group that critics refer to as a cult group , they may still feel a sense of relief that the person they care about at least is with a
staunchly Catholic group, that is
approved by the Pope. Even though some credible qualified people have concerns about the group's cultishness there is some consolation that someone's son or daughter or sister or brother is at least attending or taking part in daily mass and is practicing his or her faith diligently and not chanting on a street corner somewhere, nor likely to be lining up for Kool Aid. So why be concerned??
We agree wholeheartedly with the benefits of practicing one's faith. However, one of the key issues with any high demand group is the unhealthy level of dependency and control that is exerted over a person's freedom of will and conscience,. Such groups, including those that exist within the Catholic Church are what they are because their true agenda is to serve the needs and desires of the master or masters who are in control over the members and who benefit from the productive effort of their followers by taking advantage of them and by suppressing their human rights, including limiting their contact with the outside world.
Sexual abuse of young victims as attributed to the Legionary founder, Father Marcial Maciel is horrific and there has been much discussion about this particular form of abuse. However, there has been almost no publicity about other forms of abuse that happen in high demand groups such as the Legion and Regnum Christi that can destroy the quality of life of members and cause negative changes in them that are extremely difficult to undo. One example of this is mental health issues, which many former ex members claim to have endured. In a worst case example, psychological distress can even lead to suicide and this is a definite concern in high demand groups whether or not they are Catholic. In the past, very young women have been pressured into entering a formation program and unwittingly entered into an environment where they are isolated from all family and former friends. They have not been allowed to make new particular friends. They have been made to follow stringent militaristic rules, been kept overly busy and made to feel fearful of leaving. While the Vatican Delegate has been present, there has been some improvement of these conditions but the upper level of leadership and methodology to date has remained essentially unchanged. Trained psychologists with training in exit counseling from typical well known cult groups have ex members from the Legion and Regnum Christi as clients. We do not believe that the leaders (most of whom have been trained according to Father Maciel's methodology) have had formal training to deal with psychological and emotional problems or to recognize and deal with suicidal tendencies. Their focus has always been on aggressively recruiting and retaining candidates. /p>
One of our greatest concerns for members is that people through the type of methodology that has been utilized for the consecrated women for example gradually lose their critical thinking ability and their free will. Their very personality is systematically altered so that the individual member becomes more docile and subservient to the leader's will. The members are indoctrinated to believe in a black and white way of thinking and develop an irrational fear of ever leaving the group. Changes in high demand group members (including Catholic ones) are accomplished by gradually increasing the level of dependence on their group for all of their needs. The traditional vows (or in the case of Regnum Christi solemn promises) serve to create an ideal set of conditions for leaders to take over control of all aspects of a person's life.
Many religious sisters in Catholic orders in the 1950's era were subjected to methodology similar to that developed and used by Father Maciel for his followers. The religious sisters in most cases successfully fought against such excessive controls they were required to abide by. The religious orders that attempted to maintain excessive control over their members ran out of candidates and they have been closing down over recent decades. We believe that the main reason why so many of the consecrated women remain in Regnum Christi stay there is because their behavior, information, thoughts and emotions have been excessively controlled using manipulative methods. The key element to such behavior control is to make the women dependent on their group for their every need. Once the level of dependence reaches a certain point, the members are entrapped by invisible bonds that prevent them from leaving.
As the years go by, each member is molded and changed to behave, think, act and feel in a way that pleases their superiors and benefits the upper echelons of leadership. The person they were when they entered is systematically altered so that everyone thinks, acts and believes in a similar way. The original personality still remains somewhere within each person but a new cult personality gradually develops. The cult personality may genuinely experience happiness but is unaware of how he or she is being manipulated. The reason for happiness is that the person is relieved of the normal stress that comes from making ordinary day to day decisions. They avoid the stress of having to decide things but forfeit the growth and development that come from making choices. Because everyone thinks alike and no disagreement is allowed, the stress that comes from having normal dissenting viewpoints is eliminated. Cult members typically are completely unaware of the invisible bonds that prevent them from ever wanting to leave and their definition of what is
normal shifts over time.
The cult personality becomes quite defensive at times whenever the group or the leader is challenged by a parent, relative or outside friend. Communication between parents and family members and their loved one becomes increasingly compromised as a result and resentments build. Members are told that their well meaning family just don't understand what consecrated life is all about. Father Maciel used to instill an irrational fears of evil
detractors. That was the justification for him and his other leaders limiting members' news and other information to
friendly sources such as Zenit and National Catholic Register that they had control over. Each member's view of reality was altered by the leaders to suit their purposes. Loving friends and family members often find it very frustrating when they tried to convince the person on the inside that there is something very wrong with their way of life. The members would sincerely believe that their (modified) views about their life were absolutely correct because everyone around them believed the same. For example, when Father Maciel told them that he was innocent of all charges and that the Vatican was falsely persecuting him based on false testimonies, they would believe it as absolute truth. Family members would run into a brick wall when they tried to reason with their loved one on the inside. It is common for family members of those in high demand groups to eventually be faced with a decision whether or not they want to continue any relationship at all. Some choose reluctantly to break all ties with their loved one because they no longer care for the cult persona.
Some excellent examples of how a person exposed to a high demand environment may be damaged are provided on a blog written by a group of young women who were former students in a Regnum Christi Rhode Island high school at http://49weeks.blogspot.ca/ The girls in their teenage years living in the school were subjected to a way of life similar to that of the consecrated women who
guided them. Sarita in her testimony states:
One of the most damaging aspects of the PC (pre-candidacy) school was the manipulation of conscience and God's Will. Everything was considered God's Will: the norms, the schedule, your director, and your spiritual director. If you were told to do anything you were expected to obey instantly with a spirit of supernatural obedience and without questioning.
The consecrated women who imposed the cultish conditions on the high school girls were not intentionally doing anything evil. They had in turn been conditioned indirectly by their Legion masters, through their superiors and spiritual directors to
force vocations on younger people, unknowingly using mind control methodology and felt genuine joy whenever someone
chose to accept their
calling to serve God.
Once a group controls what a person wears, what and when he or she eats, where he sleeps and what he or she does throughout each day, he is well on the way to being under control of the group leaders. The person gradually comes to believe and accept that remaining in the group is the only way to ensure personal salvation. This is a lie of course because there are many paths that lead to eternal happiness.
In the case of the Legion, the saintly qualities of their charismatic founder, Father Maciel, who was always referred to as Nuestro Padre (which means Our Father), were grossly exaggerated to the point where he was idolized and for many members his false image became the ideal for them to aspire to. In 2009, Toronto Archbishop (now Cardinal) Collins Click Here expressed his
discomfort regarding excessive veneration of the founder. When a cult group leader becomes the main object of worship the members' spiritual health becomes compromised, regardless of whether they profess to be Catholics, Protestants or followers of any other religion. For all Christians, our salvation comes as a gift from Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior, not from any human being living on earth today.
So, we at ReGAIN suggest that everyone does his or her due diligence before making any major commitment to any group on the basis that it professes loyalty to the Catholic Church or to the Pope. Not all groups are safe to join any more than a Catholic used car salesman is more honest than a non Catholic used car salesman. Our Lord in Matthew 7:15 warns us to beware of wolves in sheep's clothing.