Trapped in a Legion of Christ Apostolic School – When I was 12 years old

It happens in the USA, in Mexico, Spain, and in whatever country the Catholic Church allows these boarding schools for minors [boys 11-18].

Since I first learned about the serious abuses in the Legion of Christ I have been very interested in following serious investigations such as ReGAIN’s professional investigators like Jason Berry in his Vows of Silence documentary. I admired these independent researchers who are willing to swim against the current.

My interest was spurred by my desire to confirm my own presentments in the testimonies of others; presentments that dogged me since the time I was at the Legion Junior Seminary in Leon, Guanajuato, Mexico. That experience left me with a bad taste in my mouth; I would never want to repeat that ever again, and I lament that other youth have not left that

Thanks to a “mistake” by one of the priests I was able to escape. Let me tell my story briefly.

From the first moment I felt bad I asked the superiors to let me talk with my parents so they could pick me up. They told me I could not use the phone; that they would let my parents know; but they never did.

I NEVER received proper medical attention the two days I was sick to my stomach. They only “allowed me” to miss the 7am and 1pm masses. Otherwise I had to follow the schedule.

I could not escape because I knew the entrance gate was always locked. I found this out because one day that I wanted to go out and buy something to eat they would not let me out, under the pretence that I could only eat at the appointed times, and whenever the fathers opened a little shop at the edge of the playground.

I also found out they had a small library on the second floor: with a sitting area, TV, phone, and magazines “For the exclusive use of the priests”. Most of the time the library was locked. I accidentally discovered that place the day I arrived looking for the dormitories. They realized that I had gone in there and they strictly prohibited me from going in again.

After I realized that my parents were not coming for me, I got desperate and remembered there was a phone in the library. On several occasions I tried to get in but the door was locked. Full of fear they would discover my plan I started staking out the door; whenever I saw a priest coming out of there I would rush over to see if I could get in… After many attempts I got lucky and was able to slip in and call home.

When I was able to speak with my dad I learned something new. At the beginning the superiors had never told me that my parents would take my home any time I did not feel well. They tried by every possible means to convince my parents that I was fine and that they should leave me at the residence. “You know that it is hard at the beginning and it is only natural that they want to go home. But gradually they will get over it and love it.”

My parents then insisted repeatedly they wanted to see me and came for me. They had to insist the superiors call me down. As soon as I saw them I did not want to back into the residence on my own. My father went into the dormitory with me to get my things and I told him immediately I did not want to stay. The rest is history

I get anxious just remembering those moments of anguish. That is why I get very angry knowing that many other youth had a worse time than me in places like that.

Thanks for reading this. This is one way of getting it off my chest and facing my fear.

I hope my testimony will be motivation and support for your noble work, as you defend and seek justice for the victims of these sick people



Sucede en México, USA, España, y en cualquier país donde la Iglesia sigue permitiendo estos internados para menores [chicos 11-18]

Desde que me enteré por primera vez de los graves acontecimientos dentro de la Legión, he tenido mucho interés en seguir investigaciones serias, como las que lleva a cabo REGAIN o periodistas independientes como Jason Berry en su documental Vows of Silence, entre muchos otros
valientes -como usted- de nadar a contracorriente.

Dicho interés obedece a corroborar en cada testimonio de las víctimas, esos presentimientos que sentí cuando estuve dentro del Seminario de los Legionarios de Cristo en León Guanajuato México. Me dejaron un “amargo sabor de boca”, que no quisiera volver a vivir jamás, y que lamento mucho que otros jóvenes no hayan salido a tiempo de ahí.

Gracias a un descuido de uno de los sacerdotes, logré escapar. Brevemente le comparto la experiencia:

Desde el primer momento que me sentí mal les pedí que me permitieran hablar con mis papás para que fueran por mi. Me dijeron que yo no podía usar el teléfono, que ellos darían aviso, pero arbitrariamente ignoraron mis peticiones. NUNCA recibí atención médica los dos días que estuve enfermo del estómago. Lo único que me “permitieron” es no asistir a las misas de las 7am y la 1pm. Por lo demás, todo era

No podía escapar, porque sabía que la puerta de entrada siempre estaba cerrada con llave. Me enteré de eso, porque un día quise salir a comprar algo de comer y me negaron la salida, argumentando que sólo podía comer en los horarios destinados para ello, y cuando ellos decidieran abrir una pequeña tiendita que tenían al lado de la cancha multiusos.

También sabía que en el segundo piso tenían una pequeña biblioteca: contaba con una sala, TV, teléfono y Revistas “para uso de los sacerdotes”.

La mayor parte del tiempo la tenían cerrada con candado. Yo me enteré de casualidad que existía ese lugar el primer día de mi llegada, buscando los dormitorios. Se enteraron que yo había entrado ahí y me prohibieron tajantemente que lo volviera a hacer.

Después de darme cuenta que mis papás no llegaban por mí, me entró más pánico, y me acordé que en esa biblioteca había un teléfono. En varias ocasiones traté de entrar y estaba cerrada. Lleno de miedo por temor a que descubrieran mi plan, me dediqué a vigilar la puerta y cada vez que salía un sacerdote de ahí, inmediatamente me acercaba y veía si la dejaban abierta…hasta que el descuido de uno de ellos, me permitió acceder y hablar a mi casa.

Hablando con mi papá de esto, me dice algo que no sabía, y es que los sacerdotes, al principio no querían avisarme que mis papás estaban esperándome. Trataban por todos los medios de convencer a mis papás que me dejaran ahí más tiempo. Ellos argumentaban: “así es al principio, pero cuando se acostumbre se le pasará”. Gracias a la insistencia mis padres alquerer verme,
accedieron a llamarme. En cuanto los vi, ni siquiera quise entrar solo nuevamente a las instalaciones. Mi papá me acompañó por mis cosas al dormitorio, y enseguida le dije que me quería ir de ahí. Todo lo demás es historia.

Me pongo nervioso tan sólo de volver a recordar esos momentos de angustia. Y es por eso que me da mucha rabia saber que hubo otros jóvenes que pasaron peores cosas que yo en ese tipo de lugares.

Gracias por leerme, ya que es una manera de volver a desahogar y enfrentar el miedo.

Deseo que mi testimonio sirva como impulso y apoyo, para las nobles labores que ustedes hacen, defendiendo y pidiendo justicia para las víctimas de ésta gente enferma.

Half Truths, Empty Promises, Premature Commitment, Emotional Repression & Cruelty

My experience with Regnum Christi Consecrated Women
I was a Regnum Christi Consecrated Woman for four years of my life, beginning when I was 18 years old. My time spent was both happy and sad.
The first communications began with half truths and empty promises. I was told I would study in Rome, my innocent friendships could continue (specifically with men) and that I had a vocation more obvious than they had every seen. So, to me, it seemed like the perfect fit.
Upon entering the candidacy, everything was overly perfect. I guess I should have been more critical, but any sign of questioning or challenging would only be seen as being weak and selfish. (If I had only known that it would get much worse). After 6 weeks of unnatural delight and euphoria, the candidacy was over and I was ready to go home and say goodbye to my family and friends. But, days before I was to leave, they told us that we would only be able to call our family 6 times that year and then once a month after that. As far as seeing them, I would not be able to see them for a full year and after that it would be only 2 days yearly. My father (who is an agnostic) was on a business trip after the candidacy, so I never got the chance to explain this to him, let alone say goodbye. This hurt him deeply and turned him away from God even more. The pain I felt was overbearing. Neither my friends nor my family understood, but the RC women “helped” me to realize that Jesus was drawing me to himself. So, I got consecrated.
During those four years, I believe I was brainwashed a bit. My own opinions and feelings were constantly pushed aside because they had practically given us a recipe for how and what to feel, do, think and say. Pretty sly. I could never have a friend because that meant you were selfish. Boy oh boy, does that mess with your psyche!!! I was always lonely and felt depressed. I didn’t know it at the time because I was too busy trying to figure out what I was supposed to feel and not just feel it.
There are some specific incidents which I would like to share. The first was about the sudden death of my friend. He and I knew each other for a long time, we went to prom together and were very innocent friends. I got a call from my best friend and she told me he had been killed in a drunk driving accident. I didn’t know what to do so I went to my directress. She was very stoic, to the point, and told me that I couldn’t dwell on this and try to forget about it. This was my first year to I was eager to please and tried to follow her orders. I was never able to deal with it, let alone even send his family a card!!! It didn’t feel right.
The next incident was during the same year. My directress called me into her office to inform me that my grandmother had been in an accident. She told me she was alright and that I shouldn’t let this “distract me”. ???? I was allowed to call my mom and found out it was more than a mere accident. While driving, grandmother had a stroke and passed out at the wheel. She was just about to merge onto the highway, her car proceeded to go and it was struck at 80 miles an hour by a Mack Truck!!! She was just destroyed and barely survived only to find out the cause of her stoke was undiagnosed cancer that had reached her brain. I went to my directress, informed her and her attitude was the same. Be strong, don’t think about it and focus on your studies!!!??? Wow, how can you say you have the heart of Jesus when you can’t even feel any emotions whatsoever! I had to push all of these thoughts out of my head because I was programmed to.
The next incident involved my spiritual guide. After we had to do a meditation on purity and I felt that I needed to share something very painful with my guide. So I decided to tell her that I was sexually molested at age 8 by my babysitter. She began to cross-examine me and I started to feel like she didn’t even believe me. She also showed disgust on her face and after that, she could never look at me without that same look ever again. She was the second person I had shared that with and I vowed it would be the last. You can’t imagine the pain and betrayal I felt. It wasn’t like I was trying to get her attention or sympathy! I just didn’t know if she needed to know this for my spiritual growth.
Finally, the last incident involves how I left. After 4 years I had never, ever thought about leaving. I wanted more than anything to please God and serve him. One day, I got a little note in my box from my spiritual guide (a different one) asking me to think about whether or not I truly had a vocation. I made a beeline to her office, only to find that she was gone for the day. I was in hysterics! But of course, I couldn’t tell anyone, or even let on to the fact that I was upset. Why would she leave me a note and not even have the guts to tell me in person! That was just downright low and disrespectful. To her it was just a simple duty but for me it was my WHOLE LIFE!!! So, right before night prayers I saw her. I was sobbing and asking her why she had asked me that. She was very aloof and almost annoyed, telling me that now wasn’t the time to talk about it. I needed to talk to Jesus. She made me feel stupid and childish. After three of the longest days of my life and after 2 cancellations, I was finally graced with and appointment with her to talk about it. I proceeded to tell her why I had a vocation and she proceeded to tell me that I didn’t. Her reasons were vague and general. It wasn’t like I had stolen something or disobeyed. I just didn’t have what it takes. It wasn’t a conversation, but more like an order. ‘You don’t have a vocation so there!’ This was the hardest thing that I have ever had to go through. For four years, I could think of nothing other than serving God, forever. And then to have somebody rip that away from you in one moment and not even feel like you had a say in it. Sound familiar? Well, that was how I ended up there! Someone TELLING me that I had a vocation. And now someone is telling me that I didn’t. How can they do that? Anyway, it took 2 days for me to get on a plane and return “home”. The only advice my spiritual guide had given me was “not to fall into Mortal Sin”. Now, that’s a bit twisted, don’t you think?! When I got home I felt like I had been dropped off of the face of the earth. No one from RC was there to transition me, I had no contacts, couldn’t call anyone from RC and couldn’t even say goodbye to anyone!!!! I felt even more alone than ever.
It’s been about 4 1/2 years since I was asked to leave. The only thing that they were right about was the fact that I didn’t have a religious vocation. I have been married for 2 1/2 years and we are expecting our first child next month. I am thankful that I got out while I could. I never thought I could be so happy and content. Looking back and comparing how I feel now, versus how I felt then, it seems like night and day. I am glad that I had those 4 years to grow in my love and knowledge of God but I can’t help but feel bitter about the whole thing. I had a pretty hard transition from RC to the real world and felt abandoned by RC. It was like they had no use for me, so they could care less about me after I left. I have never been contacted by them, except to ask for money. A while ago, I did contact one of my old companions asking about some married woman’s retreats. She was “so excited” to talk to me. She then said she would send me out information. Two months later, I received a letter from Fr. Bannon (the man that consecrated me). It was a letter telling me about the movement, the history, etc. This was a letter you send to someone that has never heard about RC, not a previous, consecrated woman who dedicated 4 years of her life to the movement. To me it was a slap in the face and I will never try to contact them again.
So, that’s a little piece of my story. There are so many more things I could share with you but I don’t have the time to write them all down. I just keep them tucked away. I have happily gone on with my life and am so blessed by God. I feel I did the right thing and pleased him during those 4 years. That is the only thing that gives me peace about the situation.
[Editor’s note: verbatim text with slight edits, highlights and titles.]

One of the First American Legionaries

I was in the fourth group of American Legionaries who joined in June,1969.

Two of the 1st group, Frs. Russell Donnelly and Walter Bartnicki, reached the priesthood. Only Fr. Walter remains in the LC priesthood, possibly in Rome as chaplain to RC ladies.

The 2nd group were novices when I was a ‘weekend boy’ and postulant: Bros. Patrick Kavanaugh, James Burke and William Brock. Only Fr. William stayed, and is presently in Salamanca teaching. The 3rd group: Bros. Bernard Prior, Michael Murphy and Thomas Christopher took vows and all left within seven years.

My – the 4th – group of Novices had four profess temporary vows: Frs. Antonio Bailleres, Eugene Gormley, myself and Robert Cuthbert The 5th group of Americans were quite extraordinary. Four took vows and in many ways, they were a role model to some of us second year novices. I was surprised to learn that none of these persevered! I was also very surprised to hear that the novitiate had moved a third time and was now overflowing with novices. We used to have to import brothers from Ireland and especially from Mexico just to have enough soccer players.

Youthful Idealism & Enthusiasm

In 1969, I joined the Legion of Christ in Woodmont, CT, after graduating from a liberal Christian Brothers High School and a former minor seminary run by the Holy Ghost Fathers. My parents weren’t thrilled with my decision to become a missionary priest for various reasons. The 60’s were a time of great change and due to the influence of an English teacher I had decided to not become an engineer and became interested in the life of St. Francis of Assisi. Every week, a different religious recruiter came to our school. None could compare to the dynamic, charismatic, young Legionary. After numerous weekend visits, I even met the founder, Fr. Maciel!

We were considered co-founders. About four to six times a year Nuestro Padre, Fr. Maciel, would visit and we would have a holiday. It was curious to see how even a stern, taciturn priest like Fr. Jose Maria Sanchez, one of the Mexican Founding Legionaries who has since left, would become like a little child vying for parental attention! We had all been told that we were called from all eternity to this new, great work of Christ. We were in training to become “soldados rasos” [soldiers without pretensions] in the West Point of the Catholic Church. We, cofounders, were going to save the Church and the world for Christ. We were part of a new apostolate that was so flexible for any time or place, with a living founder/saint to guide us, full of youthful enthusiasm and idealism.

We all started Novitiate in a rented mansion, called Villa Rosa, in Woodmont, CT, on Long Island Sound. The first year of Novitiate was very difficult. So much silence, prayer and lack of freedom. I wasn’t even told that Rosemary, my girlfriend, had written. A fellow nosy novice had found her letter in the trash! There wasn’t any heat on the 3rd floor or in the basement where the showers were. Occasionally in a Nor’easter, the sea would enter part of the basement. Toward the end of my second year, [1971],we helped move everything to Orange, CT, just outside New Haven. We missed the sea; but not the Jewish beach club playing “Light my fire” during final prayers. Probably going to work as camp counselors in the Summers kept me sane. The Instituto Cumbres, a LC school in Mexico, offered their students the chance to go to America. During our Novitiate, in September 1970,we were joined by a group of very zealous, newly ordained Legionaries who stayed with us while attending Southern Connecticut State College. This, plus teaching CCD, working with “weekend boys” and as a Summer Camp Counselor broke some of the drudgery of the day to day life of the strict Novitiate schedule.

Salamanca and the Juniorate were a real nice change. Instead of a close knit group of 10 in a small, drafty rented villa on the Long Island Sound, I found myself studying liberal arts with 20 Irish and 30 Spanish and Mexican brothers in Salamanca, Spain. For some reason, I was having trouble believing in God at the time of my first Spiritual Direction with Fr. Arumi, the rector and novice instructor. Waiting outside his office, I could hear his powerful, booming voice. “Poor Soul!” I said to myself thinking of the unfortunate directee. Out came my friend, and sometimes mentor, Bro. Michael M.! He must have softened up old Fr. Arumi as Father just laughed when I told him my problems with faith. He said he had thought on another occasion that I was intellectually dead. I liked Fr. Arumi, even if I were missing a few brain cells!

It had always been Nuestro Padre’s dream that we have dual careers like the Jesuits. So, instead of going to Rome, about a dozen of us attended the famous and prestigious Universidad Complutense in Madrid. By day, I went to law school for two years. During the day we studied one of four civil careers and at night had classes with Fr. Esquivel on Philosophy. We shared dual apartments with RC students during the day, returning to a rented suburban house at night and weekends.

The Seeds of Discontent

Once, in my second year of Novitiate, being Brother Regulator, I answered the phone. A woman was crying, begging for help so “they wouldn’t take her children.” Apparently, she didn’t want the local parish to know about her messy custody battle. Assuring her that I’d have one of our priests return her call, I told our Novice Master. He told me we shouldn’t get involved as this was not our apostolate… I told him that if he didn’t return her call, then I’d be taking the next train home. He said he would call; but I’m sure he wondered about how “integrated” in the Legion I was.

The Mexican 12 year-olds in my camp cabin started complaining to me how the “padres” at school pandered to a wealthy boy named Legorreta. Apparently, being the son of the Bank of Mexico’s president allowed him to do as he pleased. This made me wonder if I could adjust to a different culture. Perhaps, I was just too American for what was becoming a foreign Legion.

While in Spain, our mission with the Regnum Christi became clearer. We were permitted to read the RC manual which were all numbered and had to be accounted for at the end of each day. This need for secrecy again seemed strange. We were told that it would be disastrous if this information should fall into the hands of our enemies: the Communists or their liberal allies.

At the Complutense in Madrid no one was to know we were seminarians, even though we all stayed together and dressed alike. Not understanding the need for this deception, I carelessly left my clerical photo I.D. out to check out a textbook. Like flies, the Opus Dei students hovered over my I.D. From then on, I found them very friendly and helpful. Sometime during 1974, after I felt we were finally getting the handle on the dual careers, Fr. Maciel decided to pull Bros. William Brock and Eugene Gormley back to Rome “so they wouldn’t miss another year of training”. We lesser mortals were to forget Philosophy and concentrate on our civil studies.

Rome, 1975, Holy Year, I finally made it! The Communist were about to win the mayoral elections. Sodom and Gomorrah would break loose, we were told! My separation nightmare begins with the experience that the screws are increasingly being put on my increasing pride and freedom. I joined the other half dozen ‘Yanks’ doing whatever menial job that needed doing: acid washing the pool, folding and ironing, washing the buses…whatever. I began to feel not-liked because I was American!

Now, in Spiritual Direction, if I expressed doubts about my vocation or faith, I’d leave with more doubts. I was constantly criticized for talking to non LC seminarians at the Gregorian and for being too friendly with my old pal from Boston. The resurrected “Chapter of Faults” though didn’t make me question my calling as much as a discussion that ensued whenever any of my anti-American Superiors attended.

Nuestro Padre used to call me “El Preguntón”, ‘the guy with the questions’. I tried to ask him, as the Founder, as many questions as possible to get his true ‘spirit’ as I thought he was going to pass away at any moment. Anyway, I once submitted a question when the Legionaries and RC’s from Madrid and Mexico got together outside Madrid for the 1st time in ’73 or ’74. I asked whether in the Legion our tactics seemed to be that the ends justified whatever means we used. Needless to say, NP wasn’t pleased. This was “una pregunta de tipo queja” [‘a question-complaint’, meaning ‘criticism’]. After that, it was downhill. I was kind of isolated. I was always saying the wrong thing to Fr. Dueñas in Rome.

I was told that I would never be able to hear confessions! There was a question we discussed in moral theology about a doctor who routinely performed abortions on pregnant female prisoners who had been raped in the Nazi work camps. If these women were found to be pregnant and therefore unable to maintain the grueling work schedule, they would be killed. I volunteered with my usual foot-in-mouth enthusiasm that I would have hugged the good doctor for saving so many lives! That, I felt that he hadn’t sinned! Instead of an explanation or a redirection , I was told immediately that I would never be able to hear confessions!


Looking back, I suppose my questioning the validity of minor seminary vocations hadn’t endeared me to the kind of people who would hide our two Mercedes buses “because the visiting Mexican Bishops just wouldn’t understand”. It’s not surprising then, that I was sent to “rehabilitate” to Tlalpan (the LC minor seminary in Mexico).

One of the reasons I was given for my change from Madrid to Tlalpan, Mexico City was because I had ‘psychological problems’, i.e. wasn’t ‘sufficiently integrated’, that I was not sufficiently committed [no bastante entregado]. My luggage was stolen at customs. I took it as a sign from God.

By the time I reached Tlalpan, I was an LC only on the outside. Fr. Morelos, the rector, and my new community had just left for vacations. So for two weeks I rehabilitated during the rainy season in wet socks and underwear! Fr. Santiago (‘Jimmy’ to his friends) talked about needing help with the new candidates in Cuernavaca. I waited past midnight to talk with Fr. Maciel about my calling. All I had wanted for the previous one and a half years or more was for some superior, preferably Father Maciel, God’s Representative, to tell me I didn’t have a vocation. For two nights in a row I waited in the rain till after 12pm. He wouldn’t talk to me; but I did get to leave. Finally, on the third day, I was “liberated” by sending a message to Fr. Morelos, the superior at the center. That evening began the long process of re-entry into normal life as a mixed up kid from Philly.

From a Distance

Years after leaving I became perturbed with the Legion when I heard that Fr. Cosgrave was doing a study on why the early Yankee brothers left. According to him it was probably to avoid the Vietnam War. God, I can think of so many easier ways of doing that than joining the Legion.

Someone once asked Nuestro Padre if the RC shouldn’t try to recruit former LCs. I believe he said they would try to recruit any that weren’t ‘disgruntled’. I’m still waiting… The only contact with the Legion was what I initiated going to Orange, CT. in the early 80’s to see the Xmas Room. I was definitely made to feel not welcomed by Fr Bannon.

There are some seemingly impressive people to which the closer you get, the less you’re impressed! So it was with Jimmy C. and Marcial Maciel.


When I got home, fortunately for me, Rosemary, my old girl friend of former days, had broken an engagement. When we finally met she said my timing was perfect! I had always felt my timing was a little slow for the LC. We’ve been happily married for over 26 years. I studied electronics after failing miserably to secure any decent-paying work, and worked for IBM for 15 years. Currently, we’re striving to live a simple life somewhat based on a book that Rosemary gave me before I entered the LC: Walden by Thoreau. Thus, a daydream I had in Madrid of marrying a wonderful, loving woman and having three children who would make the world a better place is gradually coming true.

Keith Keller

The Perverse Order

“La Orden Maldita. La historia oculta de la legión de Cristo” (The Perverse Order; The Secret History of the Legion of Christ)

Following is an article, translated by ReGAIN, which looks at “A fact-based novel about the life and work of a man who, in spite of the crimes he has committed, remains free.”

New Book: a novel by an eye witness (Spanish Language Text)

La Orden Maldita / The Perverse Order
By José Manuel Ruiz Marcos
“La orden maldita. La historia oculta de la legión de Cristo”
(The Perverse Order; The Secret History of the Legion of Christ)
Author: José Manuel Ruiz Marcos
Publisher: El Aleph Editores
ISBN: 84-7669-760-0
Series: Modernos y Clásicos, 248
Pages: 240

“I have learned to live with grief, dealing with it as though it were a part of my anatomy. I have learned to speak again, without breaking into tears in the middle of each sentence. I have learned to squelch the violence unleashed inside of me whenever someone brushes against my skin. I have learned all this during these past years, but I have not yet learned to forget.”
With these words Pablo, a boy barely thirteen years old, sums up the deep humiliation and aftereffects he suffers as a result of terrible acts of sexual abuse to which he was submitted during childhood by the founder of the religious order known as the Legion of Christ, Marcial Maciel.
Throughout the pages of a book filled with intrigue the author, José Manuel Ruiz Marcos, a former member of the Company of Jesus (more commonly known as the Jesuits), thrashes out one of the darkest episodes in the Church’s history: abominable acts committed by a monster in connivance with the highest ecclesiastical authorities.
A fact-based novel about the life and work of a man who, in spite of the crimes he has committed, remains free.
A story sure to raise consciences.
Born in Ujo in the province of Asturias in 1926, a theologian and doctor of political science and economics, Ruiz Marcos is author of the novel Amar en Comillas (To Love in Comillas), which received the Triángulo Rosa de la Asociación Xente Gai Astur prize. He was a seminarian in Comillas and a member of the Company of Jesus from 1947 to 1964. He was also a university professor in Bielefeld, Germany and for a time was chief editor of the editorial page of the Nicaraguan newspaper, El Nuevo Diario. Married with children, Ruiz Marcos now lives in Germany.
“La Orden Maldita” (The Perverse Order)
The facts of the novel have for the most part already been addressed and dealt with in detail in the books listed at the end of this article. The names of the main actor, his collaborators, and victims are spelled out in these works. The latter have participated in panel discussions on Mexican television and radio and have made courageous statements to the national and international press. They are figures well-known to the general public. Their perpetrators remain silent, shun publicity and say that they “forgive those who cause them offense.”
Though they have not had wide public exposure, the books written about Maciel (see below) — with the exception of “El Legionario,” which belongs to a separate genre and has not been widely distributed in Europe — are excellent studies on the investigation into “the Maciel case.” “La Orden Maldita” is an intentionally short novel, though not for lack of factual material. It is intended for the man on the street, for those with the most limited of economic means, to be read so that the truth might be more widely known.
The author personally met the founder and some of his victims in Comillas in 1946. For nine years he studied with some of Comillas’ first seminarians, who as adults would later join the legion. He spent three weeks in Mexico in March, 2005 interviewing mature men, whom he had known as boys and who were now the plaintiffs in a Vatican legal case against Maciel and signatories to a related letter sent to Pope John Paul II.
“La Orden Maldita” aspires to be a new and perhaps more attractive type of novel by blending accounts of what actually happened, however improbable, with fictional elements, thereby establishing links which allow it to be a work of compact action. At the end of the novel the key to what is fictional and what is real, and to the founder’s personality based on actual psychological studies, is revealed.
Only the full names of the principal character and of three now deceased and innocent players appear in the novel. All the others, living or dead, are given fictitious names, including two who passed away after the book went to press.
The time span of the novel (1946-1958) precludes the inclusion of neither well-merited criticism of Pope John Paul II, a protector in the extreme of Maciel and the person most responsible for covering up his crimes, with an unchristian disdain for his victims, nor the Legion’s exultant triumphs in the years following 1958. While there is much to deplore in the ecclesiastical world in the twelve years in which the novel takes place, it is all openly criticized without “La Orden Maldita” becoming an essentially anticlerical work. On the one hand there are shady figures such as the founding priest, who can well be considered unworthy of holy orders, as well as members of the episcopate and college of cardinals, who both foolishly and naively support him, with Eugenio Pacelli cast in an uncertain half-light. The novel does, however, portray priestly figures with believable sympathy — models all of religious observance and devotion to their ministry — the polar opposites of Maciel. There are three such characters: Ramiro, a Dominican from the Spanish province of Asturias, and two Carmelite friars in charge of Rome’s investigation.
The novel in brief
The first chapters portray the founder of the legion and in turn deal with the secret of his obsession with the Pontifical University of Comillas from which he recruits his first adult followers. These chapters also describe his sexual practices with minors in Tlalpan. The character of Pablo, the boy who flees from the Apostolic School after being violated by the founder, is central to the novel.
At the end of Chapter 11 the action shifts to Rome. The “true” story went something like this: Faced with two envoys from the Congregation of the Holy Office (formerly the Inquisition) and required to answer two key questions — whether or not there had been sexual abuse and whether or not the father founder was a drug addict — all of Maciel’s pupils lie. The founder is absolved of all charges and the order carries on up to this very day. The likable Carmelite friars in charge of the investigation are deceived by Maciel’s followers, who do not see their lies as immoral actions because they are lying by virtue of holy obedience.
At this point the novel ostentatiously breaks the nonfiction mold. Ramiro and Gabriel is a legionary priest from Comillas who, disgusted with the company of the founder and determined to finally escape from his obsession, decides to abandon the order. He organizes a rebellion of legionaries in Rome in which, as fiction has it, the youths do an about-face and tell the truth.
The historical fact of Maciel, in temporary exile from his base in Rome, having ordered his provisional successor at the order’s headquarters to be to put out of commission with laxatives is amplified in fiction when the criminal act of poisoning is further extended to the two friar investigators. As a result the Italian police enter the scene — a decisive factor in not allowing ecclesiastical authorities free reign to carry out the normal cover-ups. Faced with the incarceration of Maciel and two of his principal disciples in Rome by the Italian state, Pope Pius XII is left with no other option than the dissolution of the order. The founder, foreseeing his imprisonment, manages to flee and disappears with out a trace until the present.
A quick synopsis of the three central chapters will reveal to the reader the substance of the novel.
Chapter 5 describes an extreme but not uncommon case of sexual abuse by Maciel and the canonical crime of absolution of an accomplice, which automatically excludes him from the Church. A Dominican from Spain gets to the bottom of the case and will return at the end of the novel to organize the revolt against Maciel.
Chapter 9 deals with a high-ranking cleric’s complicity in Maciel’s abuses. It details the central elements of submission to the founder, which explain the excesses and abuses and what makes them possible: 1) identification and obsession of the leader with unconditional and total adherence, 2) subjugation of his subjects by means of holy obedience, infractions of which are punishable by eternal damnation, which transform the will of the superior into a faithful echo of the will of God; 3) the subsequent loss of a sense of morality and of an ability to discern good from evil in the those subjected to this treatment.
In Chapter 21, the final chapter, the author reveals the historical precedents in the Church and in the Mexico of the last century which made the development and acceptance by the Church of a personality like the founder of the Legionaries possible.
The fictional aspect of the novel, in which things “happen which should have happened but did not happen,” is a condemnation of the infamous historical reality, of the venality of the Church hierarchy, then and now, of the continuous lies of the legion’s superiors, of their repeated refusal to ask the victims for forgiveness, and of the Vatican intrigues which have made the survival of a religious institution with such ominous antecedents possible. In 2006 the congregation continues in existence and has a new “director” general, who continues covering-up the facts and exalting the criminal.
Works related to “La Orden Maldita:”

– Alfonso Torres Robles, “La prodigiosa aventura de los Legionarios de Cristo”, Ediciones Foca investigación, Madrid, 2001.
– José Martínez de Velasco,“Los legionarios de Cristo – El nuevo ejército del Papa” second edition, La esfera de los libros, Madrid, 2002.
– from the same author, “Los documento secretos de los legionarios de Cristo”, Ediciones B, Barcelona, 2004.
– Alejandro Espinosa Alcalá, “ El Legionario”, Grijalbo, México D.F., 2003.
– Salvador Guerrero Chiprés and other authors, “El círculo del poder y la espiral del silencio” -La historia oculta del Padre Marcial Maciel y Los Legionarios de Cristo, Grijalbo, México D.F., 2004.
– Carlos Fazio,“En el nombre del Padre”, Depredadores sexuales en la Iglesia, Editorial Océano de México, México D.F., 2004.
– Elio Masferrer Kan, “¿Es del César o es de Dios?” – Ún modelo antropológico del campo religioso, Ed. Plaza y Valdés, México D.F., 2004.
– Roberto Blancarte, “Entre la fe y el poder”- Política y religión en México, México D.F., 2004.

A Case Study of the Benefits of Writing for Cult Survivors

By K. Gordon Neufeld
Calgary, Canada

I was a member of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church, popularly known as the “Moonies,” for ten years. The Unification Church is the organization more properly known as the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity, which was founded in Korea in 1954 by Moon, a charismatic evangelist who claims to be the Messiah. In reflecting on my life during and since my time in the Unification Church, I can definitely see that writing benefited me greatly, not only after I left the cult, but also for a period of approximately six years before my decision to leave.
In 1976—the same year I joined the Unification Church —I graduated from the University of British Columbia with an undergraduate degree in English. I chose that university specifically because it has a Creative Writing program. Yet, as soon as I got caught up in the Unification Church, which I encountered by chance while passing through San Francisco in August, 1976, I put aside all my ambitions to become a writer. Church leaders told me that when the Ideal World came, and everyone believed in Unificationism, then there would be time for me to develop my writing talents; but in the meantime I should dedicate myself 100 percent to carrying out the will of “True Father” (that is, the Reverend Moon). So I abruptly stopped writing, and for the next four years I wrote only letters to my family and a few fairly prosaic essays for my classes at the Unification Theological Seminary in upstate New York . The first part of this article deals with this period when I had few opportunities for writing or creative expression.
But, as I will relate in more detail later, during my fourth year as a Unificationist, which was also my second year at the Seminary, a seemingly insignificant event suddenly reopened my urge to express myself in ways that put me sharply at odds with church authorities. For the next six years, then, until I finally quit the Unification Church, I wrote often—beginning with sermons for the Seminary, and then journal and diary entries, and finally articles for two grass-roots Unificationist publications that briefly flourished in the mid‑1980s. I will be quoting from some of these sources to show how writing helped me clarify the single biggest issue within myself: that is, the question of whether I should permit myself to feel my real feelings, or whether I should obey the demands of church leaders by completely repressing them. The second part of this article deals with this period of vacillation, when I was still a Unificationist but had started to pull away.
Even after I finally concluded I could not hold back my real feelings, and that therefore I must leave the Unification Church—which I finally did in 1986—the struggle was not over, because I still had not settled the question of whether my choice was the right one—the one that God wanted me to make. It took me another six years, and a near-return to the Unification Church, before I could settle that question.
In the third part of this article, then, I will look at the role that writing played in helping me to reconcile myself, post-cult, to my decision to leave the Unification Church. Indeed, initially it was not writing itself, but merely the goal of becoming a writer, that helped me resist on that one occasion when I nearly returned to the Unification Church . And, subsequently, it was writing in all its forms—not just autobiography, but also short stories, poems, and a novella—that helped me to be able to see that I had, indeed, made the right decision by leaving the Unification Church.
Part One: Repression As a Way of Life, 1976 to 1980
Ironically, the reason I was traveling through California in August of 1976 when I encountered the Unification Church was that I was investigating primal therapy, a therapy first described by its inventor, Arthur Janov, in his famous book, The Primal Scream. I had gone to California to look at Janov’s original Primal Institute and also some other organizations that offered imitations of Janov’s techniques. The situation was ironic because the whole idea behind Janov’s therapy is to break through emotional repression, yet, after I became caught up in the Unification Church, I was required to engage in near-total repression of my feelings.
Repression, therefore, became a way of life throughout the first four years of my involvement with Moon’s organization. And although I was not aware of this at the time, the thought-reform techniques that the Unification Church used on me at the indoctrination camp in Boonville , California conformed in every respect to the eight criteria for a thought-reform program identified by Robert Jay Lifton in his 1961 study, Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism. The use of these techniques quickly changed me from a nonreligious person into a dedicated believer in Moon and his teachings, the Divine Principle. I came to believe that my feelings were liable to be “invaded by Satan” and should be treated with utmost suspicion. I was urged to work frenetically from early in the morning to late at night, to pray and chant constantly during my waking hours, and to fixate all my thoughts on Reverend Moon and his wife, whom we called the True Parents. We were to think only of how to please Father, and it was presumed that God could not be happy unless we expended every effort to serve Father. Members would often counsel each other to “just cut” from their feelings, and when they said this they would use a karate-chopping gesture to demonstrate the idea, similar to the hand-chopping gesture that Moon often uses in his public speeches.
Under the pressure of my newly frantic schedule, I stopped writing almost completely except for occasional letters to my family in Calgary. During my first four years as a member of the Unification Church, I was sent all over the United States, first to Los Angeles for the International One World Crusade, then to New York to do recruiting, and then to Baltimore and Washington, D.C. to do full-time fundraising (which in the Unification Church is called M.F.T., meaning “mobile fundraising teams”). Such teams would travel all around in vans to sell flowers, candy, and costume jewelry at greatly inflated prices in parking lots, residential neighborhoods, and commercial districts.
It was during my time on M.F.T. that I experienced emotional repression in its most complete form. Such repression was essential just to survive the M.F.T. This is how I describe my own M.F.T. experiences in my new book, Heartbreak and Rage: Ten Years Under Sun Myung Moon:

I had finally achieved what Father demanded above all else from his followers—I had become total action without reflection—pure doing.

This, in fact, was what Father had in mind when he insisted that Seminarians should first go to the M.F.T. He wanted them to have the experience of totally emptying their minds, and of thinking of nothing except obedience to him. Then, later, when they would find themselves in an intellectual environment like the Seminary, they would never let mere ideas get in the way of unthinking loyalty and obedience. (Neufeld, 89)

Only, finally, when I was sent to the Unification Theological Seminary in Barrytown, New York, in the fall of 1978, did I experience a let‑up in the demands imposed by the Unification Church for complete emotional repression. At the Seminary, Moon expected his followers to study a variety of religious ideas and systems and to become able to counter believers in those systems with Unificationist theories that would win them over to Moon’s views. In such an environment, there was less insistence on constant frantic activity, and so there was time for students to reflect and to form deeper friendships. At the Seminary—to again refer to Lifton’s model for thought reform—I experienced a relaxation of “milieu control.” And although the effect was not instantaneous, by the end of two years in that environment, I had become more favorable to emotional expression and had concluded that repressing feelings is not always appropriate, despite what the larger church continued to urge. Many of the other Seminary students likewise experienced a gradual loosening up of their mental processes, and for this very reason the Seminary was regarded with suspicion or disfavor in other parts of the church, where seminarians were sometimes nicknamed “cemetarians.” Nevertheless, the Seminary continued to enjoy the whole-hearted support of Moon himself during that era. In my own case, the change that brought me to this new way of thinking occurred suddenly, due to the friendship and kindness of another Seminary student.
Part Two: Vacillating Between Repression and Expression, 1980 to 1986
Late one night in November 1979, after I had been a Seminary student for more than a year, a well-meaning young woman, also a Unification Church member and a Seminary student, approached me with words of friendship. I had slept briefly that night, and then I woke up to study from midnight to 4:00 a.m. because I could find no other way to keep up with the many demands placed on my time. Because I was a loyal follower of Sun Myung Moon, I felt it would be shameful to even think any complaining thoughts about these extreme demands. Whenever I felt a hint of complaint, I was expected to repress it at once and substitute a feeling of gratitude at how “Father had saved me.” Like most long-term members, I had become so good at doing this that I had completely lost touch with my own real feelings. I wasn’t even aware that I was having a hard time until this well-meaning young woman pointed it out to me. (For the purposes of this article and my book, I have called her Fran).
It is important to understand that Fran’s act of kindness did not, in one swift stroke, “snap” the effects of mind control. Mind control should not be regarded as something that is either completely present or totally absent. Rather, mind control persists in a faded form even in the minds of those who have long since left a totalist environment, and, as such, it often causes emotional difficulties for years until it has been identified and resolved. In my own case, Fran unknowingly stumbled across the key to unlocking my real feelings again. She pointed out to me that I was “having a hard time,” and she offered to be a special friend to help me through this “hard time.” This was not intended as a romantic proposal; it was simply an offer of deep friendship. But I was profoundly touched by Fran’s offer; it was so different from the usual advice I received from church leaders, who would generally say something like this: “Having a hard time? Well, buck up!
Think of Father’s much greater suffering in the early days of the church!” Instead of being told to repress my feelings, Fran was asking me to go ahead and feel them, and to talk about them to her. This had the effect of plunging me into a profound turmoil as I tried to decide whether God actually wanted me to feel these feelings, or to lock them away again.
If my “mission” (that is, my assigned role in the church) had been anything other than the Seminary, I would have been compelled by my church superiors to repress my feelings again. However, because I was at the Seminary, where Unificationists were expected to wrestle with intellectual questions, I was not compelled.
At first, I was so euphoric about the rediscovery of my own real feelings that I set out to spread the word to the entire Seminary. So I wrote a heartfelt, poetic sermon titled “Seeking the Oasis,” which I gave first to my Homiletics class, and then to the entire Seminary. I still have a copy of this sermon, and I will quote from the last page because this is probably the first piece of writing I produced since joining the Unification Church that proceeded from my own authentic thoughts and feelings:
No one had ever penetrated to touch that depth of my heart before, and I cried in gratitude to God that He had taken such special interest in me as to even find a way to look after me I hadn’t realized I needed. My tears were like a small rivulet from the great, broad river flowing from the heart of God.
If we can open our hearts to it, then this river of love can wash over the roots of our being, bringing forth even the Tree of Life from out of the desert sands. All we need to do is to find the time and take the risk to bare our hearts to our brothers and sisters. Our hearts may be as dry and thirsting as the most barren ground without our even knowing it. Replenish them with the nourishing water of your tears, and from the seed of your liberation will sprout the sturdiest tree to give shade and comfort to all who come after you there, with sun baked, parching lips, seeking the oasis.
For the next six years, the more I tried to remain loyal to these ideas, the more I found myself being pushed to the fringes of the church, and eventually out. Yet, throughout this entire time, I continued to fear that I was straying from the straight and narrow, and I struggled with the question of whether I should force my feelings back down again. (At one point, I even considered voluntarily returning to the M.F.T.).
In the summer of 1980, I started a diary, which in my book I called the Boston Diary, because I started it while I was in Boston as part of a contingent of seminarians in the new three-year Divinity program who were expecting to return to their studies in the fall.
The Boston Diary demonstrates very clearly my divided state of mind, as I swung back and forth between my authentic self and my cult self. This is how I describe the Boston Diary in my new book:
I still have this diary, the only one of the many diaries I kept during my Unification Church years that I did not later destroy in a fit of self-reforming zeal. This one was special to me because the entries in it are so heart-rending, so full of lacerating pain and desperate questioning, that I could not bring myself to repudiate it. It is a small book with cream-colored pages, covered with brown cloth, in which I wrote in ball point pen, my handwriting sometimes scrawling and expansive, sometimes cramped and mechanical, as I vacillated between the two sides of myself. (Neufeld, 111)
My inability during that summer in Boston to voluntarily repress my feelings made it almost inevitable that, upon my return to the Seminary, I would be swiftly shown the door.
However, because of the high regard that Sun Myung Moon had for the Seminary during that era, I received different treatment than I might have received if I had been an ordinary member. The usual way to handle members who are having problems is to send them to a Divine Principle workshop; if that doesn’t work, they may be placed in a demanding mission such as the M.F.T.; or, if all else fails, they are sent home to their parents. But instead of any of these courses of action, I was allowed to decide for myself what I would do next, provided the choice included leaving the Seminary as soon as possible. Therefore, I chose to move to Los Angeles in 1980, so I could undertake Arthur Janov’s primal therapy, the same therapy that had interested me in 1976.
I could never afford to complete this therapy. And although the combination was unusual, I remained an active member of the Unification Church throughout the time of my primal therapy treatments (this flies in the face of Janov’s general view that religious beliefs are artifacts of emotional repression that will fall away after treatment). In fact, I even interrupted my primal therapy treatments so I could participate in the mass wedding that Moon staged at Madison Square Garden in 1982. One might conclude from this situation that primal therapy was ineffective in breaking through my cultic mindset, though this ineffectiveness might simply be due to the fact that I couldn’t finish the therapy.
It took, therefore, more than six years from the day Fran reawakened my real feelings until I was finally ready to leave the Unification Church. Throughout that interval, I continued to explore my feelings in many journals and diaries; as well, during the final months of my ten-year membership in the Unification Church, I began to write articles and humorous stories that appeared in The Round Table and in Our Network, two grass-roots Unificationist publications that sprang up and briefly flourished in the mid‑1980s. These two informal publications—what are sometimes called “zines”—were put out by disaffected members of the Unification Church without the consent or approval of their church superiors. They were mailed free of charge to anyone who requested them.
The Round Table was sent out monthly or bimonthly from the New York area. The Round Table was a serious-minded publication that saw itself as trying to spark a reform movement in the Unification Church. Its logo included a drawing of Martin Luther nailing the 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg church.
The other newsletter, Our Network, was much more quirky and informal. True to stereotype, this one came out of California. It included cartoons, poetry, and comedy lists among its offerings. For Our Network, I wrote satirical pieces. In one of them, I imagined myself going to “Honest Dave’s Used Theology Lot” to try to trade in Moon’s Divine Principle for an alternate belief system. In another, I pictured the world in 2084 after the Unification Church had finally taken over, making joking parallels to George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.
My final article for The Round Table bore the title “The Benefits of Repression.” I did not intend this title ironically. I was genuinely trying to argue for the benefits of repressing feelings; yet, at the same time, I wanted to put forward the idea—which was considered subversive in the Unification Church —that repressing feelings is not invariably beneficial; sometimes it is merely a habit, what I called “institutionalized repression.” “The Benefits of Repression” appeared in The Round Table in November of 1986, the same month I became an ex‑member of the Unification Church. Writing that piece had been a last-ditch attempt to try to see things the church’s way, but now I was out.
To many people, the fact that I even wrote these pieces for The Round Table and Our Network is proof that I could not possibly have been under the influence of mind control. I believe, however, that although these writings were written in defiance of the Unification Church hierarchy, I was still very much under the influence of mind control, and these writings were merely the final stages of a prolonged, six-year inner struggle. Right up to the final month of my cult involvement, the thought of actually leaving the church remained a terrifying and unthinkable prospect.
Writing helped me throughout the six years from 1980 to 1986 while I sought unsuccessfully to reconcile the church’s insistence on emotional repression with my own insistence on feeling my real feelings. My writings during that period reflected my split personality, in that they often tried to endorse both viewpoints. Even though I was terrified of the idea of leaving, it became more and more evident that I was being pushed to the margins of the church because of my insistence on staying in touch with my feelings.
Finally, late in 1986, after an explosive argument with another church member, I felt there was no point in continuing to stay in the organization. I knew I could no longer be happy as a member, and if I stayed I would be merely hanging on grimly, while feeling miserable the entire time. Therefore, I borrowed some money from an acquaintance and took the bus home to my family.
Part Three: Triumph of Expression over Repression, 1986 – 1992
Following my return to my parents’ home and to the city where I grew up— Calgary , Alberta —I had vague plans of applying to study journalism, but I was turned down by the universities to which I applied. While trying to come up with an alternative plan, I took temporary jobs as a clerk typist and later as a word-processing operator, because typing was the only job skill I still possessed after ten years in the Unification Church. I got an apartment in downtown Calgary and prepared to settle into a life that seemed shallow and empty compared to the apocalyptic fervor of my former cult life.
But, eventually, unhappy with the routine of my fairly ordinary jobs, I sought out a conventional counselor (which is to say he was not an exit counselor), and he encouraged me to return to my original ambition to become a writer of novels and stories. In 1990, I applied to the highly regarded Master of Fine Arts program in Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia.
Around the time I made my application to U.B.C., I received a surprising letter from the woman to whom I had once been engaged by Moon through his arranged-marriage process. She was someone I had not known before we were engaged, but who I came to love as I got to know her better. She was from England, and during the time I knew her she lived in one or the other of England , Scotland , or France . We were never permitted to live together. (I have called her Eleanor for the purposes of this essay and my book).
Eleanor quit the Unification Church in 1984—two years before I also left, so our “marriage” had never really gotten off the ground. But now, some six years later, she had returned to the Unification Church in London. Eleanor hoped to revive our relationship by drawing me back into the church. I agreed to visit her.
During my time in London, Eleanor and the other Unification Church members persuaded me to abandon my plans to return to school in favor of rejoining the church and emigrating to England . If I had gone through with this plan, church authorities would have eventually allowed the two of us to live together, but probably not for a few years. Why would I even agree to such an arrangement? I suppose mainly because I had not arrived at a complete resolution of my cult experience, so one part of myself still felt that I should have remained loyal to Moon; therefore, if an opportunity that was at least marginally bearable came for me to “go back to Father,” I was still vulnerable to being persuaded that I was morally obligated to go back. As well, I still felt some fondness for Eleanor personally.
Fortunately, when I returned to Canada intending to wind up my affairs, I also returned—with difficulty—to my senses. I was feeling very uneasy about giving up my plans to study writing, because this was something I had become more and more excited about. At last, I called Eleanor and emphatically broke it off between us.
When I finally did return to the university, in September of 1990, I had no intention of writing about my cult experiences. I felt that that my Unification Church involvement was behind me, and I should move on with my life. The first poems and stories that I produced for creative writing classes didn’t even touch upon my cult background. However, a professor at U.B.C. urged me to write about my cult experiences. Eventually, I obliged him by writing a short story titled “Partings,” about two teenage girls who leave Calgary on a bus trip to California, and, after they meet the Moonies, one of them gets caught up in the cult, while the other returns home. At the time I wrote this story, I didn’t believe that mind control existed, so to explain the difference between the two girls’ responses to the indoctrination camp, I set up the story so that one girl was more psychologically vulnerable than the other, and it was the emotionally needy one who got drawn in.

The other girl narrates the story. Here’s the closing paragraph from “Partings”:
I got on the bus and sat by the window, and in the last light of the evening I saw her walking up the hill again to join the group of people who were staying for the week. They had formed a big circle around a campfire and were singing a lot of loud, happy songs, with Jacob playing his guitar as usual, and everybody clapping in time. As she got closer to them, she suddenly broke into a little run, and jumped into the circle, clapping her hands in time with the others. I think that’s what she loved the best about them: just the simple things, like holding hands and singing songs about the Ideal World and acting out all the words like some big grown‑up kids. For a moment the campfire flared up and caught her little dark face in its glow, and she was really smiling now, like I almost never saw her smile, and in that moment, I knew how much I loved her, and that I might not ever see her again.
Later, I wrote another short story in which I sought to recreate, as accurately as possible, a typical day in the life of a fundraiser on the M.F.T. That story was eventually published in the Baltimore City Paper in 1993 under the title “True Father Knows Best.” Even though it was written before I understood mind control and therefore contains some logical problems, it remains one of the best things I have ever written about my Unification Church experiences. The story is shot through with the haunting refrain, “There was no time to waste,” and it records one very long day in the life of a young man fundraising for the Unification Church in Baltimore. Near the end of his fundraising day, he is given a chance to make an emotional connection to a young woman on his fundraising team who is having problems, but he rebuffs the opportunity, because he is afraid of where this might lead. Here are the final paragraphs of that story:
Reinhard turned onto the expressway and drove silently for some time. There was a dull strain of tension in the air. Nobody joked, nobody told an inspiring testimony. The pale wash of the streetlights swept repeatedly over the seven faces in the van, first Reinhard and Harumi-san, then Hilda, then the brothers. Everyone was thoughtful, or praying, or staring out at the lowering landscape. When he finally spoke, Reinhard looked up at the rear view mirror. Our eyes connected in the glass. His eyes were as gray and cold as I’d ever seen them, and his words were flat and toneless.
“Margaret wasn’t at her pick-up point,” he said. “I asked inside the restaurant where she starts her run, and they said she asked for directions to the bus depot. She said she was going back to her family in Chicago. She gave them her flowers, and left. When I got to the depot the bus was already gone.”
So that was it. Margaret had left. She’d joined the ranks of the unbelievers—the walking dead. To keep Reinhard from noticing the tears that came to my eyes, I put up my hands and began to pray. Only now that she was gone, could I finally let myself feel that I loved her. I prayed that she would realize her mistake and come back to the True Family. I promised to God that I would work even harder as a heavenly soldier for Father. And then I turned my thoughts to preparing the product for the next day. There was no time to waste.
Both these stories were good attempts to process my cult experience, but they were deficient because they were based on the false premise that mind control did not exist and that people joined the Unification Church based solely on their emotional need.
However, in 1992, as I was planning a novel that would include a forcible deprogramming—a procedure to which I was strongly opposed—I realized that I understood very little about the rationale behind deprogramming and why anyone might attempt to do this. I decided that even though I had an intense phobic reaction to the mere idea of reading books by former Unification Church members, I was unlikely to be able to write convincingly about a deprogramming unless I read something about it. So one day I noticed a copy of Steven Hassan’s book, Combating Cult Mind Control, in a bookstore, and after much hesitation I reluctantly bought it and began to read. To my own amazement, I was completely won over by Hassan’s arguments. Reading that book opened the floodgates for me—soon after that, I read Lifton’s study of thought reform, and I began to devour all the published accounts written by former Unificationists. I realized that mind control was a real thing that I had personally endured, and I began to recast my writing to take this new understanding into account.
It was only after I reached this key understanding that I stopped writing about my cult experiences exclusively in fiction and poetry and also began writing about them in non‑fiction articles for the Vancouver Sun newspaper. Later, when it became clear that no newspaper article or personal essay could answer all the questions people have about my cult experiences, I decided to write the entire story from start to finish in a book-length memoir. That project eventually became Heartbreak and Rage: Ten Years Under Sun Myung Moon.

For twelve years, from 1980 to 1992, writing encouraged me to engage in emotional expression in situations in which I was constantly being told, and I generally believed, that I had a moral obligation to repress my deepest thoughts and feelings. This is not to say that it is impossible to write entirely out of a cultic mindset, but such writing tends to read more like propaganda than serious literature. Consider the artistic style known as Socialist Realism, which was once the official style for artists in the former Soviet Union —and then consider how little art of merit was ever produced using that style. Serious personal writing, by contrast, puts a person back in touch with his or her real feelings, and therefore provides the tools for him or her to escape the maze of cultic thinking and repression.
Henriette Klauser, PhD, in her recent book, With Pen in Hand: The Healing Power of Writing, offers a number of helpful tips for using writing as an aid to emotional healing. The most helpful suggestion for the purposes of cult survivors is probably the one that appears at the close of Chapter 13, in which the struggles of Mike, a Vietnam War veteran, are described:
Consider writing a memoir about an important event in your life. Not for publication, but for yourself, to name what shaped you, and perhaps to share with a few select close friends and family members. Mike told the people he shared his story with, “If you want to understand me, here it is—this is what I went through.”
Be honest; write continuously, without worrying about style or grammar. The more you write, the more you will remember.
Just start. (Klauser, 218)

Hassan, Steven. (1988). Combating cult mind control. Rochester , Vermont : Park Street Press.
Janov, Arthur. (1970). The primal scream: Primal therapy, the cure for neurosis. New York , N.Y. : G. P. Putnam’s Sons.
Klauser, Henriette Anne. (2003). With pen in hand: The healing power of writing. Cambridge , Massachusetts : Perseus Publishing.
Lifton, Robert Jay. (1961). Thought reform and the psychology of totalism. New York , N.Y. : W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
Neufeld, K. Gordon. (2002). Heartbreak and rage: Ten years under Sun Myung Moon, a cult survivor’s memoir. College Station , Texas :, Inc.

This paper is based on a talk given at AFF’s June 2003 conference in Orange , California .

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