Good Theology May Not Equate to Good Group
Many Catholics find it difficult to accept that there could be high demand (cult) groups that have been approved by the Vatican. This opinion is often affirmed by church officials, who don?t want to look for trouble. Catholics who come to realize that their family member belongs to a group that is suspected of being a high demand group often will state that they are relieved that Oh well! -at least it is a Catholic cult. We would have to concede that a beloved family member in a Catholic cult attends mass and has access to the sacraments of the Church and therefore is in some ways better off spiritually compared to someone in a non-Christian group.
However, there are a number of thriving high demand Catholic groups that cause significant damage to their own members psychologically, emotionally, financially and yes, even spiritually even though their theology is okay.
The underlying problem is that the individual member is unknowingly exploited by their top leader or leaders to turn over their free will plus most or all of their free time, money, energy and career aspirations and to direct their efforts to help their leaders to achieve money power and in some cases sexual favors. In such groups, it is common that members undergo drastic negative personality and behavior changes and suffer long term damage that can have serious consequences for the rest of a person?s life.
In an article written by Carol Giambalvo, a cult and mind control expert on her website, http://www.carolgiambalvo.com/ talks about some of the damaging and lasting effects including identity crisis, sense of purposelessness, grief, anger, boundary issues, trust issues, difficulty with relationships and authority figures, and underemployment. She also talks about various symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress experienced by former members. Note, she does not mention that such damage is any less for those in Catholic cult groups.
Altered States of Awareness Induced by Unethical Groups to Gain Control of Members
Carol Giambalvo has an interesting article http://www.carolgiambalvo.com/unethical-hypnosis-in-destructive-cults.html that identifies how unethical high demand groups are able to influence their members without their permission or awareness using mass therapy indoctrination. She refers to a number of techniques used by nearly all such groups including repeated inductions of trance-like states of consciousness similar to hypnosis.
nvironmental control, social manipulation, isolation and the use of prescribed consciousness-altering techniques (e.g. repetitive and/or continuous chanting, meditating, or praying) are some of the methods employed to produce these altered states of awareness. She says that memories, emotions and even spiritual experiences can be manipulated while in an altered state of consciousness and that when someone is repeatedly subjected to such tactics, his or her ability to make decisions and evaluate new information may become impaired for months or years after they leave the group.
Independent Research Project Re Damage to Group Members
Cult and mind control expert Stave Hassan has written some very informative books and articles on this topic and on his resource center https://freedomofmind.com/Info/articles/indeppendentResearch.php there is an article by Ilona Cuddy about an independent research project regarding the damage caused by high demand groups. Refer to Chapter 4, entitled What Effect do Cults Have on Their Victims?
The above author mentions how high demand groups subordinate members well-being to the goals of leaders and that ex-members exhibit symptoms of posttraumatic stress due to the use of mind control techniques which are used and that the dependency that leaders induce may have serious consequences after leaving the group.
As part of the research study, 43 members of a typical high demand group were interviewed and almost half of them had experienced psychosis-like symptoms and one out of 4 had attempted suicide. Anxiety, feelings of guilt, and emotional disorders were common
High percentages of those who were interviewed suffered from symptoms including:
- Anxiety, especially panic attacks
- Nightmares, sleeping disorders
- Fear of losing one’s sanity
- Feeling of emptiness 88%
- Difficulty handling emotions
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feeling of loss of identity
- Difficulty handling decisions
- Feelings of guilt
- Difficulties with social contacts
- Psychosomatic symptoms
- Attempted suicide
- Suicidal thoughts
Although the study was based on a single group, the findings are similar for all high demand groups. Cult and mind control experts who do exit counseling are called to counsel former members of Catholic groups such as the Legion and Regnum Christi and they find the same psychological issues as they do with other non-Catholic cult groups.
Good and Bad News
The good news for those who have family members in Catholic high demand groups such as the Legionaries of Christ and Regnum Christi is that while their loved ones are members they attend daily mass and regularly receive the sacraments. The bad news is that they lose much of their free will and their ability to think critically; they eventually turn over all of their financial assets and become increasingly dependent; they undergo negative personality changes; they develop fears that can lead to mental problems and all too frequently lose their Catholic faith. Suicide attempts (some successful) are known to happen for ex members of high demand groups including Catholic ones. At ReGAIN, we are aware of many who have lost the genuine faith they had when they became members because of the negative experiences and distress they endured during their membership. It takes years before many of them are able to live a normal life and some never recover completely.
The Church took some action after the Legionary and Regnum Christi founder was finally exposed in 2009. They sent in a commissioner to oversee a three year renewal period. This resulted in a rewriting of the constitutions and statutes and a review of areas where there were perceived to be violations of canon law. Some new leaders were elected but in too many cases, diehard Macielists retained some or all of their influence. There was (in ReGAIN’s opinion) a very weak attempt to make reparations to those former members who were victims of sexual abuse. ReGAIN is not aware of any acknowledgement or significant action by the Legion or the Catholic Church regarding the psychological emotional or mental damage done to Legionary members or consecrated women. Psychological counseling has not to our knowledge been provided for those former members who to this day continue to suffer. Many who leave the Legion or the consecrated Regnum Christi life have no assets and unless their family members or friends are willing to pay the cost for psychological counseling, they go untreated.
Examples of Damage to Individual Members
Proof that there is such psychological damage caused by membership in the Legion and Regnum Christi form of consecrated life may be found on the 49weeks blog http://49weeks.blogspot.ca/ and throughout the testimonies on this website.
Should the Church Encourage the Legion to Help Ex Members Recover?
We believe that the Legion and the Catholic Church have an obligation to see that justice is served as much as is possible. Repentance and restitution are important aspects of the Catholic faith. Certainly after all the investigations that were carried out regarding the founder, Church officials should have become aware that there were psychological and emotional and other kinds of victims (e.g. financial victims). If they lack the in-house expertise to recognize and to deal with this aspect of the Maciel scandal we would suggest that they retain the services of well qualified mind control experts and exit counselors such as Carol Giambalvo, Steve Hassan or Michael Langone, Ph.D, who is executive director of the International Cultic Studies Association. Until this happens, unsuspecting, devout Catholics will continue to become victimized by unscrupulous scoundrels such as Father Maciel, falsely believing and trusting that the Church will protect them.