Common Features of Harmful Catholic Groups
Common Characteristics of Harmful Catholic Groups
J. Paul Lennon submits this educational brief formatted like the now classic Langone-Lalich List of Cult Characteristics and on his research for I.C.S.A. Philadelphia Annual Conference July 2018 paper, Brief Overview of Some Harmful Catholic Groups, presently under review for publication.
- Abusive founder and/or leaders-Leadership, including but not limited to serious criminal sexual abuse of members and followers
- Manipulative/deceptive/ aggressive recruiting of members (young, idealistic, inexperienced, in life transition…),
- Unscrupulous fundraising and fraudulent money-management, “financial irregularities”
- Insufficient or faulty Discernment of calling and life path.
- Foreclosure (Premature major commitments made suddenly or too early, without due deliberation): for example, giving up all earthly belongings, inheritance, going on a faraway mission, rashly embracing celibacy and the priesthood.
- Isolation from family, friends and previous support system; exclusion of “outsiders” and former members.
- Systematic Control of Behavior, Information, Thoughts and Emotions
- Leaders’ excessive authority and influence, demanding blind obedience: they directly represent God and speak in his name. Members put them on a pedestal and want to please.
- Superiors and or “spiritual directors” tell members whether or not they “have a vocation,” a special call from God from all eternity binding them to this particular life style in this specific group.
- Trainers/formators/superiors/spiritual directors…
- do not explore or respect candidates’ and members’ sexual orientation.
- May tell them to remain single or marry, and whom to marry…
- Want to control when, where and the how a member can leave.
- Black and White thinking prevails; “no half measures”; with selective scripture quotes to bolster: “He who is not with me is against me.” No room for questioning or doubting.
- Emphasis on Discipline, with Unreachable Goals of Holiness or Perfection -often fleshed out in a multiplicity of rules- which lead to obsessive-compulsive neurosis , guilt feelings and low self-esteem. (Naturally, the member is going to fall short).
- Community Confession and Shaming (“Chapter of Faults”) may be used; public humiliation; leaders harshly criticize members in public, “make an example” of them. Members are expected to snitch on each other.
- Elitist and Us Vs Them, siege mentality. “We are special, chosen by God”, “others would not understand,” Critics “hate and are out to destroy us, the Catholic priesthood, the Church, His Holiness the pope”
- Heavy-handed retention: Loss of vocation, sure damnation. Straight to hell! You won’t make it on your own out there. You will fall into serious sin and vices. You are betraying Jesus Turning your back on God!
- Ostracism, emotional cut-off and despising exiting and former members: “failures,” “unfaithful,” “traitors,” “disgruntled old men,” “envious,” “vengeful”
- Opponents are harassed, threatened, pursued and even sued in the name of God, Jesus, the Church, the Group, Truth, Charity…