(Video + Text) Catholic Orders & Movements Accused of Being Cult-like

 

Presentation of J. Paul Lennon at the International Cultic Studies Association’s Annual Confererence June 25, 2022 at 2: 00 pm

VIDEO LINK: 

Notes for ICSA Presentation:

Catholic Cults in our Midst?

Catholic Orders and Movements accused of being Cult-like

 

J.Paul Lennon

I begin with two examples of problematic Catholic groups:

The first one re a group in the USA circa 1940s:

A short excerpt from the article: I grew up in a Catholic Cult I had to tell my story before I could accept that.[i]

By Patricia Chadwick

“Mom,” my daughter said in a take-charge tone of voice that reminded me of myself. “There are two things I have to tell you.” It was our first time seeing each other since I shared the manuscript of my memoir with her a couple of months earlier.

“First,” she said, “you need to stop everything until you finish your book. And second, you have to accept the fact that you grew up in a cult.”

I had been working on the book, Little Sister[ii] for eight years, and my daughter, then a junior in college, knew the story of my upbringing within the Saint Benedict Center. [Saint Benedict Center was founded by Catherine Clarke in 1940 as a meeting place for Catholic college students in the Boston area.] I had been taking her to visit my childhood home her entire life.

Her words struck me full-on, and I could answer only one of her demands. “I’m working day and night on it, darling, and I’m almost there,” I replied. But her description of my childhood caught me completely off guard. A cult? My home was a cult?

After the publication of my book, I began to share my story at libraries and clubs and on radio shows around the country. I came to realize that my listening audience agreed with my daughter: I had been brought up in a cult. The signs that I had overlooked were now staring me in the face: blind obedience to an absolute authority, centralized financial control, paranoia about the outside world, separation of families, scorn for those who left the cult. Why had I missed what now seemed so evident?

The Second example is from a present day powerful Latin American Catholic group.

Victims’ lawyer says scandal-plagued lay group could soon be dissolved[iii]

By Elise Ann Allen

Mar 26, 2022

CRUX |Senior Correspondent

ROME – One of the lawyers defending victims of a scandal-ridden Peruvian (CATHOLIC) lay group has voiced confidence that the civil case he is leading against several of its members will move forward, and he believes the organization could soon be dissolved.

Speaking to Crux, José Ugaz, a named partner with the Benites, Vargas & Ugaz law firm in Peru, said they are “very interested in the dissolution of this institution, which has had a criminal vocation among the highest ranks of its leadership.”

“We also know that at the level of the church, this is being evaluated and it’s possible that the church will make a decision in the coming months,” he said.

The group in question is the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae (SCV), one of the largest and most prominent Catholic lay groups in Latin America. It was founded by Peruvian layman Luis Fernando Figari in the 1970s.

Figari, who is accused of physical, psychological, and sexual abuses, including of minors, was sanctioned by the Vatican in 2017 and prohibited from having further contact with members of the group or making public statements on the matter. He is now living in exile.

The Criteria:

The criteria I have used to identify “cult-like”, coercive, high demand, high control, harmful groups are the classic ICSA, Langone et al.  Other interesting approachs would be to apply Steven Hassan’s BITE model, Janja Lalich’s, or other reputable criteria to identify groups of concern.

  1. The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader (alive or dead) and regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law.
  2. Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.
  3. Mind-altering practices (such as meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, and debilitating work routines) are used in excess and serve to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s)
  4. The leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel (for example, members must get permission to date, change jobs, marry—or leaders prescribe what types of clothes to wear, where to live, whether or not to have children, how to discipline children, and so forth).
  5. The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s), and its members (for example, the leader is considered the Messiah, a special being, an avatar—or the group and/or the leader is on a special mission to save humanity).
  6. The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society.
  7. The leader is not accountableto any authorities (unlike, for example, teachers, military commanders or ministers, priests, monks, and rabbis of mainstream religious denominations).
  8. The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. This may result in members’ participating in behaviors or activities they would have considered reprehensible or unethical before they joined the group (for example, lying to family or friends, or collecting money for bogus charities).
  9. The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt in order to influence and/or control members. Often, this is done through peer pressure and subtle forms of persuasion.
  10. Subservience to the leader or group requires members to cut ties with family and friends, and to radically alter the personal goals and activities they had before they joined the group.
  11. The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.
  12. The group is preoccupied with making money.
  13. Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities.
  14. Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.
  15. The most loyal members (the “true believers”) feel there can be no life outside the context of the group. They believe there is no other way to be and often fear reprisals to themselves or others if they leave (or even consider leaving) the group.

Note: # 7

Based on the behavior of some Catholic priest founders, I suggested the parenthesis be ommitted. Dr. Michael Langone agreed.

The Method:

The method is simple, even simplistic: apply criteria commonly accepted in the psychological and cultic fields to the modus operandi, functioning -rather than the modus credendi– of certain Catholic institutes and associations. The results are tentative and open to further discussion. Hopefully, they will be, at least,  thought- provoking.

What may be unique about this study is that the groups in question are mostly mainstream Catholic, many are numerous and international, and possessing official Church approval. They are not, per se, maverick or rebellious associations. In fact, many have sprung up as a reaction against progressive movements and are fiercely loyal to the pope, Tradition, orthodox doctrine and Catholic authorities. What do you think?

List of Groups

Here is a list of groups I have studied to some extent:

The Big Seven

  1. American Charismatic Communities
  2. French Charismatic Communities
  3. The Opus Dei
  4. Focolareand the official Catholic Church today
  5. Communione e Liberazione
  6. The Neo-Catechumenal Way
  7. Legionariesof Christ and its Regnum Christi Lay Movement

Smaller Questionable Catholic Groups

Questionable Catholic Groups in Europe 

Some lesser-known Catholic groups

Community of St. John 

The Society of St. John &

the Arch-conservative Pedophile 

The Heralds of the Gospel

Miles Jesu (Soldier of Jesus)

Miles Christi (Soldier of Christ)

Sodalitium Christianae Vitae (Sodalits)

Servants of Christ Jesus

Example of Method applied to a Group

Legionaries of Christ and its Regnum Christi Lay Movement 

Questionable aspects of the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi Movement immediately spring to mind:

(cult-like charasteristic #)

  1. Multiple abusing founder to whom old-guard members still profess veneration and presently attempt to reinstate.
  2. Leadership cadre appear to have assimilated his modus operandi, including the end justifies the meansand manipulative procedures.
  3. Main focus on recruiting
  4. Obsession with fundraising.

As early as 2002, this writer formulated his critique of his former religious order and presented it at an I.C.S.A. conference in Enfield, CT, USA. The presentation was overshadowed by the testimony of Legion early member and Marcial Maciel’s sexual abuse victim, Juan Jose Vaca. However, Lennon’s analysis was accepted by I.C.S.A [iv] for inclusion in its archives, and also appeared on the www.regainnetwork.org page. When the Legion sued Lennon and ReGAIN in August 2007, it demanded this essay be taken down as part of the settlement. The areas pin-pointed by Lennon were:

Besides all the written rules, the Legion operates in the context of several unwritten, undergirding principles, such as

          (cc # )

  1. Do not question the Legion Way and what you are told by your superiors. Never publicly or privately express Dissent.
  2. One Clearly Defined Meditation Method was imposed on all members, which led to mind-numbing. Members’ time was constant non-stop and strictly regulated, allowing no down time for personal reflection. Lennon stated: “The Legionary’s daily regimen is a constant stream of activities, prayer exercises, and formulas designed to keep him constantly enthused about his calling to the Legion.”
  3. The essay also illustrated the myriad of rules, norms, and recommendations that dictated in great detail how members should think, act and feel, etc.

 

Scientific Note: Carmen Almendros[v] from the University of Madrid and International Cultic Studies Association, in her initial studies of the harmful effects of high-demand groups included former members of Opus Dei, Legion of Christ, Regnum Christi and other groups. Several of the Big Seven have come to the attention of ‘cult-watchers’ such as Steven Hassan and Rick Ross, I.C.S.A. and can be searched on their web pages.

The Heralds of the Gospel, case study

The writer was contacted by a former member of this organization in 2014 who expressed his concern after a female friend had just taken her perpetual vows there. He was surprised that this controversial group was approved by the Vatican. A cultish association, TFP, after the death of its founder, transformed itself into the Church-approved Heralds of the Gospel

Wikipedia: “The Heralds of the Gospel (Portuguese: Arautos do Evangelho; Latin: Evangelii Praecones, abbreviated to EP) [1] is a Roman Catholic International Association of Pontifical Right based in Brazil.[2] Founded by Msgr. João Scognamiglio Clá Dias, the organization is active in 78 countries.[3]

The Heralds of the Gospel are a successor organization to the original Brazilian Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property, and claim heritage to the beliefs of its founder, Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira. They were created on 21 September 1999 but were only recognized as an “International Association of Pontifical Right”, the first established by the Holy See in the third millennium, on the liturgical feast of the Chair of St. Peter, 22 February 2001.”[vi]

Known for their outfit:  a short tunic, with a big red and white cross on the chest, and boots like those of jockeys (see photo), the Heralds have spread to 78 countries, have many vocations, involve thousands of young people, and were supported by Slovenian Cardinal Franc Rodè, at the time Prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Religious.

The group is under Vatican investigation.

Among other reports which started the Vatican investigation, are the letters and videos sent to Rome by Alfonso Beccar Varela regarding strange exorcisms. For at least thirty years there were rumors of the existence within TFP and then the Heralds, of a sort of secret society, “Semper viva”, involving the cult of Donna Lucilia Corrêa, Plinio Corrêa’s mother, and João Scognamiglio Clá Dias. A cult that the Church does not allow.

The videos uploaded by Alfonso Beccar Varela are frequently moved to other addresses as the Heralds are undertaking legal actions in Brazil to delete them for violating copyright laws. The images show exorcisms performed with formulas not approved by ecclesiastical authority, but above all the footage show (Lennon: improper) encounters between the founder and some priests.

The Minor Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima, the Heralds of the Gospel’s church in Embu das Artes, São Paulo (Wikimedia Commons/Webysther Nunes)

Vatican Intervention of Heralds of the Gospel[vii]

  • Vatican orders Apostolic Visitation (euphemism for “investigation”) of Heralds in 2017

On 23 June 2017, the Holy See Press Office published a press release expressing how the Congregation, in agreement with the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life, had called for “an Apostolic Visitation of the Association known as Heralds of the Gospel, of which the International Public Association of the Faithful of Pontifical Right, Heralds of the Gospel, the Society of Priestly Apostolic Life, Virgo Flos Carmeli, and the Society of Female Apostolic Life, Regina Virginum, are members”.[viii]

·                Pope approves Commissioner for “Heralds of the Gospel”[ix]

The Vatican Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life announces the Pope’s decision following an investigation of the Association begun in 2017. The Pontifical Commissioner appointed for the Association founded by Msgr Scognamiglio Clá Dias, is Brazilian Cardinal Raymundo Damasceno Assis.

The Vatican stated in this regard: “The reasons for the Apostolic Visitation, and the decision to appoint an Pontifical Commissioner for the Heralds, are linked to shortcomings concerning the style of government, the life of the members of the Council, the pastoral care of vocations, the formation of new vocations, administration, the management of works and fundraising.”

  • Heralds dispute the validity of the appointment of the Commissioner on technical/canonical reasons:

“The Commissioner is invalid,” says President

On October 17, the President of the Heralds of the Gospel, Felipe Eugenio Lecaros Concha (Chilean, 60 years old), along with his General Council, received the visit of Don Raymundo Damasceno Assis and Dom José Aparecido Gonçalves de Almeida, appointed commissioner and assist for the “Heralds International Public Association of the Gospel”. The report had access to the minutes of the meeting. In it, the President addresses the following initial words to the prelates:

“We revere you as bishops of the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ, and as such both are the object of our consideration, but we must declare that we do not recognize Your Eminence as ‘Commissioner’ of the Private Association of Herald stalwarts of the Gospel, which I am the legitimately elected President.”

The President of the Heralds of the Gospel states that the decree notifying the Association Commissioner is simply invalid, and gives the reasons…[x]

 

  • Vatican orders all students at Heralds schools to be sent home at end of academic year [xi]

Vatican City — in a decree dated June 22, 2021, The Holy See instructed the ultra-conservative religious order, the Heralds of the Gospel, to close their boarding schools and send the students home  …

Denouncing the “rigid discipline” and the isolation of families, who were gradually cut off from the young boarders, the Vatican decided that, to prevent “abuse of conscience and control”, minors “admitted in any capacity” to the Heralds or living in their houses, colleges and convents, should return “to live with their families and in the care of their parents” before next June.[xii]

  • Heralds appeal Vatican order to close schools[xiii]

The Heralds of the Gospel filed an appeal to the decree of Aug. 15 (2021), expressing their disagreement to Cardinal Braz de Aviz and noting that “none of those responsible” for the association “was called to address the complaints” nor were they “granted the possibility of defense.”

The Heralds also noted that the parents who made the decision to send their children to these homes weren’t heard from, and that the people who complained to the Holy See for the most part were not parents of minors.

Those same people, the Heralds’ press office stated, also filed a complaint with the Brazilian civil authorities and the case investigating the physical and psychological abuse of minors “was already adjudicated and dismissed” by the Sao Paulo Court of Justice Aug. 24.

These accusations, “already examined in civil court, were inadmissible,” the Heralds’ press office stated.

 

Common Characteristics of Harmful Catholic Groups

 

Help for Concerned Parents, Family, Friends and Prospective Members of Questionable Groups:

 

As a help to concerned parents and prospective members, instead of a summary, the author will present his list of cult-like characteristics. Besides Tydings’ consideration, the writer has sifted through classical cult characteristics in the psychological and sociological fields (Langone-Tobias, et.al), Catholic attempts such as Peter Vere’s Sifting the Wheat from the Tares[xiv].  The criteria described in the French language book, From Bondage to Freedom, reviewed here have also been most helpful.  Based on over thirty years study and experience interviewing and counseling former members and their families of mostly Catholic harmful groups and on the research of the Catholic groups here, the author presents some specific applications of those common “scientific” criteria helpful in examining potentially harmful groups:

  1. Abusive founder and/or leaders-leadership, including but not limited to abuse of power, exploitation and sexual abuse of members and followers.
  2. Manipulative/deceptive/ aggressive recruiting of members (young, idealistic, inexperienced, in life transition…),
  3. Unscrupulous fundraising and fraudulent money-management, “financial irregularities.”
  4. Insufficient or faulty Discernment of calling and life path.
  5. 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.
  6. Isolation from family, friends, and previous support system; exclusion of “outsiders” and former members.
  7. Systematic Control of Behavior, Information, Thoughts and Emotions (see Steven Hassan’s B.I.T.E. model.
  8. 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.
  9. 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 concrete lifestyle in this specific group.
  10. Directors’/superiors’/spiritual directors do not explore or respect candidates’ and members’ sexual orientation.
  11. May tell them to remain single or marry, and whom to marry…
  12. Want to control when, where and the how a member can leave.
  13. 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.
  14. Emphasis on Discipline, with Unreachable Goals of Holiness or Perfection -often fleshed out in a multiplicity of rules- which lead to obsessive-compulsivity, guilt feelings and low self-esteem. (Naturally, you are going to fall short).
  15. 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.
  16. 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” …
  17. 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!
  18. Ostracism/shunning, emotional cut-off and despising exiting and former members: “failures,” “unfaithful,” “traitors,” “disgruntled old men,” “envious,” “vengeful”
  19. Opponents are harassed, threatened, pursued, and even sued in the name of God, Jesus, Truth, Charity…

Lennon remarks how most definitions of harmful groups contain the mention of a charismatic leader. It is his contention that even when harmful groups are often founded by “malignant narcissists”, such groups are harmful essentially because of their damaging structure and, specifically, by their Modus Operandi, i.e., methods used in recruiting, retaining members and treating dissidents, “throw-aways” and “walk-aways” which often survive the founder. Though at the beginning there is usually the charismatic abusive founder, such abusive behaviors of the founders or leaders are the sirens that alert outsiders to gather more information and examine more carefully the harmful structures and the functioning or Modus Operandi, that perpetuates the various forms of abuse.

 

A Work in Progress:

This is a work in progress. In my booklet I have studied a smorgasbord of Catholic orders and movements loosely based on their importance, size, notoriety and relevance. There are many other groups in the Catholic Church of which I am unaware or only partially aware and knowledgeable about.

Naturally, I would also like to know whether I have overlooked any other works that have covered the same material!

  • If you are concerned about a group that is not mentioned, I would suggest you apply the above criteria; if the group fits a good number of the criteria, then it requires further study: information gathering, articles, questioning by “cult-watch” associations, visiting their centers, testimonies of former members… For Catholics, this could entail discussing the group and your interest with a mature priest or religious…
  • Is there a group that is not covered and that you believe should be?
    • I would also be obliged if you would let me know so I can give it my attention.
  • Are you particularly interested in one of the groups covered?
  • Do you know more about one of these groups than I do?
    • If so, would you share your info with me, or prefer to write your own study, or co-write with me?

I prefer to be reached at: irishmexican43@yahoo.com to begin our  communication

[i] https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2020/05/06/i-grew-catholic-cult-i-had-tell-my-story-i-could-accept

[ii] Little Sister, a Memoir: https://www.amazon.com/Little-Sister-Patricia-Walsh-Chadwick-ebook/dp/B07NF7VZYR/ref=sr_1_1?crid=MMQPYF14AFJ5&keywords=Little+Sister+by+Patricia+Chadwick&qid=1648437095&s=books&sprefix=little+sister+by+patricia+chadwick%2Cstripbooks%2C122&sr=1-1

[iii] https://cruxnow.com/church-in-the-americas/2022/03/victims-lawyer-says-scandal-plagued-lay-group-could-soon-be-dissolved

[iv] http://www.icsahome.com/articles/aspects-of-concern-legion-lennon-en5-2

[v] https://www.icsahome.com/elibrary/studyguides/research/gpa-modifications-and-development

[vi] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heralds_of_the_Gospel

[vii] https://www.vaticannews.va/en/vatican-city/news/2019-09/pope-approves-commissioner-heralds-gospel.html

[viii] https://www.vaticannews.va/en/vatican-city/news/2019-09/pope-approves-commissioner-heralds-gospel.html

[ix]https://veritas.arautos.org/en/886-report-de-gaudium-press-heralds-do-gospel-declar-commissariado-invalido/

[x]https://onepeterfive.com/heralds-gospel/

[xi] https://www.ncronline.org/news/accountability/vatican-wants-boarding-schools-run-heralds-gospel-be-closed

[xiii] Spanish language article in Religión Digital : https://religion.elconfidencialdigital.com/articulo/vaticano/heraldos-evangelio/20210914030211042283.html?fbclid=IwAR2hgg38rTNSNlvL2GMAnfgN8Pfploc5s1ttQSBarnhgO22EcyZAH-8F2sQ

[xiv] https://www.cultnews101.com/2014/02/sifting-wheat-from-tares-20-signs-of.html

 

 

Legion of Christ/Regnum Christi Founder, Fr. Maciel’s, Despotic Leadership Style

The Rise and Fall of Fr. Alfonso Samaniego, co founder and prominent member of the first generations of Legion of Christ/Regnum Christi Federation

 

Tarcisio                                                               Alfonso Samaniego, LC, R.I.P.

Legion of Christ/Regnum Christi Federation leadership recently mentioned the passing of Fr. Tarcisio Samaniego; those of us familiar with the institution immediately thought of his better-known and more important brother, Fr. Alfronso Samaniego; Fr. Alfonso had been been the LC Provincial for the American Continent from the 1960s through the 1980s.  I believe many of those generations admired Fr. Alfonso’s elegance (an important Legionary value), his quiet, friendly manner, his intelligence and tact.

As tributes poured into Legioleaks (original  4500 member Spanish language facebook page) the writer added his comment in Spanish. (I will translate that into English very loosely with embellishments!):

THE RISE AND FALL OF FR. ALFONSO SAMANIEGO, LC/REGNUM CHRISTI PROVINCIAL

I knew Fr. Alfsonso pretty well, as director of the original Universidad Anahuac north of Mexico City and my Territorial Director (North American Provincial) for almost twenty years. 

In 1961, when I joined in Ireland, Fr. Alfonso was well known in the ranks. He had graduated from the Gregorian University in Rome summa cum laude (gold medal?) and worked at the Legion’s first Instituto Cumbres in Mexico City. Fr. Maciel often mentioned him when he visited the houses and expressed his pride in having personally “formed” Fr. Alfonso from the youngest age (12-year-old) . Fr. Maciel could be quite judgmental and abrasive when he wanted to make a point to the troups. He lamented not being able to “form” the (grown Spaniards) who joined the Legion early in the 1950s  -we knew to whom he was referring-.   He said that Alfonso had been able to really capture “the Legionary Style” (Tipo Legionario), reflecting that elegance, suavité, intelligence, good personal appearance and grooming, articulateness. attractiveness, and gift of persuasion of the Legionary charism ( as Maciel saw himself).

Our status, esteem and posts in the Legion during the founder’s life time depended on our closeness to, agreement with, admiration for, adulation of-and maybe sexual intimacy with-“the preeminent example for youth” (words of Pope JP II). When, following my successful four-year-spell on the (0nly) LC Mission in Quintana Roo, Maya Riviera, in the then remote towns of Bacalar and Chetumal, Fr. Maciel chose me to found the first School of Faith in Mexico City, 1975, he told me to consult with Fr. Alfonso Samaniego re the curriculum. Patrick Kavanagh and I put the whole operation together from scratch in six months. I felt that with my shining MA in Theology from the Gregorian University during Vatican II I was caapable of drawing up the content for our Catholic Education Courses. I duly showed Fr. Alfonso what I had for the various subjects. He, like a good Legionary, had only one concern: would it be offensive to some of my (rich?) students if I expounded on the social doctrine  of the Church -regarding the equal distribution of resources- according to Vatican II pastoral constitution Gaudium et Spes? I  feigned confusion…, and Fr. Alfonso did not insist.

FR. ALFONSO SAMANIEGO’S FALL FROM GRACE

As best I recall – I was an eyewitness- it happened during our 1982 Holy Week retreat  (Legionaries don’t usually work in parishes and so are usually free duing that time of the year) at the Centro Cultural Interamericano in Mexico City. Fr. Maciel was giving the keynote address. He would use this occasion to give us updates from the various “frontlines” and motivate us for the retreat. The Great Manipulator might stage happenings also. One never knew what he was up to. Anyway, a controversy surfaced which involved Fr. Alfonso Samaniego, then rector of the Anahuac University. Maciel  publicly voiced his concern about Fr. Alfonso not allowing Fr. Jesús Blázquez -then promoting the first generation of male Regnum Christi lay members- to recruit at the university. Fr. Alfonoso took exception to that version stating that he had not been consulted prior, andfleshed out other factors. He refused to be cowed by Fr. Maciel’s accusation and attempted to explain what happened . A major tactical mistake. Nobody could question Maciel in public. The exchange was somewhat heated and left a bad taste in our mouths. 

Shortly afterwards Fr. Alfonso was removed from his position at the Anahuac and not given another assignment. He was relegated to the community of older priests living at Alencastre 73 in Mexico City; there to remain in the company of the other semi-retired priests such as Gregorio López, Faustino Pardo, Juan-Manuel Amenábar… As far as I know Fr. Alfonso never held another position in the Legion of Christ until his dying day.  This little dissident Legionary was shocked by the showdown and his representment grew toward Maciel’s despotic leadership. 

I add today: around 1980 when I was director of the School of Faith, I was abruptly told to leave my post immediately and fly to Cozumel, Quintana Roo, to assist Monsignor Eduardo Pironio who was vacationing there under our hospices. I flew out the morning after being told – prompt, joyful, blind and heroic obedience! When I got there, Fr. Javier Orozco, LC, the superior there informed me they were covered and I was not needed. After a week or two twiddling my thumbs, Fr. Zancajo, my Provincial told me to return to my job in Mexico City; that the previous order  had been a mistake. He had said something about not being informed about my change. (Seems that Maciel had sent my replacement without letting him know and Zancajo did not take too kindly to that.) Soon after Fr. Zancajo was removed as  Provincial (Territorial Director, in LC.RC parlance) and sent to Caracas, Venezuela as chaplain at some university. He was there for about thirty years. Never being recalled during Maciel’s lifetime. 

&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&

En los anyos 1960 alabado por Nuestro Padre como el ejemplo del TIPO LEGIONARIO. Nuestro estatus en la Legion dependia de nuestra cercania, acuerdo y admiracio/ adulacion del Padre Maciel y/o si eramos parte de su haren. Alfonso pudo haber sido victima del abuso del santo del pene grande -segun testimonios de las victimas. Cuando me tocO fundar la Escuela de la Fe en 1976, Maciel me recomendO consultar on DT Alsonso sobre el curriculum…

La CAIDA de Alfonso, que presencié en el Centro Cultural Interamericano durante el retiro de Semana Semana Santa 1980 (?) sucedio cuando Alfonso manifestó desacuerdo con Maciel durante nuestro retiro. Maciel lo destituyO inmediatamente del Anahuac y de su puesto como director territorial. Lo DESTERRÓ a la comunidad de sacerdotes “relegados” en Fernando Alencastre 73, a juntarse con Padres Gregorio Lopez, Faustino Pardo, JM Fernandez Amenabar…?

Alfonso Samaniego fue reemplazado por el Padre Zancajo (santo varon). Cuando Carlos Zancajo tuve un desacuerdo con Ma iel circa 1980, Maciel lo destituyO mandandole a Caracas Venezuela, donde quedo dura te unos 30 años. CUANDO YO SALÍ DE LA LEGION EN 1984 NO SABIA NADADEL ABUSO SEXUAL DE MACIEL. MI PROBLEMA ERA CON SU MANERA DESPOTA DE EJERCER SU MANDO. (Paul Lennon LC 1961-84)

 

Fr. Connor’s Damage-Control Strategy: Divide and Conquer Maciel’s Accusers

 
 

After the Legion of Christ Chapter General in early 2021, the New -first US born- General Director (Superior General), Fr. John Connor set about damage control.

He would take action to compensate the victims of Legion of Christ -now morphed into Regnum Christi Federation- Founder Fr. Marcial Maciel’s rampant sexual abuse of his seminarians in the 1950s, an albatross still hanging around the “reformed” institution’s neck.

Fr. Connor set about his task in a very Legionary and Roman way: Divide and Conquer. In order to do things à la Legion -like any cult would do- he would have to break up the group of seven plaintiffs who had not been taken care of for seven decades (1950-2020). Their case would have forever languised in Vatican archives unless investigative reporters Jason Berry and Gerald Renner had bravely brought their plight to the notice of the English-speaking world in February 1997 with a ground-breaking article in the Hartford Courant. https://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-marcial-maciel-02-1997-story.html

Our readers are familiar with later developments, reported here and in other Catholic media:

  • Mons. Charles Scicluna’s interview of twenty Maciel victims in New York and Mexico City 2005, brings damaging information to soon-to-be-pope, Cardinal Ratzinger.
  • Pope Benedict’s slap on the wrist: Vatican Communiqué re Maciel May 19, 2006, eschewing a canonical trial.
  • Maciel’s death in January 2008 revealing sordid details of his double or multiple life, including mistresses and children.
  • Vatican investigation (euphemically called “visitation”) of the Legion and Regnum Christi, March 31, 2009,
  • Vatican “renewal” -never called “reform”- of Maciel’s brain child appoints Mons. Velasio de Paolis as Apostolic Delegate on July 9, 2010. Velasio de Paolis was with the Legion for four years, terminating his intervention at the congregation’s General Chapter in 2014. His work was hampered by his surrendering to the charms of LC Director Fr. Álvaro Corcuera and his coterie, and, among other problems, the desperate and fruitless search for the Legion of Christ’s charism and specific mission.

Fr. Connor’s task was daunting. But, like a Good American, he set about it forcefully and with a clear plan. As we have stated in our previous article, the fate of those early victims of Fr. Maciel’s abuse in Spain and Rome was a stumbling block to damage control among the members ad intra, and image laundering ad extra.

How to break that stubborn monolithic block of the remaining 7 accusers?

Divide and Conquer. The strategy was clever. The men were in their eighties. They had been abused in the late 1940s and 1950s and had left the sect not long after in various states of mental and emotional disarray. As we wrote previously, there had been at least twenty victims in that generation. Twenty that were counted. If we were to flesh out (forgive the expression) the total number -realizing how only a small percentage of sex victims acklowledge their abuse and come forward- the number would increase exponentially. Maciel had taught his henchmen how to control leaks and numbers. There could easily be a hundred, just from that period. Remember, we are talking about a serial sexual predador dressed in priest’s clothing. Several of his victims suggest that Maciel founded the Legion of Christ Catholic Religios Order, in the first place, to cultivate his ephobophile harem. Harsh words, and not the writer’s. Remember Maciel’s refined sexual appetite targetted emerging puberty. He, the founder, specialized in initiating the innocent boys into their sexuality. That way he would have total control, body and soul, of “his men”, as he called them.

LEGION OF CHRIST GENERAL STRATEGY

regarding Founder, Fr. Marcial Maciel’s, accusers and other cases of sexual abuse by him and by other Legion seminarians and priests.

  • DISCREDIT: “angry, resentful, vengeful”, “disgruntled old men”! (Fr. Owen Kearns, LC); a vendetta against the holy founder by ambitious former members, Richard John Nehaus in his “Feathers of Scandal” defense of Fr. Maciel in 2002. (Article since vanished from Internet to a large degree so as not to discredit Fr. Neuhaus, R.I.P. and Legion of Christ.)
  • STONEWALL UNTIL THEY DIE!
  • DIVIDE DIE-HARD ACCUSERS: as in the case of recent accusations against Fr. Fernando Martínez, abuser of 8-9 year old girls in Cancun, Mexico, 1991-3; and Maciel’s accusers.

 

IN THE CASE OF FOUNDER FR. MACIEL’S ACCUSERS:

Divide the group of Maciel’s “classical” victims, the ones who would not go away, would not shut up, and had not done the Legion the favor of dying off.

  • Sidestep and isolate resolute group leader, José de Jesús Barba, PhD Harvard, who demanded Legion leaders approach the survivors as a group and arrange full settlement of all damages: sexual, physical, personal, psychological, interpersonal, emotional, spiritual, religious… (several still suffer from some form of PTSD)
  • Deceive Barba into thinking and agreeing to work with Fr. Connor and Legion leadership, through a mutually agreed mediator, to reach a full settlement with victims. Meanwhile Fr. Connor is working diligently behind his back to implement the Legion’s strategy. Legion sign agreement with Barba, with a gag clause. Simultaneously disregarded agreement in order to reach their goal. ( cult characteristic: the end justifies the means).
  • Approach members individually and secretly, beginning in early 2020 -unbeknowned to Barba- offering them each an “Easter Egg” ($5,000.00, five thousand UScy), as a sign of caring and friendship -not as a settlement. they swear-, knowing that these men were now in their eighties and some of them were living in deep poverty (no property of their own, no steady income, little family support, failing health…)
  • As the first victims began crumbling and accepted the gift, leak to Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi members -the notice would slowly reach the public- “the victims are being taken care of”.
  • Take advantage of any chinks in the armor of Maciel victim- accusers to get them to accept gifts and sign agreements.

– Four victims accept the Legion overtures.

-Barba holds to agreement signed with Legion Leadership, refusing to enter into individual negotiations.

-Fernando Pérez Olvera also refuses, but cancer strikes…

Around March 2020 Fernando Pérez Olvera, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Legion pounces with the Easter Egg ruse. Pérez Olvera refuses to accept tiny nest egg. Legion leaders prevail with his wife to accept $10, 000.00 (ten thousand dollars) for his hospitalization.

On May 30, 2020 Fernando Pérez Olvera succumbs to pancreatic cancer in Monterrey, Mexico; with his dying breath he demands Justice from the Legion of Christ/Regnum Christi Federation, led by Fr. John Connor.

Saúl Barrales dies, April 5, 2021, as reported in ReGAIN article

On the other hand: Mission Accomplished Fr. Connor! You are a worthy son of arch -schemer, pedophile, imposter, impersonator and malignant narcissist, Founder of the Legion of Christ -now called Regnum Christi Federation-  to distance itself from the much maligned, yet Vatican approved, Legion of Christ religious congregation.

P.S. Spanish language article in respected newspaper (El País) three victims of sexual abuse accuse Fr. Connor of cover-up. 

LEGION OF CHRIST/REGNUM CHRISTI’s Cultic Dynamics: Former Legionary of Christ/Regnum Christi interviewed by International Cultic Studies executive director

                                                                  ,

Dear Readers,

thought you migh be interested in this “clinical” interview of ReGAIN board member, and former LC/RC, Lennon, conducted by Dr. Michael Langone, executive director of International Cultic Studies Association. Dr. Langone helps us to understand the dynamics of recruiting, retention, and control of members in the LCRC in a serious, analytical and objective way.

Sit back, learn, enjoy

Hope it will be helpful to others who want to understand their personal experience, the experience of family, friends and loved ones, male and female in these and other potentially harmful groups.

ReGAIN MANIFESTO

                     Fr. Maciel embraces Paul Lennon on November 26, 1969, just                               after Paul was ordained at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe,                         Rome

Dear Reporter:

  • The American press sometimes refers to the Legionnaires of Christ, perhaps in an allusion to the French Foreign Legion, or American Legion, and maybe because it sounds better to U.S. ears.… I believe the official name is Legion of Christ and Legionaries of Christ. The order/group, founded by Mexican Catholic seminarian  Marcial Maciel in Mexico City in 1941, sprouted a lay movement in the 1960s called Regnum Christi -along the lines of the Opus Dei movement- and, together they morphed into Regnum Christi Federation a few years ago.
  • I joined at the age of 17 in Dublin in 1961. I could be considered an Irish co-founder of the order, “cofounder” being a coveted title at the time. I became bilingual and bi cultural Spanish during my 23 years in the Legion, leaving in 1984 after an  altercation with then superior general Fr. Maciel. I have the honor of being one of the few members who ever dared to confront the untouchable founder in front of other members.
  • Maciel garnered the admiration of popes, especially Pope JP II, until his pedophilia and philandering were finally acknowledged by Church Hierarchy and Legion around 2005 -by which time Maciel was 85! Just imagine the decades of silence, avoidance, minimization and coverup!
  • I  have been monitoring the order since 1985, founding regainnetwork.org in the 1990s and writing the first version of my memoir in 2008 which was released more recently as A Naïve and Sentimental Dubliner in the Legion of Christ.
  • ReGAIN sprung from the concern of parents, friends and former members in the late 1980s seeking to help active, exiting and former members to recover from their traumatic experience.
  • ReGAIN has published extensively about the Legion of Christ/Regnum Christi Federation since the 1990s where you will find an abundance of info/critique, perhaps the largest in the English language. Presently there are other blogs in Spanish and French that carry out the same mission: facebook’s Legioleaks, La Verdad os hará Libres, and l’énvers du décor
  • U.S. Catholic investigative reporters, Jason Berry and  Gerald Renner, were instrumental in bringing the story of Maciel, the sexual abuse of his seminarians, the secretive nature of the order,  and the founder’s  love of money and luxury to the world beyond Mexico and Spanish speaking countries to world-wide attention in the Hartford Courant in 1997, and later publishing their critique of Maciel and the Legion with  Vows of Silence (2004).
  • Don’t forget the Legion was founded by Mexican priest, Fr. Marcial Maciel, and most of the literature about it is in the Spanish language. Fr. Maciel saw the Irish as the Legion’s gateway into the USA and other English-speaking countries. Although the Legion would like to cast itself as an international organization – it is present in many countries- there has always been a strong Mexican element: most major superiors are Mexicans, followed by Spaniards, Irish and U.S., with an occasional German or Italian thrown in for good PR. Unfortunately, Legion and Regnum Christi leadership has consistently been tainted by the leaven of founder, Fr. Marcial Maciel, arch abuser, conman, manipulator of conservative Catholics and popes, and a bare-faced liar.
  • ReGAIN, in principle, avoids criticizing “The Church” as we believe that the Catholic Church consists in the union of all baptized catholics, irrespective of their rank (dogmatic constitution Lumen Gentium, chapter 2, The People of Gd. We, thus  distinguish between the Catholic Church and the Catholic Hierarchy (LC chapter 3). In general, we also avoid criticizing “the pope”, as if he were solely responsible for every sin that every one of the billion members of the Catholic Church commits.
  • On the other hand, we hold pope, hierarchy , clergy and religious responsible for their actions and omissions, especially when it comes to grevious offenses against children and the vulnerable.
  • Together with many other Catholics, Christians, believers, and people of good will, we complain about the way the Catholic Hierarchy has failed to punish Fr. Maciel, and to investigate and censure several cult-like or coercive religious orders and movements approved by and operating freely within its boundaries.
  • ReGAIN has consistently  defended and supported all those abused  in any way by Legion founder, Fr. Marcial Maciel and Legion and Regnum Christi superiors and directors.
  • Together with many other Catholics and Christians we are becoming more aware of other forms of abuse beyond sexual and physical abuse, such as moral, psychological, spiritual and conscience abuse  which have been rampant in churches and religious groups.

APPENDIX: incomplete list of books about Maciel, Legion, Regnum in English,  Spanish, and French.

Aristegui, C. (2010). Marcial Maciel, Historia de un Criminal. Mexico City: Grijalbo.

Athié, A., Barba, J., González, F.M, (2012). La Voluntad de no saber: lo que sí se conocía sobre Maciel en los archivos del Vaticano desde 1944. Mexico City: Grijalbo.

Barranco, B., coordinador (2021). Depredadores Sagrados: Pederastia clerical en México. Mexico City: Grijalbo.

Berry, J. & Renner, G. (2004). Vows of Silence. New York: Free Press;

—– (2006). El Legionario de Cristo. Mexico City: Random House Mondadori.

—– (2011). Render unto Rome, The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church. New York: Crown Publishers. Fr. Maciel, Lord of Prosperity, pp.156-196

Erdely, J., Escalante, P., González, F., Guerrero-Chiprés, S., Mascareñas, C. & Masferrer, E. (2004). El Círculo del Poder y la Espiral del Silencio [The Circle of Power and the Spiral of Silence], La Historia Oculta del Padre Marcial Maciel y Los Legionarios de Cristo. Mexico City: Grijalbo.

Espinosa, A. (2003). El Legionario [The Legionary]. Mexico City: Grijalbo.

—–    (2014, 2nd Edit.). El Ilusionista, Marcial Maciel (The Illusionist, Marcial Maciel). Charleston, SC: Createspace

González, F. (2006). Marcial Maciel. Los Legionarios de Cristo: testimonios y documentos inéditos [Marcial Maciel, The Legion of Christ: New testimonies and documents]. Mexico: Tusquets Editores,

González Parga, F. (2012). Yo acuso al Padre Maciel y a la Legión de Cristo. Charleston, SC: Createspace. (Maciel victim; early Legionary).

Keogh, J. (20100. Driving Straight on Crooked Lines, How and Irishman found his heart and nearly lost his mind. Iveagh Lodge Press. (A well-written testimony by one of the first Irish-born LC members).

Léger, X & Nicolas, B (2013). Moi, ancien légionnaire du Christ, 7 ans dans une secte au cœur de l’Église. Paris : Flammarion. (Testimony of French LC)

Lennon, J.P. (2012, 2nd Edit). Fr. Marcial Maciel Pedophile, Psychopath and Legion of Christ Founder, From Fr. Richard John Neuhaus to Pope Benedict XVI. Charleston, SC: Createspace. (LC 1961-84)

Martínez de Velasco, J. (2002). Los Legionarios de Cristo, el nuevo ejército del Papa [The Legionaries of the Christ, the Pope’s New Army]. Madrid: La Esfera de los libros.

—– (2004). Los Documentos Secretos de los Legionarios de Cristo [The Secret Documents of the Legion of Christ]. Barcelona: Ediciones B.

Sada, E. (2018) Blackbird – A Memoir; The Story of a Woman Who Submitted to Marcial Maciel, Became Free, and Found Happiness Again. Amazon Digital Services. (Prominent recruiter of Regnum Christi ‘consecrated’ women.)

Ramírez Mota Velasco (2013). El Reino de Marcial Maciel, La Vida Oculta de la Legión y el Regnum Christi. Mexico City: Temas de Hoy. (Prominent superior of RC women)

Ruiz-Marcos, José Manuel. (2006). La orden maldita. La historia oculta de los Legionarios de Cristo [The Accursed Order, the Secret History of the Legion of Christ]. Mexico City: Editorial Planeta.

 Torres, A. (2002). La Prodigiosa Aventura de la Legión de Cristo [The Marvelous Adventure of the Legion of Christ]. Madrid: La Esfera de los libros.

—– (2004). No nos dejes caer en la Tentación, Escándalos, dinero y guerras de poder en la Iglesia española [Let us not Fall into Temptation]. Madrid: La Esfera de los libros.

 

Paul Lennon, MA, aka J.Paul Lennon, author

 

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