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de la pluma del ínclito autor: J. Paul Lennon,
CON TRES EX MIEMBROS DEL REGNUM CHRISTI
|As many of you know, ICSA director Rod Dubrow-Marshall, PhD and Linda Dubrow-Marshall, PhD began a Master’s program on the Psychology of Coercive Control at the University of Salford (UK) three years ago. For the 2020-21 academic year, the master’s program will be delivered completely online. Go here for more info, including how to apply to the program which begins late September (www.salford.ac.uk/pgt-courses/psychology-of-coercive-control). Because of a law passed by the UK government in 2015 ( Section 76 of the Serious Crime Act), the concept of coercive control encompasses psychological as well as physical actions and effects. The Salford master’s program elaborates upon this concept and prepares students to work with those affected by cults, domestic violence, trafficking, and other areas of coercive control. Rod and Linda will lead a special ICSA 60-minute webinar on coercive control and the Salford master’s program which will be broadcast on Friday July 24th at 12 pm eastern time (New York time). The Link for this webinar will be sent to the ICSA network nearer to the date. Register for this webinar now, while tickets are available. Choose the “Coercive Control Webinar” ticket (https://icsahome.networkforgood.com/events/14026-webinar-and-online-conference-registrations-2020).|
Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi under the microscope of Cult Expert in “International Cultic Studies Magazine”
“By Their Fruits Ye Shall Know Them”: How Good and Bad Works Can Deceive—the Case of the Legion of Christ
The cultic studies field includes many cases in which the commendable actions of certain groups incline some observers to view the groups as good. Conversely, the blameworthy actions of certain groups incline some observers to view those groups as bad. Contrary to the well-known biblical saying that gives this panel its title, the situation is often more complex and differentiated than it appears. One cannot necessarily judge a group by its apparent fruits, especially when one is not aware of all the fruits. This panel focused on an illuminating example of a Catholic movement that successfully deceived Church authorities for many years, until the disgraced founder was relieved of his duties by Pope Benedict. The case the panel explored is that of the Legion of Christ, a congregation within the Roman Catholic Church, and its lay sister organization, Regnum Christi. Paul Lennon and Peter Kingsland discussed the “fruits” of these organizations from their respective perspectives as a former Legion priest and a parent of a Regnum Christi member. First, however, a bit of background. The ICSA began to examine the Legion in 2003, when Mexican psychiatrist Cesar Mascarenas gave a talk at our California conference. Somehow, the Legion heard about this talk; and I was approached before, during, and after the conference by people concerned that we were discussing the Legion at a “cult” conference.
We scheduled a follow-up panel on the Legion for our fall conference in Connecticut that same year, inviting as panelists Father James LeBar, Paul Lennon, and Juan Vaca, one of the first ex-Legionaries to accuse the founder of sexual molestation. We also invited the Legion to send representatives to give their side of the controversy. The group invited me to visit their seminary in Connecticut prior to the conference, which I did, along with Father LeBar. Interestingly, the organization sent representatives to our conference for private discussions, but they did not attend the panel.
Our ICSA e-Newsletter published my introduction to the Connecticut panel and later, on July 18, 2006, added an update. You can find that report here.
In that same issue, we also published Paul Lennon’s article, “Aspects of Concern Regarding Legion of Christ Mind Control Reflected in Its Rules, Norms, and Ex-Member Testimonies.”
The current panel was inspired by an interesting email exchange that began when Paul Lennon asked a colleague about Massimo Introvigne’s views on Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi founder Marcial Maciel’s fall from grace. Mr. Introvigne is an attorney who heads an Italian cult-watch organization, CESNUR. Some call him a “cult apologist”; however, he has graciously invited a number of ICSA experts, including me, to speak on issues of harm at CESNUR conferences. He is very much aware of the fact that, as I often put it, some groups harm some people sometimes. However, his concern for religious freedom and his criticisms of some “brainwashing” perspectives have put him on different sides of some issues from most people who attend ICSA conferences. He was to have participated in this panel, but a schedule conflict prevented him from attending.
In the email exchange, Massimo said,
The principle that good fruits are a clue that the tree is good was so widespread that most people in the Church did not believe the accusations against Father Maciel until very late in the pontificate of the Blessed John Paul II. I was among the majority of Catholics and was, of course, wrong. So were the Blessed John Paul II and most cardinals. To his credit, the present Pope was inclined to give some credibility to the accusations against Maciel from the very beginning. But he never questioned the good work of the Legion of Christ and, to this day, is keen to distinguish between Father Maciel’s “criminal activities” and the good work done by the great majority of the Legionaries and by Regnum Christi.
Later in the exchange, he said,
Paul Lennon’s mail confirms that most in the Legion had no idea of what Maciel was doing. This was also true for most OUTSIDE the Legion, who did not know Maciel but did know the good deeds of other Legionaries.
In that same message, Massimo also alluded to something I have noticed as well; namely, that some who disagree with Maciel’s conservative theology suggest that aspects of the theology are wrong because Maciel was corrupt. This is a non sequitur that merely uses Maciel as a hammer to harass theological opponents while it obscures the central issue of harm.
Massimo also shed light on why well-intentioned people can hold diametrically opposite views on an issue. He said that the Renner and Berry book Vows of Silence, which outside the Vatican was generally viewed as vital in exposing Maciel, was, inside the Vatican, viewed as so flawed on matters of Church history and canon law that it “persuaded many in the Vatican that those accusing him [Maciel], since they were obviously wrong in other matters, were probably wrong on Maciel too.” Much of the polarization in the cultic studies field has been fueled by this kind of thinking—the tendency to dismiss people, including people with reputable credentials, because one knows they are wrong about some things. The non sequitur is “If he is wrong about some things, then he must be wrong about all things.”
Thus, members of the so-called anticult movement (ACM) may dismiss so-called procultists because the latter question reports of harm associated with cults, while so-called procultists may dismiss cult critics because they may sometimes report inaccurately about certain groups. This attitude fuels polarization, which encourages inaccuracies to arise on both sides of a controversial issue. In her 1995 presidential address to the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion (SSSR), Eileen Barker chided her colleagues:
If we are to be honest and self-critical, we have to admit that several of us have reacted against the selective negativity of the ACM by, sometimes quite unconsciously, making our own unbalanced selections. Having been affronted by what have appeared to be gross violations of human rights perpetrated through practices such as deprogramming and the medicalization of belief, there have been occasions when social scientists have withheld information about the movements because they know that this will be taken, possibly out of context, to be used as a justification for such actions. The somewhat paradoxical situation is that the more we feel the NRMs are having untrue bad things said about them, the less inclined we are to publish true “bad” things about the movements. (Barker, 1995, p. 305—emphasis added)
Given this candid remark, it is not surprising that Dr. Barker reached out to ICSA in the late 1990s and established a dialogue that has been quite productive.
Dr. Barker’s remarks to SSSR and the email exchange involving Massimo Introvigne underline the fact that the vast majority of generalizations that refer to human behavior, such as “by their fruits ye shall know them,” are probability statements, not absolute “natural laws.” In the email exchange, I commented,
Given that the tree-fruit relationship, like the cult membership-harm relationship, is only probabilistic and will vary greatly from situation to situation, it seems to me that Church authorities can be faulted, as can some cult experts, for treating the tree-fruit relationship as though it were a “law.” Even if Massimo and Pope Benedict are correct in their belief that “the fruits are, generally speaking, excellent,” we can still fault Church authorities for not adequately examining what they thought were low probabilities. And we can especially fault the Legion’s leaders (not just Maciel) for the viciousness of their attacks on those who dared to criticize Maciel… A grocer may not worry about a handful of eggs broken during a shipment of hundreds of boxes. However, Christians (and anybody else who claims to care about people) ought to be concerned about a handful of broken souls. The pain of one person is not negated by the joy of 100.
In closing, I’d like to comment on the distinction between “good works” or “good deeds” and “good fruits,” a distinction that I did not think about during our email exchanges. Although I am certainly not qualified to expound upon the proper theological interpretation of the biblical verse concerning good fruits, it seems clear to this layman that fruits should not be morally judged without reference to the tree that produces them. In other words, ends should not be morally evaluated without consideration of the means used to achieve them or the context from which they spring.
One may, of course, erroneously believe that a particular tree is good and that the effects seemingly produced by that tree are good fruits. However, if one learns that the tree is not good, even in the imperfect sense in which all “good” people are good, if one learns that the tree is in fact corrupt at its core, then one should refrain from interpreting positive events as necessarily the good fruit of that tree. One should, instead, look for other explanations for the good things formerly associated with the tree now known to be very bad.
The Legion tree was rotten from its inception. No amount of pruning will eliminate the poison in the seed (Marcial Maciel) from which the Legion and Regnum Christi sprouted.
I would, then, humbly suggest to Pope Benedict that he conceive of the Church’s task in this matter to be the preservation of the goodness of individual members of the Legion and Regnum Christi, not the preservation of the organization founded and corrupted by a man whose actions Benedict has called “criminal.” Whatever good fruits we may now point to may be viewed as the fruits of the good will and piety of individuals aspiring to virtue, perhaps in spite of the Legion and Regnum Christi, not because of them.
Dissolve the organizations. Even if property and other considerations argue for some legal continuity, at least change the names of the organizations. Also, move out all of the upper-level management, and some mid-level management, who functioned adaptively for so many years in Maciel’s climate of deceit, control, and abuse. One does not adapt to such a system without internalizing attitudes and habits of thought that sustain the system. The resulting identity does not disappear simply because the leader is gone.
The rank-and-file members of these organizations also adapted themselves to the system, and, like their leaders, they do not shed their Legion/Regnum Christi identities automatically because Maciel was discredited. The universal human tendency to rationalize will preserve Maciel’s influence in ways that will not always be apparent. Church authorities, whose inclinations tend toward kindness and gentleness, may be reluctant to challenge the rank and file. I believe this would be a mistake. The cognitive dissonance, confusion, and sense of betrayal that some Legion/Regnum Christi members may feel should be addressed directly, preferably by professionals trained to help people cope with such transitions. The resilience of former cult members who come to the ICSA for assistance suggests that Legion and Regnum Christi members are probably stronger than some Church authorities may think.
In my opinion, the Church needs to affirm its own integrity by expending the pastoral and counseling resources needed to help the good people of the Legion and Regnum Christi see more clearly that the Church welcomes them, that the Church will find or create places for them, and that their desire to do good and to be good does not depend on organizations nourished by decades of deceit. The “good fruits” of the Legion and Regnum Christi members will not wither on the vine if those individuals are separated from the fraudulent system that took advantage of their noble spiritual aspirations.
Barker, E. (1995). The scientific study of religion? You must be joking! (presidential address to the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion). Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 34(3), 287–310.
Michael D. Langone, PhD, a counseling psychologist, received a doctorate in Counseling Psychology from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1979. Since 1981 he has been Executive Director of International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA). Dr. Langone has been consulted by several hundred former cult members and/or their families. He was the founder and editor of Cultic Studies Journal, that journal’s successor, Cultic Studies Review, and editor of Recovery from Cults: Help for Victims of Psychological and Spiritual Abuse (an alternate of the Behavioral Science Book Service). He is co-author of Cults: What Parents Should Know and Satanism and Occult-Related Violence: What You Should Know. Currently, Dr. Langone is ICSA Today’s Editor-in-Chief. In 1995, he was honored as the Albert V. Danielsen visiting Scholar at Boston University.
Sunday, April 12, 2020
A few months ago I felt the desire to pray to God with these words. I share them with you, wishing you all a Happy Easter Season.
I met you, Lord, while I was psychologically and emotionally trapped in a criminal organization bearing the papal seal. I met you in a prison. But I met you anyway. Thank you, Lord, for that.
The Christ that was mine at that time constantly threatened me, forced me to love him, forced me to obey him; psychologically, everything was wrapped in fear, dread, darkness…
What have they done to Your Name, Lord? You, who are the Light, the Truth, the Way, Life itself…
But for me then, You were just death, shadow, deviousness and lies.
I was born at the end of the 20th century. And for the great history of forgotten people I will have been another human being, a Christian, a Catholic, victim of a dubious and dark ecclesiastical structure… a number perhaps in some future statistic.
From the age of 15 I learned to call a Mexican priest a saint, Father Marcial Maciel, L.C. I heard several times from the mouth of St. John Paul II that such a priest was an example for youth. I heard from dozens of cardinals, from hundreds of bishops, that this priest was trustworthy, he was a living saint, he was Christ’s faithful representative. In my teenage religiosity, I consented, believed, gave myself in body and soul to follow you, Lord, in the footsteps of that “holy founder”.
It took me years in that surrender, until the day of disappointment. Until the day that organization – which one day welcomed me and called me family – made a sudden about turn and decided to erase my existence from its memory, erasing me from its archives and its institutional history, turning a new page and starting from scratch, over the corpses of thousands of religious abused in the congregation for decades and all lying in a mass grave of oblivion.
Where are the holy men who have protected such a priest founder for so long now? Where is the holiness of this “Holy See” that does everything it can to also forget the thousands of victims of this organization? In the practice of its leaders, it has been nothing more than another criminal and deceitful organization. I’m sorry for getting this off my chest with these words.
Your “servant,” hailed for seven decades as a saint by bishops, cardinals and popes, Father Marcial Maciel, L.C., after his death was found to be a maharajah in a nearly $20 million house bought for his “life of prayer and penance.” But now he was finally unmasked: a pedophile who used fake passports, abandoning several families and women around the world, who had abused his own minor seminarians and his own children. Fr. Maciel washed a lot of money; in fact, he created a large fundraising and money-laundering industry (which to this day seems to remain intact) and bought cardinals, bishops, manipulated thousands of young people – inducing false vocations. He brought to our priesthood, Lord, young people without a vocation, and in turn controlled, enslaved, terrorized and later, to make matters worse, abandoned, destroyed and persecuted anyone who attempted to oppose this plan.
I stop for a moment to ponder, in your presence, O my Lord God, where is your Gospel in all this? Lord, Jesus, King and Teacher, where is true Christianity? What happened to your Church in the last century? Why did you allow me and others to fall victim to such a cruel form of Christianity? And why do you keep allowing it?
If only my case were isolated… But I look around me: manipulative movements and organizations, with a papal seal, have sprung up like cockroaches. They teach people true doctrine, perhaps, but through mass manipulation techniques; the same techniques used by dictatorial regimes. Why, Lord? Isn’t the strength of Christianity enough to draw our hearts to You?
Jesus, You who look lovingly at your Church, who sees the hearts of men, teach me not to judge -not even the criminals who have done me so much harm. Teach me to leave everything to your judgment. Heal the wounds of my soul. Come into my heart as my Lord, Teacher and Friend. Give me the wisdom I need to face my existence in the light of heaven, facing eternity. And above all, Lord, take care of your Church, your Catholics, all who believe in Your Name. Give back to the heart of your Church free martyrdom for Your Name, for the cause of Truth. Give us back, Lord, the enthusiasm of a true inner Christianity that transforms society, not through weapons of manipulation but by the testimony of a life well lived, the martyrdom of the righteous man.
Domingo de Pascua, 12 de abril 2020
Hace unos meses sentí el deseo de orar a Dios con estas palabras. Les comparto, deseando a todos una Feliz Pascua prolongada.
Te conocí, Señor, mientras estaba psicológica y emocionalmente atrapado en una organización criminal, con un sello pontificio. Te conocí en una prisión. Pero te conocí. Gracias, señor.
El Cristo que tenía para mí en ese momento me amenazaba constantemente, me obligaba a amarlo, me obligaba a obedecerlo.
psicológicamente todo estaba envuelto en miedo, pavor, oscuridad…
¿Qué han hecho con tu nombre, Señor? Tú, que eras luz, verdad, camino, vida… para mí sólo eras muerte, sombra, tortuosidad, mentira.
Nací a finales del siglo XX. Y para la gran Historia de las personas olvidadas habré sido un ser humano a más, cristiano, católico, víctima de una dudosa y oscura estructura eclesiástica… un número quizás en alguna estadística futura.
Desde los 15 años aprendí a llamar santo a un sacerdote mexicano, el Padre Marcial Maciel, L.C. Escuché varias veces de boca de San Juan Pablo II que tal sacerdote era un ejemplo de juventud. Escuché de docenas de cardenales, de cientos de obispos, que este sacerdote era confiable, era santo, era su fiel representante.
En mi religiosidad adolescente, consentí, creí, me entregué en cuerpo y alma a seguirte, Señor, tras las huellas de ese “santo fundador”.
Se pasaron años en aquella entrega, hasta el día de la desilusión. Hasta el día en que esa organización – que un día me acogió y me llamó de familia – hizo una reforma en la cual decidió borrar mi existencia de su memoria, borrándome de sus archivos y de su historia institucional, intentando, así, pasar página y comenzar del cero, sobre los cadáveres de miles de religiosos abusados en la congregación durante décadas y tirados todos en una fosa común del olvido.
¿Dónde están ahora los santos hombres que han protegido a tal sacerdote fundador durante tanto tiempo? ¿Dónde está la santidad de esa “Santa Sede” que hace de todo para también echar en el olvido las miles de víctimas de esta obra? En la práctica de sus hombres no ha sido más que otra organización criminal y mentirosa. Lo siento por quitarme esto de encima con estas palabras.
Tu “siervo”, aclamado durante siete décadas como santo por obispos, cardenales y papas, el Padre Marcial Maciel, L.C., después de su muerte – como un maharajá en una casa de casi 20 millones de dólares comprada para la ocasión – fue desenmascarado: Un pedófilo, usó pasaportes falsos, dejó varias familias y mujeres en todo el mundo, abusó de los seminaristas y de sus propios hijos, lavó mucho dinero, de hecho, creó una gran industria de recaudación y lavado de dinero (que hasta hoy parece seguir intacta), compró cardenales, obispos, etc., manipuló a miles de jóvenes, induciendo falsas vocaciones, trayendo a tu sacerdocio, Señor, a jóvenes sin vocación, deteniendo, atando, aterrorizando y, para empeorar las cosas, abandonando, destruyendo y persiguiendo a todos los que trataban de luchar contra este plan.
Me detengo por un momento y me pregunto, en tu presencia, oh Dios mío: Señor, ¿dónde está tu evangelio? Señor, Jesús, rey y maestro, ¿dónde está el verdadero cristianismo? ¿Qué le pasó a su Iglesia en el siglo pasado? ¿Por qué me permitió, a mí y a otros, ser víctima de un cristianismo tan cruel? ¿Y por qué lo sigues permitiendo?
Si tan sólo mi caso fuera solitario, pero mira a mi alrededor: los movimientos y organizaciones manipuladoras, con sello pontificio, han surgido como cucarachas. Enseñan a la gente la verdadera doctrina, pero por medio de técnicas de manipulación de masas, las mismas técnicas utilizadas por los regímenes dictatoriales. ¿Por qué, Señor?
¿No es la fuerza del cristianismo suficiente para atraer nuestros corazones hacia ti?
Jesús, que mira con amor a tu Iglesia, que ve los corazones de los hombres, enséñame a no juzgar, ni siquiera a los criminales que me han hecho tanto daño. Enséñame a dejar todo a tu juicio. Cura las heridas de mi alma. Preséntate a mi corazón, como mi Señor y Maestro y Amigo. Dame la sabiduría que necesito para enfrentar mi existencia en la luz del cielo, de cara a la eternidad. Y sobre todo, Señor, cuida de tu Iglesia, de tus católicos, de todos los que creen en tu nombre. Devuelve al corazón de tu Iglesia el libre martirio por tu nombre, por la verdad; devuelve, Señor, el entusiasmo de un verdadero cristianismo interior que cambie la sociedad no por medio de las armas de manipulación sino por el testimonio de la vida, el martirio del hombre justo.