Dutch cult expert Frances Peters gave this masterly power point presentation at the International Cultic Association’s International Conference in Bordeaux, July 2017.
ReGAIN believes it is of great value to members, parents, friends, helpers and professionals involved with controlling, coercive, harmful groups.
ReGAIN wants to remind the public that such harmful groups can exist even in the heart of mainstream – including Christian and Catholic – churches and communities. We will post upcoming articles re questionable Catholic Communities and Movements.
Spiritual Abuse Resources, a branch of prestigious International Cultic Studies Association is offering a conference in Hartford CT, in October. Avail yourself of this opportunity!
We know that Hartford is a Catholic and Christian area and houses the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi Movement among other controversial groups. The conference hopes to attract attendees from the Northeast and Canada and all over the USA. I.C.S.A often attracts international audiences from Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and as far away as Australia.
Some Religious groups and Movements, including from the Great Religions, Christian and Catholic traditions, can be harmful to some of the members some of the time -and to their family, friends and loved ones.
Spiritual Abuse has been flying under the radar for decades, but thanks to victims and concerned parents, therapists, researchers and communities it has been revealed and forced to emerge from the shadows.
And now we can go beyond passiveness and find information, answers and healing, to help ourselves, our families and others.
Join former Legionaries of Christ, Xavier Leger, Paul Lennon and other former members of Catholic and Christian high demand groups and learn how European and other countries deal with questionable groups and communities, enjoy comeraderie and support of people who know where you are or have been…
Addict, Idol and Cult Member: Reflections on the Loss of Self: A Phenomenological Examination of Destructive Cult groups
Tate Wood, Allen
My paper and talk are a phenomenological morphology of religious and political extremism. In the presentation, I give a detailed exposition of seven key elements that are present in the mind of the successfully indoctrinated group member. These seven elements include: absolute leader, absolute teaching, hierarchical social structure, the psychology of the adversary, the ends justify the means as a modus operandi, crisis psychology and the inner circle. The second part of my presentation includes an examination of the variables at play during the process of recruitment and indoctrination: milieu control, communication web/the manipulation of intimacy, peak experiences and planned spontaneity, the splitting phenomenon: the experience of evil, metaphor and ritual: the binding chains, the repudiation of the conscience, the rejection of the critical faculties and the colonization of the imagination understood as an experience of god. My remarks will be punctuated by anecdotal material from my life in the Unification Church including my direct contact with Sun Myung Moon. In addition, I shall be drawing on my 27 years as an addiction counselor working with alcoholics and addicts in county jails and state prisons.
Effects of Involvement with Legion of Christ/Regnum Christi on Cradle Faith: Questions for Pope Francis, LC Leadership and Catholic Bishops
Presentation at the International Cultic Studies Association Annual International Conference, Stockholm, July 2015
By John Paul Lennon, MA, STL & Aura Bethancourt-Lennon
The author’s experience[i], plus contacts with hundreds of other former members of the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi by email, phone and/or in person, led him to believe that involvement with this Movement affected one’s cradle faith. “Cradle faith” being simply defined as the faith one is born into and raised in. It is now common knowledge that former members of this group, erstwhile devout Catholics, on leaving the LC/RC no longer considered themselves Catholics, or even Christians. Some even consider themselves agnostics and atheists. How did involvement with this bona fide Catholic Movement have such a deleterious defect? Further reflection modified that initial a priori hypothesis. There appeared to be a need to find facts and explore this area with the help of a survey.
The experiment would be based on the following rationale: on entering the organization all candidates are devout Catholics. After “walking away” or been “thrown away not all are devout Catholics. How would they describe themselves today? The experiment was designed to solicit feedback from former members visiting a webpage, http://www.regainnetwork.org, for former members and their families.
A member is recruited and belongs to the group for x number of years. He may leave after a certain amount of time, either as a throw-away or as a walk away. Each member experiences his recruitment/joining, belonging as a member and leaving in a personal way. The stages could be hypothesized as follows:
Pre-entry into the Legion of Christ/Regnum Christi, it is assumed that the member is in full “communion” with the Catholic Church. Firm and unshaken belief in the Catholic Church as a divinely inspired religious institution; veneration and trust in the clergy (priests, bishops, pope)
Involvement as a fully observant lay member, abiding by marriage and birth control laws, etc.
A regular Mass goer who receives Communion (Sacrament of the Eucharist), “goes to confession” (Sacrament of Penance) at least once a year and “contributes to the support of his/her pastors.”
Membership in LC/RC
All of the above, plus
Involvement in the Church as a minister, religious or committed lay member of RC
Post exit from the LC/RC Movement some members are unscathed, “keeping their faith intact” while others have left or renounced full communion with the Catholic Church in varying degrees
Full communion with institutional Catholic Church as in Pre-Entry and good relationship with LC/RC
Full Communion with Catholic Church but lost faith in the LC/RC organization with an attitude of
Partial communion with the Catholic Church
Leaves the ministry and/or religious life.
No longer fully observant lay member.
No longer a “practicing Catholic” but does not reject the notion that the Catholic Church is divinely inspired.
Occasional Mass goer; rarely, if ever “goes to confession”; contributes little, if any, to the support of the ministers, the institution and its works (Catholic Charities, Catholic Relief Services, etc.)
May not be “married by the Church,” nor heed Church birth control laws
May not baptize his/her children ‘in the faith.’
Lost faith in the Catholic Church as a divinely inspired religious institution; lost veneration for and trust in the clergy (priests, bishops, pope)
Retains partial communion with the Church (some residual attraction to Church such as family tradition, liturgy, sacred music, etc.)
Joins other Christian community
Joins other major religion
Declares him/herself agnostic or atheist
The medium to be used would be the ReGAIN webpage which has a steady stream of former members. The author assumed -not a very scientific attitude but common sense- that some or many of the visitors to the site -which constantly questions the official version of the Legion and the Regnum- would be among the more “disenchanted” Catholics, that their responses could tend to be
“negative” and that some kind of a balancing measure might need to be applied.
A total of 78 valid responses were delivered. Of these only 41 had been former members of the LC/RC; and of these 4 were currently active members. Responses described visitors’ current relationship with the LC/RC in the following way:
Relationship with the LC/RC:
Average/Non important 13/41
Angry/they hurt me 1
I hate them 2
As good as could be 1
Relationship with the Catholic Church:
Fully Practicing 24/41
Partially Practicing 8
No longer a Catholic 8
* Incomplete response 1
Relationship with the LC/RC: “Average/Non important” answers indicate that a significant number of respondents have “taken the experience in their stride.” This could also indicate that former members have chosen not to dwell on their experience and have chosen to “get on with their lives.” But it is significant that 21 state unambiguously that they have a negative relationship/attitude toward the group they initially joined so enthusiastically and generously.
Recently a Spanish language blog called Legioleaks[ii] was launched on Facebook in which many of the contributing 120 disaffected former members vent their frustration, criticism and anger at their alma mater. While one might wonder “Why are you so angry?”, this begs the flip question “What has the institute done to make these young men so angry?”
In fact, only 3 respondents on the ReGAIN survey described his/her attitude as angry or hating. Therefore, criticisms on the blog may help interpret the finds of our survey and discover some of the flaws in the Movement’s system.
Results of “Relationship with the Catholic Church” could be considered surprising; in the sense that 24 of 41 described themselves as fully practicing Catholics, thus indicating that the respondents cannot be dismissed as “disgruntled ex-members”. Real cause for concern stems from 8/41 considering themselves partially practicing Catholics and another 8/41 saying they are no longer Catholic; in common parlance this means that one out of four “have left the Church.”
Catholic bishops may want to consider this result when they allow the Legionaries of Christ and Regnum Christi to recruit in their dioceses.
Questions for LC/RC leadership
A study of the results prompts the author to raise some questions for consideration by the LC/RC Movement’s leadership:
Whether there exist elements in the Movement’s training (formation) that tend to alienate or otherwise hurt the members, producing in them feelings of rejection, anger and resentment toward their alma mater upon leaving.
Whether such flaws in the Movement’s training system are serious enough to cause exiting members to alienate not only from the Movement but also from the Catholic Church.
Whether the Movement needs to refine its screening process for recruits and its evaluation of new candidates.
Posters in Legioleaks point out the need for a deeper process of discernment of the religious vocation. The writer presented a pater at the I.C.S.A annual conference in Stockholm, 2015, warning about the dangers of undue influence and foreclosure, i.e. premature commitment to the religious calling[iii].
Posters in Legioleaks return time and again to the fact that their religious vocation appeared to be a forgone conclusion once they entered the group, prompting the question: Whether the Movement prepares the members for the possibility/option of exiting the organization.
Whether the members are given the necessary instruments for handling departure and transitioning to a new life outside the Movement.
Whether departing members have access to their legal documents, academic degrees and a minimum of job training.
And if the member decides to leave, whether the Movement has -and implements- concrete guidelines to help the departing member leave in a healthy, positive and constructive way.
These results beg comparative studies regarding how other religious orders fare with former members.
on reflection, it would appear that one important factor which was not taken into account in the survey was “for how long” the person had been a member of the group. A priori, this would seem an important element as, if it were assumed that the effects were negative, the damaging effects would possibly grow and worsen over time. Related to this factor would be “at what age did you join”, again with the assumption that earlier exposure could cause more deleterious effects.
Fr. Maciel’s sexual abuse victims:
When cultic abuse is compounded by sexual abuse, the impact on the faith of the victim would appear to increase exponentially. The eight Maciel former seminarians who brought their case to the media and to Vatican authorities feel alienated from Catholic authorities. The spectrum of the survivors’ “faith” –or lack thereof- is very wide and in general terms goes from atheism, through total alienation from the Catholic Church, to minimal participation in the Church. With the exception of Fr. Alarcon, a retired priest, none of Fr. Maciel’s Legion of Christ seminary victims, Senores Barba, Vaca, Jurado, Barrales, the brothers Olvera, Espinosa would consider himself a “fully practicing Catholic.”
[i] Described in detail in Our Father Maciel who art in bed, a Naïve and Sentimental Dubliner in the Legion of Christ, the exiting was long and tortuous. Each one ‘struggles’ with is religious question, and with the whole recovery task, in his own individual way.
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ReGAIN Thanks Open Minds for this article
ReGAIN PHOTO not in cited article: first 8 Irish-born Legion of Christ recruits in Rome, Fall 1962, where they were to serve as valets for Mexican bishops hosted at the Legion of Christ mother house, Via Aurelia 677 during 1st stage of Vatican Council II :
Pearse Allen, Declan French, Maurice Oliver McGowan, Michael Caheny, Paul Lennon, Kevin Farrell, Francis Coleman and Declan Murphy]
By Jon Atack
5 January 2017
Open Mind’ Editor’s Note: The following is adapted from Jon Atack’s new book, Opening Minds, chapter 2. This is the first part of a two-part blog.
‘manipulate: to manage or influence skilfully, especially in an unfair manner.’ Dictionary.com
Manipulative groups and individuals use similar approaches to trick us into handing over our cash and our loyalty. Manipulation most often follows a series of steps, beginning with contact. It can be in person, but groups also use advertising, including flyers, posters, mailings, books, media ads and articles. Many cults use street recruiters, and most have their own publications; some use advertising agencies. Narcissists use dating websites and chat rooms to lure new victims.
Step One: Contact
The Moonies and, more recently, militant Islamists, approach college freshmen. Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons and Larouchies knock on doors. The Larouchies also use obituary columns to target grieving widows and widowers.
Cults do not want incompetent recruits. Anyone with significant physical or mental problems will be weeded out at the beginning.
People do not join extremist groups because they are stupid. No high-demand group would survive long with dim, ineffectual members. Many are idealists convinced they are working towards a better world. Studies show that cult members tend to be middle-class and fairly well-educated.They have higher than average IQs and perfectly normal personality profiles.
Cult members do not present with any more emotional or psychiatric problems than the normal population. The same is true of terrorists. Detailed surveys of several terrorist groups have shown that their members are neither mentally ill nor abnormal, except for their adherence to the anti-social beliefs of the group.
Step Two: Rapport – ‘a close and harmonious relationship’
Once contact is made with a potential recruit, rapport is developed. The recruiter looks for common ground, for agreement on cultural, political or religious biases. The intention is to create a friendly atmosphere; an instant friendship.
We want to give something in return for what we’ve been given. Krishnas used to hand out joss sticks and ask for a donation: the principle of reciprocity. Many people reached into their pockets and overpaid for the few pennies worth of ‘Spiritual Sky’ joss sticks. Contact is meant to start a conversation, which is the agenda hidden behind the approach. Pick-up artists teach physical contact to gain instant rapport.
Moonies sold candy and flowers on the street, at vastly exaggerated prices. Scientologists offer a free personality test. By answering the 200 question test, you volunteer private information, and you also grant authority to the tester. The test was actually written by a merchant seaman with no training in psychological testing.
The prospective recruit will be flattered – called ‘love bombing’ by the Moonies. Your appearance, beliefs or talents are praised to the skies. False friendship is created and rapport is built. Recruiters see nothing wrong in this deception, because they think it is for the greater good and it raises their
own status in the group (Moonies call it ‘heavenly deception’). For the recruiter, it is another statistic, leading to praise from the group, just like a salesperson selling another car. Recruits, however, feel they have made a new friend, who resonates with their existing beliefs. By the time they realize that the recruiter was just agreeing to be agreeable, it will be too late.
Any resistance to the cult is then tested. Bad press is dismissed: ‘You can’t believe anything you read in the papers’. Not one person ever disagreed with me when I used this line – such is the distrust of the media.
This is part one of a two-part blog. Tomorrow, in part two, Jon focuses on the next steps of recruitment.