|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).|
“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.
Da Man is on youtube under J.Paul Lennon youtube; there will find part 2 and 3, if interested. In these troubled times it might take your mind off this terrible epidemic with its forced stay at home.
This episode features chapter four of his memoir, “Relocating Suddenly to Sunny Spain” and describes the experience of the very first group of Irish recuits to the then unknown and exotic new order….
…the only morally certain solution to cure such a problem is the disbanding of the faculty and student body
St. Anthony Mary Claret
Pope and Vatican unable to think outside the box.: Francis’ Mistaken Message to Legionaries of Christ/Regnum Christi Federation (or whatever the chameleon ENTITY comes up with next!)
For some of us who have been members of the Legion of Christ and who have followed their history for decades, Pope Francis’ message is simply inadequate. He just does not get it.
Why allow this intra-ecclesial sect to fester in the Church body?
Always talking about renewal when it should have been reform or dissolution?
Why send in an Incompetent Apostolic Administrator (De Paolis, may God have mercy on his pusillanimous soul) who cozied up to Maciel’s Mexican Mafia (Corcuera, Garza, Sada…) instead of getting rid of them?
Why try to find a charism where there is a non -charism which I, for the life of me, cannot see or understand; Deus ex machina?
An order founded by a “a life that was out of moral bounds- an adventurous, wasted twisted life.” (Benedict XVI)
Maciel, when he was not sexually abusing, manipulating deceiving created a company for his own glory, mass- producing immature priests and accumulating money by licit and illicit means.
Am I the only one to see that the emperor is naked?
Where are the saints produced by this “work of God” after 80 years of existence?
Why are the Shipwrecked Victims of sexual, emotional, psychological, spiritual abuse still lying wounded on the shore?
Why is the Legion of Christ TODAY still protecting pedophiles in its bosom?
Open your eyes, Holy Father, and see the monster the Roman Curia has allowed to prosper, though human error, negligence and malice!
One might say that the main reason the Pope and the Vatican continue to tolerate the Legion of Christ is that they will not admit their mistakes. Maciel deceived them. They believe their infallibility overcomes his diabolical deceit. And I do not believe that infallibility stretches that far. Other papal approved orders have been dissolved in the history of the Church. Why not this den of liars?
Pope Francis, I appeal to your sense of justice!
PAPA FRANCISCO, RESPONDA A MIS PREGUNTAS SOBRE SU TOLERANCIA HACIA LA LEGIÓN DE CRISTO!
(PHOTO) Papa Francisco rodeado de adoradores legionarios – Imagen-
… la única solución moralmente segura para curar tal problema es la disolución de la facultad y el cuerpo estudiantil
San Antonio María Claret
EL PAPA Y EL VATICANO NO PUEDEN PENSAR FUERA DE LA CAJA: MENSAJE INCORRECTO DE FRANCISCO A LOS LEGIONARIOS DE CRISTO / FEDERACIÓN REGNUM CHRISTI (¡O CUALQUIER OTRO NOMBRE QUE SE INVENTE LA ENTIDAD CAMALEÓNICA)
Para algunos de nosotros que hemos sido miembros de la Legión de Cristo y que hemos seguido su historia durante décadas, el mensaje del Papa Francisco es simplemente inadecuado. El Papa sencillamente no entiende lo que es la Legión de Cristo.
¿Por qué permitir que esta secta intra-eclesial se enquiste dentro del cuerpo de la Iglesia, infectándola?
¿Siempre hablando de renovación cuando debería haber sido reforma o disolución?
¿Por qué enviar un administrador apostólico incompetente (De Paolis, !que Dios se apiade de su alma pusilánime!) quien se acurrucó con la mafia mexicana de Maciel (Corcuera, Garza, Sada …) en lugar de deshacerse de ella?
¿Por qué tratar de encontrar un carisma donde no hay uno? -! que por Dios! que no lo alcanzo a ver o entender. ¿Un Deus Ex machina (inventado totalmente conforme a lo que piden las circunstancias)?
Una orden fundada por “una vida que estaba fuera de los límites morales: una vida retorcida y aventurera”. (Benedicto XVI)
Maciel, cuando no estaba abusando sexualmente, manipulando y engañando, creó una compañía , un business, para su propia gloria, produciendo sacerdotes inmaduros en masa y acumulando dinero por medios lícitos e ilícitos.
¿Soy el único que ve que el emperador está desnudo?
¿Dónde están los santos producidos por esta “obra de Dios” después de 80 años de existencia?
¿Por qué los náufragos de abuso sexual, emocional, psicológico y espiritual aún yacen heridos en la playa?
¿Por qué la Legión de Cristo, todavía HOY, protege a los pedófilos en su seno?
¡Abra los ojos, Santo Padre, y vea el monstruo que la Curia Romana ha permitido prosperar debido a su propio error humano, negligencia y malicia!
Se podría decir que la razón principal por la que el Papa y el Vaticano continúan tolerando a la Legión de Cristo es que no quieren reconocer sus errores. Maciel los engañó. Creen que su infalibilidad supera aquel engaño diabólico. Pero yo no puedo creer que la infalibilidad abarque esto. Otras órdenes aprobadas por el Papa se han disuelto en la historia de la Iglesia. ¿Por qué no esta guarida de embaucadores mentirosos?
!Papa Francisco, apelo a tu sentido de justicia para todas las victimas!
WHERE IS THE LEGION OF CHRIST/REGNUM CHRISTI FEDERATION RENEWAL TODAY?
Legion, Regnum Christi, Regnum Christi Federation advocates and simpatizantes may try to convince the public that ReGAIN articles are old hat, that its criticisms are no longer valid, and that the present religious order is well and truly renewed, with that ever-present Vatican approval. “We are with the Pope, the Pope is with us, the Pope blesses our work” and other such ‘mantras.’
Below we have a mid-September 2019 blog post concerning the very recent Legion Regnum Christi Federation’s Priestly Renewal Retreat[i] by a former LC, now plying his priestly ministry outside the confines of LRCF. First we present ReGAIN’s embellished translation.
As a prelude, we should not forget the analyses of some prominent American Legionary of Christ priests who despaired of the 2010 Vatican headed Legion renewal. Case in question is a very serious article by former LC Fr. Thomas Berg in First Things, 2014[ii]
RENEWAL DRAGGED DOWN BY OLD DEAD WEIGHT
The two-month-long spiritual renewal is for LC priests who have been ordained for six or more years. One small sign of progress is that it was not being held in Cotija, pedophile Founder Fr. Maciel’s hometown and place of pilgrimage for Legionaries, Regnum Christi members and numerous followers to this very day.
Fifteen Legionary priests did the retreat this summer; a small group to foment interaction between the participants. Another good sign. But the good news stops here.
The person in charge was Fr. Eloy Bedia, a faithful disciple of disgraced Fr. Maciel, whose more recent activities include covering up Legionary sexual abuse of Mexican TV personality, Ana Lucía Salazar, and others at the Cancun Instituto Cumbres. Legion heavy-weights from Fr. Maciel’s time and other die-hards have also visited the participants.
Fr. Emilio Díaz-Torre was the director of spiritual exercises. Fr. Roberto González -reinstated some time ago following a long exile in an Italian parish after he had been expelled from the Vatican for revealing secrets re the selection of bishops to Fr. Maciel- was asked to deliver a talk on the Theological Virtues. Former Director General, Fr. Luis Garza, -who disappeared from Rome during the 2010 Vatican intervention- spoke about the Legion’s apostolic renewal. The Legion’s new official historian –Behold, I make all things new!– is a new face on the block, Fr. Jaime Rodriguez. Although, sadly, the new history continues to be incestuously self-generated, without external criteria, just as in the old days when the Founder was still alive and controlling the minutest details.
In a Word, the reins of renewal are still in the hands of Maciel’s faithful followers. This cast iron control, still working successfully in the Legion, comes at a price. The religious congregation seems to be suffering in many aspects from burnout and irreversible regression. If they could only slacken the reins and allow new blood and new ideas, there would be less control and more dynamism.
On the other hand, if the young ones keep trusting the old -who are essentially Maciel’s men- there can be little hope. Let’s see what next year’s General Chapter has in store for us.
17 de septiembre a las 05:03
UNA RENOVACIÓN LASTRADA
El bimestre de renovación espiritual es para sacerdotes de 6 o más años de ordenados. Un pequeño avance es que ya no lo tienen en Cotija. Lo han hecho 15 sacerdotes este verano, un grupo reducido para que haya contacto entre todos. Otra cosa buena. Pero se acabaron las buenas noticias.
Su director ha sido Eloy Bedia, fiel colaborador de Maciel, incluso en tapar delitos de agresión sexual contra Analú Salazar y otras personas. Han visitado a los padres otros pesos pesados del tiempo de Maciel y del presente:
Emilio Díaz-Torre dio los ejercicios espirituales. Roberto González fue llamado para dar una conferencia sobre las virtudes teologales. Luis Garza dio otra hablando de la renovación apostólica de la legión. No podía faltar la del nuevo historiador de la legión, Jaime Rodríguez (este es joven); pero la nueva historia sigue siendo endogámica, como en tiempos de Maciel.
En pocas palabras, las riendas de la renovación las siguen llevando los hombres de Maciel. Este control férreo, que está funcionando bastante bien, lleva consigo un precio. La congregación parece sumida en muchos aspectos en un desgaste y retroceso del que no salen. Si diesen paso a otros más jóvenes y con nuevas fuerzas, habría menos control, pero más dinamismo.
Por otro lado, si los más jóvenes siguen confiando en
los mayores, en los hombres de Maciel, pues no se puede hacer nada. Veremos el
capítulo general del año que viene cómo pinta.
[i] See official LC report re the 2018 Priestly Renewal Retreat in Amecameca, outside Mexico City: https://www.regnumchristi.org/en/legionaries-renew-priesthood-together/
Our article refers to the 2019 LC Priestly Renewal Retreat; no official news of this activity could be found on official LC RC Federation sites.