Category Archives: Cult-Like Features

Recruitment: the Way to Unhappiness – an excerpt from Opening Minds, part 2

Some Catholics have remarked on the rigid and almost robotic appearance of the  Legionaries  of Christ, as if they were mass-produced by some kind of priest-making system. This could derive from the particular way they are trained and molded the moment they enter the group and deprived of their individual personalities and traits…

 

ReGAIN  is indebted to Opening Minds blog and book for the main content. What we like about this explanation is that it is very clear and simple; it cuts across the lines of particular ideologies or doctrines -and area in which Catholics seems to blank out.

We feel the need to explain to CATHOLIC READERS how we can approach ‘sects/cults’ from a theological or psychological/sociological perspective. We Catholics usually think in terms of theology; if a group is theologically ORTHODOX (modus credendi) it cannot be a sect. However, from a psychological, spiritual and truly religious perspective that same group can be suspect if is uses methods to recruit, retain members, fund raise and generally operate (modus operandi) in such a way that manipulates its members -does not let them discern, question, choose freely- and places them under undue pressure to conform, using coercive persuasion, control, manipulation…

The breakthrough, aha moment, for Catholic and Christian readers occurs when they realize that, no matter what, or how apparently holy, the doctrines/beliefs/ideals/goals involved, certain group leaders use the same manipulative techniques to recruit, retain and control their members; and that even though the doctrines/idealogies are miles apart, the methods used by these groups, associations, fraternities, communities, orders are all uncannily similar.

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Editor’s Note: The following is adapted from Jon Atack‘s new book, Opening Minds, chapter 2. This is the second part of a two-part blog.

Manipulative groups and individuals use similar approaches to trick us into handing over our cash and our  loyalty. In part one, we saw how manipulation most often follows a series of steps; today we continue with:

Step Three: Finding the Ruin

Once rapport has been established, the recruiter may seek out the most significant difficulty in the recruit’s life. In Scientology, this is called the ‘ruin’: ‘What is ruining your life?’ If the first steps have been followed carefully, most people offer up even their most secret troubles. Unless they’ve been hurt before after revealing their secrets, most people welcome a chance to say what they feel and receive sympathy for their problems. It is surprising how willing people are to share their deepest longings with complete strangers, as if there is a need to confess; this deepens rapport.

Step Four: Fear of Worsening

Scientology recruiters then push the target into ‘fear of worsening. The recruit is exploited to feel discouraged about the ‘ruin’: ‘I’m sure you’ve tried everything, but nothing has worked.’ Confession of troubles usually shifts the recruiter into a position of authority. The recruit will follow directions almost like Pavlov’s dogs, which salivated in anticipation of food when a bell was rung.

Step Five: Bring to Understanding

Next, the recruiter will use the information from this confession to demonstrate that the recruit desperately needs the group in order to make life better; Scientology recruiters call this step to ‘bring to understanding’. Sales manuals suggest that a story be made up to show sympathy: ‘I know a guy who had exactly the same problem. He took a few of our courses and everything started to work out for him.’

The ‘understanding’ is that the cult can solve any problem that is presented – whether it is romantic, financial, work-related or spiritual – anything and everything can be resolved by the offered course, counselling or study programme, so the recruiter has no difficulty in inventing a supporting story: the ends justify the deceptive means.

During the first course, seminar, or workshop, the recruiters will continue the love-bombing, while using a hypnotic technique to bring about a peak experience. After long enough, any type of repetition, mimicry or fixation leads to a euphoric altered state.

Chanting, drumming, group singing, visual fixation – as in meditation – repetition of a word or phrase (‘mantra meditation’), repeated movements, such as rocking, shaking, or walking meditations, all lead to an altered state. Some narcissists use sexual pleasure to trap their victims.Most people in western society are unfamiliar with the effects of eastern meditation, so they are delighted and surprised by the euphoria that floods them. Almost every former member I’ve talked with had an initial peak experience, and spent the remainder of their time in the cult trying – and failing – to repeat it.

It is likely that the peak experience is simply a release of dopamine or serotonin. These neurochemicals are the ‘reward’ system of the brain, and are released during sex and by alcohol and drug use. In a group setting, surrounded by approving people, cult techniques can lead to a powerful high in the new recruit. This is the experience of awe.

Awe changes our perception of the world. We are awed by celebrities, by vastness, by skill, by ‘miracles’ and by beauty. Awe can be induced as part of a peak experience. New recruits are infatuated by flattery and the prospect of miraculous change in their lives. When awed, our critical faculties diminish.

Once we believe that a leader has miraculous powers, we become willing to believe anything that leader says. Awe turns to fervour and the recruit adopts the beliefs of the manipulator and will defend them as if defending their own child: just as we are unwilling to hear criticism of our children, nothing bad will be accepted about the manipulator, whose ideas have become gospel truth.

Step Six: Reinforcement

Testimonials are demanded for reinforcement. In Scientology these are called ‘success stories’. This reinforces consistency: the more publicly and loudly you commit to a technique or experience, the more difficult it will be to change back later.  People trying to give up smoking are advised to tell all of their friends that they have given up, because, under the consistency principle, it will make it harder to admit defeat and light another cigarette.

We all suffer from confirmation bias, where we justify our actions and dismiss anything that disagrees with our beliefs. There is a quality of inertia to all human activity; we keep going in the direction we’re travelling in. Delivering a testimonial – or simply telling all our friends – reinforces the sense of belonging and further confirms our bias.

Often, members will be encouraged to confess their former sinful lives in front of the group. By humbling themselves in this way, people give ever more power to the group. Members come to believe that everything good can be attributed to the group’s practices, and everything bad is their own fault.

A particular group or individual may not use all of these approaches. Some will focus on the potential recruit’s desperation, others will head straight for an experience of awe. Once lured into the trap, by whatever means, the recruit will go through a process of reinforcement that will draw them into the group or relationship and isolate them from their previous relationships and values.

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What do you think about this article? Do you agree? Have you read Jon’s new book? Do you have a story about recruitment into a high-control situation that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you! 

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Recruitment: the Way to Unhappiness – an excerpt from Opening Minds, part I

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.

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‘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.

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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.

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This is part one of a two-part blog. Tomorrow, in part two, Jon focuses on the next steps of recruitment.

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The Legion of Christ/Regnum Christi know better than your local bishop: testimony of former ECYD/RC

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“All of these teachers taught us disloyalty to the bishop. This was part of the Legion’s course of teaching at all times. The bishop was lax; he wasn’t pro-life; he was influenced by liberals and materialists. The Legion of Christ was better than the bishop, because we were carrying out the wishes of the Pope. The bishops were all against the Pope. We were being the real, faithful, conservative Catholics, in defying our bishops. The real Catholics disregarded the bishop and obeyed only the Pope. The Legion was the Hope of the Church, and the Holy Father had said so.

By the time the bishop inevitably cracked down on ECYD and the Legion in my diocese, many of us had been brainwashed to expect it and count it as martyrdom. The bishop was against real, authentic Catholicism. We were the Hope of the Church. We were to do everything we could to defy the bishop in the name of the Church.”

See full article on Catholic blog: Here

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Scandal at the Vatican (New Video on the Legion of Christ)

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Thanks to the initiative of the former Legionary, Xavier Leger, the Irish, RTE, English language dubbing of the original French documentary, is now available.

Click here

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The Apology of a Legionary of Christ Leader

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The Apology of a Legionary of Christ Leader

 

By Offended “Disgruntled Old Former Member”

Feast of the Assumption, 2016

 

In the aftermath of the 2009 revelations regarding the double, triple or quadruple, deceitful and disgraceful life of the Founder, Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado, Legion superiors, writers and publishers, who had excoriated their critics for decades, suddenly waxed apologetic. Strategy dictated that was the best policy: to show repentance, to say the right thing, to do what was expected and… to get it over with. Such apologies, naturally, for the most part, smacked of knee-jerk reactions, jaded routine, or crocodile tears that left many victims unaffected, indignant, further offended or re-traumatized. During that crocodile feeding frenzy the writer received the below apology from a prominent Irish-born American Legion superior who had strenuously defended Fr. Maciel and attacked the victims in The Catholic Register and through other media.

The writer was astonished by the brevity, quasi anonymity and coldness of the apology. Recently reading Pope Francis’ homily on forgiveness he was reminded of the inadequacy of that Legionary of Christ’s note.

It was sent to the private address of the receiver; no letterhead or any other official or identifying Legion of Christ information on the envelope or letter-size page; “LC” is written after name.

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Letter of Apology LC

                                                             

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Pope Francis teaches:

Pope’s Morning Homily: God’s Forgiveness is given to those with A Cleansed Heart

Reflects on the Nature of True Conversion and Hypocrisy during Mass at Casa Santa Marta

 

ROME, March 03, 2015 (Zenit.org)

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According to Vatican Radio, the Holy Father told those present that the reading (from the day’s Mass) is an invitation from God to conversion by learning to do right.

“You cannot remove the filth of the heart as you would remove a stain: we go to the dry cleaner and leave cleansed,” he said. “This filth is removed by ‘doing’: taking a different path, a different path from that of evil. Learn to do right! That is, the path of doing good.”

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“If you do this, if you take this path to which I invite you – the Lord tells us – ‘though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow’. It is an exaggeration; the Lord exaggerates: but it is the truth!” he exclaimed. “The Lord gives us the gift of His forgiveness. The Lord forgives generously. ‘I forgive you this much, then we’ll see about the rest….’ No, no! The Lord always forgives everything! Everything! But if you want to be forgiven, you must set out on the path of doing good. This is the gift!'”

The 78-year-old Pontiff went on to reflect on today’s Gospel in which Christ denounces the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, who like many today “say all the right things, but do the exact opposite.”

“They pretend to convert, but their heart is a lie: they are liars! It ‘a lie … Their heart does not belong to the Lord; their heart belongs to the father of all lies, Satan. And this is fake holiness,” he said.

“Jesus preferred sinners a thousand times to these. Why? Because sinners told the truth about themselves. ‘Get away from me, Lord, I am a sinner!’: Peter once said. One of those [the hypocrites] never says that! ‘Thank you Lord, that I am not a sinner, that I am righteous.”

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis called on the faithful to reflect during this time of Lent on conversion, forgiveness and to beware of “pretending to convert, while choosing the path of hypocrisy.”

(Courtesy of Zenith.org)

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I, Disgruntled Old Former Legionary forgive you, Legion of Christ leader who does not know how to apologize:

If you are referring to having branded Maciel’s sexual abuse victims – and the few of us who from day one believed and staunchly supported them- as resentful and envious liars,

I forgive you.

If you are referring to the time you, accompanied by a lawyer and LC spokesperson, tried to intimidate and prevent Juan Jose Vaca and me from delivering papers at the 2002 International Cultic Studies Association’s conference in Enfield, CT,

I forgive you.

If you are referring to your part in the Legion threatening to close down our discussion board -an attack against freedom of expression- and bringing a civil law suit against me and ReGAIN in August 2007, and putting me through hell, appearing in court, and raising funds to defend ourselves for almost nine months against trumped-up charges,

I forgive you.

If you and your fellow Legion die-hards continue to harass me in various ways until my dying day because I have vowed to expose the true nature of the Legion of Christ,

I forgive you

 But don’t forget your catechism, the one you studied for your First Holy Communion: To receive Almighty God’s pardon you must be truly sorry, promise never to commit those sins again and make reparation -which at the moment would be to the tune of $40,000.00 US dollars for legal and $60,000.00 US dollars for personal damages. To quote the immortal words of Maciel survivor, Juan Manuel Amenabar, on his death-bed: “I forgive, but I want justice.”

I am waiting