Cult expert, Steven Hassan –Combating Mind Control author- interviews former Legionary of Christ, therapist, cult student and concerned Catholic; link: Paul Lennon
Cult expert, Steven Hassan –Combating Mind Control author- interviews former Legionary of Christ, therapist, cult student and concerned Catholic; link: Paul Lennon
In 1981 the Legion had celebrated its first ever General Chapter. This is a solemn gathering of the top brass with representatives from all the ranks, to examine and approve or revise the Constitution â€“the laws which govern the day to day life of the members. At that time I was the Director of the Legionâ€
Fr. Anthony Bannon and other â€œinâ€� people
Indeed, for several years before the Chapter the Congregation had started to take on a â€œnew directionâ€�. Lay members of an ancillary group known as the â€œRegnum Christiâ€�, R.C. for short, had been given more and more importance. To be precise, the Legion was more a part of the â€œRegnum Christiâ€�. So, now, the tail was wagging the dog. The Legion which I had joined was now the â€œclerical sectionâ€� of a new lay â€œMovementâ€�. The meanings and implications of the term â€œmovementâ€� was to become a constant topic in the Founderâ€
Despite all this I was so sure that I had been successful enough and had demonstrated sufficient consistent loyalty to the congregation that I knew I would be invited to the General Chapter. On the other hand, according to Canon Law, in order to participate in the Chapter, one should be an ordained priest and have finished the full course of theological studies. I was O.K. on both counts since I had been ordained by Cardinal Biaggio in 1976, and received my M.A. in theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome. I knew that others, like Anthony Bannon, a cold-hearted right-winger from Dublin, would be excluded because of the studiesâ€
The Chapter, which I did not attend, was the central event of that year. The final document became required reading and the subject of private meditation. I was a little disappointed that I didnâ€
Delegates from the Chapter were dispatched to all the houses to inform the entire Congregation of the wonderful workings of the Holy Spirit, mostly though the person our Beloved Founder. Those of us on the east coast of the U.S. gathered at my place in Rye, N.Y. to hear the news from an unlikely representative: fellow Synge Street H.S. graduate, Declan Murphy. Murphy was responsible for Legionary operations in Washington, DC.
Before his conference I found myself in my room, a tiny little place on the top floor of our three storey residence. I had purchased the property 5 years previously when I was assigned to New York. It was quite an imposing mansion, nestled on the edge of the townâ€
The Simmer of our Discontent
The problem, it seemed, was that the news he had to deliver was not very good. It became immediately clear to me that the Chapter, as I had feared, was a farce from beginning to end, although I couldnâ€
The brooding presence of Fr. Anthony Bannon at the back of the room inhibited any subversive jovial activity. I didnâ€
Meanwhile Murphy was saying something about it â€œnot being convenientâ€� for us to listen to music with lyrics, another Chapter mandate. McCormick wanted to know why not. Murphy, trying to think on his feet, said something along the lines of Nuestro Padre â€“was we called Fr. Maciel- in his wisdom believed that if one vocation were to be lost because of the pernicious influence of contemporary music, it would be better that none of us ever listen to it. Then I asked: â€œWhat about the 99 of us who might lose our vocations â€“not to mention our minds! -because we couldnâ€
Gabon Full Circle
Eventually, going to Gabon was compounded by Collette. To understand why, you need to know something of several other women in my cloistered life. Iâ€
So, now, in Bethesda, Maryland, despite the fact that he did not like the Legion and consequently felt ambiguous towards me, my brother kindly offered to help me survive in Gabon. That is how I came to get my pills from the National Institute of Health. He knew far better than I that Gabon was disease ridden; the big problem being the endemic â€œriver blindnessâ€�. He was aware of some research in which he got me involved so as to provide me with some experimental medication; this would keep me immune to the dreaded disease. N.I.H., in order for me to participate in the study and receive the medication, required me to have a physical. Interestingly enough, my cholesterol levels seemed to be fine â€“despite a diet of two eggs and a quart of milk every day for the past 20 years! Thanks to the medication I did not become ill in Africa. I lost about 30 pounds, grew a decent-looking beard, and developed a refined taste for bananas. Other than that I was fine, although I never really got to appreciate fishesâ€
The Italian nurse reminds me of two, or perhaps three, Italian missionaries at another mission station in Gabon. What they did was never totally clear to me. What was evident was that they were â€œwild menâ€�: their idea of fun was to go gorilla hunting for the dangerous black gorilla. In typical missionary fashion they would go out under-equipped and tempting fate every step of the way; probably another instance of the bravado that comes from working directly for your Creator. Luis used to go visit them now and then and Iâ€
I have read that former military people, who have seen active duty, enjoy a deep sense of satisfaction when they get together with old companions. They need to talk with the â€œbrothers in armsâ€� about things which they believe only they can understand. Those of us who have been so marked by our experience in the Legion probably share a very deep need to â€œstay in touchâ€�. I know that I do!
Why did I join such a mysterious organization at all? The answer is probably more complicated that I know. As a Catholic in the 1950s, when I was a teenager, a â€œvocationâ€� to be a priest was considered a gift from God, and not to be taken lightly. Like countless other Irish youth, I too was concerned with the â€œblack babiesâ€� in Africa. Who would feed them and baptize them? The thought of being a missionary in Africa always appealed to me. In hindsight I have to wonder how aware I was of the demands that go along with being a priest [and religious]. How much can you understand of poverty, chastity and obedience when you are fifteen and living with your parents? Anyway, my parents, both devout Catholics, always nurtured the idea of a â€œvocationâ€�. My mother later told me that she â€œoffered me up to Godâ€� shortly after I was born. I was never really sure, deep down, if she wanted or expected to be taken up on the offer. My father was more sophisticated in his approach and understood that a vocation, in order to be deemed valid, had to be sanctioned by the bishop who â€œcalledâ€� one to the service of God on behalf of the Church. A pamphlet which an ardent recruiter thrust on me summed it all up. It said â€œbetter to have tried and failed than sadly salute the one I might have beenâ€�.
The recruiter for the Legion in Legion was an impressive Mexican by the name of Santiago Coindreau. He dressed dashingly by Irish standards in a well-pressed, double-breasted black suit with Roman collar. Allegedly he had turned down a scholarship to the military academy at West Point. The Irish immediately associated his name with the respected Cointreau orange-based liquor. That maybe gave him credibility or a sense of affinity. He still wasnâ€
Until I got my very first ticket for speeding at age 45 this reality of the law applying to me, just like everyone else, hadnâ€
The Legion vocation pitch in 1962 Ireland
Father Santiago was very different from your average Irish clergyman, for whom he did not have too much respect and was, consequently, that more appealing to those of us who thought that priests, in some ill-defined way, should be enthusiastic beyond compare. The sort of guy you would want to have in your foxhole if you were under attack. He had, literally, erupted into our senior class room at â€œSynge Streetâ€�, a well respected all boysâ€
Leaving home and Novitiate
Leaving home had to be the hardest thing I ever did in my life. The thought of not seeing very much of my family again was horrendous. When you are doing the Lordâ€
Life was hard, tedious and, in hindsight, not very unlike the atmosphere in a concentration camp. That, I know, sounds harsh. But not necessarily untrue. We slept in a converted cowshed on cots borrowed from the Irish Army. The walls were covered in cardboard which Fr. Coindreau had scrounged from some nearly factory. That cold and damp of the Irish climate was exacerbated by the relative silence we observed during the day and the absolute silence imposed at nighttime. Relative silence meant that you could only say what was necessary. Extraverts like myself had views on how much silence was necessary and as a consequence found ourselves continually having to ask for â€œpenancesâ€� for breaking relative silence and similar transgressions. All the carefully chosen bed linen, towels and other necessities so loving purchased by our mothers, became communal property. The reality of this manifestation of our life of poverty hit me when my full length sheets never came back from the laundry. The two stained, oversized handkerchiefs that were returned in their place made me feel miserable. The misery was compounded when we were told that we also would not be having a visit from our families at Christmas.
Cilice and flagellum
One day, after the first few weeks, while changing into my shorts, preparing for a game of soccer, with my bare foot I stepped on some sharp object beside my bed. Further examination revealed that the object was what seemed to be a piece of chicken wire about six inches long. The wire mesh was bent into myriad sharp little points and there was a brown shoe lace attached to one end. It obviously belonged to the guy who slept in the next bed. Brian M., all six-foot-four of him, seemed like a nice fellow â€“but now I realized he was mad. This was some form of penitential instrument in the twentieth century in Ireland you had to be out of your mind to use it. Off I ran with the evidence to the Director of Novices. Visions in my head of poor Brian being hauled off toe Grange Gorman, the local mental asylum. I couldnâ€
Two years of intense prayer, stud of exclusively spiritual subjects â€“with the exception of Spanish (language) – nocturnal adoration, silence and no contact with the outside world have an affect on you. You become immersed in your immediate world. External norms are forgotten. Things that seemed strange and harsh now seem natural. Doubts become translated into a lack of generosity. The Will of God becomes very clear. Reinforced by weekly confession and by-weekly spiritual direction with the Director of Novices there is no doubt that God is really calling you to be a Legionary and you ought to be very, very happy and faithful. So, when you write the one page monthly letter to your family you them how happy you are and how fulfilled you feel. If your happiness isnâ€
Inwardly torn before Gabon
No wonder then that my brother in Bethesda [twenty years later] was somewhat perplexed by my ambivalent attitude about going to Gabon. Twenty years spent trying to persuade him of the correctness of the Legionary methodology had produced their result. Why, I hadnâ€
Unlike most other moves I made in the Legion, going to Gabon was different, upsetting and not a little scary. Clearly I was going there to make up my mind about my future. I needed some mental space to make the awesome decision as to whether or not I should, or could, continue as a priest in a religious order to which I felt I no longer belonged. I also felt, very strongly, that I could not survive as a secular, diocesan priest. I had never wanted to be a diocesan priest; that is why I joined the Legion in the first place.
Over the years, legion-watchers have identified carefully set strategies on how legionary authorities manipulate members who wish to leave or whom bosses wish to dismiss.
Generally, the naive good-intentioned member, still considering himself under a vow of obedience to the Crucified Lord as well as being closely controlled in a secluded and segregated community, is at the mercy of authorities’ decision-making. Where might one freely go, with neither constant communication with family, in-hand college degree, survival money, employer recommendations or, maybe, even passport? Cases of members fondly saying goodbye to all and happily walking out the front door are few and far between.
There are cases of abrupt dismissals, like a seminarian playing soccer in Salamanca, Spain, being mandated by his religious supervisor, (via another seminarian â€“ another tactic) to hop into the college van and change his shoes: a while into the journey, the member notices his suitcase on the rear-seat. Final destination: Madrid airport. After years of divine benevolence with his vocation, God, according to legionary directors, has suddenly changed His mind.
However, the normal procedure is first isolate the member within a legionary community so that his scandalous doubts may be silenced. Being sent by divine mandate to some isolated community might be the next step to reduce the negative influence such individuals may have on â€œthe peace and harmony of the Congregationâ€�. The mission territory of Quintana Roo, Mexico, is the most noted example while Caracas, Venezuela, has such a historic status in legionary lore. In other cases, members are left alone for years, while maintaining their legionary canonical status, such as Fr. James McIlhargey, RIP, in ConcepciÃ³n, Chile. Australia is still â€˜convict-landâ€
An important component to proper, if not Christian, understanding of the â€œmethods in this madnessâ€� is the prominent care the Legionaries take of their image at the Vatican. To have members, especially priests, request departure from either congregation or celibacy might question the authenticity of their â€˜miraculous growthâ€
The ultimate tactic, witnessed by some of us, is to make life â€œimpossibleâ€� if not â€œhellâ€� for a dissenting member, oft in a far-off place. The underlying Machiavellian, sorry Macielian, ethic of the end justifying the means bears fruit in lies, tricks and desperation. The member, cornered in a non-exit situation, is on the verge of another nervous breakdown and bolts for the door, slammed shut as he scrambles for safety. In fear and trembling, his life-long wish is to forget the monstrous nightmare.
The inherent evil in all of the above is the attempted destruction of a personâ€
The following is one such story of â€œexit by exileâ€�. The author wishes to remain anonymous.
The bright side to these dramas of hypocrisy by stealth is that by analyzing legionary tactics, we shall be aware, watchful and pro-active. The recent appointment of a Legion survivor as Bishop of Dallas shows Catholics that where thereâ€
AN IDEAL PLACE TO FIND MYSELF
The airport at Libreville, in the early dawn, was pretty much like I expected it to be. Not very different from small city airports, much like Shannon in Ireland or Acapulco in Mexico. Except, that is, for the ubiquitous presence of the troops in full battle dress, complete with automatic weapons. Belligerent looking â€“even trigger-happy looking- just like you see in the movies. They were very much in control and they knew it. Not many white people and those that were there looked like they felt out of place, pretending to be busy, and anxious to get out of there. I never felt whiter in my life.
The unfamiliar French, laced with what seemed to be large doses of a local language or dialect, made me feel uncomfortable too. French pronunciation always made me feel self-conscious. The atmosphere in the airport, for no reason that was obvious to me, was tense. I found myself thinking that Iâ€
Like Admiral Stockdale, Ross Perotâ€
By now the airport was pretty deserted. As I half expected, all the belligerent-looking commando types had to go home, probably to beat their wives. One of them grunted at me, gave me my passport and quite abruptly walked away. Nobody seemed to care what my next move might be. I guess I wasnâ€
Three days later, after having taken that long to make contact with Luis, the only person I knew on the whole dark continent -I stayed at a parish house of priests known to Luis-, I got to Franceville, my final destination, courtesy of a one-way air ticket sent to me by Luis. The front seats of the modern jet aircraft were folded down to accommodate crates of animals â€“mostly chickens- as I recall. The combination of people, animals and stale aircraft air created a whole new olfactory experience during flight. The left-over refreshments were given in a plastic bag to a friend of the stewardess. The dark jungle below, devoid of any man-made light, was sort of spooky for our night-time flight. Later we landed in an equally spooky red-dirt â€œfieldâ€�, with no paved runways and no buildings, otherwise known as Franceville airport.
Passengers were met by friends and relatives as they descended the ladder from the plane. I was impressed by the handsome women wrapped in colorful cloth up to the bust, most of them wearing a headdress of the same material. And then there was Luis, the man who was to be my spiritual mentor at a very troubled moment in my life. The holy man who, whether he knew it or not, was going to help me figure out Godâ€
Life began the next morning, literally at the crack of dawn. The details arenâ€
I opted to consume my daily ration of pills which I got courtesy of the US Government and my physician brother. He had a hard time understanding why I was going to Gabon at all. To say that he was not an ardent supporter of the Legion is something of an understatement. He married right after he graduated from medical school at University College Dublin. With his wife and his two children he lived in the Washington DC metro area and he worked at the NIH. He seemed to love his job where, working in the pulmonary department, and moonlighting â€“when financial needs dictated- in the emergency room of a local hospital. I remember him saying that the emergency room experience had made him realize the importance of keeping fit and of not letting his kids use skateboards. I saw more of him than at any other time since I joined the Legion. [Ed. The Legion has a house in high scale Potomac, MD]. Although he and hs wife always made me feel welcome and the children always seemed delighted to see their â€œuncle X.â€�. . . I always put it down to the fact that I really didnâ€
The [Ed., weaning] process started when, before joining, you couldnâ€
Greetings! Those hazy, lazy, crazy days of summer are upon us. I hope you all can get away to enjoy a time of rest at the beach or lakeside or some idyllic mountain resort.
Network has connected us; our common experience can and must be expressed and shared. For years we were members of the Legion of Christ, a religious order that has many of the characteristics of a sect. How did it affect us and how does its affect those who are still in the order?
In this issue of Network X tells us of his assignment to the â€œfront of Gabonâ€� prior to his departure from the Legion.
An interesting development: Network has reached a person within the Legion who is delighted to know there is a support group which can help those who are thinking of leaving â€“but more about that on another occasion! Some possible channels of discussion for future issues of Network:
a) We are planning a reunion for all members of the Network, to be held in the fall somewhere on the East Coast, a get-together for a long week-end. Please let us know what can be a good time for you.
b) What approach should we follow when a young man, feeling a call to the priesthood, shows interest in the Legion of Christ?
c) We know of priests who are unhappy in the Legion, who disagree with many of the policies, practices and abuses of the order. Is it possible to contact them? It would be helpful to let them know there are many alternatives to staying in the Legion. Many of us have found the priesthood in the diocesan life to be happy and fulfilling.
Please pass on Network to others; our membership list is growing gradually, poco a poco. Quisiera tomar esta oportunidad para decir que si alguno prefiere escribir una carta o artÃculo en espaÃ±ol, que lo haga con toda confianza. Todos hablamos, entendemos y leemos la lengua de Cervantes, asÃ que nuestra comunicaciÃ³n puede hacerse, bien e inglÃ©s o en espaÃ±ol.
With no further ado, over to you, X