The Catholic Church and The Family International
Popes and prophets who protect pedophiles
by Perry Bulwer
There was an Easter sermon this year that was full of the usual pious platitudes, but the preacher who hid behind that facade of spiritual superiority is the epitome of evil, which Philip Zimbardo defines as “... intentionally behaving -- or causing others to act – in ways that demean, dehumanize, harm, destroy, or kill innocent people.” No, I'm not talking about Pope Benedict and his Easter message, though he fits the description.
I'm talking about Karen Zerby, the leader of The Family International, also known as the Children of God, who likes to think of herself as a Queen, and believes she was one of Jesus' favourite lovers in heaven before she was sent to earth to be the Endtime Prophetess. She also believes that she is one of the “two witnesses” spoken of in chapter 11 of the book of Revelation. Her son, Ricky Rodriguez, was supposed to be the other endtime witness, but since he killed himself in 2005, after murdering one of his mother's long time assistants, she may have to come up with a new 'interpretation' of those scriptures.
And speaking of Revelation, the final two chapters of that book describe in detail, including measurements, a holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from heaven. This new heaven supposedly contains the throne of God, from which he will rule the people of a new earth. Cult members call this new heaven Space City, and Zerby believes that it is a literal one that is contained inside a glass-walled pyramid and, unbelievably, the entire structure is inside the moon! Yes, you read that right. According to Zerby, the new heaven is either already inside the moon or on its way there from outer space! And you thought the pope was deluded!
Almost no one outside her small circle of sycophants heard or read Zerby's Easter message. We could almost write off her small cult as inconsequential, especially next to the huge Catholic cult, so why am I drawing attention to it? To warn others away from this destructive religious group with a long history of dividing families and damaging individuals, and to show the other face of Karen Zerby. Zerby, who took control of the cult after its founder, David Berg, died in 1994, is directly responsible for the physical, sexual, spiritual, psychological, and intellectual abuse of countless children. In fact, Berg credited her with starting all the cult insanity in the late 1960s by uttering 'prophecies' in tongues, which Berg then 'interpreted'.
That diabolical duo is responsible for unleashing unholy doctrines such as the Law of Love, which justifies pedophilia and incest, indeed almost every sexual act except male homosexuality, and Flirty Fishing, which is essentially religious prostitution. After Berg's death, Zerby and her new co-leader, Stephen Kelly, came up with the obscene Loving Jesus Revolution, which continued Berg's tradition of creating new sexual doctrines to justify his own sexual perversions and excesses. Zerby has avoided taking either personal or institutional responsibility for any of the abuses enabled by those doctrines by blaming the deceased Berg and “a few rotten apples”, and by staying on the run and in hiding, even from her own followers, for decades.
Lately, however, Zerby and her co-leader, Stephen Kelly, have been attempting a public relations image make-over, both for themselves and their cult. Last year she made her first ever public presentation outside of the cult, at a conference in Utah for the study of “new religious movements”, or cults, as I prefer to call most of them. Their involvement in that conference, put on by the Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR), was shrouded in secrecy. The official agenda for the conference does not even mention that Zerby and Kelly were presenting, and the cult's press release announcing their involvement was not made until after the conference was over.
The paper Zerby presented, entitled: "The Future of the Family International: Establishing a Culture of Innovation and Progress," outlines organizational changes and evangelistic goals, but it is not available online unless you request it directly from the cult. [ see: http://www.thewinepress.org/articles/wpnews-cesnur-presentations ] Moreover, some of the academic attendees have written positive accounts of The Family International cult and its leaders, choosing to ignore or downplay their salacious sexual doctrines, and accepting uncritically self-proclamations of positive change. It is not surprising, therefore, that Zerby chose that friendly forum for her 'coming out party'. Then, last December, as part of their new PR image, Zerby and Kelly posted a video with their Christmas message, and now this latest spin with her Easter message.
The photo that accompanies Zerby's Easter message shows her wearing what appears to be a business suit. That's not so strange in itself, until you understand that in her role as Maria, queen of the cult, she was rarely photographed, and never in a business suit. Until very recently, most members had only seen old photos of her, never anything current, because as long as the fugitive Berg was alive she had to live incognito with him, hidden from everyone but their inner circle. On this web page, for example, you can see a couple photos from the 1970s and some from 2000 on, but nothing in between. If she was photographed or depicted in drawings, she was usually shown dressed in sexy garbs more in keeping with her role as spiritual seductress and sex cult queen. Zerby's Easter photo may be the new image of leadership the cult now wants to promote, as it is beginning to appear on associated sites, but it's a two-faced one.
Zerby seems to have shed the shackles of anonymity with her recent appearances and photos, but yet she still feels the need to use aliases. For example, the group publishes a magazine called Activated Magazine. They like to pretend that Activated Ministries is a separate entity from The Family International, so perhaps that's why articles written by Zerby that appear in the magazine, including the latest 2010 issue, use the byline, Maria Fontaine, and refer to her husband, Stephen Kelly, as Peter Amsterdam, another cult alias. Why would she use one name on the group's official website, but a different name on an associated website, if she were not intentionally trying to confuse, disguise, deceive and manipulate? A leopard can't change its spots, but it can try to hide in the weeds, which is why she has legally changed her name at least once, has used a forged passport, and used numerous aliases.
These comments on Zerby's photos are an aside here, a warning to beware of the deception. What I most want to point out about Zerby's Easter message, which is merely trite religious regurgitations, is her reference to Pope John Paul II in the very first paragraph. She obviously has no sense of irony, or morality, otherwise this leader of a notorious sex cult that believes God approves of pedophelia would have avoided making any connection whatsoever to a notorious church guilty of enabling and covering up sex crimes against children. But she did make the connection, and when you begin to compare the cult leaders and the church leaders, you see many not-so-surprising similarities between these protectors of pedophiles that might explain Zerby's willingness to quote a Pope. That was the same Pope, by the way, who failed to recognize that one of his closest friends in the church hierarchy, Rev. Maciel, was one of the most vile abusers in the church. Put simply, leaders of both institutions were more interested in church protection than child protection, and now leaders and apologists of both attempt to gloss over their roles in crimes against children by perpetuating the intellectual fraud that they stand on the moral high ground of Christianity.
Secrecy and Lies
Secrecy and lies are tools of the trade for those more interested in protecting institutions than children. Newly appointed Catholic bishops must make a profession of faith, as well as swear an oath of office before another bishop, a cardinal or a pope. That oath is secret, or at least not easy to find, which lends credence to some claims that it requires them to do everything necessary to protect the church from scandal. Most often that means silencing dissenters and accusers. A secret church document that came to light because of a court case shows just how far the church will go to keep its secrets. The document is titled Instruction on the Manner of Proceeding in Cases of Solicitation, The Decree - Crimen Sollicitationis [Crime of Inticement] and it is dated March 16, 1962 by the Vatican Press. Those instructions require anyone involved in a sex abuse investigation, including the accuser and the accused “.... to be restrained by a perpetual silence ... in all matters and with all persons, under the penalty of excommunication.” Pope Benedict reinforced those instructions in 2001 when, as Cardinal and head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the office responsible for the infamous inquisitions, issued further instructions to keep cases secret.
One effective way to keep scandals secret is by lying. Catholics have a doctrine called “mental reservation”, while The Family International has a similar doctrine called “deceivers yet true”. The Irish Times, reporting on the Murphy Report on clergy abuse in Ireland, cited that report's conclusion regarding “mental reservation”:
Church authorities used the concept of “mental reservation”, which allows senior clergy to mislead people without being guilty, in the church’s eyes, of lying.
Of course, the Irish bishops denied that the doctrine of “mental reservation” was used to cover up evil, but how could anyone trust what they say since their denial could very well be just one more “mental reservation” lie? After all, they swore an oath to protect the church, not children (if anyone can prove otherwise please let me know). And that's the problem with liars, especially those who rely on theological doctrines to equivocate and dissemble, you never know if you can trust their word again.
Certainly, that's what a British judge found regarding the court testimony of members of The Family International. In a 1995 child custody case that exposed widespread crimes against children in that cult, Lord Justice Ward referred to their doctrine of “deceivers yet true”. Near the beginning of the 295-page judgment, in a section titled “The Family’s Attitude to Lies and Deception,” Ward speaks to the issue of the veracity of Family witnesses, stating, “I regret to find that in many instances there has been a lack of frankness and a failure to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” He then gives six specific examples of how The Family’s witnesses were less than honest in the proceedings and goes on to say, “These are worrying examples and they are not the only ones of the ingrained habit of lying if they have to and of telling half the truth if they can get away with it.” Throughout the judgment, Ward provides further examples of Family witnesses dissembling the truth and withholding incriminating documentary evidence from the court. Sounds familiar, doesn't it?
Blaming the victims
There are many other similarities, too numerous to detail here, between this small cult and its biggest cousin, such as the Catholic conceit that the Vatican is a state, with diplomatic immunity for the pope, and the cult conceit that The Family International is also a nation state, with Karen Zerby as its Queen. However, I will expose just one more similarity between the way leaders of both institutions have reacted to exposure of sex crimes against minors. Blame the victim. First, here is an excerpt from a letter written by Karen Zerby to her followers, entitled Flirty Little Teens Beware:
TEENS‚ YOU ARE ACCOUNTABLE!—DON'T EVEN START IT!
22. I know that sometimes the men sort of invite it, but I would say that some of you little hot patootie teens are often the main culprits. While in some ways you may not be as responsible or accountable as the adults, in other ways you're also very guilty. If you tempt some adult when you shouldn't, & that adult winds up getting excommunicated because of it, certainly the Lord will hold you responsible too!
23. So we want to jerk you up & tell you plainly that you're not just little innocent bystanders, but the Lord is going to hold you accountable. While you may not have to pay the greatest penalty in punishment & have to actually be put out of the Family, the Lord is still going to hold you responsible.—Especially if you know what you're doing!
24. And we're telling you now what the results of such actions will be, so you will know what not to do! So God is definitely going to hold you responsible! If you didn't fully realise it before, you should certainly realise it after hearing this. You're not just little innocent things who are going to get off the hook scot–free, at least not with the Lord! The Lord will definitely not bless it.
25. This is the very thing the System would like to use against us.—Sex with minors, which they always term "child abuse," although in our loving Family there would be very little possibility of genuine abuse. And if there has been any, hopefully we've now gotten rid of that problem completely. ... [Teens who have left the group] don't know the horrors of genuine sex abuse that are committed in the World.
So, Karen Zerby, inspired by David Berg's perverted doctrines, promoted pedophilia and incest, and sexualized an entire generation of children, then blamed some of those same children for inviting and consenting to sexual assaults. Note also that she thinks there is no genuine child abuse in her cult. She also thinks that the only thing that classifies as child sex abuse is actual intercourse:
“Of course, having actual intercourse with a child wouldn’t be okay as it wouldn’t be loving, but a little fondling & sweet affection is not wrong in the eyes of God, & if they have experienced the same in the past they weren’t 'abused'. … This is about the only subject we’re really going along with the system, we’re playing along with them, we’re acting like we believe what we did was wrong, because we have changed and stopped doing it.… [But] how can you put a boundary on it, or an age limit? If you can have sex with someone of 21, what’s wrong with having sex with somebody of 18, or 16 or 15? Those are manmade rulings & limitations & boundaries.… If the Law of Love is right, then it applies clear across the board no matter what age it is.” [see paragraphs 129 to 142 at the link above]
Zerby's own words condemn her, and so do the words of the Bishop of Tenerife, Bernardo Álvarez. Responding defensively to the ongoing exposure of sex crimes against children in the Catholic church he said that some of those crimes happened because the children consented to it. “There are 13 year old adolescents who are under age and who are perfectly in agreement with, and what’s more wanting it, and if you are careless they will even provoke you”, he said.
To summarize, kids in the sex cult, who lived in highly sexualized environments, get called “little hot patootie teens” and accused of being the main culprits who asked to be sexually assaulted, while kids in the anti-sex cult, who are told masturbation and sex outside of church-sanctioned marriage is sin, get accused of wanting and provoking their own rape by priests. These religious leaders want you to believe, through self-righteous sermons that ignore their personal culpability for crimes against children, that their bible-based morality is the highest morality there is. Don't believe it for a second. To paraphrase Penn and Teller on their TV show in an episode on the Vatican, if your morality is governed by anything ethical, humanitarian, or rational, then bible-based morality, the Vatican, and The Family International are all Bullshit!
This article was originally published on Chain The Dogma at:
The Psychology of Power and Evil
Some Catholic leaders use Easter sermons to address child abuse cover-ups, while pope stays silent on scandal
Kings and Queens of Cults
Lustful Prophet: A Psychosexual Historical Study of the Children of God's Leader, David Berg
Family International a.k.a. Children of God: Once dismissed as 'sex cult,' tiny church launches image makeover
Catholic Legionaries founder praised by Pope John Paul II sexually abused seminarians and raped his own children
If the Pope is infallibly moral why did he enable and cover-up the systematic rape of children across the globe?
Catholic doctrine of "mental reservation" allowed senior clergy to lie and cover-up abuse without being guilty in the church's eyes
Irish Bishops apologize to abuse victims, but deny doctrine of 'Mental Reservation' used to cover up evil
Bishop of Tenerife blames child abuse on the children