17 Jan 2011

Vatican refuses to shut down corrupt Legionaries order for fear of imposing ideas on others, yet indoctrinating kids ok



Catholic Herald Online - November 5, 2010

The superiors of the Legion of Christ are opposing change – why not sack the lot?


They are supposed to believe in obedience to the pope: then let them obey

By William Oddie | Comment and Blogs



What is the point, after everything that has happened, of the continued existence of the Legion of Christ? I just can’t get a handle on it: perhaps my readers can explain to me what the great secret is.

The Legion has been supported wholeheartedly by nearly every pope back to Pius XII (though I can’t find evidence of support from John XXIII), and especially by Pope John Paul II. According to Wikipedia, the first paragraph of whose extensive article on the Legion (as far as I can see, objectively written, but what do I know?) sums up the problem, here is an enormously successful, and formerly thriving, institution within the Catholic Church which is now in crisis, for quite astonishing reasons:

“The Legion of Christ is a Roman Catholic congregation established in 1941 within the Catholic Church in Mexico and directed until 2004 by disgraced Fr Marcial Maciel. It enjoyed the favour of Pope John Paul II. It has priests working in 22 countries, and had 800 priests and over 2,500 seminarians as members by 2010… Its lay movement Regnum Christi has approximately 70,000 members. It operates centers of education (minor seminaries, seminaries, schools and/or universities) in Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, Chile, Brazil, Ireland, France, Germany, Canada, the United States, and the Philippines. In 2009, the Vatican ordered an apostolic visitation of the institutions of the Legionaries of Christ following disclosures of sexual impropriety by the order’s late founder, Fr Marcial Maciel.”

The trouble is first that the entire spirituality of the Legion is based to a quite extreme extent on the supposed heroic sanctity of its founder. According to a former Legionary priest, Fr Stephen Fichter: “Maciel was this mythical hero who was put on a pedestal and had all the answers. When you become a Legionary, you have to read every letter Fr Maciel ever wrote, like 15 or 16 volumes. To hear he’s been having this double life on the side, I just don’t see how they’re going to continue.”

And what a double life. Sex abuse of minors. Six illegitimate children. Mistresses housed in luxury apartments bought with the Legion’s money. The list goes on.

Fr Fichter, once the chief financial officer for the order, said he informed the Vatican three years ago that every time Fr Maciel left Rome, “I always had to give him $10,000 in cash – $5,000 in American dollars and $5,000 in the currency of wherever he was going”. Fr Fichter added: “As Legionaries, we were taught a very strict poverty; if I went out of town and bought a Bic pen and a chocolate bar, I would have to turn in the receipts. And yet for Fr Maciel there was never any accounting. It was always cash, never any paper trail. And because he was this incredible hero to us, we never even questioned it for a second.”

Pope Benedict first ordered an Apostolic Visitation of the congregation, and then appointed Cardinal-designate Velasio De Paolis to set about reforming it. You would think, would you not, that this troubled body would want to co-operate with him, and get everything sorted out: but no. Cardinal De Paolis has come to the conclusion that there has to be major change, and that this has to begin at the top. The trouble is, according to the leading Vaticanologist, Sandro Magister, “the superiors of the congregation, the most powerful of which is vicar general Luís Garza Medina, are by no means giving up on the idea of remaining in their positions of command, now and always.

“In mid-September, De Paolis asked Garza to give up the main offices that he holds, at least those of territorial director for Italy, supervisor of consecrated virgins of the movement Regnum Christi, general prefect of studies and head of the financial holding company Integer [the legion is immensely wealthy]. But Garza said no.”

Why not simply sack the lot, and start again? The reason probably has a great deal to do with the gentle pastoral style of Pope Benedict. As Cardinal De Paolis has made clear, “for now, neither he nor the Vatican authorities intend to remove the superiors of the Legion by executive fiat”. The reason, he explains, is that “if we get caught up in the desire to prevail, and to impose our own ideas on the others, disaster is certain”.

Very admirable, no doubt. But the disaster, surely, has already happened. The Pope has to prevail. Here is an institution which vaunts itself on its obedience to papal authority: then let its superiors obey. Then the big clean up can really begin.

The problem for me, though, is still this: why not, after everything that has happened, simply close the whole thing down? That’s a genuine question: I would like someone to explain.


This article was found at:

http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/commentandblogs/2010/11/05/the-superiors-of-the-legion-of-christ-are-opposing-change-%E2%80%93-why-not-sack-the-lot/


SIMILAR ARTICLES:

Former members of Catholic women's group Regnum Christi allege cult-like practices of psychological and spiritual abuse

Mexican Legionaries damage families, take away children in order to brainwash and control them

Son of priest-founder of Catholic Legionaries sues order for fraud and negligence, says his father sexually abused him  

Vatican finally decides to reform Legionaries years after founder exposed as immoral religious fake

Conservative Catholic order admits 5 years after investigation that founder, who fathered 3 children, was abusive pedophile

TV report from 1990s shows then Cardinal Ratzinger slapping reporter for asking awkward questions about evil child abuser Marciel Maciel

On Sex Abuse: The Pope, the Bishop and the Mexican Priest
 
Mexican reports reveal more children sired by founder of conservative Catholic cult Legionaries of Christ

Corrupt Legionaries exposed

Founder of influential, conservative Catholic order fathered a child and molested seminarians

Catholic Legionaries founder praised by Pope John Paul II sexually abused seminarians and raped his own children

Vatican investigates sexual abuses by founder of conservative Catholic cult, Legionaries of Christ

Pope's promise to restore the purity of Catholicism almost impossible with scandals implicating entire church hierarchy
 
Hundreds of people in U.K. are abandoned, secret children of Catholic priests


 

How can Pope John Paul II be a saint when thousands of children were raped or molested by priests under his leadership?


32 comments:

  1. Vatican Weighs in on Cult-Like Group in Legion

    By Nicole Winfield ABC News, October 17, 2011

    Vatican City (AP), The Vatican has proposed giving hundreds of women who live like nuns within the troubled Legion of Christ order greater autonomy after a Holy See investigation found serious problems in their regimented communities. The pope's delegate running the Legion, Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, said in a letter published Monday that the problems of the consecrated women of the Legion's lay branch were "many and challenging." Of particular concern is that they have no legal status in the church.

    In a 2010 Associated Press expose, former consecrated women spoke of the cult-like conditions they lived in, with rules dictating nearly every minute of their day — from how they ate to what they watched on TV — all in the name of God's will. The women described emotional and spiritual abuse they suffered if they questioned their vocation, and of how they would be cast aside if their spiritual directors no longer had any need for them.

    The Vatican ordered the investigation after word of the abuses emerged during a broader Vatican probe into the Legion, a conservative order founded in Mexico in 1941 by the late Rev. Marciel Maciel. After decades of denying allegations Maciel was a pedophile, the Legion in 2009 began admitting to his double life: that he sexually abused seminarians and had fathered at least three children with two women.

    The revelations have put the Legion in a tailspin and cast a shadow over the Vatican since Pope John Paul II had held Maciel up as a model for his orthodoxy and ability to attract new priests and donations. Maciel had created the consecrated branch of the Legion's lay movement Regnum Christi primarily as a fundraising tool and to provide unpaid teachers for Legion-owned schools. The consecrated women also run youth programs and work to recruit new members.

    The members, who at their height numbered about 900 women and a few dozen men, make promises of poverty, chastity and obedience like nuns do, though they enjoy none of the legal protections nuns have that make it difficult for their orders to kick them out. Legion officials have repeatedly declined to provide statistics on how many remain in the movement. Former members say many women have either left amidst the Maciel scandal or are taking time to discern whether they still have a vocation.

    ...

    Genevieve Kinecke, who runs an active blog read by many former Legion and consecrated members, said she hoped the autonomy envisaged by De Paolis will enable current and future members to truly discern whether they have a vocation. Up until recently, some 18-year-olds would make their lifelong commitments to being consecrated after a mere six-week candidacy program.

    "As long as the delegate relies on the existing superiors to guide his actions concerning these individuals, then we have a closed circle of conformity to the same methodology," Kinecke said in an email. While current consecrated members say they are happy and participating in the reform process, their choices haven't always pleased their parents.

    Kelly Tuttle said she grieves daily for the loss of her 27-year-old daughter, who gave up a partial medical scholarship to the University of Dayton, Ohio to become consecrated in 2003. "The Katie that I knew, I grieve for that Katie," Tuttle told the AP. "There's only the shell of her left. Because they've taken the person that I knew as my daughter, who was young and vibrant, intellectually alive and athletic, and they've taken that out of her." "It's like she's dead and gone," she said. Katie Tuttle declined to be interviewed, according to a Legion spokesman.

    read the full article at:

    http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/vatican-weighs-cult-group-legion-14756223

    ReplyDelete
  2. Ratzinger altered canon law to soften Maciel punishment, book argues

    By Jason Berry, National Catholic Reporter March 24, 2012

    On Saturday, as Pope Benedict XVI makes the first appearance on his March 23-28 trip to Mexico and Cuba, three authors will hold a news conference in the same city, Leon, Mexico, discussing a book that quotes Vatican files on the pedophilia and drug abuse accusations that trailed Fr. Marcial Maciel, the founder of the Legion of Christ, for decades until his death in 2008.

    Maciel, a native of Mexico who died at 88, was a subject of long-running concern at the Vatican congregation that governs religious orders, according to La Voluntad de No Saber – “The Will Not To Know,” published by a Mexico City imprint of Random House international.

    The authors are Alberto Athié, a former priest who directed a Mexican bishops’ charity; José Barba, a retired college professor and former Legion seminarian who filed a 1998 canon law request in Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith tribunal, seeking Maciel’s excommunication; and Fernando M. González, a scholar in Mexico City and the author of a biography of Maciel.

    In late 2004, with Pope John Paul II in failing health, Ratzinger finally ordered an investigation of Maciel. In 2006, Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, banished him from active ministry to a life of prayer and repentance. That stopped short of excommunication as Barba and seven other victims wanted. The Legion continued defending Maciel until 2009 when its leaders abruptly reversed course, revealing that he had sired several out of wedlock children, now grown.
    NCR received a PDF of the book. Grijalbo, the publisher, is posting selected excerpts on a website www.lavoluntaddenosaber.com, the AP reported.

    In the book’s most striking accusation, Barba, who holds a doctorate from Harvard in Latin American studies, writes that in 2001 Cardinal Ratzinger and his chief canon lawyer, Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, modified the statute of limitations in church law regarding sex with minors “retroactively in favor of the Legionary founder, and injuring the human rights and legitimate interests of us, his victims.”

    Bertone subsequently left the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to become Archbishop of Genoa. In that capacity he wrote a glowing preface to the Italian edition of an oral memoir by Maciel in 2003, Christ Is My Life, that denied the accusations still pending from the 1998 case. Bertone became Secretary of State under Benedict in 2006. He has never explained why he promoted Maciel’s sagging reputation as he stood accused in Bertone’s old office.

    Athié, who championed the Maciel victims in correspondence with then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, left the priesthood in disgust at the failure to prosecute Maciel. Athié blames John Paul II for “a moral double standard.”

    The Vatican failure to punish Maciel over many decades was examined by this reporter and Gerald Renner in Vows of Silence (2004). The documents cited by González spotlight harsh internal criticism by investigators of Maciel, from the 1940s through the 1980s, that higher Vatican officials chose to ignore. A turning point came in 1956, when Maciel was hospitalized for abuse of a morphine painkiller. Cardinal Valerio Valeri, prefect of the Sacred Congregaton for Religious [orders] sent Carmelite priests to investigate Maciel of addiction and sexually abusing seminarians. One investigator notes: “I am going to give my personal opinion. It seems to me this is about a split personality.”

    Referring to Maciel’s “double life,” González reveals that two Mexican bishops suggested Maciel was sexually dissolute; but time and again, when the time came for a forceful decision, no one made the hard call.

    continued in next comment...

    ReplyDelete
  3. continued from previous comment:

    As NCR reported in 2009, Maciel gave $10,000 to Cardinal Clemente Micara, the vicar of Rome, in 1946, a huge sum in a city reeling from aftershocks of World War II. Micara signed the order reinstating him in 1959 after Pius XII’s death.
    In 1962 Maciel got in trouble again, after a brush with Spanish police when he tried to procure drugs; but in another round of internal probing by the religious orders’ congregation, a priest complained of “the most unjust prosecution of the innocent Father Maciel,” a remark that in light of the abundant evidence of his addiction spotlights the tentative, hand-wringing way church officials treated a priest who had built a basilica in Rome and, we now know, doled out money like a potentate from Tammany Hall.

    Gonzalez refers to the "omerta," or code of silence, culture that Maciel created in the Legion. He levels heavy criticism against Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, the canon lawyer in Rome who functions as overseer of the beleaguered Legionaries. De Paolis guided the drafting of a new set of bylaws for the Legion to supplant the discredited constitution, which mandated expulsion for those who did not obey the secret vow never to criticize Maciel or any Legion superior, and to report on those who did.

    De Paolis has stated that a full investigation of Maciel’s past would serve no purpose, a position that draws scorn from González in light of the ongoing investigation of Regnum Christi, the lay group whose members studied Maciel’s writings and fueled the fundraising operation.

    Gonzalez calls De Paolis "complicit" with Legion superiors in concealing the truth about Maciel, as reflected in the secret documents. He further criticizes the cardinal for taking a "vow of charity" toward Maciel's inner circle, who remain in their positions.

    La Voluntad de No Saber is nevertheless a strangely uneven book. The accusations against John Paul II, Ratzinger and Bertone are devastating in the implication of justice suborned. But the pope as supreme arbiter of canon law can do largely what he wishes. The international scandal that has stained Benedict’s papacy stems from an archaic justice system that gives cardinals and bishops a de facto immunity from prosecution.

    The documents in the book, which are being posted to the book’s website, offer a fascinating look at the ambivalent nature of “Vatican investigations.” What the authors fail to do is link those flawed investigations with Maciel’s history of channeling large sums of money to favored Vatican officials, as reported in NCR in 2009.

    The prefect of Congregation for Religious from 1976-1983 was the late Cardinal Eduardo Francisco Pironio, whose apartments in Rome were renovated at Legion expense. González includes documents that confirm the close link between Pironio and Msgr. Stanislaw Dziwisz, the private secretary and gatekeeper to John Paul II. Dziwisz, as reported previously in NCR, regularly received cash gifts as high as $50,000 at a time from Legion intermediaries to place their wealthy supporters in the tiny chapel where John Paul said Mass each morning. “An elegant way of giving a bribe,” is how a Legionary priest described it in those reports.

    González expresses outrage at the way Pironio and Dziwisz arranged for John Paul to approve the Legion constitutions that upheld the notorious vow never to criticize Maciel. The financial favors to Pironio undoubtedly helped. His successor, Cardinal Eduardo Martínez Somalo, ignored the mounting accusations against Maciel in the 1990s. He received a $90,000 gift in the late 1980s, according to a former Legion priest who said he put the envelope with cash in his hand. The cardinal rebuffed my interview requests in 2010.

    [NCR contributor Jason Berry is author of Render unto Rome: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church and producer of a film on Maciel, “Vows of Silence.”]

    http://ncronline.org/news/vatican/ratzinger-altered-canon-law-soften-maciel-punishment-book-argues

    ReplyDelete
  4. Vatican Inquiry Reflects Wider Focus on Legion of Christ

    By ELISABETTA POVOLEDO, New York Times May 11, 2012

    VATICAN CITY — The Legionaries of Christ, a powerful but troubled worldwide religious order whose founder became enmeshed in a sex scandal years ago, said Friday that the Vatican was investigating seven Legion priests over allegations of sexual abuse of minors.

    The investigation cast a new shadow upon an order already struggling to move beyond revelations that its charismatic founder, the Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado, had fathered several children and molested under-age seminarians.

    On Friday, the order said that after looking into “some allegations of gravely immoral acts and more serious offenses” committed by some Legionaries, internal preliminary investigations “concluded that seven had a semblance of truth.” Those cases were forwarded to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican office that handles investigations of sexual abuse, the Legionaries said in a statement.

    The Vatican confirmed that the Congregation was investigating “cases of abuse” carried out by Legionaries but did not address the allegations. The inquiry was first reported by The Associated Press.

    Officials at the order followed the existing canonical procedures and brought these cases, “which for the most part date back decades,” to the attention of Vatican authorities, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said in a statement.

    With nearly 900 priests and 70,000 lay members worldwide, the order was founded by Father Maciel in Mexico in 1941. Over the decades, the charismatic leader, who was a prodigious fund-raiser, built it up into a wealthy and politically influential group, and Pope John Paul II singled out Father Maciel as the model for dynamic priesthood.

    But that legacy crumbled when revelations emerged that Father Maciel had fathered several children, abused seminarians and misappropriated funds. In 2006, Pope Benedict XVI removed Father Maciel from priestly duties and restricted him to a life of prayer and penance. He died two years later.

    In 2010, the pope decided against dissolving the order and instead appointed his own delegate to oversee it and make reforms. The Vatican said at the time that the majority of Legionaries had been unaware of Father Maciel’s double life, “a life devoid of scruple and of genuine religious sentiment.”

    But many critics contend that the order’s leaders must have known of the wrongdoings of Father Maciel, who was born in Mexico and began his religious empire there. A request for an investigation brought to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1998 was quashed a year later by the current pope, who was then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and head of the Congregation. He reopened the inquiry in 2004.

    The Legionaries said Friday that the order examined all accusations — or well-founded suspicions — it received involving its members, even as it reached out to victims and sought to protect the rights of those involved. It also said that in some cases the police had carried out preliminary investigations.

    continued in next comment...

    ReplyDelete
  5. continued from previous comment:

    Of the seven cases referred to the Congregation at the Vatican, all but one involved sexual abuse dating back decades. One case referred to more recent abuse, the Legionaries said.

    The cases of two other priests accused of other crimes had also been referred to the Congregation.

    The Legionaries also said that civil or canonical investigations had exonerated an unspecified number of priests accused of abuse, but did not elaborate.

    In all cases, the priests accused of wrongdoing have been restricted in their ministries for the duration of the investigation, though this did not constitute an admission of guilt. “The protection of children and of communities is of the utmost importance for the Legion,” the statement said.

    In Mexico, people who said they had been victimized by the order have sought to keep up pressure on the church. During the pope’s visit to Mexico in March, the victims demanded a meeting with the pontiff, and a book was released detailing multiple cases of abuse by Father Maciel.

    “As with everything in the Vatican, it comes many years too late,” Roberto Blancarte, a professor and expert on the Mexican Catholic Church at Colegio de México, said of the latest inquiry.

    Karla Zabludovsky contributed reporting from Mexico City.

    A version of this article appeared in print on May 12, 2012, on page A4 of the New York edition with the headline: Vatican Inquiry Casts New Shadow on Order.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/12/world/europe/vatican-inquiry-reflects-wider-focus-on-legion-of-christ.html

    ReplyDelete
  6. Popular Priest Fathered Child and Says He’ll Step Aside

    By LAURIE GOODSTEIN, New York Times May 15, 2012

    A telegenic American priest, widely known for his media commentary from Rome on popes, prayer and personal morality, has publicly acknowledged having an affair and fathering a child — the latest jolt to hit his scandal-torn religious order, the Legionaries of Christ.

    The priest, the Rev. Thomas D. Williams, apologized in a statement on Tuesday “for this grave transgression” and “to everyone who is hurt by this revelation.” He said he would take a year off from public ministry to reflect on his transgressions and his “commitments as a priest” — a decision he said he made with his superiors.

    Father Williams was the most visible American member of the Legionaries, a powerful and conservative Roman Catholic religious order that has been in turmoil since 2006, when its charismatic founder was banished by the Vatican to a life of prayer and penance.

    The order’s founder, a Mexican priest named Marciel Maciel Degollado, died in 2008 amid revelations that he had sexually abused young seminarians, misappropriated money and fathered several children, some of whom say they were also victims of his sexual abuse. Only last Friday, the Legion acknowledged that seven of its priests are being investigated by the Vatican in connection with the sexual abuse of minors.

    Pope Benedict XVI appointed a delegate in 2010 to oversee the order. Although priests have been abandoning the Legion, it still claims 800 priests and thousands of laypeople in Regnum Christi, an affiliated group.

    The Rev. Luis Garza, the order’s leader in North America, said in a statement to the members: “I know that this will be shocking news to you. In the wake of all that we have been through as a Movement in the past several years, it won’t surprise me if you are disappointed, angry or feel your trust shaken once again.”

    Jim Fair, a spokesman for the Legion, said the order had not paid any financial support to the child or the mother. He added that Father Williams was staying with his parents in Michigan and was recovering from cancer surgery.

    Father Williams said in the statement issued by the Legion that his relationship occurred “a number of years ago.” The Associated Press and The National Catholic Reporter broke the news on Tuesday after learning of allegations made by a Spanish association of Legion victims about multiple sexual improprieties by Father Williams.

    Father Williams, who joined the Legion in 1985, was ordained a priest in 1994, and rose to become superior of the Legion’s general directorate in Rome. He is the author of many books on spirituality, including “Knowing Right From Wrong: A Christian Guide to Conscience,” and “The World as It Could Be: Catholic Social Thought for a New Generation.”

    In recent years, he taught ethics and Catholic social doctrine at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum, a Legion university in Rome, and served as a Vatican analyst for NBC, CBS and Sky News in Britain. During the funeral for Pope John Paul II and the conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI, he was often seen on American television.

    “He was the face of the church at the time of the conclave,” said Susan Gibbs, the spokeswoman at the time for the Archdiocese of Washington and now a media consultant for Catholic organizations. “He really helped people understand how the church worked.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/16/us/popular-priest-fathered-child-and-says-hell-step-aside.html

    ReplyDelete
  7. Legion of Christ head admits sex scandal coverup

    The Associated Press May 22, 2012

    The head of the embattled Legion of Christ religious order admitted Tuesday to covering up news that his most prominent priest had fathered a child and announced a review of all past allegations of sexual abuse against Legion priests amid a growing scandal at the order.

    The Rev. Alvaro Corcuera wrote a letter to all Legion members in which he admitted he knew before he became superior in 2005 that the Rev. Thomas Williams had fathered a child years earlier. He said he had heard rumours of the child even before then when he was rector.

    Corcuera said that after becoming superior in 2005, he confirmed Williams's paternity yet did nothing to prevent him from teaching morality to seminarians or preaching about ethics on television, in his many speaking engagements or his 14 books, including Knowing Right from Wrong: A Christian Guide to Conscience.

    Williams, for example, was the keynote speaker at a Legion-affiliated women's conference last month in the U.S.

    Williams admitted last week he had fathered the child after The Associated Press confronted the Legion with the allegation. In a new statement Tuesday, Williams said he had resisted his superiors' encouragement to keep a low profile after the allegations were known to them.

    "I foolishly thought that I had left this sin in my past, and that I could make up for some of the wrong I had done by doing the greatest good possible with the gifts God has given me. This was an error in judgment, and yet another thing I must ask your forgiveness for," he wrote.

    Williams has not identified the mother or said whether he was supporting the child or in any way involved in the child's life. The Legion has said the child is being cared for.

    Revelations of Williams's child have compounded the scandal at the Legion, which in 2009 admitted that its late founder, the Rev. Marcial Maciel, had sexually abused his seminarians and fathered three children with two women. He died in 2008.

    The scandal is particularly grave given that Maciel was held up as a model for the faithful by Pope John Paul II, who was impressed by the orthodox order's ability to attract money and young men to the priesthood.

    Maciel's double life, and the well-known problems of the cult-like order, have cast a shadow over John Paul's legacy since the Vatican knew of Maciel's crimes as early as 1950, yet he enjoyed the highest Vatican praise and access until he was finally sanctioned in 2006.

    In 2010, the Vatican took over the Legion after determining that the order itself had been contaminated by Maciel's influence and needed to be "purified." The Vatican cited problems of the Legion's culture, in which silence reigned and authority was abused, as being in need of reform, as well as the need for its constitutions to be rewritten and its charism, or essential spirit, to be defined.

    continued in next comment...

    ReplyDelete
  8. continued from previous comment:

    Following an AP investigation, the Legion on May 11 admitted that seven priests were under Vatican investigation for allegedly sexually abusing minors, an indication that Maciel's crimes were not his alone. Corcuera provided an update Tuesday, saying two of those cases had been dismissed, leaving five abuse-related cases under investigation by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

    Corcuera also revealed that a Legion priest is currently under criminal investigation in the U.S. for alleged sex abuse and that three others had been cleared. Three former Legion priests have been referred to civil authorities, he said.

    In his letter Tuesday, Corcuera announced that the Legion was going to review all past cases of allegations of sexual abuse to ensure that they were handled properly. Victims of Legion priests and critics of the order have said there are many more cases of abusers, many of which have been well-known to the leadership but covered up for decades.

    "Are there other cases waiting to be discovered, more scandals ready to attack your faith and trust? I can never say for sure," Corcuera wrote. "I can, however, tell you that we are following the lead of Pope Benedict XVI in dealing with abuse and sexual misconduct in the Legion."

    Corcuera's letter is unlikely to stem the outrage among the members of the Legion's lay branch Regnum Christi, for whom Williams was a major point of reference in the United States and a top public defender of Maciel when the allegations of his crimes were levelled years ago. Many had forgiven the Legion for its decades of deception concerning Maciel, thinking it was an isolated case. The recent revelations show otherwise. Corcuera said that after confirming in 2005 that Williams had indeed fathered the child, he asked him to start withdrawing from his public work. But only in 2010 did he limit Williams's work as a priest. Williams, however, continued to write books, speak at conventions, author articles and, most significantly, teach morality to seminarians at the Legion's university in Rome.

    He only stopped teaching in February, abruptly, after a Spanish association of victims of the Legion forwarded the allegations against Williams to the Vatican.

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2012/05/22/vatican-legion-christ.html

    ReplyDelete
  9. Abuses At Legion Of Christ-Run High School, Immaculate Conception Academy In Rhode Island

    by Nicole Winfield, Huffington Post July 9, 2012

    VATICAN CITY — Dozens of women who attended a high school run by the disgraced Legion of Christ religious order have urged the Vatican to close the program, saying the psychological abuse they endured trying to live like teenage nuns led to multiple cases of anorexia, stress-induced migraines, depression and even suicidal thoughts.

    The women sent a letter this weekend to the pope's envoy running the Legion to denounce the manipulation, deception and disrespect they say they suffered at the hands of counselors barely older than themselves at the Rhode Island school. For some, the trauma required years of psychological therapy that cost them tens of thousands of dollars.

    A copy of the letter was provided to The Associated Press by the letter's 77 signatories, a dozen of whom agreed to be interviewed about their personal problems for the sake of warning parents against sending their children to the program's schools in the U.S., Mexico and Spain.

    "I have many defining and traumatic memories that I believe epitomize the systematic breakdown of the person" in the school, Mary told The Associated Press in an email exchange. She developed anorexia after joining in 1998, weighed less than 85 pounds when she left and dropped to 68 pounds before beginning to recover at home. "The feelings of worthlessness, shame and isolation that are associated with those memories are still vivid and shocking."

    Mary, who asked that her last name not be used, blamed her eating disorder on acute loneliness – girls were prevented from making close friends or confiding in their families – and the tremendous pressure she felt as a 16-year-old to perfectly obey the strictest rules dictating how she should walk, sit, pray and eat.

    It's the latest blow to the troubled, cult-like Legion, which was discredited in 2009 when it revealed that its founder was a pedophile and drug addict who fathered three children. The Legion suffered subsequent credibility problems following its recent admission that its most famous priest had fathered a child and the current Legion superior covered it up for years.

    The Legion saga is all the more grave because its late founder, the Rev. Marcial Maciel, had been held up as a living saint by his followers and a model of holiness by Pope John Paul II because of his ability to recruit men and money to the priesthood, even though the Vatican knew for decades that he had sexually abused his seminarians.

    Pope Benedict XVI took over the Mexico-based order in 2010 and appointed envoy Cardinal Velasio De Paolis to oversee a whole-scale reform of the Legion and its lay branch Regnum Christi. But the reform hasn't progressed smoothly, with defections from disillusioned members and criticism that some superiors remain locked in their old ways.

    The all-girl Immaculate Conception Academy, located in Wakefield, Rhode Island opened two decades ago to serve as a feeder program for the Legion's female consecrated branch, where more than 700 women around the world live like nuns making promises of poverty, chastity and obedience, teaching in Legion-run schools and running youth programs.

    Because of dwindling enrollment – 14 seniors graduated last month – the school recently merged with a Legion-run school in Michigan; in Mexico two programs merged into one that produced 10 graduates this year.

    continued in next comment...

    ReplyDelete
  10. continued from previous comment:

    The school's current director said things have changed dramatically recently and many of the spiritual and psychological abuses corrected. But she acknowledged the harm done, apologized for the women's suffering and asked for forgiveness.

    "For any errors made by our order in the past, we do apologize," said director Margarita Martinez. "We are sorry these young women have suffered and been harmed in any way."

    In an email response to AP, Martinez noted that not all students experienced the same "level of negativity" as those who wrote the letter, and that regardless the movement was listening to everyone's experiences as it undergoes a process of Vatican-mandated reform.

    Megan Coelho, 30, recalled how pairs of consecrated women would visit her regularly as a child in northern California where she was homeschooled; they told her tales of the wonderful high school in Rhode Island where she might find a vocation and grow closer to God. Coelho, who wanted to be a nun, left home when she was 14 to join.

    By junior year, the occasional migraines she had suffered became frequent and debilitating as pressure to conform to the rules and highly structured schedule increased. The migraines would paralyze one side of her body, making her collapse at times. She developed facial tics. Her eyesight became blurry.

    "As sweet as they (her consecrated directors) were I was counseled not to tell my parents about it because then my parents would take me home," she said, referring to the movement's goal of keeping members at almost any cost. "No one contacted my family. Nobody took me to the ER or got me a doctor's appointment."

    Eventually, Coelho got so sick she returned home, and the migraines stopped. Feeling better she returned, only to suffer a migraine her first day back. She left for good six months before graduation.

    Coehlo's story is the first on a blog she and other former pre-candidates, as the girls were known, started this past spring, a seemingly cathartic experience since many had never shared their pain with their onetime classmates. The blog, , is an astonishing read – testimony of a twisted and cruel methodology applied to girls at their most vulnerable age, when even under normal circumstances girls are prone to self-esteem issues, peer pressure and bouts of depression. www.49weeks.blogspot.com

    Instead of finding support from friends and family, these teenagers were isolated from their families 49 weeks a year, told to unquestioningly trust their spiritual directors and confide only in them. Obedience to the minutest of rules, they were taught, reflected their acceptance of God's will.

    They write about their feelings of inadequacy, humiliation and loneliness, and of idolizing their smiling consecrated counselors. They paint the depths of their depression when seemingly overnight they were told they didn't have a vocation and should go home.

    "Looking back, I was suicidal," said Sarita Duffy, now a 28-year-old mother of three in Fort Cambpbell, Kentucky. "I never took a bottle of pills or slit my wrists, but I was fully content with the possibility of never waking up again."

    In a phone interview, Duffy said she equated being rejected by the movement with being rejected by God, and lost her Catholic faith for years as a result. She acknowledged she can't blame the movement for all her problems but said the "zero self-worth" she felt after being rejected precipitated her descent into depression and rebellion.

    "Why do you hate me God? I hate me," Duffy wrote in her journal on June 10, 2002, four years after she entered as a freshman and about a week before she received the final "no" to work in the movement's missionary program.

    continued in next comment...

    ReplyDelete
  11. continued from previous comment:

    One of the blog entries was written by Lourdes Martinez, a former counselor or formator at the school from 2000-2005. She admitted that she and her consecrated colleagues would classify the girls into potential leaders, "normals" and those who should be sent home. This would enable the directors and counselors under them to manipulate the girls and prey on their vulnerabilities, giving special attention to those they wanted to keep as potential consecrated leaders and devise strategies to get rid of those they wanted to send home, she said.

    Often, information from the weekly reports written about each girl's development would be shared with the priests who heard her confession – a striking violation of privacy. The priests could then reinforce the directors' decisions in confession with the girls, she said.

    "So she's hearing this from everyone and thinks it's the Holy Spirit talking. And we would say `Yes, of course,'" Martinez told the AP in a phone interview from Monterrey, Mexico.

    Martinez described an almost "Lord of the Flies"-like situation in which the counselors were barely older than the girls under their care, with no experience in adolescent development. The counselors themselves lived with the fear that they must obey the rules and their superiors or risk violating God's will.

    Martinez signed the letter to De Paolis because she wanted to show solidarity with those who suffered. But she stressed that she believes the reform will work because she knows and trusts the new leadership and is working with them to improve.

    Not everyone suffered so much, and not everyone has joined the call to close the program; of the 270-odd people on a closed Facebook group that served as the basis for the blog, 77 signed the letter.

    And by many indications, things have changed dramatically for the better at the school, with girls allowed more time with families and much less emphasis on sticking to the rules.

    "People who are going into the pre-candidacy and are starting out will not find the same experience as those people did," said Sasha Jurchak, 25, who left consecrated life in May because she simply decided it wasn't for her – not because of any problem with the program.

    In an interview, she noted that De Paolis has instituted new regulations that forbid consecrating girls as young as 18 after a six-week candidacy program. The new rules require a years-long process of assessment similar to that of traditional religious orders. Recruitment is no longer the primary aim, she said. The girls' mail is no longer screened and they have more free time. Girls can wear shorts and pants for athletic activities instead of long skirts and stockings.

    Margarita Martinez, the school director, said other changes include better reflection from counselors on when to invoke "God's will" in requiring something of the girls.

    She disputed claims that the school failed to provide adequate medical care for sick girls, saying the policy has always been to notify parents and get proper care.

    Asked if Regnum Christi was prepared to provide financial assistance to women who needed psychological counseling when they left, she said each case would need to be considered individually.

    "The reform process has taken time. It has been a learning process for everyone involved. And we still have a long way to go," she wrote. "But I strongly believe we are moving in the right direction, with the Holy Spirit as our guide."

    The letter to De Paolis from alumni said it's too risky to wait and see how it all turns out.

    "Today's girls deserve more than to be guinea pigs during the experimental stages of the reform process which may or may not prove in the end to be authentic," it concluded.

    Regnum Christi is at http://www.regnumchristi.org

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/09/legion-of-christ-abuse-high-school_n_1658904.html

    ReplyDelete
  12. Mexico religious cult refuses to allow teachers in

    By MARK STEVENSON, The Associated Press August 22, 2012

    MEXICO CITY (AP) — Adherents of a religious sect in western Mexico are physically blocking school teachers from entering their walled community, setting up one of the most high-profile confrontations between religious and civil authorities in Mexico since the 1930s.

    Local officials in the western state of Michoacan said Wednesday it may be time to call in a large-scale police operation to enforce the right to schooling in a community that has largely ruled itself according to what it considers Biblical guidelines for almost 40 years. The New Jerusalem community prohibits formal schooling, television, radio, modern music, dress and fashion.

    "I think the next step is to go in and enforce the rule of law," said Efrain Barrera, spokesman for the township of Turicato, in western Michoacan state, where the sect's walled-off compound is located.
    Under Mexican law, grade school education is compulsory, and Mexico's National Human Rights Commission and the Roman Catholic Church said Tuesday that the refusal to allow classes in the town of New Jerusalem is a violation of children's human rights.

    They called on the government to break the town's blockade, which has been limited to fistfights but could escalate. Members of the sect recently attacked and destroyed the school building.
    "It is surprising that they want to impose beliefs, not a religion, on grade-school children in their formative stage, by taking away the right every child has to attend classes in government-provided education," the Mexican Bishops Council said in a statement.

    "The local authorities should intervene and resolve the conflict, which, if it isn't taken care of, could escalate," the council said. "This is an issue that cannot wait, this is the moment to act and defend the rule of law."
    The church does not recognize the sect, which was founded in 1973 by a renegade Catholic priest who objected to the abandonment of Latin masses and other modernization moves.

    The group has demanded the right to appoint its own teachers, set its own curriculum and mandate robes and headscarves for female pupils, claiming that otherwise the schools would be introducing bad habits into the community. Girls at government schools in Mexico generally wear uniforms, including knee-length plaid skirts.

    The group shuns telephones and its leaders were not available for comment on Wednesday.

    In July, gangs of sect followers used sledgehammers to destroy three government school buildings in the community, then doused them with gasoline and set fire to the school furniture and computer equipment.

    On Monday, when the new school year was scheduled to start, gangs of church supporters, including women dressed in the bright-colored robes and headscarves the sect requires women to wear, engaged in fistfights with residents who wanted their children to go to school at improvised classrooms set up after the school buildings were destroyed. About a dozen government-paid teachers showed up, but were also driven off.

    "They are damaging about 250 children," said Barrera. "It is not fair that older people want to reproduce and impose their own ignorance on a new generation."

    continued in next comment...

    ReplyDelete
  13. continued from previous comment:

    There have been periodic reports of deaths, threats and beatings inside the compound, where about 5,000 adherents live in brick houses inside medieval-castle-style walls. But no outside authorities have ever been allowed in.

    "What we are demanding is to be able to enter and investigate what has been happening, because there have been systematic crimes and violations of the law since 1973, when the community was founded," Barrera said.

    The Human Rights Commission said Tuesday it had already sent inspectors to New Jerusalem and demanded the government send police to guard the schoolchildren and classrooms.

    The religion was founded by Nabor Cardenas, "Papa Nabor," a defrocked parish priest who said it was based on messages from the Virgin Mary relayed by an illiterate old woman. Together with supposed clairvoyant Agapito Gomez, who channeled voices, orders and predictions from the spirit world, they ordered the building of the compound, along with towers, walls and multiple church buildings.

    Members believe it will be the only place on earth spared from an impending Apocalypse, which they had predicted would occur in cataclysmic volcanic eruptions around the 2000 millennium.
    Residents of the New Jerusalem compound cannot use many modern conveniences; women are not allowed to wear makeup, and must dress in robes and are referred to as "nuns" or "courtesans." Residents recite Mass in Latin and use old exorcism and baptism rituals long abandoned by the mainstream church.

    Religious conflicts, often between evangelical Protestants and Roman Catholics, still occur in some parts of rural Mexico, and have sometimes resulted led to thousands of residents being expelled from their towns.
    But the last large-scale religious violence occurred in the 1926-1929 Cristero war, when harsh anti-clerical laws sparked an armed uprising by Roman Catholic rebels against Mexico's secular government and tens of thousands of people died.

    http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gwZBJyw9ujtF358XAwlcRAeNgdcw?docId=46cd9fe025d9466c988660e531313d1b

    ReplyDelete
  14. Mexico cult eyes evil secular schools

    By the CNN Wire Staff August 23, 2012

    (CNN) -- Authorities are negotiating with a religious cult in southwestern Mexico, trying to persuade leaders to allow public schools to operate in the isolated community, state media reported.

    "It is a problem of fundamentalism," Michoacan state government secretary Jesus Reyna Garcia told Mexico's state-run Notimex news agency on Wedesday.

    The talks came after residents of New Jerusalem blocked roads into the community and attacked children, parents and teachers trying to enter a house that had been converted into a school.

    Three people were injured in the clashes Monday, state officials said.

    In July, members of the cult destroyed the only school building in the town, saying the Virgin of the Rosary, who they worship, told them school buildings were built by the devil and were to be demolished.

    The rising tension in the 3,000-person community, about 250 miles (400 kilometers) west of Mexico City, has drawn the attention of security officials in Michoacan state, who said 100 police were at the ready.

    "We need to remind these people that they are not living in a separate territory, in an island," Gov. Fausto Vallejo told reporters.
    Leaders of the cult said they were not opposed to educating the community's youth.

    "What happens is that those people are using the school as a way to introduce to our community things that are banned, like fashion, immorality, vice, drugs and alcoholism," said a New Jerusalem Cathedral spokesman known as Father Luis.

    Meanwhile, officials from Mexico's Council of Bishops have disavowed the group.

    "While they use symbols of the Catholic Church, we reiterate that they have nothing to do with it," the council said in a statement Tuesday.

    The school year was scheduled to begin on Monday.

    "We're willing to keep on teaching, but we need security guarantees for ourselves, the community and the children," teacher Ruben Gaona Rafael said.

    Some residents of the Turicato municipality, where New Jerusalem is located, have asked the government to intervene, saying they want their children to go to school without fear of being attacked.

    "We hope that the government will do something about it, although we haven't seen anything yet," resident Manuel Campos said. "We may have no other choice but to defend ourselves."

    Mexico's Catholic bishops called on the local government to do more.

    "Laws should be followed, and in this case, it is the local authorities who should intervene and impose order in a conflict that, if it is not attended to, could go even farther. It is not something that should wait. Now is the time to act and exercise the rule of law that has been violated," the statement said.

    New Jerusalem was founded decades ago, and there have been clashes reported among its residents in the past.

    CNN's Krupskaia Alis and Rafael Romo and CNNMexico.com's Rodrigo Aguiar and America Juarez contributed to this report.

    http://www.cnn.com/2012/08/23/world/americas/mexico-cult-school/index.html

    ReplyDelete
  15. Mexico sect vows fight over public schools

    By E. EDUARDO CASTILLO, Associated Press – August 28, 2012

    NUEVA JERUSALEN, Mexico (AP) — Sprouting out of the corn fields of western Mexico rises a hill crowned with two arches and four towers, marking the gates of an improvised "holy land" that farmers built brick by brick over nearly four decades. The sprawling complex, they believed, would be the only place saved in the coming apocalypse: Nueva Jerusalen, or "New Jerusalem."

    A cult has since sprung up around the detailed instructions that Our Lady of the Rosary supposedly left for followers, including how believers should dress and live. No non-religious music, no alcohol or tobacco, no television or radio, no modern dress and, the injunction that has landed them in trouble, no public education.

    That last rule is at the heart of a confrontation brewing at the complex among the sect's traditionalists, its more reformist members and the Mexican government. The conflict escalated into a tense standoff Monday between the sect and federal and state police.

    According to traditionalists, the government-mandated uniforms, school books and lesson plans, not to mention the computers and televisions now used in many Mexican classrooms, would violate the Virgin Mary's orders, on her own sacred ground.

    Organized squadrons of church followers enforced those beliefs in July when they used sledgehammers and pickaxes to tear down at least two school buildings, doused the school furniture and texts in gasoline and set the whole mess on fire.

    Authorities in the western state of Michoacan have vowed that public, secular education, one of the few common bonds that hold Mexican society together, would not be sacrificed, and they pledged Monday that about 250 children would be back in class in Nueva Jerusalen.

    That prompted swift reaction from conservative church followers, who formed a line inside the gates to face down dozens of police who showed up with patrol trucks and an armored vehicle, in what turned out to be a daylong standoff.

    Federal police commander Miguel Guerrero said he was talking with both sect traditionalists and reformists who believe in the sect's central tenets but want a modern education for their children, to reach some sort of compromise.

    "We are simply discussing the community's situation," Guerrero said after the talks. But neither side was budging: The reformists rejected a compromise to hold classes in another town, and the traditionalists weren't going to let government schools and teachers into the community.

    The faith of the people here is built on messages purportedly passed from the Virgin Mary to a defrocked Catholic priest, an illiterate old woman and a clairvoyant. That faith has since developed into a complex hierarchy of brightly-robed followers, with women wearing purple, red, white or green robes, depending on their "order" or vocation.

    "New Jerusalem was born when the Holy Mother returned to Earth, with God's permission, for the last time, to form a new salvation and a new creed," said Father Luis Maria, who like the rest of the clergy practices a form of the Latin Mass but is not recognized in any way by the Roman Catholic Church.

    Maria says the community's rules are aimed at banishing "all the vices and bad habits" that condemn the rest of the world to perdition.
    But after the group's prediction that the world would end in 1999 didn't come to pass, it became harder to keep younger generations interested in praying almost constantly for the earth's salvation. Praying is the principal activity of the sect's traditionalists, aside from temple building and farming.

    To the reformists, the Virgin's purported instructions can border on the surreal: Sports such as soccer are banned because they are played with a round ball that resembles the planet Earth, and thus represent kicking the planet. But American football is allowed because the ball is more elongated.

    ReplyDelete
  16. To people such as Oscar Montero, 26, a young man who was born in Nueva Jerusalen after his parents joined the sect in the 1970s, the restrictions have grown too chafing.

    "I see these things as something very absurd," said Montero, who joined a group of hundreds of young people who marched through the community Monday to demand access to education.

    "Dancing isn't evil, though smoking is," said Montero. "Drinking too much is bad, but dancing and having a good time isn't."

    Montero said he has a television, radio and Internet service at home, noting, "I wasn't born here because of my faith, I was born here by chance."

    The sect was founded in 1973 by a parish priest, Nabor Cardenas, who disagreed with the modernization of the Catholic Church and the abandoning of the Latin Mass.

    He found his oracle in an illiterate 63-year-old local farm woman, Gabina Sanchez, who heard the voice of the Virgin Mary. Dubbed "Mama Salome," she essentially directed the evolution of Nueva Jerusalen together with "Papa Nabor."

    Together, they created an idiosyncratic vision of how life would have been lived in biblical times, and imposed it on thousands of followers.
    "It is like a little state within a state," said Juan Carlos Ruiz Guadalajara, a historian at San Luis College who has studied the community extensively. "Here, the laws of Mexico don't mean anything, they are ruled by a sort of traditionalist Catholicism."

    "But that has set up a confrontation between them ... and the new generation of children born in New Jerusalem," he said.

    The church's authorities allowed The Associated Press to tour the compound on the condition that none of the residents could give formal interviews or be quoted by name. They said the restrictions were necessary because news media had identified believers as "fanatics" in previous reports.

    The sect's strict rules are clearly spelled out on the wall of the gates: "No entry for women with short skirts, pants, low-cut or sleeveless blouses, makeup or fingernail polish, or uncovered heads, nor men with long hair or dishonest dress."

    Inside, a huge cross dominates the main street, bordered on each side by the one-story homes of the faithful. Men with rosaries around their necks, and women in headscarves and robes, go about their daily routines of prayer and work.

    Girls under 11 are known as "Juanitas" and wear yellow head scarves, while single adolescent and adult women are known as "Damsels" and wear blue. There are eight such orders.

    Further down the main street is the "basilica," which houses the church's holiest site, the chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary.

    Inside the chapel is the tomb of Papa Nabor, who died in 2008, and an image of the Virgin that appeared to Mama Salome, who died in 1981.

    The leadership of the church has fallen to the daughter of the church's former clairvoyant, who calls herself a spokesperson, and the current "bishop," who calls himself Martin de Tours.

    As its principal commitment, the community keeps up a 24-hour-a-day chain of prayer in the Virgin's chapel, which the faithful believe is the only activity that can save the world. They also believe the entry of "bad habits" could break that delicate thread.

    For the true followers of Nueva Jerusalen, allowing such a break is simply unthinkable, and that promises to harden the confrontation under way here.

    "What is more important ... the right to life, or the right to an education?" the sect's legal representative, Juan Carlos Tellez, said in a speech at the compound Monday. "The people will defend their rights with their lives. They will not allow a community built with great sacrifice over 39 years, by the labor of its inhabitants, to be destroyed from one day to the next."

    http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hP71KXExSjBZP8Rsm56R5DNprTpQ?docId=2810389fe5e449b282751b4c0f616256

    ReplyDelete
  17. US judge rules in favor of Legion of Christ in contested will, but details money tactics

    By Associated Press The Washington Post September 14, 2012

    Vatican City - A U.S. judge has thrown out a lawsuit contesting the will of an elderly widow who gave some $60 million to the Legion of Christ, the disgraced Roman Catholic religious order.

    But Judge Michael Silverstein of Rhode Island Superior Court found evidence that the woman, Gabrielle Mee, had been unduly persuaded to change her trusts and will and give the Legion her money, detailing the process by which the Legion slowly took control of her finances as she became more deeply involved in the movement.

    Pope Benedict XVI took over the Legion in 2010 after a Vatican investigation determined that its founder, the late Rev. Marcial Maciel, had lived a double life: he sexually molested seminarians and fathered three children by two women. The pope ordered a wholesale reform of the order after finding serious problems with its very culture, and named a papal delegate to oversee it.

    The Maciel scandal has been particularly damaging for the church given that the Mexican-born priest was held up by Pope John Paul II as a model for the faithful, admired for his perceived orthodoxy and his ability to bring in money and new seminarians.

    It was that high esteem that attracted Mee, a devout Roman Catholic, to the Legion in the first place, Silverstein wrote in his Sept. 7 order throwing out a lawsuit filed by Mee’s niece contesting the will.

    The niece, Mary Lou Dauray, had alleged that Mee was defrauded by the Legion and unduly influenced by its priests into giving away her fortune. Mee died at age 96 on May 16, 2008. Her late husband was a one-time director of Fleet National Bank.

    Silverstein, however, ruled that Dauray had no standing in the case. Dauray’s attorney, Bernard Jackvony, said his client was considering an appeal.

    Legion spokesman Jim Fair said Friday the order was pleased with the ruling and believed it would prevail if it is appealed.

    “Although the decision states that there are certain factual issues in dispute between the parties, the court did not decide any of those issues; they would only be determined by a trial,” Fair said in a statement. “But since the plaintiff does not have standing, there will be no trial.”

    While siding with the Legion in the case, Silverstein took pains in his 39-page ruling to cite evidence submitted by Dauray’s attorneys that detailed the process by which the Legion wooed Mee, bending the rules to let her become a “consecrated” member of its lay movement, giving her privileged access to Maciel and inviting her on special trips to Rome and Mexico.

    He cited letters from the Legion thanking Mee for her money, emphasizing how her generosity was “pleasing both the Lord and assisting his mission” while also satisfying her late husband’s wishes.

    continued in next comment...

    ReplyDelete
  18. continued from previous comment...

    Such fundraising tactics have long been a hallmark of the Legion: critics have pointed to the process by which typically good-looking priests would shower wealthy patrons with praise, access and spiritual guidance while persuading them to donate their fortunes.

    “The transfer of millions of dollars’ worth of assets — through will, trust and gifts — from a steadfastly spiritual elderly woman to her trusted but clandestinely dubious religious leaders raises a red flag to this court,” Silverstein wrote.

    Maciel himself, whom Mee considered a living saint, gave her financial advice, and another Legion priest helped her with her estate planning, Silverstein wrote. He detailed how Mee, after she became consecrated, created a Legion-appointed committee to determine distributions from her trust and eventually gave the Legion full control over her finances.

    Silverstein cited the Legion’s own admission that consecrated women, who like nuns make promises of chastity, obedience and poverty, must donate half their assets to the Legion within 15 years and all their assets within 25 years.

    At the same time, the Legion withheld full information from Mee about Maciel’s misdeeds, which first came to light in 1997 with a newspaper article alleging the sexual abuse, Silverstein wrote. By 2006, Legion leaders say they knew of Maciel’s child although they only made that information public in early 2009.
    The Legion claimed in court filings that Mee was told about Maciel’s double life, but Silverstei
    n cited evidence disputing that and noted that she had cut off support to another religious movement as soon as she learned that one of its founders had had sexual relations with another man.

    “Plaintiffs argue, and the court recognizes, that this could reasonably indicate how Mrs. Mee would have acted if she had known of the allegations (or the extent of the allegations) against Father Maciel,” Silverstein wrote.
    The Legion has been facing a serious slump in fundraising following the revelations of Maciel’s double life. Properties have been sold off and schools have been closed as the Legion’s once exponential growth has contracted, with dozens of priests leaving the order and fewer seminarians joining.

    According to testimony cited by the order, the Legion’ $35 million purchase of a property in Thornwood, New York, in 1996 was made possible by guarantees from the Legion and Mee that her trusts would pay the Legion’s $25 million bank loan. The Legion announced in April it was selling the property, where seminarians studied philosophy, to help reduce its debts.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/on-faith/us-judge-rules-in-favor-of-legion-in-contested-will-but-details-legion-money-tactics/2012/09/14/e7cf64a6-fe29-11e1-98c6-ec0a0a93f8eb_story.html

    ReplyDelete
  19. Lawyer pushes to unseal Legion of Christ documents

    by Michelle R. Smith, Boston Globe Associated Press September 24, 2012

    Providence, USA - A Rhode Island Superior Court judge heard arguments Monday on whether to unseal documents in a lawsuit contesting the will of an elderly widow who gave some $60 million to the Legion of Christ, a disgraced Roman Catholic religious order.

    Bernard Jackvony, a lawyer for the niece of the late Gabrielle Mee, argued to Judge Michael Silverstein that it is in the public interest to release the documents, while Joseph Avonzato, a lawyer for the Legion of Christ, said that would compromise the order’s right to a fair trial. The judge didn’t immediately issue a decision.

    Pope Benedict XVI took over the Legion in 2010 after a Vatican investigation determined its founder, the late Rev. Marcial Maciel, had sexually molested seminarians and fathered three children by two women.

    Silverstein this month threw out the lawsuit, saying the niece, Mary Lou Dauray, did not have standing to sue, though he wrote in his decision that Mee had been unduly persuaded to give the Legion her money.

    Jackvony on Monday said information related to the case had an important public interest. He said the Legion has facilities in Rhode Island, has been the target of a petition from women once associated with the order and is being sued in Connecticut by a man who says he is Maciel’s son and was molested by him. He said many facts that were discovered in the course of the lawsuit are still not known by the public.

    ‘‘Those are facts that should be known. Why? Because the Legion is still out there,’’ he said. ‘‘That is information the public needs to protect itself.’’

    But Avonzato said Dauray had once said that she wished to subject the Legion’s actions to the ‘‘disinfecting sunlight of public view.’’

    ‘‘That has ‘taint the jury pool’ written all over it,’’ he told the judge.

    Steven Snow, a lawyer for Bank of America, which is named in one of three lawsuits surrounding Mee’s will, joined in opposing the effort to unseal the documents.

    ‘‘This is a private dispute that happens to be in a public forum,’’ Snow told the judge. ‘‘There is no public interest in this private dispute.’’

    Avonzato argued that the judge’s ruling this month related only to whether Dauray has standing to sue, and so he may only consider whether to release to the public evidence that relates to that issue.

    Jackvony is considering an appeal of the decision to throw out the case.
    ___
    Associated Press writer Nicole Winfield contributed to this report from Vatican City.

    http://www.boston.com/news/local/rhode-island/2012/09/24/lawyer-pushes-unseal-legion-christ-documents/NWARMNUDWxkmlhyv9Tku2O/story.html

    ReplyDelete
  20. Mexican New Jerusalem sect children return to school

    BBC News September 25, 2012

    Children from the New Jerusalem sect in Mexico's western Michoacan state have returned to school after clashes between members of the community.

    Some community leaders objected on religious grounds to the secular education provided by the state.

    They clashed with other parents, burned down the local state school and locked the gates of the community.

    The stand-off delayed the beginning of term by a month, affecting some 250 children.

    On the first day of classes on Monday, 125 children turned up, local authorities said.

    The classes are taking place in nine pre-fabricated class rooms, taken to the nearby town of La Injertada to temporarily replace the burnt-out school building.

    Police officers were deployed on the road between the New Jerusalem community and the school.

    'Goodwill gesture'

    A six-point agreement was signed this weekend between local leaders and the Mexican authorities to build the new school inside the New Jerusalem compound, not in La Injertada.

    In return, community leaders will help the police find those responsible for the 6 July arson attack.

    "As a goodwill gesture, we have agreed to send our children to school this week," said a spokesman for the Parents' Committee, Hermenegildo Zeferino.

    "We will wait till the end of the week to find out whether the Michoacan state government is willing to do its part."

    The religious sect was founded in 1973 by a defrocked priest, who objected to changes in the Catholic Church, including the end of masses in Latin.

    They believe their compound will be the only place on Earth spared from an impending apocalypse.

    Some radical leaders of the community reject computers, text books and school uniforms.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-19723767

    ReplyDelete
  21. Mexico raids alleged sex slavery cult on U.S. border

    BY MARK STEVENSON, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
    VANCOUVER SUN JANUARY 29, 2013

    MEXICO CITY - Mexican officials broke up a bizarre cult that allegedly ran a sex-slavery ring among its followers on the U.S. border, authorities said Tuesday.

    The "Defensores de Cristo" or "Defenders of Christ" cult allegedly recruited women to have sex with a Spanish man who claimed he was the reincarnation of Christ. Followers were subjected to forced labour or sexual services, including prostitution, according to a victims' advocacy group that said it filed a complaint more than a year ago about the cult.

    Federal police, agents of Mexico's National Immigration Institute and prosecutors raided a house earlier this week near Nuevo Laredo, across the border from Laredo, Texas, and found cult members, including children, living in filthy conditions

    The institute said 14 foreigners were detained in the raid and have been turned over to prosecutors, pending possible charges.

    Those detained include six Spaniards, and two people each from Brazil, Bolivia and Venezuela. One person from Argentina and one from Ecuador were also detained. Spain's Foreign Affairs Ministry confirmed its citizens were among those arrested.

    The institute said 10 Mexicans were also found at the house, mainly women, and are presumably among the victims of the cult.

    The Attorney General's Office said the investigation was still under way as to what charges, if any, might apply in the case. Given the binds of sect loyalty that had been built over an estimated three years, prosecutors were still trying to work out which of the detainees may be considered victims, and which were abusers.

    The institute said the sect's leaders made members pay "tithes," with money or forced labour.

    An official of the institute who was not authorized to be quoted by name said that women were recruited to the sect and then were forced to have sex with sect elders; the official described it as a form of human trafficking that included prostitution.

    continued in next comment...

    ReplyDelete
  22. Spaniard Ignacio Gonzalez de Arriba set up shop in Mexico about three years ago, after a stint in Brazil and other parts of South America.

    He quickly became involved in offering courses on "bio-programming," an esoteric practice that claims to allow practicants to 'reprogram' their brains to eliminate pain, suffering and anxiety.

    But according to the Defenders of Christ website, he quickly moved on to claim that he was Jesus Christ reincarnated.

    Photos of Gonzalez de Arriba are juxtaposed with a painting of Christ, purportedly showing how the Spaniards eyebrows, nose and mouth are "exactly like" those of Christ.

    Myrna Garcia, and activist with the Support Network for Cult Victims who has worked with victims of the Defenders of Christ cult, said Gonzalez de Arriba "mixed bio-programming, Christian and New Age doctrines and fears about the end of the world ... to control followers, to keep them terrorized."

    "He made them believe he was Christ," said Garcia, whose group filed a complaint with Mexican authorities about the cult's abuses about one year ago. "Like Christ, they have to adore him, if not they will lose their souls ... they have to give their lives for him."

    "There were women who were forced into prostitution," Garcia noted. "It was a form of human trafficking that was extraordinarily effect from the criminal point of view," she said, because the women were terrified of being separated from the sect.

    How the cult managed to thrive in an area of Mexico that is tightly controlled by the violent Zetas drug cartel remains a mystery. However, there could be some link; Gonzalez de Arriba first set up shop in the northern city of Torreon, which also has a strong Zeta's influence.

    The immigration institute said in a press release that the Defenders of Christ was headed by Venezuelan citizen Jose Arenas Losanger Segovia, but according to Garcia and the cult's website, he was clearly a lieutenant of Gonzalez de Arriba.

    The Interior Department said the Defenders of Christ had not registered as a religious group, as required under Mexican law. Garcia said cells of the cult might still be active in Peru and Argentina.

    http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Mexico+raids+alleged+slavery+cult+northern+border+detains/7889492/story.html

    ReplyDelete
  23. Legion of Christ Opens Critical Meeting on Future

    By NICOLE WINFIELD, Associated Press ABC News VATICAN CITY January 7, 2014

    The troubled Legion of Christ religious order is electing new leadership for the first time since its founder was revealed to have been a pedophile and fraud. The process starting Wednesday will formally end the Vatican's three-year rehabilitation of the movement, a reform the Legion is touting as a success and critics have dismissed as a sham.

    The Legion was once held up as a model by the Vatican, which turned a blind eye to the Rev. Marcial Maciel's misdeeds as the order became one of the fastest-growing congregations in the Catholic Church and brought in millions in donations. After three years of Vatican-imposed reform though, questions still remain as to how the Legion can exist when its founder was a criminal and its core mission remains unclear.

    The Legion's hope is that following the monthlong meeting, Pope Francis will approve a new constitution that explains the order's mission, hierarchy and rules and will allow the Legion to move on without any more Vatican oversight. The Legion's top superiors and 42 priests elected as representatives — including many close to Maciel — will finalize the constitution during the meeting and then elect new leadership.

    But several former Legion priests have urged the pontiff not to fall for the order's "supposed reform," saying the rehabilitation process ignored its core dysfunction: financial duplicity, lack of an authentic religious identity and continued cover-up of the people who facilitated the founder's crimes.

    "In the Legion, nothing is as it seems," they wrote Francis last year.

    Francis' predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, took over the Legion in 2010 after Vatican investigators determined that the congregation needed to be "purified" of the influence of Maciel, who sexually abused his seminarians, fathered three children and created a system of power in the Legion that allowed his crimes to go unchecked.

    Former members said the code of silence and obedience that Maciel imposed created a toxic, cult-like environment where communications were screened, dissenters marginalized and members deceived and manipulated. Hundreds of priests, seminarians and lay consecrated members have abandoned the movement in recent years; there are now about 950 priests and a few hundred consecrated members who work in the Legion's schools, youth camps and some parishes.

    Benedict appointed a retiring cardinal, Velasio De Paolis, to oversee reforms and the rewriting of the order's constitutions, leading up to the General Chapter that begins Wednesday. The Legion says many of the problems flagged by the Vatican have been fixed, but that reforms continue.

    "The extraordinary chapter will be an important moment in this communal examination of conscience and an occasion to appreciate the blessings received, ask forgiveness for errors committed in the past and learn lessons for the future," the Rev. Sylvester Heereman, the Legion's current head, wrote in a Christmas letter to former Legion priests.

    Some former members have been vocal in their concern about the process, convinced that De Paolis' reforms didn't go deep enough and that priests still devoted to Maciel's old ways had blocked reformers from making the changes necessary to turn the order around.

    "From the beginning, the reform has been more concerned with saving what remains rather than arriving at the truth of what the Legion is," a few dozen members wrote Francis in June. A top Legion official resigned in November in frustration over the lack of reforms, insisting he couldn't continue without damaging his "priestly vocation and my psychological health."

    continued below

    ReplyDelete
  24. Critics question whether the order has a solid enough foundation to continue at all, given that its disgraced founder can no longer be a source of inspiration. Maciel had drawn a devoted following of zealous Catholics, but critics say his core aim was to raise money and bring in new priests.

    "The Catholic Church has zero tradition of institutes of perfection being founded, directly or even indirectly, by predatory charlatans," the U.S. canonist Edward Peters, a consultant at the Vatican's high court, recently wrote on his blog.

    E. Christian Brugger, professor of moral theology at the St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, Colorado, said religious orders like the Jesuits or the Franciscans allow the faithful to follow Christ in a special way inspired by the order's founder. Maciel's fraud "throws into profound question the genuineness" of that inspiration, or charism, that attracted so many people to the Legion, he said.

    The Legion's spokesman, the Rev. Benjamin Clariond, noted that several Vatican officials have said over the years that the Legion is a work of God. But he acknowledged that the charism was one of the "central issues" that will be discussed by the upcoming meeting.

    De Paolis, 78, has essentially declared "Mission Accomplished." During his Dec. 14 homily to ordain 31 new priests into the order, De Paolis praised their tenacity, saying they had remained faithful to their vocation in the Legion as other Legion priests left when the going got tough.

    Francis has already said De Paolis' term will not be renewed, but it remains to be seen what he will do with the order itself. Any more Vatican intervention would further tarnish the legacy of Pope John Paul II, a top Maciel defender whom Francis will canonize in April.

    There's no timeframe for Francis to approve the outcome of the meeting, and he could opt to grant provisional approval. Legion officials expect a decision within a few months.

    Many of those voting this week have been implicated in some the Legion's problems.

    —One was accused of sexual abuse by a former member. The Legion insisted it couldn't corroborate the claim but restricted his ministry to keep him away from children.

    —Another was named in a Rhode Island judge's ruling that said there was evidence the Legion used undue influence to con an elderly woman out of $60 million. The judge dismissed the case, ruling that the woman's niece contesting her will lacked standing to bring the lawsuit.

    —And yet another, the current superior, admitted he knew that the Legion's public face, Thomas Williams, had fathered a child of his own and yet was allowed to continue teaching and preaching morality for years. Williams recently married the daughter of one of Francis' top advisers, the former U.S. ambassador to the Holy See Mary Ann Glendon.

    A leading moral theologian, German Grisez, in 2009 wrote an open letter to his friends in the Legion, urging them to continue their service to the church but not in the Legion, which he said should be terminated and its members reconstituted into a new religious institute.

    In a telephone interview last week, Grisez said he couldn't evaluate if the reform process had essentially accomplished what he had recommended.

    "I don't think this is ideal," he said. "It may be that the process has been virtually the re-founding that I thought was necessary. But I don't know that that was the case."

    http://abcnews.go.com/Health/wireStory/legion-christ-critical-juncture-21449858

    ReplyDelete
  25. Cult leaders detained on sex abuse charges

    The Local, Spain December 13, 2014

    Police in Spain have detained two leaders of a sect accused of sexual abuse and taking money from up to 400 followers, a court said on Friday.

    The sect's leader, Feliciano Rosendo da Silva, and his right-hand woman, the self-described "nun" Marta Paz Alonso, were detained on Thursday in the town of Collado Villalba, around 50 kilometres (30 miles) northwest of Madrid.

    An investigating judge will question the suspects "once several outstanding police procedures" are completed, the High Court of Justice of Galicia, in northwestern Spain, said in a statement.

    The pair ran the sect, dubbed Mandate and Order of Saint Michael Archangel, in Galicia but moved to the Madrid region after Da Silva was expelled from the Roman Catholic diocese of Tui for "inapproriate moral behaviour". They then renamed the sect "The Voice of the Serviam".

    Police accuse them of sexual abuse, money laundering, tax fraud, criminal association and crimes against moral integrity.

    The arrest came a day after former members of the sect and their family members spoke out about alleged sexual, physical and psychological abuse by the two leaders, who they said got rich at their expense.

    A woman who belonged to the sect said that Rosendo da Silva claimed that "his semen contained the body of Christ, and this way he would purify her," according to Spanish media reports.

    The sect had around 400 members at its peak but most of them left the group when Da Silva was expelled from Tui and moved to Madrid.

    The sect's choir performed before Pope Benedict XVI when he visited Madrid in August 2011 for the Cathiolic Church's World Youth Day celebrations.

    http://www.thelocal.es/20141213/cult-leaders-detained-on-sex-abuse-charges

    ReplyDelete
  26. Pope Francis grants plenary indulgence to controversial Legionaries of Christ

    By Doug G. Ware | UPI Oct. 29, 2015

    VATICAN CITY, Oct. 29 (UPI) -- Pope Francis granted a formal reprieve Thursday to the controversial Legionaries of Christ -- a Catholic order attempting to reform itself after years of child sex abuse accusations.

    The pope granted plenary indulgence to the group Thursday in observance of the order's 75th anniversary, its jubilee year, in response to an official request by Legion leader Father Eduardo Robles Gil Orvañanos, Vatican News reported.

    The group may receive indulgence during the solemnity of Christ the King in 2015 and the solemnity of the Sacred Heart in 2016, the report said, if they "profess or devotionally renew the promises or vows which bind them to the Movement or the Legion" and "dedicate a sufficient amount of time to the corporal or spiritual works of mercy."

    The Legion of Christ has for years been attempting to get back in the pontiff's good graces following revelations of alleged child sex abuse by its founder, Marcial Maciel, over decades with alleged abuses dating back to the 1940s.

    John Paul II, who led the Catholic Church between 1978 and 2005, never formally disciplined Maciel when the allegations first surfaced in the late 1990s -- because, critics believe, the two were close friends. In 2006, Benedict XVI disciplined Maciel and banished him from ministry service, but Benedict refused a canonical trial due to Maciel's advanced age and declining health. Maciel died in 2008.

    It was alleged that Maciel repeatedly sexually abused young men studying the priesthood at the Legion under his leadership, fathered several children and carried on sexual relationships with various women -- in addition to their criminal repercussions, the abuses constituted violations of the church's pledge of celibacy.

    Francis' granting of plenary indulgence Thursday follows Vatican approval last year of the Legion's constitutional reforms, a third-party evaluation of the group, and an apology from the seminary group to the victims.

    "I encourage you to make the most of this grace that the Holy Father has granted us to renew our gratitude to the Lord for the gift of the Movement and to increase our desire to be apostles and credible witnesses of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ," Orvañanos said in response to the pope's granting of indulgence.

    http://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2015/10/29/Pope-Francis-grants-plenary-indulgence-to-controversial-Legionaries-of-Christ/3661446146263/

    ReplyDelete
  27. Religious cult took our sister from us, says family of Bridget Crosbie

    She died alone and lonely and lay undiscovered in her Wexford home for two months. But 84-year-old Bridget was once full of the joys of life ... before she joined a secretive religious sect.


    by Graham Clifford, Irish Independent November 28, 2015

    It's the Swinging Sixties and a young, carefree, woman from rural Wexford takes the boat to England to start a new life.

    Bridget Crosbie, a beautiful, smart and popular figure, finds work in hotels in London and even in the Channel Island of Guernsey.

    "She loved life," said a family member this week, adding "she was great fun, loved her family, she had boyfriends like every other young girl, was very artistic and was really a typical, everyday Irish girl."

    She qualified as a midwife and worked in various London hospitals.

    But by the end of the Seventies Bridget had changed.

    Her family say it was around then that she joined the Palmarian Catholic Church - a secretive Spanish sect that broke away from the Catholic Church and has declared a series of its own 'popes'.

    When Bridget returned home to Wexford, she became more indoctrinated she also became more reclusive in keeping with the sects' strict set of rules.

    She had to wear a full-length dark dress and a make-shift habit. There was to be no social contact with any persons not dressed to the Palmarian dress code - even over the telephone.

    All religious items not in keeping with the Palmarian teachings had to be destroyed, listening to modern music was banned as was attending non-Palmarian religious services such as weddings, funerals and christenings.

    Ties with family members are effectively cut and followers live without television sets, radio, computers and telephones.

    The group, which featured in a TV3 documentary called Ireland's Secret Cults, is said to have about 300 members in Ireland but when Review attempted to contact the Church this week our attempts were unsuccessful.

    Bridget's family and many concerned neighbours tried to help her but she retreated from life though she did travel to Dublin occasionally to attend Palmarian services and hand out pamphlets.

    Knocks at the door were ignored.

    Outside her home neighbours got on with their lives, children played in the green opposite her house and a few doors up locals called in for a pint at the nearby pub. The world kept on turning.

    But at number 29 life moved at a very different pace.

    On November 20, Bridget's body was found in the bedroom of her home in the Faythe in Wexford Town, she was 84. She had been dead for at least two months.

    "We'd always keep an eye out for her but sure she couldn't interact with us because of the religion," said her neighbour Paddy Mulligan. "If you did happen to catch her eye, she'd smile. It's very sad."

    Another neighbour Sean O'Leary told me that even when she fell on the street during the summer and the paramedics came to help her she wouldn't interact with them.

    "She refused to go in the ambulance, that was July and the last time I set eyes on her," he said.

    continued below

    ReplyDelete
  28. Bridget's siblings want to warn other families about the Palmarian Church and say it, and similar alternative groups, are potentially dangerous. One family member told me: "People need to be aware of groups like these which are often handing out leaflets on our streets. We don't know why Bridget got involved with the Palmarians but we do know they took her away from us. She lived in isolation. We wanted to speak to her, she probably wanted to speak to us - but because of the extreme rules she felt she couldn't. It was utterly heart-breaking."

    While Bridget Crosbie withdrew from conventional living due to her beliefs, many elderly people across Ireland are doing so to avoid the confusion and increased pressures associated with modern living.

    "We see it all the time," said Sean Moynihan, the CEO of the charity Alone, adding: "obviously changes in the way society lives impacts on the elderly and it can be daunting and worrying.

    The more we become connected digitally, the less we are connected socially, and that is something which older people find very difficult to get used to. Still so many elderly people have no access to, or no idea how to use, a computer yet all services are moving online."

    One in three elderly people in Ireland today live alone and so the temptation to retreat into the 'safety' of the familiar, blocking out everything outside the front door' is understandably strong.

    "The world is changing so much and much of what had been a constant in the lives of elderly people is now different all of a sudden," said Sean Moynihan. "Take the banking situation for example. You had customers of the Bank of Ireland for over half a century being told recently that they couldn't get money out at the counter. They weren't even sent a letter telling them this would happen. For these people that is hugely confusing and stressful."

    While some isolation is self-imposed, others find themselves alone because of events in their lives. Head of advocacy and communications with Age Action, Justin Moran, believes that keeping an eye on the elderly and providing reassurance will greatly help, he said "we would urge people to check in on their older neighbours, particularly if they're living alone or far from their families. Reaching out like that is a gesture and it can be important to people who might be socially isolated."

    There was a time in Ireland when this would be done as a matter of course. "I don't necessarily think that we care less but I think people are busier now - running and racing," said Sean Moynihan of Alone. "We drive everywhere, have mobile phones to our ears, we work hard to pay the never-ending bills and we seem to lose perspective."
    With an ageing population, isolation can quickly become the norm. With less and less social interaction confidence levels can dip and attention to one's health and living oft times deteriorates.

    And in some cases, as we discovered this week, the cause for isolation is more complex, harder to fathom.

    In Wexford on Tuesday Bridget Crosbie's family gathered to say goodbye to their beloved sister… for a second time.

    They remembered the bright young woman who was once full of the joys of life... and wondered what might have been.

    http://www.independent.ie/life/religious-cult-took-our-sister-from-us-says-family-of-bridget-crosbie-34237646.html

    ReplyDelete
  29. Strange extremist religious cult recruits heavily in Ireland

    James O'Shea, Irish Central November 30,2015

    A strange extremist Catholic cult called the Palmarian Church has been recruiting heavily in Ireland and one family has warned that they force recruits to cut off all contact with their relatives.

    The cult first became known publicly after the body of 84-year-old Bridget Crosbie was found in her home in Wexford on November 20, two months after she died alone. She had joined the cult and was forced to cut off all family contact.

    The church has been heavily recruiting in Ireland and regards Pope Paul VI, whom they revere as a martyr, and his predecessors as true popes. They believe, on the grounds of apparitions they say they experienced, that the Pope of Rome is excommunicated and that the position of the Holy See has, since 1978, been transferred to the See of El Palmar de Troya in Spain. The cult claims 60 bishops worldwide. The group has had three “popes” since it as founded.

    Bridget joined the group when she lived in London and continued with them when she returned to Ireland. She became a virtual recluse, only allowed to talk to church figures.

    Listening to modern music was forbidden as was attending non-sect marriages and funerals, no TVs are allowed or radio, computers or telephones.

    The group is said to have 300 members in Ireland. Some of the Irish members ensured that Bridget stayed faithful to the cult. She was often seen in Dublin handing out pamphlets. She refused all efforts by her family to contact her.

    It was quite a contrast from her earlier life in London, where she qualified as a midwife and had many friends.

    "She loved life," a family member told the Irish Independent this week, adding "she was great fun, loved her family. She had boyfriends like every other young girl, was very artistic and was really a typical, everyday Irish girl."

    The woman who came home was hardly recognizable.

    "We'd always keep an eye out for her, but sure she couldn't interact with us because of the religion," said neighbor Paddy Mulligan. "If you did happen to catch her eye, she'd smile. It's very sad."

    Another neighbor, Sean O'Leary, recalled that one time when she fell on the street she would not take an ambulance to the hospital.

    "She refused to go in the ambulance; that was July and the last time I set eyes on her," he said.

    Bridget's family want to warn others about the cult, which, they say, is growing.
    "People need to be aware of groups like these which are often handing out leaflets on our streets. We don't know why Bridget got involved with the Palmarians, but we do know they took her away from us. She lived in isolation. We wanted to speak to her – she probably wanted to speak to us – but because of the extreme rules she felt she couldn't. It was utterly heart-breaking," said a family member.

    "We see it all the time," said Sean Moynihan, the CEO of the charity Alone, adding: "obviously changes in the way society lives impacts on the elderly and it can be daunting and worrying.

    “The more we become connected digitally, the less we are connected socially, and that is something which older people find very difficult to get used to. Still so many elderly people have no access to, or no idea how to use, a computer yet all services are moving online."

    One in three elderly people in Ireland today lives alone and many are ignored by relatives or are easy prey for cults.

    "I don't necessarily think that we care less but I think people are busier now – running and racing," said Moynihan. We drive everywhere, have mobile phones to our ears, we work hard to pay the never-ending bills and we seem to lose perspective."

    see photos at:

    http://www.irishcentral.com/news/Strange-extremist-religious-cult-recruits-heavily-in-Ireland-.html

    ReplyDelete
  30. Abuse allegations follow leader of Peruvian Catholic sect to Rome

    Luis Fernando Figari’s Sodalitium of Christian Life answered only to the Vatican but his decades of alleged physical and sexual abuse are likely to go unpunished

    by Dan Collyns in Lima and Stephanie Kirchgaessner in Rome, The Guardian June 16, 2016

    Only the faint sound of shuffling feet could be heard behind the heavy wooden door of the apartment in Rome where Luis Fernando Figari has lived since 2010. And then, silence.

    Close by, another tenant in the upscale apartment building – which sits a short walk from Campo de’ Fiori in the centre of the city – vaguely recognised a picture of Figari taken decades ago, which showed him standing beside Pope John Paul II. She had seen him around, but only rarely.

    What residents don’t know is that the now frail, bearded man who lives in their building founded a Catholic sect in Peru which answers only to the Vatican and which he once ran like a new age guru.

    Figari – who is a layman, not a priest – is now considered persona non grata within the group, the Sodalitium of Christian Life, following allegations by former followers that he physically, emotionally and sexually abused them.

    But he is also considered legally untouchable, both in Peru and the Vatican – even though the new leader of the sect has said Figari is guilty of many of the allegations that have been lodged against him.

    Pope John Paul II flanked by Sodalitium’s number two, Germán Doig, left, who died in 2001, and Luis Fernando Figari, the sect’s founder. Photograph: Sodalitium
    At the heart of the story lies a reckoning that has – many believe – been decades in the making.

    Five former members of the sect are trying to hold its founder and other leaders to account. They filed a lawsuit last month in Peru, in which they accused Figari and seven others of kidnapping, assault and criminal conspiracy; crimes which could be punished by jail terms of up to 30 years under Peru’s penal code.

    The five complainants did not explicitly accuse the Sodalitium members of sexual abuse – in Peru, the statute of limitations on such a charge has expired – but the lawsuit cites “constant accusations of sexual abuse against the founder”.

    Figari has not been charged with any crimes in Peru, but he is the subject of an investigation by the country’s attorney general’s office.

    Sodalitium was founded in Lima in 1971. Like other orthodox groups that were popping up across Latin American at the time, the sect was a direct response by conservative Catholics to the growth of the liberation theology movement, a distinctly Latin American movement in which radical priests locked arms with leftwing militants who believed that the church could be used to advance social change.

    continued below

    ReplyDelete
  31. But Solidatium went beyond movements like Opus Dei adopting a militarist stance. Figaro openly sympathised with Falangism – the Spanish fascist ideology – and recruited children and young men from Peru’s mostly European-descended middle and upper classes.

    “Figari admired the oratory of Hitler and Mussolini. He was inspired by Nazi marches and he had a fascination with the Hitler Youth,” said Pedro Salinas, a former member and co-author of the book Half Monks Half Soldiers.

    “It was an absolutely totalitarian religious organisation in which the power rested in the hands of one person: Luis Fernando Figari,” he told the Guardian.

    Salinas’s book, which was co-authored by Paola Ugaz, is based on accounts by 30 former members who alleged they had been subject to physical, psychological – and in some cases sexual – abuse in the sect. Since the book’s publication last year, dozens more complainants have come forward, shaking Peru’s conservative elite.

    Pope Francis greets Oscar Tokumura – one of the eight Sodalitium leaders accused of crimes in lawsuit filed in Peru in April – at a ceremony at the Vatican in 2015 Photograph: Sodalitium

    Austen Ivereigh, a biographer of Pope Francis and expert on the church in South America, said other rightwing movements born around the same time as Sodalitium have experienced similar abuse issues. Each prized high discipline, centred on a cult of leadership, and stressed the idea of authority.

    “Those structures allowed abuses to take place and allowed them to be covered up for a long time,” Ivereigh said.

    Among the alleged victims is Álvaro Urbina, 35, who claimed he was systematically sexually abused for two years after his mother enrolled him into Sodalitium at the age of 14. Urbina has alleged he was abused by a former sect official – not Figari – who he once considered his “spiritual guide”.

    Twenty years on, Urbina was the first of dozens of alleged victims to allow his identity to be made public. His decision is aimed at shaming the senior figures in Sodalitium’s hierarchy into admitting they covered up abuse.

    It was not until 2010 – years after abuse allegations first emerged – that the sect decided to send Figari from Peru to Rome.

    Last year, the group admitted that the sexual abuse allegations against its founder and other senior members were “plausible”, just as it became public that the Vatican had ordered an investigation into the group.

    Then, in April, it went a step further. In an online video, Sodalitium’s current leader, Alessandro Moroni, apologised to victims, acknowledging that they had “received no satisfactory reply” from the group for years.

    “After the testimonies received, we consider Luis Fernando Figari guilty of the allegations of abuse against him and declare him persona non grata in our organisation as we deplore and wholly condemn his behaviour,” he said.

    The group is also bringing in experts to train members in Peru and offer psychological assistance.

    continued below

    ReplyDelete
  32. For many former members those words and actions are contradicted by a perception that Figari remains protected by the group, which still pays for his room and board.

    In an emailed response to the Guardian, Sodalitium’s spokesman, Fernando Vidal, said: “Faced with the allegations of sexual abuse, our institution responds with the greatest possible rigour.”

    A person close to the sect said it had no other options because of fears of legal reprisals by Figari, who has privately denied wrongdoing and never been convicted of any crimes.

    Urbina, whose abuser is alleged to have sexually abused others, rejects the apologies. “They have covered up all of this, all the time they said nothing about it, ignored it, and when they couldn’t cover it up any more they come and tell me they’re sorry!” he said bitterly. “Oh you’re sorry! That really cures everything, that really does the trick!”

    In April, the Vatican ordered that Figari be moved out of his flat in Rome to a more isolated setting.

    While the Vatican has a poor reputation when it comes to pursuing allegations of clerical abuse, experts say that in Figari’s case, the church’s hands are tied. Recent changes in Vatican law did away with the statute of limitations on sex crimes, but only for priests – not laymen like Figari.

    Unlike sexual abuse, kidnapping has no statute of limitations, said Héctor Gadea, the lawyer representing the five former members.

    “What we want is justice,” Óscar Osterling, one of the five plaintiffs, said. “We know there are more sodalites who are angry because their lives were destroyed. We hope they come forward.”

    None of the five claim they were victims of sexual abuse but all claim they were inculcated with the group’s philosophy from a young age, were deprived of their freedom, suffered other abuses and left with a lifetime of psychological problems.

    Perhaps the biggest question facing the group now is whether it can exist beyond the Figari scandal.

    Vatican experts say Pope Francis appears willing to give Sodalitium a chance to reform itself, even if the Vatican could technically dissolve the group. The church has appointed the archbishop of Indianapolis, Joseph William Tobin, to intervene and oversee it. Tobin is considered to be a progressive by Vatican standards, and the decision is seen as a vote of confidence that Sodalitium can clean itself up.

    Sodalitium’s spokesman said it had informed the authorities in the US state of Illinois, where Urbina’s alleged abuser now lives, about his “antecedents”.

    When asked why the cases of sex abuse which arose were not handed over to the criminal courts, the spokesman blamed Figari and his second-in-command, Germán Doig – who has since died – of handling the cases in “an unacceptable way”.

    Urbina, who runs a mechanics workshop in Cologne, Germany, said he needs psychiatric treatment as a result of the abuse he suffered but his priority is to prevent it from happening to others.

    “If I save one kid from [him] I’m happy. If I save only one kid from his claws,” he said referring to his abuser.

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jun/16/peru-catholic-sect-sexual-physical-abuse-allegations-luis-fernando-figari-sodalitium

    ReplyDelete