10 Feb 2011

Brooklyn 'nun' who falsely cried rape was raised in Canadian Catholic apocalyptic cult that brainwashes children

New York Daily News - February 6, 2011

Sect of Brooklyn 'nun' who falsely cried rape has bizarre history, mysterious members

BY Kerry Burke, Alison Gendar and Lukas I. Alpert

A Brooklyn nun's confession in a bogus rape case [see article below] has opened a window on a shadowy sect that broke from the Catholic Church decades ago and has been called a cult.

The Quebec-based Apostles of Infinite Love has run the East Flatbush convent since 1984 - and the nuns strike an odd presence in the neighborhood as they periodically emerge to walk the streets single file in their blue habits.

"We are a begging order. We go door to door for donations," said Sister Lydwina, the order's mother superior. "It's a hard life, but providence has managed to help us."

The group - which has no affiliation with the Catholic Church - has up to 500 members in Canada, the U.S. and South and Central America. There are just seven or eight in the Brooklyn home.

Among them was a 26-year-old French Canadian novice, Mary Turcotte, who had been working as a cook for about a month when she made the shocking claim that a towering black man raped her in a snow bank.

She later admitted she'd made up the story as cover for a consensual romp that also might have been fiction, sources said. She was not charged.

"She was a troubled girl," Lydwina said. "We sent her back to her family in Quebec."

The Turcottes are one of several large families that live in the Apostles' sprawling rural compound in the mountains north of Montreal, former members of the order said.

"[She] grew up in the order. Her parents still live in the compound," said a woman who has fled the group. "My guess is that she, the same as I, figured out that she wants more than this life."

The ex-member, like others who spoke with the Daily News, demanded anonymity out of fear she would be cut off from relatives still in the sect.

The group has its origins in France, where a Catholic priest named Michel Collin declared himself Pope Clement in 1950 and was defrocked.

In 1961, he joined forces with a French Canadian named Jean-Gaston Tremblay, who had founded a monastery in Quebec. When Collin died, Tremblay became leader, calling himself Pope Gregory.

Preaching an isolationist and apocalyptic vision, Tremblay attracted a small following among Catholics unhappy with Vatican II reforms.

"They were saying the end of the world was coming and true days of darkness were coming and we had so many hours and days to join," said Joseph Daeges, 43, who fled in 1998 after 30 years of Apostles membership.

"This group was targeting people who didn't like the changes going on around them," said another former member. "What's the easiest thing to do at a time of change? Go back to tradition."

At its peak, the group had as many as 900 followers. Members cut themselves off from the outside world and focused on farming and publishing religious texts.

"No phones, no TV, magazines, nothing," the former member said. "People gave up their worldly possessions to the Apostles, so that's where their properties and some money came from."

Children were separated from their parents and boys and girls lived apart.

"The boys became priests; the girls nuns," the former member said. "They thought they had a choice but it was really brainwashing."

Some who fled complained of physical and sexual abuse. That led Canadian authorities to raid the compound and arrest Tremblay and other church leaders in the late 1990s. The charges were later dropped.

Experts say the Apostles bear all the hallmarks of a cult.

"In my opinion, it is a very destructive cult," said Rick Ross, a well-known cult deprogammer who has interviewed several former members. "It runs the whole gamut - physical abuse, psychological coercion, financial control."

Officials at the monastery declined to discuss the order. "The subject you wish to write about cannot be dealt with in a few lines or paragraphs," it said in a statement.

As its members have died off, the group has dwindled in numbers. Tremblay, now 82, is in poor health and no longer runs day-to-day operations, the former members said.

This article was found at:


New York Daily News  -  February 1, 2011

Nun Mary Turcotte recants accusation of rape after police release sketch of made-up suspect

BY Alison Gendar and James Fanelli

A Brooklyn nun from a fringe Christian sect has confessed to an unholy lie: telling cops she was sexually attacked and left unconscious in a snowbank, sources said Monday.

After a police search for a hulking black man was launched, the 26-year-old white woman from the Apostles of Infinite Love convent in East Flatbush recanted, the sources said.

She told cops she made up the story in an attempt to cover up a consensual sex romp with a bodega worker inside the Glenwood Ave. residence.

A woman in religious garb who answered the door at the convent said the nun, identified as Mary Turcotte, suffered an "emotional break" and made everything up - even her excuse.

"Nothing happened, none of it," said the woman, who declined to give her name.

"It was all proven to be false. It wasn't her fault. She is going to move out and we are going to get her some help."

The convent appears to be linked to a Canadian-based religious order founded in the 1960s by a defrocked Catholic priest who ordained himself Pope.

Turcotte claimed she was headed there the night of Jan. 22 when a thug ambushed her, choked her until she passed out and dragged her - in her habit - eight blocks.

She said she awoke in the snow with her underwear down and her breasts exposed. She said she was treated at a hospital and sought counsel from her Mother Superior.

Police were informed of the rape last Thursday, and put out an alert asking for the public's help in finding a suspect - described as black, 40 to 50 years old, 6-feet-4 and up to 250 pounds.

Cops released a sketch, but they were skeptical someone could have dragged or carried a woman in nun's gear through the streets without drawing notice.

When a penitent Turcotte recanted, her excuse was that she needed a story to cover up a real sexual encounter: bedding a shop worker she sneaked into the convent through the back door, sources said.

Police have not charged her with any crime.

No one at the convent would discuss the order's affiliation, but the Apostles of Infinite Love sect based in Quebec has been described as a cultlike group that has successfully fended off sex abuse allegations.

This article was found at:



  1. Death of abusive 'pope' could free many apostles

    By Peggy Curran, Montreal Gazette
    January 10, 2012

    The pope is dead. Will there be a new pope, and how will we even find out?

    For 40 years, Jean-Gaston Tremblay - also known as Pope Gregory XVII and Jean-Grégoire de la Trinité - had been the spiritual leader of the Apostles of Infinite Love, a breakaway Catholic cult based in a "monastery" sequestered in the countryside near St. Jovite.

    "There's a big fence around the community, but it wasn't clear whether that was to keep prying eyes out, or to keep people in," says Info-Cult's Mike Kropveld, who has been monitoring "les Apôtres de l'amour infini" for decades.

    Tremblay was 83 when he died in a Ste. Agathe hospital on New Year's Eve.

    For much of his life, Tremblay had been the target of police probes, arising from allegations of forcible detention, mental, sexual and physical abuse of children, illegal confinement and kidnapping.

    One former member, who went on to file a $2.5-million civil suit, cited abuse ranging from sexual molestation, being locked in a closet and beaten with a garden hose to being kept out of school and refused contact with "the outside world."

    Yet despite intense surveillance, Tremblay spent very little time behind bars. The last criminal charges against him and other members of the sect were dropped in 2001. The Crown said it was unable to go ahead because there were too many problems with evidence about the alleged abuse of seven boys and a girl.

    And so, Tremblay retired to the sanctuary of the Laurentian compound, which had been founded in 1962 by his predecessor, Michel Collin, a defrocked Roman Catholic priest who had ordained himself Pope Clement XV.

    Was justice serviced? In an open letter sent to Kropveld, one former member condemns the failure of the federal and Quebec governments in allowing "totalitarian" sects with "narcissistic" leaders such as Tremblay to exist in the name of religious freedom.

    "How could our governments allow children to be kept totally separate from society, their parents, brothers and sisters in the name of the group?" he asked. "We couldn't even complain to our parents because we were only allowed to see our parents a few times a year.

    "Those who finally decided to leave the group take years to get over it. Some never get over it. Some committed suicide."

    The former member said at least 14 former members of the group receive compensation from Quebec as victims of crime, a strange twist of logic when charges against Tremblay and his acolytes were dismissed.

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  2. continued from previous comment:

    "Over the years, I have spoken to a number of former members," said Rick Ross, who runs a New Jersey-based non-profit Internet archive that focuses on cults and controversial movements. "The horrible treatment the children reported was torture. The group has long been considered a 'destructive cult' based upon its structure, dynamics and the harm it has done."

    Kropveld is curious to see what becomes of what's left of this closed group now that Tremblay is gone. Numbers had already slipped from the heyday in the 1970s, when roughly 300 people belonged to the community.

    Over the last six weeks, the group has also seen the death of its "mother superior," and her husband, who were among the first to move to the community in the 1960s. "Has the group been able to attract new blood to keep it going?" Kropveld asked.

    "It's not clear whether Tremblay put someone in place to take over. If not, there could be a splintering between two people vying for control."

    Kropveld said people raised within the confines of such a closed community are often conflicted because, until they leave, this is the only world, even the only "father," they know.

    "My guess is some people will be happy to see him die," he said.

    "Most often when an authoritarian leader of a purported 'cult' dies, the group loses its focus, locus of power, and withers," Ross said in an email message from Australia.

    "Given the history of this group and the many people hurt by its practices, my hope is that the death of Tremblay is the beginning of the end for the Apostles of infinite Love."


  3. Living in cult can leave lasting scars

    By PEGGY CURRAN, The Gazette January 14, 2012

    One boy escaped during an ice storm, strips of sandpaper strapped to the soles of his boots, the better to run across the fields if his holy captors gave chase.

    At the Apostles of Infinite Love compound in St. Jovite, boys and girls are separated from parents at a young age. On winter nights, the youths would take turns gathering firewood to stoke the stove. For those disenchanted with a life they never chose, that trip to the woodpile provided a rare opportunity for flight.

    Yet Chris Nowakowski, a Montreal psychologist who heard that story from one of more than 40 former cult members who have come to see him, said there's a world of difference between getting out of a cult and getting over it.

    "The effects can be farreaching," said Nowakowski. "Do they get over it? Some yes, some no, some only apparently so."

    Nowakowski cites difference between adults who choose to join a cult and people who were born or brought there very young.

    "If you go there at age 10, you have some life experience, some point of comparison. If you are born there, you don't know any other way."

    Little has been heard of the Apostles of Infinite Love in the decade since dozens of charges of assault and forcible confinement were dropped as a result of flaws with the evidence.

    The death on New Year's Eve of Jean-Gaston Tremblay, also known as Pope Gregory XVII and Jean-Grégoire-dela-Trinité, raises questions about what the future holds for the breakaway sect.

    According to information provided by an ex-member, the secretive group has named a successor in Michel Lavallée, who also goes by the name Father Mathurin of the Mother of God.

    "I wish more could be done for all those who have suffered there," said one man, who was a baby when his parents moved to the Laurentian community in the early 1970s. He believes the experience - and particularly separation from his mother in infancy - shaped his personality and world view.

    Nowakowski has seen former members of les Apôtres and other cults as long-term patients or for consultation required to receive compensation.

    "Even people who are motivated to get out can have doubts and misgivings, ask themselves whether they did the right thing or think 'maybe it is against God's plan and I will be punished.' "

    For those who have never lived outside the compound, at age 20, 30, even 40, they may suddenly find themselves watching television for the first time, using money or signing a lease.

    "They have been completely cut off," Nowakowski said. "The external world is a mystery and what they are taught about it is that the forces of the devil are lurking at every corner."

    The result, he said, can be a complex form of posttraumatic stress disorder, in extreme cases, symptoms of multiple personality disorder. "They might spend hours in a trance-like state and not even realize it, or say things and have no recollection of it a day later."

    Nowakowski can't help wondering why such groups have been allowed to continue to exist without tighter inspection and scrutiny by youth protection and other government agencies. "There seems to be a lack of political willpower," he said.