Understanding cults and cult methods

Legion of Christ as an example


  We have for many years labeled some organizations like The Legionaries of Christ as cults and yet defended other organizations like Opus Dei as good Catholic Movements.  Opus Dei has many enemies and there are many web sites slandering them a destructive cult, and yet, I have looked deep into their methods and teachings and find them to be open, loyal to the Church, and producing just what they were founded to do ---- lay saints.


The Legion, on the other hand, fails in every test of a destructive cult.  Creating a cult with loyal members who give up everything for the leader, including money, family, free work and even their lives is very easy today.  The methods were developed by the Communists under Stalin using the Pavlov method.  Then expanded by the Communist Koreans using hypnotism.  Then expanded again by the CIA using subliminal messages, drugs,  temperature, sound, information control and mass manipulation. 


To prevent yourself from falling into a religious, political or social cult, you must educate yourself in these methods.  We have shown some of them in the section on this web site called "Remnants of Communism" where we show that the so-called "sciences" of Psychology and Psychiatry are destructive in themselves.  We will offer more in the future.  Below is the best description of cult methods we have ever read.


On Mental Reprogramming - Also Known As Brainwashing

Richard Sutphen, a noted Hypnotist and author of New Age topics, at a talk at the World Congress of Professional Hypnotists Convention in Las Vegas, Nevada, regarding brainwashing, stated Mr. Sutphen:

Although I've been interviewed about the subject on many local and regional radio and TV talk shows, large-scale mass communication appears to be blocked, since it could result in suspicion or investigation of the very media presenting it or the sponsors that support the media. Some government agencies do not want this information generally known. Nor do the Born-Again Christian movement, cults, and many human-potential trainings.

Everything I will relate only exposes the surface of the problem. I don't know how the misuse of these techniques can be stopped. I don't think it is possible to legislate against that which often cannot be detected; and if those who legislate are using these techniques, there is little hope of affecting laws to govern usage. I do know that the first step to initiate change is to generate interest. In this case, that will probably only result from an underground effort.

In talking about this subject, I am talking about my own business. I know it, and I know how effective it can be. I produce hypnosis and subliminal tapes and, in some of my seminars, I use conversion tactics to assist participants to become independent and self-sufficient.  But, anytime I use these techniques, I point out that I am using them, and those attending have a choice to participate or not. They also know what the desired result of participation will be.  

So, to begin, I want to state the most basic of all facts about brainwashing: Those who have been brainwashed will usually passionately defend their manipulators, claiming they have simply been "shown the light" . . . or have been transformed in miraculous ways.

Of course, there is truth in that statement and manifestation is typically observed in cults, religious fanaticism within the mainstream of established Churches, and psychologically induced "Conversions".

(Psychological) CONVERSION is a "nice" word for BRAINWASHING . . . and any study of brainwashing has to begin with a study of Christian revivalism in eighteenth century America. Apparently, Jonathan Edwards accidentally discovered the techniques during a religious crusade in 1735 in Northampton, Massachusetts. By inducing guilt and acute apprehension and by increasing the tension, the "sinners" attending his revival meetings would break down and completely submit.

Once a preacher, cult leader, manipulator or authority figure creates the brain phase to wipe the brain-slate clean, his subjects are wide open. New input, in the form of suggestion, can be substituted for their previous ideas.

Charles J. Finney was another Christian revivalist who used the same techniques four years later in mass religious conversions in New York. The techniques are still being used today by Christian revivalists, cults, human-potential trainings, some business rallies, and the United States Armed Services . . . to name just a few.

Let me point out here that I don't think most revivalist preachers realize or know they are using brainwashing techniques.  Edwards simply stumbled upon a technique that really worked.

The Three Brain Phases

We have to look to Pavlov, the Russian scientist, for a technical explanation. In the early 1900s, his work with animals opened the door to further investigations with humans. After the revolution in Russia, Lenin was quick to see the potential of applying Pavlov's research to his own ends.

The way to achieve conversion are many and varied, but the usual first step in religious or political brainwashing is to work on the emotions of an individual or group until they reach an abnormal level of anger, fear, excitement, or nervous tension.

The progressive result of this mental condition is to impair judgment and increase suggestibility. The more this condition can be maintained or intensified, the more it compounds. Once... the first brain phase is reached, the complete mental takeover becomes easier. Existing mental programming can be replaced with new patterns of thinking and behavior.

Other often-used physiological weapons to modify normal brain functions are (severe) fasting, radical or high sugar diets, (severe) physical discomforts, regulation of breathing, mantra chanting in meditation, the (orchestrated) disclosure of awesome mysteries, special lighting and sound effects, programmed response to incense, or intoxicating drugs.

The same results can be obtained in contemporary psychiatric treatment by electric shock treatments and even by purposely lowering a person's blood sugar level with insulin injections.
Before I talk about exactly how some of the techniques are applied, I want to point out that hypnosis and conversion
tactics are two distinctly different things--and that conversion techniques are far more powerful.
However, the two are often mixed . . . with powerful results.

How Revivalist Preachers Work

If you'd like to see a revivalist preacher at work, there are probably several in your city. Go to the church or tent early and sit in the rear, about three-quarters of the way back. Most likely repetitive music will be played while the people come in for the service. A repetitive beat, ideally ranging from 45 to 72 beats per minute (a rhythm close to the beat of the human heart), is very hypnotic and can generate an eyes-open altered state of consciousness in a very high percentage of people. And, once you are in an alpha state, you are at least 25 times as suggestible as you would be in full beta consciousness.

Watch the people waiting for the service to begin. Many will exhibit external signs of trance--body relaxation and slightly dilated eyes. Often, they begin swaying back and forth with their hands in the air while sitting in their chairs. Next, the assistant pastor will probably come out. He usually speaks with a pretty good "voice roll."

Voice Roll Technique

A "voice roll" is a patterned, paced style used by hypnotists when inducing a trance. It is also used by many lawyers, several of whom are highly trained hypnotists, when they desire to entrench a point firmly in the minds of the jurors. A voice roll can sound as if the speaker were talking to the beat of a metronome or it may sound as though he were emphasizing every word in a monotonous, patterned style. The words will usually be delivered at the rate of 45 to 60 beats per minute, maximizing the hypnotic effect.

Now the assistant pastor begins the "build-up" process. He induces an altered state of consciousness and/or begins to
generate the excitement and the expectations of the audience....  And the result is the audience's attention span is now totally focused upon the communication while the environment becomes more exciting or tense.

Right about this time, when an eyes-open mass-induced alpha mental state has been achieved, they will usually pass the collection plate or basket. In the background, a 45-beat-per-minute voice roll from the assistant preacher might exhort, "Give to God . . . Give to God . . . Give to God . . ." And the audience does give....

Next, the fire-and-brimstone preacher will come out. He induces fear and increases the tension by talking about "the devil," "going to hell," or the forthcoming Armegeddon....

The techniques and staging will vary from church to church. The use of hypnotic techniques by religions is sophisticated, and professionals are assuring that they become even more effective.... Powerful sound and the proper use of lighting are of primary importance in inducing an altered state of consciousness--I've (Mr. Sutphen) been using them for years in my own seminars. However, my participants are fully aware of the process and what they can expect as a result of their participation.
Six Conversion Techniques

Cults and human-potential organizations are always looking for new converts. To attain them, they must also create a brain-phase. And they often need to do it within a short space of time--a weekend, or maybe even a day. The following are the six primary techniques used to generate the conversion.


[A] The meeting or training takes place in an area where participants are cut off from the outside world. This may be any place: a private home, a remote or rural setting...

[B] In human-potential trainings, the controllers will give a lengthy talk about the importance of "keeping agreements" in life...  The participants vow to themselves and their trainer that they will keep their agreements. Anyone who does not will be intimidated into agreement or forced to leave.

[C] The next step is to agree to complete training, thus assuring a high percentage of       conversions for the organizations. They will USUALLY have to agree not to take drugs, smoke, and sometimes not to eat . . . The real reason for the agreements is to alter internal chemistry, which generates anxiety and hopefully causes at least a slight malfunction of the nervous system, which in turn increases the conversion potential.

[D] Before the gathering is complete, the agreements will be used to ensure that the new converts go out and find new participants. They are intimidated into agreeing to do so before they leave. ... The new converts are zealots. In fact, the inside term for merchandising the largest and most successful human- potential training is, "sell it by zealot!"

At least a million people are graduates and a good percentage have been left with a mental activation button that assures their future loyalty and assistance if the guru figure or organization calls. Think about the potential political (or religious) implications of hundreds of thousands of zealots programmed to campaign for their guru.

Be wary of an organization of this type that offers follow-up sessions after the seminar. Follow-up sessions might be weekly meetings or inexpensive seminars given on a regular basis which the organization will attempt to talk you into taking--or any regularly scheduled event used to maintain control. As the early Christian revivalists found, long-term control is dependent upon a good follow-up system.



Let's look at the second tip-off that indicates conversion tactics are being used. A schedule is maintained that causes physical and mental fatigue. This is primarily accomplished by long hours in which the participants are given no opportunity for relaxation or reflection.



Techniques used to increase the tension in the room or environment.



Uncertainty. I could spend hours relating various techniques to increase tension and generate uncertainty.  Basically, the participants are concerned about being "put on the spot" or encountered by the trainers, guilt feelings are played upon,...  So you can imagine the fear and tension this situation generates within the participants...  They literally go into an alpha state, which automatically makes them many times as suggestible as they normally are...



The fifth clue that conversion tactics are being used is the introduction of jargon--new terms that have meaning only to the "insiders" who participate.



The final tip-off is that there is no humor in the communications . . . at least until the participants are converted. Then, merry-making and humor are highly desirable as symbols of the new joy the participants have supposedly "found."


Cult gatherings or human-potential trainings are an ideal environment to observe first-hand what is technically called the
"Stockholm Syndrome." This is a situation in which those who are intimidated, controlled, or made to suffer, begin to love, admire, and even sometimes sexually desire their controllers or captors.

But let me inject a word of warning here: If you think you can attend such gatherings and not be affected, you are probably wrong. ... The only hope of attending such gatherings without being affected is to... allow no positive or negative emotions to surface. Few people are capable of such detachment.

Before I go on, let's go back to the six tip-offs to conversion. I want to mention the United States Government and military boot camp. The Marine Corps talks about breaking men down before "rebuilding" them as new men--as marines! Well, that is exactly what they do, the same way a cult breaks its people down and rebuilds them as happy flower sellers on your local street corner...

Understanding the Decognition Process

 [Psychologically breaking down an individual]

Once the initial conversion is effected, cults, armed services, and similar groups cannot have cynicism among their members. Members must respond to commands and do as they are told, otherwise they are dangerous to the organizational control. This is normally accomplished in a three step Decognition Process.

Step One is ALERTNESS REDUCTION: The controllers cause the nervous system to malfunction, making it difficult to distinguish between fantasy and reality.

Step Two is PROGRAMMED CONFUSION: You are mentally assaulted while your alertness is being reduced as in Step One. ... During this phase of recognition, reality and illusion often merge and perverted logic is likely to be accepted.

Step Three is THOUGHT STOPPING: Techniques are used to cause the mind to go "flat."... It is important to be aware that when members or participants are instructed to use "thought-stopping" techniques, they are told that they will benefit by so doing: they will become "better soldiers" or "find enlightenment."

Movements of the Masses

Mass Movements will usually have a charismatic leader. The followers want to convert others to their way of living or impose a new way of life -- if necessary, by legislating laws forcing others to their view ... This means enforcement by guns or punishment, for that is the bottom line in law enforcement.

A common hatred, an enemy, is essential to the success of a mass movement. ... True Believers are mentally unbalanced or insecure people, or those without hope or friends. People don't look for allies when they love, but they do when they hate or become obsessed with a cause. And those who desire a new life and a new order feel the old ways must be eliminated before the new order can be built.

Subliminal Programming

Subliminals are hidden suggestions that only your subconscious perceives. They can be audio, hidden behind music, or visual, airbrushed into a picture, flashed on a screen so fast that you don't consciously see them, or cleverly incorporated into a picture or design.

Most audio subliminal reprogramming tapes offer verbal suggestions recorded at a low volume. ...but this is not quite satisfactory... My attorney obtained copies of the patents which I gave to some talented Hollywood sound engineers, asking them to create a new technique. ...using this technique, there is no way to ...detect the subliminals. In other words, although the suggestions are being heard by the subconscious mind, they cannot be monitored with even the most sophisticated equipment.

If we were able to come up with this technique as easily as we did, I can only imagine how sophisticated the technology has become, with unlimited government or advertising funding.

The big question about subliminals is: do they work? A 1984 article in the technical newsletter, "Brain-Mind Bulletin," states that as much as 99 percent of our cognitive activity may be "non-conscious," according to the director of the Laboratory for Cognitive Psychophysiology at the University of Illinois.

Mass Misuse

I have personally experienced sitting in a Los Angeles auditorium with over ten thousand people who were gathered to listen to a current charismatic figure. Twenty minutes after entering the auditorium, I became aware that I was going in and out of an altered state. Those accompanying me experienced the same thing... By careful observation, what appeared to be spontaneous demonstrations were, in fact, artful manipulations. The only way I could figure that the eyes-open trance had been induced was that a 6- to 7-cycle-per- second vibration was being piped into the room behind the air conditioner sound. That particular vibration generates alpha, which would render the audience highly susceptible. Ten to 25 percent of the population is capable of a somnambulistic level of altered states of consciousness; for these people, the suggestions of the speaker, if non-threatening, could potentially be accepted as "commands".


Now, let's carry this awareness a little farther. There are also inaudible ELFs (extra-low frequency waves). These are electromagnetic in nature. One of the primary uses of ELFs is to communicate with our submarines. Dr. Andrija Puharich, a highly respected researcher, in an attempt to warn U.S. officials about Russian use of ELFs, set up an experiment.


Volunteers were wired so their brain waves could be measured on an EEG. They were sealed in a metal room that could not be penetrated by a normal signal.

Puharich then beamed ELF waves at the volunteers. ELFs go right through the earth and, of course, right through metal walls. Those inside couldn't know if the signal was or was not being sent. And Puharich watched the reactions on the technical equipment: 30 percent of those inside the room were taken over by the ELF signal in six to ten seconds.

Waves below 6 cycles per second caused the subjects to become very emotionally upset, and even disrupted bodily functions. At 8.2 cycles, they felt very high... an elevated feeling, as though they had been in masterful meditation, learned over a period of years. Eleven to 11.3 cycles induced waves of depressed agitation leading to riotous behavior.

The Neurophone

Dr. Patrick Flanagan is a personal friend of mine. In the early 1960s, as a teenager, Pat was listed as one of the top scientists in the world by "Life" magazine. Among his many inventions was a device he called the Neurophone--an electronic instrument that can successfully program suggestions directly through contact with the skin. When he attempted to patent the device, the government demanded that he prove it worked. When he did, the National Security Agency confiscated the neurophone. It took Pat two years of legal battle to get his invention back. (We are leaving out the details of this very disturbing method of mind control.)

The more we find out about how human beings work through today's highly advanced    technological research, the more we learn to control human beings. And what probably scares me the most is that the medium for takeover is already in place! The television set in your living room and bedroom (and the computer) are doing a lot more than just entertaining (and serving) you.

Before I continue, let me point out something else about an altered state of consciousness. When you go into an altered state, you transfer into right brain, which results in the internal release of the body's own opiates: enkephalins and Beta-endorphins, chemically almost identical to opium. In other words, it feels good . . . and you want to come back for more.  

Recent tests by researcher Herbert Krugman showed that, while viewers were watching TV,...  the viewers were in an altered state . . . in trance more often than not. They were getting their Beta-endorphin "fix."

The medium for takeover is here. By the age of 16, children have spent 10,000 to 15,000 hours watching television--that is more time than they spend in school! In the average home, the TV set is on for six hours and 44 minutes per day--an increase of nine minutes from last year and three times the average rate of increase during the 1970s.

It obviously is not getting better . . . we are rapidly moving into an alpha-level world--very possibly the Orwellian world -- placid, glassy-eyed, and responding obediently to instructions.

A research project by Jacob Jacoby, a Purdue University psychologist, found that of 2,700 people tested, 90 percent misunderstood even such simple viewing fare as commercials and "Barnaby Jones." Only minutes after watching, the typical viewer missed 23 to 36 percent of the questions about what he or she had seen. Of course they did--they were going in and out of trance! If you go into a deep trance, you must be instructed to remember--otherwise you automatically forget.

When you start to combine subliminal messages behind the music, subliminal visuals projected on the screen, hypnotically produced visual effects, sustained musical beats at a trance-inducing pace . . . you have extremely effective brainwashing. Every hour that you spend watching the TV set you become more conditioned.  And, in case you thought there was a law against any of these things, guess again. There is not! There are a lot of powerful people who obviously prefer things exactly the way they are. Maybe they have plans for us.


The Legion of Christ as a cult-like organization

Rev. Peter Cronin,  Pastor St. Michael's RC Parish

Email to Pat Kenny, host of Ireland's "The Pat Kenny Show"

"I am a Catholic priest, the pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Church, a large Catholic parish in Silver Spring MD, just outside Washington D.C. Last week I was in Ireland for a wedding and heard some comments on your radio program concerning the Legion of Christ. This got my attention as I spent a long period of time in the order, from 1965 to 1985.

In 1965 at the tender age of 16 I finished the Leaving Certificate at Drimnagh Castle and, with some 20 others, joined the Legionaries who were then at Belgard Castle in Clondalkin.

The postulancy ran through the summer months after which we entered the novitiate (two years) and then took our religious vows. I was sent to Salamanca in Spain for a year to study the classics and Spanish and from there to Rome for studies of philosophy. After three years in Rome I was assigned to the Irish Institute, a Legionary school in Mexico, where I worked from 1971 to 1975. I then returned to Rome and studied theology for the next three years. In 1979 I was assigned to the novitiate in Connecticut where I continued working at the novitiate until the summer of 1985 when I left the Legionaries of Christ. I am now a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington.

The question at the center of the discussion I heard on your program seemed to be whether the Legion was a religious order in the normal sense of the word or a sect. In my own experience the order combines elements of both realities . It is an extremely conservative order which has modeled the formation program for its students on the early Jesuits and much of its apostolate is copied from Opus Dei. It has a Constitution and Rules, specific apostolates and activities such as other orders have.

At the same time the Legion uses many of the strategies and policies more characteristic of sects or cults and in this it parts company with mainstream religious congregations of the Church. Let me give some examples.

1.  The order has the most high-powered recruiting program known to the Catholic Church. Numbers of recruits are important, seen as proof of the validity of the Legion and a way of impressing authorities in the Church. However, the screening process is minimal, and there is no true discernment of a vocation, of whether this way of life is good or healthy for the given individual. The good – human, psychological or spiritual – of the candidate is never a consideration. Everybody has a vocation to the Legion until the Legion decides otherwise. Once the order gains access to a young person, all its powers of persuasion and attraction are trained on the unwitting target.

2.  The Legion recruits many young people, the younger the better, in their mid teens for the novitiate, even earlier for their Vocation Centers. In these schools boys as young as 11 and 12 are influenced and guided toward a life in the Legion. These schools exist at least in Mexico, Spain and the U.S. (Center Harbor New Hampshire). The idea is to influence the person as early as possible, to “form” that person in the spirit of the Legion so that no other influence can distort or stain his vocation and ‘legionary personality”. He must be removed from any other influence. The youthfulness and immaturity of the candidate make him vulnerable to brainwashing.

3.  Once in the order the person is subjected to the most intensive “formation” program, i.e. brainwashing. The Legion’s term for this is ‘formation’. Brainwashing is brought about by a combination of different elements which influence and control the person with great effectiveness: for example, ‘spiritual direction’ and ‘confession’. Canon Law states that seminarians and religious should have complete freedom to choose a confessor and spiritual director. In the Legion that is not the case, there is no freedom at all: all Legionaries have spiritual direction and confession with their Superiors, in the novitiate, through their years of formation and even as priests. This is an aberration because it places the person completely in the control of the superior. It means that that superior who recommends or not a person for promotion to vows or orders or positions of responsibility in the order has access to the internal conscience of the person in question. Confession and spiritual direction are essentially tools in the hands of the Legion to brainwash the individuals to stay in the Legion, to convince them that they have a vocation from God to the Legion, to conform totally with the Legion and the wishes of the superiors, and a way in which the Legion gains total access to the conscience and mind of the person. Legionaries are constantly exhorted to tell the superior/ spiritual director everything , to hold back nothing, to have no secrets. Other tools of ‘brainwashing’ are the continuous series of conferences, talks, retreats, exhortations that the communities constantly receive and which repeat and reinforce the essential message.

In all this, the basic message, the bottom line, is that the members have a ‘Vocation’ to the Legion and this vocation is from God and they have received this vocation from all eternity. It is God’s will that they are in the Legion. If they are not faithful to their vocation they are endangering their eternal salvation, they risk damnation and hell. This message is a constant drumbeat throughout life in the Legion, perhaps the most consistent and all-pervasive ritornello that is communicated and repeated in many different ways.

4.  From the moment he joins, a person in the Legion of Christ is submitted to total control in everything he does, everything he says, everything he thinks. The Legion refers to this as ‘integration’ and a Legionary must strive to achieve perfect integration of behavior, of mind and of will. This means conformity with the will of the Legion in everything. He must be transformed into the legionary personality and to do this must lose his own personality. All forms and expressions of ‘individualism’ must be stamped out. this is stressed from the very beginning. However, it is done in a subtle way, very gently at first, with smile and good humor, barley noticeable to the victim.

5.  When we joined the Legion we thought it was a mainstream order like the Dominicans, Franciscans, Jesuits…We were deceived in that many things were not disclosed to us until a later date. There was always a shroud of secrecy – visits home, the apostolate of the Legion (Regnum Christi…). The ground was constantly shifting and changing. It would take years before we would get the full picture.

6.  The person who joins the legion is systematically separated and distanced from any other influence, especially from family, culture, the wider church and society (‘the world’). People outside the legion are referred to as ‘outsiders’, they are viewed with the utmost distrust, communication with them is monitored and usually discouraged (except when the Legion is trying to attract them for the aims of the order. Legionaries are forbidden to communicate with outsiders and must report on conversations and any dealings with people outside the order.

7.  In the Legion of Christ the individual has no privacy, either physical or psychological. He has no space of his own as the superiors enter his room without knocking, go through his room, personal effects and belongings when he is not there (and this without his knowledge). He has no time to himself as every waking moment is scheduled and intensely regimented. Members are encouraged to spy on and report on other members in a continuous way: “we must help brother John and what better way that to keep the superiors informed as they , more than anybody else, can help him…” There are rules (literally thousands of them) which direct and control every action and movement of his life (eating, drinking, walking, speaking….)

8.  The secrecy of the order towards the outside world is another sect-like trait: in the order this is referred to as ‘prudence’ or ‘discretion’ or ‘spirit of reserve’. Outsiders are seen as a threat; the members are actually forbidden to communicate with anybody outside the community without permission from the superior, and this includes family members. No information about the order – its practices, rules, customs, schedules, plans, constitutions, rulebooks – can be given to the outside. Try asking them for a copy of the Constitution, for their rulebooks, the complete edition of the letters of Fr. Maciel the manual of Regnum Christi, the Chapter document…..

9.  There is total control of communications from the outside world and the with the outside: all letters to and from the outside, including those of parents and family, are opened and read by the superiors. This is true for novices, religious, at all stages of formation, and priests. All newspapers, magazines and books are read and censored by the Superiors. There is no possibility of having a confessor, spiritual director or advisor outside the order. This is forbidden.

10.  The control of communication with the outside world is also exercised within the order and between members. Nobody can ever confide in another member in any way within the order, especially if he has a problem of any sort. He must discuss it with the superior and only the superior. There is a constant supervision, vigilance of the superior at all times. NO friendship is allowed between members.

11.  Within the order there is a total lack of dialogue, discussion, disagreement or dissent within the order. There is no room for any disagreement with the Legion. The member has to accept everything the order says without question. The motivation – every rule, every order, every idea of the Legion id divinely ordained, directly inspired by God and, therefore, unquestionable. The moment one questions a policy, a rule, a decision that person is punished and maybe even banished, sent to some out of the way place (like the missions in Quintana Roo, Mexico) where he can have no influence on others.

12.  Another sect-like trait of the order is the difficulty involved with leaving. It is extremely difficult to get out as one is constantly guided, encouraged to stay with all sorts of arguments, and one is especially saddled with a guilt complex: “you are betraying your vocation, you have a responsibility toward the souls who will be lost because of this move…” When one takes the decision to leave, he is carefully isolated from the other members of the order, by being transferred to some other house, or a campaign of rumor is spread among the other members – “be careful with Fr. Peter, he has problems….” This experience is common to all who have left: the sense of isolation and loneliness with which one leaves the Legion of Christ is terrible.

13.  Once you leave the Legion you will never hear from the order again. I spent twenty years in the Legion. since the day I left I have never heard from the order, have never received a letter, a phone call, much less an invitation to visit, or a visit from them (even though for 11 years I have lived within a few miles of their center outside Washington). I received absolutely no assistance or support to relocate to another diocese, no help toward continuing in the priesthood, absolutely no interest in me as a person nor as a priest. For twenty years the Legion had been my ‘life’, my ‘family’, my ‘world’, but from the moment I stepped out their door on July 27 1985 I never again heard from them. I came to this diocese directly against their wishes and getting the necessary documents to incardinate officially here was very difficult. Leaving the order is the only way one can disagree with the Legion and the Legion takes it as an insult or a rejection.

This started out as a brief email message but once I started the floodgates opened. I have taken a long time to get my life together but now feel that I have the Legion of Christ out of my system, it is a thing of the past. About five years ago I started a “Network” of former member of the order which has grown to thirty – some priests, former priests and others who spent a few years in the order as students. There is a similar network in Spain. We communicate a couple of times each year, many of us get together here or in Ireland and are able to share experiences, stories, even ‘funny incidents’ (to steal a Paddy Crosby phrase!) A movie could be made of some of the escape routes and strategies and the survival stories. I often refer to my former parish in Bethesda MD as our ‘underground railroad’ as the former pastor (Msgr. James Reddy, an Irishman now deceased) was most welcoming and supportive to several priests as they were leaving the Legion and transitioning to a new life). Many people were deep hurt in the process of leaving the Legion and take years to recover. From me leaving the Legion was my ‘exodus’, the liberation in which I experienced strength and presence of the Holy Spirit. Happily, our Network has been able to help others who are leaving or who had just left."