Despite what detractors say (we're bitter clingers who cannot let go of bad personal experiences) the readers of this blog have taken years to dissect the Legion's presence in the Church in order to look at the effects of (1) curial corruption and (2) cultishness that disguises itself as orthodox piety. The silver lining of this very dark cloud in the Catholic sky is that those who took their "bad experiences" in an academic direction not only found personal healing but allowed that healing to benefit others.
A year ago, Michael Ledden wrote his doctoral thesis on the Legion as a cult, which is a valuable research tool for those who wish to analyse their own encounter with this confusing group.
The Legion of Christ has had a presence in my family as long as I can remember. A mystical status was afforded in my childhood to family members who would only be seen once every few years. Visits by these family members were akin to a visit from Santa Claus when I was growing up. However, as I grew older, I began to notice the strangeness in the interactions, the rigidity and the separateness. When the scandals in the Order broke it was never talked about at home, only snippets of information got through to me. When the fuller picture became clear I read so much about the cult like characteristics of the Order that I knew I would have to research it. The notion of a cult and the behaviours that motivate people to join were always of great interest to me. The kind of cults I would have read about when I was younger felt so detached from my reality that I considered them something from another world. Combining my research with personal experience I am hoping, above all, to remain objective and to use this dissertation as a vehicle to better understand the processes family members went through, why they did so, and what can the future hold for them.
When the methodology is considered along with the standard cult mechanisms, it becomes clear -- theology aside -- the Legion is no different than other cults, but simply incorporates the sacramental sytem into the toxic framework.
1. Hooking is the stage in which individuals initially contact group members and find them interesting.
2. The second stage, joining, involves the recruits becoming strongly attracted to the group and its philosophy.
3. In the third stage, known as intensification, critical thinking is compromised and individuals are encouraged to view their families of origin and the non-cult world as bad or evil, whereas the cult beliefs and activities are all seen as good.
4. The fourth phase, social disengagement, involves building a lifestyle on the good/bad worldview. Cults provide isolation from the world and self, induction of a dissociative state, and indoctrination techniques that criticize the non-cult world and reinforce the exclusive closed system of the cult (Ash, 1985). In the social disengagement stage, individuals are encouraged to distrust family members and to sever ties with them. Most cult groups encourage members to initiate an emotional cut off from the family.
5. In the final stage of cult affiliation, realignment, individuals develop a new identity structure as members of a cult.
Next, there is the role of leader in an unhealthy group, and these point will resonate with those who have been apart of the Legion or Regnum Christi.
1. To keep the congregation focused the leader might change the focus or the emphasis of his teachings, perhaps suddenly, in order to keep them focused on his words
2. They may increase demands of sacrifice placed on followers thus ensuring their complete control of the group
3. They may play on follower’s sense of fear of persecution to create perceived threats in the world; this can also take the shape of creating a severe us and them scenario.
4. Internal forces seeking change within the group can be ridiculed and personally marginalised and expelled from the group by the charismatic leader
5. The leaders may employ some kind of loyalty tests in order to increase the follower’s emotional dependency. This may take the form of limiting personal relationships in the group
6. Leaders may seek to consolidate their control by disrupting the routines of their followers by relocating groups or individuals.
By use of these techniques the charismatic leader is able to exert his or her will over the group and keep the devotees in line. However, these practices can be very damaging to the individual.
I haven't read the entire work, but it is worthwhile to look at such research -- not only to discover what unhealthy groups disguise themselves as "Catholic" but also what we have accepted as "Catholic" because of our own malformation.
While it was suggested in the combox of another thread that it is fear that nails current members to the Movement, I think that the idea must be clarified: it is fear only in the sense that it is tied to pride. Humility can be terrifying if one must acknowledge that s/he has made a monumental error in judgement. I say that as one who had to acknowledge such, and I have heard the same from many others. To say that one missed the signals, that one bought the lies, that one shunned others due to bad advice, that one was used and flattered, that one enjoyed the elitism, that one was afraid to put truth ahead of relationships, that one shrank from the painful public embarrassment that ensues, that one puts his own comfort ahead of the well-being of the wider Church -- all of these things are humiliating, but necessary when leaving the Movement on a healthy footing. God's grace is sufficient, and the light on the outside will allow you to persevere in holiness. Promise.