Cult Expert Frances Peters presented this power point at International Cultic Studies Association Annual Conference in Bordeaux 2017
You may find her diagrams very helpful
Cult Expert Frances Peters presented this power point at International Cultic Studies Association Annual Conference in Bordeaux 2017
You may find her diagrams very helpful
Dear Friends of ReGAIN, INC,
on Thanksgiving Day an old friend of the organization took a hand in solving a problem with our old web host and has been mighty successful. We are waiting for the changes to “populate” so the content of articles, opinions and testimonies can be readily and more efficiently available to the public.
Since we began our mission over ten years ago the Legion of Christ order and the Regnum Christi Movements have gone through scandal, upheaval, Vatican interventions and an Extraordinary General Chapter. We would like to think that ReGAIN’s efforts, the writings and testimonies of many analytical and sharp minds of former members, parents, family members and a wide spectrum of concerned Catholics have contributed to revisions, or at least some level of self questioning.
ReGAIN’s mission is to continue to insist, in season and out of season, that Catholics be aware of the true nature of these organizations and that Church authorities stem the infiltration of dangerous cult-like groups within the boundaries of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic.
Consider This: Religious experience or cult?
Perhaps because we live in the Holy Land, the idea of closeness to our Maker, and adherence to His will, is commonplace even among the most secular Israeli, particularly around Rosh Hashana, when Israelis from all backgrounds and religious levels turn their hearts and minds toward the idea of spiritual growth and healing, trying to find their way to a more intimate relationship with their God.
This longing for a purer life, has, unfortunately, given rise to a vast number of psychopathic and criminal gurus, ranging from completely secular to ultra-Orthodox, who prey on the most intelligent and innocent of victims.
The recent court case against Goel Ratzon is a case in point. This self-styled healer based in Tel Aviv advertised his services as a mediator and psychologist for troubled couples and young women. Slowly the men left, but the women stayed. Ratzon offered them marriage and life in a commune. Eventually, he amassed 30 “wives” and over 60 biological children, many of whom he physically and sexually abused, including committing incest with two of his daughters and fathering six of his own grandchildren.
Ratzon, who was convicted on September 8 of severe sex crimes, was nevertheless acquitted of the crime of enslavement. Israeli television broadcast the scene outside the courtroom where Ma’ayan, one of Ratzon’s “wives” and mother of six of his children, broke down in sobs at the verdict.
“There is no law and no judge in Israel!” she declared. “I was under complete enslavement.”
“The court has ruled that men in the State of Israel have the right and approval to take women and torture them, [and to be] acquitted because they didn’t cross the physical abuse border.” Ratzon, who called himself God, created his own “Torah” which the women were forced to study and obey.
Orthodoxy too has been used to lure victims to abusive cults. In 2011, an 18-year-old religious girl from a broken home visited Jerusalem. While standing next to the Bridge of Strings, she was approached by a woman she slightly knew, who invited her to learn about Breslov. Naïve and troubled, she found herself joining a communal household led by a gray-bearded “prophet,” who espoused what he said was Breslov hassidism, all the while trying to seduce her and make her part of his harem. Unlike the other women who succumbed to the physical and emotional abuse and sexual perversities visited upon them daily, which stunned them into terrified obedience, the youngest novitiate bravely found her way to the Israel Center for Cult Abuse, and its director Rachel Lichtenstein.
A petite young woman in a dark wig, Lichtenstein is a former Bais Yaakov girl, who became involved in the center after working against missionaries in Yad L’Achim. Disturbed at being told not to get involved with victims of missionizing haredi cults because it was beyond their mandate, she moved over to the center, first as a volunteer, and then as full-time director.
Lichtenstein is passionate about saving those who have been taken in by charlatans in religious garb spouting mystical gobbledygook whether claiming to be quoting from the Kabbala or the Bhagavad Gita.
She described a typical case: An innocent young girl is invited to a lecture on Kabbala. The girl walks into a crowded room, where the leader and teacher sits up front in a place of honor, surrounded by devotees who hang on his every word.
After months attending lectures, she is finally introduced to him personally. She is thrilled, overwhelmed by the honor. As he shows her more and more attention, she is flattered, feeling special. After all, so many admire this man, he is so holy, so learned, and he has singled her out. More months go by. And when the leader feels she is ready, he explains to her that her special kapara (atonement) and task in life is to bring the fallen sparks of holiness back to the world by sleeping with anyone he tells her too. He roams the streets, picking up men and sending her to sleep with them while he watches, pocketing the fee. She collects money for him, cooks for him and cleans for him. One day, he tells her to pick up a friend of his who is being let out of prison. She drives down to get him. As the released convict sits next to her, he asks: ”What is a nice, pretty young girl like you doing with this man? Don’t you know that he and all his friends are criminals and he is only using you?” This, she tells Rachel, is the first time she allows doubt to enter her mind about what is really going on. Her awakening is harsh and slow, her recovery taking years of intensive psychological treatment before she can rebuild her shattered sense of self. Just weeks ago, a similar cult was unmasked in Kiryat Arba run by hassidim of a messianic cult that drugged and prostituted women for cash, convincing them to sleep with gentiles because their act “would bring about redemption for the Jewish people.”
Normal people reading this might find it hard to believe that a regular, intelligent person could be fooled in such a way. Britain’s Cult Information Center, however, states that people in cults tend to be “intelligent, idealistic, well-educated, economically advantaged, intellectually or spiritually curious, and any age.” Cult recruitment techniques work equally effectively on PhD holders or high-school drop-outs. The only common characteristic is that the cult candidates are going through a difficult time in their lives that leaves them vulnerable.
The haredi world, with its emphasis on belief in a charismatic leader, complete obedience and discipline, leaves many of those searching for a deeper religious experience particularly susceptible.
What is the difference between a valid religious experience and a cult? According to Robert J. Lifton, an expert in the field of cult studies, cults exert total environmental control, controlling all information. The cult’s truth is absolute, members even depending on the cult for definitions of reality.
People are taught the meaninglessness and futility of their former way of life, and the necessity for a rebirth. All situations are reduced to black and white, with no gray areas, and the leader is infallible, cult members dependent upon him for information before they can make the slightest decision. Even child-raising is abandoned to the leader, the parents’ allegiance often measured by their willingness to follow the leader’s directives, even if it involves abusing their own children. In some parents, this is a stress reliever, freeing them from deciding anything, even child care.
Interestingly, secular Jews seem equally exposed to the same mind-control techniques.
Take Anat and Shmuel, average, middle- class, secular Israelis who are well educated with good jobs – she is a teacher, and he a systems analyst. They live in a spacious one-family house. Small children run in and out, and a 15-year-old is glued to her cell phone on the sofa.
One would never guess that until three years ago they and their children were members of an oppressive Krishna cult that controlled every aspect of their lives.
Beginning with a weekly lecture on meditation and higher consciousness, they were slowly drawn in until they agreed to move up North to join a new community with all their new friends.
As Anat, a lively, talkative woman tells it, slowly the noose began to tighten: “You have no one to talk to, except members of the group.” Their leader began filling their minds with the suggestion that they had been abused by their families. They broke all family ties. If they ever expressed doubts out loud, they were reported and punished with hours of verbal abuse.
For Anat, the end came when she was told that her children were evil, and must be raised by the group leader. She and her husband and family left, cutting all ties. But others stayed.
“They are still recruiting people,” Anat tells me. “They bring an Indian market with dresses and handicrafts to kibbutzim, and all the while they’re recruiting.” “Why don’t people leave?” I asked her.
“It’s like waking up from a bad dream. You have to face yourself. How did I let this happen to me? It is devastating, and takes years to rebuild your ego. For some, it’s simply easier to stay and never admit the truth.”
In short, all seekers of purity, beware. If someone offers you spiritual growth, but winds up telling you what to think, and how to behave 24/7, you aren’t having a religious experience, but a criminal one. Get out and call the police.
Presentation and International Cultic Studies Association’s Annual Conference, Silver Spring, MD, July 5th, 2014
Posted on January 20, 2009 by dialogueireland
From Frank Thorne in Helidon, Australia
Pictures by Steve Holland
on earth. The paint is peeling from the shabby shop fronts, now empty and closed down, and the once busy rural haven is reduced to a newsagent’s, a post office and one pub.
Yet this virtual ghost town, which has all the eerie, feel of a deserted
cowboy film set after John Wayne and the Hollywood cameras have moved
on, is supposedly the site of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
Nestling in the picturesque farming belt of the Lockyer Valley in rural
Queensland, Australia, the tiny town, 80 miles west of Brisbane, can
fairly be described as a dot on the map.
It is certainly an unlikely spot where miracles and visions of the Virgin
Mary are, apparently, regular occurrences.
But the run down town has recently become infamous as the adopted home of a
bizarre religious cult leader, Debra Geileskey, and her followers in what she calls the Magnificat Meal
Movement, an ultra-conservative breakaway Catholic cult which has been
luring an alarming number of Irish people to give up their homes and decamp
to her ‘New Jerusalem’.
The cult’s name refers to the Magnificat, a prayer attributed
to the Virgin Mary, and Meal refers to the Last Supper.
One of the newest permanent residents the charismatic Geileskey has
welcomed into her swelling flock of Irish believers is Niall Haughey.
Just weeks ago, the well-heeled nephew of the former Taoiseach Charles
Haughey closed up his home and business in Co. Tipperary and moved his
wife and three children 12,000 miles away to Queensland to join MMM. He is said to have turned his back on the outside world to embrace the bizarre cult.
Mr Haughey’s family and friends have expressed shock that the successful
insurance broker would renounce his worldly goods and sign up to the
enclosed sect that has been denounced by the Vatican and is currently under
investigation by cult experts keen to know how it has accumulated property
and assets worth more than 3.5 million dollars (Australian).
It has emerged from inquiries made by Ireland on Sunday that Mr Haughey
was encouraged to join MMM by a family relative, former Holy Ghost
Priest, Father Dermot Forkin. Father Forkin is the uncle of Niall Haughey’s wife, Maire, and persuaded the couple who have three children, to sell up their business and home to join the movement which has been officially declared a cult by Rome.The Vatican had accused the cult of brainwashing and defrauding its members.
Like her other faithful followers, Mr Haughey, 42, is believed to have
pledged most of his money to Geileskey and the MMM.
But while Geileskey enjoys the high life of regular trips to America,
world travel and cruises around Queensland in a fleet of Mercedes Benz
cars with personalised number plates, brainwashed sect “slaves” like Mr
Haughey and his wife work the land like dirt-poor farmers or help out
with cooking and cleaning duties and mass
Mr Haughey and his family spend their days working in the commune and
following strict prayer regimes.
Geileksey, who has reverted to using her maiden name of Burslem, tells
her slavish followers that the Virgin Mary wishes them to hand over
their money and sign over property.
She is seen being chauffeured around Helidon in Mercedes cars bearing
the number plate CORMA 1, 2, and 3. The special plates stand for the
title she gives the Virgin Mary: “Co-Redemtrice, Mediator and Advocate.”
Geileskey also states her special interest is to shelter young girls
“to protect their virginty.”
Mike Garde, a cult specialist who advises the archbishop of Dublin,
confirmed the link between Father Forkin and Niall Haughey.
“Father Forkin appears to have told them about this cult and we can
only surmise that’s how they became involved.
“This woman Debra is controlling everybody in that cult. She’s has made
herself out to be the only source of God to them. That’s a very
powerful concept and one that has clearly sucked people in.”
Garde was first alerted that the Magnificat Meal Movement was
recruiting followers in Ireland in 1997 and has since visited Australia
attempting to gain access to the Irish members of the cult, whose exact
numbers are unknown but are thought to number more than twenty.
Relatives of members had contacted him for help to try to rescue people
who had been drawn into the group and then were cut off from their
families. “Exit counselling from a cult is important because if people process
their experiences they are more likely to recover in a shorter time. If
they pretend it never happened they can feel guilty for leaving and
they can be left with terrible trauma,” he says.
So far, however, Garde has had no success in extricating any people from
the cult. “It’s a slow process but I’m determined, I won’t give up,” he says.
“The danger is Debra lives between reality and fantasy – she is not
living in the real world,” he said. “Just because the movement is jelly-like at the moment, the potential is there for catastrophe.”
Last weekend 15-year-old Irish leukemia victim, Nora Hanley, from
Kilrooskey, Co Roscommon was buried, weeks after her mother’s quest for
a “miracle cure” at the MMM caused a storm of controversy.
Pauline Hanley took terminally ill Nora to visit Geileskey in the
hope of saving her daughter. While staying in the cult commune, Nora
stopped taking her medication and vital blood units.
The trip caused anxiety for some family members at home and Nora’s
aunt, Marilyn Patton from Killygordon in Donegal, even contacted the
Queensland police to alert them to the child’s plight.
At least six other members of the cult have died after they ceased
taking medication for serious illnesses when Geileskey encouraged them
to swap to herbal remedies she sells, according to former members of
The MMM first began to recruit Irish members when it approached a tour
of pilgrims at Medjugorje.Since then, Geileskey has visited Knock Shrine but continues to refuse to meet Mr Garde. “If she’s not doing anything wrong, then why is she afraid?” he asked.
Geileskey, a former primary school teacher portrays herself as being at the
Spiritual epicentre of a global movement with advisers in the Vatican. She also
claims that priests and bishops from around the world come to her to seek counsel and, she says, the sick come to her for healing. She broke away from the Catholic Church in the mid-90s after claiming she had had visions of Our Lady and received prophecies from angels.
In a rare Liveline interview with Joe Duffy on Ireland’s Radio 1 in May
Geileskey told him: “Our biggest financial supporters and donors and the
most beautiful support from priests has always come from Ireland.”
“We’ve always had very strong Irish support and I don’t think we’d
have been able to function financially without it”
Like fellow Australian fraudster Peter Foster, over the years Geileskey
has sold everything from home loans to slimming products to believers
convinced she was raising money to build a basilica costing up to $45
Million Australian. The moment it was finished, she promised, Our Lord
would return to earth. But after boosting her personal property portfolio with a
Million-dollar country estate a year ago, questions were raised about
just who was benefiting from God’s work.
“She’s got more front than Sydney Opera House,” said one disgruntled
Former member of the cult, Australian Dawn O’Brien said devoted followers
had donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the cause after Geileskey declared Christ would return to Helidon when the building was completed.
“People gave her that money to build a basilica? not to buy property
for herself. It’s disgraceful,” said Mrs O’Brien. “What about all the
people who gave her a third of their houses and have now left and want
their money back?”
Since setting up her cult in a former convent in Helidon, Geileskey and her
followers have bought up dozens of homes in the
town and will not let anybody open up new businesses.
Paul O’Sullivan, who runs the Helidon newsagents store with his wife
Vonnie in the main street, said: “Debra is an absolute conwoman. I don’t
know why people keep falling for her lies. A few years ago, we used to
have coachloads of people coming to her prayer meetings but it has been
pretty quiet over the past three years. I don’t know exactly how many
people are living in her communes now.”
Asked if any of the MMM members used his shop, Mr O’Sullivan replied:
“I’m banned because I sell Penthouse magazine. They don’t come in here.
I’ve been ex-communicated. They have to drive to the next town about 12
miles away.” But even people who’ve been burned by Geileskey’s destruction of their town and their business can see the funny side. As O’Sullivan says with a
laconic grin: “If Jesus Christ did suddenly arrive, he wouldn’t find much to
eat in Helidon. The local café has closed down and they won’t let anyone rent
it,” “One local girl wanted to open a hairdresser’s there, but they said no.
“Debra is a clever woman ? and very wealthy now thanks to other
people’s money -but she has turned this place into a ghost town. Yes,
we certainly need a miracle. If Jesus were to turn up, I suppose Helidon
would become a Holy Ghost town.”
Geileskey’s latest departure from reality has been to join a movement
bizarrely known as the Commonwealth of Caledonia Australis, an organisation that claims members are not subject to any Australian laws.
Geileskey bought a disused Lutheran Church in Helidon recently and has
put up a sign saying it belongs to the CCA of Australia. An obvious
benefit to Geileskey’s operation is the claim that CCA members do not
have to pay tax.
Retired architect Frank Mack, who met Geileskey at a charismatic prayer
meeting in Melbourne before she began the movement 15 years ago and
also moved to Helidon, today describes her as “evil” adding: “Debra is
a dangerous woman who uses clever techniques to exploit people for
their money. I think she learned the tricks of her trade during her
visits to America. She is definitely a con artist.” Mr Mack, an articulate, reasoned and intelligent Catholic, readily admits he and his wife, Ann, were taken in for over a year by Geileskey’s claims that she witnessed miracles and had visions of the Virgin Mary. In those days, Geileskey was a struggling schoolteacher. She and her then estate agent husband, Gordon, were badly in debt. When the arrived in Helidon they owed more than $300,000.
Today, Geileskey is a multi-millionaire who owns at least 20
properties, including homes, apartments, shops and farms and is said
to own 10 companies. She is worth more than $3.5 million Australian.
Ex-husband Gordon, who helped her amass her property empire, left the
cult in 1999, exposed her as a fraud and is no longer in the picture.
When we contacted Mr Geileskey he told us: “I’d rather not think about
Debra and her cult. I have spent the past few years trying to forget
about them and put all this behind me.”
Former MMM founder member Mr Mack told us: “Debra is a very dangerous
woman. Her attraction is that she is offering something better.She is a
clever saleswoman. She sold real estate and now she’s selling her cult to people. I blame the Catholic Church because a lot of people are getting disenchanted with it. “So I can understand why this prominent Irishman would want to come
here and follow Debra. She is a powerful woman and very convincing. I was
sitting in a private house one day with a visiting Fillipino priest and she told us
she was seeing a vision of the Virgin Mary and began having a conversation with Our Lady. “I was convinced, and so was everybody else in the room.
I couldn’t feel any presence, but Debra was such a good actress, we
totally believed it at the time. Looking back, it was astonishing how
somebody sitting that close to you can deceive you so successfully.
“She certainly had myself and the priest fooled. She’s not crazy, it
was all acting.” Things did not quite add up, though, when the priest later investigated one of Geileskey’s so-called”miracles” when communion wafers seemed to appear in a bowl overnight from nowhere. “She was claiming miracles that weren’t miracles. She presented this incident as the multiplication of the loaves, you see. People believed it. “When the priest checked, he realised some of the wafers were stale. They turned out to be leftover wafers she must have planted there to claim her miracle. The priest realised something wasn’t right and challenged her. Three times he tried, then Debra claimed he was a paedophile and was being led by the devil.
“People like Debra know how to plumb the depths. It’s not new. There
have been many, many frauds before her and there will no doubt be many,
many in the future. “And they are very corrosive and very damaging to religion. It puts people off.” Frank and his wife dropped out of Magnificat after 12 months and stuck to the Catholic Church. They did not contribute any money to
Geileksey also conned followers that she had been instructed by God to
follow what she called the Eucharist diet. For 14 months she claimed to
have lived on nothing buy “holy” wafers and water. Except on 33 days when God told her to eat normally. As the diet progressed, observers became puzzled as to why she hadn’t lost weight. Then her secret was discovered: The chubby Geileskey had been covertly feasting on take-away
pizzas, biscuits and fizzy drinks, which were discovered in a cupboard by an
MMM member who quit the group soon afterwards.
Local priest Father Tom Keegan is one of Debra Geileskey’s staunchest
critics, having witnessed first hand her recruitment of Catholics into
her movement from within his Holy Name parish in nearby Toowoomba soon
after her arrival in the early 1990s.
“I would strongly advise the Irish people to break off any relations
with Debra and the MMM,” he said. “She is a fraud. I told Debra a long
time ago that she can’t build a basilica. “The Pope can declare an existing building or church a basilica but you cannot build one yourself, so she is taking money under false pretences. “I went on to a radio show and publicly called her a bitch and a liar. “I have not changed my view, but I have promised God I will not mention her name again ? I’m sick of her.”
Geileskey has previously claimed to have branches in 73 countries with
a following of 5 million people. But locals said at best there were
just 50 families involved, and a number of those have left, although the 20
or so Irish cult members are believed to be still in Helidon.
Toowoomba Catholic Bishop William Morris declared the group a cult in
1996 and an investigation by the Vatican’s Congregation for Doctrine
and Faith concluded in 1999 that the writings published by the Movement
‘led to the inevitable conclusion that it neither had, nor desired, any
place in the Catholic Church.’ When presented with these uncomfortable findings by Father Keegan, Geileskey’s partinggesture was to deliver a curse, made in writing, to the astonished priest and his parish.
As for Ms Geileskey herself, her followers have abandoned the
distinctive blue monks’ habits, which made them, stand out from the crowd
and adverse publicity has seen her go underground, keeping a low
profile in the past three years. She is rarely seen in public and, as
we witnessed for ourselves, hates her photograph being taken.
Her secretive properties have “keep out” notices plastered all over the
entrance gates, along with anti-stalking warnings quoting court actions.
When Geileskey got wind of our visit in an effort to interview Mr
Haughey, she roared up to her 1 million dollar sprawling countryside
commune in Sandy Creek Lane , which boasts a church, a swimming pool, an
Olive grove and an eight-car garage, in a four-wheel drive jeep
driven by a security guard and warned photographer Steve Holland: “You
can’t take photographs of my property. Get away from here!”
However, when he attempted to take a photograph of her, Geileskey
quickly raised a bright red designer hat and put it over her face.
She refused to talk to us and then roared off in a cloud of dust, later
chasing us along dirt roads, across an open field and through Helidon
when we stopped to interview locals. Our last vision of this millionaire would-be Messiah as she roared past us close to one of her luxury country retreats ? where neighbours have regularly protested to police about the noise from wild parties ? was a hand gesture that is not to be found in the pages of The Bible.
The announcement was made on April 12 in a letter to all North American legionaries.
Even if the letter did not mention the removal of Garza, the maneuver was held only three years after he was named territorial director and was not made after the usual consultation with the members of the congregation.
The document did not mention a new position for Garza, just that his “new post will be announced later”.
Garza left his post as general vicar of the Legion on August 2011, and was transferred as superior to the U.S., even if by that time he was one of the most questioned characters in the congregation.
In fact, until a few months ago he was the most powerful member of the Legion, keeping his post as vicar since 1992, when he was a member of the leadership headed by controversial founder Marcial Maciel Degollado, keeping many key positions and controlling the financial aspects of the organization.
Mexican priest Maciel Degollado (1920–2008) was revealed to have abused boys and maintained relationships with at least two women, fathering up to six children, two of whom he allegedly abused as well.
In 2006, Pope Benedict XVI removed Maciel from ministry and he was ordered to spend the rest of his days in prayer and penance, while the Pope Cardinal Velasio De Paolis as his delegate to examine the Legionaries’ constitution.
Catholic News Agency has just published a detailed article/commentary by Jean Boudet on the documents emanating from the recent Legion of Christ General Chapter. It can be found here:
This blogger wrote the following after reading the wide-ranging article:
I just read the article a moment ago. Mr Boudet appears to go along with the optimism expressed by Legion leaders and Church authorities regarding the “renewal” of the order while at the same time subtly raising serious questions, pointing out paradoxes, which give reason to continue to question the Legion/Regnum’s authenticity.
My lingering doubt is whether Church authorities, from the onset of Cardinal De Paolis’ intervention, had decided “a priori”, to “save” the Legion.