TradMom Posted August 5, 2009 Share Posted August 5, 2009 Dear Phatmass Phamily, especially dear Vocation Station readers, +Praised be Jesus Christ! Our family has returned home from a wonderful vacation and I am beginning to catch up on everything going on here. Lovely to see entrances planned and ongoing spiritual development in “the phamily!” It has been a magnificent thing for me to return home to home and the computer, which was sorely missed! As many of you know, before children, I had the privilege of working under the esteemed Dr. Margaret Singer (+RIP), who along with Dr. Robert Lifton, did ground breaking work into understanding destructive cults. My work as a therapist focused mainly on cult survivors (Christian based as well as others). I have long been concerned about the direction many communities are taking in their formation; namely using mind control/thought reform tactics – albeit unknowingly. Please remember that not all “cults” are destructive, and I realize that religious communities in general fit the description of a cultic environment. Cults became destructive when they employ unethical methods of mind control/thought reform, which results in the loss of critical thinking. Holy Mother Church generously gives Her religious time to discern where their vocation truly lies. Without the benefit of critical thought, discernment is impossible. As many of you know, I have two daughters in religious life, and both are in cloistered (one papal/one constitutional) environments. I firmly believe that formation is possible in a healthy manner – allowing the individual to undergo “conversion of manners” (to use St. Benedict’s language) while still maintaining personal and individual integrity. This is a very, very fine line – a person enters a community because of a supernatural call and pull, and places great trust in the leadership of the community by that very action – and on the other hand, a person’s soul, mind and body are individual, unique and precious to God. We talk often of abuse happening on a physical level and often neglect the psychological and spiritual abuse that can happen by faulty leadership or unethical means. I recently came across a blog about a woman’s discernment experience. I have had no contact with her and don’t know her. It is her blog that has encouraged to me sit down and write to those in discernment (or even those under spiritual direction!). I will not reference the community that she visited. What this young woman wrote is one of the best examples I have seen recently of the use of what Dr. Lifton called “sacred science.” This woman wrote about meeting with the Novice Mistress of a cloistered community. This is what she wrote: [color="#800080"]She was direct, she was sharp, and it was obvious that the reality of what she told me pained her on every level. She told me, [i]"It can be documented. If a Novice goes to speak with another Novice or a Professed Nun in order to get around the Novice Mistress, and receive any spiritual direction from someone else, ONE of them, or BOTH of them ALWAYS end up leaving! It can be documented! I always caution the Novices of this if they are tempted to cry on another Novice's shoulder, or to offer advice to another Novice. I ask them, [b]'Do you want to be responsible for destroying a Vocation? Someone else's OR your own?[/b][/i] She pointed out the guarantee of the Holy Spirit that even if she, the Novice Mistress, messes up her direction, the Holy Spirit will use it for their good. But no one else (but for the Abbess or Prioress!) have this guarantee. Not other Sisters, not other Novices, not someone outside the monastery. That guarantee isn't there. (please note: the italics and bold print belong to the author.)[/color] Before this young woman even entered (if she does enter) the community, the Novice Mistress took an opportunity to set up a controlled environment AND she introduced a “thought stopping technique”. She made it very apparent that the new member would not be able to seek support from another. I recognize it is the accepted practice of most monastic communities to segregate new members from those under perpetual vows, and obviously, one novice is in no position to give another novice spiritual direction and/or advice (!) BUT…to end the advice with the threat of “destroying another’s vocation/or your own” is a very familiar and unhealthy tactic used to control behavior and/or critical thinking. It also removes the possibility for outside support in the event the Novice Mistress misuses or abuses her position of authority. It is absolutely critical that in religious life a new member (or even vowed member for that matter!) has access to someone other than the person directly “supervising” them. This can be a spiritual director, a Confessor, the Prioress/Abbess, the Council, etc. It is extremely unethical to suggest that one’s doubts or a need for companionship/support would be regarded as “going around the Novice Mistress” and even more disturbing: it is a huge red flag that the Novice Mistress would use the threat of destroying another’s vocation as a means of curtailing communication. I encourage ALL of you to please educate yourselves thoroughly as you discern your vocation. As I mentioned previously, the generosity in which Holy Mother Church introduces individuals to religious life is a beautiful thing. If a woman (or man) enters a community and is not allowed to use her mind to fully examine her vocation and decides to stay – for reasons that come out of a psychologically abusive relationship – such as – being afraid, having been manipulated, etc., then she has not been allowed to freely say “yes” which is a critical factor of any vocation. I will use my own daughter as an example; the first community she entered was not right for her. She was allowed to freely determine this fact and in recognizing this, she left (as was her privilege) and she found the community that was right for her. She did not “destroy” her vocation, nor that of another – and I can assure you – had she discovered that religious life was not her calling, she would not have “destroyed” a vocation – she would have discerned truly where the Lord was calling her – and what He was calling her to. She would not have been able to complete this process had it not been for the support of the community and her Spiritual Director. Another good example of healthy formation is what Sister Michael Maria ("Annie/Nunsense") is experiencing. That particular Carmel displayed an excellent example of leadership and formation in that Laudem was "allowed" to visit with Sister; granted the circumstances were unusual given the location, etc., but excellent display of trust in Sister's growth, maturity and appropriate independence! I am sure that is not the normal practice, but clearly the Vocation Mistress or Mother Prioress used pastoral judgement and placed healthy trust in Sister Michael Maria! I am including two links. It is my hope (and prayer) everybody will be motivated to educate themselves regarding formation and and at least be familiar with tactics employed; there are many, many more excellent websites, but these are good resources for initial education. I have also included definitions taken from the websites. Pax, TradMom [url="http://www.freeminds.org/psychology/mind-control/eight-marks-of-a-mind-control-cult.html"]http://www.freeminds.org/psychology/mind-c...ntrol-cult.html[/url] from the above mentioned website: The "Sacred Science" The cult's ideology becomes the ultimate moral vision for the ordering of human existence. The ideology is too "sacred" to call into question, and a reverence is demanded for the leadership. The cult's ideology makes an exaggerated claim for possessing airtight logic, making it appear as absolute truth with no contradictions. Such an attractive system offers security. [url="http://www.cultclinic.org/qa1.html"]http://www.cultclinic.org/qa1.html[/url] from the the above mentioned website: [i]Put forth a closed system of logic and an authoritarian structure that permits no feedback and refuses to be modified except by leadership approval or executive order.[/i] The group has a top-down, pyramid structure. The leaders must have verbal ways of never losing. (Singer, 1995) Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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