Wednesday, September 12, 2007

At the SBC Watch Blog:, a poll was taken asking readers whether they think the Saint Benedict Center is a mainstream church organization or a cult. 85% responded that they believe the SBC is a cult. This out of 75 respondents. Now obviously this poll is by no means scientific. But what it does show is that many who have visited the SBC Watch Blog (because of a concern over recent developments in Richmond, New Hampshire) believe that the SBC meets the characteristics of a cult.

In 1961 Robert J. Lifton wrote Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism after studying the effects of mind control on American prisoners of war under the Communist Chinese. Lifton outlines eight major factors that can be used to identify whether a group is a destructive cult or not:

milieu control (controlled relations with the outer world)

mystic manipulation (the group has a higher purpose than the rest)

confession (confess past and present sins)

self-sanctification through purity (pushing the individual towards an unattainable perfection)

aura of sacred science (beliefs of the group are sacrosanct and perfect)

loaded language (new meanings to words, encouraging black-and-white thinking)

doctrine over person (the group is more important than the individual)

dispensed existence (insiders are saved, outsiders are doomed)


A woman named Elizabeth left the following comment at the Keene Talkback Blog a while back:

"The following is excerpted from:

"By 1978, his [Jim Jones] paranoia had reached a fever pitch. In mid-November of that year, U.S. Rep. Leo Ryan of California had gone to the village to investigate complaints of abuse. When he left the village on Nov. 18, he took several defectors with him. But Ryan, along with four others, was shot and killed by members of Peoples Temple at an airstrip in Guyana.The Jonestown massacre began later that day."

Jones ordered the mass killing of more than 900 of his followers that very same day. But before Jim Jones had moved his cult "People's Temple" to Guyana, he had come to view the media and local residents of his California town with a suspicion which became paranoia. Do we see the same signs of paranoia and mental illness in Brother Andre Marie? Let's look at some of his very own comments in an email sent to Catholic writer Matt C. Abbott at Renew America:

"There is now afoot a very nasty concerted effort to destroy our traditional Catholic apostolate."Jim Jones had previously accused the media of attempting to "destroy" his People's Temple. Jim Jones demonized his critics (no matter how calm and objective they might be). Brother Andre sees enemies everywhere, referring to "local detractors," the "Southern Poverty Law Center," "blogs," "The Keene Sentinel," "liberal academics at Keene State College," 'Monadnock Regional High School" and "residents [of Richmond] who didn't like the new building."

Like Jim Jones, Brother Andre sees enemies everywhere. And like Jim Jones he demonizes them, calling them "anti-Christian barbarians" who are fostering a "demonic mythology."For me, these are signs of mental illness. Brother Andre seems to be sinking into madness and paranoia. He sees any opposition as being the result of "demonic mythology" and a smear campaign. Will this madness become violent? Automatic weapons have been heard at the SBC. Jim Jones and his People's Temple also stored guns. Residents of Richmond should be very cautious."

Is cult too strong a word to describe the Saint Benedict Center in Richmond? I don't believe so. But if you feel differently, please let me know why. Likewise, if you believe the word aptly describes the organization, let me know why you feel this way.



Anonymous said...

For sure SBC and the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary are a cult. The leaders are striving for an unattainable perfection, see others as beneath them because they know the truth, exhibit paranoid behavior by constantly saying opponents are anti-Catholic, and manipulate their followers through charismatic means. The followers are lost souls who have found a place where they finally feel they belong. The followers are easily manipulated into believing everthing the leaders say. They would not think of challenging or raising questions. They all live in the past. They are radical and so arrogant as to disobey the Holy Mother Church. And, they deny the Holocaust which is criminal.

Brian said...

Notice the last item given by Dr. Lifton:

dispensed existence (insiders are saved, outsiders are doomed)

This is EXACTLY what the SBC members believe. Only baptized Roman Catholics may be saved. And anyone who disagrees with THEIR understanding of EENS is "excommunicated."

Alexis said...

I always thought that most cult groups are elitist. That they think they have some special knowledge that others don't possess. And that is what I get from the SBC. Also, aren't cults isolationist? The SBC is very isolationist and shuns movies, television etc. Thank you.

Max said...

WOW!! Mr. Lifton hits the nail right on the head with the cult in Richmond. Every one of the eight items can be applied here. But now they want to take over the town and if they succeed in Richmond, than any of the surrounding towns will be targetted next. These cultists are not just here in Richmond, they are all over Cheshire County.

Adelle Cormier said...

I've read some of the posts from SBC members at the Keene Sentinel website and at SBC Watch. Some of these are just terrifying.

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