May 29, 2021

Mother Teresa's lawyer blasts new podcast likening her order to a cult

Kate Scanlon
Catholic News Agency 
May 28, 2021

A new podcast that likens St. Teresa of Calcutta to a cult leader is full of “untruths and false accusations,” the former legal counsel for St. Teresa told CNA on Friday. 

The podcast, titled “The Turning: The Sisters Who Left,” discusses Mother Teresa and the religious order she founded, the Missionaries of Charity; the podcast asks the question, “What is the line between devotion and brainwashing?” 

The podcast features claims of “abuse and betrayal” in the order by former sisters. A recent opinion piece for the New York Times highlighting the podcast was titled: “Was Mother Teresa a Cult Leader?”

According to the Times article, the podcast features a woman named Mary Johnson, who says she sought to “escape” the order but ultimately left “through official channels.” 

In response, Jim Towey - the Catholic legal counsel to St. Teresa for the last twelve years of her life - blasted the podcast in a piece for National Review, calling it a “smear campaign.” 

He told CNA on Friday that in his view, the podcast is part of “a continued effort by people who are trying to draw attention to themselves by degrading the memory of Mother Teresa, by attacking her sisters, and in so doing, kind of attacking the Catholic Church and its moral teachings and all we stand for.”

He added that “It’s easy to take pot-shots at the Missionaries of Charity, and it’s always by people who don’t do the work.” 

The founder and CEO of the group Aging with Dignity, a nonprofit working for the elderly, disabled, and mentally ill, Towey says his nonprofit was inspired by St. Teresa’s work with the poor. 

One allegation discussed in the New York Times opinion piece was the poor conditions at homes run by the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta - conditions that Mother Teresa allegedly was responsible for.

“It’s a really cheap shot to go and criticize the Missionaries of Charity for not having sophisticated medical services when you don’t have a clue what the reality is on the ground in Calcutta,” Towey said on Friday. 

“And of course these people that make these criticisms aren’t going out there to help the sick, and they’re instead criticizing those who do,” he said.

Towey lamented that an online search of Mother Teresa’s name would yield “posts that are vulgar,” in an attempt to “strike at her reputation.”

The podcast, he said, “is filled with untruths and false accusations, and that’s why the sisters did not agree to interviews, why waste time they could be with the poor?” he said.  

Towey said the podcast company behind “The Turning” was looking for controversy to gain listeners. 

He also said the podcast accuses St. Teresa “cozying up to dictators,” but called that charge a “distortion of fact.” St. Teresa wanted to serve the poor living within totalitarian regimes and had to seek government approval in some cases, he said.

“At no time did she compromise herself, her values, or the Catholic faith,” Towey said.

Pastor denies "cult-like" atmosphere

May 28, 2021

A self-proclaimed pastor of a Waverly church, who had multiple family members arrested last week, is denying an accusation he runs a "cult" in Pike County. James Bellar, pastor of the Dove Outreach Church, has had his church described as a cult in court documents. Four members of Bellar's family, who also are part of the congregation, were taken into custody last week in Athens County and were charged with numerous sexual and physical abuse crimes. Court documents also allege that Bellar is "re-writing" enter sections of the Bible to better fit his teachings, which allow for incest among family members. Serah Bellar, who was reported missing in April of 2020 when she was 16, has reportedly recently sent a text message to authorities saying she is safe. However, the validity of that text message is currently being investigated.

May 28, 2021

In BJP leader’s unusual advice to IMA, a biting critique of yoga guru Ramdev

Bihar BJP president Dr Sanjay Jaiswal stood by doctors in the continuing IMA vs Ramdev battle over the yoga guru’s comments on allopathy. In a Facebook post, the BJP leader said Ramdev wasn’t a yogi because “a Yogi is one who has control on all his senses and brain”.

Vijay Swaroop
Hindustan Times
MAY 27, 2021

Dr Sanjay Jaiswal, the top Bharatiya Janata Party leader in Bihar, on Thursday, waded into the continuing row between the Indian Medical Association and yoga guru Ramdev, advising the association of doctors to mostly ignore the guru’s offensive against allopathic medicines.

“Don’t waste your years of education and energy in useless discussion and instead concentrate on our noble profession,” said the doctor-turned-politician, a lawmaker from Paschim Champaran and Bihar BJP president in a Facebook post.

“Concentrating on our profession would be the most befitting service to our innumerable colleagues who have lost their lives attending to their duties in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic,” said the Bihar BJP president.

Baba Ramdev has been in the eye of a fresh controversy when he questioned the efficacy of allopathic medicines in treating the dreaded coronavirus.

“Ramdev is a yoga guru. Nobody can question his mastery of yoga. But he is certainly not a Yogi. A Yogi is one who has control over all his senses and brain. What he has done for yoga is comparable to what Coca Cola did for beverages. Indians have been, for ages, consuming Shikanji and thandai but after the advent of the soft drink giant, every home seems to be stocked with bottles of Pepsi and Coke”, Jaiswal said in his post.

The Longtime Anti-Vaxxers Caving to the COVID Jab

For some, the global pandemic was a major turning point—and a chance to do a way with deeply held conspiracy theories about vaccines.

Isobel Cockerell
Daily Beast
May 26, 2021

The first vaccine is always the hardest.

Before she took her baby son to the clinic to get his routine two-month shots, Anita Emly, 34, cried through the night. For several years, she had immersed herself in pseudoscience and anti-vaccine propaganda, filled with horror stories of autism, paralysis and death. Terrified by what she had read, she began to refuse vaccinations for her children.

Emly gave birth to her son in February 2020, shortly before the coronavirus started to tear through her home city of New York. In response to the chaos around her, she did something remarkable: she changed her mind.

Growing up in Astoria, Queens, Emly's family were sometimes distrustful of doctors. She described how her father, a first-generation Indian immigrant, preferred to save western medicine for emergencies. "He would kind of laugh, like, 'Haha, Tylenol,'" she said, explaining that he preferred to use ginger, cloves and herbal teas for everyday complaints.

Emly is a carer for several older relatives and often saw them experience unforeseen side-effects after taking prescribed medication. She believed that doctors had not warned them that adverse reactions were possible. That left her feeling blindsided. "It was never communicated to us that these events could happen," she said.

When she got pregnant with her eldest daughter in 2016, Emly began reading up on vaccines. She sought advice from family and friends, participated in Facebook groups and read a book by Dr Robert Sears.

Sears advises readers to follow an "alternative schedule" of only taking some shots and delaying others—an approach popular in certain pseudoscience circles. The controversial pediatrician has said that he is not anti-vaccine, but is simply setting out "both sides of the story." In 2016, California's medical board accused him of gross negligence for writing invalid vaccine exemptions and, in 2018, placed him on probation.

Emly's doctor did not engage with her when he found out that she had refused the routine hepatitis B vaccine for her newborn daughter—he simply told her that she should take it. "He didn't listen, he didn't ask why," she said. "He wasn't wrong, but he just didn't have the best bedside manner. And that matters." That experience left Emly feeling even more resistant and laid the groundwork for her to reject vaccines altogether.

"I was just scared, so inaction became my choice," she said.

For people like Emly, every decision to ignore the enormous body of evidence that vaccines are safe and effective makes it increasingly difficult to turn back towards accepted science.

According to the researcher and vaccine advocate David Robert Grimes, "It's hard to leave these communities because they have a social aspect to them, a sense of belonging. When you have people who are very, very far down that rabbit hole, it's very difficult to get out. They have to give up their entire worldview."

But that is precisely what some of them do.

In early 2020, Emly's family went through a terrible trauma. A close friend died of flu at just 28 years old. She had not been vaccinated. As the coronavirus hit New York, Emly saw more people in her community lose their lives. Neighborhood hospitals were full to bursting, trucks carrying corpses standing outside. Meanwhile, on Facebook, anti-vaxxers began to campaign against coronavirus restrictions.

"It really hit home," she said. "It made me run from the anti-vax movement."

In 2008, Facebook's enormous anti-vaccine groups were not yet established. When Lydia Greene's daughter began crying excessively after receiving her first routine shots, she turned to parenting message boards, including Mothering Forum and the Babycenter.

"She had a very… what I felt was a scary reaction," said Greene, 39, whose last name has been changed. When she called the nurse, she was told that she was being a jumpy first-time mom. "I felt brushed off, kind of dumb, embarrassed and worried."

Greene, who lives in Alberta, Canada, said that the forums "gave me an answer." Users falsely informed her that her daughter may have contracted encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain, and that the next shot could kill her. Though Greene wasn't entirely convinced, she was sufficiently swayed to not vaccinate her again.

"That's how I fell into it. And I stayed there for years," she said. Over the next decade, Greene became more deeply involved in the online anti-vaccine community. Along with some 200,000 others, she joined conspiracy theorist Larry Cook's Facebook group and followed the influential anti-vaccination activists Sherri Tenpenny and Del Bigtree.

"Nothing is more primal than the desire to protect your child," she said. "It's pretty easy for people to hack that and profit."

Online anti-vaccine propaganda exposed Greene to cherry-picked segments of studies and false information. Though she had worked as a quality-control chemist in a pharmaceutical plant for several years, she began to subscribe to views that Big Pharma was "trying to cover up something" about vaccines.

But it was a sprawling, global conspiracy theory that finally helped Greene renounce her views. As the QAnon movement spread across the world during the presidency of Donald Trump, she started to see increasingly extreme theories in her online groups. Some linked vaccines to Satanism, deep state plots and the idea that the earth is flat. Larry Cook recently began to proclaim that vaccines are part of a "global plan to enslave humanity" and "literally slaughter the population." Rather than drawing her further in, this torrent of false information made her think again.

"It just seemed to get more ridiculous, and I had to either dig in further, and stay with them, or start questioning myself," she said.

The most painful moment of reckoning came when Greene began to question the pervasive falsehood that the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine is linked to autism. Popularized by Andrew Wakefield, a disgraced former doctor from the U.K., it is one of the most deeply held beliefs among anti-vaxxers.

Greene described how Wakefield's discredited theory blinded her to a reality that was right in front of her: that her own unvaccinated son was autistic. She was convinced that he couldn't possibly have autism, because he had never received the MMR shot. His diagnosis helped to shatter the worldview that she had built for herself and her family.

"I was so wrapped up in this movement, I couldn't see my own kid," she said.

For 36-year-old Veronika Fitzgerald—a mother of two based in Perth, Western Australia—a New Age upbringing paved the way towards anti-vaccine ideology. During her childhood, her father collected books about UFOs, while her mother had a keen interest in mysticism. Fitzgerald was intrigued. As a teenager, she was seduced by the idea that 9/11 was an inside job and captivated by theories about the lost city of Atlantis.

When she had her first daughter, now seven, she decided on an alternative approach to parenting, choosing a home birth with a doula because she didn't trust the hospital system, doing yoga and belly dance classes to prepare. She then met a friend who told her that she wasn't going to vaccinate her baby. Fitzgerald started to research the subject and decided not to vaccinate either.

That decision pushed her away from her local mothers' groups. "I didn't want to belong in the mainstream groups because I felt I couldn't speak openly anymore. I was always the black sheep that didn't vaccinate."

As she slipped deeper into the anti-vaccine community, she became increasingly alienated from other parents, and medical professionals were visibly shocked by her beliefs. Then, one doctor, from India, described how children still died of polio in her country. That was when she began to rethink.

"I hadn't considered that my decision to not do something might impact someone who's actually quite vulnerable," she said.

After losing two family members in Slovakia to COVID-19, Fitzgerald began to back away from the movement. "The number of times I heard that COVID was just the flu—it made me really sad," she said. At the same time, doctors, friends, and family members made an effort to explain the importance of vaccines to her. She credits her brother with helping her to repair her relationship with accepted science and journalism.

"I had to relearn which sources and which media to read," she explained.

Slowly, all three women began to inch away from their fears and towards getting their children vaccinated.

Emly and Greene have both had their coronavirus shots, while Fitzgerald plans to get hers as soon as she is eligible.

These are not easy decisions to make. "It's almost like leaving a cult, and you're about to do something that your religion frowned upon for the first time," said Greene. "You're still wondering secretly, is God watching? Is my soul going to hell? What If I'm wrong and I kill my kid?"

"It's a bit like deradicalization," said Daniel Jolley, a social psychologist at the University of Northumbria. "People are drawn to conspiracy theories when they feel anxious and disempowered. Maybe when we communicate about these issues, we can try and include language that isn't going to threaten or provoke people."

For Emly, the hardest part is facing the fact that she had placed her own child at risk—"that I had actually endangered my daughter. I'm tearing up right now. That was painful," she said.

Greene now runs a Facebook group titled "Back to the Vax". At just 35 members, it is a fraction of the size of the anti-vax supergroups she used to be part of, but it provides a valuable community for people from all over the world, all at different stages of their recovery.

"A lot of them have lost their community," said Greene. "It's like a breath of fresh air to put it all out there and just say, 'I made a mistake.'"

This story was produced in partnership with Coda Story.

Scientology's secrets spill into open in Danny Masterson rape case

Los Angeles Times
MAY 27, 2021

The Church of Scientology works hard to keep its inner workings out of the public eye.

It has hired private detectives to keep tabs on straying members, and experts say its lawyers vigorously defend against legal incursions, arguing to judges that Scientology’s beliefs are not courtroom fodder.

But at a hearing last week in the rape case against actor Danny Masterson, church officials were unable to stop their practices from being debated in open court.

Three women took the stand to recount violent sexual assaults allegedly committed by the celebrity Scientologist, and each told similar stories of how church officials tried to stop them from reporting Masterson to police.

One woman testified that a church official instructed her to write a statement showing she would “take responsibility” for a 2001 assault, in which she alleges Masterson raped her while she was unconscious.

Another woman who was born into Scientology and planned to report Masterson to police in 2004, a year after she said he raped her at his Hollywood mansion, recounted how a Scientology attorney showed up at her family’s home. The lawyer, according to the woman, warned that she would be expelled from the church if she went to authorities.

“We’re going to work out how you can not lose your daughter,” the attorney told the woman’s father, according to her testimony.

The focus on Scientology during the preliminary hearing, which stretched over four days and included lengthy discussions of internal church texts and doctrine, wasn’t lost on Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Charlaine Olmedo.

In ruling that there was sufficient evidence against Masterson to allow the case to proceed toward trial, Olmedo concluded Scientology has “an expressly written doctrine” that “not only discourages, but prohibits” its members from reporting one another to law enforcement. The policy explained why several of the women did not report Masterson’s alleged crimes to the police for more than a decade, the judge found.

It was a type of public dissection that is unusual for the insular, enigmatic institution. The church, which counts a number of high-profile actors among its parishioners and operates a “Celebrity Centre” in the heart of Hollywood, has long been accused of going to extraordinary lengths to keep criminal allegations and other claims of wrongdoing in-house, experts said.

“The activities of Scientology have been so much a part of the evidence that’s being put forth as to why these women were not immediately going to law enforcement ... that it’s sort of brought the dirty laundry out into public view, which is exactly what Scientology does not want to have happen,” said Mike Rinder, the church’s former top spokesman, who left the faith in 2007.

In statements to The Times, the church denied it has a policy that dissuades members from reporting crimes, despite repeated references to Scientology texts during the hearing that appeared to include the directive. Karin Pouw, the church’s top spokeswoman, said Olmedo’s comments were “flat-out wrong” and dismissed the allegations against Masterson as “nothing more than a money shakedown” by women who are also engaged in a civil suit against him.

The women, Pouw claimed without evidence, are parroting comments made by Leah Remini, an actress who became an outspoken critic of Scientology after breaking with it in 2015. Rinder is a co-executive producer with Remini of a Netflix series about Scientology.

“Church policy explicitly demands Scientologists abide by all laws of the land, including the reporting of crimes. This is blatantly clear in the documents we understand were put before the Court — and many others,” Pouw wrote, repeatedly noting the church is not a party in the criminal case. “The Court either did not read them in full or ignored them. It should have done neither. Interpretation of Church doctrine by the courts is prohibited and the ruling is evidence of why.”

The case against Masterson, who starred in the 2000s sitcom “That 70’s Show,” is a relatively rare example of a Scientologist facing criminal charges based on accusations from other church members, Rinder said.

The church’s doctrine generally dismisses government institutions like courts as invalid and directs members to deal with complaints internally, Rinder said. Knowing that contacting law enforcement can lead to excommunication and being cut off from family and friends who remain in the church, members often remain silent, according to Rinder and testimony delivered in court last week.

The case against Masterson, Rinder added, is also unusual for the outsize role the inner workings and rules of Scientology played at the preliminary hearing — a likely preview of what is to come if the case goes to trial. For the most part, Rinder said, cases involving the church have played out in civil court, where lawyers for Scientology have largely been successful in convincing judges that its practices are irrelevant.

“Scientology had managed to persuade courts … that you can’t inquire into our religious practices and beliefs and have managed to dissuade much discussion about Scientology,” Rinder said.

In a 2019 trial, lawyers for Scientology failed to shield the church from court scrutiny when defense attorneys for a man accused of beating his sister-in-law and her husband to death in Prescott, Ariz., argued that his belief in the religion drove him to commit the crime, according to a report in the Arizona Republic. In that case, a jury found Kenneth Wayne Thompson carried out the slayings to protect his nephew from receiving psychiatric treatment, which his attorneys argued is barred by the church’s doctrines.

Jurors heard testimony about the church’s origins, and how members use a polygraph-like “E-meter” during a process meant to lead to spiritual clarity. Both prosecutors and church lawyers opposed the strategy to involve Scientology in the case, but a judge allowed it. Attempts to subpoena church records and call former Scientologists to testify, including Remini, were unsuccessful, however.

Testimony at Masterson’s preliminary hearing at times was as much an explanation of the church’s processes and cryptic vocabulary as an accounting of the actor’s alleged sexual abuse.

One woman testified that she wrote a letter to an “International Justice Chief,” whom she described as the church’s ultimate authority on disputes between Scientologists, seeking permission to sue Masterson and report him to police. References were made in court to “knowledge reports,” “Things That Shouldn’t Be reports,” and “O.W. write-ups.” A prosecutor repeatedly evoked books and letters written by L. Ron Hubbard, the former science fiction author who founded the church, as official Scientology doctrine.

When a woman explained during her testimony that “wog-law” is the church’s disdainful term for police and courts, Olmedo asked if Scientologists refer to non-members as “wogs,” much like wizards in the fictional universe of Harry Potter call non-magical people “muggles.”

“I suppose,” the woman responded. “It’s not a nice thing.”

The three women who have accused Masterson of rape were identified in court by their first names and initials of their last names. The Times generally does not name victims of alleged sexual assault unless they choose to fully identify themselves.

Masterson’s attorney, Thomas Mesereau, initially tried to minimize Scientology’s place in the case, asking Olmedo to issue an order limiting mentions of the church or its practices in court. He argued the restrictions were needed because of “religious bias” that investigators from the Los Angeles Police Department and Masterson’s accusers harbored against Scientology.

Olmedo slapped down the request, saying she found it “interesting” that Mesereau argued Scientology should have little to do with the case, but also referred to the church “88 times in a 29-page brief.”

As the hearing wore on, Mesereau appeared to change tactics, introducing church documents as evidence in an attempt to undercut the credibility of Masterson’s accusers.

While cross-examining one woman, he read from an “O.W. write-up” and suggested the church document amounted to an admission by the woman that her encounter with Masterson had been consensual and driven by her promiscuity. She fired back that the document had been written by church officials, who took comments she’d made to a Scientology counselor out of context and repurposed them to defend Masterson.

Mesereau also brought out a copy of “Introduction to Scientology Ethics,” a 528-page tome authored by Hubbard, as he cross-examined another alleged victim.

When it was his turn to question the woman, Deputy Dist. Atty. Reinhold Mueller took the book from Mesereau and had it admitted into the court record. He and the woman read aloud passages that she said she understood were official church doctrine that discourages Scientologists from reporting fellow parishioners to law enforcement.

As he finished his questioning, Mueller handed the book back to Mesereau and thanked him, saying it was “very helpful.”

One of the women who testified at the hearing said that when she reported the alleged rape to church officials, she was told to read the chapter of “Introduction to Scientology Ethics” that instructs members not to go to police in such cases. In a one-on-one meeting, a church “ethics officer” told her “not to use the ‘R-word’” and said it would be a “high crime” to report another Scientologist to law enforcement, the woman testified.

She also said she was required to complete an “ethics course” because she had done “something to ... deserve what [Masterson] did to me.”

Rinder — whose parents were Scientologists and who described himself as part of Hubbard’s inner circle from the mid-1970s until the author’s death in 1986 — said that in recent years, the church’s responses to media inquiries had become “hermit-like.” The fact that the church issued a detailed defense of its practices to The Times is a sign the Masterson case has become a significant problem for the church, he said.

“The fact that it’s Danny Masterson from ‘That 70’s Show’ … it’s not just local media reporting on a local case, it blows it up way bigger. It becomes part of Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein,” he said, referring to the #MeToo movement, which has outed several celebrities as sexual predators. “That instantly puts it into a different zone. Within Scientology, this becomes panic stations, high alert.”

James Queally writes about crime and policing in Southern California, where he currently covers Los Angeles County’s criminal courts and the district attorney’s office.

Matthew Ormseth is a reporter for the Los Angeles Times. Before joining The Times in 2018, he covered city news and state politics at the Hartford Courant. He grew up in Arcadia and graduated from Cornell University.

Gun Church That Worships With AR-15s Bought a 40-Acre Compound in Texas for Its 'Patriots'

The Rod of Iron Ministries has become more militant since leader Hyung Jin “Sean” Moon attended the riot at the U.S. Capitol on January 6.

Tess Owen
May 27, 2021

A religious sect known for worshipping with AR-15s and its MAGA politics has purchased a sprawling, 40-acre compound in central Texas, which it hopes will offer a safe-haven for “patriots” from what they believe is an imminent war brought by the “deep state,” VICE News has learned.

The property, located in the small community of Thornton, 40 miles from Waco, was listed at just under $1 million. It’s been dubbed “Liberty Rock'' by its new owners, the Sanctuary Church aka Rod of Iron Ministries, led by Pastor Hyung Jin “Sean” Moon. Members of the congregation often refer to him as “King.”

While Moon’s congregation, estimated to number in the hundreds, is relatively fringe, it’s a direct descendant of the much larger Unification Church, founded by his father, Rev. Sun Myung Moon, a self-proclaimed messiah and accused cult leader whose adoring followers became known to outsiders as “Moonies.”

The younger Moon, who set up shop in 2017 in Newfoundland, Pennsylvania, follows the doctrine of his late father—with a twist. Moon says he was inspired by a biblical passage in the Book of Revelation that talked about Jesus using a “rod of iron” to protect himself and others. He concluded this was a reference to AR-15s, and integrated high-powered firearms into regular church services, including wedding ceremonies. He founded the church with the support of his brother, Kook-jin “Justin” Moon, the CEO of Kahr Arms, a gun manufacturing company headquartered nearby.

From its beginning, the church wholeheartedly embraced former President Donald Trump and incorporated Trumpian culture war and conspiracies into its rhetoric. Moon told VICE News in late 2019 that he believed God was working through Trump to rid the world of “political satanism” (for example, the “deep state” and “the swamp”) and restore Eden. Through his gun-centric, MAGA-friendly outlook, Moon has been able to establish some fringe political alliances. Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon spoke at a recent event hosted by the church. Pennsylvania state senator and “Stop the Steal” organizer Doug Mastriano was also recently billed as a special guest at another church event.

As Moon’s church has expanded, bought additional property, and incorporated in at least two more states (Delaware and Florida), his teachings and rhetoric have grown even more radical and militaristic. His sermons contain a wide range of topics, from the weather, to why he hates ski resorts (too many “leftist lunatics”), to how to prepare for the coming “false flag” deep-state war.

The new property, known locally as “Running Branch Camp and Marina,” came equipped with a general store, fishing equipment, an industrial kitchen, RV hook-ups, cabins, and camping sites.

The purpose of the property, according to a GoFundMe seeking $21,000 for renovations, is to “expand God’s Kingdom to the Western and Southern regions of the United States.”

After renovations, the church hopes that Liberty Rock will be “home to over 100 sites that will serve our community and Patriots from Texas and around the country.” The Rod of Iron Instagram account features photos from the site, including their ribbon-cutting and blessing ceremony, held on April 20. At least one family from the church appears to be living there full-time while renovations are going on.

“It's a dangerous time, and this is a place of refuge and retreat if our community needs it.”

“It's a dangerous time, and this is a place of refuge and retreat if our community needs it,” Moon said in one of his recent sermons, titled “The King’s Report,” which he typically delivers wearing a crown made of bullets and a golden AR-15 displayed before him. “Of course, in worst-case scenarios.”

Leaders of a local community association contacted by VICE News did not seem to be aware that they had new neighbors. “Is this going to be a problem?” asked one concerned resident.

The new property acquisition has been a recurring topic in Moon’s King’s Reports, which are now broadcast via the gaming platform Twitch or the streaming site Rumble since they were booted off YouTube for violating community guidelines. Their videos are often accompanied by a slew of hashtags, including #MAGA, #Trump, #QAnon, #Q and #bluelivesmatter.

“The internationalist Marxist globalists are trying to start a civil war here, so that they can bring in the U.N. troops and Chi-Com Chinese military to come in and destroy and kill all gun owners, Christians, and any opposition, i.e., Trump supporters,” Moon said matter-of-factly in a recent sermon. “We are in the death of America right now, and that’s why, of course, God is allowing for our expansion.”

On January 3, his church sent out a notice to members. “Some federal agents operate as a criminal cartel and are in the process of stealing this presidential election,” the notice read. “We need to prepare and train for the fight.”

“It's obviously better if we can use our rights to freedom of speech, assembly, to seek redress of grievances,” it continued. “Otherwise we will have to fight physically, with many dying.”

Three days later, when Trump fans gathered in Washington, D.C., Moon posted a video to Instagram from outside the Capitol, amid the insurrectionist mob, running from clouds of tear gas with his wife and brother. (It does not appear that they actually went inside the Capitol. Church officials did not respond to VICE News’ request for comment.)


Since January 6, Moon’s sermons have taken on a greater intensity and urgency. In a broadcast from February titled “Danger coming for Trump supporters,” Moon warned viewers that the Biden administration was plotting genocide against its political opponents–or planning to round up Trump supporters and put them in “reeducation camps.”

“We have to understand the enemy we are dealing with,” Moon said. “We have to be ready to pray very, very hard, move fast, and of course, to resist on many levels, all the evil that they are trying to perpetrate on the world.”

He’s also adopted a new biker-gang aesthetic, swapping out his camouflage blazers for biker jackets emblazoned with patches showing a crown and “Rod of Iron Ministries,” as well as the words “Black Robed Regiment” above an image of an AR-15.

All the while, a community of former “Moonies,” many of whom have family or friends who are deeply involved with the Sanctuary Church, are watching its slide into extremism with horror.

“It feels like I’m watching a school shooting or something in slow motion,” said Jane, whose parents are prominent members of the Sanctuary Church and asked that her real name be withheld for safety reasons. “These people are just getting crazier and crazier, and scaring everyone. And I don’t know what’s going to happen next.”

Like many other “Moonie” families, Jane’s parents were matched and married through the church. She was raised living and breathing Unification Church doctrine, attending Unification Church summer camps, and taught that doubting any of its teachings meant that you were opening yourself up to satanic thought and temptation.

Guns were not a part of her life. She said she remembers hearing gossip from other kids at Sunday school that the church owned a gun company. “Then, as a kid, I would say things innocently, because I was confused, that would get me in trouble,” Jane said. “Like, ‘Why do we have a gun company? Aren’t we about peace? What’s so peaceful about guns?’”

Her parents didn’t own guns, but she’d heard that the Moon family enjoyed hunting. “I’ve personally never even held a gun in my life,” Jane said. “I think they had guns at camp one year, and some of the older people, who we call ‘uncles’, would take the kids out for target practice, like shooting a can off a wall or something.”

In 2000, Jane’s family moved to Seoul, where her dad was tasked with helping Sean Moon set up an English-language Unification Church service. A decade later, they returned to the U.S. and settled in Berkeley, California. That was around the same time, she said, that she noticed her parents, seemingly out of nowhere, start talking about guns. They were saying things like, “If everyone owned a gun, there would be no need for police.” Her father suggested that she get a gun for personal protection. “He was saying, like, what if you’re at McDonald’s, and you go to the bathroom, and you get raped?”

Around 2010, Jane left the church, started therapy, and severed ties with her parents.

“I cut them off as an attempt to not drown,” said Jane. “Then the longer I went without talking with them, the more I realized how abusive they’d been.”

Years later, she heard that her parents were moving to Pennsylvania. “They gave some bogus excuse, and told everyone in their lives they were moving to help out a family member, but really they were moving to be closer to the Sanctuary Church,” Jane said.

Then she saw the pictures of her parents holding AR-15s.

She takes pains to ensure her parents don’t find out where she lives—and she’s trying to determine whether they’ve relocated to Liberty Rock.

“It’s not that I believe they’re going to come here with guns and try to kill me. But I do think that they could come here with guns and be like, ‘Oh, we’re going to save you and bring you back to this workshop and take care of you’,” said Jane. “I don’t trust them. I don’t trust them with a fucking butter knife.”

The Sanctuary Church made headlines for the first time in 2018, when news outlets covered a mass wedding ceremony featuring AR-15s. To an outsider, the fact that so many people were willing to take the unusual—and radical—step of integrating high-powered firearms into their spiritual life was perplexing. It appeared a giant psychological leap to go from, as was the case for many “Moonie” families, not having much to do with guns to suddenly worshipping with them in church.

But self-described “ex-Moonies’ told VICE News that many who belonged to the original church were psychologically conditioned to make that leap.

“When the split happened, it wasn’t like enrolling a membership into the YMCA,” said Renee Martinez, an artist who works in a tattoo parlor, who left the church in 2012 after Rev. Moon died. “It was a slow roll, clinging onto a new belief system that was nearly identical to what you already believed.”

“The Unification Church has groomed generations for this,” Martinez added. “The church is now 60 years old, with three generations now. It’s not just some cult that hippies joined. People are programmed into it and know nothing else.” (The Unification Church did not respond to VICE News’ request for comment).

“When Sean started pushing guns and his brother started pushing his gun company, it was easily accepted because Rev. Moon himself said we had to prepare to protect peace,” said Martinez. “I think violence and supporting guns has always been part of the Unification Church.”

Former members of the Unification Church say that it operates on a buffet of cohesive and abusive tactics to foster enduring loyalty and blind trust.

For example, they create heightened anxiety and fear around a common enemy, former members said. They rely on “love-bombing,” where important church officials shower new members with love. “You get scared of that being taken away,” said Jane. “And you’d do anything to get it back.”

Martinez said that she was harassed by church officials after she broke from the Unification Church around 2012.

“The state leader came to my house and told me to go to a workshop, two day, then a three-day, then a 21-day workshop, to get re-indoctrinated, essentially,” said Martinez, who now works in a rural part of Texas. “It was terrifying. That’s why I moved out to the desert.” These kinds of allegations against the church have simmered for decades, and the church has repeatedly asserted that its critics are bitter or disaffected former members. There’s no current evidence to show that the younger Moon’s spinoff church relies on similar coercive tactics.

Martinez and Jane are part of a community of second-generation former Moonies who are connected via WhatsApp and increasingly speaking out against what they allege were psychological abuses inflicted by the church.

They say that a recent violent incident involving one of the church’s members, whom some of them knew, should be seen as a warning for what’s to come and the inevitable byproduct of years of psychological manipulation, mental health abuse, and increasingly radical rhetoric.

Nicholas Skulstad, 33, was also raised in the Unification Church, and after Rev. Moon's death, he joined the gun-centric spinoff, according to Martinez, who grew up a few houses away from him. Skulstad describes himself as a “follower of Hyung Jin Moon” and a “warrior for christ” in his Instagram bio. His Instagram is littered with hashtags referencing the QAnon conspiracy theory.

He was arrested last month after he allegedly repeatedly rammed his car into a New York Department of Transport vehicle in Westchester, New York, smashed its window, and attacked officers who arrived at the scene, screaming, “I’m Jesus Christ! You are going to die today! Are you ready to die?” according to federal charging documents. When police searched his vehicle, they discovered a shell casing and a notebook. Inside the notebook, there was a page titled “List-To Kill” that consisted of names of current and former public officials and other public figures, according to prosecutors. (Skulstad has pleaded not guilty, and his lawyer did not respond to VICE News’ request for comment.)

Days before his arrest, Skulstad had contacted Martinez.

“He started saying some really crazy shit,” Martinez said. “He said everyone was going to die. He told me to start praying… I asked him what he meant. I thought he was going to shoot everyone.”

He began talking about how the vaccine was going to kill everyone, and that it was the “mark of the beast.” He also spouted conspiracies about the Rockefellers and the Rothschilds being part of “satanic lineages” who “run the banks and governments” around the world. He talked of a coming “purge” that would eradicate everyone who “commits evil, like pedophiles.”

“It was shocking but not unexpected,” said Martinez about Skulstad’s arrest. “It seemed like the natural evolution of things. I know how radical the church is. I know how it doesn’t believe in mental health. I know how it ruins people’s lives.”

CultNEWS101 Articles: 5/28/2021

Re-evaluation Counseling, Youth On Board, Moral Re-Armament (MRA), Dove Outreach, Legal, NXIVM
"Boston schools will not work with a nonprofit after an independent report found the director pressured students to participate in uncomfortable counseling sessions, among other accusations of misconduct.

The school district has ended its contract with Youth On Board, the nonprofit it paid to run a student advisory board for many years, Superintendent Brenda Cassellius said Monday.

An independent report found the nonprofit's director, Jenny Sazama, pressured students who were a part of the Boston Student Advisory Council to participate in "Re-evaluation Counseling" sessions with her. The counseling encourages people to relate difficult experiences and release emotions by crying, screaming, or laughing.

Students interviewed as part of the independent investigation said the counseling sessions, which Sazama had conducted in her basement before the pandemic, were 'weird, uncomfortable and cult-like.'"
"Glenn Close says her traumatic experience of living inside a cult growing up is why she hasn't had "successful relationships".

The 74-year-old Hollywood star has opened up about the emotional distress she has suffered as a result of being part of the group Moral Re-Armament (MRA).

Appearing on Oprah Winfrey and Prince Harry's new docuseries 'The Me You Can't See', Glenn revealed the cult "basically dictated how you're supposed to live and what you're supposed to say and how you're supposed to feel."

She continued: "Because of how we were raised, anything you thought you'd do for yourself was considered selfish."

"When Serah Bellar ran away from her Amesville home in April 2020, few questioned her disappearance.

Serah, 16 at the time, was labeled by the Ohio Attorney General's Office as an "endangered runaway" in its database of missing people. Some members of her enormous family whispered about her absence in private. Beyond that, silence.

"Serah isn't dead, I'd know by now at (sic), she's smarter than people give her credit for, but she is gone, if she ever contacts dad and mom or any of us it will be on her terms," her eldest sibling Benjamin Bellar, who's incarcerated, wrote to a relative last year in a prison text messaging system, according to indictments from The Athens County Prosecutor's Office.

Her family, the Bellars, have 18 biological children and one who's adopted. Speaking to law enforcement, Serah's mother, Deborah Bellar, once said "God would give her all the children she was meant to have," according to court documents.

The Bellars were all forced by their parents, including Serah's father, Robert "Bob" Bellar, to attend the Waverly-based Dove Outreach "church" run by their uncle James "Jim" Bellar who preached that siblings are meant procreate with one another in the face of the apocalypse to repopulate the planet, documents show.

Jim, a self-proclaimed apostle, reportedly rewrote chapters of the Bible to fit his religious beliefs that were passed on to the Bellar kids. He was very selective about who he permitted at Dove Outreach, which some have described as a cult, documents said.

In an interview, Serah called the church a cult."

Variety: Allison Mack's Sentencing for Involvement With NXIVM Cult Set for June
"The sentencing for "Smallville" actor Allison Mack, who was indicted in 2018 on sex trafficking and conspiracy to commit forced labor charges for her involvement in Keith Raniere's NXIVM cult, has been scheduled for late June.

The hearing will take place on Wednesday, June 30, at 11 a.m., ordered by New York judge Nicholas G. Garaufis on Friday.

Mack was arrested by the FBI in April 2018 on charges of sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy and forced labor conspiracy. According to prosecutors, she recruited women to join the NXIVM cult using blackmail to force them to engage in sexual activity with Raniere against their will. The organization posed as a women's self-help group, but involved branding the female members and psychologically manipulating and coercing them. Raniere allegedly paid Mack for her involvement and was second-in-command of NXIVM after Raniere himself."

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May 27, 2021

Love has Won cult member Christopher Royer appears in court

May 26, 2021

Love has Won member Christopher Royer appeared in court to challenge a police search warrant executed after the death of “Mother God” Amy Carlson.

Mr Royer is facing charges of child abuse and abuse of a corpse related to the discovery of Ms Carlson’s body in Colorado in April.

Investigators seized Mr Royer’s cell phone for what prosecutor Alonzo Payne said was “more than sufficient evidence” it could contain proof of crimes while crossing state lines.

Defence attorney Ann Roan said it was a “fishing expedition” and that there was no probable cause that evidence of any crime would be found on the phone.

“The affidavit claims four people, none of whom are Mr Royer, arrived at the house in Moffat with a dead body in the vehicle,” she said. “There’s no inference at all that Mr Royer had anything to do with the body.

Idaho Couple Face Murder Charges in Deaths of Children and a Former Spouse

Lori Vallow and Chad Daybell, the mother and stepfather of Tylee Ryan and Joshua Vallow, were indicted by a grand jury this week. They drew international attention for their so-called doomsday beliefs.

Neil Vigdor
New York Times
May 25, 2021

Headlines refer to them as the “doomsday couple,” a pair who have drawn international attention for their so-called apocalyptic religious beliefs and the recurring demises of their immediate family members under questionable circumstances.

The Lifetime television network even made a movie about them.

On Tuesday, prosecutors in Idaho announced that the husband and wife, Chad Daybell and Lori Vallow, had been charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of two of Ms. Vallow’s children. Mr. Daybell was also charged with first-degree murder in the death of his previous spouse, a case that received renewed attention after the disappearance of Ms. Vallow’s children.

The couple, who were indicted by a grand jury in Fremont County, Idaho, on Monday, could face the death penalty, prosecutors said.

“Members of the grand jury deliberated and determined there is probable cause to believe the Daybells willfully and knowingly conspired to commit several crimes that led to the death of three innocent people,” Lindsey Blake, the Fremont County prosecutor, said at a news conference.

The couple’s indictment came nearly a year after investigators found the remains of Ms. Vallow’s children Tylee Ryan, 17, and Joshua Vallow, 7, last June, buried at the home of Mr. Daybell, who was their stepfather.

Prosecutors did not say how the children had been killed, but the couple’s religious beliefs played a role, according to the indictment. Mr. Daybell and Ms. Vallow “did endorse and teach religious beliefs for the purpose of justifying” the murders, the indictment said.

Mr. Daybell’s previous wife, Tammy Daybell, 49, was found dead in October 2019 in her home in Idaho. Her death was initially attributed to natural causes, but the authorities ordered that her remains be exhumed, suspecting that her death might have been connected to Ms. Vallow’s missing children.

According to the indictment, Mr. Daybell and Ms. Vallow said in a text message exchange that Ms. Daybell had been in “limbo” and was “being possessed by a spirit named Viola.” Mr. Daybell had increased the amount of coverage in a life insurance policy for Ms. Daybell in September 2019, a little more than a month before her death.

Mr. Daybell, 52, and Ms. Vallow, 47, married shortly after their previous spouses had died.

A lawyer for Mr. Daybell did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.

Ms. Vallow’s lawyer said in a text message on Tuesday that he was not immediately prepared to comment.

Both Mr. Daybell and Ms. Vallow have been in custody since last year, when Ms. Vallow was arrested in Hawaii on charges that included two felony counts of desertion and nonsupport of dependent children. Mr. Daybell was arrested last June on felony charges related to the disappearance of his stepchildren. He and Ms. Vallow have pleaded not guilty to those earlier charges.

In yet another layer of the story, Ms. Vallow’s previous husband, Charles Vallow, was shot and killed in Arizona in July 2019 by Ms. Vallow’s brother, Alexander Cox, who told the police that his brother-in-law had hit him in the head with a baseball bat and that the shooting was a case of self-defense. Ms. Vallow had been estranged from her first husband at the time, and Mr. Cox has since died.

The religious views of Mr. Daybell and Ms. Vallow have drawn international attention to the case.

Mr. Daybell has written several novels with recurring doomsday themes. In divorce records obtained by the Phoenix television station Fox 10, Ms. Vallow’s previous husband said that she had told him that she believed she was “receiving spiritual revelations and visions to help her gather and prepare those chosen to live in the New Jerusalem after the Great War as prophesied in the Book of Revelations.”

Both Mr. Daybell and Ms. Vallow have been linked to an entity called Preparing People, which aims to help prepare people for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, according to its website.

In addition to the murder charges, Mr. Daybell and Ms. Vallow were charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and grand theft by deception in connection with the children’s deaths, and one count of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder that stemmed from Ms. Daybell’s death.

The indictment said that Ms. Vallow had continued to collect several months’ worth of Social Security survivor benefits for both children and Social Security child care payments for one of them after their deaths.

Mr. Daybell was also charged with two counts of insurance fraud, and Ms. Vallow was charged with one count of grand theft.

In a news release last month, Lifetime announced that Ms. Vallow would be portrayed in a movie called “Doomsday Mom: The Lori Vallow Story” that is scheduled to be broadcast on June 26.

A spokeswoman for Lifetime said in an email on Tuesday night that the movie would still be broadcast and that the producers had been closely monitoring the developments in the case. An update will appear at the end of the movie, she said.

Neil Vigdor is a breaking news reporter. He previously covered Connecticut politics for The Hartford Courant. @gettinviggy • Facebook

Ramdev: Doctors furious over yoga guru's insulting Covid remark

BBC News
May 25, 2021

Doctors in India have hit out against yoga guru Baba Ramdev over his controversial statements against modern medicine.

He recently said that tens of thousands died of Covid after taking modern medicines and mocked patients for trying to get oxygen cylinders.

The guru withdrew his statement after the health minister criticised him.

But he again took a swipe at modern medicine on Monday for not having a cure for some diseases.

Modern, science-based medicine is the backbone of India's healthcare systems, but alternative therapies like ayurveda and homoeopathy are also hugely popular. Many gurus like Ramdev have launched successful businesses on the back of selling herbal medicines and products.

India also has a Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (Ayush) to promote traditional systems.

The Indian Medical Association (IMA), an organization that represents doctors in India, has criticized the guru for his "insensitive" remarks in the middle of the pandemic.

Doctors the BBC spoke to said such statements from a guru with millions of followers were "irresponsible and demoralizing".

What is the controversy?

A video of Baba Ramdev mocking patients for trying to find oxygen went viral earlier this month.

It's not clear when he made the statement, but he is heard making references to oxygen shortages in several cities in April and May.

"God has given us free oxygen, why don't we breathe that? How can there be a shortage when God has filled the atmosphere with oxygen? Fools are looking for oxygen cylinders. Just breathe the free oxygen. Why are you complaining about shortage of oxygen and beds and crematoriums?" he said.

The statement drew sharp criticism from doctors and families of Covid patients who demanded an apology.

Two weeks later, another video emerged in which he can be heard criticising doctors and blaming Covid deaths on them.

Many doctors took to Twitter to express their anger. Some even demanded his arrest.

As pressure grew, India's Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, who is also a doctor, issued a statement, asking the guru to withdraw his remarks.

"Allopathy [modern medicine] and the doctors attached to it have given new lives to millions of people. It's very unfortunate for you to say that people died from consuming allopathic medicines.

"We should not forget that this battle can only be won through united efforts. In this war, our doctors, nurses and other health workers are risking their lives to save people's lives. Their dedication towards serving mankind in this crisis is unparalleled and exemplary."

On Sunday, Baba Ramdev withdrew his controversial statement in a tweet. But a day later, he issued a letter asking the IMA why modern medicine had no cure for 25 diseases, including diabetes and hypertension.

This has again infuriated doctors. Prominent pulmonologist Dr A Fathahudeen, who has treated thousands of Covid patients, told the BBC that such statements cause lasting damage.

"For more than a year, healthcare workers like me have been in a war-like situation. We have saved tens of thousand of lives. It's really unfortunate, insulting and hurtful to read such statements," he said.

Dr Fathahudeen added that modern medicine had evolved over the years with constant research and studies. "We follow evidence-based practice. At any given time, thousands of researchers are working to come up with cures. Look at the progress we have made in cancer treatment. We have to constantly evolve and learn. It's hard to trust any branch of medicine that offers absolute cure for every disease."

He also added that such statements create doubts in the mind of people when we need to have trust in medicines and vaccines in the middle of a raging pandemic.

Who is Baba Ramdev?

He shot to fame because of his televised yoga classes. Millions followed him and he received praise across the world for promoting yoga and healthy living.

In 2006, he helped launch Patanjali Ayurveda to sell herbal medicines and a few years later, the business expanded to selling almost everything, from flour, jeans, soaps, oils, biscuits and even cow urine from stores in even the remotest corners of the country. He was successful in translating his popularity into building a business empire.

The expansion of his business also coincided with the Hindu nationalist BJP coming to power in 2014.

Baba Ramdev has openly supported both the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi and even campaigned for the party.

False Covid cure claims

Patanjali Ayurveda launched Coronil - a combination of herbs used in traditional Indian medicine - in June last year and claimed that it could cure Covid.

But marketing of the product as Covid medicine had to stop after the government said there was no data to show it worked as a treatment. But it didn't ban Coronil, and said that it could be sold as an "immunity booster".

Then in February, Patanjali supporters claimed that Coronil had been approved by the WHO - prompting it to issue a denial:

Dr Vardhan was criticised for attending an event with Baba Ramdev in February where claims about Coronil as a cure for Covid were repeated.

Coronil was also found selling in some stores in the UK which led to the drug regulator there saying no such drug was authorised.

In 2018, Baba Ramdev launched a messaging app calling it "a home-grown rival to WhatsApp", but it was soon removed from app stores amid a furore over security flaws.

The Turning: The Sisters Who Left

"Thousands of women gave up everything to follow Mother Teresa, joining her storied Catholic order, the Missionaries of Charity. But some found that life inside this fiercely private religious order was not what they’d imagined. Former sisters who worked closely with Mother Teresa describe her bold vision and devotion to charity and prayer. But they also share stories of suffering and forbidden love, abuse and betrayal. If you make a lifelong vow, what does it mean to break it? What is the line between devotion and brainwashing? Can you truly give yourself to God?"

All Episodes

CultNEWS101 Articles: 5/27/2021 (Former Member Stories, The Missionaries of Charity, Westboro Baptist Church, Vatican, Pope Pius XII)

Former Member Stories, The Missionaries of Charity, Westboro Baptist Church, Vatican, Pope Pius XII

"Julia McCoy is the CEO of Express Writers, educator and founder of The Content Hacker, and bestselling 3x author. But it didn't start out all rosy for this successful entrepreneur.

Having been raised in a Fundamentalist cult led by a narcissistic father in the state of Pennsylvania, Julia learned how to make decisions for herself and follow her passion. She escaped the prison that she had been confined to for the first 21 years of her life. It was then that Julia began her new life. But it took courage to escape the confines she grew up in and boldly pursue a life of happiness, especially when the odds were stacked against her."
Salon talks to the maker of a new podcast on abuse, suffering and forbidden love within The Missionaries of Charity.

"One of the most striking things about the new podcast "The Turning: The Sisters Who Left" is how some of the former nuns describe their experiences with life behind the walls of Mother Teresa's world-famous order, the Missionaries of Charity: in language reminiscent of the way we talk about cults. 

They use terms like "isolation" and "brainwashing." They were only permitted to write home once a month and visit home once every decade. They describe what it feels like to look at a single human: as having a direct line to holiness. 

Of course there were beautiful, spiritually affirming moments, too — times where these women felt achingly close to the God for whom they'd given up their normal lives — but for some, the suffering and separation were too much. "The whole idea was to make you feel as alone as possible," Kelli Dunham, a self-described "ex-nun," said. 

It was enough to make some fantasize about escaping — and some did. Through "The Turning," a new 10-episode podcast by Rococo Punch and iHeartMedia, producer and host Erika Lantz tells their stories."

" ... The sisters kept a rigid schedule that began at 4:30 a.m. and only included 30 minutes of unstructured recreation time, which was most often spent catching up on work that hadn't gotten done. Though they were required to go everywhere in pairs, the nuns were never allowed to have private conversations and would instead recite prayers together. 

This was to encourage chastity, a virtue that, as Lantz found out in her reporting, Mother Teresa was strict about maintaining, almost to the point of paranoia. After all, the Missionaries of Charity were spiritually wed to Jesus and were organized to "satiate the thirst of Jesus Christ on the Cross for Love and Souls."

It's a telling detail that Mother Teresa was so intently focused on Christ's crucifixion. While, as Lantz put it in "The Turning," one would anticipate that the scriptural passages that would have most impacted Mother Teresa would have centered on Jesus' interactions with the poor, sick and hungry, she was perhaps most moved by how his pain catalyzed his holiness. 

This was reflected in how the sisters lived in their respective convents, the series reports. Why would you pray from a chair when you could kneel on the hard ground? Why would you open the windows or wear one less layer when you could simply swelter? Why, as in the case of one nun, would you rest in bed after sustaining major burns when you could go back to work in almost unspeakable pain? 

However, as Lantz found out, the emphasis on achieving holiness through suffering didn't stop there. As is revealed early in "The Turning," the sisters would frequently engage in self-flagellation. 

Mary Johnson, a former nun and author of "An Unquenchable Thirst" — who also spoke with Salon back in 2013 about her experiences in the order — joined the Missionaries of Charity when she was 19 after seeing Mother Teresa on the cover of TIME Magazine."

"When Aaron Jackson found a property for sale across the street from the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, right away he had the idea to buy the house and paint it the colors of the Pride flag.

The founder of Planting Peace — a global nonprofit whose initiatives include environmental conservation and LGBTQ advocacy campaigns — Jackson wanted to make a statement with his choice of paint colors.

While a number of religious groups are supportive of LGBTQ inclusion and equality, according to the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), the Westboro Baptist Church is not one of them.

The organization is considered to be an extremist and anti-gay religious group, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. And its members believe that homosexuality is a sin, according to the church's website (which includes a homophobic epithet in its URL)."

" ... According to the experts, much of what is in the seemingly endless secretive archival records are actually kind of boring — housing documents like requests for money to buy shoes. But scholars predict the vaults will shed light upon the range of opinion within church leadership at the time about how to respond to the reports about treatment of Jews in Nazi Europe.

Rioli described the opinions of bishops on the continent as "a mosaic" that will "give us a more wide view of mid-century church leadership."

Valbousquet said she had recently uncovered Vatican correspondence from shortly after the war that suggested officials had a deep lack of understanding of what had happened during the Holocaust and harbored antisemitic sentiments.

Valbousquet found a 1946 letter from a Vatican official about Jewish refugees performing a hunger strike to be allowed to immigrate to what was then Palestine. In the letter, the official commented that: "I don't believe that the hunger strike will last very long because Jews do not like to suffer and they are not used to suffering."

Kertzer stressed the importance of understanding the length of Pius' tenure, which went well past the war into the era of post-war reconstruction, the founding of Israel, and the theological debates that would eventually lead to the 1962-65 Second Vatican Council.

Understanding the postwar era of his papacy is crucial to understanding what Pius signifies today, said the researcher.

"Part of the reason that Pope Pius XII has such staunch defenders is that there are some who believe that the Second Vatican Council is where the church went wrong and Pope Pius XII was the last pre-Second Vatican pope," said Kertzer."

News, Education, Intervention, Recovery to help families and friends understand and effectively respond to the complexity of a loved one's cult involvement. assists group members and their families make the sometimes difficult transition from coercion to renewed individual choice. news, links, resources.




Instagram resources about cults, cultic groups, abusive relationships, movements, religions, political organizations and related topics.

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