Oct 31, 2022

10 people who say they were in a cult - and how they got the courage to leave

Janaki Jitchotvisut
September 19, 2018

Many people think of cults as strictly religious, but that's not always the case. And though most people don't want to believe it, given the right circumstances, it can be easy to fall prey to a cult.

Still, there's hope — and here are 10 stories of people who say they successfully escaped from a cult.

Maude Julien wrote a memoir about how her father created a "three-person family cult."

In 1936, Louis Didier, a 34-year-old businessman in northern France, convinced a poor couple to let him take in their 6-year-old daughter named Jeannine. By 1957, Didier had married Jeannine and he decided they were to have a child together. They had a girl they named Maude Julien.

Julien describes how her father attempted to make her into a "superhuman" child. In the time between the first and second World Wars, he would experiment on her. Around the age of 6, he would ply her with whiskey and then command her to do complicated tasks. He also regularly made her hold onto electric fences with her hands or kept her in a basement in the darkness with bells on her sweater so he would know if she moved.

He also reasoned that since musicians survived concentration camps, his daughter needed to learn as many musical instruments as possible. That's eventually how she escaped; a music tutor convinced her father to send the formerly homeschooled Maude away to "a harsh school" to continue her music training.

Today, Julien is 60 years old and is a psychotherapist. She went on to write a memoir about her experiences titled "The Only Girl in the World."

The entire Phoenix family of actors — River, Joaquin, Rain, Liberty, and Summer — spent part of their childhoods as members of The Children of God.

In 2014, Joaquin Phoenix sat down for an interview with Playboy and talked about growing up in The Children of God.

"My parents had a religious experience and felt strongly about it. They wanted to share that with other people who wanted to talk about their experience with religion," he said. "These friends were like, 'Oh, we believe in Jesus as well.' I think my parents thought they'd found a community that shared their ideals."

But according to Phoenix, that wasn't the case and the group was actually a cult.

"Cults rarely advertise themselves as such," he continued. "It's usually someone saying, 'We're like-minded people. This is a community,' but I think the moment my parents realized there was something more to it, they got out."

In reviewing a biography of the tragically short life of Joaquin's brother River Phoenix, LA Weekly wrote that Children of God "infamously encouraged both incest and adultery." The parents constantly preached the Children of God word to any who would listen in Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela — while the Phoenix kids begged from locals since families in the cult were responsible for providing their own food.

The family eventually left. In Joaquin's interview with Playboy, he said that he could see the cult's beliefs and actions evolving in a disturbing way.

Rose McGowan also spent her childhood growing up as a member of The Children of God.

For the first nine years of her life, Rose McGowan says she and her family were a part of a Children of God branch in the beautiful Italian countryside. According to McGowan, her dad was a leader in the branch — not just a run-of-the-mill member.

The Children of God believed strongly in both an imminent apocalypse and also free love. McGowan told People that when the Children of God started heavily pushing the idea of child-adult sexual relations, her father left and took her with him.

McGowan talked to People magazine about her family's escape.

"My dad, Nat, Daisy and I escaped with my dad's other wife in the middle of the night," she said. "I remember running through a cornfield in thunder and lightning, holding my dad's hand and running as fast as I could to keep up with him … [The cult] sent people to find us. I remember a man trying to break in with a hammer."

Michael Young grew up as a member of The Family International, the name that The Children of God chose after it was rebranded.

The Children of God later rebranded and changed its name to the Family of Love, and later The Family International after it had been labeled a cult and was investigated by the FBI and Interpol.

Speaking to the Guardian, Michael Young — who was born in 1992 — recalled his experiences with the group being a street preacher as a child on the streets of Monterrey, Mexico.

Although Young told the Guardian that he himself was not sexually abused, he saw other children who were — especially young girls. He told the Guardian, "It definitely wasn't a safe place to grow up, especially if you were a girl. Close friends of mine growing up were abused and raped."

The Children of God founder David Berg died in 1994, but his widow Karen Zerby continued the group's mission. Under her guidance, in 2009, The Family International announced that the apocalypse was no longer imminent — and suggested that members might want to start thinking about the future.

In the Guardian piece, Young and other former members describe how hard it was the acclimate back to normal life and move on after leaving.

The Family International still exists today, but no longer encourages communal living — and as of 2017, counted around 2,500 members in total spread across 80 countries.

Anna LeBaron was one of over 50 children born to Ervil LeBaron — who was dubbed "the Mormon Manson" because he was accused of murdering dissenters.

Anna LeBaron wrote a book and gave numerous interviews about how she escaped from her fundamentalist father's cult at the age of 13.

Her father, Ervil LeBaron, was the leader of the Church of the Lamb of God, a fundamentalist offshoot of Mormonism that kept up the practice of polygamy after the main church abandoned it in 1890.

Over his lifetime, Anna's father would marry 13 women and father over 50 children. Anyone who challenged LeBaron was allegedly subject to the abandoned Mormon doctrine called "blood atonement" that said killing "sinners" could "cleanse them of evil." LeBaron's murder plots reportedly started with his older brother, Joel, and allegedly continued even after he went to prison in 1979.

By 1981, he had died while still in prison, but his followers were still killing in his name.

In 1988, the Four O'Clock Murders shocked America when family members were gunned down within minutes of each other on the same day, all allegedly on LeBaron's orders. Mark Chynoweth, who hadhelped Anna escape from the Church of the Lamb of God, was one of the victims.

Since then, Anna says the family is slowly healing and has moved beyond its dark past.

"I have five grown children and if me telling my story was to put me in any danger, or anybody that I loved and cared about, I would never have done this at all," she told the BBC. "I believe that is 100% in the past and there is no danger at all for me."

Author Rebecca Stott left the Exclusive Brethren in the UK with her family when she was 8 years old.

Rebecca Stott's family belonged to The Exclusive Brethren, which believed in the Rapture, extreme adherence to very strict rules, and as little mingling with the outside world as possible. Stott said women and girls were expected to be completely subservient, quiet, and keep their heads covered and hair long.

If followers failed to adhere to the rules, minister higher-ups would visit and interrogate them, and sometimes isolate them for extended periods of time, she said.

In 1970, a scandal rocked the Brethren when one of the cult's leaders — a 70-year-old man named Jim Taylor, Jr. — was found in bed with a 30-something younger woman in the group who was married to someone else. A group of around 8,000 Brethren worldwide splintered off from the main group — and Stott's parents and several other close relatives were part of that splinter faction.

Not long after, Stott's father decided that the family should enter the real world and disengage from the cult altogether. While they'd been part of the Brethren, Stott didn't watch TV, read newspapers, listen to secular music, or see movies — the entire family was largely out of touch with the culture of the time. Suddenly being thrust back into the world was a huge adjustment.

Stott wrote in an essay for Elle that she tells her children "to think for themselves, to ask questions and to stand up when they see something unfair."

Rachel Jeffs is the daughter of self-described "prophet" of The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Church, Warren Jeffs. She left in 2015.

Rachel is one of Warren Jeffs' 53 children by 78 wives — at least one of whom was as young as 12 when she was forced into marriage.

Rachel says her father started sexually abusing her when she was 8 years old — and she told her mother about it when she was 10. After her mother confronted Warren Jeffs about it, he still kept it up, even forcing Rachel to look at pornography while out at bookstores, she said.

Her father may have believed in taking young girls as wives for himself — but he didn't marry Rachel off until she was 18.

"Right before I got married was when he started marrying 16-year-olds," she told A&E. "And he actually married one 15-year-old right before I got married. I knew it was wrong, I knew in my heart. I felt bad for these girls — they were my age, they're little girls. I remember thinking that it was gross, but I couldn't really do anything about it."

Warren Jeffs was convicted in 2011 for aggravated sexual assault on a 12-year-old girl and sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl that he claimed were both his "spiritual wives" and was sentenced to life plus 20 years in prison. Even so, he still controls the FLDS church.

It was after Warren punished Rachel by forcing her to live apart from her children for seven months that she finally left the church. The alleged crime: Warren accused Rachel of having had sex with her husband while she was pregnant.

Wallace Jeffs, the half-brother of Warren Jeffs, also left the FLDS.

After he saw his half-brother Warren — the self-proclaimed FLDS prophet and church leader — marry an 11-year-old girl, Wallace Jeffs says he knew he had to protect his children, he told Religion News Service.

He worked with the FBI to gather evidence against his half-brother and wanted to fight for custody of his children. Standard practice in the FLDS held that men could forfeit their plural wives and children to the church if they stepped out of line.

His family managed to all leave the FLDS after he did, according to the Religion News Service. Some of them don't currently talk to Wallace, but he says he's happy that they're at least free of the cult and rebuilding their lives.

Carli McConkey joined a group called Life Integration Programmes in 1996 that she says was a cult. She won a defamation suit brought forward by the group's leader in 2014.

While attending the Mind Body Spirit Festival in Sydney, Australia, after university graduation in 1996, Carli McConkey found herself drawn to a booth for Life Integration Programmes (LIP). The first seminar was free, but after that, she had to pay more and more if she wanted to continue taking these courses.

The group was lead by a woman named Natasha Lakaev, a registered psychologist, according to NRM Digital. Sleep deprivation, food deprivation, removal of personal identification documentation, siphoning of all personal finances to complete courses, isolation from friends and family members, and a constant barrage of carefully selected information were all methods the organization reportedly used to keep its followers in line.

In the late 1990s, LIP changed its name to Universal Knowledge. McConkey said she experienced physical abuse at the hands of Lakaev multiple times and was told to give more and more money.

McConkey finally left with her three children in 2009 and was able to reconnect with her parents. She has since written a self-published book about her experience as well as given interviews to the press. In 2014, McConkey and her ex-husband Michael Greene won the defamation case against them brought forward by Lakaev.

Claire Ashman says she survived two cults — starting from childhood indoctrination and later moving on to the Order of St. Charbel.

Claire Ashman grew up in a rural area of Victoria, Australia, in a very strict Catholic family who were members of the Society of St. Pius X — a sect that the Catholic Church does not currently recognize. When she was 15, a 27-year-old family friend named Tony started showing interest in her and the two later married.

It was Tony who became interested in the Order of St. Charbel, according to Claire, and she says despite her reservations, they joined.

The group was founded by William "Little Pebble" Kamm. He tried to get Claire to join the Royal House of David, which she said consisted of Kamm marrying 12 young virgins called "Queens" and 72 "Princesses" who could be married to other men but would bear him "mystical babies."

Kamm was later convicted and sent to prison after claiming that the Virgin Mary told him to repopulate the Earth with two 15-year-old girls, according to News.Com.Au. Kamm ended up serving nine years of a maximum 10-year sentence for his crimes and is believed to have fathered over 20 children, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Claire said she started to think about leaving after learning what a cult was from a book called "The Beautiful Side of Evil" by Johanna Michaelsen. In 2006, she left with her children. She now writes and gives presentations in hopes of helping others free themselves from cult indoctrination — as well as educating people about the signs to look forto keep those they love safe from cults.



Cult survivors come together to reveal stories of resilience: 'People can thrive after this'

Stephanie Nolasco
AP/Fox News
October 30, 2022

Lola Blanc and Meagan Elizabeth have teamed up for the podcast 'Trust Me,' which explores stories and cases involving ex
treme beliefs and manipulation

If you’ve ever had an experience with a cult, Lola Blanc and Meagan Elizabeth want to hear about it.

The women have teamed up to launch a podcast titled "Trust Me," which explores cases of "extreme belief and manipulation." They offer a telephone number so that listeners can either voicemail or text their personal accounts. The women also speak to survivors, experts, as well as "former and current believers." They’ve previously spoken to survivors of groups like NXIVM, Heaven’s Gate and the Children of God, among others.

Elizabeth told Fox News Digital she’s been stunned by the messages they’ve been receiving from callers.

"It’s one of the most interesting parts of what we’ve done," she explained. "We ended up using one of the stories as a complete episode because that person left us a message, and we just kept talking to them. And it’s crazy how different everyone’s story is, and yet they’re so similar. … I’m constantly struck by how many people experience this and yet how strong and resilient they are. There’s been such a misconception about these kinds of people. But the truth is, the kinds of people who end up in cults are incredibly intelligent, curious, funny and super self-aware, just like anyone you would meet on the street."



"It can happen to anyone," she added.

And the topic hits close to home. Elizabeth said she was raised in a secret religious sect called the "Two By Twos" that is also referred to as "The Truth" or "The Way." Blanc said she and her mother fell prey to a self-proclaimed "prophet" from a Mormon offshoot group who manipulated them.

According to experts, there are thousands of cult groups. Psychologist Dr. Margaret Thaler Singer, author of "Cults in Our Midst," once estimated that a whopping 10 million to 20 million Americans have been involved to some degree with cult-like organizations in the last 20 years.

Elizabeth explained that while many associate these extreme groups with the ‘60s and ‘70s, recruits are being made online.




"We have found that it’s so easy now with the internet," she said. "There are people out there who are getting a lot of money and loyalty from others in ways that aren’t healthy. … There’s just so much uneasiness in the world today that you want to look for answers. You want to look for different avenues where you don’t feel alone. But you need to be aware of the group’s intentions."

Blanc noted that the tell-tale signs have been consistent among the numerous listeners who have either called in or emailed them.

"It seems like consistently cult leaders isolate people from their loved ones and prevent them from having an identity outside the group," she said. "You also have that one who claims they know all the answers. You’ll have those that exploit their members financially but also psychologically and emotionally. You also start to lose your identity and sense of self outside the group. There seems to be no tolerance for questioning."

"The lack of individuality is so big within these groups," Elizabeth continued. "We shouldn’t all think the same things or do the same things. If you’re being asked to not be an individual, then you’re probably in a cult-like situation where somebody’s trying to control you. You shouldn’t find your sense of self in one person or one group. You shouldn’t rely on one person or one group to get all of your information in the world. And you shouldn’t rely on one person or one group to feel safe or right. You need more than one place to go for answers in your life."



The women do revisit infamous cases to see how they occurred and the lessons that can be learned today. Jonestown, led by the Rev. Jim Jones, comes to mind. The mass murders and suicides of hundreds in an agriculture commune in Guyana still horrify decades after it occurred in 1978.

There’s also the Manson family, which has sparked numerous books, films and documentaries. Charles Manson, the hippie cult leader who masterminded the gruesome murders of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and six others during the summer of 1969, passed away in 2017 after nearly a half-century in prison. The women, who interviewed a former Manson follower for "Trust Me," said they were struck by how "normal" she is.


"In terms of people who are willing to share their stories with us, it tends to be more women," said Blanc. "But I don’t believe it’s because more women get involved with cults. I think men join very different types of groups. We also found that women are more comfortable discussing what happened to them. But we’re learning that there’s a surprising amount of male survivors out there as well."

Elizabeth and Blanc said they’ve wanted to create a space where listeners can share their stories without judgment.



"We wanted people to find a place where they could feel less alone," said Blanc. "It was really important for us to create a space where it’s humanized and normalized. I remember when I was looking for a podcast like this one, I couldn’t find anything. The ones I found were almost gawking at survivors. If you’ve been manipulated or abused in some way, you’re not broken. There’s nothing wrong with you. You were just manipulated by a bad person. And that’s one of the many things we wanted people to take from the show."

"We also wanted to show how resilient these listeners are," said Elizabeth. "When you’re first coming out of it, if it can feel like your life is over, and you’re never going to thrive again. We have found that’s not true. People can thrive after this."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Stephanie Nolasco covers entertainment at Foxnews.com.



The Christian Withdrawal Experiment

Feeling out of step with the mores of contemporary life, members of a conservative-Catholic group have built a thriving community in rural Kansas. Could their flight from mainstream society be a harbinger for the nation?

Emma Green
The Atlantic

Half an hour down the highway from Topeka, Kansas, not far from the geographic center of the United States, sits the town of St. Marys. Like many towns in the region, it is small, quiet, and conservative. Unlike many towns in the region, it is growing. As waves of young people have abandoned the Great Plains in search of economic opportunity, St. Marys has managed to attract families from across the nation. The newcomers have made the radical choice to uproot their lives in pursuit of an ideological sanctuary, a place where they can raise their children according to values no longer common in mainstream America.

St. Marys is home to a chapter of the Society of St. Pius X, or SSPX. Named for the early-20th-century pope who railed against the forces of modernism, the international order of priests was formed in the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church's attempt, in the 1960s, to meet the challenges of contemporary life. Though not fully recognized by the Vatican, the priests of SSPX see themselves as defenders of the true practices of Roman Catholicism, including the traditional Latin Mass, celebrated each day in St. Marys. Perfumed with incense and filled with majestic Latin hymns, the service has an air of formality and grandeur. To most American Catholics under the age of 50, it would be unrecognizable.

Throughout American history, religious groups have walled themselves off from the rhythms and mores of society. St. Marys isn't nearly as cut off from modern life as, say, the Amish communities that still abjure all modern technology, be it tractor or cellphone. Residents watch prestige television on Hulu and catch Sunday-afternoon football games; moms drive to Topeka to shop at Sam's Club. Yet hints of the town's utopian project are everywhere. On a recent afternoon, I visited the general store, where polite teens played bluegrass music beside rows of dried goods. Women in long, modest skirts loaded vans that had enough seats to accommodate eight or nine kids—unlike most American Catholics, SSPX members abide by the Vatican's prohibition on birth control. At housewarming parties and potluck dinners, children huddle around pianos for sing-alongs.

In their four decades in St. Marys, the followers of SSPX have more than doubled the town's size. Even with six Masses on Sundays, parishioners fill the Society's chapel to capacity; overflow services are held in the gym of the Society's academy, which inhabits an imposing campus built by the Jesuit missionaries who called St. Marys home in the 19th century. The school is constantly running out of classroom space. The parish rector, Father Patrick Rutledge, has to scramble each summer to accommodate rising enrollment. Real estate sells at price points closer to those of Kansas's big cities than of its other small towns.

Newcomers are attracted by the opportunity to live beside like-minded neighbors. But many are pushed here as much as they are pulled. When they lived in other places, many SSPX families felt isolated by their faith, keenly aware that their theological convictions were out of step with America's evolving cultural sensibilities and what they perceive as the growing liberalism of the Catholic Church, especially on issues such as gay marriage and abortion. They were wary of being labeled bigots by co-workers and even friends. They worried that their children would be exposed to sin: A friend's parents might let their kids watch violent television shows; teens might encounter pornography on a classmate's phone. "We can't keep things out that we'd like to keep out completely," Rutledge told me. But the environment in St. Marys is "as conducive as possible for children to save their souls."

In 2017, the conservative writer Rod Dreher published The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation, in which he describes growing hostility to Christian values in the secular world. Dreher, a convert to Eastern Orthodoxy, argues that sexual expression has become secular society's highest god. He laments that Christians have been pressured to accommodate and even celebrate LGBTQ identity. In the face of what Dreher calls the "barbarism" of contemporary American life, he believes the devout have no option but to flee—to build communities, churches, and even colleges where they will be free to live their values and pass the gospel on to the next generation.

Among the conservative-Christian intelligentsia, Dreher's book was explosive. Charles Chaput, the outgoing archbishop of Philadelphia and an influential figure in the Catholic Church, described it as "a tough, frank, and true assessment of contemporary American culture." The New York Times columnist David Brooks called it "the most discussed and most important religious book of the decade." The Benedict Option prompted a flurry of essays in evangelical magazines, panel discussions at Christian colleges, and at least one spin-off book from a young Dreher acolyte. Dreher himself continues to write about so-called Ben-Op communities springing up around the country, from Alaska to Texas to the suburbs of Washington, D.C.

When they lived elsewhere, many St. Marys residents felt isolated by their faith, keenly aware that their beliefs were out of step with America's evolving cultural sensibilities.

Dreher addressed his book to fellow conservative Christians, but in calling for a strategic retreat from society, he tapped into an impulse felt by a range of groups in America. In Philadelphia, Baltimore, and D.C., contemporary followers of Marcus Garvey, the 20th-century Pan-African activist and thinker, have built infrastructure designed to free black people from systemic oppression: community gardens to provide food in neighborhoods devoid of grocery stores, and Afrocentric schools that teach black pride. Young leftist Jews skeptical of assimilation have founded a number of Yiddish-speaking farms in upstate New York, in an effort to preserve their ethnic heritage as well as Judaism's agrarian tradition. Environmentalists have established sustainable settlements in rural Virginia, which serve as both utopian experiments in low-impact living and shelters for the climate disasters ahead.

These groups ostensibly have little in common, but they share a sense that living according to their beliefs while continuing to participate in mainstream American life is not possible. They have elected to undertake what might be termed cultural secession. Katherine Dugan, an assistant professor of religion at Springfield College, in Massachusetts, who studies Catholicism in the U.S., describes the desire for protected, set-apart communities as "a natural American response to not liking what the cultural context is."

In some ways, these groups are merely practicing an extreme form of the insularity many Americans have already embraced. Deep-blue enclaves such as Berkeley and brownstone Brooklyn are similarly homogenous, sought out by people with a certain set of values and hopes for their children. But the rise of more radical self-sorting poses a challenge to America's experiment in multicultural democracy, enshrined in the motto e pluribus unum—"Out of many, one." The dream of a diverse society is replaced with one in which different groups coexist, but mostly try to stay out of one another's way. The ongoing experiment in St. Marys suggests what might be gained by such a realignment—and what might be lost.

Michelle and francis snyder moved to St. Marys seven years ago, just as Barack Obama was about to win his second term as president. The high-school sweethearts had grown up attending SSPX chapels, and wanted to raise their children with a strong Catholic faith, but in the early years of their marriage they struggled to make this vision a reality. Moving from job to job around Buffalo and Syracuse, New York, Francis found it difficult to earn enough money to support the large family the couple wanted. To make ends meet, he worked construction jobs seven days a week, skipping Mass for months at a time. Michelle had made sandwiches at Panera after high school, but quit after she gave birth to their first child.

It was only after the couple moved to St. Marys that Michelle realized how lonely her life in New York had been. In St. Marys, few married women work, especially once they have children. Mothers trade strollers and bassinets and coordinate a constant supply of casseroles when a new baby arrives. Michelle relies on her neighbors for carpooling and in emergencies, trusting them implicitly. "We're all Catholic," she told me. "We're all raising our children to get to heaven." Francis now works for a manufacturing business that, like many of the companies in town, is owned by a fellow SSPX parishioner. He gets time off to attend Mass and observe holy days of obligation.

Michelle and Francis, now in their mid-30s, have six children, three born since they arrived in St. Marys. They are raising their daughters—11-year-old Anna, 5-year-old Lucy, and an infant, Evelyn—to follow in Michelle's path. If they aren't going to become nuns, she said, the girls should be preparing to become wives and mothers. "I would not mind if they went for a career, but once they got married, I would encourage them to focus on their family," she said as she nursed Evelyn in the family's light-filled living room. "We're having children and raising them and educating them. And in the Catholic faith, that's priority."

That education takes place at St. Mary's Academy. (The town spells its name with no apostrophe; the academy uses the possessive form.) Students are strictly separated by gender. Little girls wear Mary Janes and jumpers to class on the upper part of campus. The boys, in crew cuts and ties, learn in the buildings of the lower campus. Female students can compete in intramural sports, such as volleyball and archery, but only against other girls. The boys compete against sports teams in the area, although the school attracted controversy in 2008 for forfeiting a basketball game when a woman showed up to referee. ("Teaching our boys to treat ladies with deference," SSPX said in a statement at the time, "we cannot place them in an aggressive athletic competition where they are forced to play inhibited by their concern about running into a female referee.")

In the classroom, students are instructed in the Catechism. Latin is the only foreign language offered, and teachers favor blackboards over computers. A classical education, the school believes, is the foundation of students' Catholic future. The day I visited, I watched ninth-grade girls discuss G. K. Chesterton and the Epic of Gilgamesh.

Newcomers find st. marys appealing precisely because it is built around uncompromising theological principles and shared social values. But for those who aren't affiliated with the Society, the town has become a less welcoming place since SSPX arrived.

As the SSPX community in St. Marys has grown, parishioners have come to dominate the town's civic life. Francis Awerkamp is an SSPX parishioner who serves in local and state government and is a co-owner of the business where Francis Snyder works. He told me it makes sense that Society parishioners hold the mayoralty and every seat on the city commission, since members of SSPX make up the majority of the town's population. Most of the matters that commissioners deal with are crushingly mundane, he said: installing a new drainage ditch, or rezoning the golf course. "Government has a certain role in a community. And that role, in St. Marys, mainly revolves around infrastructure," he said. "Is there stuff that gets into religion? No."

Doyle Pearl tells the story differently. A longtime St. Marys resident, Pearl is the last "townie"—as non-SSPXers have taken to calling themselves—to have served as a commissioner. In the early days, he said, Society parishioners disapproved of the town swimming pool, the first concrete-bottomed pool in Kansas and a source of pride for old-timers. Society members were worried about seeing girls in skimpy bathing suits; their kids would try to swim in jeans, which left behind fibers that taxed the pool's filtration system. Later, Society members on the city commission pulled funding from a chamber-of-commerce event, citing concerns about an allegedly ribald country-and-western band. While the local economy has grown, the chamber has shrunk.

SSPX's insularity, and the order's controversial history, have bred suspicion in town. Among the post–Vatican II changes the Society rejects is the Church's declaration regarding its relationship with non-Christian religions, including a passage repudiating the long-held belief that Jews are responsible for the death of Christ. In 1989, a Nazi collaborator convicted of committing war crimes in Vichy France was caught hiding out at an SSPX monastery in Nice. Two decades later, Richard Williamson, a former SSPX bishop, gave an interview denying that the Nazis had used gas chambers and claiming that no more than 200,000 to 300,000 Jews had died in the Holocaust. (During my visit to St. Mary's Academy, I noticed a photograph hanging in the school's main administrative building in which Williamson is a central figure.) For years, townies whispered about alleged weapons stashes in the steam tunnels beneath the academy. When I asked Rutledge about this, he laughed. To his knowledge, he said, no weapons are now or have ever been stored on campus.

Pearl and his wife, Laura, are pleased that their hometown has a growing population and a lively Main Street. Doyle told me he even feels "a little envious" of the Society's vibrant church life and constant baptisms. "Their children continue their religion," he said. "They seem to follow the values that their parents have." But the town barely resembles the place where the Pearls grew up. Its bright future doesn't necessarily feel like their future.

Townies look wistfully to Wamego, a small city just down Highway 24 that has established itself as Kansas's hub for Wizard of Oz tourism. "They'll have the Tulip Festival. They'll have Octoberfest. They have a Fourth of July that, I think, is the biggest fireworks in Kansas now," Doyle said. "People sometimes say, 'Well, they're doing it. Why aren't we?' " Laura supplied the answer: "Because we don't have a community."

For the snyders, and many other recent arrivals, moving to St. Marys has liberated them to practice devout beliefs without apology. But what feels like freedom to some can feel like a prison to others. While parents may choose SSPX for their children, those children don't always want to live according to its moral strictures. And the Society spares little room for dissent.

Tiffany Joy-Egly moved from Tulsa to St. Marys with her parents and two sisters in 1979, when she was 6 years old. Tiffany grew up immersed in the SSPX world: learning about the dangers of rock music, skipping adolescent experiments with makeup, avoiding any behavior that might tempt men into sin. But Tiffany was possessed of a skeptical mind. "I would question in religion class," she told me at a Starbucks in Topeka, where she works as an emergency-room nurse and lives with her husband and two daughters. "If God gave us a brain, how come we can't use birth control? Because that makes more sense than having 12 kids that you can't afford to feed." This attitude was not welcome at the academy. "I was in detention a lot," she said.

Her siblings, too, chafed at the constraints of life in St. Marys. One sister got engaged to a Catholic man who attended Mass at Immaculate Conception, the townie church. According to Tiffany, the SSPX priest announced from the pulpit that anyone who attended the wedding would be committing a sin.

What the Society has built in St. Marys is more like a haven for those retreating from the culture wars than a training ground for battle.

Tiffany herself started using drugs and alcohol, but later resolved to return to the SSPX fold. She went to confession and delivered a litany of her sins, but the priest stopped her when she shared that a friend had recently had an abortion. This, the priest said, was unforgivable. While Tiffany herself had not terminated a pregnancy, she had failed to stop another woman from doing so. The priest declared that she would be excommunicated. (With proper penance, SSPX officials said, she could be reconciled with the Church.)

St. Marys "is a little, safe community," Tiffany told me. People go there to escape "a world that is considered unsafe." When she started building a life for herself outside St. Marys, however, she experienced less fear than relief. Small things like going to the mall and wearing shorts were revelatory; she finally felt she had choices about how to pray and when to get married. In St. Marys, that hadn't been possible. "You give up everything to come into this community," she said, "and do what you're told."

At a time when American politics is so fractured and dysfunctional, the idea of huddling among our own holds undeniable appeal. SSPX parishioners believe they know God's way and try to follow it, largely unencumbered by those who do not share their views. But there is peril in the premise that we would all be better off living among our own. Democracy depends on the friction that comes from encounters with difference. The movements for abolition, enfranchisement, labor dignity, and civil rights all stemmed from factions of Americans demanding rights and basic respect from their neighbors. If the country's most fervent believers, whether Catholics, evangelical Christians, civil-rights advocates, or environmentalists, were to simply give up their visions for a better nation, the American project would stagnate.

On the eastern side of the St. Mary's campus, the stone entrance is guarded by twin knights representing the school's mascot, the Crusaders. The SSPX bookstore is filled with toy soldiers and warring knights from Catholic history—the perfect gift, a salesman told me, for a little boy's First Communion.

But as much as SSPX may still think of itself as raising children to be warriors in the faith, the metaphor is no longer a good fit. What the Society has built in St. Marys is more like a haven for those retreating from the culture wars than a training ground for battle. Safe behind its walls, parishioners can seem uninterested in the moral failings of the outside world and untroubled by the country's political turmoil. "There's a lot to do," Paul-Isaac Franks, a priest and a music teacher at the academy, told me. "I don't have a daily ritual of reading the news." Jim Vogel, the editor of Angelus Press, which publishes SSPX literature, says that people in St. Marys are engaged in local politics, but "we can't really do much about what's happening in Washington." Here, at least, parishioners can be confident that the tradition and truth they crave can be preserved.

In a field high above the academy's campus, the Society is planning to construct a new church called the Immaculata, named for the old Jesuit church that burned down decades ago. For now, the space is marked only by metal rods sticking out of the overgrown grass, but once it's built, the church will seat 1,550 and stand 12 stories high. Father Rutledge hopes the Immaculata will be visible from the road for miles around, a beacon on the Plains calling to those in search of refuge.

This article appears in the January/February 2020 print edition with the headline "Retreat, Christian Soldiers."EMMA GREEN is a staff writer at ​The Atlantic, where she covers politics, policy, and religion.


The Secrets of Opus Dei: Faith, Power and Manipulation

The Secrets of Opus Dei: Faith, Power and Manipulation

2021, RELIGION  -  42 MIN

For almost 100 years, the Opus Dei has inspired faith - and suspicion - among followers and members of the Roman Catholic religion. It is a lay and clerical Catholic Group that firmly believes that an individual's spiritual and Christian life must be 100% aligned and combined with their work/professional, social, and family lives. How the group achieves this is unclear to non-members, but Opus Dei followers strive to "sanctify" every aspect of their being and everyday lives.

Opus Dei - which means "Work of God" - has its roots in Pamplona, Spain, where it was founded in 1928 by the Catholic priest Josemaría Escrivá. It sided with the dictator General Franco during the Spanish Civil War and greatly benefited from the connection. Many of its members became political and economic leaders all over Spain. By 1950, Pope Pius XII and the Vatican officially recognized it as a lay and clerical institution. It is a theologically conservative group, following the Catholic Church's authority and doctrines without question and all the teachings and orders of the Holy See.

The Opus Dei is not a religious order; it does not have many priests, no nuns, and its members are mainly made up of laypeople to help them emphasize what they believe. And despite the relatively small size of the Opus Dei, it is an extremely powerful group, causing controversy and suspicion within the Catholic Church.

Members of the Catholic priesthood have called the Opus Dei a "diabolical sect" with cult-like rituals and practices. Former members have also accused them of being extremely political, pushing the right-wing agenda by influencing those in power. It's almost impossible to discover their group's inner workings or find those willing to share their experiences as members.

Early in the group's history, all Opus Dei members were required to take vows of obedience, chastity and secrecy. However, since it is not an order, members can't take any vows but must sign contracts or make commitments that they will not share anything about the group and attend spiritual formation classes and retreats. Any person who leaves the group faces persecution and harassment for speaking out.

Today, the Opus Dei has over 900,000 members spread out over 80 countries worldwide. It recruits heavily, choosing young and impressionable people, pressuring them to join, and once they do, it's very difficult to leave. It has been described as a very controlling organization, demanding extreme faithfulness, that even daily errands such as food shopping or watching movies needed permission or were not allowed.

Over the years, Opus Dei has expanded its influence in the Catholic Church, where they had staunch supporters in former Popes John Paul II and Benedict. In Germany, they run many schools, including daycare centers and the IESE, their business school, while in Spain, they have many members both in the educational and judicial sectors

Despite all the controversies, the Opus Dei denies all these accusations. It continues to enjoy the support of the Vatican and a steady increase in its members as it soon reaches its 100th anniversary in 2028.

Directed by: Margot Litten


Oct 28, 2022

Did the Satanic Panic Ever Really End?

Did the Satanic Panic Ever Really End?
By Ripley's Believe It or Not!
October 27, 202

Featured in Ripley's Believe It or Not!

In the 1980s, angry parents insisted that the devil was whispering to their children through heavy metal music. Listening to it would surely cost the kids their souls and send them running into the open arms of a satanic cult.

While that may sound far-fetched, it’s only a record scratch on the surface of what was playing out in America in the ’80s and ’90s. Dubbed the Satanic Panic, this period was full of paranoia-fueled accusations about cults, murder, torture, and abuse that were not only false — they ruined innocent lives.

The Period of Panic

Similar to the Salem witch trials, people were accused of something that had no solid evidence and brought to court. This was largely due to the fear of change, and people with longstanding “traditional” beliefs felt that the changing attitudes of the time threatened their way of life.

A book called Michelle Remembers was published during this time. It’s since been discredited, but not before the damage was done. Co-written by Canadian psychiatrist Lawrence Pazder and his psychiatric patient (and later wife) Michelle Smith, the book details alleged memories Smith uncovered in therapy.

These “memories” include supposedly spending years as a child imprisoned by a satanic cult, and one version of the book’s cover describes the contents as a battle of innocence versus evil. This book was used as a blueprint for court cases to come in the following years, and Pazder even testified in the McMartin preschool trial.

The Devil is in the Details

The McMartin preschool trial happened at the height of a time when, according to History.com, “parents and daycare workers were jailed after false, and often absurd, allegations about child sexual abuse. As this hysteria swept the country, abuse counseling quickly became a cottage industry, attracting often-unqualified people who seemed to find sexual abuse everywhere.”

One teacher at the school was put through more than six years of persecution and trials without evidence, and The New York Times reported that parents even showed up at the school after it was ordered to be demolished to dig for hidden underground tunnels they were sure existed.

Judging Books by Their Covers

Another famous case of Satanic Panic was that of the West Memphis Three. Following the murders of three young boys, the town quickly pointed fingers at three local teens (Jessie Misskelley Jr., Damien Echols, and Jason Baldwin) who were rumored to be involved in occult activities. One of them, Damien Echols, had the word “evil” tattooed across his knuckles because he thought it looked cool.

After spending 18 years in prison, with one of the men being on death row, they were released. Believe It or Not!, Stranger Things’ misunderstood metalhead character Eddie Munson was based on Echols!

Modern Cultural Examples

When it comes to bands being accused of being in league with the devil, many well-known names were subjected. According to VH1, some of these include Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne, Iron Maiden, and Mötley Crüe. In 1985, two Judas Priest fans attempted suicide. One of them lived and later tried to sue the band, saying that one of the lyrics played backward encouraged them to kill themselves.

Though this may all seem like a thing of the past, similar paranoia and fears are still rampant today. A woman in Texas said that Hocus Pocus 2 could bring evil into people’s homes, according to Variety. She said, “A worst case scenario is: you unleash hell on your kids and in your home. The whole movie is based on witches harvesting children for blood sacrifices.”

“Do not watch this film,” she continued. “Everybody thinks it’s fake and innocent, but they could be casting any type of spell that they want to, anything could be coming through that TV screen into your home.”

Another recent example is QAnon. According to NPR, people “believe that a shadowy cabal kidnaps children, tortures them and uses their blood in satanic rituals.” Many people involved in the conspiracy believe that powerful politicians are responsible this time, not the preschool teachers or daycare workers of the ’80s and ’90s.

Even musician Lil Nas X has sparked Satanic Panic type rumors with his music video for “Montero (Call Me By Your Name),” according to ABC News. The panic that arises when people are confronted by beliefs that challenge their own isn’t going anywhere, and so it seems that the harmful type of accusations that fueled the Satanic Panic may continue as well.

By Kelsey Roslin, contributor for Ripleys.com


Body of British woman linked to cult will be exhumed two years after her "mysterious sudden" death in Kenya, family says

Body of British woman linked to cult will be exhumed two years after her "mysterious sudden" death in Kenya, family says
CBS News
OCTOBER 26, 2022

The body of a British woman who died at the house of a controversial cult leader while on holiday in Kenya will be exhumed on Wednesday, the family's lawyer said. Luftunisa Kwandwalla, 44, was visiting the coastal city of Mombasa when she died in August 2020, and was buried a day later, but her family has claimed foul play.

At the time, the cult leader Arif Mohamed Iqbal -- a self-confessed healer -- said the "devil" had killed the woman as he tried to exorcise her, according to court papers filed by the family.

"We are heading to the site," the family's lawyer, Jacinta Wekesa, told AFP, referring to the Mombasa cemetery where Kwandwalla was buried.

An autopsy to determine the cause of her death is expected later Wednesday.

Her initial cause of death was listed as cardiopulmonary arrest, according to a government-issued death certificate in 2020.

Kwandwalla arrived in Kenya in August 2019 to visit members of her husband's family. During her stay, she joined Iqbal's controversial cult, according to court filings.

She had been due to fly back to her home in the English city of Leicester but travel restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic prevented the trip.

The family is calling for police to investigate Kwandwalla's "mysterious sudden" death, claiming she was buried quickly to conceal evidence.

"The hurried burial of the deceased without allowing her family members to attend the burial and view the body has brought pain and anguish to the family who deserves to know what killed her," Kwandwalla's brother, Imran Admani, said in court papers.

The family said Arif could not explain how the devil had killed her, describing him as "lying and dangerous to vulnerable people."

Earlier this month, a Mombasa magistrate's court allowed the family to hire a private pathologist for the postmortem and ordered police to provide security during the exhumation.

So far, no one has been arrested in connection with the death.


Halloween: A Mystic and Eerie Significance

Halloween: A Mystic and Eerie Significance
Betsy Golden Kellem

October 26, 2022

Halloween festivities as we know them today in the United States are a very recent invention. Before the twentieth century, folks had little inclination or incentive to hand out sweet treats to costumed youth, with All Hallows’ Eve largely understood as a vaguely creepy pan-cultural pagan holdover invoking the fall festival of Samhain. In Holy-Days and Holidays, a pious compendium edited by Edward Mark Deems in 1902, the holiday only appears as an adjunct to All Saints’ Day on November 1st. “The day was popularly called All Hallow’s Day,” he writes, “whence it became the custom to call the evening before All-hallow e’en, and in Scotland and Ireland certain sports and festivities, said to be relics of Druidism, were indulged in.”

While other holidays added themselves in bold-face type to the calendar following the Civil War and seem quite similar in celebration even today (take Anna Jarvis’s invention of Mother’s Day in 1908 or President Lincoln’s proclamation of a November Thanksgiving), Halloween was slow to emerge in its modern form. Leigh Erich Schmidt considers the rise of the commercial American holiday from 1870 to 1930, when popular economic thinking led to the consideration of holidays not as useless obstacles to a full working week, but opportunities to profit off special occasions: “In the decades following the Civil War,” Schmidt writes, “merchants, advertisers, and window trimmers set themselves up as the new high priests of American calendary celebrations, significantly changing the rubrics of American holidays.”

October 31st was mostly known and celebrated as an inherently ghostly day, holding a “mystic and eerie significance” in both pagan and Christian cosmology.

Even if Halloween was slow to arrive in the department stores and stationers of America, not to mention its candy manufacturers, this by no means suggests that All Hallows’ Eve was a quiet occasion in its early years. Old Yankee harvest traditions and beliefs in witchcraft combined with the Halloween traditions of Irish immigrants to America, resulting in a day of spooky suppositions and puckish mischief.

October 31st was mostly known and celebrated as an inherently ghostly day, holding a “mystic and eerie significance” in both pagan and Christian cosmology, according to Yale anthropologist Ralph Linton, writing in 1951. All that supernatural activity allegedly lifted the veil that normally kept the secrets of the spirit world obscured from daily view, and in many circles it was thought that “every peasant implicitly believes that the fairies and other supernatural beings have double power over the destinies of mortals.” Divination party games were therefore popular, many using the fruits of the fall harvest and most directed at helping women figure out who Mr. Right might be. In these games, women “threw apple peelings over their shoulders to determine the initials of their future bridegrooms,” bobbed for apples, or predicted the future from bits of string or roasting chestnuts.

It was also known as a night for pranks. The anthropologist Cindy Dell Clark, in an examination of social norms around modern Halloween, notes that in a 1975 column for Redbook magazine, Margaret Mead expressed nostalgia for the mischief nights of her youth, when kids could play out the sense that “Halloween was the one occasion when people could safely invoke the help of the devil in some enterprise.” Mead recalled a Halloween celebration characterized by harmless pranks, and looking back from the mid-1970s, complained that the holiday’s pranks had taken on a sharper, more destructive aspect.

Mead was perhaps glossing things over a bit in remembering her childhood Halloweens as full of harmless antics. Teenagers in the 1970s, armed with eggs and toilet paper, couldn’t hold a candle to pranks of the early 1900s, including a Connecticut incident in which pranksters loaded a wagon with trash, set it on fire, and pushed the whole lot downhill toward trees, setting them ablaze; and another in which boys “managed to suspend a sleigh from a two-story building and perch another awkwardly by the roadside.” And Linton painted a terrifying mental picture about early holiday celebrations, noting that “the prevalence of indoor plumbing has taken much of the sport out of Halloween.”

In one South Dakota town (population: less than 18,000) in 1932, the mischief of Halloween night “brought general property damage in excess of five thousand dollars, and left the streets and avenues in the city strewn with 135 truckloads of junk and refuse.” Describing the aftermath of a day he nicknamed “Hell-o-e’en,” the local school superintendent came up with a plan to host a school Halloween party and barbecue in the hopes of taming Mischief Night and saving the police, who he said were “out-generaled [and] out-manoeuvred” by a “triumphant army of boys.”

Despite the prevalence of high jinks, it wasn’t until the middle of the twentieth century that the modern commercial holiday started to coalesce, guided by the rise of everything from the Great Pumpkin and cult horror cinema to licensed costume fare and urban legends about razor blades in the candy. So, too, did Halloween move beyond anonymous pranks and private parties to become publicly performative, inviting participants parade down the streets, to see and be seen, evoke and invoke modern pop culture trends and characters, and yes: try to eat an entire bucket of Sweet Tarts in one evening.

Halloween: A Mystic and Eerie Significance - JSTOR Daily

Oct 24, 2022

Child sex abuse: The horrific findings of a seven-year inquiry

Tom Symonds
BBC News
October 20, 2022

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual abuse was created in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal to examine how institutions responded to allegations of abuse in England and Wales - both in the past, and today.

During seven years of hearings, 725 witnesses gave evidence at a cost of £186.6m. After investigating abuse in places such as schools, children's homes and religious institutions, IICSA has produced its final report.

It said child abuse was an "epidemic" leaving thousands of victims in its "poisonous wake". The scale of the abuse it looked at was "deeply disturbing". And it found a "horrifying picture" of children being "threatened, beaten and humiliated".

The seven-year inquiry is now over - here are some of the things it uncovered.

There was no elite paedophile ring

When the inquiry was first announced in July 2014, by the then Conservative home secretary Theresa May, there were rumours a paedophile ring of well-connected men had been abusing children for decades. Many hoped IICSA would investigate and unmask the guilty establishment figures of the past.

In fact, IICSA had no powers to accuse people unless they had previously been convicted by a court. There was no crack team of grizzled investigators waiting to comb through the files, to root out paedophiles in power.

The inquiry's true remit was different: to investigate whether institutions such as schools, councils and the police had failed to protect generations of children. There was, therefore, an investigation into the way the political institutions of Westminster had responded to allegations of abuse.

It concluded early on that there was no evidence of an organised "paedophile network" in which "persons of prominence conspired to pass children among themselves for the purpose of sexual abuse".

There was, however, "ample evidence of individual perpetrators" within politics.

A review of 37 cases found insufficient evidence to support claims that abuse by prominent people was covered up by the police. But IICSA did describe a "significant problem" of deference towards prominent people, which had put children at risk.

In the 1980s, the Conservative MP Peter Morrison was deputy chairman of the party, a government minister, and Margaret Thatcher's parliamentary private secretary, despite senior figures in government being warned of persistent concerns about his "sexual interest in small boys". In 1991 he was knighted.

Lord David Steel, the former Liberal leader, admitted he took no further action when one of his MPs, Cyril Smith, revealed he had been investigated by the police for sexual abuse. It was in the past, Lord Steel told the inquiry. Using the same reasoning, he later recommended Smith for a knighthood.

IICSA said deferring to the powerful meant almost every institution in the political world had failed to put the safety of children first.

Children weren't believed

Child sexual abuse is a crime usually committed behind closed doors. As a result, independent witnesses are rare. It is crucial that when an alleged victim comes forward, either as a child, or later as an adult, they are taken seriously.

In recent years, the police have been criticised in high-profile cases for being too willing to believe what turned out to be false allegations.

This resulted in men being wrongly accused, turning their lives upside down. It was said that after years when Savile's abuse was ignored, the pendulum had swung too far the other way.

But during its investigations, IICSA repeatedly uncovered many more situations where reports of real abuse were ignored, treated as unlikely to be true, or blamed on the alleged victim.

Deprived children, sent abroad by religious charities in the post-war years, were physically and sexual mistreated - and prevented from speaking out. The British government ignored warnings for fear of upsetting countries, including Australia, which had hosted the children.

In the Nottinghamshire care system, council staff "took the side of foster carers" over young people who said they'd been abused. Police did not treat most allegations as serious.

In specialist boarding schools investigated by the inquiry, there were examples of "headteachers who found it inconceivable that staff might abuse their positions of authority to sexually abuse children".

Girls groomed by abusive gangs of men from communities in British cities were sometimes regarded as "child prostitutes", who had encouraged the attention of their abusers, even though legally children can't consent to sex.

Child abuse is a crime where the power of the adult is used against the powerlessness of the child. That allowed the abuser, the inquiry often found, to silence their victim.

School children and staff were scared to speak out

At St Benedict's School, linked to Ealing Abbey, at least 20 children were terrorised with a mix of physical and sexual abuse, from the 1970s until 2008, by just two members of staff.

The Catholic school was described as a "cold, grim, forbidding place" in which corporal punishment was used as a "platform" for sexual gratification. With senior figures at the school involved in abuse, other staff said the atmosphere was "like the mafia".

Staff said they couldn't risk their jobs by speaking out and it was years before abusers were brought to justice. The school is now under new management.

Specialist music schools were another area where children were at particular risk.

At Chetham's School, in Manchester, a 14-year-old female pupil became a victim of the powerful director of music, Michael Brewer. She was groomed and sexually abused for years in the late 1970s and 1980s. She was left traumatised and unable to speak out for more than two decades.

By 1994, Brewer, then aged 49, was having sex with a 17-year-old. Not illegal at the time, but when he offered to resign, an investigation into his behaviour was "abruptly halted". His earlier abuse wasn't discovered.

Brewer was eventually convicted in 2013. Sadly his first victim, struggling with the mental health effects of her experiences, died of an overdose. IICSA described it as a "watershed moment".

The failure to report abuse to the police or child protection agencies is a constant thread running through its investigations.

Currently in England there is no statutory requirement for people working with children to report abusive behaviour to the police or other authorities.

The inquiry has called on the government to urgently introduce a system of "mandatory reporting", making it a criminal offence not to pass on witness accounts of abuse or disclosures by children or perpetrators.

Religious piety protected paedophiles

Whether it was Christianity, Judaism, Islam, or a host of smaller sects, when children were abused, the nature of religion often meant it was not confronted.

In the Catholic Church the inquiry identified "a sorry history of child sexual abuse" in which "abusive priests and monks" preyed on children for "prolonged periods of time".

Victims weren't supported and alleged abusers were protected. The culture of the Church of England facilitated it becoming "a place where abusers could hide", IICSA concluded.

The power structures of the churches, where often the clergy was regarded as untouchable, was a major reason. Their religiousness was itself used as a reason not to believe allegations made against them.

One senior figure in the 1990s Anglican Church, the Bishop of Gloucester Peter Ball, regarded himself as a "loyal friend" of King Charles III. But he was also facing allegations of child abuse.

The Archbishop of Canterbury at the time, Lord Carey, "simply could not believe" Ball was an abuser and "seemingly wanted the whole business to go away", IICSA said. In 2015, Ball, by this point elderly, was jailed.

Smaller religious sects protected their reputations by covering up the mistreatment of children.

In the Jehovah's Witnesses, allegations would only be taken seriously if there were two witnesses. Yet as we've already seen, that was rare.

Making it a legal requirement to report evidence of abuse might go some way to opening the doors of secretive religious orders.

Abuse is not just a thing of the past

Much of the inquiry's work delved into the dark corners of history, reaching back as far as the 1950s.

The inquiry has been repeatedly criticised for examining old-fashioned attitudes, which, it has been claimed, are no longer really a problem.

Protecting children has a much greater importance in modern institutions. Police forces, facing an incoming tide of cases, have had to invest significant resources in both clearing up historical allegations and dealing with new ones.

But the problem has not gone away. It has just changed. So called "street-grooming" is still seen as a major threat to girls from troubled backgrounds in major cities.

IICSA found councils don't want to be labelled "another Rochdale, or Rotherham" and weren't collecting enough data that might identify active paedophiles.

Abuse has moved online, with an estimated 80,000 people in the UK presenting some sort of sexual threat via the internet, often via live-streaming, in which paying paedophiles remotely dictates what happens on screen.

Police have developed new data forensics techniques to detect and detain paedophiles from the data they create. There are concerns about British paedophiles travelling abroad to access children, and create abusive pictures and videos.

And when children are abused, the adults they become bear the scars of their experience.

Some 6,000 victims shared their experiences with the inquiry's Truth Project, aimed at building a deeper understanding of the effects on them. A similar project has been announced for the Covid 19 public inquiry.

They are living with very real psychological problems caused by their abuse, and will continue to do so long after the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.