Gentlemen: Your article by Massimo Introvigne in your October 1993 issue, Strange Bedfellows or Future Enemies, was a welcome effort at clarifying current problems within the anti-cult movement. He successfully brings into the open many issues few have wanted discussed. It is not true, however, that differences necessarily mean that those holding divergent views cannot work together. The article I co-authored with Linda Blood, Interesting Times, is an example of such an effort.
According to Introvigne’s criteria our article should never have been written. I am a Roman Catholic whose direct exposure to New Age cultism was the result of a tutorial in philosophy conducted in the Philosophy Department of Columbia University. Linda is an atheist, an adherent of the philosophy of Objectivism and a former cult member. We are also mutually respectful friends who admire each other’s scholarship, intellectual honesty and curiosity. Strange bedfellows, indeed!
We see ourselves as quite human examples of people pursuing the clarifications Introvigne set out to produce. We are chagrined that he fails to achieve his goal.
There are too many reasons for our dismay than we can elucidate in a letter. My co-author’s letter addresses the personal dilemmas Introvigne’s failures presented to her. Several other points require comment.
Although he acknowledges that some questions are answerable to challenges to their truth or falsehood, Introvigne also says assessing factual truth differs from ethical judgements. We believe that statements about factual truth are ethical judgements. This marks our departure from Introvigne’s exquisitely subtle argumentum ad hominem attack on those who take a solid stand against cultic dissabling and prevarication.
Our essay, which Introvigne maligned with the phrase, “a bitter reply,” was a book review. Its focus was a work called, Satanism In America. This was a transparent apologia for Satanism as “an alternative approach to the expression of personal power.” It was a series of false accusations against the critics of Satanism, concocted facts about the spread of Satanism and a woefully transparent effort to claim the mantle of objective scholarship. We saw through this effort, had pertinent facts to refute it and were sufficiently informed to be able to counter the book’s use of successive paralogisms.
We questioned the book’s falsehoods by employing an array of facts. Each point we addressed required us to make an ethical judgement. If Introvigne finds our succesfull effort merely an exercise in bitterness he should examine his ethics, not comment upon our emotions.
Introvigne makes several remarks that demonstrate his total ignorance of the anti- and counter cult movements. The first is his undocumented reference to the anti-cult movements that are themselves de facto cults. True, he allows for the possibility that beliefs and practices can lead to a cultic life. But, once saying that this is a concern of the critics of the anti-cult movement, he fails to name one such movement. His sources for this canard, however, are well known in America. Brock Kilbourne and James Richardson rely upon such innuendo, it is a shame to see Introvigne uncritically passing by their rhetorical ploy.
Introvigne is simply totally misinformed if he truly thinks that most anti-cultists are secular humanists. The truth is that most are adherents to traditional Christian or Jewish beliefs and practices.
The Cult Awareness Network has always faced the charge that it imposes a uniform set of beliefs. Anyone who thinks this has never had the charming experience of trying to get Catholics, Protestants of every denomination, Jews and atheists to agree on anything. Throw in different financial levels, educational differences, regional preferences and a few lawyers and you get a picture that is far from uniformity. In comparison, the Democratic Party is an examplar of bovine homogeneity.
Linda Blood and I agree with Dr. Aagaard that “creeds are deeds.” We also agree that the scholars who claim “objectivity” are deluding themselves, or their audiences, or both. We say this because we have personal experience with Gordon Melton, David Bromley, James Richardson, Tom Robbins and James Lewis. We are convinced that their selective scholarship drives them to the position of covering over any evidence that proves the arguments of the anti-cult factions. We are also convinced that these scholars knowingly fail to examine the metaphysical systems that in most cases permit ethical violations the rest of us attempt to avoid. They also fail to note those methaphysical systems that require ethical violations. We are alluding to acts of violence, lying, embezzlement and, in some cases, murder. We do not see their avoidance of such issues as mere dissembling. We see it as criminally negligent. Because their legal reflexes are so pronounced I should add that that phrase was a metaphor. Neither Linda nor I are hinting that we have information that any of the above named have been privy to criminal acts. We do not retract any reference to their lack of scholarly ethics.
Our past efforts to have a dialogue with the cult’s apologists, and cult representatives, have always faltered because they do not tell the truth. Introvigne may have stumbled over the old scholastic proposition about the necessity for honesty in human discourse. If such propositions were still taught during his extensive sojourn in the Vatican’s schools he may know why we and others do not trust the cults. He may have also heard about Saint Thomas’ admonition against arguing from mere authority. If he did he may know why we are not impressed by his defensive remarks about Opus Dei.
The growing ranks of former American members of Opus Dei present incontrovertible proof that its practices violate every Catholic norm for personal spiritual development. Its moral theology breaches the boundaries of Catholic heresy and its responses to families shatters any pretense about charity. Factual truths support these statements. The Pope may think otherwise. I am not bound by the Pope’s personal views about Opus Dei any more than I am by his proclivity for German phenomenology. Introvigne may not know this. But we do not know his relation to Opus Dei. We are curious, however, about his adherence to factual truths.
Introvigne closes his essay with an appeal for a common standard “about factual truth about deeds and creeds.” We are eager for such a standard and would be most pleased if Massimo Introvigne started the effort by refining his grasp of facts, by exercising his metaphysical training and by making a declarative statement about his association, or lack of association, with Opus Dei.(Letter from Kevin Garvey, dated April 8, 1994.)