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New Religious Movements in Ireland - Michael Garde

1981 and 1982 saw a great deal of interest in the cults as a result of an Irish school teacher joining the Unification Church in San Francisco, California. Her family pursued her and had her deprogrammed. That led to the formation of the Irish Family Foundation. Whereas in reality they were hardly functioning in Ireland at all, the Unification Church received massive media attention through those events.

The Hare Krishna movement has received a lot of adverse publicity, including an article by Fr. Louis Hughes OP, a former missionary in India who had formerly written a favorable article on ISKCON.

The most important development in 1983 has been the lenten pastoral on new religions issued in March by the Catholic Bishops of the West of Ireland. In part, the Bishops said,

What have we to learn from all this? Perhaps the very presence and growth of these groups are signs to us in the Church; indications of needs to which we do not minister. They hint at a spiritual hunger among our people that is often unrecognised. What cults apparently give to some of their adherents is a sense of belonging, an experience of »Church« which is markedly at variance with what they might dismissively describe as »Sunday Catholicism.« The best of what they experience outside the Church must be provided more widely within. If the temper of the times is for the companionship of small groups, the challenge to us is to expand and encourage such groups within the community of the Church. May we all face the challenge courageously in the days ahead.

My work with the Irish Mennonite Movement attempts to find a balance between naive acceptance of the genuine religiosity of all groups and seeing all their members as mind controlled.

Michael Garde