Charting the Cult-like Nature of the Way

If we are ever to convince influential and possibly compromised churchmen that the Neocatechumenal Way is a cult or sect, we must be very precise and use prevailing, well-respected models of mind control to help us.

hassanOne very good resource for this is Steven Hassan’s “Combating Cult Mind Control.”  Hassan, a former cult member, has been a leading figure in the effort to educate the public about mind control and destructive cults for over four decades.

Every group that we belong to exercises some persuasive influence over us.  We expect the Church’s influence upon us, for example, to be constructive and healthy, leading us to a fuller, more meaningful  life now and for  eternity.   Some groups, however, exercise an destructive influence or “undue” influence upon members.  How can we accurately chart the influence of a particular group?

Mr. Hassan proposes a model he calls “B.I.T.E.”,  because it seeks to discover how  a group attempts to control members’ behavior, information, thoughts, and emotions.

Here is a checklist to help us catalog specific techniques and characteristics of the undue  influence exercised by the Neocatechumenal Way according to the BITE model.  It is far from complete, so do not hesitate to make suggestions in your comments.

Indicator Present in the Neocatechumenal Way? Notes

I. Behavior Control

1. Regulation of individual’s physical reality
   a. Where, how and with whom the member lives and associates with  check_mark_u2713_icon_45x45  Neocatechumenal communities are closed, and are not open to new members once they are established.  Old friendships often die after joining.
   b. What clothes, colors, hairstyles the person wears
   c. What food the person eats, drinks, adopts, and rejects
   d. How much sleep the person is able to have
   e. Financial dependence
   f. Little or no time spent on leisure, entertainment, vacations
2. Major time commitment required for indoctrination sessions and group rituals  check_mark_u2713_icon_45x45  At least two evenings per week and a monthly day-long convivence are required.  Planning the Liturgy of the Word adds another night.
3. Need to ask permission for major decisions  check_mark_u2713_icon_45x45  For  example, members on Guam routine are required to ask their catechists if they can take an off-island vacation.
4. Need to report thoughts, feelings and activities to superiors
5. Rewards and punishments (behavior modification techniques- positive and negative).  Members are judged for readiness to progress to higher stages of the Way by catechists.
6. Individualism discouraged; group think prevails
7. Rigid rules and regulations
8. Need for obedience and dependency  check_mark_u2713_icon_45x45  “Catechumens are to listen,” says Kiko.  One becomes more and more dependent upon the catechists the longer one walks in the Way.

II. Information Control

1. Use of deception
   a. Deliberately holding back information  check_mark_u2713_icon_45x45  The Catechetical Directories are kept very secret and at the Rite of Salt after the Second Scrutiny, members are asked to keep the “archani” secret.
   b. Distorting information to make it acceptable  check_mark_u2713_icon_45x45  Kiko’s teaching on the non-sacrificial nature of  Christ’s death and of the Eucharist are not publicly known.
   c. Outright lying  check_mark_u2713_icon_45x45  Here are some examples.
2. Access to non-cult sources of information minimized or discouraged  check_mark_u2713_icon_45x45  “Don’t visit such-and-such blog!” members on Guam were told.  Kiko Arguello has forbidden the use of social media.  Read more.
   a. Books, articles, newspapers, magazines, TV, radio
   b. Critical information  check_mark_u2713_icon_45x45  Details and demands of later stages of the Way are withheld from members.
   c. Former members
   d. Keep members so busy they don’t have time to think
3. Compartmentalization of information; Outsider vs. Insider doctrines  check_mark_u2713_icon_45x45  Examples, the Doctrine of the Necessary Judas, Jesus was a Sinner, etc.
   a. Information is not freely accessible  check_mark_u2713_icon_45x45  The Catechetical Directories that were supposedly approved by Rome are not available to members.
   b. Information varies at different levels and missions within pyramid  check_mark_u2713_icon_45x45  “Archani” or secrets, are revealed in stages.
   c. Leadership decides who “needs to know” what  check_mark_u2713_icon_45x45
4. Spying on other members is encouraged
   a. Pairing up with “buddy” system to monitor and control  check_mark_u2713_icon_45x45  This technique is often used in the Redemptoris Mater seminaries.
   b. Reporting deviant thoughts, feelings, and actions to leadership
5. Extensive use of cult generated information and propaganda
   a. Newsletters, magazines, journals, audio tapes, videotapes, etc.
   b. Misquotations, statements taken out of context from non-cult sources
6. Unethical use of confession  check_mark_u2713_icon_45x45
   a. Information about “sins” used to abolish identity boundaries  check_mark_u2713_icon_45x45  Example:  the “hotseating” of the Second Scrutiny.
   b. Past “sins” used to manipulate and control; no forgiveness or absolution  check_mark_u2713_icon_45x45  Sins revealed in the Second Scrutiny are supposed to be held secret by the community and forgotten by the catechists, but catechists have been known to bring up details of past sins at subsequent scrunities.

III. Thought Control

1. Need to internalize the group’s doctrine as “Truth”
   a. Map = Reality
   b. Black and White thinking  check_mark_u2713_icon_45x45  People who criticize the Way are said to be doing “the work of the devil.”
   c. Good vs. evil
   d. Us vs. them (inside vs. outside) check_mark_u2713_icon_45x45  Example:  Teaching on the Three Circles and outsiders as “Judas”.
2. Adopt “loaded” language (characterized by “thought-terminating clichés”). Words are the tools we use to think with. These “special” words constrict rather than expand understanding. They function to reduce complexities of experience into trite, platitudinous “buzz words”.  check_mark_u2713_icon_45x45  Hassan also refers to the use of images when discussing “loaded” language, and the Way has imposed a “New Aesthetic” upon each and every one of its communities throughout the world.
3. Only “good” and “proper” thoughts are encouraged.
4. Thought-stopping techniques (to shut down “reality testing” by stopping “negative” thoughts and allowing only “good” thoughts); rejection of rational analysis, critical thinking, constructive criticism.  check_mark_u2713_icon_45x45  Example, “Don’t Judge!”  This thought-stopping mandate stifles all criticism.In reality, the whole Neocatechumenal System is based upon judging members!
   a. Denial, rationalization, justification, wishful thinking
   b. Chanting
   c. Meditating
   d. Praying
   e. Speaking in “tongues”
   f. Singing or humming
5. No critical questions about leader, doctrine, or policy seen as legitimate  check_mark_u2713_icon_45x45  Questions and criticisms are not tolerated.
6. No alternative belief systems viewed as legitimate, good, or useful  check_mark_u2713_icon_45x45  All other Catholic movements are considered “competition” in some sense.  The Way is the future of the Church, and there is no other viable path.

IV. Emotional Control

1. Manipulate and narrow the range of a person’s feelings.
2. Make the person feel like if there are ever any problems it is always their fault, never the leader’s or the group’s.
3. Excessive use of guilt  check_mark_u2713_icon_45x45  See the Scrutinies.
   a. Identity guilt
      1. Who you are (not living up to your potential)
      2. Your family  check_mark_u2713_icon_45x45  Is your family your idol?
      3. Your past  check_mark_u2713_icon_45x45  See above.
      4. Your affiliations
      5. Your thoughts, feelings, actions
   b. Social guilt
   c. Historical guilt
4. Excessive use of fear
   a. Fear of thinking independently
   b. Fear of the “outside” world
   c. Fear of enemies  check_mark_u2713_icon_45x45 Critics of the Way are “Judases”
   d. Fear of losing one’s “salvation”  check_mark_u2713_icon_45x45  One elderly lady on Guam reports that she was threatened with damnation if she revealed the Archani.
   e. Fear of leaving the group or being shunned by group  check_mark_u2713_icon_45x45
   f. Fear of disapproval  check_mark_u2713_icon_45x45 “If the catechists are upset with me, I won’t progress to the next stage of the Way with my community.”
5. Extremes of emotional highs and lows.
6. Ritual and often public confession of “sins”.
7. Phobia indoctrination : programming of irrational fears of ever leaving the group or even questioning the leader’s authority. The person under mind control cannot visualize a positive, fulfilled future without being in the group.
   a. No happiness or fulfillment “outside” of the group  check_mark_u2713_icon_45x45
   b. Terrible consequences will take place if you leave: “hell”; “demon possession”; “incurable diseases”; “accidents”; “suicide”; “insanity”; “10,000 reincarnations”; etc.  check_mark_u2713_icon_45x45  Ex-members have been regularly told that they had endangered their salvation by leaving the Way.
   c. Shunning of leave takers. Fear of being rejected by friends, peers, and family. check_mark_u2713_icon_45x45  On Guam, outspoken ex-members are harassed by members and clergy.  See example here.
   d. Never a legitimate reason to leave. From the group’s perspective, people who leave are: “weak”; “undisciplined”; “unspiritual”; “worldly”; “brainwashed by family, counselors”; seduced by money, sex, rock and roll.  check_mark_u2713_icon_45x45

11 thoughts on “Charting the Cult-like Nature of the Way

  1. Kudos, Chuck. This is a simple, clear and concise description of “mind control”. Several close friends of mine who had been “walking” for quite few years – and finally mustered up enough courage to leave – tell me of exactly the same description of the tools used to indoctrinate. An excellent job, Chuck. A “must read” in order to understand why Neo members act, think, write and speak the way they do. The process of indoctrination has sunk so deep into their souls, and the worst part about it is that they never realized they were being manipulated.

  2. good info. makes me think it would be better for someone to leave Catholicism and become a protestant evangelical Christian, than to get sucked into the ncw. at least there’s hope that you can reason with those folks, for the most part.

  3. When I read the book of Steve Hassan some years ago, I thought he was talking about the Way and about my neocat-life. But the best thing is I looked for his book to understand the sad experience of a very loved person into MLM’s cult.
    So, without any doubt, reading Steve Hassan helped me so much to understand I had been in a cult called Neocatechumenal Way.
    I do confirm it is a must read, as Joe San Agustin says.
    I highly recommend to listen to Steve Hassan (there are many interesting videos) when he talks about his own experience with the moonies cult. It’s quite similar to any neocatechumenal’s testimony from any place in the world, as they both agree on many aspects.
    I like when he explains how love is the one way to reach the deep self who still lives under the cultic self. In my case it was crucial to listen to my creaking consciousness each time Kiko Argüello’s ideology was fighting against my knowledge of Church’s teaching based on a kind of natural truth inscribed in every human heart.
    For many years in the Way I had to silence that “creaking” whith superhuman efforts. I got sick due to that. It is no possible to achieve inner peace when you have to invest all your efforts to silence your own conscience.
    Now I notice I spent the most of my time in the Way trying to silence it, until the simple moment you could not do more and say “enough”. I just needed God for peace, not for a permanent war against my consciousness, against my family, against my friends, against other catholic people, against the hole world and the hole humanity.
    The Way itself trains you to be in a permanent war. The fight of the faith. My deep self wanted peace, needed to love and being loved. But the Way never brought them.

    1. Hola La Paz,

      ¿Puede compartir todas las frases “thought-stopping” que usted aprendió en el Camino Neocatecumenal? Por ejemplo, “no juzgar”. “No juzgar” en realidad significa “apagar tu mente y no discernir”.


      1. Chuck, por supuesto. Te escribiré al correo de la página. Gracias! Chuck, of course. I will write to this web’s email. Thank you!

    2. ” I got sick due to that. It is no possible to achieve inner peace when you have to invest all your efforts to silence your own conscience.”

      I remember this feeling. When you think and talk things you do not really believe or feel right. Its like a feeling that my soul is dislocated like a dislocated joint. Simply does not feel right. Once i revolted against the catechists and openly criticized them in front of my community. This is the first time i did this because all the time before that i was seeking acceptance and i would say things “that were correct” but i would always feel somehow unpleased… because they were not my thoughts. Once when i criticized them everybody in my community were rejecting what i was saying, but even though i felt rejected from my community i felt strong and whole inside my soul because i know i was telling the truth and honoring what i really thought.

  4. Chuck, excuse me, could you bring me your e-mail sending me a message to mine? I am not able to find it anyway…sorry!

  5. Thanks, Chuck. Just bought the Kindle ebook version for $9.99 on Amazon. Looking forward to reading it this weekend.

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