by Miguel Martinez
When Introvigne used to hate "cults" and like "apostates"
Cattolica radically changed its views on cults at the end of 1985. Rather
more difficult to establish is whether Introvigne did too, for the simple
reason that Introvigne hardly ever touched the issue before that year.
However, we have seen how AC and Introvigne are virtually synonymous: AC's
current line on "apostates" and the use of the word "setta" (sect or cult)
are today identical with Introvigne's, and no writing by Introvigne before
1985 shows the slightest deviation from the party line on any of the issues
he did deal with at the time; so I believe we can freely compare writings
on the subject by Introvigne today with those by AC authors before 1985.
In any case, there is an article by Introvigne himself, previous to the
great shift of the mid-Eighties. In 1985 he wrote one of his first essays
on what he definitely would not have then called a "New Religious Movement",
the Jehovah's Witnesses. (I Testimoni di Geova: un profetismo gnostico
in Quaderni di Cristianità, Spring 1985, p. 20 ff.).
The opening paragraph of this nineteen-page article speaks for itself:
The word "setta" (like the rather offensive "protestantico") occurs again twice in the following paragraph, and many more times in the text. On the following page (p. 21), Introvigne has something quite kind to say about what he would doubtless later have labelled as the "atrocity story" of a "professional enemy":
On p. 22, we even read the following:
Introvigne tells us what the "cultic spirit" (spirito di setta) is all about:
The cultic spirit and totalism go hand in hand; Introvigne compares Jehovah's Witnesses with Communism and National-Socialism:
We have already seen what Introvigne now has to say about "apostates". Nine years later, Introvigne, writing in the right-wing daily Il Secolo d'Italia (Massimo Introvigne, "I nuovi movimenti religiosi", Secolo d'Italia, 22 nov. 1996), would say:
Introvigne of course is quite right on the perils of a loose use of the term: in its pre-CESNUR days, Cristianità used to speak of "la setta comunista" and even "la setta abortista".
Just like the more recent version, the
early Mr Introvigne was not working separately from his organization. Not
long before Introvigne's attack on the "Jehovah cult"; the March-April
1984 issue of Cristianità devoted a full page to a meeting
"also promossa by Alleanza Cattolica", on "A cultic [settaria] presence
in Sicily: Jehovaism", and held in Palermo. Introvigne of course, not yet
being an expert on the issue, was not among the speakers. "Apostates" plaid
a leading role in the meeting:
In another conference (again, Introvigne is not listed among the speakers), held in Massa Carrara in 1983 "to deal with the expansion of the cult", Alleanza Cattolica pointed out how Jehovah's Witnesses use their theology for purposes of practical exploitation:
On April 25, 1985, as Cristianità proudly referred under the usual heading of "the good fight" (Cristianità, May 1985, n. 121, p. 13), AC organized a meeting in Matera on "Catholic Truth and the Jehovaist cult" (Verità cattolica e la setta geovista). Speakers included Ernesto Zucchini, later involved in CESNUR; but also
In the afternoon, a professor of law touched an issue which Introvigne would find untouchable only a few years later: the legal aspects of the rules of the Jehovah's Witnesses.
In the June-July 1985 issue of Cristianità,
Alleanza Cattolica was still organizing meetings denouncing Satanic cults
("Il demoniaco luogo teologico, fenomeno sociale, categoria storica", in
Turin, June 11, 1985; although Introvigne lives in Turin, he is not mentioned
in the article).
Any reader of Introvigne's writings will recognize all the marks of the "anti-cult movement" - "sensationalizing journalists", "confusion between different kinds of new religions" and the "abusive use of the term cult" - in one paragraph.
Introvigne, apparently not yet an "expert" on such matters, was not a speaker at either of these meetings.
Only a few years later, Introvigne could proudly boast that he was one of the few non members to be regularly invited to attend black masses in Turin (Maria Grazia Cutuli, "Il diavolo è fra noi", Epoca, 28.9.93),.
Perhaps rightly, the scholar Introvigne in recent years defended the Catholic pentecostal-charismatic group Renewal in the Spirit against the accusation of being a cult (Cristianità, n. 269, Sept. 1997, p. 9); however, in the same issue of the same magazine, the believer Introvigne holds the introductory speech at a convention of the same organization, called "When the Son of Man Returns, Will He Still Find Faith in the World?"
Things were quite different back in 1977, when the May issue of Cristianità devoted an article to the same group. The author of course was not yet Introvigne, but Pellegrino Costa.
The quotation marks in the title say everything:
"'Catholic' pentecostalism - towards 'tribalization' of the Church?" ("Tribalization"
being an oblique reference to Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira's notion
that the Church in Latin America was being "tribalized" by progressive
missionaries). Typically, the essay starts out with the words:
Catholic pentecostals are compared to a long list of ancient heresies and associated with the US drug culture of the '60s. Finally, they are diabolical:
Very obviously, an enormous change in Introvigne's thinking took place somewhere between 1985 and 1988, when Introvigne was already expressing the same conspiracy theories about the "anti-cult" movement he still holds today.