Introvigne Confesses:

"CESNUR was ' founded and inspired' by 'militants of Alleanza Cattolica' and is part of the 'struggle between Revolution and Counter-Revolution'


Review by Alessia Guidi, May 2000 

This article first appeared Italian on on Alessia's excellent website on cults and related issues. 

The article - certainly one of the best studies so far on CESNUR - is very long, so we have translated only the first part 

We thank Alessia for having allowed us to publish it. 

The most interesting part of Alessia's article is the analysis of Introvigne's writings, where he explicitly states that CESNUR was founded as an actor in "the struggle between Revolution and Counter-Revolution" and that "This is why militants of Alleanza Cattolica, together with others, founded and still inspire CESNUR, the Centre for the Study of New Religions. 

For having said exactly what Introvigne says here, we have had our website censored, been threatened by lawyers and subjected to a mind-boggling campaign of obscenities and insults. 

Only the first two chapters of Alessia's essay, plus the relevant part of the notes, have been translated so far. 

Miguel Martínez

Introvigne, Science and Ideology   

The wesbite of the Rome branch of the Catholic cult resource GRIS recently published an  interesting interview on the Swiss radio with two well-known scholars  who deal with issues related to New Religious Movements (NRM in this text): Dr  Raffaella di Marzio and Massimo Introvigne, director of the Turin-based CESNUR (Centre for the STudy of New Religions ) . [1]  

I carefully read what the latter said, and compared it with what I found in a booklet I had just discovered, called "La questione della nuova religiosità", by Massimo Introvigne, published by Cristianità, 1993 (ISBN 88-85236-14-6). This made for some very interesting reflections on the actions and statements of CESNUR's director.   

First let us look at what he told the Swiss Radio:   

"question: Professor Introvigne, before answering criticisms, would you like to tell us what the premises of your research are ?  
Massimo Introvigne: Social Science scholars speak of an approach which is independent from the personal values of the researcher, and attempts to describe a situation without basing oneself on the doctrinal position of the scholar. For example, I am Catholic and I could say that a movement is far from the Catholic faith. However, this is a task which I gladly leave to the theologians. In the same way, a person with ideological positions, for example a secular humanist [laicista], could not say that the worldview of a movement is opposed to the secular and rationalist view which he believes should be promoted. I think these two kinds of approaches - in social sciences they are called religionist and ideological respectively - have a legitimate field of application in polemical writings, but are not part of science."
Mark his words. In chapter 4, page 44 and following of the 1993 booklet mentioned above, a certain Massimo Introvigne, whom I imagine to be the same person who was speaking on the Swiss Radio [the following quotes are taken from pages 48-9, page 44 is the first of the chapter]: wrote:   
"Alleanza Cattolica was certainly one of the first Catholic groups in Italy to become aware of the problem [of new religiosity]. It spent many years making every effort, in Italy and abroad, to promote action on all three levels while at the same time trying to avoid any confusion among such levels [see here]. This is why militants of Alleanza Cattolica, together with others, founded and still inspire CESNUR, the Centre for the Study of New Religions [2],which has by now achieved recognition as one of the main international centres for scientific study of new religiosity. And this too is why militants of Alleanza Cattolica are engaged, wherever possible, in Catholic groups involved in study , information and pastoral action, on a diocesan and national scale, in some quite important dioceses they are the main animators. Finally, this is why Alleanza Cattolica - under its own name and responsibility - has been promoting hundreds of meetings, seminars and lectures over more than ten years, in order to explain the basic issues of new religious movements in general - and in detail as well, as in the case of the Jehovah's Witnesses - within the framework of an apologetic response, which always goes back to the wider framework of the dramatic struggle between evangelization and anti-evangelization. In other words, to use the language of the counter-revolutionary school of Catholicism which is the special inspiration for Alleanza Cattolica, the struggtle between Revolution and Counter-Revolution (note 35: Cfr., to see the main ideas of this school, PLINIO CORRÊA DE OLIVEIRA, Rivoluzione e Contro-Rivoluzione, 3rd enlarged Italian edition, Cristianità, Piacenza 1977); the expression of this scenario is one of the main purposes of the association. For several centuries, the overall outline of this scenario has tended to stay the same; however, Alleanza Cattolica tries to follow the modifications of its most specific and concrete aspects through history, focusing its attention from time to time on what appear to be the most serious aspects of anti- evangelization and of the revolutionary process. It should not come as a surprise if - as the action of new religious movements increases in intensity and importance, both in terms of quantity and quality within the general framework of obstacles to evangelization - Alleanza Cattolica has increasingly focused its attention on this aspect of the revolutionary process, without forgetting others which are no less worrisome. The tradition of thought that Allenza Cattolica is based on has always taught that the authentic conter-revolutionary militant is the person who is able to focus on today's Revolution without wasting time fighting yesterday's Revolution - almost as if one felt a paradoxical "affection" for the latter, aware of the fact that the Revolution changes all the time. Having identified a crucial aspect of today's Revolution in the new religious movements of today, Alleanza Cattolica does not limit itself to analyzing this or that scholar, but draws its inspiration - first and foremost - from the indications of the Magisterium of the Church." [bold type added].
Is Introvigne actually telling us that CESNUR was created by militants of Alleanza Cattolica in order to fight the dramatic conflict "between evangelization and anti-evangelization", hence "to use the language of the counter-revolutionary school of Catholicism which is the special inspiration for Alleanza Cattolica, the struggtle between Revolution and Counter-Revolution"? And that a militant is a person who "is able to focus on today's Revolution without wasting time fighting yesterday's Revolution"? Yes, that seems to be exactly what he is saying. Basically, the action of CESNUR Italy seems to be the ideological expression of the counter-revolutionary school of the inspiring father figure of the movement of which Introvigne is a leader, i.e. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira founder of TFP, Tradition, Family and Property [3]. And what is "today's revolution"? Does it have something to do with the secular ideas which arose from "yesterday's revolution"?   

In the same booklet, Introvigne also tells us some other interesting things:   

"b. Man in some way "religious" or looking for contact with the sacred - however deviant or even perverse - of the world of new religiosity is not identical with the man who is a victim or promoter of the anti-religious ideologies which the Church as - and in some parts of the world still has - as its adversary, and cannot simply be treated in the same way. His "religious" aspiration may contain authentic elements, which merit respect, "seeds of the Word", which - while avoiding any kind of syncretism or relativism - must be helped to mature through dialogue."
Basically, Introvigne is saying that he believes that the person who claims to be "religious", no matter whether he follows a "perverse" or "deviant" group (or, I would add, a group which considers money to be its god, or murderers as was recently the case in Uganda), has within himself the "seeds of the Word", that is the word of God, and must be respected as an individual sensitive to being evangelized. On the contrary, the person who is "victim or promoter" of "anti-religious ideologies" - which Introvigne elsewhere identifies with the basically French secularism, ideas he associates with the "anti-cult movements", has no hope whatsoever, and cannot be treated in the same way 
   

So who are the main enemies of evangelization that the good militant must fight against in his Plinio-Corrêa-de-Oliveira counter-revolution? Certainly not those who have inside them the "seed of the Word", like the Scientologists, the subway gassers in Japan or the slaughterers of innocent Uganda farmers. No, they are alright. Sooner or later - I suppose the good Alleanza Cattolica/CESNUR militant thinks - we shall evangelize and convert  

them.  

Better a RELIGIOUS fanatic than a reasoning NON BELIEVER, this seems to be Introvigne's idea. The real enemies are the secularists, especially the "anti-cultists", who - according to the CESNUR director, seem basically to be driven by religious intolerance and hatred for religion, and who appear on the website of the Milan diocese as devils, no less [4]. Of course, anybody who has read Introvigne will have noticed how, and wondered why, he puts his private war against the "anti-cult movement" everywhere. I think what he wrote in 1993 shows that what Introvigne is conducting is actually a holy war, basically motivated by his counter-revolutionary ideology.   

Now let us go back to his radio interview:   

" I believe that both these approaches - religionist and ideological, as they are respectively called in social sciences - have a legitimate field of application in the works of polemicists but are not part of science."
In brief, Massimo Introvigne is saying that Massimo Introvigne is a polemicist who is not part of science.   

Considering what Introvigne said in his 1993 booklet, his answer to the definite question by the Swiss journalist looks a little "embarrassing":   

"CS: Several documents claim CESNUR is associated with the Catholic traditionalist movement Alleanza Cattolica which supports cults, not for scientific reasons, but because it fears that the battle against alternative movements could overwhelm these religions, but also controversial movements within the Catholic Church associated with difende le sette non per ragioni scientifiche ma perché teme che la Alleanza Cattolica. What is your opinion?  
MI: Alleanza Cattolica is a Catholic movement which is recognized in many of the dioceses where it is active. I belong to it. Some of the other hundreds, indeed by now thousands, of scholars who have taken part in CESNUR initiatives, also belong to it. I am the only member of the Board of Directors of CESNUR International who belongs to Alleanza Cattolica. There are three Catholics. The others are Orthodox, Methodists, Calvinists or simply atheists. So it seems to me ridiculous to present CESNUR as an institution associated with a Catholic movement."
Now that is strange - wasn't it Introvigne himself who in 1993 claimed that CESNUR was created by "militants of Alleanza Cattolica" to "fight dramaticall" between "evangelization and anti-evangelization"? The only question is, how many of the "hundreds, indeed by now thousands" of scholars who took part in CESNUR's initiatives were aware they were carrying out Introvigne's ideological holy war, and whether the members of the board of directors are aware. In any case, Introvigne clearly does not answer the question, but changes the subject.   

Introvigne, a man with a thousand faces   

This remindss me of Robert Voughn Young, a critic of L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the "for profit religion" Scientology. In an article, he claimed that all that one needed in order to understand the true nature of Hubbard was to read and compare his writing, i.e. compare the various "personalities" of Hubbard on the basis of what he himself wrote. Hubbard the humanist versus Hubbard the anti-communist, Hubbard the educator vs. Hubbard the guru, Hubbard the poet vs. Hubbard the leader.   

I think the same could be applied to  Introvigne. Introvigne the "social scientist" vs. Introvigne "militant of Alleanza Cattolica".   

I could stop here, but Introvigne's statements on the radio are too enjoyable and deserve further comment.   

"I have always claimed that scientific analysis of the testimony of former members is important, but public opinion makes a major mistake here. By former members, one means only those former members who have become professional opponents of the movement. Quantitative research on former members shows that apostates are an important minority, between 10 and 15%, however 85% of former members do not go to journalists or to anti-cult organizations, scholars have to chase down these fomrer members who have a more mixed reaction. They will tell us that the movement had both good and bad aspects."
Let us consider this. As we all know - and as I hope such a scholar of NRM's as Introvigne knows - many controversial groups (and such groups are controversial for THIS REASON too) have a "strange" attitude towards former members, especially towards those who are openly critical. This "strange" behaviour may include physical and/or psychological threats, moral and material blackmail, harassment, open ostracism, in general measures which cannot always be classified as a definite statutory crime. A few examples:   
  • What about groups accused of going through the "public confessions" that they submit their members to in order to find compromising statements?  
 
  • What about groups which promote shunning by family members, "your loved ones from now on are forbidden to talk to you"?  
 
  • What about groups which make their members sign "promises" in the presence of witnesses, whereby the member engages not to reveal XY or YZ (and this may include anything ffrom "secret" doctrines to morally unacceptable, although legal, practices), under the penalty of enormous "fines", "otherwise we shall call our lawyers"?  
What effect can all this have on the condition of former members? As far as I know, Introvigne, has never made it clear whether these people belong to the "important minority" which "goes to journalists or anti-cult organizations" or to the 85% which says that "the movement had both good and bad aspects."   

I personally know some people - not of course as many as Introvigne - who are very critical towards the group that they left, but who never "went to journalists or anti-cult organizations." They simply left the group and licked their wounds in solitude. Why? This is something the "social scientist" Introvigne could explain in one of his future works. I would also like to know whether Introvigne would be willing to say that the reverse is also true: that anybody who speaks favourably of a group is a "Professional friend" who goes to "journalists and pro-cult organizations". If the first hypothesis is true, so should the reverse: there are "pro-cult associations" which deal with "professional friends".   

"They will tell us that the movement had both good and bad aspects". This is true. However, I would like Introvigne, who has repeatedly claimed tht these movements are like big stations where people come and go all the time, to tell us whether a further distinction was made among this 85% on the basis of how long they were members and and how involved they were, and whether the same parameters were applied to the other 15% of "professional enemies", i.e. those who "go to journalists and anti-cult movements."   

For example, what can somebody say who merely attended a short "Bible study" and then decided it was not for him? Or somebody who attended a "communications course" or a course on the "anatomy of the human mind" without going any farther? He will say there were "both good and bad aspects" The situation of a person who achieved high levels of responsibility inside a group will be quite different, because he understands the dynamics of the group, and has brought to public attention documents which were hitherto confidential and/or unknown.   

I understand that a short radio interview is not enough to clearly explain the research methods the percentages Introvigne gives were based on. However, I never found them explained in much longer texts. We just have to take Massimo Introvigne's word for it. Introvigne, by the way, confirms in the interview that he devotes "half hist time" to another profession: that of a lawyer.   
 
 

Alessia Guidi, May 7, 2000   

 
 

Notes:   

1. The interview was then published in full by "Corriere del Ticino", and appeared on the website of GRIS Roma   

2. Quite curious. On the CESNUR web page  http://www.cesnur.org/about.htm, but  only in the part in English, we read that CESNUR  "was established in 1988 by a group of religious scholars from leading universities in Europe and the Americas." Now who founded CESNUR: militants of Alleanza Cattolica or scholars?  Ow were these scholars militants of Alleanza Cattolica, contradicting what Introvigne told the Swiss radio when he says that it seems "ridiculous to present CESNUR as an institution associated with a Catholic movement"? I think that the scholars who are board members of CESNUR should ask themselves the same question, unless the want to be associated with Alleanza Cattolica.   

3. For a critical analysis of the ideology and relations between  Introvigne, Alleanza Cattolica and TFP see the  CESNUR Critical Page  

4. The reader can see for himself what I say here. Look for: autori è Maggioni è Rapporto sui Nuovi Movimenti Religiosi. Mons. Giuseppe Maggioni here offers an undocumented rewrite of Introvigne's theses.  A rehash of the old story of the 1950's, when they used to say in Italy that Communists ate children. In those days, some people fell for it, and in the same way, today, somebody may believe in the "anti-cultists-as-devils" idea, especially if supported in this by such a well-known personality as the Director of CESNUR and a Monsignor from one of Italy's main dioceses.   

It is also intereesting to see how the same positions appear in apparently different contexts, but with the same ideological background. In the  it.* hierarchy of Usenet, for example, there is a newsgroup called it.politica.cattolici which claims that "The purpose of this News Group (NG) is to exchange information, express opinions or provide suggestions concerning the political situation and the "signs of the times" and the problems of the present hour (secularization, defence of life, school reform, etc.) [...].". Apparently, in other words, a forum for information and opinion involving the whole Catholic world. The group is "moderated", in other words messages are first read by a "moderator" to make sure they fall within the framework of the statement of purpose of the group.   

The moderator of the forum is David Botti, who, we read in issue   290-291 of Cristianità - the official magazine of Alleanza Cattolica - is an Alleanza Cattolica militant. The  Usenet forum which he presides over, far from being a forum open to the whole Catholic world, is actually an amplifier for the activities of CESNUR and the "Pensiero Forte" (Strong Thinking) ideology the Alleanza people uphold. Anybody who has tried to follow  it.politica.cattolici, and perhaps had something to say, has seen how everything that is out of line is systematically censored. Out of line from the statement of purpose of the group? No, that is of no interest. One needs to be in line with the ideology of Botti. Practically speaking, the  newsgroup is a propaganda tool dressed up as a "forum of discussion open to the whole Catholic world."    

David Botti manages a very interesting  personal site  Here one can see the same issues that Introvigne pushes (through CESNUR) and those of other, less well known groups:   

Cristianità,IDIS,Una Voce grida.!   

In other words, the Good Fight so dear to the militant.   

 


 

Text analyzed: "La questione della nuova religiosità" - Massimo Introvigne - Published by  Cristianità, 1993 (ISBN 88-85236-14-6)   

"f. An analysis of this phenomenon and its causes must also be the point of departure for properly identifying the actors of pastoral efforts so much needed in this field, without confusing three different levels, which must absolutely not act against each other, but must be harmoniously co-ordinated:  
- the level of scientific study of the phenomenon, where knowledege is still scarce and the number of scholars is not large enough considering the size of the phenomenon; so much so that only co-operation among Catholic and non-Catholic scholars, bringing together every available scientific and academic skill, can make it possible to make maps which are as accurate as possible on a field where the lack of cartography is one of the first reasons it is difficult to move;  
- the level of pastoral intervention on the phenomenon, both by dissemination of essential information and by concrete help to people with problems: on this level scientific description will not be enough. Elements of judgement will have to be introduced, in other words actual apologetics; unlike the first level, co-operation with non -Catholics here must be done only with great caution.  
- the level of reflection and hence of dissemination of analyses and hypotheses concerning the role that the phenomenon of new religious movements plays within the  wider framework of the obstacles opposing the evangelizing mission of the Church and of the struggle between the Church and the forces which for various reasons oppose its project of evangalization." 



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