Tuesday, January 5, 2016


by Fr. Dwight Longenecker , re-posted on JungleWatch by Chuck White

"Cults and Common Sense" was originally written and posted by Fr. Dwight Longenecker a few years ago.  Fr. Longenecker gives four warning signs and three good antidotes that might help us here in Guam...

One of the creepiest things about religion is the tendency for those involved to drift into cult-like behaviors. How can you tell if a religious group is operating like a cult? It’s difficult because the people in a religious group can behave like a cult without them becoming a full blown, identifiable religious cult. 

What groups am I thinking of? It could be a small local group or a large international group. It could be a parish or a school. It could be a study group or an ecclesial community. The difficulty is that cult like behavior is often very similar to authentic and Spirit filled Christian communities. A cult will often look like a good, authentic and dynamic Christian community. In fact, the cult will often out do the authentic Christian community in certain respects. Sometimes the cult will feel more authentic, more dynamic, more spiritual and more “filled with the Spirit.”
How can you tell if a parish, a school, a community or a religious group are becoming cult like? Again, it is very difficult because some groups that have cult-like behaviors remain at a low level of these behaviors.
So what are the danger signs? First of all, if a religious community or a religious leader seem too good to be true–guess what? They’re usually too good to be true. That’s because group cult behavior conspires to cover up and hide away anything that tarnishes the glossy image of that “wonderful community” that all the members want so much to believe in. This is the first sign of a cult: everything is too wonderful and everyone is ready to tell you how wonderful it all it. The cult will invariably have an amazingly good public relations operation. They will present a good and glossy front with 100% participation of all involved. This being the case, if your priest is a man who’s faults are obvious. Maybe you should be grateful. He’s real. He’s not trying to con you.
The second thing to watch out for is the leadership. The leadership of a cult will invariably be selective and exclusive. There will be a public face of the leadership, and that person will unfailingly present the nice, glossy and polished face of the organization. The public face will be squeaky clean and wonderful. If it is a personality based cult there may be no other leadership. However, if there is a board of directors or trustees, they will remain in the background. You may not know who they are. Their meetings will not be public. They may even have a vow of secrecy about their meetings. They will call this something nice like “a confidentiality agreement.” This means they cannot discuss what goes on behind those closed doors. There may not be a formal leadership group at all. Instead the leader may simply have an inside circle of friends and confidantes who nobody really knows because they never have any meetings as such. The decisions are all taken in private. The leadership will be tightly controlled and it will be by invitation only. If you encounter non-transparent leadership in this way. Don’t be surprised and be suspicious.
A third trait of a cult is that complete loyalty is demanded of the followers. Dissent and criticism is not permitted. Those who dissent will be marginalized, excluded from decision making and demonized. If the leaders cannot get rid of the dissenters they will be isolated and given a name. They will be “the troublemakers” or “the grumblers”. The dissenters from within will be considered the most dangerous ones and you will find that there are divisions–those who are loyal followers and those who are suspected of being “disloyal” or “rebellious”. The disloyal and rebellious ones will be deemed “unspiritual” or “difficult”. In extreme cases the dissenters will become scapegoats and all the negativities of the group will be projected on to them.
A fourth characteristic of a group that has become a cult or is behaving in a cult like manner is that there will be a persecution complex. A group of outside forces will be identified who are “the enemy”. A little fortress will be built in which all those on the inside are the “faithful ones” while all those on the outside will increasingly be demonized and feared. There will be no real effort to build bridges or get to know those on the outside. There will be no real effort to treat the outsiders as real people. Instead they are the enemy to be kept at arms’ length and against whom the faithful will usually project their fears and suspicions. At worst the enemy will have all the sins and fears and dark negativities projected on them.
The problem is that when a group is becoming cult like it does so innocently. Nobody sets out to establish a cult. Instead, unconsciously certain individuals start to behave in this manner and they support one another. The leadership starts to create an unrealistically wonderful religious atmosphere and those who want and need that sort of religious group will support it and feed the flames. The faithful will set the leader up on a pedestal and declare him to be wonderful and the leader (who needs and likes the adulation) will encourage their hero worship. Those who object or suspect what is happening will be automatically excluded or marginalized by those who wish to perpetuate the super wonderful world they are setting up for themselves.
It all stinks to high heaven, and I know how it works because in over fifty years of working in a range of religious groups I have seen these behaviors develop within parishes, within home prayer and praise groups, within schools, in colleges and in independent churches.
What’s the antidote? One of the antidotes is actually the Catholic parish system. If we all went to our local parish and put up with the priest we didn’t happen to like and the people who were just there because, like us, they lived there–we would be more realistic and we wouldn’t fall into personality cult problems.
Another antidote is common sense. If something or someone seems to be too good to be true. They are. Common sense pops pomposity’s balloon and brings things down to earth. A third antidote is openness to criticism and dissent. A real servant leader and a truly service based group will value all members and be strong enough to listen to dissenting voices. They will treat criticism as positive feedback and be open not only to dissent but to outsiders. A fourth antidote is confession. Cult members and cult leaders never admit their mistakes and will never be able to make a true, honest and open confession or apology. If your leader or community members cannot say “sorry” you’ve got problems.
Finally, real religion is just that. It’s real. It’s humble. Remember the word “humility” comes from the word “humus” which means “earth”. Real religion is down to earth. It’s humble and oh yes, “Humus” is also the root for “humor”. Real religion always knows how to have a laugh. If a group or a person can’t laugh at themselves–be suspicious. If they take themselves or their movement or their spirituality with utmost seriousness–beware.


  1. Take a look to Kiko New Year's Message published on Camineo.info.

    1. Here is a google translate version of it. LOL. No wonder people are attracted to his cult. Verbal pornography like no other. And then he gives you permission to participate in it all because "God does not care" if you sin. And then as usual, within a few sentences, his words drift from God to himself. What a piece of rot this man is. No wonder he attracts the likes of Apuron and Cristobal.

      KIKO: Given the deep crisis that is going on society I want to say something that maybe you've never heard of, "God loves you", listen well God Loves You!

      A He does not care that you've gone to a brothel because you know something? There is disgusted by you, he takes no offense at your sins, He does not care that fall and fall into the same, that women undress in your thoughts, because for others can be a pig, but with God are what more precious that exists and every day gives you a new one for you to know opportunity, a new to enter conversion opportunity. Maybe you've been in a time of doom, living like an animal that does not reason, staining your body, having couples here and there, with a man and another man or with several women. Maybe God does not care, maybe you felt that he limits you to what you have wanted to live, sure you had home, jewelry, travel, but even so I assure you that there is a void, a terrible loneliness in your heart. But I do not judge spirits, Who am I? Because I'm no good, I'm worse than you because I have insulted, lied, I hated! But the Lord has renewed me through time, she is transforming me into a new man and that allows me to announce this today; Believe it opens the ear, God loves you! and he sent his Son the only one to die for what you've done, and so much is his love that wants you out of where you are now, God loves you even if you have a homosexual attraction, no matter how you've messed up your body, Love you! Do you understand? determines not to love you as do the others, stop begging love; stop asking your boyfriend loves you just a little, your mom loves you just a little, life will not come from them, you from God that you never get "just a little love" but gives you his blood , is donated to you. Experience true happiness, reconciled to your story, with your parents, get in peace with Him and have a full life. If you want it so I can help, I invite you to live in community and to experience God's forgiveness.

    2. This brings back a presbyter's homily of " the more you sin, the more God will love you and the more you will be blessed!" At one funeral it was " xxx was born to earth and now xxx is born to heaven."

    3. again the graphic descriptions from the iniciador himself. the oj orange doesn't fall far from the tree, eh?

      it seems to me that kiko, if not dismissing sin itself, is at least promoting the sin of presumption: be sinful because God loves you and forgives you anyway. what a terrible evil to teach.

    4. Our sins don't offend God? Kiko interprets the Scriptures literally when doing so suits his sectarian goals, so I wonder how he would deal with this:

      The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. Genesis 6:5-6 (RSVCE)

      Sure, it's anthropomorphic and requires explanation, but that's what genuine catechesis is supposed to do!

    5. The sin of presumption is precisely what it is. And I can't think of a worse sin than PRESUMING on God's Mercy as permission to go ahead and sin in front of his face anyway. Wow!

      I read this in My Daily Bread yesterday. It was frightening.

      From MY DAILY BREAD Chapter 70:
      MY CHILD, the devil tempts you to the sin of presumption in two ways. He does it either by suggesting that My mercy will easily spare you from the punishment due to your sins, or by convincing you that you are strong enough to face any temptation. He is the father of lies and the arch-deceiver. My mercy is above all My works, but it does not destroy My justice.
      2. Though I suffered and died to obtain pardon for your sins, you must also do your part in the work of salvation. Have faith in Me; obey My Church; do penance for your sins; and avoid the near occasions of sin. Only if you do your part, will you receive My mercy. Once you are called by the Angel of Death, the time for mercy will be over. Then you will meet only justice.
      3. As for relying too much on your own strength, remember your complete dependence on Me for each breath, each heart-beat, each second of life. Whoever thinks himself independent and strong, is a fool. He who loves danger shall perish in it. If you presume too much on your strength, you will find yourself weaker than you ever expected.
      4. When I give you interior light and heavenly strength, do not be too ready to make them known to others. Remember your unworthiness, and you will make better use of My gifts. You will use them gratefully, humbly and carefully.

  2. "Eat Drink and be Merry for tomorrow we die" Earth to Kiko... Jesus teaches to follow his example, not to live a life unchecked, we have to emulate the examples given in the Bible is the road map to heaven. For all of you who believe the teachings of this fool, what can I say???

  3. i think i read this piece by fr longenecker when it first appeared on his blog. that was before i learned about the truly cultish ways of the ncw. i didn't imagine that it would end up applying directly to guam.

  4. This article with its useful characterisations of typical cult behaviour should send all sorts of warning flags with regard to the Neo-Catechumemnal Way. I have seen with my own eyes, the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Agana and the administrative assistant of the Parish Center (both neo cult followers) fearfully respond to the instructions of none other than Pius Sammut (a vagabond neo-presbyter with no real position in the local Church hierarchy) in the sacristy of the Cathedral-Basilica. It was pitiful.

  5. Whenever I listen to one of Kiko's "enlightened" rants, It always brings to mind this colorful Spanish expression:
    "El tiene, la diarrea de la boca". Which is used to describe somebody who cannot stop talking, or somebody with a discourse devoid of content.
    In Kiko's case, it is probably both.
    Loosely translated: he has diarreah of the mouth.

    In hindsight this could go to great lengths in explaining Rude Rudy fascination with fecal matter, and orifices.