Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Courageous stand of the Daughters of St. Paul against Scientology in Italy

The Daughters of St. Paul in Italy are taking a courageous stand against the Church of Scientology.

Their publishing house recently issued the second of two books by Italian Catholic
Maria Pia Gardini, who is a former Scientologist.

The publishing house has just published a second book by her exposing abuses within the Church of Scientology.

The Church of Scientology in Italy has announced it has instigated legal proceedings for libel against Gardini and those who have assisted her.

In bringing this lawsuit the Church of Scientology and its leader David Miscavige risk the enmity of millions of Catholics around the world, particularly since the organization forces all women, both married and unmarried, working for their elite Sea Org management organization to abort their unborn children.

In 2007 The Daughters of St. Paul's publishing house Edizioni Paoline (Paoline Publications) published I miei anni in Scientology (My years in Scientology) and in the first week of December 2009 released Il coraggio di parlare - storie di fuoriusciti da Scientology (The Courage To Speak Out - Stories of Ex-Scientologists),

The books have been widely reviewed in Italy. Numerous Italian-language reviews with the links to pdf files may be found at the links to the two books cited above.

Both books are co-authored by Italian Catholic journalist Alberto Laggia and Italian Catholic Maria Pia Gardini. Gardini is a former adherent of Scientology and member of its Sea Org elite, who run everything in Scientology and its front groups under the leadership of David Miscavige. She returned to full practice of Catholicism after leaving.

My Years In Scientology recounts Gardini's own experiences. The Courage To Speak Out contains the stories of fourteen ex-Scientologists including three from the US.

Both books are replete with accounts of horrendous abuses, including Maria Pia Gardini's having been defrauded of over a million dollars.

In September the National Church of Scientology in Italy sent a formal warning (Atto di diffida, approximately equivalent to a Cease and Desist letter) to Paoline saying that it had engaged in libelous attacks. The warning was signed by a lawyer for Scientology and the head of Scientology in Italy and was also sent to Maria Pia Gardini.

Laggia has written frequently on cults and Scientology for La Famiglia Cristiana (The Christian Family), a weekly magazine produced by the Daughters of St. Paul. It is widely read by Italian Catholics. More than one million copies are distributed every Sunday to parishes and churches throughout Italy.

In the US, the Daughters of St. Paul maintain a publishing house and fourteen bookstores known as Pauline Books and Media. It is not to be confused with the Paulist Press run by the Paulist Fathers, founded in the mid-nineteenth century by the remarkable Fr. Isaac Hecker, a convert to Catholicism.

In response to the release of The Courage To Speak Out, the Church of Scientology issued a press release by Scientology spokesman Luigi Brambani.

It announced that the Church of Scientology has instructed its lawyers to begin legal proceedings for libel against Maria Pia Gardini.

Tellingly, it did not explicitly mention Paoline as the September warning had, nor did it mention co-author Laggia. It did, however, mention that the legal action was not only against her but also "whomever assisted her with activities that the Church considers detrimental to its image." This means, at the very least, Paoline and Laggia, and perhaps the fourteen ex-Scientologists whose stories are recounted as well.

Perhaps not so coincidentally, the warning bears the date of the Feast of the Triumph of the Holy Cross (September 14). The press release announcing legal proceedings for libel was issued on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (December 8). These are major feast days of the Church.

Luciano Scalettari is another journalist who writes frequently on cults alongside of Alberto Laggia at La Famiglia Cristiana. In his review of The Courage to Speak Out in the December 6, 2009 issue of the periodical, Many years (and lots of money) thrown away, he writes:
It is a lucid and disturbing account of the stories of former Scientologists. You begin to realize, page after page, not only the courage it took to make the stories public, but the much greater courage required to leave because, as Alberto Laggia notes, "Deciding to go public with the story of one's involvement in Scientology is painful, but it is yet more difficult to give up an experience as totalistic and pervasive as that of adhering to Hubbard's church and to overcome extremely intense psychological pressure. In reality, as Maria Pia Gardini confessed to me, 'When you withdraw from a cult like Scientology, your legs carry you out, but your head is still inside'."
Paoline is unfazed by Scientology's threats and is quite prepared to stand its ground.

In an interview with Gianni Leone, editor of the Italian language online magazine Mondo Raro based in the UK, a Paoline spokesman said,

We live in a free country and a publisher has the obligation to be as accurate and as steadfast as possible, because it is not a crime to report the facts when they exist and can be documented.


The issues which are dear to our hearts and about which we have and will continue to take a stand are peace, justice, dialogue among different religions and cultures, more from the viewpoint of what unites rather than from what divides them. In this time marked by fear and distrust of others, these are uncomfortable but urgent issues.

David Miscavige is the iron-fisted leader of Scientology world-wide and was recently exposed by the St. Petersburg Times in Florida in their three-part investigative series, The Truth Rundown, as a frequent assaulter of his executives and other employees.

The St. Petersburg Times has also recently published an editorial, Scientology Investigation Overdue, in which it called for government investigation of Scientology's tax-exempt status and alleged violations of labor laws.

Journalist Jonny Jacobsen, a former Agence France-Presse journalist, has filled out the picture of abuses within the Miscavige regime at Infinite Complacency - Violence and Abuse in Scientology with his detailed reporting on the recent Paris convictions of Scientology for organized fraud.

He has just published insightful analyses of the letters from ex-Scientologists tabled by Australian Senator Nick Xenophon in support of his motion for an investigation into Scientology's tax exemption in a stirring speech he delivered in the Australian Senate on November 17, 2009.
The accounts describe horrendous abuses of coerced abortion, cover-up of rape, suicide, false imprisonment, degrading humiliation and punishment among others.

Senator Xenophon's motion will be voted on when the Australian Parliament reconvenes in February 2010.

In contrast to Italy where Catholic journalists Alberto Laggia and Luciano Scalletari write frequently on Scientology and other cults and the threat they pose to society and Catholic families, there are very few English-language Catholic journalists who do more than comment without much depth only on stories that are major news events like Scientology's conviction in Paris for organized fraud and the defection of Oscar-winning director Paul Haggis which both occurred in October of 2009.

Nearly alone among US Catholic journalists, Randy Sly at Catholic Online has dug in deep and written much on Scientology, filing ten stories since June of 2009.

It is not at all clear so far whether Miscavige will follow through on the legal proceedings for libel he has instructed Scientology in Italy to make. He risks making enemies of tens of millions of Catholics around the world.

The Daughters of St. Paul are not a religious order that happens to have a publishing house and bookstores, of which they maintain forty-seven in Italy, fifteen in in the US and Canada, three in Australia, and many more around the world.

The order was founded by an Italian priest, Fr. James Alberione (1884 - 1971) with the explicit mission of using mass media and social communications for Catholic education and evangelization.

Fr. Alberione is a remarkable figure. He very early on recognized the importance of mass media and social communications for the Catholic Church in the 20th century. He founded the Society of St. Paul, a religious order for men, on the very day that World War I broke out in 1915.

The Daughters of St. Paul were founded the following year. Fr. Alberione also founded eight other religious orders and secular institutes which together constitute the ten members of the world-wide Pauline Family.

A figure of remarkable insight into the needs of the time and boundless entrepreneurial energy, Fr. Alberione was revered in Italy.

Pope Paul VI rushed to his bedside an hour before he died in 1971. Pope John Paul II declared him Venerable in 1996 and beatified him in 2003. He is thus known among Catholics as Blessed James Alberione. The cause for his canonization as an official saint of the Catholic Church is continuing.

Part of the mission of the Daughters of St. Paul's is to provide resources to Catholics on the dangers cults pose for Catholic families, since eighteen to twenty-four-year olds are target victims of cults such as Scientology. Thus Pauline bookstores all over the world carry titles addressing these issues.

This is the first time, however, that a Catholic publishing house has published books criticizing Scientology. It is a notable achievement. One hopes Catholic publishing firms in English-speaking countries will have the courage to do likewise.

An important source of guidance on these matters is "The Vatican Report: Sects or New Religious Movements - A Pastoral Challenge.

No fewer than four Vatican departments were involved in producing the report which was based on surveys from Catholic bishops around the world.

The Report examines the reasons young people get involved in cults and suggests ways that bishops might respond in their responsibility to educate and support families and individuals who have been involved with cults or affected by them.

Scientology ought to be of great concern to Catholics.

Foremost among its abuses are coerced abortions in the Sea Org. Every pregnant woman, married or not, is forced to have an abortion, often with physical and verbal abuse. Astra Woodcraft, one of the founders of Ex-Scientology Kids, in the video Scientology's Coerced Sea Org abortions recounts the abuse she experienced and has witnessed. Her story is among those included in The Courage To Speak Out.

Catholic bishops routinely speak out forcefully on abortion. It is a dereliction of duty to fail to denounce coerced abortions in the Church of Scientology.

No other organization in the world coerces women into abortion as a matter of policy except the government of China. The government of China at least allows a woman one child. Scientology's Sea Org allows her none.

Catholic families around the world are at risk for losing their children and loved ones to cults of which Scientology is the most dangerous.

The number of celebrity Scientologists who come from Catholic families is striking: Fox News commentator Greta Van Susteren, musician Chick Corea, opera singer Julia Migenes, deceased Mexican actor Eduardo Palomo, Venezuelan actress Ruddy Rodriguez, and Hollywood stars John Travolta, Tom Cruise, and Katie Holmes.

Nicole Kidman was a reluctant Scientologist during her marriage to Cruise, and has since returned to the practice of Catholicism. Even the leader of Scientology, David Miscavige was raised Catholic.

Two of the Americans whose stories Laggia and Gardini recount are also from Catholic backgrounds: outspoken critic
Tory Christman and Lawrence Brennan, author of the important The Miscavige Legal Statements: A Study in Perjury, Lies and Misdirection.

Scientology's tax-exempt status in the US rests upon legal representations made by Miscavige on his role and control of Scientology organizations.

Miscavige has undoubtedly made similar statements supporting Scientology's tax exemption in Australia and New Zealand. Inquiry into whether he perjured himself to tax authorities in those countries is an important consideration in the investigation called for by Senator Xenophon.

Two other important ex-Scientologists who have returned to the practice of Christianity are from Catholic families.

Bonnie Woods is the founder of
Escape, an organization in England that ministers to families and friends whose loved ones are involved in Scientology. She has recently published Deceived: One woman's stand against Scientology (also available forfree download at the Escape website).

Woods was the target of a vicious campaign against her by Scientology. After six years of arduous litigation she won her lawsuit for libel against them. Woods was magnificently supported by Christian ministers and laypeople and has been a member of Anglican, Methodist, Evangelical, and Pentecostal congregations.

Nancy Many has returned to the practice of Catholicism. Her new book My Billion Year Contract contains a chapter entitled "Catholics And Other Organized Religions". Many was driven to a complete mental breakdown after weeks of brutal interrogation by Scientology staffers and executives.

Scientology falsely claims one can be a Catholic and a Scientologist at the same time. Accounts of former Scientologists tell us that as one advances in Scientology training "alternative practices" such as Catholicism must be abjured.

Staff and Sea Org members from Christian backgrounds have been
punished for praying and reading the Bible and even for speaking positively of religious books.

While Catholic hierarchy statements on Scientology are very few, we can cite Cardinal Ersilio Tonini's interview in 1998 and that of Papal Nuncio to Hungary Archbishop Karl-Josef Rauber in 2001.

In an
interview with Corriere della Sera Cardinal Tonini said:
I know Scientology. I have seen young people sucked in by a mechanism in which they lost their freedom. Thinking is distorted, and personality is first deconstructed and then reshuffled. A complete break from one's family is an indispensable step in this deconstruction. Scientology is a serious danger.
This quotation appears on the back cover of The Courage To Speak Out.
In an interview with the Hungarian television channel Duma, Archbishop Rauber referred to Scientology as a business and a totalitarian organization:

The entire organization and its operation is a totalitarian one. They are talking about freedom, but they are actively preventing it; they destroy the moral and social identities of their followers. The end goal of Scientology is not a religious, but rather a business one, in my opinion.
In February of this year, the Primate of Canada, Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Québec addressed the issue of Scientology on two occasions eight days apart.
In an interview with Québec's Le Soleil he said of Scientology, "It is not a church." He also questioned the criteria upon which Québec's provincial tax authorities decide what is a religious organization worthy of tax exemption.
A week later at his annual press lunch he said he was aware of what was going on in Canada and other countries and of Scientology's legal actions and lawsuits for libel against its critics.

The Daughters of St. Paul are to be commended for their courage in standing up to the Scientology juggernaut and its lawfare. They are being completely faithful to their vocation as Christians to bear the suffering of the Cross in fidelity to the charism of their founder Fr.James Alberione and their model St. Paul who wrote in his Letter to the Romans (Romans 8: 37 - 38):
I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
December 2009 brings us to the half way point in the Pauline Year marking the 2000th anniversary of the birth of St. Paul which will close on June 29, 2010, the feast of his martyrdom.

To commemorate the occasion the Daughters of St. Paul in London have published much-beloved art commentator Sister Wendy Beckett's Sister Wendy Contemplates St. Paul in Art.

Blessed James Alberione well knew that he and the Daughters of St. Paul would encounter opposition in their mission to make the Gospel known through mass media communications that are the hallmark of our era.

The international scope of the Daughters of St. Paul and the rest of the Pauline Family reminds us that the threat Scientology and other cults pose to Catholic families is not confined to Italy.

Catholics are being snared into Scientology throughout the English-speaking world not only in the US and Canada, but in Great Britain and Ireland, and Australia and New Zealand.

One former Scientologist described leaving the cult as "a death without a funeral". Helping those who have been thus brutalized, traumatized, and victimized is part of the Catholic Church's mission to the world in fidelity to the words of Jesus who said, "What you have done for the least of these you have done for me."

The victims of Scientology are most assuredly the least of Jesus' brothers and sisters, whose plight is ignored by Catholics, who say, "Thank God it's not me" when they should be saying, "There but for the grace of God go I. How can we help?"

While the Church in Australia and New Zealand have been dead silent even in the face of the call by an Australian Senator in Parliament for investigation, Ireland has been well served by Dialogue Ireland.

Dialogue Ireland grew out of the pastoral work of two Catholic priests, Fr. Martin Tierney, and Fr. Louis Hughes, a Dominican, whom the Archbishop of Dublin appointed to set up a committee to provide information to Catholics about New Religious Movements and to aid those victimized by them.

Fr. Martin Tierney has written and spoken out repeatedly against the damage done by Scientology and other cults. This remarkable man has been severely stricken with cancer, and needs the prayers of Catholics everywhere.

To provide a broader ecumenical scope, the Catholic church joined with the Presbyterian Church to establish Dialogue Ireland. It is now directed by the indefatigable Mennonite Mike Garde. He appears frequently on the radio and is proud to be a member of Anonymous, the remarkable world-wide student-lead anti-Scientology movement which unexpectedly roared out of obscure corners of the Internet in January 2008 and now operates in more than 130 cities in over 30 countries.

Irish former Scientologist and Sea Org executive John Duignan turned to Mike Garde for help in making his daring escape from Scientology in 2006. Pursued by Scientology intelligence agents he was forced to adopt disguises and find safe houses.

Duignan has set down his experiences in his page-turner published in 2008, The Complex: An Insider Exposes The Covert World of Scientology. The book is available in Ireland and the US.

Scientology prevented distribution of The Complex in the UK with threats of lawsuits for libel, exactly the same tactic it is using in Italy against Maria Pia Gardini, Alberto Laggia, and the Daughters of St. Paul.

There is no Catholic initiative in Australia analogous to Dialogue Ireland. Nor has any Catholic media voice, let alone a bishop or cardinal, made any comment on Senator Xenophon's stunning call for investigation of the cult.

For millions of Australian Catholics Ireland is a cultural and spiritual homeland. Irish Catholics founded the Church in Australia and have provided its leadership for over 200 years.

In November 2009 the St. Petersburg Times published an editorial, Scientology Investigation Overdue, calling for investigation of the cult's tax exempt status in the US saying, "As former staffers lift the veil of secrecy that for years has obscured the inner workings of the Church of Scientology, a new mystery emerges: Why are government authorities looking the other way?"

Indeed with the Daughters of St. Paul being attacked in Italy for publishing books necessary for the education of Catholic families to protect their children against the horrendous abuses such as those described by the former Scientologists whose letters Senator Xenophon tabled in November, one can just as well ask "Why are Catholic bishops, particularly in Australia, looking the other way?"

The Daughters of St. Paul have shown courage of St. Paul and the Blessed James Alberione. Catholics in Australia need to follow their example. Catholic laity need to call and write their bishops, and bishops in turn need to find the courage to speak out and put an end to Scientology's abuses.

The Gospel demands nothing less.

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Hartley Patterson said...

Thank you for that well researched and accurate article. Sadly most Christian activists only want to see the 'nice' side of their faith and refuse to confront evil, which this cult most certainly is.

Unknown said...

This is awful, who am I supposed to root for? The giant douche or the turd sandwich?

barb said...

Thank you for this wonderful and revealing piece. Let me get this straight...a CULT is going to sue a bunch of NUNS...in ITALY?

Oh, this shall be a footbullet of epic proportions for Scientology!

It is no surprise that the Scientology warning was issued on the day of the Feast of the Triumph of the Holy Cross. Scientology uses what it can to increase the impact of its noxious warnings. My 80 year old friend received a Disconnection letter from her Scientologist son on the anniversary of her husband's death. The purpose is to inflict as much pain and upset as possible.

We have seen the Scientologists here succeed in luring in pastors of various faiths to participate in "interfaith alliances," which sole purpose is to gain legitimacy by association with established, accepted religions. I had to write our local Presbytery, as one of the pastors is a Presbyterian minister who foolishly let his pride overwhelm common sense. These little interfaith events are organized by Scientology, and participants are merely props.

Scientology is a business, not a religion. But it is worse than that, it is a totalitarian organization that is no longer able to suppress the stories of human rights abuses that are coming out. Ms. Gardini's is one of several books released in the past year. The cat is out of the bag, and no amount of court time will put it back for Scientology.

2010 promises to be a most interesting year!

89 said...

correction: World War I broke out in 1914, not 15

Thanks for this article.

SmaDo said...

This books seems to be rife with lies, including the one about abortion - what a piece of hate mongering this is! NO WONDER the Church of Scientology sues the publisher and Gardini. Catholic or not, libel and slander are unacceptable either way.