P.J. Kemp was a journalist living in Brigham, Quebec.
Andre McNicoll, who has written articles about religious cults for magazines such as Maclean’s, expands his research findings and analysis in this book-length treatise. The focus is predominantly on Catholic cults, though a few others are discussed, and more specifically the Opus Dei organization, nominally religious but actually political in function, which originated in Spain and is now allegedly spreading throughout the world in a ruling-class effort to effect a “reconquista” to Catholicism — ultimately, an iron-fisted union of church and state.
Much of these political maneuverings, McNicoll writes, generally are quietly executed coups orchestrated by the rich and powerful through “old-boy” type networks, while efforts to persuade the average citizen to this religious-political world-view are carried out almost entirely on the emotional level, such as intensive encounter weekends, instigating a sort of mass hysteria. Such hysteria, McNicoll theorizes, has the potential of developing into another, more widespread Jonestown horror. Throughout all this study into present-day Catholic cults, the growth and power of which are allegedly supported by Pope John Paul, are brief histories of cults and their effects through the ages.
McNicoll writes as though he has uncovered a particularly heinous plot, this attempt to control the political and cultural processes through religion. There is nothing new about it at all, as some factions have always tried to control these processes for various well-intentioned but ultimately destructive ideals. McNicoll seems to have missed the real issue of the problem, which lies not so much in the mechanics but rather in the central belief, so dear to power-mongers, that man can be controlled at all. This aspect McNicoll touches on only briefly, choosing to picture a population meekly submitting to the brainwashing techniques of cults. He cites impressive figures of how many thousands of people have been “processed”; but how many of them, disillusioned and disgusted, eventually chuck it for a more sensible viewpoint? That various plots and counterplots are afoot isn’t in much doubt; but that they’ll all transpire as planned, or that all of us will play our pawn-like parts in these plots, is not so assured. Taking this aspect into account would have given Catholic Cults the depth and perspective it sorely needs.
There are two kinds of investigative journalism: one enlightens and informs and strives for balance. Another plays on the base emotions, such as anger, prejudice, helpless fear, inspiring reactionary rather than reasoned attitudes. Unfortunately, Catholic Cults falls into the latter category.