Of the several right-wing Catholic organizations that have gained influence in the Roman Church during the reign of Pope John Paul II, Opus Dei is by far the most famous. There are several others, however and Gordon Urquhart's The Pope's Armada is a detailed, firsthand look at the inner workings of three such organizations: Focolare, Neocatechumenate, and Communion and Liberation.
For nine years, Urquhart belonged to Focolare, whose 80,000 core members live in 1,500 dioceses around the world. He left in 1976 and has since devoted himself to exposing what he now calls the "sinister characteristics" of the three aforementioned groups. Urquhart summarizes their common features this way: "the personality cult of the leader; a hidden but rigid hierarchy; a highly efficient internal communications system; secret teachings revealed in stages; a vast recruitment operation using sect-like techniques; indoctrination of members; and boundless ambitions for influence in church and society." Of greatest concern to Urquhart is another goal of these groups--"ego-destruction, causing depression and mental breakdown on an alarming scale."
God's Armada contains many damning stories about its subjects, but none more so than the stories of young people who give up their greatest loves, ambitions, and possessions in slavish devotion to their sect leaders. "Catholic critics of the new movements maintain that the Pope cannot know what is going on within the movements, otherwise he would not allow them such a free hand," Urquhart writes. He allows that this may be true, but he also raises some disturbing questions: "Have [Vatican leaders] concluded that their own supreme ends ... justify [these groups'] strong-arm techniques...? Could the Pope have had this in mind when he conferred special status on lay Catholics who joined the movements, 'which are a privileged channel for the formation and promotion of an active laity that is aware of its role in the Church and in the world'?" --Michael Joseph Gross
"A fascinating read. Highly, highly recommended. One of the best of the decade in the area of religion." -- The Critical Review
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