Sunday, January 14, 2007

Covenant Communities / Caritas?

I am very familiar with covenant communities, however, have had some inquiries regarding Caritas located in Birmingham, Alabama. This group seems to have some similarities to abusive covenant communities.
What I know is that the group is governed by a former KKK member who believes that his purpose is to have the folks in his group live according to the "teachings" of Mary - related to apparitions in Medjugorje. While most folks whom I know who are involved in Medjugorje prayer groups have a healthy relationship with one another and the Church, Caritas seems over the top.
Apparently, for example, members are not to have contact with family members for at least the first year of their membership; incoming mail is read and censored prior to being given to the intended recipient; women are fully submitted to their husbands; the leader lives in a fine home while members live in poverty; complaints to the local bishop have come to nothing.
Any info would be appreciated.
Livingfree

36 comments:

interested said...

Here's the link to Caritas in Birmingham.

http://mej.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=32&Itemid=30

Interesting that I read a book by "A Friend of Medjugore" on the submission of women to their husbands. I think this is the same gent that runs this website and community as I found a page on the website with "A friend of Medjugore" on it in the same writing. I had to throw the book out as it recommended that women tolerate abusive husbands (including a husband who attacked his wife with a hammer and nearly killed her) as the "ideal" level of submission by a woman to her husband.

Adrian said...

Yes, "A Friend of Medjugorje" is Terry Colafrancesco, founder and leader of Caritas. I read the book, which is appalling. It is definitely contrary to what John Paul II taught in "Mulieris Dignitatem" and "Theology of the Body".

Anonymous said...

I wonder where Opus Dei (which reads all incoming and outgoing mail of numeraries and, I've read, takes all monies gained through a numeraries job while giving them a small stipend) and Legionnaires of Christ (Regnum Christi lay organization) stand with the cult watchers. Any ideas?

livingfree said...

Thanks to "Interested" for the info on Caritas. This bears a further look.
Also, : "Anonymous" asked about Opus Dei and Legionnaires of Christ. I have had some contact with Opus Dei, both a long time ago for a short period ( I was involved in a 'circle') and, more recently having some acquaintance with the group at ND. There are some married people in the area involved. Perhaps what you allege happens at Windmere House, but I doubt that it does in family homes. Those individuals I've met seem pretty healthy.
Could the problems be more situational?
Other than what I have read in the paper, I have had no experience of the Legionnaires.
livingfree

Adrian said...

In response to The question about Opus Dei: I think the situation there is somewhat different than at places like Caritas. Numeraries in Opus Dei are very similar to vowed religious. It's not that case that once you enter Opus Dei you are cut off from family and the outside world. The decision to become a Numerary is made (as I understand it) after a period of mature discernment.
When I entered a religious order 40 years ago (didn't last long, though), I was informed in advance that there would be fairly stringent rules governing correspondance with family, interaction with the outside world, etc -- especially during the novitiate. This was not for the sake of control -- to prevent novices from thinking about leaving -- but to free us from distractions and concentrate on our vocations. As a religiouus order, of course, we were governed by statues and under the broader authority of the Church. There have been abuses, of course, in religious orders and (so I've heard) in Opus, but in these cases there is Church oversight and there are serious efforts to protect members and prospective members from exploitation. Cults lack these safeguards.

haunted said...

I can't believe that I came across this blog. Once again, it will be a sleepless night for me. The nightmares won't stop. was involved heavily in POP when I started to attend Trinity. I hated that school so much. I went to the one in MN. I thought I was the only one that thought this organization was wrong. It has been 8 years, and I still am terrified. Did anyone experience sexual abuse within this community? I experienced some mild sexual abuse at the hands of two different major leaders. Please respond to me. I feel so alone and crazy.

lisa a. said...

Dear haunted,

you are not alone. Please join us on these two forums:

http://skepticalpeach.proboards53.com/

support group for people having left POP and:

http://drstone.proboards67.com/

for a debate type forum. Most members are those that have left POP.

ALSO PLEASE KNOW THAT YOU ARE NOT THE ONLY ONE AND YOU ARE NOT CRAZY. I am girlnextdoor on those two forums.

Anonymous said...

I was a former member of caritas for over ten years and I can say whole heartedly that it is a cult. A cult is defined by it actions not it's similarities to other "valid" groups. The proof is that many who have left there have had to undergo treatment for PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) Many other leave "valid" groups and don't experience this horrible consequence. Yet the proof is in the pudding. Caritas is a destructive group lead by a TRULY NARCISSISTIC man who deceives in the beginning especially if money is involved. Be warned---- Utopia's on the outside are usually great signs of the falsehood that is being promoted behind the scences. Trust me I have been there for over ten years and I know the truth. This is not the product of "sour grapes", it is the 100% truth. Please avoid for your own sake.

Adrian said...

In response to "anonymous": There is nothing that I know of among covenant communities to compare with Caritas. In POP we could read the paper, vote for whom we chose, etc. etc.

In this blog I have argued that the covenant communities (POP, Sword and the like) have been founded on an ecclesiastical heresy. By contrast, I am pretty convinced that Caritas is downright pagan. I say this for two reasons:
First is the role of the founder's sexuality. He has said in several places that the alleged apparitions of the BVM over his and his wife's marriage bed has resulted in a great spiritual fecundity. This is not at all a Christian (or Jewish) idea, but pretty much unadulterated paganism.
Second is his authorial identification as "A Friend of Medjugorje." Although this appears to be humble, it amounts to a claim to be above personal authorship, as though he is but a mouthpiece for the truth. By contrast, St Paul signed his letters. St Augustine and St Thomas Aquinas took credit for their writings, as did Benedict XVI and his predecessors.
You have my sympathy. I know of no real good that has come out of Caritas of Birmingham.

Anonymous said...

As a former member of The Alleluia Community in Augusta, GA, I was glad to find this Blog. As my children are becoming adults, they want to understand what to watch out for so they are not ensnared as were their father and I. Reading what others have to say has been very helpful to them.

I wish I could post my name, but even now, hundreds of miles distant and years after having left that community, rumors and just plain mean-spirited stories come back to me that are still being circulated, I suppose to keep the members from contacting me. This is, of course, a tactic used by these communities- shunning those who have left and spreading stories about them so members will steer clear of them. For the sake of my children, who sometimes come into contact with these community members or their children, I shall remain "anonymous".

I have not read this elsewhere, but it is my observation that those with codependency issues are often attracted to such communities. They want to please, and what better place to accomplish that than in a covenant community in which headship and subordination is practiced. For the determined "pleaser" there are unlimited opportunities to subjugate the personality, submit, and receive strokes by "doing as you are told".

For those members who understand about codependency, especially physicians, psychologists, and others who keep informed on such issues, it is definitely condoning psychological manipulation to allow someone who is codependent to further their codependency by being in such a community. Often, those in leadership positions have this knowledge. Sadly, the needs of the community, in their minds, seem to be higher than the needs of the individuals. So manipulation is the order of the day for them.

I personally experienced such manipulation during the many years of my membership. I have since benefitted from extensive personal and group counseling in which the
health of each individual was the primary concern (thank God!).

It was my experience that what mattered to the community was acquiring more and more submissive members and there was no concern about why they were submissive. Similarly, there was no concern about why someone was unsubmissive. It was just not allowed, and/or it was an occasion for exorcism and/or some type of punishment and/or being put on "leave of absence".

My point is that codependency and other psychological disorders are often exacerbated in covenant community. Since the member is most often counseled to meet with someone else in the community for help, everything is filtered through "community-colored glasses" and the result is that the person is not helped to do anything but to remain in the community.

My experience and the experience of many others with whom I have communicated has led us to say that for the committed or "full covenant" member, "the only graceful way to leave a covenant community is death". Any other excuse for leaving is judged unacceptable.

lisa a. said...

Anonymous,

Please see my new post on Alleluia! as it is a result of your courageous comment. Thank you. Perhaps under that posting you can explain what led you and your family to leave Alleluia!

God's peace and grace be with you.

maire1514 said...

I'm not familiar with covenant communities and only stumbled across this site while googling Caritas of Birmingham. But after reading Adrian's comment that no real good has come out of Caritas, I felt I had to respond.

I've been on the Caritas mailing list for a decade and traveled to Medjugorje on one of their pilgrimages. It was a marvelous, life-changing experience.

Does this mean Caritas and its founders are perfect? No, they're human and are prone to the same foibles as the rest of us. And I admit that I've had some misgivings about the direction that the organization has taken in recent years. (That's why I'm doing a little research.)

But to say that no good comes out of Caritas is a misstatement. It has been a real source of spiritual awakening for many--not in a crazy, cultish way, but by simply drawing people closer to God in their daily lives.

You may be put off by their tactics and their social philosophy (that's fair), but I think any organization that leads people to the messages of Medjugorje has its merits. It's possible that Caritas has stumbled along the way. I don't know ... I've never visited the community.

But there is nothing objectionable in the core messages of Medjugorje. They are, in fact, just one more way of helping people draw closer to their faith. And that is not a bad thing in itself. Thank you.

lisa a. said...

This is for marie 1514. Although you seem to have had a good experience with a Caritas tour, that is not to say that the Caritas group is good. There seems to be enough on this blog to contradict that. I, myself, have also read the book "A Friend of Medjugore" written by the founder of Caritas and his words are scary. Read for yourself and tell us what you think.

Personally, I'm glad you haven't been sucked in by that group any more than you have. One tour does not a good group make.

Adrian said...

I am more than happy to accept maire1514's correction. I will grant that some good can come to a person from Caritas.

But this is a weak concession. Because nothing is perfectly evil, then even very bad things can produce occasional good effects. The teachings of Caritas founder, Terry Colafrancesco, are seriously flawed and in important ways incompatible with authentic Catholic teaching, including some important teachings by Pope John Paul the Great, with whom Colafrancesco directly disagrees. And the Caritas community in Birmingham, according to all the reports I have received, is seriously flawed. It bears the hallmarks of a genuine cult.

Going to Medjugorje is a good thing. Getting involved with Caritas of Birmingham is something I would be wary of.

Rita Blaize-Watson said...

If the information is accurate about Terry Colafrancesco and Caritas it does appear that Caritas meets the criteria to be a cult.

Not all cults are bad and there are two kinds of cults; normative and deviant.

Unfortunately it looks as though this cult does fall into the deviant category and Mr. Colafrancesco appears to be a heretic who uses Medjugorje for his own profit and benefit.

Pax Christi,

Sister MMJ

lisa a. said...

Thank you, Sister, for your comment. Perhaps you can expand on the difference between a normative cult and a deviant cult.

Convoy said...

I read a book explaining The Four Temperaments (they are: angry,sad,lazy,and superficial). In spiritual terms, the angry and the sad had a great potential, the angry personality because of their zeal, and the sad personality due to their penchant for solitude. I personally find the lazy personality to be most loving--they never try and change you. Finally, the superficial personality never judges you. In other words, there are two sides to every coin. We are all human beings.

I am traveling to Caritas this summer and I will not expect saints there. I suspect the Founder has an angry personality and is directing his zeal as best as he knows how. The result is a massive evangelical undertaking.

I read his book How to Change Your Husband. It is for Catholics who want nothing to do with divorce. If you refuse to leave, then submit is what you will do.

lisa a. said...

Convoy,

I think the book on personality types leaves out one: the idiot. It would be defined as someone who, despite all evidence to the contrary, still walks in front of the bus and gets killed. That's you.

Convoy said...

If you are Christian, you will remember that Christ said If someone strikes you on one cheek, offer him the other. On the surface, it seems idiotic, but it's Biblical. The Bible also says 1) the world will hate you on My account, 2) take up your cross and follow Me, and 3) My ways are not your ways. Sorry I didn't provide Chapter and verse.

Convoy said...

Now to address commenters such as anonymous said and the others with traumatic experiences. Of course these were inappropriate! When I said I was going to Caritas, I did not say I was going to join!

lisa a. said...

Whatever....

I am Catholic. I do not hate you. I try to take up my cross daily. And I "judge rightly"--another scripture quote.

Good luck!

lisa a. said...

Convoy,

"When I said I was going to Caritas, I did not say I was going to join!"

Then why bother? What an utter waste of time and money.

Feed the poor instead.

Beware false prophets.

(More scripture)

Anonymous said...

I read the book "How to change your husband" and found a lot of it very good. However, I had difficulty with the chapter on sticking by your husband even if he abuses you. The book suggests that it is better for the children to see their Mother stick it out then to leave. But it seems to me that having the children in that type of environment is harmful. It's a hard pill to swallow and I began to question the book after reading that. Hence, here I am...at this blog.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous:
After 2-1/2 years, you are still posting to this blog! The discussion had been very interesting. Imagine this: one of the secrets of Medjugorje comes true; part of the world is reduced to rubble and your entire family is there living hand-to-mouth. Who will be the natural leader in your family, the strongest, sternest member who can kill and gut a wild animal, but who only does this because of his devotion to his wife and kids? The man! Our modern world has everything so inverted!
Convoy

Heather said...

We all much use much discernment and prayer in contributing to or following any "group", especially one who perverts the Messages of Our Lady, and one who writes teachings that are in direct contrast to what our Holy Father has taught, which is inspired by the Holy Spirit and therefore infallible.

It bears to keep in mind that Our Lady has warned of people who will "use" the visionaries to promote their evil and line their pockets. This happens at every apparition of Our Lady-

Satan, if you recall...Rev 12:12
"But woe to the earth and the sea,
because the devil has gone down to you!
He is filled with fury,
because he knows that his time is short.”
Rev 12:17
" Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring—those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus."

Remember the emnity between the serpant and the woman... to say Satan hates Our Lady and the Catholic faithful is an understatement! And Our Lady recommends fasting, prayer, and Confession repeatedly and urgently in her messages. These tools rid Satan of his power on the faithful, therefore any ways that Satan can instill doubt regarding aspects of Medjugorje or the messages is a victory to him.

"A friend of Medjugorje" has certainly aided and abetted the cause of Satan. Many have been hurt, used, and financially swindled by Caritas and have turned from Medjugorje and the messages as a sad result.


We have all been commanded by Jesus Christ to "not judge", true, however, Christ, in the same teaching warned all to use discernment in recognizing "wolves in sheep's clothes'.

Therefore, it is in examining the "teachings" of Caritas and comparing them to the teachings of our beloved Church, to see if they bear good or rotten fruits.

The fruits seem rotten to me.

Heather said...

We all much use much discernment and prayer in contributing to or following any "group", especially one who perverts the Messages of Our Lady, and one who writes teachings that are in direct contrast to what our Holy Father has taught, which is inspired by the Holy Spirit and therefore infallible.

It bears to keep in mind that Our Lady has warned of people who will "use" the visionaries to promote their evil and line their pockets. This happens at every apparition of Our Lady-

Satan, if you recall...Rev 12:12
"But woe to the earth and the sea,
because the devil has gone down to you!
He is filled with fury,
because he knows that his time is short.”
Rev 12:17
" Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring—those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus."

Remember the emnity between the serpant and the woman... to say Satan hates Our Lady and the Catholic faithful is an understatement! And Our Lady recommends fasting, prayer, and Confession repeatedly and urgently in her messages. These tools rid Satan of his power on the faithful, therefore any ways that Satan can instill doubt regarding aspects of Medjugorje or the messages is a victory to him.

"A friend of Medjugorje" has certainly aided and abetted the cause of Satan. Many have been hurt, used, and financially swindled by Caritas and have turned from Medjugorje and the messages as a sad result.


We have all been commanded by Jesus Christ to "not judge", true, however, Christ, in the same teaching warned all to use discernment in recognizing "wolves in sheep's clothes'.

Therefore, it is in examining the "teachings" of Caritas and comparing them to the teachings of our beloved Church, to see if they bear good or rotten fruits.

The fruits seem rotten

Anonymous said...

WHY does the visionary Maria Lunetti continue an almost annual visit to Caritas? If this is problematic, it casts a shadow on the whole Medjugorje phenomenon.

By the way, Caritas gives away free literature in multiple languages on a regular basis.

Pope Leo XIII, Encyclical on Christian Marriage, Arcanum Divinae, n.11:
"The husband is the chief of the family and the head of the wife. The woman, because she is flesh of his flesh, and bone of his bone, must be subject to her husband and obey him; not, indeed, as a servant, but as a companion, so that her obedience shall be wanting in neither
honor nor dignity. Since the husband represents Christ, and since the wife represents the Church, let there always be, both in him who commands and in her who obeys, a heaven-born love guiding both in their respective duties."

Anonymous said...

Marija Lunetti, a visionary, is a frequent guest of Caritas. Caritas gives away free literature on a regular basis.

Anonymous said...

This group and its link to Marija is troubling. Why would the visionary continue to travel to Birmingham for over 20 years now if there was a problem with the group? If the Blessed Mother is really appearing to her, why would she allow it to be potentially corrupted by a group and a man who has been described in this blog as a cult leader? Belive me I have an opne mind-I am not siding one way or the other-it just is really perplexing to me. In my mind, it brings into question what is happening in Medgugorie. Again, I am open minded- I want to on so many levels believe what is happening there, but this whole Alabama thing is difficult. Either Caritas is very pure and authentic or its a massive fraud being crafted by satan and has even sucked in a visionary who has seen the BVM for over 30 years? I dont get it.

nening villasin marbella said...

i firmly believe in the medjugorje apparitions BUT MY HEART TELLS ME OUR BLESSED VIRGIN DDNT APPEAR IN CARITAS BIRMINGHAM ,,, THIS ,, FRIEND OF MEDJUGORJE MUST HAVE SOME VESTED INTERESTS,, WHO IS HE TO COMMAND THE VIRGIN TO APPEAR IN HIS PLACE ,, THUS FOOLING THE PEOPLE ,,,IT'A ALREADY A GREAT BLESSING FOR HUMANITY NOW OF THE APPARITIONS IN MEDJUGORJE ,,,WHY ,, PEOPLE IN AMERICA CAN SHARE IN THIS GIFT IF YOU BELIEVE IN HER MESSAGES SINCE THE MESSAGES ARE NOT SOLELY FOR THE VISIONARIES,, BUT INTENDED FOR WORLDWIDE CONSUMPTION,,WHY SHOULD I GO TO CARITAS ,IN BIRMINGHAM ,,,JUST ASKING !!!

nening villasin marbella said...

i firmly believe in the medjugorje apparitions BUT MY HEART TELLS ME OUR BLESSED VIRGIN DDNT APPEAR IN CARITAS BIRMINGHAM ,,, THIS ,, FRIEND OF MEDJUGORJE MUST HAVE SOME VESTED INTERESTS,, WHO IS HE TO COMMAND THE VIRGIN TO APPEAR IN HIS PLACE ,, THUS FOOLING THE PEOPLE ,,,IT'A ALREADY A GREAT BLESSING FOR HUMANITY NOW OF THE APPARITIONS IN MEDJUGORJE ,,,WHY ,, PEOPLE IN AMERICA CAN SHARE IN THIS GIFT IF YOU BELIEVE IN HER MESSAGES SINCE THE MESSAGES ARE NOT SOLELY FOR THE VISIONARIES,, BUT INTENDED FOR WORLDWIDE CONSUMPTION,,WHY SHOULD I GO TO CARITAS ,IN BIRMINGHAM ,,,JUST ASKING !!!

Anonymous said...

I went to Caritas this summer. I have been to Medjugorje previously and began my conversion there. While at Caritas I saw many things that bothered me.
Terry has a confederate flag oustide his home hanging in the pool house. Clearly the regular community members have less than terry does in terms of possesions.
I also saw his son driving a dodge challenger I believe. Why is his son driving a 50k dollar car when he preaches self sacrifice.
This place did not seem like medjugorje and has convinced me that medjugorje is a false apparition. This was very hard for me as my conversion was a direct result of MEDJ.

Anonymous said...

No way can you call the founder's home a mansion. It is important to look beyond appearances. We don't know if the conversion of the fellow from Alabama took place before or after he acquired his home and property, but I wouldn't expect him to tear it all down. Is he obliged to be a Sugar Daddy to the families that live there and work on the mission? Last time I checked, our sons and daughters have free will, and do things that displease us. How do we know the son didn't earn or inherit some money?

The million dollar state-of-the-art printing facility on the property was funded by the donations of people whose lives have been touched by this mission.

Anonymous said...

What's the deal with southerners and the confederate flag? Google "southern culture, confederate flag" and decide for yourself what the flag does or doesn't represent.

convoy said...

If you live in a condominium complex, you agree to the rules established by the owner or the residents association, but you wouldn't call it a cult.

Some Christians consider the whole of Catholicism to be a cult. Catholics consider Mormonism to be a cult.

Anonymous said...

If you look at the messages first, then at Caritas, you will see there is consistency. Our Lady said that many Christians live like pagans. (truth is being ignored, even by priests and bishops). She said "you have forgotten the bible," and also that satan is attacking the family.

READ the MESSAGES!