T.F.P. is accused of being a "brainwashing cult" 

by Miguel Martinez

We have seen how T.F.P. ("Tradition Family and Property") already fell under the suspicion of being a "cult" or "sect" from a religious point of view. However, it also fell under this suspicion from a sociological point of view. 

T.F.P. first met with considerable problems in France, where the organization set up the "Ecole Saint-Benoît" in 1977, a private school at Châteauroux, attended exclusively by the children of Catholic traditionalists, and run by a group of TFP militants. TFP first tried to explain away unexpected changes in the behaviour of several students by calling them "individual cases". In a meeting in 1979, the parents, the chaplain and the teachers all discovered that such cases were anything but individual, and asked TFP to cease running the school.  

The parents, teachers and chaplain, together with several students, drew up a fascinating booklet on the organization and its methods (reprinted by Catholic traditionalists as Tradizione Famiglia Proprietà: associazione cattolica o setta millenarista?). 

As with many similar groups, they discovered that TFP gradually teaches its militants not to think: "You think too much: this is a temptation from the devil", is the expression a Brazilian director used speaking to a doubting Frenchman; typically, "over-thinking" is blamed ideologically on René Descartes. 

Secrecy, environmental control, constant trips to Brazil are a feature of the indoctrination practised by the organization.  

(click on the picture to get full size) 

Another interesting feature, according to the French parents and priests, is a constant denigration of any other Catholic traditionalists, generally accused of "white heresy", meaning "revolutionary behaviour" (black heresy means "revolutionary thoughts"). 

In the loaded jargon of the group, T.F.P. militants are taught to speak of their parents as "F.M.R.", Fontes minha revolução, the "sources of my revolution"; however parents can atone for their revolutionary tendencies by financing the movement. 

"It is typical to see how, when 'attacks from the family' come, militants refuse to reason with their parents; they smile and say 'I knew it was coming'" 
(Tradizione Famiglia Proprietà: associazione cattolica o setta millenarista, pp. 22-3)

Young members are taught to manipulate their parents - as Doctor Plinio used to say, "The game you must play with this or that person is the following" (Tradizione Famiglia Proprietà: associazione cattolica o setta millenarista, pp. 23). 

The decisive year for understanding Alleanza Cattolica (and Introvigne's) switch-over from attacks on the "Jehovaist cult" to equally fierce attacks on the "anti-cult movement" is 1985. 

TFP was outlawed in Venezuela in 1984. What interests us are not the facts in themselves, but the way T.F.P. viewed them. The immediate (and rather unlikely) reason was that the organization was supposedly plotting to assassinate the Pope. This happened shortly after a former TFP member (but certainly a loner) had tried to kill the Pope at Fatima in Portugal. 

However, in a typical scenario, many worried parents of TFP members got involved in the issue, and TFP was mainly accused of "being a cult". 

The episode is described in Bollettino delle 15 TFP, Year I, n. 5, certainly around mid-1985. 

The title is significant: "Socialist rage strikes TFP-Resistencia". 

As usual in such cases, the whole episode is blamed, not on the Asociación Civil Resistencia, the local T.F.P. organization, but on the government: supposedly, it was T.F.P.'s campaign against a socialist law passed by the ruling party which called the revenge of the government on the group. Also typically, we do not hear what the government's accusations against T.F.P. were, but only the defence of T.F.P. against a "series of persecutions", "a violent persecution" and a "the most compact and total propaganda campaign imaginable". What is of especial interest is: 

"A minority of parents of co-operators of Resistencia, frightened by the confusion or driven by ideological motives, took part in the libellous campaign against their own children" 
(Bollettino p. 11)

After the outlawing of the organization, the adult members - many were minors - left Venezuela together with their families. 

The document of the Parliament Committee calling for outlawing TFP said: 

"it is a cult (and not a religious group) [es una secta y no un culto], of the far right which goes against the family, warps the minds of young people, turns its members into fanatics and brainwashes them". 
(private information from a Spanish friend)

A statement which coincides with what TFP itself said: 

"Resistencia, according to these slanderers, was supposed to be a 'cult' which, as such, practised 'brainwashing". 
(Bollettino p. 12)