Now much weaker in Brazil, the ultra-conservative TFP [Tradition, Family and Property] is undergoing investigation by the French Parliament. In the 1970's, TFP used to demonstrate against Communism. Today, according to Lionel Jospin, it is only a "Brazilian cult" in France.
"Foreign Legion", by Rosely Forganes. ISTOé Magazine N. 1558, August 11, 1999.
Today, it is no longer possible to see those boys with crew cuts in Brazil's streets, waving gigantic red banners, and roaring into megaphones against divorce, land reform and the progressive Church. Established in Brazil in 1960, the ultra-conservative Catholic organization SBDTFP today is a pale shadow of its past, and deeply split after the death of its leader Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, in 1995. But if in Brazil it seems to be a thing of the past, in France it is seen as a dangerous cult, which has replaced its anti-Communist processions with "mail siege" campaigns against minority rights. This accusation appears in the recently published report of the Parliament Commission of Investigation into Cults, drawn up by the French National Assembly, as well as from human rights organizations. Even the Socialist Prime Minister, Lionel Jospin, has accused TFP (officially present in France since 1977) of being behind the main moralistic crusades of the past years. The organisation is also building up a true financial empire using doubtful means.
When he called TFP a "Brazilian cult", premier Jospin pointed to the organisation as being responsible for the violent campaign against the Contract for Civil Union (CUC). This project unites two individuals for legal reasons, without taking into consideration their sex - they could even be brothers; however, it has been called legalisation of "homosexual marriage." An electoral promise of the Socialists, it has not yet been possible to pass the CUC, although the Left is in the majority in the Assembly. Avenir de la Culture - a TFP front - sent over 100,000 letters of protest to Jospin. The manifesto against the project was also mailed to over one million people. Luc Berron, chairman of Avenir de la Culture, explains their strategy: "Experience shows that when hundreds of thousands of letters are sent to the Prime Minister, his staff rings the alarm bell." Some time ago, another campaign was launched against sex education on TV, which led to an avalanche of 600,000 letters against the Government. To get an idea of the tone of the campaign against CUC, it is enough to quote some lines from the Manifesto against "the infamous and disgusting project of homosexual pseudo 'marriage'": "Sodomy is an abominable vice, contrary to nature, condemned by the Catholic Church and by Holy Scripture. The CUC project is a judicial aberration, a deadly blow to society and an open revolt against the natural order of things established by God. Do you want a homosexual couple to look at your child tomorrow as he comes out of school? Sodomites trust in your doing nothing!"
TFP is also threatening a physician, Dr Israel Nizard, author of a report ordered by the Ministry of Health on abortion (legal in France). Protected by a police escort, Nizard gets more than 300 letters a day with threats and anti-Semitic insults, the result of a campaign by "Right to Be Born" - another front group. Some accuse the doctor of "opening the doors to Muslims, the sewers of France". "I had never heard of TFP before, and I don't care whether there is a Brazilian cult behind this", said Nizard to ISTOÈ after having submitted a suit against Right to Be Born. The threat is taken quite seriously, so much so that several parliament members have acted officially, posing questions to the Government and demanding that steps be taken.
Looking for evidence
As with all the cults included in the Parliament report, TFP is submitted to control by the police and by the French counter-espionage force, the Renseigments Généraux. Organisations for the defence of human rights are mobilising too. One of those which are seeking evidence against TFP is Réseau Voltaire, which defends the non-denominational nature of French society, human rights and individual freedom. "Our goal is to provide information and analyses which can help to develop public debate", says Thierry Meyssan, the director of the Réseau. For months, they investigated the activities of TFP in France, meeting members and leaders of the group. "We are not interested in deciding whether TFP is a cult or not. The very term is derogatory. We see TFP as a highly dangerous extreme Right wing movement, which defends the financial interests of landowners and aristocrats and calls for the return to the society before the French Revolution", accuses Meyssan.
According to Réseau Voltaire, TFP today is active in 22 countries and is establishing a true financial empire inside France: through Avenir de la Cultura, it owns the Castle of Jaglu, purchased in 1991 for 4.5 million Francs (nearly 1 million US dollars); it also owns the publishing house L'Européene des Médias, which prints the magazine 15 TFP, and a computerised centre able to deliver 15,000 letters a day. About 250,000 people receive mail from the organisation. Each letter contains a request for "moral and financial help", which yields about 20 million Francs per year (about 4 million dollars). Besides, the name lists are apparently rented out to commercial enterprises for about 2.5 million francs (500 thousand US dollars) a year.
According to the Association for the Defence of the Family and the Individual (ADFI), the main organisation fighting cults in France, Avenir de la Culture and TFP used the campaign against the Contract for Civil Union to build up a money-making machine. "Each person that signed was asked for 200 Francs, and they built up a large amount of money this way", an ADFI officer told ISTOé. According to the ADFI bullettin Bulles, Européene des Médias works full time publishing both the magazine Flash of Avenir de la Culture and Le Nouvel Aperçu, of TFP, as well as the millions of leaflets mailed out by these "twin associations". According to ADFI's calculations, to figure out how much the campaign against CUC yielded, it would be sufficient to multiply 300.000 by 250 Francs, the average contribution.
"In France, TFP uses the Virgin of Fatima and the campaign against CUC to make money. It asks for a contribution of 250 Francs to support their campaign. The target are people who are nostalgic about the past, the elderly, traditionalist and mystically-minded families which seek refuge in the cult of the Virgin Mary. They organise pilgrimages, prayer vigils, rosaries, processions to various statues of Our Lady. The lever of the cult of the Virgin works especially well with people who are suffering. What is incredible is that they manage to organise prayer meetings inside the parishes, without advising the priest, on the edge of the official Church, since they have very bad relations with the Church. They are quite dangerous, since they use messages of the Catholic Church for other purposes without saying who they really are", says Bulles. According to Father Jaques Trouslard, the main French expert on cults, "the danger that cults pose lies in their capacity of abolishing the critical spirit and free will of their followers, using techniques of mental manipulation."
"It's the Socialists who are a cult"
In an exclusive interview with ISTOé, the President of the French TFP, Benoît Bemelmans, aged 37, claims that the Socialist government is practising a policy of religious persecution.
ISTOé - How did you react to the inclusion of TFP among dangerous cults in the list drawn up by the Parliament?
Benoît Bemelmans - We feel there is something deeply disquieting about the policy of the French government. Religious persecution is beginning again. This climate of intolerance is also striking out against other Catholic movements, and seems to announce the creation of a true anti-religious dictatorship. The purpose of this initiative is to finally abolish Catholic influence in this country. The true cultists are the Socialists - currently in power in France - and their Left-wing allies. Over the last 150 years, every Pope has labelled Socialism, Communism and Masonry as dangerous cults.
ISTOé - What are the ties between the Brazilian and the French TFP?
Bemelmans - The Brazilian TFP is not the headquarters, but it is the first among all. On a legal and financial plane, there are no relations between the various TFP's, they are autonomous. It has been said that we send money from one country to another when necessary, that we receive or send funds to or from Brazil. This is all false.
ISTOé - Why is TFP more active in France than in Brazil?
Bemelmans - I don't know how things are in Brazil. Here in France, we lead a determined opposition to the Socialist government, since we believe it is destroying what is left of Christian civilisation. Last year, Lionel Jospin, speaking of the CUC, said that "there is a Brazilian cult behind the opposition to the project". The way he put it, Jospin could be accused of xenophobia and racism. I am proud to have ties to Brazil.
ISTOé - Where do TFP's funds come from?
Bemelmans - About 90% are donations, generally small ones. It has been claimed that some donations amount to one million francs. I really would like this to be true, but it is not! The average is 200 francs. For an active association, which everybody is talking about, and which makes the Premier nervous on TV, we are doing miracles with very little money.
ISTOé - What is the yearly income of TFP?
Bemelmans - Generally, about 6 million French francs.
Further information on TFP and its offshoots, Alleanza Cattolica and CESNUR