By Miguel Martinez
With reference to a press release by Massimo Introvigne and CESNUR, published on the website of the organization in November, 1998.
Although we had offered him unlimited room to reply, Introvigne said nothing for over two months. Actually, he did react: he almost immediately posted a message to his friends, which we shall refer to later on. But the first official reply was in November, when he presented an article on the CESNUR website, in no less than four languages, with the childish but very human title:
This text is largely devoted to me, although comments are made on other critics. I shall of course limit my reply, I hope in a quieter tone than that of Introvigne, to those statements which deal with me directly. Introvigne does not quote what I say, so it cannot exactly be called a reply. I on the other hand shall try to quote him as directly as possible. It is a question of methodology.
The tone of his reply clearly appears from this statement:
"They" are not defined precisely, but seem to be a single, threatening body which is invading his privacy.
I cannot of course speak for other CESNUR critics. As far as I am concerned, perhaps because I am over forty, I never called him "liar, liar", so there are no insults involved. I frankly do not understand the reference to his private life, which by definition means his non-public life. His sermon on respecting privacy should be directed elsewhere, for example to Alleanza Cattolica (of which Introvigne is one of the national directors), which holds interference in the sexual choices of people to be a duty of the government.
I had discussed a public study he made on New Acropolis. I had spoken of his work as a lawyer and of his militancy in Alleanza Cattolica and in the right-wing CCD party, and I had quoted from his articles and writings. If one is not allowed to discuss what people do and write publicly, CESNUR should close down; its task, in fact, is to mind other people's public business, other people meaning cults, religious movements, cult critics or public bodies.
Probably a little over-nervous, Introvigne speaks of "their own message." However he ought to be aware that my message is not that of the Catholic Group for Research and Information on Sects (GRIS) of Rome, nor that of Pastor Gandow, his other "critics."
This is not a scientific manner of reasoning. It is like saying, "There was, substantially, no valid answer to FIAT's criticism of the quality of Toyota cars. Instead, strikes were organised in the Turin factory calling for a wage increase". The implication: it is the Japanese who are manipulating the FIAT workers.
Introvigne often uses (and not only here) the cover afforded by the passive mode ("were unleashed"), which makes the most outlandish statements possible without having to specify the subject. This makes the reader think that the Belgian parliament "unleashed" me to avenge its honour.
Introvigne may rest assured. I have never been to Belgium and I have never met a French parliament member. The text I wrote about CESNUR has nothing to do with any parliament, but is a reply to a study he made on New Acropolis.
Introvigne's sentence continues, saying that we were
This is a truly exemplary case of lack of scientific method. Introvigne has no idea how much money I spent. Yet he makes a definite statement. I suggest he should learn from us - we never made any hypotheses, for example, about how much it cost to host over one hundred speakers at the September 1998 CESNUR conference.
However, accounts (mine, not those of CESNUR) can be drawn up quickly. A subscription to Cristianità, roughly 15 dollars a year; the purchase of some books by Introvigne (I already had several), and maybe three hundred pages of photocopies of articles by Introvigne and Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira (the "spiritual master" of Alleanza Cattolica and Introvigne) - let's say I spent around 100 dollars, all out of my own resources. Of course, 100 dollars mean a lot more to a person who had devoted most of his life to a totalist cult than they do to a successful lawyer, but frankly I don't think we can speak of "considerable expense."
Cristianità: "No respect for democracy" and "the right to suicide"
I take this opportunity to thank Cristianità for not having cut off my subscription after my article on Introvigne came out. In the latest issue of Cristianità (September 1998), the column "The Good Battle" claims merits for no less than ten lectures and activities by CESNUR (perhaps exaggerating slightly, Alleanza Cattolica also includes a conference organised in London by Eileen Barker of INFORM), which involved Alleanza Cattolica activists such as Massimo Introvigne, PierLuigi Zoccatelli and Luigi Casalini. An amusing note was struck by a lecture held by PierLuigi Zoccatelli, "of Alleanza Cattolica", in the picturesque and unpronounceable "Damjl Meeting Room" of the Damanhur Community (a neo-pagan group founded by a touch-healer) on the subject, Recent attacks on new spiritual movements in Europe.
The same column in Cristianità also lists some activities organised together with the right-wing party, Alleanza Nazionale, including conferences on such interesting matters as Fascism, the Three Souls of the Right, and The Right, Plural and Singular: Non-conformist Cultures in the Age of Single Thought.
The same issue hosts an article (Estanislao Cantero Núñez, "La crisi contemporanea: crisi morale e religiosa") which denounces the spread of homosexuality and other ills, and calls for "a return to natural law, with its precepts binding on all, with its moral absolutes and its principles, which mould every human activity", and also states "that there must be no respect [comprensione] for modern democracy, that is democracy as it is understood in the modern world." The section called "Ex libris," on the other hand, reviews four books by Introvigne, one by PierLuigi Zoccatelli, one by Jean-François Mayer, one by Reverend James Gordon Melton (all CESNUR members) and one by Don Pietro Cantoni, long-time Alleanza Cattolica militant and the brother of the "regent" of the organisation, Giovanni Cantoni. The anonymous author of the review is happy to announce that discussion on the mass suicide of Heaven's Gate (which he calls a "freely chosen" suicide) is "more mature in the USA than in Europe, and revolves around the right to suicide, rather than on the old stereotypes of brainwashing and 'dangerous cults".
Business as usual.
Masons and gossip
"A certain Miguel Martinez" is an ambiguous statement. If he means that I am not an important person, I agree - I never claimed I was. However "a certain" could also mean somebody who was unknown to Introvigne, and this would be misleading for the reader. Because my article was a reply to an article by Introvigne, published on the CESNUR website, which made some false representations about me. This is an important detail which Introvigne forgets to mention.
I never wrote, said or even though that Introvigne was "a member (not only a supporter) of Freemasonry." Even though he may not have a degree in sociology, his studies in law and philosophy should have taught him a more rigorous methodology; so we are left in doubt whether he has problems reading, or is simply a "Liar, Liar." What is left unanswered is the question whether all the leadership of the French branch of CESNUR belongs to a Masonic lodge - a hypothesis which I simply referred, with great caution; however neither Introvigne, nor those directly involved have answered. In any case, Masonic connections are basically a curiosity, a sign of the infinite complexity of CESNUR. Unlike TFP, I am not "fiercely anti-Masonic". Massimo Introvigne is apparently more TFP-minded, since he goes on to quote from a Masonic magazine to prove that he is really an enemy of the Masons:
Few sociologists would be proud to have a study of theirs considered a "vigorous attack" on the very subject they are studying. However the basic problem with CESNUR is that it tries to play several games at once: it defends Catholic orthodoxy, safeguards the interests of the Italian Right, provides apologetics for the more powerful cults and carries out "scientific research." In such a game, cards tend to get mixed up, so I take this opportunity to remind Introvigne that he is currently supposed to be playing the sociologist. "Vigorous attacks" on Masonry are more suited for an article in Cristianità, where such matters are more likely to stay within the family.
In this case, ambiguity is of course useful to Introvigne, who can point out that he is being simultaneously "attacked" as a pro and as an anti-Mason. However it is he who is ambiguous, not his critics. Not that I intend to delve into the issue of his polymorphism, as this would truly involve violating his privacy.
I purposely used simple language to write my text, but Introvigne still seems to find it difficult to understand. So I would like to explain that all I did was list a series of little-known and unusual facts concerning CESNUR. Martin Short wrote that "Masonry and paranoia seem to be made for each other." One could well say the same about CESNUR and Introvigne. A man who boasts of being a member of the Board of a right-wing party, but also works together with a left-wing MP; who chairs Catholic charismatic meetings and is invited to black masses as a guest of honour; who belongs to the most anti-Masonic Catholic Right but attends secret meetings in the premises of the Paris Grand Orient; who writes in defence of Opus Dei yet calls himself a friend of a "Rosicrucian Communist", former member of the Red Brigades; who is invited as a VIP to Reverend Moon's mass weddings and who rushes to Lyons to defend Scientology in a trial; who distributes the insignia of the Transylvanian Society of Dracula and then writes articles against the plots of the "pornocratic sex-priests" - well, I think we can say that such a person attracts attention and may easily awake many fantasies.
A previous "reply"
I said that Introvigne already sent a reply to certain friends of his. As usual, without sending a copy to the party directly involved, i.e. us. In this first reply, he also claimed to be the victim of attacks by "Antifascists". Certainly, a large amount of criticism against CESNUR does come from the Left. However, "Liar, liar" is for a larger public, so he prefers to hide this fact here.
In the same message, he also mentioned another source I quoted, the magazine Orion. For at least four reasons, his comments seem unfair.
First of all, if Introvigne's words ("right-wing extremists" with "Nazi" tendencies) were referred to us rightly, he made an evident mistake.
Second, the material on Introvigne which we published was only part of a debate between a critic and a self-proclaimed militant of Alleanza Cattolica, Massimo Maraviglia. The editor of Orion had allowed Maraviglia to publish no less than two article supporting Introvigne.
Third, as we have seen, Aldo Carletti of CESNUR recently organised a conference in Varese which received considerable publicity in Orion.
Fourth, I quoted an item from another long article published in Orion, and written by an admirer of Introvigne, Marco Pasi. Pasi can hardly be called an enemy of Introvigne, since he was one of the official speakers at the CESNUR convention in September 1998.
The problem is simply that Orion has the habit of allowing its readers to listen to both sides of any issue (they also published articles by CESNUR member Jean François Mayer).
We suggest Introvigne should make up for this moment of over-reaction by placing the pro-CESNUR articles which appeared in Orion on the CESNUR website. Considering all the free space that Orion gave CESNUR, this would be the very least he could do.
The friends who told me what Introvigne said in his first reply, also added that Introvigne stressed a "mistake" I was supposed to have made: I supposedly said that Carlo Giovanardi, parliament leader of the right-wing CCD party, was a member of Alleanza Cattolica. It is true that I had said that the group leader of CCD was a member of Alleanza Cattolica. But I was not referring to Giovanardi. As anybody can see from my article, I was referring to Michele Vietti, group leader in the previous parliament. Vietti is not only a member of the same party (CCD) and the same organisation (Alleanza Cattolica) as Introvigne; he even comes from the same town, Turin. It is hard to believe that Introvigne misunderstood my reference. If he did it on purpose, it would show he is an excellent lawyer, but unfortunately it would sound the death knell for his reputation as a scholar. I would be glad to withdraw this statement, if Introvigne would be so kind as to deny having made such an incredible claim.
Fantasy runs free through the plains of Brazil
But let us get back to "Liar, Liar."
In the Italian version, Introvigne boasts of having
written "several hundred" works. I never said that Introvigne continuously
writes studies on TFP ("Tradition, Family and Property"), nor do I doubt that he has written more than Agatha
Christie. If he takes the time to read my article, he will see that I said
that he is one of the five national leaders of Alleanza Cattolica and that
TFP-founder Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira is the ideological "master"
of Alleanza Cattolica. I still await a refutation of either of these statements.
I shall not insist on the expression "hopelessly paranoid." In the past, Introvigne had a greater sense of humour and did not speak like Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira. However, such outbursts can easily be forgiven. Not everyone is born a scholar or has full self control.
I had already been advised that the above would be Introvigne's main argument, but I was unable to believe it. It was simply too stupid. He says that I claimed that the "cult wars" (implying the existence of an "anti-cult movement", the denial of so-called "brainwashing theories", the use of the term "apostate") were invented by TFP in 1985; or rather, were invented by Introvigne himself (the Italian version explicitly says "I [Introvigne] am supposed to have started the 'cult wars'"). This is obviously untrue: TFP played a minor role in the whole debate, and these issues were already being discussed long before 1985. Besides, Introvigne is a very minor personality in all this, and there are dozens of more important cult apologists, many probably unaware of the very existence of TFP. If Introvigne's analysis of my thesis were right, I would certainly be a "conspiracy thinker" who mixes up dates and facts.
However, any reader of my text can see that I never upheld any such notion. I merely said that TFP got into a controversy in 1985, a controversy which doubtless started long before and which I had no intention of discussing, and that it was only after this that Introvigne got involved in the issue. Far more powerful organisations, such as the Moon or Scientology transnationals, were of course involved in problems long before TFP was condemned by Brazilian bishops or outlawed by the Venezuela government. It is quite probable (although I do not claim it as a fact) that TFP merely picked up material published by such organisations in previous years.
As an aside, I notice that Introvigne does not deny founding CESNUR after a trip to Brazil.
It is incredible to think that Introvigne, who seems to be quite intelligent, did not change a thesis which I thought was only the result of a moment of distraction after skimming through my text. Any reader can see the bad faith of this statement, which casts a dark shadow over all of Introvigne's research work.
"Distasteful" homosexuals and a marijuana smoker
I understand that homosexuals are "distasteful" for a person of Introvigne's cultural background. However I am not at all interested in the private life of any CESNUR member. What I did find interesting was that - according to certain French journalists (to whom I leave the responsibility for their statement) - this gentleman is a militant, in other words a person who defends the rights of a definite category of citizens. Obviously overcome by his own intolerance towards homosexuals, Introvigne fails to understand that I am saying something quite positive for him, that very different stands can co-exist within CESNUR: the stand of those who defend the right to be different, and the stand of the Alleanza Cattolica psychiatrists who hold that any difference (sexual, not religious) is a "sickness which must be cured."
However, speaking of gossip, I take the liberty of
quoting from another article by Introvigne (www.cesnur.org\msia.htm). He
is commenting on the author of a text (which Introvigne calls "angry" and
"rather scurrilous") about a cult called MSIA (Introvigne of course defends
A stab in the back for some old friends
"Liar, Liar" then makes a pass at analysing my sources.
There is something rather sweet about a defender of New Acropolis (an organisation which the important Catholic magazine Famiglia cristiana once called "A rather Nazi swindle") acting as a friend of the Jews. Introvigne is right. We quoted from Sodalitium since it has much in common with Alleanza Cattolica. Of course, Sodalitium rejects John Paul II, unlike Alleanza Cattolica; Alleanza Cattolica is actively involved in right-wing politics, unlike Sodalitium. However the individual associates of Alleanza Cattolica and those of the Istituto Mater Boni Consilii, publishers of Sodalitium, share a long history, since they both followed Monsignor Lefèbvre in the past and have basically the same ideas. In order to understand Introvigne's (public) activities, it would of course have been useless to refer to secular or to progressive publications.
Sodalitium however also presented its readers
with many quotes from writings by Introvigne and other Alleanza Cattolica
militants. If such quotations are false, Introvigne should let us know,
otherwise he should not criticise those who refer them. Any scholar should
be aware that disagreement with the ideas of a source does not mean that
the documents that such a source presents are wrong. For example, if Cristianità
claims that Introvigne is one of its national leaders, I can well believe
them even if I differ with the political views of the magazine.
This is a wonderful example of Introvigne's rhetoric. The reader is made to understand that Sodalitium criticised Introvigne because of his having said that the "blood libel" was "an early example of moral panic." This will of course earn him a good deal of sympathy, as long as only a few people know that:
1) Introvigne started using the rhetorical device of "moral panic" only a few months ago.
2)The Sodalitium case, on the other hand, started about five years ago, when Introvigne included the Istituto Mater Boni Consilii in a list of "cults" (with some worrying implications, considering the fact that CESNUR on its website claims to be "proud" to work with the police).
3)Reading this, the editors of Sodalitium felt that their old friend had betrayed them, and answered by digging out their personal recollections and a few embarassing Introvigne quotes.
One has to know a lot of obscure facts to see through Introvigne's little trick. It is somewhat worrying to think how much similar misleading information on little-known subjects may be found in the vast sea of Introvigne's writings.
Of course, it may be that Introvigne simply has problems understanding cause and effect. In such a case, I shall be glad to suggest some simple manuals which explain how to use source material.
The mystery of the two missing "young anti-cultists"
The reference to Kenneth Starr is a little unfortunate, if we think of Introvigne's relations with the right wing of the Republican Party in the USA. However, what is more serious is that he mixes his critics up, using the plural to describe them. They are all "Kenneth Starrs" who are hunting him down, presumably on a commission from the French or perhaps the Belgian parliament: the Lutheran pastor Thomas Gandow; Miguel Martinez who is certainly not a member of any church; and two psychologists who represent the GRIS, a Catholic body recognised by the Italian Bishops' Conference (CEI), who were the ones who brought up the APA case that Introvigne mentions. Since the whole issue revolves around these two people (Gandow merely picked up what they had written and I hardly touched on the matter), we wonder why Introvigne does not name them. We were told that in the past he called these GRIS scholars, who are his same age and have several university degrees, "two young anti-cultists." Perhaps he wants to avoid polemics with an official body of the Catholic Church, but this shows him to be more of a good lawyer (who carefully picks those arguments which are useful for his cause) than a good scholar (who uses all available data even when they might upset his own thesis). Or maybe he is just a good politician, who avoids running into trouble with an institution that is best left alone.
As usual, the problem is one of proper use of sources
and an orderly approach to matters of cause and effect, something even
an expert on patents should know how to handle.
I could not care less. I do not share their theology,
but the editors of watch.pair.com have had the courage to challenge some
of the most powerful and least lovely people in the world. Perhaps in certain
cases they tilt against windmills, but this only shows they are like Don
Quixote. Maybe the Priory of Sion does not exist, but they have had the
guts to face all the "New Right", to say the names of those who intend
to launch new wars of religion around the world. I do not know the editors
of watch.pair.com personally, but they are honest people, something that
cannot be said of everybody.
This is not the first time that Introvigne has shown a surprising touchiness at any mention of his interest in vampires. Although the quote from Comments from the Friends has nothing to do with me, I think it is only fair to say that:
1) I do not believe that Introvigne is a vampire.
2) I have no doubt as to the seriousness of his vampirology studies.
3) I am convinced that vampirology offers a pleasant
break with the gloomy world of Alleanza Cattolica and its political contour.
We have been told (the interested parties are of course free to deny it)
that Introvigne claims to be "good personal friend" of the leader of the
right-wing CCD party. The young TSD ladies are certainly much more pleasant
Seven simple questions
Introvigne's reply is not what most people would
call a reply, since it answers nothing I said. This must have left many
of his readers with an uneasy feeling. In order to help Introvigne put
their doubts to rest, here is a summary of the main issues I raised:
I do not think it is difficult to reply to these statements. Just say true or false, and if false, why.
Since I never "insulted" him or "invaded" his private life, I find it hard to understand why he had to react in such a heated fashion. Of course, I can understand that a follower of Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira can see a threat or even the hidden hand of Satan in any democratic discussion, but - alas for Introvigne - we live in a pluralist society founded on free and peaceful discussion of the public statements and choices of all.
Let me quote a sentence, which I strongly agree with,
taking from the Website http://www.cesnur.org/about.htm: