This is an interesting article where the subject matter is directed towards victims of brainwashing within the Catholic Church.
Just replace "SSPX" with "Watchtower". The similarities are amazing.
How to Rescue Someone from the Influence of the SSPX
(Also known as Deprogramming or Exit Counselling)
NOTICE: If you are in a situation where you want to rescue someone from the influence of the SSPX, we strongly urge you to read this whole document before trying any rescue procedures, so that you get an overall understanding of what you are up against.
DISCLAIMER: Although we have received letters from concerned friends and relatives who have successfully counselled SSPX supporters, please understand that any attempt to rescue someone from a mind control situation involves risks. Depending on your particular circumstances, you are advised to consult a cult expert, or a psychologist, and also get legal advice before attempting any rescue procedures. By reading this document and the information we provide, you agree not to hold the authors or those reponsible for this website liable for any damages incurred as a result of following any of the advice contained herein.
* SSPX Beliefs
* Rescue Strategies
* Things to Watch For
We have read many letters of pain and anguish from pastors, friends and family members who have witnessed someone they know fall under the influence of the SSPX. Many who recognize the dangers of the SSPX say that we exaggerate if we call the SSPX a religious cult. But everyone who knows someone who has fallen under the influence of the SSPX agrees that the SSPX has a very a dangerous and unnatural control over their supporters. This level of control is often called "brainwashing" by those who witness the behaviour of SSPX supporters.
Unfortunately, would-be rescuers with good intentions often say and do things that only make the situation worse.
Joining together our own experiences with those who have told us they have successfully counselled an SSPX supporter, we have put together some strategies on what to say and do in a rescue situation with an SSPX supporter. We think it is in the public interest to make these things known far and wide, as the influence of the SSPX continues to spread.
Anyone who wants to be successful at rescuing or deprogramming someone who has fallen under the influence of the SSPX will have to understand SSPX beliefs, since from the point of view of the SSPX, their beliefs are what make them different from everyone else.
If you want to read a complete history of the SSPX, you'll find it elsewhere on this website, where we ask the question: What is the SSPX? In this present discussion, we'll simply say that the SSPX is a group which had its beginnings in the Catholic Church, but which now forms a distinct group of Catholics who are unhappy with the changes made in the Church since Pope John XXIII convened the general Council of Vatican II in the 1960's. The SSPX call themselves "Traditional Catholics" because they specifically adhere to the way things were in the Church and society at large before 1960.
It is a mistake however to think that SSPX supporters are only interested in nostalgia. You will find that their propagandists are well trained, and their arguments are well thought out.
The first thing that strikes someone who has dealt with SSPX supporters for some time, as we have, is that they all talk exactly alike. In one case, we've had the experience of reading over a written defense of the SSPX by a certain SSPX supporter, only to find that it is almost word for word identical to comments made by other SSPX supporters. The arguments made by all SSPX supporters are so similar, that it's almost as if they've all read from the same training manual - or at least their leaders have. In another case, we've also had the experience of carrying on a written correspondence of several months with another SSPX supporter. In letter after letter, he kept repeating the same arguments, as if that was all he knew. He didn't seem to understand what we wrote to him, as he never directly answered what we wrote. In his answers to us he just kept repeating the same arguments each time. Besides concluding that he didn't understand what we were saying, we also wondered if he really understood what he was saying. He just kept repeating the same thing, as if the words themselves were supposed to have some magical ability to somehow "convert" us.
In presenting a brief outline of SSPX beliefs, we neither defend nor criticize these beliefs. It is not necessary for you to agree or disagree with any of the SSPX beliefs in order to be successful in rescuing an SSPX supporter. You only need to understand these beliefs.
Belief #1: The world is in a mess and disordered. There is a void of true leadership.
Belief #2: The best way to get out of the mess is to find an "Authority" who will give you "Answers".
A few examples will illustrate the dynamics of these first two beliefs. In the 1930's, Germany was in economic turmoil, and national pride was very low. The Nazis came on the scene and filled a void. The Fuehrer became the "Authority" for the German people, and the racist Nazi teachings became their "Answers".
In more recent times, we've all heard about John Walker, the American citizen who fought against his own country for the Taliban in Afghanistan. He too was searching for answers and found someone to fill an inner void he felt. His "Authority" was the Taliban and his "Answers" came from Islam. Renowned cult expert Rick Ross has done an in-depth study of Osama bin Laden and has identified al-Qaeda as a destructive cult.
We will see further below that for an SSPX supporter, their "Authority" is the SSPX, and their "Answers" are found in what the SSPX teaches.
An important point to note here is that it isn't really necessary for the external world to be in a mess or disordered for someone to seek out a group like the SSPX. It could be that someone merely feels that their personal life is in a mess. It is our experience that people are most likely to latch onto some "Authority" with "Answers" at times when they feel a void in their lives, either from a personal or economic loss, or from an inner yearning to find some kind of "Cause" to fight for. One possible explanation of "why" people would behave this way, is that in times of crisis, they wish to return to a simpler time when a benevolent guardian (like a parent) would tell them what they needed to know and give them security. Regardless, it is certainly easier to live in a situation where someone gives you ready made answers, than for you to have to find your own answers.
Belief #3: The Catholic Church has a God-given Mission to be His Official "Authority" with Official "Answers" for the human race.
Belief #4: The Catholic Church has been sidetracked from its God-given Mission by the changes brought about after Vatican Council II, held in the 1960's.
Belief #5: The Church, as it existed before Vatican II, has the "Answers".
Belief #6: The Pope can make a mistake, and proof of this is that he is directly responsible for the changes in the Catholic Church which have sidetracked the Church from its God-given Mission.
Belief # 6A: (secretly held by some SSPX leaders) The Pope can make mistakes in small things, but Pope John Paul II has done so much to harm the Church, that he cannot really be the Pope at all. Some SSPX leaders would also secretly admit that they believe that Pope John Paul II is intentionally trying to destroy the Church. They don't dare make their views public, for fear of losing the support (and money) of many of their followers. We have known about this tendency, called sedevacantism, within the SSPX, for some time.Finally, we have proof of it in writing, in the letter of Fr. Benedict Vander Putten, who recently left the SSPX.
Belief #7: Since Vatican Council II was a "Pastoral" Council, it was not infallible, and could include mistakes. In fact, Vatican II does contain mistakes that are directly responsible for sidetracking the Church from its God-given Mission.
Belief #8: The mistakes the Pope is making are not accidental, but come from the mistakes in Vatican II itself. Therefore, as long as the Pope is following Vatican II, we can't trust the Pope.
Belief #9: We can't trust the Pope, but God has given us the SSPX whom we can trust. The SSPX is our God-given "Authority" and is God's Official teacher and interpreter of the "Answers" that are found in the Church before Vatican II.
Belief #10: Archbishop Lefebvre was not really excommunicated when he consecrated four bishops on June 30, 1988 against the will of the Pope, and Canon Law (the lawbook of the Catholic Church) proves it. Forbidding Archbishop Lefebvre to consecrate the four bishops, and believing that he was excommunicated for doing so, are just two more "mistakes" that the Pope has made.
Belief #11: Since the SSPX is God's Official "Authority" with God's Official "Answers", God will protect the SSPX and allow it to do whatever it has to in order to teach the "Answers" to others. So, if the SSPX needs to make changes to the "Answers", they do so with the authority of God Himself.
BUT, we must add a comment here. In fact, the Teachings of the Church before Vatican II did not change. So therefore, because the SSPX makes changes to the "Answers", the "Answers" are no longer the Teachings of the Church, but they are now SSPX Teachings. We will prove further below that the SSPX does make changes to the "Answers".
Belief #12: The fact that everyone, including the Pope, is against the SSPX is proof that the SSPX is on God's side, and everyone else is on the devil's side. Consequently, no-one outside the SSPX can be trusted or believed, since they are all against God's "Answers" and God's "Authority". SSPX leaders tell their supporters not to trust what they hear from their friends, family or the news media, as these are all influenced by Satan, who makes them all attack the SSPX.
These are the basic beliefs held by SSPX supporters. All these beliefs together form a complete belief system.
To summarize the SSPX belief system:
* SSPX supporters believe that the SSPX is the only God-given "Authority" who can be trusted to teach the "Answers" given by God, which seem to be the Teachings of the Catholic Church before Vatican II, but in fact have been changed by the SSPX, and so are now SSPX teachings.
* Anyone who goes against the "Answers" or the "Authority" is going against God Himself.
* SSPX supporters refer to their "Authority" as "The Society" and the refer to their "Answers" as "The Faith".
A few things become immediately apparent from an understanding of SSPX beliefs.
The first is that it's best not to attack SSPX beliefs ("The Faith") or the SSPX ("The Society") directly, as this will only antagonize an SSPX supporter, when more than anything else, you need to gain their trust.
The second is that many of the SSPX arguments require an intimate knowledge of theology and Church Law, which is beyond the average person's training and experience. Because of this, many SSPX supporters merely memorize SSPX arguments without understanding anything about Church Law or theology, other than what they've been told by the SSPX leaders. Basically, very few SSPX supporters know enough theology to know whether the SSPX leaders are wrong or misleading them. Incidentally, the people who do know their theology eventually leave the SSPX. For those who remain in the SSPX, the words of the SSPX leaders become the only reliable source of information, especially since the SSPX leaders encourage all their supporters to cut themselves off from the news media and all non-SSPX supporters.
A third point is that SSPX supporters call themselves "Traditional Catholics" because they want to follow the Teachings and Practices of the Catholic Church before Vatican II. This gives a bad name to other "Traditional Catholics" who wish to follow pre-Vatican II norms, but who don't want to support the SSPX. The great irony is that since the SSPX has changed the "Answers", SSPX supporters don't follow the Teachings and Practices of the Catholic Church before Vatican II, but an SSPX version of them.
Now that you have a basic understanding of SSPX beliefs, we can consider the best rescue strategies in the next section.
Here are specific strategies to use in a situation where you and/or others are trying to rescue someone from the influence of the SSPX. In some cases, we give you specific things to say or questions to ask. In other cases, we give you general guidelines only.
Strategy #1. Do everything you can to gain the confidence of the SSPX supporter you wish to rescue.
Their beliefs ("The Faith") and the SSPX ("The Society") are the most important things in the world of an SSPX supporter. In fact, SSPX supporters will say "I'm with the Society" or "I belong to the Society" instead of saying "I go to Mass at a Society church". When you hear an SSPX supporter speak this way, this should tell you how important it is for them to have a sense of "belonging" to a group with "Answers".
The first step in rescuing an SSPX supporter is to gain their confidence. Try to understand both and be interested in learning more about them. SSPX supporters will expect you to oppose "The Faith" and "The Society". When you don't, they will interpret you as being friendly and not hostile. Then they are more likely to trust you, and listen to what you say.
Strategy #2. Try to get the SSPX supporter to see the unfairness of spending so much energy pointing to someone's mistakes, and never recognizing the good they have done.
SSPX supporters spend great amounts of energy pointing out the Pope's mistakes. But they also refuse to recognize whenever the Pope does something right. It is not fair to spend all your time pointing out the Pope's mistakes, and never giving him credit for doing good things. This reveals a real prejudice against the Pope, which can lead to a mindset in which you decide to start your own church, since the Pope isn't doing a good enough job.
Strategy #3. Try to convince the SSPX supporter that while there always is some black and white, the world is never as black and white as they would like to paint it.
If you talk with an SSPX supporter at any length, you will be amazed to discover how many times he/she talks about how the bishops or the Vatican or some other unnamed conspiracy are all plotting and sneakily trying to destroy the SSPX. Supporters of the SSPX have an "Us vs. the world" mentality, which makes them similar to religious cults. Religious cults convince their members that the world is evil, and is trying to destroy their group, and that they must cut off all ties with outsiders, and the SSPX convinces their members of the same thing. Does the SSPX supporter you are trying to rescue believe that there is a growing conspiracy to destroy the SSPX? Is this SSPX supporter beginning to cut off all ties with their own friends and family members? This paranoia is a dangerous sign.
Try to convince the SSPX supporter that while there always is some black and white, the world is never as black and white as they would like to paint it. Ask them for specific evidence that everyone is out to destroy the SSPX. You will find that often the "evidence" is greatly exaggerated. If you are always looking for enemies, eventually you will interpret everyone's actions as hostile, when in reality this is not true. Try to get the SSPX supporter to objectively examine the "evidence".
Strategy #4. Try to convince the SSPX supporter that they have stopped thinking for themselves, and have let the SSPX think for them.
No doubt the SSPX supporter you are trying to rescue will give you several detailed arguments from Church Law and theology, defending the SSPX. Try to get the SSPX supporter to explain these arguments to you, rather than merely repeat them from memory. The point of this exercise is to get the SSPX supporter to realize that they are not really thinking but just memorizing pat answers.
If the SSPX supporter is just repeating pat answers that they don't really understand, then try to get the SSPX supporter to realize that if they don't understand what they are saying, they have no real way of knowing whether it is right or wrong.
As a final argument, you could say that God has given each of us an ability to think, and if we surrender that ability to think to someone else to do our thinking for us, then we become an intellectual slave, totally dependent on them. Elsewhere on this website, we have shown that someone who cannot or who will not think cannot have the Catholic Faith. Try to get the SSPX supporter to read this document, and try to explain how someone could have the Catholic Faith if they don't think for themselves. If they refuse to read it, then right away you can show them that they are closed-minded to finding out the Truth.
We can tell you that more than one person has told us that they have been given the cold shoulder by an SSPX priest, as soon as it became evident that they were the kind of person who could think for themselves. SSPX priests and leaders do not like people who can think for themselves.
Strategy #5. The SSPX claims to be traditional, yet they are doing things that no-one has ever done before in the Church.
SSPX supporters will tell you how the SSPX is defending, following and teaching the Teachings and Practices of the Catholic Church before Vatican II. We have already stated above how very few SSPX supporters actually know enough about the Teachings and Practices of the Catholic Church before Vatican II to know if this is what the SSPX is actually promoting, or it is is merely a clever imitation.
Certainly, what the SSPX is doing looks good on the surface. For example, consider the Mass. We can't report on the USA, because no-one has given us specific information regarding the way the Mass is celebrated, but people in Canada have reported to us that the SSPX priests are slowly making changes to the Mass that were never done before Vatican II. These are small changes, like standing for the Sanctus, but if you look in an old Missal, you will see that it clearly says that everyone should kneel for the Sanctus. The SSPX is making small changes now, and the people accept them. Who knows where future changes will lead. The mere fact that the SSPX makes any changes to the Mass at all shows that they are not truly preserving things the way they were before Vatican II.
Another matter is the SSPX granting marriage annulments. The SSPX will grant a marriage annulment to Catholics who approach them, under condition that the married couple in question not approach any marriage tribunal of the Catholic Church, not even in Rome. No religious order in the history of the Church has ever taken upon themselves the authority to grant marriage annulments. This is an authority that belongs only to the Pope, and to the bishops he delegates this authority to. By granting marriage annulments without the permission of the Pope, the SSPX is doing something that was never an accepted practice in the Church. The only other person who tried this was the Archbishop of Canterbury, who granted an annulment to King Henry VIII, and this was the cause of the Anglican schism.
Let us for the sake of argument agree with SSPX supporters that Archbishop Lefebvre was not excommunicated because he consecrated the four bishops against the will of the Pope. However, even if you believe this, the SSPX is certainly now in schism because they are granting marriage annulments. By setting up their own marriage tribunals, the SSPX is setting up their own Church hierarchy in opposition to the Pope. And so, just like the Anglicans in the 1500's, this is schism, and the creation of their own parallel church.
Does the SSPX supporter you are trying to rescue support SSPX marriage annulments? This puts them and the SSPX in opposition to the Pope's authority and outside the Church.
The SSPX itself is illogical. The SSPX claims to be defending Catholic Tradition. But you don't defend Church Tradition by disregarding and disobeying that same Tradition. If you say that you are defending the rules, you must obey them yourself. If you make up the rules as you go along, then they are now your rules, and no longer the rules of Catholic Tradition.
Try to get the SSPX supporter to see the illogic of supporting the SSPX:
* The SSPX says their goal is to defend Church Tradition before Vatican II.
* The SSPX supporter has adopted that same goal.
* The SSPX does not obey Church Tradition, but is opposing it and has placed itself outside the same Church it claims it is defending.
* Therefore, the SSPX supporter is also not obeying Church Tradition, and is also outside the same Church they claim they want to be part of.
Strategy #6: Try to convince the SSPX supporter that Jesus did not command us to hide from others, but to be among them to convert them.
Once someone is under the influence of the SSPX, they break off ties with their family, friends and former acquaintances. Breaking off all ties is contrary to the 4th Commandment: "Thou shalt honor thy father and thy mother."
Breaking off all ties is not the intention of Jesus either, but it is like hiding their light under a bushel (Mt 5:15). On the contrary, Jesus commanded us to let our light shine before others (Mt 5:16). How can anyone be a good example for others if they cut themselves off from them? St. Peter also commanded us to be a good example to others, even those who speak against us (1 Pet 2:12).
If you follow the SSPX command to cut off all ties with family and friends, then you are going against the commandment of God, of Jesus, and of St. Peter the first Pope. You can no longer consider yourself a Catholic or a Christian. Try to convince the SSPX supporter that this command of the SSPX proves that the SSPX is not from God.
If the SSPX supporter really wanted to do good, then they would learn about their religion, and would remain among non-SSPX members to try to convert them, and not cut off all ties with them.
Strategy #7. Try to get the SSPX supporter to see that they should belong to the Church, not just to a group within the Church.
NOTE: We think this strategy is a valid one, but it could be interpreted as an attack on "The Society". It's best to use this strategy only with someone who is not a long-time or deeply committed SSPX supporter.
We have already described how someone who is searching for answers is likely to attach themselves to some "Authority" that provides "Answers". Unfortunately, what seems to happen is that the "Authority" takes on more importance than the "Answers" they are teaching.
If you want an image, it is as if the world is spinning out of control, and the "Authority" who is teaching the "Answers" becomes a fixed point of sanity and order, just like the old phonograph records where the record turned around a fixed spindle. Once someone finds their fixed point, they refuse to consider any evidence that their fixed point person could ever make a mistake. This would upset the psychological security of their whole universe.
For SSPX supporters, their fixed point (their "Authority") is the SSPX. Yet we all know that because all humans are fallible in SOME respect, they can make mistakes, and if we refuse to recognize leaders' mistakes, then we can fall into error.
St. Paul had to deal with this problem with the Corinthians (1 Cor 1:11-13) who placed more importance on those who taught them the Gospel, rather than on the Gospel itself. This caused dissensions and schisms among the Corinthians. Stress with the SSPX supporter that there is only one Church. Anyone who wants to be Catholic must belong to the Church, and not to any group. "Just be Catholic" is good advice. This is basically the same advice that St. Paul gave to the Corinthians, although he didn't express it in these words. St. Paul wanted the Corinthians to stay out of groups and "just be Catholic".
An objective person must admit that the SSPX would have no followers at all if they were not right in some of the things they say. But just because the SSPX says some good things, doesn't mean that the SSPX can never make a mistake. SSPX supporters refuse to admit that the SSPX could ever make a mistake, but they think that somehow, the SSPX is "chosen" by God for some Divine Mission in the Church, and because of this, God will "protect" the SSPX from ever making a mistake. This is completely ridiculous. This also falls into the sin of Presumption, where someone gets so puffed up at their own God-given abilities, that they think themselves unable to ever be wrong. No-one who has ever lived on this earth, except for Jesus Christ, can claim that they could never make a mistake. What kind of pride is it to think that any organization, like the SSPX, can be equal to God?
SSPX supporters are also illogical. They pompously point their finger at the Pope's "mistakes", but they stubbornly refuse to admit that the SSPX could ever make a mistake. Adherence to the SSPX becomes more important than adherence to the Catholic Faith.
Things to Watch For
Anyone who has dealt with cults and mind control groups will tell you that the more dangerous the group is, the more caution that must be exercised by anyone who is trying a rescue operation.
Here are some things to watch for as you proceed with a rescue operation.
As you try to rescue an SSPX supporter:
1. The SSPX supporter may react quickly, without thinking and with great emotion, to any attempt to rescue him/her from the influence of the SSPX. Do your best to reassure the supporter that you mean no harm and are a "friend".
2. The SSPX supporter may immediately judge anything you say as an attack on "The Society" (their "Authority") or on "The Faith" (their "Answers"). Do your best to remain focused and level-headed, and try to reassure the supporter that you are not attacking, and that you are merely asking about certain "issues" that you are curious about.
3. The SSPX supporter may not answer your questions right away, but may instead go to the SSPX leaders for "Answers", which the supporter will bring back to you. Try to avoid this from happening by insisting that the supporter think for themselves, rather than letting the SSPX think for him/her. Otherwise, you will end up in a dialog with the SSPX leaders, instead of with the SSPX supporter you are trying to rescue.
4. The SSPX supporter may resist any attempt to convince them that the SSPX is in error, simply due to a sort of psychological "inertia", for lack of a better word. In other words, most people don't like to admit that they are wrong, or worse still, that they have been duped or "brainwashed" by anyone. For this reason alone, a member of a group like the SSPX will resist anyone telling them that basically, they've been misled by the group.
5. One final reason why an SSPX supporter may resist any attempt to convince them to leave the group, is that basically they are lonely, and the SSPX provides them with a welcoming group of "friends". An SSPX supporter won't want to leave the SSPX, especially if he/she has alienated family and former non-SSPX friends, as the SSPX pressures all their supporters to do. If you suspect that this is the case, reassure the SSPX supporter that there are people who are willing to be their friend, and (if you are in a position to do so) that you will help their family and former friends understand their situation and welcome them back.
If you are successful in convincing the SSPX supporter to leave the SSPX:
1. Once an SSPX supporter leaves the oppressive strictness of the SSPX, there is always a danger that he or she will "rebound" too far in a permissive and libertarian direction. Try to ensure that the supporter has a healthy sense of balance, and encourage him/her to avoid extremes.
2. Once an SSPX supporter leaves the security of the SSPX, they may yearn for the positive reinforcement and sense of "community" they received from their "friends" in the SSPX. They may also greatly miss the easy answers they got from the SSPX leaders. There is a great danger that they will go back to the SSPX, despite knowing how bad it is. Try to make sure that the SSPX supporter quits the SSPX "cold turkey", without ever going back. Otherwise, the danger is too great that they will be pulled back in.
We have presented you with some strategies that you can use when trying to rescue an SSPX supporter from the control of the SSPX. The main danger of the SSPX is mind manipulation: shutting out the world and letting the SSPX think for you. Once someone's mind is completely under the control of an "Authority", like the SSPX, it will be very hard to reason with that person at all. If the SSPX succeeds in achieving that level of control over someone's thinking, all you can do is pray.
You may also wish to consider professional counselling. There are many people and non-profit groups who specialize in helping individuals and families cope with someone who has fallen under the control of a dangerous religious group.