Thursday, April 22, 2010

Pia fraus - pious frauds

Keep watch, lest you enter into temptation.
Pious frauds:  I picked the term up from a blog post I stumbled across searching for another topic.  The author was posting (way back in 2002) about a couple of notable characters in the Church accused of sexual crimes - and as it later turned out, fraud.  The first guy, Fr. Gino Burresi, sent into exile by Pope Benedict the first month of his pontificate is still alive residing in Tuscany; the second fellow, Fr. Maciel died while in Papal mandated exile.  Today the members of Maciel's congregation continue to suffer because of the sins of their founder:
The 1997 allegations of Father Maciel’s sexual abuse came as a complete shock to the Legionaries of Christ. We couldn’t believe that the allegations against our founder were true, because they were so incompatible with our experience of him. We tended to interpret them as one more attack — something normal in the life of many founders.  All of these revelations have been extraordinarily difficult for me to comprehend, let alone assimilate. - Father Owen Kearns, LC , Publisher, National Catholic Register

Nothing is hidden that will not be revealed.
I mentioned in a former post that I was going to write more extensively about these guys - especially Gino, but I don't want to waste my time just to make a couple of points.
Curiously, Fr. Gino, while he was Br. Gino captured the heart and pious imagination of a very good priest now deceased as well, Fr. Robert Fox.  Fr. Fox was a wonderful apostle of the apparitions and messages of Fatima, and I believe that is how he became acquainted with Burresi.  If I'm not mistaken, the well intentioned if not naive Fr. Fox steered more than one vocation to the Oblates of the Blessed Virgin Mary in San Vittorino, Italy.  There is nothing wrong with that congregation by the way - just Burresi. 
For what it is worth, I learned Fr. Gruner, another priest on the outs with the Vatican, was also a friend of Burresi.  I know of no scandals associated with Gruner except that he doesn't believe the Consecration of Russia has been accomplished, among other things.  A small segment of people associated with Fatima have always been somewhat 'far-out', occasionally even a priest or two.  I've been devoted to Fatima since I was a little kid, but I have always managed to avoid getting involved with the crazier element - pretty much.  I did some work for Soul magazine and the shrine in New Jersey - art work - but that is the closest I got to being involved with any organization.  (There was also a community of women religious at the Shrine which was disbanded/suppressed a few years ago.) 
Lest I forget, Fr. Gobbi of the Marian Movement of Priests was also a friend of Fr. Gino's.  Apparently holy guys, all of them.  Gobbi once endorsed Medjugorje, Our Lady told him she was still appearing there.  His locutions are documented by his group and published under the title, "Our Lady Speaks to Her Beloved Priests".   I'm told the Medjugorje references have been deleted.
All I can say is that I honestly feel sorry for people who base their spiritual lives upon spurious revelations and locutions - especially if they have not received approval by the Church.  It is frightening how easily one can be deceived simply because someone embraces all the trappings of tradition, or whose credentials appear to check out, or worse - claim revelations from God.  Even cardinals and bishops can be misled.  It seems to me cases like Gino Burresi demonstrates the lacy conservative side of the gay scandals - which has always been there BTW.  Arrogance sometimes masquerades as piety.
Do not be misled.
Fr. Gino Burresi
Fr. Maciel
Fr. Gobbi and the MMP
Fr. Gruner

Art:  Fall of Simon Magus, Benozzo Gozzoli


  1. Do you know anything else about the Oblates of the Blessed Virgin Mary
    besides the story of Burresi?

  2. Good one, Terry; it needed to be said.

  3. michael r.7:33 AM

    Sad that people feel the need to follow these kinds of individuals. I looked at the link on Fr. Gino, and wonder who wrote that piece on him. I don't doubt that Gino was most likely a fake, but this kind of anonymous testimonial writing is also suspect, imho.

  4. NTG - I don't know much about the Oblates although while in Boston I found them to be excellent priests, well formed and balanced - especially good confessors.

    Michael - I was bad - I didn't check who wrote the piece although I have come across similar expose that corroborate. The fellow who wrote the report I linked to seems to be particularly unhappy with Burresi. I say I met him, but I didn't meet with him privately, I was with a couple of other people. He wasn't very friendly - which we attributed to the stigmata beneath the gloves. My friends went inside with him and I excused myself and went to the chapel, and later sat outside to wait for them. I had made a deal with the Lord - if he wanted me to speak with him, Br. Gino would ask for me. He didn't. Of course I don't base any conclusions about him as a result of my pious game.

    That same year I met another pseudo mystic in Italy, Mama Rosa of San Damiano. She was pleasant - not! I asked her very kindly to pray for me and she waved me off as if I had been in her way and snapped at me in Italian, "I pray for the whole world." Of course many mystics suffer a great deal.

    Melody - thanks very much.

  5. Excellent post. I had no idea that the community at the New Jersey shrine had been disbanded. I visited there once. Terry, it is amazing that we did not run into each other at one of those places back in the 80's!

  6. Thanks for this, Terry.
    "Pious frauds" can do a lot of damage to the Church, to souls, to the authentic message of our Lord in His Church.
    Even if one is treated unjustly, as was St. Padre Pio, "Obedience, obedience, obedience!" He is one of the heroes in being faithful to his mission while being a truly obedient son of the Church.
    And he was treated shabbily at times.
    Thanks for the links, also.

  7. Elena - I was told that by a former member who at the time had a lawsuit pending based upon some unfortunate experiences associated with one of the formation team. I searched online and I can no longer find any evidence of the community. I know of one very good sister who has since become a Carmelite nun.

    Thanks Father JM - one notable trait of St. Pio is that he wasn't about self-promotion in the least. It seems to me the Devil was happy to produce conterfeits.

    It seems to me self-promotion and self interest, as well as concern about reputation, status, position, human respect are huge signs that the mystic is either doing his own thing or is led by a bad spirit.

  8. michael r.11:49 AM

    Terry, I'm impressed that you met Mama Rosa. Thirty-some years ago I was involved with people who followed her, when she was the newest mystic on the scene. My friends would have been in awe of you. Earlier, for us, it was Mary Ann Van Hoof(?) at Necedah...Theresa Neumann...on and on... I learned to be suspicious of anyone claiming to be having visions and locutions, etc. It's not worth the amount of time that one spends following their every utterance. Most are self-serving frauds. I don't get why people need anything more than what Christ left for us.

  9. Austringer12:21 PM

    I'm sure there are many different reasons why people cling to or otherwise put store in supposed mystics without waiting for the judgement of the Church. I have a number of friends who have accepted the whole Medjugorje thing...they are sincere, well-adjusted Catholics, so what draws them?? In one case, a person has had many family difficulties, so perhaps it's a kind of desperation (trying all possible avenues). I really don't know...Our priest, who is otherwise fairly sharp about these things, has been susceptible in regards to a particular individual: Jesus told this woman where a possible new parish school would be built, and Father even checked it out with city officials, only to learn that the site was not, nor would likely ever be, available. When a youth minister heard voices, she decided that it was God talking to him (unfortunately, later the voices told him to kill himself, which he did). Some years ago, she received premonitions of her husband's immanent death (he's still very much alive). But, she is generally regarded as a saint and both Father and his mother protect her from criticism, at times quite willing to discredit anyone who would dare raise concerns. What's the motivation there? Is it the desire to have a home-grown mystic in one's own parish? Is having a saint in one's midst a statement of how well one is doing as a priest?

  10. michael r: We have the whole Necedah "thing" going on (still!) in our diocese; it gets nuttier by the year.
    Even though all the bishops since it began have condemned it; even putting "interdict" upon those who support it financially and promote it, I believe it is still going.
    There have been any number of "false" bishops, priests (some questionably ordained; others suspended) who have been there...some awful and criminal things have gone on.
    The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe outside of LaCrosse, WI was Archbishop Burke's inspiration, initially to bring people to authentic Marian devotion and to try to stem the tide of interest and involvement in Necedah.
    Our Lady has blessed this endeavor beyond human imagination.
    People are vulnerable to "false mystics" because we live in a "foreign land" these days; the traditional and time-tested devotions and even the proper celebration of the Holy Mass are in many places rejected.
    That is why discernment and adherence to the lawful authority of the Church, esp. the local bishop, is so important in order to be "in the heart of the Church".

  11. Austringer2:06 PM

    "People are vulnerable to "false mystics" because we live in a "foreign land" these days; the traditional and time-tested devotions and even the proper celebration of the Holy Mass are in many places rejected." --

    Father, I think you hit the nail on the head with that observation...thank you.

  12. michael r.2:09 PM

    Thank you for the info, Father. I never got to visit the place myself, but I was part of a prayer group that was quite involved up there. We were 8 hours away, in a large metropolitan area, but we basically helped promote the place. (How much time do I get in Purgatory for that??? Perhaps I should be up there with you trying to undo the harm that I helped cause.) Our Lady even spoke to Mary Ann of our group. My best friend at the time was inside of Mary Ann's house several times, and he noted the many titles of books on the shelves. Interestingly, he recognized many titles pushed by Senator McCarthy and the John Birch Society, along with books by all of the other Marian seers - Mary of Agreda, etc. After a few years, when they were all placed under interdict, and they had no choice but to invite in the priest-frauds(Grand Metropolitan of North America, or something crazy like that), it became apparent to all of us down here that the whole thing was fraudulant. Amazing that it is still going. Did they build the basilica that was planned? It was a monstrosity in the drawings.

  13. Austringer: Thank you.
    michael r.: I don't know if the basilica there is under construction or even done.
    I have dealt with innocent people who have been involved there; it is a great "spiritual hoax" feeding upon the insecurity and instability of many Catholics who are seeking some kind of spiritual basis.
    Thanks for the information. I'm glad you're "out of it".
    It's deadly.

  14. "both Father and his mother protect her from criticism"

    Okay Austringer! Now we really have to meet for coffee! I never heard about this one before. Holy crap!

  15. Michael R. - if it seems weird - it is. I was living in Boston when the Bayside crap was hot. I knew so many people who flocked there - they were certifiable, I'm sure. One guy told me he had the invisible stigmata. It was a hoot.

  16. Terry, I met that sister who became a Carmelite nun. She is a lovely person.

  17. Elena - so happy you know of her - she is very solid and has been prioress of her Carmel.

  18. Austringer7:48 PM

    Terry, it is odd to be sure. I'm not passing on silly third and fourth hand gossip: in the case of her premonitions of her husband's immanent death, I was in a vehicle with her and Father's mother when she relayed this message (though she didn't call it that). The bit about Jesus's building site selection was told to me not long after that by Father's mother, as a way of assuring me that I need not fear for the husband's life: see, she'd been wrong before, as Father had contacted city officials and been told no dice -- so I needn't worry! And the poor woman herself told me about the former youth minister hearing voices, and her thinking it was the voice of, this stuff just isn't known in the parish. Don't get me wrong, Terry, this woman may truly be a saint. I do think she is holy. God uses all kinds of people, even those with some mental problems (which I think is probably the case here). She is often referred to as a saint, which must be a terrible burden for her (not a burden I'm going to have to deal with, unfortunately...).
    My problems with Father, good man as he is, are directly related to this situation. Yeah, we'll have to have might have some insights to offer.


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