Friday, January 14, 2022

Novus Ordo Mt. Carmel Hermits



Counterfeit Carmel?

This is a follow up to the post anticipating the special report from Church Militant concerning the Cowboy Monks of New Mt. Carmel in Wyoming.  (My title is a take on their novus ordo of Carmelite rules.)  The report by Christine Niles was actually very good, non-sensational, well-researched and documented.  I found the whistleblower especially credible since he was backed up with a letter from a former Discalced Carmelite I had met.  Sr. Anne was a member of the monastery of nuns, adjacent to the original foundation of Carmelite Hermits the Wyoming founder came from.  I had no idea the nuns sponsored him for seminary and that Fr. Daniel left to found his own community so abruptly.  (Sr. Anne's dossier tells the story. It's a sad betrayal.)

I wasn't aware Sr. Anne left our Carmel (in good graces) to follow a call to found another community. She was a very practical, balanced religious, as far as I could tell in my interactions with her. I personally thought she would have made an excellent prioress. The letter reveals a lot about Fr. Daniel, and her account of his temperament and manner while he was here seems accurate. I found him rude and dismissive.

I don't want to add much commentary at this point, especially regarding the two Carmels here - both of which are very solid and healthy communities.  The Hermits - the male community - were taken in by the Carmelites of the Ancient Observance before Fr. Daniel left Lake Elmo.  Under the Calced Carmelites means they are a secure, autonomous community, within the Carmelite tradition, with what I assume are their own constitutions?  I'm not sure of the canonical terms.  Of course, our local Carmel of nuns is part of the Discalced Carmelite Order.  

That said, I'll post links to the Niles interview, the dossier of the whistleblower and Sr. Anne's account.  It's quite a story.  The Wyoming group sounds like a cult, the Prior - if all of this is true - sounds unstable and controlling to the extent of spiritual abuse.  

"Spiritual abuse is especially rampant in communities with sectarian aberrations." - Dom Dysmas de Lassus, O.Cart.





9 comments:

  1. I find the whole tone of this "expose" unsettling. It seems to me this community has a number of problems. Some petty others major. Do they rise to the level of abuse? I am not conviced, but the Bishop bears responsibility for monitoring. Petty squabbles, yelling, group showers, lectures on manliness are indeed odd but abusive? What stands out to me is the inordinate focus on work to further the Priors' goal of a magnificent French Gothic monastery in the Wyoming wilderness. That is cult like. Jim Jones and all cult leaders worked their members long hours on projects to glorify the leader. The danger in all these breakaway new communities is it opens the door for unscrupulous & disturbed individuals to wield power over younger impressionable people. Thomas Merton wrote of his experiences at Gethsemani in a similar manner. Sleep & food deprivation, no heat in Winter, monitoring of mail and phone calls, reprimands & restrictions were all part of monastic formation. I think this Prior harkens back to those methods which are outdated and discredited now. There are so many of these borderline religious communities out there. About an hour from me is one that has an Internet presence, a large isolated property and a history of at least one lawsuit from a former member for return of a million dollars he voluntarily gave them while a member. A "Franciscan Monastery" is 20 minutes from me losely affiliated with St Pius X Society. The list is long. The Monks of Adoration in Florida, the Laser Monks in Wisconsin and so many we never hear about. Without proper supervision & regular oversight who can be surprised that this keeps happening?

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    1. Good point - the expose was intended to be unsettling and on second viewing it is a bit sensationalized. That said, it certainly demonstrates for me that Pope Francis is correct to direct a closer look at these new communities and the danger of a charismatic founder/leader controlling every aspect of their existence, imposing such a rigid structure.

      Their enclosure is more typical of nuns than it ever was for the friars - who insisted they were not monks. The friars have always put off vocations in men who aspired to live the same life as the nuns. Even when I was in the Trappists the novice master did not want me communicating with the nuns here, one prioress was very controlling and critical of Trappist life. He was right of course. She eventually left Carmel to found her own version of the 'reform'.

      There are many borderline communities, as you say. I think I've always discussed that on the blog - I've encountered so many over the years. Now days they can rake in the donations if they are TLM and adopt traditional disciplines, tonsure and so on.

      The Jim Jones reference seems to fit in this case, as far as the workcamp mentality goes, including the showers.

      Anyway - thank for your insights.

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    2. The “Franciscan Monastery” I mentioned is a curious group. I haven’t thought of them in years but this post triggered some memories. They popped up in a large home on a commercial street near where I lived then. I attended a Sunday Mass out of curiosity. I was taught by Franciscan Friars in High School and thought they might be affiliated with the same. There were a half dozen or so, the older priest presided and younger ones assisted. It was a Latin Mass. I was not welcomed and felt they were rather suspicious of my presence. I learned later they are affiliated with St. Pius X Society which also had a parish in the City. I also learned that they had in residence the brother of the assassinated President Diem of Vietnam, Archbishop Thuc who had ordained bishops for SPPX. Archbishop Thuc returned to the RC Church later. This group claims to this day that he was abducted from them and taken to an RC Monastery in Missouri where he died, they claim, under mysterious conditions. It could make an interesting fiction novel.

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  2. I was with the laser monks for 3 months. They closed a year or so later. Saw some "off" things. As someone once said. "Ay, Pues."

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    1. And now he's makin' Grannies rheumatiz medicine, Jed!

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  3. I thought Christine Niles did a good job as well.

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  4. Group showers in a monastery or seminary is a real bad sign of a disordered understanding of privacy and modesty and masculinity from a solid Catholic perspective. What the !@@#$ is going on there in Wyoming? I'm thinking more and more we're in the end times when Jesus ominoiusly says: when the Son of Man returns to earth, will He find any Faith? This is one case where I give Pope F credit for having the foresight and courage to investigate some of these weird offshoot Traditional communities. It's kind of like if you read about the history of the Jansenists which I am making a winter study of this year. Keep up the good work Terry of exposing these counterfeits to the balanced and holy Catholic faith and vision of life and holiness.

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    1. Thanks Father - good to hear from you.

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