Sophie Bonnet’s 2012 TV documentary, “Les Béatitudes : une secte aux portes du Vatican”, (“The Beatitudes : a sect at the doors of the Vatican”) was a shock to me for several reasons. I saw the film on May 16, this last week, from my hospital bed. I had to wonder why I had never heard of it before. But more important was the documented, filmed (with extensive use of a hidden camera) evidence of the Church-approved (2002) religious order’s practice, under cover of traditional Catholic liturgy and monastic life, of blatant superstition, fraud, exploitation, milking money from credulous cash-cows, sexual promiscuity and pedophilia. The defrocked (2007) French founder is today alive and well in South America, and though Rome has belatedly (2008) withdrawn its naïve approval (2002) of the smoothest religious criminal swindle I have ever seen, is still practising his trade, living comfortably and enjoying his status as a “Saint” !
Ephraïm Croissant was, in 1973, a Catholic student of Theology, preparing for the priesthood. He had a revelation from Jesus who told him to found a religious order. Though never ordained a priest, Croissant did become a deacon, and used his extraordinary personal charism to create a group of 150 priests, 400 men and women religious and several thousand faithful around the world. The film reveals him in a photo-op with Pope John Paul 2, a precious marketing tool for the propagation of his order. His success can be measured in the millions he accumulated and the life-style they made possible, including the purchase of a French château, luxuriously furnished, which he made his personal home for himself and one of the nuns among the others with whom he slept.
One scene, filmed secretly, was in one of the order’s churches. A woman prophetess is lying on her back in the sanctuary, uttering, between groans, assorted revelations of unidentified healings Jesus had supposedly just worked. The one I remember best : “Someone has just been cured of his addiction to sugar, especially caramel” ! This nonsense may seem trivial compared with the sect’s sexual abuse of women and its practice of pedophilia. But that “revelation” about kicking an addiction to sugar has to be one of the silliest expressions of religious belief I have ever encountered. Other Pentecostals, both Protestant and Catholic, stick to “curing” major illnesses. “Beatitudes” rates top prize for achieving the Conquest of Caramel.
As a lay-theologian in the U.S., I published a national article in “U.S. Catholic” (December 1973), warning the Church about the burgeoning Charismatic Movement : “Pentecostalism is Not the Answer”. It clearly fell on deaf ears. But I will keep inviting “the People of God” to recognize the credulity on which religion is founded and the ridiculous extremes to which irrationality takes it.
RIDENDA , DELENDA RELIGIO