Luigi Corvaglia of FECRIS: Research on CESNUR and Massimo Introvigne

In response to our article The Cult of Cult Apologists: Massimo Introvigne Part 1, Luigi Corvaglia of the European Federation of Centres of Research and Information on Cults and Sects (FECRIS) posted an excellent comment on Massimo Introvigne.

The links Mr. Covaglia posted are, in our view, so important we have escalated his comment to this blog post. The information he provides offers needed context for non-Italian readers.

Mr. Covaglia’s comment:

Dear all,

I would like to emphasize two aspects. The first is that the non-Italian observer misses many aspects of Introvigne’s character, and these are the fundamental ones. Indeed, the criticisms I have read are all out of focus.

The second aspect is that in order to understand his role and the apparent contradictions (e.g. that he is a traditionalist Catholic and an apologist for the cults most distant from Catholicism), one must know the ideological frame of reference in which his work takes place, namely that of the Theory of Religious Economy, which I never find mentioned.

Understanding the first aspect means knowing the prehistory of CESNUR, its political roots. I have written about it briefly here:


The second aspect, that of the theory, is here:


Those who wanted to ‘level up’ (the third aspect) could then jump into the 7-part report on geopolitics:


An excerpt from Covaglia’s excellent paper Notes on the geopolitics of cults. Part 2: North to North-West:

Summarizing the facts gathered so far, we come to the following data: 1. there are state bodies in the USA whose task is to defend religious freedom in the world (see the first part of this investigation); 2. these bodies are led – and partly formed – by representatives of religious conservatism, especially of the evangelical variety (also in the first part, but we will see that better later); 3. These state bodies are flanked in the same role by non-state associations, some of the most prominent of which seem to come from the same world; 4. The Church of Scientology appears again and again in the presentation of the facts, sometimes as a beneficiary of protection by these associations, sometimes as an actor adjacent to the organizations themselves. All of these observations, already evidenced by the above, will be further elaborated and supported by facts throughout this report…

Scientology’s proximity to the U.S. government is certainly curious, as no other cult seems to enjoy the same level of attention from the U.S. government. The only one that comes close is the Reverend Moon’s Unification Church, which seems to have taken a similar path to Scientology. The Moonies, as members of the church are colloquially known, own one of America’s largest newspapers, the Washington Times! Several members of Congress are subsidized by Moon’s church and no less than two presidents, George Bush Sr. and Gerald Ford, have accredited the organization by attending public events of the church.

In the very mid-1990s, as anti-cult campaigns began in Europe and religious freedom control institutions proliferated in the United States, Moon’s church and Scientology seemed to begin a fruitful collaboration. The two churches became rallying points for many other minority cults, forming more or less formal and more or less open alliances that were supported by America’s fundamentalist Christian organizations and, by osmosis, by their political reference points as well. This gave rise to institutions such as the Institute on Religion and Public Policy, an interesting collection of diverse people ranging from ultra-conservative senators to Moonies and followers of the guru Sri Chimmoy. However, that does not stop the Institute from calling itself ‘fundamentalist Catholic‘. Its founder and president was Joseph K. Grieboski. In 2004, Daniel Chapman, a former employee of Grieboski, contacted noted activist Gerry Armstrong to inform him that when Grieboski founded the IRPP in 1999, he received $8,000 per month from Scientology. It is possible that Scientology itself paid for the founding of the IRPP. In December 2011, Mark (“Marty”) Rathbun, a former high-ranking Scientologist, posted on his blog what he believed to be a Scientology document dated January 29, 2007, titled “Grieboski Program” which listed “goals” or actions that Church leaders believed Grieboski should take to solve Scientology’s problems in Europe and facilitate its entry into Muslim countries.

IRPP thus ushered in the phenomenon of incongruent aggregations and paradoxical ecumenism. This is particularly evident in the following years with the explosion of associations and federations whose stated goal is to lobby national and supranational political bodies to oppose the actions of organizations protecting cult victims. For example, the Italian European Federation for Freedom of Belief (FOB), the organization that accused me of traveling to China to persecute people (see the first part). On its website, this organization claims to be “an interest-bearing NGO, registered in the Official Register of Lobbies at the EU Parliament and Commission in Brussels and Strasbourg, where it represents six nations.” As an aside, one of the founding members and a person who still sits on the Scientific Committee is Fabrizio d’Agostini. His fact sheet is missing a basic piece of information, but one that is easy to find in Scientology publications: he is a high-ranking Scientologist.

Covaglia offers the most precise description we have ever read of what is, essentially, a multinational religious-based intelligence operation in which unlike religions band together to protect their mutual interests in covering up their various crimes; the wanton exploitation of their respective memberships; violations of public policy; and financial machinations:

IRPP thus ushered in the phenomenon of incongruent aggregations and paradoxical ecumenism.

This is exactly what it is: incongruent aggregations and paradoxical ecumenism. The participants in this paradoxical ecumenism have created a religious Mafia of interlinked organizations which spans continents.

These incongruent aggregations of paradoxical ecumenism have created and funded intelligence-gathering operations; infiltration into governments; spying; coercion; obstruction of justice; and the use of paid operatives to make deviant religious groups and cults acceptable within self-serving and propagandistic definitions of human rights and religious freedom.

Because Christian Evangelicals and the Latter Day Saints in the US represent such large voting blocs and ready cash donations for political action committees, elected political leaders would of course give them protected status. Sam Brownback  is, in our view, a penultimate religious operative whose political connections developed in the US Senate run deep.

Massimo Introvigne represents part of the paradoxical ecumenism. As a Catholic he should find abortion abhorrent. And yet he has long defended Scientology despite its long history of forced abortions in the Sea Org which ended only after enormous public pressure.

The Joe Grieboski Program from Marty Rathbun’s article of December 21, 2011:

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