National Catholic Reporter

The Independent News Source

Charges of 'cult-like' behavior against NJ charismatics resolved, Myers says


Livingston, New Jersey

tIronically, the New Jersey charismatic community in which the Preacher of the Papal Household says he experienced “baptism in the Spirit” was, for the better part of a decade, officially regarded as not “Catholic” by the Archdiocese of Newark, in part on the basis of complaints of “abuse, mind control, elitist behavior and cult-like controls,” according to a web site operated by former members.

tAt one point, then-Archbishop Theodore McCarrick issued a public letter declaring that a school operated by the People of Hope, Koinonia Academy, “is not an approved Catholic school and it is not recommended for Catholic parents as a place where their children can receive Catholic education as supervised by the Church.”

tToday, however, Archbishop John Myers said he’s satisfied that those concerns have been addressed, and he recently bestowed official recognition on both the People of Hope and upon Koinonia Academy. In part, Myers credits Cantalamessa’s influence for the reconciliation.

tMyers spoke to NCR during a session Cantalamessa led for area priests on Feb. 22.

rectangular-logo.jpgVisit our sister website, Global Sisters Report, for unique content you won't find anywhere else!

t“At one point there were concerns of cult-like practices, and I think former archbishops had appropriate reservations about that,” Myers said.

tGiven the intense style of charismatic spirituality, which often focuses on the personal leadership of a founder with little formal supervision, many charismatic communities have faced similar concerns in various parts of the world.

tMyers said that when he came to Newark in 2001, he began conversations with the new leadership of the People of Hope, and was “very impressed with their sincerity and goodness.” He decided to take it slow, however, in part because “I didn’t want to embarrass previous archbishops.”

t“They’ve done what we asked and what we hoped for,” he said.

Myers said the fact that the Preacher of the Papal Household has ties to the group helped provide motivation to resolve its status.

t“There were people who were hurt and alienated, and we encouraged them to reach out to anyone who was seeking reconciliation,” Myers said. “They did it.”

tLast spring, Myers said, he celebrated Mass at Koinonia Academy, an event which more or less marked the community’s formal reintegration into the archdiocese.

t“My policy is to welcome, to the extent possible, all the gifts the Holy Spirit is offering to the church,” Myers said. “I see that as the role of the bishop.”

tSome ex-members still have doubts. One web site charges that “the Church failed to address or even consider the concerns of physical, psychological and emotional abuse on fellow Catholics who were a part of this group before they left.”

tMyers, however, said he values the “enthusiasm” of the charismatic movement, which he first met as a priest in Illinois.

t“It seems to move toward a more radical living of the gospel, which is something this Holy Father and the previous Holy Father have asked us to do,” he said.”People are excited about living the gospel more deeply.”

Enjoy this article?
Help support more like it by donating today!

NCR Comment code: (Comments can be found below)

Before you can post a comment, you must verify your email address at
Comments from unverified email addresses will be deleted.

  • Be respectful. Do not attack the writer. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the original idea will be deleted. NCR reserves the right to close comment threads when discussions are no longer productive.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report abuse" button. Once a comment has been flagged, an NCR staff member will investigate.

For more detailed guidelines, visit our User Guidelines page.

For help on how to post a comment, visit our reference page.


Friends of NCR 300x80 web ad.jpg

NCR Email Alerts


In This Issue

September 25-October 8, 2015


Some articles are only available in the print newspaper and Kindle edition.