Response to Metropolises – 3 out of 11: "brainwashing" or conversion?7 minutos para ler

The Press Department of the Heralds of the Gospel published on August 28, 2019, an extensive report entitled "Persecution of the Catholic Church in Brazil?", in which the fallacious statements contained in a report entitled "The secrets of Heralds: what hide the walls of castles inhabited by ultraconservative Catholic group", published on August 23, 2019 by the news portal Metropolises.

See the overall response plan here.

2. "Brainwashing" or conversion?

Let us remember that the report itself describes in the Introduction that: "the Heralds of the Gospel have been a private association of priests (in fact: of faithful) of pontifical law, that is, faithful who bear a statute approved by the Vatican, recognized, therefore, by the Catholic Church." Later, however, in the (long) second chapter, the authors blame the Heralds for being a "sect". Amnesia or bad faith? See.

Being a Private Association of Faithful of Pontifical Law, how can the Heralds be accused of "sect"? A complete nonsense.

A sensible person soon notices the diffamandi animus of the reports about this supposed "sect". Anyway, it would be a very peculiar "sect", because the report is filled with photos of a recent multitudinaria pilgrimage to Aparecida! Does the Metropoliss website repute that the millions of Brazilians who gather there also belong to a "sect"? Is it another disregard against an immemorial and legitimate popular faith? It is not hard to remember that "mocking someone publicly, because of belief or religious function" is a crime by federal law (Penal Code, art. 208). We'll get back to the subject of the sects. For now, the theme of "brainwashing" will be addressed.

a) An antireligious media myth

At that time, the report calls for the sentimentality of clearly constructed narrations, dotted with media sensationalism. As always, when the reason is missing, all that remains is emotion. The expressions here become "brainwashing", "horror film", "robots" and mental "reprogramming" to refer to a kind of distancing of members from the world, in a climate of belligerence against him.

The obsolete accusation of "brainwashing", already quite worn out, was and continues to be widely refuted by outstanding scientific works. As we know, the expression brainwashing originated in the United States in the 1950s. Some journalists at the time, ignaros of human psychology, employed the term to denote how some American prisoners of war would suffer "brainwashing" through torture by Chinese communists. They started from the false premise that the human mentality, in an extremely materialistic view, would act as an outfit placed in a washing machine, whose final process would lead to a complete cleaning of the previous form. Then, the use of the expression was largely manipulated by "uneducated" organizations as a mass of manoeuvre to promote religious persecution. It was later also mixed with stories romanced by Hollywood films and sensationalmedia (in particular, the American yellow press).

The concept, however, has no scientific rigor, but rather is filled with inconsistencies. This is a pseudoscientific theory, manifestly ideological, anti-religious, being rejected by experts from the American Psychological Association (APA), among other related associations. Numerous authors have proven that entry into any religious movement occurs only by natural sociocultural and psychological factors. There is no kind of "black box", which would replace freedom through manipulations, as in a magic pass.

Finally, it should be reiterated that such a thesis continues to be disproved by numerous serious academic articles and scholars from the most diverse fields of knowledge (About this, cf. the recent entering with abundant bibliography opposite the thesis of brainwashing: Richardson, J. F. Brainwashing and Mental Health. In: Friedman, Howard S. (ed.) Encyclopedia of Mental Health. Second. Ed. Amsterdam et al.; Elsevier; Academic Press, 2016, p. 210-215). Thus, before denouncing the Heralds of "brainwashing", the plaintiffs could be at least a little diligent in seeking the quaestionis status of the expression and its application today.

However, in this case, it would be enough to apply common sense: if "brainwashing" were so effective, the greatest religious denominations would be based on it… which is manifestly false. Are there ideological reasons of an anti-religious nature, inflated by hidden groups, comfortable under the veils of anonymity? Now, in this tuning fork, a question soon emerges: a religious persecution in Brazil, the Land of Santa Cruz, is born in the early 12th century? We'll get back to that.

b) Human rights for all

Another recurring argument in the text is that no one would become religious in adolescence. In fact, as St. Thomas Aquino pointed out, only with the age of majority is ratified any previous indication of professional or similar vocation. But awareness about the definitive way of life is achieved with the full use of reason, that is, when the subject has complete responsibility for his acts (capax doli), which is usually well before the age of majority.

Therefore, nothing prevents minors from already deferring to different crafts, whatever they may be. As Master Cassiodoro (Variae, 1:24) taught: "What one does not learn in youth will be ignored in maturity." Education and its consequent application for a given profession are not only born, therefore, when they are 18 years old. For example, those who have musical skills, especially that they learn and develop as soon as possible such appetites; who has sports skills, so much better than exercising them from a young age; who has a religious vocation, "the more they should get used since childhood" with it (St Thomas Aquinas, Against retrahentes, cap. 3). Of course, everyone will deliberate on the important decisions of his life when he reaches age. It is therefore required to issue religious vows, for marriage or for consecrated life. However, no law prevents minors from dating honestly or from entering as novices in religious orders. After all, the right to freedom also applies to children and adolescents, including regarding "belief or religious worship" (ECA, art. 16, III). Human rights are born with man, not when a group of individuals want to decide: "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights" (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, art. 1). Moreover, neither man-God despised the legitimate longings of children: "Let the little ones come unto Me and do not prevent them, for they are the Kingdom of Heaven" (Mt 19:14).

In any case, all activities carried out by minors in the institution are desired and expressly authorized by parents or legal representatives. Such authorization can be revoked at any time by them, which is scrupulously accepted by the Heralds.

c) No one is obliged to be religious, but everyone is obliged to respect the faith of those of the

It is also worth remembering the ancient saying of Hesiod: "Evil thought is in the head of the one who thinks it." What they call "brainwashing" is for Christian tradition – and for dictionaries – what has always been called "conversion." After all, the radical life change of St. Paul, St. Augustine, Saint Benedict of the Cross (Edith Stein) and so many others, did not occur by a "brainwashing"…, but by the action of God's grace in the soul. And it acts even if the enemies of the Church oppose. Did St John the Baptist also preach "brainwashing" by crying out, "Convert and believe in the Gospel!" (Mk 1: 15)? For an anti-religious mentality, the answer can only be affirmative; but not for those who have faith. The only washing desired by Christians is that proclaimed by holy King David in Psalm 50:4: "Wash me totally from my fault, and cleanse me from my sin."

It is obvious that no one is obliged to follow religious beliefs, but at least they are asked to be respected by all, as our Magna Carta provides.


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