Saturday, July 27, 2013

Give me Your Heart - The Institute Lying Again?

A big topic on this site is the IVE's approach to discernment, recruitment, and admissions to their houses of formation.  We don't think the Institute is completely honest or open with you on this subject and will even take advantage of your ignorance.  Our aim in this post is to give you the information the Institute won't so you can protect yourself.  

Revisiting "Give Me Your Heart"

It's sad that you can't take a religious order on their word, but as we have documented, that's unfortunately too often the case with the IVE.  That's why, after re-reading an earlier post, we again feel compelled to comment on the IVE's book "Give Me Your Heart", a book on religious vocations that's part of their "Youth Series".

It's worth noting that, while some of the IVE catechisms and pamphlets have Imprimaturs, "Give Me Your Heart" does not.  No Bishop has approved this book as being consistent with Church teaching.  It's purely the work of Fr. Buela, with no support from the Church.  Of course, that doesn't stop the IVE from handing it out to children. 

What struck us on re-reading the book this time was that the 2nd chapter actually made sense.  Ironically, it made sense because it is the one section of the book the IVE doesn't actually ascribe to.  

You can read the chapter yourself, but the relevant passages from Chapter 2 follow. 

Desire for the Vocation is Necessary

We don't want to focus on discernment or vocational calling too much in this post as it has been dealt with best elsewhere, but we will say that this is one of the few quotations from the IVE on the subject that seems in the proper context (emphasis in all following quotes is ours):
"6 St. John Bosco says, "Those who in their heart feel the desire to embrace this state of perfection and holiness may believe, without any doubt, that such desire comes from heaven because it is too generous and is well above natural sentiments."
That's right.  If you feel a desire to that state.  Not if you've just thought about it.  Not, if in your pursuit of God's will in your life, you recognize this state as a potential option.  Not if you feel a calling to loftier things, but aren't sure what that means.  Not if someone suggested it to you.  No.  If you feel a desire to embrace that state, then it comes from God. 

In a footnote on the same page they quote Pope Paul VI who echoes St John Bosco:
The Most characteristic sign - indispensable to a priestly vocation - is undoubtedly a righteous intention, that is, a clear and decisive desire to be totally consecrated to the Lord's Service (Editor: ie. to that priestly vocation.)
Again.  A clear and decisive desire to the priestly vocation is indispensable.  Yet if you read our previous post you'll know that in the eyes of the Institute even thinking about a vocation, even if that thought is planted by an IVE priest, is pretext to enter formation.  Then, after entering, any doubts about your new 'vocation' are "temptations" from the devil - in IVE-logic these doubts, rather than a sign you are not called to that vocation, are instead a confirmation of the calling!  

(See the trick?  "No doubts?  Great!  You have a vocation here!" and "You have doubts?  Great!  That's the devil, he doesn't want you to be here and that means you have a vocation here!")

An Obligation to Gauge Candidates Suitability? 

Later the chapter outlines the Church's responsibility in judging and gauging a candidate's suitability.  It's all very prudent and sensible.  The only problem is the IVE doesn't practice any of it.  
"8 The threefold suitability of the candidate must be: Physical (and psychological), intellectual and moral (which implies having the right intention.)  If the suitability is lacking, it is a sign that God is not calling and thus, that the Church should not call. "
It's shocking that the IVE would even admit that psychological suitability should be a pre-requisite, since that certainly isn't what they practice.  We know they don't have any psychological exams in Italy and we doubt they have any in Argentina either.  In the US, unlike every other religious order who give psych exams (and background checks for that matter) prior to entering, the Institute doesn't give psych exams until the 2nd half of the Novitiate in the Spring.  Even then these tests have no bearing on the candidate moving on to the seminary and temporary vows, even when problems unearthed by these exams would preclude someone from entering any other seminary in the US.

As for intellectual suitability, they make no attempt to gauge this prior to entering in any way.  In fact, they regularly admit students without high school diplomas that barely speak the language of instruction.   Even then, the intellectual formation at the seminary would be lacking for even the most proficient candidate. 

The same applies to moral suitability.  There is no effort made to gauge this prior to entering.  If questioned the IVE will usually say that they live so closely with you they will be able to make those judgements over time - though other seminaries and orders could say the same thing, yet they still try to gauge suitability beforehand.  

While it's swell for the IVE that they have a way to gauge suitability of the seminarian years after he enters, where is the concern for the candidate?  If a candidate isn't fit, shouldn't they make at least some attempt to gauge that before he enters?  Wouldn't that be the charitable thing to do?  Their own book says they have an obligation to do so, yet they make zero effort: 
"9 the ecclesiastical authority not only has the right but also the obligation to use all necessary means to know the candidates suitability and thus to be able to make a strict selection."
Of course, the book also says: 
"11 We customarily make selections prior to entering the novitiate… Before admission to holy orders (or temporary profession), a rigorous selection must be made."
Actually, this is not what they do at all.  It's their custom, rather, to never make any selections prior to the novitiate.  If you want to fill out an application they won't stop you, but it's certainly not required.  Most enter the novitiate with nothing more than a phone call and maybe a conversation with their local IVE parish priest.  All the IVE really want to know is A) do you have a lot of debt and B) are you an active homosexual.  If the answers are "no" and "no" then they'll tell you to show up.  

As a result of this lack of screening, candidates enter with all sorts of psychological issues and various histories of issues.  Further, since none of the canonical questions are ever asked prior to entrance, people will even be allowed to enter without having received any or all the sacraments of initiation.  As strange as it sounds, it's quite common to see someone during the first month or two of the IVE novitiate receive baptism and/or confirmation.  So these candidates weren't even part of the Church, yet the IVE already has them lined up for holy orders.  

The reality is that the psychologically fit candidate who has attempted discernment and had spiritual direction prior to entering (which would make up the majority entering most other US seminaries today) is the rare, rare exception with the IVE.

Is It All For Show?

We can't help but think that, like their constitution, this chapter of the book is simply for show.  As with many of their practices, we feel this is deceptive and untruthful.  They are playing with people's vocations (and souls) with no regard for what is best for the candidates.

Please, for your own sake, be very skeptical when taking any advice from the Institute.  You are better off steering clear of any group that has such large problems with telling you the truth.  

Aquinas Warns Against Deceivers

...entices another (to enter religious life) by lies: for it is to be feared that the person thus enticed may turn back on finding himself deceived, and thus "the last state of that man" may become "worse than the first" (Luke 11:26).
Does the Institute lie?  It certainly doesn't tell the truth.  True to St Thomas' warning, many who enter leave so wounded they not only leave the Institute, but the Church altogether - their last state worse than their first. 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

IVE Formation Problems Part 1 - The Intellectual

This is part one of a four part series.  Part 2 is here.  Parts three and four will follow in the coming months.  

There are many of issues with Catholic seminaries in the USA post Vatican-II.  They've gotten better of late, but there is still a long way to go.  Americans sometimes think they can avoid these issues by joining the IVE.  Unfortunately, formation at the Institute has its own set of problems.   

In this series of posts we'll highlight issues you'll encounter during formation with the IVE.  It is necessary to publish them here because the IVE won't tell you about them beforehand and you wouldn't otherwise know about them until after you've already joined.  

We'll focus one post on each of the 4 pillars of formation laid out by John Paul II in his exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis:  the Intellectual, Spiritual, Pastoral, and Human pillars of formation.

Because the IVE like to think of and advertise themselves as an intellectual - even academic - congregation, we thought we'd address that pillar first. 

Intellectuals?  Academics?

We are a bit flummoxed that this is actually part of their FAQ because this in no way describes the Institute.  Despite trumpeting their size and growth, only one or two of their priests have ever published anything at all and only with their own IVE Press.  Some priests get 2 year licentiates in philosophy or theology (the bare minimum required to teach at a normal seminary) but we aren't aware of any IVE priest that has a doctorate.  We aren't even sure that half of the US seminarians enter with high-school diplomas.  This doesn't make them bad priests or bad people, but it does make this FAQ a bit haughty and disingenuous... though that is certainly not out of character for the IVE.  

We can see from Jack Toller's account of the IVE in Argentina that there has never been a strong academic foundation or intellectual bent - and that this characteristic goes back to the founder, Fr. Carlos Buela:

He did not, however, put much emphasis on the quality of his professors, and most of the better endowed ones soon left the Institute for one reason or another (I’m thinking here of Fathers Carlos Biestro and Ramiro Sáenz, but there were many more that left as well.).  I had visited their premises in 1992 and had seen things for myself.  To begin with, there was no proper library, no proper classrooms, no proper teachers - the whole system of studies amounted to not much more than a hodge-podge of a bit of philosophy here, and a bit of theology there.  This was explained away, of course, with reference to the difficulties that go with all new institutions when at the early stage of their foundation, etc.  Anyway, this never changed much, for Father Buela never had a high regard for scholarly studies - that is, an appetite and quest for truth. Quite different was his approach - as with everything else - if high grades and scholarly distinctions were considered only as a means to other ends
As you will see below, this account is consistent with the current state of IVE academic formation in both the USA and Europe (we can't speak to the current state in Argentina.)  The very idea that you will be in an academic program that is in any way rigorous or an environment that could be described as studious is just bizarre.   

The Thomism is really just Advertising

Thomism is another aspect of their formation that the IVE have become very vocal about  and it attracts more than a few Americans seeking to avoid strains of modernism.  Unfortunately, like so many aspects of their congregation, this is more an instrument for self-promotion than an actual guiding principle.  Their claim to be faithful to St Thomas  lacks any academic foundation.  

A Lord of the Flies Approach to Teaching

While some philosophy classes are taught by the local IVE parish priests who will at best have the equivalent of a Master's degree in philosophy or theology, the majority of non-theology classes are taught by fellow seminarians.  These seminarians are obviously not credentialed.  Most have no degrees in the subjects they are teaching nor any real degree at all.  They are just favored seminarians who took the class a year or two earlier, then with no teaching experience, turn around and conduct class from pre-assembled hand-me-down class notes.

Classes are short and, given the IVE's chaotic schedule-keeping, frequently cancelled.  There are no papers assigned.  Your "study time" outside of class is generally silent so you are not able to discuss or ask questions from fellow classmates as you would at a normal institution.  When you do ask questions from your "professor" you aren't likely to get any depth past what's on the notes he was given. 

So their much-trumpeted intellectual foundation in Thomist philosophy will have faux-professors, rushed classes, limited discussion, no papers...  It's all rote memorization and regurgitation - a surface level understanding of philosophical terms from a perspective that the Institute controls.

That's why, as much as they belittle other seminaries, when they get a seminarian who has actually studied at a diocesan seminary or with a different order he is immediately given teaching responsibilities - because his academic background and rigor will be so much deeper than those that have only studied with the IVE.  If you enter with even a secular undergrad degree you'll probably end up teaching something very early on, simply because you'll be that much further ahead than your classmates.  

No Foundation in Theology Either

Dogmatic theology courses at any other seminary would be taught over the course of a semester by a real professor, with time for reading, discussing, and digesting these important concepts.  Yet at the IVE the majority of these courses are taught over the course of only 1 or 2 weeks.  Why?  Because they don't have real professors.  They have a few priests at the seminary, but they don't have the background or the time to teach all the classes - especially since they are given many other responsibilities (eg. their seminary rector was also the pastor at the seminary's parish.)  So their solution is to fly in IVE priests from US parishes who are able to travel in for only a week or two at a time.  

Usually these are IVE priests who have spent their whole adult life with the IVE, going to the IVE minor-seminary for high-school, then the IVE seminary in Argentina for their philosophy and theology.  At best they will have 2 years at real academic institutions getting licentiates in theology or philosophy.  None of them have published.  None of them have real experience teaching.  None of them will teach full semester classes. 

And when you think it couldn't get worse they will even have some of the more senior, educated seminarians (who fit that description because they had time at non-IVE seminaries) teaching theology classes.

Their Italian seminary in Montefiascone is apparently even worse.  Many seminarians don't even have teachers, but study modules on their own.  English speakers have self-study classes using class notes from the U.S. seminary and non-English, non-Italian speakers spend all their study time translating Italian notes into their own native language.

None of it is Accredited

Not only are the teachers not actual professors, but neither are any of the IVE courses accredited.  What's that mean?  It means if you study with the IVE and then (like most) decide to leave, none of the classes you have taken with the IVE will count for anything.  You'll have to take all the courses over.  There's no real college credit and no real degree.  Nobody else inside or outside of the Church recognizes their coursework.  It also means that if you discern that you don't have a vocation, you leave the IVE with nothing, regardless of how long you studied with them.  They are only able to ordain priests because of their relationships with Cardinals McCarrick and Sodano.

A few seminarians in the US that qualify (ie. are here legally & have  legitimate undergrad degree prior to joining the IVE) will have the opportunity to attend philosophy courses at a real academic institution.  They will study in the 2-year Licentiate in Philosophy Program at the Catholic University of America (CUA.)  The irony is that other orders with local seminarians shy away from CUA (which has some heterodox professors), instead encouraging their seminarians to take as many classes as possible at the more rigorous and more orthodox Dominican House of Studies (DHS) right across the street.  (The likely reason the IVE don't do this is that DHS requirements are too stringent for any IVE candidates to be admitted and, without Cardinal McCarrick to pull strings like he does at CUA, they can't get in.)  

The IVE has Trouble Telling the Truth (Again) about This Too

If you look at the DHS requirements, they include Latin and Greek, which brings us to this:

Notice that they claim three years of both Greek and Latin.  We honestly can't fathom how they put this on their site. While you will get at least some Latin "classes" (often taught by other seminarians) there is not even the pretense of studying that much Greek.  Maybe you'll get a semester of Greek at best in the US and maybe a few candidates in Rome will get it in individual study, but this just isn't true.  Unfortunately, this doesn't surprise us.  As we've mentioned before the IVE doesn't let the truth interfere with their marketing.

What about time to study?

Bright candidates might overlook the lack of structured classes and qualified teachers with the hope of being able to study on their own.  Unfortunately, the schedule is filled with so many mandatory activities that this isn't realistic.  

Even during finals week, instead of having more time to study, more unrelated activities are just added to the schedule.  "Sports" will be scheduled every day during exam week and, as you'll learn when you join, this isn't optional.  Work also continues as normal during the exam period and is, in fact, often increased to fill in the schedule since there are only exams and no regular classes.  Eutrapaelia will also be added to the schedule every single night during the exam week - keeping you up even later than usual.  So even though you'll be mentally exhausted from studying and be physically exhausted from having sports every day, you'll have to attend Eutrapaelia and play games late into the night.  This is very unlike any other seminary - or any normal academic institute for that matter - where students are given additional time pior to and during exams to study and adequately prepare. 

This is the truth

Our purpose here isn't to pick on the IVE, their priests, or their seminarians.  Our purpose is to give prospective seminarians access to the truth.  If the IVE were more humble and more honest in how they portray their formation, this wouldn't be necessary. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Layman's Recount of Fr. Carlos Buela and the IVE from Argentina

We recently received this from a concerned Argentine who is well-informed on the IVE situation to say the least.  More commentary to follow.

Father Buela: a Layman's View


O.K., this is really difficult for me, what with so many horrible things that seem to be going on all over the world and, as if that wasn’t enough, inside the Church.  Well, anyway, in this piece I want to deal with that subject, never mind the depression that comes with it.

Please bear with me if you will, I’m an Argentine and on top of it all I am attempting to report a story from this remote corner of the world.  Particularly the story of one of Sodano’s creatures, Father Carlos Miguel Buela, yet another of your new founders of the “New Movements” - in this case a congregation of priests, nuns, & laity, with a following spread all over Argentina and a dozen more countries, including the USA (they say their members are over one thousand, and counting - all in less than a quarter of a century.)  But, as we’ll see, it’s now in trouble.  


In 1971 a young Jesuit,  Father Alfredo Sáenz, arrived in Buenos Aires having just finished his studies in Rome.  Back then the Argentine Church was in a perfect mess with practically every bishop in the country experimenting with liturgy, the clergy dressing up like the laity, nuns sporting skirts, the teachers in several seminaries going into “Liberation Theology,” changing the catechism, delving into Rahner or Congar (or their worst disciples), hundreds of priests and nuns shredding their calling, some of them marrying, some of them going into all sorts of strange doings, quite a few joining the Marxist guerrillas which in this country had begun a violent campaign against the military government then in office.  In those hectic days, a well known bishop, Mons. Podestá, even eloped with a nun!  For those of us who remember them, those were very agitated and confusing times.  Even the devotion to Our Lady was more or less systematically discredited, the Rosary scoffed at, some of her images removed from classrooms, parishes, etc., there were collective confessions, the altars were torn down, in some parishes rock bands played during the Mass, people started to take communion standing up, followed, some years later, with the communion in the hand, the whole liturgy one enormous field of experimentation - all reverence, devotion, or decorum perfectly forgotten, let alone any semblance of uniformity.  It was very difficult to attend a Mass where you could count on a few minutes of silence.  They called that “the new springtime of the Church” and we wondered: if that was spring, what would winter look like?  Now we know.  As Shakespeare might’ve put it: “Now is the springtime of our discontent.”  

Yet, then as now, Father Sáenz seemed undaunted.  He had perfectly impossible plans: to begin a proper seminary with serious studies,  patristical and theological, a solid history of the Church, Latin and Greek, liturgical decorum, heart-felt devotion, a good review, scholarly professors, a good choir, theatre and arts in general and, in short, all that it takes to make a good priest out of young men - a difficult endeavor if ever there was one.  Anyway, one way or another, as we can safely say nearly 40 years later, Father Sáenz pulled it off.  The bishop of the city of Paraná, in the heart of the country, one Monsignor Tortolo, had an enormous seminary that had seen better days: in 1971 there were only a couple of seminarians and little more.  So he offered Father Sáenz the opportunity to take over, which the young Jesuit enthusiastically accepted.  Soon the best priests in the country flocked over to take office as teachers, starting with the renowned Father Alberto Ezcurra, a great friend of Father Sáenz just back from Rome where he had acquired a licentiate in Moral Theology, and Marcos González, a scholarly Dominican theologian who was widely respected.  Soon the seminary was beginning to look up - more than that: it was an astounding success.  Boys from all over the country hearing about this new conservative (or traditional) seminary were signing up.  In 1972, when I went up to see if I had a calling (eventually I decided that I didn't), there were only 8 seminarians, but by 1980 there were over 200; the classes were full to the brim; a joyful atmosphere pervaded; Fathers Sáenz, Ezcurra and González were much loved by everyone; and the seminary’s magazine (“Mikael”) had reached international standards with important contributors (Josef Pieper, Cardinal Ratzinger, Cornelio Fabbro, Gustave Thibon, Thomas Molnar, and Dietrich Von Hildebrand, among many others, come to mind.).  The choir sang beautifully; the boys learned Latin, Greek, French, English, the Fathers, Thomist theology, spirituality, and dogmatic and moral Theology, etc.. And all of it done in little less than ten years.

Of course, the progressive lot didn’t like the thing one bit, and when Mons. Tortolo's health forced him to step down (in 1983, I think), a new bishop with very different ideas took over.  Father Sáenz was recalled by his order, the Society of Jesus; the teachers were generally told that their presence wasn’t exactly wanted; and in less than three months the seminary was, once again, in general disarray. 


Here is where Father Buela comes in.  In those days he was a young parish priest, recently ordained, and had become friends with Fathers Sáenz and Ezcurra.  Now Fr. Buela was in good terms with another bishop, Mons. Kruk (of UkKrainian descent), who held his chair in the city of San Rafael, about 1000 kilometers from Buenos Aires.  Bishop Kruk was in the same quandary that had afflicted Mons. Tortolo in Paraná, so why not repeat the traditionalist or conservative experience in San Rafael? 

There was a catch however: as I’ve said, Father Sáenz was a Jesuit, and his superiors then refused to dispense him from his work as a Society of Jesus professor in their main house in Buenos Aires. So, what to do? Here we must go slowly to understand how this story unfolded. The three priests had been good friends for some years now and none of them could claim to be chief or superior among them in any sense - except that Father Sáenz was the eldest and had the natural authority of one who had experience in handling a seminary and that Father Ezcurra was older than Father Buela and had seconded Sáenz in his job. So finally they settled to an arrangement that seemed perfectly natural: Father Ezcurra would be the head of the San Rafael seminary, Father Buela his second in charge, and Father Sáenz would come over every now and then to deliver small courses on this and that and generally oversee things.  At first, everything seemed to go pretty well.  The seminary soon filled up, with many seminarians fleeing Paraná and the changes taking place there under the new bishop.  Bishop Kruk was delighted with his brand new seminary full of enthusiastic youngsters who to all appearances were taking things seriously. Here too, at first, everything seemed quite promising.  Father Ezcurra had a lot to do with this, being as he was, especially charismatic with the boys, helpful, insightful, sensible, patient and always cheerful.
And Father Buela – at that time – appeared no different…


I met Father Buela when he was in his thirties, struggling in a very poor parish in the outskirts of Buenos Aires, a hefty, big-headed, bright priest. He was always in excellent spirits, used to laugh a lot at everything and everyone (including himself), wearing at all times a defiant old cassock - something quite unseen in those days, the black piece of cloth being a symbol of resistance to the generalized progressive trends of the day.  He had studied in Buenos Aires’ main seminary (Villa Devoto), a progressive stronghold, and had managed to work his way through to ordination despite his hard-hitting barbs against all things modernist and strong stand for traditional doctrines and practices.  In those days he was a jolly chap, quick-witted, pouring out energetic and hilarious one-liners and funny stories about almost anything under the earth.  On the other hand, Father Buela—in stark contrast to his counterparts, Sáenz and Ezcurra—came from the Argentine  working class, was not widely read, did not have a polished education, and had not travelled much abroad.  One couldn’t quite say he was a simpleton, but he certainly wasn’t sophisticated.  He rather seemed to indulge in his general demeanor identifying his rather blunt ways with Christian humility in open contrast to the refined manners he seemed to associate with pharisaical tendencies.  Of course there’s something to be said for this, but seen objectively, from time to time one felt he was a bit over the top. Now and then one would feel him a wee bit too rowdy and nearly uncharitable when he took to chiding someone.  He was acute, but sharp too and not always as compassionate and forbearing as you’d perhaps expect a priest to be.

However - all things considered - lots of people (me among them) loved him and respected him quite a bit.   He stood for the best causes, was a good preacher, wrote passably well, had showed valiant loyalty to the best traditions of the Church, had earned some reputation as an excellent confessor (I, for one, didn’t concur on this, feeling him to be too moralistic for my tastes, if you know what I mean), and his friendship with Fathers Sáenz and Ezcurra only contributed to his well earned fame as a living example of what a young Catholic priest should be.


Alas, (I’m telling you, this is a difficult and tragic story to recount for American readers) things went wrong for him, for San Rafael’s seminary, for all of us.  First of all, Father Sáenz could only visit the seminary every now and then, so Fathers Buela and Ezcurra had to manage things on their own.  Then, all of a sudden in 1984 Father Buela announced that he had bought a small farm in the outskirts of San Rafael where he was to start a congregation of sorts, taking with him some of the seminarians, in order to live a “religious life” as opposed to that of a secular clergymaen (as to where the money for the farm came from, that remains an open question).  Soon there was talk that he had taken his decision “inspired” by a vision or something and it was announced that the original charism of the new organization included a more exacting religious life for their candidates who, once ordained, would occupy their places in abandoned parishes, wherever bishops would call them.  The plan was that once the recruits were ordained as priests they would go there in twos or threes to their assigned parish and live a common life of prayer and devotion while ministering to the laity.  The general idea seemed to be that leading a cenobitic life of sorts would protect the young priests and help them along with the otherwise daunting job of managing a parish.  In those days it was quite an interesting scheme.  In effect, there were lots and lots of deserted parishes all over the country and to send a young priest with no experience to handle it all by himself, in those days, seemed to all intents and purposes, a self-defeating proposal. 

(I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but I think I should mention here that as things turned out, Father Buela succesively added one charism after another to his congregation so that in the end no one quite remembered what had been proposed as its distinctive feature in the first place.)  

But back to the beginnings… Very soon things soured. First, as we eventually found out, Father Buela never consulted his move with Fathers Sáenz or Ezcurra.  He followed his own counsel much to the dismay of his friends - by the way, we found out about all this long years afterwards: Sáenz and Ezcurra kept their grudges very much to themselves, discreet as they were - though not Buela.  Right from the start he began to court San Rafael’s seminarians in a rather aggressive way, to the effect that his congregation (named “The Institute of the Incarnate Word”), was stricter in its duties and obligations than the ordinary run at the secular seminary.  As time went on things got worse, implying that if a seminarian refused to follow suit, it was because he wasn’t earnest enough about his calling. As if this wasn’t enough, the seminarians that had moved over with Father Buela continued to study in the secular seminary: soon enough a rift was opened between both sorts and sometimes the subsequent arguments and discussions gave way to acrimonious quarrels and unpleasant disagreements. 

Fathers Alberto Ezcurra and Alfredo Sáenz were flabbergasted at this turn of events: firstly, their friend, Father Buela, had turned his back on them and gone his own way without the slightest consultation.  Now he actively promoted the seminarians’ defection from the original seminary in favor of his newly founded congregation, and this promotion was carried out with a fair degree of belligerence and manipulation.  Years later Father Ezcurra confided in me that this aut-aut campaign was being conducted in a  “He that is not with me is against me” (Math. XII:30) spirit - something, Ezcurra said, only Christ could legitimately claim for Himself.

I dare say.


Anyone familiar with C. S. Lewis’ work, especially “The Four Loves”, will recognize Jack’s principle: “The highest does not stand without the lowest”, something I’ve been ruminating over the best part of my life to excellent effect. And it also applies to what I’ve told you up to now. For instance, let’s suppose that Fr. Buela had a vision.  Why not?  It’s perfectly possible.  Who am I to presume anything other?  Then, let’s concede that Our Lady indicated to Fr. Buela that it was God’s will that he should found a new congregation to this or that effect.  It’s been seen before.  It could be seen again.  It’s perfectly catholic. Nothing wrong with that.  Of course, an old institution like the Church knows perfectly well that nine out of ten visionaries turn out to be fakes, but abusus non tollit usum -  we couldn’t quite do without, say, St. Theresa or St. Francis. All the same, a wise Catholic is always a bit wary about these private revelations and the like, and jolly well should be. 

But, as I say, this is beside my point, which is this: that the higher does not stand without the lower as well - it’s a perfect rule of thumb if you want to tell the tares from the wheat.  All right, Fr. Buela had a vision - why wouldn’t he tell his friends about it?  Why not joyfully tell his associates Fathers Sáenz and Ezcurra about it?  Why not talk it over?  And above all, why act on it without carefully planning how this was going to be carried out, trying to iron differences, trying to reconcile the new project with the older one?  (I told you it was a good rule of thumb). 

He did nothing of the sort: as I’ve said, he just carried on by himself, without consultation, without reference to older, wiser, more experienced men.  He seemed to know perfectly well what he was about and didn’t seem to need the counsel, the comments, the advice of friends.  In fact, as time went by, he lost all his friends, and continued simply by himself - that is, if you don’t take into account the small clique of very young priests and seminarians which he preferred to have around him at all times (not the best way of avoiding that old enemy of any leader, no matter in what province - sycophancy, the classic curse bound to afflict anyone in charge of a group of people).   

The higher does not go without the lowest, and even if a vision, a calling, a saintly initiative can be as lofty as you will, one shouldn’t do away with friendship, a “lower” thing if you like, but one that Our Lord had in high esteem as we well know, so much so, that he included it as one of the central tenets of the Church he was to found (John 15:15). 

With the benefit of hindsight one cannot help but see in these beginnings the seeds of what was to be.  But that is not to say that we share the views of those who reproach Father Sáenz or Father Ezcurra for their discreetness, forbearance, patience, and general “let it be” attitude.  They were doing their best and could hardly have surmised how bad things would get.  


 And things did get worse. Father Sáenz was away for most of the year and to compound everything, in 1991 San Rafael’s bishop, Monsignor Kruk, died, leaving behind him a seminary in something of a disarray.  The following year, Father Alberto Ezcurra, the seminary’s man in charge, was diagnosed with what seemed to be terminal cancer and consequently could handle things less and less, forced as he was to make long trips to and from Buenos Aires for his chemotherapy sessions. 

It was on one of these occasions that I had the privilege of sharing coffee with him in a cosy Buenos Aires café.  It was some months before his passing and our chat took up the better part of that bright winter morning.  I don’t quite know why, but Father Ezcurra was quite inclined toward me (of course, I’ve met lots of people who claim the same thing, maybe he was only addressing his flock one by one as any good shepherd should - John 10:3, 14, 16, 27). Anyway, I took advantage of the circumstances - we were quite alone, we knew each other quite well, and there was no hurry - to ask him what the problem with Father Buela was about.  He hemmed and hawed, he hesitated and beat around the bush for some time, but in the long run his indictment was clear as crystal: he thought that the way Buela courted youngsters, pressing, urging them to be priests or nuns, disregarding the fact that it was a delicate, very personal, decision, one that called for extreme scruple, and on which he, Buela - nor anybody else, for that matter - had any authority or special say – only the youngster himself and his own conscience.  He told me something to the effect that no one has a right to enter there, in a young boy or girl’s conscience, that it was like a sacred garden where only God Himself had a right to walk through.  And that if it was a case of spiritual direction or of someone who asked for advice, a priest must be extremely careful in what he says for he is treading sacred ground.  By then I was 38 years old, but I had never heard or read anything quite like what Father Ezcurra was saying, except perhaps in St. John of the Cross (anyone interested in this would do well to refer to his commentary to the poem “O Living Flame of Love”, chapter 3, number 30 onwards.)  All the same, having heard the idea I later would find it repeated in various works , especially those of Cardinal Newman’s (who, rightly, makes so much of conscience in religious life).

In subsequent years, while the Institute grew its numbers at an astonishing pace, I came to see things in this light and again and again this delicate principle played out before me and Father Buela’s congregation and his numerous following began to seem to me like an unseemly and automatic reproduction of cells, something very much like a cancer. (Why the rush? Where did all this impatience come from? Why not at a slower and more consistent pace?) Anyway, no amount of warnings to our friends whose children were being whisked away into Buela’s congregation - some of them at a very early age in their teens - did much good.  Nobody was listening, except a few friends with which we shared this same apprehension, especially because we ourselves had little children and wanted to protect them from this wind of “enthusiasm” (I believe Ronnie Knox would’ve called it that.)  As a matter of fact, if ever we were interested in Father Buela’s sayings, behavior, or undertakings it was only because our own sons and daughters were on the line. Otherwise, we had, so to speak, other fish to fry.     

I never again saw Father Ezcurra, who passed away a little later in a very peaceful way, his last months dedicated to his beloved seminary of San Rafael, even delivering lectures to his last days  when he could barely eat.

He left behind him loving memories. 


 Anyway, by this time, Father Buela had assembled quite a numerous group of seminarians of his own, having started his own house of studies on the Institute’s premises. He did not, however, put much emphasis on the quality of his professors, and most of the better endowed ones soon left the Institute for one reason or another (I’m thinking here of Fathers Carlos Biestro and Ramiro Sáenz, but there were many more that left as well.).  I had visited their premises in 1992 and had seen things for myself.  To begin with, there was no proper library, no proper classrooms, no proper teachers - the whole system of studies amounted to not much more than a hodge-podge of a bit of philosophy here, and a bit of theology there.  This was explained away, of course, with reference to the difficulties that go with all new institutions when at the early stage of their foundation, etc.  Anyway, this never changed much, for Father Buela never had a high regard for scholarly studies - that is, an appetite and quest for truth. Quite different was his approach - as with everything else - if high grades and scholarly distinctions were considered only as a means to other ends. But, once again, I’m getting ahead of myself.

No, not much emphasis on studies and the like. The emphasis was basically centred on enlarging the ranks. An old friend of his, Father Nadal, started a feminine branch, the new nuns eventually settling in a neighboring farm - something also done in a somewhat wayward and unruly manner - and always accompanied by the unpleasant feeling that things were being done in a rush. Anyway, soon enough there were nearly a hundred nuns coming and going, no one quite sure of what they were up to (here I must admit to my own impatience, for I never really bothered trying to find out myself). 

In the meantime lots of people began flocking to the “Finca” as the farm was getting to be known by then, where the priests of Buela’s Institute (and some others associated with, but not properly belonging to it) were holding numerous conferences, retreats, Benediction, the prayer of the Rosary or what will you. The IVE was getting a name for itself and was growing in numbers, influence… and money. 

However, some stories about their ways and manners began to leak out:  foremost, that quite a lot of bullying seemed to be going on, apparently between the elder seminarians and the younger ones.  This was one of Father Buela’s characteristic traits.  I’ve referred to it before, but by this time it was worse. Whenever anyone dared to voice some dissent on any subject under the sun, the way things were being run or a point of dogmatic theology, unvariably he would be subjected to a fair amount of bullying from the rest, if not from Father Buela himself. The boys were being slowly robotized, love of truth for its own sake unheard of, originality banned, personalities ironed into a single spiritual, psychological, & moral mold.

Take what happened when one of the seminarists, a boy named Morsella, died in an unfortunate accident one summer.  Immediately Buela proclaimed him to be a saint, his remains were buried in “La Finca” with great honors, a museum was set up where some of his posessions were exhibited as relics, and everyone was invited to revere his memory.  Well?  He was only a young boy who died electrocuted and, for all we know, he must’ve been very agreeable - but this? This, as with many of the Institute’s activities, was done in Buela’s style: recklessly, precipitately, in a coarse, undignified, profane manner. For him, nothing was sacred enough to be dealt with awe, with reverence, with circumspection.

In those years he published an incendiary pamphlet (titled “Reminiscencias” - ad usum privatum) written with the purpose to undo all and everyone of his ex-associates who had had the cheek to object in one way or another to the way he handled things (Fathers Sáenz and Ezcurra, come out especially badly, but also his old friend, Father Nadal, the founder, if you remember, of the feminine branch, who had fled - followed by no less than fifty nuns - apparently scandalized by what he had seen).  

And in this manner, everything else.  He took to Pope John Paul II, whose every word, he believed, should be digested as coming straight from the Very High - even the Assisi gathering, the general “juvenilia” (the term was coined by Romano Amerio), and his ecumenical-relativist trends. In fact, he sponsored an intercommunion service with local Lutherans in San Rafael (an event not to be repeated, owing to the subsequent scandal.).  He had turned into a Vatican II bigot and welcomed the communion in the hand, obliging his priests do go along with the practice (one Father Bonello from the Institute even published a piece to the effect that that was the way early Christians received communion).
And then, to compound it all, he led an attack on the local FSSPX priests, especially because they held on to the Latin Rite, publishing his demonising pamphlet which he always had at hand in case he met a bishop, just to show what a regular priest he was. (I here protest that I do not belong to Mons. Lefebvre’s set, who locally is not very much considered, but one must recognize that they are basically sound people, and have showed great courage in these last thirty years in their stand.  In any case they certainly didn’t deserve Buela’s treatment).

Anyway, if you’ve got the general picture perhaps you’re able to understand that as time passed one could recognize an IVE member in a five minute chat - all of them saying the same things, sharing the same prejudices, the same expressions, gestures, silly sayings (usually Father Buela’s), disgraceful manners, short-sighted views, dimwitted humor, dumb perception of things in general, lifting debatable views to dogmatic altitudes (“Father Buela said so”), delivering very foolish opinions on complicated subjects, trivial ways of dealing with sacred matters (such as liturgy, for example) and astounding levels of ignorance. 

When together they were a jolly lot of youngsters in their cassocks and, seen from a distance, constitute a reminiscence of better times in the Church (the photographs on their web-site are a good example of this.)  But when approached they were a different story altogether.  The bishop of a neighboring province, Monsignor Laise, saw through them immediately and said they were a sect, like the Ku-Klux-Klan - except that they were not to be taken that seriously, so he promptly began to call them the Ku-klux; the knickname evolved rather speedily into “Kuku” or the plural “Kukus” and that is the way everyone in the know actually referred to them. But there’s more to it than meets the eye: Buela has solidified his sayings and manners in such a way that by now there was a distinctive flavour to all his moral, spiritual, dogmatic or political diktats - so whenever anyone who’s not an IVE proselyte, but somehow adopts any of these bywords or characteristic clichés will be promptly accused of being a “Kuku” (among general laughter, as the exercise reminds us to be ourselves, to think by ourselves, to be real Catholics, which is to say, singular, original, unrepeatable persons who share one faith, one Church and one and only Lord).


Up to now, I can vouch for every single word that I’ve written in this piece.  What follows, however, has some degree of speculation and is a result of putting two and two together.  

As the Institute grew in influence and new houses were set up all over the world, Father Buela, naturally, travelled more and more frequently to Rome.  He seems to have learnt the ropes over there judging by what happened in 1994.  Some parents of children or youngsters who had been charmed into the Institute got wind of strange doings, brainwashing, manipulative techniques, inordinate practises (for instance there was talk of collective flagellation sessions known as “discipline”), and very specially the drilling of young minds to the effect that marriage was second best, women to be despised, and sex a rather filthy thing - one of Buela’s Manichaean tenets that was formulated over time in crude and uncouth terms. (His main Moral Theologian, one Father Fuentes, has a blog where he claims to specialize in sexual addictions, of all things. Fortunately for me, there’s no space here to go into that..)  Anyway, word got to Rome and, to the surprise of many, Father Buela was removed from his office (he moved over to one of his houses in Peru or Ecuador) and the Institute was investigated by a pontifical comissioner (one Rico, as I remember) with a mandate to find out what the heck was going on.  After some time, Rico went back to Rome with his findings, the Institute was put under the supervision of the bishop of San Juan (Mons. Delgado) and a new Father Superior was elected to run the show, one Father Solari - an incredible outcome if you come to consider that Fr Solari was the mechanic in charge of the congregation’s bus!  Talk about manipulation…

Despite Monsignor Delgado’s recommendation to the effect that the IVE should be dissolved, things were straightened out in only a couple of months. Soon Father Buela moved his main house to Rome, under the bishop of Velletri-Segni, Mons. Erba, who gave the congregation diocesan approval, and was reinstated as General Superior. (By the way, Father Solari disappeared, at least from the official account of the Institute’s story, just as it now stands on its web-site - I’m not sure of this, but apparently he left the IVE and resides in Peru, I do not know in what capacity.)  It was at this time that Cardinal Sodano became the object of much praise by all IVE members, including Father Buela, who repeatedly celebrated  - him and still does to this very day. Anyone in doubt will do well in consulting their web page, “Cardinal Sodano visits…”, “Cardinal Sodano celebrates…”, etc.
Anyway, Father Buela and his Institute thrived over the years, the numbers of their members ever growing (even if, it must be said, there is a disproportionate number of ordinated priests who have left the Institute, some of them even shredding their priesthood, leaving the Cchurch, eloping with women and the like - but the exact number of defections is the IVE’s best kept secret and only the Vatican would know exactly how many they are).


Let us conclude.

Over 25 years of remonstrating with friends, pointing out our objections to Father Buela’s doings and behavior, it has revealed itself of little avail. And, much to our consternation, many continued sending their children to this Institute.

But at the end of 2009, we began to hear on the grapevine reports which were hard to believe: put bluntly, that Father Buela was involved in one, or several, abuse scandals, similar to those of Father Maciel.  I, along with lots of my friends, was flummoxed: over the years we had been used to expecting anything from this priest, but not this.

By May 2010 we heard that Father Buela had formally renounced his office alleging old age (he’s about 70) and bad health, though only two years before he had stood and won re-election.  He has written to the Pope entreating him not to intervene in the Institute, but allow them to elect a succesor according to their constitutions.

Officialy Rome has said nothing as of yet. In 2010, having got wind of the rumors, the secular press asked for comments from the IVE’s highest authorities: they only got a couple of words from Father Clarey, leader in charge of “La Finca” in San Rafael: “At this point we will give no interviews and have no comment to make.”  And they still haven't.

That was in June 2010.  Now, in 2013, with Pope Francis in charge of the Church (and Sodano out of the way), Buela seems to be in very hot water: we have heard, but have nothing official on this yet, that he has been sentenced in a second case of abuse and that his appeal to the Pope has been rejected. 

But even if these last pieces of news turn out to be false, what we have written and witnessed stands as a cautionary tale of sorts.

A necessary one, in these difficult times.

Let no one be deceived.

Buenos Aires, July, 2013

Sunday, July 7, 2013

20 Signs of Trouble in New Religious Groups Applied to the IVE

We found a very useful list over on the Vocation Station section of  It comes from the International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA).  The first 15 signs are written by a very respected and conservative Canon Lawyer who is a member of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI).   The last five come from a Doctor of the ICSA itself.   We'd encourage you to read the original article and the discussion on  

The first comments on the Phatmass thread get right to the point:
"Being a novice (literally) I was sometimes confused about what was 'normal' and what was 'iffy' in religious life. I think this list can be a very useful tool for discernment with ANY community, new or old." 

"it's very good for discerners to have a healthy concept of what religious life should be, particularly in a new community. This list seems very balanced, and views religious life in a positive light." 
We agree wholeheartedly.  Many "founders" start orders to follow their own will, not God's.  Yet it can be difficult for young discerners to tell the difference without proper maturity in their spirituality and sufficient background in religious life.  These signs provide a good litmus test to discern if a new group is problematic or not.

The purpose of this site has been to give discerners the proper tools they need to evaluate the Institute of the Incarnate Word.  With that in mind we've looked at how the IVE shapes up on each of these points.   

Going through the checklist, the IVE/SSVM have 13 out of 15 on the warning signs from the Canon Lawyer and 4.5 out of 5 of the warning signs from the Cultic Studies association.  This should be a clear wake-up call to anyone still associating with this group.

Below we will give the warning sign, quote the article, then give our take.  Any emphasis is ours.

1.“Total” obedience to the pope
Many will find this first warning sign surprising. As Catholics, are we not all called to obey the Holy Father? Indeed, we are. When a new association sincerely seeks to obey and follow the teachings of the Holy Father, canonists are for the most part satisfied the group is doing what Catholic groups ought to do.

Nevertheless, some new associations abuse Catholic sensibility in this regard. These groups cite “total obedience to the Holy Father” when what they really mean is partial obedience to selected teachings of the Holy Father, without embracing the entire papal message. Additionally, when challenged over their partial obedience, these groups will appeal to their “total” reliance upon the Holy Father in an attempt to bypass the authority of the diocesan bishop.
YES.  Like the Legion of Christ, the IVE do their best to seek out and showcase photo opportunities with the Holy Pontiffs in the hope that this will overshadow their disobedience at the regional level.  There is special irony in the fact they pledged total obedience to Pope Francis when their earlier appeals to the Holy See were precisely to bypass the authority of the new Pope while he was their Archbishop and Cardinal in Argentina.

2. No sense of belonging to the local church
As Catholics, we belong to the universal Church. Yet we also belong to the local church community, meaning a local parish and a local diocese. Even the Holy Father is not exempt in this regard; he is, after all, the Bishop of Rome and thus belongs to a local Roman Church. Thus the ministry and apostolate of any association should focus on the local church. If a new association or religious order has no sense of belonging to the local church, then this becomes cause for concern.
YES. See below

3. Lack of true cooperation with diocesan authorities
To belong to the local church, one must cooperate with local diocesan authorities. After all, Christ instituted His Church as a hierarchy. Within this hierarchy, our Lord instituted the office of bishop to oversee a portion of Christ’s faithful. Thus the local bishop, and not a particular religious group or association, bears ultimate responsibility for the care of souls within a particular geographical location. If a new association refuses or impedes cooperation between itself and the local diocesan authorities, then its fidelity to the Church is questionable.
YES.  The creation of the IVE under Buela was precisely to escape the local church, first in Buenos Aires and then in San Rafael, so that Buela could be the boss and operate exactly the way he wanted to operate.  When his behavior and recruiting tactics raised suspicion of diocesan authorities, he refused to cooperate.  Buela's disobedience is documented here.  The continued disrespect for episcopal authority can also be seen in a very well documented case in Ireland.  Otherwise, there are numerous other examples on this site covering IVE violations of civil and canon law and their disregard for local diocesan authority.

4. Making use of lies and falsehoods to obtain approval
As Catholics, we concern ourselves with speaking the truth. After all, our Lord denounces Satan as the “Father of Lies.” So any new association should be truthful in how it presents itself to its members, Church authorities, and the outside world. This is not just a matter of basic honesty; any group or association that resorts to falsehoods to gain approval is likely concealing a deeper problem.

The Church understands that every association, particularly when the association is new, makes mistakes when engaging in ministry or apostolate. When an association is honest, however, these problems are easily identified and quickly corrected. This in turn increases the likelihood of the new association succeeding within the Church.
YES.  Not just lies, but subterfuge, politics, and given their "benefactor" and his history of bribery, who knows what else was involved in the IVE getting approval to the Diocesan Right.

5. Too soon an insistence on placing all goods in common
While the Church has a history of associations and religious orders in which members place all their goods in common, the decision to do so should come after a reasonable period of careful discernment. Placing one’s goods in common in not for everyone, and the consequences of such a decision are lifelong. Additionally, the potential for abuse by those who administer the common goods is great. Therefore, canonists frown upon any insistence by an association that its new or potential members place their goods in common.

Due to the fact that modern times see less stability in common life, with members sometimes opting to leave after a number of years, the most prudent handling of goods in common is to place them in trust until a member dies. That way, if the member leaves, the goods are available to meet his or her needs outside of the community.

6. Claiming special revelations or messages leading to the founding of the group
Although this represents a warning sign, it is not absolute. The Church recognizes the presence of many legitimate apparitions and private revelations throughout her history. Yet not all alleged apparitions or special revelations turn out to be true. Therefore, the Church must further investigate any claims of special revelations or messages — particularly when they become the catalyst for founding a new association. If, however, a new association refuses to divulge or submit its alleged revelations or special messages to the Church, then this immediately calls into question the authenticity of both the association and the alleged apparition.
NO.  There are conflicting stories about how/why the institute was founded and while Buela cites inspiration, there are thankfully no stories of messages, apparitions, or revelations that we are aware of - but give Buela time, his story changes as the years go on.

7. Special status of the founder or foundress
Of course, the founder or foundress will always enjoy a special role in the founding of a new association or community. Nevertheless, in all other respects he or she should be a member just like everyone else. This means that he or she is similarly bound to the customs, disciplines, and constitutions of the community. If the founder or foundress demands special meals, special living quarters, special dispensations from the rules imposed upon other members of the community, or any other special treatment, then this is a clear warning sign. It is of special concern if the founder or foundress claims exemption from the requirements of Christian morality due to his or her status (see point 15 below).
YES.  While Buela certainly receives celebrity status at IVE formation houses, the clericalism even extends past the founder to the priests, some of whom receive more privileges than others.  These privileges begin with special meals served by seminarians and extend as far as Pasquetta (Easter) vacations at exotic resorts in the Dominican Republic and Cancun as we've documented here.

8. Special and severe penances imposed
As St. Thomas Aquinas teaches, virtue is found in the middle, between two extremes. Therefore, any penances imposed upon members of the community should be both moderate and reasonable. Special and severe penances are not signs of virtue — rather, they are signs of extremism.
YES.   The IVE practice penances such as self-flagellation and the hair shirt.  These are "voluntary" and - just like the basic penance of fasting - are good when done with the right spirit, but can be dangerous physically, spiritually, and mentally if undertaken without proper prudence and guidance.  Given that the flagellation is performed in a group setting beginning in the novitiate, you can see that prudence is essentially non-existent.  And since nobody in the IVE gets proper spiritual direction, few will understand the proper purpose and role of these corporal mortifications.  As a result, there is great potential for these to be misused.  

Additionally, the restrictions on sleep, the all-night adoration, and the poor diet are not  compatible with the very active lifestyle the IVE/SSVM lead.  These are practices for contemplatives.  As numerous doctors of the Church point out, those living an active lifestyle (and the IVE/SSVM are very active) should not sacrifice sleep or nutrition lest it wear one down and impact prayer and spiritual well-being. 

9. Multiplicity of devotions, without any doctrinal unity among them
The purpose of sacramentals and other devotions is to bring us closer to Christ and the sacraments. Hence sacramentals are not superstitions. A new association or community should insure that any special devotions or sacramentals unite its members to Christ, the sacraments, and the mission of the association. For example, praying three Hail Marys in front of the statue of St. Joseph while the Blessed Sacrament is exposed does not offer such unity. Eucharistic Adoration, Marian devotion and devotion to St. Joseph are all good in themselves, however, they should be offered either individually or collectively as devotion to the Holy Family. They should not be offered simultaneously.
YES.  IVE spirituality is a grab bag of spiritual practices that are often in conflict.  Like their charism, their spirituality is so broad and has so little impact on their day to day lives that it's essentially nothing more than spiritual name-dropping, "Our Lady", "St Ignatius", "St. John of the Cross", "John Bosco", sure we got that.   Read more about the problems with their Spiritual formation here

10. Promotion of “fringe” elements in the life of the Church
As previously mentioned, every association or organization within the Church should exist to serve the needs of Christ’s faithful. Therefore, canonists view any association that exists solely to serve fringe elements — whether these elements be special apparitions, private revelations, or extreme social or political agendas, etc. — with suspicion.

This is not to deny that extraordinary events may sometimes become the catalyst for a new association or religious order. For example, St. Francis of Assisi founded the Franciscans after receiving a locution from our Lord to “Rebuild My Church.” Nevertheless, St. Francis did not found the Franciscans with the intention of promoting his internal locution. Rather, the internal locution inspired St. Francis to found an order that would serve the Church.
YES.  The IVE started with strong political influences.  The Buela family was politically connected and in its early days the congregation was visited by extremists who made several coup attempts.  There is still an undercurrent of this taught within the IVE that contributes to their lack of obedience to civil authorities (exemplified by their disregard for civil law) as well as their lack of respect for episcopal authority.  

In terms of their philosophy, while they study Thomism, they don't study the traditional Aristotelian approach to Thomism, but instead follow Thomism according to the study of Italian Cornelio Fabro. (Interestingly, the only other group we found very interested in Fabro was the Legion of Christ.)   It appears the IVE has gotten control of his papers and is in charge of translating and disseminating his approach to Thomism.  

So the IVE isn't so much following traditional Thomism as putting itself in a position to create it's own obscure interpretation of it and promote this system within it's own organization, taught by IVE "professors", which are really just IVE priests and seminarians with no professorial experience.  It's a dangerous group-think environment.  You can read more about the problems in their Intellectual formation here

11. Special vows
Within the Church, one finds the three traditional vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Additional or special vows present numerous problems. Often, special vows are reduced to means through which superiors unduly control members of the community or association. The danger is particularly pointed where a special vow cannot be externally verified. Take “joy” for example; one can usually appeal to objective evidence that someone is not living a life of poverty, chastity and/or obedience, but as a feeling, “joy” is too subjective to be judged in an objective manner.
YES. The IVE take a vow of "Slavery to Mary."  The idea of "slavery to Mary" considered as "consecration to Mary", is useful in a spiritual sense, but as a vow it's meaningless and can't be verified externally. It's also strange because there is nothing specifically Marian about the IVE at all.  They say the rosary, which is good, but so do most orders, not to mention faithful lay catholics.  Beyond that it's a meaningless vow and there is no aspect of their spirituality, charism, or daily life that distinguishes them as Marian.  

12. Absolute secrecy imposed on members
While some discretion and privacy is necessary within any Church community or association, secrecy should never be absolute unless one is a confessor preserving the seal of confession. Therefore, any association or organization that imposes absolute secrecy upon its members should be approached with the utmost caution. Members should always be free to approach diocesan officials and the Holy See if certain problems arise within the community that are not dealt with in an adequate fashion. Similarly, since these associations exist to serve the Church, all members should be allowed to converse freely and honestly with members of the Church hierarchy when requested.
YES.  There are numerous problems within the IVE.  Their own priests have written us admitting as much.  Yet those still in the order will say they are bound by obedience to defer to their superiors and cannot address issues they see as obviously dysfunctional (which is what the Legion of Christ taught as well, thought it's not a proper interpretation of religious obedience.)  The idea of an IVE priest or seminarian approaching diocesan officials with issues is laughable.  The repercussions for doing so would be very grave (cut off from family, sent to a faraway mission, etc.)  

The IVE has never operated transparently with episcopal authority and nobody at the IVE is free to approach diocesan officials.  Their history is rife with these examples and we can see in Ireland - even when they had a reasonable idea what happened - they were ordered to tell the bishop "We don't know" over and over again. 

Neither is there any transparency with the laity or discerners.  They will not discuss their seminarian drop-out rate, the attrition of their ordained priests, or their historical problems with anyone on the outside and the first two are not openly discussed within the Institute.  

13. Control over the choice of confessors and spiritual directors
Confession and spiritual direction concern the internal forum — that is, those things that are private to a person’s conscience. Within reasonable limits, a person should be free to choose his or her confessor and spiritual director. On the other hand, obedience to one’s superiors in carrying out an association’s apostolate or ministry concerns the external forum. In other words, the latter are public actions that can be externally verified.

The roles of confessor and spiritual director should never be confused with the role of superior. Nor should there even be the appearance of confusion. Of particular concern to canonists is when a superior imposes himself as confessor and/or spiritual director of a member under his charge. After all, a superior will have to make decisions about a member’s future — and in so doing there exists a strong temptation to make use of information gathered under the seal of confession.
YES.  Internal / external forum are never discussed within the IVE and the Institute's practices in this area regularly violate both the spirit and the letter of the law on these issues.  

At their Italian Seminary it's bad.  The superior will hear confessions of seminarians regularly.  This is a huge red flag to anyone familiar with religious life.  Period.  

In the US almost all the confessors and spiritual directors are staff at the seminary or novitiate, with the exception of one or two other IVE priests attached to a Parish, but not officially part of the formation team.  The only rule is that you don't get SD or confession from your direct current superior.   However, since those entering pass through both the novitiate and seminary, they will in the first year have their confessions heard by the seminary rector and, the next year, by the novice master.  Every priest on the formation team will have heard the confession of every IVE seminarian within two years.  The same team that is supposed to decide the fitness of the candidate.  This is not only a violation of internal/external forum, but also of Canon 240.  

In terms of freedom to choose confessor and spiritual director, well, it's very limited.  As we mentioned, there is a group of IVE priests, one of whom will hear confessions on Mondays evenings during adoration.  You will be given a subset of those priests to choose from as your spiritual director.  Unlike the other various orders around CUA that work to hear confessions and practice SD of those in other orders so that internal/external forum are respected, the IVE make no attempt at this. 

We have no idea what is practiced in San Rafael Argentina, but given it's isolation we would assume it is as bad as Europe or worse.   We discuss Spiritual Formation in more depth here

14. Serious discontent with the previous institute of which certain members were part
Like some of the other red flags presented, this warning sign is not absolute. Sometimes, a very good reason exists for a member’s discontent with his or her previous institute. Nevertheless, serious discontent with a previous institute should be carefully examined. In most cases, such discontent points to some deeper problems with the individual, particularly if he or she has a history of “conflict of personalities.”

15. Any form of sexual misconduct as a basis
This warning sign is fairly self-explanatory. The Church’s teaching is clear when it comes to sexual morality. If sexual immorality is the basis for a new group or association, then the association ought to be avoided. Additionally, one should immediately report this to the competent Church authority.
NO.  None that we are aware of.

Five Additional Warning Signs from the International Cultic Studies Association

From the article:  "In addition to the fifteen warning signs presented by Fr. Morrisey, Dr. Michael Langone has assembled a list of thirteen criteria by which many cult experts judge a group to be a cult. Dr. Langone is a counseling psychologist and the Executive Director of the International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA). He has spent nearly 30 years researching and writing about cults, and for 20 years has been the editor of the Cultic Studies Journal. The following five criteria have been adapted from Dr. Langone’s thirteen criteria and applied to the context of Catholic associations. Some canon lawyers find them useful when evaluating the legitimacy of a new association within the Church."

1. The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members
Of course every new association, if it wishes to grow, will seek to increase its membership. Such growth, however, should come because potential members identify with the mission or apostolate of the association. Additionally, members should only join after a reasonable period of discernment. Thus, any association whose main focus is to bring in new members, to the exclusion of other acts of apostolate or ministry, should be carefully examined.
YES.  These guys make recruiting a huge focus and priority.   In fact, they have no mission or apostolate that doesn't either expand their footprint or double as a means of recruitment.  

Almost every website they have is an advertisement for their formation houses, full of pictures of those in formation along with giant banners advertising their upcoming recruiting trips for youth (ie. apostolates and potential vocations.)  

Their web and social media presence dwarves that of comparable orders and rivals that of a medium size business.  Their priests, their charism, holiness, etc. are almost never mentioned except when it ties back to advertising their houses of formation.  Do a little benchmarking of your own, comparing the IVE's Facebook and twitter feed to that of an order or diocese and you will see how bereft it is of anything relating to spirituality or holiness.  It's all promotion of their formation trying to get people to enter.   

Once people decide they will enter, there are zero barriers to stand in their way:  No application required, no background checks, no psychological exams.  They just want you in.

2. The group is preoccupied with making money
Like the previous criterion, there is nothing wrong per se with raising money for one’s association or apostolate. After all, even Christ and the Apostles used money. Nevertheless, money should be a means of carrying out legitimate ministry and apostolic work. Raising money should never be an end in itself. Additionally, the means employed in raising money should be honest and transparent.
YES.  These guys aren't the Legion of Christ in terms of fundraising (though maybe if they got along better with authorities they'd try to be), but they do have a pre-occupation with money.  We've documented the ways they try to extract money from seminarians, novices, and their families.  They constantly ask for free food from local businesses and the sisters of the poor, they don't pay real professors (as we will go into later), they ask seminarians to pay for all their own big ticket items, they don't pay for the land because they get that from the parishes.  Even without fundraising, it's not like they don't have income. They get a reasonable amount of money from Dioceses for each parish they have (probably between $30K-$50K/year), but they give the priests there maybe 10% of that for expenses and force them to beg to the parish for major expenses like cars.  

Yet wine, ice cream, and special meals (eg. fresh food) for the priests is a daily occurrence.  They take expensive Pasquetta vacations to exotic beaches and alpine ski adventures.   Begging for food while spending money on luxuries.  It's all very strange, especially given their "vow of poverty", which apparently is a very subjective vow for the IVE.

They will say things like "The diocese makes people discern 100% because it's expensive for them to send people to a seminary… we'll let you come even if you aren't sure, because we run our own seminary and it's cheaper."  Where is their concern for the seminarian? There is none.  All their concern here is their bottom line.  And that's why they'll let you come in when you aren't sure.  They allow it because they want numbers and they don't pay real professors because they want to save their money for themselves.  

3. Elitism
The Catholic Church recognizes that by virtue of their baptism, a certain equality exists among Christ’s faithful, regardless of whether one belongs to the lay, religious, or clerical state. Additionally, among religious orders and newer forms of consecrated life, the Church recognizes different types of charisms. Some are active, in that they tend heavily toward active ministry and apostolic work. Others are contemplative, in that they tend more toward prayer and contemplation. Of course, you find everything in between. Therefore, any Church association that only recognizes vocations to its association is not thinking with the mind of the Church.  Nor are those associations with a polarized mentality that divide their vocations from those of the rest of the Church.
YES.  The entire purpose of the Institute was to separate itself from the rest of the Church in Argentina.  With the IVE, if you think you might have a vocation to the priesthood or religious life, then in their eyes you de-facto have a vocation and should join the Institute - no discernment required.  If you feel called to apostolic work, contemplative life, whatever, the Institute has it all and you should join.  

Anyone that joins will then hear loud and clear from their formators that religious life is the highest calling and that life in the institute is much more meritorious than any other calling, especially diocesan priesthood or life in the laity.  Anything else outside the Institute is a "lower calling".  

At that point, from the Institute's point of view (and that of your SD and confessors)  leaving the IVE is a lack of perseverance (or the devil, flesh, or disobedience to spiritual director) and is a betrayal of one's vocation regardless if someone has discerned that the IVE is not for them.  

4. The leadership induces feeling of guilt in members to control them
One’s vocation within the Church should be freely chosen. Similarly, obedience is something a superior should inspire among those under his or her charge. While it sometimes happens that a superior must impose his or her will upon a particular member, obedience should never be coerced through illicit or improper means. Additionally, if a superior must constantly impose his will upon the majority of the membership through coercive means, then this proves problematical to the long-term health of the specific association or religious group.
YES.  We think this is the only way in which members are controlled.  They will have no qualms about guilting or manipulating you to enter (as evidenced by their own youth publication on the subject) or to stay.  That's why when men are finally ordained and sent away to a parish they get at least some degree of escape from the psychological grip of the IVE and leave. 

5. The group completely severs its members from the outside world
Granted, one must be careful here. After all, the Church has a long and honored tradition of cloistered and contemplative orders that sever themselves from the day-to-day activities of the outside world. Nevertheless, even those orders of the most strict observance encourage some forms of outside communication with friends, family and the world. Therefore, it is cause for concern when an association, particularly if the association is lay-based, encourages its members to completely sever ties with friends, family, and the outside world. Additionally, one should beware those associations that encourage or require their members to live and/or socialize only with other members of the same group or association. One should also beware if association or friendships with people outside of the group are encouraged only when they are used to further the goals of the group. - See more here.
YES and NO.  You will be completely cut off from friends unless they are potential vocations.  If they are potential vocations, you will have a lot of flexibility.  Your interaction with family will continue, but will be controlled - if you don't have money to fly or drive back and see them then you might not see them.  If you have family members who could potentially be vocations, then you will again get a bit more freedom of interaction.  Even then your communications with them outside of visits will also be monitored without the notification or consent of you or whoever you are communicating with: they will read your mail/email, listen to your phone calls, and have seminarians/sisters spy on each other at the behest of the superiors on a regular basis.


So we are 13/15 on the checklist from the Canon Lawyer and 4.5 out of 5 on the list from the Cultic Studies association.  We will let you draw your own conclusions.