Video: Church or cult?

msnbc.com
updated 11/23/2005 4:48:00 PM ET 2005-11-23T21:48:00
TRANSCRIPT

Experts and victims are blaming the Tridentine Rite group, a cult, for the scandal that has struck a church near Seattle.  In the past two days, two members have been charged with molesting children, one already pled guilty.

On Tuesday, Joe Scarborough, host, ‘Scarborough Country’ spoke to Kevin Raleigh and Rosemarie Offenhaur, whose mother, Kathleen Raleigh, was taken away by the cult.  Offenhaur was also a former nun for the Tridentine Rite before realizing the group’s bad intentions.  Cult expert, Rick Ross sat in on the discussion as well.

To read an excerpt of their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the “Launch” button to the right.

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST, ‘SCARBOROUGH  COUNTRY’:  Kevin,  tell me about this group, this organization.  Is it fair to say that it’s a church or do you believe it’s a cult? 

KEVIN RALEIGH, SON OF A TRIDENTINE MEMBER:  I believe it’s a destructive cult.  I believe it has nothing to do with religion.  And I make that observation 13 years ago after reading a book by Steve Esan.  It’s a destructive cult.  It’s actually a very secret society.

SCARBOROUGH:  We are showing pictures right now of these pictures of these young children about the age of my daughter, which I guess is why it hurts me so much, being terrorized. 

Rosemarie, you were a former member of this cult, this organization, this church? 

ROSEMARIE OFFENHAUER, FORMER TRIDENTINE NUN:  Yes, I was, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Talk about how destructive it is for children and, well, for your mother and all those that are locked in its grip. 

OFFENHAUER:  Well, Joe, I entered when I was quite young.

And when I see these video clips, it reminds me of how I felt the first I entered until I left, was this huge amount of fear.  It was just amazing.  We just never knew exactly when things were going to happen.  I thought I was entering a Catholic convent, where I could help other people and do good things.  Again, I was only 18. 

The first couple months were OK, but, eventually, the leader kept on clamping down and things just got more and more restricted.  Everything had to be approved by him.  And we started waiting hours for services to happen and sometimes, we would wait days for him to come to offer mass.  And it was just very sad, that I can say, after being there 17 years, I never had a real friend. 

I entered with 12 young women.  They were all 18.  And we were told we couldn’t talk to each other, that someone always had to be listening.  So, my memories are again very fearful.  I wanted to leave in the first year, but when I asked to leave, my head was shaved and I was told that God had great plans for our group, and that was temptations from the devil, and it’s just a very controlled place.

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, you talk about controlled place.

I want to show you, show everybody, a clip of when there was an attempt to rescue your mother.  Let’s play that video right now.  And then we will have you all talk about it. 

Kevin, what were you all trying to do?  And why did you feel it was necessary to take such dramatic measures to rescue your mother? 

RALEIGH:  Well, my mother disappeared 13 years ago. 

In 13 years ago, there were several attempts to contact her.  And we are talking, she disappeared.  She just disappeared.  She left a note on the table.  We had a forwarding address somewhere in Reno, Nevada.  No phone calls from her, no communication.  We made several attempts to go over to the Seattle area, hired private investigators to find out where she was at. 

It wasn’t really until this past May that a member of the group contacted us and told us that she was a friend, a very close guardian of my mother and so, I spent a couple hours on the phone talking to her.  And she told me that she was a person that my mother confided into, confided in her with, and she said she took her to the doctors. 

And I start thinking, says, well, if you took her to the doctor’s office, you know when her next doctor appointment was.  She told me, yes, she did, or she could find out.  She called the doctors and she found out when it was.

Well, at that point, I said, well, I called my brothers and sisters.  And we said, we probably are pretty sure we know where mom is going to be on a certain day at a certain time.  And not having seen my mother in 13 years, we all kind of were kind of anxious.  We all flew up to the Seattle area. 

And, basically, when we got up to the Seattle area, she was going to a doctor’s appointment, the Harborview Med Center up there.  And when she came out, the person that took her there went to get the car.  And, at that point, I went up and that’s when we made contact with her. 

And I went up to her.  And I had somewhat of guarded optimism, not seeing my mother for 13 years, that things would be good.  And I went up to her and I greeted her.  And she was very cordial to me.  She was talking to me like—I was saying, hey, this is going pretty good.  And then it started to occur to me that she wasn’t recognizing who I was. 

So, I started bringing up dates, my birthday, her birthday, her anniversary, her six kids.  And she says, boy, you sure know a lot about me. 

And my brother came up behind her at the time and said, do you recognize him?  And it was my younger brother.  And she didn’t recognize him.  And then my older brother came up there.  And, at that moment, she recognized it was her children. 

And it was like, all of a sudden, she went into this shutdown mode. 

And she didn’t want to talk to us.  And, really, all we wanted was to talk to her, take her out to lunch and really find what’s been going on for 13 years.

SCARBOROUGH:  You all tried to take her.  You haven’t seen her in 13 years.  Let me bring in Rick Ross right now, because, again, here is a woman.  They haven’t seen their mother.  They haven’t seen her in 13 years and try to bring her back.  And the next day, she goes back there.  I guess you see this an awful lot, don’t you? 

RICK ROSS, CULT EXPERT:  Yes, Joe, I do. 

And what the Raleigh family went through is what many thousands and thousands of families are going through right now across the U.S., which is, they don’t know where their loved ones are at.  There are many cult groups that are nomadic. 

The Tridentine Rite group was basically on the lam for years, traveling around the country with Schuckardt.  So, many times, they don’t know where a loved one is and they have no access.  And they may take desperate measures, such as the Raleighs did, to try and meet with someone who is in a cult. 

And that person is, as the Raleighs have described, a prisoner of the brainwashing that exists within these groups.  Rosemarie said about how isolated she was, how members of this group are kind of like in a bubble, isolated in a controlled environment that Francis Schuckardt runs 24/7.

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.  They have got no control. 

And the thing that enrages me so much, Rick, is, you have these young children who have no control. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And, Rick, itt looks like they are trying to put chains on these kids. 

As far as these kids know, this is the devil.  What are they trying to do?  How can terrorizing these young children, abusing them, scarring them for life, how does that make them more susceptible to the message of this sick, sick group?

ROSS:  Well, Joe, what they are doing is, they are indoctrinating them to have unreasonable fear about the outside world.  They are terrorizing them and instilling this fear that, if they leave the group, they will be unprotected, they will not be shielded by a kind of spiritual umbrella that Schuckardt has over them. 

As Rosemarie said, she had unreasonable fears when she left the group.  And what you’re seeing with the children here is the beginning of that process. 

SCARBOROUGH:  That is a sick, sick process. 

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