martedì 14 settembre 2010

Responses to Harm and NRMs in Europe and North America

Il giorno 11 Settembre 2010 si è concluso il Convegno Internazionale che il CESNUR organizza ogni anno. Tema di quest'anno  era: Changing Gods. Between Religion and Everyday Life.

Ho partecipato ad altri due Convegni del CESNUR: il primo a Londra nel 2001 e il secondo in Sicilia nel 2005. 

Si tratta di iniziative che consentono a studiosi di vari orientamenti  e provenienze geografiche di scambiarsi informazioni ed esperienze e anche di progettare collaborazioni  per eventuali ricerche, pubblicazioni ecc.

Il Convegno di quest'anno, tra l'altro, ha offerto uno spazio di dialogo e confronto ad alcuni studiosi, tra i quali la sottoscritta,  che si occupano non solo di studiare e fare ricerche "teoriche" su gruppi religiosi, ma anche di assistenza e aiuto  alle vittime.

Mi riferisco alla Sessione 27, il cui tema riguardava le problematiche connesse  ai possibili "danni" legati all'affiliazione ad alcuni gruppi spirituali, con riferimento all' Europa e Nord America.  

Il titolo della Sessione 27 esprime sinteticamente l'argomento generale:  


Molto interessante è stato anche il dibattito, moderato da  Jean-François Mayer, che è seguito alla presentazione delle relazioni al quale hanno partecipato anche alcuni esponenti di minoranze religiose come The Family e la Chiesa di Scientology. Era presente anche la Presidente dell'Italian Chapter del Women's Federation for World Peace.


The Helping Process in a Center for Cult Victims
Cristina CAPARESI (S.O.S.-Abusi Psicologici, Udine)

Facing the “Dark Side” of Cults: Balance of Fifteen Years Experience
Raffaella DI MARZIO (SIPR, Roma)

Cults, NRMs and Related Groups: What Governments Are Asked to Do; What Governments Should Consider
Michael KROPVELD (Info-cult, Montréal)

Harm, NRMs, and the Work of the International Cultic Studies Association
Michael D. LANGONE (ICSA, Bonita Springs)

Christianity and Alternative Medicine


This session will examine how different organizations in Europe and North America have responded to harm associated with new religious movements (NRMs).  Talks will include:

"Harm, NRMs, and the Work of the International Cultic Studies Association" - Dr. Michael Langone will discuss the work of the International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA).  He will explain the theoretical rationale of that work and will describe specific features of that work, including consultation, workshops, conferences, support groups, and training for mental health professionals. 

"Facing the 'Dark Side' of Cults: Balance of Fifteen Years Experience" - Dott. Raffaella Di Marzio will discuss the rationale of various Italian responses to harm, including treatment of former members, consultation with families, and education designed to make young people more informed consumers in the spiritual marketplace. 

"The Helping Process in a Center for Cult Victims" - Dott. Cristina Caparesi will elaborate upon an example of Italian responses by discussing the information, counseling, and education provided in a center for cult victims” in Udine, Italy. 

"Christianity and Alternative Medicine" - Dott. Alessandro Pennesi will discuss how the Catholic Church and other Christian denominations have addressed the challenges posed by cultic and other forms of alternative medicine.

"Cults, NRMs and Related Groups: What Governments are Asked to Do; What Governments Should Consider " - Michael Kropveld will discuss what people concerned about cult harms have asked of governments in Europe and North America and which governmental responses are appropriate and beneficial.


Dott. Cristina Caparesi is a doctor in pedagogy who develops and coordinates educational and professional services. Her academic concentration was in applied pedagogy, criminology, and sociology of alternative medicines. She is the coordinator of two public centers accredited by Region Friuli Venetia Giulia (Italy), which offer professional help to workers who are victims of mobbing. Her thesis was entitled, “Education and Socialization in the Family: A Modern Cult.” Since 2004 she has been a consultant to S.O.S. Abusi Psicologici, a voluntary association in Northern Italy, giving assistance and information to the victims of religious, spiritual and magic cults. ( e-mail: 

Dott. Raffaella Di Marzio, a clinical psychologist, set up a support and counseling center in Rome, Italy, for all those troubled, directly or indirectly, by experiences associated with belonging to a cult: the Counseling Center SRS (Sectes, Religions, Spirituality). She is a member of the managing board of SIPR (Italian Society of Psychology of Religion). She has published more than 100 articles about cults, mind control, and New Religious Movements, is a contributor to CESNUR's Encyclopedia of Religions in Italy and to Encyclopedia, Religions of the World. A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Beliefs and Practices (J. Gordon Melton - Martin Baumann [eds.], ABC CLIO, Santa Barbara [California] 2002).  Raffaella Di Marzio has three degrees:  Psychology (University "La Sapienza" of Rome, 1981), Educational Science (Pontifical Salesian University, 1981), History of Religions (University "La Sapienza" of Rome, 2003). She also has a Bachelor’s degree in Religious Science (Institute for Religious Studies Ecclesia Mater, linked to the faculty of theology of Pontifical Lateran University). She has been a catholic religion teacher in a Senior High School in Rome since 1981.  Websites: (in Italian and English) and, only in English:

Michael Kropveld is Executive Director and Founder of Info-Cult, the largest resource centre of its kind in Canada.  Since 1980 Mr. Kropveld has assisted thousands of former members and members of "cults," "new religious movements," and other groups, and their families. He has spoken, in Canada and internationally, to hundreds of professional and community groups on cultic phenomena. He is also involved in counseling and is consulted on the issue by, among others: mental health professionals, law enforcement agencies, and media.  He has served as an expert witness on cult-related criminal and civil cases. He has appeared on hundreds of radio and television programs locally, nationally and internationally. In 1992 he was awarded the 125 Commemorative Medal "in recognition of significant contribution to compatriots, community and to Canada" by the Government of Canada. He co-authored the book The Cult Phenomenon: How Groups Function (March 2006), and its French version (Le phénomène des sectes: L'étude du fonctionnement des groupes). Both versions are downloadable at no charge from, or can be purchased in print format. In 2007 he received the Herbert L. Rosedale Award from the International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA) “in recognition of leadership in the effort to preserve and protect individual freedom”. Tel.: (514) 274-2333;

Michael D. Langone, Ph.D., a counseling psychologist, is the Executive Director of the International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA). He was the founder editor of Cultic Studies Journal (CSJ), the editor of CSJ’s successor, Cultic Studies Review, and editor of Recovery from Cults. He is co-author of Cults: What Parents Should Know and Satanism and Occult-Related Violence: What You Should Know. Dr. Langone has spoken and written widely about cults. In 1995, he received the Leo J. Ryan Award from the "original" Cult Awareness network and was honored as the Albert V. Danielsen visiting Scholar at Boston University. (;

Alessandro Olivieri Pennesi, Ph.D. With degrees in philosophy from l’Università La Sapienza di Roma and in theology from the la Pontificia Università Gregoriana, Dr. Pennesi is a teacher of philosophy, psychology and the science of education in high schools and various pontifical universities. A registered psychologists in Lazio, he is a national advisor of GRIS (Gruppo di Ricerca e Informazione Socio-religiosa), a member of ONAP (Osservatorio Nazionale Abusi Psicologici), member of ICSA and a member of the Association of Christian Therapists (ACT ). He is the author of various studies on the New Age and has participated in conferences and seminars on the new religiosity. Among his publications are: "The Cross of Christ in the New Age," in E. Fizzoti (editor), The sweet seduction of Acquarius (Las, Rome, 1996) and The Christ of the New Age: Critical Investigations (Lev, Vatican City, 1999). (


Harm, NRMs, and the Work of the International Cultic Studies Association - Michael D. Langone, Ph.D.
This paper will discuss the work of the International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA).  He will first explain the theoretical rationale of that work, discussing definitional issues, variety within and between NRMS, the interaction of environmental and person variables, clinical and research findings related to harm, and various treatment and educational approaches to the issue.  He will then describe specific features of ICSA's work, including consultation, workshops, conferences, support groups, and training for mental health professionals.

Facing the "Dark Side" of Cults: Balance of Fifteen Years Experience - Dott. Raffaella Di Marzio
This paper evaluates the author's experience giving volunteer assistance and information in a listening centre, and then through a Centre for online Consultancy and Information. The paper covers nearly 15 years of experience and is addressed to people involved in cults and to relatives concerned about a loved one affiliated with a cult or new spiritual movement. The paper gives an overall evaluation of the author's experience in order to highlight its positive and negative aspects and propose practical solutions to improve the quality and efficacy of treatment and consultation.

The Helping Process in a Center for Cult Victims - Dott. Cristina Caparesi
The Center for Cult Victims at Cividale del Friuli (UD) began operating at the beginning of 2009 on the initiative of S.O.S. Abusi Psicologici, a voluntary association that since 2004 has organized public events to inform on the cult phenomenon. A distinctive feature of the center is that its services have been entrusted to a group of professionals who follow a process that has been agreed upon as  a sort of protocol, which is divided into phases and has the final objective of supplying orientation and counseling to siblings worried about a loved one's involvement in a cultic or alternative group. The consequences of joining a spiritual, religious, or human potential group should not be taken for granted because different variables must be taken into account in order to identity the elements that contribute to the decision of joining and remaining in a cult.  The helping process passes through an initial stage when the person arrives and asks for a consultation.  As data and information arrive, the initial picture becomes clearer and it is easier which objectives can be set, which type of consultation can be supplied, and whether or not the family's concerns are justified. During the process the initial picture can modify and be transformed when new events or data are added, thereby changing the initial setting and making it necessary to update the process with new and even different objectives.

Christianity and Alternative Medicine - Dott. Alessandro Pennesi
This communication will focus on the reactions of Christian communities and churches when they face the challenge of alternative and complementary medicine and therapies spread by new religious and magical movements. Official statements, mainly by  the Anglican Communion, Roman Catholic Church and Russian Orthodox Church, will be examined. Particular attention will be focused on TM, Bruno Groening spiritual healing, Reiki, Yoga, and enneagram.

Cults, NRMs and Related Groups: What Governments are Asked to Do; What Governments Should Consider - Michael Kropveld
This paper will discuss what some people and organizations concerned about “cult” harms have asked of governments in Europe and North America and which responses appear to be appropriate and beneficial.  He will examine the enforcement of existing laws, attempts to pass new legislation aimed at cultic groups, treatment assistance for victims, and support for education and research.


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