The Family International Archive

You'll find articles about this subject in each of the items listed, even if the term does not necessarily occur within the headlines or descriptive text.

Saint Death becoming more popular in the US

Popular in Mexico, La Santa Muerte, Spanish for ‘Saint Death,’ is gaining popularity in America.

The Associated Press says that the skeleton saint in recent years “has found a robust and diverse following north of the border: immigrant small business owners, artists, gay activists and the poor, among others — many of them non-Latinos and not all involved with organized religion.”

The AP story includes a slideshow

The AP story includes a slideshow

“Her growth in the United States has been extraordinary,” said Andrew Chesnut, author of “Devoted to Death: Santa Muerte, the Skeleton Saint” and the Bishop Walter F. Sullivan Chair in Catholic Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University.

“Because you can ask her for anything, she has mass appeal and is now gaining a diverse group of followers throughout the country. She’s the ultimate multi-tasker.”

Exact numbers of her followers are impossible to determine, but they are clearly growing, Chesnut said.

The saint is especially popular among Mexican-American Catholics, rivaling that of St. Jude and La Virgen de Guadalupe as a favorite for miracle requests, even as the Catholic Church in Mexico denounces Santa Muerte as satanic, experts say.

It is believed that 5 percent of the Mexican population worships the saint, whose other names include Holy Death, The White Girl, The Miracle Worker, and The Skinny Girl.

The Santa Muerte movement is often referred to as a ‘cult,’ but it is not an organized religion, and thus has no central authority. Consequently there is much diversity in rites and beliefs associated with the saint.

The AP story quotes U.S. Marshal Robert Almonte in West Texas as saying that he has testified about La Santa Muerte in at least five drug trafficking cases where her image aided prosecutors with convictions.

“Criminals pray to La Santa Muerte to protect them from law enforcement,” Almonte said. “But there are good people who pray to her who aren’t involved in any criminal activity so we have to be careful.”

Devotees say La Santa Muerte has helped them find love, find better jobs and launch careers.

The cult of Santa Muerte making inroads in the US
Research resources on Santa Muerte

Priest burns photo of pope during mass

A priest in the village of Castelvittorio, Italy, shocked his congregation when he burned a photo emeritus pope Benedict XVI during Sunday mass.

Referring to Francesco Schettino, the Italian captain who abandoned his sinking cruiseship off the Tuscany coast in January last year, Andrea Maggi stated that “He [Benedict] did what Schettino did and abandoned his flock.”
The incendiary act has gotten Maggi into trouble — with members of his congregation, with the mayor of the village, and with the region’s bishop, Alberto Maria Careggio.

If your Italian is up to par you’ll want to listen to this interview with Maggi.

If it’s not, here’s a Google translation of an article in La Republica.

Gambling on the next pope

Speaking of the pope… Zak Lutz writes,

Like most Catholics, there are few things I love more than the pope and one of them is gambling. Though betting on the pope seems like a sure ticket to hell, St. Louis priests were found betting on the 2005 papal conclave and the Catholic League said they had no problem with it.

So, in light of many bookies taking bets on the coming conclave, here’s a guide to cashing in on the next Vatican leader.

Remember this? Children of God raided

The Herald sun (Australia) revisits the “dramatic raids on the Children of God sect” in the early 1990s.

For background on the case, see this news archive at, a collaboratively edited encyclopedia about the cult.

Theologically the Children of God — since renamed to Family of Love, Family, and The Family Internationalis a cult of Christianity.

Sociologically the movement is considered a cult as well.

Hillsong bumps Nick Cave

Australian newspapers are having a laugh at Nick Cave.

In his 1997 ballad Into My Arms Cave sang, “I don’t believe in an interventionist God.” The papers suggest perhaps he does now, given that the Hillsong Church has knocked his latest album from the top of the charts.

WAtoday writes

Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds’ new album Push The Sky Away debuted at No.1 last week – the first in the band’s 30-year career to do so – but on Sunday it was bumped by Zion, by the Christian rock band Hillsong United.

Interestingly, Wikipedia says “in the past, Cave identified as a Christian.”

Back in 2004, Salon wrote

One of the most intriguing aspects of Cave’s lyric writing is his use of Christian imagery. Modern pop rock songwriting is full of it, but it is usually used for its aesthetic, rather than religious, potency. Cave’s use of Christian imagery is different in that he is a believer. […]

Cave told me that he does not go to church, and that he is not affiliated with any particular branch of Christianity, but there is no question that his God is a Christian God. When I asked Cave if he had any interest in other religions, or in a broader, non-religious spirituality, he replied, “Oh, a passing, skeptical kind of interest. I’m a hammer-and-nails kind of guy.”

Cave also said that in America “the name of God has been hijacked by a gang of psychopaths and bullies and homophobes, and the name of God has been used for their own twisted agendas.”

And then there is this 2010 Los Angeles Times article:

“I’m not religious, and I’m not a Christian,” he says decisively, “but I do reserve the right to believe in the possibility of a god. It’s kind of defending the indefensible, though; I’m critical of what religions are becoming, the more destructive they’re becoming. But I think as an artist, particularly, it’s a necessary part of what I do, that there is some divine element going on within my songs.”

As for Hillsong, the church is renowned for its popular worship songs, having released more than 50 albums in the past 20 years. However, theologically the church is controversial for its promotion of Word-Faith theology, with a major emphasis on the so-called prosperity teaching.

Miss Indonesia’s link to religious cult The Family International

Miss Gibraltar Kaiane Aldorino was crowned Miss World 2009 on Saturday, outshining 111 other hopefuls at a glittering ceremony with a distinctly African flavour, AFP reports.

Among those losing out …

was Miss Indonesia, Kerenina Sunny Halim, who was the subject of a last-minute legal battle with a South African weekly that reported on her public comments about her ties to an American religious cult.

According to a report by the weekly Mail and Guardian, Halim belongs to The Family International, which has been mired in child and sexual abuse allegations by former members.

The 23-year-old Halim told the Jakarta Globe that she is a member of the church, for which she did humanitarian work after the Asian tsunami in 2004, the Mail and Guardian said.

Organisers lost a court battle to quash the story early Saturday.

– Source / Full Story: Gibraltar wins Miss World 2009, Sibongile Khumalo, AFP, Dec. 13, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

Following her national coronation, Miss Indonesia, 23-year-old Kerenina Sunny Halim, admitted to the Jakarta Globe that she is a member of The Family International, a “non-governmental-organisation” for which she did humanitarian work in Aceh after the Asian tsunami in 2004. Halim, whose American mother and Indonesian father were members, was born into the organisation.

The Family International is the modern day spawn of The Children of God — and admits as much on its website. The name was changed in the 1980s after negative publicity forced it “underground”.

Founded in California in 1968 by David Brandt Berg, The Children of God was a counter-culture evangelical group with a foundation of biblical fundamentalism — and bonking.

Berg, who was also addressed as “Moses”, “Chairman Mo” or “Dad”, preached free love to his followers, to the extent that females were encouraged to go into the world and engage in “flirty-fishing” of men: essentially to use sex to proselytise.

Perry Bulwer, a Canadian lawyer and blogger who “escaped” the cult in 1991, described the now deceased Berg to the Mail & Guardian as “a self-professed prophet who was an alcoholic, incestuous, paedophile”.

During the 1990s the group, which sets up large communes for families to live together, was investigated for prostitution, child abuse and kidnapping in countries such as Argentina, France and Spain, with some members jailed briefly.

Thomas Bergstrom of Family Care, the Indonesian arm of The Family International, said Berg’s sexual-
healing approach to lost souls was “ancient history” and that while “there have been allegations, these were all proven untrue in court”.

– Source / Full Story: Miss Indonesia’s links to religious cult, Niren Tolsi, Mail & Guardian, South Africa, Dec. 11, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

On Friday night, the pageant organisers went to court in a bid to gag the Mail & Guardian newspaper, which published damning stories on a contestant’s alleged cult connections and the pageant’s ballooning costs.

According to the Mail & Guardian, the 2009 Miss World pageant would cost the City of Johannesburg at least R90-million – twice the previously allocated R45-million.

It also pointed out links between Miss Indonesia, 23-year-old Kerenina Sunny Halim, and The Family International, a US religious cult infamous for child and sexual abuse scandals.

The organisers of the pageant appealed to the South Gauteng High Court for an urgent interdict on Friday night, saying the stories would cause “irreparable commercial damage to the organisation if a global audience was exposed to them on the day of the pageant.”

But Judge Rami Mathopo disagreed and struck the case from the roll.

– Source / Full Story: Paper wins in court over Miss World gag , SOURCEANDDATE — Summarized by Religion News Blog