Comments on The Pope’s Armada
‘A searing attack on three of the most energetic new movements in the Catholic Church’
‘A remarkably balanced and informative account’
Karen Armstrong, NEW STATESMAN
‘A fascinating read. Highly, highly recommended.
One of the best of the decade in the area of religion’
The Critical Review
‘A terrifying portrait of several ultra-traditionalist movements in the Catholic Church’
Association of the Rights of Catholics in the Church
Can a book change lives?
WhenThe Pope’s Armada was first published 25 years ago, (UK: Bantam 1995, Belgium: Standaard 1996, Germany: Droemer Knaurr 1996, Italy: Ponte alle Grazie 1997, France: Golias 1999, USA: Prometheus 1999, Brazil) exposing for the first time cultlike activites and structures in three Catholic movements founded in the second half of the 20th century, it met with widespread fury in the Catholic Church. On the other hand, numerous readers – ex-members of these movements – sent letters to the author which were 100% positive with comments such as ‘I really want to thank you from the depths of my heart for writing the book’; ‘as I was reading, I felt the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle fit together’;’It is a relief to discover I am not crazy after all, merely brainwashed’. One reader successfully used extracts from the book to help gain his US citizenship on the grounds of persecution by the Focolare Movement.
Drawing on his own experience of nine years as an internal member of the Focolare Movement, Urquhart thoroughly researched the other two movements, Communion and Liberation and the Neo-catechumenal way in Europe and the US, revealing such aspects as the personality cult of the leader; a rigid but secret hierarchy; secret teachings revealed in stages; vast recruitment operations using such techniques as love-bombing; operating through front organisations, often with an apparently secular identity; boudless ambition for power and influence in the Church but also in politics and the media; strong pressure to swell the movement’s enormous wealth; abuse of power and in some cases a promotion of ‘ego destruction’ causing depression and mental breakdown on an alarming scale. This analysis, and a viewing of these movements through the lens of ‘cults’, provided the basis for research and other books that have followed. It remains, however, the only internationally researched investigative report into, and analysis, of the phenomenon of vast and powerful cult-like ‘new movements’ in the Catholic Church.
The vigorous support of these movements first by ‘Saint’ John Paul II and later by his successor Pope Benedict XVI was one of the reasons for their rapid spread worldwide in the 1980s and 1990s. Things have changed in the very different, much more liberal era of Pope Francis. He has repeatedly accused these movements of abuse of power (in many cases leading to sexual abuse), self-referentiality and ignoring the Catholic Church’s strict rule that government and pastoral care must not be carried out by the same people. The fulltime members of Communion and Liberation, known as Memores Domini, are currently under investigation by the Vatican for the latter problem.
One of the purely unintentional achievements of the book was the fact that Dan Brown included it in his research bibliography for The Da Vinci Code.
2021: Gordon Urquhart collaborates on LA SETTA DIVINA: Visions, Abuse and Power in the Focolare Movement (Mondadori, November 2021, Italy) by Italian author and journalist Ferruccio Pinotti https://www.amazon.co.uk/Divina-Movimento-Focolari-Misticismo-Potere/dp/8856680807/ref=sr_1_1?crid=221SL36PFB6S7&keywords=La+Setta+Divina&qid=1653153600&s=books&sprefix=la+setta+divina%2Cstripbooks%2C100&sr=1-1Urquhart acted as an expert advisor on this book as well as co-ordinator of the many ex-members whose extensive testimonies form one of its the most startling revelations. He also contributes a long interview on his own experience with the Movement, expanding on the details in The Pope’s Armada, and offers many other comments, including material withheld in the earlier publication. La Setta Divina draws on a wealth of new material and information previously kept secret, offering many new and shocking insights on this Movement, including accounts of sexual abuse, suicides of members, abuses of power, and extensive mental health problems among its internal members including at the highest levels. The book also reveals a revised history of the movement which contrasts dramatically with Focolare’s own hagiographic and idealised version.
The World and the Flesh
The World and the Flesh was commissioned by Gordon Urquhart’s German publishers in the late 1990s, following the considerable success of The Pope’s Armada. Revealing the Vatican’s shocking efforts to establish a theocratic influence in world politics, it promised to be even more controversial than The Pope’s Armada. Once the book was written and accepted by the publishers, there were repeated postponements of the publication date. Finally, the head of the publishing company wrote to Urquhart’s agent, frankly stating that they balked at publishing the book given that they had just been bought out by a large corporation of which the Catholic Church was the majority shareholder, while agreeing to pay Urquhart’s sizeable advance in full. In effect, The World and the Flesh was banned, if not directly by the Catholic Church, then by the fear it inspired in secular society, ironically confirming the content of the book. The saga surrounding this book – and successive rewrites – continued for several years until the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and the arrival of Pope Francis. At this point, Urquhart felt that the book was no longer relevant. Recently, however, new facts have emerged such as the fact that Popes John Paul and Benedict had considerable knowledge about sexual abuse of minors by priests and even cardinals, yet did nothing to stop the abusers or help the abused. In 2019, Frederic Martel’s astounding tome In the Closet of the Vatican revealed the sickening hypocrisy of major figures in the Vatican – priests, bishops and cardinals – who throughout the reigns of John Paul and Benedict led lives of gay abandon(ment) while spewing documents encouraging gay hate crimes, condemning birth control, abortion and even the sterilisation of women for whom another preganancy would be fatal. America’s liberal Catholic weekly, The National Catholic Reporter, recently suggested that – even though John Paul II’s sainthood had, most likely erroneously, been rushed through the Vatican system – it would now be advisable for any kind of devotion to him to be quietly dropped within the global Catholic community. ‘It was then,’ says Urquhart, ‘that I realised – yes, The World and the Flesh has much to say to Catholics and others. It reveals a new aspect of the history of a shameful period in the Catholic Church that we must not forget if we are to move forward in the era of Pope Francis, renewing ourselves and playing our part in the changes the world desperately needs. As Pope Francis himself has recently stated, “We are not afraid of history”.’
Religion and Cults
Over the past twenty years we have written numerous articles in important publications such as The Guardian, The Times, The Tablet and La Croix International on the specialist subject of cults and particularly their presence in the Cathoilc Church as first revealed in The Pope’s Armada as you can see from the following:
La Croix International: The Pope gently takes to task another ‘new ecclesial Movement https://international.la-croix.com/news/religion/pope-francis-gently-takes-to-task-another-new-ecclesial-movement/13830
The Guardian: Canonisation of Opus Dei Founder https://www.theguardian.com/world/2002/oct/07/religion.uk
We have written articles denouncing Catholic teachings which term LGBTQ relationships as ‘intrinsically evil’ and sinful, openly encouraging LBTQ hate crimes.
Politics and Religion
In 1997, Gordon Urquhart was commissioned by the liberal US lobbying organisation Catholics for Choice, based in Washington DC to write two reports on Conservative Catholic politics in Europe: https://www.population-security.org/cffc-97-01.htm
The Guardian: Pope John Paul II’s attempts to impose Catholic sexual politics https://www.theguardian.com/world/2001/feb/17/religion
A cartoon illustrating an article of mine in The Tablet about the new Catholic Movements.
Gordon Urquhart is also the author of two best-selling LGBTQ historical novels set in ancient Rome. We will be announcing in the coming months a number of forthcoming writing projects by Urquhart and Singh as a team and individually – mainly fiction: novels and stories.