“Ask a Priest: How Can I Get Over a Bad Affiliation With a Religious Group?”

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Q: I started doing Bible studies in college with a non-denominational group. Although I was previously confirmed as Catholic, I did not start reading the Bible or believing in God until I joined this group. However, I soon discovered this group was actually a cult, and it started controlling every aspect of my life. This group thought that they were the only kingdom of God and everybody who was not in this group was going to hell, using verses from the Bible to back up their teachings. They used Bible verses to convince me to move in with girls from this group, banned me from dating men outside of the group, and gave me a “discipler” who was responsible for overseeing every aspect of my life. She had absolute authority over me, from how I styled my hair and to which classes I took in college. And if I did not do as my discipler taught, I was seen as prideful and causing discord. I eventually left the group, but I now deal with a lot of religious trauma. I want to come back to God, but every time I read the Bible, I feel a lot of distress from what this group has put me through. And I can’t help but interpreting the Bible the same way this group has, so I’m not sure what to believe. How do I recover from this and come back to God? – R.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: I’m sorry to hear about your experience.

It’s a grace that you broke away from this group. The Catholic Church doesn’t try to micromanage people’s lives, despite misconceptions to the contrary.

You imply that you didn’t believe in God at the time of your confirmation. One wonders what kind of preparation you received for the sacrament. Something wasn’t done well.

It’s great that you want to come back to God. Our Lord loves you dearly. You are his beloved daughter, and he only wants the best for you.

You might want to consider a few steps.

First, if reading the Bible is distressing, you might want to leave it on the side for now. The Bible is powerful and positive when interpreted correctly.

It would be good to try to make prayer daily. Speak to Jesus from your heart. The Holy Spirit will help you move forward.

To deal with the trauma linked to this group, it might be helpful to find a solid therapist. If you are open to a Catholic therapist, you might look for one through https://www.catholictherapists.com/find-a-therapist.

If you are interested in returning to the practice of your Catholic faith, feel free to attend Mass (but please refrain from Communion).

At an opportune moment you might want to speak with the pastor at the local Catholic parish directly. He might recommend something that helps you learn more about the Catholic faith, possibly through the RCIA.

You could also learn more about the Catholic faith through the Youth Catechism (YouCat) and the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults. Tuning in to Catholic radio can also help.

Spirituality books, such as Time for God and Interior Freedom by Jacques Philippe, might also benefit you.

I hope some of this helps. Count on my prayers.


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