Federal Center for Cult Issues reports activity for year 2000
case load rising at cult center
December 18, 2001
Vienna (PK) - 1,807 people brought their concerns to the Federal Center for Cult Issues in the year 2000. Most of those who took advantage of the information and counselling provided were the appropriate experts, private persons and state agencies, but companies and private institutions also made contact for training purposes. 55 of the contacts made were from groups who themselves were suspected of maintaining cult-like structures. This can be seen in the third report of activities from the Federal Center for Cult Issues, which Social Minister Herbert Haupt has recently presented to Parliament (III-130 d.B).
In general, it is indicated in the report that the case load for the Federal Center for Cult Issues is steadily increasing. For instance, the number of professional contacts rose by 20 percent from 1999, and the number of personal consultations almost doubled in the year 2000. The center is generally establishing itself as a central and competent access point for all the issues connected with so-called cults, psycho-groups and esoterica, and has successfully demonstrated leadership on the topic, said the report.
Altogether 3,953 contacts were made specific to the center's mission. In addition to that, informational presentations were also made for experts, lecturers and the public; meetings were arranged with other professional centers and the domestic and international networks continued to be strengthened. In addition a technical library is being planned.
Inquiries at the Cult Center were made in regard to 231 different groups, whereby the bulk of them concerned Scientology, Satanism, occultism and esoterica. The amount of advice given and taken verified the supposition that people join so-called cults because they fulfilled a need, such as with community and and personal acknowledgment, stated the authors of the report. In this sense, belonging to a "cult" can be seen as a symptom of a deeper lying problem. This also relates to the phenomenon of "youth satanism," behind which may lie not just a rebellious attitude, but which conceals a call for help.
A principle finding of the report is that the areas of security and data protection are especially appropriate due to the high volatility of the subject and of the matter itself. The Federal Center for Cult Issues was established in 1998, and they also assist the Austrian states with discussion, information and coordination. [contact info given]
Letter to the Editor
December 5, 2000
In the article of November 18, 2000 the proponents of the current EU people's petition were publicly defamed as fighters against "EU dictatorships, Mafia and partisan democracy." Imputations were made about the VPM which lacked any foundation and which have been prohibited by the court (see Austrian Supreme Court of 10 August 1994, case number: 6 Ob 21/94).
Opposed to that the inter-party platform is working towards a new decision about the EU agreement under fair conditions. The people should be given the opportunity after 5 years of EU membership to have a popular vote on whether membership should be continued without being deceived or having to fear an advertisement campaign. Also in a representative democracy, the people have to have a democratic vote when popular sovereignty goes to governments after one legislative period.
Above this, the conditions of membership have fundamentally changed: doing away with the hard shilling, turning away from neutrality, the expansion in the east, the lack of a future for agriculture as well as for healthy nutritional care (BSE scandal), the failure of environmental protection, landslides, sanctions, the intention to subject one's own constitution to an undemocratic, rag-tag "Basic Charter," etc.
The platform and the organizations carrying it are freedom-loving democrats. Until December 6, they will appear in the municipal and district offices to show support of the popular EU petition and to support the oligarchy of political parties by direct democracy.
Hans Peter Aubauer
Medical progress demands new values
Interview with Viennese Cardinal Franz Koenig
August 6, 2000
Vienna - The Catholic Church, and also the Evangelical Churches, have not been consciously using the findings of the natural sciences for better understanding of their teachings. Hans-Dieter Viering discussed the relationship of church and science with Cardinal Franz Koenig, who is celebrating his 95th birthday today.
DIE WELT: Your eminence, you were one of the first bishops to initiate an intensive dialogue between church and science. What motivated you to do that?
Cardinal Franz Koenig: Ever since I was a boy I was interested in the relationship between church and science; now I notice that in the past decades there has been less and less conflict between the two, with all their differences in points of assumption and points of view.
DIE WELT: You have repeatedly been at the annual Nobel Prize winner meeting in Lindau; did you have the impression that the natural sciences were open for a discussion with religion?
Koenig: Numerous natural scientists are very interested in theological questions, however the theological questions must be formulated so that natural scientists can understand them and be able to convert them into their image of the world. For this reason it is of special importance for the church to carry out a dialogue with scientists in spite of existing difficulties in language, and to formulate Christian revelation material so that natural scientists can live with it, too. From my experience, natural scientists also stand before the great questions of our human existence, however the church can help with the philosophical interpretation of these data.
DIE WELT: You contributed decisively to the reinstatement of Galileo; how did you do it?
Koenig: I brought it to the attention of the Pope, Paul VI at the time, that the church's non-existent antagonism to science was being constantly actualized by the Galileo case. The Pope took this up, had the proceedings looked into by experts, and the current Pope John Paul II officially reinstated Galileo on October 31, 1992.
DIE WELT: The Second Vatican council decided that the new Apostolate of the church should be constantly adapted to the new needs of the times. Did that happen partly as a result of the new findings of the sciences?
Koenig: It is the Church's mission to constantly adapt its message without changing its fundamentals. Naturally this also applies to our current time, when medical research is changing the world and completely new conditions arise which make concepts of value even more important today - possibly they are even being perverted if we do not get involved in a discussion and the evolution of ethical values with the medical findings. The Church is pre-destined to do this in special ways. Society depends on groups who introduce concepts of value into society, and that is a central mission of the Church.
DIE WELT: More and more people are getting infatuated with esoteric beliefs in the realm of pseudo-science; shouldn't the church make use of the natural sciences to lead these people back to the Christian belief?
Koenig: The tendency toward esoteric belief symbolizes the yearning of people for truth and for an interpretation of their existence which goes beyond that of material satisfaction. This yearning is part of the person's being, and even if it is temporarily interrupted, many of our contemporaries notice after some time that consumerism alone does not make one happy. Numerous people turn to sects and esoteric movements reactively because they hope to find the answers there to those questions which the consumer society cannot give to them. In my opinion, Christian revelations have a real answer for humanity's perpetual yearnings.
DIE WELT: The question about ethical values is getting ever more audible in our society; is the church currently using the right strategy in getting its word in?
Koenig: The content of the revelation of the diverse Christian churches is undoubtedly suited to answer many questions of people today. The strategy at the pulpit has to change, though. Today there are other places outside the pulpit in which the church gets its messages across, this interview for instance. But the strategy also has to fit our modern society, such as Paul practiced and demanded in his time.
DIE WELT: Do you think that natural science is in the position to answer all the questions of humanity?
Koenig: Our human brain is limited, and therefore it will never be in the position to understand all things and to answer everything that lies behind every physical law according to which we function. There are signs, however, which can also be interpreted in the sense of revelation. Because of that, the new discussion between natural science and Christianity is of high importance.
Cardinal Franz Koenig was born on August 3, 1905 in Warth in Lower Austria. The son of a farmer family became a priest in 1933 and worked as youth counselor from 1938 to 1945. In 1949 he took a professorship of moral theology in Salzburg. From 1952 to 1956 he was bishop coadjutor in St. Poelten, from 1956 to 1985 archbishop of Vienna. In 1965, he established the "Pro Oriente" church foundation which advanced cooperation between the churches of east Europe and Asia. From 1965 to 1980, he was President of a Vatican Secretariat. Koenig is regarded as one of the most influential people in the Catholic Church. Today he lives modestly in a retirement home in Vienna.
[Then a "book tip" is given: "Die Katholische Kirche auf dem Weg in ein neues Zeitalter" von Giuseppe Alberigo u. Klaus Wittstadt, can be ordered in German from bol.de or through the WELT-Buchshop. "The Catholic Church on the path to a new age"]
"Mea culpa not necessary in Orthodoxy"
May 3, 2000
The new shepherd of the Russian Orthodox Church in Vienna, Bishop Pavel, visited his diocese for the first time at the Orthodox Easter celebration. He brought up the problems of his church in an interview with the "Presse."
by Gertraud illmeier
Vienna. The constantly growing Russian Orthodox Church community had reason enough to celebrate last weekend: for one thing it was the Orthodox Easter celebration, for another they met their new Bishop Pavel (Ponomarev) for the first time; he held the celebration service in the Nicholas Cathedral in the third Viennese community district. Pavel succeeds Metropoliten Irinei, who died last year, as leader of the Vienna-Budapest Diocese of the Moscow Patriarchat.
Even though there is a "cooling off" of relations at the highest levels between the Catholic and Russian Orthodox Churches, relations in Vienna between the two churches remain unsullied, the Bishop assured us in his "Presse" interview. In so saying, he was touching on the current stagnation in relations between the Holy See and the Moscow Patriarchat.
A new, liberal religion law in the 1990s attracted numerous missionaries to Russia. Besides sects like the Mormons, Hare Krishna adherents and the Scientology Church, Catholics and Protestants are also taking part in the new evangelization. Therefore the accusations of "proselytism," skimming the faithful from the Russian Orthodox Church, have become increasingly louder. Just recently, Patriarch Aleksiy II complained about the "massive invasion of foreign missionaries" in Russia. Bishop Pavel, who served as abbot of the eminent Pskovo-Petscherskaya Cloister from 1988 to 1992, reported that the cloister walls themselves could not keep out the overzealous missionaries. "Delegations of all churches were among them," he bitterly stated. He said they exploited the difficult economic and social situation of the people and gave out free food and gifts to people who came to their meetings.
Another obstacle to a Catholic-Orthodox accord is the Unified Church in west Ukraine. The church, which was said to be subject to the Pope, experienced harsh suppression under Stalin, and its houses of worship were transferred to the Orthodoxy. After the declaration of sovereignty of the Ukraine, these churches were given back to the Unified church, which took away the leading positions of the Orthodox Church in the western Ukraine congregations. The Pope has still not reacted to Russian Orthodox demands to condemn the takeover of church possessions by the Unified Church. A scheduled meeting was called off for that reason three years ago between Pope John Paul II and the Moscow Patriarch in the Austrian Holy Cross Foundation.
Radical against liberal
Aleksiy II, who, according to Bishop Pavel, is trying to go a "middle route," had to turn down the visit at the time out of consideration for the radical-conservative wing within the Russian clergy. The Patriarch had to stave off a split with the Russian Church, said Bishop Pavel, by which he confirmed the presence of tensions between the "conservative-aggressive" and a "modern, ecumenically minded" camps.
With the background of this in-house fighting, it appears that an internal revival of Orthodoxy, as is being demanded by the more progressive of its clergy, is only a remote possibility. Furthermore, a discussion of its own past, heavily tinged by its cooperation with the Soviet regime, is out of the question. Even Bishop Pavel sees no necessity of a "Mea culpa" from the Orthodox Church in accordance with the example set by the Catholic Church: he is of the mind that each individual who sought personal power in the Soviet epoch must alone justify his actions before Christ.
The war in Chechnia has no religious background, asserts the Bishop. The Chechnian extremists had been abducting people there for years, he said, of which the West was too little aware. He said his Church was against all violence. However, he did not want to comment on its support of the Russian administration in the north Caucasus.
Sickl: No let up in the need for information about the dangers of sects!
April 6, 2000
Vienna, April 6, 2000 (BMSG). The need of a concerned populace for information about so-called "sects" clearly shows itself in the daily calls to the staff members of my ministry, said the Federal Minister for Social Security and Generation, Dr. Elisabeth Sickl today.
Information and counselling are sought by the people in Austria. The booklet, "Sects - Knowledge Protects" is an essential aid in that regard. Since the presentation of the first edition in November 1996, more than 400,000 copies of the informational booklet have been distributed by the Youth Ministry. This clearly reflects the great necessity for more information about sects and their activities and methods, according to the Federal Minister.
I keep this booklet as a particularly important means of information for our youth on my ministry's home page at http://www.bmsg.gv.at (Youth area), Sickl was happy to announce.
The requirements for information on sects will still be greater in the future since sectarian methods can be found in the wide area of esoterica, as well as in business and other social areas. When it comes to welfare of children, youth and families, or putting psychic or physical health at risk, invocation of freedom of religion alone need not be an obstacle in passing out information about methods and practices of every organization which use sect operating methods, according to the Minister.
The freedoms of religion and opinion are important assets worth protecting in our society. But this also implies that, for every individual citizen, freedom from pressure and manipulation to join or leave any group must also be maintained.
The Austrian network of counselling and information centers on sect issues could have been increased in recent years; the demand for assistance centers is far outgrowing the supply. Under the jurisdiction of the Federal Center for Sect Issues, with the support of my department, initial and continuing education of specialists in this highly sensitive area will be increased, Sickl continued to explain.
Like the areas of addiction and violence, prevention also plays a major part in the problems associated with sects. Adults who are employed in areas dealing with children and youth, such as youth directors and coaches, must especially be sensitized to the theme in order to be able to strengthen development of self-determinism, self-awareness and critical ability in their young people.
Sects and sectarian methods are pervasive and affect areas which are under my department's responsibility. Therefore, as I have announced in the Families Committee of the National Assembly, I will invite members of state administrations to an interministerial work group which will work out measures between agencies for the protection of their fellow citizens from the harmful effects of sects, cults and esoteric movements, the Federal Minister concluded.
The new Austrian sect atlas calls itself "Centers of Power - Source of Money"; it gives an overview of the groups and currents active in Austria
Viennese author El Awadalla's new book raises several questions about the more stylish - by reason of being out of the mainstream - currents in society: she has again researched matters of sects and esoterica, for "secret knowledge - ungodly power." She has put information on sects, cults, esoterica and the rightwing fringe together with "centers of power and sources of money" to form an atlas of sects active in Austria. The reader is recommended not to take the concepts of this atlas too close to heart - Awadalla is as suggestive as she is enigmatic.
The book is set up in geographical order - the author goes by Austrian states. That entails having the "large" sects, like Scientology, Moon (Unification movement) and also the Satanic cults scattered across the country, being dealt with repeatedly.
But Awadalla does not just rather exhaustively deal with "movements." She also gets involved with the new medicine of the German Ryke Geerd Hammer and his adherents in Austria. In Kaernten, she takes a close look at the Austrian branch of Fiat Lux, among others. Even Rudolf Steiner's Anthroposophy gets its own chapter. Awadalla looks mainly at the Waldorf Schools he founded and his racist worldview. In the same way, she goes into detail about UFOlogy and its abundance of connections to rightwing extremist theories.
Those today who hope to gain insight and reflection by depending upon and believing in the mind and experience are left hopelessly behind, believe more and more people of all age and career groups who turn to esoterica," reads the first sentence in her book, German title "Kraftorte - Geldquellen." The impression that the mind is not in the position to grasp the esoterica boom in our society in spite of its often apparent abstrusity is heavily supported in further passages of El Awadalla's book.
Quipping about Hollywood
October 10, 1999
Steve Martin, soon to be seen in the move theaters in "Bowfinger," can be sidesplittingly funny, even in hard times.
by Ludwig Heinrich
If Steve Martin, today 54, had not already had prematurely gray hair, then it definitely would have turned gray within the last seven years. In 1993, his model marriage with British colleague Victoria Tennant broke up in the cursed seventh year because she left him for an Australian actor. Soon afterwards his father died, as did both of his agents who had always done legendary work for him. And a liaison with Anne Heche ended because the lady suddenly made a spectacular transfer to the lesbian camp.
The most difficult years of his life, however, were also the most successful. With "Picasso At The Lapin Agile," Martin advanced to be an internationally acknowledged play writer (the play is currently being presented in the theater in Josefstadt in Vienna, among other places), he has authored essays for the "New York Times" and in "Bowfinger's big number" he wrote a sidesplittingly funny screen script. He also played the leading role himself and got Eddie Murphy as his partner.
Bobby Bowfinger is a film producer without a studio who knows that if he doesn't make it now, he'll never make it at all. He wants to shoot a film with the greatest black star of Hollywood. But his plan has only one catch: nobody may know he's what he's up to ... The "extraBLATT" spoke with the comedian in Deauville.
You started your career as a solo entertainer. What did you learn from those times?
MARTIN: The feel for comical situations. In the club in which I appeared, I always paid attention as to whether the waiters and waitresses were laughing. They saw the show every night, and if they still laughed at certain places after a couple of days, then those places were obviously really funny.
Are there actual people in Hollywood on whom Bobby Bowfinger and other characters in the film were modelled?
MARTIN: Not directly, but insiders will recognize some aspects. Because the public does not consist of insiders, though, the treatment also has to work with no background knowledge.
Did you ever meet somebody like Bowfinger in the film business?
MARTIN: Yes, I've come across this type of person. Tragic characters. Frustrated, discouraged and angry as a result. Once I knew a producer who had a glass ball on his desk. Inside of it were razor blades, and on each one was the name of a person who had frustrated him in his life up to that moment.
How do you get along with Hollywood and its system?
MARTIN: In the beginning I was a poor schmuck, but for a long time I have not had the slightest problem with the studio bosses. They value professionalism.
You worked with Eddie Murphy for the first. He used to have a reputation for being eccentric. What experience did you have with him?
MARTIN: Our methods of working are very dissimilar, our goals the same: to get people to laugh.
In the story, he is closely tied to a sect-like organization. A quip about Scientology?
MARTIN: A quip on all organizations which have hoisted the banner of "self-help." In reality they are helping themselves by exploiting and addicting their flock. The pyramid as a symbol of our association in the film is coincidence. I once saw someone riding a bicycle on Sunset Boulevard who was wearing a pyramid cap on his head. I copied that.
When one begins the production of a film, to what degree does one anticipate commercial success?
MARTIN: Everyone would like commercial success. However, you cannot just follow the dollar signs in front of your eyes. Just like a composer cannot write a hit to order. Once something gets in your head, it writes itself quickly and easily. Moreover, I've found that nowhere can I learn so much about myself than by writing. That has led to a sort of renewal process.
Is it true that Stanley Kubrich had originally wanted you for the lead role of "Eyes Wide Shut"?
MARTIN: Yes, that was at the start of the 1980s. He sent me the script, Schnitzler's "Traumnovelle." I was to have played the role which Tom Cruise finally got. If I had done it, I think it would have been a different film. Funnier.
150,000 Sectarians in Austria
September 14, 1999
Technical Conference in Vienna
"Sects - from prevention to intervention"
Vienna - "Not just the turn of the millennium, but also the aggressive proceedings by individual groups makes it necessary to get more extensively involved with sects" - of that is Martin Bartenstein certain. For that reason, the Families Minister, in conjunction with the Federal Center for Sect Issues, arranged the international technical conference "Sects - from prevention to intervention." Experts were already meeting on Monday in Vienna. Today, Tuesday, the arrangements were finalized.
When people's personal freedom was abridged under the cover of religious freedom, according to Bartenstein, serious psychic and existential damage could result. On top of that there are groups who exert influence on politics and democracy and intend to establish a new system. These endeavors must have clear restrictions place on them by the legal state: "Our democracy may not be infiltrated by totalitarian ideology which is characterized by contempt for humanity."
According to a survey in 1997 by Fessel & GfK, 77 percent of those asked said that they have been accosted by a sect member at one time or another. One quarter of Austrians know a family member or an acquaintance who has contact with a sect. Five percent have some kind of contact themselves, two percent of those asked described themselves as members of a small religious sect or weltanschauung movement outside the established churches. That is an estimated 150,000 people in Austria.
There has also been much interest expressed in a 1996 brochure "Sects - Knowledge Protects," published by the Youth Ministry. Over 350,000 copies have been printed. An expanded and revised new version of the brochure has been available since Monday. It is free and can be ordered from Youth Info weekdays between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. In the next few days the contents of the brochure will also be copied to the homepages of the Ministry (http://www.bmu.gv.at), where it can be downloaded and printed. Further information is available from the Federal Center for Sect Issues.