A few days ago, Joseph of Quebec, Canada, contacted me with a suggestion should I decide to write a sequel to God Bless America. Joseph was a former member of the Roman Catholic cult the Army of Mary. He was raised in the group before fleeing them during his twenties, although his family are still dedicated members. Joseph thanks James Randi for instilling in him a sense of skepticism that was instrumental to him leaving the group.
The Army of Mary (Armée de Marie), also known as the Community of the Lady of All Nations (Communauté de la Dame de tous les Peuples) is a Marian sect with its headquarters at Spiri Maria, in the rural village of Lac Etchemin, Quebec. 92-year old mystic Marie-Paule Giguère founded the group in 1971. In its heyday, the Army of Mary had 25,000 followers (who call themselves “Knights of Mary”) and thousands of members can still be found across 14 countries, including France, Italy, and the United States.
The Army of Mary is a cult of devotion to the Virgin Mary, who just happens to be Giguère. That is, the group’s charismatic leader claims she is the reincarnation of the Virgin Mary. They have come under fire for this claim, so they tend to reframe their beliefs for the public. As Army of Mary priest Jean-Pierre Mastropietro explains, Giguère “is fully enveloped by God. She prays every day, but her life is so attached to that of Mary’s that she isn’t Mary but she is Mary at the same time. If we try to explain it we’ll change its meaning.” Sometimes, Giguère just calls herself “Queen of the Universe”. The group doesn’t believe in the holy trinity but in the “quinternity” - the Father, the Son, the Holy Ghost, and Mary (that is, Giguère). The maverick group formed their own church, the Church of John, and declared Lac Etchemin to be their “new Vatican”. They have their own nuns (“Daughters of Mary”), and ordain their own priests (“Sons of Mary”). They also canonize saints, while Mastropietro is known for wearing a Byzantium crown and thinking himself to be their pope.
Giguère reports to have received revelations from God, Jesus, and Mary since she was 12 years old. This modern-day mother of Jesus outlines her mystic experiences within fifteen volumes of her autobiography Life of Love. The books include her prophecies, including the death of Pope Pius XII and the collapse of the Berlin Wall. Like the Latter Day Saints, the Army of Mary has a prophet, Marc Bosquart (who they also crowned as the “King of France”, although he’s actually Belgian). The Army of Mary believes in miracles and divine healings, and venerates the pious fraud Padre Pio. They believe in conspiracy theories and make many anti-science claims, including their denial of evolution. On a social level, the Army of Mary preaches love and community, but they are openly homophobic. They also teach that problems and misfortune are caused by a lack of faith, and insufficient donating to their church. To combat these every-day curses, followers take turns at praying around the clock.
During the late 1970’s the Army of Mary had ecclesiastical support as a “Pious Organization” of the Catholic Church. As a result of their belief in reincarnation, they experienced ongoing conflict with the Church (or the Church of Peter, as they call it, because Peter was one of the Apostles and the very first Pope). The Church revoked the group’s status as a Catholic organization, and in September 12, 2007, the Vatican issued a declaration excommunicating all members of the Army of Mary. Their writings and teachings were deemed heretical, dangerous, and “un-Catholic”. Giguère concluded that there were satanic influences at work within the Catholic Church.
The more I delved into Giguère’s predictions it seemed that they were postdictions, that is, predictions that were made after the fact. For example, soon after 9/11, Giguère claimed that she had envisioned the falling towers years earlier. In fact, followers believe that 9/11 was a direct result of their excommunication. They don’t always make postdictions; sometimes their predictions are flat out wrong. According to The Army of Mary, their founder was supposed to pass away on her birthday, September 14, 2013, the Day of the Holy Cross. Instead, the day passed by uneventfully.
Dr. Karen Stollznow is a linguist, author, skeptical paranormal investigator and a research fellow for the James Randi Foundation. You can follow Karen on Twitter here.
Gareau, Paul. 2009. Unveiling the Army of Mary: A Gendered Analysis of a Conservative Catholic Marian Devotional Organization. Concordia University.
Unam Sanctam Catholicam. http://unamsanctamcatholicam.blogspot.com/2007/09/army-of-mary-members-excommunicated.html
World Religions & Spirituality Project. Virginia Commonwealth University. http://www.has.vcu.edu/wrs/profiles/ArmyOfMary.htm