Washington, D.C. - The Church of Scientology in Italy has announced it is initiating legal proceedings against the Daughters of St. Paul and Maria Pia Gardini, a Catholic author who was formerly a Scientologist and has returned to the Catholic Church.
In 2007 the Daughters of St. Paul's publishing house, Edizioni Paoline (Paoline Publications), published Gardini’s first book, " I miei anni in Scientology" ("My years in Scientology"). The first week of December, 2009 they released her second book, "Il coraggio di parlare - storie di fuoriusciti da Scientology" ("The Courage To Speak Out - Stories of Ex-Scientologists").
As reported on the Clerical Whispers Blog (clericalwhispers.blogspot.com), the books, co-authored by Italian Catholic journalist Alberto Laggia and Italian Catholic Maria Pia Gardini, have been widely reviewed in Italy.
"Gardini is a former adherent of Scientology and member of its Sea Org elite, who run everything in Scientology and its front groups under the leadership of David Miscavige. She returned to full practice of Catholicism after leaving."
"Whispers" notes that the lawsuit, along with reports of forced abortions in Sea Org, puts Scientology and its leader David Miscavige at risk of building a greater enmity with Catholics around the world.
In September of 2009 a lawyer for the Church of Scientology in Italy sent a warning letter to Giardini and the publishing house, warning them that they were engaged in libelous attacks. The letter was also signed by the head of the Italian group.
In announcing the upcoming legal action, Paoline Publications was not specifically mentioned as it was in the September warning. However, they did state that the suit would name "whomever assisted her with activities that the Church considers detrimental to its image." Not only would this include the publisher but possibly the 14 ex-Scientologists who contributed to the second book.
Whispers referenced an interview with Gianni Leone, editor of the Italian language online magazine "Mondo Raro" based in the UK. In the interview a Paoline spokesperson said,
"We live in a free country and a publisher has the obligation to be as accurate and as steadfast as possible, because it is not a crime to report the facts when they exist and can be documented."
"The issues which are dear to our hearts and about which we have and will continue to take a stand are peace, justice, dialogue among different religions and cultures, more from the viewpoint of what unites rather than from what divides them. In this time marked by fear and distrust of others, these are uncomfortable but urgent issues."
The lawsuit just adds another line to the litany of issues and events plaguing Scientology, with opposition to the movement seemingly growing stronger in recent years. A number of tell-all books, in addition to the two by Ms. Giardini, are currently available.
In June of 2009 the St. Petersburg (FL) Times wrote a series of articles regarding Scientology called "The Truth Rundown." In November, a Times editorial called for an investigation of the group.
The lawsuit strikes at the very heart of the mission of the Daughters of St. Paul.
For them, publishing is not a sidelight but a central focus of their ministry around the world. As their mission states: "We are women consecrated like Paul the Apostle to be apostles of Christ to the world of today, announcing the message of reconciliation using the means of communication."
"Sisters with gifts and training in art, writing, design, editing, music, photography, public speaking, audio recording, administration, production and diffusion, work together, alongside the laity, in a many-faceted mission with the common goal of proclaiming Christ and his gift of salvation."
According to their website, Blessed James Alberione founded the Daughters of St. Paul in Alba, Italy, in 1915. He chose a young seamstress, Teresa Merlo, to be the Co-Foundress of this new community of women and the first Mother General.
When the first sisters pronounced their vows on July 22, 1922, Teresa asked the Founder what name she should take. He responded, "Take the name Thecla, the first disciple of St. Paul." And so these first Daughters of St. Paul began what would become within 15 years a congregation spread throughout the world, with an innovative apostolate that was precisely what the Church needed in the 20th Century.
In 1931 sisters were sent from Italy to open new houses in Brazil and Argentina, and in 1932, the congregation was founded in the United States.
The Daughters see a part of their mission as providing resources regarding dangerous influences on Catholic families, including cults. These two books are their first concerning Scientology.
Today, there are over 2500 Daughters of St. Paul internationally. As a part of their communications mission, they manage 14 bookstores in the U.S. and Canada, 47 in Italy, 3 in Australia along with many more around the world.
As Clerical Whispers stated, the Daughters of St. Paul have shown the courage of St. Paul and their founder, Blessed James Alberione.
Randy Sly is the Associate Editor of Catholic Online. He is a former Archbishop of the Charismatic Episcopal Church who laid aside that ministry to enter into the full communion of the Catholic Church.