A strange extremist Catholic cult called the Palmarian Church has been recruiting heavily in Ireland and one family has warned that they force recruits to cut off all contact with their relatives.
The cult first became known publicly after the body of 84-year-old Bridget Crosbie was found in her home in Wexford on November 20, two months after she died alone. She had joined the cult and was forced to cut off all family contact.
The church has been heavily recruiting in Ireland and regards Pope Paul VI, whom they revere as a martyr, and his predecessors as true popes. They believe, on the grounds of apparitions they say they experienced, that the Pope of Rome is excommunicated and that the position of the Holy See has, since 1978, been transferred to the See of El Palmar de Troya in Spain. The cult claims 60 bishops worldwide. The group has had three “popes” since it as founded.
Bridget joined the group when she lived in London and continued with them when she returned to Ireland. She became a virtual recluse, only allowed to talk to church figures.
Listening to modern music was forbidden as was attending non-sect marriages and funerals, no TVs are allowed or radio, computers or telephones.
The group is said to have 300 members in Ireland. Some of the Irish members ensured that Bridget stayed faithful to the cult. She was often seen in Dublin handing out pamphlets. She refused all efforts by her family to contact her.
It was quite a contrast from her earlier life in London, where she qualified as a midwife and had many friends.
"She loved life," a family member told the Irish Independent this week, adding "she was great fun, loved her family. She had boyfriends like every other young girl, was very artistic and was really a typical, everyday Irish girl."
The woman who came home was hardly recognizable.
"We'd always keep an eye out for her, but sure she couldn't interact with us because of the religion," said neighbor Paddy Mulligan. "If you did happen to catch her eye, she'd smile. It's very sad."
Another neighbor, Sean O'Leary, recalled that one time when she fell on the street she would not take an ambulance to the hospital.
"She refused to go in the ambulance; that was July and the last time I set eyes on her," he said.
"People need to be aware of groups like these which are often handing out leaflets on our streets. We don't know why Bridget got involved with the Palmarians, but we do know they took her away from us. She lived in isolation. We wanted to speak to her – she probably wanted to speak to us – but because of the extreme rules she felt she couldn't. It was utterly heart-breaking," said a family member.
"We see it all the time," said Sean Moynihan, the CEO of the charity Alone, adding: "obviously changes in the way society lives impacts on the elderly and it can be daunting and worrying.
“The more we become connected digitally, the less we are connected socially, and that is something which older people find very difficult to get used to. Still so many elderly people have no access to, or no idea how to use, a computer yet all services are moving online."
One in three elderly people in Ireland today lives alone and many are ignored by relatives or are easy prey for cults.
"I don't necessarily think that we care less but I think people are busier now – running and racing," said Moynihan. We drive everywhere, have mobile phones to our ears, we work hard to pay the never-ending bills and we seem to lose perspective."