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History of Sword of

the Spirit
Communities:
BREAD OF LIFE
ABANDONS
CATHOLIC
CHURCH FOR
SOS MEMBERSHIP
1985
OFFICE OF THE BISHOP - SOUTHEIW HEClON
40 East C<:!ller Street
Akron. ()hio ·j.J:108

(216) 434-4114

MEMORANOUM

TO: Priests, Deacons, Pastoral Ministers of Southern Region


FROM: Bishop Sheldon
IN RE: Bread of Life Community of Akron
DATE: ~anuary 11, 1990

The recent publicity concerning the Bread of Life Community of Akron suggests a
review of the background of its relationship to the Diocese of Cleveland,
particularly for those who huve come to the area since 1985.

The Bread of Life Community (hereafter referred to as 8OLC) apparently became


related to the Diocese in 1968 through its connection with the Akron Campus
Ministry (Newman Club) in the late 60's. It was seen by some as a Cetholic
answer to the influence of fundamentalist sects on the AU Campus. The Diocesan
property on Fir Hill Avenue was leased to BOLC for $1/year ..

In 1983-84, BOLC drew the attention of the news media when it was accused of
being a "cult" organization. BOLC lecdcrship under Mr. Richard Herman denied
the charge. Continued charges by individuals end the news media necessitated a
study of BOLC by the Diocese. At my request, Mr. Herman furnished copies of the
taped "teachings" (lectures) of the Community for my review and that of thOSE I
associated with in the study. They included the faculty of St. Mary Seminary,
Sister ~oyce Soukup, then Youth Director for the Diocese, and Or. Anthony Iezzi.

Our study revealed that much of BOLC teaching and practice could not be reconciled
with that of the Church. In a series of meetings with the BOLC leadership that
went on for 6 year, these difficulties were discussed. Finally, BOLC was put on
notice that, if it were to continue to be recognized as a Catholic organization
in the Diocese, it would have to meet certain requirements, including: (1) sub-
mission of a constitution, charter, or set of by-laws that could be reconciled
with canonical requirements for a lay organization; (2) undertaking by BOLC
leadership of formal courses in Catholic theology at an acceptable school or
seminary. In the meantime, BOLC membership was to be reintegrated into its own
respective parishes for Mass and sacramental services, and no longer to have its
own personal chaplain and Sunday litur9Y_ In addition, BOLC recruiting efforts
were to be suspended until these stipulations we~e met.

After agreelng initially to meet these requirements, Mr. Herman later~indicated


that BOLC could not do so. At that point, he was advised that BOLC would no longer
be considered a Catholic organization in the Diocese, nor included in the Diocesan
Directory. Mr. Herman replied that BOLC was already incorporated separately as a
301-C-2 organization. (This would seem to imply that BOLC is legally an autonomous
church or religious organization.)

During the above period of 'discussion, BOLC, expressed the plan to be affiliated
with the Sword of the Spirit organization in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with ties to the
Diocese: of Lansing, rather than to theOiocese of Cleveland.' Bishop Pilla replied
negatively, as had Bishop Hickey previously. Nevertheless, BOLe ~roceeded to
affiliate with the Ann Arbor umbrella organization.
"

(over)
BOLC - 2

Notification was made to BOLC through Mr. Herman that the door would always be
open if BOLC wished to reconsider and conForm to dioc~san directives.

Objections to BOLC can best be summarized under the headings of Code, Creed, and
Cult, which characterize religions and churches:

CREED:

BOLC appears to follow an Evangelical-Reformed approach to theology, based on


the Bible alone as the sole rule of faith, and interpreted privately (meaning, in
practice, by the leadership). Its ecclesiology makes no provision for a hierar-
chical structure, ordination, Apostolic Succession, or Magisterial input into the
rule of faith or Biblical interpretation. It appears to' follow a presbyterian
church structure, i.e., governc:;nceby non-ordained lay leaders or,"elders."

CULT:

According to my information, BOLC meets for a Sacbath religious service (on Satur-
day) consisting in prayers, hymns, and "teachings" by the elders (or "heads").
The meeting includes "charismatic" features such c:s speaking-in-tongues,
prophecies, etc. (The latter are cleared with the leadership before being
uttered.) There are no sacramental or Eucharistic dimensions to this service
which is conducted by the leadership. Catholic members (who appear to be in the
majority) usually attend Mass on Sunday as a separate worship service.

CODE:

BOLC prescribes a detailed lifestyle for its membership with "roles" of men,
women, and children explicitly delineated. The prescriptions are referenced to
Biblical sources, although a sociological basis is also claimed for them. The
status of women in BoLC is explicitly subservient. The prescriptions cover
private, social, and family life.
·!!--~~=====-~------==~~~~~~--~------------------------------------------------------

November 6, 1992 Cleveland, Ohio

Ex-Bread of Life members seek Inter-


healing through support group alrea.
8y Jerry Pockar,

.
DIocesan Feature Editor
'.
..
The group has maintained a Iow profile .stnce
1984. Herman and other Bread ofUfe members are Clint
F onner members of the Bread of Lifelay religious
community are meeting weekly at St. Bernard's
now evangelizing in Matamoros, f..,fex1co.
border from Brownsville. Texas. '
across the
-.~
At their Oct. 26 support group meeting. former
By Catliollc Haw.

Even. before
Church In Akron to seek healing from the effects of Bread of Life members told a tale of being lndoc-
President-elect
their experience in the controversi~ "covenant trinated in the bellef that.everythtng they knew and,
community." did before entering the community was Wrong, and middle of inter.
receiving end.
The former. members claim that Bread of Life that being faithful to God's will required surrender-
CUnton arid
leaders exercised "mind control" that left them Ing their wills to the stem authority of the com-
AI Gore. defeat
feeling Violated, dlsortented and "in pain." munity's leaders. "
Bread of Life was founded by Richard Herman Doug Spence. a leader of the support group, told margin of 43 t
a former Maryknoll seminarian, in 1968. For i~ the former members "Everything we did was wrong. Independent R(
first 16years, t,hecommUnitywaswidelyrespected. Our friends were wrong. What we did for a career
Bread of Life had a diocesan chaplain, Father was wrong. Everything about us was wrong. Every-
Thomas Dunphy, a membership of about 300 and thing we thought and felt was wrong. Ifwe tried to
ownership of more than 20 communal homes in ask questions, we were put down and told we
Akron's Russell Avenue and Firestone Park should not trust so much in our own Intellect."
neighborhoods. Jan Zupancic told how she was unsettled when
the group prayed over a three-month old baby to
cure its "impatience." The Akron area librarian
related that in time the baby ceased to cxy at all. :
Another member spoke of "open rebuke or ley
silence for unapproved behavior:' which included
women wearing slacks or talking to people .who
they had been told were "hot a good relationship for
you."- ..
Nobody In the support group charged Bread' of
Life wtth Violence or the extreme forms of abuse
associated with certain cults. All were free to leave
the community at any time. ~
Yet they described a pervasive system of psycho-
logical coercion in which members were led to feel
guilt or extreme peer pressure if they strayed from
the path of holiness charted by Herman and the
other Bread of Life leaders.
Key features of that path were belief In male
supremacy and a rigid definition of sex roles.
In 1984, Akron's Cult Watch reported they had Wives, said Eileen Schmidt, were encouraged
received some 20 complalnts about the community. "not to be afraid to let their .husbands make a Bush admlnls
At the same time, the Aleron Beacon Journal report- mistake with their (the wives') lives." . abortion, inch
ed 40 to 50 complaints about Bread of Life had While the group's Akron membership has fetal tissue obt
been made to Bishop Anthony Pilla. dwindled, there still are a sizeable number of order' prohlb:
. A diocesan investigation led by Bishop Gilbert participants. Some attend services at SL Mary in federal family
Sheldon followed. When Bread of Life's leadership Akron, where Father Jack Hilkert remains sympa- abortion with J
refused to comply with four diocesan directives, the thetic to Bread of Life. 3 blocked that
diocese's recognition of the group was withdrawn. Please sse SREAD, pg. 2 Judie Brox
League, predk
the number c

IArchbishop Ly!<:e ~ccepts 'cancer, I also said mar


been on the f
de,:,e~op,a co;
u N I v E R S E B U L L E T I N
~-------------------- --------~~,~~----------

Bread from pg. 1


"I wouldn't be a member of Bread of Life. but the are In their 305 and 409 now. They were qurte.:" professional capacity In the eight-week support
product Is good:' he told the UB. young when they entered Bread ofUfe and particu-..' group series. ' - ~ '" _
Unda KIlltan told support group members how larly susceptible to the authorttartan figures who:::- , She told the UB, "In dysfunctional syst~.,noa
she mistakenly felt pride In observing her rtgtdly dominated the communIty, Spence noted, . " one can name reality, You can't say dad drfrikii'too
discIplined, "robotic" children standing at attention The people In the meeting room at St. Bernard's much. Much of the attention and 'power revolves
during Mass at st. Mary. didn't appear notably vulnerable. around one person. There Is an 1mbalance; the
"I belJeved the people In the regular Catholic , Fred Schmidt, for example, Is a calm and conft-, system seems to exist for the good of Itself IC!th!!r
Church had their faith watered down. We judged dent house painter. husband and father. He told than for the good of the members.v.z.. ,;:
those people harshly:' she said. the group that after his family quit
Dennis Flowers Is a maIntenance man at Akron Bread of Ufe, but remained In the
General Hospital. He was In Bread of LIfe for 12 community's neighborhood, he was
years and Is now able to "see how crazy It was." afraid to leave his home from 4 to 6
Yet, In a conversation with the UB after the p.m, Saturdays, the time that he had
group sessIon, Flowers noted that communIty attended community meetings for
members were gracious to him when he left In 1990 seven years.
and, In fact, "honored me." Schmidt sald Bread of Ufe was
regarded as a radical covenant com-
munity by other similar groups. He
quoted vtsttlng covenant ChrIstians as
saying, "Gosh, you guys are the mar-
Ine boot camp." .
John Galletta related how he had
enjoyed the guilty pleasure of watch-
tng a rnovte using the VCR of John
Zmurc, the present Bread of Ufe lea-
der. CommunIty members lived with
severe restrictions on the use of televt- Zupancic end John Gel/sIts st ths St. Bernsrd's support group,
slons or VCRs, he said.
Llke others, he said there were IJOsltive aspects Support group participants laughed when Eileen" She said she had no d~ubt BreadoC"j]{ Is a
to the community and that the' motivation for the Schmidt said, 'Two particular scr1ptures come to dysfunctional system. She also saidthe function of
many hundreds of people who JOined Bread of Ufe mind -- and I don't have them memorized any the support group Is to help the former members
over a generation was a desire to live a life of more." The laughter erupted In the context of a "make sense of their expertence, , ,--Wehave work-
holiness and faith. discussion of how Bread of Ufe members were ed very hard to provide an open atmosphere be-
Still, Flowers sald Bread of Ufe Is a fundamen- constantly enjoined to memorize scripture. cause that Is not what they had before." .
tally unhealthy community. He noted he Is particu- 'This one (rule) turned out to be a hammer for "People are especially vulnerable to the religious
larly concerned about the children, many of whom us to beat people up with, " sard Spence. 'The Bible , community because many people want to be better
are made to fast on bread and water two days a thumpers -- that whole Idea." people; they are looking for a place to grow In the
week, and who are "spanked excessIvely" when they Other members spoke of being disoriented from spirit," she said. 'When this comes under the guise
fall to satisfy the communIty's high standards of a combination of excessive tasks Imposed by the of such authortty, we are very vulnerable."
behavior for children. Bread of Ufe leadership, continually changing Several sources said Bread of LIfe has recently
Spence recalled to the group a "tiny gIrl carrying rules, lack of sleep and fasting. . approached Bishop Anthony Pilla regarding formal
a huge box up a flight of stairs. When we offered to One woman spoke of an Infant who wasn't diocesan recognition. .
help, she said, 'No, I'm carrying this up for the poor gaintng weight because her mother was too ex- A Bread of Ufe. spokesman confirmed that,
souls In purgatory:' hausted from the Bread of Ufe regimen to nurse saying. 'We are hoping to meet with Bishop Pilla In
She was, argued Spence, "too young to have a her. the near future to get his advice on how we should
concept of self denial. What she was doing was Spence told how one harned member would call
trying to gain approval." be doing things." ,. . -:$', ....
In sick at work. rent a motel room and find a day's The spokesman, who asked ar-remaln anony-
Former members acknowledged the need for peace away from the group. Another member mous, declJned to respond to the charges of the
approval from Herman and others In the hierarchy reportedly stole away evenings and weekends to former members, . '
was the force controlling the member's actions. sleep In the showroom where she worked during
"Nonconformists were Isolated from the group the week -- 'Just so she could get away from "Bread of Life Is In the pr~ess of changing right
and the ones who conformed were made to feel they them." now. When I think In terms of people coming Into
had a special call." said Spence. Several in the support group made the point the high level of commitment that Bread of Ufe
, He also noted members lower In the hierarchy that Herman and the other Bread ofUfe coordinat- involves, I'm sure that some people were hurt by It
were encouraged to imitate the "behavior, hair- ors convinced them leaving the group would Isolate some ways," Father Dunphy said.
styles, jargon, clothing" of more "spiritually ad- them from the will of God. "But I certainly don't agree It was an organiza-
vanced" members. "I was In such paln." said Eileen Schmidt, "and tion that was mind controlling or that sort of thing.
"If you weren't looking like the person you were yet I felt that leaving the community would put me I think the people of Bread of Ufe are good people
supposed to be lmltatlng. you were moved to a less out of the will of God." who were called to live the Gospel and ltve It In a
. exclusive group within the community ," he said. Linda Gannon Is a ther.aplst and a parishioner certain way. Everyone Is not called to live that way."
Most of the people at the st. Bernard's session at st. Sebastian In Akron. She Is participating In a

-1\1:urder-of .five American nuns mourned
Bishop Cosgrove recalls their ministry in Illinois diocese
By staff and wtr« reports McGuire, 54. were discovered just outside the gates they believed." Sister Gross spoke at an Oct. 31
of their convent In Cardnersvtlle on the outskirts of news conference announcing the deaths.
As the archbishop of Monrovia, Liberia appealed Liberia. The tearful provmctal continued. "I never
for the return of their bodies. the world continued The five women, all Illinois natives, were mem- thought It would end like this."
bers of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ communi- After praying the Angelus Nov. 1. Pope John
to express Its grief and outrage at the killings of five
U:S. missionary nuns In the small country on ty In Red Bud, Ill. in the diocese of Belleville. Paul 11 told a crowd In st. Peter's Square at the
Africa's West Coast. - In Cleveland, Bishop William Cosgrove recalled Vatican that the sisters were 'brutally murdered"
Archbishop Michael Francis of Monrovia, Liber- Sister Shirley Kolmer and Sister Kathleen Quinn, outside Monrovia, "where they dedicated their lives
ia's capital. reported on Oct. 31 that the nuns had whom he had known when he was the bishop of to announcing the Gospel and servtng their broth-
been found dead. On Nov. 2, he appealed to rebel the Belleville diocese. ers and sisters.
forces of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia, 'When I first met Sister Shirley," the bishop told "Despite the great danger until the end the
whose soldiers are believed responsible for the the Universe Bulletin, "she was teaching math at sisters remained alongside the population threat-
slaytngs. the University of Monrovia. Then she became ,the ened by the Violent battles under way In that city."
'We ask the NPFL and Its leader to allow us to provlnc!al of the group. She was a good feminist. At the memorial Mass, Archbishop Francis paid
retrieve the bodies (of the nuns). no matter their but she was able to deal effectively with all people. tribute to each of the slain women. He noted that
state of decomposition:' the archbishop said. "Kathleen Quinn became active with Guatema- Sister Muttra Insisted on returning (0 Uberla after
Archbishop Francis told those in attendance at lan refugees, with establishing them In the U.S. cancer surgery In the U.S.
a memorial Mass at Monrovia's Sacred Heart and Canada. They were great women." "Can you believe that? What love," he said.
Cathedral that he holds Charles Taylor, the rebel's Father Denis St. Marie, the diocesan director of Liberia, which was colonized by freed American
leader personally "responsible. directly or indirectly, the Society for the 'Propagation of the Faith and a slaves In 1820, has been In the throes of civil war
consciously or unconsciously. for (he deaths of veteran mlsstonary; said. "Our missionaries go (0 since 19R9. TIle war quickly became a tribal con-
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" ,.,' "'''' . UB Graphic by Joe Kaczmarek Mary ;

AkrorrBread .otLitemembers in Honduras Campan


studies,'
did rail
By',JerrY Pockar, ,that' theycharacteristicaIly function outside of diocesan
instituti
Feature' Editor ' control.: '.'
"Wh~
Last month,", 20 "members of a controversial' .One aspect of the controversy surrounding Bread of the con
. fundamentalist group With former ties to the Cleveland Life's activities is' their stubborn Silence with the media firm re
diocese left Akron under the "direction of their mentor, which has intensified the scrutiny they've received and has based u
Richard Herman,to work in Honduras. created the impression that they do infact have something As
The Bread of Life Community's latest move attracted to hide. Campar
the attention of not only the Akron Beacon Journal but The UB spoke repeatedly with' acting coordinator John into ec
also prompted a memo from Auxiliary Bishop Gilbert Patton, Herman's brother-in law, but although Patton decreasr
promised to provide detailed answers to questions taken and the
Sheldon clarifying the diocese's separation from BOLC. both fac
Though the detmls of the Honduras mission remain down in writing, he reneged on that promise, offering only
The
shrouded behind Bread of Life's veil of secrecy, . a statement which related nothing more, albeit at Horwatl
approximately 20 members, including children, left Jan. 11 considerable length, than that Bread of Life is going to month,
for seven months of missionary activity in the Diocese of Honduras to "proclaim the Lordship of Jesus Christ, groups
Santa Rosa de Copan. ' support one another's Catholic faith, love the poor and student
express Christian family ,life." member
In a telephone interview with the Universe Bulletin,
Father Thomas Dunphy, the former spiritual director of group
Bishop Jaime Brusau of the neighboring Diocese of San instituti
Pedro Sula said the Bread of Life missionaries were Bread of Life who currently is pastor of St. Martin of
Advisor
probably invited to Honduras by Father Enrique Silvestre, Tours Parish in Valley City, defended the group's silence Eaci
a Precious Blood priest who operates a "covenant on the grounds that "they have been burned so much by
eight re
community" in Santa Rosa de Copan. Bishop Brusau said : the media," a reference to the Beacon Journal stories. at the
there are a number of such communities in 'Honduras and Please see BREAD OF LIFE, pg. 10
-_ ••••••• II VI II tJ~.t

Though no one has suggested that Bread of Life's Honduran venture involves on there that Dick doesn't have control of. If Dick says it, they believe it. If someone r
illegalities, the propriety of the trip has been questioned by former group members else, including the bishop, says it, they don't believe it. If you don't agree with him, chas
and several Akron area priests. you're simply wrong." • pres,
One local pastor, who asked not to be quoted by name and who continues to Peggy Norris Oliver, a former "covenanted member" who was Herman's one. A
admire the community, characterized the trip as "lunacy." A Bread of Life dropout, time secretary and a dedicated BOLe participant from 1976 to 1984, told the UB: worn
who..also requested anonymity bE!.caus~her job r~q1&res contact witb.J\OLC leaders,_.~"I think.Dick Herman is cold hearted and-mean-spirited. He'll say-crueHhings-in choo,
expressed deep COncernover the group's children being taken to a dangerous region order to keep control." ._ ~
in Central America. Irrespective of what 'Herman and his coordinators say, there is evidence that the shou
· Bishop -Sheldon noted in an interview with the Akron Beacon Journal that discipline they impose on group members is ext;reme.. -; . '.,~ . _~" Mrs.
Catholic missionaries who "have the care of 'souls" have to meet requirements. Universe Bulletin interviews disclosed thatelementary .:schooI-age.children: ~.
unsatisfied by Bread of Life leadership. . -,' . '. . ", community-fast on bread and water a(-least one day a week, women are .oroe 'I
,·taCt;-,
· ::pte '~bntroversy and 'ambiguity are,characteristic;:\lf,the spiritually ambitious pluck theireyebrows so as to.be in accord with the BOLCleadership's s
~9m~umty' founded by Richard Herman in .-1968.• -: ..,;•..,,': . ,.... .feminity, .meri areeubiected to .harsh'.;criticlsffi Ir they vi~late the :g,.ouP's
. Herman, a one time Miu-yJsn"IJ, se,nrin!'rian, beganBread of Life in Akron in 1968: masculinity by infractions' such as wearing" 'sandals,)l1ld",everyone is . pray
after tuberculosis forced his return.from.a. Peace 'Corps stint in the Philippines: perform "acts of submission' and confess' their sins to the. group's leaders; S
For its first' 1'6 yearS;' Bread of.tif~.~wiw·a growing and respected force in the' ," . ': .. : .. ' .~" '. ,\,,-". :" L '':';'-;''.2.':'' ~ .,",,~:: ,;' ,'" ,'," f lead!
~Oce~/'It: hlla;its-ow!i,_~ch'llpl~n,.Fath~i' QUPp.l!Y,," "': communal membership' 'of' •. ., ,.;-::...:.'{;:t'&c,-,. 1, _ :
.-'~-"';t'",;:"-.:'~~:!
approximately 300 and oWnership:of,inorethilli 20;homes liftl,1e Russell Avenue and' .. . .•••. ,.. 'c. - ., ,- , .
·Firestone 'Park-areas of Akron.,,:·, r·'''', ~~'~,.:~
.•
:'. . ". . .

Th~ rigor' of its discipline and 'the strangeness, in a Catholic context,~f 'its'
emphasis on speaking in tonguesand uttering prophecies mayhave alarmed Catholic
observers ot":a traditional inclination. Nonetheless; in' its first decade 'and a half,'
Bread' of Life' achieved xa respect: it· still retains in the eyes of some diocesan:

obts~~:·~~j;h:;~~~~~J·:~:~~e~J .Br:~d·o~:~~;~~mbers, at ~~ ~~ters.


of Chanty 'of.St.lAugustinll, ,motherhot1J'ei1fl,Wchfield, said: }l'liey bring a spmt of
love, .dedication fiild charitj;'.and they 'go'ooyonHvhat is asked of them," ,. '1
· . 'F:ather Thomiis:Dupphy,~wh&,sel>'eiriiS the;gr6~pfsdidce~'appointed spiritual
director from i979,84 said, "I Stlpport 'the gfoupand'IJhmk;they are misjmderstood.·
¥any. pepple thought ~!iriY'of th,e'saints' we~.striitigi:"';:\';; ': .' <". ,;,
·.,SimilarlY, onNov.~23i'1984; Bishop Sheldori,';.viC¥ ~r:theSouthern Region, wits
'quoted:aS saYJ,ng, "Gener;uly;-;I-have,a'great .d~·6f:admiration for the membership"
and tne'.jeiidership.",': ;:;C , •.•. ~:'. "-:>";-YF~2~S.. ' .',' __ .' .
. "It{:Was·atthat.'time, how~ve;ith;"CBishop,Artiho~y'~lia, ~r an examination
of .the Bread -'of -Life' Community .conducted 'l:>y':~BishopSheldon and diocesan
associates, issued four directives which had·tp,oo;,fulfilled if the group was to
continue to receive recognition as a Catholic ·,otga,nfztltiiin... . .:.. :".
·.;The directives -stipulated,thR{BOLC memb&~ .. , . 'Mass'at their own 'parishes,
~tna~·they~·rec:er~~~di~~~:!lp~tci'Ve~'ithi!olt"' "'rili/that' the/'puWsh' a'
, di>2umimtrevealin{(their.ideIitity)Uid:th~·;r· Ii .eitjs:of their community order and
'that they discontinue ~tin~ntllI\d qutreach proir8n:is i!urlng the period in which
- thedirectiveswerein the process of beingm-et.,·!:t.~·,. '. " ~
"'·.TheBread of Lifeleadership,.:Subaequently,adviSed Bishop Pilla's :offiee.that the
~t~~~~:~~~~~~:;;fc~~~ua;~ri~~~t~!f.!;;~~~~;i~;I~~d,'t?:t',~~ey" c,~t~d n~
"";.;In'·~he~,,lVords'of[BOLC's'{p!~eIit,,,actfugj~rdiitBct:i?! },at,tOn,."YIe ~e·.·nR~ an
:~organizatioir-~f-:catbo1i~,.not~ a: ca£holic~amzatil)ti~ ~~ ~<.~:....~
:;~·.,:~~·~~~_"\~Zl:.f.~
;(~{~- ~
':i ':5ishop Piiia's1984-'acli6I{:roliowed~a°Yepoit<by"Cult",WatClr 8lifuon?'giOup,
. which 'said·:they 'received 'more 'than 20'rompll!irits7 siiggesting .Bread of Life,-was a
.cult, The report was publisJiecginca,¥ay,l3;:.1984';",Ai<ron Beacon V~Urn:aI:'story
'which alsil reveiUedthat Bi';hop )'ilIa's officij,Ilad,.\received similar, .compllrints .
concerning.the gTOUpSm~th~~,~~f~~C~q~~~~:rr6m~4f:t<t'~~;eX-~~.~~~:':;*~<1·,f~/~
,,'BOLC's methodS and'.teci)lliiililiit ah W~ilali'JOhe~ole.o(Dick He;ma-n Cibntii).ti~tO'.•: one close to,l\'-C '
be'.at·the heart of thedeb>(te~jc(wh~*e~'the gr';iipjs~a;jUurablE; or~gero'us.:-fC"7' .~~; ; • ;': ,:,the groUp haSi'~ .
The evidence for either judgment'remainsincoIicluSiYe. Nevertheless, a prelimirilirY~.<~ '~~::: ...::0~ suggel>1ed t~f,,~; ,
Unive~se Bulletin investigatlon,hasdisclooed-;.peniuj;give-i;estimoriy and other-' ~ j:;;.::'~.'1i:" . the'vlolence.-:,·
· indications that Bread of Life,is"oocorillng mo~)soll1ted, .secretive and extreme;: ':.',-<:.~ - ~ '", ~.' -.:. 'hlch has <
'While some observers haveceJ!:pressedconcern o)'erthe.'welfare~of a group whose'.
leader's pursuit of his ideaor'hoHhess is'apparentl:Vunchecked.by externalauthority
'.;.c-. i-;. ,~.,~~.f;I~~j,a,rloiis:"'.:
, " , . "
or internal democracy, no one,cJos~ito·',the· i;roup'chaa "suggested 'that the-violence ,:;{,<,.cults Is likely to"
which has afflicted various cUlts is' likely to occur' within Bread o(Life: ',' .~. ..' occur within.
Moreover, even the community's fierceSt critics acknowledge that, collectively and Bread of Life;'
individually: Bread of Life has accomplished good works, and that .though the
community may have strayed from a productive path,' its members were initially.
drawn to it by a desire to know and follow 'Christ. ,
Today, though, as community membership :fonnerly over 390 has dwindled to
approximately 100, a significant number of former BOLC people are making
assertions such as that the "group has gone from bad to worse,'"and that life within
it is "becoming'heavier and heavier." : Peggy Oliver said, "They talk about the 'group as being spiritual bootcamp." appr
The consensus of the ex-BOLC people spoken to by the UB is that Herman has An Akron area school teacher, who requested anonymity, said that her pastoral F
become an authoritarian and manipulative .1ead~r who practices and trains the leader demanded she pluck her eyebrows, told her to pray on whether or not to knos
community's coordinators in a subtle and effective form of mind control. button the top button' of her blouse and wrote her frequent notes on whom she open
Graphic artist Doug Spence, who was in the group from 1978 to the end of 1985, should date and how she should act when she did so. Any hand-holding or touching o
said, "There is, in my estimation, mental and emotional abuse. Really nothing goes was, for example, strictly taboo prior to engagement. requi
- CATHOLIC UNNERSE BULLETIN,FEBRUARY 2: 1990 11

Peggy Oliver remembers that Herman would reprimanded her if she wore slacks, ~obedience : ~thin Bread of Life is apparently obedience to one man, who is
chastised her for driving a car when there waS a man available to do 80 and ;_l functioning without magisterial sanction or appropriate checks and balances:
pressured her for several years to make a commitment to the single life. ''What this life of obedience amounts to," said Spence, '19 obedience to Dick as
According to Mrs. Oliver, who is now married and living In Boise, Idaho, other God's agent."
women and men were pushed toward marriage with a spouse of the leaders' Mrs. Oliver noted that people in the group tend to regard Herman as a saint.
choosing. . . She also recalled that when she len the group, Hennan told her, "You have wronged
Mrs. Oliver and Doug Spence related en incident in which a woman was told she ~ me, and the community (by leaving). You can either repent. and make it right. with
should marry a farmer. When a fanner appeared on the scene shortly thereafter, ....me immediately or wait until you're before the throne of Jesus on Judgment Day."
Mrs. Oliver said, Herman told the woman, "There's a farmer."
All of theex-BOl.C people the Universe Bulletin spoke with agreed that while
.fhe UB sources emphasized that persuasion and suggestion were as common J
obedience and actS of submission to the community's hierarchy were central in the
tactics. as direct orders in the group's discipline. '. ~ life 'of the, group, formal obedience was but one aspect of a system of authority.
"You were told to pray on an issue; said Mrs.,Oliver, "and if you were told to
pray on it, you could be sute that's what they wanted you to do." . Aspiring members 'were Integrated into the group in stages and acceptance could
She also related, in respect to the acts of submission requested by the community. c
be a tantalizingly slow process. Conduct was closely monitored by pastoral leaders,
who answered to coordinators, who answered to Herman. Throughout the process,
leadership, that "If you really wanted to do something, the surest, way to get
full membership was made to seem a blessed goal.
The control of the leadership' was, our sources said, intensified by a highly
scheduled program of communal living and a life of isolation strengthened by the
elimination of radio, television and newspapers.
In regard to the attractiveness of membership, the teacher, a member for eight
years, said. "People equated their holiness with being able to make the grade in the
BOLC and if they couldn't make the grade, they doubted their holiness."
. Oliver said that ilynamic was accentuated by the fact that "the group attracts
people who think they can't make it anywhere else.v.e judgment seconded by other
former members .
.Even though the BOLe path is described as being difficult for aspiring members,
the difficulty has generally been counterbalanced by the offering of love and
acceptance. /
Marilyn Miller said, "Th~re was a lot of loving 'acceptance in this group:'
Fonner BOLe me~ber Ma~garet Poloma was quotsd in a 1984 Akron Beacon
Journal story as alleging that the group uses 'love-bombing" tactics similar to those
. employed by the followers of the Rev. Sun Mynng Moon.
In addition t6 loving acceptance, the attraction of a rigorous spiritual path and
tight discipline, secrecy was and is an important component of the Bread of Life
experience.
Marilyn Miller noted that ;"hen she posed questions to Maureen -O'Boyle, until
recently an important group member along with he. husband Daniel, Miller's
questions were repeatedly met with, ''You'd better talk to Danny:'
The response is characteristic of a community in which all the lenders are male,
virtually all of them are related to Herman by marriage, and clear answers .are not
forthcoming.
'- ,It can be argued, however, that the media bums referred to by Father Dunphy
have at least been made worse by what Bishop Sheldon described in 1984 as an "us
against them" theology.
The bishop noted at that time that, "The idea of conflict between the believers
•.. .and '(the 'rest 00 the world seems. to be rather common in their teachings':'
. 'SI.mj~rlY, in:rUB' irit.itview.last<wee!o.Bi8hopAlheJd<w said,. "I think they""" ,
, themselves as a group who have the inner light, the authentic Christianity. I tlllnk"'''·,k
, they see. the church as having strayed from the path of the authentic Gospel:'
C~unterbal~cing that judgment and the more harsh verdict of people like Spence
and Mrs. Olive;', Fath~r Dunphy sjiid recently that he has Been no evidence Of
authoritarianism or mind control in his long association with Bread of Life.
The priest's assessment is supported by an Akron pastor close to the group who
declined to be quoted because, "I might lose my license,"
The ambiguity of Bread of Life's true nature also is evident in the recollection
of Universe Bulletin associate publisher Father Michael Dimengo that, "Dick Herman
has always seemed to me to be a gentle and humble man."
When told of Father Dimengo's recollection, Doug Spence quoted Thomas Merton
as having said, ''The sickness (spiritual pride) is most dangerous-when it succeeds
in looking like humility:' .
Spence also said, ..!'There is a spiritual blindness because God's light is assumed
(in the group) to be filtered through Dick. What this amounts to iR idolatry:'
Whatever a fair judgment of Dick Herman and Bread of Life may be, the
approval was to act as if you didn't want to do it." _ community continues to function in both Akron and Honduras.
Former member Marilyn Miller concurred that, "Even though it was difficult to While Mrs. Oliver~and Spence and the anonymous Akron teacher have expressed
know this initially, the group did turn out to be very authoritarian-in the way they concern over the community's long-time emphasis on martyrdom ("Saints,
operated:' missionaries and martyrs" is their slogan), the community will probably continue to
Obedience is clearly a major issue in Bread of Life's operations. It is also a virtue attract adherents and opponents as they follow their, or Dick Herman's, vision of
required in any religious community. What has attracted ne.f1tive attention ~8 that spiritual illumination.

"
St. Ann to exhibit skills-
in annualsclencefain
St. Ann School in Cleveland HeightS will be celebrating 25 years of science
achievement during its annual science fair Feb. 20 in Walsh Hall, below the .
church at Cedar Road and Stillman. . J'

According to Charlotte Huszcza, spokeswoman for St. Ann's, junior high


students have been "designing and conducting experiments to find out first
hand the answers to a VB8t array of pertinent, scientific questions."
The students, guided by eighth grade science teacher Joseph Zenisek, are
investigating an array of topics, from ecology Bod plant growth to human
behavioral responses and household germs.
Finh and sixth graders also are involved in the science fair through a
special event called Invention Convention which allows student~ to demonstrate
their science skills as they invent a new product or process, Bald Ms. HU8ZCZa.
Last year, St. Ann students took their exhibits to the science fair at St.
Ignatius High School and to the Fourth Annual Science Day held at Cuyahoga
Community College where they were recogruzed for eheie excellent projects.
"The Science Fair is an important' element of the school's science program,"
said Ursuline Sister Lois Petersen, school principal; "It allows students to
participate directly and creatively in the scientific proceee." .
?
Science fair hours are e.m. - 2 p.m '. and 7:S~ p_m.-9:00 p.m, Awards WIll St. Ann science teacher Joseph Zenisek Illustrates ,,'perlment to students
(left to right) Anthony· HUS{CZ8, Naklll Sml'.h end Care Paddon_ . . .
be announced in the everong. For more mformation, call 932-4.~77.