A Friend of Medjugorje (Terry Colafrancesco) fits the profile of a cult leader

and his group “Caritas of Birmingham” can be classified as a cult according to criteria of International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA)

Date: January 8, 2011
Category: Caritas of Birmingham and "A Friend of Medjugorje" Terry Colafrancesco, Sterrett (AL), Alabama

“None of us seemed to realize what was going on. These are very educated people, people who were very sincere about what they were doing. We didn't even realize we were under this control. We even joked about it. We said we had all the qualities of a cult. [1]

Steve Littiken, former resident and member of Caritas of Birmingham for 8 years

“I know that Caritas of Birmingham have no official tie with the Bishop. From what I have seen on the web site, the group sounds to me very much like a cult. I would discourage attending. [2]

Dr. Richard Geraghty, professor of philosophy at St. Joseph’s House of Studies, the college-level facility of the Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word

At the May 2001 American Family Foundation Conference in Newark, New Jersey, several ex-members of Caritas of Birmingham offered their stories to a distinguished panel of psychologists and cult exit counselors. It was the overwhelming opinion of the panel that the leader of Caritas of Birmingham, Terry Colafrancesco (self-styled “A Friend of Medjugorje”), fits the profile of a cult leader, much the same as David Koresh and Jim Jones were leaders of their groups. There are several factors that determine whether a group can be classified as a true cult.

Criteria of cult classification as provided by International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA), formerly the American Family Foundation:

Material in red is from the cult check list maintained by the International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA) (former American Family Foundation): “Characteristics Associated with Cultic Groups - Revised”.

International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA)

The International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA), formerly the American Family Foundation, describes itself as an "interdisciplinary network of academicians, professionals, former group members, and families who study and educate the public about social-psychological influence and control, authoritarianism, and zealotry in cultic groups, alternative movements, and other environments."

The current executive director is psychologist Michael Langone. The ICSA currently provides education and assistance regarding groups they identify as cults. It publishes the journal Cultic Studies Review.

Michael D. Langone, Ph.D., Executive Director of the ICSA, states that "A cult is a group or movement exhibiting a great or excessive devotion or dedication to some person, idea, or thing, and employing unethically manipulative techniques of persuasion and control designed to advance the goals of the group’s leader, to the actual or possible detriment of members, their families, or the community... Although many cult members eventually walk out on their own, many, if not most, who leave cults on their own are psychologically harmed, often in ways they do not understand. Some cult members never leave, and some of these are severely harmed. There is no way to predict who will leave, who won’t leave, or who will be harmed."

The ICSA offers assistance and education relating to such groups:

  • It offers assistance for "those who have been adversely affected by a cultic experience or who seek to help others or who are simply interested in the subject. This assistance includes an information service for families, clergy, students, and professionals.
  • It offers "education" on the subject of cults.
  • It publishes the online scholarly journal Cultic Studies Review
  • It maintains an electronic library on the Internet with information on groups and issues regarding psychological manipulation and abuse - Caritas of Birmingham group is included in this library. There is also an online archive offering abstracts of all articles of the Cultic Studies Review.
  • It conducts annual conferences for professionals and workshops for families, former members and mental health professionals.


All documents quoted in this article, together with additional detailed information on Caritas of Birmingham and self-styled "A Friend of Medjugorje" (Terry Colafrancesco) are available in English and Italian languages online at:



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