On March 1, 1972, MP Wallace Nesbitt, a Progressive Conservative representing Oxford, came to the House of Commons and asked why the Liberals were funding Satanism in Toronto.
The Liberal government had given grants to a religious group “widely recognized for promoting devil worship with associated rites and rituals,” Nesbitt said.
The group in question was the Toronto chapter of the Process Church of the Final Judgment, a small sect that received intense media scrutiny and high-level debate during its brief existence. The church’s faithful (called Processeans) did not indulge in devil worship, but the group’s quirky beliefs and eye-catching outfits made such a misunderstanding almost inevitable.
Church leaders wore dark capes up to their ankles and crucifixes modified with images of snakes. The Church had a weakness for the emblem of the goat of Mendes, which consists of a goat’s head in a pentagram (“a symbol of Satan” according to one Toronto Star group profile). The male rulers had long hair and beards, which made them look austere, similar to Rasputin’s.
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“Everyone who walks down Yonge Street knows them – bright-eyed youth in long black or blue capes – with strange images of a snake around their necks,” the Globe wrote on February 5, 1973.
The Process Church was founded in 1963 in the UK by Robert de Grimston and Mary Ann MacLean (the couple later married). Originally a therapeutic movement called Compulsions Analysis, the group has grown into an eclectic religious order with branches in London, Rome, Chicago, New York, and San Francisco, among other cities. The Toronto chapter was founded in early 1971. That same year, the process church co-founders, Grimston and MacLean, briefly lived in Toronto.
The Process Church adhered to “a complicated theology,” as the Globe and Mail Put the. Explained simply, the Processeans believed that God was made up of three distinct deities: Lucifer, Satan, and Jehovah. The Church extended the Christian concept of loving one’s enemy to include the devil and espoused an apocalyptic “the end is at hand” philosophy.
In his many writings, de Grimston insisted that the Process Church did not worship demons (did the trinity at the center of the faith represent literal gods, or were they symbols of common personality traits? members expressed different views). The public struggled to grasp such theological nuances, and the press generally portrayed the order as a strange satanic coven (“Process Church Sees Satan’s Force as ‘Positive, Vital’” read a Toronto Star headline on May 16, 1973) .
Slanderous rumors linked the Church to terrible people. There were accusations that the Process Doctrine had inspired Charles Manson (this was not the case, although the sect interviewed Manson for Process, the Church’s magazine). Serial killer David Berkowitz, who terrorized New York City in the mid-1970s under the pseudonym “Sam’s son” is said to be a member (a questionable claim at best).
Although these murderous links were unfounded, the Church could have been guilty of other sins. The book, Love, sex, fear, death: the inner story of the church process of the Final Judgment has recounted accounts of sexual and psychological abuse in various chapters around the world. Author Timothy Wyllie (a former member of Process Church in Toronto and other locations) has described the cult as rigid and bossy.
The Toronto chapter had about half a dozen full-time members at the start (the order would later claim hundreds of members). Church members proselytized downtown sidewalks and sold books and copies of To treat magazine. This nifty post featured interviews with celebrities such as Mick Jagger and articles on esoteric topics. The Toronto branch also operated a visitor center and café in residences at 94 and 99 Gloucester Street. The Church has organized religious services, concerts and telepathy seminars open to the public.
Initially, things went well: “To our great relief [the Toronto branch] quickly became a success. Canadians were generous to us on the streets and seemed to enjoy our magazine and started flocking to our cafe, ”Wyllie wrote.
Among the prominent followers was funk pioneer George Clinton. Members of the process were able to spend time with the musical genius in a Toronto recording studio at a time when Clinton, who ran the Funkadelic bank, was in love with the cult.
For all of this energetic activity, it took a government grant to propel the Toronto Chapter into national prominence.
In 1972, it was revealed that Process Church in Toronto had received $ 25,900 in grants from the Local Initiatives Program. The PLI was established by the Liberal government to fund cultural and community projects across the country. The Process Church said the funds were used to pay employees at its drop-in center.
When news of this grant became public, all hell broke loose – so to speak. The PCs bombarded the Liberals with pointed questions. Responding to MP Wally Nesbitt, Acting Premier Mitchell Sharp said the grant application “has been approved” by well-respected organizations including the YMCA, Toronto’s Doctors Hospital, the Department of Health (now the Ontario Ministry of Health) and the Ontario Ministry of Health. Bank of Montreal.
These groups were quick to point out that they had not approved the Process Church per se, but had simply approved the grant application. Ontario Health Minister Richard Potter “disowned” a letter from his ministry supporting the grant, saying it was “written by a junior ministry staff member without [his] authority ”, wrote the World March 4, 1972.
Likewise, the Doctors Hospital said all it provided was a letter acknowledging that Process Church members were volunteering for the organization. (According to The Globe and Mail, “SJJohnston, administrator of Doctors Hospital, said his director of volunteers handed over a standard letter of recognition after two cult members spent one morning a week for seven weeks working with children. in the hospital… He said there was no religious connotation in the work of the volunteer. ”)
Denying knowingly funding Satanism, the liberals stood firm and “rejected the suggestion that a group’s religious affiliation should be a yardstick for whether or not it should get an LIP grant,” wrote the World.
At the end of March 1972, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau told the Commons that “the offices of the local initiatives program have [Process Church] grant in good faith to people who seemed to be committed to doing a good job.
The Conservatives would not drop the case; at a Commons committee meeting in early 1973, Erik Nielsen (PC-Yukon) read “two affidavits alleging that a Toronto café and drop-in center funded by the Local Initiatives Program last year [and run by the Process Church] was a haven for drug addicts, prostitutes, homosexuals and drug traffickers, ”said the Citizen of Ottawa.
The Toronto Processeans refuted these accusations, as well as the devil worship accusations.
If Wyllie’s account in Love, Sex, Fear, Death is correct, the real grant scandal had more to do with deception than drugs and demonology.
According to Wyllie, a colleague called Phineas discovered “a Canadian government program that promised substantial grants for social work.” Without really believing we would get it, Phineas and I filled out their forms, carefully folding the facts to meet the government’s demands.
To the chapter’s surprise, the grant was approved. The group quickly turned the basement of their cafe into a soup kitchen and started offering free meals to the homeless. The old clothes were collected and given to the poorest. The group has also counseled drug addicts. In truth, the chapter’s poverty alleviation mission was “a half-hearted effort made primarily by us to justify the grant and to improve our public image,” Wyllie wrote.
Extensive media coverage of the grant raised the profile of the group. The leaders of the section have been interviewed extensively by the media; a rock band featuring members of the Toronto Processeans gave regular concerts at Process Church headquarters and other venues.
Despite this explosion of publicity, the church’s bizarre theology has hampered acceptance by the general public – in Toronto and elsewhere.
In 1974, Process Church around the world was in crisis. The founders of Grimston and MacLean fell out and MacLean took control of the organization. The group changed its name to the Founding Millennium Church, abandoned the “love your enemy – the devil” doctrine and adopted a more dominant Christian faith. The rebranding did not work and the order fell into obscurity. In 1993, the church adopted another new identity, becoming Best Friends, a nonprofit group dedicated to animal care.
The Process Church continues to gain attention. The Netflix series Sam’s sons rekindled the fragile claim that serial killer David Berkowitz was a member. The church was also featured in a 2015 documentary titled Sympathy for the devil.
As for the LIP grant – which expired in September 1972 – Wyllie wrote that “credit has to go to the Trudeau government because it hasn’t backed off, but from our perspective that just kept all of the nasty publicity in them. news that much longer. “
An unpleasant advertisement that made it nearly impossible for a fledgling sect with radical theology to win over a mass of supporters in Toronto the Good.
Sources: the March 27, 1972 edition of Calgary Herald; April 17, 1971, February 5, 1973, March 4, 1972, March 9, 1972, March 24, 1973, May 30, 1974 and December 5, 1974, editions of Globe and Mail; the March 2, 1972 edition of Leader-Post; Love, Sex, Fear, Death: The Inside Story of the Doomsday Church Process by Timothy Wyllie (Feral House: 2009); the editions of February 2, 1973 and March 2, 1972 of Citizen of Ottawa; May 22, 1971, edition of Ottawa Journal; the editions of May 16, 1973 and May 22, 1971 Toronto Star; The Ultimate Evil: The Search for the Sons of Sam by Maury Terry (Quirk Books: 1987).
Also: Wallace Nesbit (PC – Oxford) and the Honorable Mitchell Sharp (Acting Prime Minister), House of Commons Debate, Workforce – Local Initiatives Program, Ottawa, March 1, 1972.
The Right Honorable Pierre Trudeau (Prime Minister), House of Commons Debate, Manpower ‚—Local Initiatives Program – Grant to Process Church of the Final Judgment, Ottawa, March 22, 1972.
Local Initiatives Program (PIL), Connexipedia site