Statement of Mr. John LaMattery (Sr) former first-generation member of The Family International (aka. The Children of God) in support of the second-generations’ fight to expose the abuses of the quasi-Christian church of The Family International.
To all past and current first-generation members of The Family International; to ALL our second-generation young people; to the media and; most of all to my own dear children,
My name is John LaMattery. I first joined the Children of God in 1973 and was a full-time member until 1978. I then re-joined in 1985 under its new-name: The Family. I left full-time membership in 1994.
My first son, John LaMattery(Jr), is now standing up to expose the abuses that occurred to many of the children of this group. I would like to say, first of all, how proud I am of my son. It is costing him dearly to make this stand: in finances and health. He is a fine young man who loves his fellowman and has always dealt honestly and truthfully with others. It is true that he suffered sexual abuse as a 9 year old. I would like to say that I was aware of this and failed to intervene on his behalf. I am ashamed that I failed my son and that I did not take steps to protect him from this. In fact, I sanctioned the incident that he refers to in news accounts. I was terribly mistaken in my judgment. I failed to guard him and to keep him out of harms way. For this I am truly sorry. I will not make any excuses for this failure. It was wrong and it is something that I will have to carry to my grave as a terrible mistake made in my life. As King David wrote: “my sin is ever before me.”
Two of my 6 daughters also suffered sexual abuse at the hands of Family members. I was not aware of these until years later but it still remains that because I kept my children in this organization I, whether knowingly or unknowingly, exposed them to an environment which allowed such things to occur. I regret that this happened to them. By placing my children into harms way I must take full responsibility for the results of this in their lives today.
All my children suffered some form of abuse. Not all necessarily sexual. There were other abuses such as psychological which were degrading to their character or frightening to their young minds and spirits. They were deprived of a proper education, asked to go out on the streets and door-to-door nearly daily to raise funds for our living. They were separated from each other and made to live in locations away from their natural family. In essence their family unit was virtually destroyed while at the same time they were made to feel guilty for missing their brothers and sisters, father and mother. This is such a sad and regretful set of circumstances.
These events in my children’s lives are a sad blot on their childhood memories. I regret that as a parent I failed to provide them with the love and care, the oversight and proper attention that are expected of any loving and concerned parent. I hope that in some way they will find complete healing and that the hurt and pain which I allowed into their lives will some day fully heal.
I would also like to say I am very sorry to all the children in The Family whether you ever suffered sexual abuse or not. I am sorry that I didn’t fight for your rights and fight against the terrible insidious doctrine of ‘the law of love’, a doctrine which was twisted by many of my generation to give license to abuse you in one form or another. It is a doctrine which, through my recent conversations with some current members, is still strongly adhered to and professed to be a true and pure doctrine of The Family International. I do believe that Jesus Christ came to this earth to bring His pure and sacred new law: to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves. But The Family has, in my opinion and judging by their fruits, grossly misinterpreted it and misused it. This is a sad testimony to the many honest and good people who originally joined this Christian movement. Some got out when they saw things were going wrong. I, regretfully, did not.
Through much prodding by my children and family I am now standing up to voice my condemnation of The Family International. Not the poor and blind souls of the average member, for they are but sheep, but I stand to condemn specifically Karen Zerby (aka Maria) and her hubris of continuing to promote, oh so subtlety, her long held doctrine of the ‘law of love’ which continues to this very day to cause widespread justification for the abuses of the past. It is this doctrine in particular that I believe has created a fundamental mindset which prevents first-generation adults to admit to any wrong doing concerning inappropriate behavior between adults and children in the past. It is, I believe, the mindset which caused Angela Smith (Sue) to continue to question what she had done wrong to Ricky as he was slitting her throat. It is the mindset that is causing Ricky’s own mother and leader of The Family to place the blame for the tragic fruit of her own body on so-called apostates instead of squarely on her own shoulders and the shoulders of her idol namely David Berg, founder of The Children of God.
There is no excuse for what I have caused my children to suffer. I take no refuge in the fact that I was a member of this group and believed in this doctrine of the ‘law of love’ as they put it. I voluntarily gave my mind, heart and soul to follow what was a lie and a deceptive doctrine of love. It was not the true love of God and I believe that we as parents must look honestly in the face of the children that we have produced and are still producing and say to ourselves “where did I go wrong?”
I call on all FIRST-GENERATION current and former members of The Family International to now follow me in supporting our children as they raise their voices to cry out against the lies and the falsehoods that they suffered under. I call on my generation to step forward and come out of the shadows and be counted. Perhaps you never personally witnessed the sexual abuse that many have suffered. But, I pled with you now to look deep into your heart and deep into God’s Holy Word and honestly admit that what David Berg preached and what Maria has continued to preach namely, that “whatever is done in love is right in the sight of God” was twisted and wrestled by them and thus has borne the terrible fruit of suicide and murder in their own home. Do not allow them to pass this blame any longer on to others. Do not, I beg you, allow them to run from the light of the truth of their actions. Do not allow them to continue to twist the truth to support their interpretation of God’s Word.
Our children need our full support now. They need to know that we love them even if it means a total destruction of our own livelihoods, the loss of friends and reputation. Fail not to remember that “greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” If Christ asked us to do that for our friends then, I ask you, what would He expect us to give to save our children?
My son has said “it’s a war now between ourselves and our parents”. Let us unite with our children and turn this war towards those who share in our guilt but who continue to hide in the shadows and refuse to take account for their participation in following this false doctrine of love which reaped sorrow and pain in the lives of so many of our children. Stand up and make your voice clear that the “love” so preached was tainted by the lascivious ranting of a false prophet and was and still is supported by pride and arrogance, lies and deceptions in the person of Maria. We are all truly guilty of allowing this into our lives for whatever reason. We all share in this to some degree. Some more than others but as all Nazis’ shared in some part the blame for allowing Hitler to rise so we all share in our sin of not resisting the evil, not fighting the injustices and in not standing by the side of our children in their desperate hour of need. And let us remember what the Psalmist wrote in the 15th Psalm: “Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? Who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoureth them that fear the Lord. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not.”
To the first generation I finally say, "May God help each of us, may He have mercy on our souls and may we pray that our children will in time forgive us."
And to you of the second generation I sadly say, "I'm sorry for failing you and for letting you down. I hope that many will now stand up to support you in your fight."