A TV programme looking into a prominent Maltese cult led to a heated face-off between a gay cancer survivor and one of the leaders of the religious group.
Antonella Rogers, a prominent pundit who often speaks out about minority issues, faced Josette Bonello, one of the leaders of the Jesus the Saviour Community, a group which Lovin Malta revealed would exercise near total control on their members.
During an episode of L-Erbgħa Fost Il-Ġimgħa, Josette sat beside another cult leader Clyde Attard, as well as University of Malta professor and psychologist Mary Anne Lauri. However, the discussion quickly became heated once Rogers’ mother, who was a member of the community and is now dead, was brought up.
“You continued to manipulate my mother,” Rogers said, before Bonello jumped in to say she’s lying.
The pair try to speak over each other, until Rogers says: “I will not judge you, I’ll let God judge you.”
“Even I won’t judge you – but I can tell you, you’ve lied with every breath you took,” Josette shot back. When host Mark Lawrence Zammit said that she was judging her, Bonello said: “I’m just telling the truth – there’s a difference between judging someone and telling the truth.”
“Your anger is showing,” Rogers said.
“I’m not angry – Jesus was angry when he was in the temple and he noticed things weren’t right,” Bonello said.
“You were able to continuously manipulate my mother,” Rogers’ continued. “The message you gave my mother was that she was cursed because I was gay.”
“And that’s a lie as well,” Bonello said.
“So you’re saying my mother is a saint, and a liar as well?”
“No – I’m saying your mother is a saint and you’re a liar.”
The shocking back-and-forth laid bare how the leaders of the Jesus the Saviour Community treated anyone who may have been critical towards them, as laid out by former victims of the group themselves.
During the show, Zammit also spoke to a male youth who spoke of his positive experiences within the group, as well as a church expert following the Maltese Curia’s official condemnation of the group.
However, Rogers’ pain over what had occurred between the group, her late mother and herself was still evident.
“My mom swallowed your words hook, line and sinker,” she said.
Later on, Attard, reacting to Lauri’s criticism of the way he answers for these allegations, said: “if you don’t agree with the scripture, find a different interpretation – or rip the paper up.”
In another segment, the pair responded to allegations that they’d advise people not to seek medical assistance when battling illnesses, and whether Bonello had ever declared herself a “prophet”.
If you’ve been affected by the Jesus the Saviour Community, or any other religious communities, contact Lovin Malta in confidence via email on [email protected]