On Thursday, we told you about what appeared to be a new development in Scientology’s “disconnection” policy that rips apart families. Like so many other parents, Claudio and Renata Lugli have not heard from their son Flavio in years because they chose to leave the Church of Scientology and he did not. But after not hearing from him for six years, Flavio suddenly started a blog.
In his blog, Flavio accused his parents of disconnecting from him and not the other way around, and of hiding “sins” that they would have to atone for. Flavio’s brother, Tiziano Lugli, told us the language in Flavio’s blog didn’t sound like him, and that he suspected it was the work of a Scientology Office of Special Affairs operative in Brescia, Italy, who has targeted Claudio and Renata with other online attacks.
Now, we have some new developments to tell you about and that we thought would be interesting for the many other families who have spent years hoping they could at least talk to their loved ones in Scientology.
After seeing our story, a tipster gave us what they said was a telephone number for Flavio, which we passed on to Claudio and Renata Lugli. They called it and it did not ring to Flavio, but it did lead to someone who eventually told them how to reach Flavio. Here’s what Claudio told us:
We called the number, but a female voice answered that sounded very similar to Flavio’s wife Jelena. So we hung up and called Hania Mrkos, Jelena’s father, and gave him the number to call.
After ten minutes he called us and said “I spoke to Flavio! The girl you heard was not Jelena, so I asked for Flavio and they put him on the phone. He was very friendly, told me he had bought a motorcycle, and that he was happy. It was a very social call. I asked him how was Jelena and he said she was good. I asked him to tell her to call me. He said he would and then said goodbye.”
Wow. So we used the same number and we called him. He was so excited we could hear his voice shaking. I said “Ciao, Flavio, it’s me, your dad.” After a bit of a time lag he answered, “Ciao, how are you?”
I said that I was doing fine and asked how about him and he answered he was doing great and that he was on the East Coast.
Then we told him we had seen the blog and that we were very surprised that “he” wrote on it that “we had abandoned him!” He hesitated a long time and then answered, “Well, OK, I understand.” So Renata asked him why he wrote that we had never been a true family. He didn’t answer that, but he replied that this communication was very strange, and it was strange that it happened while he was on tour. So he was avoiding the issue. We pointed out again that he had said on the blog that we had abandoned him, but here we were, getting his number and calling him.
Very surprisingly, he said, “Finally, you tracked me down.”
We decided to take on the disconnection directly, and we asked him if he could continue to communicate with us. He said that we were the ones who had chosen the wrong path, so how could we stay in communication?
“Which path are you talking about?” I asked, and he said that we had chosen to go on the Internet and say bad things. I said what we had said online was only the truth, but he didn’t want to discuss it. “I love you and you love me and that’s it, end of cycle,” he said.
But I pushed him, asking him why he was allowing OSA to write on the Internet that we had never been a good family. He didn’t answer, and I thought it was a sign that he didn’t actually know what OSA had been saying about us. He said his only interest was that we should leave him and his church alone.
Renata took the phone and told him that she was sorry, because karma would not be kind to him in the future for treating her the way he had and betraying her. She said he should fix things, and stop being loyal to a David Miscavige — and she did not use kind words about Miscavige. Flavio said nothing for a while before he said “I understand,” and tried to switch to small talk — what we call “good roads, fair weather” talk in Scientology.
I spoke to him again and told him that I just wanted him to be well and to do well in life and that we are not putting anything negative about him on the ‘net, and I said he should ask his friends in OSA what they’ve been doing to us. He said he was just auditing and going up the Bridge and that he didn’t want to be involved in all this mess. He said the conversation we were having was weird. I said it was a good thing that we were talking, and that we were here for him as we always have been in case he needs our help.
He said he was on the road and he was auditing and doing what he liked to do, and if we went a different direction that as our choice, but he doesn’t hate us for it. We told him we had chosen a different path because Scientology was not what we had known it to be, that it had been perverted and we felt it was our duty to inform him of that. He didn’t like that, and told us it was just our viewpoint, saying, “Really, there is no problem in Scientology whatsoever.”
If there wasn’t a problem, I said, then why does he have to be disconnected from us? Why couldn’t we talk freely about our points of view? He didn’t answer for a long time, and then he just repeated that he was doing well, and he was on the road and auditing. I pushed the point again, saying if things were so good, why couldn’t a father and a son have a relationship just because they had different views? He started making excuses that it wasn’t his phone and he needed to get off the line. And he told us again he wanted us not to write the things we did on the Internet, and that he had not disconnected from us, we had just chosen our own direction.
I didn’t like that and said, “What are you talking about, you never disconnected? We haven’t heard from you in six years.” And he said, “It was you that took that road, I never did. You put me on this path to auditing, and for that I thank you.”
Renata at that point brought up what was on his blog, that we had committed “big crimes,” that we had “big sins” and that we knew what they were. He said he had to get off the phone. Renata said it was obvious he didn’t even know what OSA had written about us under his name. That it looks like he’s the one accusing us of these things. And I asked him if he knew how OSA had been attacking us and fair gaming us. But he kept making excuses about having to get off the phone.
“I have to go. Please don’t call me at this number again, it’s a work phone,” he said. We told him he could call us any time, that our phone numbers had not changed. He said he loved us, and that he just hoped things went well with us, and that he was carrying on. Renata had the last word, and she said, “May the force be with you.”
We had to ask Claudio — did Renata really end it that way, “May the force be with you,” like from ‘Star Wars’?
“Yes, she did! What could she say? We were feeling happiness and sadness. It was sort of saying good luck in way that was real to him,” Claudio said.
After we heard from Claudio, we checked Flavio’s blog, and he — or his handler — had posted something of his own about the phone conversation…
Just the other day, in a strange way (I would almost say it was a miracle) I found myself on the phone with my mom and dad! It was about 14:30 (American time) on Thursday, I was in Cincinnati (Ohio, USA) and the phone in my office was ringing. I was pleased to hear from them after so long.
They were both good, and I took the opportunity to tell him how much success I’m having, and how much success I’m having practicing what I know to create a better world. I will never cease to be grateful to them for introducing me to Scientology, and for bringing me into the Church. They know that I love them very much and I have never [blamed] them. What we said it’s just between me and them and will always be ours, even after many thousands of kilometers away.
There’s only one thing I want to say about in my blog, so that it is clear for those who do not know me. I asked my parents to stop telling people all those bad things on the Internet, because it is something that bothers me. I really hope that they understand … I’d like someone one day bring me the news that they are not saying so many bad things about who I am and my Church. Hello mother, hello father.
We hesitate to make much comment about these exchanges. We’re sure Claudio and Renata are going over what they said and second-guessing themselves about the best thing to say after not hearing from Flavio in six years.
We know that they are grateful that they even had this opportunity, an opportunity that so many other families don’t get. We can see things in their exchange that must hearten them, and others that must discourage them.
We’d like to hear from other disconnected families and from the experts. If you had only a few minutes to speak with your lost Scientology family member after several years, what would you say?
Bonus items from our tipsters
The Atlanta crew is heading out to push Dianetics on the world!
How many of those Atlanta folks know that the book they’re pushing contains this passage?
HowdyCon 2017: Denver, June 23-25. Go here to start making your plans.
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The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2016 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Undergound Bunker (2012-2016), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)
Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…
BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of L.A. attorney and former church member Vance Woodward
UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists
GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice
SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts
Other links: Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | Scientology boasts about assistance from Google | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ
Our Guide to Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear,’ and our pages about its principal figures…
Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield