Now that William Kamm ("The Little Pebble"), the group's primary leader, has been jailed the group may fall apart.
The walls appear to be falling in on William Kamm’s Order of St Charbel, with former followers leaving the West Cambewarra community in droves, while others have gone into hiding.
Kamm, known to followers as The Little Pebble, was jailed on Friday for a minimum of three and a half years after being convicted of four counts of aggravated indecent assault, and one of aggravated sexual assault, of a 15-year-old follower.
That verdict and sentence is being appealed.
While no one from the religious order Kamm established has been willing to speak to the media since the jailing, Kamm’s right-hand man Malcolm Broussard asked followers to remain steadfast in a message on the order’s website.
“Remain at peace and continue to be vigilant in prayer and in a communion of suffering together – as we must remain united in our common faith, hope and charity,” Mr Broussard wrote.
“The Order of St Charbel and this community will continue to go forward.
“It would seem on the surface that the dark forces of evil have won a victory – but it is not true,” Mr Broussard wrote.
The man regarded as the order’s bishop, but who was excommunicated from the Catholic Church in 2003 in a decree that is still being argued, urged followers to remain true to their callings.
“It is not a time to reason, debate or argue,” he said.
“It is about our life and our obedience to the will of God.”
But Mr Broussard’s pleas may be falling of deaf ears, with sources close to the order saying a number of people, including some more of Kamm’s 12 “queens”, had left the communities in recent weeks.
Others disenchanted with Kamm’s teaching are planning to leave in coming weeks and months, once they can organise their affairs, according to the sources.
On top of that are claims many children from the West Cambewarra community have been put in hiding as parents fear a raid from the Department of Community Services – particularly if Kamm is released from jail.
A former follower, who did not want to be named, said Kamm’s religious communities at West Cambewarra and in the Victorian town of Tyack had become “ghost towns”.
Key members of the West Cambewarra community are believed to be in hiding in Tyack, with the former follower claiming, “The place in Nowra is falling apart.”
One of about 20 people who left the order in 2002, the woman claimed Kamm built a brick wall around him by divulging bits of secretive information to various select groups of followers, but “all the bricks are falling down”.
With Kamm in jail, “hopefully all the brainwashing will stop”, said a former member of Kamm’s inner circle, Glenn Talaue.
“Now that William’s out of the picture we hope that it will wear off,” said Mr Talaue, who led the 2003 walkout of Kamm’s followers.
He said a key aspect of the brainwashing were constant sermons from Mr Broussard not to question Kamm’s teachings, as he was a prophet of God.
Despite once being a key member of Kamm’s order and even quoted as sharing visions with Kamm, Mr Talaue said it was “all a sham”.
Speaking from Victoria, he said, “In order to get close to William you had to be one of his seers,” so he made up things to fit with what Kamm was supposedly seeing.
“I let it ride, I let it happen,” Mr Talaue said.
He said that led to the “ludicrous” situation of Kamm faxing him and asking him to confirm visions, or even ask Heaven about issues worrying Kamm.
Adding to disenchantment within the West Cambewarra community was the financial struggles facing some people, according to the former member who said she remained in close contact with people still following Kamm’s teachings and way of life.
“There are people there who can’t live because they’ve got no money left, they’ve given it all to him [Kamm],” she said.