Penn - My Relationship With Ricky Rodriguez

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DISCLAIMER: The following article is preserved here for educational purposes. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of's editors.

Editor's note: Originally posted on, 2005-01-22. The "Ricky" or "Pete" he is referring to is Ricky Rodriguez.

My Relationship With Ricky Rodriguez

By James Penn

Note: Maria names me as having a large responsibility for turning Ricky to the dark side of the force.

Hi everyone,

We are living in tragic times. But we are also seeing a new stage in the process of exposing The Family and bringing them to justice.

I mourn the deaths of Ricky and Angela, both of whom I knew for much of my adult life.

In their never-ending efforts to shift blame and responsibility, Smith and Smith are blaming the usual suspects, vitriolic apostates, for Ricky’s state of mind before he died. I think they mean us. In their spiel of January 22, posted elsewhere on this site, Maria names me as having a large responsibility for turning Ricky to the dark side of the force.

Maria writes:

"In time he decided to leave the Family. He started to communicate with apostate-type former members, including James Penn. It was then that he became Ricky. He started to write terrible things about me and about the Family. I had read things that were very similar before, in letters James Penn and others had written. He was beginning to take on the complaints of others. Pretty soon his letters were filled with foul language, language that Pete hadn’t used, but Ricky did. Next came the threats."

Fascinating powers I seem to have, causing people to morph at will. Perhaps that’s why I have so few friends.

Since I left the group, I have not given much weight to anything Maria writes, especially about me. But I would like to make two points clear.

First, I never in any way advocated that Ricky commit any violent acts. I am resolutely opposed to the use of violence. I told him repeatedly that the best way to advocate against his mother was to write about his experiences and knowledge. He was an excellent, clear writer.

Second, from the get-go, well before he ever spoke to me or left The Family, Ricky had his mother and The Family pretty much figured out. Much more than I ever did before I left. Ricky did not need me or anyone to tell him why TF was evil. He was incredibly intelligent and gifted with keen insight.

I have just reviewed my email correspondence with him at that time. Following are some excerpts, which in my mind indicate Ricky’s thinking at least eight months before he left TF, in January 2001. I also feel that these excerpts give an idea of the nature of my relationship with Ricky before he left.

(What had happened was that in early 2000, Rick left his mother’s leadership Home in Portugal and went to the States. While there, he decided to leave The Family. In early April he called me. I had not had any contact with him since I left World Services in 1998. Rick wanted to know why my friends and I had left The Family. His mother had spoken disparagingly about us. I explained the reasons. (A short time later he emailed me, telling me he was going to remain in The Family, at least temporarily. What did I think about that, he asked.)

On a different note, it is a privilege and an honor to bear witness to the pain and abuse that so many of you have suffered in The Family.

As Ricky wrote in the piece on the memorial website, I too hope "that one day [The Family leadership's] evil legacy will die with the Family, and it will be only a distant or, better yet, forgotten bad memory."


Letter to Ricky Rodriguez, by James Penn

Note: Excerpts of my letter to Ricky after he told me he had decided to stay in The Family. I refer to him as Pete, one of the nicknames he used in The Family.


Hi Pete,

I guess by the time you get this, you'll be in England. You sure get around! Thanks for your note, and the clear explanation of your decision to remain in the Family. You write well. Given all that you had spoken with me about, as well as the various emails, it was a surprise.

You asked me what I thought about your decision. I've thought and prayed about it, and will tell you, but only because you asked. And only because you have already expressed your heart feelings on a number of issues.

I will always count you as a friend. So don't worry about that.

I respect your decision. I am a big believer in personal choice. It is difficult to leave the Family, even when convinced that it is the right thing to do. The transition can be painful. As I see it, it helps immensely to have strong conviction about it, so that when trials or hard times come, the inner strength is there to persevere. It is inconsiderate to try and persuade people to leave the Family if they do not have some sort of inner conviction. So, if you have chosen to stay in the Family for now, or however long, I respect that. It is your choice. That is what is important.

...What do I think about your reasoning? I understand it. It was my reasoning for a number of years. But in a nutshell, given the many opinions that you have voiced to me about fundamental issues, I think that at some point you are going to have to "get busy living or get busy dying" (from "The Shawshank Redemption."). You're either going to have to sincerely buy into the new wine and get on board, or you're going to have to get out. You're going to have to take one of the pills. (The Matrix. I always forget which color is the bad one!) You can't sit on the fence forever. I do not believe that God wants us to continually compromise our sincerely held convictions and turn a blind eye to doctrines and practices that we know to be wrong and harmful. That is one of my ideas of hell. If you are going to have any kind of a life, you're going to have to resolve these issues. Otherwise, your life will be a complete lie, and you will gradually become a very screwed up dude.

...Of course, if you believed in the new wine, etc., then it would not be such an issue. And frankly, I would not spend my time writing to you about all this. But Pete, when you articulated some of your opinions to me, I was shocked. I assume that you have not heard this from other people, and are simply regurgitating it. You have also had the disadvantage of living in the belly of the beast, your mother's house, for several years. And yet you have such a clear understanding of the truth. And the fact that you express it so well indicates to me that these are deeply held views. It took me years to get to that point, and I had some precious fellow heretics to air and develop my thoughts with.

...So Pete, I can see going back to the Family working as a stopgap measure, but if I were you, I would not count on it as being a long-term solution. Unless you plan on sincerely renouncing much of what you expressed to me. I admire your desire to serve the Lord in the Family for the reasons that the Family was founded. But you know what? That is not good enough. Those days are gone forever. They are a dream. If you want to serve the Lord for the reasons that the Family was founded, you had best do it outside the Family, or at the least, be a FM. Mo, and more recently M&P, consciously, deliberately reshaped the Family into a cult of their personalities and whims. Loyalty to them is what counts. You don't believe me? Just try contradicting them publicly. It's sad, but it is the truth. The Family has been irrevocably transformed. Your mother has made this very clear. She has said that if you want to serve the Lord with the Family, but not believe the new wine, etc., then be a FM. But if you are going to be a CM, then you have to unquestioningly endorse the new wine and her leadership, as well as her take on history. So when she says that Mene was crazy, and that her accusations about Mo were false, you're going to have to go along with that and nod your head approvingly. And I don't think that you, in your present state of mind and heart, can sincerely do that. Sooner or later, something is going to have to give. So you might want to think about developing a Plan B.

...So, that's about all I have to say, Pete. I hope that I have not been too shrill and strident. If nothing else, you have learned to never, ever, ask me for my opinion! But you won't get it again, unless you ask for it. I reaffirm that I respect your choice, and that we are friends. It is your life, and you have to sort things out and figure out what you can live with. I am living according to my faith, and I exhort others to live according to their faith. Doing so empowers you greatly.

BTW, it is not a problem for me to talk about these issues." Out of the abundance of the heart…" I don't dwell on it on a daily basis, as I have more important, pleasant things to do. But it is not a problem to talk about it when there is a reason.

Love, and God bless and keep and guide you in everything you do,

— James

A few weeks later, Rick wrote a letter to his mother and Peter. This letter is posted on his memorial website, dated 29 May 2000. I sent the following comment to him.

"I love your letter Pete. Just be sure you keep speaking from the heart, that you speak the truth in Christ, and you have the faith to walk the walk. Then you are strong, because you have nothing to lose. You're operating with conviction, and as much as they [Maria and Peter] talk about it, they have not a clue what conviction means, or how to deal with someone who has convictions"