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French mission letter on Right to Conversion in Nepal annoys Kamal Thapa

Posted May 19, 2010

May 17, 2010
Telegraph Nepal
Source Link

After returning from a trip to Mumbai, the financial capital of India, to participate in the International Hindutva Conference, Kamal Thapa, Chairperson of the single Royalist party Rastriya Prajatanta Party-Nepal, making a meaningful revelation has said that his party will launch an agitation for the sake of National Independence and Democracy.

It was indeed an attractive slogan to draw the attention of a vast majority of Nepali population.More importantly, Thapa in the course of his speech made at a program to celebrate 20th Anniversary of his party expressed serious objections over reports which claimed that the outgoing French Ambassador to Nepal, Mr. Gilles Henry Garault, had sent a letter on behalf of the European Union to the government of Nepal to guarantee ‘right to religious conversion.’Currently, France is the chair of local EU presidency.“The European Union urges the government to allow ‘full freedom’ to proselytize while drafting the new constitution”, one of the prominent media had reported referring to the “official” letter sent by the French Embassy.The current constitutional provisions on religious rights were “limited”, also says the French Embassy letter sent to the government of Nepal.”In the last four years experience of Nepal as a secular nation, one million Nepalese have been compelled to convert their religion”, Kamal Thapa said in the course of his speech.
Thapa said that his party will not allow Nepal to be endorsed as a Secular State. “We do not believe in religious Fundamentalism. However, our party is in favor of Nepal as a Hindu State along with Monarchy. Hinduism is the identity of Nepal”, he also said.
“Nepal cannot lose its unique Hindu Identity”, he said and added, “We want monarchy revived in Nepal but not an autocratic one.”


Woman Chained Nine Years…For Having Sex In The Bush

Posted June 9, 2010

June 8, 2010
Peace FM Online
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A woman believed to be about 30 years has been chained for nine years by her mother, who accuses her of being a witch and the cause of their family’s woes.

The woman’s ordeal began when her mother took her to a pastor for ‘cleansing’ after allegedly having sex with her boyfriend in the bush, The victim, Afia Korkor, according to a witness, lived with her mother Yaa Nyameama at Denkyira Obuasi, a village in the Upper Denkyira West District of the Central Region.

The witness explained that a pastor, Sofo Tima of Odeefour Nkansah Church, a local church had told the mother that her daughter was a witch who was terrorizing the family and until she was chained and prayed for, the family would continue to suffer.

This made her mother put her in chains in 2001 and refused her food and water. But the chained woman had lived on food from neigbours who sneaked to her “burrow” when her mother went to farm, since she had been fighting with those who gave her daughter food. The victim, who now behaves like an animal, has one child and was sent to the said pastor by the mother when she was reported to have slept with her boyfriend in the bush.

The witness disclosed that rituals were performed to purify the two of them but the mother still wanted to seek the intervention of the Almighty God. Odeefour Tima, the pastor, then told the mother that Yaa Korkor was a witch and was the source of all the problems bedeviling the family and this compelled the woman to chain her up. Yaa Korkor had since been in chains and was only rescued after the issue was brought to light by host of Adekye Mu Nsem”, a programme on Solar FM, a local radio station in Dunkwa on Offin.

Mother of the victim told the host of the programme, Winfred Kojo Benning aka K.K Bonita that she acted upon the instructions of the pastor. The case has been reported to the Upper Denkyira Police Command while the victim is responding to treatment at the Dunkwa Municipal Government hospital.

Pastors trafficking NE children for church grants and foreign donations

Posted September 11, 2010

Aug 6, 2010
The Times of India
Source Link

NEW DELHI: Promising proper education, pastors are trafficking children from the north-eastern states to Tamil Nadu and Karnataka with an oblique motive to get grants from churches and abroad, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights said in a damning report to the Supreme Court.

Inquring into recent rescue of hundreds of children trafficked from the NE states and housed in Homes illegally run by pastors in the southern states, NCPCR found that girls were even asked to give massage to the directors of these Homes and molested.

Analysing the situation in a detailed report, NCPCR said insurgency coupled with the virtual absence of government officials at the sub-district and block level to address the education, health and developmental problems have made the entire north-east an easy hunting ground for middlemen to lure out children from parents in the name of providing them proper education.

\”All-out effort are being made by pastors and other category of persons who are reaching out to source areas through middlemen for getting children in order to obtain financial support from churches within the country or donations from outside,\” the NCPCR said in response to a direction from the apex court to inquire into the incidents.

The source areas for the pastors are Tamnglong, Senapati, Chandel, Bishnupur, Churachandpur and Imphal in Manipur, North Cachar Hills in Assam and Meghalaya. The destination states are TN, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala.

\”The main reason for children being sent out by the poor parents to far off places in southern states is due to their high expectation of quality education for their children which is not available at their own places,\” the Commission said.

The other main reasons for the parents agreeing to send their children far away were no easy access to schools; lack of basic infrastructure such as road connectivity, power and hospitals; insurgency and lack of a sense of security among parents to send children walking to schools; poor financial status of parents preventing them from putting children in boarding schools; and absence of governance in sub-district and block level to address education, health and developmental problems of vulnerable families.

This provides a perfect opportunity for middlemen to exploit the situation and is being taken advantage of by pastors. But, the children get caught between the devil at home and the deep sea in the Homes in southern states, NCPCR said.

\”Mostly these children from north-east who are brought to TN and Karnataka are put in Tamil and Kannada-medium schools for study. It is not easy for these children to have education in the languages which are not spoken in their states,\” the Commission said.

Apart from giving a series of recommendatory directions to the NE states to improve the educational and health facilities, NCPCR asked the Union HRD ministry to supply data about the number of schools and hostels in the north-east currently occupied by the armed forces.

While asking the HRD ministry to open Kendriya Vidyalayas, Navodaya Vidyalayas and model schools in the affected areas, the Commission said the Union home ministry must ensure that \”the para-military forces vacate the schools and hostels occupied by them and submit an action taken report within two months to the SC\”.

Christian MP Fred Nile engulfed in net porn scandal

UPDATE 2.17pm: A CHRISTIAN Democrat MP has conceded a staff member looked at internet porn, but “for just a few seconds”.

An audit of NSW parliamentary computers showed porn was accessed under Reverend Fred Nile’s log-on.

Sources said that up to 200,000 suspect hits had been recorded, but Mr Nile said research into the Australian Sex Party could be responsible for the hits.

The MP insisted neither he nor any member of his staff had been “sitting there perving” on porn movies in Parliament House.

“My senior researcher has conducted a lot of research into the pornography industry at my request because we have bills dealing with increasing the ban on pornographic materials,” he said.

“I have not accessed or viewed any of those sites but my researcher has, particularly … the Sex Party, Eros Foundation and others and through those sites, they do have links to hardcore pornographic material which (those websites) support.”

Related Coverage

An audit of NSW parliamentary computers, which has already resulted in the resignation of Labor minister Paul McLeay from cabinet, showed adult content had been accessed under Mr Nile’s log-on.

Mr Nile said his researcher viewed the porn sites briefly to ascertain what it was before shutting it down.

“He has not viewed any pornographic materials at all,” he said.

“He’s only opened up the sites so he could see what material was on the site but hasn’t actually viewed the material.

“You only have to (view it) for a few seconds to get the drift of what material is on that particular website.”

Mr Nile said his personal parliament computer log-on, also used by a part-time researcher, had been cleared by the clerk as not having any pornography hits.

His office added that 200,000 hits was impossible.

The other two computers in his office, used by his two fulltime staffers, would be investigated next, he said.

Mr Nile does not use a computer in the state office, preferring to use his Blackberry phone.

He said the porn site research was used for questions, speeches and bills, including the federal Labor government’s internet filter plan.

”(Staff) were researching the links as to who is promoting this material and supporting it, such as the Sex Party,” Mr Nile said.

When asked what this would do for his reputation as a moral crusader, Mr Nile replied: “I suppose it may confuse some people”.

“But they can be quite confident in my own integrity that I have not viewed this material, nor have I had my staff sitting there perving over a pornographic film but investigating this very important social issue area.”

Mr Nile said he had never viewed porn in his entire life, adding he was aware viewing pornography was against state parliament rules and that his staff had logged onto official websites like the Sex Party and the Eros Foundation.

“They’re not banned by parliament but they should be,” he said.

“I’m quite happy for the parliament to conduct an investigation. I’ve asked them to conduct an inquiry into all the computers in my office.”

Mr Nile said he also planned to contact federal police to investigate whether his office computer system had been hacked into.

“I’m very angry about (the report) because it implies Fred Nile personally is sitting in parliament viewing pornographic films,” he said.

“That’s a complete falsehood, a lie.”

Mr Nile said his office has had problems with hackers in the past, citing one incident in which material was stolen from a database.

Ports Minister Mr McLeay was sacked by Premier Kristina Keneally after he admitted accessing online pornography and gambling sites as a minister and as a backbencher.

He is the fourth minister to resign from Ms Keneally’s government in nine months, including David Campbell for visiting a gay sex club and Ian Macdonald over travel rorts.

MP Karyn Paluzzano was sacked for lying to ICAC.

The Government has lost six ministers in 12 months, including Joe Tripodi and John Della Bosca, who resigned a year ago after revelations he conducted an affair in Parliament.

In a teary media conference yesterday outside Parliament, Mr McLeay said he had apologised to the Premier. He said he had offered to resign from the Labor Party.

The audit, by the Department of Parliamentary Services, is understood to have found more than 60,000 suspect hits on Mr McLeay’s log-on.

“I am quite embarrassed to be standing here before you. This behaviour is not the standard expected of Government ministers,” he said.

“I spoke to my wife first, then the Premier, then my mother and that’s why I am here this afternoon.”

The audit was ordered by Speaker Richard Torbay after revelations a former staffer for Ms Paluzzano, Tim Horan, had accessed online gaming.

A firewall was installed in July for Legislative Assembly MPs so they could not view pornography, but Legislative Council President Amanda Fazio elected not to install a firewall for the Upper House.

Before news of Mr McLeay’s resignation broke, Ms Fazio yesterday said she was refusing to implement a similar ban in the Upper House saying she was “against internet censorship”. She said MPs should be able to research pornography.

Ms Keneally announced Mr McLeay’s sacking in the House during Question Time and said he had admitted to accessing online pornography.

“This behaviour is not the standard I expect of a Minister,” she said.

A staffer for Mr Nile, David Copeland, confirmed he had viewed sites to research the activities of the Australian Sex Party and also the proposed internet filter.

It appears neither Ms Fazio nor Mr Torbay conveyed initial reports of the viewing of pornography they received to the Government or Opposition.

10 Church Leaders Surrounded by Scandal

If Ben Franklin were writing today, he’d likely say that nothing in this world is certain but death, taxes, and religious scandal. There have been so many church leaders plagued by scandal that Wikipedia has an entire category devoted to cataloguing the ways various men and women of God found themselves brought low by lust, anger, or good old-fashioned greed. The people on this list are notable not just for their mistakes, but ultimately how ordinary they are: they slept with the wrong person, bought the wrong house, etc. These are the church leaders who’ve shot themselves in the feet, and who might be forgiven but will never be forgotten.

  1. Ted Haggard: Ted Haggard founded New Life Church in Colorado Springs, a military town with major evangelical ties (Focus on the Family and Young Life are both headquartered there, among others). The church grew to more than 10,000 members, and his prominence led Haggard to become the president of the National Association of Evangelicals. He was, basically, one of the kings of the modern evangelical movement, noted for his strong statements against gays. However, in 2006 a gay prostitute came forward and claimed that he had sold Haggard crystal meth and gotten high with him, and that the two had been engaging in a sexual relationship for three years. Haggard initially denied all allegations, then admitted to buying the drugs but not using them and to getting a massage but nothing more. The resultant scandal forced him to resign from the NAE and New Life and relocate to Arizona, though in June 2010 Haggard announced plans to start up a new church in Colorado Springs. His public downfall led to drops in attendance and contributions at New Life.
  2. Jim Bakker: Jim Bakker is one of the more famous religious figures to meet with scandal. Bakker and his wife, the uniquely made-up Tammy Faye, founded “The PTL Club” and the ensuing PTL Satellite Network, which brought him fame and fortune in the 1980s as he became one of the biggest televangelists in the nation. The money turned out to be his undoing: Bakker sold “lifetime memberships” at $1,000 a pop for people who wanted the privilege of an annual three-night stay at a fancy hotel at Heritage USA, the PTL Club’s Christian theme park in South Carolina. However, investigators found that only one hotel was ever built, and it only had 500 rooms. Bakker sold way more memberships than he needed and pocketed more than $3 million for himself. Bakker stepped down from his roles ahead of the disclosure of an affair with Jessica Hahn, who was paid to keep quiet about the sexual encounters. Investigators also found out that Bakker cooked the books. He was eventually indicted for mail fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracy. He served five years in prison after reductions.
  3. Pope Benedict XVI: Taking the papacy in 2005, Benedict XVI (formerly Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger) has been hounded by allegations of involvement in and knowledge of sexual misconduct for years. On one hand, he’s been lauded for pursuing those members of the Church found to be abusing minors and denouncing their terrible acts. On the other, some accuse Benedict XVI of aiding in a cover-up of the abuses of Father Peter Hullermann, who abused several boys only to be transferred to another parish and allowed to resume his duties, at which point more boys were abused. There’s speculation about how much Ratzinger knew about Hullermann’s reinstatement, though he has denied complicity in any wrongdoing. Still, it’s a contentious issue for many Catholics.
  4. Henry Lyons: Henry Lyons started out as a rising star within the Baptist world: after serving as vice president of the Florida Baptist Convention and then its president, he became president of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. in 1994. However, Lyons was soon brought down by revelations of inappropriate spending. To wit, some of the cash he raised in the name of the organization went to buying himself a new house and a car. There were also allegations of adultery. In 1998, he was indicted for a host of bad deeds, including fraud, money laundering, tax evasion, extortion, and conspiracy. He resigned as president of the National Baptist Convention and was sentence to five years in prison. He was paroled in 2003, and unbelievably made two more unsuccessful attempts to regain the presidency of the convention.
  5. George Alan Rekers: George Rekers, a Southern Baptist minister, met with infamy in mid-2010 for sexual indiscretions. Rekers had long been a major player in conservative Christian circles: he was on the founding board of James Dobson’s Family Research Council as well as the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality, a group that dedicates itself to “converting” gay men and women into straight ones. Rekers was very outspoken about his beliefs when it came to the wrongness of homosexuality, which made his eventual scandal that much more ironic. In 2010, it was reported that Rekers had hired a gay male prostitute from as a travel assistant, and the hired man claimed that part of his duties had been to give Rekers nude massages. Rekers said he’d just hired the guy to carry his luggage. The FRC soon distanced themselves from Rekers, though he maintained his innocence in the face of curious evidence.
  6. Joe Barron: Joe Barron was a minister at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, one of the biggest megachurches in the country, boasting more than 26,000 members and a regular worship service attendance around 14,000. In 2008, Barron was caught in a sting operation by Dallas police for soliciting sex from a minor. He’d thought he was propositioning a 13-year-old girl with whom he’d been chatting online, but when he showed up to meet her, he was greeted by the boys in blue. Barron was, understandably, asked by church officials to resign, and he promptly did.
  7. Coy Privette: Coy Privette was well known in North Carolina as a pastor and politician. He served four terms in the North Carolina House of Representatives, he’s the county commissioner of Cabarrus County, and he was pastor for 14 years at North Kannapolis Baptist Church. He was also president of the state’s Christian Action League when, in 2007, he was caught doing something pretty bad: Privette received six charges of aiding and abetting prostitution. His life started to unravel when his bank called the cops about a suspicious check Privette had written to a woman who turned out to be a prostitute. That was pretty much the end of his time as a religious leader in the state.
  8. Earl Paulk: Earl Paulk wasn’t like other Southern white preachers of the mid-20th century: He openly preached against racism and was one of the few white pastors to march alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. Yet he was also hounded by scandal from the start, and left Atlanta’s Hemphill Avenue Church of God in 1960 because he’d had an affair with a female parishioner. He then went on to found the church that would become known as Chapel Hill Harvester Church and later the Cathedral at Chapel Hill, but sex scandal followed close behind. He and other pastors were accused of sexual manipulation, then Paulk was sued by a woman claiming he’d forced himself on her when she was 17. Other women came forward as news of Paulk’s affairs spread. But the kicker was when Paulk’s nephew, Donnie, revealed that DNA testing proved he was Earl’s son, not his nephew. Earl Paulk had slept with his sister-in-law years before. This led to a successful perjury charge, since Earl Paulk had stated under oath in previous cases that he’d never had an affair with anyone other than Mona Brewer, who was suing him at the time. He lived the rest of his life in legal and moral disgrace, dying in March 2009 from cancer.
  9. Lonnie Latham: Lonnie Latham was the senior pastor at Oklahoma’s South Tulsa Baptist Church and a member of the Southern Baptist Convention’s executive committee, but he had to step down from both roles in 2006 when scandal caught up with him. He was busted for propositioning a man for oral sex, and the man turned out to be a plainclothes cop. Latham didn’t offer cash for the act, so he wasn’t charged with total prostitution, but still, it was enough. He was tried and acquitted (lack of evidence), but the brouhaha was still big enough to paint him as a man mired in scandal.
  10. Fred Phelps: Fred Phelps, founder of Kansas’ Westboro Baptist Church, is an antagonistic guy who exhorts his parishioners to protest events with signs reading (among others) “God hates fags” and “Thank God for dead soldiers.” It’s not hard to see how he doesn’t just create scandal, but invites it. He was also arrested in 1951 and found guilty of battery against a Pasadena police officer, and in the decades since he’s been arrested for more battery, trespassing, disorderly conduct, and contempt of court, to start. Phelps has been able to dodge serving any time, despite being convicted in 1994 of contempt of court and two counts of assault. Phelps has also been sued many times, like the 2006 suit brought against him by the family of deceased Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder after Westboro congregants protested at his funeral. Phelps and his daughters were found guilty of invasion of privacy and infliction of emotional distress. All in a day’s work for one of the most scandalous religious figures in the country today.

List of Christian evangelist scandals

1.Aimee Semple McPherson, 1920s–40s

One of the most famous evangelist scandals involved Canadian-born Aimee Semple McPherson in the 1920s, who allegedly had an extramarital relationship and faked her own death as a cover. She later claimed that she had been kidnapped, but a grand jury could neither prove that a kidnapping occurred, nor that she had faked it. Roberta Semple Salter, her daughter from her first marriage, became estranged from Semple McPherson and successfully sued her mother’s attorney for slander during the 1930s. As a result of this she was cut out of her mother’s will. Aimee Semple McPherson died in 1944 from an accidental overdose of barbiturates.

2.Lonnie Frisbee, 1970s–1980s

Lonnie Frisbee was an American closeted gay Pentecostal evangelist and self-described “seeing prophet” in the late 1960s and 1970s who despite his “hippie” appearance had notable success as a minister and evangelist. Frisbee was a key figure in the Jesus Movement and was involved in the rise of two worldwide denominations (Calvary Chapel and the Vineyard Movement). Both churches later disowned him because of his active homosexuality, removing him first from leadership positions, then ultimately firing him. He eventually died from AIDS in 1993.

3. Billy James Hargis, early 1970s

Hargis was a prolific author and radio evangelist. Hargis formed American Christian College in 1971 in order to teach fundamentalist Christian principles. However, a sex scandal erupted at the College, involving claims that Hargis had had sex with male and female students. Hargis was forced out of American Christian College’s presidency as a result. Further scandals erupted when members of Hargis’ youth choir, the “All American Kids”, accused Hargis of sexual misconduct as well. The college eventually closed down in the mid-1970s. Hargis denied the allegations publicly.

4. Marjoe Gortner, early 1970s

Gortner rose to fame in the late 1940s as a child preacher, but he had simply been trained to do this by his parents and he had no personal faith. He was able to perform “miracles” and received large amounts of money in donations. After suffering a crisis of conscience, he invited a film crew to accompany him on a final preaching tour. The resulting film, Marjoe, mixes footage of revival meetings with Gortner’s explanations of how evangelists manipulate their audiences. It won the 1972 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, but was never screened in the Southern United States due to fears that it would cause outrage in the Bible Belt.[1]

5. Jim & Tammy Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart, 1986 and 1991

Swaggart’s confession where he declared to his congregation on television, “I have sinned against you, my Lord”, became an iconic image of the 1980s[2]

In 1986, evangelist Jimmy Swaggart began on-screen attacks against fellow televangelists Marvin Gorman and Jim Bakker. He uncovered Gorman’s affair with a member of Gorman’s congregation, and also helped expose Bakker’s infidelity (which was arranged by a colleague while on an out-of-state trip).[3] These exposures received widespread media coverage. Gorman retaliated in kind by hiring a private investigator to uncover Swaggart’s own adulterous indiscretions with a prostitute.[4] Swaggart was subsequently forced to step down from his pulpit for a year and made a tearful televised apology in February 1988 to his congregation, saying “I have sinned against you, my Lord, and I would ask that your precious blood would wash and cleanse every stain until it is in the seas of God’s forgiveness.”[5][6]

Swaggart was caught again by California police three years later in 1991 with another prostitute, Rosemary Garcia, who was riding with him in his car when he was stopped for driving on the wrong side of the road. When asked why she was with Swaggart, she replied, “He asked me for sex. I mean, that’s why he stopped me. That’s what I do. I’m a prostitute.”[7]

6.Peter Popoff, 1987

A self-proclaimed prophet and faith healer in the 1980s, Popoff’s ministry went bankrupt in 1987 after magician and skeptic James Randi and Steve Shaw debunked his methods by showing that instead of receiving information about audience members from supernatural sources, he received it through an in-ear receiver.[8]

7. Morris Cerullo, 1990s

A number of incidents involving California-based televangelist Morris Cerullo caused outrage in the United Kingdom during the 1990s. Cerullo’s claims of faith healing were the focus of particular concern. At a London crusade in 1992, he pronounced a child cancer sufferer to be healed, yet the girl died two months later. Multiple complaints were upheld against satellite television channels transmitting Cerullo’s claims of faith-healing, and a panel of doctors concluded that Cerullo’s claims of miraculous healing powers could not be substantiated. Cerullo also produced fund-raising material, which was condemned as unethical by a number of religious leaders, as it implied that giving money to his organisation would result in family members becoming Christians.[9]

8.Mike Warnke, 1991

Warnke was a popular Christian evangelist and comedian during the 1970s and 1980s. He claimed in his autobiography, The Satan Seller (1973), that he had once been deeply involved in a Satanic cult and was a Satanic priest before converting to Christianity. In 1991, Cornerstone magazine launched an investigation into Warnke’s life and testimony. It investigated Warnke’s life, from interviews with over one hundred personal friends and acquaintances, to his ministry’s tax receipts. Its investigation turned up damaging evidence of fraud and deceit. The investigation also revealed the unflattering circumstances surrounding Warnke’s multiple marriages, affairs, and divorces. Most critically, however, the investigation showed how Warnke could not possibly have done the many things he claimed to have done throughout his nine-month tenure as a Satanist, much less become a drug-addicted dealer or become a Satanic high priest.

9. Robert Tilton, 1991

Tilton is an American televangelist who achieved notoriety in the 1980s and early 1990s through his paid television program Success-N-Life. At its peak, it aired in all 235 American TV markets. In 1991, Diane Sawyer and ABC News conducted an investigation of Tilton. The investigation, broadcast on ABC’s Primetime Live on November 21, 1991, found that Tilton’s ministry threw away prayer requests without reading them, keeping only the money or valuables sent to them by viewers, garnering his ministry an estimated $80 million USD a year. In the original investigation, one of Tilton’s former prayer hotline operators claimed that the ministry cared little for desperate followers who called for prayer, saying that Tilton had a computer installed in July 1989 to make sure that the phone operators were off the line in seven minutes. Tilton sued ABC for libel in 1992, but the case was dismissed in 1993, and Tilton’s show was off the air by October 30, 1993.

10. W. V. Grant, 1996 and 2003

Like Peter Popoff, Grant was investigated by James Randi regarding his faith healing claims. He was then imprisoned for tax evasion in 1996. After restarting his ministry upon release, a TV investigation found that claims of healing he made at a 2003 revival in Atlanta were false.

11. Roy Clements, 1999

Clements was a prominent figure within British evangelical christianity. In 1999, he revealed he was in a homosexual relationship with another man, resigned his pastorship, and separated from his wife. He had written a number of well-received books which were withdrawn from sale when the news broke.[10]

12. John Paulk, 2000

John Paulk (no relation to Earl Paulk) is a former leader of Focus on the Family‘s Love Won Out conference and former chairman of the board for Exodus International North America. His claimed shedding of homosexuality is also the subject of his autobiography Not Afraid to Change. In September 2000, Paulk was found and photographed in a Washington, D.C. gay bar, and accused by opponents of flirting with male patrons at the bar. Later questioned by gay rights activist Wayne Besen, Paulk denied being in the bar despite photographic proof to the contrary. Initially, FoF’s Dr. James Dobson sided with Paulk and supported his claims. Subsequently, Paulk, who himself had written about his habit of lying while he openly lived as a homosexual, confessed to being in the bar, but claimed he entered the establishment for reasons other than sexual pursuits. Paulk retained his Board seat for Exodus, however he did so while on probation. Paulk did not run again for chairman of the board of Exodus when his term expired.

13. Paul Crouch, 2004

Paul Crouch is the founder and president of the Trinity Broadcasting Network, or TBN, the world’s largest evangelical Christian television network, as well as the former host of TBN’s flagship variety show, Praise the Lord. In September 2004, the Los Angeles Times published a series of articles raising questions about the fundraising practices and financial transparency of TBN, as well as the allegations of a former ministry employee, Enoch Lonnie Ford, that he had a homosexual affair with Crouch during the 1990s. The Times spoke with several sources that claimed that other evangelists such as Benny Hinn, Jack Hayford, and Paul’s son Matthew were aware that an affair had taken place. TBN denied the allegations, claiming that Ford’s claims were part of an extortion scheme and that the Times was a “left-wing and anti-Christian newspaper” for publishing the articles. In 2005, Ford submitted to and passed a lie detector test on the ION Television program Lie Detector.

14. Douglas Goodman, 2004

Douglas Goodman, an evangelical preacher, and his wife Erica were pastors of Victory Christian Centre in London, England. The church was one of the largest in the United Kingdom. He came into notoriety when he was jailed for three and a half years for the sexual assault of four members of his congregation in 2004. VCC was closed by the Charity Commission, but his wife Erica started a new church, Victory to Victory, in Wembley. Douglas has upon his release resumed full pastoral ministry alongside his wife.[11][12][13][14][15]

15. Kent Hovind, 2006

Kent Hovind is an American Baptist minister and Young Earth creationist. He is most famous for creation science seminars, in which he argues for Young Earth creationism, using his self-formulated “Hovind Theory.” He has been criticized by both the mainstream scientific community and other creationists. In 2006, Hovind who also has a reputation as a tax protestor had been charged with falsely declaring bankruptcy, making threats against federal officials, filing false complaints, failing to get necessary building permits, and various tax-related charges. He was convicted of 58 federal tax offenses and related charges, for which he is currently serving a ten-year sentence.[16]

16. Ted Haggard, 2006

Ted Haggard was the pastor of the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado and was the president of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) from 2003 until November 2006. Haggard’s position allowed him occasional access to President George W. Bush. In 2006 it was alleged that Haggard had been regularly visiting a male prostitute who also provided him with methamphetamine. Haggard admitted his wrongdoing and resigned as pastor of New Life church and as president of the NAE. The high-profile case was significant also because it immediately preceded the 2006 mid-term elections and may have even affected national voting patterns[citation needed]. In January 2009, Haggard admitted to a second homosexual relationship with a male church member on CNN-TV and other national media, and when asked, would not directly answer a question about his other possible homosexual relationships.[17]

17. Paul Barnes, 2006

Paul Barnes is the founder and former senior minister of the evangelical church Grace Chapel in Douglas County, Colorado. He confessed his homosexual activity to the church board, and his resignation was accepted on December 7, 2006.[18] He started the church in his basement and watched it reach a membership of 2,100 in his 28 years of leadership. This scandal was notable because it was similar to Ted Haggard’s (above), it occurred in the same state (Colorado) and around the same time (late 2006).

18.Lonnie Latham, 2006

In 2006, Latham, the senior pastor of South Tulsa Baptist Church and a member of the powerful Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, was arrested for “offering to engage in an act of lewdness” with a male undercover police officer.[19]

19. Gilbert Deya, 2006

Kenyan-born Deya moved to the United Kingdom in the 1990s and started a number of churches. He claims to have supernatural powers that allow him to make infertile women become pregnant and give birth. However, police investigations in the UK and Kenya concluded that Deya and his wife were stealing Kenyan babies. Deya was arrested in London during December 2006 and as of April 2010 he is currently fighting extradition to Kenya.[20]

20.Richard Roberts, 2007

In October 2007, televangelist Richard Roberts (son of the late televangelist Oral Roberts), was president of Oral Roberts University until his forced resignation on November 23, 2007. Roberts was named as a defendant in a lawsuit alleging improper use of university funds for political and personal purposes and improper use of university resources.[21]

21. Earl Paulk, 2007

Earl Paulk (no relation to John Paulk) was the founder and head pastor of Chapel Hill Harvester Church in Decatur, Georgia from 1960 until the 1990s. A number of women from the congregation came forward during the 1990s claiming that Paulk had sexual relations with them. Some of these claims have subsequently been proven correct. Moreover, Donnie Earl Paulk, the current senior pastor of the church and nephew of Earl Paulk, had a court-ordered DNA test in 2007 which showed that he was Earl’s son, not his nephew, which means that Earl and his sister-in-law had had a sexual relationship which led to Donnie’s birth.[22]

22. Coy Privette, 2007

Privette is a Baptist pastor, conservative activist, and politician in the U.S. state of North Carolina. Privette was president of the Christian Action League and a prominent figure in North Carolina moral battles. In 2007, Privette resigned as president of North Carolina’s Christian Action League and from the Board of Directors of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, following revelations on July 19 that he had been charged with six counts of aiding and abetting prostitution.[23]

23. Thomas Wesley Weeks, III, 2007

Weeks married fellow evangelist Juanita Bynum in 2002, but they separated in May 2007. In August 2007, Weeks physically assaulted Bynum in a hotel parking lot and was convicted of the crime in March 2008. The couple divorced in June 2008 and Weeks remarried in October 2009.[24]

24. Michael Reid, 2008

Bishop Michael Reid (born 1944) is a Christian evangelist in Essex, England and founder of Michael Reid Ministries who resigned from the role of pastor at Peniel Church in April 2008, after admitting to an eight-year extra-marital sexual relationship. The scandal was widely reported online[25][26][27] and in UK newspapers.[28][29] He has since re-developed an itinerant evangelistic ministry and has been speaking at a number of churches in the UK and overseas.

25.Joe Barron, 2008

Joe Barron, one of the 40 ministers at Prestonwood Baptist Church, one of the largest churches in the United States with 26,000 members, was arrested on May 15, 2008 for solicitation of a minor after driving from the Dallas area to Bryan, Texas, in order to allegedly engage in sexual relations with what he thought to be a 13 year-old girl he had met online. The “girl” turned out to be an undercover law enforcement official.[30][31][32]

26.Todd Bentley, 2008

Canadian Todd Bentley rose to prominence as the evangelist at the Lakeland Revival in Florida, which began in April 2008. Bentley claimed that tens of thousands of people were healed at the revival, but a June 2008 investigation by ABC Nightline could not find a single confirmed case. Bentley took a short break after the program was broadcast, but returned to leading the meetings. However, in August 2008, he stepped down permanently when it was revealed he was separating from his wife, Shonnah, and was in a relationship with Jessa Hasbrook, a member of his staff.[33]

27. Tony Alamo, 2008

On September 20, 2008, FBI agents raided Tony Alamo Christian Ministries headquarters as part of a child pornography investigation.[34][35] This investigation involved allegations of physical abuse, sexual abuse and allegations of polygamy and underage marriage. According to Terry Purvis, mayor of Fouke, Arkansas, his office has received complaints from former ministry members about allegations of child abuse, sexual abuse and polygamy since the ministry established itself in the area, and in turn, Purvis turned over information about the allegations to the FBI.[36] Investigators at the scene plan to conduct a search of ministry headquarters and the home of Alamo and interview children present on the compound. In late July 2009, Alamo (who had a previous conviction for tax evasion in the 1990s) was convicted on ten counts of transporting minors across state lines for sexual purposes, sexual assault and other crimes. On November 13, 2009, he was sentenced to the maximum punishment of 175 years in prison.[37][38]

28.George Alan Rekers, 2010

Penn Bullock and Brandon K. Thorp of the Miami New Times reported on May 4, 2010, that on April 13, 2010, George Alan Rekers, a far-right Christian leader was encountered and photographed at Miami International Airport returning from an extended overseas trip with a twenty-year-old “rent boy“, or gay male prostitute, known as “Lucien” (later identified as Jo-Vanni Roman). Given his opinion on homosexuals and homosexual behavior, the scandal surrounds Rekers’ decision to employ a homosexual escort as a traveling companion, and how that runs contrary to Rekers’ public stances on such issues.

Rekers claimed that Lucien was there to help carry Rekers’ luggage as Rekers had allegedly had recent surgery, yet Rekers was seen carrying his own luggage when he and Lucien were spotted at the airport.[39] On his blog, Rekers denied having sex with the man.[40] In subsequent interviews, Roman said Rekers had paid him to provide nude massages daily, which included genital touching.

29.Eddie L. Long, 2010

On September 21st, 2010 a civil complaint was filed against Eddie L. Long by two young men that stated Mr. Long used his position as the church leader to entice the men into consensual sexual relationships in exchange for money, travel and goods.

Senate probe

In 2007, Senator Chuck Grassley (RIA) opened a probe into the finances of six televangelists who preach a “prosperity gospel“.[41] The probe is expected to investigate reports of lavish lifestyles by televangelists including: fleets of Rolls Royces, palatial mansions, private jets and other expensive items purportedly paid for by television viewers who donate due to the ministries’ encouragement of offerings. The six under investigation are:

  • Creflo Dollar and Taffi Dollar of World Changers Church International and Creflo Dollar Ministries of College Park, Ga;
  • Benny Hinn of World Healing Center Church Inc. and Benny Hinn Ministries of Grapevine, Texas;
  • Eddie L. Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church and Bishop Eddie Long Ministries of Lithonia, Ga;
  • Joyce Meyer and David Meyer of Joyce Meyer Ministries of Fenton, Mo; and
  • Randy White and ex-wife Paula White of the multiracial Without Walls International Church and Paula White Ministries of Tampa


  1. ^ References for this section can be found in the main article on Marjoe Gortner and the film Marjoe.
  2. ^ Fessing up:The Art of the Public Grovel: Sexual Sin and Public Confession in America. Christian Century, Jan 13, 2009
  3. ^ “Transcript: Interview with Jessica Hahn”. Larry King Live (CNN). 2005-07-14. Retrieved 2008-04-17.
  4. ^ Swaggart Is Barred From Pulpit for One Year. New York Times. 1998-03-30. Retrieved 2008-04-17
  5. ^ King, Wayne (1998-02-22). Swaggart Says He Has Sinned; Will Step Down. New York Times. Retrieved 2008-04-17
  6. ^ Swaggart, Jimmy. “Reverend Jimmy Swaggart: Apology Sermon”. Retrieved 2007-01-25.
  7. ^ “Swaggart Plans to Step Down”. The New York Times. 1991-10-15. Retrieved 2008-04-17.
  8. ^ Randi, James (1989). The Faith Healers. Prometheus Books. ISBN 0-87975-535-0 page 141.
  9. ^ References for this section can be found in the main article on Morris Cerullo
  10. ^ References for this section can be found in the main article on Roy Clements
  11. ^ “Scandal in the second biggest Pentecostal church in Britain”. Retrieved 2009-12-21.
  12. ^ “Disgraced Dougles Goodman out of prison and back into the pulpit. Is this right?”. Retrieved 2009-12-21.
  13. ^ “Downfall of a preacher man”. BBC News. 2004-05-06. Retrieved 2009-12-21.
  14. ^ “Scandal in the church”. Retrieved 2009-12-21.
  15. ^ “Fall from grace”. Retrieved 2009-12-21.
  16. ^ Hovind v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo 2006-143, CCH Dec. 56,562(M) (2006).[1]
  17. ^Disgraced pastor Haggard admits second relationship with man“, CNN-TV Larry King, January 29, 2009.
  18. ^ “Pastor of 2nd Colorado evangelical church resigns over gay sex allegations”. Seattle Times. 2006-12-12. Retrieved 2006-12-16.
  19. ^ Lonnie Latham scandal
  20. ^ References for this section can be found in the main article on Gilbert Deya
  21. ^ References for this section can be found in the main article on Richard Roberts
  22. ^ J. Lee Grady, It’s Time to Blow the Whistle on Corruption, Charisma Magazine, October 19, 2007
  23. ^ Moral activist Privette arrested
  24. ^ References for this section can be found in the main articles on Thomas Wesley Weeks, III and Juanita Bynum
  25. ^ BBC blog, accessed 11 April 2008
  26. ^ Talk To Action blog, accessed 11 April 2008
  28. ^ “Bash Bishop is a Jerry Sinner”, The Sun, 9th April 2008
  29. ^ “Bishop who preached family values finally admits: I am an adulterer”, The Daily Mail, 10th April 2008
  30. ^ Eiserer, Tanya, and Sam Hodges, Minister at Prestonwood Baptist charged in Internet sex sting, Dallas Morning News, retrieved 2008-05-17
  31. ^ Police say Texas minister caught in Internet sex sting, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, May 16, 2008, retrieved 2008-05-17
  32. ^ CNN.[dead link]
  33. ^ References for this section can be found in the main article on Todd Bentley
  34. ^ FBI agents raid Arkansas ministry in child porn probe. (September 20, 2008). KCAL News (Los Angeles, California). Retrieved September 20, 2008.
  35. ^ Evangelist’s compound raided in child porn case
  36. ^ Gambrell, J. (September 20, 2008). [2] Freedom Communications, Inc. Retrieved September 20, 2008.
  37. ^ United Press International (UPI)
  38. ^
  39. ^ [3]Miami New Times, “Christian right leader George Rekers takes vacation with “rent boy””, May 4, 2010 issue
  41. ^ “Grassley seeks information from six media-based ministries”. 2007-11-06. Retrieved 2010-08-19.  (Archived by WebCite at
  42. ^ Sen. Grassley probes televangelists’ finances

Maria Monk Reconsidered

In the light of modern revelations and nunsploitation movies, 19th Century tales of immorality and crimes in Roman Catholic convents appear far less fantastic.

IN 1836, a controversial book exploded upon the scene like an artillery shell, written by a woman who had supposedly fled the revered Hotel Dieu nunnery in Montreal, Canada. It bore the title, Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk, or, The Hidden Secrets of a Nun’s Life in a Convent Exposed! The book immediately touched off an acrimonious firestorm of wild polemics with its sensational allegations. And no wonder — for the author, “Maria Monk”, claimed that in the many years that she had been enclosed there in the cloister of the “Black Nuns,” as the sable-clad Sisters of Charity were called, she had witnessed or been subjected to a number of horrific crimes and abuses.

The nun’s tale

Book titlePriests, Monk claimed, under the pretext that such godly men could not sin, regularly used nuns for sex in a private room reserved for “holy retreats.” On the very day she took her solemn vows, she said that she herself had been forced to have intercourse with three priests, and once again with the first for good measure. More on that later.

Monk said she had personally witnessed an offspring from such a union being immediately baptized after birth, nonchalantly suffocated, and tossed into a pit of lime in the basement (where there were presumably others), with acid later added to dissolve the tiny corpse. A ledger she found in the Superior’s office listed many more.

Maria MonkAt the mere whim of a superior, disobedient or recalcitrant nuns were severely disciplined with punishments that ranged from petty annoyances up to Inquisition-like torture. In dark cells in the cellar near the pit, several sisters were imprisoned for unknown sins apparently for life. Nuns would disappear in the night for no known reason never to be spoken of again; Monk firmly believed some had been murdered. Suicides were also not unrumored.

All of this took place in a forbidding atmosphere of medieval despotism, where the only thing expected of a nun was silent, unquestioning obedience. Superstition ruled supreme — hair and nail clippings of an elderly nun thought to be holy were prized as relics, for instance. Bizarre penances, such as drinking the Superior’s foot-bath, were often imposed and strange rituals were frequent. Nuns, for example, would be placed in their coffins upon taking their vows to show they had died to the world, and then propped sitting up in church after they died to show they now lived in Heaven.

Meanwhile in this hell on Earth, the sisters were expected to constantly spy on each other and inform the Mother Superior of any defects, disobedience, or independence in themselves or others. Yet lying to outsiders was encouraged insofar as it would further the faith — especially if it brought in wealthy new recruits.

The aftermath

According to her own account, having become pregnant, she escaped, and told her story to a Protestant minister at a hospital for the poor in New York. He persuaded her to tell her story to the world.

At any time, such outrageous charges would have sparked an outcry; in the jostling pandemonium of pre-Civil War America, they touched off an immediate conflagration of bombastic claims and counter-claims. For this was the era of the “Know Nothings,” stridently anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic nativists. Even before the Potato Famine brought starving hordes of Irish over, these men feared the influx of Roman Catholics as a sneaky invasion of papists determined to subvert the liberties of free, white Protestants and take over the country. Catholic apologists instantly saw that Monk was a tool being used by Protestant nativist agitators and fought back vigorously in kind.

It was quickly realized that proof of Monk’s story hinged on the existance of certain secret entrances and passages built into the nunnery. She had described these in detail, showing how a priest could gain entrance to the cloister unobserved at any time, day or night, with secret signals so he did not have to mention his name or even speak a word. Like the much later controversy surrounding the McMartin Preschool, a Col. William Leete Stone found no signs of such secret passages in the Hotel Dieu during a brief inspection and after interviewing her, was convinced she had never even been there. This finding, along with the story that she was a actually a prostitute, had been in an asylum, and died in prison as a pickpocket, was loudly trumpeted throughout the press, and Catholic propagandists triumphantly labelled her an imposter and hoaxer to this day.

But was she? She was not the only former nun to break silence at that time; shortly before Monk, a woman named Rebecca Reed came out with similarly horrid tales that led a mob to burn her former convent in South Carolina. Famous ex-priest Charles Chiniquy, himself a French Canadian, spoke out about many clerical abuses in Montreal several decades later. Maria Monk herself countered the claims of Stone in the back of her book with statements of nearby residents attesting to unexplained building supplies for interior alterations at the Hotel Dieu that happened shortly after she first spoke out in the newspapers.

In the Preface she implored,

Permit me to go through the Hotel Dieu Nunnery at Montreal, with some impartial ladies and gentlemen, that they may compare my account with the interior parts of the building, into which no persons but the Roman Bishop and Priests are ever admitted: and if they do not find my description true, then discard me as an imposter. Bring me before a court of justice — there I am willing to meet [her detractors] and their wicked companions, with the Superior, and any of the nuns, and a thousand men.

This, needless to say, never happened and Maria Monk is nowadays remembered only with derision. Despite the fame, or rather notoriety, her life ended tragically. She lost credibility by running off again, falsely claiming she had been abducted by a gang of priests. She may have been married briefly, but in any case had another child, was arrested for pickpocketing, and died in poverty in an almshouse in 1839 (although some sources say 1849).

Her testimony

But for someone out to boldly defame the Catholic Church, she went about it in an odd manner. The tone of the book is anything but lurid or sensationalistic; she knew the gravity of what she was claiming, and related her story quite calmly and rationally throughout. It is certainly not titillating. While using florid Victorian language about her feelings concerning the “debased characters” of the priests who had access to the convent and its inhabitants, Monk showed great circumspection in discussing the actual abuse.

This, for instance, is all she had to say about what happened after she took her vows:

Taking the veilNothing important occurred till late in the afternoon, when, as I was sitting in the community-room, Father Dufresne called me out, saying, he wished to speak to me. I feared what was his intention; but I dared not disobey. In a private apartment, he treated me in a brutal manner; and, from two other priests, I afterwards received similar usage that evening. Father Dufresne afterwards appeared again; and I was compelled to remain in company with him until morning. [Emphasis added.]

I am assured that the conduct of priests in our Convent had never been exposed, and it is not imagined by the people of the United States. This induces me to say what I do, notwithstanding the strong reasons I have to let it remain unknown. Still I cannot force myself to speak on such subjects except in the most brief manner.

And indeed, she was true to her word. Far more space in her book was devoted to the daily life of the nuns. More space is even allotted to the antics of “mad Jane Ray M’Coy”, who helped her survive, than all the discussion of the wicked doings of the priests and her superiors.

In an age so famously reticent to speak of sex this was natural perhaps; surely quite different from the explicitly detailed confessions gloried in today. For many survivors of such cult-like abuse, however, often the only way it can be talked about is in such an unemotional, matter-of-fact manner as Monk. It is too painful otherwise.

The wrath of God’s wives

It is indeed strange that many people who are willing to ascribe any degree of wickedness to male clergy have a strong denial about female religious. Among victims and survivors that I have talked to those who had been molested by nuns seemed to bear a special burden, perhaps because of this. Yet, as every veteran of parochial schools has at least one story about mean or crazy sisters, a certain recognition of it exists in popular culture.

Undeniably, the best reason to reconsider Maria Monk’s claims is based on modern revelations of victims and survivors of clergy sexual abuse. Reports in recent years have detailed extensive and global abuse of nuns by priests, which the Vatican has vigorously denied. Nuns, especially in Africa, have been even more vulnerable than before as they are deemed to be safe from AIDS.

It may be significant that Canada has unfortuntely been one of the major epicenters of these scandals. Since the late 1980s, there has been one grim exposure after another of abuse and neglect of children in Church-run institutions on a massive, institutional scale, beginning with the Mount Cashel Orphanage run by the Christian Brothers in St. John’s, Newfoundland, and extending through one institution after another across the entire country.

Thousands of children over decades at Mt. Cashel and in similar facilities were subjected to foul food, severely beaten with belts and fists on a regular basis, and occasionally sodomized. A film, The Boys of St. Vincent’s, effectively dramatized the situation, but was banned in Canada after its first showing.

Then there are the so-called “Duplessis orphans”, some 3,000 children who were condemned to be treated as retarded simply for the higher rates the government would pay for their care. Indian children were treated even worse, if that’s possible, in Church-run residential schools. Two nuns, for instance, members of the Sisters of Charity, have been charged with assault at a residential school in Ontario. However, this abuse occured not just in Catholic schools, but also those run by Anglicans, Presbyterians, and the United Church of Canada as well. The recompense due to the Native population from this legacy of abuse may soon lead to the bankruptcy of the entire Anglican Church of Canada.

All of these innocents were victimized by an unholy bargain between the Church and the Canadian state, where the Church took charge of orphans and the underprivileged with the blessing of government grants and virtually no oversight — a situation already begun in Maria Monk’s day. (To which I say, thank God for the Masonic Founders of the US and the separation of church and state!)

The Sisters of Charity also figure in scandals in Ireland and in Australia. In Ireland, a Sr. Dominic of the Sisters of Mercy not only molested a 10-year-old girl, but also held her down to allow “a smelly vagabond” rape the child. Such cases are not common, but they do exist.

In Australia, war orphans sent from England were subjected to such abuses by the nuns as being burnt with a red-hot poker during an exorcism, locked in underground cells, scalded in boiling water, and so on in some of the worst atrocities ever said to be described there. “Madness, ruthless and sadistic madness, on the part of at least some of the nuns, and a depthless depravity on the part of some of the men who inhabited the place, are the defining characteristics of some of those who ran the orphanage,” Professor Bruce Grundy, the author of a report for the government, exclaimed. “There was no limit to the sexual deviance that could be engaged in with those unlucky enough to find themselves singled out as ‘the chosen ones’.”

He began his investigation, by the way, after police failed to find evidence that stillborn babies and children who died from disease were buried in unmarked graves. One can only wonder how these stories get started.

But, knowing the depravity that human nature is capable of, can anyone today claim in good conscience that Maria Monk‘s story could not be true? I doubt it.

The first victim

Illustrations from an Anti-catholic tract.
Top: “A Nun Stabbing a Priest,” Middle: “Death-Pit — Trap Door — Cell,” Bottom: “The Smothering of the Nun.”

It is time, I believe, for her name to be rehabilitated and her courage recognized and honored. Whether crazy or an imposter, Maria Monk was the first voice to speak out for North American victims of clergy sexual abuse, and paid the price for it. She was roundly reviled for her efforts. Even if she became a madwoman, pickpocket and a prostitute with several illegitimate children, it does not indicate her story is not true but more likely the opposite, for many victims of abuse come to unfortunate ends, especially if scorned and disbelieved. Certainly her verbal maltreatment by the mouthpieces of the Church after she spoke out is similar if even more severe than what many later survivors have faced.

With such factual horrors having been proven by government commissions and courts of law, the claims of rampant abuse and crime by Maria Monk do not sound so wildly extravagant anymore. Even the charges of infanticide which moderns find most revolting might look entirely different to those women who lived in medieval gloom before the invention of contraception.

After all, the Roman Catholic Church opposes such measures as abortion partially because it believes the soul of the infant, if unbaptized, will not be allowed into Heaven due to Original Sin. At least, the nuns might say in their deluded self-justification, their babies, being brought to term and baptized, were guaranteed an eternity of happiness, unlike today’s aborted fetuses forever doomed to Limbo, whatever that means. Their sins, they would claim, were thereby the lesser.

In any case, Maria Monk never claimed all nunneries were corrupt, but only spoke of her own experiences. But hers was not the only one so debased, and conditions have not necessarily changed for the better. A decade ago I listened in pity and horror along with several hundred other people at a conference as an elderly woman softly told her story. She had, at her quite advanced years, recently quit Regina Laudis, a wealthy convent, related somehow to the Benedictines and Sisters of Mercy, based on an island off the East Coast. Among other things, she claimed that the order stole land, duped recruits and supporters, and led by several shady confessors, advocated Eucharistic meditations for the sisters that were overtly autoerotic fantasies. Her complaints to the ecclesiastical authorities brought no relief but only harsh discipline for herself, and so she was forced to leave in protest.

Whether either her tale or that of Maria Monk is true or not, how can any of us on the outside ever know for sure? The lives of those women behind the cloister’s forbidding walls remain as insulated from the world today as if they were in a Dark Age harem.

Empty convents

Ironically, Maria Monk’s ultimate revenge lays not so much in reform but in extinction. It is not generally realized that many more nuns than priests have quit since the Second Vatican Council. Roman Catholic orders of female religious are withering away as their members grow old and are no longer replaced. Figures show that in the US there are only half as many in 1994 as there were in 1965, and the average age of a nun is now over 65.

The reason for this mass exodus may not be that the modern outside world is so glamorous. Perhaps it’s because the cloister is not that mysterious but cozy refuge portrayed in those old Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman movies any more than the priesthood is.

In reality, a convent is more like a prison, the uncomplaining inmates of which the Church has ruthlessly and thanklessly exploited throughout two millennia. Only those women who have actually been there can say if any of these disturbing tales are true, if a nun’s life is indeed worth such sacrifice. It should be noted that once Vatican II threw open the doors, many of these inmates have spoken, silently but eloquently, with their feet.

And so the cloisters’ silence deepens. The halls do not echo much anymore with the nuns’ whispered secrets or their footsteps hurrying on unknowable errands, but the mystery remains.