Brief background of the 1st amendment.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Historically, the first amendment was written to protect the church from secular interference and to break away from the situation which was still endemic in Europe at the time: secular leaders (which at the time only meant non-clerical) had for centuries appointed relatives and supporters to positions of authority within the church. It served their interests as it guaranteed church support -in most respects- for their decisions. In 1777 the founding fathers saw a Europe that was about to explode under its own weight (the nobility were supported by the clergy and vice versa and most nations had established churches which served the interests of the ruling powers) and decided to take measures to prevent this. The situation which resulted in the 1st French revolution in 1789 (there was more than one battle: actually a prolonged series over 10 years) was imminent and they feared it would spread to the colonies: England had already undergone a revolution when James II was deposed. .

Also the church, was at the time, still the most convenient means of law enforcement and tax collection (e.g. there was also no police service in the UK until Queen Victoria took direct action over the high crime rate). For this reason the relationship between the estates of nobility and clergy was, in the main, mutually beneficial. They both claimed to be working to protect the spiritual and physical interests of the commons (peasantry and rising middle classes by the 1750s) but in practice it was not the case. At the time that amendment of the US constitution was written, society had really only just begun moving from a feudalistic/agrarian one to one with condensed urban centres and the commons and peasants were –and in a lot of cases still are – regarded as a disposable, cheap labour force and virtually the property of the landed and ruling classes.  I must emphasise here, serfs were not slaves.  Serfs were bound to the land they lived on (not to a master.  If the land was sold, the serfs stayed put), and lived rent free on their lord’s land in return for working it or providing other services. They fed themselves through subsistence farming.  Ordinary peasants were not bound and lived self-sufficiently off the common land.  Taxation of the peasant classes into starvation, and the debts owed by the king and nobles, supported by the church, had bankrupted France (France as we know it did not exist until after the Napoleonic wars).

Christians’ denial of the separation between church and state merely demonstrates their complete and wilful ignorance of history as well as their unsuitability to take an active role. What might also be a pertinent point at this juncture is that the first pilgrims were not actually fleeing persecution  in England (England was under a Protestant Queen Elizabeth I then a Protestant James I). They left England because they had not been allowed to retaliate against their persecution under Mary I (they weren’t allowed to persecute Catholics). Initially they had moved the mostly Protestant Netherlands but there was still a high proportion of Catholics there, mostly in the nobility or positions of power (re Dutch revolt) so they left the Netherlands too and claimed land that was already inhabited after the native population had saved them from starving to death. That’s gratitude for you.


Other Sources

The Importance of the Reformation.

This post, though not breaking news, is of interest.  I’m preparing an assignment for the Open University course I’m doing in which I must write 1200 words on the differences between Catholicism and Protestantism in England during the 16th Century.  While hunting down a few external sources (aside from the course material), I found some highly useful material and was able to construct this timeline to assist me in my task.  In the meantime I thought it may be of interest to others as well as my fellow students.

Year Event
14th and 15th Century Papacy began to reap benefits of compromise. (Robinson, 2011)

Great schism saw several individuals claiming to be the Pope.Early 15th century saw a power struggle between the Bishops and the Pope. (Robinson, 2011)

  • Hindered papal government,
  • Harmed the reputation of the Church in the eyes of the laity.
  • Led early 16thcentury Popes to resist reform and bolster their own position.
    • Used their spiritual power and international diplomacy to become territorial princes in Italy and boosting their incomes.

Same period saw John Wyclif, an Oxford academic, anticipate the arguments of Martin Luther (over a century later) produce the first English Bible. (Robinson, 2011)

  • Wycliffs supporters were driven underground after a failed rebellion in 1414.
  • Remained a persecuted minority for another hundred years.

Piers Plowman, a satiric poet, attacked abuses in the church but without results. (Robinson, 2011)

  • The church carried on selling offices and indulgences and became a political toy to the aristocracy and a source of income for second sons and con-artists.
  • The literate laity was no longer confined to those involved with the church.  They were better educated than many priests who claimed to be the only path to salvation while taking fees and taxes.
    • The Catholic church was already deeply unpopular.

Criticism, led by the humanists (Colet, More and Erasmus), was stepped up. (Robinson, 2011)

  • Went back to studying the scripture as they would, any classical text
  • Remained Catholics, attacking corruption but keen to make changes from within.
  • Stressed tolerance and humankind’s dignity.

Depressed cleric, Martin Luther, lit the fuse for the Reformation in Europe. (Robinson, 2011)

  • Was provided no comfort by Catholic ritual.
  • Horrified by abuses committed by other clergy.
    • Concluded that salvation was a private matter between God and man, that traditional church ceremony was irrelevant and that the sale of indulgences was immoral and fraudulent.
    • Nailed his list of 95 objections to a church door in Wittenberg, Germany, prompting a massive theological debate.
    • Challenged people to think and argue.
    • Condemned as a heretic and an outlaw.
  • Church could not tolerate opposition and Luther posed a direct threat to their authority.
1501 Prince Arthur, eldest son of Henry VII marries Catherine of Aragon (Lambert). 
1502 Arthur dies childless leaving his younger brother Henry the heir to the throne. (Lambert). 
1509 Organisation of the Church when Henry took the throne(Trueman, 2000-2011):

  • Head of the Church was the Pope, based in Rome.
  • Church Services in Latin.
  • Prayers all in Latin.
  • Bible written in Latin
  • Priests forbidden from marrying and expected to be celibate.

Henry marries brother’s widow, Catherine after obtaining special dispensation from the Pope as normally it would have been forbidden. (Lambert)


1511 Catherine and henry have a son. (Lambert)

  • Child dies after 7 weeks.
1516 After 4 miscarriages Catherine gives birth to a girl; her only surviving child, Mary. (Lambert)

  • Henry left desperate for a male heir and believed god was punishing him for marrying his brother’s widow.  Argued that the marriage to Catherine was invalid and should be annulled.
    • Blame also fell to Catherine for failing in her duty but she was opposed to any consideration of annulment.
    • Roman Catholic faith believed in marriage for life; did not recognise let alone support it. (Trueman, 2000-2011).
    • Separation was forbidden. (Trueman, 2000-2011)
    • Only those who had been widowed were free to re-marry. (Trueman, 2000-2011)
  • Henry asked for a second dispensation from the pope for the marriage to be annulled but the Pope refused:  Catherine’s nephew, Charles V of Spain, had captured Rome and the Pope was his prisoner.
    • Papal dispensation was meant to allow Henry’s request for a divorce because he was a king.  It was not meant to change the rules for anyone else (Trueman, 2000-2011).
1521 Henry VIII publicly refuted Luther’s ideas and was rewarded with the title ‘Fidei Defensor’ (defender of the faith) but Luther’s ideas had already spread fast. (Robinson, 2011).
1527 Catherine considered too old to have any more children.(Trueman, 2000-2011)

Henry began relationship with Anne Boleyn, niece of Thomas Cromwell (Duke of Norfolk) after ending an affair with her married sister, Mary. (Lambert)

Anne refused to be Henry’s mistress and declared that she would be his queen or nothing after she witnessed his abandonment of her sister.(Robinson, 2011)

By the mid-1520s England was already dissatisfied by the church. (Robinson, 2011).

Again Henry asked the Pope for a divorce on scriptural grounds but Charles V of Spain was unsympathetic to Henry’s wishes; the Pope had to be as well and this meant that Henry had to find another way.(Robinson, 2011)

Henry was in a very difficult position.  If he merely announced that he was granting himself a divorce, the Pope could excommunicate him. (Trueman, 2000-2011)

  • Meant that, under Catholic law, he could never go to heaven.
  • This threat and fear was very real at the time and was used by the Catholic Church to maintain control of the masses. (Trueman, 2000-2011)
    • Control through fear.


1530 Thomas Cranmer of the White Horse Group suggested a legal approach.(Robinson, 2011)

  • The Collectanea argued that Kings of England enjoyed Imperial Power, similar to that of the first Christian Roman Emperors.
  • This meant that the Pope had no authority over Henry and that any jurisdiction he claimed in England was illegal.
    • If Henry wanted a divorce he could have it if the Archbishop of Cantebury agreed.
    • William Warham did not agree until Henry applied pressure and charged the Clergy with Preamunire; the unlawful exercise of spiritual jurisdiction.
1529 Henry called the ‘Reformation Parliament. (Lambert)

  • Ties between England and Rome cut one by one.
1530 A new Act of Parliament asserts England’s judicial independence from Rome. (Robinson, 2011)

  • Anne was already pregnant and Henry had to marry her for the child to be legitimate.
  • Warham had died and was replaced by Thomas Cranmer.
  • The divorce was cleared within months (Lambert) against the wishes of the Pope (Trueman, 2000-2011).
1533 Henry loses patience with the Pope. (Lambert)

  • Rejects the Pope’s authority.
    • Act of Supremacy declares Henry the head of the Church of England.
    • Confirmed the break from Rome. (Robinson, 2011).
    • Few were brave enough to contradict him. (Trueman, 2000-2011)
    • Religion kept mostly intact (Robinson, 2011).
    • Country remained Catholic: only Pope’s power had ended. (Trueman, 2000-2011)
  • Henry remains a Catholic and had no intention of converting or changing the English religion to Lutheranism (Lambert).
    • Anne Boleyn pushed reform as far as it would go, using Cranmer and Cromwell as her tools. (Lambert)
    • The years up to 1540 saw Cromwell’s men touring the country assessing the wealth of the church; once he knew what there was to take, he took it. (Robinson, 2011)

The majority of the population were tired of the way that the church used them as a source of income. (Trueman, 2000-2011)

  • Had to pay to get married.
  • Had to pay to baptise a child which, according to the Catholic Church was needed in order to go to heaven.
  • Had to pay to bury someone on church land, which was also required, according to the Catholic Church, in order for a soul to go to heaven. (Trueman, 2000-2011)

 As a result the Catholic Church had become very wealthy at the expense of everyone else. (Trueman, 2000-2011)

  • They were working to pay taxes and the Catholic Church (Trueman, 2000-2011).
  • No great protests occurred as many hoped that the financial burden would ease (Trueman, 2000-2011).
  • Most wealth of the Church held by the monasteries.  They were also the most loyal supporters of the pope (Trueman, 2000-2011).
    • This made them a threat to Henry.
  • The monks were lazy and had grown fat.
  • They did not serve the community, but expected the community to support them. (Trueman, 2000-2011)
  • Took money from the poor and produced/provided nothing in return. (Trueman, 2000-2011)
  • Monasteries were vast and the Church owned huge tracts of land. (Trueman, 2000-2011)


1536 The Pilgrimage of Grace: Robert Aske, a lawyer, wanted the monasteries left alone(Trueman, 2000-2011).

  • Marched to London, along with thousands of others.
  • Were promised by Henry that their complaints would be looked into so many went home satisfied with this but their concerns were never addressed (Trueman, 2000-2011).

Aske was arrested and hung in chains from a Church tower until he died of Starvation (Trueman, 2000-2011).


1539 Act of Six Articles passed (Lambert)

  • Laid down the beliefs of the Church of England and preserving the ‘Old Religion’ again left mostly intact (Lambert)
    • Monasteries dissolved and 2/3 of church lands and property sold to laity to fund wars with France. (Robinson, 2011)
    • Destruction of ecclesiastical treasures viewed by some as one of the greatest acts of vandalism in English History: also an act of political genius, creating a vested financial interest in the reformation as those now owning former monastic lands were unlikely to embrace a return to Catholicism. (Robinson, 2011).
    • Further reforms were halted by the Act.


1540 By this time, the monasteries had been dissolved.  Lands sold off to the laity and money squandered on was. (Trueman, 2000-2011)

To make it appear as though it was backed by law, Henry sent officials to oversee the activities of the Monks (Trueman, 2000-2011)

  • Supervised by Thomas Cromwell (Trueman, 2000-2011).
  • Officials knew what the King wanted to see in their reports; that the monks were neglecting their duties and acting and exploiting the poor etc (Trueman, 2000-2011).
  • Anything to discredit them was useful (Trueman, 2000-2011).
  • Officials were not above the use of trickery to gain this information (Trueman, 2000-2011).
    • One report to Cromwell stated that the head of the Monastery visited was a ‘virtuous man’ but his monks were ‘corrupt and full of vice’.
  • The vice included having ‘girlfriends’ (they were meant to be celibate).
    • This was all Cromwell needed in order to shut them down.
    • The allegations against the monks and nuns spoke for themselves.
      • At Bradley monastic house: Prior accused of fathering six children (Trueman, 2000-2011).
      • At Lampley Convent: Mariana Wryte had given birth to three children and Johanna Standen to six.
      • At Lichfield: two nuns found to be pregnant (Trueman, 2000-2011).
      • At Pershore Monanstic House: Monks found to be drunk at Mass (Trueman, 2000-2011).
  • Few people sorry to see them go.
    • Monks given pensions or jobs where there monasteries were, while some chief monks –though rarely- were hanged for their corruption (Trueman, 2000-2011).
    • The abbot of Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire, Marmaduke Bradley, was given a pension of £100 a year for life (Trueman, 2000-2011).
  • Monastery buildings brought to ruins as the locals were allowed to take what they needed for building even though the other valuables went to the crown.  The free building materials also created popular support for the reformation from the population already unhappy with the monasteries and the Catholic Church (Trueman, 2000-2011).
1545 Henry authorises new translation of the Bible from Latin to English. (Lambert)English replaces Latin as the language of church services.
1547 Organisation of the Church of England when Henry died(Trueman, 2000-2011):

  • Head of the Church was the King.
  • Church Services in Latin.
  • Prayers mostly in Latin; the Lord’s Prayer was said in English
  • Bible written in English
  • Priests forbidden from marrying and expected to be celibate.

Edward V becomes king at 10 yrs. old but is too young to reign. (Robinson, 2011)

  • Secretly educated by Protestants. (Robinson, 2011)
  • The Duke of Somerset (Edward’s uncle) was made regent and protector. (Lambert)
    • He was as devout a Protestant as Thomas Cranmer and desired to make England a Protestant country. (Lambert)
    • Reforms had stagnated but he and Cranmer managed to reaccelerate them considerably. (Robinson, 2011)
      • First Anglican prayer book issued.
      • 1939 Act of Six Articles repealed. (Lambert) (Robinson, 2011)
      • Priests allowed to get married. (Robinson, 2011) (Lambert)
      • More land confiscated (Robinson, 2011)
      • Images of Mary and the saints were removed from churches. (Lambert)
      • Alters removed from churches and stained glass was smashed. (Robinson, 2011)
1552 2nd prayer book issued and Chantries were closed though some Mary as a Catholic continued to attend Mass in her private Chapel. (Lambert)

  • Edward ordered her to desist but she appealed to her cousin Charles VI, who threatened war with England if she was not left alone. (Lambert)
1553 Edward dies and is succeeded by devoutly Catholic Mary I. (Lambert)

Mary detested the religious changes made by her father and the Regent and was determined to undo them. (Lambert)

  • Was going to be difficult to undo 20 yrs. of changes.

Protestantism remained a minority even though it was established and substantial. (Robinson, 2011)

  • Mary reinstated and enforced Catholic doctrines and rites (Robinson, 2011)
  • Tried to use force and fear.
  • Replaced alters and images (Robinson, 2011)
  • Restored Catholic mass in December. (Lambert)
1554 Clergy again forbidden from marrying.  (Lambert)

  • Married clergy ordered to leave their wives or lose their posts. (Lambert)
  • Act of Supremacy repealed. (Lambert)


1555 Mary began burning protestants for heresy. (Lambert)

  • First martyr was John Rogers on the 4th February.
  • Over the next 3 yrs. Nearly 300 Protestants were executed.
    • Most were from the SE of England, where it had spread the most widely.
    • Many more fled abroad.
  • Mary’s cruelty only gained sympathy for the Protestants and alienated people from the Roman Catholic Church. (Lambert) (Robinson, 2011)
    • Unpopularity was compounded by her marriage to Phillip II of Spain, whose father had thwarted her own in 1527. (Robinson, 2011)
  • The burnings, Spanish Courtiers and Phillips lack of any attempt to learn English fuelled further sympathies and protestant propaganda. (Robinson, 2011)
  • Confirmed fears of a ‘Catholic menace’ threatened since 1534. (Robinson, 2011)
1558 War against France for Phillip lost Calais for Mary.(Robinson, 2011)

  • England’s last territory in France. (Robinson, 2011)

Military loss turned distrust into hatred and xenophobia. (Robinson, 2011)

Thomas Wyatt rebelled in Kent and religious civil war seemed imminent. (Robinson, 2011)

After two phantom pregnancies (Robinson, 2011), Mary dies in November and is succeeded by her sister, Elizabeth. (Lambert).

  • Inherited a nervous kingdom where Catholicism dominated everywhere but the major cities, the South East and East Anglia. (Robinson, 2011)
1559 Elizabeth I crowned. (Lambert)

  • Moderate Protestant.
  • To inject some stability
    • Religious settlement was intended to be inclusive.

 Reissued Cranmer’s 1552 Prayer Book (Robinson, 2011)

  • 39 Articles closely modelled on Cranmer’s work in 1553. (Robinson, 2011).
  • Disliked extremists and disapproved of Puritans (who wanted to ‘Purify’ the CofE for remaining Catholic elements) (Lambert)

 Restored Act of Supremacy (Lambert) and Act of Uniformity(Robinson, 2011)

    • Reintroduced vestments and a more Catholic Eucharist (Robinson, 2011).
    • Alters were replaced. (Robinson, 2011)
    • Clergy were permitted to get married with permission. (Robinson, 2011)
    • All but one of the Catholic Bishops refused to take the Oath of Supremacy and, removed from their posts. (Lambert) (Robinson, 2011).
  •  1/3 of the English Clergy were also removed. (Lambert)Replaced by men hand-picked by Robert Cecil, Elizabeth’s chief minister. (Robinson, 2011)
  • Most Protestant clerics were far more radical than Elizabeth, as were the Clergy who filled the positions left by the resigning Catholic Priests.
  • Alters were theoretically allowed but in practice they were removed by Church commissions that toured the country to check compliance. (Robinson, 2011)
  • Further Acts replaced Catholic Practices.
    • Most of the population accepted the settlement.
    • People could still be fined for non-attendance of Church Services.
  •  Some Catholics continued to practice in secret.
1563 Church bolstered. (Robinson, 2011)

Another Act of Uniformity made refusal to take either the Oath, or the defences of Papal authority, a treasonable offence. (Robinson, 2011).

1569 Foreign threat became real.(Robinson, 2011)

  • Began with a revolt, the papal invasion of Ireland, Elizabeth’s excommunication from the church, and the arrival of priests from France.
    • Underlined the insecurity of the Anglican Church. (Robinson, 2011)
    • Severity of treason laws increased alongside the anti-Catholic sentiments, and neutralising the threat by driving it underground for the rest of her reign.

The length of Elizabeth’s reign secured Anglicanism and established it as Protestant (Robinson, 2011).

  • After the intermittent and sometimes reversing reforms of Edward and Mary, 45 yrs. of Elizabeth helped to establish its stability. (Robinson, 2011)
  • Had she died of the Smallpox in 1562, a religious war may have followed (Robinson, 2011)


1581 Fines for non-attendance of CofE services increased but in some areas they were not imposed at all. (Lambert)

  • Directed at Catholics. (Lambert)
1585 Catholic priests ordered to either leave England within 40 days or face charges of treason. (Lambert)

  • Penalty was execution.
1588 Majority of English Catholics remained loyal to the Queen despite these measures. (Lambert)

  • Clergymen also became better educated during the 16th century and by the end many held degrees (Lambert).
1603 Elizabeth I died, unmarried and childless.

  • Unity, where it had been impossible and unthinkable in the previous decades, was now a fact.
  • Common religion.
  • Common enemy, Spain.
  • Patriotism became synonymous with Protestantism.
  • Currency still bares the title ‘Fidei Defensor’.

Importance of the Reformation.

Established the image in English minds of an imperial island nation,

  • Separate and supreme.
  •  Policy became increasingly repressive in Ireland.
  •  Imported Protestant landowners to oppress Catholics who resisted conversion.
  •  Lingering sense of anti-Catholicism remained potent enough to ignite a civil war a century later.


Another of Mother Teresa’s houses of horror: Electroshock therapy as punishment, women chained to beds and more…



The following is Hemley Gonzalez’s hour long interview with a volunteer currently working inside Shanty Dan, a home for mentally challenged women in Kolkata, India. This particular volunteer has asked that her identify remains private as she is still working inside this home.  The following is a shocking and terrifying look at one of the medical institutions operated by Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity and another primary example of the rampant negligence that is now far too common with this organization.


January 24th, 2011

Interview by Hemley Gonzalez


Hemley Gonzalez: Please tell us about this home you are volunteering in:

Volunteer: This particular facility holds between 250-300 female patients at any given time; it consists of a large building with two stories, general dormitories packed with beds, a large interior hallway where the patients spend most of their time, bathrooms and a dining room.


HG: What exactly is the specialty of this medical facility?

V: Actually from what I understood initially, it’s not meant to be a medical facility, but rather a home that women with mental health problems go to, and once they get better they return to their homes.


HG: Would you then say it is a mental institution?

V: Yes, it seems like a psychiatry-unit type of place.


HG: When you say psychiatry unit, are there any certified psychiatrists permanently in the building who actually administer treatment? And could you please elaborate on the type of treatment these women receive while in this house?

V: There’s a doctor who comes in once a week, on Tuesdays, none of the volunteers are quite sure on his credentials and or qualifications in psychiatry, psychology or otherwise. In addition to this man’s visit, there is a nun who resides in the home and is in charge of handing pills to all the patients, again, not really sure what the pills are exactly as information is rarely shared with volunteers but the number of pills handed out is staggering.


HG: Do you think these are psychotropic medicines that are being given to ALL patients?

V: Definitely a mood altering drug and it is handed to both the upstairs and downstairs patients.


HG: And this broad regiment of pills for all the patients is prescribed by one doctor who comes in only once a week?

V: Yes, there is no proper diagnosis, but rather some ideas which they come up with while quickly observing the patients. I believe sedation is more of the goal rather than specific diagnosis.


HG: How many nuns are on staff and how many paid workers who operate this house?

V: Six paid workers and three nuns


HG: Do they provide meals for these patients?

V: Yes, breakfast, lunch dinner and tea and biscuits as snacks.


HG: How many volunteers come to the house and for what length of time each day?

V: Usually ½ a dozen or less, we come in the morning about 8:00AM and leave by 12-1PM


HG: What are volunteers asked to do?

V: We do practical chores, check and treat for lice, combing and cutting hair, nails, etc. Although I thought the focus was and should be rehabilitation programs with these patients.


HG: When you talk about lice, are these in patients who are just arriving or some of the ones who have been in the home for a while?

V: Well, it looks like the problem is always present, even when new patients come in without it; we seem to have the lice in our long term patients as well.


HG: Doesn’t it seem odd that a medical facility has an ongoing lice problem?

V: Well, the way I had been presented with information about this house, I thought I was coming to a home and not a medical place, but now after been here for over a month, I see how it completely is a medical facility, as all these women are constantly being given drugs and on Tuesdays there is additional treatment performed by the visiting doctor.


HG: What kind of treatment?

V: It’s actually been one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever seen; it is electroshock treatment, and something that now I’ve noticed is far too common. Many of the women who first come in are given it for six weeks, especially those who are physically unruly, and to the point where they only stop the treatment in some of them until they completely stop talking.


HG: So are you saying that patients who come in and aren’t properly diagnosed or as it seems to be the case, not diagnosed at all are receiving electroshock therapy so they can be subdued?

V: Yes. A lot of the women are suffering from incidents that have happened in the past, not necessarily being physically violent, suffering from internal trauma, perhaps some anger issues, asking for attention, and perhaps a range of other psychological ailments but the problem is that no one assesses the problem, how to treat the problem and actually treat the problem properly. They are just given electroshock therapy!


HG: So they are resorting to deliberately applying electroshock to these women without actually diagnosing their conditions as a way to try and calm them down?

V: Yes


HG: How many instances of these electroshock therapies have you personally witnessed?

V: Usually on Tuesdays is when they do these treatments because that’s the only day the doctor comes, and the first time I witnessed 6 women going into the room.


HG: How different was the behavior prior and after receiving these treatments?

V: There is one patient for example who is very outspoken, likes to sing and engage in conversation with volunteers and other patients, when she came out of the room she was almost in a comma stage, foam coming out her mouth, unresponsive and was wheeled out in a stretcher. A few hours later she became somewhat conscious and was complaining of a massive headache and dizziness as well as being extremely confused. Clearly a horrible feeling for anyone who is submitted to this sort of procedure.


HG: So this goes on Tuesdays. Have you witnessed it take place on more than one week?

V: Yes I’ve seen it a number of weeks since I’ve been here and many women going through the same, but more recently since myself and other volunteers have been very worried and spoken about it they started to do it in hiding, so it’s hard to tell which women are being submitted to it and how many.


HG: How do they hide the treatments now?

V: One of the French volunteers who spoke up a week ago was kicked out by one of the nuns and was asked to never come back. Then I spoke up and went as far as writing a report which the nuns in charge refused to read, basically telling me I didn’t know anything about what was going on, and that I didn’t have any medical experience to question them.


HG: Do any of these nuns themselves have any medical experience and or certification in the psychiatry field?

V: No. The nun in charge used to be a dentist, and that is the extend of the medical knowledge from any of them in this house.


HG: So one volunteer has been kicked out and your concerns and report ignored?

V: The report I gave to the nun, was intended for the nun, and the interaction between her and the doctor who could care less about any of these women. He doesn’t diagnose them and seems to be more interested in just applying the electroshock when he does his weekly visit. If the women are kept sedated so they don’t create additional work for the nuns or the paid workers, then the doctor does his job “well”. There is a nun who is basically in charge of choosing which women are to receive the electroshock, and incidentally also has the power to stop it, so I figure I would research some information about electroshock therapy and show her the devastating effect this type of treatment could have on people who are not candidates for it in hopes of stopping this madness.

A lot of the information available in the web and medical sites all point to the same problematic side effects, such as memory loss, and in applying the findings to the patients directly I started to see how a lot of the cognitive functions were affecting their brains; particularly in women where there was some sort of normalcy days prior to them being placed under this barbaric therapy and after having essentially a mental meltdown.

What really unsettled me was the fact that a lot of these women came into Shanty Dan to get better and leave, but this isn’t happening because after electroshocks some of them have actually made them worse.


HG: Why aren’t the nuns at Shanty Dan hiring full time psychiatrists? For an institution holding nearly 300 patients with a wide range of mental illness, you would have to have several professionals on staff at all times. What’s happening here?

V: When I asked one of the nuns why weren’t any doctors she said the most ridiculous thing: “there are no counselors in India” “You find them and bring them here” “you wouldn’t be able to find any around”


HG: Pardon the expression but that seems to be a crazy thing to say, wouldn’t doctors love the opportunity to accept a high paying job to look after 300 patients?

V: Agreed.


HG: So there is one nun who has some dentistry background, one doctor who comes in once a week who is supposedly a psychiatrist and prescribes a broad regiment of pills to about three hundred patients and about six medically untrained workers who look after the patients. What is your take of the actual state of this institution?

V: Is a big joke, they don’t care about any of the women there; they just have some workers to look after them and don’t seem to take seriously their conditions, certainly not a home for mentally challenged women where the goal would be to improve their lives. It’s basically a building filled with women with lots of mental issues who are vulnerable and in real need of help.


HG: Where you told or explained prior to volunteering that this was a place where women would be helped and or empowered to get better from certain mental illnesses?

V: Actually we weren’t actually told anything of value at the orientation/registration which was just two minutes long and they basically said the place was a home for mentally challenged women. And of course I assumed this was a place where women got treated properly so they could get on with their lives, I really didn’t think I would encounter what I have witnessed in my time here.


HG: Now that you have been forbidden to participate or witness the electroshock sessions of which you spoke against so strongly, what else are you asked to do with your time there?

V: We try to do some fun activities with the women, playing games, speaking to them kindly (unlike the forcefully and aggressive manner in which the nuns often speak to them).


HG: When you speak of aggressive behavior, is this something that happens frequently by the women and workers who operate the house?

V: Nuns and workers often treat the women angrily and harshly, they show signs of disgust and exhaustion in working there and understandingly so as some of the patients can be a handful, but for a place with three hundred patients and so little workers, it is expected that problems will arise. The patients are often beaten by workers who without any proper medical training often resort to violence in an effort to institute order.


HG: What kind of financial compensation do some of these workers get for their time in this home?

V: I know they are not getting a lot, especially since a lot of them live in slums.


HG: So these are women from the slum who are themselves in great financial need and even less likely to obtain medical training to deal with almost three hundred mentally ill patients?

V: The workers have their own issues, and they even have come to accept the idea that the shock therapy is actually a good thing because they hear it from the doctor and the nuns, in particular nun Benedicta and another who we’ve branded the evil nun, especially after personally seeing her torturing some of the older patients.


HG: One of the nuns tortures the women how?

V: Stupid stuff, emotional abuse for instance, demeaning them, I seen her doing that with some of the older patients, for example, one of the volunteers who comes in and does some of the dressing and cures for patients who need it, an old lady who has a wound in her back and the volunteer needed help moving the patient around  to get to the sore and the nun literally yanked her forcefully in front of the other patients, pulled up her dress and in degrading manner laid her down while asking the patient to stop being shy and exposing a private and serious wound to the rest of the floor, zero dignity, while telling her to stop crying in front of the volunteers and remind her that once the volunteers leave, she will still be here to deal with her. How sadistic and frightening is this?


HG: Basically this home becomes a house of horror for a lot of these patients once the volunteers leave?

V: Yes, especially with this nun who we now call the evil nun, she is middle aged, heavy.


HG: Are most of the nuns obese? I seem to find a large number of sedentary women who work for this organization. Why is that?

V: She’s actually quite big, a round face Bengali women, and she’s almost as big as the other two nuns in the house, Benedicta and Maria. The often just sit around and let the volunteers and workers do most of the work, of course, their diets are well proportioned with proteins and items which the patients don’t often get themselves.

Speaking of this “evil” nun, it’s actually evident that she has some mental issues of her own, the way she behaves with other patients, very sadistically, and even the workers agree there is something wrong with her, as they too allude to the fact that she is especially abusive with the patients.


HG: So even workers actually admit that there is something wrong with this particular nun who is also running this house?

V: Yes, all the workers feel very negatively about her and even volunteers no longer listen to her. In one instance she began to stab the feet of the old lady with the infected wound.


HG: Stabbing the patient’s feet?

V: Yes with a pair of scissors.


HG: For what reason?

V: It was very strange; it seemed like a personal thrill for her.


HG: And this is being done by a nun who is clearly disturbed?

V: Yes, clearly no sane person does some of the things this woman does.


HG: What would you say is required for this house to operate as the mental facility you thought you were coming to work in?

V: For starters, a must is a range of doctors, psychiatrists, psychologist and therapists and not these robotic tools such as the electroshock machine and this massive distribution of psychotropic medicines to all patients without diagnosis. There are no personal assessments of the ailments and or diagnosis for a cure and a long term plan to get these women to a somewhat normal life and in many cases to a full integration back to society.


HG: Is the broad application of medicines to all patients without understanding the specific issues of what each of them were brought to this house for in the first place creating more problems?

V: Exactly. And really to get any of these women to a path of improvement, there needs to be some consistent and professional counselling, they come in and many of them could truly be healed with the proper professional and consistent help.


HG: Would you say any of the nuns currently on staff are in any shape to adjust to any of the changes you would like to see for this particular house?

V: No. As it stands right now they refuse to listen to suggestions, apparently they’ve rejected ideas and or programs suggested by many volunteers.


HG: What did they do with your report when you suggested all these possible treatments?

V: The head nun, Benedicta basically laughed in my face and flat out said she “I wouldn’t have time to read any of this documents”


HG: If they are too busy to read reports pertaining the work they are there to do, what exactly do they occupy their time with instead?

V: Looking after the women I suppose and not very efficiently obviously.


HG: As other houses operated by the Missionaries of Charity, does Shanty Dan also have hours of prayers where the nuns are absent from the facilities and neglect the patients?

V: Yes, and they  leave the women workers from the slums in charge the same group who are medically untrained and get paid very little money for all the work they do. What’s even more alarming is the fact that the “evil” nun as we have resorted to calling her has begun punishing unruly patients by administering electroshock therapy, regardless of their condition, she has been doing this as a way to subdue them physically which is disturbing and aggravating to say the least.


HG: Electroshock therapy is actually being applied as punishment?

V: Yes, unfortunately.


HG: Did you actually witness some of the electroshock procedures and how many?

V: Yes, I saw a line of women waiting for the application and after seeing the first one being applied, it horrified me. The women waiting in line were not told anything that was about to happen and became apprehensive as some of the other women who had been submitted to the electroshock were being wheeled out of the room in a stretcher while foaming at the mouth.


HG: After you spoke about this barbaric practice, what happened?

V: Almost immediately they banned volunteers from coming near the room where the electroshocks are performed. The glass window that looks into the room was covered with a curtain and on Tuesdays, the day they are performed, volunteers were being asked to perform other tasks away from the area where the treatments take place. What’s even worse now, the nuns are considering to close the doors to volunteers, so the horrors will continue without witnesses who can defend these patients.


HG: Do you believe these nuns are actually performing electroshock therapy themselves without the presence of the doctor who comes in once a week?

V: I wouldn’t put it pass them. And in any case, they line up the women they want to punish and makes the doctor apply the electroshock on Tuesdays. Some of them up to six weeks which basically render them useless for a long time after.


HG: Let’s talk about a bit more about the facility. Are there any outdoor areas or spaces where they could spend some time in the sun and receive natural light and other necessary sensory experiences?

V: There is actually a courtyard with some nice outdoor areas but unfortunately the nuns have closed off the area to the patients. Their main complaint is that some of the women were defecating in the grass and that became too much work for the paid janitors and nuns to handle, so now all the patients are confined to an inner corridor with some windows that look out to the exterior but basically all their time is spent indoors. They really get no natural light anymore and are essentially confined to these interior corridors, bathrooms and dining room.


HG: I think it is fair to say that the entire facility is wrongly and inefficiently staffed, given the fact that there are no permanent doctors, nuns with basically no medical training and workers who are at best cleaning and janitor women, wouldn’t you agree?

V: It would most certainly help to bring in professionals to asses all the cases of the women currently being kept in the house. While volunteers come in and try to help, their duties are usually limited to washing clothes, dishes and some grooming of the patients.


HG: Are there any washers and dryers in the house?

V: No. They’ve refused to accept them.


HG Do you think this house will change and or improve?

V: Not really. After several weeks of suggesting changes, researching, handing over helpful documents and speaking to the nuns and workers, I’ve come to realize they are not interested in altering their culture of abuse and neglect.


HG: One would also have to assume that the workers are trying to protect their income, however little it is and in essence are conspirators to the medical negligence perpetrated by these nuns on a daily basis.

V: Yes, they do pretty much whatever the nuns say including systematic beating of the patients at the request of the nuns themselves.


HG: It is my understanding that nuns within this organization are shuffled around the different houses they operate around the world, one of the reasons being is the mounting complaints and as a way to diffuse the public’s outrage or concern they continue to change some of them in charge and dispatch them to different places. How long before they resort to their malevolent practices in their new positions?

V: Well, we have already noticed some abusive behaviour by nun Benedicta who is recently new in Shanty Dan; we’ve seen her hitting patients sometimes and using forceful language, almost as if these patients are wild animals. I am afraid the behavior is chronic and symptomatic of these nuns. The same goes for the workers.


HG: Have there been any deaths during your time there?

V: Yes. Three. One was a new lady that had arrived; she was quite small and fragile. She seemed fine and had some difficulty walking, but other than that she was cognitive and responsive. After I returned two days later I found that she had passed and when I asked for the cause of death, I was told she had a stroke but there was a lot of ambiguity on the actual answer, especially when another volunteer felt that the medicine she had been given was the wrong kind and thus caused her to have a fatal and allergic reaction.

Another was a 40 something year old patient, her name Maduri, I remember her clearly because she was the very first patient I saw chained to the bed and now I see this more and more often. She was very active and always wanted to leave but one day I came to work and she also died.

And another patient who was ill was brought here which I thought was very strange, one who should have certainly been brought to a hospital.


HG: How many patients are chained to their beds?

V: At the moment from what I can tell probably half a dozen, perhaps more. And especially those who don’t want to remain in the facility.


HG: So patients who don’t want to stay are not allowed to leave?

V: No


HG: Are there medical histories for each patient?

V: No. There are just these cards where they sometimes make notes about the medicines they give to the women, but nothing in detail and certainly no diagnosis; another thing I noticed is a slew of women who arrive from jail.


HG: From jail? Please explain:

V: There seems to be some sort of agreement between the Missionaries of Charity and some of the women jails where they bring some of the inmates who are being released but their families don’t want them home, so they end up here. Many if not all of them have absolutely no mental disabilities, so I find this whole arrangement quite strange.


HG: So perhaps for some sort of rehabilitation program? Except this is a mental institution which doesn’t even seem to rehabilitate their own mentally challenged patients in the first place!

V: Yes, very strange. There are no televisions or rehabilitation programs or visual or physical activities, they just sit there all day, almost rotting away. Also, all of the women who arrive from jail join the distribution of pills and almost immediately become subdued. And most of the women change their behaviour completely and overnight, as if becoming zombies. There is one in particular which is very troubling to me, it is a pregnant patient who is constantly given medicines, and her mood changes drastically.


HG: These type of pills are being administered to a woman who is pregnant?

V: Yes, even injections that basically knock her unconscious.


HG: Do we know if the one doctor who visits this home once a week has actually researched that the medicines he is administering to this pregnant woman won’t hurt the fetus?

V: No.


HG: You also mentioned another patient who had a baby recently and the baby was taken to an orphanage hours away from this facility, something quite strange considering the fact that the Missionaries of Charity operate another orphanage literally next door to the same place where the new mother is. Why would they do this?

V: When I asked the same question to the nun in charge her answered was: “God bless you and your compassion” and she laughed and walked off.


HG: Why aren’t other volunteers talking about the same things you have witnessed?

V: I just don’t think they care enough. They come here for a few days and don’t want to raise any issues. A lot of them are nice folks but they just feel helpless at the time or rely on the fact that someone else like you or me would speak up about it. Or worse, they think these nuns are actually doing a good job.


HG: I understand that a first rate health care facility, one that is typically found in develop countries such as the US, Britain, ect, is not something that is feasible or realistically possible to construct and execute in places like Kolkata, but for an organization that receives millions and millions of dollars in donations each year, is this the best they can do?

V: No, not at all, at best they are providing below minimum care. For an organization with European influence and the massive financial support they receive, this is shameful to say the least. There needs to be immediate and drastic changes. The electroshock therapy is running a lot of these women’s lives, they can never go back out into society and join a cycle of normalcy, their memories and even simple functions have been sucked out of them, almost if not all patients are treated like animals in a zoo.


HG: What happens when you leave?

V: Well, this is why I am talking about it. People like you who continue to raise awareness about these issues are a major source of hope for change and this why I couldn’t remain quiet any longer.

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Yet Again, The Pope cannot Resist a chance to Show His Ignorance. (And here I was thinking that bowing to temptation was a sin)

This morning’s Radio Four broadcast (as usual) it’s saccharine soaked insipid section, Thought For The Day, at 7:45 am .  What was unusual was the fact that the 2 minute 46 second slot had been recorded in Rome by the Pope.  The broadcast is the first time any pope has written material specifically for a radio or television audience.  To me, it smacks of extreme desperation on the Vatican’s part to restore trust (undeserved in the first place) in the church.  Aside from the fact that there are rarely ANY humanist, atheist or agnostic speakers for this programme, coupled with their extremely similar program, Prayer For The Day (on at the earlier time of 05:43 am), this is not a post about the BBC’s broadcasting habits or policy.  This post is more about the utter garbage spouted in the news and other media by the religiously inclined on an almost daily basis.

“And it was not a political liberation that he brought, achieved through military means: rather, Christ destroyed death for ever and restored life by means of his shameful death on the cross.”

In addition, he also gave comfort and consolation for “families, children, the sick and those going through hardship, especially the elderly and those approaching the end of their days”.

This quote kind of says it all really.  Death was not destroyed: it still happens.  There is no getting away from this exhibition of the childish fear of the unknown.  If the believer is so arrogant to believe that not only is he capable of surviving the death of his brain (not that he uses it) and nervous system, but deserves it, then it is up to them but wishing that belief to be true does not make it true.  The same way that the existence of prayer does not make it efficacious.   If the ancient story about the execution of an outcast brings people comfort (can’t see how that dreadful message could comfort anyone) then it is entirely accidental.  Christianity, Catholicism in particular, has certainly NOT brought political liberation.  Even now, subscribers attempt to impose their chosen set of dogma and doctrines on everybody else.  This insistence for unquestioned ‘respect’ is not exclusive to Christianity by any means but at this time of year the whining reaches new levels of acerbic shrillness.  It’s almost like trying to reason with an over-tired toddler (but at least you can send the tot to bed).

Portrait of Pope Pius XII

Pius XII has long been a controversial figure for his failure publicly to denounce the Holocaust in 1941 or 1942. Photograph: Bettmann/Corbis


The liberation we enjoy in the UK came through conscious change in public opinion about what is considered acceptable behaviour and attitude, not to mention hard-fought for changes in the law with regard to even non-Protestants holding positions in public office, let alone non-believers.  It has come through brave people standing up for what they believe and holding on to their integrity even though it even cost them their liberty.  Christianity has only ever offered fear of punishment in return for not taking vicarious offer of ethereal rewards after a lifetime of willing subservience to the will of the church.  It has enslaved believers and murdered ‘heretics’.  It has spilled unmeasured, needless blood (as it still does) in its quest to ‘save the heathen races’ and please their god.  It has enabled the infliction of needless suffering against thousands.  And it is also no coincidence that what ‘their God wants’ nearly always seems to coincide with whatever act the clergy or bewildered masses wanted to do anyway.  The Christian God seems to have given its stamp of approval on nearly every atrocity or poisonous act ever committed in the name of Christianity.  When confronted with these facts, (I have lost count of the times I have been told this) the stock answer of ‘they weren’t really Christians‘ is trotted out without either hesitation or thought.

“As we ponder this great mystery in our hearts this Christmas,”

It’s not a great mystery, it DIDN’T HAPPEN, and I certainly do not ‘ponder’ it.  All the story does is weakly advocate the human sacrifice of an entirely unrelated individual in order for us to feel that our mistakes and misdeeds can be undone in an instant and by somebody else.  They can’t be and it is infantile in the extreme to believe that they can.

“I’ve got no problem with the message itself, but I think it’s an extraordinarily bad choice for the BBC and I think it’s actually a slap in the face for these hundreds of thousands of child abuse victims.”

“What we’ve had with the papal visit and with Thought for the Day is the pope pontificating his views and being totally unaccountable for things that the church has been responsible for.”

Keith Porteous Wood, of the National Secular Society to The Guardian

I agree.  The BBC is funded by all UK licence payers (A colour TV Licence costs £145.50 per year and is compulsory.) and should therefore be representative of all of the UK population.  Pandering to the vanity of the ever-present and complaining (women’s’ reproductive freedom, the secular freedom for other faiths or those of no faith, equal rights for gay people etc) Catholics without calling the church to account for itself is not constructive.  The Catholic church should consider itself very much in disgrace with the rest of the world.  They have proven they are out of touch with modern morality and the clergy (the higher-ups especially) do not consider themselves subject to ‘earthly’ laws and standards of behaviour or ethics.  The Pope was merely acting upon sufferance when he put his crocodile-tears act on to urge the church to take responsibility for the culture of abuse which has been rampant in the Roman Church (for centuries) but in the same speech he went on to shift the blame on to the ‘permissiveness’ of the 1970s and the ‘normalising’ of child abuse and porn which merely demonstrates my point that they are both backward and dangerously out of touch with reality.  There was no hint of sincerity in the pope’s message, just a cringe-worthy display of adherence to idiotic story telling.

“The pope’s message was anodyne and didn’t engage with any contemporary issues – not really a thought for the day at all, but more a bit of good PR for him courtesy of the licence fee payer.

It is a shame that humanists in Britain continue to be denied the right to reply in such circumstances, with the ban on non-religious contributors to the programme.”

Andrew Copson, chief executive of the British Humanist Association

Those said to have been instrumental in persuading the Vatican to take part are the veteran Rome correspondent David Willey, BBC world news editor Jon Williams and the corporation’s head of radio, religion and ethics, Christine Morgan. Mark Thompson, BBC director general and a devout Roman Catholic, has also been involved in the negotiations



An Interview Between Hemley Gonzalez and Sally Warner. Sally speaks out Against the Deliberate Negligence of The Missionaries of Charity

December, 17th 2010 – Kolkata, India


Sally Warner, a registered nurse with a degree in sociology and a graduate diploma in social work from Western Australia, began working as a volunteer with The Missionaries of Charity in 1997. She quickly realized there was something horribly wrong going on in all of the children homes she had visited and volunteered in and soon after became a dissenting voice and critic of the organization, publishing her first book titled “Mother Teresa” in 2003 about these experiences and now currently working on her second publication “Mother Teresa: Sainthood Delayed” to be released in 2011. Sally had heard about my work and the facebook campaign: STOP The Missionaries of Charity / and after finding out I too was in Kolkata, a meeting was scheduled. The following is the transcribed audio of my hour long interview with her on this most disheartening subject.  More about Sally’s


Hemley Gonzalez: When did you come to Kolkata to work with the Missionaries of Charity?


Sally Warner: I’ve spent the last thirteen years volunteering and visiting several houses operated by the Missionaries of Charity, and eventually made my way to Kolkata in late 1999 and began volunteering in some of the houses in early 2000. Here I have visited and volunteered in: Green Park, Shanti Dan, Premdan, Daya Dan and Kalighat which I found quite awful, I lasted only a few day there as I thought it was very dangerous for volunteers with all the highly contagious cases of Tuberculosis, but I had to see it for myself and couldn’t believe it. Speaking of Kalighat, it is now closed for renovations which I’m sure you and your “STOP The Missionaries of Charity” campaign had much to do with.


HG: How many houses would you say you’ve worked in over the last 13 years?


SW: The following is a timeline of the homes I’ve worked in as well as the many others I have visited. I have spent most of my time in the children homes, there were some I could not deal with, some of the ladies homes, and others where patients were just sitting around and doing nothing, often in cement floors and lying in their own excrements, people drugged wrongly by the nuns and of course there is or should I say for now “was” Kalighat, where anyone could just walk in and immediately see an average of 50 men and 50 women laying in cots and basically rotting away.

  • Trivandrum Shishu Bhavan  Sept- Dec 1997
  • Visited Ernakulum MC Shishu Bhavan, and two other of Mother’s  homes for handicapped children
  • Volunteered Royapuram Chennai  June-December 1998
  • Visited and briefly volunteered Mangalore,
  • Visited and briefly volunteered Goa
  • Visited and briefly volunteered in Vellore TN
  • Visited and briefly volunteered in Mother’s children’s home Pt Blair Andaman Islands
  • Chennai north –home for dying and destitute Women Feb-March 1999
  • Visited home for dying and destitute Men  Jan 1999
  • Visited home for handicapped babies Chennai north  April 1999
  • Volunteered July-late Dec 1999 Civil Lines Shishu Bhavan Delhi
  • Visited and briefly volunteered Home for Dying Delhi 1999
  • Visited and briefly volunteered Handicapped Children’s Home New Delhi 1999
  • Volunteered Green Park 2001
  • Volunteered Daya Dan
  • Volunteered Shishu Bhavan – upstairs babies 100+ room; downstairs children’s room 100+ and handicapped children 40 plus- 2000-2002
  • Volunteered Gandhi School 2001
  • Volunteered Nirmala Hriday Home of Dying Destitute 2001
  • Visited and briefly volunteered in Mother’s Calcutta’s Leper’s home
  • Visited and volunteered for women in Prem Dan
  • Visited and volunteered Home for Prisoners Asha Dan
  • Visited and briefly volunteered MT Bentley Perth home
  • Visited Mother’s establishments in Brisbane Sydney Melbourne 2006
  • Volunteered twice total 3 months in Cambodia Phnom Penh 2004, 2008
  • Volunteered in Mother’s Home Bellevue Johannesburg 3 months 2007
  • Volunteered in Mumbai Sept-Nov 2008
  • Visited and briefly volunteered in Mother’s  home in Durban SA 2009
  • Visited and briefly volunteered in Mother’s home in Pretoria SA 2009
  • Returned to Kolkata and visited Daya Dan, Prem Dan and Shanti Dan, Green Pack, Shishu Bavan and Mother House


HG: What are your skills and how were you applying them in the different houses you worked in?


SW: I am a registered nurse and also have a degree in sociology. When I first started volunteering in Trivandrum and noticed some strange things going on with the kids I thought, maybe these children, since they came from a different culture, had more tolerance to some things that western babies do not, maybe they could tolerate hot milk, maybe they can cope with less food because they were stronger, eventually I realized when babies started dying that they in fact couldn’t cope with some of the things the nuns were doing to them. I began to observe that some of the basic educational functions were totally absent from the house, such as daily interaction, development classes, consistent and educational play hours and so on.  I tried to get toys out of the cupboard several times, since I believe stimulation is very important for children which in these orphanages are not being regularly touched or physically interacted with or let alone have anything of their own, so I found myself grabbing even spoon, buckets, glasses, anything for them to learn to use for themselves, but the nuns were very adamant about allowing me to do things of this nature on a regular basis.


HG: What exactly were some of the things you were trying to work on while you were there?


SW: It is extremely difficult to make any progress with the nuns. You can unlock the cupboards, bring a lot of puzzles and books but because the staff isn’t trained or the nuns do not encourage them to use them, they often just sit locked in these cabinets or given away to other people. Once complaints started coming in from parents in Europe who were adopting some of the children and had noticed a very low and poor learning ability from their newly adopted son or daughter, that’s when the nuns began to consider having some proper programs instituted. In 1999 in Delhi they reluctantly allowed a group of doctors from St. Steven’s hospital to come in to one of the orphanages with workbooks and materials, they then tested about thirty children for a play-therapy program they had brought with them and tested them again after, the average for this group was 60 DQ (development quotient), the average for a normal child is around 100, after exposing them to toys and educational material and giving them regular attention, 45 minutes in the morning and 45 minutes in the afternoon, and after 3 months, they saw the development quotient had gone up to 80. Then a year later, the nuns had stop doing the play-therapy and dismantled the programs altogether, and when doctors had returned to the test the children again they found that their DQ had dropped to 55 which is clearly a delayed development issue that could cause permanent damage for the child, so they immediately employed a play-therapist in Delhi to try and get the children back on the morning and afternoon programs.

In 2002 I returned with a play-therapy program to try and have the nuns implement it only to discover they had canceled the therapist in Delhi because they didn’t see a need for it. Some of the top therapists in the country are being turned down for their services, and this is simply unacceptable.

Another case of distressful neglect of course is Kalighat which is especially disturbing to me because as a registered nurse in Australia I often work with geriatric cases and others with severe handicaps that aren’t exactly dying but are going to be staying in the nursing home for the rest of their lives. In Kalighat patients have little or no dignity, for starters they don’t have names they are only identified by numbers, and all the women’s heads are shaved because of the scabies and lice which are far too common in many of the houses. What hospital do you know is infected with lice? These facilities are substandard at best, they rarely use warm water and with so many fragile individuals being bathed on cement floors, their ailments and deaths are instead accelerated.


HG: It seems you have been met with some indifference and resistance?


SW: When I started in Trivandrum trying to explain to the nuns and the staff about the right measurements and amounts of milk babies of different ages should have, and being basically ignored, (One of the superior nuns said to me: “I don’t read that stuff”) and this was the first of many instances where I would bring up medical and professional information appropriate to India to try and help them do the correct thing but after 13 years of being ignored this is where I draw the line.


HG: What would you say is the common theme of negligence in all the houses operated by the Missionaries of Charity in which you worked in?


SW: Anne Sebba, a British academic, who wrote a book about mother Teresa highlighted what I think IS the central problem with the organization, in one of the many incendiary statements Mother Teresa made over the years was that “education causes confusion” and so she thought education was unnecessary, and the prime virtue for the nuns within the organization was obedience, and instructed her followers to believe that if they were obedient, anything else they did was OK.

With this in mind, going through some of the physiological and operational aspects I would say these nuns have followed instruction quite well. And here are some of the details that repeated themselves far too often in homes across India and other continents:

  • Donations being locked up, rarely used or plainly given to people who they were not intended for.
  • Local staffed being overworked and underpaid (In India it is common to employ people to watch over babies and perform a lot of the cleaning and feeding duties for up to 14 hours each time for only $30 rupees a day)
  • Milk products consistently being wrongly administered to babies and toddlers and in some cases causing death
  • Insufficient and untrained staff looking over babies and children (Over 100 in a single room at times, with babies under 12 months of age who require a lot of attention)
  • Questionable food, or brown food as you will see in the pictures below
  • Malnutrition cases in children where the stomach blows up and the limbs get very thin and the hair falls out AKA Marasmus.
  • Children who are handicapped, particularly blind children, even to this day in Varkala and Mumbai, they are not given any proper education or assigned any person who could teach them any language and as they grow older they become more and more isolated and after certain years of age, they will not learn to speak at all.
  • The nuns in all houses begin their day with prayers and interrupt what would be a normal schedule in any medical facility in the middle of the day, diapering for hours for more prayers and other religious functions, leaving untrained and insufficient staff to cover them in them in their absence.
  • Dangerous environments, with dangerous playground equipment and dangerous stairs where children could easily fall through and kill themselves.
  • No one ever sees what happens after “volunteer” hours as volunteers must leave all the premises. I was able to stay longer periods of time and see what happens when the nuns go away and the people who are managing the place are certainly not the nuns. If you happen to cruise by at lunch time you will find only the staff. I stopped by one of the houses in Christmas day 1999 at about lunch time, and in this particular house there were about 120 babies upstairs and I was the only person in the whole building, so you had babies crying, stuck in cots and in south Africa you often had babies falling out of their cots and onto a cement floor and in Chennai they often fell out too, damaging their heads.
  • People doing burn dresses when they didn’t know how, not using proper medication to stop pain, etc.
  • Paralyzed patients dying of suffocation after being improperly fed by volunteers.
  • Volunteers who complain being kicked out.
  • Medical professionals being turned away or even being kicked out of some of the homes when they spoke up about the medical negligence or tried to institute proper and ongoing medical care.
  • Malaria a case in point where the nuns in the house in Chennai patently refused to use fans or mosquito nets, by the time they were forced to use them by some of the local donors, it was too late for several babies.
  • Typhoid fever, when I was in Mumbai was a problem in 2008 and 2010.
  • Children not drinking enough water, as it isn’t consistently distributed and since many of them aren’t able to communicate I often saw children drinking water from toilets resulting in more diseases.


HG: So, you work primarily with children? It seems to be your central focus.


SW: Yes, initially I was interested in adopting a child, but the Missionaries of Charity do not adopt children to Australia because of Mother Teresa’s views on contraceptive use, and I’ve had nuns beg me to try and stop abortions in Australia, something I found rather strange considering they don’t respect me or my opinion in any other areas, and for them to come up to me and ask me to try and change the abortion laws in Australia is rather bizarre.


HG: I’m curious, how would they expect you to change the abortion laws for an entire country?


SW: If people are so silly as to believe asking away to random citizens can accomplish this, I would say this is indicative of the kind of relationship they keep with the real world. I know they have homes in Australia, maybe that’s the prime purpose of the homes there.


HG: What brought you to work with the missionaries of charity, starting back in 1997 and after seeing everything you’ve described thus far, why have you remained a volunteer with them?


SW: I came to adopt a child in Trivandrum, and I couldn’t do it because of the organization’s view on abortion, and they shy away from countries in which such is legal as a way of punishing their laws if you will which is insane to say the least. So I spent time with babies whom I really enjoy and I found it really distressing because so many of them were dying of preventable causes. I actually and stupidly thought they would surely change but of course they didn’t and when I reached Kolkata also found more volunteers who too had tried to change things but were ignored and even kicked out of the organization. For example, I met a Russian girl in 2000 who said I should protest, and so I said, yes, let’s do that and she backed out fearing of not being allowed to volunteer in the future. So there are a lot of volunteers who do not agree with these practices but don’t want to lose the opportunity to continue to return to these homes.


HG: So, knowing that this negligence was not an act of ignorance but rather an orchestrated and consistent behavior of these nuns, why then do you keep retuning to volunteer with the Missionaries of Charity?


SW: Perhaps because of my background, as I am adopted myself, I didn’t know my age, who my biological parents were, I was legally blind up to the age of 14 when I was able to get glasses, I have more empathy for these children than most people and I felt really guilty about it, so now that I’ve come forward, I am trying to raise consciousness, and back in 2000 there weren’t many dissenting voices. Others like Aroup Chatterjee, and Christopher Hitchens were the lone rangers and I eventually got some volunteers to write some letters to nun Nirmala, the then head of the organization about the usual complaints but that was pretty much it and of course nothing came of it. And now people like you who in recent years have been able to restart the dialogue and conversation about the ongoing negligence, perhaps there is some hope that things will improve or change.


HG: Do you have any knowledge of the financial structure of the MISSIONARIES OF CHARITY?


SW: This is perhaps one of the most secretive areas of the organization. I know that Nirmala, the former head nun has been reported in the paper saying that since Mother Teresa died the donations have actually gone up and at that time Reuters and Anne Sebba had also placed the figures at about 50 million USD coming in each year. I also met an ex-missionaries of charity and wrote down what she had to say, “laks of rupees in donations come in through Mumbai every day”, she had also said containers filled with supplies, clothes and equipment are often arriving in Kolkata from several countries including Singapore and never seeing the equipment being used or delivered at the homes but instead she had seen trucks taking away the donated clothes and various other products to local markets where these items were sold as “second-hand mother Teresa clothes, good quality” and so on, as well as second hand toys being sold on the sidewalks of Chorengee road.

I can’t imagine what the donors would feel if they knew this is how their donations are ending up. Also, Catholic Aid sends bulgur wheat and the Missionaries of Charity uses it frequently, which is not a popular grain here, one of the workers was able to take some away with him, and I was able to personally examine it and it was just awful. On Shishu Bhavan there actually is a store where they sell donated milk and I was able to buy some myself outside the facility.


HG: Why would an organization which receives millions of dollars in donations have to sell items donated to help people actually held in these houses?


SW: Well, I don’t really know but when Missionaries of Charity are running homes (and they’ve got about 710 properties) I suppose one of the reasons might be how they choose to cover some of the organization’s internal expenses. For example, a few years back I visited the two homes in Australia and one of the nuns was arranging a flight to Sydney for a retreat, quite an expensive jaunt, another time the pope was going to be in Sydney and they were just pecking to flight there, it was about 5 nuns and when you start to figure the cost it can add up. And people definitely donate, I’ve been at Shishu Bhavan working and seen visitors come in and stare at the metal cots packed with babies, no toys, no books or educational posters, and it creates a very compelling picture.


HG: Shishu Bhavan, this is the same house that receives thousands of toys and boxes and boxes of educational material each year?


SW: Oh sure, even I have personally brought Kilos and Kilos of toys and they are never around when I’ve returned to work in the houses. I don’t know what happens to them, they are there one day and the next day they aren’t there anymore! You have to be there every day and watch the mysterious disappearance of all of these items, in Delhi they had many good toys donated by wealthy Indians and they either kept them locked up or gave them away.


HG: You’ve had sometime to speak to the nuns who are in charge about the negligence that you have witnessed and the way some of the health issues are handled, you’ve obviously tried to improve some of the conditions even. What has been the general reaction of the women who run this organization when you presented them with logical and viable options to change their practices?


SW: I have spoken to Nirmala when she was the general nun in charge 10-12 times, and sadly it is completely futile. When I brought the play-therapy program, the nuns were really offended and refused to do anything, the fact remains that some of them are in a very confused state, for instance, the head of Shishu Bhavan once received a “play-way” booklet I had obtained from the Loreto School which was a simple and effective way to teach children through play, but because of the organization’s stance on education, the nuns were unable to implement and therefore rejected it. I got a hold of an internal publication, a handbook on how to deal with handicapped children, and they do nothing of these rules, I looked through them in detail and it was a rather confusing program; unlike the play-therapy documents I had obtained from the Delhi pediatricians which were all very clearly detailed.


HG: Speaking of the issue of poverty, it seems that basically they have ignored several outcries for change and really have no interest in improving the conditions of their homes and the way the operate, so what exactly is the purpose of the Missionaries of Charity?


SW: Mother Teresa wanted wholehearted free service to the poorer of the poor because she thought these were people who didn’t know “jesus” so her primary focus was really to get them to know her belief, and in many cases die a “beautiful” death so you have babies who were dying, for example in Chennai and the nuns would say things like, “better they go to god” so you don’t know what to say to that when the cause of death was lack of food or poor hygienic conditions.


HG: Why haven’t donors been made aware of these practices? You would have to think any rational donor, regardless of his or her belief, if they understood what really goes on with their donation that these are absolutely unacceptable practices?


SW: It’s really hard to say because clearly children are not being tended to or educated properly, I took a lot of people to Mumbai when I was there to have a look and people cried, some people were quite disturbed by what they saw and they didn’t know what to think. I have been telling people for years to not give money to Kalighat, it will not help the men and women lying on the floor, but people completely ignored me and when they went there they were so distressed by the conditions that they couldn’t help themselves and gave money anyway, because they really believed that their money is going to improve the conditions.


HG: This seems to be a common practice with the Missionaries of Charity; they have these homes which are just in dismal conditions and almost as a museum to elicit donations from the gullibility or compassion of those who visit the houses. Isn’t it obvious what’s happening here?


SW: It has been written by Indian writers that of course if you got poor conditions then people are more liable to give money, so I was probably silly too, I thought if I brought stuff it would help, one time I had toys for every kid in one home but the nuns did not want to give a toy to everyone, and I couldn’t understand why. Weather is jealousy, or whatever, I don’t know, but they wouldn’t do it. And I suppose it’s hard to imagine people are so evil, and I suppose that’s what others think, you just can’t imagine that people could be this heartless but I’ve personally have seen it.


HG: There is definitely a blatant separation of social classes here in India, the caste being a case in point. Would you say a lot of these same issues exist in some of the other countries you’ve visited and worked in?


SW: Is generally poverty elsewhere, say in Johannesburg the conditions are slightly better because the laws are different, and I remember a local NGO which was trying to organize programs to help them function more as an educational center, confided in me that children looked after by the Missionaries of Charity were by far the most deprived children in Johannesburg and I would have to say after visiting several different homes in different continents, that this is true. I have visited homes in India, and the ones that are adopting children away are perhaps a bit higher in quality since parents from develop nations would seriously question issues of malnutrition and other diseases that are easily treatable.


HG: I think is fair to say that it is pretty costly and difficult for the average person who wants to be a volunteer to get to some of these remote and faraway places to actually help and see for themselves what goes on. You are one among many dissenting voices that have actually taken the leap of cost if you will, what will it take for voices like yours, voices like mine to be heard, taken seriously and used to hold these people accountable?


SW: I guess it has to be a numbers game. People here in Kolkata have said it has to do with the government, and when it changes some changes may come as the current one is holding it back. A good example is the dilemma of washing machines in South Africa, people donating washing machines and the nuns rejecting them, in India it might be a bit different as it is still common practice to wash by hands but in South Africa development has reached farther. People try, but how much can you do? Here in West Bengal government officials flat out told me: “what can we do to stop the Missionaries of Charity from torturing a few babies?” In 1965 the organization’s financial operation was taken over by the Vatican directly and not the local bishops or archediosis, so talking to the local “superiors” has absolutely no effect whatsoever.


HG: So even within the exclusive channels of the religious structure which this organization is governed by you really don’t get anywhere do you?


SW: No. I took the issues to father Huart and Father Abello both Jesuits who had been involved with Mother Teresa and the Missionary of Charity for a long time, as well as others Jesuits who are now dead. Sometimes I don’t think they knew what was going on.  Father Le Joly quite a nice guy who has written several books as well, when I met him he was half deaf and legally blind, he couldn’t really see what was going on, can’t blame him, he was in his 90’s. Father Huart who released mother Teresa’s private letters for the book “Come Be My Light” from the archbishop when he died, (letters which mother Teresa expressively wanted destroyed, obviously they were not) had spoken to me several times after I gave him a copy of my first book and refused to do anything about it, and said to me: “what do you expect me to do, take six months off and take a look at the missionaries of charity?” and I said, well, YES! But the answer was obviously no. Also father Abello, who I too gave a copy of my first book said he wouldn’t read it until I would republish it using his views on contraception. I also met the curator of the mother Teresa letters’ book and tried to get him to go and have a look at what was happening at Shishu Bhavan which is literally a two minute walk from the headquarters of the Missionaries of Charity and he was not interested. And last but not least I too met the bishop of Kolkata when Mother Teresa was alive who had also read my book and practically slammed the door on me but not before saying “It doesn’t matter, as long as the donations don’t stop coming in”


HG: I’ve actually read “Come Be My Light” and I must say it reads like the work of a deeply and mentally disturbed individual, and it was quite shocking that the book was released by the Missionaries of Charity themselves, but after further inspection it was evident that the move to publish it from inside the organization was nothing less than an attempt to soften the blow and the severity of the content.


SW: That’s correct. Father Huart who had written several articles for theological publications had pretty much admitted there was a strategy to make mother Teresa seem as charismatic as St. Teresa de Avila who had the same kind of mental problems, not being able to find the particular god of her particular religion and the torment and agony people suffer from these episodes of what many doctors may consider to be mild to severe cases of schizophrenia.


HG: Would you say it is time for the world to revise and review the image that has been created about Mother Teresa and the actual work that her organization does?


SW: People like Christopher Hitchens who once said she was a saint for sinners, in this case sinners being some of the rich folks in our world who find it convenient to feel good about their deeds through these channels. And it is convenient for the catholic church, who came forward many years ago and expressed it needed an American saint, a figure that could escalate donations worldwide, and mother Teresa, although Albanian and an Indian citizen, in 1996 was granted honorary U.S citizenship, so they are trying to do all they can to continue to have donations flow through which incidentally have dropped off with the pedophile and child rape crisis of recent years.


HG: The Vatican is in fact the parent company of the Missionaries of Charity which is also the same religious organization that has paid $2.9+ billion dollars since the 1950’s in court settlements for the child rape and abuse epidemic it is facing, so how do we know that many of the donations sent to the Missionaries of Charity have not been used for this purpose?


SW: Almost all the money the Missionaries of Charity receive goes to Rome, but it is next to impossible to track it because they have refused to publish how much money they’ve collected since starting operations in 1952. The Catholic Church is trying to increase attendance and collections at all their churches. So the money for the thousands of settlements and court cases certainly had to come from somewhere.


HG: Given everything we know about the missionaries of charity and their operation, it begs the question, where is all the money they have taken and continue to take in each year going to?


SW: My toys went unaccounted for, the moment I left them at their doors, and these are just toys, so imagine what happens with money. I witnessed so many volunteers and visitors coming into the homes through the years and just handing over money, and these are the ones who can physically get to some of these place, so try to imagine what the mail room might look like.


HG: What is next for Sally Warner?


SW: While I’m in Kolkata for the next two weeks, I am looking forward to printing enough copies of my new book and hope it will raise some awareness and achieve some changes. Without the necessary changes, people will continue to suffer conditions which amount to a human rights violation.


HG: After everything we’ve come to know about the Missionaries of Charity, is change actually possible?


SW: I suppose there are some changes but not necessarily taking place at the Missionaries of Charity. It appears that people are being able to adopt children much easier and from many more channels without having to go through the missionaries of charity, so they could stop the whole program altogether, but you never know with these people. Today, they continue to misdiagnose and mistreat people with diseases that otherwise could be cured and preventable, so if they keep kicking people out on the streets only to have them return a month later, this endless cycle of senseless “help” will continue. It is very scary to think they are anything but responsible, I’ve seen their so called medical books and rarely do patients have names, often they are just numbers, so it is very difficult to understand who comes, who goes, there are no medical histories. And in places like Kalighat, as you know, the death certificates are all made up and the people who sign them aren’t doctors, and of course some of the burial methods which are directly against the cultural traditions of the deceased, and so on. So no, change is a very scary proposition for them and therefore I don’t see it happening anytime soon.


HG: Would it be fair to say that the world would be better off without the Missionaries of Charity? Surely there are many other organizations doing great work while conducting themselves with accountability and in search of solutions to the question of poverty.


SW: I actually believe the Missionaries of Charity are detrimental to progress, because people come here, volunteer and return home with a picture of substandard conditions for those the Missionaries of Charity claim to help which don’t have to be, this is 2010, it was probably the reality of the 1950’s when India had gained its independence and it was struggling in all fronts but for me the people living on the streets, the children anyhow, have a real chance at learning to read, write and learn new skills which they certainly don’t at the Missionaries of Charity. Mother Teresa believed poverty was good for poor people and the world, she once said poverty is my mother and suffering is joy but one has to wonder how much of this she actually believed. She once also said she wanted to die in Kalighat, but she didn’t. She died surrounded by machinery and some of the best care money can provide, unlike the thousands of women and men who died at the hands of her nuns without painkillers or any of the other comforts she herself enjoyed.


Hemley Gonzalez: I want to thank you for your time and strength to continue to speak up about this. You have certainly echoed some of what I have been saying for the last two years and have shed new light on many more cases of abuse in many of the different homes operated by the Missionaries of Charity. And you have clearly confirmed what I have been alluding to in my work, which is that this was not isolated to one particular house but rather, it seems to be a rampant and inherent negligence throughout the organization, once again, THANK YOU and it has been a pleasure meeting you.


Sally Warner; Author / Interviewed by:

Hemley Gonzalez;

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