An Unquenchable Thirst: A journey of hope, sadness and redemption for one of Mother Teresa’s former nuns.

Review by: Hemley Gonzalez, Founder of STOP The Missionaries of Charity.

The author with Mother and Monsignor Sidney Marceaux meeting briefly with her family.

The author with Mother and Monsignor Sidney Marceaux meeting briefly with her family.


Reviewing this book proceeded from a lively and insightful conversation with the author. Since my horrific experience as a volunteer a few years ago with The Missionaries of Charity, my investigation of Mother Teresa’s medically negligent and financially fraudulent organization has led me to discover many deeply disturbing accounts and experiences from different volunteers, nurses, journalists and now former nuns like Mary Johnson.

In her lengthy tome, Johnson shows us in detail what it was like to be a ‘sister’ for twenty years with the world-famous catholic order, chronicling the searing hopes of a young woman in search of god who instead is met with sobering and often cruel repression, unnecessary suffering and a constant and immense spiritual conflict laced with specific accounts of guilt-ridden sexual episodes despite her vows of celibacy.

Although Johnson never made it to Calcutta, she did however spend enough time with high ranking nuns of the order and Mother Teresa herself to properly asses the moral compass, primary mission and mishaps of the organization as a whole. Being shuffled between nunneries and houses in Brooklyn, Washington DC and Rome, aside from medial tasks with the poor in some of these locations, her work remained primarily planted in the theological teachings and logistical aspect of the operation.

The first sign of trouble emerges when she is scolded by one of the senior nuns just days after starting her vocation for not using a bucket (while taking a freezing-cold shower) but instead for standing under the shower head. The older nun hissed at her words like ‘selfish, disobedient, wasteful and immodest’ for not suffering enough, a cornerstone and a troubling aspect of the organization which dwells on punishment and penance as a way to get closer to god. Suffering from this point on prevails and the irrational repression and illogical abuses only continue to escalate as power struggles and the expected absolute obedience turns into conflict with the author’s common sense and emotional stability.

Astonishingly, Johnson manages to find patches of personal peace by learning to avoid some of the oppressing nuns and by trying to convince herself as she was systematically told by her superiors and Mother Teresa that one day all of these doubts and suffering would bring her closer to Jesus.

Becoming further entrenched in the organization over the years, she was sent to Rome where she began to oversee new nuns who were joining the order from all over the world and eventually also saw them leave to other places where she herself desired to go to the most. Disappointingly, she was always skipped for these remote missions because she had become a useful and encouraging superior herself and these are important attributes which the organization needs in order to keep nuns who have difficulty adapting to the dismal rules and abusive behaviour from defecting.

Education of non-ecclesiastical subjects were strictly forbidden as they were an evident threat to the order, at one time prompting Mother Teresa herself to admit that such was one of the reasons for so many nuns leaving the organization. So when even the theological programs which Johnson had been specifically instructed to revise and teach were met with opposition during debates on the issues of birth control and the conception of life (which sharply divided some of the nuns) the prospect of leaving began to emerge. For an intelligent, curious and spiritually seeking woman like Johnson this environment of repression, Machiavellian survivorship and the omnipresent pettiness of gossip simply became impossible to handle.

Naturally, sexual desires and urges were present, and as it is expected she wasn’t the only one suffering from the restrictive vows of chastity and celibacy. A proposed “emotional and spiritual marriage” to Jesus while observing strict celibacy was one of many ironies far too grand to ignore, let alone uphold until her death. Soon she found herself giving in to physical encounters with other nuns and paying the consequences of her mental turmoil through years of confessions with priests, sporadic conversations with her superiors and the negative effects of the emptiness which occupied her heart. At one point, she even became the target of another nun’s unwanted sexual advances, although she had reciprocated this individual’s advances at first, when she decided to end the relationship the other woman turned aggressive and abusive. Later on she managed to also make love with one of her confessors thus reconciling in her mind that fearing such natural desires was incompatible with reality and the essence of love as she understood it.

The brash and sporadic encounters with Mother Teresa, the manufacturing-like attitude of preparing scores of young women to become nuns and Mother Teresa’s stern and irrational instructions on how to achieve god’s love were unavoidably disconnected from the idyllic image she had of the organization from the time she first learned of it while in high school. In a note which Johnson wrote and at times of emotional hardship often read to herself, readers can feel the pain of a human being losing its individuality and self-confidence:

 “Sister Donata, you are nothing, you have always been nothing, and you will always be nothing. Your desire to be someone special is just pride. And everything you have, including your existence itself, is a gift. You breathe only at the pleasure of the lord. You are privileged to be invited to intimacy with the Maker of the Universe. You will belong to God, and Jesus will be your husband. There is no higher honour.”

As she began to admit to herself that praying to the image of Jesus was spiritually unsatisfying, she had come to view god as a larger and much more complex essence in her mind versus the male character inculcated and rehashed by a male-dominated church for centuries which hypocritically demanded sacrifice from others, specially the women in the church’s lower ranks while many of the leading men in the institution lived a life of luxury with far less restrictions.

After much consideration, she realized that her search for god was incomplete and that god was incompatible with the image of Jesus and neither was present inside The Missionaries of Charity. Once in a hospital while recovering from an operation she had gazed over the rolling hills of Italy’s countryside and remembered feeling an overwhelming and calming sense of peace; this simple awareness of the world around her seemed much more in line with her spiritual quest than anything she had experienced in all her years as a nun.

One feeling that permeates throughout the book is Johnson’s desire for comradeliness. There’s melancholy in her words, and also sadness for the ‘sisters’ which she left behind, the reader can see the love jumping from the pages at times but also it is impossible to ignore the many instances in which the author seems to be drowning in a sea of sadness.

How long can any human being bear such sadness? This was a question which took Johnson exactly twenty years to answer and when she did, she found the light at the end of the tunnel and the personal and spiritual happiness she had been seeking for all along immediately after leaving Mother Teresa’s cult.

About Mary Johnson:

Mary Johnson joined the Missionaries of Charity, the group commonly known as the Sisters of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, at age 19. For fifteen of Mary Johnson’s twenty years as a sister, she was stationed in Rome and often lived with Mother Teresa for weeks at a time. Johnson also lived and worked as a nun in the South Bronx, Washington DC, and Winnipeg. Mother Teresa sent her to study theology at Regina Mundi, a pontifical institute aggregated to the Gregorian University in Rome, where she received a diploma in religious studies. Johnson was assigned to compose and revise some of the governing documents of the Missionaries of Charity, and for six years was responsible for the formation of sisters preparing to vow their lives as nuns. After leaving the sisters in 1997, Johnson completed a BA in English at Lamar University and an MFA in Creative Writing at Goddard College. She also married. A well-respected teacher and public speaker, Johnson has led retreats, workshops, classes, and training sessions of various kinds for nearly thirty years. Most recently she has taught creative writing and Italian to adults and is Creative Director of A Room of Her Own Foundation’s retreats for women writers. For more information please visit:

About STOP The Missionaries of Charity:

STMOC is an on-going international investigation focused on holding Mother Teresa’s charity accountable for their monumental medical negligence and financial fraud. It began in 2008 after a volunteer who had spent two months working inside one of the homes operated by the organization discovered a series of medically negligent and financially fraudulent incidents which had being taken place for decades ad still continue today. For more information please visit:  

An Unquenchable Thirst - Mary Johnson (Cover image)

An Unquenchable Thirst – Mary Johnson
We highly recommend this book for anyone interested in learning more about Mother Teresa and The Missionaries of Charity.

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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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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William James on Original Sin.

William James (January 11, 1842 – August 26, 1910) was born in New York to Henry James Sr, a theologian known for his eccentricity.  William  trained to be a medical doctor and wrote prolifically on the then relatively new field of psychology, most notably the psychology of religious experience and mysticism; The Varieties of Religious Experience.  He spent most of his career at Harvard University as an academic.  His early artistic bent led to an apprenticeship in the studio of William Morris Hunt in Newport, Rhode Island, but he switched in 1861 to scientific studies at the Lawrence Scientific School of Harvard University.

  • Appointed instructor in physiology for the spring term of 1873, as well as instructor of anatomy and physiology.
  • Appointed assistant professor of psychology in 1876.
  • Appointed assistant professor of philosophy in 1881, full professor 1885, and endowed chair on 1889.
  • Returned to philosophy in 1897.
  • Emeritus professor of philosophy in 1907.
  • Gave the Hibbert lectures at Oxford in 1908.

James first came to psychology when asked to write an introduction which appeared in Principles of Psychology, published in 1890.  It was after then when James began to explore his interest in religion.  It is for his works, though they were published late in his life, The Varieties, A Pluralistic Universe, and essays such as The Will to Believe, for which he is best known.

“James studied medicine, physiology, and biology, and began to teach in those subjects, but was drawn to the scientific study of the human mind at a time when psychology was constituting itself as a science. James’s acquaintance with the work of figures like Hermann Helmholtz in Germany and Pierre Janet in France facilitated his introduction of courses in scientific psychology at Harvard University. He taught his first experimental psychology course at Harvard in the 1875-1876 academic year.”

The James family was deeply affected by the American Civil war.  Out of  a total of four brothers, both Henry James Jnr. and William were exempted from fighting on medical grounds.  Their sister, Alice James, also died in her mid-40s.  Biographers have noted that a phenomenon known as ‘survivor guilt’ had huge affect on them.  He was prone to fits of anxiety and melancholy and described ‘visions’ of asylum inmates and the only thing which could comfort him was reciting scriptures despite his ambivalence over the existence of God. One French correspondent hinted that James  was actually a humanist.  It is hypothesised that James’ fascination with religious experience came primarily from his own ‘spiritual’ crises.  I do not think it fair to describe him as a religious man merely due to his interest in the psychological aspect of religion even though he did describe his book ‘The Varieties’ as his “religious act”.

“In his early adulthood, James suffered from a variety of physical ailments, including those of the eyes, back, stomach, and skin. He was also tone-deaf.[2] He was subject to variety of psychological symptoms which were diagnosed at the time as neurasthenia, and which included periods of depression during which he contemplated suicide for months on end. Two younger brothers, Garth Wilkinson (Wilky) and Robertson (Bob), fought in the Civil War. The other three siblings (William, Henry, and Alice) all suffered from periods of invalidism.”

Extremely troubled, but intellectually brilliant, open-minded and humane, William James is certainly to be recommended as an author to those interested in matters of human spiritual exploration.  American universities in 1908 had only just begun to award higher degrees in the fields of psychology and philosophy so he did not actually posses a formal qualification despite his years of experience.  His lectures  explored the human phenomenon of human religious experience from a psychological perspective, rather than one of theology or ecclesiastics and his work was based around evidence produced by other articulate individuals involved in the new science.  James aimed to make a clear distinction between the nature of religious experiences and the value placed on religious ‘truths’ by mankind.  he astutely noted how easy it is to slip from explaining one and into passing judgement on the other.

“During his Harvard years, James joined in philosophical discussions with Charles PeirceOliver Wendell Holmes, and Chauncey Wright that evolved into a lively group known as The Metaphysical Club in 1872. Louis Menand speculates that the Club provided a foundation for American intellectual thought for decades to come.”

James was a Darwinian.  His works require the reader to consider the evolutionary explanation for religion and argues a previous survival advantage.   Mark Vernon of The Guardian Cif, has acknowledged the reasonable precept that everything has causes but adds that these possibilities don’t rule out any authority behind those religious experiences and it is a mistake to do so.  Why?  It may be that as humans we are hard-wired to accept the possibility or even believe in something greater than ourselves but that does not make it fact.  It neither proves nor disproves the existence of god, only that it is possible for humans to believe in God.


Animation. Occipital lobe (red) of left cerebral hemisphere.

Occipital lobe (red) of left cerebral hemisphere.


William James’ works and theories call this medical materialism.  The physical aspects of psychological defects put St Paul’s vision on the road to Damascus down to a symptom of epilepsy (a discharging legion of the occipital cortex) and  Mother Teresa’s visions as hysterical.  Mr Vernon again refuses to accept the natural explanation and will not even consider that religious experiences are physical symptoms of psychological disorders.

“Paul may well have had an epileptic episode. But that’s only to say that there is a biological component to all human experience…Thus, critics discredit states of mind of which they disapprove, not those of which they approve, and it is entirely arbitrary and illogical to do so. If you explain away religious experience, then you evacuate the truth content of all utterances made by human beings.”

As Mr Vernon would have it, we are truly to only discover what is true after forcing it through an “intellectual, philosophical and spiritual” sieve by which we can separate and cast away those facts that we deem unpalatable due to what it would mean about ourselves if we accepted them.  Indeed it is what every good apologist does when they refuse to even consider that they are wrong about the existence of [insert god here].  James made no apologies for his stance and the points he made are still relevant.  Personal happiness bares no relevance to what is factually correct about the natural world and humans are neither separate nor above that world despite our propensity to species chauvinism.

“Old-fashioned determinism was what we may call hard determinism. It did not shrink from such words as fatality, bondage of the will, necessitation, and the like. Nowadays, we have a soft determinism which abhors harsh words, and, repudiating fatality, necessity, and even predetermination, says that its real name is freedom; for freedom is only necessity understood, and bondage to the highest is identical with true freedom.”

If science is not enough to discredit religious belief, mockery can be a useful tool.  If we ignore the sources of the belief then we are at risk of accepting it as truth on principle.  It was quite reasonable for those who came up with these doctrines to do so; they were not in possession of all the facts and nor did they have access to them.  It is quite another matter for us to adhere to that dogma today as it requires us to discount accepted evidence in order to accept them.  The source of our information should be one of the primary considerations of credibility.  Where I differ from James is that where he believed that neither reason or appearance are infallible adjudicators, I believe that what we now know about the brain and the mind has shown us that reason and logic is a far more reliable auditor than what we see or hear.

“The stronghold of the determinist argument is the antipathy to the idea of chance…This notion of alternative possibility, this admission that any one of several things may come to pass is, after all, only a roundabout name for chance.”

Religion stems from the human tendency to ascribe agency to, and anthropomorphise, inanimate forces.  Such simplistic approaches to explanation leaves so much, and even the most interesting information out and the available evidence is trimmed to fit prior assertions.  I am sure that apologists would love the psychological study of religion to stick to matters of categorising those ‘experiences’  but for the more curious of us, we are not content to be so restricted.  Mr Vernon himself would also like his religious ideas placed under less scrutiny because that way he does not have to worry that he is wrong.

“In William James’s lecture of 1897 titled “The Will to Believe,” James defends the right to violate the principle of evidentialism in order to justify hypothesis venturing. Although this doctrine is often seen as a way for William James to justify religious beliefs, his philosophy of pragmatism allows him to use the results of his hypothetical venturing as evidence to support the hypothesis’ truth. Therefore, this doctrine allows one to assume belief in God and prove His existence by what the belief brings to one’s life.”


Original Sin

Now we come to the crux of the matter.  The idea of original sin is as a pernicious and programmed idea as they come. It implies that as humans we are naturally bad and in need of being mended.  Who has this magical cure? Organised religion.  What will it cost you? All sense of self and individual, sacrifice of personal enquiry, an end to questioning those who assume authority over us.  All this and yet the problem is not fixed but given weekly reinforcement in a special building and with others who are ‘naturally bad’.  It is a vile doctrine designed to feed fear and keep congregations dependant on God.  I cannot be the only one who sees something wrong with that picture.

“On account of a superficial resemblance between the doctrine of original sin and the Manichaean theory of our nature being evil, the Pelagians accused the Catholics and St. Augustine of Manichaeism.”

William James believed that while some are able to take whatever happiness that their religion gives them as ample demonstration of its truth, others have decided that religion is a necessity to cure the ills of the world.  He applied the term “twice-born” to describe the latter.  The more optimistic “once-born” treat their faith as a gift while to the “twice-born” it is a burden.  Of course, the majority Christians would have us believe that the world would be a better place if everyone followed their brand of their beliefs. They decry critics as ignorant of Jesus’s teachings (really?  have they read them?) and arrogant in our refusal to accept him as our saviour (master). The rise of modern science writing has thankfully begun to convey the counter idea that humans are not flawed and if we do face a problem then we are able to fix ourselves rather than rely on religion and out-dated superstition.

“I think that yesterday was a crisis in my life. I finished the first part of Renouvier’s second Essais and see no reason why his definition of free will — ‘the sustaining of a thought because I choose to when I might have other thoughts’ — need be the definition of an illusion. At any rate, I will assume for the present — until next year — that it is no illusion. My first act of free will shall be to believe in free will.”

Mr Vernon expresses a view that what connects liberal Christianity, scientific optimism and self-help is the belief that people are capable of creating our own sense of well-being and recognise that our higher motivations must be trained to take precedence over the lower.  But is a higher motivation really higher if done for the wrong reasons? Helping the homeless is indeed a noble act but that act is cheapened if it is mercenary act (and yes, religious reasoning, makes any and all acts mercenary whether noble or not).  As humans, we are capable of improving our lot both collectively and individually but the “twice-born” disagree.  To them the human nature is incurably corrupt and no matter what individuals do, we are all doomed to failure and tragedy regardless of whether we accept the authority of their deity or not.  What a horrible outlook on life. While Stoics taught their followers to merely go with the flow and be insensible to life’s pains and trials, the Epicureans went about avoiding pain by eschewing life’s pleasures.  This is not all as one must seek to be ‘born-again’ through a process of redemption for ‘sins’ committed centuries before our birth by other people and by being saved.  They believe that help does not come through either themselves or even by earthly means: help can only come from the supernatural.   The dogma of original sin causes division, even among Christians.

“In William James’s lecture of 1897 titled “The Will to Believe,” James defends the right to violate the principle of evidentialism in order to justify hypothesis venturing. Although this doctrine is often seen as a way for William James to justify religious beliefs, his philosophy of pragmatism allows him to use the results of his hypothetical venturing as evidence to support the hypothesis’ truth. Therefore, this doctrine allows one to assume belief in God and prove His existence by what the belief brings to one’s life.”

William James tried to find truth in both sides.  Mind-cures allow people the dignity to take responsibility for their actions but James did tend to appeal more to the twice-born mentality of a naturally ‘sick-soul’.  Choice may well imply the loss of things not chosen but this is only a negative to those who wish to have everything.  Excellence need not stand out against second best when we acknowledge the effort made.  If one person’s gain is another’s loss then we should question how such gain is made as an unfair trade is generally thought of as a con.    Real optimism is not achieved through ignoring the dark but by searching for positive aspects of life and by accepting personal accountability for our actions and their consequences.  The nature of the twice-born mentality offers only a hopelessly bleak (self-pitying) outlook, a disparate view of humanity (to say the least), and very little in all to recommend it.

“What is meant by saying that my choice of which way to walk home after the lecture is ambiguous and matter of chance?…It means that both Divinity Avenue and Oxford Street are called but only one, and that one either one, shall be chosen.”


Undeserved Reputations.

It seems a current popular trend, within a media-centred and largely globalised society, to judge actions by reputation rather than the other way around.  It seems even more prevalent in well known figures such as Naomi Campbell, who is ‘known’ for having a volatile temper and to have faced court scrutiny for apparently being offered a valuable blood diamond as a gift.  How often do  we stop to think about who wrote these reports?  Do we ever pause to think about where a report of trivial so-called ‘celebrity-journalism’ (produced for same audience as the endless chat-shows and blatantly staged reality-TV that is passed off as entertainment) comes from?  The precedent of ‘reputation’ is a dangerous social construct which can be used to deliberately mislead us regarding the character and motives of persons we have either never met or are unlikely to ever meet.   Never more is trend apparent than in the case of one elderly Albanian nun who went by the name of Mother Teresa.  What I want to know is when word and deed ceased to take precedence before a ill-deserved reputation.

Mother Teresa with the Raegans

Credited the former President with virtues he did not posses - Ignored his involvement in the Guatemalan death squads.

In 1969, Malcolm Muggeridge filmed a documentary named ‘Something Beautiful for God‘ which began the nun’s very public campaign backed by both the prominent and the infamous.  His portrayal of Calcutta as a centre of despair and destitution was central to his very biased approach to his new pet-project.  This view is a wholly inaccurate marketing ploy used very carefully by The Missionaries of Charity in order to achieve two goals.

  1. Keep the donations coming.
  2. Justify their presence in the country.

The truth of the matter is that, despite Calcutta’s problems of poverty as a result of overpopulation, the city hosts theatres and universities, and produces it own high quality printed media.  Though plagued by religious conflicts over the years, it is predominated by secular and leftist politics.  This over population problem is not helped by the ever present Catholic Church working to spread disinformation about contraception and disease, and ban abortion among demographics of the poorly educated and already struggling families in what is most patronisingly referred to as the ‘third world’.  The problems of these countries will not be solved by these outright lies to prevent the less well off to manage the size of their families.  It should be noted that Mother Teresa saw no reason at all for humans to limit our rate of reproduction, a belief present in many religious ‘apologists’ due partly, I believe to her own adherence to dogma and superstitious ideas of ‘divine providence’.   If this were truly the case, then there would be NO NEED for these charities to begin with.

Mother Teresa with Charles Keating.

With Charles Keating - Savings and Loan swindler and imprisoned for ten years. Mother Teresa accepted $1,250,000 in stolen money: left hundreds without their life savings. The money has never been returned.

Between she and Muggeridge, Calcutta was brutally slandered from one side with a slur to human nature (the open incomprehension that anyone would even want to step out and help those in desperate need) and from the other side, the attempted ‘solution’ was stripped from the people it was meant to be aiding and made into a self-sanctifying ‘mission’ for god.  She believed that her mission was mandated by heaven but considering the letters published by the church (that she had requested be destroyed), she did not even believe in God. This moves her from being a fanatical fundamentalist to a cynical and shallow opportunist.  I find myself bemused in this case that either of their statements had not been ripped to shreds by the press, but rather heralded as praise worthy for the mere fact that 50% of the discourse was from a religious figure (and the other 50% from a deluded buffoon; I will allow you to decide which is which.), soon to become an icon for conscience-easing hypocrisy.

The apparent ‘first miracle’ was utterly refuted, even by it’s own author, but this came all too late.  The damage had already been done through Muggeridge’s own media circulation; it became a self-perpetuating myth of monstrous proportions.  What was described as ‘Divine Light’ by Muggeridge was in actual fact thanks to a new film produced by Kodak for use in low-light conditions.  This tragic lack of critical thinking, rather than exposing a fraud, had the effect of producing a huge body of preconceived opinions and has lent undeserved credence to a further four decades of needless misery for the poor of Calcutta.  These people are being shamelessly and unforgivably used as a publicity brand/stunt for the catholic church.  Combine this with the fact that on Christopher Hitchen’s visit to her Home for the Dying, he witnessed the nun display an air and attitude far from the humility for which she is acclaimed; “accepting kisses to her feet as if it were no more than her due“.


Accepted unnamed sum of more stolen money from The Duvaliers before they bled the treasury dry and fled to France.

Even more worrying, was this discussion which itself is a telling disclosure of not only ‘Christian-values’ but also of the twisted non-logic that passed for morality in their eyes;

Muggeridge; You don’t think there’s a danger that people might mistake the means for the end, and feel that serving their fellow man was an end in itself? Do you think there’s a danger of that?

Mother Teresa; There is always the danger that we may become only social-workers or just do the work for the sake of the work…It is a danger; if we forget to whom we are doing it.  Our works are only an expression for our love of Christ. Our hearts need to be full of love for him, and since we have to express that love in action, naturally the poorest of the poor are the means of expressing our love for God.

Aside from this damning conversation, which is on public record, the reputation of this woman became such that her callous and irrational remarks have been overlooked in favour of a completely artificial and ostentatious affectation of poverty and unconvincing humility.  By her own words, her acts were cheapened and made both mercenary and self-congratulatory;  genuine humanitarian acts of altruism are ‘dangers’ to be avoided in her view, and those she ‘serves’ are mere tools of piety for her own cause.  It is a gross misconception, that her work was humane when she had so publicly confessed that she had no interest in any real practical and sustainable solution for the poor of Calcutta.  Her bizarre obsession with suffering has been turned into a dangerous cult; to proselytise to, and baptise, those in dire straits and so earn a reputation as a new discipline within the church.  Her filmed statements revealed this fact time and time again and if it were not for her false reputation, this woman would have been seen for the fraud and liar she was.

With Robert Maxwell.

Received monetary contributions and leant her name and support to his newspaper campaign. Turned out later that he had raided the pension fund.

The Missionaries of Charity are an organisation who willingly and deliberately perpetuate the poverty and suffering of people who have had little choice in their circumstances due at least in part to their lack of education.  By rectifying their involuntary ignorance, and enabling them to support themselves it would be possible for these people to lift themselves out of poverty.  While the MOC are active and continue in their fraudulent portrayal their own voluntary state of poverty as some form of tool for their own ends, the problem will continue.  This act seems enough to distract many from the fact that their ‘work’ serves no real purpose.  Mother Teresa, however, hypocritically enjoyed comfortable and expensive hospitals while her ‘sisters’ were taught that their own medical needs were a frivolous luxury.

While millions have been poured into the Order’s accounts, Mother Teresa enjoyed flights on private jets (owned by Savings and loan Fraudster, Charles Keating) and helicopter rides to Ireland, staged trips to chemical disasters, journeys to America, Ireland and the UK (to promote the Church’s own anti-abortion, divorce and contraception campaign).  The nuns in charge of banking the donations are trained to square their consciences with the flimsy non-argument that to question the highly suspicious practices of the order shows lack of trust in ‘Mother’ and pride.  Exactly the ideas used in cult conditioning.  The order even went so far as abandoning a housing project for the homeless in the Bronx,  due to the fact that the law required a lift be put in for the disabled, is ludicrous to the extreme.

Staged studio picture with John-Roger

Dangerous cult leader presented her with an 'Integrity Award' of $10,000

It is unnecessary false-modesty that these women display which is the worst form of conceit and arrogance as they silently gloat at and invoke the guilt of the rest of the world who choose not to adopt their entirely unnatural and artificial way of life.  Heralding these misguided women only serves to distract us from the fact that they have done nothing to ease the problems of the ‘poorest of the poor’.  If anything I would say that the order has exacerbated their problems.  Nothing substantial has been achieved by these women while they continue to operate and maintain their branding so their sponsors can gain an easy warm-fuzzy feeling by just donating money.

Thankfully those like Susan Shields and Hemley Gonzalez, no longer fear a bad reception now that the ‘truth’ about her ‘Order’ (cult) is finally being publicly recognised as a tawdry front for the Vatican and unsubtle distraction from their far from savoury history (Darfur, Rwanda…).  One visit from a Doctor Fox, documented in The Lancet in 1994 – confirmed by other volunteers -revealed that no proper tests are carried out so no real diagnoses can be made for patients, some of whom easily could easily be treated and return to society to lead a productive and fulfilling life The lack of even effective -or any- pain relief as demonstrated by Hemley Gonzalez, shows an appalling lack of empathy and consideration for the real well-being of the patients.  There are still more who refuse to acknowledge the contradictions exhibited so publicly but by making this issue very public and then continuing by being very loud until our concerns are recognised by the proper authorities (NOT the church) and acted upon, hopefully we may start making some real progress.

Christianity’s denial that the physical self has any import, is dangerous to say the least but what Mother Teresa was representative of was an outright denial of reality.  Her acceptance of stolen money may have been unintentional but I find it very difficult to believe that a woman capable of placing herself repeatedly so completely in the public eye and in the presence of rich, well known and often reprehensible characters was sincerely as ‘uninvolved with politics’ as she claimed herself to be.  I do not swallow the convenient and obvious excuses from her hero-worship-blinded supporters that the woman was SO INNOCENT that she was unaware of who these people were well before she accepted their hospitality and then their money while lending her name and her support.  The money stolen she accepted from Charles Keating was never returned to it’s rightful owners and considering how little has changed, it is very doubtful that that vast sum was ever used to solve Calcutta’s poverty issues.  Even if she did not know who they were the Vatican did and hers was not an independent order; they still had to answer to the the authority of Rome and these orders do not operate without either the instruction or permission of the church.

If I were to be extremely generous in this case, I would perhaps allow one single instance of uninformed ignorance. But which one?    The Vatican was open in it’s support of the Military Junta and dictatorship of Haiti.  The meeting with Ronald and Nancy?  Margaret Thatcher was the first female prime Minister of Great Britain (and probably that last considering the utter pigs-ear she made of it) so it is unlikely that that she was unbeknown to the church especially since by that point Mother Teresa had become their own trojan-horse.


Take into consideration how truly mind-bogglingly ridiculous it is to quite happily nurse our comfortable western consciences that ‘somebody else’  is looking after the less well off while we, the rest of the global population, who are neither starving nor destitute, psychologically absolve ourselves of any responsibility if we can physically throw enough money at the problem.  It is time we all woke up and began to demand some accountability for the billions that are and have been sent to her order, The Missionaries of Charity, for the purpose of relieving poverty.  It is more than about time that we began to demand from THEM why, after six decades, nothing has improved in the slightest for the ‘poorest of the poor’?  The money that is being sent to them could be sent to charities who work to educate and help these people improve their own lives.  It could be sent to charities whose primary aim is not to proselytise and try to persuade those who use their services that they do well to accept their lot and do nothing but wait for divine providence to come to them despite all evidence that no such thing exists.

Effective and responsible organisations.

  • Doctors Without Borders
  • Oxfam
  • Non-Believers Giving Aid
  • Responsible Charity (Being set up)