Thursday, January 22, 2009

Sister Charlotte Collection

Elena has already posted an excellent rebuttal to the Sister Charlotte story. I thought I'd combine two other posts I wrote previously about Sister Charlotte.

Nun Revelations Revealed

When Sister Charlotte shared her testimony, she was following a template established years before. The scandalous tell-all began with a woman named Maria Monk. Maria wrote a book published in 1836, which told of her imprisonment, abuse. There was even the revelation that nuns had intercourse with priests and the resultant babies were baptized, killed, and buried in lime pits in the basement. Sound familiar?

Maria Monk's book was preceded by a similar book by Rebecca Reed, although her book is lesser known. Both books led to investigations, riots, and the burning of a convent. All investigations, tours of convents, etc., found absolutely no evidence that the stories were true. Maria Monk's own mother signed an affidavit denying that her daughter had ever been in a nunnery.

Just Another Urban Legend

Because Sister Charlotte never revealed her true identity or that of her convent, we have no proof that she ever was a nun. It is very possible that she was, as some of what she describes is true, such as the wearing of a wedding dress for the profession of vows. Regardless of how her tale began, she seems to have discovered that by embellishing it a bit, she could make for a more thrilling tale, and make her a more popular speaker among those who would be interested to hear tales of depravity from a Catholic convent.

Tales of the horrifying secret life of nuns are now something of an urban legend. Mary Crow Dog, in her book, Lakota Woman, repeats a similar story. She attended a reservation convent boarding school, and says that "everyone" knew that the nuns were hypocrites because, and then repeated the "priest + nun=dead babies" story. Only her version involved a sewer instead of a lime pit.

Urban legends are good stories. They start out in a very believable way.

First of all I always like to tell folk I’m not giving this testimony because I have any ill feeling in my heart toward the Roman Catholic people. I couldn’t be a Christian if I still had bitterness in my heart. God delivered me from all bitterness and strife and delivered me out of all of that one day and made himself real to me, and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Then, when you are caught up in the story, the more unbelievable elements are slipped into it. The average person listening isn't likely to know about the age you are able to enter a convent according to canon law, or the number of nuns allowed in a cloistered convent.

No, the best way to deal with any urban legend is to pepper to person telling the tale with questions, which poke holes in the story.

The priest will tell all over the whole United States and other countries that sisters, or nuns rather, can walk out of convents when they want to. I spent 22 years there. I did everything there was to do to get out. I’ve carried tablespoons with me into the dungeons and tried to dig down into that dirt, because there’s no floors in those places, but I’ve never yet found myself digging far enough to get out of a convent with a tablespoon and that’s about the only instrument.

So, the nuns are held prisoner and locked in the convents? Why did she even bother trying with a tablespoon? Did she really think she was going to dig a tunnel with a tablespoon? There are nun guards that will notice her digging with a spade, but they wouldn't notice a tunnel if it was dug by a tablespoon?

They can steal up to 40 dollars and they don’t have to tell the priest about it. They don’t have to say one word about it in the confessional box. They’re taught that. Every Roman Catholic knows it and every Roman Catholic (you’d be horrified if you know how many of them) steal up to that amount.

Why forty dollars? Is there any significance to the amount? Does is ever change for inflation? Is that $40 for your entire life, or just at any given time?

Later, she says: That's just a little idea or sample of what's going on in this country, and still there are thousands of mothers that will work their fingers to the bone to go over there and give the priest another five dollars to say a mass for loved one that is in purgatory, because that mother believes there is a purgatory.

Why do they have to work their fingers to the bone just to get five dollars? If you can steal up to forty dollars, then that's an easy way to get eight masses said, right? Or is there a rule that you have to earn money for purgatory masses?

I've had my front teeth knocked out.

I guess it's too late to ask Sister Charlotte to take out her bridge for us . . .

And most of the babies are premature. Many of them are abnormal. Very, very seldom do we ever see a normal baby.

Prematurity would certainly be consistent with starvation conditions. But why would they rarely have normal babies? These are healthy girls, with alcoholic but presumably healthy priests. Why would they have a higher than average incidence of birth defects?

You say, "Sister Charlotte, do you dare to say that?" I most definitely do dare to say it, and I intend to keep on saying it. Why? I've delivered those babies with these hands, and what I've seen with my eyes and I've done with my hands, I just challenge the whole world to say it isn't true. And the only way they can ever prove it isn't true, they'll have to open every convent door. If they ever serve a summons on me and call me into court, I'll assure you this one thing: convents are coming open and then the world will know what convents really are. And they'll have to open them to vindicate my testimony, because I know what I'll do if they ever serve a summons on me.

I think this is the crux of the whole story, here. Why didn't she go to the police? She says she's ready to testify in court. If she has traveled around, telling people this story, why didn't any of them demand an investigation as well? She's content to pray that the "little girls" escape the convent, but not actually do anything about it?

And almost equally ridiculous is the story of her escape.

And when something touched the garbage can that's a noise. Who in the world-? There's six of us and we're all together. Who is touching the garbage can? I wheeled around. They wheeled around, and we saw a man, and you know, that man was picking up the full can and leaving an empty one. I've never seen that before. I've been in that convent for years, and in the kitchen, but I never saw anything like that happen.

Okay, let me get this straight. They live in a cloistered convent. They never see anyone but priests. But the garbage man has a key, and walks into the kitchen to get the trash. Wow. How convenient for her. But I think if they were really serious about keeping the nuns prisoner, they would have at least left the trash outside the gate.

And I realized I'm on the outside. "Where am I going?" Where do you think you'd go? I'm not in the United States. I'm in another country and I don't know a thing about that country. When they took me over there I was so heavily veiled and they took me from that particular train to the convent, I was so heavily veiled I couldn't see anything.

Wait, how did she get in this other country? She said they took her a thousand miles away. How many other countries are there a thousand miles from any point in the United States? She would have either been in Canada or Mexico, right? And where did this heavy veil come from? She said she didn't get the white veil until after she had been at the convent for over a year. And since when do nuns wear veils over their faces?

Well, I've run out of time, but hopefully this gives you the general idea.

However, there is one last question to ask. If this is what is common in convent life, then why is it that The Truth Set Us Free: Twenty Former Nuns Tell Their Stories (as endorsed by Candy) contains absolutely nothing along the lines of Sister Charlotte's story?

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