Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Mother Teresa's Spiritual Adviser: A Convicted Pedophile

Donald McGuire, Mother Teresa's 'spiritual adviser' was a convicted pedophile. How many more are working inside this organization today? 

Court deposition information below courtesy of Peter Jamison

One of the Jesuit order's most notorious convicted pedophiles

A new lawsuit sheds light on the S.F. years of Mother Teresa's spiritual adviser – who is also one of the Jesuit order's most notorious convicted pedophiles.

Case #John Doe 129

McGuire at Doe 129’s baptism in 1978.
John Doe 129

McGuire was known for captivating audiences with his talks on theology.
John Doe 129

In 1985, McGuire plays with Doe 129 at the boy’s home.
John Doe 129

McGuire, Doe 129, and Mother Teresa at the Missionaries of Charity convent in San Francisco in 1991.
John Doe 129

Known for his conservatism, McGuire liked women to wear long skirts in his presence.
Justin Page

The Missionaries of Charity convent in Noe Valley as it looks today.
John Doe 129

Father Donald McGuire and John Doe 129 at the boy’s first communion in 1982.
Peter Jamison on pedophile priest Donald McGuireTwo decades ago, an 11-year-old boy from the Bay Area was honored with an invitation most devout Catholics would envy. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, winner of the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize for her work among the developing world's poor, was celebrating Mass at her order's convent in Noe Valley. The ceremony was part of a retreat led by one of the famed humanitarian nun's close spiritual advisers, a Jesuit priest and former University of San Francisco professor named Donald McGuire.

It was at McGuire's bidding that the 11-year-old came to serve as an altar boy that morning at St. Paul's Convent, a boxy building of yellow stucco that rises from a tree-lined block near the intersection of 29th and Church streets. (The convent houses local novices in the international Missionaries of Charity order, founded by Mother Teresa in 1950.) The priest was close to the boy's family: He had baptized the boy, and offered his mother spiritual and psychological counseling over the years. Indeed, within church circles, McGuire was something of a celebrity himself.

Steeped, as are all Jesuits, in the cerebral traditions of Catholicism, McGuire dazzled his many admirers with his command of ancient history and literature. He could speak eloquently about philosophy and theology, and deployed his rhetoric to powerful effect during multiday religious seminars based on the teachings of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, the Jesuits' founder. He had silvering brown hair and a round, red Irish face that often creased into a puckish smile. He liked to give advice. And he liked to hear confession.

On that morning almost 20 years ago, however, McGuire's interests were more profane than sacred. Following a morning Mass, he asked the boy to retire with him to a private chamber reserved for the priest at the convent. While the nuns and Mother Teresa milled about, McGuire closed the door to his room and asked his favored altar boy to join him, in his cot, for a nap. The boy lay down. The priest lay on the outside of the narrow bed and then reached across the boy's body and into his pants.

So said the boy in a recent interview with SF Weekly. Now 30, he is suing the Jesuits for turning a blind eye to McGuire's repeated acts of child molestation. His lawsuit was filed this winter in Cook County, Ill., home of the Chicago Province of the Jesuits, where McGuire kept his primary residence.

The boy — who is identified in court documents only as John Doe 129, and requested that SF Weekly not publish his name or hometown to spare him the stigma attached to childhood sexual abuse — is accusing the Chicago Province of negligence and fraud in failing to keep McGuire away from children. He and his attorneys allege that over a period of about 10 years beginning in 1988, McGuire forced the boy to massage the priest's genitals and watch him masturbate, among other acts of abuse.

Doe 129 is not the first to accuse McGuire, now an ailing 79-year-old, of such misdeeds. In 2006, the priest was convicted in a Wisconsin court of molesting two teenage boys he had taught decades earlier at a prominent Jesuit high school in the Midwest. Earlier this year, a federal judge in Illinois sentenced McGuire to 25 years in prison after a jury found him guilty of traveling abroad with a teenage boy to sexually abuse him. (For his part, McGuire still insists he is innocent and has appealed his latest conviction.)

While the federal case rested on molestation charges involving only one boy, investigators believed McGuire had abused dozens during his career. In fact, Jesuit leaders first received complaints about the priest in 1969, although he was not officially defrocked until last year. Some of the ex-priest's alleged victims — many of them now grown men — and their family members were permitted to address U.S. District Court Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer during his sentencing hearing. Their statements, not surprisingly, were emotionally charged. The Arizona father of two boys McGuire allegedly molested said he would like to hand down his own sentence on the ex-priest using a baseball bat.

One of those who traveled to Chicago to speak out was the mother of the altar boy allegedly molested at the Missionaries of Charity convent in San Francisco. "I told the judge that I thought that he deserved the maximum sentence," she said. "Even we, as adults, couldn't stand up to someone who was Mother Teresa's confessor. Can you imagine children that have no voice?"

Doe 129's lawsuit is just one of multiple pending civil cases against McGuire nationwide. But it is the first to draw attention to the strong San Francisco ties of the man who is arguably the most prominent convicted child abuser in the Jesuits' 470-year history. Interviews with McGuire's former colleagues, associates, and admirers cast light on the pivotal phases of his life that took place in this city — it was in San Francisco that he began his working relationship with Mother Teresa — and suggest that the disgraced ex-priest committed acts of abuse here for which neither he nor his superiors have ever been held to account.


In 1976, Father Joseph Fessio, a Jesuit instructor at the University of San Francisco, was busy recruiting students and professors for a new classics program. Called the St. Ignatius Institute, it would focus on a traditional "great books" curriculum, functioning as an autonomous college within the university. As he organized the institute, Fessio got a call from a well-known Jesuit teacher from the Midwest who was interested in joining. His name was Donald McGuire.

Fessio had heard of McGuire. By reputation, he was "very dynamic" and "a very exciting teacher," Fessio recalls, known for his orthodoxy and loyalty to the church. The truth, as documents unearthed in McGuire's subsequent criminal and civil cases would later reveal, was more complicated. As a matter of fact, at the time he came to USF, McGuire's Midwestern superiors had already received complaints that he had sexually molested two boys at Loyola Academy, a Jesuit high school in Illinois. (The same incidents eventually led to McGuire's first criminal conviction in 2006.)

Fessio, now an editor at Ignatius Press, a San Francisco–based publishing house, said in an interview that he didn't know about the skeletons in McGuire's closet back then. But once McGuire moved to San Francisco and began teaching freshman seminars in ancient Greek literature and history, it didn't take long for Fessio to notice that his new colleague had a dark side.

"He loved the classics, and he communicated that to the kids. That was the positive side," Fessio said. "There was a negative side. He seemed like he had to have people around him. He needed to have an audience. ... For all of us, our failings are pretty well interwoven in our personalities. There was a talent, but it was kind of a dangerous talent, and I was always a little bit reserved toward it."

McGuire was mercurial, quick to turn on colleagues or friends, and inclined to nurse grudges. He was also prone to bragging — even about his own piety. "Joe, I can pray circles around you," Fessio recalled McGuire once saying to him. "It was a weird claim."

Father Cornelius Buckley, a former history teacher at the St. Ignatius Institute, said he was troubled by the strangely intense attachments McGuire cultivated among select groups of students. (In contrast to his strained relations with other teachers, McGuire was always wildly popular with those enrolled in his classes, former colleagues say.) Those students who followed the Greek professor's banner "seemed to be more involved with him than they were with the program," Buckley recalled in a telephone interview from Santa Paula, Calif., where he is now chaplain at Thomas Aquinas College.

McGuire taught at the St. Ignatius Institute for four years. Jesuit records from that period show that Buckley wasn't the only one vexed by McGuire's closeness to his students. Father Alfred Naucke, an official at the California Jesuit Province, said his office's files on McGuire indicate that USF officials frowned upon the priest's practice of inviting students into his private room. (Those students were most likely boys, since women would not have been permitted to enter the university's Jesuit residences.)

In May 1981, then-USF Dean David Harnett wrote a letter to California provincial officials, obtained by SF Weekly, explaining that McGuire would not be rehired for the following academic year. Among the reasons Harnett cited for the priest's sacking were "highly questionable acts on his part" and "interactions with a student." Reached by telephone in Philadelphia, where he now lives in retirement, Harnett said he did not recall the letter or the circumstances of McGuire's departure. Father Joseph Angilella, academic vice-president of the university at the time, declined to comment on McGuire's firing or whether it was linked to incidents of abuse involving USF students. "It's unfortunate you have that letter, but I'm not going to add to it," he said. "This material is confidential in terms of the decision that was made. I assure you that nothing that happened during these times has anything to do with the present legal matters that are happening in the Midwest."

Doe 129's attorneys plan to depose California Jesuits, including some formerly associated with USF. However, university records — as opposed to those kept by the California Province — illuminate almost nothing about McGuire's time as a professor in San Francisco. Apparently, that's because they no longer exist. When Doe 129's lawyers requested the school's personnel records on the priest from the four years he taught at the St. Ignatius Institute, they were told that the file on one of the church's most notorious predators had been thrown out.

In an e-mail response to questions about McGuire from SF Weekly, USF spokesman Gary McDonald offered this explanation: "USF retains employee records for seven years after an employee leaves the university, and USF has few employee records dating back 30 years, including those of Donald McGuire."


McGuire's ouster from the university's St. Ignatius Institute did not signal the end of his career. Far from it. Throughout the 1980s and '90s, he took up the life of an itinerant spiritual adviser. Based at a Jesuit residence in the Chicago suburb of Evanston, McGuire trotted the globe, leading the Ignatian spiritual retreats that had become the hallmark of his ministry. The retreats typically involved daylong prayer and ritual interspersed with talks from a priest. During these trips, observers say, McGuire was often accompanied by teenage male attendants who he said helped him manage his diabetes.

It was during this time that McGuire first met Mother Teresa. Fessio said he introduced the pair after the nun had asked him during a visit to San Francisco to recommend a priest who could lead retreats for the nuns of her order. Despite the two men's prickly relationship while academic colleagues in the late 1970s, Fessio suggested she seek out McGuire.

From the beginning, Fessio said, Mother Teresa's opinion of McGuire was "very high." Though he was probably not — as he liked to boast — her most esteemed spiritual adviser and confessor, observers of the pair agree that she respected McGuire, and would occasionally confess her sins to him.

Judie Hockel and her husband, Jack, often hosted McGuire's retreats in Northern California at their Walnut Creek home. The couple met him through their oldest son, who was a student at USF during McGuire's time there. (On his subsequent trips to the Bay Area, McGuire often stayed at a house attached to a Carmelite monastery adjacent to the USF campus.) Even now, Judie Hockel, 70, finds it hard to reconcile McGuire's charisma and intellectual heft with his acts of abuse.

"Everything seemed to combine together to give him a really superhuman ability — it probably was superhuman; Satan is pure intelligence, and maybe that's where it came from — to make you feel that you were liked by God, that you were worthy of being loved by God, that Christ was calling you to be closer to him," she said. "Catholicism is an adult religion. I certainly would not want to deny the significance of faith, but a lot of times people need a grasp of the rational thought. They're not getting the depth or the richness of Catholicism from the pulpit these days, and Donald McGuire filled that need in many people's lives."

In contrast to other Jesuits, who tend to occupy the liberal end of the Catholic spectrum on political and cultural issues, McGuire was a staunch conservative on doctrinal questions, including those involving gender and sexuality. Brigid Crotty, a 40-year-old Napa resident whose family became close to McGuire in the 1980s, recalled that the priest demanded that women wear long skirts in his presence.

Looking back, Hockel said she could pick out "red flags" that signaled an unstable personality. "There was always a chaos that surrounded his presence," she said. Meetings started late; appointments were not kept; people were made to wait, or to indulge McGuire's eccentricities. He was something of a control freak, forcing his hosts to cater to strict demands regarding his schedule, accommodations, and diet.

"He always wanted a salad with his meal," Hockel said. "He always wanted four ounces of fresh-squeezed orange juice. I can't believe every time he came I actually made an effort to squeeze orange juice. You look back ..." She paused. "I think deep down inside he enjoyed the coronation that we laypeople gave him, because we felt so lucky that we had this time with this brilliant, devout prophet."

It was this later phase of McGuire's life, as a traveling Jesuit guru, that federal authorities investigated as they built their case against him. They discovered that the priest, while he preached the virtues of intensely orthodox Catholicism to his followers, was subverting the traditions of his calling in startling ways. According to a sentencing memorandum filed by federal prosecutors after McGuire's conviction, one of his primary means of "grooming" young abuse victims was the ritual of confession.

For example, when the primary victim in the case confessed to McGuire at the age of 13 that he masturbated, McGuire "seized on it" and said the boy had an "addiction" that could send him to hell, according to court documents. He then demanded to "inspect" the boy's penis using a magnifying glass and baby oil.

Doe 129 said he was never abused in the confessional. But he does recall other strange twists on McGuire's vocational interests. During a visit to the Jesuit residence in Evanston, Doe 129 said, McGuire began masturbating in front of him in a private upstairs room. The classics scholar had allegedly preceded this exhibition with a discourse on how gay sex was a common practice among the ancient Greeks.

There is reason to believe that Doe 129 was not McGuire's sole local victim during his post-USF decades of world travel. A colleague of McGuire's within the church said in a recent interview that he received a complaint from a Bay Area family that McGuire was molesting their teenage son in the years after the priest left the university. The church official, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal from his superiors, said he had passed the complaint on to McGuire's Jesuit higher-ups. (Doe 129 confirmed that he was not the complainant.)

Likewise, Crotty said her father, Fran Crotty, a former administrator at a North Bay Catholic school, was informed "in no uncertain terms" sometime in the last few years by a local man that McGuire had abused his son in the past. Reached by telephone, Fran Crotty declined to comment. "I'm not at liberty to discuss anything concerning McGuire," he said.

Stephen Komie, McGuire's Chicago-based lawyer, said in an interview that his client continues to maintain that the allegations leveled at him are lies intended to wring money from the church — and that his criminal convictions are simply by-products of accusations that drove the civil suits against him. "Father McGuire has always said that these are stories made up for the financial benefit of the persons who are bringing the case," Komie said.


It is true that the interplay among abuse victims, private attorneys, and law-enforcement officials in McGuire's case has at times been complicated. The victim whose complaint led to McGuire's federal conviction — his identity was withheld during the trial, and he is named in court records only as Dominick — originally consulted a private attorney known for representing plaintiffs in priest-pedophilia civil suits in Southern California. That attorney's name is Kevin McGuire, and he is Donald McGuire's nephew.

Kevin McGuire said he urged Dominick to take his allegations to federal authorities, and accompanied him to the U.S. Attorney's office on the day he filed a complaint. "I traveled in the same Catholic circles that a lot of these same victims traveled in," he said. "I realized it was my obligation to turn my uncle in. I'm doing it because it's the right thing to do."

Kevin McGuire is also representing Doe 129, who claims he is motivated by desire to hold the priest's superiors to account, rather than the prospect of financial gain. The litigation "certainly hasn't made my life any easier, and it's certainly not fun, and I certainly question whether there's any justice that can be done," said Doe 129, who still lives in the Bay Area. "I'm just really disgusted and furious about the fact that they knew about this for so goddamn long, and didn't do anything about it. If you had a carpet-cleaning business and a guy was a rapist, you wouldn't let him out and about working for you."

In response to questions from SF Weekly about Doe 129's lawsuit, Chicago Jesuit Provincial Edward Schmidt (the regional head of his order) said in a statement that the province was "aware" of the suit. "Because this matter involves a court action, we do not plan to make any further comment about these particular allegations at this time," he said.

Kevin McGuire said his uncle's time as a professor in San Francisco, and his later trips to the Bay Area and around the world, were encouraged by superiors as a "pass-the-trash" strategy to keep the predator priest far from his home base. "USF was a place where the Chicago Province sent Father McGuire to get him the hell out of their hair," he said. "That's why this guy was allowed to roam around the country. They wanted him everywhere but Chicago."

And he said that while there's no evidence Mother Teresa herself was consciously covering up for the priest whose piety she admired, the nun, who died in 1997, should have known something wasn't right.

"I think Mother Teresa had plenty of evidence in front of her that something was wrong," Kevin McGuire said. "When you see Father McGuire seven to nine times a year at your retreat houses or nunneries around the world, and he's constantly with teenage boys who are essentially his slaves, and to have these boys in your bedroom — yeah, I think that's plenty of notice to anyone with oxygen in your brain. I don't care how holy you think your confessor is. Something's wrong."


While Doe 129's lawsuit moves forward in Illinois, McGuire, who according to his lawyer is legally blind and suffers from diabetes, has begun serving his 25-year prison sentence at the Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri. His federal conviction is pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. (In May, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals denied his request for a new trial in that state related to his earlier abuse charges.) Absent a successful appeal, Komie said, his client "is not going to survive this prison sentence."

As the disgraced priest faces his earthly end, he has resolutely declined to embrace a concept at the very core of Catholicism: repentance. McGuire, the great confessor, has never admitted guilt in any of the instances of abuse for which he stands accused or convicted. He has also taken what could be interpreted as a less-than-Christian stance toward the victims who have chosen to speak against him.

"I want my accusers to be sentenced," he said during the postconviction phase of his first trial in Wisconsin in 2006. McGuire took advantage of his opportunity to address the judge prior to sentencing to profess his innocence in a rambling soliloquy in which he compared himself to Socrates, St. Thomas More, and Jesus. "I am humbled when I think of the company of saints I'm called to join here," he said, according to a trial transcript.

Earlier that day, McGuire said, he had meditated on his life. "I plead with the Holy Spirit to enlighten me, show me, in what way am I not living truthfully," he said. He added that he had resolved "to be more truthful, more like Jesus. I don't know how other people live, but that's the only way I can live." He continued, "Your Honor, I did all of this with the image of Christ crucified before me. I've never been closer to the crucified Christ, never in my life. It's a terrible experience, but it's glorious."

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Colette Livermore, a former nun from The Missionaries of Charity speaks up about her experience with the organization

In her own words, Colette Livermore, a former nun from The Missionaries of Charity speaks up about her experience with the organization, the self-inflected and unnecessary pain and suffering, blind obedience and more while she was part of this most medically negligent and financially fraudulent charity:  

The official site of Colette Livermore, yet another nun who walk away from Mother Teresa's fraudulent Missionaries of Charity: 

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Does Mother Teresa deserve sainthood?

Does Mother Teresa deserve sainthood? Does it even matter? Aroup Chatterjee, writer of 'Mother Teresa - The Final Verdict', alongside poet and human rights activist Benjamin Zephaniah and feminist writer Kate Smurthwaite, takes on amoral, clueless Calcutta volunteer.




Saturday, August 1, 2009

Indians wanting to volunteer with Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity are often rejected or turned away by the organization.

Indians wanting to volunteer with Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity are often rejected or turned away by the organization.

March 2, 2011 at 12:40am
Interview with: Santosh Kumar Nayak
By Hemley Gonzalez, STOP The Missionaries of Charity www.stopthemissionariesofcharity.com
February 18, 2011

Indians wanting to volunteer with Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity are often rejected or turned away by the organization. Santosh Kumar Nayak, a Kolkata native interested in volunteering and helping his fellow Indian men and women who are less fortunate was refused by the Missionaries of Charity, apparently a common practice as they prefer to keep a steady flow of short-term foreign volunteers who can’t effectively communicate with patients, aren’t in the city long enough to develop relationships with the patients and most importantly will leave behind large donations, wont demand financial information/transparency and or necessary and significant changes needed inside the organization.

Hemley Gonzalez: Would you us tell which house you tried to volunteer in?

Santosh Kumar Nayak: I tried volunteering at Kalighat and I was rejected because I am Indian.

HG: Please explain?

SKN: When I went there my decision was to be a translator for the foreign volunteers who don’t speak Hindi or Bengali. So I thought perhaps my help as a translator could be effective. I was immediately told by the nuns who run the house that they were full at that time and needed no additional volunteers.

HG: Isn’t it strange that they are rejecting help from someone who speaks the language of their patients and instead prefer the help from foreign volunteers who do not speak Bengali or Hindi?

SKN: I found it very strange indeed. I explained to them I could be of great help, including help from other Indians friends who are also willing to volunteer and help with translations and other tasks but we quickly came to the realization that what the Missionaries of Charity are looking for is for the easy and large donations these foreigners bring and leave Kolkata quickly.

HG: Would it also be fair to say that if Indian volunteers were allowed in the houses operated by the Missionaries of Charity they could start communicating ideas for solutions?

SKN: Yes of course, things would start to change immediately, I felt this when I visited Kalighat, I have seen other houses where communication with the patients and genuinely hearing their concerns versus just only handing them things as the nuns often do there would be major change and would reduce the number of people they keep in this places.

HG: It’s it true that the workers in these houses are themselves Indians?

SKN: Yes, but there’s a big difference between someone who gets paid to do a task versus someone who wants to come in and help without expecting compensation and wanting to change things for the better. Besides, the majority if not ALL of the workers are usually men and women from the slums who are hired and paid very little so they rarely complain about the things they see and in fact often remain quiet the negligence and abuse they witness to protect their job. It is terrible.

HG: Have you spoken to the workers and ask if they could ever speak up about the horrible things they often witness?

SKN: I once did and a nun came running towards me immediately screaming and asking who I was to question their practices!

HG: A nun, a foreign “social” worker questioned an Indian resident who is concerned for the welfare of other Indians?

SKN: Yes, and aggressively, I really don’t understand what is going on there!

HG: Actually it seems quite simple really, after analyzing the practices of this organization for the last two years it seems their strategy is to allow foreign volunteers who on an average come to these houses for 4-5 days and they don’t stay long enough to realize the monumental need for improvements and changes and never witnesses a lot of the abuse that takes place after their shifts are over and the patients are left alone with the nuns and the workers. This is probably the main reason why they don’t want outspoken and progressive Indians to come into these houses because they would likely speak up and force the Missionaries of Charity to change. Is that a fair assessment of the situation?

SKN: Absolutely. Especially with many of my friends who are well educated, if they were to be allowed into these houses they would come forward to the media and demand serious changes immediately. The Missionaries of Charity are definitely scared of allowing middle class and educated Indians inside the houses; they realize their negligence would be exposed.

HG: So you seriously believe a rush of educated Indian volunteers would produce changes inside the Missionaries of Charity?

SKN: Yes, because as it stands right now it is a business. People from other places around the world come, they see these sick people, they can’t really communicate with them, and they do what the nuns tell them too, leave some money and other donations and go home. Indians would never stand for that.

HG: I have said this before publicly several times and will say it again, I believe these houses are “Museums of Poverty” and “Poverty Petting Zoos” where foreigners can come for a few days, wash some clothes, clean floors, feed a few homeless folks take some pictures and return home and because of this machine and image that has been built around Mother Teresa they can say and feel they did something great for humanity.

SKN: Yes, and there is nothing great about this. As an Indian, I feel ashamed, used and abused by these people who don’t even know our language or culture and are just often passing through Kolkata as if visiting these houses was just another attraction on their traveling schedule.

HG: Do you have any idea of the kind of money the Missionaries of Charity receive in donations in India?

SKN: I have no idea, no one does, and it is never reported.

HG: As an Indian you have the first right to question and have any opinion about any organization that comes to your country to help your people, so what is your general opinion of the missionaries of Charity?

SKN: This organization is a popular international charity, what happens inside India versus what the world knows is very different. For example, I have seen many items that have been donated to the Missionaries of Charity and later re-sold on street markets; perfumes, food, clothes, etc.

HG: You mean donations given to the Missionaries of Charity are being re-sold?

SKN: Yes.

HG: what happens to the money from the sale of these items?
SKN: No one really knows what happens with this money! The organization receives tons of medicines, clothes, and other items that could immediately help so many families living in the slums around Kolkata but they only care about giving tours inside their houses and showing foreigners the help they can control inside those walls – The money vanishes. Period.

HG: There has been a lot of controversy with the Missionaries of Charity and their religious conversion practices in Indian and other parts of the world. For example, baptizing Hindus and Muslims as Christians in exchange for giving them help. Are you personally aware of any of these practices?

SKN: I actually have personal knowledge and experience with this issue in particular. I have a lot of friends and their families who only receive help if they accept to convert to Christianity and we’re talking help with things like rice, beans, just basic everyday items that anyone who is poor needs. One of the better benefits they also offer in exchange for conversion is an education in one of their Christian schools around the city for the children of some families. The nuns also come around the house of those they convert to make sure the families remove any statues of references of their old gods which must all be replaced with images of Jesus.

HG: So these nuns not only actively convert but they also investigate and continue to make sure the conversion of new families to their religion remains effective?

SKN: Yes they certainly do this. If I take my daughter to one of their school tomorrow for admission, they would ask for a big donation and would start pressuring me to convert my child and myself to their religion. This is a fact.

HG: So these statements the Missionaries of Charity often make that they aren’t in India to convert anyone and only help regardless of religion aren’t true?

SKN: They can tell whatever they want to the world. What we see here in India is a completely different story.

HG: What is your actual religion?

SKN: I am Hindu.

HG: Obviously you’ve tried to volunteer with the Missionaries of Charity but that hasn’t worked out. Have you tried to volunteer with other organizations?

SKN: Absolutely. I work with a small NGO that deals with educating children who live on the streets or come from very poor areas and slums, the name of this particular organization is: Lights of Hope, is a small NGO but one that is very much dedicated to making a change in the lives of many children in need around Kolkata without predicating any religion or asking anything in return from those they help.

HG: So this ridiculous idea that many people have that Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity is the only charity in Kolkata is just a myth?

SKN: Yes of course. There are many NGOs here, some better than others, especially those who are working with translators to understand the real issues of people in need and giving Indians tools to empower themselves, to educate themselves, to learn a trade or skill and with all these efforts create a real chance for these people to overcome poverty.

HG: You are 25 years, you’ve lived in Kolkata all your life and have personally seen and witnessed the work of the missionaries of charity, in your opinion, are they ever going to change?

SKN: If educated Indians are allowed to volunteer inside these houses and start demanding changes, they would certainly have to radicalize their entire operation.

HG: I want to thank you for your time, for your courage to speak up and for your interest to wanting to change things in your own country as I personally believe it is your right and duty. Once again, thank you.

Hemley Gonzalez
STOP The Missionaries of Charity

This is Mother House one of he many houses operated by The Missionaries of Charity where Indians wanting to volunteer are often rejected or turned away by the organization.

This is Daya Dan one of the many houses operated by The Missionaries of Charity where Indians wanting to volunteer are often rejected or turned away by the organization.

This is The Home of the Dying, one of the many houses operated by The Missionaries of Charity where Indians wanting to volunteer are often rejected or turned away by the organization.

                                         Santosh Nayak

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Hell's Angel: Mother Teresa by Christopher Hitchens

The following is a short documentary by Christopher Hitchens after the publication of his critical book "The Missionary Position" where he first shed some light on the medical negligence and financial fraud that had been going on for years inside Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity:

      PART 1 OF 3

      PART 2 OF 3

      PART 3 OF 3

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Missionary Position - A Book by Christopher Hitchens

The Missionary Position - A Book by Christopher Hitchens

The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice is a book by Christopher Hitchens addressing Mother Teresa's life and work. The book presents broad criticism of Mother Teresa and her missionary activity, particularly that she acted as a political opportunist and dogmatist to the detriment of those served by her charities. The book unfolds as an argument that Mother Teresa (born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu) does not deserve beatification and elevation to sainthood. Regarding the title's double entendre, Hitchens remarked, "it was either that or Sacred Cow, and I thoughtSacred Cow would be in bad taste."

Friday, May 1, 2009

The unblessed of Calcutta

The unblessed of Calcutta
By Sarmila Bose

It is not necessary to put down all other social workers in India, and in Calcutta in particular, to highlight the good work done by Mother Teresa

I hate to spoil Mother Teresa’s big day — but then, I can’t spoil it anyway. The few voices of dissent have been drowned out by the great beatification bandwagon. A handful of rationalists, a few doctors in a district in West Bengal, India, the lone voice of Christopher Hitchens, who penned the no-holds-barred attack Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice. That’s about it. Oh, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad have called Mother Teresa’s ‘miracle’ a fraud — but they have their own miracles to tout. 

Indeed, giving organisations like Vishwa Hindu Parishad another issue to go to town about might be added to the list of the harm laid at Mother Teresa’s door. For she has done harm, just as she has done great good, and especially as a Calcuttan I would be failing in my duties if I did not speak up about it on the occasion of her fast-track beatification by the Pope.

Anyone who spends her life in the service of some of the poorest people on earth is a ‘saint’ anyway as far as I am concerned. So I appreciate whatever service Mother Teresa provided to the poor and destitute and accept her as a fellow-Calcuttan. How pathetic, then, that the Catholic Church clings to regulations that needed to record a ‘miracle’ — some kind of super-natural feat, to be conjured up at any cost — before the Vatican could officially bestow beatification on her. 

This has forced her Order to come up with the story of a woman in West Bengal whose tumour was allegedly cured miraculously by the magical powers of a locket of the Mother long after Mother Teresa had died. The story has been called a hoax by the doctors who treated the woman as well as by her husband, tainting Mother Teresa’s beatification with the smear of fraud.

I don’t mind the Pope making Mother Teresa a ‘saint’ — this is something internal to the Catholic Church and none of my business. But I do have a problem when recognition of Mother Teresa by her own Church has to be based on a lie. Why couldn’t her work be enough to merit recognition? The very process of making her a ‘saint’ has further encouraged superstition and obscurantism. Perhaps many other poor people will now decide to go for a Mother Teresa locket when they are ill, instead of going to a medical clinic. That certainly does not serve the cause of humanity.

Perhaps the greatest harm she did to the very poor she said she served was her total opposition to both abortion and contraception, in accordance with her orthodox Catholic faith. She worked in a sea of poverty that is India, yet opposed one of India’s most important anti-poverty policies — its population control programme. When I visited her orphanage I was grateful to her for taking in babies abandoned in the streets of Calcutta, but there would be fewer abandoned and unwanted babies all around if India’s family planning programme were more successful. She had the right to her own faith, but her public work based on that faith collided with what was better for society.

For someone about to become a saint, Mother Teresa was cosy with nasty dictators like the Duvaliers of Haiti and notorious swindlers like Charles Keating of the USA. She did not hesitate to declare that the Duvaliers loved the poor, and did not care that Keating had stolen a lot of money from people who weren’t rich, just because he gave her some. In fact, she received lots of money from lots of people and it is worrying when Christopher Hitchens reports that none of it is accounted for through any public audit. It is also true, as Hitchens points out, that her institutions offer only simple, rudimentary service, so the vast funds do not seem to have been used to upgrade and modernise the care provided.

Some people have criticised Mother Teresa for proselytising in the guise of caring for the dying and destitute. Frankly, if a sick man died with dignity in her home having technically become a Catholic, it is infinitely preferable to his dying a non-Catholic in the gutters of Calcutta. More important is the question, how many of the ‘dying’ would have benefited from modern medical care available in Calcutta? 

If Mother Teresa did not provide medical care to those who needed it when it was readily available, that would be reprehensible. In her last years Mother Teresa herself received some of the best medical care in modern facilities with whole teams of doctors and nurses looking after her every time she was taken ill. Her critics say that the destitute who died in her institution were not afforded the same option.

Those who criticise Mother Teresa have been accused of trying to hide their embarrassment at the reality of a foreign woman spending her life caring for desperately poor people about whom so many of their countrymen do nothing. This is the most grotesquely unjust insult to the many individuals in Calcutta who serve the poor and disadvantaged throughout their lives. Some of them are associated with religious orders, some are not. Some are foreign too, but most are Indian. 

Unlike Mother Teresa, many other social workers seem motivated towards helping eradicate poverty. Most are limited in scope, constrained by limited budgets. It is not necessary to put down all other social workers in India, and in Calcutta in particular, to highlight the good work done by Mother Teresa. Nor should it be necessary to be blind to the harm caused by the rigidly orthodox faith of Teresa, the Blessed of Calcutta. 

Sarmila Bose is Assistant Editor, Ananda Bazar Patrika, India & Visiting Scholar, Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University

  For the article online please visit: http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=story_20-10-2003_pg3_4

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A must read from Dr. Chatterjee, a Kolkata native who chronicles the negligence and fraud of Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity

The following is an introducton to Dr. Aroup Chatterjee's book: The Final Verdict. In it, the author shows how Mother Teresa harmed Calcutta irreparably and seriously damaged the city's economic prospects. The city's dent in reputation through her association is not compensated by the modest level of charity she performed there. Chatterjee maintains that a large section of Indians, especially the rich and powerful was enthralled by and connived with her. Indians generally, still burdened with psychological colonialism, capitulated before her. Calcuttans did not protest at their city's calumny because of the Indian pusillanimity before the white man, and the fear of ruffling Western feathers.

For the book online, please visit: http://www.meteorbooks.com/index.html

The Final Verdict - Introduction

Mother Teresa once made me cry. The year was 1988 - I was on one of my frequent holidays or visits to Calcutta from Britain, where I had moved to in 1985. I was standing by the kerb-side in Gariahat Morr, munching on a famous 'mutton roll'. I was looking at scenes I had grown up with - pavements almost obliterated by shops, people having to weave their way through hawkers peddling their fares; buses tilted to one side by the sheer weight of passengers and belching out black diesel smoke, trams waiting for a manual change of tracks before they could turn, the familiar neon sign of an astrologer.
In the midst of all this I remembered the 'Calcutta' of the West - Calcutta the metaphor, not the city. In my three years in the West I had come to realise that the city had become synonymous with the worst of human suffering and degradation in the eyes of the world. I read and heard again and again that Calcutta contained an endless number of 'sewers and gutters' where an endless number of dead and dying people lay - but not for long - as 'roving angels' in the shape of the followers of a certain nun would come along looking for them. Then they would whisk them away in their smart ambulances. As in my twenty-seven years in Calcutta I had never seen such a scene, (and neither have I met a Calcuttan who has), it hurt me deeply that such a wrong stereotype had become permanently ingrained in world psyche. I felt suddenly overwhelmingly sad that a city, indeed an entire culture should be continuously insulted in this way.

I am Calcuttan born and bred, and our family has lived in the city for as long as can be traced. I know Calcutta well, and many people who matter there, and many more who do not. I do not have Calcutta 'in my blood', but the place has definitely made me what I am, warts and all. My mother tongue is Bengali, the language of Calcutta, but I speak Hindi passably, which is spoken by a large number of the destitutes of Calcutta.

I had no interest whatsoever in Mother Teresa before I came to England. Difficult it may seem to a Westerner to comprehend, but she was not a significant entity in Calcutta in her lifetime; paradoxically posthumously her image has risen significantly there - primarily because of the Indian need to emulate the West in many unimportant matters.

I had had some interest in the destitutes of Calcutta during my college days, when I dabbled in leftist politics for a while. I also took a keen interest in human rights issues. Never in the course of my (modest) interaction with the very poor of Calcutta, did I cross paths with Mother Teresa's organisation - indeed, I cannot ever recall her name being uttered.

After living for some time in the West, I (slowly) realised what Mother Teresa and Calcutta meant to the world. It shocked and saddened me. In India itself, to say you come from Calcutta is considered trendy, as Calcuttans are considered, wrongly, 'brainy and dangerous'. The Bombayite Gokhle is still widely quoted, 'What Bengal [Calcutta's state] thinks today, that India thinks tomorrow.' In India, Calcutta is - not entirely wrongly - stereotyped as a seat of effete culture and anarchic politics. There is an Indian saying that goes thus: 'If you have one Calcuttan you have a poet; with two you have a political party, and with three you have two political parties.'

The Calcutta stereotype in the West did not irk me as much as did the firmly held notion that Mother Teresa had chosen to live there as its saviour. I was astonished that she had become a figure of speech, and that her name was invoked to qualify the extreme superlative of a positive kind; you can criticise God, but you cannot criticise Mother Teresa - in common parlance, doing the unthinkable is qualified as 'like criticising Mother Teresa'. The number of times I have heard expressions such as 'So and so would try the patience of Mother Teresa', I have lost count. Such expressions would cause amazement and curiosity in Calcutta, even amongst Mother Teresa's most ardent admirers.
Why I decided to do 'something about it' I cannot easily tell. As a person I am flawed enough to understand lies and deceit. Why certain people, themselves no pillars of rectitude, decide to make a stand against untruth and injustice is a very complex issue. Also, my wife, brought up (a Roman Catholic) in Ireland on Teresa mythology, felt angry and cheated when she went to Calcutta and saw how the reality compared with the fairy tale; she has encouraged me in my endeavours.

In February 1994, I rang, without any introduction, Vanya Del Borgo at the television production company Bandung Productions in London. She listened to my anguished outpourings and, to cut a long story short, eventually Channel 4 decided to undertake Hell's Angel (shown on Britain's Channel 4 television on 8 November 1994), the very first attempt to challenge the Teresa myth on television. Ms Del Borgo chose Christopher Hitchens as the presenter, knowing him as she did from their days together at The Nation in the United States. I am not happy with how Hell's Angel turned out, especially its sensationalist approach, such as Mr Hitchens's calling Mother Teresa 'a presumed virgin'. The film however caused some ripple, in Britain and also internationally.

Mother Teresa, one could argue in her favour, is dead and therefore would be unable to defend herself against my charges. Criticisms of her however peaked during her lifetime; apart from the November 1994 documentary, there was a stringent (and quite detailed) attack on conditions in her orphanages in India that was published in The Guardian of London (14 October 1996) - charges of gross neglect and physical and emotional abuse were made. The article alleged her own complicity and knowledge in the unacceptable practices that went (go) on in her homes. During January 1997, a documentary - entitled Mother Teresa: Time for Change? - critical of her working methods and accusing her of neglect, was shown on various European television channels.

It was up to Mother Teresa to have defended herself against such criticisms during her lifetime. She did not. Her supporters (and others) would of course say that she was like Jesus; that she would not demean herself by protesting against muck raking - she would merely turn the other cheek. Notwithstanding her image, she was a robust protester whenever she had a case. Shortly before she died she got involved in legal wrangles with a Tennessee bakery over the marketing of a bun; and more seriously, with her one time close friend and ally, the author Dominique Lapierre, over the script of a film on her life.

On both occasions her Miami based solicitor got properly involved. And then, there is that well-known letter of protest she wrote to Judge Lance Ito protesting at the prosecution (she perceived it as persecution) of her friend Charles Keating, the biggest fraudster in US history.
After her death, her order continues with the litigious tradition - less than a year after her death it was involved in a court case with the Mother Teresa Memorial Committee, a Calcutta based organisation.
The German magazine Stern (10 September 1998) published a devastating critique of Mother Teresa's work on the first anniversary of her death. The article, entitled 'Mother Teresa, Where Are Your Millions?', which took a year's research in three continents, concluded that her organisation is essentially a religious order that does not deserve to be called a charitable foundation. No protest has been forthcoming from her order.

To the charges of neglect of residents, indifference to suffering, massaging of figures, manipulation of the media and knowingly handling millions of dollars of stolen cash, Mother Teresa never protested. Her responses were 'Why did they do it?', 'It was all for publicity.' She was perturbed by the criticisms - so much so that after the 1994 documentary she cancelled a religious mission to the Far East.

During her lifetime I wrote to Mother Teresa numerous times asking for a formal interview with either her or one of her senior deputies. I had agreed to meet her in Calcutta, or at the Vatican - mindful her frequent trips there - or indeed, at any other place in the world. Despite her image - carefully nurtured by her own self - of one who shunned the media and publicity, she had always bent over backwards to give interviews to sympathetic world media (in other words, all the world's media). In 1994 she spent a whole day talking to Hello! magazine; the same magazine ran a lengthy interview with her successor in 1998. She however never even acknowledged any of my many requests for an interview. I had met her briefly on occasions in the company of a roomful of worshipful admirers, but I did not feel that was the time or the place to ask uncomfortable questions.

After two years of trying, when I failed to elicit any response from her or her order, I contacted her official biographers to ask whether they would answer some of the serious question marks hanging over her operations. All of them, bar one, replied, but only to turn me down. All of this happened while Mother Teresa was alive.

Many people tell me that Mother Teresa should be left alone because she did 'something' for the underprivileged. I do not deny that she did. However her reputation, which was to a good extent carefully built up by herself, was not on a 'something' scale. More importantly, that 'something', at least in Calcutta, was quite little, as my book will show. Even more importantly, she had turned away many many more than she had helped - although she had claimed throughout her life that she was doing everything for everybody. My brief against her is not that she did not address the root or causes of suffering and I am not for a moment suggesting that she ought to have done so, as I understand the particular religious tradition she came from - I am saying that there was a stupendous discrepancy between her image and her work, between her words and her deeds; that she, helped by others of course, engaged in a culture of deception.

On a superficial level, I need to tell the truth about Teresa because I feel humiliated to be associated with a place that is wrongly imagined to exist on Western charity. Perhaps the main reason why I want to tell this story is because, I believe, each of us has a duty to stand up and protest when history is in danger of being distorted. In a few years' time Mother Teresa will be up there, glittering in the same galaxy as Mozart and Leonardo.

I wish to convey my thanks to the some of the world's most powerful publishing firms who put up obstacle after obstacle in the path of this book. Indeed, the British arm of a multinational publishing house signed me up and then cancelled the contract nine months later by sending me a half-page fax. My resolve to get the book published grew all the more stronger by such obstacles.
I know I cannot change 'history' as pre-ordained by the powerful world media, but I can attempt to put a footnote therein.

I would disapprove of my book being called 'controversial', as I see it as a book of hard facts, albeit disturbing sometimes.

Calcutta has recently been renamed Kolkata by its rulers and a section of its citizens. The new name, which is politically correct and is closer to the vernacular pronunciation, has caught on faster than expected. In this book, I have exclusively used 'Calcutta', partly because to me it makes more historical sense, and also because to tell the story of Mother Teresa, 'Calcutta' to me seems more appropriate.

Dr. Aroup Chatterjee
London and Calcutta, 1996-2002

Sunday, March 15, 2009

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

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

February 9, 2011 at 11:34pm
Another of Mother Teresa’s houses of horror: Electroshock therapy as punishment, women chained to beds and more…


The following is my hour long interview with a volunteer currently working in Shanty Dan, a home for mentally challenged women in Kolkata, India. This particular volunteer has asked that her identity 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 to 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 taking 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: 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 make the doctor apply the electroshock on Tuesdays. Some of them for up to six weeks which basically renders them useless for a long time after.

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: Now that you have been forbidden to participate or witness the electroshock sessions of which you spoke against so strongly, what other tasks 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: Do any of these nuns themselves have any medical experience, expertise and or certification in the psychiatric 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: 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: "I don’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: 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: When you speak of aggressive behavior, is this something that happens frequently at the hands of the nuns 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 receive for their work in this home?

V: I know they are not getting a lot, especially since a many of them live in slums. In many cases 30-50 rupees a day from what I've heard.

HG: So these are women from the slums 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: Sadistic 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 one 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. They 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 counseling, 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: 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: 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 janitors, 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 behavior 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 inmates who are being released but their families don’t want them home, so they end up here. Many if not all 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 behavior 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 being 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 developed 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.