All Episodes

June 29, 2021 53 mins

PART SEVEN - This episode contains descriptions of alleged sexual abuse. Listener discretion is advised.


We meet two former sisters who say they wanted more than anything to be part of the Missionaries of Charity. Along the road to taking their first vows, they allege their mistresses took advantage of the vow of obedience. They claim they were sexually abused by the women tasked with guiding them through the early days of their religious vocation — one in 1987 and the other in 2014.

This episode was produced in partnership with Type Investigations.


For additional content and information, follow the show on Instagram @RococoPunch

This series was inspired by Mary Johnson’s memoir, “An Unquenchable Thirst.” Find it HERE - https://amzn.to/3whsTeO


TRANSCRIPT - https://www.rococopunch.com/transcripts

Learn more about your ad-choices at https://www.iheartpodcastnetwork.com

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

Mark as Played
Transcript

Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:03):
Before we start, I want to let you know that
this episode contains descriptions of alleged sexual abuse. In the
beginning was the word, and the word was with God,
and in silence the Word of God is pronounced. Ellie

(00:23):
Anastasia Demidova was a nun with the Missionaries of Charity.
Until he now uses he him pronounced and mostly goes
by the name Ellie, but he asked that we refer
to him as Ellie Anastasia. Anastasia is the name he
used when he was a sister in the MCS, so
that's what we'll do. Ellie Anastasia always loved silence. Praying

(00:45):
in silence brought him closer to God. He's found of
a quote from Mother Teresa. In the silence, God speaks.
It is not the empty silence, silence field with the
presence presence something which is greater than human being, then universe,
than anything else, the presence of something which is untouchable.

(01:09):
But now silence is painful. Since he left the Missionaries
of Charity, he avoids it. So I guess he leaves
a television on when he's at home, especially at night,
to make some kind of noise. Why do you think

(01:33):
silence is hard because it comes back. The mmur is back.
Maybe the most probably night is connected to the time
when everything was happening. This anxiety again comes and the
memories comes back. Never Never, I can sleep in silence

(02:04):
from Rococo Punch and I Hurt Radio. This is the turning.
I'm Erica Lance Part seven silence. Um, all right, I'm
just gonna press record on my end. Let's see so
your headphones are plugged in, right, Yeah. When we video chat,

(02:26):
Ellie Anastasia smiles a lot in this earnest almost shy
way testing testing. Yeah. Ellie Anastasia is thirty three years old.
He's originally from Russia. There's the sweetness that radiates from
him when he talks. He always wears a cap on
his head with all his hair tucked into it. Today,

(02:49):
Ellie Anastasia calls himself a human rights defender. He advocates
for the LGBTQ community and abuse victims. But back he
was twenty six years old and he was a pastilant
in the Missionaries of Charity. He was stationed in West Bengal,
India and a city culture Sarah. It's a small city
by Indian standards, about three people even though they were

(03:11):
in a city, ali Anastasia says, the empty house felt isolated,
like they were living off the map. There weren't many
Christians in the area, and without cars, they had to
walk two hours to get to a church for Mass
on Sunday. No television, no ragio, no news in general
in the city. We never knew what was happening. It's
very hot. Sometimes it is horrible raining, a lot of

(03:33):
monkeys just throwing everything around you. Despite the isolation and
the monkeys that tore up the MC's garden, Elianastasia loved
being there. I was so happy that my aim was
just I want to serve God. I love God. I
just want to live a proper life and to pray
and to love the poor and soul. He asked his

(03:54):
fellow sisters how to say words in Bengali so he
could talk to the people who lived there. Please teach
me how to tell him God loves you. I have
to tell people about love. I was just happy person.
He remembers the first time he met his mistress, the
nun in charge of his spiritual formation and day to
day life. The mistress was also the superior of the house.

(04:17):
Usually those positions are separate, so it was like the
mistress was both Elie Anastasia's boss and his boss's boss.
Something control was just frightening me. Maybe it was just
psychological because my vocations dependent on their first person, or
I don't know, but Elie Anastasia told me after he'd
been there a couple of weeks, the mistress, who are
not naming, started showing him special attention. She ate meals

(04:41):
with him, just the two of them. She talked about
mutual acquaintances, she empathized with challenges Eli Anastasia had faced
in the past. In one conversation, his mistress said she'd
received a message from the Virgin Mary that Mary told
her to become Elie Anastasia's spiritual mother, his personal mentor
and guide. Elie Anastasia showed us a note he says

(05:02):
he received from his mistress. It says, my dear little
spiritual child, thank you for accepting me as your spiritual mum,
and then mourns this note is only for you. All
of this seemed strange, given MC rules against close friendship
and special attention, but Ellie Anastasia didn't question it. It
wasn't his place to question. Then, one evening, they were

(05:25):
in the sacristy, a room off the chapel. They were alone.
Ellie Anastasia's mistress asked him to sit next to her
on a stool. Then the mistress stood up and pulled
Elie Anastasia's head to her belly. She held it there.
She uttered these phrases like she was soothing him. Mother medic,

(05:46):
You need so much attention, you need special attention and care.
And like I'm seeking at what's going on? Why she's
doing like that? Because it was lasting half or forty minutes.
That that was so long. How to react? She's superior,
she's mistress. What she's doing, I don't understand. I'm just

(06:09):
praying this gut, let it stop. What is going on?
Around this time, Elie Anastasia says his mistress began sexualizing
their day to day interactions. At the breakfast table, she
read aloud letters from Mother Teresa that mentioned issues like masturbation.
Sometimes in class, she read from a controversial spiritual text

(06:31):
that hinted an incestuous relationship between Jesus and his mother Mary.
Elie Anastasia thought, this is bizarre, but he kept to
his duties. But everything turned worse I don't know how
many weeks past, maybe two or three weeks from the
beginning of the past. His mistress asked if he wanted
to join her for night adoration, basically a prayer session.

(06:54):
Elie Anastasia was excited. It was a chance for real silence,
no sounds, no know, it's just to just undergotten you
and this is wonderful. After the evening bell rang at
ten pm, Ellie Anastasia went to the chapel. His mistress
sat close and shared stories from her life. By two
or three am, Elie Anastasia was falling asleep. He asked

(07:16):
for permission to go to bed, got a couple of
hours of rest Before the morning bell. The next day,
the mistress asked him again, please join me for night prayers.
Elie Anastasia was sleep deprived from the night before, but
agreed again. They stayed in the chapel until early in
the morning. Ellie Anastasia says, this time, when he started

(07:37):
to nod off, the mistress pulled his head onto her lap.
Then the mistress repeated the odd phrases. Mother Mighty asked
me to be your mother. I will be a good
mother to you. Just got once to your night with
you and so on, like she's lulling you because you're
so tired. Yeah, you understand. I can't understand how it
happened because in one second she started ahead and then

(08:01):
finding that she's putting her breast into my mouth. I'm lying,
lying then and like she's putting her breath, but I
breast into my mouth. I'm paralyzed that moment, what is
going on? And she speaking something It was something like
Mother Mary was feeding Jesus. And then I'm just paralyzed,
and I don't know what to do because her breast

(08:23):
in my mouth, and that's awful. Just and I don't
know how long it was going on. Actually it was
like everything for me, everything stopped. Then there was a
noise from the staircase, someone walking near the chapel. The
mistress quickly covered herself with her Sorry again, Elianastasia. I

(08:46):
didn't know what to make of what was happening. He
had no words. He grew up sheltered, no talk of
sexual abuse, and he says he never received any training
from the missionaries of charity about sexual harassment or what
constitutes an appropriate behavior, even though this was a superior
the direct voice of God something felt incredibly wrong. How

(09:09):
does possible something like that to happen in front of
the blessed sacrament the holiest of holy. Stories about sexual
abuse are often really hard to investigate, and it's even

(09:31):
harder in a group like this that's closed to outsiders.
So we partnered with an investigative reporting team type Investigations,
and we worked with reporter Katherine Joyce. So, Catherine, you know,
we don't know where sisters are stationed. In some cases,
we might not even know if they're in the order anymore.
We don't know their real or secular names, and their
mail is read by their superior so if we send

(09:52):
them a letter, it might not even get to them. Yeah,
I think that this was one of the things that
was more challenging about reporting this story than any other
that I've done. It is such an insular group. There's
a mother's period who like is ultimately making a decision
about whether or not people can speak to us, and

(10:12):
that insularity is so much more formalized than in a
lot of other groups that I've looked at um Over
the past decade plus, I've I've reported on this a
number of times, sometimes looking at abuse in specific Catholic
churches sometimes looking at big fundamentalist or evangelical institutions, um,

(10:36):
whether that's someplace like Bob Jones University or a very
large overseas mission group that has a lot of members.
So I've I've seen this sort of stuff in in
different settings before, and I think that there are some similarities.
But one thing that was pretty interesting in this case
is that there was a substantial paper trail. Yeah. I mean,

(10:59):
we collected a lot of documents about this story, and
Eli Anastasia isn't the only person with an allegation of
sexual abuse in the MCS. We also spoke with another
former sister named Betilde, and we're going to get to
her story a little later. To confirm both stories, we
reviewed legal documents, church investigation reports, emails from the MCS

(11:19):
regarding their policies. Plus we had dozens of letters that
both Batilde and eli Anastasia had been sending back and
forth with the m c's or other members of the
Catholic hierarchy, other people in their lives, sort of testifying
to what had happened to them. We really did want
to hear from the missionaries of charity on this, and
we we wrote to them several times. We sent them

(11:42):
a comprehensive list of questions. They didn't answer those questions,
but we did get a statement from an MC spokesperson
who told us that the alleged abusers vehemently denied the allegations. Yeah,
we we asked to speak to them directly, um, but
the MCS declined. That spokesperson also told us that the
fact that Elianastasia and Bettild quote believe they were abused

(12:05):
is without question, but continued that the evidence compiled and
the investigations the missionaries of charity conducted contradicts their accusations.
They're basically saying that they investigated the abuse and they
say that the abuse did not happen. Yep. You know.
The other thing that stuck out to me in this
response is the suggestion that these former sisters both had

(12:28):
mental health problems. They also emphasized that neither of them
took vows, basically implying that they weren't real missionaries of charity,
sort of as a defense against these allegations. You know,
there there is a long history of responding to rape
allegations or abuse allegations by denigrating the mental health of

(12:50):
the person who's making the accusation or delegitimizing them in
in one way or another, um basically calling them crazy,
the sickly calling them crazy. You know, back during the
Bill Clinton era, the defense that was commonly made against
all of the women who came forward with allegations against
President Clinton was referred to as nuts and sluts because

(13:13):
women were just being constantly dismissed as either crazy or promiscuous.
I mean, I just think that it is a it's
a common thing, this praying together. It became a nightly ritual.

(13:35):
And Elie Anastasia says his mistress pushed things further. She
was trying to put but it should not be at all, never, never, never,
because of the world. Chastity first to fall under my
skirt and I said, whoa stop, what are you doing?
The mistress pulled back her hand but kept moving her

(13:55):
body against his. And it was just awful. Elie Anastasia,
I wanted to tell someone. He tried to describe this thing.
He didn't understand. In confession, he says, the priest dismissed
him child. Your Supena knows anco whatever. She would not
wish anything bad to you. She's your Supiter, listen and

(14:19):
do what she tells you. Ellie Anastasia thought maybe he
could phone another priest he knew, but he had to
ask his mistress for permission to use a pay phone
in town. Then his mistress stood directly beside him while
he made the call. It seemed like there was no
way to tell anyone, so Ellie Anastasia says that the

(14:40):
abuse continued for months. This type of abuse, he alleges
abuse by a nun, It tends to fly under the
radar in the Catholic Church, partly because people don't expect
women to be abusers. This is a very unaddressed part

(15:03):
of Catholic Church history. Mary dispense I used to be
a nun. She now works with SNAP, the Survivors Network
for those abused by priests. She leads support groups for survivors.
She's their point person for abuse involving nuns. I have
probably heard from a hundred and twenty or so survivors

(15:24):
of of non abuse. It wasn't until after she started
leading support groups for survivors of none abuse that she
realized an incident from her own time as a nun
had been sexual assault. That's how hard it can be
to recognize none abuse. Sometimes religious orders are a little
bit different from let's say the clergy, because you build up,

(15:45):
especially women religious you you really become a family. I
often say religious abuse within orders men and women is
very much like incest. The tendencies even greater to keep
quiet and silent because you don't want to hurst your family.

(16:07):
And then there's the vow of obedience. They're afraid because
they're taught. If you ask questions, it's a sin. If
you doubt anything, it's a sin. This is Tom Doyle.
He was a Catholic priest for forty years. In the
nineteen eighties, he became one of the first priests to
draw attention to the clergy sex abuse crisis. He wrote
a ninety two page report that urged the church to

(16:28):
take the problem seriously. It was the end of my
career in the Vatican as as as a priest. Almost
twenty years later, the National Catholic Reporter wrote that his
report had been prophetic. Today, Doyle estimates his report has
been cited in thousands of lawsuits, and he's become a
global expert. He's worked on or consulted on more than
a thousand clergy sex abuse cases around the world. He

(16:52):
says the rigid hierarchy in conservative religious orders like the
missionaries of charity can trap abuse victims. The religious orders
where the Mother General or the Mother Superior's word was
considered to be the word of God, so that even
if they would tell you, even if the Superior gives
you an order that is wrong, you have to obey

(17:15):
it because it's God's word. Now that is insanity. Elianastasia
learned to follow the rule of obedience years before he
ever came to India. Back in two thousand eight, six
years before his time mentioned Sarah, he was just starting out.

(17:36):
He was an m C pre aspirant in Poland. One
day he got news that his grandmother, who was like
a mother to him, had died. The mistress in Poland
scolded him for crying. Elianastasia asked for permission to go
home for the funeral, but the mistress said, if you
want to go to funeral or somewhere else but your thinks,

(17:56):
to go away and never come back again, or shut
up and go and smile to your So basically, either
leave and go to the funeral but never come back,
or stay but stop crying. Go smile and be a sister.
And it was just one or two hours after I
got the phone call about this that all my heart

(18:18):
was broken. The kids, I choose you and what I
did I could I for the last time, I went
and I started to smile. Elianastasia I was eventually dismissed
from the empty house in Poland. He told us he
doesn't know why. When we asked the Missionaries of Charity

(18:39):
for comment, an authorized spokesperson claimed eli Anastasia was dismissed
because of his personal conduct. The spokesperson said it included
a claim that he put his hand on the throat
of a fellow aspirate. The spokesperson also alleges that Elianastasia's
behavior follows a pattern that he quote enthusiastically enters a
missionary of charity community, forms an unhealthy emotional attachment with

(19:02):
one of its members, is rebuffed by that individual, and
then engages in highly inappropriate behavior, including threats of suicide,
until asked to leave. Elianastasia says none of this is true.
Making up rumors and gossips is the only strategy that
the religious family would choose in this terrible situation. In

(19:25):
spite of following the way of God who is a
friend of truth. Eli Anastasia says he wasn't suicidal in Poland.
He felt being in the empty house in Poland was
one of the happiest times in his life. And not
only did he never assault his fellow aspirant, but he
says the reverse actually happened. A sister who Anastasia says
was troubled, had attacked him twice, ripping the buttons office shirt. Plus,

(19:48):
he says that incident happened nearly a year before he
was asked to go home, and he says during that
time his superior told him to start sewing as sorry,
to get ready to move to the next stage. After
he Poland, Alana Stasia returned home to Russia. He volunteered
with the MCS in Moscow and then he got a
second chance to join the Missionaries of Charity. He could

(20:10):
start again in India. It felt like a miracle. So
when his mistress in India invited him to these night adorations,
he worried that if he disobeyed, he'd be sent away again.
He says the abuse began in the chapel but then
spread to other parts of the house. In particular mother's room,
the room in the house where mother Teresa used to stay.

(20:31):
This is the room of abuse. It wasn't separated by
a wall, just a bamboo screen and a curtain instead
of a door. Just every day the same story. She
was coming in the mother's room around eleven o'clock and
she was taking off my clothes, she was taking off
her clothes. She was lying on the bed. She was
putting me on her on the top, like trying to

(20:53):
put breast on breast, and just making the movements in
order to get Aliana. Stash loses his words here, but
in a letter he sent the m C, he wrote
that his mistress quote moved her body till she got pleasure.
She was just constantly repeating about the sacrifice and your
special one. You're my Jesus, I'm marry You're like Jesus

(21:16):
to me. You're like Jesus to me. You're like Jesus
to me, and like she was whispering on my ear.
This is for the salvation of the world. This is
for those who are living consen This is for those
who are not keeping chastity. This is not the scene,
This is just the sacrifice. One time Elie Anastasia says

(21:37):
he traveled with his mistress to Calkatta. While they are there,
the mistress pointed out another nun. She said that sister
betrayed her. The mistress told Elie Anastasia, I was a
mother to her. She was my daughter like you, She
was like my Jesus. Eli Anastasia thought to himself, this

(21:59):
is my mistress, admitting she's done this before. The mistress
then turned to Elie Anastasia and said, will you betray
why are you going to be my judas? For decades,

(22:35):
the news has been full of stories of sexual abuse
scandals in the Catholic Church. They started coming to light
while Mother Teresa was still alive and came close to home.
I don't know how actually know about Tell McGuire, but
he was a serial abuser of boys. Terry McKiernan is
the founder of Bishop Accountability, an organization that documents abuse
in the Catholic Church. He's referring to Donald McGuire, formerly

(22:59):
Father Donald Aguire, a Jesuit priest defract into thousand eight.
Donald McGuire was one of many priests who went to
prison for sexually abusing boys, and one of the most prominent.
He was a conservative and inspiring priest with powerful friends.
His m O was that he targeted wealthy, right wing

(23:20):
Catholic families, and once he ingratiated himself into that family
and began cycling off funds, he would also convince them
to allow their twelve or thirteen year old son to
accompany him as his secretary. During these trips, which were
you know, pictually, he was always in the road, he

(23:41):
would sexually assault the boy who had been taken to
be his his secretary. McGuire became a spiritual director of
the Missionaries of Charity. He traveled the world to MC
houses to hear confessions from m C sisters and held
dozens of retreats for the order. Mother Teresa also met

(24:03):
alone with him for confession and spiritual advice. You've actually
heard about Donald McGuire before. He's the priest who warned
Joan Worcester not to leave the MCS or she'd get
divorced and have children with disabilities. In the ninet nineties,
McGuire was removed from his position in the church because
of abuse allegations. The San Francisco Weekly published a letter

(24:26):
that appeared to be written by Mother Teresa, though it
wasn't signed in it. She worried about the reputation of
the priesthood. She said she trusted McGuire and she wished
to quote see his vital ministry resume as soon as possible.
McGuire did return, an allegation soon emerged that his abuse continued.

(24:47):
In an emailed statement, the mc spokesperson said they didn't
believe Mother Teresa personally wrote the letter supporting McGuire, and
that McGuire had deceived Mother Teresa and betrayed her trust.
In two thousands, Donald McGuire went to trial for abuse.
Mother Teresa's successor sister near Malajoshi, sent a letter to

(25:07):
the judge defending his character. The sisters, and they're very distinctive,
guard attended the trial to support him. There are pictures
of this in the courthouse. The sisters wore buttons on
their saries that read I support father McGuire. The sisters
were very very present at that trial. In the end,

(25:27):
he was convicted and sent to prison for twenty five years.
What happened with Donald McGuire and the m C S
It gives me a sense of how the congregation responds
to sexual abuse from the top down. And that's what
I think this episode is about, not just how a

(25:48):
culture can enable abuse, but also how a system works
when abuse comes to light. It makes me think of
a story Mary Johnson told me. You've heard from Mary
Johnson throughout this series. One time she told me something
that caught my attention, a story that seemed to shed
light on the culture of the congregation when it comes
to sexual assault. There was one time there was a

(26:08):
sister she was very upset about something. Mary had a
lot of responsibility. She traveled with Mother Teresa. She prepared
sisters her final vows, basically upper management. She says. She
told me at one point that she learned about something
that happened to several sisters in Europe. There was a
terrible thing that happened um in a convent in a

(26:30):
remote location, and one night men broke into the convent
and they raped the sisters, and it was a really
horrible thing. Mary says this story was somewhat common knowledge
among sisters. With authority. She heard about it from several nuns,

(26:53):
including one who was there that night. Another former sister
told us she had heard about the same attack, also
direct from my sister who had been there she said
it was whispered about in Calcutta but considered top secret.
In Mary Johnson's case, she says she helped one of
the nuns from that convent prepare for final vows. The
sister told Mary that the victims talked to Mother Teresa

(27:15):
about the attack and mother told them, now you have
told Mother, you must never tell anyone else again. You
must never speak of it. And obviously this is not
going to be helpful to those sisters. Those sisters had

(27:35):
had this very traumatic experience. You don't heal from trauma
by ignoring it. Why do you think Mother Teresa said
that to them, to not speak of it ever again.
She would often say that for various things, like, Okay,
you've told mother, now, never speak of it again, for

(27:57):
various things. For Mother, speaking about bad things that had
happened was almost as bad, or even worse than the
fact that the thing had happened. Mary says, Mother Teresa
just didn't understand how trauma worked, that hiding something could

(28:19):
make it worse, and that brings us to Batilda. Batilda
asked us not to use her last name. She's sixty
two years old and lives in Paris, and she was
once a sister with the Missionaries of Charity. The first letter.
Over the past eighteen years, she's written a lot of letters.
They describe abuse she says she experienced in the order,

(28:41):
letters to the head of the Missionaries of Charity, letters
to the Vatican. Yes, I have itch in front of me.
The first letter in two thousand three was to a
sister her we're not naming her alleged abuser. I think
you remember me. I was your postonate in Rome, in
Schandri Guru around the year night in the one that

(29:03):
you have sexually abused. It was in that convent in
San Gregorio that she met the sister who she says
sexually abused her her mistress, but till it, says, at
first the mistress just directed her as she would any pastilant.
But a few weeks in her mistress told her she
loved her. Then things became physical. After night prayer, she

(29:27):
would sitcom and then sitting in the bench and she
would kiss me, and I mean, I don't like to
see it, she would oh, I mean she would kiss me.
She would put my breast. She would tell me, wonder,

(29:48):
I will take your clothes all out and I will
kiss you everywhere, but she only saying she did not
do I knew that every day it would happen, That's
all I But Tilda did what she could to avoid her,
but that angered her. Mistress, you have to you have
to obey me. You're very disobedient. In time, she says,

(30:10):
the abuse became more forceful. She would check me and
we were to get that big corridor. She would push
me again the wall or walking in front of me,
and then turned suddenly and taking me in to her arms.
And I mean I could not I could not escape.
I mean I didn't know what to do. But he'ld

(30:33):
says she didn't dare tell the regional superior. She just
yelled at her. She told multiple priests, but says they
were no help, that they pretended not to hear her
and changed the subject. She says mother Teresa once asked
her if someone was bothering her, but that she said
nothing for fear of being scolded. But Tilda outwardly changed
during this time. She remembers the regional superior reprimanded her,

(30:57):
why are you not smiling? You never smile? I mean
I could not smile. I was it was difficult. Eventually
she gave up. She felt empty. Just let her do
and I did not defend my shift. Batild graduated out
of postulancy and was transferred to Poland. The abuse was over.

(31:20):
It was a relief, so much so she remarked one
day how nice it was to be there, and according
to Batilde, the superior there overheard and asked what she meant.
She started to tell her story and the superior stopped her.
You don't need to go any further, She said, I
know who it is. She named Batilde's mistress and said
she did the same to another sister. Batild superior urged

(31:44):
her to repeat the story to the regional superior, so
she did, but she says the regional reacted with disdain.
She told Batilde, I knew you were a kind of
sister like that. Years later, when Batilde confronted the order
with her allegations, both the superior and the regional superior
said they didn't recall those conversations. When the time came,

(32:08):
Batilde was not permitted to take her vows. She says
she wasn't told why. Instead, she was abruptly sent home.
After two years, she asked to rejoin the MCS. She
was accepted into the Contemplative Branch. Contemplative days were quiet,
filled with prayer, but in that silence she started having

(32:31):
flashbacks and trouble sleeping. She says. She reached out to
Sister Nermala Joshi, the founder of the Contemplative Branch. She
told Sister Nermala about the abuse. In response, Batilde says,
Sister Nermala encouraged her to see a psychologist. And one
more thing, she told me, if you don't speak to

(32:51):
anybody of what happened, you speak to nobody, absolutely nobody.
So I mean that afternoon I didn't speak to anybody,
and then our having very much pain in this stock,
and then that was not the good thing to say,
not to speak to anybody. In time, but Tilda was

(33:13):
sent home again dismissed from the m c s. And
again it wasn't clear why, just a vague suggestion that
she wasn't obedient enough. They dropped her off at the
airport with four dollars and a miraculous medal, one of
those tokens Mother Teresa used to give out. But Tild
went home to Paris years past. That brings us back

(33:34):
to the letter writing around two thousand three. But Tilda
read in the newspaper about the global sexual abuse scandal
on the Catholic Church. She was still haunted by her
own experience. She decided to write a letter. She thought,
maybe an acknowledgement or an apology will help me heal
and I will feel much better and I will feel
all right. I mean all my life is ruined for

(33:57):
me or my life she damaged everything, So she wrote
to her former mistress, you made my life very difficult.
It was very difficult to pray because of flashback coming
in my head, lack of trust, paint in the stomach,
and lack of trustworthy superiors. How do you repair all that?

(34:22):
She also sent a copy to Sister Nermala, the sister
who'd sent her to a psychologist and told her never
to speak of it. By now, Sister Nermala was actually
the Superior General Mother Teresa's successor to lead the m
c S a couple of weeks later, but tilt her
back from her former mistress. She flatly denied the allegations.

(34:44):
I have done nothing to bring upon me such an accusation,
she wrote. Then, she ended the letter, I am praying
for you and asking the Lord to forgive you. I
felt very very bad at little very bad. She also
received a response from Sister Nermala, the head of the
m IS at the time. Dear Batilde, thank you for
the copy of your letter to sister date fourth November

(35:08):
two or three, accusing her of sexually abusing you when
you were a postulate. I was deeply pained when I
read it. In the letter, Sister Nermala said, she spoke
to the alleged abuser, and that quote, the mature way
in which she responded to such a painful situation, leaves
me no room to doubt her sincerity. Then, Sister Nermala

(35:31):
addressed betheled herself, I wonder what made you write such
a letter. Is it really true? Or is it because
you are so hurt in life that you can't help
hurting others also? Whatever it may be, I ask Jesus
to take away all the burden of pain you carry
in your heart and feed it with his own love,

(35:52):
so that you may be able to forgive all who
have hurt you, and ask pardon of all whom you
have heard, and to be tilled. The message was clear,
she was the one causing problems. Case closed, no follow up,
no investigation, no apology with much love and prayer. God

(36:14):
bless you, Sister Namala MC. This did not deterpret held,
she wrote. Sister Nermala back the next month in December
two thousand three, no response. Again in June two, no response.
In November two thousand four, she wrote again, Please sister,
do not put down a sister who has suffered from

(36:35):
sexual harassment, otherwise you victimize her. A second time, more silence.
Finally sister Nermala responded. It was late January two. Sister
Nermala wrote, we want to know the truth. Truth must prevail.
She said the m c S had a policy and
procedure to follow, and we're starting an investigation. She also

(36:58):
said but Tilt would send any evidence she had to
prove her accusations. Batilda went into overdrive. She gathered letters
from family members and her old psychologist. Her sister wrote
that after leaving the m c S, Batilde suffered from
flashbacks and her face was dull. Batilde mailed it all
to the Missionaries of Charity. The m c said they

(37:21):
would contact Batilda quote at the appropriate time, but Batilde
says she was never told what was involved or who
was being talked to. You For the investigation, she received
no follow up questions, nothing. Frustrated, she wrote to officials
in the Catholic hierarchy. They offered Batilda empathy but little else. Eventually,

(37:42):
a year and a half later, in two thousand six,
the church sent batilda response. It says, quote, it appears
that material evidence which could support your accusations against the
sister beyond any doubt, is missing. Actually there is only
one testimony, yours against the sister's word. Again, case closed.

(38:03):
To this day, Matilda says she's never seen any official
report or other documentation of the investigation, and to this
day she says what her mistress did affects her. Prayer
is difficult to pray, and but I do. I do.
I feel hard in everything. I feel like I feel

(38:24):
like like um if I don't exist, it's like a big,
infinite devastation of the being. May I want the truth,
That's all, and I'm not getting it. In two thousand seventeen,

(38:46):
Buttild renewed her letter writing campaign. She wrote the Pope Francis,
who had said sympathetic things about victims. She didn't hear
back from him. She heard from the Vatican's Office on
Religious Orders. They offer allegations, and eventually they warned that
if she continued to say the church had treated her unfairly,

(39:08):
she could face legal action for slander. Elliana Stasia couldn't sleep,

(39:40):
or really, his mistress wouldn't let him sleep. It was
in the conventation Sarah India. He uses he him pronounced now.
He says his mistress abused him almost every night for months.
She kept him up until an hour or two before
in the morning. Bell I was a zombie. I don't
I didn't understand what I'm doing. I could not really

(40:01):
really even separate the reality and not reality because you're
sleeping or not sleeping. It was just one day, which
is not finishing. One night, Elie Anastasia and his mistress
heard a sound. Somebody nearby used the bathroom and then
left quickly. Eli Anastasia figure the sister must have overheard them.
For sure, everybody heard it. It is just not possible

(40:23):
not to hear. Then, out of the blue, a senior
sister from EMC headquarters visited the house. She interviewed Elianastasia's
fellow postulant for an entire day. Soon after, Elie Anastasia
says he was abruptly summon to call cut up by
Sister Auntie, the head of the MC's contemplative branch, and
she said, I want to talk to you. I have

(40:46):
a conversation. Please come on Wednesday, but by the way,
can you pick up all your clothes and things. Elianastasia's
mistress was summoned to. When they arrived, Sister Auntie spoke
to the mistress for first. They talked for over an hour.
Then it was Elie Anastasia's turn. Hello, sister, and she's

(41:07):
starting to shout at me. You have to go out
from here with the minute, sister. I can't understand what
is going on, like I'm leaving then Insura, I cannot
understand what is happening, Like what is the reason you
called me? Can you explain me what you want from me?
Ellie Anastasia is being sent away, not just from Chinsura,

(41:27):
not just from India. But he would find out later
from the missionaries of charity, and he didn't know why.
In an email to us, the MC spokesperson suggested that
Eli Anastasia was dismissed because of his personal conduct. The
spokesperson implied he had become fixated on a fellow sister

(41:49):
and acted inappropriately. Elie Anastasia says no one said anything
like this to him. There was no pat like, no
no breaking, nothing, nothing, nothing, he says. He asked again
and again why he was being sent away. Finally, he says,
sister as he told him that since Eli Anastasia was

(42:10):
Russian and Vladimir Putin had invaded Ukraine, his presence might
cause problems for the sisters in Chanceurra. I can't understand,
really what is what is the reason? Because what I
have to do with As far as he knew, no
sister had ever been sent away from the MCS for
something like this. After all, once you're called, you're called
for life. He was given a plane ticket home to Russia.

(42:35):
As for his mistress, Eliana Sassia says she also got
a ticket, she was transferred to another MC branch in Nepal.
Once he was back in Russia, Eli Anastasia fell into

(42:58):
a deep depression. I Frank, he state with, had to
force him to eat. I was just at vegetable, out
of reality, fully, no desires, nothing, nothing. He didn't have
the language to explain what had happened to him. For
a few months, he was suicidal. One day He spent
a long time alone in a chapel in front of

(43:18):
the altar, pleading with God. So on the question to God,
why if you gave me this vocation to be a nun,
why it had happened? How you allowed to deal with it?
How you how I should leave with that? Where is
the way you called me? And what shall I do now?
With all that? I cannot even understand what is going on?

(43:41):
Crying and shouting to Jesus, and crying and shouting still.
Eventually ali Anastasia met other people who had suffered traumatic experiences.
They gave him the words he needed, sexual abuse PTSD.
Over time he h maybe there are other victims in

(44:02):
the Missionaries of Charity, and if I couldn't name what happened,
how could they. In five years after he was forced
from the order, Elie Anastasia wrote a letter your sisters.
This letter is written in fulfillment of the instruction of
my spiritual father, and it is addressed to Reverend Sister

(44:22):
Prema as the head of the Society of the Missionaris
of Charity. The main topic of this letter sexual and
spiritual abuse. Eli Anastasia laid out what had happened to him.
I wanted to have a dialogue about the society first,
just to share my story, because my main aim to
change the neglect. Three months later, he got a phone call.

(44:46):
It was Sister Prema, the current Superior General of the MCS.
She asked Eli Anastasia what exactly did he want them
to do for him. So Eli Anastasia wrote a list
of systematic changes. Provide ed occasion in training on sexual violence,
support past victims with psychological care, financially compensate sisters who

(45:07):
leave their vocation, especially sisters from underdeveloped countries. Offer rehabilitation
for perpetrators and prevent them from serving in positions of power.
I was asking calls with Sister Prema to appoint a
proper person to whom any sisters anyone in the society
can freely without permission, without asking permission for a phone call,

(45:28):
conturn and to report. In response, the MCS commissioned a
Cannon lawyer to look at the case. A cannon lawyer
is someone accredited to work within the Catholic Church's internal
legal system. My name is Helen Costigan. I'm a member
of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus. I live

(45:49):
in hammer Smith in London, and I teach model theology
and canon law submitties University in Twickenham. Helen Costigan's job
was to investigate the claims of abuse, but she told
us she wasn't actually able to conduct a full investigation.
The scissors were too hard to reach, often in remote
locations with bad connections and no computers. But Helen Costigan

(46:11):
wrote a report. The spokesperson for the Missionaries of Charity
said in an email to us that Costigan's report concluded
there was quote no concrete evidence to afford the allegations.
She did say that, but it's not all she said.
I says there is no evidence to support the allegations,
but that's not to say that it didn't happen. Like Elianastasia,

(46:33):
she told the m cs they should make changes, provide
training and maintaining proper boundaries, create an external channel to
report abuse, and psychologically assessed sisters when they enter. She
said the m c s should look at Pope Francis's
new guidelines on sexual abuse, which expressly forbid retaliation against victims.
That's something's Pope Francis has said. You have to listen

(46:56):
to the victims. A supportant, Costigan asked Ellianastasia to total
his expenses related to his trauma, and she told the
MCS to follow up about compensation. Finally, she asked the
MCS to give Elianastasia a copy of the official report,
but the Missionaries of Charity didn't do that. Instead, in February,

(47:19):
they sent Ellianastasia a letter. It insinuated that his allegations
were just a ruse for money, that Elianastasia should quote
be careful, and then they wrote this what you have
written could be considered blackmail. We would not want to
jeopardize your situation or create unnecessary liability issues. She's just

(47:41):
threatening me with the blackmail. If I would not have
such a support like now on that letter, I don't know,
I would be suicide. Though, Costigan was concerned enough that
she responded to the MC's directly, writing, I was appalled
by the tone and content. Is putting it mildly because
I have to see I thought, oh, that's that's that's

(48:03):
really you know, that's not helping the Sames. After Costigan's letter,
the MCS did send Alianastasia the report, but now he
worried he could be at legal risk, so he looked
for a lawyer he found his way to Tom Doyle,
the former priest be heard from earlier, who has worked
on more than a thousand clergy sex abuse cases. He's
also a cannon lawyer. He consulted pro bono on Alianastasia's

(48:26):
case for a few months. In one this spring, they
parted ways after a disagreement about a partner in legal group,
but Doyle says he still believes Elianastasia's allegations and supports
the case. Elianastasia hopes to continue his case, not a
criminal complaint, depress charges or a civil complaint for compensation.

(48:49):
He wants to enter a cannon law process with the Vatican.
He wants to convince the church to investigate abuse and
neglect in the missionaries of charity. He hopes to start
a class action complaint for people who have suffered similar
abuse or neglect from the m c s. And still
I have nothing against the sisters itself. I have nothing

(49:09):
against the church itself. Still today have wonderful sisters who
are really living their vocation as they can and trying
to do the best they can. I'm against the system.
We should embrace our faults, to change, to take responsibility
for the nection you know, it's interesting to me here

(49:31):
and you say that because it's bringing to my mind
that speaking your faults and acknowledging your failure, it's such
a big part of being a missionary of charity. And
so in a sense, what you're asking for is actually
very central to the mission, which is to acknowledge sin
or acknowledge faults and making amends in some way. And

(49:55):
that's what you want. Yeah, to the emishonnaries of charity,
there are really witnesses of silence, to cover up, to hide,
to silence others. That's not a silence in which God leaves.
It is completely opposite. God is not a friend of

(50:19):
covering up the oppression. God is a friend of truth.
Preach the truth as if you had million voices. It
is silence that kills the world. This episode was reported

(51:12):
in partnership with Type Investigations. You can find out more
at Type investigations dot org. Special thanks to reporter Catherine Joyce,
editor Sasha Blankie, fact checker n Denny Ratti, and editor
Sarah blu Stain. The Turning is written by Allen lance
Lesser and me. Our producers are Allen lance Lesser and
Emily Foreman. Our editor is Rob Rosenthal. Andrea swah is

(51:34):
our digital producer. Fact checking by Andrea Lopez Crusado. Special
thanks to Adeleine Sere, Marie Claire Jovois, Amy Gaines, Sarah
oh Lander, Murad Frishkoff, Bethan Macaluso, Travis Dunlap, and consulting
producer Mary Johnson. Her memoir and Unquenchable Thirst provided inspiration
for this series. Our executive producers are Jessica Albert and

(51:57):
John Parratti at Rococo Punch and Katrina Norvella I Heart Radio.
Our theme music is by Matt Reid. For photos and
more details on this series, follow us on Instagram at
Rococo Punch. You can reach out via email to the
Turning at Rococo Punch dot com. I am Erica Lands.
Thanks for listening. M
Advertise With Us

Popular Podcasts

1. Dateline NBC
2. Amy and T.J. Podcast

2. Amy and T.J. Podcast

"Amy and T.J." is hosted by renowned television news anchors Amy Robach and T. J. Holmes. Hosts and executive producers Robach and Holmes are a formidable broadcasting team with decades of experience delivering headline news and captivating viewers nationwide. Now, the duo will get behind the microphone to explore meaningful conversations about current events, pop culture and everything in between. Nothing is off limits. “Amy & T.J.” is guaranteed to be informative, entertaining and above all, authentic. It marks the first time Robach and Holmes speak publicly since their own names became a part of the headlines. Follow @ajrobach, and @officialtjholmes on Instagram for updates.

3. The Dan Bongino Show

3. The Dan Bongino Show

He’s a former Secret Service Agent, former NYPD officer, and New York Times best-selling author. Join Dan Bongino each weekday as he tackles the hottest political issues, debunking both liberal and Republican establishment rhetoric.

Music, radio and podcasts, all free. Listen online or download the iHeart App.

Connect

© 2024 iHeartMedia, Inc.