Estimates of the Number Killed by the Papacy in the Middle Ages and later

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Chapter 8. Cloistered convents

There are also quite a few independent witnesses of terrible abuses that took place in the cloistered convents of the past. Note that cloistered convents are not the same as open convents, where the nuns can come and go. In a cloistered convent, the nuns cannot leave, and there is a much greater potential for abuse:

There were even then sixteen convents, but now there are over four hundred of these barred and bolted and impenetrable prisons, in which fifteen thousand Englishwomen are kept prisoners at the mercy of a celibate clergy, who have power, unless their behests are obeyed, to inflict on these hapless and helpless victims torture under the name of penance.

-- Romanism and the Reformation by H. Grattan Guinness, lectures, London, England, 1887. Lecture 1, page 14.

Rome has, on the other hand, persecuted on principle, and steadily from the seventh century right on to the French Revolution and to some extent almost to the present time. She does so still in the secret recesses of her nunneries and monasteries, under the name of penance. Why else does she require shops for the sale of instruments of bodily torture, such as exist this day in London?

-- Guinness, Lecture 2, pp. 41-42.

St. Ligori himself asserts a fact which, as Mr. Smith justly observes, strongly corroborates the Revelations of Maria Monk; namely, that refractory, incorrigible nuns are punished by imprisonment for life. "A nun (says he) who is guilty of a grievous or pernicious crime, and who appears to be notoriously incorrigible is to be confined in perpetual imprisonment." But they are not expelled as some monks are. The reason is obvious. Nuns, if expelled, would reveal the licentious and brutal treatment they have received from the priests, whilst the latter would be careful not to inform on themselves. Smith’s Synopsis of Ligori’s Moral Theology, p. 231, 232. Now let it be remembered, that the writings of Ligori were approved by Pope Pius VII. and by the Sacred Congregation of Rites so late as 1816: and that, as Dr. Varela, the priest of New York asserted three years ago, are in the hands of almost every priest, and therefore also of those at Montreal; and there will be nothing incredible in the following narrative of Maria Monk. …

-- Schmucker, Glorious Reformation, page 17.

The position of the cloistered nuns, those committed to certain convents for life, is quite different from that of the regular nuns. They usually have gone into this seclusion because of some great sorrow or disappointment. Dr. Montano says concerning them:

'There are 100,000 nuns in the world living in strict seclusion in convents. Subsisting in these retreats are nuns who have retired behind closed doors for life. Young women, who accept the vows of the cloistered nuns renounce their homes, their loved ones, their families, never to see them again. They will stay behind bars for the rest of their lives, shut away from the world.

'These unfortunate souls have cloistered themselves, thinking that the fact they are not in touch with the world will save them from temptations. But again and again, throughout my lifetime, some of the most prominent nuns and monks have confessed to me that it is precisely behind the walls of these convents and monasteries that temptation has tortured them more than it ever did when they lived in the world. Here temptation has beset them until they have finally succumbed, because of the unnatural life they lead. Many poor souls have become tools of Satan, victims of the most monstrous sins.

'Severe discipline is inflicted upon these nuns by the Mother Superior, and flagellation and mortification of the body is practised. Self-inflicted suffering is for the purpose of gaining indulgences by works, a striving to achieve salvation by merits. These poor souls are taught that they are putting treasures in the bank of indulgences....

'The psychological disturbances that have resulted from this type of existence are such that not a few of these poor creatures have had to live out their days within the walls of mental institutions. To confirm this, Father More, of the Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C., states: “Insanity among priests and nuns (compared with a general population ratio of per 100,000) . . . among sisters who were cloistered rather than active showed a rate of 1,034, nearly twice the general population ratio.”  …

Throughout the world there are some 100,000 cloistered nuns. Speaking of one of the more extreme orders, and quoting the regulations under which they live, Dr. Montano says:

 'The discalced (barefoot) Carmelite sisters, for example, neither teach, nor nurse, nor care for the old, the orphans, the infirm. They take a vow of silence--complete silence.

'At 5 :30 A.M. the nuns arise from their pallets, which are wooden boards across saw-horses, covered with a straw-filled tick--for they have also taken a vow of poverty.

'At 8 :30 A.M. they eat a slice of bread and drink one cup of black coffee. The table is set with plain wooden utensils and a covered water pitcher. The mask of death, a skull, is on the table, to symbolize thoughts of death, that we are mortal beings, soon to pass into the unknown.

'Their main meal may be of fish and vegetables, and their evening meal is soup and bread. Their day ends at 11 P.M., when they silently return to their cells furnished with only pallet, table and chair'.

(from Celibacy, by Loraine Boettner, D.D, taken from his book “Roman Catholicism”, 1962. He was a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary (Th.B., 1928; ThM., 1929), where he studied Systematic Theology under Dr. C. W. Hodge. Dr. Montano’s quotations are from “Christian Heritage,” September, 1959.)

Also, Cardinal Peter D'Ailly said he dared not describe the immorality of the nunneries, and that 'taking the veil' was simply another mode of becoming a public prostitute.  (Henry Charles Lea, A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages, vol. 3, 1888, pp. 629-631.)

Here is one example of many testimonies about problems in cloistered convents:

I wish to make a statement for those who may think that I am an ignorant protestant who knows nothing about the Catholic Church. I have received numerous e-mails by indignant Catholics who think I don't know anything about what I am writing about and putting on this site.

First of all, I am old enough to be able to say that I attended Mass for years in LATIN! Not English as most today! I am quite familiar with all the Catholic doctrines, traditions and rituals, from the rosary, the stations of the cross, praying to Mary the Mediatrix to not eating meat on Friday.

Moreover, I grew up in San Antonio, Texas, living about 6 blocks from a large Catholic Church that was once a Cloistered Convent. Most today don't know about them. My step-father was an altar boy at the church, planning to go into the priesthood, until the government forced that Convent to open up. Then they found the bones of babies under the floor that came from the sex escapades of the priests (who represent Christ) and the nuns (who were 'married to christ'), which was supposed to mean that when the nun had sex with the priest, they were having sex with Christ and it was not sin. When a priest came wanting a young nun, the Mother Superior lined them up for the priest to pick out his victim of the day. They then went into a private room with a bed and he got what he didn't get at home, since priests are not allowed to marry. This is one of the greatest errors of the Catholic Church and violations of the Word of God and is the source of all the affairs with women (many times with one who came to the confessional and was forced into the abomination called auricular confession) or homosexual encounters you have read about in the papers over the years. And they have only touched the tip of the iceburg of the sexual perversion within the priesthood (and these men are supposed to be 'men of God')? When a baby was born, the Mother Superior would suffocate the baby and bury it within the Convent. Now to the sex sin is added the sin of murder! All for the sexual pleasures and fulfillment of the lusts of the priests.

I personally met a dear nun who was enslaved within a cloistered convent in the United States. She managed a daring escape and ran for her life, then began to speak out and was a part of the governments finally forcing them to be opened and stop the terrible farce of religious piety and holiness behind those walls (she testified before Congress). As soon as she escaped and begin to speak out so that the other enslaved nuns being held against their will might be set free, (for to enter the convent was to be sealed within it's walls until death without ever being able to leave), they began trying to murder her. While in the convent, all mail was checked and censored and there were no outside contacts allowed. They were slaves to Rome! Not bringing Glory to God! But of course the poor little nuns didn't know what awaited them once they entered those walls because of the lies, hypocracy and cover-ups of the church.

The nun referred to may have been Edith O’Gorman, who was still alive in 1947, or Eva Moss, who spoke to thousands in Washington, D.C. in March, 1928. Sister Charlotte gave a similar testimony about abuses in convents. She left her home in the USA for a convent overseas in 1910, and later escaped. Afterwards she accepted Christ and began giving her testimony, from which the following excerpt is taken:

I saw scores of babies born in the convents. Most were abnormal and deformed and seldom was one normal. With my hands I have delivered many, many of them, therefore I know. With my eyes I have seen the horror of it all and the world must be told of what goes on in those chambers of horrors.

Many have said I exaggerate and that these things are not so, but I have yet to be hauled into court to refute the charges. They would have to open the cloisters and this they dare not do. After being snared in this rotten system for twenty-two years, I know whereof I speak.

Normal young expectant mothers eagerly anticipate the arrival of their precious baby. Everything is ready, nursery, crib, clothing, and everyone is happy with her. By contrast, a little nun in the convent dreads the moment when she gives birth. The child is the product of a shameful, illicit union with a drunken priest which was forced on her. She knows from bitter experience that the baby will only be permitted to live four or five hours at the very most. It will never be cleaned or wrapped in a warm blanket for Mother Superior will put her hand over its mouth and pinch its nostrils to snuff out its life.

This is why there are lime pits in all the convents. Babies' bodies are tossed in these holes to be destroyed. Pray for the government to force the convents to open their doors to release the prisoners and let the whole world see what horrors are hidden behind those doors of cruel religious hypocrisy.

If this happens, I assure you that even the Catholic people will agree to the closing of the convents as they did in Mexico in 1934. They have no idea what is transpiring there either, or they would never expose their daughters to such barbarous debauchery and torture.

The convents in old Mexico have been turned into government museums which you can tour for a modest fee. You should go and see with your own eyes and touch with your hands the things of which I speak. Go down into the dungeons, through the tunnels and torture chambers and see all the fiendish devices, demonically conceived, to inflict suffering on the bodies of helpless nuns. See for yourself the cells in which nuns were locked each night and examine the beds, and the prayer boards.

Convents were banned in Mexico in 1857, but one, the Convento de Santa Monica, continued to operate secretly until it was discovered in 1934 and abolished. It is now a museum. A web site of a homosexual order of hospitaler Friars contains the following statement:

The sexual-orientation and/or inclination of the priesthood has been scandalous and so very damaging for a very long time. With the rest of the world, we shamefacedly have to look at the "lime-pits" that academic archeology has unearthed close to almost every convent while the "official church" feigns zero tolerance for birth-control or abortion.

In a sermon “Wisdom versus Faith,” delivered on Sunday, 1st April 1962 at the Branham Tabernacle in Jeffersonville, Indiana, U.S.A, William Branham stated,

I went down there in Mexico myself and seen them lime pits … . That's what made communism spring up in Mexico. They broke up that tommyrot. That's what made communism spring up yonder.

It is hard to believe that all of these statements could result from anti-Catholicism without some basis in fact. In fact, the discovery of the bodies of babies buried in a great many convents in Spain helped to lead to the Second Republic which lasted from 1931 to 1936. I received email from a person whose father was present in Spain when one of these convents was opened at this time and the bodies of babies were discovered buried inside. This person verified that the bodies of babies were found in a great number of convents, that the exposure of these convents took place over a number of years, and that these exposures generated considerable hostility towards the Roman Catholic Church among the Spanish people. Also, the graves of the babies were not marked in any way. In addition, there are many labyrinths of underground passages in Spain connecting churches, monasteries, castles, and convents and some of them are opened to the public on rare occasions. Probably many others are still alive who either recall these incidents themselves or have heard about them from their parents. Such occurrences have even been noted by historians:

In the ninth century, many monasteries were the haunts of homosexuals, many convents were brothels in which babies were killed and buried. Since the end of the Roman Empire, historians say that infanticide was probably not practiced in the West on any great scale -- except in convents. The Council of Aix-la-Chapelle in the year 836 openly admitted it. As to the sex-starved secular clergy, they were so often accused of incest that they were at length forbidden to have mothers, aunts or sisters living in their house. Children, the fruits of incest, were killed by the clergy, as many a French prelate put on record.

-- Peter de Rosa, ^ Vicars of Christ: The Dark Side of the Papacy, pp. 566-567.

Here is a particularly sad example of a nun who escaped from St. Joe’s Convent in Tipton County, Indiana and was sent back by the sheriff:

Menace, Feb., 1927

Rome has won another victory, a victory which forever places a dark blot upon the history of one of the strongest Protestant counties in one of the strongest Protestant States in the Union Tipton County, Indiana.

Little Nellie Fortune, a girl of twenty years, Convent Number 096, saw a chance to escape. Although the night was bitter cold she made her way across fields, through woodlands and over streams, finally reaching a farm house a distance of five miles away, before the coming of daylight forced her to seek shelter She crept into an out-building and was found by a kindly farmer and was taken in and given food and clothing. This man was preparing to move and Nellie was taken to the home of a neighbor, Mr. and Mrs. Charlie Fuller of the Rock Prairie community. Here she was welcomed and given a home by this good Protestant family.

She related the many things which take place behind the convent walls of St. Joseph's Convent, and said she could stand the conditions there no longer and resolved to escape or die in the attempt. She had come to America from Northern Ireland, and stated that conditions in the convents here were far worse than they were in Ireland.

She was happy in her new home, telling her benefactors that "it felt good to be a Protestant." Plans had been made for her to attend church and "be a real Protestant", as she expressed it.

Life was beginning to take on a brighter aspect for poor little Nellie Fortune. She had a good home. she had freedom, and what was more, human love and companionship. But her joy was to be short lived. The unrelenting hounds of Rome were hot on the trail. At last she was located. Sheriff Claud Louks, of Tipton, (elected on a 100 per cent ticket and sworn to defend the American home, etc.) was called and without a warrant or any authority, save the request of the church of Rome, went straightway to the home of Mr. and Mrs. Fuller and seized the pleading, crying defenseless girl, who begged for her liberty and fought with her last ounce of strength to be permitted to remain with those who had befriended her. Mr. and Mrs. Fuller also pleaded and begged but to no avail.

Nellie was dragged back to the convent of St. Joseph, to face God alone knows what.

Some more information from the introduction to the 1957 edition of “The Convent Horror: The Story of Barbara Ubryk” reveals the mistreatment of nuns in some of the cloistered convents:

The following items are taken from recent American dailies:--

^ London, May 23, 1892.--Two huge petitions were wheeled into the House of Commons this afternoon. They bore the signatures of 13,305 members of the Protestant Alliance and 101,408 members of the Loyal Protestant League and others, praying for the appointment of a commission to inquire into the conditions of the convents and monasteries in the United Kingdom.

^ City of Mexico, Dec. 26, 1891.--It is probably difficult for people in the United States, where church and State are quite distinct in their spheres of action, to understand the recent forcible closing of convents in Puebla and Cholula by an armed force, and amid a popular tumult which resulted in the killing of soldiers and rioters.

But here everybody understands the difficulty to be the result of the clandestine establishment of convents, in defiance of the laws governing religious establishments.

All convents, or other associations of persons under religious vows, are forbidden by law, and a convent of high church Episcopalian nuns or monks would be as promptly closed by the authorities as similar associations of Catholics.

^ Naples, Oct. 21, 1890.--The judicial authorities have instituted proceedings against the superior of the monastery popularly known as the "Convent of the Buried Alive," where the dreadful discoveries of the existence of starving and demented nuns within its walls was recently made. Another domiciliary visit has been made by the police to a conventional refuge of a similar character at Tencuraboli, where no opposition was made to their entrance. From information obtained at this establishment, it was found that institutions, for the "Sepolta Vive," or "Buried Alive," under the rule of St. Orsola, are not uncommon. In vatican circles it is asserted that at the next consistory the Pope will enter a protest against the violation of the monasteries here. In the meantime the priests of this city are sending in their adhesions to the remonstrance by Cardinal San Felice, Archbishop of Naples, against the recent visitations.

Another account says: "Sixteen nuns were found within a state bordering on insanity. They were covered with rags, and their surroundings were of the most filthy description. Many had forgotten how to speak, and the demeanor of all of them was more like that of animals than human beings. Those who were induced to talk expressed themselves perfectly resigned to their fate.

"The cause of the raid upon the nunnery was the desire of the parents of a young girl who had entered the convent to recover her. She had been banished to a nunnery on account of a love affair objectionable to her family. The latter, being unable to communicate with her, had complained to the police, and an order from the Minister of Justice for her removal was obtained. She was found to be a mere skeleton, and her parents became half-crazed at the condition in which she was discovered. The nunnery has been closed and a strict investigation ordered by the Governor of Naples.

"Later intelligence states that ten more nuns have been released from the subterranean dungeons of the nunnery of 'The Buried Alive' at Naples which has just been opened by order of the Minister of Justice. Among them were eight young women who had been incarcerated against their will by order of their parents. The police have been ordered to visit all nunneries in Southern Italy which are closed to the public. Cardinal Sanfelice left Naples for Rome to obtain further instructions from the Pope on the subject. Immense excitement has been created by the disclosures."

An article written in 1886 and found at the web site states:

So late as the 25th of last January, a gentleman writes to a London journal of great repute, as follows:—"In your paper of the 17th you have inserted a letter from ` C. F.,' relative to a strange occurrence, in 1829, at Charenton-sur-Marne. May I be allowed to state that your correspondent has made a mistake as to the locality? It should have been at Charenton-sur-Seine, near Paris. I was engaged on the works of Messrs. Manby and Wilson, under Mr. Holroyd, the engineer of the works, when time after time large numbers of infant skeletons were discovered in all parts of the premises, which, I believe, had been, a convent of a very strict order of nuns. At first we did not take much notice of the circumstance; but when the attention of Mr. Holroyd and Mr. Armstrong was called to the singular affair, we were directed to count the remains; and from that day we counted, and placed to one side, no less than 387 entire skeletons of infants. We took no account of parts of skeletons, which if they had been all put together, would have far outnumbered the entire ones which were counted. I speak far within bounds when I say that there were found not fewer than the remains of 800 children, and there was not a single bone of an adult person among them. The mayor came to the premises, and had the bones placed in boxes and privately buried in the cemetery, and orders were given to hush up the affair."

It is difficult to believe that such things could still happen in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. What is especially disturbing about these accounts is that the Papal hierarchy must have known what was happening, but did not take effective steps to stop it. Not only this, but they demanded that poor Nellie Fortune be returned to the convent! These abuses also demonstrate another danger of church-state unions. At least in countries where the government is not controlled by the church, such abuses can be controlled, but when church and state unite, there is little hope of improvement. Probably the convents are much better today than in the past. But in computing the number of persons killed by the Papacy, if one includes all of the nuns and children who died in the convents, surely the total would increase by many millions.
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