May 27, 2021

CultNEWS101 Articles: 5/27/2021 (Former Member Stories, The Missionaries of Charity, Westboro Baptist Church, Vatican, Pope Pius XII)

Former Member Stories, The Missionaries of Charity, Westboro Baptist Church, Vatican, Pope Pius XII

"Julia McCoy is the CEO of Express Writers, educator and founder of The Content Hacker, and bestselling 3x author. But it didn't start out all rosy for this successful entrepreneur.

Having been raised in a Fundamentalist cult led by a narcissistic father in the state of Pennsylvania, Julia learned how to make decisions for herself and follow her passion. She escaped the prison that she had been confined to for the first 21 years of her life. It was then that Julia began her new life. But it took courage to escape the confines she grew up in and boldly pursue a life of happiness, especially when the odds were stacked against her."
Salon talks to the maker of a new podcast on abuse, suffering and forbidden love within The Missionaries of Charity.

"One of the most striking things about the new podcast "The Turning: The Sisters Who Left" is how some of the former nuns describe their experiences with life behind the walls of Mother Teresa's world-famous order, the Missionaries of Charity: in language reminiscent of the way we talk about cults. 

They use terms like "isolation" and "brainwashing." They were only permitted to write home once a month and visit home once every decade. They describe what it feels like to look at a single human: as having a direct line to holiness. 

Of course there were beautiful, spiritually affirming moments, too — times where these women felt achingly close to the God for whom they'd given up their normal lives — but for some, the suffering and separation were too much. "The whole idea was to make you feel as alone as possible," Kelli Dunham, a self-described "ex-nun," said. 

It was enough to make some fantasize about escaping — and some did. Through "The Turning," a new 10-episode podcast by Rococo Punch and iHeartMedia, producer and host Erika Lantz tells their stories."

" ... The sisters kept a rigid schedule that began at 4:30 a.m. and only included 30 minutes of unstructured recreation time, which was most often spent catching up on work that hadn't gotten done. Though they were required to go everywhere in pairs, the nuns were never allowed to have private conversations and would instead recite prayers together. 

This was to encourage chastity, a virtue that, as Lantz found out in her reporting, Mother Teresa was strict about maintaining, almost to the point of paranoia. After all, the Missionaries of Charity were spiritually wed to Jesus and were organized to "satiate the thirst of Jesus Christ on the Cross for Love and Souls."

It's a telling detail that Mother Teresa was so intently focused on Christ's crucifixion. While, as Lantz put it in "The Turning," one would anticipate that the scriptural passages that would have most impacted Mother Teresa would have centered on Jesus' interactions with the poor, sick and hungry, she was perhaps most moved by how his pain catalyzed his holiness. 

This was reflected in how the sisters lived in their respective convents, the series reports. Why would you pray from a chair when you could kneel on the hard ground? Why would you open the windows or wear one less layer when you could simply swelter? Why, as in the case of one nun, would you rest in bed after sustaining major burns when you could go back to work in almost unspeakable pain? 

However, as Lantz found out, the emphasis on achieving holiness through suffering didn't stop there. As is revealed early in "The Turning," the sisters would frequently engage in self-flagellation. 

Mary Johnson, a former nun and author of "An Unquenchable Thirst" — who also spoke with Salon back in 2013 about her experiences in the order — joined the Missionaries of Charity when she was 19 after seeing Mother Teresa on the cover of TIME Magazine."

"When Aaron Jackson found a property for sale across the street from the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, right away he had the idea to buy the house and paint it the colors of the Pride flag.

The founder of Planting Peace — a global nonprofit whose initiatives include environmental conservation and LGBTQ advocacy campaigns — Jackson wanted to make a statement with his choice of paint colors.

While a number of religious groups are supportive of LGBTQ inclusion and equality, according to the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), the Westboro Baptist Church is not one of them.

The organization is considered to be an extremist and anti-gay religious group, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. And its members believe that homosexuality is a sin, according to the church's website (which includes a homophobic epithet in its URL)."

" ... According to the experts, much of what is in the seemingly endless secretive archival records are actually kind of boring — housing documents like requests for money to buy shoes. But scholars predict the vaults will shed light upon the range of opinion within church leadership at the time about how to respond to the reports about treatment of Jews in Nazi Europe.

Rioli described the opinions of bishops on the continent as "a mosaic" that will "give us a more wide view of mid-century church leadership."

Valbousquet said she had recently uncovered Vatican correspondence from shortly after the war that suggested officials had a deep lack of understanding of what had happened during the Holocaust and harbored antisemitic sentiments.

Valbousquet found a 1946 letter from a Vatican official about Jewish refugees performing a hunger strike to be allowed to immigrate to what was then Palestine. In the letter, the official commented that: "I don't believe that the hunger strike will last very long because Jews do not like to suffer and they are not used to suffering."

Kertzer stressed the importance of understanding the length of Pius' tenure, which went well past the war into the era of post-war reconstruction, the founding of Israel, and the theological debates that would eventually lead to the 1962-65 Second Vatican Council.

Understanding the postwar era of his papacy is crucial to understanding what Pius signifies today, said the researcher.

"Part of the reason that Pope Pius XII has such staunch defenders is that there are some who believe that the Second Vatican Council is where the church went wrong and Pope Pius XII was the last pre-Second Vatican pope," said Kertzer."

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