A Carmelite mother superior in Argentina faces prosecution for alleged torture after one of her former charges told a TV show that she had gone through hell before managing to escape from a convent.
The 34-year-old nun, whose face was blacked out during the interview on the channel El Trece, claimed she had endured physical and psychological torture during her 10-year period of reclusion in the convent, including enforced self-flagellation, the wearing of a wire garter, being gagged for up to a week and locked up in isolation.
With Mother Superior Isabel I was subjected to the gag. Then there was a whip called discipline which was dipped in molten wax to make it harsher. We performed self-flagellation, beating ourselves on the buttocks, every week as a rule, the former nun from the Barefoot (or Discalced) Carmelite convent in Nogoyá, northern Argentina said.
The woman, who said she had entered the order at the age of 18, also said they were forced to wear a cilice, a crown of wires strapped around the leg that draws blood, three times a week during Lent.
But she said the worst torture she endured was psychological, being locked up alone in a cell and hearing voices telling her that others nuns’ illnesses, such as one sister’s tumour, were curses wrought upon the monastery due to her sinful nature.
Two nuns have reported the mother superior, identified by the authorities only as María Isabel, claiming she kept them against their will in the gated convent grounds. In late August police raided the convent, forcing the door open after the mother superior allegedly refused to allow them to enter.
The officers seized instruments of the alleged torture, including whips, cilices and gags.
Prosecutors have recommended charges with a penalty of 15 years in prison for the mother superior, who was to face an investigating judge on Wednesday.
Church leaders have justified the use of such instruments as penitential aids. It’s not punishment, but rather discipline, said Ignacio Patat, spokesman for the Archbishopric of Paraná, which oversees the convent.
Let’s not forget that monasteries have different rules. This is the law of Saint Teresa, shall we say the old way of life that the Carmelite sisters follow, Mr Patat told a radio station.
The austere order of the Barefoot Carmelites was founded in 1593 following the teachings of two Spanish saints, Teresa of Ávila and John of the Cross. Mortification and penance are considered useful as aids to deep prayer.
The Church has the right to rule itself, read a statement by Argentina’s Society of Canon Law. The state should enforce respect for religious freedom and not compromise it because some things seem incomprehensible.
News Source TelegraphNews