Tag Archives: forgeries

Pope John XII (955-964) and his “toasting the devil”

On a handful of anti-Catholic websites, one sometimes sees a descripton of the 10th century Pope John XII (955-64) as follows:

“Pope John XII was a violent man. He was a true debauchee and incestuous satanist, so lustful that people of his day said that he turned the Lateran Palace into a brothel. He drank toasts to the devil. When gambling he invoked pagan gods and goddesses. He was killed by a jealous husband while in the act of committing adultery with the man’s wife.”

What is the truth about Pope John XII?

Pope John XII who became pope on 16 December 955, and died on 14 May, 964, was one of the worst popes of the past 2000 years. He was elected at his deceased father’s wishes, in 955 at the age of about eighteen (maybe sixteen), and lived a dissolute life for the next nine years until he died, apparently from a paralytic stroke of some kind. During this period the papacy was certainly at the lowest ebb in its history. John XII is described by Warren Carroll in his book “The Building of Christendom”(Christendom Press, Front Royal, VA, 1987) page 416 (quoting Horace K.Mann’s “The Lives of the Popes in the Middle Ages”, V, 229-230, 241-245 (London, 1902-1931), 19 vols.) as ‘”bold and brash as a pagan”, addicted to hunting, hawking and gambling, and often immorrally involved with women.’

But should we believe the particular anti-Catholic allegation of “toasting the devil”?

Not that it matters to the truth of the Catholic Faith, but for the sake of justice we should seek to find the truth in this matter.

And the truth is, in spite of all his notoriety, there are no valid grounds for believing John XII was a satanist. The only evidence for his “toasting the devil” is from a notorious opponent of the pope, Liutprand (or Liudprand), Bishop of Cremona, (c. 920 – c. 972), who was also an important historian and diplomat whose records supply us with a useful history of the 10th century), who, by the way, was also a noted gossip. Liutprand’s chronicles were a major source for the historian Msr. Louis Duchesne (1843-1922), who, in his “Les premiers temps de l’etat pontifical” (3rd. ed., 1911, p.335) reports that “men told how, in the feasting at the Lateran, the pope used to drink to the health of the devil.” I cite the original French below:

“Le jeune pape ne se plaisait guère aux chants et rites de l’Eglise, ses nuits et ses jours se passaient avec des femmes et des jeunes hommes à partager les plaisirs de la chasse et de la table, débauches payées par le trésor de l’Eglise alimenté par la simonie. La cruauté complètait l’orgie; on crevait des yeux, on châtrait des dignitaires Il arrivait au pape dans les festins du Latran de boire à la santé du Diable. “

Duchesne’s principal work, “Histoire ancienne de l’Eglise” was placed on the Index of Forbidden Books in 1912.

The English of Liutprand’s quote is cited in Philip Hughes‘ “History of the Church” Vol. II, p.195 (Sheed & Ward (London), 1935). Hughes does note, however, the unreliable nature of some of Liutprand’s work, and in regard to Duchesne’s research, says that

“one of the principal witnesses against the pope is Liutprand of Cremona, not only an enemy and a strong partisan of the pope’s political adversaries, but, surely, one of the classic gossips of all time” (ibid.)

In addition, a council of 963 met to condemn the actions of Pope John XII. From the Catholic Encyclopedia: John XII we read:

“On 6 November a synod composed of fifty Italian and German bishops was convened in St. Peter’s; John was accused of sacrilege, simony, perjury, murder, adultery, and incest, and was summoned in writing to defend himself.”

There is no mention of satanism in the list of charges, nor of “drinking to the health of the devil” at the Lateran or anywhere else.

Given the fact that the above-mentioned council of 963 had every opportunity to bring the charge of satanism agains the pope if it were true, indicates that there is no truth in the rumour. Similarly, the only evidence we do have is from Liutprand of Cremona, who was a known enemy of the pope and a notorious gossip.

We mentioned above that Liutprand was “one of the principal witnesses against the pope is Liutprand of Cremona, not only an enemy and a strong partisan of the pope’s political adversaries, but, surely, one of the classic gossips of all time” (Hughes, ibid.). There are other sources, too, which show Liutprand to be a less than unbiased commentator.

Here is what the Catholic Encyclopedia entry on Liutprand, Bishop of Cremona, has to say

“Liutprand was often entrusted with important commissions, e. g., in 963 when he was sent as ambassador to John XII at the beginning of the quarrel between the pope and the emperor, owing to the former’s alliance with Berenger’s son Adelbert. Liutprand also took part in the assembly of bishops at Rome, 6 November, 963, which deposed John XII. Liutprand describes from his point of view these events of 960-64, and sides entirely with the emperor, condemning the Romans very harshly. After the death of the antipope, Leo VIII (965), Liutprand again went to Rome with Bishop Otgar of Speyer, as the emperor’s envoy, to conduct the election of a new pope, on which occasion John XIII was chosen. Liutprand’s writings are a very important historical source for the tenth century; he is ever a strong partisan and is frequently unfair towards his adversaries.”

The Catholic Encyclopedia article Pope John XII (referred to above) also refers to “a rumour recorded by Liutprand, and thus little to be relied on”.


It is remarkable to note that even as great a sinner as Pope John XII was the victim of slander. It is clear the Evil One hates the papacy so much he will cause slander to be brought upon even the least worthy occupant of the throne of Peter.

As a footnote it should be mentioned, for anyne who may be scandalized by John XII actual sins, it must be noted that whatever about John XII’s personal failings, and they were notorious, he never taught false doctrine. This is in keeping with the promise of Christ in Matthew 16:18. “the gates of hell shal not prevail”. Surely the episode of John XII is a remarkable proof for the divine institution and protection of the papacy!


The truth about the anti-Catholic charge of “Lord God the Pope”

Introduction to the allegation

The anti-Catholic charge usually reads as follows:


“In the “Extravagantes” of Pope John XXII (Cum. Inter, title 14, chapter 4, “Ad Callem Sexti Decretalium”, Column 140, Paris, 1685), Roman Canon Law says that it is heresy to deny the power of “Our Lord God the Pope.” In an Antwerp edition of the Extravagantes, the words occur in column 153.”

The work in question, the “Extravagantes of Pope John XXII) was actually written by a canonist, Zenzelinus de Cassanis, in the early 14th century. But did he really write the words “Lord God the Pope”?

Who was Zenzelinus de Cassanis?

From the Traugott Bautz Kirchenlexicon we read:


Zenzelinus de Cassanis, Canonist, papal chaplain, died 1334 in Avignon. Until 1317 he held position of Professor of Canon Law in Montpellier. Of his readings we have only a few glosses. His influential works strengthened the legal foundations of the papacy against conciliar tendencies. He rose to the position of papal chaplain and “Auditor Sacri Palatii”.(Original German at the above site: “ZENZELINUS de Cassanis (Gaucelinus, Genselinus, Jesselinus u.ä. de Cassagnes), Kanonist, päpstlicher Kaplan, + 1334 in Avignon. – Z. wirkte bis 1317 als Professor des kanonischen Rechts in Montpellier. Von seinen Vorlesungen sind nur wenige Glossen erhalten. Sein einflußreiches Wirken stärkte die rechtlichen Grundlagen des Papsttums gegen konziliare Tendenzen. Z. stieg zum päpstlichen Kaplan und Auditor Sacri Palatii auf.”)


What did Zenzelinus really do as a glossarist?

From the Catholic Encyclopedia: Glosses, Glossaries, Glossarists we read:

“The “Extravagantes” of John XXII were glossed as early as 1325, by Zenzelin (Zenzelinus) de Cassanis. (See also CORPUS JURIS CANONICI; DECRETALS, PAPAL.)”

Regarding glosses in general, according to the same source:

“A gloss (Gk. glossa, Lat. glossa, tongue, speech) is an interpretation or explanation of isolated words. To gloss is to interpret or explain a text by taking up its words one after another. A glossary is therefore a collection of words about which observations and notes have been gathered, and a glossarist is one who thus explains or illustrates given texts. In Canon law, glosses are short elucidations attached to the important words in the juridical texts which make up the collections of the “Corpus Juris Canonici” (q.v.). But the term gloss is also given to the ensemble of such notes in any entire collection, e. g. the Gloss of the “Decretum” of Gratian, of the “Liber Sextus”, etc. The Glossarists are those canonists who lived during the classic period of Canon law, from the twelfth to the fifteenth century, though many left works other than glosses.”

From the Catholic Encyclopedia: Papal Decretals we read that it “was customary to add to the manuscript copies [of canonical collections] textual explanations written between the lines (glossa interlinearis) and on the margin of the page (glossa marginalis). Explanations of the subject-matter were also added.”

So we can see that glosses were simly commentaries on canon law, and had no binding force or doctrinal infallibility behind them. The glossarists were legal commentators, not popes, and their views should not be treated as certain.


Back to the anti-Catholic charge

The particular gloss in question here is the Extravagantes of Zenzelius de Cassanis. (While there was also another gloss, called the “Extravagantes communes”, this is not important to our discussion). From the Catholic Encyclpedia: Extravagantes we read

“In 1325 Zenselinus de Cassanis added a gloss to twenty constitutions of Pope John XXII, and named this collection “Viginti Extravagantes pap Joannis XXII”. The others were known as “Extravagantes communes”, a title given to the collection by Jean Chappuis in the Paris edition of the “Corpus Juris” (1499-1505). He adopted the systematic order of the official collections of canon law”

In 1500 Jean Chappuis, a French lawyer, collated and arranged all the collections of the last two centuries (including the Extravagantes) in the Corpus juris canonici. The publishers in Paris were Udalric Gering and Berthold Rembolt (see http://allserv.rug.ac.be/~mvmelkeb/Page5.htm; see also http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09056a.htm)

The reader will note that Zenzelius had died in 1334, over 160 years before the first Parisian collection. (Also of note is the fact that it is not this edition that is charged with containing the words “Lord God the Pope” but a much later edition, from 1685).

Remember: the anti-Catholic charge is that this gloss of Zenzelinus referred to the Pope as “Lord God the Pope.”

So let’s look at the original “Extravagantes.”

This is found, complete *without* the interpolated text, at the Vatican Library. The exact library reference is as follows:


Gencelinus de Cassanis, Glossa ordinaria in Extravagantes Iohannis XXII
Ms.: BAV, Vat. lat. 1397, ff. 133ra-171rb.
Bibl. & Mss.: Tarrant, Jesselin de Cassagnes, 57-s.Further information on this work can be found in the following work:

Jacqueline Tarrant “The life and works of Jesselin de Cassagnes”, p.37
in “”Bulletin of Medieval Canon Law NS 9” (1979)
published by the Stephan Kuttner Institute of Medieval Canon Law (http://www.lrz-muenchen.de/~SKIMCL/publikationen-SKIMCL.htm)


What we find here is that the words “Lord God the Pope ” do not appear in the original housed in the Vatican Library.

So, what have we found? The statement “Lord God the Pope”, allegedly occurs in a Parisian version as late as 1685 (in other words, over 350 year after the original was written in 1325). Even if the words *do* appear in this edition, we can say the following:

  • i) The interpolated (possibly forged?)statement does not appear in the original, but only in copies dated many years (in the case of the Paris edition, over 350 years (1325 till 1685) after the original was written. 
  • ii) As glosses of their very nature deal with commentaries on canon law, they are unrelated to doctrine or doctrinal pronouncements and are not issued by the pope. Hence this inserted text could not be used (even if present in the original) as proof the pope was teaching falsehood. 
  • iii) The insertion of a forger of these words at a later date do not in any way affect the truth of the divine institution of the papacy, any more than insertion of words into a copy of the Bible changes the Bible’s authenticity. 
  • iv) The statement of one Father A. Pereira (see below) is invalid for the same reason mentioned in iii)




A good summing-up of this issue can be found on Catholic apologist Phil Porvaznik’s site :

“an examination of the original manuscript of Zenzelinus, preserved in the Vatican Library, failed to reveal the words attributed to him; and it has been definitely proved that the reference to God is an interpolation in later copies of his commentary.” (emphasis mine)

Although there is no way of knowing if the interpolation of these words was the work of a deliberate forger or a printing error, in any case the copied document was never used as a doctrinal source, something some anti-Catholics would like to believe.

With this in mind, we can safely lay to rest the anti-Catholic charges concerning the “Extravagantes” of Pope John XXII.

Final note

Some anti-Catholic websites mention a quotation from a Father A. Pereira: “It is quite certain that Popes have never approved or rejected this title ‘Lord God the Pope,’ for the passage in the gloss referred to appears in the edition of the Canon Law published in Rome in 1580 by Gregory XIII.”

Disregarding the fact that a) the Canon Law edition of Pope Gregory XIII was published in 1582, and not 1580, as the quote suggests, and b) that the author has been unable to find any information about the said Father Pereira, or even to verify his priestly status, what are we to make of his assertion?

It is important to point out that the gloss itself does not appear in this canon law edition; all the priest says is that the passage in the gloss referred to (in other words, the pasage that is referred to in the gloss) appears in the Canon Law edition.


So the logic goes as follows: if someone were to write a falsehood in relation to another written work anywhere, how does that affect the truth or othewise of the referenced written work itself itself?

Yet this is what we are expected to believe here. Father A. Pereira, whoever he is ( I have been unable to trace him) has not spoken logically here. He has said that the passage which the gloss refers to is in the Canon Law edition, so the gloss itself (even if it were a copy with the faked addition ) must be approved! Of course, the validity of one work is not dependent on references to it from a secondary source, and is not invalidated by falsehoods in such references.



By way of confirmation, the following update was received recently from Mr. Marno Retief in regard to the original manuscripts of Zenzelinus de Cassanis at the Vatican Library.

Vatican Library, Reference Service. “Re: Fwd: Verifying Information.” E-mail to Marno Retief. 2 June 2004.

‘It is, of course, a huge mistake. With much pain and time we found the passage you are quoting in the original manuscripts (Vaticanus latinus 2583, f. 258 v; Vat. lat. 1404, f. 22 r, both from 14th century), and in both it is clearly said “Dominum nostrum Papam”. The wrong formulation, “Dominum Deum nostrum Papam”, we found in an edition of the end of the 16th century, but these old editions cannot be philologically trusted. The original manuscripts have the correct version, and there is no word “Deum” in that sentence.’

Comments from Mr Marno Retief (who requested the information about the original manuscripts from Vatican Library)

‘In Zenzelinus de Cassanis’ original manuscripts (reference: Vaticanus latinus 2583, f. 258 v, and Vaticanus latinus 1404, f. 22 r, both from the 14th century) the word ‘Deum’ does NOT occur in the passage that anti-Catholics so often love to cite.”I am glad and thankful Vatican Library Reference Service so graciously assisted in finding out this information. The staff at the Vatican Library Reference Service was kind enough to go and look at the original 14th century manuscripts, and, as you know by now, they read ‘Dominum nostrum Papam’ and NOT ‘Dominum Deum nostrum Papam’. Zenzelinus de Cassanis has been vindicated. For those anti-Catholics who are interested, there is an excellent article by Prof. Franz Gillman on how the erroneous phrase came to print in some of the later publications: Franz Gillmann, “Dominus Deus noster Papa”? (in: Archiv f. Kathol. Kirchenrecht 95, 1915, 266-282).’

– Comments taken from e-mail correspondence with Sean Hyland, 2 and 3 June 2004

Update June 2004

Expose of the Charlotte Wells forgery. Part 2: email correspondence

publishers' claim
publishers’ claim

Bible Tabernacle Books, which publishes Charlotte Keckler’s story, makes the above assertion in its online version. 

So, what do these supposed verifiers of her story have to say? It gets interesting. (The addresses have been removed for privacy reasons).

First, TF Tenney:

letter from TF Tenney

letter from TF Tenney

Note that last part: “no one successfully refuted her testimony, though many tried.” This is a classic case of attempting to defend a ludicrous story by shifting the burden of proof. TF Tenney, listed as a supposed “verifier” of her story by Bible Tabernacle Books, has nothing to say.

So, on to the next “verifier”. I then tried to contact Paul Price of New Life Tabernacle church. This is the email I sent to Mike Miles:

leter to Mike Miles

leter to Mike Miles

I received an answer from one Bob James. Here is an extract from two mails he sent me:


Bob James' 1st email

Bob James' 1st email

Second email:

Bob James' 2nd email

Bob James' 2nd email


Once again, a sect which was supposedly able to “verify” Charlotte Keckler’s story can do nothing more than claim “We dont [sic] need to prove a thing.” But when you go about spreading slander, you’d better be able to prove it.

For the sake of completeness, I enclose an email from Mike Blume. Mike Blume was a close frined of Nilah Rutledge, who supposedly acompanied Charlotte on her travels:

Email from Mike Blume

Email from Mike Blume

A Refutation of the ‘testimony’ of Charlotte Wells / Charlotte Keckler

Update: i) One anti-Catholic named Cohen G. Reckert, who resorts to ad hominems and libelous ranting, instead of defending the alleged testimony of Charlotte Wells/Keckler, gets put in his place. See the update below.

ii) I’ve added some information on the logical fallacy known as “shifting the burden of proof”, a fallacy which the Keckler story exemplifies very well.



The alleged ‘testimony’ of Charlotte Wells is the story of a nun (supposedly) who left the Carmelite convent and became a fundamentalist Protestant in 1945. The story she tells in her alleged testimony bears striking similarities to the Maria Monk fraud of the 19th century.

In summary: Charlotte Wells (1898-1983) reports a tale of rape and mistreatment by priests in the convent, and of torture by the mother superior, the priest fathering children by the mother superior, etc., a horror story very akin to the Maria Monk story. She traveleld about for 14 years, with a companion, Sister Nilah Rutledge, telling the story of her life to various congregations.
Her story has been posted on the internet in a few different places, under both ‘Charlotte Wells’ and ‘Charlotte Keckler’. Since the original of this article appeared in 2003, the ‘Charlotte Wells’ accounts have more or less all been removed, though those of “Charlotte Keckler” remain. Given the nature of the charges against the Holy Catholic Church, it is only in order that her story be critically examined. It is the purpose of this page, therefore, to show the apparent errors and falsehoods in this alleged ‘testimony’.


Before we go any further, however, it is helpful to discuss a logical fallacy called ‘shifting the burden of proof’. This is basically a logical error in which the side which makes an asserton tries to make the other side prove the assertion is not true. Example: ‘Aliens landed in my backyard last night. Prove they didn’t. If you can’t prove they didn’t, well, there’s the proof they did. Right?‘ Wrong. All this does is show that ths side making the assertion has nothing to back up its statement.

I mention this logical fallacy because the case of Charlotte Keckler is a perfect example of attempting to shift the burden of proof away from the side making the ludicrous assertion (namely, that her story is true). In actual fact, the Keckler story, being an assertion of something that supposedly happened, itself bears the burden of proof. Later we shall see the attempted responses of those who knew Charlotte Keckler in real life, and we shall see how their efforts at “proof” end up as nothing more than pathetic efforts to shift the burden of proof.

Who was Charlotte Wells?

Charlotte Wells was not her real name, and she has been deceased since 1983. One wonders why she felt the need to hide her real identity behind a pseudonym; after all, it would be easy then to check if she were ever in the convent she claimed to be in, whether the events described really happened. There is substantial evidence that her real name was Keckler, among which being the appearance of the exact same story under this name. The author of this article has contacted four individuals who knew this Charlotte Keckler, two of whom are listed in the published introduction of her story (the publishers are Bible Tabernacle books). In contrast to ‘verifing’ her story as the introduction of the book claims, all they can repeat is that ‘her story has never been disproven’ (email from TF Tenney on the United Pentecostal Church International, on file). As if the burden of proof agaisnt a ludicrous story like that of Charlotte Wells lay anywhere else but on the side of those claiming it to be true. I would suggest that lying for 14 years and failing to mention a single name from that time or location puts the burden of proof right on the side of Charlotte Keckler. But she, nor those who knew her, are able to produce a single shred of evidence for this big lie. (Note: the individuals who knew this woman all knew her after her supposed convent horror. Sadly they were only too willing to believe her cock and bull story.)

In one part of her story she says:

‘I’m not afraid of anybody in all of this world. I’m a child of God. And I believe God won’t let anybody put a hand on me until my work is finished.’

If she was so unafraid and convinced she was doing right, why did she hide her name all the time?

But we don’t have the luxury of this information, a fact which should set alarm bells ringing for anyone seeking truth. We have no way of verifying the truth of this story she related, yet people are expected to believe it? Granted, she was accompanied for the 14 years of her travels by a companion but what does that prove? It only proves that she travelled for 14 years, certainly not that her story about her life before was true.

If her story were true, it should have been possible to come up with some kind of evidence for her story. But, as with so many other anti-Catholic tales, there is none.

Now let us have a look at the errors and inconsistencies in her story.

1. Number of nuns wrong; lifestyle wrong

Carmelite convents have a maximum of 20 nuns, yet Charlotte Wells claimed 180 nuns in her own wing. Needless to say, the name of this convent is not available.

Furthermore, the Carmelites order is cloistered, meaning the nuns never leave the convent to go outside into the world. This is in contrast to an open order, where the nuns can go outside. In the story Charlotte Wells/Keckler claims to be cloistered yet aslo claims to be a nursing sister, which would mean she would have leave the cloister to get to work!

Dear reader, there is no such thing as a cloistered order which does hospital work, as the two are mutually exclusive. If she was cloistered, she could not go outside to work in the hospital!

2. Wrong terminology suggests she may never have even been Catholic

Though it is quite possible Wells/Keckler was once Catholic (I have seen a photo), the taped recording of her story uses such contorted phrases as ‘going to confessional‘ and ‘the fourteen steps that Jesus carried the cross of Calvary’? Why did she not just use the proper terms ‘going to Confession’ and ‘the Stations of the Cross’? The defense that the terms used by Charlotte made more sense to Protestant ears is invalid: she could quite easily have defined the Catholic terms before using them in the taped testimony. In any case, as many Catholic would have heard her story as well. She also avoids the terms �novice� and �professed� which is quite bizarre for the story of a supposed nun, wouldn’t you think?

So was she really Catholic? It makes little difference if she were or not. Her story remains without a shred of foundation. If she were in fact Catholic, her judgment is made all the more severe on account of her dishonesty.

3. Outright falsehoods in the book

Here is one example:

“you know a Roman Catholic can lie to you. And they don’t have to go to confession and tell the priest about the lie that they’ve told, because they’re lying to protect their faith. They can tell any lie they want to to protect their faith and never go to the confessional box and tell the priest about it.”

Elsewhere she relates that it is ok for a Catholic steal $40 dollars. This is also blatantly untrue. In addition, she claims that she had to make her later vows using her own blood. What nonsense. Much of the material in the book, in fact, can only be described as sadomasochistic invention.

4. Relation of scenarios which expose a Protestant misconception of Catholic doctrine.

The story relates that the nuns are led to

‘believe that her family will be saved. It doesn’t make any difference how many banks they rob, how many stores they rob. It doesn’t make any difference how they drink and smoke and carouse and live out in this sinful world and do all the things that sinners do. It doesn’t make a bit of difference. Our family will be saved if we continue to live in the convent and give our lives to the convent and to the Church–we can rest assured that other members of our immediate family will be saved’

This is a ludicrous distortion of the Catholic doctrine of grace. It claims that one is not accountable for ones’s sins before God so long as a family member is in the convent!

The distorted idea is possibly derived from a misunderstanding of the Catholic teaching of offering up one�s sufferings for the grace of conversion of others. This of course, is a thousand miles removed from the distortion presented in the story.

5. No evidence for this story: convent unknown, nun’s account not verifiable

As mentioned above, the alleged “testimony” of Charlotte Wells suffers from the fact that there is no convent name where these events supposedly took place; there is no history of the individual who relates it until long after the supposed events took place (the name Charlotte Wells being a pseudonym, as mentioned earlier, for Charlotte Keckler); there was no reason for the nun in question to hide her identity, if she were speaking the truth; there are no other sources in the story, no references, no named third parties which could support this story. In total: NOTHING.

Note: Claims that such convents, complete with dungeons, existed in Mexico, as ‘proven’ by the 1934 opening of the convents by the Mexican revolutionary government, actually prove nothing. There was in fact only one convent ‘opened’ in 1934, this being the Convent of Saint Monica, in the central Plazea, Puebla, Mexico; this convent had operated secretly till from 1857 till 1934. (Convents and monasteries had been abolished in 1857 under the anti-clerical Benito Juarez and the new Constitution of Mexico which stripped the Church of its property.). It is the necessarily secretive nature of this convent’s existence was used to substantiate the falsehoods about secret passages and dungeons in convents for such stories as Charlotte Wells’.

Charlotte Wells’ story is in no way corroborated by this story, as this convent was the exception, not the norm. (There is another convent in the same city of Puebla, the former Convent of Saint Rose at 14 Poniente No. 305, with a museum exhibit built in 1926, of an 18th century kitchen). The stories Charlotte Wells recounts of abuse, torture, and illicit sex are nothing but fiction which can never be substantiated. In any case Charlotte Wells, conveniently for her story, does not name the convent she was in.


The ‘testimony’ of Charlotte Wells has all the hallmarks of an outrageous story of anti-Catholic nonsense based on the earlier work of Maria Monk. In keepng with this genre, there is not an ounce of factual evidence, no names or addresses, just sensationalism. Catholics presented with this “testimony” should recognize it for what it really is. The fact that some have identified her with one Charlotte Keckler (see below) adds not an ounce of credibility to her story, as the supposed convent, and those running it, remain unnamed.

A couple of final notes:

(i)The author has written to Sister Nilah Rutledge seeking corroboration of Charlotte Wells’ story. To date, there has been no reply. I have also contacted TF Tenney, who is cited as able to verify her story in the published account of her ‘testimony’. His reply was as mentioned above, to all intents and purposes asking for proof that her story is false. A simple case of trying to shift the burden of proof away from the one making the ludicrous claim. I also contacted the New Life United Pentecostal church in Napa, CA, where Keckler was a member. All the information recieved there was the same as from TF Tenney (email on file). So aside from ‘verifying’ Charlotte Keckler’s story, these supposed verifiers have nothing to back up her ludicrous story.

(ii)For Charlotte Wells to claim that she had to change her name because was hiding from the Catholics is belied by the fact that she appeared publicly for 14 years with her so-called ‘conversion’. If the ‘evil Catholics’ wanted to silence her they just had to show up at one of her venues.

Finally, as I mentioned at the start of the paper, we have seen how the supposed witnesses of Charlotte Keckler’s story end up providing nothing more than pathetic efforts to shift the burden of proof. TF Tenney, for example, tried to make out that no one had ever proven her story false (email on file). In other words, a tacit admission that the story is completely without foundation. Why would any thinking person believe for a moment such an outlandish story is true, when its supposed defenders can only hide behind the logical fallacy of shifting the burden of proof?

 Update : a response to Cohen Reckert

This update has been added to respond to a libellous charge by one anti-Catholic by the name of Cohen Reckert who is the author of an anti-Trinitarian website. Cohen Reckert makes a truly feeble attempt at defending the slanders of Charlotte Keckler, and in doing so he unwittingly exposes her as the liar she was. We shall see that he claims his own father knew Charlotte Keckler, yet this same Cohen Reckert can’t even come up with the convent she lived in. Even worse, Cohen Reckert presented the story as that of Charlotte Wells, even though (by his own admission) his own father knew her real name.

He starts off with the bizarre headline ‘The Papacy Seeks To Discredit Charlotte’s Testimony’. Perhaps if Mr Reckert had spent some time on my site he would have seen I have no connection whatsoever with the papacy, I am in fact a Catholic layman. He then throws in a smokescreen by claiming, as discussed above, that the real name of Charlotte Wells was in fact Charlotte Keckler. The central issue of course is, is the story she presented true. All of which goes to show there is in fact nothing to back up this ludicrous story, when the one solitary defender in the last three years has to resort to smokescreens, slander and ad hominems to respond!

Though Reckert tries to disparage my research, in actual fact I have records of correspondence with several persons named in connection with Charlotte Wells’ story (Mike Blume, Nilah Rutledge, TF Tenney, Napa New Life United Pentecostal Church) all correspondence on file. I have also tried to contact representatives of the United Pentecostal Church International, of which Charlotte Keckler was apparently a member, and have also directly asked another website, which listed two members of the above mentioned sect as sources of information on the subject.

So much for “not doing research”. Maybe Cohen Reckert would be better off seeking the truth of the matter rather than libelling others on his site.

Screenshots of these emails which amply demonstrate the failure of so-called ‘verifiers’ to provide support for Keckler’s story are available here .

Anyway, let’s move on to the next point. Reckert isn’t finished with his verbal abuse; he next claims I used a ‘false name’ when contacting him because I use the anglicised form of my name. This charge coming from the guy who accused me of doing no research! How difficult can it be for him to find out what Sean tranlates to in English? Too difficult it seems.

As we see, the name ‘John’ is nothing more than the anglicised form of the Irish name Sean, which I often use online (if Mr Reckert had bothered to do some research, he would know I am Irish). In fact, many of my acquaintances call me John (though I prefer my Irish name now). So what’s with the ‘false name’ accusation? Perhaps if the author in question had done a modicum of research beforehand, he would have known Sean is the Irish name for John and would not fall into his sin of rash judgment. It appears this issue about my online name (which is no secret) is yet another smokescreen from the main issue, the story of Charlotte Wells.

Cohen Reckert’s laughable hypocrisy in this matter is exposed when we see that he in fact knew Charlotte Wells’ real name was Keckler yet he presented the story under her false name. Then he turns around and tries to bad mouth me for continuing to use my own real name in an email! This is a case of projection, a term in psychology when one tries to impute one’s fault onto another. Reckert’s was one of those sites which presented the Charlotte Keckert story as that of Charlotte Wells. Anyway, let’s move on.

Reckert, with no names or addresses to back up the Charlotte Keckler lie which his father unhappily bought into, continues with his ad hominems to disparage my website because it is a ‘free web-site on anglefire.’

Wrong again, Cohen Reckert. This is a good example of the thorough sloppiness and hasty manner in which Reckert’s ad hominem rant hit the internet (not to mention citing Charlotte Keckler’s date of birth as 1989!!) For one thing, it isn’t free, as I pay to keep adverts off, and for another, the webpage provider is Angelfire, not ‘anglefire.’ In actual fact, the credibility onus lies on the one making the claim, in this case, the individual called Charlotte Wells/Keckler and those who support her unfounded story. And as we see, there hasn’t been the slightest shred of evidence to back up her wild story. Again, we see an effort to deflect from the main issue, the credibility (or lack thereof) of the story of Charlotte Wells/Keckler.

The author isn’t finished with his insults. He proceeds to call me a ‘dirt merchant’ and ends his web page with his accusation of my using a false name. (In the meantime he gets to mentioning some imaginary Jesuits chasing Charlotte Keckler around the country, and then claims that since these imaginary Jesuits never challenged Keckler, her story must be true! Yes, dear reader, this is the best defense of Charlotte Keckler this man can come up with, the silence of some imaginary Jesuits.)

Here’s one quote from Cohen Reckert, referring to yours truly ;+). Read on:

‘He complains Charlotte didn’t give the name of the convent she was a prisoner in and so he had no way to check her story out. So, he determined since he had not way to check it out it did not exist and was false. He then tried to claim that Charlotte stole the testimony of another former nun. He claimed Charlotte never was a Catholic and he picked on her use of words to try and prove his point.’

Er, no, I don’t ‘complain’ about anything. I merely point out the laughable lack of evidence in this story. His interpretation of my reasoning is laughably false as he appeals to silence. Cohen Reckert proceeds then to attempt to cast doubt on my comments, but again, this is simply a denial on his part of the hopeless lack of evidence of the case. Again, he is guilty of dishonest representation when he says I claim Keckler “stole the testimony from another nun.” Needless to say I said nothing of the sort.

Reckert, why don’t you simply provide the name of her convent with proof of the ludicrous story? Merely misrepresenting some of my comments does not a defense make.

Let’s move on. Mr Reckert claims his father knew Charlotte Keckler; what a fine opportunity then to come up with some evidence for her crazy story. Unfortunately there is none. (Mr Reckert provides a nice old photo of a nun though. Does he thinks it’s a photo of Keckler in her younger days? Who cares. Even if this were provable, as I mentioned earlier, if she were in fact a nun, her dishonest portrayal of Catholic belief renders her a liar in any case.)

Towrds the end of the Cohen Reckert response, it seems he admits his defense is a lost cause, because he gives up on Charlotte and come us with this this defense of Charlotte:

‘But we know this: The Catholic Church has been a deceptive and murdering institution ever since the Council of Nicaea in 325AD.’

There’s nothing like objectively analyzing the facts is there? Good heavens, what rubbish. Is this the best available defense of the Charlotte Keckler lie?

Instead, therefore, of providing a “defense” of the Charlotte Wells tale of fantasy, all that web page does, besides resort to ad hominems and slander, is a)to admit Charlotte Wells was lying about her identity, and b) unwittingly prove that the people closest to her can’t even substantiate her wild story. Of course we knew from the outset that she existed, and in fact I had seen photos online of her in later life. The more important question is why she was hiding her identity, not who she really was. But most importantly of all, we still have not an ounce of evidence that her story is true. And remember that the burden of proof lies with the side making the assertion. But what we do know now, by that author’s own admission, is that Charlotte Wells lied about her real identity for 14 years.

One last comment or two. Cohen Reckert claims I never knew her real name was Keckler. In actual fact, when this article originally appeared, there were two exactly identical stories floating on the internet, one authored by ‘Charlotte Keckler’ the other by ‘Charlotte Wells’. The ‘Charlotte Wells’ sites have largely been removed since this page has been published.

To Cohen Reckert, that you have to resort to such gutter-level ad hominem remarks to defend the story of Charlotte Keckler tells the impartial reader all they need to know.

In closing I shall leave it to the unbiased reader to discern where the truth lies: with a sensationalist story with not an ounce of evidence in support, or with the realization that the Charlotte Keckler story is nothing more than another piece of anti-Catholic slander.

Cohen Reckert has not yet responded to me. Latest I hear is he’s “taking a rest”. Let’s hope he takes the opportunity to reflect on the seriousness of spreading false witness. Who knows, maybe someday he will discover the truth.

List of emails : https://klaravonassisi.wordpress.com/2009/01/04/expose-of-the-cahrlotte-wells-forgery-part-2-email-correspondence/

Analysis of the alleged Helmut Maas Conversion Story

Some unofficial Mormon (LDS) websites carry the alleged conversion of a “Roman Catholic” bishop by the name of Helmut Maas. The conversion story was given as an interview conducted by David Horn in West Germany in 1989. This bishop, supposedly, was consecrated by none other that Pope John Paul II himself and, after converting to Mormonism, presented the Pope with Mormon literature which the Pope promised to read.

If all this sounds a little far-fetched to you, the reader, you are quite correct. It is my purpose in this essay to show the incredible factual errors in the story of the Helmut Maas conversion, that he was never a Roman Catholic Bishop, that he was not consecrated by Pope John Paul II, and that most of the events in his ”conversion story” are either too vague (i.e. no dates or names given), undemonstrable (i.e. no evidence whatsoever for some of the events) or quite simply wrong (e.g. Maas’ supposed consecration by the Pope, or his supposed “Roman Catholic” status). After reading this paper, it is hoped the reader will see the hopeless unreliability and erroneousness of the Helmut Maas “conversion”.
At this point it is necessary to make clear that there is no intention in this paper of making any sort of judgment on the personal sincerity of Helmut Maas; instead the intention is to focus on the unreliability of the story he presented in interview in 1989. The question of whether Maas did in fact become a Mormon is not addressed, rather the assertion that he was a Roman Catholic Bishop, as well as other points in his conversion story.


Was Helmut Maas consecrated a Roman Catholic Bishop?

Maas was not consecrated bishop by Pope John Paul II. Rather he was consecrated by Paul Fatome (of the suppressed, and schismatic, Mariavite order) on 9th October 1949 (nine years before John Paul II was even consecrated a bishop: Pope John Paul II, on 28 September 1958 was consecrated the auxiliary bishop of Krakow, in the Metropolitan Cathedral, Kraków, by Eugeniusz Baziak, Archbishop of Lwów.

According to the “Database of Autocephalous Bishops” (http://www.angelfire.com/on3/Database3/)

MAAS, Helmut Norbert was consecrated on 9 October 1949 by: Paul Fatome; he was also consecrated on 22 September 1955 by Harold Percival Nicholson assisted by Jan Frederik Nico Blom van Assendelft-Altland and Theodor Anselmus Labs

Paul Fatome was a Mariavite bishop, consecrated by Mariavite co-founder Jan Kowalski in 1938. Neither Fatome nor Maas were Roman Catholic. Both were schismatic members of the Mariavite sect, a group suppressed by Pope St. Pius X in 1906. Their episcopal consecrations, while valid (i.e. they are real) are illicit (i.e. not allowed by Rome as they are not in communion with the Holy See). The Mariavites are in the same status as the Old Catholics (who broke from Rome in 1870), with whom they were joined from 1909 to 1924; they are schismatics with valid though illicit orders, not in communion with Rome, and thereby NOT Roman Catholics, and not any part of the Catholic Church. (Note: I am here making the point that this group was not in communion with Rome; I am in no way disparaging those Eastern rite Catholics who are of course in Communion with the See of Peter. Rather my point is that a group not in communion with Rome cannot be “Roman Catholic.”)



Who were the Mariavites?

The Mariavites, to whom Maas belonged, were founded in Poland by a Third Order Franciscan, Sister Maria Felicia Kozlowska. In 1906, the Order was suppressed by an Encyclical letter of Pope St. Pius X (TRIBUS CIRCITER). However the Order refused to die out and in 1909 co-founder Jan Kowalski was (illicitly) consecrated bishop by an Old Catholic Bishop of Utrecht (Gerardus Gul).

From the website “A Brief History of Independent Catholicism in North America” (http://www.concentric.net/~Cosmas/indcath.htm) we read:


Johann Michael Kowalski, a former Roman Catholic priest, was consecrated an Old Catholic bishop by Archbishop Gerardus Gul, of Utrecht, assisted by Bishop Arnold Harris Mathew, J. J. van Thiel, J. Demmel and M. B. P. Spit for the Polish Mariavite Church on October 5, 1909, being given the title of Archbishop of Felicianov and Primate of the Old Catholic Church of the Mariavites. He had been ordained to the priesthood on April 24, 1897 and was excommunicated by Rome on December 5, 1906.The Mariavites were founded by a Franciscan tertiary religious, Maria Francesca Kozlowski, who claimed a vision of the Blessed Mother instructing her to found a mixed community of men and women dedicated to Mary. Rome denied this apparition, and was unwilling to validate the aims and approach of this group.

This website also notes that Kowalski ordained women to the priesthood and consecrated them to the episcopacy, actions which led to the Mariavite dismissal from the Utrecht Old Catholics in 1924. Also, Pope Saint Pius X had suppressed the Mariavites in his 1906 Encyclical “TRIBUS CIRCITER (On the Mariavites or Mystic Priests of Poland)” By the end of that year the Mariavites had separated completely from the See of Peter.

A short aside: Do the Mariavites have valid orders?

The consecration of the Mariavites’first General Minister Jan Michael Maria Kowalski by the Old Catholic Bishop Gerardus Gul of Utrecht in 1909 would seem to indicate valid orders, though this is not the point of this essay. Rather, the point is Helmut Maas was never a Roman Catholic Bishop and he was never in communion with Rome.

Back to the “conversion story”

Was Helmut Maas really a Roman Catholic bishop (or even a Roman Catholic)?

The “conversion story” goes:

During World War II Helmut Maas studied for and became, Doctor of Theology, and was appointed as a Priest in a Roman Catholic Church in Poland.


What does the story mean by saying “a Roman Catholic Church”? The Mariavite order was removed from the Roman Catholic Church in 1906. (See TRIBUS CIRCITER (On the Mariavites or Mystic Priests of Poland) Encyclical letter of Pope Pius X (5 April 1906). Therefore it cannot claim to be a “Roman Catholic Church”, can it?

From the website http://www.gallican.org/succapos.htm we read that Kowalski consecrated (illicitly) Paul Marie Marc Fatome as bishop on 4th September 1938. Fatome, in turn , consecrated (again illicitly) Helmut Maria Paulus Maas as bishop on 9th October 1949. (The same information can be found at http://members.aol.com/BpBarwin/index.HTML#Dutch and at http://www.angelfire.com/on3/Database3/).

So it is clear that the conversion story of Helmut Maas is quite wrong when it claims, a bit further down the page, that Pope John Paul II consecrated Maas, which is chronologically (as well as theologically!) impossible.


The “conversion story” continues

When the Catholic Church was notified that Dr. Maas had removed his name from the Catholic rolls they cancelled his pension.

Reader, don’t you think it’s funny he had a pension from Rome? He wasn’t ever even a Roman Catholic.


The “conversion story” continues:

About two years later Dr. Maas received a personal letter from the new Pope, John Paul II, which read;
“Dear Dr. Maas: I understand your pension has been terminated because you left the church. I would like to invite you to Rome as a guest of the church to discuss the possibility of restoring your pension.

Is there any evidence this letter was ever written? Did anyone ever see it and could tesitfy to its existence? I have already shown that as Helmut Maas was not a Roman Catholic Bishop, he could not be entitled to a pension. So why on earth would the Pope feel the need to write to him on this subject?


The “conversion story” continues:

Dr. Maas replied that he would be pleased to visit the pope. The Vatican made all necessary arrangements; including a one-half hour apointment at 1 PM, on a certain day, for the old friends to meet. In fact [Pope John Paul II] he had been the Bishop and later Archbishop who had made Dr. Maas a Bishop in Poland.

So, let’s see: the Pope is writing to Maas about his pension which was terminated. Even though he had never been a Roman Catholic, so could not be eligible of a pension in the first place! Note that the date of this big appointment is not given: why not? Wouldn’t that make it so much easier to verify? But there is no date, and the only documentation is a supposed personal letter, which no one has ever reported seeing?. It all seems a bit hard to believe, don’t you think?

Add to this the fact that Maas was illicitly consecrated in 1949 as a bishop (not Roman Catholic ) BEFORE even Pope John Paul II was consecrated a bishop (in 1958). (Pope John Paul II, on 28 September 1958 was consecrated the auxiliary bishop of Krakow, in the Metropolitan Cathedral, Kraków, by Eugeniusz Baziak, Archbishop of Lwów. In 1962: he was named the acting archbishop of Krakow when the incumbent died.) So how could Pope John Paul II consecrate Maas a bishop when a) Maas was not a Roman Catholic, b) the Pope was at the time of Maas’s consecration (1949) not even himself a bishop!


The “conversion story” continues:

On his last visit, in 1986, John Paul II promised Dr. Maas that he’d send out a directive to all dioceses to cooperate with the LDS in microfilming birth, marriage, and death records of the Catholic Parishes. Dr. Maas said that the Pope invited him to dinner with him that evening, and it was a gala affair with many people.


Here are a few questions I would ask:


  • What date in 1986? If this really took place, why not give the actual date? 
  • Did this “directive” ever get sent out”? Don’t you think if such a directive were sent out we would have heard about it? I say there was never such a directive, and if there was, let’s see the evidence. 
  • What evidence is there that the Pope ever even knew this Helmut Maas, besides Maas’ own assertion? 
  • If the dinner was such a “gala affair” wouldn’t we know at least some of the dignitaries present? Why are there no names listed? Could it be that there was never really any “gala affair”, there was never really a meeting, there was never really a Roman Catholic bishop called Helmut Maas (which is not to say Helmut Maas was not a bishop), who was to be consecrated a bishop by Pope John Paul II even before John Paul himself became a Bishop, who probably never even knew him?


The purpose of this article has been to refute the claims that a Roman Catholic bishop named Helmut Maas converted to Mormonism. Not only has it been shown that Helmut Maas was not a Roman Catholic at all, but in fact a member of the schismatic Mariavite Order, and that, contrary to what the “conversion story” says about him, he was not consecrated by Pope John Paul II, being consecrated (illicitly) before Pope John Paul II was even consecrated Bishop. Furthermore, Maas in his conversion story gives no dates for his alleged meeting with the Pope, or for the supposed party; in fact, the name of not one single person at this party has been provided. Further, Maas’ claim that the Pope promised to send a direcctive to Catholic dioceses instructing them to help Mormons with their genealogical records, is totally without foundation. There is no evidence of this whatsoever. Maas’ claim that he was eligible for a Catholic pension, or that the Pope wrote to him in this regard, cannot be believed, for the simple reason that the Mariavite sect ceased to be a part of Catholicism in 1906, and they officially joined the schismatic Old Catholic sect in 1909 at the Treaty of Utrecht.

The author of this article has tried to find evidence or information to verify if Maas ever in fact converted to Mormonism. If he did, no matter. He was certainly not a Roman Catholic Bishop and the story of his Mormon conversion is so full of errors that it warrants a large pinch of salt. Instead of being a prize “conversion” for the Mormons, this particular story should make Mormons feel quite embarrassed.

This article has tried to establish if there was a conversion of a Roman Catholic Bishop called Helmut Maas to the Mormon religion. It must be made clear that Mr. Maas, whatever his historical situation, is in no way being called to account for the 1989 interview, and that this page merely seeks to refute the claims of this interview as recorded on a couple of internet sites.

As a final note, Sean’s Faith Website has sent an email (in German) to the Mariavite Order in Germany requesting information from them on Helmut Maas. The author has received information from the Mariavite Order in Sweden to the effect that much of what Helmut Maas claimed in this regard was quite simply false (letter on file). I have however been unable to contact David Horn, the interviewer of Maas in 1989, to ask if he knew of any evidence that Maas might have produced to corroborate at least some of the aspects of his story. However, the story was, to the best of my knowledge, not subsequently published, until it appeared on the internet.

Finally, it is noteworthy that none of the (unofficial) Mormon websites which carries this story have provided any evidence as to its factuality.

Update 08.19.2004: The webmaster has been reliably informed that Helmut Maas was never in fact a Mariaite, but an Old Catholic, and that much of what Maas claimed in this regard is factually incorrect. (Letter on File).

Expose of the “Convent Horror” of Barbara Ubryk

UPDATE 29 Apil 2009:

Please see the following link for a complete expose of this case:




The alleged “convent horror” of Barbara Ubryk is the story of a nun   who languished in a Carmelite dungeon in Krakow in the late 19th century. The story she tells in her alleged testimony bears striking similarities to the Maria Monk and Charlotte Wells frauds, both of which are refuted on this site.

In summary: Barbara Ubryk, in the book ” The Convent Horror, Twenty-one Years in a Convent Dungeon Eight Feet Long, Six Feet Wide, From Official Records” the published story in booklet form by L. J. King (1957) reports a tale of rape and mistreatment by a priest in the convent, and of torture by the mother superior. The earliest appearance of this story is from 1869, when it was published by Charles W. Alexander (Philadelphia) (Ref. M & S Rare books ). A German edition by Adolf Söndermann also appears in that same year entitled “Klostergeheimnisse oder Die lebendig begrabene Barbara Ubryk” (Wolf Verlag, Dresden). A later edition was published in 1924 by A. H. Beach, 1924 (St. Paul, MN). The specific edition which is dealt with here, and which appears on several anti-Catholic sites, is the edition of L. J. King (Minneapolis, 1957).

Like other fraudulent anti-Catholic stories such as those of Maria Monk or Charlotte Wells,, this story too has been posted on the internet in a few different places. Given the nature of the charges against the Holy Catholic Church, it is only in order that her story be critically examined, and the errors and falsehoods in this alleged story of “convent horror” to be exposed.


Who was Barbara Ubryk?

Please see the following link for a complete expose of this case:




Now let us have a look at the errors and inconsistencies in the introduction to the story, and in the story itsef.


Traces of xenophobia?

As early as the second paragraph, we get a glimpse of the author’s xenophobia, or hatred of foreigners (see note 1):

Convents are increasing at an enormous rate in this country, and while used as prisons of life-servitude for American-born girls, are officered and controlled in nine cases out of ten by foreign-born unnaturalized women and priests.


Setting the Tone: Introductory remarks regarding newspaper reports of the period

At the beginning of the article, three citations from American daily newspapers, none of which are named, and none of which give any concrete names addresses or anything other than hearsay. In particular, the report from the City of Mexico, Dec. 26, 1891 has nothing to do with the activities of nuns, but refers to the anti-Catholic regine in Mexico at the time (please see the Charlotte Wells article on this site).

Regarding the article dated Naples, Oct. 21, 1890,we read the following:

“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.”

Pretty shocking stuff, if it were true. Of course there is no such “sepolta viva” practice under the rule of St. Orsola, or St. Ursula as she is known in the English-speaking world (see note 2)

In contrast, the rule of St. Ursula, referred to in the “Convent horror” story, refers to the Order of Ursulines, which was founded in 1535 by Saint Angela de Merici. This order has as its special calling the education of young girls. See Catholic Encyclopedia: The Ursulines (You can read more about St. Angela Merici at the Ursuline Companions website.)

Needless to say, an order that spends its time “buried alive” wouldn’t make very good teachers, wouldn’t you think? So much for the “buried alive” myth.
The “Naples” article continues:

In vatican circles it is asserted that at the next consistory the Pope will enter a protest against the violation of the monasteries here.

Far from the then Pope (Leo XIII) suppressing the rule, in 1900 he actuually called all the Ursuine Convents in the world to a Union at Rome:

In accordance with the wish of Leo XIII, a congress of Ursulines from all parts of the world convened at Rome during the fall of the year 1900. Representatives were sent from the United States, South America, Java, and all parts of Europe. Under the auspices of the Sacred Congregation of Bishops and Regulars, the Roman Union of Ursulines was then formed, with the most reverend Mother Mary of St. Julien as the first mother-general. Cardinal Satolli was appointed the first cardinal protector. To this union belong over a hundred communities; aggregations are made from year to year.” ( Catholic Encyclopedia: Ursulines)

In any event, we read later that the Barbara Ubryk story [allegedly] took place in a Carmelite convent. What relevance then is an Ursuline convent?

The whole point of the “convent horror” even mentioning this newspaper article, of course, is to implant in the mind of the reader the idea that nuns in convents allowed themselves to be “buried alive” in order to make the story of Barbara Ubryk more credible. As we have seen, a little investigation has shown this not to be the case under the rule of St. Ursula, or any other rule, for that matter.

If the story of Barbara Ubryk were true, why would there be the need to condition the reader with the cited newspaper articles? Shouldn’t the story stand on it’s own merits? The fact that some suggestive introductory material was required seems to indicate that the story cannot stand on its own merits, which this web page is about to prove.

The final newspaper reference dated London, May 23, 1892 and concerning the Protestant alliance 1892 Loyal Protestant League 1892 are, it must be said, hardly unbiased sources, and in any case, do not present any relevant information to our study.


So much for the newspaper references. Now on to the story. The reader should also note that the main reference, the Calvinistic “Boston Transcript” of 1891 is not quoted, and the story appeared in print as much as 22 years earlier (in 1869).


What is wrong with the story?


1. Inconsistent story. The story tells how Barbara decided to join the convent:

My proposition pleased my mother, and, in a short time afterward, I began my novitiate, that ended in my assuming the veil and vows of a Carmelite nun in 1846.

When you enter the Carmelite convent :

Postulancy (six months to a year) permits a gradual transition from lay life to the religious life. The Novitiate (one or two years) enables the candidate to obtain first hand knowledge and personal experience of the essential requirements of the following of Christ in the way of life proper to the Carmelite and Teresian calling. First Profession and Temporary Vows (three years) provide the time to deepen the assimilation of Carmelite ideals and the experience of religious life begun during the novitiate, culminating in Solemn Profession. (Ref. EWTN Library)

So it takes a minimun of 4.5 years Yet in the story Barbara gets there in 3 years? Even more remarkably, she does not even do a postulancy.



Who is Fr. Calenski?

Father Calenski is introduced into the story without our even being told what his position was in relation to the convent. Later on we are told he is the confessor. We are not, however, told who his superior is.

The notorious Charles Chiniquy writes:

“I have met, in Montreal, a nephew of the Nun Barbara Ubryk, who was in Cracow when his aunt was found in her horrible danger….In spite of the superhuman efforts of the Roman Catholic press to suppress or deny the truth, has it not been proved by the evidence that the unfortunate Nun Barbary Ubryk was found absolutely naked in a most horrible, dark, damp, and filthy dungeon, where she had been kept by the nuns because she had refused to live their life of infamy with their Father Confessor Pankiewiez.” (The Priest, the Woman, and the Confessional by Charles Chiniquy, chapter 11)

Well, that’s really funny, because according to the 1957 published story, the priest’s name was Calenski, not Pankiewicz. Or perhaps Chiniquy never met this “nephew”.


6. Extremely dubious legal declaration

The convent horror ends with:

(Signed)______________________BARBARA UBRYK The foregoing statement has been duly and legally made to affirmation by the nun, Barbara Ubryk, of the Carmelite Convent, as being in every whit true. Done before me officially this sixteenth day of August, eighteen hundred and sixty-nine, A.D. — Kironski, presiding judge of the Court of Correction, Austria.

Now, there are a lot of big questions to ask in regard to this supposed statement.


  • i) Wrong name for the country?Funny, wasn’t it called Austria-Hungary back then?Austria, the former ruler and since 1867 partner in the Habsburg Empire. (Krakow, though now part of Poland, was indeed ruled by Austria at this time: Austria got Galicia after the partition of Poland in 1772. See also http://www.crwflags.com/fotw/flags/ua-gal.html for more info, if desired.) 
  • ii) The absence of legal language in the declaration. Does “Done before me” sound like legal language to you? This supposed “declaration” does not even give the address of the convent! 
  • iii) There is no such thing as an Austrian “Court of Correction” Also I have looked up the various courts in Austria, and found no “Court of Correction” and no Kironski. There are four levels of courts in Austria, (Supreme court, courts of appeal, high courts and district courts), but there is no “court of correction.” It appears this title has been dreamed up. (For the exact list of Austrian courts, please see Note 4) 
  • iv) There is no certifiable witness present The supposed judge is named only by his surname, Kironski, but he, like the convent, has no address. Neither does he have a first name or proper title. 
  • v)Why is there a supposed declaration from a judge in Austria, when she was told to go to the judge in Cracow (then a city in Galicia, i.e Austria-controlled Poland, but not Austria)


It is reasonable to conclude that Barbara Ubryk’s supposed “convent horror” is in no way corroborated by the facts and is actually a clumsy anti-Catholic forgery, which can be demonstrated with even a modicum of investigation.



The story of Barbara Ubryk is of course slanderous nonsense, but in refuting it a point needs to be illustrated. It is not possible to refute every single anti-Catholic “nunnery” story which originated in the 19th century and later. However, by showing the falsehoods in a number of representative samples, as this web site has endeavoured to do, fair-minded people (or whatever creed) of today will not be deceived into viewing these stories as in any way being based on fact.

Nativism in Boston arose during the 1830s and 40s as many Irish Catholic immigrants arrived. Their arrival was greeted by Protestant slurs agianst them, with charges of stealing jobs from the natives, practicing immorality and crime, and such like. The extent of this hatred in Boston can be seen in the burning of the Ursuline convent near Boston; all the while the Nativists were gaining control of several New England states, with an agenda of anti-immigration policy. These anti-immigration policies affected primarily the Catholics of Ireland and Mexico. Nativism as a political movement, however, died by 1860. The anti-Catholic prejudices, however, did not.

Note 1

Note 2
The painter Carpaccio produced from 1475-95 a series of nine paintings depicting the life of St. Ursula (Orsola), telling the story of the daughter of a Christian King who was to be married to the pagan Ereo from England. She got out of this arrangement, howeverby setting off on a pilgrimage to Rome, after she had dedicated her virginity to God. (Read more about St. Ursula at the Catholic Encyclopedia article: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15225d.htm St Ursula:

Note 3
An example of Boston nativist anti-Catholicism as reported in the Boston Transcript from this period follows, (this time concerning the Great Famine in Ireland 1845-49):

“Consistent with traditional Calvinist notions of Providential action, the Famine is viewed as a judgement or punishment on the Irish. Such images resonated among a people whose culture was rooted in a Protestant theocracy… a sermon by the Reverend F. D. Huntington, reported in the Transcript, quoted the pastor as remarking that “The famine and sword are two great scourges of mankind.. . The one is caused by the direct Providence of God, the other is the wicked product of men’s foolish or revengeful or ambitious passions. . . . Yet, let us not think harshly, or impiously complain of the Providence which brings among us the pale spectre of famine. Even that sad visitor, be sure of it, has his mission of good.” (Transcript, March 3, 1847).”

(extract from : “Predisposed to Prejudice: Reading about the Irish in Boston Newspapers, 1846-47” James M. Farrell Associate Professor Dept. of Communication University of New Hampshire)

Note 4
At the website http://www.gericht.at/ you can read about the Austrian civil courts:
Bezirksgerichte; Landesgerichte; Oberlandesgerichte; Oberster Gerichtshof; Arbeits- und Sozialgericht; Bezirksgericht fuer Handelssachen; Handelsgericht.
None of these translates to a “Court of Correction”. (Neither for that matter, do the criminal courts (Bezirksgerichte Landesgerichte Geschworenengerichte or the Schoeffengerichte)

The non-existent “encyclical” of Pope Leo XIII, December 25th, 1891


A one-page anti-Catholic website calling itself “Catholicism Today” prints an extract of what is purported to be an encyclical of Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903) and dated 25th December 1891. This supposed “encyclical” has appeared in anit-Catholic tracts. Can it be believed?

The so-called encyclical, whch conveniently doesn’t even have a name(!), reads

“The American Republic, under Protestant rulers is with the worst enemies of the Church, where security is offered; this Republic having seized upon the lands discovered by Christopher Columbus, a Catholic, and usurped the authority and jurisdiction of the supreme head of the Church, the U.S. is filled with obscure heretics.”

Pope Leo XIII issued no encyclical on 25th December, 1891

No encyclical was issued on December 25th, 1891. In fact, the only encyclicals issued by Pope Leo XIII in 1891 were

  • In Ipso (On Episcopal Reunions in Austria) March 3, 1891 Octobri Mense 
  • (On the Rosary) September 22, 1891 
  • Pastoralis Officii (On the Morality of Deuling) September 12, 1891 
  • Pastoralis (On Religious Union) June 25, 1891 
  • Rerum Novarum (On Capitol and Labor) May 15, 1891

The reader can view all of Pope Leo’s encyclicals at  http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Leo13/index.htm 

Furthermore, a cursory reading of Pope Leo XIII’s encyclicals make it clear to anyone who is interested that this is not the style of his writing.

But if you really want to find out what the motive is behind this supposed “encyclical”, just read the nonsense at the bottom of the “encyclical”:;

“We likewise declare that all subjects of every rank and condition in the U.S. and every individual who has taken any oath of loyalty to the U.S. in any way whatever, may be absolved from said oath, as also from all duty, fidelity or obedience on or about the 5th September, 1893, when the Catholic Congress shall convene at Chicago, Illinois, as we shall exonerate them from all engagements, and on or about the feast of Ignatius Loyola in the year of our Lord 1893, it will be the duty of the faithful to exterminate all heretics found within the jurisdiction of the U.S.A.”

Conclusion It is clear that this supposed “encyclical” is nothing more than a variation of the already-discredited “Jesuit Oath,” in other words, clumsy and dishonest piece of anti-Catholic slander.

If you ever receive such a tract, feel free to bin it without hesitation.