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 ï¿½noviceï¿½ and ï¿½professedï¿½ 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 oneï¿½s 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/