A Refutation of the “testimony” of Charlotte Wells

Introduction

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: Chalotte 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. 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 errors and falsehoods in this alleged "testimony".

Who was Charlotte Wells?

Well, that is a good question. 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, and if she were ever in fact even really Catholic.

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, any more than Charlotte Wells’ real name.

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 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 indicates she was probably never Catholic

The book uses such 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 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?

The use of these incorrect terms leads one to suspect Charlotte Wells was not really Catholic.

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 unknown

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 name for the nun who relates it (the name Charlotte Wells being a pseudonym); there was no reason for the nun in question to hide her identity, if she were speakingthe 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 susstantiate 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.

Summary

The “testimony” of Charlotte Wells is a slanderous 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 sensationalist slander. Catholics presented with this "testimony" should recognize it for what it really is.

A couple of final notes:

(i)The author has written to Sister Nilah Rutledge seeking corroboraiton of Charlotte Wells' story. To date, there has been no reply.

(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 15 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.

A much better reason for a name change is to hide behind a lying mask.

(My thanks to Jim for this last point)

© Copyright Sean Hyland 2003.

Sean's Faith Website

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