Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sr. Teresa Forcades i Vila: Religion and Nature

UPDATE 11/4/09: Since the El Pais story we just reported here, two excellent articles have been published on Rebelión coming to Sr. Teresa's defense: Abdennur Prado, who knows Sr. Teresa well as a result of having contributed to her book Teología feminista en la historia, weighs in with El País contra Teresa Forcades, trashing the newspaper's criticism of his friend and encouraging readers to look at the 370 comments attached to the article which run 90% in favor of Sr. Teresa. He also notes several health care professionals groups in Europe that have refused the vaccination (several health care workers' unions in the US have also opposed mandatory vaccinations for their members). Carlos Fernández Liria, in his article Un periódico golpista español contra una “monja-bulo” both savages the journalistic integrity of the article and looks at El País' conservative policy positions and funding sources.

Sr. Teresa has been taking somewhat of a beating lately for her opposition to the H1N1 influenza vaccine. Probably the hardest hitting article came from El País. Titled "Desmontando a la monja-bulo" ("Deconstructing the nun hoax", updated 11/1/2009), the article essentially portrays Sr. Teresa as a conspiracy theorist with questionable scientific knowledge about the subject of immunization, a nun who is distant from her religious community. It quotes other scientists who have opposing views to Sr. Teresa's about the safety of the vaccine and questions her claim that the WHO significantly changed its definition of a pandemic.

As she was getting slammed in the Spanish press, Sr. Teresa participated in another forum on "The pharmaceutical companies and H1N1 A influenza" in Caracas, along with Venezuelan Minister of Commerce Eduardo Samán. While Samán defended Sr. Teresa, I'm not sure her credibility was helped by sharing the stage with someone who questions hand-washing as a vehicle for preventing the transmission of the flu virus. According to El Universal, Samán actually insinuated that the recommendation was made in order to enable Kimberly Clark to sell more antibacterial gel.

So I suspect Sr. Teresa is looking for a different role than being the poster child for the anti-vaccination campaign. That vehicle was provided this Sunday in an episode of RTVE's "El Escarabajo Verde" nature documentary program, titled La Nostalgia del Fuego ("Nostalgia for Fire") which examines the relationship of nature and religion. The entire program, which not only features the nuns from Monestir Sant Benet but also segments from different religious traditions including Islam and Tibetan Buddhism, is worth watching in its entirety and can be seen here.

The program shows a Sr. Teresa very much integrated and at home in her monastic community, her respect for and knowledge of the mountains that surround her. The producers also posted an outtake from their interview with Sr. Teresa on their blog (reproduced below). It is even more interesting because Sr. Teresa has the time to explain her understanding of what nature can teach us. For example, she draws a parallel between the way rocks become round and polished by rubbing against each other with how life within the Christian community smooths our rough edges. She admires her mountains, the idea of their height pointing the human spirit towards the Divine, and yet cautions against what I like to call the temptation of the Transfiguration -- the desire to remain on the mountain rather than go back to where we need to be to serve the people of God.

As I watch this interview I understand why I am drawn to share this sister's views with you, even when some might dismiss her as just a kook. To me, she has a lot of wisdom and I want to keep listening to her.


  1. My God! She's got it. This woman may be able to give me back something that I forgotten time ago!

    "Then I was standing on the highest mountain of them all, and round about beneath me was the whole hoop of the world. And while I stood there I saw more than I can tell and I understood more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit, and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being.

    And I say the sacred hoop of my people was one of the many hoops that made one circle, wide as daylight and as starlight, and in the center grew one mighty flowering tree to shelter all the children of one mother and one father. And I saw that it was holy...

    But anywhere is the center of the world."

    Black Elk.

  2. http://www.teresaforcades.org

    'If the contamination of the vaccine material from Baxter had not been accidentally discovered, an extremely grave pandemic could be by now a shocking reality. The appalling lack of political and mass media reaction to what happened in February in the Czech laboratory it is inexplicable. What is even more inexplicable is the degree of irresponsibility demonstrated by the WHO, by governments and by the national health agencies in declaring a pandemic and promoting a maximum health alert without a real rational basis. It is irresponsible and inexplicable, in the extreme, that billions of Euros from public funds have been spent to manufacture millions of doses of vaccines against a non-existent danger, while there is not sufficient money to help the millions of people (more than 5 million in the US alone) who due to the current economic crisis have lost their job and their home.'
    Dr. Teresa Forcades

    Another conspiracy cracknut like Joseph Moshe and Jane Burgermeister? Dr. Teresa Forcades will be very difficult to discredit!

    H1N1 VIP's

  3. Despite the appearance that the Web site mentioned by "notepad publishing" is about or by Sr. Teresa Forcades caused by the unauthorized registration of her name as a domain, Sr. Teresa has nothing directly to do with this site. It is part of a set of sites put together by some folks who oppose the H1N1 flu vaccine.

    I challenged them on this and they confirmed that she has nothing to do with it. They apparently don't feel that it was wrong to register Sr. Teresa's name in what they perceive as the greater good of publicizing her message about the vaccine. The response I received was signed "admin" so we still don't know who is behind the Web site (forget WHOIS because they used a third party domain registrar).

  4. those who realise what she says will find no surprises, those who don't, give it time and they will be surprised finally when they run out of justifications and slander. What a cul de sac....!