18 June 2009

Maria Monk's Immortal Book

Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk;
or, The Hidden Secrets of a Nun's Life Exposed!
Manchester: Milner & Co., n.d.
192 pages

This review now appears, revised and rewritten, in my new book:
The Dusty Bookcase:
A Journey Through Canada's
Forgotten, Neglected, and Suppressed Writing
Available at the very best bookstores and through

Related posts:


  1. I ran across this story the same way you did - a brief mention (I think of the court proceedings over royalities) while looking for something else. I'd always wanted to read it. Do you know if it inspired any responses in kind from the Catholic community?

  2. In kind? You mean like an exposé on the goings on in the vestry of Montreal's American Presbyterian Church? What I've read, points to a more reasoned response. This included allowing New York journalist William Leete Stone, the son of a Presbyterian clergyman, access to the Hôtel-Dieu convent. An interesting move, given what Stone describes as his 'hostility to the manifold corruptions of the Church of Rome'. His damning investigation, collected in Maria Monk and the Nunnery of the Hotel Dieu, is recommended - as is Awful Disclosures. Quite a fun read, if you manage to get past the tragic figure who lent her name to the title.

  3. This book manages to be anti-Catholic propaganda, Gothic horror and sadomasochistic pornography at the same time. Fascinating stuff. Thank you for posting.

  4. After reading that book and many others from ex-catholics, I happen to believe that it have a decent amount of truth in it. I'm myself an ex-catholic educated in a secular but catholic school, where the devout principal was an homosexual and a pedophile. I have heard first-person the testimony from a woman who saw the buried skeletons of many babies in the garden of a nunnery (this was when a renovation was made there). The abominations that happens in convents are not a surprise to people who are not blinded by Catholic propaganda and take the time to make their homework.

    1. I wouldn't doubt a story like this for a second. It's just common sense. It is horribly unnatural to deny men the right to a healthy sex life. This sort of thing is what happens after generations of men deny themselves what is essentially a biological need.

    2. Leaving aside the fact that the book was exposed as a hoax eighteen decades ago, I can't in any way agree that the denial of a healthy sex life leads to rape, torture, murder and infanticide.

  5. Damaris, I think you'll find with a bit more reading that Awful Disclosures has been thoroughly debunked. Looking at it with the 21st-century (b. 20th century) eyes of a Montrealer, the whole Gothic monstrosity seems so over-the-top as to be laughable. The only thing that prevents a good chuckle is the knowledge that this hateful, hate filled book has harmed so very many people, beginning with Maria Monk herself.

  6. Brian, first, pardon my English, to write is a little difficult for me because I have to use Goole Translate in order to keep an acceptable level. You should read testimonies from others ex-priests and ex-nuns, around the globe, in order to ponder her book. She wrote many terrible things that I have read from different people from different times, who happen to live similar situations. Just to name a few:
    - Nuns who are accustom (or are obliged) to have sex with priests, and kill her babies in order to hid the scandal.
    - Penances that are not only ridiculous in nature but inhumane.
    - People so brainwashed by their religion, that accept be subjected to humiliating and degrading treatment.

    Such horrible things have been narrated by many people not only by Monk. I'm not saying everything is true, because I don't think so, I said: "it have a decent amount of truth in it". You could read "Fifty years in the church of Rome" from Charles Chiniquy, a canadian ex-priest who while was in the Catholic church yet (he become a Protestant later) asked an old nun, a superior in Hotel Dieu of Montreal, about Monk's book. This is the excerpt:

    "After she had given me several other spicy stories of those interesting distant days, I asked her if she had known Maria Monk, when she was in their house, and what she thought of her book, "Awful Disclosures?" "I have known her well," she said. "She spent six months with us. I have read her book, which was given me, that I might refute it. But after reading it, I refused to have anything to do with that deplorable exposure. There are surely some inventions and suppositions in that book. But there is sufficient amount of truth to cause all our nunneries to be pulled down by the people, if only the half of them were known to the public!" (Chapter 42)

    Just some months ago, it was discovered a scandal here in Peru with a Catholic movement called "Sodalicio de Vida Cristiana", which has a sort of "houses" (aka convents) for young celibate men. Rape, pedophilia, brainwashing and degrading treatments where only some of the things you could find if you investigate about the scandal (notable names: German Doig, Daniel Murgia, Luis Fernando Figari). But.... which is the surprise? Are you not aware of the thousands of denouncements about similars things involving priests in the USA? Don't you know that the Catholic church was accused to tolerate those crimes and try to hide the facts? I remember a TIME edition devoted to those scandals. If many priest were capable to rape many children, it is so difficult to think that they were capable to torture or kill some women?

    So, I think Maria Monk was not so crazy after all. And I say again, you should read testimonies from others ex-priests and ex-nuns in order to ponder her book. And I recommend not using Wikipedia for any investigation relating Catholic scandals. I think it is not reliable at all; there is too much Catholic propaganda in it. Saludos.

    1. By the hundreds, Anon? Maria Monk doesn't contain much truth. The best that can be said is that a woman named Maria Monk existed and lived for a period in Montreal. This is documented. Also documented is the fact that she was never a nun, and that her book was the work of a group of men. Paedophilia doesn't figure in their text.

      As I say in my response to Damaris (below), crimes are often committed under cover of religion. The crime in this case involved the publication of a libellous book in order to further a religious agenda. The perpetrators' greatest victim was Maria Monk herself.

  7. Damaris, I appreciate your efforts and do hope you'll forgive the tardiness of this response.

    While countless crimes have been committed under cover of religion, guilt by association does not necessarily follow. In the case of poor Maria Monk, there is no evidence that her Awful Disclosures contain even an iota of truth. Indeed, everything indicates that her horrific story was naught but a fantasy created by her handlers.

    Charles Chiniquy's claims bear no serious consideration. Late in life, he presents, word for word, a conversation that he had decades earlier with an unidentified nun. What to make of a man who claims to have been aware of such abuse but did nothing? Of course, this is the same Charles Chiniquy who argued that the assassination of Abraham Lincoln was the work of Jesuits.

    As for Wikipedia... well, I've always argued against its use.

  8. Anyone who grants Maria Monk's ridiculous story any shred of credence is an ignorant fool, so entrenched in bigotry that he/she wouldn't know the truth if it were spelled out letter by letter.