Medium João Teixeira de Faria, called John of God, uses scissors to perform a "visible spiritual surgery" on Rosangela Maria Benedeti's nose at the Casa de Dom Inacio de Loyola in Abadiania, in the state of Goias, Brazil, on Feb. 23, 2012. The Casa de Dom Inacio de Loyola, where people seek cures for illnesses, was founded by the popular faith healer in Abadiania in 1978. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

John of God's sexual assault arrest tarnishes Brazil's spiritist movement

SAO PAOLO, Brazil (RNS) — For decades John of God attracted crowds with his alleged faith healing powers, at first capitalizing on local spiritualist beliefs but soon riding the wave of New Age spirituality to cater to personalities such as Oprah Winfrey and performance artist Marina Abramovic.

In December, John of God, whose real name is João Teixeira de Faria, was arrested after being accused by hundreds of women of sexual crimes perpetrated during healing sessions.

Since the 1970s, Faria, now 76, had performed thousands of "spiritual surgeries," a technique in which the medium supposedly channels a spiritual physician, who removes the illness from the patient. His approach, which also combined meditation, prayers, crystal healing, herbs and bathing in waterfalls, drew a steady stream of the suffering, disabled and merely curious from as far away as Europe and Australia to Abadiania, a small city about 70 miles southwest of Brasilia.

Victims say Faria would ask a woman attending one of his gatherings to follow him to his office. “The spiritual entities selected you for healing,” he would reportedly tell them. Claiming that physical contact was part of the procedure, Faria would abuse them, reports say, counting on his power as a local celebrity to keep them quiet.

Although the rumors of Faria’s sexual assaults are not new – the Australian version of "60 Minutes" mentioned them in 2014 — the case erupted Dec. 7, when a group of 10 women reported abuses on a TV show presented by Brazilian journalist Pedro Bial.

Spiritual healer João Teixeira de Faria, better known as John of God, arrives at the Casa de Dom Inacio de Loyola in Abadiania, Brazil, on Dec. 12, 2018. More than 600 women have come forward to accuse the spiritual healer of sexual abuse. Photo by Marcelo Camargo/Agencia Brasil


 This image is available for web publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

Days later police opened an investigation and solicited complaints via a dedicated email account. On Dec. 16, Faria was arrested after a newspaper revealed that he had taken almost $10 million from his bank accounts and financial investments. Money, firearms and emeralds were found at his house.

At this point, more than 600 women — varying in age from 8 to 67 — have accused Faria of sexual assault. One of them, Dalva Teixeira, is his daughter.

Faria is the product of a uniquely Brazilian combination of religious traditions — popular versions of Roman Catholicism in which saints almost assumed the status of deities, as well as the African-Brazilian Umbanda and Candomblé faiths, and spiritism, the belief that the dead live on as spirits and communicate with the living.

That mix was represented in Faria's center in Abadiania, Casa de Dom Inacio de Loyola. Founded in the late 1970s, it is named in honor of St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus and one of the spiritual entities Faria claims to channel. Before that, Faria had been a babalaô, the leader of an Umbanda spiritual center.

“John of God is a Roman Catholic and a devotee of St. Rita of Cascia. Everybody wears white clothes at the center, which is an Umbanda tradition, as well as bathing in waterfalls,” said Cristina Rocha, director of the Religion and Society Research Center at the Western Sydney University and author of the book "John of God: The Globalization of Brazilian Faith Healing."

John of God, left, on stage after performing a "psychic surgery" at the Casa de Dom Inacio de Loyola in Abadiania, Brazil, on June 14, 2006. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons


 This image is available for web publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

This amalgam of faiths at the Casa is likely why the Brazilian Spiritist Federation – the main organization of the spiritist movement in Brazil that guides thousands of centers in the country – never endorsed Faria’s activities.

As soon as the assault scandal came to light, BSF released a statement to clarify that the spiritist movement “does not recommend the activities of mediums that work on an individual basis.”

Despite BSF's attempts to distance itself from Faria, "surgery" performed by a medium embodying a spirit is basically a spiritist practice, according to Sandra Stoll, author of a pre-eminent study on Brazilian spiritism.

Brazil is the largest country in South America. Map courtesy of Creative Commons


 This image is available for web publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

The idea of healing through magical rituals has long been a part of Brazilian folk beliefs, going back to the country's founding. “Although a Roman Catholic country, there was a lack of priests and people developed unorthodox practices," said Stoll. Cults grew up around the Virgin Mary and other Catholic icons, who people believed had miraculous power to cure them.

But Brazil's brand of spiritism is derived from writings of a mid-19th-century French educator, Hippolyte Léon Denizard Rivail, whose pen name was Allan Kardec. Impressed by the phenomena made popular by the North American spiritualist movement, such as table-turning and Ouija boards, Kardec developed a quasi-scientific belief system that was imported to Brazil mainly by law and medicine students returning home from studying in France, according to Augusto Dias de Araujo, a professor at the Federal Institute of Education, Science and Technology in Paraiba and an expert on spiritism.

Spiritism's emphasis on healing ran it into trouble with the medical establishment as well as religious authorities, and spiritism soon changed its focus to social welfare and charitable work. Healing became only a portion of the work done in spiritist centers.

“The spiritist movement promoted homeopathic treatments and the creation of dozens of psychiatric hospitals,” said Alexander Moreira-Almeida, director of the Research Center in Spirituality and Health at the Federal University of Juiz de Fora School of Medicine.

In the 20th century, mediums came to enjoy significant social acceptance. Francisco Candido Xavier, known as Chico Xavier, who died in 2002, was modern spiritism's most important architect, Stoll said. He made Catholic sainthood, and the Catholic religious vows of celibacy, poverty and obedience, the model of spiritist virtue. Xavier's books detailing spiritist values and beliefs sold millions of copies, and he often appeared on TV.

His popularity helped establish spiritism as one of the chief religions in Brazil, with at least 3.8 million adherents in 2010, according to Brazil's Institute of Geography and Statistics. The BSF estimates that the belief has as many as 40 million sympathizers among the largely Catholic population.

Faria is the most prominent spiritual surgeon since Jose Pedro de Freitas, known as Ze Arigo. Without any medical training — he claimed to channel a German doctor who died in World War I named Dr. Fritz – Arigo used knives and switchblades to remove tumors and cysts from patients without sterilization or anesthesia. He died in 1971.

During healing sessions in Abadiania, visitors choose to undergo visible or invisible surgeries. The invisible ones, according to Faria, are conducted by spiritual entities while the person is meditating or doing other therapeutic activities. The visible procedures are performed by Faria himself.

Channeling a spiritual physician, he cuts the patient’s skin with a scalpel or scissors or sticks an instrument in their nostril. Claiming to have removed malignant tumors (or other illnesses), he prescribes passion flower pills – sold at the Casa’s pharmacy – and tells the patient he or she will be cured.

Spiritual healer João Teixeira de Faria, better known as John of God, arrives at the Dom Inacio Loyola House in Abadiania, Brazil, on Dec. 12, 2018. More than 600 women have come forward to accuse the spiritual healer of sexual abuse. Photo by Marcelo Camargo/Agencia Brasil


 This image is available for web publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

Moreira-Almeida, who has studied Faria’s surgeries, confirmed that no antiseptic or anesthetic measures were taken – despite the unbearable pain that should accompany some procedures, such as, in one case, scraping the cornea with a kitchen knife. Tissues taken to the lab were found to be compatible with the parts of the body from which they were removed, but most showed no sign of pathology. “He never reached body cavities, usually getting only to the adipose tissue,” said Moreira-Almeida.

So far, Faria is facing two lawsuits involving nine alleged victims of sexual assault, as well as charges of illegal possession of firearms and coercion of a witness. Police are still investigating him on money laundering. Several claims of assault may never be taken to court due to statutes of limitation. Sexual offenses carry prison sentences of up to 15 years.

Faria's arrest, meanwhile, caused concern in Abadiania, where the local economy thrives on the hotels, restaurants and tour guides serving the thousands who visit the Casa annually.

“The reaction of some tour guides was to dissociate John of God from the spiritual entities he channeled," said Rocha. "They are reasoning that the Casa continues to be a holy place.”

But Stoll argues that Faria’s fall represents a deeper crisis for the spiritist movement. “He failed to meet the moral code established by Chico Xavier," he said, which is based on renouncing the world.

"Once there is no hierarchy, the medium is the institution," said Stoll. "Discrediting the medium equals discrediting the creed.”

Comments

  1. 600 women and 40 years and $10 million. Amazing.

  2. Use your brains. There’s no such thing as faith healing, no matter what you invoke: crystals, bibles, etc.

  3. With NO reported instances prior to this witch hunt against the man. How odd.

  4. Suddenly? Very odd. There should have been ongoing accusations throughout the years. Why all of a sudden?

  5. Lord protect the faith….

    lets now get a report on St John Bosco who really did turn many lives around saving them from crime and despair

  6. One doesn’t have to be ripped off to know what a scam looks like

  7. His only mistake. not converting to islam first.
    would have got a free pass, and media wold have praised him for it.

  8. One doesn’t need much information to jump to conclusions.

  9. But evidently people having some information about the situation sets you off.

  10. No, those jumping to conclusions based on preconceived biases annoys me.

  11. True.

    I’m not a flimflam man, nor a sexual predator.

  12. “If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations — Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch (referring to things that all perish as they are used) — according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh” (Bible, New Testament, Letter to the Colossians, chapter 2, verses 20-23.

  13. When was the last time that you put your faith in a physician who loaded you up with chemical drugs, fleecing your medical insurer?

  14. Depends. I am biased towards facts and reasonably supported positions. Biased against apologetics and poor excuse making.

  15. Fear, pressure, shame, the side effects of hoodoo. Same as Larry Nassar, apparently.

  16. Not at all.

    Coming from someone who constantly trolls this board with debunked or just plain false items, your hostility is a welcomed sight.

  17. He’s what you get when you play with satan.
    Only Christ heals

  18. We try to help you even though you “constantly trolls this board with debunked or just plain false items, “

  19. The world can do without your brand of “help”. 🙂

  20. You, who needs it closest to the most.
    Spud, you cannot go on fighting Christ forever.

  21. I am talking to Christ?
    Is there anyone else in your head at the moment?

  22. You can attempt to make jokes, Spud, but you know I’m right.

  23. Obamacare pretty much has scam written all over it.

    “If you like your doctor you can keep him”. = LIE

    “The affordable care act will reduce the cost of insurance”. = LIE

    “You have to read the bill to know what’s in the bill…”. = SCAM

  24. Because you say so?

    Providing insurance for more than 8 million people and ridding the health insurance industry of garbage provide nothing policies is hardly a scam. 50 attempts to repeal it have failed because, it works better than the status quo did. Of course it was entirely conceived by conservatives but you don’t like it because it was passed under Obama. That is stupid beyond measure,.

    The affordable care act has reduced the cost of effective insurance. It has also reduced the tax burden caused by public hazards created by having so many uninsured

    Your ability to understand something beyond a given party line is questionable.

  25. So I am talking to Jesus right now? Have you ever considered professional help.

  26. That I am talking to Jesus? I wouldn’t be too sure of that. Identity in online discussions is a tricky thing.

  27. Monster…the Democrats have embraced this creep as one of their own.

  28. Provided coverage for 8 million people [who had access via emergency rooms] by screwing over the rest of the American people.

  29. I guess old Johnnie is not “of God” after all. When a celebrity visits this scammer, it’s like an endorsement, but then we don’t have any Nobel Prize winners among celebrities, no matter how intelligent they try to make themselves sound.

  30. I was referring to the formerly uninsured people who became covered by the ACA. Yes, denying access to health insurance to people screws over the rest of the American people because of the reliable on emergency rooms and indigent care. Hence efforts to insure them is a tangible good.

    Trump and company actively tried to remove healthcare coverage of people through attempted repeals of the ACA. Hence screwing over Americans intentionally by creating a reliance of emergency rooms.

    Thank you for proving my point.

  31. Whether efforts to insure them is a tangible good, an expensive farce, or political confetti is a long discussion for which experience has demonstrated you have no facts.

  32. The efforts to repeal it failed because John McCain was a contemptuous little git who put his personal grudge with the President ahead of the good of both his party and his country.

  33. Oprah Winfrey has to be the worse judge of character to come down the pike. First, she backs those Obama’s and forces them down the throat of the American people. Then she sings the praises of this John pile of garbage and hoists him upon the entire world. Job well done.

  34. I have seen real people get real healing in my church, dont let this shark taint the real thing.

  35. What was Clinton doing hangin’ out with him, oh rumors of a sex slave operation, now it makes total sense

  36. ABUSED more than 600 women? Please remove his sexual organs without pain medication and put him in a cage with 100 starving rats with his hands and feet tied. Leave him for a couple of days. Hope I haven’t violated the comment policy.

  37. John of God..Faith Healer? Yes of course. Some 600 women and girls as young as eight now allege sexual abuse. Religion, what a scam.

    But like previous Brazilian Catholic mediums…he still could eventually be a saint. He recently took a vow of poverty by desperately moving $10 million out of his bank accounts. Perfect fit for sainthood like other frauds…Mother Teresa, etc.

  38. I have seen Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster and aliens from outer space. The real thing, just like your church !!

  39. So, you’ve seen documented, objective evidence of healing? Say, ejection fraction returned to normal in heart failure? Medical imaging of fractures healed on the spot, tumor shrinkage, etc? Improved Mini-Mental State Exam in people with dementia? Serum creatinine and protein in urine returned to normal values in chronic kidney failure?

  40. Don’t forget if your mom needs a pacemaker it cost the Govt to much we will just give her a pill. And now the Dems are on to more DEATH… Kill babies after they have been born….Some of these radical Libs are just sick… Google NY State law and VA Governor’s comments

  41. Satan would likely be smart and good enough not to stick a scissors, likely unsterilized, up some poor sucker’s nose, with an ungloved hand, and calling it surgery.

  42. Where did the $10 million come from? Anti-religious bias?

  43. If I may ask, what were the medical diagnoses of the patients, what detailed medical evidence supported the diagnosis and recovery? Were the patients using any medical treatment that would be usual for the conditions? Was any follow-up done?

  44. I don’t choose a physician, or follow a course of treatment based on faith. I ask questions and check answers.

  45. Isn’t it funny that you don’t see an ambulance leave the scene of a car crash, shooting, or other severe trauma, and go to a church instead of a hospital?

  46. Good for you! I recently cancelled a doctor’s appointment after doing some research on line. I also threw out some meds for a condition that responds better to diet.

  47. This is where Jeffrey Epstein got all of the girls for his Caribbean “sex slave island” for Bill Clinton to statutory rape, and sodomize, and what not else when he would fly over on Epstein’s “Lolita Express”.

  48. Obamacare sucks even more than Obama, and Obama was a terrible President who did nothing for the economy, or the country, but did everything for transgenders.

  49. Is an effort to give medical insurance to millions of illegal aliens while fighting to bring in endless scores of more indigent illegal aliens REALLY a noble act?!?! OR, on the contrary, is it/was it actually a scheme to bankrupt the country? They almost succeeded.

  50. Then why do you apologize for Obama’s failures and shortcomings endlessly and ignore hard facts about Obama being derelict in his Presidential duties?

  51. Because they are largely exaggerated, fictitious and currently IRRELEVANT. Especially given Trump’s abject incompetence in the position and the intentional damage he has inflicted on Americans.

  52. I wasn’t referring to illegal aliens. Parker was being an id1ot and looking to deflect from the topic.

    We do not give medical insurance to illegal aliens. You have no idea what you are talking about.

  53. Spoken like a true m0r0n. The ACA has reduced taxpayer burdens and provided access to insurance for millions who would otherwise be public hazards. It was a conservative plan that you hate because of its association with the former president. You are dumb beyond measure.

  54. Fool, we already have death panels. They are called private insurance carriers. If your mom needs a pacemaker, she can kiss her retirement savings goodbye or just plain die.

    DO YOU KNOW ANYBODY WHO ACTUALLY HAS USED SINGLE PAYER INSURANCE?

  55. Yes, John of God in deep trouble
    There are faith healers of fraud and ones that appear quite genuine.
    Aimee Semple McPherson for example astounded reporters and is a gold standard for faith healers and was documented in mainstream media.
    “The healings present a monstrous obstacle to scientific historiography. If events transpired as newspapers, letters, and testimonials say they did, then Aimee Semple McPherson’s healing ministry was miraculous. …The documentation is overwhelming: Daniel Mark Epstein (p111 Sister Aimee: The Life of Aimee Semple McPherson).

    https://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2009/sep/09/when-sister-aimee-came-town—part-1/#
    http://www.ausbcomp.com/~bbott/Wallace_Jerry/Sister-Aimee.htm

    There is also Charles S. Price who tried to debunk McPherson, but was converted himself and went on to a very successful faith healing ministry of his own

    Also T.L. Osborne who used faith healing to give credibility to the Gospel outside of the United States
    “You can’t do anything with people who don’t believe in the Bible.’

    “We realized that without the miraculous, we couldn’t prove what we believed. ”

    Aimee Semple McPherson reputation greatly influenced the Osborne’s desire to see miracles in their own services.
    https://www.charismanews.com/us/38299-how-tl-osborn-dared-to-touch-the-world

  56. “If your mom needs a pacemaker, she can kiss her retirement savings goodbye or just plain die.”

    I thought Obamacare fixed that.

    If you think it’s bad here, you ought to try to get a bypass in Canada or the UK.

  57. Yes you may ask, but no you may not see somebody’s private medical records, look I will give you the name of an organization that can help you see miraculous healing, it happens all the time at this facility. They have a great website, a college, and an outreach ministry for healing. Andrew Womack, Charis Bible College. There are video testimonies on their website, and I am sure you can get the medical documentation that you need to satisfy your unbelief. That is if you go there and seek it.

Leave a Comment