Sister Teresa Forcades: Europe's most radical nun

Paul Mobbs mobbsey at
Sat Sep 14 13:26:42 BST 2013

Wow! Seems that the Catholic Church might be rediscovering is
radicalism! The World Service's 'Heart and Soul' programme has an
interview with Sister Teresa 7.30 this evening (Sat.) --

The podcast will be available afterwards at --


Sister Teresa Forcades: Europe's most radical nun

BBC News, 14th September 2013

A Spanish nun has become one of Europe's most influential left-wing
public intellectuals. This year, thousands have joined her
anti-capitalist movement, which campaigns for Catalan independence, the
reversal of public spending cuts and nationalisation of banks and energy

As political headquarters go, the monastery of St Benet has got to be
among the most beautiful and peaceful anywhere. To get there you must
take a breath-taking drive up the sacred mountain of Montserrat.

Sister Teresa Forcades, the unlikely star of local television chat
shows, Twitter and Facebook, had been worryingly hard to nail down. So
great is the demand for her time and blessing, that her secretary's
email here at the monastery, always returns an automatic reply that the
inbox is full.

Sister Teresa seems always to be in at least two places at once. She is
bright-eyed, confident, almost breezy. Her disarmingly perfect English -
mastered during a few years at Harvard University - feels somehow out of
place in the humble cloisters of this serene spot. 

There's no politician quite like her. She's never without her nun's
headdress, and says that everything she does is born of deep Christian
faith and devotion. Yet, she has been strongly critical of the church
and the men who run it.

Followers of her movement, Proces Constituent, which has signed up
around 50,000 Catalans this year, are mainly non-believing leftists. She
won't run for office, and says she won't create a political party, but
she's undeniably a political figure on a mission - to tear down
international capitalism, and change the map of Spain.

Her 10-point programme, drawn up with economist Arcadi Oliveres, calls

• A government takeover of all banks and measures to curb financial

• An end to job cuts, fairer wages and pensions, shorter working hours
and payments to parents who stay at home

• Genuine "participatory democracy" and steps to curb political

• Decent housing for all, and an end to all foreclosures

• A reversal of public spending cuts, and renationalisation of all
public services

• An individual's right to control their own body, including a woman's
right to decide over abortion

• "Green" economic policies and the nationalisation of energy companies

• An end to xenophobia and repeal of immigration laws

• Placing public media under democratic control, including the internet

• International "solidarity", leaving Nato, and the abolition of armed
forces in a future free Catalonia

With a natural flair for public speaking, and a razor-sharp campaigner's
mind, hasn't she really outgrown the monastic life, and won't her
sisters become weary of the constant trail of visitors, I wonder?

She breaks off our first, intense interview, to greet a delegation of
Catalan independence activists, who have come to pay homage at the

While I wait, the sisters who stop to talk, are in no doubt that her
talents and fame are "gifts from god", and that she's paving the way for
a newer, more feminist future for the Catholic church.

They are just three dozen women living a quiet life of prayer, but this
is Sister Teresa's political power base. She is their ambassador to the
secular and often turbulent world down the mountainside. Unlike most
political parties fuelled by rivalry and deal-making, Sister Teresa's
inner circle loves her unconditionally and the feelings are mutual.

When I travel to see her drumming up support for the new movement in a
town square, the place is packed. She grips the crowd with radical ideas
that frighten many mainstream politicians in Spain. She admires Gandhi,
and some of the policies of the late Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, and
Bolivia's Evo Morales.

But it's the centuries-old economic model of Benedictine nuns creating
useful goods to sell, that she cites most passionately.

After a two-week break, I drive up the winding road to the monastery for
a last visit. Sister Teresa has been at a religious conference in Peru,
where it's winter, and she's come home with a cold. Bishops loyal to the
Vatican have been criticising her radical stances on everything from
abortion to banking.

It's become a familiar battle wherever she goes. For now at least, her
own bishop at home, has not forbidden her to carry on.

In the chapel she greets my wife and two young children warmly. She
tells me that as a teenager, she herself was put off taking holy orders
by the need to live a celibate life.

Is this another contradiction I wonder: is she missing a life where she
can love freely, with all that that implies?

She tells me that she's been in love three times since becoming a nun,
but her devotion to God and the monastery is as strong as ever.

"As long as my religious life is full of love, I'll be here," she tells
me. "But the moment this life turns sacrificial…Then it's my duty to
abandon it."

For now it seems, Catalonia's love affair with perhaps the world's least
predictable political figure, is set to run and run.


"We are not for names, nor men, nor titles of Government,
nor are we for this party nor against the other but we are
for justice and mercy and truth and peace and true freedom,
that these may be exalted in our nation, and that goodness,
righteousness, meekness, temperance, peace and unity with
God, and with one another, that these things may abound."
(Edward Burrough, 1659 - from 'Quaker Faith and Practice')

Paul Mobbs, Mobbs' Environmental Investigations
3 Grosvenor Road, Banbury OX16 5HN, England
tel./fax (+44/0)1295 261864
email - mobbsey at
website -
public key -
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