Maria Monk was a Canadian woman whose book “Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk, or, The Hidden Secrets of a Nun’s Life in a Convent Exposed,” claimed to expose systematic sexual abuse of nuns and infanticide of the resulting children by Catholic priests in her convent in Montreal. Take a look below for 27 more interesting and bizarre facts about Maria Monk.
1. “Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk” was published in January, 1836.
2. In it, Monk claimed that nuns of the Religious Hospitallers of St. Joseph of the Montreal convent of the Hotel-Dieu, whom she called “the Black Nuns”, were forced to have sex with the priests in the seminary next door.
3. The priests supposedly entered the convent through a secret tunnel.
4. If the sexual union produced a baby, it was baptized and then strangled and dumped into a lime pit in the basement. Uncooperative nuns disappeared.
5. Monk’s story contains inconsistencies.
6. It’s known that Maria Monk lived in an asylum in her early years and that one of the nuns mentioned in her story was actually a fellow patient in the asylum.
7. There is some evidence that Monk had suffered a brain injury as a child.
8. One possible result of this alleged injury could be that Monk might have been manipulated, and might not be able to distinguish between fact and fantasy.
9. Another possible result of this alleged injury could be that Monk had little understanding of the devastating result of her claims.
10. It has been suggested, though not proven, that Maria Monk was manipulated into playing a role for profit by her publisher or her ghost writers.
11. Her book has been described as a hoax by some scholars.
12. Monk was born on June 1, 1816, probably in St. John’s, Quebec, Canada, the only daughter among five children of William Monk, an army barracks yard orderly, and Isabella Mills Monk.
13. Monk had a troubled adolescence and was soon notorious for her promiscuity.
14. She was confined for a time at a Catholic institution for prostitutes, located near Montreal’s Hotel Dieu Hospital and Convent and run by Hotel Dieu nuns.
15. In 1834, at the age of 18, she was discovered to be pregnant and forced to leave.
16. Upon her exit from the institution, Monk met and presumably became the mistress of the Reverend William K. Hoyt, an anti-Catholic zealot.
17. She went with him to New York City, where her first daughter was born in July, 1835.
18. Monk’s book caused a public outcry. Protestants in Montreal, Quebec, demanded an investigation, and the local bishop organized one.
19. The inquiry found no evidence to support the claims, though many American Protestant refused to accept the conclusion and accused the bishop of dishonesty.
20. Colonel William Leete Stone, Sr. a Protestant newspaper editor from New York City, undertook his own investigation. In October, 1836, his team entered the convent and found that the descriptions in the book didn’t match the convent interior.
21. During their first visit, the investigators were denied entry to the basement and the nuns’ personal quarters. There was much dispute regarding the existence of a tunnel underground leading to the nuns’ residence. Its existence was verified by many people.
22. There were disputes regarding, renovations to the Nuns residence and if the “tunnel” had been filled or not.
23. Stone returned to New York, interviewed Monk and concluded that she had never been in the convent. On a later visit, he was given total access to all quarters. Stone’s team found no evidence that Maria had ever lived in the convent.
24. Monk disappeared from the public view. It was later discovered that she had spent the seven year period in question in the Magdalen Asylum for Wayward Girls.
25. One critic pointed out that a nun character in her book, Jane Ray, was actually residing with Monk at the Magdalen Asylum, rather than at the Hotel Dieu Nunnery.
26. The Magdalene asylum building was a very small wooden building, quite different to the described nunnery of the book Monk wrote.
27. Monk traveled to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with a lover whom historians often identify as Graham Monk. She wrote a sequel, “Further Disclosures of Maria Monk.” However, when she gave birth to another child, Oliver, out of wedlock in 1838, most her supporters abandoned her.