MONTSERRAT, Spain — Sister Teresa Forcades came to public notice years ago for her unflinching liberal views: an outspoken Roman Catholic nun whose pronouncements ran counter to the church’s positions on same-sex marriage and abortion.
She became a fixture on Spanish television, appearing in her nun’s habit to advocate independence for her native region of Catalonia, and to debate other hot-button topics, including vaccines.
She had trained as a doctor, partly in the United States, and argued that vaccinations might one day pose a danger to a free society.
Now a decade later, with the coronavirus having swept the world, she believes that day is here.
She is warning against the use of coronavirus vaccines, even as scientists and elected leaders worry that anti-vaccine sentiment could threaten Europe’s recovery from the pandemic.
“It’s always important that criticism is possible, to have dissenting voices,” she said of her views, which center as much on her doubts about the vaccines as her right to question them in public.
“The answer cannot be that in the time of a crisis, society cannot allow the criticism — it’s precisely then that we need it.”
What she calls criticism, though, is seen by many in the scientific community as spreading misinformation.
From her perch in a hilltop convent, Sister Teresa now finds herself at odds with governments, medical experts and even Pope Francis, who say vaccination campaigns are the only escape route from a pandemic that has killed more than three million people and ravaged global economies.
In the world of vaccine skeptics, Sister Teresa, who was born in 1966 to a nurse and a commercial agent, is hard to categorize.
She acknowledges that some vaccines are beneficial, but opposes making them mandatory. Her misgivings about coronavirus vaccines largely stem from her view that pharmaceutical companies are not to be trusted, and the clinical trials were rushed.
She draws credibility from her nun’s habit and medical training, which has made her especially appealing to conspiracy theorists and far right groups that seek to undermine public confidence in vaccines by spreading half truths … Click here to read more.