RIO DE JANEIRO — Twelve women in Brazil have accused a self-styled spiritual healer of sexually abusing them at a clinic in the central-western state of Goias.
The accusations against Joao Teixeira de Faria, known as 'John of God' (João de Deus), were made Saturday night on the Globo TV network.
It was not immediately clear if Farias was being investigated by prosecutors.
In a statement to the G1 news portal, Faria's press office said: "John of God vehemently denies having committed any inappropriate behavior during his treatments."
Botánicas [healers], offering folk remedies and spiritual healing, attract old and new clients.
Faria's faith-based healing skills drew the attention of TV host Oprah Winfrey, who said on her website that she interviewed him at his clinic in 2013 and saw him performing psychic surgeries.
Faria's website says he has treated former U.S. President Bill Clinton and Brazil's ex-President Luiz Inacio da Silva.
This might very well be true, maybe Oprah recommended him to Clinton.
Dutch choreographer Zahira Lieneke Mous accused the medium of manipulating her into performing sex acts then raping her during a visit to his clinic, she revealed on late-night talk show Conversa com Bial.
American tour guide Amy Biank also appeared on the show claiming she witnessed Faria carry out his abuses.
Nine other Brazilian women, who all chose to remain anonymous, also told the Brazilian TV network they were abused too on the premise of transferring his 'cleansing' energy, according to BBC.
Some said they were seeking a cure for their depression and sexual assault trauma when the alleged abuse took place. [!!]
The victims say that first they were chosen for private consultations, treated as if they were unique, and taken to a room accessible by a side door within the healing center's main building. João de Deus's offers of crystals and gemstones after the abuses were another common practice, according to the testimonies.
John of God: Miracle worker or charlatan?
'According to the legend, he was just 16 when, while sheltering under a bridge, a spirit appeared to him in the shape of a beautiful young woman, who directed him to go to a nearby church.
When he arrived at the church, he promptly fainted. When he came to, a crowd of people had gathered around; João was told that while unconscious, he had taken on the entity of King Solomon and healed "many" people. Thus began his career as a healer.
As Coppola [a member of staff] is at pains to point out, it's not actually João who does the healing: he is merely a vessel through which certain spirits, or "Entities", transmit their healing energy.
João [pretends to] channel, or "incorporate", some 38 different Entities, though some are more frequently "incorporated" than others: there is Dr Oswaldo Cruz, a Brazilian physician and bacteriologist who "disincarnated" (that is, died) in 1917, and Dr Augusto de Almeida, a military doctor who did likewise in 1908.
João is also fond of channelling King Solomon, Son of David and ruler of ancient Israel, and St Ignatius de Loyola, the 16th-century Spanish knight and founder of the Jesuits. (João's clinic, the Casa de Dom Inácio, is named after Loyola.)
"Spirit healing" has a rich tradition in Brazil, where for several centuries the African beliefs of imported slaves co-mingled with Catholicism to produce a highly divergent brand of Christianity called Spiritism.
Like a constantly revamped car, Spiritism has come to accommodate all manner of esoteric add-ons, from reincarnation to past lives and nature worship.
Nowhere is this more evident than at the casa [treatment centre], which apart from Medium João's "spiritual interventions" offers a smorgasbord of New Age treatments, from crystal beds to "healing triangles" - wooden triangles, nailed to the wall, where people come and pray.
[T]here is the "pharmacy", where patients buy their healing herbs. I had assumed that the pharmacy would stock a range of different herbs to treat a range of different conditions. But no, there is only one herb for sale here: passiflora, the flower of the passionfruit plant.
When I ask Coppola about this, he explains that it's not what's in the capsules that counts, but rather the "spiritual prescription" that John of God writes for each patient. "The intentionality of that prescription is transferred to the capsules at the time of purchase," he says.
Virtually all of the approximately 2000 people João sees daily receive a prescription for herbs. Some buy $50 worth, others as little as $10. The average purchase appears to be about $20, which would account for $40,000 a day, in herb sales alone.
Coppola now seems distinctly lukewarm on the prospect of my interview with João, who didn't like "my energy". (I'd apparently moved too fast around him, which had "disrupted his field".)
This is a shame, since I would like to ask about allegations I have read that João has sexually abused female staff at the casa and misappropriated donated funds meant for building a soup kitchen to renovate his own home.
**I then mention the sexual abuse allegations. When Coppola translates my question, João looks up, frowns, and says he is closing the interview. "I thought you came to talk about me," João says. "Not other people." **
I squeeze in one more question, about the allegation that he diverted funds that were meant to go toward a soup kitchen into renovating his own home. This does not go down well.
João begins a long rant, about how he has been a successful farmer and businessman, that he has worked for 50 years, that he is not a thief; quite to the contrary, the person who made that allegation is a thief, a vagabond and a bandit. He says he will show me his tax receipts and that he wants to see mine, too. Then he walks out, shouting and does not return.'