Sisters of Charity Investigated for Adoption Trafficking

The Sisters of Charity, known best for their most famous sister, Mother Teresa, has been accused (and one nun actually arrested and jailed) of selling babies into adoption in Sri Lanka, where the order runs a home for unwed mothers:
Sister Mary Eliza, from the Missionaries of Charity, has been in prison since Fraiday night accused of selling children. Since the congregation was founded, she is the first nun of Mother Teresa to be arrested. An anonymous tipoff informed police, which then burst into the Prem Nivesa of Moratuwa, a hostel for young unwed mothers run by the Sisters of Mother Teresa and arrested the nun. The hostel is now impounded. Sister Eliza, superior of Prem Nivesa, is now in jail at the Women’s Prison of Welikada, and has not been able to see a lawyer yet. Today, a judge is set to charge her formally with illegal trafficking in children.

Last Wednesday, a group of people led by Anoma Dissanayake, head of the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA), surrounded the Prem Nivesa hostel to examine the situation of the children and mothers living in the facility run by the Missionaries.

“Police and NCPA officials burst into the home at around 11 am, causing panic. They checked every nook and cranny in the facility and took away our files,” a nun told AsiaNews.

Two days later, on Friday evening, police agents took Sister Eliza and two nuns to a judge’s home. Sister Eliza was then taken by car to Welikada Prison, whilst the two other nuns were brought back to the convent.

“Police, NCPA officials and media rushed to our facility,” Sister Eliza said before her arrest. “They cross-examined the unwed mothers and took away many documents.”

“We have never been involved in child trafficking. It is against our faith,” she reiterated. “Our mission is to take care of unwed mothers and their children. We have never taken money for our work. Children are adopted in accordance with the law.”

The circumstances surrounding the arrest of Sister Eliza remain murky. Some local media accused the Sisters of “selling the future of the country to foreigners for few thousand rupees”.
This article is careful to exonerate adoptive parents:
The couple from America who were waiting for their turn at the Children’s Home in Rawatawatte were not at fault.

They wanted a baby with all their heart and they had gone through the correct process to get a child by contacting a ‘licenced adoption agency.’

They also had a receipt with them from an adoption agency called the New Horizon Adoption Agency which stated that they had paid U.S. dollars ten thousand. The adoption agency had a local representative here in Sri Lanka. However, disturbing is the fact the Sri Lankan representative received U.S. dollars 6,000; and the child was given from a home called Prem Niwasa which also includes the words Missionaries of Charity…

There were several people lined up when officials of the National Child Protection Authority, led by the Chairperson herself swooped in on Children’s Home Prem Niwasa in Rawathawatte on Wednesday, November 23 around 11 a.m. . The allegations were that this children’s home was playing ‘stork’ to many couples – at a price.

“At the time of our visit there were several couples with money in hand. We received two telephone calls on our hotline 1929 about this Home. But we decided to take action when a questionable incident occurred last week…” said an official of the National Child Protection Authority.
This article is a denial by the Sisters of Charity:
Representatives of the Missionaries of Charity said that they do not receive a cent for their services. On the contrary, a fourth vow taken by the Mother Teresa’s congregation is to give wholehearted service to the poorest of the poor.

In search for the other side of the story to our article last week titled ‘Baby Shop in Rawatawatte’ in which we reported the raid on Prem Niwasa carried out by the National Child Protection Authority; this writer met with representatives of the Catholic Archdiocese and representatives of Mother Theresa’s nuns on Wednesday at the Bishop’s House.

* * *
“Missionaries of Charity do not deal with money – for God provides…” was the opening sentence by Father Ivan Perera, Episcopal Vicar of the Archdiocese of Colombo.
And another article reports that Archbishop Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith Furious about the allegations against the nuns.

UPDATE 12.15.11: IBNLive reports that the Sisters have been cleared:

A Sri Lankan court today dropped charges of child trafficking against a Mother Teresa charity and released a senior nun, an Indian national, suspected of selling babies for adoption. Sister Mary Eliza the head of Missionaries of Charity convent was arrested late November for her failure to disclose an underage pregnancy at the Prem Children's Home at Moratuwa, a Colombo south suburb. The nun who hails from Kerala, was already on court bail. The Criminal Investigation Department, which questioned 55 people, concluded that there were no grounds to charge her with selling children or with failing to report under-age pregnancies. It said all adoption procedures run by the sisters were fully legal.