Oprah Helped Bring Him Fame. Now, Serious Allegations

Brazilian faith healer 'John of God' accused of sexual abuse by hundreds of women
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 17, 2018 11:00 AM CST
Oprah Helped Bring Him Fame. Now, Serious Allegations
In this handout photo, spiritual healer Joao Teixeira de Faria, better known as "John of God," center, arrives in Abadiania, Brazil, on Wednesday.   (Marcelo Camargo/Agencia Brasil via AP)

"Is 'John of God' a Healer or a Charlatan?" asked ABC News in 2005. You can add "or a Criminal?" to that headline. The Brazilian faith healer turned himself in on Sunday following allegations he'd sexually abused more than 300 women. It's a fall from grace for a man who Oprah once traveled to interview. The latest:

  • The timeline: The accusations began emerging only this month, and the BBC reports authorities took notice when "John of God," or Joao Teixeira de Faria, pulled nearly $9 million from a number of bank accounts Wednesday, sparking fears he might flee the country. An arrest warrant was issued Friday, and the 76-year-old missed the Saturday deadline to comply. He turned himself in Sunday to police in Abadiania, where he's based and where everyone wears white, notes the Washington Post. He has since been moved to Goiania, the capital of Goias state, and his lawyer says he plans to file an appeal in the hope of getting Faria placed under house arrest rather than kept in police custody. Faria has denied the allegations.
  • So what's he famous for? "His intense methods of healing," as BuzzFeed News puts it, which include channeling the spirits of dozens of dead doctors, biblical figures like King Solomon, and historical figures like a Spanish nobleman from the 1400s to treat people with conditions ranging from leprosy to sinus infections to paralysis. BuzzFeed also links to video that shows surgeries carried out without anesthesia; Faria doesn't have a medical license. In other graphic procedures, Faria is known to shove forceps high into a patient's nostril.

  • The Oprah angle: The coverage on his arrest is pretty uniformly calling out the fact that Oprah featured him on an episode in 2010, which gave him a big boost in terms of exposure. She subsequently went to see him in 2012 to film an episode of Oprah's Next Chapter. It aired in 2013, and she described watching Faria operate on a woman with breast cancer and being physically moved. "Tears of gratitude started to flow. Gratitude for the whole journey of my life—not just everything that had gone right, but the things that had not."
  • The allegations: On Dec. 7, four women appeared on Brazil's TV Globo to make their claims. Three did so anonymously. Dutch choreographer Zahira Lieneke Mous (also reported as Zahira Leeneke Maus) revealed herself and recounted an alleged rape and a session in which she was made to masturbate him. The New York Times reports she'd seen Oprah's piece on him and heard of him from a friend, and decided to seek treatment from him four years ago for trauma tied to a prior sexual assault. After the program aired, women began contacting police in droves to recount their own claims of abuse.
  • His daughter: Dalva Teixeira numbers among those accusing Faria, her father—"a monster," she says. The AP reports that she alleges she was abused and raped from ages 10 to 14, and that when one of his employees impregnated her, the beating Faria gave her caused a miscarriage.
  • What Oprah is saying now: Her statement to the Times: "I went to Brazil in 2012 to tape an episode of Oprah's Next Chapter that explored the controversial healing methods of John of God. The episode aired in 2013. I empathize with the women now coming forward and hope justice is served."
  • The geo-context: The Times frames Faria as potentially the first #MeToo casualty in Brazil, noting the movement "so far has reverberated relatively little" there.
(Read more MeToo stories.)

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