‘John of God’: How the celebrity ‘faith healer’ once promoted by Oprah ended up with a 370-year prison sentence after 600 accusations of sexual exploitation


July 14, 2023

By Gopal Tiwari

Sabrina Bittencourt, a Brazillian activist whose investigation led to John’s arrest, had stated that her organization has spoken to couples on 3 different continents who have claimed that they bought babies from John for as much as $50,000.

On a fateful day, July 10, 2023, the courtroom was filled with a mix of anticipation and despair as the notorious Brazilian faith healer, João Teixeira de Faria, commonly known as ‘John of God,’ received an additional sentence of 99 years for his heinous sexual crimes. The air was heavy with the weight of justice as the judge declared him guilty of the ‘rape of vulnerable persons’ and ‘sexual violation through fraud’ against eight victims who sought his spiritual help between 2010 and 2018.

The sentence brought his total prison time to an unprecedented 370 years, 9 months, and 15 days. Additionally, he has been ordered to pay R$ 100 thousand in compensation for moral damages to the victims. As the gavel struck, the room was filled with a mix of relief and disbelief, knowing that this self-proclaimed healer’s reign of terror was finally coming to an end.

Faria adopted the name of John of God, or João de Deus, after a 16th-century catholic saint from Portugal.

Dark Tale of John of God dates back to the 1970s

To understand the magnitude of crimes committed by ‘John of God’, we must delve into the dark history that led to this shocking verdict. His rise to fame began in the late 1970s when he opened Casa de Dom Inácio de Loyola, a ‘clinic’ in the small town of Abadiânia, Brazil. Here, he claimed to possess supernatural powers and offered a range of services, from spiritual healing to what appeared to be surgical procedures without anesthesia.

Despite lacking any medical qualifications, people flocked to him, drawn by the promise of miraculous cures and relief from their ailments.

Despite lacking a medical license and any relevant training, he performed procedures such as nasal probing, body incisions, and eye scrapings without anesthesia. His clinic, Casa de Dom Inácio de Loyola, became a tourist attraction, generating significant profits through extra services like crystal bed sessions, blessed water, and herbal pills. These pills later revealed to be passionflower herbs, alone contributed to an estimated annual income of $40 million. However, behind the façade of healing and spirituality, a sinister truth was brewing.

Sexual crimes and child trafficking by John of God were exposed in 2018

In 2018, the Christian world was rocked by an explosive scandal that exposed ‘John of God’s’ true nature. Over 300 women, including his own daughter, bravely came forward to share their harrowing experiences of sexual abuse at the hands of the man they had trusted to heal their pain.

The accounts were gut-wrenching and painted a chilling picture of manipulation, betrayal, and unspeakable acts. The victims described how they had been lured into private sessions with Faria, seeking solace and relief from their physical and emotional struggles. Instead, they became victims of his perverse desires.

Faria’s own daughter also recounted her traumatic experiences of rape and violence at the hands of her father. Many claimed that he promised to heal them but exploited their vulnerability, subjecting them to unimaginable acts of sexual assault and violation. The stories were haunting, revealing a pattern of systematic abuse that spanned decades.

It is important to note that these sexual assault charges are not the only appalling allegations against this so-called faith healer. Uncovered amidst the torrent of accusations is the claim that ‘John of God’ allegedly operated a baby trafficking ring, selling children to childless couples. While these accusations have been overshadowed in recent coverage, it is crucial to acknowledge the extent of the crimes committed by this individual.

‘Sex slaves kept to produce babies for 10 years’

John was arrested by Brazillian authorities after over 600 allegations of rape and sexual exploitation were made against him. He was also accused of keeping teenage girls as sex slaves, making them undergo pregnancy and childbirth, and then selling the babies to the ‘highest bidder’.

Sabrina Bittencourt, a Brazillian activist whose investigation led to John’s arrest, had stated that her organization has spoken to couples on 3 different continents who have claimed that they bought babies from John for as much as $50,000. Sabrina Bittencourt also stated that in John’s ‘baby farm’ teenage sex slaves were made to produce children for 10 years, before being killed.

John of God was promoted by celebrities like Oprah Winfrey

The revelations sent shockwaves through the global community, leaving many in disbelief that such evil could have gone unchecked for so long. But perhaps even more shocking were the connections that ‘John of God’ had established with prominent figures, both in Brazil and abroad. Politicians, models, and international celebrities like Oprah Winfrey had all crossed paths with the man who would be unmasked as a predator. João Teixeira de Faria gained international recognition as a medium and faith healer, attracting such celebrities.

His website claimed that he has treated Former US President Bill Clinton, Brazilian politician Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

Oprah Winfrey, known for her influential platform, once dedicated an episode of her show to ‘John of God’ in 2010, amplifying his reach and giving him a seal of legitimacy in the eyes of her millions of viewers. Winfrey’s visit to Brazil in 2012 to film an episode of ‘Oprah’s Next Chapter’ further cemented his status as a respected spiritual figure. However, in the wake of the scandal, Winfrey expressed empathy for the survivors and voiced her hope that justice would prevail.

John of God will never come out of prison

John of God’s reputation amongst faithful believers and practicing Christians took a severe blow in 2018 when a massive scandal erupted, exposing his widespread sexual abuse of hundreds of women and girls who sought his spiritual guidance. The recent convictions, which necessitate serving the sentence in a closed regime, come at a time when João de Deus is under house arrest due to a second-instance decision.

Since his arrest in late 2018, he has oscillated between a closed regime and house arrest, claiming various illnesses to obtain leniency. Since his arrest in 2018, he has been serving multiple sentences totaling 270 years and four months. Nevertheless, with the new convictions, he faces an unprecedented prison term that could potentially last for the remainder of his life.

Netflix made a docuseries on this John of God

The revelations about ‘John of God’ were not confined to the courtroom or media reports. Netflix, the popular streaming platform, released a docuseries titled “John of God: The Crimes of a Spiritual Healer.” The series delved into Faria’s rise to prominence and his subsequent fall from grace, spanning four decades of manipulation, exploitation, and the brave survivors who had the courage to expose his crimes.

The documentary shed light on the immense suffering endured by the victims and the long-lasting impact of his actions. The documentary chronicles the shocking accounts of over 300 women who accused Faria of promising healing but instead subjecting them to sexual assault during private sessions.

Justice prevails

With Faria now behind bars, serving multiple sentences, justice is gradually being served for the survivors of his abuse. The legal proceedings have taken place behind closed doors to protect the privacy of the victims, and further charges may still be pending. Reflecting on the disturbing legacy of ‘John of God,’ one must acknowledge the strength and resilience of the survivors who came forward, refusing to be silenced by fear or shame. Their bravery in exposing this deceitful healer has not only brought justice to their own lives but has also paved the way for others to find the courage to speak out against similar abuses of power.

John of God, Christianity, and India

In addition to the harrowing accounts of abuse and exploitation, the case of ‘John of God’ holds particular significance in India, as it brings to the forefront a dark face of ‘faith healing’ that is massively abused by Christian preachers in India for mass conversions. The exposure of his crimes is of great importance in a country where the spread of Christianity was historically intertwined with the expeditions of European colonizers. During colonial times, the conversion of indigenous populations to Christianity was often a key objective for European powers.

While it is crucial to recognize that the actions of ‘John of God’ do not represent the entirety of the Christian faith or its followers, his heinous crimes committed under the guise of religious spirituality highlight the urgency of vigilance and accountability.


The case of João Teixeira de Faria, ‘John of God,’ serves as a cautionary tale and highlights the need for stringent measures to prevent such abuses of religious power. As the survivors continue their journey towards healing and reclaiming their lives, people must remain vigilant, ensuring that no one else falls victim to the dark allure of false prophets and their wicked intentions.