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10 Questions You Always Wanted to Ask a Nun

"Abstinence is our gift to God. I made this decision for my life, so if I masturbated, I would be very disappointed in myself."
All photos by Josefine Lippmann

This article originally appeared on VICE Germany

At the age of 17, Ruth Lazar gave up everything she had known so far in her life – her boyfriend, hanging out with her friends and the prospect of maybe one day starting family – to dedicate herself to God by becoming a nun.

Sister Ruth has been living at the Abbey of St. Gertrud in Kloster-Alexanderdorf, about an hour south of Berlin, since 1983. As its head of public relations, she is the face of the monastery – she talks to local press and welcomes guests interested in the abbey's history or the work of her order. I visited Sister Ruth to find out what it takes to be a nun. She told me that it's a lot more work than it seems, and explained why it's highly unlikely that I'll end up in hell.


VICE: How many times a day do you sin?
Sister Ruth: It depends on your definition of sin. Am I a glutton if I eat two chocolate bars? I hope not, because I've already had three today. In my opinion, sin is about making a deliberate decision to do the wrong thing. Pardonable sins, like eating too many sweets or drinking beer, are fine. God isn't that strict.

So which of the deadly sins did you last commit?
Probably envy. A while ago, I was allowed to take part in two spiritual courses, but I wanted to do a third. It really bugged me when another sister was allowed to do that third, but I wasn't. I felt pretty envious of her for a long time. Thankfully, one of the best things about the Catholic church is our belief in confession. If you honestly regret something, a priest can forgive you in the name of God – immediately wiping away your sin.

Sister Ruth decided to become a nun when she was 17.

Do you think even Adolf Hitler's sins could be forgiven?
I believe that when we die, we'll all get a chance to meet God and ask Him for forgiveness – Adolf Hitler too. Whether we go to Heaven or Hell will then depend on how genuinely remorseful we are. I would think that in God's presence, even people like Hitler will truly realise the unimaginable weight of what they've done and feel remorse. I think it could very well be that at some point, I'll be sitting on a bench with Hitler in Heaven.

You were 17 when you decided to become a nun. What do you miss most about the outside world?
I stopped missing my old life a long time ago. At the time, though, it wasn't easy – I had a boyfriend and an exciting social life. But, for some reason, it just wasn't enough for me. I realised I needed to devote more of my life to God, and a monastery was the perfect place to do that.


Is there anything about the Church you find ridiculous?
The Church still celebrates when a woman is promoted to a higher position, as if it's an achievement. The fact that promoting a woman is still seen as a big deal, rather than the norm, annoys me.

Watch: 10 Questions You Always Wanted to Ask a Street Evangelist

From the outside, it seems that all nuns spend their days praying and gardening. Is that true?
That does seem like a nice life, doesn't it? Unfortunately it isn't all that relaxing – we work for about five hours a day. In that time, I answer press inquiries, talk to guests, work as a librarian and look after a small newspaper for the monastery. We also run a bakery that produces communion wafers, while some of the sisters do keep the garden looking nice. In between all of that, we do what we're here to do – pray. We hold Mass six times a day.

What would you do if a homosexual couple wanted to get married in your church?
The Catholic Church has a clear position on this, and we abide by that. We don't conduct any gay marriages, or public blessings. The state has decided that gay marriage is legal, but for me, marriage is a bond between a man and a woman.

Ruth is the face of the monastery, dealing with press enquiries and welcoming guests.

Are you allowed to masturbate or would that break your vow of chastity?
Any kind of sexual act breaks the vow. Of course we're not asexual just because we live in a monastery, but we've chosen abstinence as our gift to God. I made this decision for my life, so if I masturbated, I would be very disappointed in myself. Masturbation is just a cheap substitute for true satisfaction.

Don't you miss sex, a partner or having children?
I'm definitely happy with the decision I made. Either way, I'm 57 now, so children are out of the question anyway. What many people don't realise is that life without a partner doesn't mean a life without intimacy. We live here because we have a close relationship to God. Love songs are often very similar to prayers – as a Christian I don't need to sing to a partner when I can sing to God.

What car does Jesus drive?
I don't know. A Christler!
[Cackling] Theologically that's wrong, but it's funny.