Father Shay Cullen is a priest from Ireland and a member of the Missionary Society of St. Columban. He has devoted his life to rescuing and ministering to child prostitutes in the Philippines since 1969. Cullen is famous for his espionage and undercover activities. He can be described as a spy for Jesus. Sometimes he swaps his clerical robes for the guise of a paedophile tourist. Using hidden video cameras, he visits and exposes the hidden places where children are prostituted and abused. On one occasion in 1995 he infiltrated the brothel of an Australian madam who explained calmly and rationally that this was the ‘cheapest’ sex around. After filming these conversations with pimps and brothel owners, Cullen calls in the police, rescues the children and has the guilty people arrested.

Background Notes

In the Philippines there are an estimated 100,000 children who work as prostitutes. Some of these girls and boys have been sold by their impoverished families into a life of brutal slavery. In the worst forms of enslavement children are chained to beds, abused daily, threatened and tortured, beaten and bruised and made into a plaything for the rich and powerful. Cullen contends that sexual slavery thrives because of corruption which functions at all levels of society. Police officers, judges, and government officials are bribed by the sex offenders and their cases never get to court. Cullen has witnessed many abusers and paedophiles walk free from courtrooms and prisons. A powerful way of talking about Christian faith is to compare and contrast Shay Cullen with Tarzan, the human trafficker. Tarzan has a dangerous faith in the money god that has led him to prison in Panama and the possibility of eternal punishment. Cullen has a dangerous faith in Jesus and this has led him to brothels in the Philippines and the hope of the resurrection body.

Four Ways of Looking at the Story

Materialist faith: “We believe that life is all about consuming things. We believe that children can be bought for sexual pleasure.”

Relativist faith: “We believe that there are no right or wrong answers here. Whatever works for you.”

Karma faith: “We believe that these abused children are being punished for something they did in previous lives.”

Christian faith: “We believe that Jesus weeps for these children. Paedophiles must repent, believe in Jesus and get baptised. If not they will ‘die in their sins’.”


1) How would you describe the worldview of the Australian brothel owner?

2) How does this story reveal the kingdom of darkness?

3) Can you compare and contrast Shay’s faith with Tarzan’s faith?

Mark Roques

Mark Roques

For eleven years Mark taught Philosophy and Religious Studies at Prior Park College, Bath. As Director of RealityBites since 2005, he has developed a rich range of resources for teachers and is a popular speaker at educational conferences in the UK, Netherlands, South Korea, Spain, Australia and New Zealand. Mark is the author of three books, including the Religious Education textbook The Good, The Bad and The Misled, and his innovative approach has led him to appear on television (Channel 4) and radio.