Cathriona White, Jim Carrey‘s on-and-off girlfriend, was involved in the Church of Scientology, and a prominent journalist says she was taking classes at the controversial church’s Hollywood Celebrity Centre several months before her apparent suicide.
White Instagrammed photos of herself in a sauna as part of Scientology’s Purification Rundown, and a source tells PEOPLE she sometimes spoke about Scientology while on the job as a makeup artist. According to Tony Ortega, a journalist who has covered (and often criticized) the church for years, the 30-year-old began taking Scientology classes shortly after moving from Ireland to Los Angeles to pursue a career as a makeup artist.
Ortega tells PEOPLE that two friends of White’s told him she had finished the Purification Rundown and was enrolled in a Survival Rundown course, but had “stalled on it in the last six months.”
“I don’t know if that meant she had trouble with it or she decided to take a break,” says Ortega, who claims the course can take “hundreds of hours to complete.”
Karin Pouw, a spokesperson for the Church of Scientology, responded in a statement to PEOPLE: “Saying that somebody was studying Scientology in the past and connecting that to a suicide is like saying a person who had previously studied the Bible committed suicide. It is sad and reprehensible that a paid anti-Scientologist like Tony Ortega is exploiting this terrible tragedy involving a young woman: it’s a sign of outright bigotry.”
White posted an Instagram with her Scientology “twin,” actor Travis Case, after the two had completed the “Purif’s” sauna regime.
Ortega says that for certain courses the church will pair each member up with a “twin” to support and help each other through the different stages.
He says that White’s friends told him she was first introduced to Scientology four or five years ago by friends of singer Beck, who is a well-known Scientologist.
“They encouraged her to come over to the United States to take classes, so she came to Los Angeles and started getting involved,” says Ortega.
“I don’t think her family had any idea she was mixed up in anything like that,” a family friend tells PEOPLE. “Cathriona was very health conscious – she did yoga and looked after herself.”
Ortega says White’s friends claim Carrey was well aware of her involvement in Scientology. And that despite Carrey’s past public objections to the religion, the church thought she was “emotionally prepared for the challenge” of entering the relationship.
Carrey’s name was included in the suicide note found on the scene when White was pronounced dead on Monday night. There were also pills located near her body.
On Tuesday, Carrey issued an emotional note saying he’s “deeply saddened by the passing of my sweet Cathriona” and also honored the woman he’s been linked to for the past three years.
“She was a truly kind and delicate Irish flower, too sensitive for this soil, to whom loving and being loved was all that sparkled,” Carrey said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE. “My heart goes out to her family and friends and to everyone who loved and cared about her.”
Her official cause of death cannot be determined until an autopsy is completed.