What does it take to create a sensation?
A seemingly vulnerable and pious face of the campaign, a media willing to sell itself out for vested interests and powerful men with vast resources pulling the strings hiding behind the curtains whose sole aim is to hoodwink the public to garner more power. And thus, you have the true nature of a fanatic religious fundamentalist concealed beneath a mask of falsehood and exaggerations of piety to generate a phenomenon to expand the power of the Church which has seen a major decline in recent times, thus you have sainthood accorded to a woman who loved poverty instead of the poor and suffering instead of the sufferer. Christened Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu at birth, the woman would work through the hierarchies of the Church passionately and with devotion and by the time she passed on to the void, she would be known by a different name altogether, The Blessed Mother Teresa.
In the years prior to the rise of Mother Teresa’s rise to fame, the Roman Catholic Church was desperate for a modern day Miracle Worker. It had been too long since the hand of god had been witnessed in the world and every day, science debunked numerous myths propagated by religion to control the masses. What the Church needed was a person who would generate an immediate sense of nobility and piety, who was outwardly humble and reserved in her demeanour, who could enchant the masses with comforting words and a sweet smile but most importantly, was devoted to Christianity and the Church and would gladly sacrifice her life for the same.
Thus, Mother Teresa was the perfect prototype for the Church’s bid to power. It can be safely concurred that the Church gained much indeed from the work and life of Mother Teresa but did the poor, who the woman claimed to work for and dedicate her life to the service of, find some comfort and solace in the arms of the Mother? That question needs some serious unbiased answers.
Mother Teresa established the Missionaries of Charity whose mission it was to care for “the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone.” The Church and the supporters would have us believe that the shelter homes run by the Missionaries were heaven for the destitute and the dying. But the professionals and volunteers who worked for the institutions tell us a different story altogether.
Mary Loudon, a volunteer working for the Charity in Kolkata, recalls the occasion she had asked a nun responsible for the care of patients why she was not sterilizing the needles before injecting the patients with medicines. The reply she received is quite shocking, “There is no point”, and then the nun went back to washing the needle with cold water running from the tap.
Dr. Robin Fox, the editor of a leading medical journal, after having visited one of Mother Teresa’s Home for the Dying in 1994 remarks that the nuns displayed an unnerving disregard for proper medical treatment and procedure and relied more than could be deemed as appropriate on their own flawed expertise with medicines and divine providence.
To round up matters, all doctors who ever visited Mother Teresa’s Homes for the Dying observed that no painkillers were provided to the patients, there was a lack of specialist medical care, no professional diagnosis and no adequate measures for the containment of communicable diseases and infections. As a result, very often the patients died of easily curable injuries and diseases.
Mary Loudon also narrates the story of how a fifteen year old boy suffering from a very curable kidney problem lay dying because the nuns refused to give him antibiotics and take him to the hospital for decent treatment. And care must be taken to remember that it was not because of the lack of funds, Mother Teresa received millions of dollars as donations from people all over the world, enough to build several high class hospitals. In light of this deplorable state of affairs in the Homes for the Dying, a particular quote by the saint proves to be very enlightening:
“There is something beautiful in seeing the poor accept their lot, to suffer it like Christ’s Passion. The world gains much from their suffering.”
Another time, she said to a patient of terminal cancer dying in extreme pain,
“You are suffering like Christ on the Cross. So Jesus must be kissing you.”
(To which the patient came up with a fitting reply: “Then please tell him to stop kissing me.”)
Taking account of the conditions of the patients and Mother Teresa’s own words, what seems obvious is that the supposedly great Mother Teresa had a morbid belief regarding pain and death; she saw suffering as a means of coming closer to God and she believed it was good for the poor to suffer as Jesus suffered because they were absolving the sins of the world with their suffering like Jesus did.
To say that it is improper to believe that the world gains from the suffering of the poor would be a major understatement, it is as improper as it is indecent. And what exactly is the gain that she implies by her statement? That the rich have access to numerous luxuries because the poor are deprived of the most basic of necessities? Or is the suffering of the poor that gives rise to numerous diseases and overpopulation the gain she talks about?
Or is that poverty promotes illiteracy and lack of education which ensures the survival of her Church and primitive fundamentalist views in the Modern era which is based on knowledge and scientific advancement the gain here? What exactly is the gain that the sufferings of the poor provide to the world? Unfortunately, the only person with the proper insight to answer that question is no longer with us.
If Mother Teresa’s opinions regarding poverty and suffering seem a bit ‘unhealthy’ to put it mildly, her statements and work against abortion is appalling to say the least. In her acceptance speech after she had won the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1979, she deemed abortion as the worst evil and the greatest enemy of peace. She went on to say, “Because if a mother can kill her own child, what will prevent us from killing ourselves or one another? Nothing.”
Those words seem a bit oversimplification of the whole practice of abortion and they were backed accordingly with indiscriminate preaching against it. After the Indo-Pakistan war in 1971, when it was discovered that thousands of women were raped in Bangladesh during the course of the war, she publicly renounced abortion as an option for the unfortunate victims who had been impregnated during the abominable crime. And in 1993, when asked about a fourteen year old rape victim in Ireland, she made her views very clear,
“Abortion can never be necessary because it is pure killing.”
She tried to put forward the view that abortion was wrong, even for victims of rape and incest. That in itself is something so detestable that it should be enough to convince intelligent people that Mother Teresa was no saint in the true meaning of the word, she was a religious fanatic in denial of reality. Contraceptives did not escape Mother Teresa’s notice either as she waged a zealous war against the use of contraception to prevent unwanted pregnancies.
Overpopulation, which is one of the major causes of poverty, was none of her concern. The fact that she was not in terms with reality was further displayed by her attempts to ban condoms in a city as vastly overpopulated as Kolkata. Thus, she was stubbornly against the two most widely used methods for controlling overpopulation, abortion and contraception. If the actual motive was to fight poverty, then it is imperative that one takes appropriate measures to control overpopulation.
But Mother Teresa begged to differ. According to her, ‘God always provides.’ That she had to establish the Missionaries of Charity to help the poor seems to be at odds with the belief that God always provides, does it not? As Christopher Hitchens puts it, “Mother Teresa was not a friend of the poor. She was a friend of poverty. She said that suffering was a gift from God. She spent her life opposing the only known cure for poverty, which is the empowerment of women and the emancipation of them from a livestock version of compulsory reproduction.”
It is often said that actions speak louder than words and if actions are anything to go by, then Mother Teresa’s character appears to be even more at odds with her image of a saintly woman. On occasions, her actions seem to be completely hypocritical.
In 1996, she demanded in a referendum in Ireland that divorce and remarriage be officially banned by the Government. But later in the same year, in an interview with Ladies Home Journal, she says the divorce of her friend, Princess Diana, pleased her as the marriage had been quite an unhappy one. It seems baffling that Mother Teresa has one notion for the masses and another for the elite.
This distinction in her approach can be accorded to her bid for power, she was shrewd enough to realize that the educated and people with political power will not want their freedom encroached by religious fundamentalism, and that she needed sway with the political circles to increase the power of the Church. Hence, she maintained cordial relationships with those in political power while trying to enforce religious laws on the common people.
Further evidence for this notion can be found in her relationship with the Duvalier family. In 1981, she was awarded the Legion d’Honneur by the right-wing dictator of Haiti, Jean-Claude Duvalier. It was well known that the Duvaliers were not much concerned with the affairs of the poor and the poor suffered much under their regime. But Mother Teresa on receiving the award proclaimed that the Duvaliers “loved their poor” and “their love was reciprocated”.
After the Duvaliers were ousted from the country, it was discovered that they had stolen millions of dollars from the already reeling nation. Her words and actions with regard to the Duvaliers seem contradictory to existing evidence if not downright suspicious. Another incidence of her turning a blind eye to what’s plainly visible to the naked eye was in 1975 when Indira Gandhi suspended Civil Liberties in India. Then, Mother Teresa had said, “People are happier. There are more jobs. There are no strikes.”
One particularly ugly scar was cast on Mother Teresa’s character by her appeal for clemency in defence of her friend, Charles Keating, a conservative Catholic fundamentalist. Charles Keating worked for the Anti-Pornography Commission under President Nixon of the USA. Charles was accused and found guilty of fraud, racketeering and conspiracy for his involvement in the Savings and Loans scandal where the customers were tricked into buying junk bonds, many of them losing their life savings in the process.
In the 1980s, he had donated $1.25 million dollars to Mother Teresa which were later found to be stolen from the general public. The Prosecutor Attorney, Paul Turley, wrote a letter in reply to Mother Teresa’s appeal for clemency to the court. He explained in his letter that “No Church should allow itself to be used as salve for the conscience of the criminal.” He also implored the woman to return the money to those from whom it had been stolen, to those who worked hard for it and earned it. Unfortunately, Paul Turley never received a reply to his letter and the money was never returned.
That Mother Teresa was a fanatic religious fundamentalist concerned only with religion and affairs of the Church and little of the poor, of that there remains little doubt when one penetrates the veil of myths propagated by the mainstream media. In 1989, on being honoured by the International Health organization, she called AIDS “a just retribution for improper sexual conduct”. One tends to wonder how a health organization could honour someone who is dead against all measures of population control!
Again in 1992, in an Open-Air Mass in Ireland, she said to the public, “Let us promise our lady who loves Ireland so much that we will never allow in this country a single abortion. And no contraceptives.” Her archaic views on contraceptives, abortion, suffering and pain are inherited from a time when people were not even aware that the earth was a sphere. It is no wonder then that her opinions and views are a hinder for the progress of civilization and well being of the majority. Mother Teresa is only a myth. The miracles for which she was beatified and later recognized as a saint were a complete hoax, an utter disgrace to the whole concept of miracles.
The woman who had supposedly recovered magically after the application of a locket carrying Mother Teresa’s picture was actually cured by prescribed medicines by professional doctors. Her husband confirmed that it was medicines which saved his wife and not some divine intervention. The officials of the hospital where the woman received her treatment claimed that they were being forced by the Catholic Order to declare the cure as a miracle.
The photograph which supposedly showed divine light at a House for the Dying was believed by the photographer himself to be due to the better camera reels. The only reason why the truths about Mother Teresa are suppressed is because of her image as a kind old woman, it is human instinct to pay respect to the elderly and not question someone who is thought to be trying her best to provide comforts to the poor. But that is exactly why the myth has existed for so long. Because people do not want to question, people refuse to question.
Christopher Hitchens, one of the staunchest opponents of Mother Teresa said,
“The rich world likes and wishes to believe that someone, somewhere, is doing something for the Third World. For this reason, it does not inquire too closely into the motives or practices of anyone who fulfils, however vicariously, this mandate.”
But the myth cannot and should not be allowed to persist any longer. We owe it to the poor who had to die because a fanatic won’t allow proper medical treatment; we owe it to the lives which were lost because a fanatic cared more for the absurd mandates of her dogmatic religion than actual human lives; we owe it to the poor whose misery and suffering were used to fulfil the ambitions of a tyrannical institution and its delusional servant. The truth must be exposed so that another fanatic won’t find it so easy to fool the public; the truth must be exposed so that people are more suspicious of anyone and everyone who promises faith as a cure. Because in the end, medicines and technology and humans provide each other comfort.
Not faith or saints or any God.
(Do check out the writer in The Pulpit)