One of the interesting books published in 1995 debunks the myth of Mother Teresa, who has been unjustly built into a near-saint by the media. She has been virtually untouchable as an almost sacred figure. and anyone who dares to criticize her is promptly rebuked.
The book is The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa In Theory And Practice, by Christopher Hitchens (Verso, London and New York, 1995) $12.95. Hitchens aired a documentary on her in England and has investigated her activities.
He questions her Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 because she never did anything for peace. In fact, in her acceptance speech she said, “Abortion is the worst evil, and the greatest enemy of peace… Because if a mother can kill her own child, what will prevent us from killing ourselves or one another? Nothing.”
Wherever she goes this is her constant message. In 1992 at an open air mass in Knock, Ireland, she said, “Let us promise our Lady who loves Ireland so much, that we will never allow this country a single abortion. And no contraceptives.” She obviously sees no connection between poverty and too many children.
In one interview cited in the book, she was asked, “So you wouldn’t agree with people who say there are too many children in India?” She said, “I do not agree, because God always provides. He provides for the flowers and the birds, for everything in the world He has created. And those little children are his life. There can never be enough.”
One of Mother Teresa’s volunteers in Calcutta described her “Home for the Dying” as resembling photos of concentration camps such as Belsen. No chairs, just stretcher beds. Virtually no medical care or painkillers beyond aspirin, and a refusal to take a 15-year-old boy to a hospital. Hitchens adds, “Bear in mind that Mother Teresa’s global income is more than enough to outfit several first class clinics in Bengal. The decision not to do so… is a deliberate one.
The point is not the honest relief of suffering, but the promulgation of a cult based on death and suffering and subjection.”
Then Hitchens notes that Mother Teresa “has checked into some of the finest and costliest clinics and hospitals in the West during her bouts with heart trouble and old age.”
The author mentions her visit to Haiti and her endorsement of the Duvaliers, the source of much deprivation of the poor in Haiti. Also, her acceptance of stolen money from Charles Keating, “now serving a ten-year sentence for his part in the savings and loan scandal.” Keating, a “Catholic fundamentalist”, gave Mother Teresa one and a quarter million dollars and “the use of his private jet.”
During the course of Keating’s trial, Mother Teresa wrote Judge Ito asking clemency and asked Ito “to do what Jesus would do.”
One of the prosecutors in the trial wrote her telling her “of 17,000 individuals from whom Mr. Keating stole $252,000,000.” He added, “You urge Judge Ito to look into his heart–as he sentences Charles Keating–and do what Jesus would do. I submit the same challenge to you. Ask yourself what Jesus would do if he were given the fruits of a crime; what Jesus would do if he were in possession of money that had been stolen; what Jesus would do if he were being exploited by a thief to ease his conscience.” The prosecutor asked her to return the money, and offered to put her “in direct contact with the rightful owners of the property now in your possession.”
This supposed paragon of virtue never replied to his letter.
No one knows what happens to the millions of dollars Mother Teresa receives. There is no accounting and no evidence that she has built a hospital or orphanage that reflects modern health and sanitary conditions.
Hitchens details the reactionary political activities of Mother Teresa, from aiding the Spanish right wing against the anti-Franco forces who were seeking a secular society in post-Franco Spain, to her visits to Nicaragua and Guatemala to whitewash the atrocities of the Contras and death squads.
There is much more in this book, such as letters from former workers with Mother Teresa exposing her hypocrisy. Hitchens concludes his 98-page book with reference to her fund-raising for clerical nationalists in the Balkans, her endorsement by Ralph Reed of the Christian Coalition, and her “cover for all manner of cultists and shady businessmen.” His last sentence is, “It is past time that she was subjected to the rational critique that she has evaded so arrogantly for so long.”
John M. Swomley serves American society in various capacities, a major one being a Jeffersonian advocate of separation of church and state.