The Vatican announced on Thursday, December 17 that Pope Francis was going to canonize Mother Teresa in 2016, officially making her a saint in the Roman Catholic Church.
A quite interesting choice, indeed, seeing as how she spent most of her adult life insuring that the most destitute and terminally ill denizens of Kolkata suffered in total anguish, completely isolated from their families, before succumbing to their various afflictions. She became a pious globetrotter, and began soliciting millions and millions of dollars from oppressive regimes, such as the Duvaliers of Haiti, and from con artists, such as Charles Keating of the notorious Lincoln Savings and Loan scandal. But, once again, the public is being spoon fed this whitewashed, ingratiating image of the Albanian nun, who’s real name was Agnes Bojaxhiu. Yes, even her name was a sham.
It has been estimated that she accumulated somewhere between $50-$100 million during her sanctimonious world tour, but in spite of this influx of riches to her organization, Missionaries of Charity, the living conditions of her flagship Kalighat Home for the Dying Destitutes never improved. Her “patients” continued to sleep on World War 2-style medical stretchers — just a few inches off of the ground — share communal toilets, and were routinely denied any real, substantive medical care. It was once reported that a 15-year old boy was made to die from a treatable kidney ailment simply because Mother Teresa’s group refused to allow him to be taken to an actual hospital.
Christopher Hitchens spent a great deal of time highlighting the fraudulent and perverse conduct of Mother Teresa. In 1992, he wrote an article for “The Nation” entitled, “Mother Teresa: The Ghoul of Calcutta“, where he talks about his meeting with her and his visit to her sanctuary of suffering in 1980. He was interviewed by Brian Lamb for C-Span’s “Booknotes“, in 1993, about his book, “For the Sake of Argument“, which included his article from ‘The Nation“. (Skip to 12:30 if you wish to go directly to the part where Mother Teresa is discussed, by the entire interview is worth watching, in my opinion.)
He followed that up with the 1994 documentary, “Hell’s Angel“, followed the next year by his book/pamphlet entitled, “The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice“, where he expanded on the instances and evidence covered in the previous documentary. She was also featured in the season 3 episode, “Holier Than Thou“, of the show, “Penn and Teller: Bullshit!” As a matter of fact, Christopher Hitchens also appeared in that episode to provide comment on her. (The link is to an edited version. This episode featured Mahatma Gandhi and the Dalai Lama, in addition to Mother Teresa, but only the Mother Teresa parts are included in the link provided.)
While Hitchens certainly wasn’t the first person to shine a light on her shoddy practices, he easily became the most prominent. While previous criticism had been levied at Mother Teresa from the likes of Germaine Greer and Barbara Smoker, they seemed to be more driven by their own feminist ideologies and focused on her outspoken opposition to abortion and contraception, rather than the demonstrable harm that she was inflicting upon the poor, ailing masses of Kolkata.
Mother Teresa wasn’t so much a champion of the poor but, rather, an exploiter of them. She used the guise of helping the poor in order to get close to some of the world’s elite. The true irony, and hypocrisy, here is that she frequently snuggled up to some of the most ardent detractors of the poor, such as Ronald Reagan and Margret Thatcher — both whom built their political careers on the denunciation of the less fortunate. She also seemed to have an affinity for tyrannical dictators, as she heaped praise and admiration onto the previously mentioned Duvalier family in Haiti, as well as popular atheist scapegoat Enver Hoxha in her native Albania.
Of the Duvalier family, she once opined, “I have never seen the poor people being so familiar with their heads of state as they were with [Michele Duvalier]. It was a beautiful lesson for me. I’ve learned something from it.” Michele Duvalier was the wife of Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, who ruled Haiti with an iron fist until his ouster in 1985. During his regime, hundreds of thousands of Haitians fled their native homeland to escape his barbaric rule, which saw Haita become the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere. This, of course, did not affect the Duvalier’s lavish lifestyle. The already poor and starving citizenry had to foot the $2 million tab for “Baby Doc” and Michele’s wedding. Once the people started to rise up against them, Michele Duvalier — the same woman who Mother Teresa revered — pleaded with her husband to exterminate the uprising, rather than to entertain the numerous pleas for him to step down.
Heads of state were not the only recipients of her holy adoration, either. In 1984, the Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, India started leaking a massive amount of poisonous gas. Around 30 metric tons were released in less than an hour. The gas enveloped the surrounding shanty towns, killing around 3,000 initially, with an additional 12,000 eventually dying from health complications due to inhaling the toxic gas. In the midst of this tragedy arrives Mother Teresa, who proceeds to marginalize the anguish the victims were experiencing by saying, “I have seen worse suffering. It is more terrible to see a person with maggots eating his face slowly dying over weeks and months.”
And it that wasn’t insulting enough, she went on to defend Union Carbide. “It is important to forgive”, she said. “Forgiveness offers us a clean heart and people will be a hundred times better after it.” For the record, Union Carbide’s plant had experienced several previous leaks. The local Indian government had pointed out the numerous problems to the plant’s administrators as early as 1979, but the company decided that fixing those problems were not necessary. They had 4 documented leaks in 1982, with more happening the following year. Most of the safety systems were non-functional and the equipment was in horrible condition at the time of the disaster. There is no doubt that corporate greed and neglect lead to what has been described as the world’s worst industrial disaster.
She also threw her support behind terrorist militia organizations, such as the infamous Nicaraguan Contras, as well as the Phalanges in Lebanon, both of which showed no qualms in using terrorist attacks to murder scores of civilians in order to achieve their goals.
It is clear to me that Mother Teresa was not an angel of the poor. She did not work to alleviate the poor but, rather, to insure that they remained so. But even worse than that, to guarantee that they languished and suffered as much as humanly possible before they died for her own, personal ideology and gratification.
If that is not sadism, I don’t know what is.