Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, is Mother Teresa’s real name. I haven’t looked it up from Wikipedia, I know it by heart, because in school, I was required to learn it by rote.
Yes, most of us know whatever we know of Mother Teresa from our school textbooks. And as is the case with most textbook heroes, we know only the good stuff.
But why has she come into the spotlight now? Because as per media reports RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, has said “Conversion was Mother Teresa’s top goal”.
At the outset, let me clearly say I haven’t seen enough evidence to conclude that she actively indulged in religious conversions per se.
Much of the outrage on Social Media, has been because this criticism has come from a “Communal Sanghi”. But what if I tell you, even some American and British people are sceptical about her work?
As the name suggests, this is a show which is dedicated to Bullshit detection from all over the world (I recommend you watch it), and to prove their secular credentials, let me tell you they spare no-one. In fact in the same episode in which they spoke on Mother Teresa, they talked about some uncomfortable facts from Mahatma Gandhi’s life too.
Coming to Mother Teresa, Penn & Teller (P & T), speak to Christopher Hitchens, author of the book “The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice”, Dr Arup Chatterjee author of “Mother Teresa, the final verdict” and an actual nun who used to work with Mother Teresa.
The first common misconception among people is that Teresa “cured” or “helped cure” the sick and diseased. This is denied by both the authors concerned. Her “Home for the Dying“, “had no doctors saving lives, but it was a place for victims to suffer and die, by the rules of the catholic church“.
This is supported by the ex-nun, who says, “Mother Teresa has created a cult of suffering“. This is even borne out by Mother Teresa’s own statement, which endorses suffering:
“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”
Dr Chatterjee further states that “Mother Teresa’s order was to not provide proper beds, but just little hammocks. There is a communal toilet where people have to defecate in presence of each other and the inmates are not allowed visits from their friends and relatives“.
They also show a video clip, where Mother Teresa says, “We see Christ in the broken body, and we touch him, and that touch comes from that deep faith, that Christ cannot deceive.”Dr Chatterjee also remarks that “It was her obsession with suffering, and her obsession that people need to suffer, in order to come close to Jesus“.
From all this, two things are clear; Religion played a major role in her work, and she did not necessarily work to remove suffering, as is generally portrayed.
Some may argue that taking care of millions of such people would need money, and since she couldn’t afford it, she didn’t provide for healing her “patients”. But Mother Teresa did raise a lot of money from donations.
The video mentions she raised some of her money, from people with dubious records, but I don’t subscribe to that. Money can come from the biggest criminals, as long as it is being put to good use. But most of the money she received, “was mostly spent on religious activities and not on the poor. More than 50% of her organizations all over the world were Nunneries or Brothers’ homes.”
She continued to receive large amounts of money, which she spent on opening new convents and increasing missionary work, while her Home for the Dying continued to be in the same state, with no upgradation.
It is hard to find out exactly how much money her trusts earned and spent, because “Missionaries of Charity, is the only Indian Charitable Institution, which does not publish accounts for the public, and much of the Foreign money is kept in the Vatican bank”.
From this, it is clear that her Organization had lots of money, but it was mostly spent on Religious activities and not charitable causes.
So in summary, as per the video, Mother Teresa opened homes for the dying, where she did not treat them, let them suffer, because she believed it would bring them closer to Christ, and all this in-spite of having enough money to help them, which she preferred spending on Nunneries and Brothers’ homes around the world.
Let’s just say the video is a hit-job, and over exaggerates most of the stuff, even then, the stuff is not what we learnt in school. It would be fair to say, Mother Teresa, could have done some good work, but many people suffered too, and most of her work was driven by religion and not by love for the needy.
P.S. If you think I too am a Communal Sanghi, watch the video. It is far far more uncharitable to others than to her.
P.P.S I get no joy out of this. I had seen this video many years back (I am a big fan of P & T). I only mentioned this now because I realised many people did not know the other side.