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A not so sacred Saint: The other side of the most revered missionaries, Mother Teresa

As the country celebrated Raksha Bandhan on 26th August, many people and politicians are remembered Mother Teresa on her birth anniversary. People regard her as the angel or the saviour of the poor, one who helped the poor kids and families of Kolkata in their worst times. While, it is common to spot a portrait of Mother Teresa hanging in hospitals and schools, being a symbol of compassion and generosity. This image is intact, at least in the minds of the most people in India, since their childhood.

I am a firm believer of democracy. Thus, I abide by the core concept of democracy to question the ambiguous authority, immaterial of their influence in the society. Even Gods and scriptures, can be questioned and sometimes criticized. It’s neither wrong to revere the people who gave all of theirs for others nor erroneous to follow their ideals, which all of us should do. But, the ideals must always be in factual premises, as nobody can go unquestionable in a democratic state. None can surpass the sanctity of democracy.

You would be pondering over now and while reading the title that how can someone question Mother Teresa? Well, no right-minded one can do so, so how can I? In fact, when I heard of Christopher Hitchens, even I wondered about tainting the saintly figures like Mother Teresa, who earned a Nobel Prize for Peace in 1979 and was consecrated the title of Sainthood by Vatican in 2016.

Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu or Mother Teresa was not more than an Albanian missionary, who traveled to India through Ireland. History immensely provides to reveal the horrors that the poor and proselytized witnessed at her clinics and hospitals, due to the ardent and orthodox views she espoused of the Christianity.

Her views on abortion and contraception

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Abortion is an issue that forms a significant part of western politics. Strict set of laws are in effect in some western and Latin America countries to punish the act of abortion, even in the case of rapes.

India, where the laws are comparatively liberal regarding abortion still grieves the unfortunate death of Savita Halappanavaran. She was a woman of Indian origin, who died because of the strict abortion laws in Protestant-dominated Ireland which prevented the treatment for the complications of septic miscarriage at the 17th week.

It is ironical that Mother Teresa and Ireland both shared similar views on abortion, to the same extent. In fact, Mother Teresa in 1992, while addressing a crowd in Knock, Ireland, said:

‘’Let us promise Our Lady who loves Ireland so much that we will never allow in this country a single abortion. And no contraceptives.’’ [Page 58, The Missionary position, Christopher Hitchens]

The aversion to abortion and contraception was maybe explained by Mother herself in her speech at Norway while addressing the investiture, after receiving the Nobel Prize.

‘’And I feel one thing I want to share with you all, the greatest destroyer of peace today is the cry of the innocent unborn child…Even in the scripture it is written: Even if mother could forget her child – I will not forget you – I have carved you in the palm of my hand.’’

After toppling the Indira Gandhi government, Janta Party came to power in 1977 with Morarji Desai as the Prime Minister. In same year, PM Desai introduced a bill in the Parliament to discourage the use of ‘force or inducement’ in conversion of tribes, mainly in the north-east region of country.

As a result, many Christian NGOs and churches protested against the bill in Bombay, Delhi and Kolkata. Mother Teresa herself wrote a letter to Desai:

Mother Teresa’s letter to PM Moraraji Desai regarding introduction of anti-conversion law in parliament(Emphasis added)

In addition to being a vocal supporter of anti-abortion laws, she even dared PM Desai, to accept the demands of Christians in India or be ready to face spiritually dire consequences at the time of death.

Mother Teresa exploited the poor’s suffering

To put a context to the above sub-heading, have a look at what Mother Teresa had for an answer to Malcolm Muggeridge’s question [Page 11, The Missionary Position].

Malcolm: ‘Do you teach the poor to endure their lot?’

Mother Teresa: ‘I think it is very beautiful for the poor to accept their lot, to share it with the passion of Christ. I think the world is being much helped by the suffering of the poor people.’

Commenting upon above Mother Teresa’s logic and reams of other evidences, Christopher Hitchens wrote in his book:

“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.”

Christopher Hitchens was one of the staunch critics of Mother Teresa.

One can easily discard Hitchens book and evidences as being biased and written with an agenda, and his critics often do that. But, The Lancet, one the world’s oldest and most respected medical journal, sent Dr. Robin Fox to check the condition of Mother Teresa’s Home for the Dying Destitute.

Dr. Fox labelled the environment at those centres as ‘’haphazard’’ and severely criticized the lack of professionals at the hospice.

Dr Fox account in The Lancet regarding abysmal conditions in Dying Home(Emphasis added)

As you can see the snippet for yourself and paint the image of clinics and hospitals, handled in the most pathetic manner. The Home disallowed the patients from medical tests and prohibited the use of analgesics (painkillers) at their centres. Many benign and harmless diseases used to kill patients merely because of lack of antibiotics. They made the lives of the poor so insignificant.

One cannot simply argue the lack of resources. The Home ran in action nearly for four decades, and the charity received ample donations from people to maintain it. In the cited journal, Dr. Fox himself asserted that conditions of centres prevailed purely in accord to Mother Teresa’s wishes, thus the question of her unawareness can be excluded for the abysmal conditions of Homes of Dying.

Susan Shields a sister at Missionaries of Charity had the following to say, [Page 47, The Missionary Position]:

Susan Shields’ statement regarding inflow of donations but still unused on conditions of House

Many authors claimed that the needles were used multiple times in the centres,and never even sterilized and were merely ‘’washed’’ to clean them.

Mother Teresa used to tell her patients that they are suffering from pain as same as ‘’Christ faced the pain on cross.’’

Anand Ranganathan, a scientist and columnist, who is widely known on social media for his brilliant threads including his ‘’Made my day’’ thread, where he calls out the hypocrisy of politicians.

He similarly, wrote a thread in which he exposed her hypocrisy.

The tweet makes it very clear what Mother Teresa used to think of the dying and suffering kids at her facilities.

Mother Teresa used to baptize the dying children

Susan Shields again says:

Susan Shields’ testimony regarding proselytizing of dying children(Emphasis added)

This account and various others are votary of the malaise that seemed to have plagued Mother Teresa’s mind and motives. Sisters were sent to bed of dying children and surreptitiously asked to rub wet cloth on child’s forehead and chant relevant verses, so as to baptize the dying.

What a person could be like who baptizes children even at death! Evangelist in the garb of an angel.

Stories about baptizing dying children is also present in UK’s most circulated newspaper, here.

All of this statements by sisters of Missionaries of Charity shatters the mantle of altruism and generosity from Mother Teresa. Her bizarre justifications and exploiting suffering of poor, creates a very different canvas of Mother, from what we had seen since childhood.

Mother Teresa herself used to get capricious treatment from American Hospitals, but didn’t even allow painkillers and antibiotics to help poor children from excruciating pain at her centres. If this is not hypocrisy, then what on earth is!

Some other accounts regarding Mother Teresa by other journalists and writers

It is shocking that people discard all these evidences and not see through the veil. Even recently, Missionaries of Charity in Jharkhand was under scrutiny for selling around 280 in lieu of money.

More clinching evidences are put forth by Dr. Aroup Chatterjee in his book ‘The Final Verdict’ and ‘Mother Teresa: The Untold story’

In 2013 a French research paper published in a journal called Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses, analyzed 96% of literature pertaining to Mother Teresa, and drew various conclusions.

Their researches corroborated Dr Fox’s observation of Dying Homes published in The Lancet, regarding hygiene and medical awareness. They also questioned about the  usage of large sum of money, that Mother Teresa received from donors across the globe. They called enrtire image made by media a myth and severely criticised pusillanimous attitude of media while addressing the various allegations on Teresa’s works.

Entire research paper is summarized in this news report.

Even, a documentary was released in 1994 of the name ‘’Angel’s Hell’’ on criticized Mother Teresa. It was based on interviews done by Malcolm Muggeridge who was a great admirer of Mother Teresa and her miracles, but all his claims were later debunked by his cameraman Ken McMillan.

Mary Loudon, former volunteer at House of Dying in Kolkata, was another witness to tragedies and abjection at those houses.

On the night of 2 December 1984, Bhopal witnessed one the world’s most gruesome incident of history. The leakage of Methyl Isocynate killed thousands of people immediately, the world’s worst industrial disaster.

Anees Chisti, a reputed journalist penned down a book named Dateline Bhopal. She quotes Mother Teresa views on tragedy and the main culprit Warren Anderson.[ page 51, Mother’s Message of Hope]

Snippet from Dateline Bhopal

The archetype of humanity and compassion asks the victims to ‘’forgive’’ the perpetrators. Maybe, Mother didn’t realize the quantum of the tragedy that not only killed but even crippled thousands and left them suffer whole lives. I can’t even imagine, a person, let alone a Saint, to have such views on human tragedies.

Conclusion

Mother Teresa coming from West to eastern countries to take care of children seems so beautiful and angelic! As Krithika Varagur here cites, historian Vijay Prasad,

Mother Teresa is the quintessential image of the white woman in the colonies, working to save the dark bodies from their own temptations and failures.

We have to bear with the bitter tenets of democracy, no half-truth shall elude the people for long. The smearing attempts by some part of the media has left the people untouched of the public ideals. They still feed the people on the British origins make us fond of anything that is western. We need to stop being fans of West or at least be more pragmatic.

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Devanshu Rajput
I am 18 year old budding writer. Fighting odds. Always curious. Always learning.

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