Cults: September 2007 Archives

a very rewarding friendship (Blessed Teresa greeting friend Charles Keating)

On this tenth anniversary of the demise of Mother Teresa, the acclaimed world-champion of suffering and death [whose lifer inmates were refused even aspirin, but who died only after availing herself of the very finest and most expensive medical treatment available in the West], I can no longer stay silent.

I've written at some length about the mutha before, and I was going to ignore the outrageous outpouring of memorials which have attended this happy date until just now, when I came upon an editorial in today's NYTimes with the oddly-equivocal headline, "A Saint of Darkness". This is ostensibly a secular journal, but it's a sappy paean and it ends with an extraordinary reference to the grotesque Catholic cult figure's supposed struggles against religious disbelief. These gilded lines would almost certainly embarrass even the National Catholic Reporter:

Mother Teresa, sick with longing for a sense of the divine, kept faith with the sick of Calcutta. And now, dead for 10 years, she is poised to reach those who can at last recognize, in her, something of their own doubting, conflicted selves.

And now, as we're told by the Church, her agent, she herself belongs to the gods.

But not so fast. There is another, less fictive take on this wretched creature than that so successfully hyped around the Western world. The Times editorial board itself may be of more than one mind on the subject of the "just-say-no-to-drugs-and-yes-to-Jesus nunnery fund-raiser and baptism zealot. On this same holy day, on the opposite page from the editorial they also publish an OP-ED piece by Chitrita Banerji, "Poor Calcutta", which delivers a very different slant on the story of the woman with the current Vatican title, "Blessed Teresa of Calcutta". Banerji is speaking first for the dignity of her hometown Calcutta [I share her love for that magnificent city], which she argues the scary nun and her fanatical acolytes have savaged in the public mind, but her defense requires some bluntness about the fundamental error of the campaign. Here are two excerpts:

[The worldwide condemnation of Calcutta over other cities] was an instance of spin in which the news media colluded — voluntarily or not — with a religious figure who was as shrewd as any fund-raising politician, as is evident from the global expansion of her organization. For Calcutta natives like me, however, Mother Teresa’s charity also evoked the colonial past — she felt she knew what was best for the third world masses, whether it was condemning abortion or offering to convert those who were on the verge of death.

. . . .

[Banerji writes that she had hoped that after the nun's death the balance of perception might be restored to her beloved city] Ten years and one beatification later, however, the relentless hagiography of the Catholic Church and the peculiar tunnel vision of the news media continue to equate Calcutta with the twinned entities of destitution and succor publicized by Mother Teresa. With cultish fervor, her organization, the Missionaries of Charity, promotes her as an icon of mercy. Meanwhile, countless unheralded local organizations work for the needy without the glamour of a Nobel Prize or of impending sainthood.

Once again, on the true nature of Mother Superior Teresa and her Missionaries of Charity: No medical care was given to any of the people to whom members of her oder "ministered"; the Mother had a creepy lust for suffering; even by its founder's own admission she was only interested in racking up the maximum numbers of "souls" for the next life; to that end any friendship, any kind of transaction was appropriate; and finally, the earthly Church she represented was not the compassionate institution imagined by many of her patrons, but rather one whose elements would be unrecognizable to even the most conservative of Catholics.

This sounds like they would want to create hell everywhere on earth; it would hardly seem to be a good advertisement for their regime in heaven, but what do I know about the attraction of marketing, fads, bandwagons or cults?

[image from]

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