Maybe she's finally beginning to rot.

Some of the world's media this week is carrying the story about a festival in Calcutta celebrating Mother Teresa's imminent beatification. Calcutta, or Kolkata, as it is now known officially, is the city which made the Albanian-born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu a star. The news is that the Catholic Church was very upset that organizers had decided to include 2 films which her cult found objectionable.

"In the Name of God's Poor," a puff-piece dramatization, is based on a book by French author Dominique Lapierre [also wrote "City of Joy"]. It is opposed by the order, the Missionaries of Charity, for reasons not clearly explained. What we do know from a New Delhi daily is that the nuns insist Teresa, on whose life the film is based, did not approve of the script. Huh? Actually, the film sounds like it would be pretty boring for everyone.

At least "The Song of Bernadette" had moments of rapture to look back on. But "Mother Teresa" is flat. It's as if the reverberations she set off fell on deaf ears, and the poorest of the poor were still left wanting.
The other film, "Hell's Angel" is a documentary based on Christopher Hitchens's book "The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice." Some of us are already familiar with the reasons why such a film would be a problem for the order and for all the people and institutions that have so heavily invested in the Teresan cult. Even Australia's Catholic News admits Hitchens is well known as a strong critic of Mother Teresa with his claims that her reputation for sanctity was a front.

The section of the NYTimes review shown on Amazon reads:

Like all good pamphlets, The Missionary Position . . . is very short, zealously overwritten, and rails wildly in defense of an almost nonsensical proposition: that Mother Teresa of Calcutta is actually not a saint but an evil and selfish old woman. And Mr. Hitchens . . . is rather convincing. His main beef is that Teresa . . . has consorted with despots and white-collar criminals and gained millions of tax-free dollars, while the residents of her famous Calcutta clinic are still forced to confront their mortality with inadequate care. Ultimately, he argues, Mother Teresa is less interested in helping the poor than in using them as an indefatigable source of wretchedness on which to fuel the expansion of her fundamentalist Roman Catholic beliefs. Hitchens argues his case with consummate style.
I find it very interesting that the Archbishop of Calcutta, who saw them in a private screening in his home, is reported in the Hindustan Times article cited above to have said said he found no reason to object to the films being included.

The anti-Teresan's arguments? I'll offer these for a start:

The Mother promoted promoting a strain of religion reactionary even when compared to the Vatican's most conservative parties.

She objected to artificial birth control despite the serious problems caused in India and elsewhere by overpopulation.

She constantly condemned abortion as a "the greatest destroyer of peace."

She said it is better for women to be "handmaids of the Lord" than to become priests.

She accepted contributions from unclean sources, and without questioning them, including huge sums from Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier. In 1992, she wrote to the U.S. judge presiding over the trial of Charles Keating, who had donated $1.25 million to her order, telling him that the central figure in the U.S. savings and loan scandals "has always been kind and generous to God's poor."

No aspirin. The [sometimes incendiary, but solid with basic Teresa facts] writer on The Konformist site, to which I owe this post's title, contributes,

Despite this money, her missionaries were noticeably frugal... at least as far as it concerns those who needed it. When one volunteer questioned why no pain-killing drugs were supplied to those who visited, the response shot back, "This is not a treatment center. This is a place where the dying can die with dignity." Even in a notably impoverished area as Calcutta, those who visited with any knowledge of normal treatment standards knew that Mother T's home was seriously lacking.
We should all have been noticing for years that whenever she herself was ill, the Mother stayed in modern hospitals, not her own hovels with their racks of the sick.
Of course, when she required her own medical care, only the best would do. In public, she declined a 1984 offer for free cataract surgery from the St Francis Medical Center, worth $5,000. But the following year, she quietly received the same treatment at St. Vincent's Hospital in New York. Not to mention visits to the Scripps Clinic and the Gemelli Hospital, and numerous visits for cardiac care at the Birla Heart Institute in Calcutta. At some point she got a pacemaker installed.

. . . .

In the April 1996 issue of Ladies Home Journal M.T. disclosed that she wished to finish her life in one of her own Houses of the Dying, just like those poor people she attended to. But when she died the following year, she was in her private bedroom, surrounded by modern cardiac machinery.

No bread for the unconverted. She was only concerned about stacking up "souls" in heaven, not helping bodies on earth, and it was all for her own honor and glory, here and in an imagined hereafter, and not just for the honor and glory of her god. One who saw it long ago writes:
Back in the late 1970s I recall watching a PBS documentary the Spanish language channel. It documented Mama T's trip to Central America after the terrible earthquake that devastated either Guatemala or Nicaragua- I believe the latter. While pretty much standard doc there was 1 thing which burned itself in to my mind - scene where Mama T was in an Indian hospital. She, literally, had some pieces of plain bread that she teased the bloated bellies of starving children with. However, she did not feed all the children - only those who would recite Catholic vespers with her. Those Hindu Moslem children who refused were not given any bread. Yes, Mama T almost surreally - would not feed those children who would not prostitute the beliefs of their conscience. This was where I 1st learned - visually & viscerally - why Missionism & proselytizing were so fundamentally wrong. What is incredible, to me, was how this documentary has apparently fallen to the nether-regions of public consciousness. A few months later, Mama T won her Nobel Peace Prize.
Remember "Pagan Babies"? Later the writer excerpted above offers an explanation for the perverse character of this scary nun's life work:
"Well, the answer to that is simple, as Christopher Hitchens said, Mama T's mission is 'the promulgation of a cult based on death and suffering and subjection.'"
In her own words, "I think it is very beautiful for the poor to accept their lot . . . I think the world is being much helped by the suffering of the poor people."

I'll close with just two of the blurbs from the back of Hitchen's little book.

"A dirty job but someone had to do it. By the end of this elegantly written, brilliantly argued piece of polemic, it is not looking good for Mother Teresa." - Sunday Times (London)

"Hilariously Mean" - John Waters

How can I purchase a copy of "Hell's Angel"?

Thanks - Kevin C.

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Published on August 6, 2003 2:44 PM.

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