Monday, 27 August 2007

More Mother Teresa

Do bears shit in the woods? Is the pope a catholic? Was Mother Teresa a believer?

One of these three things is under question: CBS News reports that according to letters of hers about to be published, Mother Teresa was "tormented" by "doubts concerning her faith." Mario has some thoughts on the news that tie in with what we already know about the evil Albanian witch:
It seems that Mother Teresa wasn’t turning Atheist, but only indulging in a little self-flagellation — a perfectly Christian pastime.
Read Mario's post here: Is the Pope Catholic? - Coarsely Ground
And some previous posts on the Albanian witch here:
UPDATE: A comment on this by Lindsay Perigo rather concentrates the mind:

One would hope God has been dealt a hellish blow with Mother Teresa's letters having come to light. "... the silence and the emptiness is so great, that I look and do not see, — Listen and do not hear — the tongue moves but does not speak ..."

'Cos there's no one there dear! ;^)
Instructive that MT's expression of the emptiness at the heart of religion has been massaged by the faithful into an expression of faith. As more than one commentater has pointed out, when doubts such as these are used to confirm a doctrine, then what could possibly disconfirm it?

Christopher Hitchens (again) says it "as calmly as I can—the Church should have had the elementary decency to let the earth lie lightly on this troubled and miserable lady, and not to invoke her long anguish to recruit the credulous to a blind faith in which she herself had long ceased to believe."


  1. I've listened to Hitchens arguments, and I'm not convinced. The man is unbalanced. Maybe if he sobered up?

    He manages to misinterpret just about everything, which isn't surprising given his lack of emotional maturity.

    What is it with this fanaticism? Are you annoyed she got to Calcutta before you and cornered the market?

  2. Zentiger, please answer the following:

    1. Were the poor any less poor after being helped by Mother Teresa?

    2. Were the sick any less sick after being helped by Mother Teresa?

    3. She raised money for the poor and sick, went most money to the poor and sick or not?

    And if you read her letters, she admit that all what she told people was a mask.

    Makes you think or not?

  3. So let's get this right. Here is this woman who took a vow of poverty and kept it her whole life. Who ministered to the poorest of the poor in a country far away from her home. Who every day ministered to the sick and the dying. Who at the end of her life was given a state funeral in recognition of her life's work.
    And somehow you feel it is okay to call her evil and the witch of Albania?

  4. SCOTT: No, Scott, you don't have it right.

    This is a woman who inflicted suffering every day of her life -- suffering by others which was entirely avoidable, but which was supposed to get her closer to Jesus.

    There was a reason for providing those links, Scott. May I recommend you read them to see why I've described her as I have?

    ZEN: Glad to see you attacking the messenger. Does that mean you have no problem with the message?

  5. PC is it your serious contention that the incredible problems of suffering in Calcutta were caused by Mother Teresa?

    I am very familiar with the writings of Christopher Hitchens and I saw the television programme by Penn & Tellar. The latter was perhaps the most unpleasant example of character assassination I have ever witnessed. The former exhibits an almost palpable hatred of all things Christian. Why they see fit to lambast Mother Teresa, God only knows.

    Once again Mother Teresa obeying the call of God ministered to the poorest of the poor in Calcutta. She did that because of her Christian faith and despite local opposition. The locals did not care for the people that Mother Teresa cared for.

    She faithfully performed that task her whole life. She was poor her whole life. She earned the respect of almost everyone in the world -- apart apparently from some atheists. The Indian people themselves attended her funeral in droves. She was given a state funeral in recognition of her work.

    Now rather than criticising such a person, I would say how can I apply some of her example in my own life?

    I would ask myself --

    what poor person have I helped lately?

    If anyone comes to me for help do I give it?

    What is it about following Jesus that compels people to want to help others?

    Have I prayed for, or ministered to, or indeed in any way shown any kindness to my fellow man recently?

    Have I ever comforted a dying person?

    I think Mother Teresa could have answered all those questions.Before we criticise her, might we do well to look to our own consciences?

  6. Hi Berend. Happy to:

    1. Yes. But Mother Thersea was not about material wealth.
    2. Yes. But keep in mind she tended to those left dying in the streets of Calcutta.
    3. She was given money, which she used to build an organisation that would go out and help people to die with dignity. Others specialize in helping the blind, helping those with broken bones, those with epilepsy, those with emotional problems, those with HIV. People are allowed to 'specialise'.

    And her letters revealed that she was doing the best she could with what she had, like many of us. We all have doubts, fears and weaknesses. I think most people, like Hitchens, have already decided to hate and will spend all their time linking the worst and never once acknowledging the best.

    Berend, a question for you: what did she do with her Nobel prize money?

    I'll help here: Donate it.

    So, chances are in one swoop, has she donated more money than you ever did to a neutral third party which should have gone on to deliver charitable services in a way you approve of since you obviously dont approve of her helping people that would have simply died unnoticed in the streets.

    And Hitchens has the audacity to pretend these people don't exist, when suggesting Mother Theresa was, by helping these people die with dignity, was promoting a view of India that contrasted with the truth - latte swilling middle class for whom the untouchables were also the unmentionables and totally forgetables.

  7. Gee, listen to the children of lucky wombs complain!
    Basically the problem is that someone tried to help, wasn't perfect, but tried to smooth the suffrering of a few people unluckily born into the some of the worse conditions on the planet. In sport this criticism is called 'monday morning quarterbacking' or generally, 'armchair experts'.
    Berend- Theresa isn't the cause of Calcutta slums. Who realistically expected her to abolish sickness or poverty? Also, how much $$$ did she raise and how many dollars was it divided per HEAD?

    PC - For a 'free-thinker' why do you regurgitate so fully whatever your favourite authour opines? Why is Hitchens believed without question and Malcom Muggeridge, say, who was also an atheist but who was greatly impressed by Theresa never mentioned?

    Perhaps Theresa was awful but she was on the ground up to her elbows Where is the great charitable work of the Ayn Rand Institute in Calcutta? Where's the Hitchen's Charitiable Fund? Same place as the Michael Moore Fund.

    Is it act of a sovereign individual freely choosing poverty and yoking herself to those without any reasonable hope that is so repugnant to the Randian?

  8. Shit-oh-dear, the believers are out on this one!

    Hitchens got it right on the nail. The Theresa cult was built on the backs of the suffering and dying. She failed to alleviate suffering, merely directed it and exploited it for her own ideological ends. That's the point.

    Gotta love the "you can't criticise unless you do what she did" bullshit. It's a variant of ad hominem. Attack the messenger. Instead of dealing with the substantive point (reproduced above) the cultist relies on an attack. The holy one is "better" than the critic for some reason or other. Therefore his criticism is invalidated somehow.

    Blind believers are common. Real analysis is rare indeed.


  9. In reply to LGM I confess that I am a Christian. My apologies for coming to an atheist website -- it was linked to by New Zealand conservative -- so I was curious about this particular subject.
    "The believers" as you call us have not just attacked the messenger -- but provided arguments as to why Mother Teresa is held in high regard. Whereas you yourself provide no argument, just an assertion that she exploited the weak for her own ends.
    The ad hominem argument as you call it is really a reminder that before we criticise others we should look to our own consciences. As Jesus himself said, "why do you speak about the speck in your brother's eye when you have a plank of 4 x 2 in your own?"
    In other words -- and in relation to this particular instance -- it seems just a tad hypocritical to criticise someone else's work with the poor, when we ourselves do nothing for them. And furthermore is there something in our own moral character that makes us want to tear down others? Might we not be better to subject ourselves to a rigorous moral self-examination?
    I just fail to see how someone who follows the will of God, devotes her whole life to the poor, stays poor her whole life, can be so viciously criticised by Western intellectuals and not so intellectuals, who would never contemplate even going to a Calcutta slum, let alone serving there.

  10. ZEN, you say, "her letters revealed that she was doing the best she could with what she had.."

    I disagree, unless by exacerbating suffering as widely as you can is your standard of "the good."

    From one of those linked posts which I provided:

    "MT 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. She was a friend to the worst of the rich, taking misappropriated money from the atrocious Duvalier family in Haiti (whose rule she praised in return) and from Charles Keating of the Lincoln Savings and Loan. Where did that money, and all the other donations, go? The primitive hospice in Calcutta was as run down when she died as it always had been—she preferred California clinics when she got sick herself—and her order always refused to publish any audit. But we have her own claim that she opened 500 convents in more than a hundred countries, all bearing the name of her own order. Excuse me, but this is modesty and humility?"

    Still not convinced? Then try this excerpt from 'The diabolical works of Mother Teresa,' an article by Auckland University's Robert White:

    "You see, Mother Teresa believes that poverty and suffering are "gifts" from God. And the sisters in her order, The Missionaries of Charity, are taught that suffering makes God very happy. Mother Teresa once recounted, with a bright smile, how she had told a terminally ill cancer patient, who was suffering from unbearable pain, that, "You are suffering like Christ on the cross. So Jesus must be kissing you." Now, get that. According to Mother Teresa, Jesus, who, remember, is a moral ideal in her religion, expresses his "love" through tormenting the sick and the dying, while his father - God - gets his kicks from watching their suffering. This is pure sadism. And, unfortunately for the poor, Mother Teresa was ruthlessly intent on making God a very happy deity."

    If suffering was NOT her aim, then why on earth do you think that needles from TB patients and AIDs suffers were re-used in her 'clinics.' Why was it painkillers were withheld from her patients? Withheld ON PRINCIPLE because according to Mother Teresa's bizarre philosophy, it is "the most beautiful gift for a person that he can participate in the sufferings of Christ."

    Sheesh! this wasn't lack of money -- those thieves and dictators gave her plenty - it was a choice made based on a bloody awful principle.

  11. GREG,

    1. Muggeridge is not a reliable witness. Muggeridge was all too ready to "believe" in Teresa's sainthood, even to the extent of believing she had the power to improve the light in a room fro his film crew. He was reluctant to hear the truth: that the filming of the dark room was made lighter by use of a new Kodak film.

    2. You ask, "Where is the great charitable work of the Ayn Rand Institute in Calcutta? Where's the Hitchen's Charitiable Fund?"

    This is answered in another of those links already provided above:

    "The point about Mother Teresa isn't that there is anything necessarily wrong with helping the poor [to the extent that she did help rather than hinder].

    The point is that it is an extremely minor and trivial way to help them and elevating people such as her diminishes the much more profound impact of industrial development and the great men who make it possible.

    Funny how even today, 900 years after Maimonides demonstrated that the best way to help a poor man is to fund a business that will give him a productive job, and with it the self-respect and independence that come from productive work, Christians still think that the best way is to build him a hospital to die in - without even analgesics to ease his pain - when he gets ill from one of the many diseases caused by staying poor.

    Michael Dell employs 8600 people in India. Larry Ellison (Oracle) somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000. IBM 39,000. Together, that's around 60,000 workers; with their families, about a quarter million, who in the unlikely case they get sick (people with good jobs do not get sick anywhere as often as the really poor) can afford real medical care, including analgesics - instead of the unmedicated pain dealt to the poor in 'Mother' Teresa's hospital down the road.

    So, if you really want to throw some money at poverty in India, invest in Dell Computer, in Oracle, in IBM. The people of India will grow richer, and you will too. Harmony of interests and all that.

  12. So it seems, PC, that you believe that if a person has investments that provide income for people so that they don't have to die in the streets, if that person should happen to come across some dying in the gutter their conscience would be clear because they would have already done their bit.

  13. Lucyna, what I believe is just exactly what I said.

    If I wanted to say what you somehow inferred, I would say it. What I wanted to say was this: If you really want to throw some money at poverty in India, invest in Dell Computer, in Oracle, in IBM. The people of India will grow richer, and you will too. Harmony of interests and all that.

    Think about it. My point is that suffering is not a virtue -- quite the contrary -- and help need not be sacrificial -- and nor should it be.

  14. PC, suffering is something that happens no matter what. However, what we choose to do with that suffering is a different matter. A person can choose to whine and moan and go "it's not fair, I need drugs", or they can choose to do something positive with their suffering.

    It may seem odd to you, but in Catholic theology, we have the option of doing something positive with our suffering and uniting it to Christ's on the Cross for the redemption of humanity.

    See Redemptive Suffering for more of an explanation.

    Also, I don't know if you have ever been around dying people before and seen that there is a point at which there is nothing to be done about their suffering with out killing them. We have this mindset that all suffering can be alleviated - it cannot. My experience of my Dad dying certainly showed me that.

  15. Scorecard for reducing poverty in India: Mother Teresa,hand wringing and masturbating to the misery of the poor... nil.....Capitalism and a free-er market creating wealth and contest.

  16. Abdul the Butcher31 Aug 2007, 18:53:00

    "In Catholic theology, we have the option of doing something positive with our suffering and uniting it to Christ's on the Cross for the redemption of humanity."

    You Catholics and your theology were really big in the Inquisition. There was plenty of sanctified and holy suffering in that.

    You were big in Crusades. Plenty of Holy God inspired suffering there.

    Really good on letting the Krauts get ahead with the business of killing off Jews, Gypsies and Slavs. Plenty of Catholcis got into dishing out holy sanctified suffering there.

    Such theologists. You'd be right at home comparing notes with the Mullahs in my old village at home. So much in common.

    Suffering for fun and learing.

    What a pack!


  17. Hello Scott

    Thanks for your comments.

    Should one really be interested in alleviating suffering, then alleviation of suffering is what one would direct one's actions towards achieving. It means that one would not glorify and promote suffering for a weird belief system but rather be in the business of working to eliminate it. There is a big difference.

    It is absolutely permissable to criticise somone's actions whether or not one is involved in the same line of work as they. If you offer that it is wrong for me to analyse and criticise MT since I am not involved in the religious "charity" business, then it is likewise wrong to criticise politicians since neither of us is in the business of professional politics. Where does such a vexatious notion lead do you think?

    I have come across the problem of MT on several occasions previously. It was a Catholic nun from the order of St Joseph who originally informed me about MT withholding medication from the sick and dying in spite of having the resources to supply them. She explained the MT position but did not agree with it. I understand there were others within the Church who were similarly concerned and did not hold to the MT view (that un-necessary suffering is good as it brings the victim closer to Christ). They were concerned that the deliberate non-alleviation of a victim's pain and suffering when it was posible to achieve relief was cruel, therefore a sin. It was an act of callous cruelty.

    The MT position has been identified as a heresy as it would appear to conflict with St Thomas Aquinas. MT's behaviour was a serious problem for Church authorities and the matter was only (partially) resolved when favourable PR outweighed her vexatious behaviour. In the end the Church responded to MT in a pragmatic way. She was allowed to continue. Luckily she was not operational in a Western nation, hence not too visible or easily scruitinised.

    My question to you is this:

    You see a man trapped in a burning car wreck by the motorway. Do you stop and pray for him as he burns to death in unspeakable agony? Meanwhile the fire extinguisher in your car goes un-used. Your cell phone stays inactive (no *999 call). Your first aid kit remains in the boot of your car, un-opened. After all, his suffering brings him closer to God!

    Or do you pull him out of the pyre, try to administer first aid and call up on the cellphone to seek assisance?

    The Catholics I know would choose the second option. They are not Mother Theresas. Why do you supose that is?

    And finally, goven that neither you or I would respond to suffering as did MT, is there really any reason not to point out the failings of her approach?



  18. LGM, redemptive suffering only works if the person suffering accepts their own suffering and freely offers it to God. You cannot offer the suffering of anyone else.

  19. Lucyna

    So you can't offer the suffering of others else to God. Fair enough. That confirms that Mother Theresa's behaviour as sinful in the extreme.


  20. Well, for one example, there was a parable about a good Samaritan...

    And there was another lesson about the great self-promoters lurching into the synagogue ostentatiously performing the rituals...


  21. LGM, what exactly are you saying that Mother Teresa did that was a sin?

  22. Where to start the list! Here are a few.

    Stealing property. Theft.

    Receiving stolen property. Conversion.

    Laundering stolen property.



    Withholding assistance and aid from suffering and helpless people when the resources to assist were conveniently and readily available.

    Bearing false witness.

    Attempting to direct the suffering of other peoples to purchase a path to heaven (definately forbidden- a mortal sin).



    Man-slaughter or, possibly, murder.


    And it would appear from the letters recently publicised, blasphemy as well.

    Plenty of bad.

    Anyway, we are digressing from the point. The behaviours were evil and un-necessary.

    Rather than working to minimise suffering, she worked to promote it. She appears to have considered cruelty and indifference would be the way she could get to heaven (on the backs of the broken, the suffering, the poor and the sick). She was a user of the suffering of others; a fool who thought such suffering was a commodity that could be stocked, stored and ultimately spent to buy a way to celestial glory and immortality. Immorality, more like.

    Rather than building people up she passively watched them as they collapsed and fell.

    Rather than assist people, she created a collection of the hurt and the damaged, focussing on their suffering and destruction. A whisperer of myths, tales and superstitions, she thought to direct them to their doom.

    Hideous stuff.

    There is little to gain from what she was doing. Even the Church authories perceived the danger. They also perceived that what she preached was not in line with Catholic morality.

    Take the car wreck test. What would you do? Let the guy burn or try and assist?


  23. Do you have proof for all these crimes you are accusing Mother Teresa of?


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