Wednesday 24 October 2018

Mother Teresa 'a friend of poverty, not of the poor'

Evidence shows that Mother Teresa took pleasure in the suffering of the poor, so why do we revere her, asks Carol Hunt

Mother Teresa. Phot: AP
Mother Teresa. Phot: AP
Carol Hunt

Carol Hunt

When her helicopter touched down at Knock in 1993 there were thousands ready to greet her. She met everyone who mattered. Taoiseach Albert Reynolds and his wife Kathleen were among the faithful who stood in line to give obeisance to the diminutive, ostensibly humble nun, the famous Mother Teresa. As Christopher Hitchens succinctly put it (C4 documentary, Hell's Angel); "Not many claims made by the Irish clergy are widely or uncritically accepted, even in Ireland, but the saintliness of an Albanian nun, named Agnes Bojaxhiu, is a proposition that's accepted by many who are not even believers." He added drily: "Mother Teresa herself receives extravagant adulation as no more than her due." And why shouldn't she? As Hitchens wrote: "Who would be so base as to pick on a wizened, shrivelled old lady, well stricken in years, who has consecrated her life to the needy and destitute?"

Even worse now that the kindly old lady is deceased, and Pope Francis - perhaps the most popular pontiff in centuries - has signed off on the miracle needed to make her a saint. Daring to criticise such a beacon of human compassion would surely be unfair, unwise, inappropriate at best and quite possibly blasphemous under Irish law (the offence of speaking sacrilegiously of sacred things). But the answer to the question, "Is nothing sacred", should always be an emphatic "no". And the truth about Mother Teresa, and the work her Missionaries of Charity continue to do, should not be hidden behind a misty-eyed romanticism.

Evidence - and her own words - show that Mother Teresa was not so much a "champion of the poor" but a religious fanatic who took pleasure in their suffering. Not only did she refuse to alleviate the pain of her patients but she gloried in it. As she herself said: "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."

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