Like all desperate entities, the Roman Catholic Church makes mistakes. It’s nothing new, although it’s always newsworthy. What is unusual however, is the way in which they manage to smother scandals with another scandal.
To those paying attention, it seems as if the Catholic Church is continuing to dig a deeper and deeper hole for themselves. I guess they’re working on the assumption that if their scandals push them down far enough, eventually they will come across fiery hell — and their centuries of threatening everyone with a torturous eternity might finally have some weight.
Those not paying attention, gather en mass to weigh down and worship a rug the Catholic Church is using to sweep its pernicious activities under. And so it was, on September 4, the Catholic Church bestowed its highest honour, canonisation, on Mother Teresa. Saint Teresa.
Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the myth of Mother Teresa is as healthy as her posthumous bank accounts. The evidence has been in on her life for many years now, and yet still common thought and vernacular suggests she is in the highest moral tier: “I’m no Mother Theresa” people say. Quite right — I should hope not.
Some people may be reading this and thinking, “what on earth are you saying?!” “Mother Teresa is an icon of selflessness and goodness!” I am happy to tell you that she was neither selfless, nor good. She stands now, next to God, accused, with substantial evidence from reputable sources, of: forced conversions of the dying, friendly relations with dictators, gross mismanagement of charitable finances (fraud), religious fundamentalism, and purposefully poor medical care designed to pursue suffering.
But how could a woman who has won a Nobel Peace Prize have had ulterior motives? Perhaps we could ask other Prize-winners, like Barrack Obama and Henry Kissinger. Of course, this was not the only prize Mother Teresa humbly accepted in her life. Another memorable award was the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Ronald Reagan. In return she awarded Reagan with better press than money could buy, even supporting his policy in Ethiopia, in which he supported the ruling junta’s (The Deruge) suppression and starvation of it’s so called enemies.
Her support of the Reagan Administration continued to its criminal activities in Nicaragua. Moreover she stayed silent on the killing fields in Guatemala whilst proselytising in the same region. She suggested “forgiveness” in the aftermath of the appalling and culpable Union Carbide plant calamity in Bhopal. Moreover, everywhere she went she pushed her extreme Catholic views on contraception, and abortion, seeking to enforce and maintain women in animalistic cycles of pregnancy and poverty. All the while proclaiming in false modesty, the highest conceit, that she was above and beyond politics.
Much of the modern myth around Mother Teresa can be traced to a 1969 documentary, and a 1971 book by anti-abortion British journalist Malcolm Muggerridge. Since then, the anti-smear campaign has been rolling on financially supported by white guilt and morally by Catholic imperialism.
The list of supporters for the accusations against Mother Teresa is long and varied. Including studies from the University of Ottawa, and the British medical journal Lancet, books, documentaries and criticisms from Christopher Hitchens, Tariq Ali, and Dr. Aroup Chatterjee; Hindu leaders such as Mohan Bhagwat, historians such as Vijay Prashad, and even lapsed members of Mother Teresa’s own Missionaries of Charity.
Mother Teresa’s friends included the despicable Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier, the Albanian dictator Enver Hoxha, and all the way down to the scandalous American financier Charles Keating, off whom she accepted large donations in return for character references. Speaking of large donations – they never seemed to arrive at the sufferers, unless it was she herself who was sick, but she preferred Californian clinics to her own destitutions.
The 2013 University of Ottawa study mentioned earlier went deep into the organisation and found that the “myth of altruism and generosity” surrounding Mother Teresa has no standing in fact. The myth itself found to be supported by media campaigning by the Church.
Even with the fraud, the intended suffering of patients, the false modesty, the support for despotic regimes, and the lobbying of Catholic extremism, there are still grounds for more criticism. As historian Vijay Prashad notes, Teresa was “the quintessential image of the white woman in the colonies, working to save the dark bodies form their own temptations and failures.” Prashard goes on to argue that Mother Teresa was not a martyr for the Global South but for white, bourgeois guilt.
As a saint however, it’s hard to argue she won’t fit in. From Vladimir to Cyril the group is littered with horrible deeds. Truly the only real requirement for sainthood is to be a scapegoat. This may seem like a relentlessly tasteless attack on the deceased, and maybe it is. But time, money, and energy are being wasted on the worship of a distraction. The myth has sustained for too long, and the Church should not be enjoying good press when its dirty laundry is blowing in all our faces.
David Foster Wallace once wrote, “You get to choose what you want to worship.” In the context of his work, it is an incredibly profound and irreligious sentiment. However, even alone, the notion stands. This is about not accepting the status quo. This is about asking yourself, why do you believe the things you believe? And it is about choosing what you pay attention to. There is nothing wrong with worship and admiration in this sense, but it has to be opened eyed.
Mother Teresa, was not as Christopher Hitchens said “a friend of the poor, she was a friend of poverty.” It is important to know that we can’t relinquish our own actions just because we think someone else is out there doing ‘good’ with theirs, especially when they are not. Our attention and our actions are ours alone; so don’t accept myth and marketing. There are much better and more important things to worship. Comfort, that is to say contentment is not found in the false refuge of a crowd. It is, as Wallace wrote, “the capital T truth” in this world that you get to choose what to worship — choose wisely.