Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Missionary Position Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice by Christopher Hitchens




At only 98 pages, this little book reads more like a research paper than a book, but it will make you think and after reading it you may never see the saintly Mother Teresa in the same light again. At first glance, it seems a trifle mean spirited, like a schoolyard bully picking on the saintly, wizened nun who devoted her life to the poor, but Mr. Hitchens makes some interesting and disturbing observations.

Where did all the money go? It was collected to help the poor, yet supposedly sat unused in bank accounts; one account alone supposedly had a balance of $50 million, because the nuns had taken a vow of poverty. It doesn’t make much sense to me; the money was donated to help the poor and suffering, not the nuns themselves, so why could the nuns not spend it for the purpose it was intended, the purpose for which they collected it? What was the point of collecting it at all if it was just going to sit there in the bank? For decades Mother Teresa was given millions of dollars in charitable donations, and cash prizes that accompanied the many humanitarian awards she was given, enough to outfit several first class clinics, yet she chose to maintain bare bones establishments where the sick and dying were crowded into dormitories lying on stretcher type cots, denied proper medical care, expert diagnosis that might have actually saved some of their lives, and adequate pain medication, such as the morphine that is common in hospice care for those in the final agonizing stages of terminal cancer.  If they were lucky, the dying were given an occasional aspirin. Hypodermic needles were also reused, the nuns of her Missionaries of Charity order just rinsed them under a coldwater tap, they didn’t even bother to boil the water first in order to sterilize them. And in the morgue a “cheerful” sign hung, announcing “I am going to Heaven today.” Mother Teresa herself was known to tell the dying, “You are suffering like Christ on the cross, so Jesus must be kissing you.” She thought “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 very much helped by the suffering of poor people.” Though, curiously, when the so-called “Saint of Calcutta” was ailing, with heart problems are other age related infirmities, she always had topnotch treatment at the world’s finest hospitals.


If the allegations in this book are true, I find it very sad. I’m just a reader who casually picked up this book, I’m not religious, and I don’t know much about the late Mother Teresa or her mission, so I can’t say whether this book is just another attempt to pull one of the world’s idols off their pedestal or if it is an honest and accurate expose, all I can say is what I’ve already said, that it’s sad and thought provoking.


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