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Sunday 26 January 2020

Mother Teresa: Twitter users question her intentions anew

While Christopher Hitchens, Serge Larivée, Carole Sénéchal, Geneviève Chénard et al have slammed the 'saint', here is a new reason to condemn her celebration of penury: a book by Aroup Chatterjee

New Delhi: A Twitter user claiming to have been bowled over by the charities of Mother Teresa during his formative years has, in a series of tweets, alleged that the saint (a title conferred on her by the Vatican) was anything but noble. While the handle is not authenticated, the claims made by this person are compelling.

Quoting an article with an anonymous byline “The Secret Journalist” (TSJ), the person writes, “I was indoctrinated about the greatness of Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu aka Mother Teresa during my schooling at a convent.”

“But (sic), what first helped create the “illusion” that was Mother Teresa? The answer: Malcolm Muggeridge ‘s 1969 documentary & 1971 book titled Something Beautiful for God,” TSJ continues.

“This was followed by a long list of eulogies. The first of such critical work was a 1994 documentary titled Hell’s Angel by Christopher Hitchens,” the next tweet in the thread reads. Hitchens had written another damning account of Mother Teresa in The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice, which is mentioned in the next tweet.

Then the person recommends reading Mother Teresa: The Untold Story by Aroup Chatterjee, published in 2016.

The thread has 29 tweets in all.

Intellectuals of repute wrote against Mother Teresa

This is not a new set of allegations against Mother Teresa. The introduction to Hitchens’ second book on her has been in wide circulation for years now. It reads: “In a frank expose of the Teresa cult, Hitchens details the nature and limits of one woman’s mission to the world’s poor. He probes the source of the heroic status bestowed upon an Albanian nun whose only declared wish is to serve God. He asks whether Mother Teresa’s good works answer any higher purpose than the need of the world’s privileged to see someone, somewhere, doing something for the Third World. He unmasks pseudo-miracles, questions Mother Teresa’s fitness to adjudicate on matters of sex and reproduction, and reports on a version of saintly ubiquity which affords genial relations with dictators, corrupt tycoons and convicted frauds.”

Serge Larivée, Department of psychoeducation, University of Montreal, Carole Sénéchal, Faculty of Education, University of Ottawa, Geneviève Chénard, Department of psychoeducation, University of Montreal, et al have written against the ‘saint’. Ted Byfield wrote, “If the real world knew the real Mother Teresa there would be a lot less adulation” [Alberta Report/Newsmagazine, 20 October 1997] However, Twitter users have today renewed their interest in the story.

When I ask people who knew her personally, they say she was at home saying prayers as her religion had taught her. When I ask people who watched her charity from a distance, they say conversion was really her intention.

My issue with her is the same that I have against communists and socialists. In the process of serving the diseased and the poor, she celebrated misery. With a few centuries of such glorification of wretched existence, which began after the collapse of the Mughals and rise of morose Urdu poets, and that refused to end even after the collapse of the USSR and acceptance of capitalism by China, we Indians forgot the value of striving for excellence. Whoever turned rich, even by virtue of brains, grit and hard work, looked evil to us. They became objects of envy and revulsion rather than models of inspiration. Hypocritically though, each one of us bore deep in our hearts a longing to be rich.

Celebrating poverty

“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 poor people,” Mother Teresa said.

Religion cannot be separated from the topic. Jesus started it by ‘curing’ lepers and making the dead ‘live’. Even if one were to believe in miracles, how does one justify going against the law of nature? He who is born must die. Period.

The imagery of a shepherd leading unquestioning believers around deserts of the Middle East also has an eerie message about it. It virtually resembles the Pied Piper. I see no instance in this religion of the prophet or “Son of God” being confronted by some wise man for a debate. Indeed, there is no debate in Christianity. Ergo, when Teresa was alive, allegations against her did the rounds even then, but she or her Missionaries of Charity never addressed the misgivings about her point by point.

In the recent past, the missionary of which Mother Teresa was the mascot have been involved in dubious activities, too. In July 2018, a woman staffer and a sister of Nirmal Hriday, a shelter home run by the MoC in Ranchi, were arrested for allegedly selling a child, born to a minor inmate of the home, to a couple.

One of my Facebook posts on Mother Teresa:

Surajit Dasgupta
Surajit Dasgupta
The founder of सिर्फ़ News has been a science correspondent in The Statesman, senior editor in The Pioneer, special correspondent in Money Life and columnist in various newspapers and magazines, writing in English as well as Hindi. He was the national affairs editor of Swarajya, 2014-16. He worked with Hindusthan Samachar in 2017. He was the first chief editor of Sirf News and is now back at the helm after a stint as the desk head of MyNation of the Asianet group. He is a mathematician by training with interests in academic pursuits of science, linguistics and history. He advocates individual liberty and a free market in a manner that is politically feasible. His hobbies include Hindi film music and classical poetry in Bengali, English, French, Hindi and Urdu.

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