Updated: Aug 18
I’m sure by now, you’ve all seen the piece written by Sister Theresa Aletheia Noble in defense of Mother Teresa. It’s a piece written from behind rose-tinted glasses, dripping with unreasonably defensive rhetoric. Why is it always such a thing for the Catholics to admit a fellow Catholic’s wrongdoing? Why is the church so unwilling to criticize itself? Is it an attempt to paint a twinkling image of holy perfection? Is it because they are afraid visible flaws will turn more members away, into the light of reason? I would argue it does the opposite. There are few adult humans who cannot admit their own flaws, but here is a global church full who seem to think anything slapped with the label, “Catholic” must be holy and perfect and good.
You and I know there’s nothing perfect about the Catholic Church, and certainly, Christopher Hitchens knew it. He was the most outspoken critic of Mother Teresa, opening the eyes of many, myself included, who had incorrectly believed she was a force for good. As with any criticism of the Catholic church or members of, Hitchens’ accusations of Teresa’s greed, sadism and fraud, were met with Catholics the world over hissing that he was just a hateful atheist and that’s the only reason he had any criticism of such a perfect soon-to-be-saint. It couldn’t have possibly had anything to do with the fact that when normal human beings see someone misusing power to ensure the suffering of those less fortunate, we tend to feel compelled to say something; do something; prove that the abuse is happening.
It couldn’t possibly be that Hitch had a conscience.
Of course, any system of belief that sells you total forgiveness on your deathbed in exchange for your mere repentance is not an organization that teaches personal or organizational responsibility. You could have a genocide or two notched on your belt, so long as you say a few Hail Marys, you’re guaranteed admittance through the pearly gates. In desperate need of positive role models, the Catholic church refuses to see the evil Teresa committed in her life, and, like clockwork, Sister Theresa falls in line with her defense of Mother’s wicked ways.
Unfortunately, the good sister is wrong.
She divides her post up into five criticisms of Mother Teresa and attempts to rebut them. The first of which, is
1. Mother Teresa’s Canonization Is a “Fraud”
Sister Theresa says,
Christopher Hitchens criticized Mother Teresa’s recognition by the Church because the Church sped up her beatification process. He also mocked the idea that a miracle could have come about through Mother Teresa’s intercession.
So? Hitchens was an atheist; would he be satisfied with any process that canonized Mother Teresa or any other saint?
It takes little to no time at all, to search Google for Monica Besra’s name. She was the recipient of the first miracle which, combined with a second, makes Mother Teresa’s canonization possible. The Vatican requires two verified miracles in order to recommend anyone for sainthood. Unfortunately for the good Mother, this miracle was anything but.
Monica Besra supposedly held a photo of Mother Teresa, long after Teresa had died, to her afflicted stomach and claimed that action is what caused her tumour to disappear. The problem is that Monica’s doctors disagree. From the Telegraph:
“This miracle claim is absolute nonsense and should be condemned by everyone,” Dr Ranjan Kumar Mustafi, of Balurghat Hospital in West Bengal, said. “She had a medium-sized tumour in her lower abdomen caused by tuberculosis. The drugs she was given eventually reduced the cystic mass and it disappeared after a year’s treatment.”
So, I pose the question to Sister Theresa, do you not want there to be truth behind Mother Teresa’s sainthood?
So why would it matter to Hitchens (or any other atheist) how quickly Mother Teresa was canonized?
Well, Sister, some of us actually concern ourselves with what is true. Regardless of who points it out: atheist, Catholic or a moonie, a fraud is a fraud.
The second point Sister Theresa addresses is:
2. Mother Teresa “Mismanaged Money”
Mother Teresa’s critics accuse her of mismanaging donations, and as evidence they point to the humble state of the congregation’s homes versus the large donations that are assumed to have been poured into their coffers. Yet no theory is advanced as to exactly how the foundress spent the organization’s money in an unethical way. She certainly did not spend it on herself. Vatican officials confirm that Mother Teresa donated her congregation’s surplus money to be dispersed through the many avenues through which the Church helps the poor.
I’m curious, though, Sister, why she wouldn’t better the lives of those she worked with using the money she raked in at an obscene rate? Why would she send all of it off to the Vatican when people were suffering all around her? From Stern Magazine:
For example, Samity, a man of around 30 with no teeth, who lives in the slums. He is one of the “poorest of the poor” to whom Mother Teresa was supposed to have dedicated her life. With a plastic bag in hand, he stands in a kilometre long queue in Calcutta’s Park Street. The poor wait patiently, until the helpers shovel some rice and lentils into their bags. But Samity does not get his grub from Mother Teresa’s institution, but instead from the Assembly of God, an American charity, that serves 18000 meals here daily.
“Mother Teresa?”says Samity, “We have not received anything from her here. Ask in the slums — who has received anything from the sisters here — you will find hardly anybody.”
Another quote from the same piece:
Pannalal Manik also has doubts. “I don’t understand why you educated people in the West have made this woman into such a goddess!” Manik was born some 56 years ago in the Rambagan slum, which at about 300 years of age, is Calcutta’s oldest. What Manik has achieved, can well be called a “miracle”. He has built 16 apartment buildings in the midst of the slum — living space for 4000 people. Money for the building materials — equivalent to DM 10000 per apartment building — was begged for by Manik from the Ramakrishna Mission [a Indian/Hindu charity], the largest assistance-organisation in India. The slum-dwellers built the buildings themselves. It has become a model for the whole of India. But what about Mother Teresa? “I went to her place 3 times,” said Manik. “She did not even listen to what I had to say. Everyone on earth knows that the sisters have a lot of money. But no one knows what they do with it!”
Susan Shields, who used to serve with Mother Teresa’s organization, has been an outspoken critic. Stern magazine’s investigation spoke with her, too:
Perhaps the most lucrative branch of the organisation is the “Holy Ghost” House in New York’s Bronx. Susan Shields served the order there for a total of nine and a half years as Sister Virgin. “We spent a large part of each day writing thank you letters and processing cheques,” she says. “Every night around 25 sisters had to spend many hours preparing receipts for donations. It was a conveyor belt process: some sisters typed, others made lists of the amounts, stuffed letters into envelopes, or sorted the cheques. Values were between $5 and $100.000. Donors often dropped their envelopes filled with money at the door. Before Christmas the flow of donations was often totally out of control. The postman brought sackfuls of letters — cheques for $50000 were no rarity.” Sister Virgin remembers that one year there was about $50 million in a New York bank account. $50 million in one year! — in a predominantly non-Catholic country. How much then, were they collecting in Europe or the world? It is estimated that worldwide they collected at least $100 million per year — and that has been going on for many many years.
Susan goes on to speak of incidents where she asked to buy something to help someone, from bread to communion dresses and was turned down each time. She recalled that during the Ethiopian famine crisis, donations would come in labelled, “For Ethiopia”. When she asked if she should keep these donations separate have them sent to Ethiopia, the answer was no, but she was to put “For Ethiopia” on the donation receipts she drew up for the gifts.
From another member of the organization, speaking to donors about the orphanage they ran in Calcutta. (Stern)
“On my September visit I had to witness 2 or 3 children lying in the same cot, in totally overcrowded rooms with not a square inch of playing space. The behavioural problems arising as a result cannot be overlooked.” Mrs Wiedeking appeals to the generosity of supporters in view of her powerlessness in the face of the children’s great needs. Powerlessness?! In an organisation with a billion-fortune, which has 3 times as much money available to it as UNICEF is able to spend in all of India? The Missionaries of Charity has have the means to buy cots and build orphanages, — with playgrounds. And they have enoungh money not only for a handful orphans in Delhi but for many thousand orphans who struggle for survival in the streets of Delhi, Bombay and Calcutta.
Stern was able to confirm in that very same report that, in fact, only 7% of the organization’s wealth (according to English authorities) was used for charity.
Even the recipient of her first “miracle” has since been left to wallow in poverty by Mother Teresa’s organization, much to her very vocal disappointment. In Monica Besra’s own words:
“My hut was frequented by nuns of the Missionaries of Charity before the beatification of Mother Teresa,” said Mrs Besra, squatting on the floor of her thatched and mud house in the village of Dangram, 460 miles northeast of Calcutta.
“They made of lot of promises to me and assured me of financial help for my livelihood and my children’s education.
“After that, they forgot me. I am living in penury. My husband is sick. My children have stopped going to school as I have no money. I have to work in the fields to feed my husband and five children.”
While Sister Theresa has pointed out that critics have not offered a theory on where the money was going, my question is, do we really have to? What we know:
Mother Teresa’s organization, Missionaries of Charity, receives donations well into the millions each year.
The organization touted itself as friends of the poor, a charitable organization.
Mother operated out of poverty-stricken Calcutta.
Her subjects in Calcutta received nothing as a result of these monetary gifts. She kept them living in squalor.
Only 7% of their millions (perhaps even billions) was spent on charity.
Once they got their miracle out of Monica Besra, they dropped her like a bad idea.
Now, one who is willing to be honest with oneself can see, from these few facts, that money was misused. If I were to send money to Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta after seeing images of poor, orphaned children in the care of the sisters, I would expect that at least some of that money would go toward making life better for those children. That’s not how it worked, though. Even if the sisters did send the money to the Vatican to be dispersed among other charitable causes, it’s a clear misuse of the funds. Why would they send the money away, when they were dealing with such suffering, such poverty, such hunger and need right there in Calcutta?
If you think this management of money is okay, Sister Theresa, that’s on your conscience and I sure hope your God sees it the same way.
The third point on the Sister’s list of items to refute is:
3. Mother Teresa’s Homes Are “Abusive”
Sister Theresa says:
Critics point to what they call deplorable conditions in the homes the sisters run — a charge that betrays how completely they misunderstand the Missionaries of Charity. The sisters join the poverty of the people they serve. Their mission is not to build state-of-the-art hospitals, or work for political or social change, which many Catholics do. They provide care for children and adults in the most desperate of situations, people who would otherwise be living and dying on the streets. The sisters themselves live in complete and utter poverty, sleeping on the floor and washing their one habit in buckets and drying them overnight.
Sister, when criticism of the conditions and perceived abuses at Missionaries of Charity homes are voiced, it is not out of concern for the Sisters themselves. It is out of concern for their subjects. Before the sisters were there to “help” them, they lived in destitution, and after the sisters were there to “help” them they still lived in poverty. They lived suffering through the pain of their illnesses before the sisters came along, and after these sick became the subjects of the Missionaries, they still suffered through the pain of their illnesses. They had no medical treatment before the sisters, and none after the sisters. Orphans slept huddled together in deplorable conditions before Mother came along, and they did after as well.
This begs the question, what is it that the Missionaries did? What charity did they offer? It seems to me, it was limited to company and a pat on the back. Is that really charity?
Sister Theresa also says,
This criticism often comes drenched in a mind-set of first-world privilege that has no idea what kind of conditions people experience in third-world countries.
It is a perversion of human decency to know that the sisters had more than enough money to help these people in the most basic ways and did not. No one is suggesting that the charity of the Missionaries include the frivolousness of first-world privilege. But to not offer anything but company while your organization rakes in millions per year, parading as a charitable organization, well, that’s just gross. If your conscience allows you to believe that’s okay just because the nuns wash their habits in buckets, well, I really don’t know what to make of you or the morality your corrupt Church loves to boast about. Clearly, none of you understand what morality means.
The fourth point is,
4. Mother Teresa Was a “Fanatic” Who Enjoyed Suffering
From Sister Theresa’s post:
When people point to Mother Teresa’s “fanaticism,” they are usually actually pointing to her living out Christian values. Sure, she did this in an extreme, heroic fashion, but that is why she is a saint. Most of us could benefit from emulating, even slightly, her “fanaticism.” Critics who choose to see her remarks on the “gift” of suffering as a newfangled, masochistic theology only reveal a lack of familiarity with a basic Christian idea: that — as demonstrated by the God-man being unjustly tortured and crucified — God brings good from evil, and he is present in a special way among the weakest and the poorest of the poor. Don’t like this message? It’s not Mother Teresa you have a problem with, it’s Christianity.
Of course, I do have many problems with Christianity, but having immersed myself in your biblical bullshit more than I care to admit, I also know this is utter crap. Christ himself fed the poor and healed the sick. Is it not the desire of most Christians to become more Christlike? If suffering is what is required to be a good Christian, why is there any Christian charity at all? Why are there soup kitchens and Catholic hospitals? Are these unholy ventures? Is it bad to be merciful and giving? Or is it good? Who had it right? Who had it wrong?
If I were a Christian, I would certainly look to the Bible for the answers:
For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,
If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
Whoever gives to the poor will not want, but he who hides his eyes will get many a curse.
And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.”
Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.
Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
I could go on for days, Sister. It seems to me, the values of Christianity clearly lie in giving, mercy and healing. Things the long gone Mother of Pain knew nothing about.
Finally, the fifth point addressed by Sister Theresa is:
5. Mother Teresa Was “Imperfect”
While I cannot entirely speak for anyone else, I am fairly certain no critics of the wicked mother expected her to be perfect. Especially not Mr. Hitchens or most atheists. You see, we live in the tangible world. The one that can be perceived and tested and manipulated. The world that can be verified, seen and experienced. In that world, few people expect anyone at all to rise to the level of perfection and an atheist, least of all, might expect a nun to.
There is a vast difference between saying Mother Teresa was imperfect and saying that Mother Teresa was a sadistic crook. Perfection is the extreme in one direction, and Teresa, well, she embodied the extreme in the other. Likely, someone like Christopher Hitchens or myself would have settled for her to appear on the spectrum somewhere in the middle like the rest of us. Not perfect, but not getting giddy at the sight of the terminally ill, either.
Critics may disagree with Mother Teresa’s philosophies and actions, but none ever seem to point to concrete evidence of malicious intent on her part
I beg to differ, Sister. For your contemplation:
What you’re looking at above, is a letter from Mother Teresa to the judge in the case against prolific fraudster, Charles Keating, asking him to consider leniency. This man, Mr. Keating, stole the life savings of many people, leaving them destitute and unable to recover. People who had families, who had homes. Mother Teresa, who, as you said yourself, Sister, did not believe in mercy and strongly believed suffering was the true path to holiness, asked for leniency for a crook. She asked for mercy. She couldn’t be bothered to offer mercy to any of her sick, poverty-stricken, malnourished and dying subjects back in Calcutta, but she took the time to beg for it for this billionaire crook.
In her own words, she asks the judge to do what Jesus should do. Jesus, the merciful. Jesus, the healer. Jesus, the feeder of the hungry. She implores the judge to do as Jesus would, while she herself does no such thing.
After her letter (if you hover over the image you can navigate through the subsequent images) you’ll see a plea from the prosecutor in Keating’s case, begging that Mother Teresa return the money she was gifted by Keating as it had been stolen from families who now found themselves in poverty. If she returned it, he plead, he would see that it was given back to those it was stolen from.
Unfortunately, for all those hardworking men and women who had their life savings stolen by Mr. Keating, Teresa never responded to the prosecutor. The money was never returned.
Sister Theresa, I see in the URL of your post, that your original title for it was “5 Responses to the ridiculous reasons some atheists hate Mother Teresa.”
While I appreciate the fact that you changed the title to something less attack-ish, I’d like to address it anyway. I don’t hate Mother Teresa. Nor do I think many atheists do. How we feel about Mother Teresa is more disgust-like. Disgusted that a woman so obviously wretched is being celebrated by your church. Disgusted that she’s viewed as someone worthy of sainthood, of respect, of reverence. I recoil even further when I take into account the other abusive Catholics the Vatican has stood behind, harboured, protected and celebrated. What bothers us, is that while you sell your church as a force for good, you defend its most heinous members. All we ask is for you to acknowledge the truth. It’s okay to have a bad seed in your organization here and there, and quite frankly, admitting it would do far more for the image of your antiquated institution than continually and unendingly perpetuating the sham that monsters like Mother Teresa deserve sainthood.
If people like her are your saints, I can only speculate in horror as to what the true nature of your moderates must be. God help you all.