Culture

Mar 17, 2016

Mother Teresa was a foul ideologue undeserving of sainthood

The announcement of Mother Teresa's forthcoming canonisation gives us pause to reflect on how awful she really was.

Helen Razer — Writer and broadcaster

Helen Razer

Writer and broadcaster

“The poor give us much more than we give them,” said Mother Teresa in 1977, and from that time until her death, two decades later, the Nobel laureate did as much as she could to keep the spiritually rich poor in a position to maintain their holy generosity. The fundamentalist who signed her name to the defence of the rich and corrupt and oversaw the painful, sometimes avoidable deaths of the poor in her stinking hospices must have been especially fond of Matthew 26:11. “The poor,” said Christ, “you will always have with you.”

To give Teresa’s husband his due, though, this was an economic declaration made millennia ago. A possibly illiterate carpenter who, if he did exist at all, did not exist in the era of globalisation, must be permitted his naive shrug. Teresa, however, was cynical and modern enough to know that poverty and its attendant pain were not inevitable.

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21 comments

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21 thoughts on “Mother Teresa was a foul ideologue undeserving of sainthood

  1. Wayne Robinson

    I’m still trying to work out how condoms would slow the spread of Zika virus. Spread during sex is very much a minor route of infection. Mosquito bites still remain the overwhelmingly most common form of transmission. Are the mosquitos suppose to wear the condoms?

  2. Helen Razer

    @Wayne Robinson to stop the spread of the effects of the illness to offspring, not sexual partners. Which also occurs (much of the time) with HIV.

  3. Stuart Coyle

    Wayne, condoms are supposed to prevent pregnancy. Zika virus is very bad for a developing foetus.

  4. mikeb

    In writing this you probably expected a bit of a backlash. Well I don’t want to disappoint you. It’s pretty easy to diss on some dead lady from India for her faults. The fact is she did more for the poor & dying than 99.9999% of the population, including yourself. Does she deserve to be a saint? Maybe not (not that I think it matters either way). If I was dying in a Calcutta gutter I suspect the sight of a Missionaries of Charity nun would be quite welcome – even if they didn’t arrive with a cupful of morphine and fluffy pillows.

  5. Helen Razer

    But I will be thinking about mosquito-sized condoms for the remainder of the day. So, thanks. Wayne 🙂

  6. Michael Howard

    Interesting that you attack a decision by Roman Catholics that only impacts on Roman Catholics.
    I cannot help but wonder if your attack is based on dislike of Roman Catholics, or of all Christians, or of all those who believe in a higher power? Or is it an opportunistic reaction to further drive home the point that priests are not nice people?

  7. Helen Razer

    @Michael Howard. I was raised a Catholic and there is a good deal about Mother Church of which I approve. Notably, and as mentioned, Pope Francis. I do not mention priests, with several of whom I have enjoyed positive experiences. I have found them to be scholarly and often quite useful in matters of research.
    I have nothing but respect for those nuns who game good grammar to a lucky generation.
    Mother Teresa is an interesting case as a celebrity saint whose reputation, and her ideology that the poor glorify us all, reaches far beyond the Catholic population. Just as it did in her lifetime. I think it’s worth cracking open the terms of her thought only because it is shared by so many neoliberals. Catholics, in my view, are the least of our worries. Covertly political champions of suffering are the problem. And she, such a public figure beloved by many secular liberals, is one of these.

  8. Steven

    Another great read Helen.

    Interestingly I was at a meeting yesterday on leadership and in fact Mother Teresa was one of several people identified as leaders. Most in the room completely disagreed with the concept of her as a leader in the true altruistic way but on the other hand a leader par excellence in managing the media, despots and dictators and creating an odious cult of celebrity around herself.

    Christopher Hitchens’ essay was a blistering attack on what she had created to feather her own nest and the hypocrisy that she and the Church represented.

  9. Helen Razer

    @Steven Yes. It was Hitchens’ last really good (and possibly his best) work.

  10. Steven

    Helen @ 9

    Absolutely. I still read it today.

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