Question: You have courageously exposed Mother Teresa’s love of all religions, her denial of the gospel, her statements that each person must believe in whatever “God” is in their mind, and her stated desire to help Hindus become better Hindus, Muslims become better Muslims, etc. Yet you say she deserves our respect for her works of charity. I have heard that even her charity is not all it seems to be. Do you have any information in this regard?
Response: Leaving her position as the principal of a famous high school that catered to students from wealthy families, Mother Teresa chose to live among the dregs of society and devoted herself to serving the poorest of the poor. That fact is commendable. She says, “I slept where I happened to be, on the ground, often in hovels infected by rats. I ate what the people I was serving ate....I had chosen that lifestyle in order to literally live out the Gospel....I gave my life completely to God....” (Renzo Allegri, “Mother Teresa: The Early Years,” New Covenant, August 1996, p 8).
There have been numerous reports by former workers in her clinics as well as by visiting medical doctors that the patients are not given proper medication and that the beds and furnishings and general conditions more closely resemble an extermination camp than a hospital or clinic. The reports, coming as they do from a variety of independent observers, seem beyond dispute. As one example, Mary Loudon, a volunteer in Calcutta, wrote concerning Mother Teresa’s Home for the Dying,
My initial impression was of all the photographs and footage I’ve ever seen of Belsen [Nazi death camp] and places like that, because all the patients had shaved heads. No chairs anywhere, there were just these stretcher beds. They’re like First World War stretcher beds. There’s no garden, no yard even. No nothing. And I thought what is this? This is two rooms with fifty to sixty men in one, fifty to sixty women in another. They’re dying. They’re not being given a great deal of medical care. They’re not being given painkillers really beyond aspirin...for the sort of pain that goes with terminal cancer. ...(Christopher Hitchens, The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice; Verso, London, New York, 1995, pp 39-40)
We are not indicting Mother Teresa with lack of compassion or with cruelty toward her patients. The problem is her Roman Catholic belief that personal suffering helps to earn one’s salvation. Many Catholic priests and nuns, to this day, wear hair undergarments, put stones in their shoes, flagellate themselves and otherwise try to merit heaven by suffering. Poverty and suffering are not simply endured but are sought and even created. Consider this example:
[G]iven use of a three-storey convent with many large rooms...the sisters ...removed the benches...pulled up all the carpeting in the rooms and hallways. They pushed thick matresses out the windows and removed all the sofas, chairs and curtains....People from the neighborhood stood on the sidewalk and watched in amazement.
The beautifully constructed house was made to conform to a way of life intended to help the sisters become holy. Large sitting rooms were turned into dormitories where beds were crowded together....The heat remained off all winter in this exceedingly damp house. Several sisters got TB during the time I lived there. (Hitchens, p 45)
The heat was not left off for lack of funds. Mother Teresa has bank accounts with tens of millions of dollars on deposit, so she could afford proper heat, furnishings and food and certainly all the medical attention ever needed. Yet she does with- out all of these “luxuries,” enforces the same rule upon her “Sisters of Charity,” and deprives her patients of them as well. No doubt, just as she hopes to earn her way to heaven through her own deprivation and suffering, so Mother Teresa hopes to help her patients as well to reach heaven through the suffering she imposes upon them. The morgue in Calcutta has this inscription on a wall: “I am leaving for heaven today.”
In Roman Catholicism, baptism is essential for salvation. It is known that Mother Teresa’s assistants secretly “baptize” patients by placing a damp cloth on fevered brows, under their breath saying the magic formula that allegedly erases original sin and gives entrance into the kingdom of God. Of course, the uncertain route leads through purgatory and additional suffering in its flames before the gates of heaven can be opened. As one investigative reporter has written concerning the operation in Calcutta,
Bear in mind that Mother Teresa’s global income is more than enough to outfit several first-class clinics in Bengal. The decision not to do so, and indeed to run instead a haphazard and cranky institution...is a deliberate one. The point is not the honest relief of suffering but the promulgation of a cult based on death and suffering and subjection.
Mother Teresa (who herself, it should be noted, has checked into some of the finest and costliest clinics and hospitals in the West during her bouts with heart trouble and old age) once gave this game away in a filmed interview. She described a person who was in the last agonies of cancer and suffering unbearable pain. With a smile, Mother Teresa told the camera what she told this terminal patient: “You are suffering like Christ on the cross. So Jesus must be kissing you.” (Hitchens, p 41)
Many who have worked with Mother Teresa for years consider themselves fortunate to have escaped a cult. One of these, Susan Shields, having spent more than nine years as a Missionary of Charity in the Bronx, Rome and San Francisco, writes,
I was able to keep my complaining conscience quiet because we had been taught that the Holy Spirit was guiding Mother. To doubt her was a sign that we were lacking in trust and, even worse, guilty of the sin of pride. I shelved my objections and hoped that one day I would understand the many things that seemed to be contradictions. (Hitchens, p 44)
Contradictions abound, not the least being her association with a number of unsavory persons with whom she has been photographed and from whom she has received large sums of money and to whom she has given her blessing and endorsement. There she was in 1981, in Port-au- Prince, Haiti in a photo with Michele Duvalier, wife of the infamous dictator Jean- Claude (“Baby Doc”) Duvalier. The occasion was Mother Teresa’s reception of the Haitian Legion d’honneur award. In return, she praised the wonderful treatment of the poor in Haiti, when actually they were enduring a living hell. The Duvaliers had to flee Haiti not long thereafter to save their wealth and their lives.
Then we have the photo taken with John-Roger, whom at that time almost everyone had already recognized as the most obvious of frauds, leader of the “Insight” cult known as “Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness” (MSIA). Ironically, the occasion was her acceptance of the “Integrity Award,” along with a check for $10,000, from this shameless charlatan who claimed to have a “spiritual consciousness” superior to that of Jesus Christ.
Consider one more example of the associations of this legendary woman who is almost certainly on her way to Roman Catholic sainthood and is already considered to be such by millions. The photo is with Charles Keating of Lincoln Savings and Loan, now in prison for having swindled hundreds of millions of dollars from simple folk. Keating, a staunch Roman Catholic whom Mother Teresa visited whenever in California, gave her more than a million dollars. She wrote to Judge Lance Ito requesting leniency for Keating during his trial. Here is an excerpt from the reply which Paul W. Turley, a deputy district attorney, wrote to Mother Teresa:
I am writing to you to provide a brief explanation of the crimes of which Mr. Keating has been convicted, to give you an understanding of the source of the money that Mr. Keating gave to you, and to suggest that you perform the moral and ethical act of returning the money to its rightful owners....
Ask yourself what Jesus would do if he were...in possession of money that had been stolen....I submit that Jesus would promptly and unhesitatingly return the stolen property to its rightful owners. You should do the same. You have been given money by Mr. Keating that he has been convicted of stealing by fraud. Do not permit him the “indulgence” he desires. Do not keep the money. Return it to those who worked for it and earned it! (Hitchens, pp 68-70)
That letter was written more than four years ago. To date, according to a letter I just received from now Assistant District Attorney Turley, he has never received a reply from Mother Teresa, who has made no move to return those stolen funds.