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Missionary Position


I have just read Christopher Hitchens’ The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice, Verso, London 1995. What an unpleasant character Hitchens is picking on this old dummy who did so much to make the needy and the destitute of this world suffer so honourably though so horribly. ‘I think it is beautiful for the poor to accept their lot, to share it with the passion of Christ. I think the world is being helped by the suffering of the poor people’. Just the right amount of pain!

When Malcolm Muggeridge tried to photograph the Mother’s dim lit ‘Home for the Dying’ in Calcutta it was so dark that they didn’t think the film would capture much. But the film was amazing – you could see every detail. Just as the film director was about to say ‘Three Cheers for Kodak’ Muggeridge came in and declared ‘Its divine light’ and the director was being interviewed and asked about his being ‘witness of a miracle’.

With regard to those suffering from serious diseases the Mother ‘prefers providence to planning; her rules are designed to prevent any drift towards materialism’. Her patients looked like inmates of Belsen because they all ‘had shaved heads…This is two rooms with fifty to sixty men in one , fifty to sixty women in another. There’re dying. They’re not being given a great deal of medical care. They’re not being given pain killers beyond aspirin…’. Why aren’t you sterilising the needles, ‘There’s no point. There’s no time’. Mother had money but who needs that when God is on your side and why corrupt these sufferers with materialism.

To a patient dying of cancer and suffering incredible pain the Mother said ‘ You are suffering like Christ on the Cross. So Jesus must be kissing you’. The patient replied ‘Then please tell him to stop kissing me’. Why could he not understand?

The Holy Spirit always governed Mother’s actions. Don’t store food for the needy, plead poverty. Cool their heads with a wet cloth but secretly baptise them and give them their ‘ticket to heaven’. At least, on this basis, she should be a Saint. Well, they did give the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 and our elderly virgin ‘ministers to the inevitable losers in this …lottery’, an expert on sexuality and reproduction. When she visited Bhopal, after the Union Carbide Company killed 2500 people, her message was pure charity ‘Forgive, forgive’.

In 2002 the Vatican recognized as a miracle the healing of a tumour in the abdomen of an Indian woman, following the application of a locket containing Mother’s picture. A beam of light emanated from the picture, curing the cancerous tumor. Only one more miracle required for canonization. She’s nearly made it!

Update: In the interests of fairness I should point out that Hitchens views have been attacked (here), discussed (here) with many responses by Hitchens (one is here). A very serious critique of her life’s work is in Aroup Chattergee’s book online here. There was a substantial debate on her life generally during the late 1990s. One aspect of the debate is whether Mother and her group ever intended to provide medical services but instead provided spiritual and other services that were superior to those that could have been delivered by a social worker. My own view is that severely ill people need medical treatment. Incidentally it has recently been reported that an Indian movie director is considering playing Paris Hilton as Mother Teresa in a forthcoming movie.

5 comments to Missionary Position

  • Anonymous

    tell us what you really think, Harry!

  • hc

    I am too reserved.

  • Bring Back EP at LP

    Harry, what you have quoted ( Hitchens?) is at complete odds with the website you have linked.

    The writer on the website exudes of the love from the patients who are suffering.

    Who is right?

    P.S.
    Theresa’s theology is out of sync with the bible but that is another subject

  • hc

    Homer

    I don’t see any inconsistency. People in desparate health situations need health care as well as spiritual comfort. My impression from Hitchens is that they were fed a fairly sparce diet of the latter by Mother Teresa but not much of the former. There is no glory in suffering per se.

    I don’t know much of her theology but she seems an extremely doctrinaire, conservative Catholic who always put Church orthodoxy first and people second. I guess if you are religious that is reasonable but I am not.

  • Bring Back EP at LP

    sorry Harry but I don’t read suffering for ‘God’s sake in the linked site at all.

    The patients appear to be well pleased with what is been given out.

    The major problem is too little to give out.

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