by Raeto West © 1998

Something similar may well be true of the Dalai Lama. See this Jan 2017 piece by Mike King.

'Mother' 'Teresa'
'Mother Teresa'

Introduction: My slight interest in this piece of modern myth-making started when Barbara Smoker, a long-term and full-time British rationalist, who was brought up as a Roman Catholic, accused me, correctly, in 1990, of taking it for granted, like most people, that Mother Teresa basically was a good person. Smoker had written an article about ten years earlier entitled Mother Teresa: Sacred Cow? Since that date the only other even faintly well-known anti-Mother Teresa campaigner is Christopher Hitchens. Isn’t this a terrible indictment of rationalists, the left, journalists, and sociologists?
Added Oct 2015: Tobias Langdon on Camila Batmanghelidjh shows another variant on this theme, of big money supporting fakes; it includes the Iraqi Jew Yentob of the 'BBC' and black immigrants into Britain.

Albania: Albania is a tiny country, about the size of half-a-dozen French départements, which might be described as west of Macedonia and on the Adriatic. A more-or-less forgotten but historically important Albanian was Mustapha Ali, who took over Egypt in the nineteenth century, before the British, and altered it in various ways which one presumes were partly good, partly bad. Its remoter history has little-known elements: ‘.. Greece.. overrun by Macedonians, by Romans, by Goths and Vandals.. the unspeakable riff-raff of the Crusades, then almost completely depopulated and repopulated by the Albanians, ..’. (van Loon, in the 1930s). Contrary to views abut the fragility of Protestantism, and stability of Catholicism, Catholicism has had numerous splits and divisions, starting perhaps with the Copts; in this part of the world, the Greek Orthodox and Roman churches have often come into conflict, typically just as severely as with Islam if not more so. The connection of Mother Teresa with Albania seems however not to be of great significance; personally, I’d assumed she was from Goa, one of the few Catholic colonies in India.

Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu (born in 1910; in Skopje, according to all sources, e.g. Eileen Egan’s ‘authorised biography’ of 1985), moved to India, aged 18, to ‘join the Irish Loreto Sisters in their teaching convent off Park Street. [Calcutta]’ (Geoffrey Moorhouse, Calcutta) . This was Loreto Entally, in eastern Calcutta, a long-established (1841) teaching concern for girls, mostly for the relatively rich, but apparently also with some genuinely charitable cases. As usual, both the quality and quantity of the education provided is difficult to assess.
      Nobody seems to comment much on the choice of name ‘Teresa’; Egan’s book says the then-Sister Teresa selected it, influenced by Térèse Martin, who died of TB at 24. The more famous Teresa, of Avila, was described thus by William James: ‘.. in the main, her idea of religion seems to have been that of an endless amatory flirtation.. between the devotee and the deity;..’. Richard Dawkins, unrestrained by Victorian propriety, says ‘St. Teresa of Avila’s famously orgasmic vision is ... notorious..’ It would be amusing to think that ‘Mother Teresa’ relied on this simple ambiguity to imagine herself in the permanent embrace of ‘Jesus’. Some of her statements later in life certainly can be read as those of someone in an intimate imaginative embrace with her very own, but occasionally tiresome, Jesus.
      After what retrospectively seems a surprising length of time, much of it spent teaching geography, she decided to form her own order, apparently practising beforehand for several years with e.g. alfresco teaching, before getting full permission from Catholic authorities in 1950, aged, therefore, 40. (Moorhouse). This was after the Second World War; she was aware of the Bengal famine (there’s an account in Egan) and perhaps drew from it lessons regarding the hypocrisies of ruling powers and the neglect of inconvenient historical truths.
      From the 1950s until the end of the 1960s, that is until she was about 60, her fame seems to have been purely local, divided between Roman Catholics and Indians. She seems to have concerned herself mainly with dying people and lepers. Egan’s authorised biography doesn’t mention teaching, soup-kitchen, and housing work, which some others emphasise.

Motives? Death and Disease: As regards dying people, the commentators who dislike her assume, and indeed prove, (if the hints about income figures are correct), that her concern is with deathbed baptism rather than medical treatment. Christopher Hitchens (p. 48) describes Mother Teresa instructing nuns to ask ‘each person.. if he wanted a ‘ticket to heaven’. An affirmative reply was to mean consent to baptism. The sister was then to pretend she was just cooling the person’s forehead with a wet cloth, while.. saying quietly the necessary words. Secrecy was important..’ This is in the great tradition of the Roman Catholic church. Thus, it was considered unfair just to kill South American Indians; so a priest would mutter some words first, after which they would be killed. (I don’t suggest this sort of logical process is confined to Catholics: Lecky gives an account of the innocent daughter of Sejanus being put to death, but being raped first, because the senate’s ‘religious feelings were shocked at the idea of a virgin falling beneath the axe.’) Hitchens quotes too from Dr Robin Fox in the Lancet of 17 Sept 1994 on the neglect of diagnosis and lack of good analgesia which mark ‘Mother Teresa’s approach as clearly separate from the hospice movement.’
      The psychological mechanism of the Church in its heyday on seeing a new large group of people must, one imagines, have been (i) by the practical types, how much money per head could be extracted after deducting the costs of imposing religion; (ii) how many souls could be chalked up to one’s own credit, by the more fantastical-minded; if the bodies die soon after, so much the better - this leaves room for more.
      As regards leprosy, it’s not generally realised how perfect this is as a disease for ‘do gooders’. Many people believe, without thinking particularly about it, that leprosy is a terrifying contagious disease, which removes fingers and toes, and indeed hands and feet. And that people treating it are nobly heroic. The truth is more depressing. Leprosy is virtually un-catchable; there are for example many cases of husbands not having it while wives do. The alleged agent responsible has never been satisfactorily isolated. The disease causes damage to peripheral nerve areas, so feeling is lost, and the victim may (say) put his or her hand in a fire without being aware of it. Naturally after a time the remoter bits of the body are lost. In fact it seems highly probable that the disease is a deficiency disease; one of the first items in text books on the disease is to recommend ‘good food’, and in parts of Europe where the disease may have been common (as with many diseases, reliable identification from past records makes identification uncertain) it has melted away in modern times. Consequently the well-fed nuns and hanger-ons can lord it in pretty complete safety while pushing the victims around. One is forced to wonder whether, if improved nutrition was shown to cure the disease, there would be any enthusiasm to apply this cure. Egan is the only author I found who even suggested that Mother Teresa was involved in research in this field. The Reader’s Digest (see below) seems nearer the mark in saying ‘novice sisters and brothers receive only paramedical training.’

Malcolm Muggeridge’s Promotion and the BBC: Christopher Hitchens seems right to assign the start of Mother Teresa's world fame to Malcolm Muggeridge and the BBC - though, as with most British left-wingers, he underemphasises the propagandist role of the BBC. Muggeridge was a professional journalist and novelist, a sort of right-wing satirist, literary rather than analytical. One of his novels, Winter in Moscow, (1934) is regarded by some as deplorably anti-Semitic. Like most journalists, he didn’t really know much, relying on stereotyped factoids on such subjects as the French Revolution, German national characteristics, the benefits of Christianity, and the antiquity of British traditions; on the other hand, he seems to have known people, being acquainted for example with George Orwell. In the 1960s he lecture-toured the USA, talking about morality, mostly to audiences of women. He would say things like: "Eh err, well Ay do believe that those who preach birth control as AN END in ITSELF are err offensive." A little-remarked fact about Muggeridge is that, in a review of a book by someone called Wayland Young on sex practices, Muggeridge admitted in passing to making use of a prostitute; one wonders what he would have said had a child been produced as a result.
      Muggeridge was a convert in 1982; he died in 1990.

Spread of Her Fame:

  • In 1969; the BBC broadcast Something Beautiful for God, a colour programme (then still a novelty) of Malcolm Muggeridge with ‘Mother Teresa of Calcutta’. A quarter of a century later a challenge to its view was broadcast in Britain - see below.
  • 1971 Book entitled Something Beautiful for God by Malcolm Muggeridge published. 1971 reprinted to 1986 at least: Calcutta by Geoffrey Moorhouse
    -‘The city revealed’; my copy from ‘Penguin Travel Library’ Rather repellent book with no feeling for the damage that (may have been?) caused by British etc, or by partition - all fault attributed to the natives. Interesting therefore to consider treatment of ‘Mother Teresa’ -Mother Teresa 296-301: ‘.. quietly grafting.. long before.. Muggeridge.. when she was eighteen.. to join the Irish Loreto Sisters in their teaching convent off Park Street. .. 1950.. she started her own order.. [1970].. 246 fully professed sisters, 130 novices.., 90 postulants.. account of the convent.. [girl opens door all day/ clothes in buckets/ instruction to a class of novices.. dozen or so Europeans, the rest [unnumbered] Indians.. dispensary down the road.. drugging, inoculating and plastering.. .. in the shed at Nirmal Hriday.. people are dying in a scrap of dignity.. There are always long queues waiting by the dispensary gates... .. civic leaders ignore them almost completely. ...’
  • 1974 Pasolini L’Odore dell’India [1984 Eng trans The Scent of India] -37-38: ‘At Calcutta, Moravia, Morante and I went to meet Sister Teresa, a sister who is dedicated to the lepers. There are sixty thousand lepers at Calcutta, and some millions in the whole of India. It is one of the many terrible aspects of this nation.. Sister Teresa tries to do something: as she says, only initiatives of this sort can help, because they begin from nothing... Sister Teresa lives in a house not far from the centre of the city, in a dilapidated street worn down by the monsoons and by a misery which takes away your breath. With her there are another five or six sisters who help her to direct the organisation of research and the cure of lepers, and above all of assistance at their death: they have a little hospital where the lepers are taken to die. .. old woman, brown of skin.., tall [sic], dry, with two almost masculine cheek-bones.. she resembles a famous Saint Anna of Michelangelo: and on her features is impressed true goodness, of the type described by Proust in his old maid Françoise: ...’
  • 1975 Time magazine: a person "through whom the light of God shines."
  • 1978 Fodor Guide to India - nothing
  • 1979 Nobel Peace Prize
  • 1979 first dissent? -384 Egan: ‘Dissent came from an extremist anti-Gandhian group in an article in its publication entitled "Nothing Noble about Nobel." "For when all is said and done," said the article, "she is a missionary. In serving the poor and the sick, [sic: one wonders whether the quotation is right] her sole objective is to influence people in favour of Christianity and, if possible, to convert them. Missionaries are instruments of Western imperialist countries - and not innocent voices of God." Her work, continued the article, did not merit the description nishkama seva, (selfless service, or service without hope of reward). Other Indian publications immediately rose to the defence.. etc..’
  • 1980 Barbara Smoker publishes Sacred Cow? Criticism on these lines quoted in 1990: "She had a drive like the founder of an order. She picked out the poorest place she could think of.. an out and out masochist.. she goes on worshipping the God she believes has created all this suffering.. she doesn’t believe in doing anything in a rational way.. opposes contraception.. you have all the babies and I will look after them.. she’s even against married people making their own decisions.. she told Princess Di she should have five by now.. it’s a sacrifice to her ghostly lover.. maternal feeling.. She gets no end of money.. even Protestants seem to think she’s a good person.."
    Mother Teresa - Sacred Cow by BARBARA SMOKER
    The Beeb's television documentary, "Nobel 1979" (shown February 10), predictably concentrated on the Peace Prize laureate, Mother Teresa of Calcutta And the good lady, equally predictably) used the opportunity of her globally reported speech of acceptance in Oslo to spout anti-abortion propaganda.
        While she was denouncing abortion as the greatest evil of our time (worse, apparently, than torture, terrorism, warfare, or the proliferation of nuclear weapons), the camera's eye flitted about the sophisticated, Nordic audience and not a face among them betrayed any uneasy doubts about this message or the fanaticism with which it was expressed, though statistics indicate that most of those present would in reality disagree with her, and many would themselves have had abortions or been involved with abortions. But in Western countries it is simply not done to criticise Mother Teresa. Nowadays you can get away with Open criticism of Jesus Christ, but not of Mother Teresa.
        In the West, among people of all religions and none, Mother Teresa has become a sacred cow; though in India, the land of the literal sacred cow and the chief focus of the holy lady's most publicised charitable work, open criticism of Mother Teresa and her activities are certainly heard. Of the various radio and television programmes that have featured her in Britain, the only one I have heard that contained any word of criticism of her was one recorded In Calcutta, where people actually said "We do not want her charity."
        No doubt some of the recipients are pathetically grateful to this paternalistic - or, rather, maternalistic - emissary of alien affluence and an alien god, for the chance to postpone death by a few days or to die in less discomfort; while others resent the capriciousness of her help, too little too late, or at least reel ambivalent about it. Some of them may even perceive that their penury lends purpose to her life; some may be aware that she opposes the only possible long-term solution to their intractable problems - birth control. But it would require a knowledge or modern psychology and of Christian theology to understand the deep masochistic motivation of a woman who, as a lifelong "bride of Christ," sacrifices herself to a lost cause while eschewing the one chance of making any progress 'with it; and all for the passionate love and adoration of an all-powerful, invisible, aloof being, who apparently, chooses to create this colossal mess faster than she can mop it up, while "calling" her to dedicate her life to this Sisyphean task.
        None of the other controversial issues on which I express an opinion from time to time ever provoke such horrified expostulation as does the mildest criticism of Mother Teresa - and this response comes from people of every creed and even from atheists. "Hut she does so much good!" they all Say. But does she?
        If a fraction of the resources she has deployed in Calcutta alone for the purpose of giving some of the dying paupers a little comfort and dignity in their last few hours had been devoted to providing free contraceptive facilities, the amount of human suffering prevented thereby would have been far greater. This, however, would provide no tear-jerking television scenes for the gratification of sentimentalists in the affluent West.
    Dustbin Babies After showing Mother Teresa receiving her Nobel award and making her anti-abortion propaganda speech, BBC2 showed a flashback to a visit made by Malcolm Muggeridge to Mother Teresa in Calcutta, when she showed him, and the television camera, that particular day's haul of newborn babies picked out of the dustbins by her helpers. Most of these babies, she explained, had been born to desperate adolescent girls, who simply left them in dustbins to die.
        It struck me that perhaps some of the adolescent mothers placed their babies tenderly on top of the refuse just before the holy sisters made their known daily round of the bins, rather as desperate mothers in this country a century or more ago used to leave their newborn infants on the doorsteps of orphanages - and, indeed, One hopes this is so. Those who actually do leave their babies to die in dustbins fill one with horror - but so would similar cruelty to a dog or cat or any other animal. They could at least, one feels, snuff out the tiny infant life first. Indeed. the "crime" of infanticide, carried out instantaneously, would probably be the most rational, humane, and moral solution in these extreme circumstances. But abortion would, of course, be better than humane infanticide; early abortion better than late; and contraception better than abortion. The pious Mother Teresa, however, is uncompromisingly opposed to all these solutions. The only forms of birth control she would sanction are the uncertain rhythm method and the unrealistic counsel of perpetual abstinence.
        She, together with many of her fellow Christians, would argue that the newborn baby, the foetus the embryo, and perhaps even the zygote, have a "right to life." But apart from the mediaeval doctrine of "original sin" that puts the "immortal soul" of the potential human being in need of "salvation," there is no possible philosophical justification for the alleged right to life in the absence of consciousness of self-identity and a desire to continue. Of the modern moral philosophers who have dealt specifically with this question, Roger Wertheimer (in Moral Problems, ed. Rachels, 2nd edition) shows that the foetal right-to-life argument must depend on the irrational notion that a foetus is fully (not just potentially) a person, and thus a member of the reciprocal moral community of persons; and Michael Tooley (in Philosophy and Public Affairs, 1977) goes further than this, arguing that a right to life presupposes consciousness of self as a continuing identity and a desire to continue to be, and that such consciousness is impossible in the foetus or even in the just-born infant. Tooley draws the conclusion that not only abortion but also infanticide is morally permissible, given strong reasons in favour of it, such as serious physical or mental defects. Social reasons alone could hardly qualify as a sufficiently strong argument for infanticide in an affluent country, where adoption is always a feasible alternative; but this would not always be the case in poor countries like India, and quick infanticide is surely morally permissible, and even morally preferable when the only likely alternative is slow starvation.
        For millions of babies in India, starvation, sooner or later, is the order of the day - and it is beyond human ingenuity to feed them all. During the 1970s, the population of India rose by a hundred million - that is, by two entire Englands in a period of ten years. Living as she now does in Calcutta, Mother Teresa sees daily the appalling suffering caused by over-population, yet she refuses to accept the need for population control or the humane preferability of birth control over death control.
    Obvious Sincerity This is not to deny her obvious sincerity or her many other positive qualities. No one who Saw that EEC film clip with Malcolm Muggeridge and the dustbin babies could fail to respond to the manifest maternal feeling with which she picked up one of these little scraps of human life, and the twinkling delight with which she declared that this one was surely going to live for it had the light of life in its eyes, She is certainly an amazing woman, a warm human being surging with maternal feeling. The normal outlets for this were thwarted by the contemplative religious life which, for the sake of her supernatural lover, was her chosen straitjacket from girlhood to middle age. Only in middle age - a time of life at which most childless women, and many other people, face a crisis of vocation - she felt the "call of God" to break out of the enclosed convent life and found her own active religious order. Her subsequent career, especially its high degree of emotional involvement with the outside world and its public acclaim, must contrast very strangely with her past memories, while compensating to some extent for what she must now feet were her wasted years.
        So Mother Teresa has, besides the minor virtue of sincerity, the major one of warm human feeling and involvement - but even this can be nullified by ignorance, and Mother Teresa's ignorance is frightening. Not only is her mind blocked to reason by orthodox religious superstition, but her long years of convent seclusion inevitably kept her innocent of a wide spectrum or common knowledge and experience. For instance, in the television film she used the give-away, emotive phrase "the cries of unborn babies" - indicating a completely erroneous idea of the size and nature of a human embryo. If only someone were to show her the little tadpole-like thing that it really is, or even the narrow diameter of the suction tube used for early abortions, she would surely stop talking such fanciful nonsense. What it comes down to is this: well-meaning people need to be guided by knowledge and reason as well as by feeling. The road to counter-productive action is paved with the best intentions.
        The very week that the BBC screened the Oslo ceremony and the film of Mother Teresa fondling that appealing little scrap of new-born humanity, fired with motherly zeal for saving the tenuous little life and its supposed immortal soul, the Indian electorate gave Mrs Indira Gandhi a decisive mandate to implement a massive birth-control programme that could, in a few decades, begin to solve India's great problems, while Mother Teresa's sentimental tinkering with them earns her the Nobel Prize. Much as I deplored Mrs. Gandhi's excessive repression of civil liberties during her former premiership. I have no doubt which of these two women working in India today is the more deserving of international acclaim for attempting to alleviate the terrible human suffering in that country.
        Mrs Gandhi is really doing something to save the Titanic, while Mother Teresa rearranges the deck-chairs.
  • 1984 Bhopal
  • 1985 Such a Vision of the Street - Mother Teresa - The Spirit and the Work by Eileen Egan: -Hagiographical biography; the blurb says Muggeridge approved of it (I’d thought by then he was dead). Author’s dead brother was ‘a member of the Congregation of Christian Brothers’ Appears to be mostly dialogue (real or imitation) given unchecked information. -Pix include Prince Philip at ‘the presentation of the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion to Mother Teresa, the award’s first recipient.’ There’s some terrifying stuff on McNamara, Nobel Prizes etc.: 387-8 copy of McNamara letter to Nobel Committee because of her ‘reaffirmation of the inviolability of human dignity’ [president of the World Bank, a man who dealt daily with the crises of the world’s poorest nations’] 390-392 has passages from her speech (‘without a note’). -Appendix B lists Missionaries of Charity (outside India), sisters, & brothers; 1981 apparently peak year, 18 sisters (3 USA, 1 Australia, 1 East Berlin; 6 Latin America, 3 far east) and 5 brothers (Paris, Manila, Haiti, S Korea, Brazil). Appendix C gives ‘Mother House of the Missionaries of Charity’ in Great Britain as 177 Bravington Road, W9. -in 1975 there were 61 houses in India (p 271) & 27 outside/ 1984, 125 sisters & 32 brothers (if I’ve counted accurately) outside India. 287: ‘.. 1976.. opening of a new house in Bombay, the city’s third center conducted by the Missionaries of Charity. It was.. to receive the abandoned sick and dying. The site and the building were a gift of the Hindustan Lever Company. ..’ -Up to end of 1960s seems only to have had fame in local Catholic outfits supposedly providing aid, and with leprosy. [Note on this!] 1952 care of the dying seems to have started in Calcutta (pp 71-2), only two pages of 500 on this. Doesn’t state whether motive was to ‘convert’ or ‘baptize’, though presumably it probably was. Not much on what convents actually do; 233 describes one in the South Bronx, ‘a sturdy, three-storey building’ with a slight description of the ‘dining room.’
  • 1986 GELDOF is that it? 1986: 300ff Naivety: Mother Teresa struck him a embodiment of good.
  • 1986 Book Review - Is That It?
    Bob Geldof. London: Sidgwick and Jackson, 1986
    Reviewed by Steven E. Connelly, Indiana State University
    The Journal of Mind and Behavior , Autumn 1986, Vol. 7, No. 4, Pages 593-598, ISSN 0271-0137
    [Note: First paragraph, no abstract available.] With the possible exception of Mother Teresa, Bob Geldof is the most practical, as well as the most effective, humanitarian of this century. Geldof’s autobiography, Is That It?, provides some insight into the great mystery: how one individual, invested with no political power, allied with no great organization, and connected to no government, managed to triumph over the forces of greed, cynicism, chauvinism, bureaucratic red tape, and the often petty but formidable jealousies of international politics. Geldof’s life is no longer separable from his heroic efforts on behalf of famine relief in Africa, especially the Live Aid concert, billed by Rolling Stone as "The Day The World Rocked," and certainly the most spectacular media event to this day. This scruffy, controversial lead singer of The Boomtown Rats generally had a reputation for being anti-establishment, if not anti-social-a punk anarchist whose antics and lyrics struck recklessly in every direction: hardly a likely candidate to mastermind what was at one and the same time the biggest live television event ever and a monument to human compassion.
    Requests for reprints should be sent to Steven E. Connelly, Ph.D., Department of English, Indiana State University, Terre Haute, Indiana 47809.
  • 1987 Readers Digest Dec 1987: ‘Mother Teresa: Her simple creed of ‘Love in action’ has brought hope and peace to millions’. Turning to the ‘feature supplement’ Scaled down to bringing ‘love and caring to hundreds of thousands of the sick, hungry and homeless in 71 countries around the world.’ Teaching; not much info on quantity or quality. Feeding: 550 pounds of rice, 400 of veg, + 600 eggs in Calcutta. ‘745 Missionaries of charity mobile clinics.. Novice sisters and brothers receive only paramedical training..’ Called on Ed Koch: 1985 wanted to open a hospice in New york for infants with AIDS:- ‘15 bed Gift of Love’ opened Dec 24 1985..‘ House in Southall Å“6000. A hostel housing 19 homeless women ‘there are no luxuries and [they] wash all the clothes and bed-linen by hand.’
  • 1990 India Rough Guide [US] distributed by Penguin 1990? 744 ‘.. The best known of their many homes and clinics is Nirmal Hriday, a hospice for destitutes. In the face of local resistance, Mother Teresa chose its site at Kalighat - Calcutta’s most important centre of Hinduism - in the knowledge that many of the poor specifically come here to die, next to a holy tirtha or crossing-place. .. In principle Mother Teresa relies on charity and volunteer work. .. However, they do occasionally have to turn casual volunteers away;...’ 1144 World Bank not paying final payments (i.e. for rehousing) after building Gujarat Dam
  • 1990 Jean Medawar (1990) Mother Teresa made honorary graduate by Harvard (with Tennessee Williams & P Medawar). ‘.. I was told that at a similar ceremony the poor lady had had her garments rent by people eager to have a piece of the cloth from the habit she was wearing. .. She looked a little lonely, so I went to speak to her. She promptly blessed me, as she did anyone who came near her. ..’
  • 1991: JOKE BY Private Eye: Take off of Imelda Marcos: cash-only hospital for poorly children.. Mother Teresa is an example of my philosophy. What would she be doing with fine dresses..?
  • 1992 republished 1995 For the Sake of Argument Christopher Hitchens: Ghoul of Calcutta.
  • 1992 ghoul article: -Visited calcutta 1980: motto/ kissed feet/ orphanage to fight abortion and contraception -Michèle Duvalier/ Phalangists of Beirut/ 1989 ‘worst of all stalinist tyrannies’ of Albania: Enver Hoxha / Charles Keating of Lincoln savings and loan of calif $1.4 m & company plane’ -As far as one can determine, ‘.. M.. could usually induce the BBC to film him standing next to some phoney shroud or blubbering wooden statuette.’
  • 1994/5 Royal Institution lectures Susan Greenfield: "vocabulary improves as one gets older" - "heads of businesses, heads of the church" - ‘Mother Teresa - "fantastic work", Nelson Mandela head of a new state, Picasso
  • 8 Nov 1994: Without Walls, Channel 4 ‘Hell’s Angel?’ Producer Tariq Ali, VO by journalist Christopher Hitchens, with caricature behind him, interspersed with film. He’d been to Calcutta in early 1980s and wasn’t impressed. Mother Teresa [this title used without comment] ‘.. considered.. invisible means of support.. [something like:] suspension of critical faculties..’ We see her arrive by helicopter, apparently in Ireland at some shrine where last century woman had supposedly done something. An Irishman in purple praises her in rather vague terms as being saint-like.

    Hitchens dates the cult to 1969; BBC, Muggeridge thing called ‘Something Beautiful for God’. Peter Shaffer was director - I’m not sure if this was the playwright. Photographer talked of new untried Kodak film which they were forced to try for filming the ‘House of the Dying’. The pictures came out well; Muggeridge said something about ‘divine light, old boy’ and stories of a ‘miracle’ began to circulate. Indian chap says people on the streets of Calcutta know and care nothing about her ‘work’. What this seems to be, the House of the Dying, is supposedly a hospice; in fact two rooms, one for men, one for women, with terminally ill people (with shaved heads) on stretcher beds (apparently as in WW1). No furniture. No garden. Not enough drips. Shared needles. If you’re lucky, you might get an aspirin. A woman said it was like Belsen. Another said a 15-year old boy hadn’t been allowed to go in a cab to hospital: if one goes, they’ll all want to go, she was told. C Hitchens visited ‘Missionaries of Charity’ in early 1980s, with Victorian work-house type motto; I think this was for abandoned babies. ‘This is how we fight abortion and contraception in Calcutta’ M T said to C H. Then a list of friendships with right-wing leaders and a crook: Keating, jailed after American Savings and Loan swindle, lent her his plane and other support In 1988 ‘she bent the ear of the iron lady’. Visited Lebanon: Catholics carried out massacres at Sabra and Chatila, says C H. Visited Nicaragua (I think); some archbishop or something described as patron (or something similar) of the Contras. Pius IX and his friend Mussolini worked in somewhere Haiti: the church never forgave Aristide.. not allowed to take mass.. the Vatican was the last to continue to recognise the junta that ruled Haiti.. Baby Doc rewarded M T before the Duvaliers left for ever for the French Riviera.. Reagan awarded her a ‘freedom medal’.. the Catholic archbishop of San Salvador and ?American nuns murdered by the death squads.. Nobel Prize & others; rather absurd scenes of tiny woman with white head dress bordered with blue stripes, head bent, in plush surroundings, with condescending men. VO says the turnover of the Mother Teresa multinational is tens of millions. This might make a difference in Calcutta. But [she talks:] ‘.. five hundred convents.. round the world..’ .. killing fields of Guatemala.. she said where I was, it was quiet.. In Albania, putting flowers (and a kiss) on the outdoor tomb of ?Hoxta - Stalinist tyrant who established the world’s first atheist state.. Bhopal: negligent multinational. Her message? We see her saying (in English:) Forgive. Forgive. Indian and others: "Makes us feel better.. she’s a westerner.. given up her life (whatever it might have been in Albania).. combines the mission to the heathen, the colonial outpost, and Florence Nightingale. And the image of the deserving poor in whom she encourages submission [Note: cp. Wells on Christian charity] Ends: "Demagogue, obscurantist and servant of earthly powers." - On BBC’s Question Time a few days later, Barbara Smoker said it was an excellent programme and that she’d also written something in somewhat the same vein, at the time of Muggeridge’s broadcasts, called ‘Sacred Cow’. she, or someone in the audience, commented on Mother Teresa’s Swiss bank account & house in Mustique. Incidentally, many people in the audience seemed in favour of ‘Mother Teresa’ -final word, at least as broadcast, was some berk saying something like "Well, she does her best" and many in the audience applauding.

    - Hitchens, on an ITV Right to Reply programme Saturday 12th Nov, who looked rather different, perhaps because of the lighting; less close up, intense - in a panel, said his programme was the first ever to counter the Niagara of sycophantic praise (or some similar expression).

  • 1995 Missionary Position padded with quotations, line-spacing, not very useful acknowledgements, descriptive matter. Help of Gore Vidal, Salman Rushdie, Israel Shahak 3-6 Haiti & its predatory class 7 ‘John-Roger’ of cult MSIA 8-12 8 bed facility in Wash DC & Hillary Clinton, Barry/ another us example 12-3 book titles; ‘sainthood’ 14 determination to found an order [4K nuns, 40K lay workers. BUT >500 convents worldwide]
  • 1996 McSpotlight is chosen as Global Hero for March 1996. An undeserved award, perhaps, as February’s Global Hero was Mother Teresa.
  • 1997 DATE: 12/09/97 (Randi) For those interested in a well rounded picture of the recently departed Mother Teresa, you might wish to refer to a book by the same Christopher Hutchins [sic], "The Missionary Position: Mother Theresa [sic] in Theory and Practice." It is rather an eye-opener.

============================================== Unsorted notes..... =========================

note on language - forgive etc

terrible deficiencies of left, rationalists, journalistic charity watchers, sociologists.

MENTION IN INDIA: Mother Teresa of Calcutta: b. Yugoslavia. Opened 400 homes around the world. Aged 79 in ?1989. Catholic. Missionaries of Charity started forty years ago, according to my notes -"In India, more women die of pregnancy-related causes than in any other way"

21 muggeridge /1969 docco/ 1971 book/ 22 Calcutta as hellhole; 23 anything but abject 23 Bose rd missionaries of Charity offices. ‘he that loveth correction loveth knowledge’./ feet/ orphanage/ empty cot 25-27 M at length on ‘photographic miracle’ 28-32 more on MM & on altruism as a danger.

37 charitable labour? Dr Robin Fox 38-39/ -41 Mary Loudon on no antibiotics etc -cult based on death and suffering 42ff more contacts after 1994 hell’s angel: Elgy Gillespie / 43-48 Susan Shields unpublished script 47 $50M in one account in the Bronx/ 48 Emily Lewis 48 Rwanda and catholic leadership 49 Hitchens at 1989 International Health Organisation rich world ‘likes to believe’ something is being done-50


. 51ff unimpressive potted history of Catholicism; life, sex, rapes, abortion/ 52 ensoulment/ 54 Malthus etc/ 555 celibacy. MT ‘most consistently reactionary’ 56 Nobel Peace Prize 1979/ 58-9 e.g. open-air mass in Knock, Ireland


60ff pretence of poverty/ ‘extraordinary largesse of governments, large foundations, corporations and private citizens’. No figures given here./ 61 story of donation arriving just when needed./ [latter seems irrelevant]/ Awards: Prize of the Miraculous Lotus from India, 1971 John 23 prize for peace/ 1971 Boston ‘Good Samaritan’ award/ 1971 JFK award/ 1973 philip/ 1975 F.A.O. special medal/ Albert Schweitzer prize/ hon degree presented by Indira Gandhi./ etc/ no finest teaching hospital in 3rd world-63 -64: Robert Maxwell -64 Charles Keating-71 (inc letter explaining fraud; asking for stolen money; no reply - and also no legal action)


-77ff ‘invincible ignorance’ & association with conquest etc. 79 attempt at politics of Albania pre-WW1, King Zog, Greek Orthodox schools closed/ ‘Mother Albania’/ [misses point about Greece]/ 1990 visit/ ; 83 Vatican support for the Duvaliers/ Croats and Serbs ..... -86 timing ‘every sign of instinctive genius’: 1984 Bhopal; ‘on the next plane’/ 87 ‘forgiveness’ interesting verbal technique/ post-Franco Spain’s ‘clerical forces’/ 1988 London re an abortion bill / 89 Reagan and Presidential Medal of Freedom at a time when 4 American nuns & Archbishop of San Salvador murdered/ 90 verbal trick of speaking for god & the poor/ support for Ethiopia over Eritrea/ 92 Nicaragua: Cardinal Archbishop of Managua, Miguel Obando y Bravo, paid by the CIA/ Guatemala

98: ‘.. millennial story.. exploitation of the simple and the humble by the cunning and the single-minded.’

HTML Rae West First uploaded 98-05-18. This not quite complete version 2013-04. Link to Mike King 2017-01-04