16:45, September 13 89 0

2017-09-13 16:45:06

 

No mother of mine: Mother Teresa was hardly a saint

Les côtés ténébreux de Mère Teresa, a carefully-vetted qualitative study about the life and works of Mother Teresa, corroborates many of the most well-known criticisms of the Catholic icon through a rigorous academic analysis of hundreds of documents, including news articles, books, and interviews.

The study, recently published in Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses by researchers at two Canadian universities, shows quite clearly that Mother Teresa was no saint. Among her litany of sins, she put the Church’s reputation above people’s well-being, mismanaged donations, and committed countless human rights violations.

The first has the advantage of primacy bias: it got there first. Its downfall is total disregard for the facts. This account was spearheaded by Malcolm Muggeridge, a fanatical Catholic who played a kind of Henry Higgins to Mother Teresa’s Eliza Doolittle. He used his bully pulpit to catapult her to the world stage through controlled coverage and manipulated journalism.

Muggeridge set out to spread an uncritical account of Mother Teresa’s life and actions in order to improve the reputation of the Catholic Church and further its aims.

The other figure, famed polemicist Christopher Hitchens, reported on Mother Teresa’s flawed character and countless abuses, but the public largely ignored or dismissed him on account of his inimitable acerbity. As much credit as Hitchens’ journalism deserves, he undermined its credibility by sensationalizing its delivery. (Titling your polemic about a popular nun The Missionary Position, and following it up with a documentary called Hell’s Angel, may hurt your chances at persuading the public.)

Hitchens’ criticism also took a very personal tone: he assisted the Devil’s Advocate – yup, that’s a real thing – in Mother Teresa’s sainthood trial at the Vatican, a responsibility he thoroughly enjoyed.

Still, this scrupulously-researched study goes a long way toward vindicating Hitchens’ narrative and discrediting Muggeridge’s overt propaganda, for the simple reason that the facts are on Hitchens’ side. One prominent example of the active myth-making on Muggeridge’s part: When a documentary crew filmed the dark interior of one of Mother Teresa’s houses of the dying, Muggeridge ascribed the picture’s puzzling clarity to the nun’s holiness, even thought the cameraman later explained that he had used a new type of film specifically engineered to capture better images in poorly lit environments.

The study enumerates other such assertions intended to paint a portrait of the Saint of Calcutta – a portrait, the converse of Dorian Gray’s, which masks the sins of its subject.

Who’s Responsible for the Myth?

A mythology of this kind relies on immoral people with political agendas dedicated to the proposition that the ends (the canonization of an immensely public figure) justify the means (the distortions and omissions outlined above). But it also relies on a public willing to blithely accept the lies they are told.

The main purpose of this study is not merely to present the reality of Mother Teresa (which gravely contradicts the saintly image most people have of her), but to make clear that that reality was present from the very beginning, and that a more judicious and skeptical public could have prevented this lie from reaching mythic proportion. Among the most pitiable victims of this lie is the Catholic Church itself, which, if it truly values the institution of sainthood, will revoke its approbation of a proven fraud.

The world needs heroes, and, while they do not have to be perfect, they should at least be good. Mother Teresa was neither.

This article was originally published on Bilerico in 2013.


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