A recent study out of Canada casts doubt on the saintly reputation of Mother Theresa. Their essential thesis is that, despite the fact she took in millions of dollars in donations, the dying people for whom she cared in Calcutta were subjected to horrible conditions. Part of this, they contend, is because Mother Theresa saw beauty in suffering.
The study is really not saying anything Christopher Hitchens did not say many years ago in his documentary Hell’s Angel:
Out of the many convincing arguments Hitchens makes the one that sticks out is that, while primitive and unsanitary conditions were good enough for the people in Calcutta, Mother Theresa herself took advantage of the best medical care the western world had to offer when she got sick. That right there is enough for me to be skeptical of her motives.
To be clear, I do not mean this to be an attack on the Catholic Church. The media hyped her up way before the church did, even though the church did nothing to dispel the hype. If anything, the church saw Mother Theresa as a useful public relations tool to help prop up dreadful church attendance around the world. The blame for Mother Theresa’s undeserved reputation for purity and virtue rest with the media and the woman herself.
Mother Theresa was comfortable hobnobbing with the world’s political and financial elite. She sung Ronald Reagan’s praises, even as he was funding illegal wars in Central America that killed many members of the Catholic Church, including clergy. Her organization pulled in millions of dollars from banksters with questionable ethics, including those associated with the infamous Keating Five. All of her photo-ops provided moral cover to people who killed, swindled and oppressed millions.
What I say here is unpopular and will most likely offend many true believers. It really is no different from the way the education debate goes in this country. The media seizes upon people associated with the elite, like Michelle Rhee for example. They attribute to her selfless motives in trying to “help” some of the most downtrodden people in society. Meanwhile, what she provides to those downtrodden people is of questionable value. The question arises: what happened with all of those millions if it is obviously not going to help people?
Yet, even suggesting such a question will elicit a fair share of vitriol. How dare we question people who have made it their life’s mission to help people? We must have our own selfish motivations. Either we are anti-religious bigots of union hacks who fear accountability.
The fact that so many believe the hype about something is the biggest reason why we should be skeptical. Instead of falling into line because it is the popular thing to do, we need to be the voice in the wilderness that brings people back down to earth. Otherwise, we run the risk of group-think, tyranny of the majority and out-and-out mob rule.
Both Mother Theresa and the education reformers want for other, usually poor, people things of which they do not avail themselves. If that does not raise a red flag then nothing will.