So how much independent evidence is there for the charges her critics have leveled? Because I’m familiar with this stuff - mostly from discussions around here - and while it’s interesting, I admit to some doubts. In fact, it’s hard for me to believe anyone could be as much of a monster as Mother Teresa apparently is. Are all these things stuff that has been drawn from independent sources?
What is Father Guido Sarducci’s take on all this?
I think she could’ve done the poor people of Kolkata a lot better had she been handing out condoms and instructions on how to use them rather than preaching about birth control being a sin.
It’s my opinion that if there is a hell, she is in it.
There’s some nasty evidence that, if valid, would put her squarely in the middle of the Pantheon of Religious Hypocrites. I personally am not 100% convinced of the validity of that evidence, though I’m growing more and more skeptical about MT.
However, there are some points that really deserve being made here that anyone voicing an opinion about MT and her teachings should really take into account:
Catholicism (and religion generally) has always had a sense that “poverty” voluntarily embraced is a spiritual positive, a setting aside of the perishable Things of This World to pursue the imperishable Eternal Verities. Elimination of luxuries and even selective abstention from necessities is claimed to help spiritual growth and character building. That does not mean or suggest excusing the leaving of people in unchosen and dire poverty. What it does have to do with what’s going on here is that any MT teachings regarding poverty have to be regarded, not as the hypocritical BS of someone living in a million-dollar house with yachts, but as the expression of orthodox Catholic doctrine by someone who is, on a charitable view, the leader of a religious order devoted to “positive poverty” on the Franciscan model and the combatting of “negative poverty” of the soul- and body-degrading kind. Now, whether she was herself personally hypocritical in that is a different question. But draw that distinction carefully and judge her, not on the terms of an affluent televangelist, but whether she herself lived out the Catholic teachings and the distinction between “espouse poverty for yourself for spiritual growith” and “give help to the poor, who cannot help themselves” embodied in it.
Likewise, she was, as Hitchens notes (see Brian Ekers and Brain Glutton’s posts above) a very conservative Catholic, even by their own standings. But remember that it’s a part of Catholic theology that abortion is a truly major evil, like serial premeditated infanticide might be to some of the rest of us, and that birth control in the normal understanding of it is a sinful act, divorcing the sex act from its divine purpose as procreative. Again, you are welcome to judge and condemn her for her extremism, but take into account that she was in fact a sincere and devout Catholic who subjected her own views to the teachings of Mother Church. That I personally don’t agree with a lot of Catholic teaching on these subjects does not mean that I cannot grasp the good intent which they bring to teachings that are seen by many non-Catholics as hateful abuse of couples and women.
Thanks, Polycarp, for these points. I think that a lot of what MT had to say about the “beauty of suffering” is a little bit misunderstood due to either being taken out of context, or because people do not understand Catholic theology on this. I can’t speak to how skilled she was as a money manager, but it could be that her personal mission was different than what people seem to expect that it should have been. It is a well-established tradition in Catholicism for missionaries to live & work among the poor, helping at a grass-roots level, which it seems was more her mindset than running some giant relief organization. There is a lack of sophistication on her part that I think people are not getting.
In regards to your second point, you are right that blaming MT personally for the teachings of the Catholic Church seems rather pointless. She didn’t invent these teachings, but believed them and carried out her work according to them. Certainly, abortion is something that a strict Catholic would never compromise on, and there are many more Catholics than one might think who feel the same way about birth control. If she genuinely believes that the use of birth control is endangering the soul, then she could never encourage it, even if its use may relieve suffering here on earth. This may sound illogical to people (especially those who don’t believe in a soul), but it is a deep-seated belief among many, many people.
Oh, but that’s the thing – a Pope **did canonize ** a Saint “Philomena”, that it turns out probably wasn’t even the person they thought she was to begin with. And there are fervent devotees even to this day. See this thread for series of posts by Bricker and myself (plus quotes from Cecil) on the Philomena issue.
As to Mother T, JP2’s fast-track method took her through to Beatification during his Papacy (2003), even though there were people who raised questions about the circumstances of the specific healing; she’s pending one more “miracle” to be eligible for canonization, and after those earlier issues the Congregation is likely to make sure they have a good one lined up for the next go-around.
The possibility of theological politics cannot be completely laid aside in the fast-tracking: Firstly, the administration under JP2 would have very much welcomed elevating someone who was high-visibility in the contemporary media age, linked to the developing world, and “Old School” doctrinally; secondly, she was the founder of Religious Order that was actually expanding, which you can hardly find in the Church these days.
If her mission was building lavish convents and claiming the money was for relieving poverty, then yes, she was fulfilling it. My limited understanding of Catholic teaching is that bearing false witness is still a sin. Supporting dictators with blood on their hands frankly seems unlikely to shorten your stay in purgatory either.
The point is not that she should have somehow personally headed an international charitable organization that could fight poverty efficiently - the point is that when given money to relieve poverty, she should have done so, especially when she was so lucky to have so much. She had the opportunity to actually do something about people’s misery, but she apparently did not do so - even though she claimed she did. She didn’t even take the small step of using her organization’s vast wealth to hire a few medical personal to separate the truly dying from those who only became Dying Destitutes once they were in her claws. She didn’t do much to ease their passing. Nor did she buy any of the cheap medications that could be used to relieve their suffering. Her mission was apparently a very ugly one.
The best thing that can be said about her, then, is that she was a blind fanatic, willing to sacrifice other people to her religious beliefs and apparently feeling no compunctions about it. Given that she apparently didn’t only not provide such services (something you’ll find at Catholic hospitals in the United States as well) but, according to what has been posted in this thread, actively campaigned to prevent the government from providing it, she was clearly working to the detriment of Indians.
The irony of it is that such an action can hardly be imagined to be “Christian” in any sense - there’s nothing in the Bible that enjoins believers to go out and stop their neighbors from sinning. You can believe the dogmas of the Catholic Church whole-heartedly, but that doesn’t make it Christian behavior to dedicate your life to stopping others from sinning - or even having the opportunity to do so. Such a thing can’t be remotely justified by Scripture - especially from someone who claims to be working to relieve suffering. Delivering self-satisfied speeches about how nasty other people’s sins are might be regrettably common among “Christians”, but that doesn’t make it behavior that is valid under the teachings of Scripture.
I frankly don’t think it’s a good idea to defend this woman on the basis of Catholic doctrine. That casts the Catholic church in a very bad light.
I would not argue with what you say, Excalibre, because I don’t know that much about MT. I will say that I was not aware she was such a power broker…I was just seeing her as one of the many, many, Catholic religious who live among the poor, feed, and clothe them, and do not exactly have a lot of political clout (even within the Church). If she was more involved politically, as you say, then I think her actions do become much more problematic.
This particular episode was about heroes/idols. Their main point was that everyone has faults, and no one deserves to be worshipped. They should all be treated as people and historically studied as such, not propped up as these ideal people to follow in their footsteps.
I only know about the stuff that has been raised in this thread and the linked threads. I know these are issues that were largely pointed out by her critics, but at the same time I haven’t heard any evidence that they were false.
My point is that I’m no expert on the matter - so take what I say with a grain of salt. But what I’ve heard about her practices doesn’t make her sound very good.
One of my pet peeves (I have many pet peeves, I take them to the vet regularly) is that so many people still use “Mother Teresa” as a synonym for all that is good. Saying “you’re not exactly a Mother Teresa” is the highest of compliments, as far as I’m concerned.
Did this air again? I don’t get Showtime, but I’m glad they didn’t cave in to the hyper-conservative Catholic League’s requests. (I think the only problem they had with the show was that they called her “Mother fucking Teresa.” But for some reason, the head of the league didn’t mind being called “William fucking Donohue” on the exact same show.)
But in all fairness, what the heck is that supposed to mean, anyway? I have never heard anyone say that people should try to live their lives just like Mohandas Gandhi; if anything, it’d be impossible for most folks to exhibit the sort of personal self-discipline he did at times.
what I HAVE heard is people say that
Gandhi did great things, which is true, and
That Gandhi’s specific philosophy of passive resistance is a good thing to follow, which is also true.
I am sure some knob out there someone has said “Gandhi was perfect and we should all try to be like him” but if Bullshit! is just about picking on the dumbest people they can find (and unfortunately it often is, especially after the first season) then what’s the point?
Let’s be honest; Penn & Teller’s purpose was to rag on religious people, not dispel any myths. I’m all for attacking religion, but it’s possible for someone to do great things for humanity and still be a Hindu.
Yeah, and I thought that episode as a whole was one of their weaker ones. It’s not so much that Mother Teresa/Ghandi/the Dali Lama are “frauds” as much as “they’re not the perfect sinless folks people think they are” – well, duh.
Then again, I think the latest season of P&T: Bullshit! has been spottier than their previous stuff. I can’t believe they spent an entire episode on the red-tape infighting over the WTC Memorial…
Hitchens rightly pointed out that while we don’t know specifically the full extent of what her charity took in, we at least know that it was more than enough to build and run a full scale hospital or two in Culcutta. Job centers, schools, food distribution centers plus food: with the amount of money she had, it would have been cake. But somehow none of that stuff ever got done, just lots of patting the sick and dying on the back, praising them for being such good examples, and giving them a cot to die on.