Abusing Children Teresa Style

On Aug 1st British television carried an investigative piece by Donal McIntyre about the treatment of children in an orphanage run by Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity. He quotes Dr Aroup Chatterjee, a medical doctor in London and the author of Mother Teresa: The Final Verdict, as saying that “the Indian government is “terrified” of her reputation but if similar practices were found in any other home, it would have been shut down.”

In brief, the report said that handicapped children were maltreated in the orphanage. No surprise there for anyone who has cared to read what the true story is behind the façade that Mother Teresa carefully built around her mission. She used the misery that is all too evident in Calcutta (and in India in general) to demand charity from all and sundry around the world. What she did with the donations is not clear and is unlikely to ever become clear because she refused to have her books audited. Untold millions of dollars flowed into her coffers. The money was not used to build even one small hospital anywhere. In her homes, it was even forbidden to hand out simple painkillers. She, in the meanwhile, got jetted around to hospitals in the US whenever she was suffering some illness.

I have been a severe critic of Mother Teresa ever since I came to know of what her mission was all about. Christopher Hitchens was one of the first to provide a devastating critique of her. The Ghoul of Calcutta, as he called his piece on her, is as honest an appraisal of her as anyone has ever done. His book The Missionary Position was a welcome counterbalance to the hagiography that was built around her myth. I started a small collection of critical pieces about M. Teresa some years ago. Through my interest in her, around 1997 I came to meet Hitchens when he was visiting Berkeley for a conversation with Gore Vidal. Last year I met Chatterjee in London, again in connection with a review of his book that I had written on my blog.

What exactly is my main grouse with M. Teresa? I think that she was evil. She manipulated others and cheated them, and she did so on the backs of Kolkata’s miserable. She was the most famous “beggar lord” – a person who makes a living by taking the money that people give to beggars and using that money for some other purpose. In her case, it is suspected that the money is funneled to the Vatican so that she would get on the fast tract to being canonized.

But siphoning money to the Vatican does not immediately brand her as evil, in my book. Hitler also supported the Vatican and that was not his most egregious fault. No, M. Teresa did far worse than just steal from the poor to enrich the fabulously wealthy. She compounded the problem that is the root cause of many of the world’s miseries. She cynically campaigned against birth control and contraceptives and did everything that she could to make the population problem more acute. The more born in misery and hopelessness, the more souls she would be able to save and more the brownie points that she would have to win the prize in heaven (sit next to Jesus Christ) and on earth (made into a saint by the bishop of Rome.)

My hope is that one of these days soon the Indians at least will wake out of their deep slumber of ignorance to realize that she has done incalculable harm to India, both in terms of the image that she advertised to the world about India, but even more tragically by catalyzing tens of millions of excess births that will result in decades of needless suffering and pain.

Too bad I don’t believe in hell and in a just power governing the universe. Otherwise I would have consoled myself with the thought that she would definitely end up in hell and suffer for all of eternity what she imposed on others.

Update: (Oct 26th, 2005)
Here are two more articles, both by Christopher Hitchens, on Mother Teresa. In Oct 2003, Hitchens wrote The pope beatifies Mother Teresa, a fanatic, a fundamentalist, and a fraud.

One of the curses of India, as of other poor countries, is the quack medicine man, who fleeces the sufferer by promises of miraculous healing. Sunday was a great day for these parasites, who saw their crummy methods endorsed by his holiness and given a more or less free ride in the international press. Forgotten were the elementary rules of logic, that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence and that what can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence. More than that, we witnessed the elevation and consecration of extreme dogmatism, blinkered faith, and the cult of a mediocre human personality. Many more people are poor and sick because of the life of MT: Even more will be poor and sick if her example is followed. She was a fanatic, a fundamentalist, and a fraud, and a church that officially protects those who violate the innocent has given us another clear sign of where it truly stands on moral and ethical questions.

Earlier that year, he had argued why teresa should not be a saint in the Mirror (UK):

“Wait a minute,” said a TV host in Washington a few nights ago, when I debated all this with Mr John Donahue of the Catholic Defence League. “She built hospitals.” No, sir, you wait a minute.

Mother Teresa was given, to our certain knowledge, many tens of millions of pounds. But she never built any hospitals. She claimed to have built almost 150 convents, for nuns joining her own order, in several countries. Was this where ordinary donors thought their money was going?

Furthermore, she received some of this money from the Duvaliers, and from Mr Charles Keating of the notorious Lincoln Savings and Loan of California, and both these sources had acquired the money by – how shall I put it? – borrowing money from the poor and failing to give it back.

How could this possibly be true? Doesn’t everyone know that she spent her time kissing the sores of lepers and healing the sick? Ah, but what everyone knows isn’t always true. You were more likely to run into Mother Teresa being photographed with Nancy Reagan, or posing with Princess Diana, or in the first-class cabin of Air India (where she had a permanent reservation).

Author: Atanu Dey

Economist.

29 thoughts on “Abusing Children Teresa Style”

  1. I could not even to this day stomach that Mother Teresa was awarded Bharat Ratna and to top it of she was given a State Funeral by the Indian Government.

    What a bunch of crap…some politicians.
    -Vijay

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  2. Atanu

    This is an awesome post. For years i never thought highly of MT, because a lot of what she did was hype. I couldnt get to read what she actually did and everything printed about her spoke of the same thing.

    I am going to link to this post on my blog.

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  3. This is the first time I have read any article or peice against Mother T (other than the ones about her miracles etc). I will just take this at its face value. This really shakes my belief in everything that is touted as good.

    I have always been of the opinion that whenever West wanted to glorify anything Indian they will always pick the controversial

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  4. This is seriously scary, Atanu. one does not know what to believe any longer… but even before reading this, my grouse has been against those who hand out ‘charity’ at a cost – religious conversion – but I’ve always thought that it is ok (kind of shrugging shoulders ok) so long as someone benefitted from it… now am going on to read your follow up piece…

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  5. The more born in misery and hopelessness, the more souls she would be able to save and more the brownie points that she would have to win the prize in heaven (sit next to Jesus Christ) and on earth (made into a saint by the bishop of Rome.)

    Do you have anything to back this up, or is this just speculation?

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  6. Atanu sent a reply to my last comment by email, rather than being prepared to post it in public. That ain’t classy.

    Atanu’s response: No, Andjam, it is polite to write to a commentor and say thanks. I respond to nearly 90 percent of people who comment via email. You are the first person who has felt insulted because of having received an email thanking you for commenting.

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  7. I am for the first time reading an article castigating the work of Mother Teresa. I think some investigation should be done regarding the amount recieved by the Missionaries of charity and the amount utilised. Does the Democratic set up in our country allow the investigation to happen?

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  8. About twenty years back, I met an Indian from Calcutta. Some how a mention was made of Tressa. He said that she was not what she was known as. Then he narrated a few incidences. I wonder, when people knew, how all this remained under cover for so long.

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  9. She always seems like a devil to me, never thought about any good about her, cuz there was something wrong.. something bad glittering in her eyes.

    Nice Job.

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  10. Do you understand the historical significance of this woman! Sirs and madams, I have a PhD in World History from the University of Harvard, and I completely disagree with your “justified” accusations.

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  11. Do you not UNDERSTAND that this is the work of the rightist RSS and BJP of India?? They are Hindus out to destroy the reputation of this great woman… Personally, I am a Sikh who has lived in Calcutta for 8 years and I have personally visited these “ashrams” created by Mother Teresa. HAVE ANY OF YOU SEEN THESE PLACES? IF YOU HAVE NOT, YOU HAVE NO RIGHT WHATSOEVER TO ARGUE AGAINST ME!

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  12. I believe MT became an icon competing with God – her catholic belief led many souls to hell – was she a christian? – i don’t think so – she believed in the Jesus of a wafer – that is not the Jesus of the bible – Satan has a tendency to mimick god – in the sense that all her good works were not done to glorify God – it appears that she thought she was Jesus herself – that would be presumptious – she was a humanitarian and apparently cruel in her approach to suffering – because her catholic belief teaches her that suffering expiates her sins = God have mercy – there is so much deception in these last and sorrowful days

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  13. I can’t believe what your saying, you sound like the devil trying to ruin a good thing,like someone that just can’t believe a person can be good. You say that her orphanage was maltreating children? At least they were being fed and given a place to sleep even if it wasn’t much,compared to before when they didn’t get anything From anyone else.Where were
    Y O U,when these kids needed help??? It takes a lot of Freakin money to feed hundreds of people everyday and not considering feeding your own organization so that they can serve the poor. Yes, she was always flying to the hospitals, but she was a leader that was needed, so they needed to keep her healthy so that she can continue helping and guiding others, and yes she was being photographed with famous people, but they were the ones who wanted to see her. You should really consider doing the samething that M.Teresa’s nuns are doing for one whole week and see if you still think the samething.

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  14. The damage over the years to India by M.T.cannot really be quantified.India’s reputation was irreparably tarnished. I too thought M.T. had built hospitals for the poor.But alas,this apparently is not the case. Christopher Hitchens has integrity and is also quite famous and I wouldn’t doubt him. Now, these days I find state of the art grand hospitals for the poor being built by Sathya Sai Baba of India. And this I found out through Dr. Michael Nobel (Nephew of Alfred Nobel: Awards)who was in Bangalore, India recently. But somehow, the Western world is vilifying the great Indian patriot Sai Baba as loathsome and India’s English media agrees wholeheartedly while venerating the white lady, M.T. Incredible! isn’t it?

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  15. I have worked with MT on and off for the last ten years before she died. I did this to help me in my thesis work. I am neither a supporter nor a denouncer. But what I saw touched me. I am surprised at this post. Without even investigating and on mere surmises or calculated intentions you have cooked up an article on a person who never wanted to be in limelight at all. I will not propound further, but I am glad that there were so many researchers and scholars like me who worked with her and who had complete access to her areas of work who went away a changed perosn like me. She never hid anything. Everything was in the open. Talk to the thousands who worked with her, Mr Dey before you point fingers. If she was what you have accused her off, her cover would ahve been blown long time ago.That is the kind of people who had access to her. Some were thewe for the express purpose of spying on her. I am ashamed to read this article by you.

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  16. Hi Atanu,
    Although an old post, I still think there is something that could be said. The point that has not been touched by you and many commentors, I think, is the possibility that MT was not “willingly” a criminal. She may well have been in “good faith”, but it is simply the faith that blinds humans from understanding and non-rationally recognizing true human nature.
    And, to a various extent, all religions do that. What I still have a hard time figuring out is why is it so difficult to understand that “good” is part of the human nature? Why is it so difficult to understand that all humans are born equal? Why is it so difficult to recognize that religion is a form of mental disease that prevents people from “thinking” more? I have to admit that in terms of legitimate scientific research on the human mind we are still at the level that medicine was in the middle age, when there was no concept of “disease” but only of “curse”…
    Cheers,
    Carlo

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  17. MMM hospital in Ireland was equally awful especiall to women in labour. We were told to shut up and suffer for our sins.?? Even if you were married, having sex was off their agenda.I also remember this hospital sending a Buddhist monk from Japan away and say “isnt there a hospital for his sort somewhere else.” Lovely Christians then. This monk swore that the truth of Mother Teresa would one day be known and he would see to it, after he died. Sorry, she did not make it through the pearly gates. It was her statue that blocked her.
    But, she has learned and I suppose we now learn from her in ways too.

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  18. As for abusing children, it is true that standards of care in Western Countries are much higher than those in India, especially when it comes to children with disabilities, although working in this field, I realize that much of the care we provide is not that great either.

    In my experience, living in India for a year, the care Missionaries of Charity take is the same standard of care provided by Buddhist hostels and Muslim hostels, and much better than government run facilities. ALL of whom receive mass amounts of funds. The problem is much greater than one single organization, but a trend of a greater problem. Criticizing one person or one organization is not going to effectively change any policy, and it is the overarching policies that social organizations have that needs to change.

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  19. hi,
    most of the links in this article to ur berkley website doesnt work anymore. Is there anyway to update the links?

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