More on Teresa

Following my post yesterday on abusing children Mother Teresa style, I came across Christopher Hitchens’ article in the UK Mirror, “Why Mother Teresa Should Not Be a Saint.” I will quote only a bit here for the record but really you have to read the article to get a better understanding of what Teresa was all about. (I got to know of the article from a post by Anthony Loewenstein titled Mother Teresa Slammed Again.)

Here is Hitchens writing in Jan 2003:

Actually, it’s boasting to say that I “discovered” any of this. It was all there in plain sight for anyone to notice. But in the age of celebrity, nobody had troubled to ask if such a global reputation was truly earned or was simply the result of brilliant public relations.

“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).

You could see her in Ireland, campaigning against a law which would permit civil divorce and remarriage (though she publicly defended Princess Diana’s right to be divorced).

You could encounter her on the podium in Stockholm, accepting yet another huge cheque and telling the Nobel audience that the greatest threat to world peace was… abortion. (Since she added that contraception was morally as bad as abortion, she essentially held the view that condoms and coils were a deadly threat to world peace. The Church does not insist on that degree of fundamentalism.)

And when she got sick, she would check herself into the Mayo Clinic or some other temple of American medicine. As one who has visited her primitive “hospice” for the dying in Calcutta, I should call that a wise decision. Nobody would go there except to check out, in one way or another.

“Give a man a reputation as an early riser,” said Mark Twain “and that man can sleep till noon.” Give a woman a reputation for holiness and compassion and apparently nothing she does can cause her to lose it.

Author: Atanu Dey


25 thoughts on “More on Teresa”

  1. Dear Atanu,

    I always drop by your blog, sorry for not posting any comments till now. I like the way you envision a better future for the country in your blog.
    But off late i have been reading so much of mother theresa in your blog, it makes me sick. I have to admit that i am no fan of MT, but its seems that you are just going over the top by giving so much of space to her. Reading your blog makes me feel like hearing a politicians speech who is out to defame his rival…
    Looking for post affecting the larger issues in society, the writing that i have known your blog for….things for better tommorow.

    Best Regards



  2. Dear Yesudas,

    I agree that you find my focus on M Teresa distressing. If focusing on the damage she has done is distressing, I imagine her effect on India is devastating. It is my avowed purpose to speak loudly against lies and untruth. The higher someone is elevated and the closer I would like to focus on them if their effect is overall harmful. Whether it be Nehru, or Bush the son, or Mother whatever — I go after them. It does not make me popular with the devotees of these idols. But then I am not running for office and don’t wish to win a popularity contest.


  3. This is to Yesudas:

    I believe that when someone is extremely popular with the general public (or elevated by it, as Atanu says), you have to be extra-loud if you want to counter that.

    I don’t have any opinion on the discussion on Mother Teresa (I don’t know enough about it, to be honest), but I think Atanu is justified in giving it so much space.


  4. Atanu

    As i commented earlier, in your last post on MT, you are doing a great job.

    Yesudas, why is this not so important a story? The world over, MT is the face of India. Every single person here in NY knows about MT and automatically associate it with India. People think India is full of beggars and lepers and other orphans because of which MT spent her whole life there. Even recently when the Pope died, there was a lot of publicity about MT.

    In this scenario, I think it is necessary for us to seperate the truth from the hoopla, and sadly MT was a lot of hoopla.

    I think it is mandatory for everyone to read all the links suggested by Atanu before you make up your mind.

    I am sorry, but if she was as saintly as people make her out to be, then how does one explain all the glaring discrepencies ?

    I am not saying she was an evil person. Far from that. She did a lot of good, took care of a lot of people, but that was in the begining. Somewhere very early she lost track of the real mission and from then on, it all boiled down to a fund raising mechanism, with no checks and balances, because she was a servant of God.

    Sorry i cant buy that.


  5. Hi Atanu,

    I actually never did think of MT as an evil person or a person who might have been causing more harm than good to India’s society. On TV she looks like an angel! I’m not saying that I totally believe what you say but then this has me started thinking how vulnerable and gullible Indians are. Afterall The East India Company did use the simplicity of the people to gain entrance into India.

    Also I do not agree with Yesudas. Is this not part of a larger issue? Since I do not live in India, I grew up thinking people like MT were saving India from poverty by helping the poor and the disabled. On TV India especially Calcutta is shown as if leprosity is part of the culture there. If Atanu is posting as much on the topic, I believe he’s only trying to be informative. I think this post was an eye opener at least for me. For further reading check this site:


  6. Arzan wrote: “I think it is mandatory for everyone to read all the links suggested by Atanu before you make up your mind.”. Later he added “I am not saying she was an evil person. Far from that.” If you completely read Hitchen’s articles, the second statement strongly contradicts the first 🙂

    I don’t know if I read this from Hitchens, but MT was first publicised in the west when Malcom Muggeridge did a documentary on her in 1968. He shot some scenes in low light on some newly introduced Kodak film. The crew thought the scenes would be horribly dark because of the lighting, and were presently surprised when they developed it and found it quite clear. Muggeridge attributed it to a miracle, guided by her “light”! The more level-headed cameraman wanted to give credit to Kodak, to which it was obviously due, but his version never got the light of day.

    MT’s “work” was also soundly criticized by the Chief Editor of The Lancet — possibly Britain’s leading medical journal. He mentioned that she did not believe in the use of analgesics for pain management. This for the monarch of a hospice! If that’s not evil, what is?

    Muggeridge famoulsy said: “Never forget that only dead fish swim with the stream”. How apt that is for the cheerleaders of MT.


  7. Uday

    Thanks for pointing out the “apparent” contradiction. I dont think Hitchen’s article is the gospel truth (pun intended !!).

    I think his article is a must read for anyone who wants to form an opinion or take a stand.

    Yes, MT ultimately is a creation of a fantastic PR mechanism, but I think when she started out, the intentions were noble. The key words are “started out”.


  8. Of all the media, the TOI; writes about malpractises in an MT Ashram Orphanage.

    Maybe, this is the start of the awakening.

    This sums it up

    ” The children are neither given nutritious food nor good clothes and playing objects. Besides, the doctor added, children were often given wrong treatment/medicines for wrong reasons.”


  9. I know some people who call her as ‘Teresa the Merciless’. It seems Mother Teresa and her Missionaries of Charity weren’t so charitable after all. They allege that she hogged all the poor for herself, to serve her own purpose and benefit.

    It is true that what starts off as the mission of doing good, often ends up becoming the business of doing good. But then again, doing good is almost always ‘bad’ work, isn’t it?

    I remember reading in the local papers some time back on how the men who clear garbage from the municipal bins every morning earn up to 10 grand a month. “Unbelievable!”, I said. Here you have graduates who cannot earn half that much, and these guys get 10 grand!

    But would we do it? Even if picking up garbage paid a lakh of rupees every month, would you and I do it?

    Now I’ve never been to Calcutta, and so I haven’t seen first hand what the scene on the streets there is like, but all I can say is that people like us have no business questioning the ethics or the ulterior motives (if indeed there be any) of someone who has done, or attempted to do, those things that we, sitting comfortable on our backsides at home, would never ever think of.

    And what people do with their money isn’t anybody’s concern either. Sourav Ganguly lives in Calcutta – so why isn’t he doing anything to help the destitute children of that city. Why do we need Steve Waugh to come down all the way from Sydney to start an institution like Udayan?

    But this is not our question to ask; just as it is not for us to question what the Missionaries of Charity do with all the donations they get. I am a Roman Catholic and I know that the Catholic Church is very, very rich. They could do more for us – much more, but they couldn’t be bothered. So what do I do? Simple – I don’t give them my contribution. If you think the money is being misused, or deposited into Swiss bank accounts, then don’t give them any.

    I’ve heard people say the same thing about the other so called Godmen like Satya Sai Baba, Osho Rajneesh, and that Art of Living chap – Sri Sri something. Well, other people – their devotees – may not be as intelligent as you and I are, to see that they’re being taken for a ride (that is, if they are indeed being taken for a ride – who’s to know?). And so in the process, the Godman becomes very wealthy and lives a life of luxury. But, if he is providing a large number of people with what they are looking for in order to lead better, happier lives, then the money he earns is nothing but payment for services rendered. And I don’t think anybody can object to, or deny him that.

    In short, what I’m trying to say is this: while you may not always agree with the manner in which other people go about doing their ‘good’, the fact remains that there is really nothing you can do to stop them. Except maybe become a Godman yourself.


  10. SwB

    What “good” are people (aka MT in this case) doing by collecting money for one reason and then spending it on another. is that morally and ethically correct.

    What “good” comes out of denying basic medical help because of some lopsided principles.

    What “good” comes when you yourself get the best treatment in the world and deny a basic painkiller to those who need it.

    Come on, lets get real here.


  11. Arzan: To re-iterate what I’ve said already(and quite clearly i’d assume): what “good” they are doing is not for us to ask. What would you say to someone if they questioned what you did with your money.

    Let’s get real, you say – Okay. The fact of the matter is: money is misused everywhere. Why single out Mother Teresa… what about the recent scandals involving the Shankaracharya? If I had made a donation to his trust, I’d demand answers. But I haven’t, so I have no business to question.

    You obviously think MT has perpertrated acts of evil – Fine. But there are millions out there who have donated to her cause, who seem to think otherwise.It is for them to demand answers. Not you and me.

    I one spent a day at an orphanage run by the Missionaries of Charity in Pune. It is very tough work, my friend. Forget about Mother Teresa, lets talk about the other people who work selflessly to give those children something to live for. A little polio stricken girl child I was carrying urinated all over me and I felt… sick. But those people go through that every single day.

    You are probably right – MT may not be the saintly character people think she is. But like I said: It is dirty work … will you and I do it? And tell me honestly, what would you do if Mother Teresa, were she alive, had to turn around and say to you: “Arzan, how about taking my place?”

    Lets get real!


  12. SwB: Your comment suggests something that is a good idea: financially auditing religious trusts. The TTD in Tirupati makes its accounts public, voluntarily. An Economic Times editorial summarizes it well.

    I disagree with your stance that it is not for us to ask for accountability, only because they perform dirty work. It is in the public interest for any tax-exempt institution to be clean. Also, it is surely noble to help out the most needy and neglected. But just because nobody else does so, does not bestow people helping with the authority to make inhuman decisions on their behalf! Re. the Missionaries of Charity, it is likely that there are some noble minded people within, who are trying to do genuine good. It seems quite persuasive though, that there is a lot of unacceptable nonsense. Presenting opinions of both sides is not a bad thing at all, irrespective of the nay-sayers track-record in public service.


  13. Thanks for your views Uday. And Arzan, my apologies if my comment upset you … that was not the intention.

    So lets talk about ‘accountability’.A government is accountable to the people; the directors of a comapny are accountable to it shareholders. And going by that, I fail to see how a private trust is accounatble to anyone, except perhaps to its donors; and then too, all donations are indeed voluntary.

    The Income Tax Act 1961 provides 100% tax exemption to a charitable trust only if 75% of its income (including donations) is applied towards the purposes of the trust or otherwise invested in notified government securities and locked in for a specified period.So it is a common misconception that trusts can keep all thw money they get, and do anthing they want with it.

    Like I said earlier: money, power, authority – these are things that will always be misused,abused… call it what you want.

    But as long as society has for the most part benefitted from the activities of the Mother Teresa and her mission, I dont think it makes any sense in accusing her of flying first class. Do the shareholders of United Breweries cry foul over the way Vijay Mallya lives his life? Why does he need so many luxury cars ? That money could surely be used for other more beneficial purposes. The point I’m trying to emphasise is – “it is his money”. The sharegholders get their dividends; after that they have no business to ask questions.

    Society has benefitted by what Mother Teresa has done in her lifetime (and I have seen it for myself). I’m not saying she is a saint. But she is not evil either … I guess that would make her “human”

    And if these allegations are indeed true, why hasn’t anybody filed a lawsuit against her, either in India or abroad? Why haven’t there been investigatoins into her acticvities anywhere in the world? I think it is foolish to base our judgement on unsubstantiated facts that appear in articles written by some publicity-seeking reporter (and we all know what journalism these days has come down to).

    One more thing: as a professional accountant, I’d like to tell you that what you see in those so-called voluntarily published financial statements is not always “true and fair”.

    Thank you.


  14. SwB, thanks for your rejoinder. We could go on and on, so I promise this will be my last post on this thread.

    I think your comparison of the use of funds by a charity/social/religious organization such as MofC, with a for-profit company are still off base. All entities with incoming proceeds are subject to the rule of law, as we all know. Even individuals come under the purview of gift tax. So if an organization is not paying tax, it has to follow the guidelines established thereof. You have mentioned the 75% rule. Fair enough — let such entities disclose their operations according to that framework, and it is a start. Let them explicitly state how much is part of the ‘management expenses’ of the charitable trust. People giving money voluntarily, in itself, is not cause enough to look past the way the money is being utilized. Pyramid schemes and most forms of gambling should be legal otherwise.

    I agree with you though when you lament that most audit reports are an eye-wash. The boards of companies the world over are invariably filled with cronies who are rarely accountable. On a tangential note, I am in complete admiration of the Warren Buffet genre of businessmen: check out page 6 of this report. Berkshire Hathaway acquired McLane from Wal Mart, with a $23B annual revenue stream with no due diligence! No amount of Sarbanes-Oxley impositions is going to galvanize deviousness into dead-honest, laudable fiscal management. Yet audits with stringent penalties and high-reaching culpability for transgressions constitute the best system we can come up with.

    Anyways, fixating on this is detracting from your larger point that MT also did considerable good. The articles on her are polarized as you rightly point out: a majority praise her as an angel or a saint, and a few level serious charges. The only way we can form justifiable opinions then is if the books are opened up and we can digest stats and see how much money has been used and where. There is no question of a major goal of these MofCs: to help the poorest of the poor, being laudable. How much of it is a charade and how much is true to word? I am with you that the division needs to be a reasonably high value, nowhere close to 100%, for the net value to be positive.

    Finally, the basis of most if not all of the accusations against MT are easily verifiable — the dishonorable Charles Keating episode (she refused to return the money taken when specifically asked for it by the LA District Attorney Paul Turley), countenance of Duvalier in Haiti and Hoxha in Albania, the Lancet article published in ’91 to name a few, are part of recorded history and are easily verified. They are not by any means “unsubstantiated fact”. You mention that these reports are written by a shallow breed of reporters. But what of the majority of the press that plays to the gallery in elevating her to god-like status? History has consistently shown that it always a smaller number who see through the propaganda. The last thing the human race needs is more false idols and religious hypocrisy.

    I commend you for going and spending a day at the MoC. I am sure there are some who work there, who do it out of the greatness of their heart, with no earthly or heavenly desire in return. MT seems an utterly unworthy figurehead for such divine people.


  15. Uday: yeah, I’ve about had it with this topic too.

    … sometimes I wonder why we waste our time discussing and debating stuff we really can’t do a damn thing about.

    btw, do you have a webpage?

    cheers mate!


  16. Thanks so much for the mention.
    Teresa is indeed a sacred cow, so to speak, many people will still not hear anything bad said about her. Sadly, her record – exposed by Hitchens, before he became a Bush-bashing zealot – is insightful.


  17. Even I could say Mother Teresa was a lesbian sent by Satan… It’s because these people have an audience they keep pouring out shit like this. If no one bothers about them People like this would be silenced.

    Nice Blog!
    Keep Blogging!!


  18. I am a Bangladeshi, yet before today, I knew absolutely nothing about the kind of life that “very very famous” Mother Teresa has lived. Now I am certain (after reading Dr. Aroup Chatterjee’s book) that MT lived a life full of lies, lies and utter lies. I do think that she brought infamy to Calcutta, a great city (home to people like Rabndranath and Satyajit and many other) of whom we are all proud as Bangalees. She not only should be stripped of her sainthood (really, titles like ‘saint’ have got so cheap!) and her so called Missionaries of Charity should be asked to apologise for their falsehood. I am amazed that no real steps have yet been taken from the Government of India (or west bengal) in this regard. We are waiting for justice to be done to millions of Calcuttans upon whose misery MT had built her Palace of Sainthood.


  19. Wow, I never thought this is the truth ,
    anyways im sure u are right about what you have written about her,

    Now as im not as rich as her but i still would like to do something for someone , if i can aopt a child or a new born dumbed by the viological parents, Atleast i can take care and grow up a child rather then giving money to charitable trust.

    Please let me know if you can help.



  20. It’s disgusting to criticise Mother Teresa this way. Don’t you have anything better to do? She saved lives. She gave lepers dignity. She hugged abandoned babies. She even started a home for the dying, so people of all religions could come and die in peace. Think about this before passing judgement.


  21. People criticizing you for your posts about Mother Teresa are the gullible ones who have bought into the PR hook line and sinker. The woman was a complete fraud and the worst kind of hypocrite. She saved no one’s life and her mission in India only took in a very few of the dying. She was an ignorant catholic woman–that’s all.


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