Tag Archive | "Mother Teresa"

Mother Teresa: Blessed Billionaire, Holy Hypocrite

Mother Teresa was not a friend of the poor. She was a friend of poverty. She said that suffering was a gift from God. She spent her life opposing the only known cure for poverty, which is the empowerment of women and the emancipation of them from a livestock version of compulsory reproduction.

— Christopher Hitchens

The Catholic Church is in a position to truly help the poor. If they wanted to, they could feed the 14.2 million hungry Filipinos for more than a month. If they wanted to, they could feed the 1.88 million Filipinos who almost always have nothing to eat for almost a year. If they wanted to, they could send a significant amount to the victims of Sendong — a donation that would exceed even the total of their many second collections — greatly helping the victims recover, rebuild, and prepare themselves for potential disasters.

But it seems like the CBCP doesn’t want to. Whatever their motivation for hoarding wealth, we know that their billions are kept invested in corporations, helping rich businessmen become even richer. And as their wealth continues to grow, the poor and hungry continue to suffer.

Well-meaning Catholics could notice this selfishness and ask: “Why can’t the CBCP be more like Mother Teresa?” Well, they already are. And based on their many similarities, no one else would make a better patron saint for the CBCP.

The CBCP claims that theirs is a Church of the Poor. This is a lie. The Catholic Church is a Church of Poverty. What’s the difference? The former would get the poor out of poverty; the latter would keep them in it. This is best exemplified by a true saint of poverty: Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.

Saint of Suffering

Who should Catholics emulate in serving the poor? Next to Jesus, the top answer Catholics would give is probably “Mother Teresa.” She has been honored by both secular and religious organizations with awards and adoration. Beatified in 2003, she is only one miracle short of canonization. It may come as a surprise to many that she isn’t already a saint, and most Catholics would agree that she deserves to be one.

Billionaires Mother Teresa and Cardinal Sin having a good laugh.

But this is only because what they know of her life is even less than what they know about the Catholic Church. In the same way that many are ignorant of the Church’s past atrocities and present scandals most Catholics remain unaware of Mother Teresa’s unsaintly actions.

These actions are based on what a former member of her order called a flawed “theology of suffering.” In Mother Teresa’s words: “The most beautiful gift for a person is that he can participate in the sufferings of Christ.” Therefore, the Catholic who suffers the most is closest to Christ. When you remove suffering, you remove Christ. Instead of minimizing their suffering, Mother Teresa ensured it. Alleviating suffering, let alone eliminating it, was out of the question. Seen from this perspective, her behavior toward her patients makes sense.

Instead of curing them, Mother Teresa gave the bare minimum of treatment, resulting in suffering for most and death for some. She gave insufficient or outdated medicine, reused old syringes, and gave cold baths to all patients, even those who could find comfort in a warm one. She’d refuse to install elevators for the disabled, even when the city government offered to pay for it. Instead of hiring competent doctors, she’d rely on incompetent volunteers because she believed strongly that ignorance was more valuable than expertise (Livemore 93, 156).

Instead of being true hospitals or hospices, the establishments run by Mother Teresa were more like prisons at best: The patients, if they were well enough to escape, probably would. At worst, they were torture chambers. She’d refuse to give painkillers even to dying patients who were suffering unbearable pain. Instead of using painkillers, she’d comfort patients by saying, “You are suffering, that means Jesus is kissing you.” One poor patient replied, “Then tell your Jesus to stop kissing me.”

Holy Hypocrite

What makes all this worse is the fact that Mother Teresa had the resources to make things better. Estimates of donations reach the millions — even billions — of dollars. Unfortunately, we can never be sure. In the same way that Mother Teresa’s atrocities remain a secret, Missionaries of Charity remains the only charitable organization in India that refuses to reveal how much money they have and how they spend it:

Missionaries doesn’t keep a tab on the financial transactions that take place. No one other than the sisters knows where the money that is donated is spent.

One such sister is Susan Shields, a former member of Mother Teresa’s order for nine and a half years (emphasis mine):

Our bank account was already the size of a great fortune and increased with every postal service delivery. Around $50 million had collected in one checking account in the Bronx… The donations rolled in and were deposited in the bank, but they had no effect on our ascetic lives or on the lives of the poor we were trying to help… For Mother, it was the spiritual well-being of the poor that mattered most. [Hitchens 31]

That million-dollar bank account in the Bronx was only one of the many bank accounts owned by Mother Teresa around the world. She has admitted to establishing 500 convents in over a hundred countries. So it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Mother Teresa was running a billion-dollar business.

And while the convents and bank accounts benefit from more donations, her hospices remain unfit even for the poorest of the poor — definitely unfit for a billionaire like Mother Teresa. Instead of using one of her own establishments when she herself got sick, she flew first class on Air India to a clinic in the United States.

This hypocrisy pervades her entire order. Dr. Collette Livemore, once known as Sister Tobit, served as a Missionary of Charity for eleven years. But she was disillusioned by many experiences, such as one that she had in Manila (emphasis mine):

One day, when we were having afternoon tea, there was an urgent knock at the door. The portress reported, “A little boy is having trouble breathing.” I started to get up because I had access to the Tahanan medicines and thought I should go to help.

“Sit down, Tobit [Livemore], there is no hurry. We are not running an emergency hospital,” the superior reminded me. I thought to myself, Is afternoon tea more important than assisting the boy and giving comfort to his parents? Yet I obediently waited until after tea to get some salbutamol to relieve his distress. [Livemore 105]

Order of Obedience

Livemore continued to struggle. “I still did not fully accept that obedience to our superior considered more important than our service to the poor.” But she continued trying to help despite the order’s strict rules. Once, she tried to aid a dying child but was scolded for it because no new admissions were supposed to be made on a Thursday. For actions like these, she was removed from an important position.

You had to keep quiet, you had to suppress your intellect. Mother said that God uses the weak to confound the strong and the unintelligent to confound the knowledgeable, so it was almost lack of faith to try and use your head.

She was replaced by someone who was more obedient and, well, more ignorant:

Some of the superiors in the MCs were thrown into positions of power with little education or preparation, yet they were responsible for hundreds of people and many resources. Because Mother believed that God used the weak to confound the strong and intelligent, the Society acted almost as if preparing someone for a managerial role betrayed a lack of faith. The Society showed the same lack of logic by expecting God to make up for ignorance and lack of training in the medical work.

Despite this, Livemore continued to do her best to help. She believed that “if you see another person suffering, it becomes your business right then and there. You can’t just turn away and pretend that you don’t see.”

Blessed Billionaire

So who should Catholics emulate in serving the poor? I hope you agree: Dr. Collette Livemore would be a far better answer than Mother Teresa. Actually, so would most decent human beings.

Like Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, the CBCP claims to be on a mission of service to the poor. Both use this claim to collect millions in donations. Both have succeeded. Not in their missions, but in collecting millions.

I encourage all Catholics to ask Mother Teresa to pray for the MC and the CBCP to use their billions in service of the poor. It wouldn’t erase all the evil she committed on Earth, but at least such a miracle would finally make her a saint in Heaven. Unless, of course, the Vatican has an issue with canonizing an atheist.

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The Future Saint John Paul II

Pope John Paul II was beloved in the Philippines, which he visited twice during his reign, and all over the world. He was seen as the rock star pope, with a papacy that was known for its close ties with the laity. And when his almost 27 year reign as pope ended in 2005, after years of suffering Parkinson’s Disease, the people gathered at St. Peter’s Square shouted “santo subito!” (“sainthood now!”) and called him “John Paul the Great.” With his beatification this past May 1, sainthood is now all but assured.

The Catholic institution of canonization requires a total of two “verified” miracles in order to recognize a Catholic as being a saint who can hear prayers and intercede for those who ask for their help. It is theologically important to note that Christians are not “made” saints by the Church, but, rather, recognized. Before one is confirmed as a saint, however, one must first be beatified. In order to be beatified, a candidate must have one of the two required “verified” miracles under their belt.

The Roman Catholic Church takes miraculous claims seriously—having, until recently, the office of advocatus diaboli, or the Devil’s Advocate, which makes a case against the canonization of a particular candidate. Incidentally, it was John Paul II himself who abolished the office, which expedited hundreds of canonization proceedings. Christopher Hitchens, when he was asked to argue against the beatification of Mother Teresa after the dissolution of the office of the Devil’s Advocate, described his role as representing the devil “pro bono”. The Church investigates miraculous cures and requires that, in order to be attributable to the intercession of a candidate for canonization, the cure be instantaneous, complete, and lasting.

For John Paul II, one of his necessary miracles for canonization came in the form of Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, who is said to have recovered from the incurable Parkinson’s disease, the same illness suffered by the late pontiff. Sister Simon-Pierre wrote the name of Pope John Paul II after his death on a piece of paper. The next day, she was apparently cured and resumed her duties in her order.

It is, of course, entirely possible that Sister Simon-Pierre was simply afflicted by an illness that had neurodegenerative appearances similar to Parkinson’s, but was curable. A doctor charged with investigating the nun’s condition aired out similar doubts.

But, even if the good Sister Simon-Pierre had Parkinson’s, what the Church is expecting its faithful (and the secular world) to accept is that her recovery was not a natural event. The Church is asking the world to consider that not only have the laws of the universe been suspended (let that sink in for a while: the laws of the universe have been suspended) but that they have been overturned in favor of the Roman Catholic Church and in a manner suspiciously convenient for its politics. With its pastiche of medical investigations that could earn a mid-season replacement spot on NBC, the Catholic Church purports its canonization procedures as scientific: skeptical and rigorous. And what could be more scientific and intellectually honest than concluding from an inexplicable recovery that a person who has died is now watching us from heaven and can help get our prayers to God answered?

With his recent beatification, John Paul II is now just one miracle shy of a confirmed sainthood. A confirmed sainthood would mean that the Roman Catholic Church believes on faith that John Paul II is, in fact, in a place called heaven, in the presence of someone called Jesus Christ. This is the level of pseudoscience, rivaling only ufology and homeopathy, that every believing Catholic has to swallow for each and every saint venerated inside their opulent cathedrals. It’s hard to imagine a bigger waste of human productivity. But for the sole political purpose of establishing John Paul II as a champion of the Roman Catholic Church and what it stands for, the recognition of his sainthood is perfectly appropriate.

Defenders of the current pope, Benedict XVI, cite Darío Cardinal Castríllon Hoyos when pointing the finger at the late John Paul II for the child rape scandal sweeping the Roman Catholic Church. Cardinal Hoyos served as the Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy and was in charge of priests and deacons who are not in religious orders. In this capacity, he praised a French bishop, Pierre Pican, for not sending the child rapist Rev. Rene Bissey to “civil administration” and congratulated Pican for being “a model of a father who does not hand over his sons.” Cardinal Hoyos revealed that he did so under the approval of Pope John Paul II and was authorized to send his letter of praise to other bishops around the world. Pican served three months in prison for protecting the rapist. Bissey was sentenced to 18 years for the rape of a boy and the sexual assault of ten others.

A good friend of Pope John Paul II, Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, “Father Maciel” as he was known, was the founder of the Legion of Christ. The pope described him as an “efficacious guide to youth.” Degollado used the Legion of Christ and his charismatic persona, targeting widows in particular, to funnel millions into Church coffers. The congregation’s assets have been estimated at 25 billion euros. Degollado had political clout with backers including current United States presidential hopeful Rick Santorum and the brother of former president George W. Bush, Jeb Bush, both noted conservatives in the Republican party. Father Maciel was honored by John Paul II in the Vatican in 2004 despite long-standing charges of sex abuse, which involved at least 20 Legion seminarians. As an efficacious guide to the youth, Degollado fathered several children, whom he also reportedly abused. The current pope, Benedict XVI, eventually invited Degollado to lead “a reserved life of prayer and penance”—apparently a punishment suitable for the crime. Degollado never faced any criminal sanctions and died in 2008 as a free man.

It was during Pope John Paul II’s reign when the late Archbishop Luciano Storero, the Holy See’s diplomat to Ireland, told Irish bishops that reporting the rape of innocent children to the proper authorities gave rise to “serious reservations of both a moral and canonical nature.” Under John Paul II, Archbishop Storero upheld that canon law was above the secular law of a nation, showing a characteristic Vatican indifference to state sovereignty and cries for justice by their employees’ victims.

Pope John Paul II maintained when the first child rape cases started cropping up in the news that it was entirely an “American problem.” Like many other claims by the Church, this ultimately proved false. The Vatican’s position on the crisis was, and still is, that society, not the Church and its self-preservationist policies, is at fault with its permissiveness and “hyper-inflated” sexuality.

Society’s permissiveness apparently drove John Paul the Great to allow Hans Cardinal Hermann Groer, who molested over 2,000 boys (a number so large that it retains almost no meaning) to hide from police in a nunnery. Cardinal Groer eventually died there without being prosecuted for his crimes. Of course, the Church’s repressive Victorian attitudes towards sex, which were strengthened by Humanae Vitae and Persona Humana and reiterated in the Pope’s own The Splendour of Truth, which put the use of contraceptives on par with genocide, were not to blame for its systemic problem with sins against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue.

Pope John Paul II reinforced the old boys’ club of puritans and conservatives in the Catholic Church by having papal nuncios spy on clerics and recommend only for promotion to bishop those who were strongly against contraceptives. John Paul II’s policy of narrow-mindedness was crucial in the assembly of retrograde anachronisms that comprise the CBCP, as well as the other institutions that make up the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy we have today. This is his legacy to the world.

Filipino pilgrims led by Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales watched Pope John Paul II’s beatification ceremony this past May 1. It was their homage to a man who was indeed loved by Filipinos. While Pope John Paul II was undeniably a man who argued for peace and acted to heal religious strife between mutually contradictory faiths, he was also instrumental in the continued suffering of innocent children and the continued impunity enjoyed by child rapists in the Church. And because this moral inconsistency seems to be the spirit that guides the Church he left behind, there really is no one else better suited for sainthood than the Blessed John Paul II.

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