Many rogues have become Catholic saints

So Anjezë Bojaxhiu aka “Mother” Teresa is going to be “canonized” tomorrow – that is, magically transformed (19 years after her death) into a “saint”…there’s so much bullshit in this story I’m going to run out of scare-quotes. The pope is going to say stuff and that will mean she’s now a saint, which is to say, a person of great holiness. What’s holiness? Ah that’s the great question, isn’t it. Is it religious fanaticism or is it kindness and compassion?

In her case, of course, it’s the first and not at all the second.

Pilgrims will venerate her relics and have the opportunity to buy 1.5m commemorative 95c postage stamps, released on Friday, that celebrate her “great strength, simplicity and extraordinary humility … [and] tireless dedication”, according to an accompanying brochure.

Yeah see that’s all no good. Those qualities are all no good if they’re put to bad uses, as they were in her case. Her dedication was worthless when it wasn’t outright harmful.

The prime minister of India, Narendra Modi, paid tribute to Mother Teresa in a radio broadcast, saying “she devoted her whole life to the poor”.

Again – not the point. Worthless if put to bad uses. She devoted her whole life to telling the poor to submit to Baby Jesus giving them pain.

Aroup Chatterjee, a doctor, grew up in Kolkata and now works in the UK. He is one of Mother Teresa’s most vocal critics. “Many rogues have become Catholic saints,” he said. “What bothers me is that the world makes such a song and dance about a superstitious, black magic ceremony.”

He added: “It’s obvious that people are duped, they have a herd mentality. But the media has a responsibility not to collude with it.”

He has described Mother Teresa as “a medieval creature of darkness” and a “bogus and fantastic figure” who went unchallenged by the world’s media.

According to his 2003 book, Mother Teresa: The Final Verdict, based on the testimonies of scores of people who worked with the Missionaries of Charity, the medical care given to sick and dying people was negligible. Syringes were reused without sterilisation, pain relief was non-existent or inadequate, and conditions were unhygienic. Meanwhile, Mother Teresa spent much of her time travelling around the world in a private plane to meet political leaders.

Well ok she devoted the part of her life not spent travelling around the world in a private plane to meet political leaders to the poor. Doesn’t sound so impressive, does it.

Among those cited by Hitchens was Susan Shields, a former worker with the Missionaries of Charity, who claimed that vast sums of money accrued in bank accounts but very little was spent on medical expertise or making the lives of the sick and dying more comfortable.

Robin Fox, the editor of the Lancet, wrote in 1994 about the “haphazard” approach to care by nuns and volunteers, and the lack of medically trained personnel in the order’s homes.

The investigative journalist Donal Macintyre spent a week working undercover in a Missionaries of Charity home for disabled children in Kolkata in 2005. In an article in the New Statesman, he described pitiful scenes. “For the most part, the care the children received was inept, unprofessional and, in some cases, rough and dangerous.”

Humility and dedication aren’t enough. Who knew?

Three years ago, a study by academics at the University of Montreal concluded that the Vatican had ignored Mother Teresa’s “rather dubious way of caring for the sick, her questionable political contacts, her suspicious management of the enormous sums of money she received, and her overly dogmatic views regarding … abortion, contraception and divorce.”

But the Vatican is making her a saint anyway, because hey, relentless propaganda works.

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