Friday, June 3, 2011

Mother Teresa: Not as Good as She Would Have Us Believe - An Excerpt from God and His Demons a book by Michael Parenti

This blog is about Mother Teresa and how her image as a saintly woman sacrificing herself for the good of others is not well-rounded and requires a true blindness to all of Mother Teresa's words and actions. Mother Teresa has a much darker side that did not gain the public attention it deserved. This writing is by Michael Parenti and comes straight out of his book "God and His Demons" It can be found in Chapter 8 titled Mother Teresa, John Paul, and the Fast-Track Saints. It provides more examples of the danger of blind faith and how it makes it so easy to not do what is actually best for people here and now in this life and leads to needless pain and suffering. 

Michael Parenti writes the following:
During his twenty-six year papacy, Pope John Paul II elevated 483 individuals to sainthood, more saints than any previous pope. Just as he packed the College of Cardinals with ultraconservatives, so did he attempt to populate heaven’s pantheon itself.
One personage John Paul beatified but did not live long enough to canonize was Mother Teresa, the media-hyped Roman Catholic nun of Albanian origin who was courted by the world’s rich and famous and showered with kudos for her “humanitarian work” with the poor. What usually went unreported were the vast sums she received from sometimes tainted sources, including a million dollars from convicted Wall Street swindler Charles Keating, on whose behalf she sent a personal plea for clemency to the presiding judge. When asked by the prosecutor to return Keating’s gift because it was money he had stolen from small investors and depositors, she never did. (1) Teresa also accepted rich offerings from a Duvalier dictatorship whose wealth was siphoned from the Haitian public treasury. (2)
Her “homes” for the indigent in India and elsewhere, usually described in the media as “hospitals” and “clinics,” were actually hospices in which seriously ill indigents were afforded a place to die. (3) One young doctor, Marcus Fernandes, was taken aback by the substandard conditions. He pointed out that many of the inmates were not dying from fatal diseases but suffering from malnutrition and could be saved if fed a modestly improved diet that included vitamin supplements. But he could not persuade Teresa, who showed no interest in medicine or in treating patients with vitamins. Dr. Fernandes also unhappily discovered that expensive medical equipment donated to Teresa was left to rust, completely unused. (4)
A disillusioned British volunteer at Teresa’s Calcutta center concluded that the “standard of health care was atrocious.” Jack Preger, a Catholic doctor who had worked with Teresa, reported that “needles for injections are simply rinsed in cold water after use and passed from one patient to the next. And patients with TB are not isolated, despite the highly contagious nature of the disease.” (5) Wendy Bainbridge, a British nursing nun who had worked at mainstream hospices, was stunned by the squalor and lack of minimal amenitites at Teresa’s establishment. There were no aids to mobility, no toilet paper. “The toilet was an open gutter running behind the washroom and waste was washed away with a bucket of water.” (6)
Dr. Robin Fox, later the editor of the prestigious medical journal the Lancet, wrote a sharp criticism of the medical practices at Teresa’s Home for the Dying in Calcutta. He complained that suffering inmates were denied strong analgesics. Nuns and volunteers lacked basic tests to distinguish the curable from the incurable. Their lack of medical training encouraged potentially fatal errors. The failed to provide minimum comforts and did little pain management. They sometimes overmedicated to a dangerous level while missing opportunities to offer simple but effective treatments. (7)
Other visitors testified that Teresa’s hospices were “unsafe” and provided “neither proper nursing nor loving compassion.” Suggestions for improvement regularly went unheeded by Teresa. When one of her nuns was asked, “What do you do for [patients’] pain?” she replied, “We pray for them.” (8)
On one occasion, when staff members asked Teresa to try saving a teenager on the verge of death, she blessed the boy and said, “Never mind, it’s a lovely day to go to Heaven.” (9) One young volunteer recalls that on the infrequent occasions when surgery actually was performed at the hospice, anesthesia was not provided, it being considered too costly. Instead attendants told patients, “Pain is Christ kissing you.” (10)
When tending to her own ailments, however, Teresa preferred anesthetics over Christ’s kisses. She checked into some of the costliest hospitals and recovery care units in the world for state-of-the-art treatment, including angioplasties, CT scans, pacemaker implants, a personally designed spinal brace, and lifesaving heart surgery. (11)
When a Union Carbide plant spewed lethal pesticides over Bhopal, India, in what was history’s worst industrial accident, killing over twenty thousand (at last count) and seriously injuring an additional hundred thousand, Teresa made a brief media-saturated appearance, walking among those who suffered agonizing burns in their eyes and lungs, saying “forgive, forgive.” The luckless victims and their families were being asked to harbor no ill feeling toward the criminally negligent corporation. Teresa then swiftly departed Bhopal, never sending in her order, the Missionaries of Charity, to assist. (12)
Teresa journeyed the globe to wage campaigns against divorce, abortion, and birth control. When visiting Egypt she urged housewives to “have lots and lots of children”—at a time when the Egyptian government was trying to promote family planning to counter the nation’s population explosion. On numerious occasions she said she would never allow families that practiced contraception to adopt any children from her orphanages. (13) At her Nobel award ceremony in 1979, she announced that “the greatest destroyer of peace is abortion.” And she once suggested that AIDS might be a just retribution for improper sexual conduct. (14)
Her concern for the unborn child was matched only by an indifference toward the living child. What social conditions caused hundreds of thousands of children to die of malnutrition and disease in Asia and elsewhere was a question that failed to win her attention.   
Teresa gave no accounting of the many millions of dollars she gathered from donations across the world. One nun who handled funds in New York estimated that there must have been $50 million in one Manhattan bank account alone. Additional bank deposits were reportedly kept in London and the Vatican. The bulk of her money was believed not to be in India because Indian law required auditing of accounts. (15)
In 1993 the Co-Workers, an organization of lay helpers who raised substantial sums for her, were required as a registered charity in the United Kingdom to produce accounts of their finances. Teresa suddenly and swiftly closed down the entire organization and announced that all future donations were to be funneled and announced that all future donations were to be funneled directly to her Missionaries of Charity. This decision, she assured everyone, reflected “the will of God for the Co-Workers.” (16)
Teresa produced a continual flow of promotional misinformation about herself. She claimed that her mission in Calcutta fed over a thousand people daily. On other occasions she jumped the number to four thousand, seven thousand, and nine thousand. Actually her soup kitchens fed not more than a hundred and fifty people, six days a week. She said her school in the Calcutta slum contained five thousand children when actually it enrolled fewer than one hundred.
As one of her devotees explained, “Mother Teresa is among those who least worry about statistics. She has repeatedly expressed that what matters in not how much work is accomplished but how much love is put into that work.” (17) Was Teresa really unworried about statistics? Quite the contrary, she consistently produced numbers that inflated her accomplishments. All her statistical “errors” went in a direction favorable to her.
Teresa claimed to have 102 family assistance and nutritional centers in India, but longtime Calcutta resident Aroup Chatterjee, who did a highly critical investigation of her mission, could not find a single such center. Rather than building new hospitals, orphanages, and schools, or upgrading the ones she had, Teresa spent many millions on convents all over the world and on training priests for missionary work. According to Chatterjee, shiploads of clothing and food donated to Teresa from abroad were often expropriated by the nuns and their families in India or sold off to local merchants for income rather than distributed to the needy. (18)
Over the years there were numerous floods and cholera epidemics in or near Calcutta, with thousands perishing. Various relief agencies responded to these disasters, but Teresa and her Missionaries of Charity were nowhere in sight except briefly on one occasion. (19)
When someone asked Teresa how people without money or power can make the world a better place, she replied, “The should smile more.” She herself was rarely seen smiling. During a press conference in Washington, DC, when asked, “Do you teach the poor to endure their lot?” she indicated that poverty was a soul-cleansing experience for the poor: “I think it is very beautiful for the poor to accept their lot, to share it with the passion [suffering] of Christi. I think the world is being much helped by the suffering of the poor people.” (20)
Mother Teresa is a paramount example of a “saint” who supposedly assisted the poor but without every bothering to ask why they were forced to live as they do. She caressed poverty rather than opposed it. The poor were her pets and her props. She uttered not a critical word against social injustice or against those in power. One of her former nuns describes her as “colluding with wealth.” (21)
Teresa spent as much as eight months a year traveling abroad, quartering at luxurious accommodations in Europe and the United States, jetting from Rome to London to New York in private planes. (22) While counseling victims to suffer patiently, she herself was known to have been impatient and unforgiving with her staff over petty matters. The two times I saw her on television, she sounded more like a crabby scold than a loving saint.
When Teresa died in 1997, the denizens of Calcutta did not turn out in any visible numbers to attend her funeral. Her burial procession rolled through empty streets. The impoverished population apparently felt they owed her nothing and most and never even heard of her.
After Teresa’s demise Pope John Paul II waived the five-year waiting period usually observed before beginning the beatification process leading to sainthood. The five-year delay is intended to ensure a sober evaluation, after which any claims made on behalf of a candidate are subjected to critical challenge by an advocatus diabolic, a “devil’s advocate.” John Paul brushed aside this entire procedure. In 2003, in record time Teresa was beatified, the final step before canonization.
A few years later, her canonization hit a bump in the firmament when it was disclosed by Catholic authorities who investigated Teresa’s diaries that she had been continually racked with disbelief: “I feel that God does not want me, that God is not God and that he does not really exist,” she wrote. “People think my faith, my hope and my love are overflowing and that my intimacy with God will fill my heart. If only they knew.” She goes on: “Haven means nothing” and “I am told God loves me—and yet the reality of darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul…I have no Faith.” Rome’s popular daily newspaper, Il Messaggero, commented: “The real Mother Teresa was one who for one year had visions and who for the next fifty had doubts—up until her death.” (23)

1.      Christopher Hitchens, The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice (London/New York: Verso, 1995), pp. 64-71.
2.      Christopher Hitchens, “Teresa, Bright and Dark,” Newsweek, August 29, 2007.
3.      For a sharply critical view of Teresa’s hospitals, see Aroup Chatterjee, Mother Teresa: The final Verdict (Kolkata, India: Meteor Books, 2003), pp. 196-97, 224, and passim.
4.      Anne Sebba, Mother Teresa: Beyond the Image (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1997), pp. 59-61.
5.      Both the volunteer and the doctor are quoted in Chatterjee, Mother Teresa, pp. 188-97.
6.      Sebba, Mother Teresa, p. 142.
7.      Ibid., pp. 127, 135-36.
8.      Ibid., pp. 141-42, 148, 152.
9.      Observer (UK), August 26, 1990.
10.  The remark of the student, Ajanta Ghosh, was reported to me by the writer Heather Cottin, October 30, 2007.
11.  Chatterjee, Mother Teresa, pp. 189, 209. 385.
12.  Washington Post, December 11, 1984; Deepak Goyal, “Bhopal: 20 Years Later, the Misery Continues,” Siliconeer, December 2004.
13.  Sebba, Mother Teresa, pp. 227, 231.
14.  Mother Teresa, Nobel Lecture, December 11, 1979,, and Hitchens, The Missionary Position, pp. 88-89.
15.  Sebba, Mother Teresa, pp. 227, 231.
16.  Ibid., pp. 106-107
17.  Chatterjee, Mother Teresa, pp. 19-22.
18.  All the information in the above paragraph is from Chatterjee, Mother Teresa, pp. 23, 32-33, 92, 106-107, 157, 170, 179-80.
19.  Ibid., pp. 332-33
20.  Hitchens, The Missionary Position, pp. 11, 95.
21.  Sebba, Mother Teresa, pp. 218
22.  Chatterjee, Mother Teresa, pp. 2-14, 95.
23.  Serena Sartini, The Night of Silence,” Inside the Vatican, November 2007; Bruce Johnston, “Mother Teresa’s Diary Reveals Her Crisis of Faith,”; and Hitchens, “Teresa, Bright and Dark.”
24., and Curtis Bill Pepper, “Opus Dei, Advocatus Papae,” Nation, August 3-10, 1992.
25.  Edmond Paris, Genocide in Satellite Croatia, 1941-1945 (Chicago: American Institute for Balkan Affairs, 1961), pp. 201-205, passim; also How the Catholic Church United with Local Nazis to Run Croatia during World War II: The Case of Archbishop Stepinac (Washington, DC: Embassy of the Federal Peoples Republic of Yugoslavia, 1947), posted August 2, 2004,
26.  Eamonn McCann, “The Other Side of Miraculous Monk Padre Pio,” Belfast Telegraph, October 25, 2007.
27.  Ibid.
28.  Barry Healy, “Pope John Paul II, a Reactionary in Shepherd’s Clothing,” Green left Weekly, April 6, 2005.
29.  As reported to me, October 29, 2007, by political scientist James Petras, who interviewed civil war survivors.
30.  Tracy Wilkinson, Los Angeles Times, October 29, 2007.
31.  RAI report, “Rissa a Roma tra giovani dei centri sociale e fedeli dell’Opus Dei,” October 28, 2007.
32.  Gordon Zahn, In Solitary Witness, the Life & Death of Franz Jagerstatter (Austin: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1964).
33.  New York Times, May 14, 2005.


  1. What a nasty, hatefilled article. I am not a Catholic. I was raised Lutheran, Baptist, then Presbyterian. I worked in a Salvation Army camp in the summer as a teenager. I have family members who were Catholic and became Protestant, and some who did not. I am so happy for you that you have ALL the answers! Unlike my Lord, YOU are willing to put yourself Above the "un-believers!" YOU won't accept those who don't have the "right" doctrine! Who don't adhere to YOUR "correct" doctrine! I pray for you, that you may truly come to KNOW and Love the LORD who LOVED sinners...of all kinds! HE accepted people as they "are!" HE LOVED them, no matter their sins. That LOVE was what brought them to HIM. But you want to LORD it over others, that YOU have "all the knowledge and wisdom" that makes YOU "righteous." Don't judge...humble yourself before God...maybe you'll be lucky enough to meet Mother Teresa in heaven

  2. There is something that is just so funny about a Christian angrily yelling at you about the love of their god. Based on your comment I don’t know if you understood that I didn’t write this piece so you can yell at me all you want but I didn’t write what you read.

    Now you want to say that your lord (I assume you mean Jesus) loved people as they were yet he commanded everyone to change who they were and change what they believed or he would send them to hell. That doesn’t sound like all accepting love to me. The fact is according to Christian doctrine if I stay who I am than the Christian god will not accept me but rather he will torture me for eternity in a hell that everyone in heaven gets to see. The truth is you are the one who claims to know what the “truth” is and what will happen to people after death and who will be going to your heaven and your hell. I make none of those claims so perhaps your understanding of arrogance and self-righteousness needs to be improved. A simple dictionary should help there. Open your eyes it is the people who do not question their beliefs who are the arrogant and self-righteous one not those of us that do. Maybe someday you will see that but since you are not even brave enough to place your own name on your comments I'm sure you're not brave enough to question your own beliefs. But don't worry I am going to hell and you “know” it so you can take peace in that.

    You might also want to think a little more about what words you should write in all capital letters to actually make your point you did a very poor job with that.

  3. A large number of westerners will gladly sacrifice the health and well being of brown people to make political points with their minority western political groups.

    I will not spend the time that others have in a serious reply because some people simply are not capable of anything other than myopia.

    I would invite the "writer" of this piece to spend 5, 10, 15 years in Asia before claiming that allowing people to die with no care at all in the street is preferable to someone who has a different political or religious bent actually providing assistance.

    1. All comments are welcome Alton. But I would encourage you to work on your reading comprehension skills before commenting again if you think that anyone is claiming that it is preferable to allow people to die in the street than have someone, yes anyone, help them.

      I personally do not agree with everything Michael Parenti says but I shared it because there are interesting and valid concerns that he voices.

      I'm not sure who you were referring to so kindly as the "writer" (myself or Michael Parenti) but for what it's worth I do live in Asia.

    2. A fascinating read. Thank you for posting it. As the owner of a publishing company - Godiva Books - I would be interested in publishing any books about this topic. You can contact me on:

  4. Well, *I* liked this article. It was thoroughly researched and convincing.



  6. I am a committed Christian--and an expert in the history of Christian moral and ethical abuses (which are so many in every century)--and appreciate what you have done here. You are an interesting mind with a clear determination to point out ethical and moral contradictions. Jesus Christ said, "the truth shall set you free." Shall anyone--including the Christian, Jews, Muslim, or atheist-skeptic--be fearful of the truth wherever it appears, and is based on fact, not propaganda? So I am glad I have met you here

  7. Wooow! Very good article!, Thank you very much for posting!.

  8. Wooow! Very good article!, Thank you very much for posting!.

  9. Christopher Hitchens's book grassy titled, The Missionary Position contains no citations. It is hardly a credible source and I am immediately skeptical about Parenti's piece.