Mother TeresaDuring the height of her popularity in the 1980s — in the wake of her having won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 — Mother Teresa was arguably the most famous Roman Catholic on earth (rivalled only by Pope John Paul II). In 1995, when the late Christopher Hitchens penned a book critical of her called The Missionary Position, it seemed to have come out of nowhere.

In spite of some favorable literary reviews of his book, Hitchens was widely excoriated for having dared take on a poor, frail old woman who was viewed, by most people, as a living saint. The book was frequently dismissed as a product of Hitchens’s presumed irrational hatred of all things Catholic, and not as the product of research into what she’d actually been up to, backed up by primary-source material.

Well, nearly 2 decades later, it seems Hitchens hadn’t really been that far off target. The (UK) Independent reports that some academics have assessed Mother Teresa’s career, and agree she wasn’t much of a champion of the poor and the sick (WebCite cached article):

The late Mother Teresa’s saintly image has been called into question by researchers conducting an in-depth study of her life.

Mother Teresa may have spent the vast majority of her 87 years looking after the sick and poor, but researchers from Montreal and Ottawa universities have now raised questions over the ‘dubious’ nature of her care, as well querying her “questionable” political contacts.…

Writing in the Journal of Studies in Religion/Sciences after analysing around 300 documents surrounding Mother Teresa’s life, Dr Serge Larivie and Dr Genevieve Chenard say they have uncovered details that compromise the Albanian-born nun’s saintly image.

They claim that many of the ‘missions’ set up by Mother Teresa were unfit for their inhabitants, calling them ‘homes for the dying’ due to their poor hygiene and a shortage of food, care and medication.

The researchers believe a lack of money cannot be the reason for the poor conditions however, as Mother Teresa raised hundreds of millions of pounds during her lifetime, although much of that money apparently appears to have vanished into several ‘secret’ bank accounts reportedly kept by the nun.

The researchers also questioned why, despite openly offering prayers and medallions bearing depictions of the Virgin Mary, Mother Teresa provided no direct or monetary aid to victims of a number of natural disasters in India.

Dr Larivie says: “Given the parsimonious management of Mother Teresa’s works, one may ask where the millions of dollars for the poorest of the poor have gone?”

The researchers went on to query Mother Teresa’s politics and political contacts, accusing her of accepting a financial grant from the brutal Duvalier dictatorship, which is deemed responsible for the murders of over 30,000 Haitians between 1957 and 1986.

But Mother Teresa had more political allies other than brutish tyrants like François and “Baby Doc” Duvalier; infamous banking swindler Charles Keating was also among her associates. Yeah, those were the sorts of people she made time for, and counted as her friends and supporters. Yuck.

I suspect these findings won’t rehabilitate Hitchens in the eyes of those who despised him. I also suspect they won’t convince Mother Teresa’s devout Catholic admirers into rethinking their devotion to her. They will, instead, dismiss them as the product of the Evil Secularist Elite that supposedly infests higher education in North America. (As though there’s no such thing as a conservative or religionistic college anywhere to be found.) After all … why put up with inconvenient facts, when you can rationalize some way to ignore them?

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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