Monday, September 23, 2013

Kicking Nuns for Fun and Profit

The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice by Christopher Hitchens (Verso: 1995) is an exposé of the greatest fraud and swindler in the 20th century.  Mother Teresa was a double-dealing hypocrite who ensured that millions would suffer so that she could watch over their final pains, torments, agonies, and despair. Mother Teresa sought and gained the approval of dictators such as Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier and Ramiz Alia, the successor to Envar Hoxhia of Albania.  

They were only points on a line that included the Reagan White House, Margaret Thatcher at 10 Downing Street, the British Royal Family (who are legally prohibited from marrying Catholics), and countless others.  Near the bottom of the list is Charles Keating, the convicted savings and loan swindler of the 1980s.  A devout Catholic, he donated over a million dollars to her charity. She sent him a special crucifix. When he faced sentencing, Mother Teresa sent a letter to judge Lance Ito begging for clemency for Keating.  The prosecutor, Paul W. Turley wrote back asking Mother Teresa to return the $1,250,000 that was stolen by Keating and given to her.  She did not reply. 

 Hitchens, of course, was proudly an old-school liberal who also had harsh words for Ayn Rand’s Virtue of Selfishness.  Hitchens was less concerned with the success of capitalism than he was with the civil rights, civil liberties, and civil sensibilities upon which it ultimately depends.  The fact remains that while Christopher Hitchens wrung his hands over Mother Teresa’s duplicity, it was Ayn Rand who explained quite clearly why no disconnect existed: the swindle began with mysticism, grew with altruism, and therefore of necessity enveloped the poor in even worse circumstances. In India that hardly seemed possible. But the Missionaries of Charity ran 102 missions in 40 countries back then and has continued to grow.  When Hitchens wrote 20 years ago, his best guess was that $50 million sat mostly idle in bank accounts.  Mother Teresa had no use for money, though she attracted it. In our common culture that makes her some kind of saint – which the Catholic Church may well do: she has been beatified.  But it also meant that no resources were spent on the poor who were sick and dying.  Mother Teresa needed their suffering. 

Christopher Hitchens was a brilliant polemicist, and a deft, insightful writer.  He never wasted words.  Here in just 98 pages, Hitchens destroyed the myth of Mother Teresa.

About the same time that this book appeared, T. J. Rodgers, the president of Cypress Semiconductor made the news with a letter to Sister Doris Gormley, OSF, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility for The Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia.  The letter is easy to find online.  Cypress is proud to let you read it here.  Basically, Rodgers told the good sister why her advice would bring nothing but headaches and heartaches, including a loss of comfort for those in her order who depend on the profits from their stock holdings in Cypress.

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