Two op-eds on Mother Teresa

In honor of the 10th anniversary of the death of Mother Teresa (d. 5 Sep. 1997) the NY Times treats us to two editorials. In the first, a native Calcuttan laments the “the relentless hagiography of the Catholic Church and the peculiar tunnel vision of the news media” (an interesting combination) that have “disproportionately magnified” Mother Teresa’s work amongst the poor of Calcutta. So we never think about “Calcutta’s beautiful buildings and educated middle class, or its history of religious tolerance and its vibrant literary and cultural life.” She also laments that

Mother Teresa’s charity also evoked the colonial past — she felt she knew what was best for the third world masses, whether it was condemning abortion or offering to convert those who were on the verge of death.

Listen, forget what’s best for “third world masses”—these things are what’s best for humanity, period. The author also dislikes that Teresa “never allowed her compassion to be de-linked from Catholic dogma.” And the big ending you always know is coming in an op-ed:

Mother Teresa might have meant well, but she furthered her mission by robbing Calcutta of its richly nuanced identity while pretending to love it.

Yep, it was a ruse. She hated Calcutta and proved it by spending half her long life serving its poor. What a richly nuanced editorial!

The second editorial is not as stupid as the first, but it too vexes me. It’s one line, in particular: her letters reveal “a cannily willful nun, who tested the limits of her vow of strict obedience”. I.e., the Church is repressive, and rebellion is laudable and always more attractive than obedience.

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2 Responses to “Two op-eds on Mother Teresa”

  1. Mark Says:

    Horrible. How can these people sleep at night? Mother Teresa devoted her life to helping seriously unfortunate people, and hardly lived the high life while doing it. Why should she “de-link” herself from her religion, she was a CATHOLIC NUN after all?! So lame. I guess she should have been more urbane, sarcastic, and postmodern, but then she probably wouldn’t have spent her life WORKING WITH THE POOR IN CALCUTTA.

    I guess she should have done a bit on the Travel Channel showcasing “the other side” of Calcutta. I can see it now, she would have visited the vibrant bookstores, and sipped a nice espresso in one of the city’s celebrated squares. If only she’d lived a bit longer, she could’ve helped undo the damage she did to the city’s pride!

  2. Curly Says:

    She was supposed to de-link her social work from her religious beliefs because religion is strictly personal, and “social work” is located within the public sphere. No mixing allowed!

    I agree, it’s idiotic and doesn’t even work on paper, let alone when you try to imagine it happening in the lives of real people.

    Calcutta is indeed reeling in the noxious wake of Mother Teresa, and may take decades longer to recover.

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