Mother Teresa of Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens, one of my favorite columnists, died December 15. His superhuman eloquence, his love of language and literature, his impeccable logic and his dark and dry humor were an inspiration, and I would love to one day come even remotely close to doing something remotely similar.

His death showed me a couple of new things.

First of all, how much I disagree with him on Iraq. But most of all, he changed my view of “Mother Teresa” after reading his famous column criticizing her on Slate. Here is an excerpt:

“This returns us to the medieval corruption of the church, which sold indulgences to the rich while preaching hellfire and continence to the poor. MT was not a friend of the poor. She was a friend of poverty. She said that suffering was a gift from God. She spent her life opposing the only known cure for poverty, which is the empowerment of women and the emancipation of them from a livestock version of compulsory reproduction. And she was a friend to the worst of the rich, taking misappropriated money from the atrocious Duvalier family in Haiti (whose rule she praised in return) and from Charles Keating of the Lincoln Savings and Loan. Where did that money, and all the other donations, go? The primitive hospice in Calcutta was as run down when she died as it always had been—she preferred California clinics when she got sick herself—and her order always refused to publish any audit. But we have her own claim that she opened 500 convents in more than a hundred countries, all bearing the name of her own order. Excuse me, but this is modesty and humility?”

You could argue that we have to take into account Mother Teresa’s beliefs. Surely she believed what she preached, and did it all with good intentions. And we could also say that it is different to criticize from a desk in a city where one has it all, than to do it from where there is so much need and misery.But this is precisely what Hitchens criticizes her for: the contrast between her hospice in Calcutta, perpetually in ruins, and the 500 convents under her Order. She was a lot of religion and too little compassion.Sincerity of intention is never an excuse. Commenters on Youtube discussed this in relation to Rick Perry and how honest he was by spreading his antigay message, and the “good intentions” que has about kids being able to celebrate Christmas. The intentions might be really nice — who can argue against children celebrating Christmas — but these intentions are deeply distorted and harmful.

Pastor Terry Jones must be very sincere, and must have very strong convictions, and even similar beliefs as Mother Teresa — that Jesus is the only way to salvation. The lady must have had the best intentions when she said in her Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech that abortion was the “greatest destroyer of peace”. This is so absurd, so absolute and so much against all logic that her intentions become worthless: this is a suicidal and homicidal proposal, which we should understand, not only in relation to women, who are those most clearly fucked in that situation, but also for humanity in general, because of overpopulation, which is, shall we say, the root of most our problems as a human race on a global scale.

Being in the squalor of Calcutta, this should be even clearer, even more undeniable, but this woman followed her ultra-conservative convictions so blindly and foolishly that the misery of overpopulation never even entered her mind. How irresponsible, how heartless! And as a woman, what detachment, what lack of empathy. A good example of a misogynist woman, who let herself get carried away by, and who actively advocated, an ideology as patriarchal as the Catholic is — and a good example of a feminist man, who uses logic and reason as a tool for compassion. Her convictions or the strength of these don’t matter at all, what matters is the harm they bring. What if she had preached in favor of contraceptives? With the personality cult bordering on the Kimjungilesc she pulled, how far could she have gone? How many convents could she have convinced  to fund-raise money to send contraceptives to India, condoms to Africa, that is slowly agonizing of AIDS? The Pope was heavily criticized for condemning condoms when he visited Africa a couple of years ago, but nobody criticizes her? Same shit, perhaps much worse.

How many people probably thought, “this comes from a woman, even, from someone who has lived in abject poverty, she must know what she’s talking about, even more, she is a saint, this is God’s word (something those who preach never fail to remind the rest of us), so we must listen and follow her example.”How harmful, how backwards, how far we still have to go from being the sad, petty species we are.
– J.J.

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