Hating Mother Teresaby Joe Sobran
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[Classic: October 1997] — I’ve always resisted calling Mother Teresa a saint, not because I had any reason to doubt her holiness, but because I felt it was presumptuous to call any living person a saint. Besides, I suspect that a truly holy person — holiness being inseparable from humility — would hate being venerated in this life.
Now that she is gone, though, it seems safe to say it: if Mother Teresa wasn’t a saint, it’s hard to imagine what one would look like. She not only lived, to all appearances, a holy life; she actually enlarged our conception of what such a life can be. She found joy in a kind of charity most of us would never dream of attempting, and in an environment we would dread setting foot in. Her example drew thousands of others to imitate her.
Born of Albanian parents in Macedonia, she felt called, as a young nun, to help the extremely poor in Calcutta -- chiefly to comfort the dying. Her mission began obscurely; fame came much later, and unexpectedly, when she was near old age and Malcolm Muggeridge heard of her at the time of his own late conversion to Christianity. He did both a book and a TV documentary celebrating her work.
Christopher Hitchens, trying to undo Muggeridge’s work, attacked her in both a book (with an obscene title) and a TV documentary. He also wrote polemics calling her names like “the hellbat.”
The violence of his invective was absurdly disproportionate to the charges he was able to level against her. She had, for instance, taken money from Charles Keating, of the savings and loan scandals, and later pleaded for leniency for him (to Judge Lance Ito, as it happened). Hitchens never adequately explained why this conduct was scandalous at all. Should she have rejected any donation from Keating? Should she have known in advance that he would be indicted? After his conviction (later overturned), why shouldn’t she have sought mercy for him, in light of his generosity to her mission? Did she spend the money on jewelry?
I also doubt that he and his leftist friends will feel any impulse, now, to go to Calcutta to fill the vacuum she has left. Their efforts to relieve the poor will continue to take the form of working verbally, far from the slums of the Third World, for “systemic change.” Meanwhile, we can only suppose that thousands of those Mother Teresa cared for in their last hours have welcomed her to heaven.
Copyright © 2016 by the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation. All rights reserved.
You can read this and 116 other Sobran columns in the collection of his essays titled, Subtracting Christianity: Essays on American Culture and Society (FGF Books, 2015).Subtracting Christianity and Hustler: The Clinton Legacy, a collection of 82 essays written by Joe Sobran’s collection during Bill Clinton's years in the White House, would make great Christmas presents! Avoid the Christmas rush by ordering today.
Joe Sobran (1946-2010) was a syndicated columnist for over 35 years.
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