The ever so politically correct NYTimes has decided to slime Mother Teresa. Why am I not surprised?

And the one they allowed to do it was an American who grew up in Calcutta, and is embarassed that the only thing that most Americans know of Calcutta is Mother Teresa.

“…the only images Calcutta evoked for him and countless others in the West….. They described a city I didn’t recognize as the place where I had spent the first 20 years of my life. There was no mention of Calcutta’s beautiful buildings and educated middle class, or its history of religious tolerance and its vibrant literary and cultural life”…

I can understand the lady’s frustration that Americans don’t know much about the dances, music or literature produced in that vibrant city. After all, how many Americans study Tagore’s poetry in high school, or know about Indian dance, music or art?
So maybe the lady should write an editorial praising Calcutta’s history, and write about how India, not China, is the rising giant that might lead the twenty first century.

Or maybe the lady should point out how Indians are succeeding in the US, and Indian Americans include astronauts, doctors, businessmen, and politicians.

No, instead she criticizes Mother Teresa.

One can understand the frustration of having one’s beloved city to be seen as an icon of poverty, yet her aim is displaced.

For example, the author’s dismissal of Mother Teresa as a vestige of colonialism is absurd. Few Americans know Mother Teresa is Albanian, and even if they knew that, few Americans know where Albania is located. The average American (or Pinoy) sees Mother Teresa as an Indian, and her Indian sisters are loved and recognized not just as Catholics but as ambassadors of of good will from India, whether they work in a poor Pennsylvania coal town or the slums of Manila.
And the author blames Mother Teresa for making Calcutta, not Mumbai, has become an icon for poverty in the modern world.

But it was Calcutta that earned it’s reputation: not because poor people lived there (poor people are everywhere), but because of the refugees: the influx of destitute people fleeing the man made famine of 1943, the horrors of the partition in 1948 and the war of independence in 1971.

Critics who dismiss Mother Teresa as publicity seeking ignore that she started work in 1950, when those fleeing the horrors of Partition were still living in destitution, and few had heard of her work before Malcolm Muggerage’s film for the BBC in 1971.

As a doctor, I can only shake my head at those sophisticated critics that lament her hospices don’t meet the year 2000 standards of university hospitals. They ignore the question: If Mother Teresa’s hospice was not there, where would the people go? To other Indian hospices? To University hospitals, with private beds and gormet meals?,
One petty criticism is for reusing syringes. Well, this was standard procedure in the US when I first worked in hospitals, in 1960, when I worked in Africa in 1980, and apparantly in much of Eastern Europe until the 1990’s, when doctors started to realize how HIV spread via syringes. Primitive medicine? Compared to what, pray tell…
The rest off the criticisms similarly show a strange envy of the good. But why Mother Teresa? Why not slime American born Ram Dass and the Indian doctors and who helped wipe out small pox in India? Or slime Mother Wichiencharoen, a Buddhist nun, for her shelters in Bangkok?

But we all know why, don’t we? The NYTimes doesn’t like Catholics.

It’s the sex stupid.

Mother Teresa opposed abortion and promoted chastity. How dare she impose her rigid Catholic morality on poor Hindus, (whose religion, by the way, also opposes abortion and promotes chastity).
But the editors of the NYTimes can’t have a rich American slime Mother Teresa, so they find an Indian born woman to do it.
So let’s destroy the reputation of Mother Teresa, and we won’t feel so guilty at our next cocktail party.

As Yeats wrote many years ago:

Come let us mock at the great
That had such burdens on the mind
And toiled so hard and late
To leave some monument behind,
Nor thought of the levelling wind…

Mock mockers after that
That would not lift a hand maybe
To help good, wise or great
To bar that foul storm out, for we
Traffic in mockery.


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket.

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