Missionaries of Charity, founded by Nobel laureate Mother Teresa, is in news for allegedly selling of children from one of its homes in India. For the supporters and sympathisers of Mother Teresa and her organisation, this might have come as a rude shock but for many it might not have been.
It wouldn’t be out of context to go back and look at some of those aspects of Missionaries of Charity and Mother Teresa which have not been part of the public discourse in India in the recent past.
Notwithstanding the fact that Mother Teresa was canonized by the Vatican in the first week of September 2016, her own life and work as well as the functioning of her organisation Missionaries of Charity has been shrouded in controversies globally.
Susan Shields worked for nine-and-half years with Missionaries of Charity in Bronx, Rome and San Francisco. She wrote a book called In Mother’s House but could never found a publisher! Noted journalist Christopher Hitchens, author of The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in theory and practice, writes, “It seems to me a disgrace that such an original piece of courageous work should have failed to find a publisher when the Pope can receive an advance of around $5million for the book he did not write.”
Shields gives a damning evidence of how Missionaries of Charity under the leadership of Mother Teresa was rampantly used for conversions: “In the homes for the dying, Mother taught the sisters how to secretly baptize those who were dying. Sisters were to ask each person in danger of death if he wanted a ‘ticket to heaven’. An affirmative reply was to mean consent to baptism. The sister was then to pretend she was just cooling the person’s forehead with a wet cloth, while in fact she was baptizing him, saying quietly the necessary words. Secrecy was important so that it would not come to be known that Mother Teresa’s sisters were baptizing Hindus and Moslems.”
Carol Hunt, a journalist, visited Missionaries of Charity’s project in Kolkata and wrote in The Independent in year 2015, “Evidence – and her own words – show that Mother Teresa was not so much a “champion of the poor” but a religious fanatic who took pleasure in their suffering. Not only did she refuse to alleviate the pain of her patients but she gloried in it. As she herself said: ‘I think it is very beautiful for the poor to accept their lot, to share it with the passion of Christ. I think the world is being much helped by the suffering of the poor people.’ Her famous ‘Home for the Dying’ in Calcutta was deliberately kept as barren, destitute and inadequate to the needs of her patients as possible. This, according to Teresa, was God’s will. Even though the donations from wealthy patrons were enough to fund a number of world-class clinics, her patients languished in Dickensian poverty.”
In the homes for the dying, Mother taught the sisters how to secretly baptize those who were dying. Sisters were to ask each person in danger of death if he wanted a ‘ticket to heaven’. An affirmative reply was to mean consent to baptism. The sister was then to pretend she was just cooling the person’s forehead with a wet cloth, while in fact she was baptizing him, saying quietly the necessary words. Secrecy was important so that it would not come to be known that Mother Teresa’s sisters were baptizing Hindus and Moslems. —Susan Shields
In 1994, Robin Fox, editor of prestigious medical journal The Lancet, visited a ‘home’ run by Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata.
In his article titled Calcutta Perspective: Mother Teresa’s care for the dying, Fox observed, “TB patients were not isolated and syringes were washed in lukewarm water before being used again. Even patients in unbearable pain were refused painkillers, not because the order did not have them but on principle”.
Hemley Gonzale, another volunteer who worked at Missionaries of Charity home in Kolkata in 2008 made some shocking revelations in an interview. Gonzale said, “It happened almost instantly, literally on my first day volunteering. I was shocked to discover the horrifically negligent manner in which this charity operates and the direct contradiction of the public’s general understanding of their work. Workers wash needles under tap water and then reuse them. Medicine and other vital items are stored for months on end, expiring and still applied sporadically to patients. Volunteers with little or no training carry out dangerous work on patients with highly contagious cases of tuberculosis and other life threatening illnesses. The individuals who operate the charity refuse to accept and implement medical equipment and machinery that would safely automate processes and save lives.
After further investigation and research, I realized that all of the events I had witnessed amounted to nothing more than a systematic human rights violation and a financial scam of monumental proportions. Not once in its sixty-year history have the Missionaries of Charity reported the total amount of funds they’ve collected in donations, what percentage they use for administration and where the rest has been applied and how.”
As one looks back it is clear that a systematic campaign to build a larger than life image of Mother Teresa and Missionaries of Charity.
This campaign was interestingly started by a well-known British Broadcaster Malcolm Muggeridge who made a documentary on Mother Teresa titled Something Beautiful for God. The documentary was screened by BBC in 1969. He later wrote a book with same title.
Let’s see how Muggeridge manipulated facts to perpetuate the myth that Mother Teresa was something more than a human! He told the whole world that during making of this film he recorded probably the first photographic miracle! The miracle, according to Muggeridge was, that in very poorly lit “Home of Dying”, it was impossible to shoot due to lack of light but still they went ahead and shot the film. When they later looked at those portions of the camera film, he found clear impressions of a divine light which was highly luminous.
In the words of Muggeridge, “(It was)… luminous like the haloes artists have seen and made visible round the heads of saints. I find it not all surprising that the luminosity should register on a photographic film.”
Interestingly the truth was quite different. Renowned cameraman Ken Macmillan who headed the camera crew for this particular film (Something Beautiful for God) busts the blatantly hagiographic assertions of Muggeridge. Here is what Macmillan said : “DuringSomething Beautiful for God, there was an episode where we were taken to a building that Mother Teresa called the House of Dying. Peter Chaferthe director said, “Ah well, it’s very dark in here. Do you think we can get something?” And we had just taken delivery at BBC of some new film made by Kodak which we hadn’t had time to test before we left, so I said to Peter, “Well, we may as well have to go.” So we shot it. And when we got back several weeks later, a month or two later, we are sitting in the rushes theatre at Ealing Studios and eventually up came the shots of the House of the Dying. And it was surprising. You could see every detail. And I said, “That’s amazing. That’s extraordinary.” And I was going on to say, you know, three cheers for Kodak. I didn’t get a chance to say that though, because Malcolm, sitting in the front row, spun round and said, “It’s divine light! It’s Mother Teresa. You will find that it’s divine light old boy.” And three or four days later I found I was being phoned by journalists from London newspapers who were saying things like: “We hear you’ve just come back from India with Malcolm Muggeridge and you were the witness of a miracle.”