The Who2 Blog

Mother Teresa, the Saint of Calcutta? Not to Dr. Aroup Chatterjee

Photo of Mother Teresa

(Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons user Turelio)

Mother Teresa will be granted sainthood by Pope Francis on September 4th, giving her the rare trifecta of winning sainthood, the Nobel Prize (1979) and the U.S. Medal of Freedom (1985).

Congratulations to her.

However, not everyone is a fan. Leading the way is Dr. Aroup Chatterjee, now a physician in London. He grew up in Calcutta, and he’s not too keen on how a Western nun (Mother Teresa was an ethnic Albanian) gave his native city a reputation as the pits of the earth. He’s also not too keen on her techniques:

He and others said that Mother Teresa took her adherence to frugality and simplicity in her work to extremes, allowing practices like the reuse of hypodermic needles and tolerating primitive facilities that required patients to defecate in front of one another.

Dr. Chatterjee isn’t alone in his skepticism.

Photo from 'Did Christopher Hitchens Really Call Mother Teresa a "Thieving, Fanatical Albanian Dwarf"?'

We’ve reported in the past on how contrarian Christopher Hitchens once called Mother Teresa “a thieving, fanatical Albanian dwarf.” Hitchens’s position was that Mother Teresa did far more damage than good by telling the poor to accept their lot and by fighting birth control for even the poorest Indians. He went so far as to call her “a fanatic, a fundamentalist and a fraud” and even made his anti-Teresa case in a book, The Missionary Position.

Turns out Hitchens and Dr. Chatterjee worked together on one project: Hell’s Angel, a 1994 TV special that had what it calls “the poor taste” to question the “profane marriage between tawdry media hype and medieval superstition” that gave rise to Mother Teresa. It’s become known as a Hitchens project, but Dr. Chatterjee did a lot of the legwork:

Dr. Chatterjee traveled the world meeting with volunteers, nuns and writers who were familiar with the Missionaries of Charity. In over a hundred interviews, Dr. Chatterjee heard volunteers describe how workers with limited medical training administered 10- to 20-year-old medicines to patients, and blankets stained with feces were washed in the same sink used to clean dishes.

Does this all make Mother Teresa a bad person? Decide for yourself. Bucking the trend is, as The Times declares, a “lonely quest.”

The Times also has a quite interesting piece on how the Catholic Church uncovered the miracles needed to make Mother Teresa a saint. One miracle was the curing of a 16-inch abdominal tumor by the touch of “a medal of Mary that had been touched directly to the body of Mother Teresa at the time of [her] funeral.”  But finding the second wasn’t easy because of the rigorous requirements:

“I had another [possible miracle], everything looked like it was checking out fine, except the mother-in-law wrote me a letter and said the whole year she was praying to Padre Pio. And that was the end of that. Whose miracle was that, Mother Teresa or Padre Pio?”

The Rev. Brian Kolodiejchuk, the main promoter of her case for sainthood, also provides his rebuttal to many of the points made by Hitchens and Chatterjee.

Fascinating stuff. Mother Teresa will be canonized on September 4th in a ceremony at high noon in St. Peter’s Square.

Now see our full biography of Mother Teresa »









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Comments ( 2 )

  • I suspect this man’s objections to Mother Teresa might have more to do with her opposition to abortion and euthanasia than to her charity work. By the way, while Mother Teresa was saving the “poorest of the poor” despite possibly “reusing hypodermic needles and tolerating primitive facilities that required patients to defecate in front of one another,” what was Aroup Chatterjee doing? We know what he’s doing now: peddling the 2016 edition of his anti-Mother Teresa book.

    • I was just discussing this with my wife. While I don’t feel qualified to judge the quality of Mother Teresa’s caregiving — and while also admitting that I find her opposition to birth control frustrating — I think you’re right: she was out there doing what she could for the poor in a devoted way. Few of us can say we were doing the same then, or are doing it now.

      I don’t think that makes Dr. Chatterjee a bad guy, but it certainly makes me think well of Mother Teresa.

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