India horrified by Mother Teresa ‘slur’
Mohan Bhagwat, above, head of the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or National Volunteer Corps) has reportedly incurred the wrath of a large cross-section of India’s population by suggesting that the Blessed Mother Teresa’s goal was to convert Hindus to Catholicism.
According to this report, from the stunned local Catholic Church to political parties of all ideologies, a chorus of critics have decried the “denigration” of Mother Teresa, who was known nationally as the “Saint of the Gutters” during her lifetime.
Or, as Barbara Smoker, put it “a sacred cow“.
It’s good to work for a cause with selfless intentions. But Mother Teresa’s work had an ulterior motive, which was to convert the person who was being served to Christianity. In the name of service, religious conversions were made.
He was addressing a women’s empowerment programme in a village near Bharatpur in the BJP-governed western state of Rajasthan.
After news media ran banner headlines highlighting Bhagwat’s criticism of Mother Teresa (aka “the Albanian Prune”) who was beatified in 2003, the Indian Parliament and the Catholic Church responded with strong denunciations of his remarks.
Jyotiraditya Scindia, of the opposition Congress Party, said in Parliament that Bhagwat’s comments:
Have been made against a person who is not just the country’s, but the world’s, legacy. No amount of condemnation can be enough
Shouts of “Shame!” and demands for an apology and condemnation of the incident by the Hindu nationalist BJP government echoed across the parliamentary chamber.
In a statement expressing its own “concern and distress” over the remarks, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) condemned:
Casting aspersion on the saintly person of Mother Teresa and attributing ulterior motives to her lifelong humanitarian services to the poor and the sick, to the abandoned and the destitute. It is quite unfortunate that the services of such a world-renowned Nobel Prize laureate and Bharat Ratna [“jewel of India”, the nation’s highest honor] awardee be dragged into such unwarranted controversies.
Screeched politician Arvind Kejriwal, a frequent visitor and volunteer to “Nirmal Hriday” (home for the destitute), the first charity home Mother Teresa set up as foundress of the Missionaries of Charity in 1952 on the premises of a Hindu temple in the Kalighat suburb of Kolkata:
Spare the Mother.
Brinda Karat, the firebrand female senior leader of India’s Communist Party, which has a strong base in the West Bengal state that has Kolkata as its capital, similarly chastised Bhagwat for “insulting” the nun, who was exposed as a self-serving charlatan by Christopher Hitchens in his book, The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice.
He argued that Mother Teresa’s primary focus was proselytising for her fundamentalist or right wing brand of Catholicism. The feel-good charitable works that everyone associates her with were a lower priority, or a means to the end of that proselytising. She used the “bully pulpit” of her celebrityhood far more to advocate for her religious beliefs concerning abortion and birth control and such, than to advocate for the poor.
He also said on an American radio programme:
The woman was a fanatic and a fundamentalist and a fraud, and millions of people are much worse off because of her life, and it’s a shame there is no hell for your bitch to go to.
An enraged Bill Donohue, of the Catholic League, wrote:
I once told Hitchens that one of the real reasons he hates Mother Teresa has to do with his socialist ideology: he believes the state should care for the poor, not voluntary organizations, and he especially loathes the idea of religious ones servicing the dispossessed. Indeed, he sees in Mother Teresa the very embodiment of altruism, a virtue he cannot – with good reason – fully comprehend.
The fact of the matter is that socialism is the greatest generator of poverty known to mankind, and Mother Teresa did more to heal and rescue its victims than anyone in the modern era.
But Sunita Kumar, a Sikh and spokeswoman for the Missionaries of Charity said:
I have been a close associate of the Mother since 1965 until her death [in 1997]. I am not a Christian. But Mother never asked me to become a Christian.
Kumar, who accompanied Mother Teresa on half a dozen international trips, added that:
Mother respected all religions. It is unfortunate that such a statement has been made. We are not angry with him [Bhagwat]. But, as Mother used to say, ‘he may not know what he is saying’.
Francis Palakeel, a Catholic hailing from southern Kerala state and an officer working with the United Nations presently in Hungary, said:
Actually, we should thank Mohan Bhagwat. Because of his ignorance, hundreds of people have known Mother Teresa and her noble work better than earlier. Because of his ignorance, several hundreds of posts and good words have spread out to non-Christians, and people have started … praising Mother’s contribution to the society. Mohan Bhagwat, in a way, has become an ambassador to Mother Teresa’s glory.