Ex-volunteer calls for an end to the Missionaries of Charity
Hemley Gonzalez, a former volunteer for the Missionaries of Charity, an organisation founded by soon-to-be-sainted Mother Teresa, is now actively campaigning for the charity to be shut down.
According to this Salon report by George Gillett, Gonzalez runs an online campaign called Stop the Missionaries of Charity (“Holding Mother Teresa’s charity accountable for its monumental medical negligence and financial fraud.”).
He hopes to “educate unsuspecting donors” about how their donations are spent on what he regards to be “a systematic human rights violation”.
In an interview with Gillett, Gonzalez – founder of Responsible Charity, a secular non-profit organisation serving the poor of Calcutta – told of reused needles, poorly trained staff and expired medications.
… As he [Gonzalez] discusses his experience volunteering at facilities run by Missionaries of Charity, it becomes increasingly apparent that few of his anecdotes correlate with the reputation she enjoys. ‘I was shocked to discover the horrifically negligent manner in which the charity operates,’ he recalls.
Writing in the New Internationalist magazine about her experience working at the Missionaries of Charity’s headquarters in Kolkata, another volunteer urged that the organisation be:
Finally held accountable for its actions of abuse and neglect.
Similar concerns were raised in Christopher Hitchens’ 1994 UK documentary, Hell’s Angel, that featured the story of a 15-year-old patient who had been admitted with a “relatively simple kidney complaint.” His condition had deteriorated soon after the facility had refused to transfer him to a local hospital to undergo surgery. Hell’s Angel can be viewed on YouTube.
Criticism of Mother Teresa’s mission has also come from the medical profession. Dr Robin Fox, former editor of the medical journal The Lancet, described the Missionaries of Charity facilities as “haphazard” as early as 1994, recounting how he witnessed a young man with malaria be treated with only ineffective antibiotics and paracetamol.
Along with the neglect of diagnosis, the lack of good analgesia marks Mother Theresa’s approach.
Aroup Chatterjee shares similar feelings. Born in Kolkata and now a doctor in the UK, he was inspired to write a book about Teresa’s legacy. It describes detailed accounts of her patients being denied visitors, refused painkillers and forced to shave their heads.
He told Gillett:
If people knew what she was actually like, they would find her repugnant.
These claims are in such contradiction with the Western narrative of Mother Teresa – a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize as well as a number of other accolades – that it’s hard to respond to them with anything other than disbelief.
Having received hundreds of millions of dollars in donations, there are seemingly few excuses for such poor medical care aside from either recklessness or malicious intent. Yet either of these accusations would be met with fervent denial from even the staunchest of secularists. How, then, has somebody with such a troubled legacy enjoyed almost universal adoration from the world’s media?
Much of the reason is undoubtedly related to the fact that Mother Teresa’s order does not perceive these examples to be failings. Speaking in 1997, she remarked that ‘the world is being much helped by the suffering of the poor people,’ describing how it was ‘very beautiful for the poor to share [their suffering] with the passion of Christ.’
For Mother Teresa, poverty and sickness were gifts that provided the opportunity to develop one’s connection with God. Her mission was not so much to alleviate suffering but to ensure it happened within a framework of religious belief.
Indeed, by her own admission she was motivated by a desire to fulfill her own religious convictions rather than altruistic concern for the world’s poor. ‘There is always the danger that we may become only social workers … our works are only an expression of our love for Christ,’ she told a BBC journalist in 1969.
This attitude is manifestly disparate from the utilitarian principles by which humanitarian efforts are ordinarily judged.
You can read more about Gonzalez’s experiences of working with the Missionaries of Charity here.