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1,194 of 1,236 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Patron Saint of Hypocrisy
Before discussing Hitchens' book and Mother Teresa I would just briefly mention that I have spent most of my own life working in hospices, hospitals, and nursing homes, and often for no money. I say this not because I think it makes me any better than the next guy, but only because I want to pre-empt at the outset one criticism that has appeared in many other reviews:...
Published on February 27, 2010 by Carlos Laflauta

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170 of 223 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Nothing Much New Revealed
As an atheist with a strong belief in ethical behavior and doing good for others, I have always had a certain ambivalence towards Mother Teresa. I was expecting Hitchens to reveal all sorts of previously unknown facts about how Mother Teresa was actually a phony, mistreating others and scamming funds for her own financial benefit. But actually the portrait that emerges is...
Published on May 1, 2006 by Chris Luallen


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1,194 of 1,236 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Patron Saint of Hypocrisy, February 27, 2010
By 
Carlos Laflauta (New York, NY USA) - See all my reviews
Before discussing Hitchens' book and Mother Teresa I would just briefly mention that I have spent most of my own life working in hospices, hospitals, and nursing homes, and often for no money. I say this not because I think it makes me any better than the next guy, but only because I want to pre-empt at the outset one criticism that has appeared in many other reviews: "When you spend one day working with these poor people, then maybe you can criticize Mother Teresa." Such concerns are beside the point. The issue should not be the reviewer; it is Mother Teresa and her work.

I've read the many negative reviews of Hitchens' book, and virtually all the reviewers suffer from at least one of two flaws:

1. They focus on limited, insignificant parts of the book, overlooking the most devastating material. This suggests they either have not read that material or do not care about it.

2. They attack Hitchens the man instead of what he says and the evidence he presents. This "shooting the messenger" is known as arguing "ad hominem" and accomplishes nothing beyond gratifying the reviewer's pique. (This includes an astoundingly ignorant review by William Donohue of the Catholic League, who spends so much of it attacking Hitchens' character that one wonders whether he paid any attention to what Hitchens actually wrote.)

So in taking a closer look at what Hitchens did write, let us not be deterred by the fear of attacking an icon. Let us rather be motivated by what Mother Teresa herself claimed was her dearest concern, the compassionate care of those who are poor, those who are disabled, those who are sick or dying or in great pain.

If these are our concerns, then the evidence Hitchens presents is damning. Much of it comes from people who worked for Mother Teresa and can be independently verified. Personal attacks on Hitchens or his religious views cannot in any way negate this evidence.

One key witness is Susan Shields, who wrote about her experience in Free Inquiry Magazine (Vol. 18 no. 1, Winter 1997/1998). Shields was a sister in the Missionaries of Charity. She lived with them in the Bronx, Rome, and San Francisco. According to Shields, the philosophy that guided the Missionary Sisters both considered suffering a virtue and strongly discouraged attachments of any kind to the people served. The inevitable result of this combination was an indifference to human suffering. If suffering is good, and if feeling emotional responses toward the patients is bad, then any uncomfortable emotions that may arise from witnessing their suffering must be quickly switched off. This makes true compassion difficult if not impossible.

The Missionary Sisters were not bad people. Most of them meant well. They tried their best to be obedient, and did not know that the great bulk of donations their order received remained hidden unused in Mother's bank accounts. Shields knows this because one of her assigned tasks was recording those donations. "We wrote receipts for checks of $50,000 and more on a regular basis," she reports.

Since poverty was also considered a virtue, little of that money could be spent either on the order or on the patients. As Shields tells us: "Mother was very concerned that we preserve our spirit of poverty. Spending money would destroy that poverty. She seemed obsessed with using only the simplest of means for our work. Was this in the best interests of the people we were trying to help, or were we in fact using them as a tool to advance our own `sanctity?' In Haiti, to keep the spirit of poverty, the sisters reused needles until they became blunt. Seeing the pain caused by the blunt needles, some of the volunteers offered to procure more needles, but the sisters refused."

Hitchens quotes parts of Shields' unpublished manuscript, but her article in Free Inquiry may easily be found online and is worth reading in full.

Another eyewitness Hitchens quotes is Dr. Robin Fox, who in 1994 was editor of The Lancet and who reported his findings in that journal in an article entitled "Mother Theresa's Care for the Dying" (September 17, 1994). While noting that the residents of the home were at least well fed, Fox nevertheless observes that their medical care was inadequate. He calls it "haphazard," refusing to permit normal diagnostic procedures like blood films because such practices "tend toward materialism." He concludes:

"I was disturbed to learn that the formulary includes no strong analgesics. Along with the neglect of diagnosis, the lack of good analgesia marks Mother Theresa's approach as clearly separate from the hospice movement. I know which I prefer."

Hitchens points out that this state of affairs at the Home for the Dying cannot be excused by any plea of poverty. Mother Teresa had at her disposal "immense quantities of money and material." The home was as it was because it reflected Mother Teresa's philosophy of suffering and the poor.

Dr. Fox's account is supplemented by the observations of Mary Loudon, a volunteer at the Home of the Dying whose testimony Hitchens obtained. In Loudon's words,

"This is two rooms with fifty to sixty men in one, fifty to sixty women in another. They're dying. They're not being given a great deal of medical care. They're not being given painkillers really beyond aspirin and maybe if you're lucky some Brufen [ibuprofen] or something, for the sort of pain that goes with terminal cancer and the things they were dying of."

I have years of experience working in hospice. Cancer pain can be unimaginable, and considerable intravenous morphine infusions are often scarcely enough to contain it. But if you have cancer in Mother Teresa's home, you'll get aspirin for your pain or maybe Advil if you're lucky.

Loudon goes on to observe that needles were reused continually and not sterilized but only rinsed at the cold water tap - another false show of poverty at the expense of the residents' well being.

Mother Teresa apparently considered pain sacred - as long as it happens to somebody else, and as long as that person is poor. Hitchens mentions (p. 41) a filmed interview in which Mother Teresa says with a smile what she told a patient suffering unbearable pain from terminal cancer: "You are suffering like Christ on the cross. So Jesus must be kissing you." The patient's response: "Then please tell him to stop kissing me."

It is supremely arrogant to tell someone in agony to be grateful for the blessing of pain while availing oneself of the best and most expensive hospitals in the West during one's own illnesses, as Mother Teresa did. Did Mother Teresa not wish to be kissed by Jesus too?

Another witness Hitchens quotes is author and journalist Elgy Gillespie, who spent time at Mother Teresa's San Francisco hostel for people with AIDS. She reports that the ones who were not too sick to care were extremely depressed because they were not permitted to watch TV or have friends come over, even when they were dying. She mentions one patient in particular who was able to escape the hostel for a while, because a caring friend of Gillespie's offered to take him in. When his illness worsened and this friend could no longer care for him, he begged her not to send him back to the hostel. He was afraid that at the hostel he would be denied necessary medication, including morphine for his pain.

How can one possibly excuse the willful denial of pain medication to people who are terminally ill, regardless of the theology behind it? How does one call somebody who does this a saint? Those who try to discredit Hitchens' book by attacking Hitchens personally are ethically irresponsible. They would also have to attack and discredit Susan Shields, Dr. Robin Fox, Mary Loudon, and Elgy Gillespie. So far to my knowledge, no one has.

Now why on earth would anyone withhold pain medication from people in intense pain, especially if one had millions to pay for such medication? Who can really discern another person's motives? One can only observe the obvious: there is no credit for helping the poor if they are not poor, the suffering if they are not suffering, and the disabled if they are independent. Mother Teresa made a great show of helping only the poor. In an interview with Malcolm Muggeridge she stated: "We cannot work for the rich; neither can we accept any money for the work we do. Ours has to be a free service, and to the poor" (p. 60). Another quote from Mother: "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" (p.11).

There you have it. Mother's theology glorifies suffering. Suffering is good. It is the kiss of Christ. The suffering of the poor helps the world. So one can be a saint only by helping the suffering poor. There is no saintliness in helping the non-suffering non-poor. So collect millions in the name of the suffering poor; just don't spend it on relieving their pain or restoring their dignity.

Nothing illustrates this attitude better than a bizarre incident that took place in New York in 1990. The city gave two buildings it had seized for back taxes to the Missionary Sisters for one dollar apiece. The sisters planned to convert them into a homeless shelter. But there was a wrinkle. The city required that the residence be accessible to people with disabilities, and so asked that the sisters install an elevator. Mother Teresa adamantly refused. She even rejected the city's offer to pay for the elevator (never mind that she could easily have afforded to pay for it herself). So the nuns abandoned the project.

What's so bad about an elevator? The nuns wanted the residents to experience the charity of people who would care for them in their poverty. "The sisters said that if anyone couldn't walk up the stairs, they'd carry them, just like they do in Calcutta," said Anne Emerman, director of the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities, who opposed the nuns' request for a waiver from the city's handicapped access law.

Emerman was vilified in some quarters for her opposition to the great saint, but to the disabled community she was a hero. "We have different ideas here of personal dignity" she said. "Some people might not want to be carried."

Indeed, some disabled people might actually prefer to be independent and to have their independence respected. But promoting independence just doesn't have quite the same flash as service to the poor.

(Hitchens mentions this incident in a quote from Susan Shields on pp. 45-46, but full details can be found in these two articles: Associated Press, "Mother Teresa Group Gives Up NY Shelter Plan over Elevators" [Boston Globe, September 18, 1990], and Sam Roberts, "Fight City Hall? Nope, Not Even Mother Teresa" [New York Times, September 17, 1990].)

Now what if New York City had not offered to pay for an elevator? Could the Missionaries of Charity plead poverty as an excuse not to build it? Well they could, but it would hardly be credible. Mother Teresa ranked with the best in her ability to manipulate people's guilt to elicit funding. By all accounts she could be very persistent. In an article entitled "Mother Teresa: Where Are Her Millions?" which appeared in German's Stern magazine (September 10, 1998), Walter Wuellenweber notes several examples:

"For purchase or rent of property, the sisters do not need to touch their bank accounts. `Mother always said, we don't spend for that,' remembers Sunita Kumar, one the richest women in Calcutta and supposedly Mother T's closest associate outside the order. `If Mother needed a house, she went straight to the owner, whether it was the State or a private person, and worked on him for so long that she eventually got it free.'...

"Mother Teresa saw it as her God given right never to have to pay anyone for anything. Once she bought food for her nuns in London for GB £500. When she was told she'd have to pay at the till, the diminutive seemingly harmless nun showed her Balkan temper and shouted, `This is for the work of God!' She raged so loud and so long that eventually a businessman waiting in the queue paid up on her behalf."

So the question remains: If Mother Teresa was so good at raising funds and did in fact raise millions, why is there no money for clean needles in hospices? Where does the money go? As one man said after asking Mother for help in building housing for 4,000 of Calcutta's homeless and failing even to receive a response, "I don't understand why you educated people in the West have made this woman into such a goddess! I went to her place three times. She did not even listen to what I had to say. Everyone on earth knows that the sisters have a lot of money. But no one knows what they do with it!"

It seems no one can answer that question completely. But Wuellenweber continues:

"The fortune of this famous charitable organisation is controlled from Rome, - from an account at the Vatican bank. And what happens with monies at the Vatican Bank is so secret that even God is not allowed to know about it. One thing is sure however - Mother's outlets in poor countries do not benefit from largesse of the rich countries. The official biographer of Mother Teresa, Kathryn Spink, writes, `As soon as the sisters became established in a certain country, Mother normally withdrew all financial support.' Branches in very needy countries therefore only receive start-up assistance. Most of the money remains in the Vatican Bank."

Wherever the money did end up, most of it never went to the poor Mother Teresa was supposed to be serving. In her Free Inquiry article Susan Shields states: "The donations rolled in and were deposited in the bank, but they had no effect on our ascetic lives and very little effect on the lives of the poor we were trying to help." Reporter Donal MacIntyre, writing in the New Statesman (London; August 22, 2005), describes conditions in Mother Teresa's orphanage that were not only squalid but sometimes even cruel:

"I worked undercover for a week in Mother Teresa's flagship home for disabled boys and girls to record Mother Teresa's Legacy, a special report for Five News broadcast earlier this month. I winced at the rough handling by some of the full-time staff and Missionary sisters. I saw children with their mouths gagged open to be given medicine, their hands flaying in distress, visible testimony to the pain they were in. Tiny babies were bound with cloths at feeding time. Rough hands wrenched heads into position for feeding. Some of the children retched and coughed as rushed staff crammed food into their mouths. Boys and girls were abandoned on open toilets for up to 20 minutes at a time. Slumped, untended, some dribbling, some sleeping, they were a pathetic sight. Their treatment was an affront to their dignity, and dangerously unhygienic.

"Volunteers (from Italy, Sweden, the United States and the UK) did their best to cradle and wash the children who had soiled themselves. But there were no nappies, and only cold water. Soap and disinfectant were in short supply. Workers washed down beds with dirty water and dirty cloths. Food was prepared on the floor in the corridor. A senior member of staff mixed medicine with her hands. Some did their best to give love and affection - at least some of the time. But, for the most part, the care the children received was inept, unprofessional and, in some cases, rough and dangerous. `They seem to be warehousing people rather than caring for them,' commented the former operations director of Mencap Martin Gallagher, after viewing our undercover footage."

This is the best care that millions of charity dollars could afford? No money even for soap and diapers?

Mother Teresa's entire attitude towards money seems rather odd. Apparently it is virtuous to give, as long as the giving is to the Catholic Church (and never even reaches the poor) and regardless of how the funds given were obtained. Charles Keating, a sort of Bernie Madoff of the 80's, donated 1.25 million dollars to Mother Teresa in return for the respectability of being associated with her. When Keating was tried in 1992 Mother Teresa wrote to the court asking clemency for him. Hitchens reproduces her letter to the judge on p. 67. It it she says that Keating "has always been kind and generous to God's poor" and asks the judge "to do what Jesus would do."

One of the prosecutors wrote back to Mother Teresa explaining (just in case she did not know) that among those whom Keating defrauded may also be counted some of "the least of these" whom Mother claims to serve, including "a poor carpenter who did not speak English and had his life savings stolen by Mr. Keating's fraud" (p. 69). He continued: "No church, no charity, no organization should allow itself to be used as salve for the conscience of the criminal." He urged Mother Teresa to do the right thing: "Ask yourself what Jesus would do if he were given the fruits of a crime; what Jesus would do if he were in possession of money that had been stolen; what Jesus would do if he were being exploited by a thief to ease his conscience? I submit that Jesus would promptly and unhesitatingly return the stolen property to its rightful owners. You should do the same. You have been given money by Mr. Keating that he has been convicted of stealing by fraud. Do not permit him the `indulgence' he desires. Do not keep the money. Return it to those who worked for it and earned it! If you contact me I will put you in direct contact with the rightful owners of the property now in your possession."

Mother Teresa never replied.

So what can we make of all this? It is a shame that whatever good Mother Teresa may have done has been tainted by her exploitation of the very same people she made a show of helping. Perhaps we need to choose our saints a little more carefully.

It is easy to find superficial fault with Hitchens' book. Its title, "The Missionary Position," is juvenile. Its citations are sloppy. And Hitchens is no expert in the Bible or theology, so sometimes he gets things wrong, as when he says (p. 29) that Jesus broke the box of costly ointment on his own feet. But Hitchens' antipathy towards religion in no way mitigates the testimony he presents from several eyewitnesses. The cynical use of the poor to promote either oneself or one's church only gives ammunition to those who already find religion loathsome.

"So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward" (Matthew 6:2).

I will end this lengthy review with a question: Should Mother Teresa be canonized?

That is for the Catholic Church to decide.
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374 of 397 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars About time someone dared say it, February 22, 2002
By A Customer
I have always thought very highly of Mother Theresa, until a few years ago, when I visited one of her clinics on a medical trip. It was a nursery, filled to the brim with pathetic crying babies, or those too scrawny and weak to even move. Many of them lay in urine soaked beds. I started to cry at the sight of their misery, it was just so appalling, and mind you, this is not the first time I have seen sick babies or dire poverty.
But what was most shocking was when one of the doctors in my group asked where the money had gone. She apparently had been here last year, and she and others raised $25,000 for this particular nursery--they had sent the money a few months before we arrived to buy cribs, diapers, formula and medicine. The nursery was exactly the same now as it had been a year ago.
The sister in charge said something to the effect that they had to give the money to the main MC office--or something like that. They never saw a penny of it. One of the babies died during our visit--of starvation. He could have been saved very easily.
My doubts began at that time, and I read more about Mother Theresa, how her nuns were spreading AIDS and hepatitis by using unclean needles in their clinics. You can buy bleach to sterilize needles for just a few pennies, but yet, they didn't even have that. Where then, does the millions go that is donated to this woman and her charity?
If she believes that suffering is so holy, then one would think she would have wanted to be treated when she got sick, the same way that the poor are treated. But instead, Mother Theresa got top notch care. I guess when one is on the fast track to sainthood, they don't have to do their penance and suffering like the rest of us.
I don't think that she was an evil woman, and maybe she meant to do well at one time. But keeping medical care and food away from the hungry and sick is a crime. She became known for caring for the dying because that's what people did best in her clinic--die. True, many of them lived on the street, and she did offer than food and shelter. However, why allow someone to die when you have the means to save them?
I would like to know where all of the money that Mother Theresa got in donations has gone to. If she is a true Christian, she would have returned the donation made by Keating back to its rightful owners, the people he stole it from. But she didn't. She never even acknowledged it, only pleaded for clemency for the criminal who robbed 17,000 people of their life savings. One truly has to wonder about the "Christian" mind of such a person.
At any rate, my personal experience has convinced me that Hitchens is on to something. The sisters were basically doing nothing for these babies, not even holding them. Not even changing the worn cloth diapers that they wore. It was totally disgusting. Just waiting for them to die, what Mother Theresa does best.
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446 of 497 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Triple Entendre, December 1, 2001
By 
Rivkah Maccaby "Rivkah Maccaby" (Bloomington, IN United States) - See all my reviews
In swift and sly prose, Hitchens relates his personal observations of Mother Teresa's clinics in Calcutta. He tells one story of a nursery full of starving, sick babies crying in insufficient cribs, which M. Teresa describes as the way "we fight abortion." He writes of men dying of AIDS, denied pain medicine, because according to M. Teresa, their suffering will assure them of ultimate salvation. Paitients too weak to object are baptized in their final hours.
I have now doubt that all of this is true, and at first glance it is surprising, but it shouldn't be. M. Teresa is a Roman Catholic nun and Mother Superior; in fact, founder of an order. She is not merely Christian in a vague way, but a zealot for Catholicism. I knew this-- in fact I even knew that at one point, all she allowed her nuns was an impoverished diet of rice, and insufficient calories of that, because she thought they should the same thing as the people they served. This was not necessary, as her order had plenty of money. She began feeding her nuns a living diet only after the Pope ordered her to do so.
I suppose as a Catholic nun and zealot, she's did a fine job, but I don't think most Americans, especially non-Catholic Americans, knew this. Every year, millions of dollars are donated to her order, most of which sits in banks, while patients in her hospitals suffer from insufficient care. Some of this money comes from non-Catholic Americans who know next to nothing about M. Teresa and her actual mission. All people know is some vague idea that there's a lot of hunger and inadequate medical care in Calcutta, and M. Teresa order is doing something out there to help.
Christopher Hitchens lets people know exactly what she did; anyone who reads this book will never blindly donate money on the assumption that since there's poverty in Calcutta, any money sent to charity workers there must be doing some good.
More than exposing her clinics, Hitchens shows the disingenuous way M. Teresa has presented herself to the world. There is here in the book reprinted a very quaintly written letter on behalf of Charles Keating(!) reprinted here, yet plenty examples of her savvy that belie the innocent charm of her letter.
Hitchens does not hide his distaste for his subject, and while it is easy to accuse him of less than objectivity, he does stick to the facts; he just reports them with biting, venomous words. If you are a fan of M. Teresa, this book will offend you. If you seek the truth about her, you must read this book. If you have always harbored doubts about her, but never had any real evidence, this book will be a great relief, as your gut feeling is confirmed.
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129 of 143 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tells It Like I Experienced It, April 26, 2004
By 
Brenan Nierman (United States of America) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I was a volunteer for the Missionaries of Charity at their "Gift of Peace" hospice in Washington, D.C. Christopher Hitchens's account of how places like this are run rings true with my own experience. For example, I was tending to an AIDS patient who had to go to the bathroom and I needed serious assistance. None was to be found because the sisters were at their prayers. It may strike some as strange that the nuns were attending to a god they cannot see while neglecting the poor man (who ended up leaving a quite visible souvenir of their neglect in his bed), but such are the lives of those who end up in such places.
Hitchens does a great job of documenting in this thin book the dictators and flim-flam artists who used Mother Teresa's iconographic presence to lend a patina of divine approval to their nefarious deeds. That Mother's approach to misery was to counsel others, especially the poor who usually had no other choice, to offer it up, rather than seeking to eliminate or ameliorate it, comes through loud and clear. The most egregious hypocrisy: Mother's houses reject such creature comforts for the poor as air conditioning and elevators for the handicapped and, most telling of all, adequate pain medication. But Mother Teresa herself was treated at some of the finest medical facilities in the world. To take vows of poverty in imitation of Jesus is one thing; it is quite another to insist that those you purport to serve must share in your misery.
This is an honest book. Some may conclude that it is derivative from the author's anti-religion bias. I very much doubt it. Rather, from the evidence amassed herin, as well as by such other scandels that the Church has (unsuccessfully, finally) tried to cover up, there may be some very good reasons for people to conclude that it is precisely when living vessels of clay are raised to altars around the world, it is a darn good time to check your wallet or pocketbook.
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678 of 788 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars My review is based on personal experience..., September 15, 2000
By 
I first read a portion of this book in the Washington Post a number of years ago. As I'd worked closely with Mother Teresa in Calcutta for a bit over two years, I was amused by it and bought several copies which I then gave to those I knew who painted halos on her. Now I admit to some mixed feelings (more on that later) but the book's strength is still formidable.
While working in an office that provided Mother with much of her food, a Scottish pharmacologist who'd been volunteering in the Home for Dying Destitutes visited. She proclaimed that the people she was taking care of there "don't need to die!" She asserted that most of the sisters caring for the destitute weren't very bright, and that there are means of keeping the destitute alive of which the Missionaries of Charity would not partake. After that, and after picking up a small child who died in my arms at the mother house not far from my residence, my eyes were more opened to that saint of Calcutta.
Incidentally, the child who died was the product of one of the "natural family planning" sessions the MC sisters held for Muslim women in Calcutta. That degree of naivete, as if the sisters who lived among them understood so pathetically little about Islam as to teach Muslim women of that means of birth control--in one of the most crowded square miles on planet earth--was enough to make one question Mother Teresa even if other things, many of which Hitchens points out, were not.
As for the intellectual level of the sisters, it's important to note that what I describe is typical in much of the Third World. As an Indian friend said, most of the sisters, if they had not become nuns, would have been stuck in their Indian village, in a prearranged marriage. Their entry into the sisterhood freed them and, in some cases, allows them to "see the world." I'm not saying that in a derisive way; were I in their shoes, I may do the same.
And there was one sister whose intelligence and sensitivity did impress me. She shared with me one day that she was concerned about children being adopted into families in, say, Denmark, which had negative population growth at the time. She wondered what would happen when the fad wore off of the obvious adoptions--brown children among the more pale Danes--and what social problems might come about as a consequence. As I'm not familiar with any Scandanavians, I don't know what may be happening there today.
The situation, though, also has its ironies. I know many a feminist who is impressed to no end with Mother Teresa, an allegedly strong woman. As I knew Mother, I guarantee to the feminists that such a label turns Mother over in her grave. Indeed, while some reviewers have commented on the MC sisters in the U.S., their commitment to AIDS patients, etc., I see most of the sisters as sheep, little girls despite their ages, following their leader, whoever she may be, with a girl's unquestioning attitude. That's not feminist, despite illusions to the contrary.
Mind you, I'm not in any way opposed to taking care of the poor. I'm as far from a Reaganite as one can imagine. But I had--and still have--close friends who are nuns in other orders in India who do far more for "human development" than the MCs do. Are they proclaimed saints? Not in this world they're not. But I don't blame Mother for that. Rather, I blame the media who are anxious to sell papers by finding one individual, a sort of Horatio Alger in reverse, who stands out. Thusly Saint Mother Teresa was born through the likes of Malcolm Muggeridge whom Hitchens covers mercilessly in his text.
As I have reflected for a number of years on my experience in Calcutta and the rest of India (MC sisters telling lepers in colonies to be fruitful and multiply per Catholic teachings, thereby ensuring another generation of lepers) I've concluded that my biggest objection to the MC regime is that Mother Teresa unwittingly prevented change. Politicians, including Reagan, loved her as she said, "write a check and help the poor, the dying, and help these kids to be adopted." It never occurred to her that there must be something wrong with a system which enabled countless people to die miserably. And that extended to us in the "developed" world. How many people do you know who feel secure in having their Mother Teresa holy cards, maybe writing a check, but they'll still act and vote to perpetuate systems in which so, so many people die destitute.
Oh, the reason I have some mixed feelings toward the MC sisters now is that I'm still acquainted with some American nuns. Many of them are close friends, and women for whom I have a great deal of respect and love. But many too are living more comfortably than I am, e.g., having their community pay for their homes for which they then pay substantially less rent than I would pay. At least Mother Teresa and her sisters DID live and work among the poor.
Anyway, I still recommend the book. It puts much of the media hype, especially the tourists who'd visited Calcutta for two days, visited Mother Teresa, then returned to write news stories about how wonderful she is, into perspective with some of the things Mother REALLY did.
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62 of 68 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The grand jury would indict..., December 11, 2003
By 
Jerry Brito (Washington, DC USA) - See all my reviews
If you're looking for the case against Mother Teresa, this is not it. Christopher Hitchens's purpose was narrower, and intelligently so. The Missionary Position is only an indictment of Mother Teresa.
But don't let that "only" fool you. What Hitchens does superbly here is wonder, quite persuasively, "Why hasn't anyone ever questioned this woman?" He alleges sufficient particularized facts to create a reasonable doubt about the means and ends of someone whose saintliness has always been taken for granted. Hithchens's charges are compelling enough to make you conclude discovery and a wider investigation are necessary, but he never carries out a full-on prosecution.
Besides consorting with unsavory characters (and taking their money), Mother Teresa's greatest trespass, according to Hitchens, was accepting the mantle of compassionate caretaker of the poor, while harboring a philosophy that celebrates suffering and does little for the poor but let them wretch, surreptitiously convert them, and let them die so that they might go to heaven. Meanwhile, her well-to-do patrons in the developed world sleep well at night after having written her a check, knowing that they have done good. Her unbending opposition to any contraception also doesn't win her any points in Hitchens's scorecard, but what does he expect from a Catholic nun?
If you believe in God, you might take offense to how easily and unapologetically Hitchens dismisses any notions of a creator or afterlife or other mysticisms. But if this is the case, I don't think this book was written for you; I think he wrote this book assuming (at the very least) an informed secularism on the part of the reader. As always, Hitchens proves to be a good and interesting writer, and I recommend this book.
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91 of 104 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A necessary read, July 23, 2001
While many attack this book, the attacks usually just prove one of Hitchens' points; that many people have a knee-jerk reaction to Mother Teresa, considering her beyond all criticism, while not really knowing anything about her.
One of his themes is that Teresa is not primarily concerned with helping people. She is more concerned with glorifying God (or the church) than loving mankind, and has a regrettable tendency to put the glory of God ahead of the comfort (or even the lives) of the people she tended.
Hitchens also asks what real benefit to the poor Teresa produced, especially considering the huge amounts of money that flow in from around the world. Often, the 'care' seems to be little more than being given a cot and allowed to die, even if simple treatment could save their life.
And while it's been pointed out that there's nothing wrong with taking money from evil people and using it to do good, this misses the point. When Teresa accepts money from someone like Keating, she isn't taking money from an evil man, she is taking it from all those who Keating stole it from. She is, in other words, stealing from the poor to give to the poor.
Ultimately, one's opinion of Mother Teresa will probably be determinied by one's priorities. If you consider the glorification of God to be most important, then you will probably not have a problem with the building of churches instead of schools and hospitals. If you consider the next life to be more important than this one, you probably won't be bothered by the philosophy that it is better to love the poor than to feed them, better to love the dying than to cure them. And if you believe that God's will is to be trusted over all, then you probably don't mind the encouragement of reproduction in lands where millions already starve. To each his own.
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260 of 307 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hitchens' book on Mother Theresa deserves a fair hearing, October 9, 2002
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Christian theology teaches that everyone is imperfect and tainted by Original Sin. All human beings are tempted by the sin of pride and other vices. Why should Mother Theresa be any different? There are indeed serious questions that were never adequately answered regarding the large sums of money at her disposal. Were they spent according to the wishes of the donors, or was much of it siphoned off to other endeavors that had little to do with assisting the hopelessly downtrodden? Did these unfortunates truly receive the best medical care possible? Is there any truth to the allegations that many of these patients were denied pain killers to supposedly prepare them spiritually for life everlasting? Why didn't Mother Theresa comprehend the cold fact that dictators and convicted criminals were giving her money stolen from other people? Would trained certified public accountants have found many abuses and squandering of funds? Alas, often even well meaning people unwittingly waste the resources under their direct responsibility. A good heart alone is not enough when managing a large organization.
It is intellectual dishonest to ignore "The Missionary Position." Christopher Hitchens is an avowed atheist, but this shouldn't be held against him. The author's rhetoric is admittedly a bit too aggressive and borders on the abusive. Nonetheless, Hitchens has presented some strong evidence that tarnishes the hagiographic memory of the often described Saint of Calcutta. The man deserves a point by point careful rebuke and not argumentum ad hominem attacks. This relatively short book earns a place among all the other works on Mother Theresa....
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My head just exploded..........., April 2, 2011
By 
Buddha Baby (Sacramento, CA) - See all my reviews
My head just exploded.................Wow! What were those biases keeping me from seeing reality once again? How did I manage to keep Mother Teresa in a separate category from Falwell, Bakker, and Oral Roberts so long? Was it it because she was a woman? a Catholic? What?! I get the duality of human nature and still............Ouch!
Hitchens always backs up his work and does so once again. As usual, his claims are evidence based and he uses the letters from Mother Teresa herself and a response from a Deputy District Attorney from Los Angeles, Paul Turley, to tell the story. When Charles Keating was up for sentencing for his financial crime, Mother Teresa wrote a letter to Judge Ito asking for justice and mercy for this man who had stolen millions from others, and given quite a bit to her through the Missionaries of Charity. DDA Turley wrote to her asking what she thought Jesus would do in the given circumstances. Turley suggested she could help Keating make reparation by returning the stolen money he had given her to the people from who Keating stole it. She made no response and no transfer of funds.

On a second point, Hitchens stated in a recent interview that there is one known answer to poverty, one and only one solution that has worked wherever and whenever it has been tried, in a variety of different cultures and circumstances. That solution is addressing issues of women's health and reproductive rights. Mother Teresa has throughout her life, preached against women's rights to use birth control. These are only two of the points Hitchens makes in The Missionary Position.

Read it and weep.
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74 of 89 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The saint who destroyed the image of Calcutta., July 10, 2003
I do not know anything about Catholicism so I would not dispute mother's religious ideology. But one thing I know is MC is surely not about helping the poor.
1. Any small charitable organization (including many catholic/christian organizations)in Calcutta do thousand times more to help the poors of Calcutta. Although MC does some charitable work, it is so miniscule given the amount of donation it recieves I would call it only a religious organization, certainly not a charity.
2. Contrary to popular belief, MC helps primarily christians or makes sure those who recieve help converts to Catholicism. Of course there are exceptions. I am against any religion which do not consider people of other religion as equally worthy human beings.
3. In the last 30 years of her life, mother spent overwhelmingly more time touring the Western world than working with the poor in Calcutta. I doubt whether even 0.01% of Calcutta's poor ever even saw her.
Of course I do not mind the above things and mother had a constitutionally guranteed right to religious freedom and to spend her organizations money the way she wants, but as a Calcuttan I do take offense in her extremely negative (if not outright lying) portyal of Calcutta. Just like any other third world or Indian cities, Calcutta also has its share of poverty but it is by no means greater than any other city of India. In reality, Calcutta is better off than most of the other cities in India. Not only it had a very vibrant cultural/social/political life for last 200 years, till date it continues to be the cultural capital of India and one of the most tolerant, multi-cultural, liberal city of India. Calcutta boasts the best public traportation system among Indian cities, it is not as densely populated as Delhi or Mumbai and it is not as polluted as Delhi. The real estate price in Calcutta will be higher than London, believe it or not!! Yes, there are homeless people in Calcutta (so are there in New York), but most of them are not beggars. They do odd jobs but not rich enough to afford a home. There is no wide-spread hunger in Calcutta, food is plenty, cheap and available in vast quantities. The government does enough to take care of the poor and I can gurantee, that even if you search really hard, you wont see the kind of squalor and poverty in Calcutta that mother made her Western followers believe. Interestingly, most of the Westerners get frustrated by not seeing enough poverty when they visit Calcutta, so the locals arrange some kind of poverty tour! and they search hard and find out the most wretched place (usually populated by illegal immigrants from Bangladesh or rural areas of neighboring states) to get the Western tourist see what they want to see. Her negative portryal of Calcutta caused the city to lose millions of dollar on tourism revenue, since no one wants to visit this nightmarish place. Some of you might find it hard to believe but in my 24 years of life in Calcutta I never saw the kind of poverty mother's followers tend to assume about Calcutta. The worst part is, mother fed her followers with such exaggerated image of poverty to raise money but in reality did not do anything about it or atleast nothing of any significance. No wonder the people of Calcutta, the so called recipient of her generosity does not care at all about her charitable work, but they do respect her because she brought a Nobel Prize (incidentally two more Indians won that prize before her from Calcutta)to the city and they are unaware of the stories mother tells rest of the world about Calcutta. I do not question her holiness, but I think by constantly lying about Calcutta, she used faudulent means to raise money and did not use the money for which it was raised in the first place.
I am still amazed, that the old, innocous looking, saintly woman had the capacity to pull-off one of the biggest frauds in recent history and even managed to get a nobel prize for God knows what contribution to peace! I dont know whether the truth will make any dent in the belief of her admirers, but it is the truth and you have to visit Calcutta to realize it.
P.S: I suggest a book (Mother Teresa The Final Verdict)in the following web-site for a more revealing account of her activities.
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