It seems like a simple question. I ask, “What is your impression of Mother Teresa?”, when speaking to my Christian and non-Christian friends. I usually frame the discussion that follows around the concept of Christian charity and the nature of suffering. I want to know if suffering is thought of as a Christian concept, especially when viewed through the lens of the good works associated with Christian charity. My benchmark is the internationally recognized secular organization Doctors without Borders, so I often compare the Sisters of Mercy with the former. Doctors without Borders provides medical care for the needy wherever it is needed and often at great personal risk. The Sisters of Mercy provided no medical care, not even simple pain killers.
When I introduce the concept of suffering as espoused by Mother Teresa, the result is complete and total disbelieve. Few people understand that she believed suffering brought the poor closer to Christ. She actually wanted poor people to experience the pain of death. The popular narrative about Mother Teresa is one of caregiving and love, not suffering and death. The disconnect is almost insurmountable, but I feel an ethical responsibility to chip away at her fictional narrative. What Mother Teresa and the Sisters of Mercy did was closer to a systematic human rights violation than an act of love and charity. Mother Teresa allowed people to die in horrible conditions without medial aid or even adequate food despite having the means to provide both. She operated a house of death, or I should say, Mother Teresa and the Sisters of Mercy operated houses of death. Tens of thousands of poor people died unnecessarily horrible deaths for no reason.
I have a hard time getting people to read Christopher Hitchens work on Mother Teresa, The Missionary Position. Christians associate Hitchens with atheism and reject the book outright as anti-Christian propaganda, but there are other sources of information, and at least one credible academic source. I’m tired of sounding like an angry Atheist on this subject, but I will continue to chip away at the big lie.