For my final book of the summer, I read “The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa In Theory And Practice” by Christopher Hitchens.
Mother Teresa has made a reputation for herself as someone who helps the poor – but upon closer examination, is this “saintly” woman really all she’s cracked up to be?
Around the world, Mother Teresa of Calcutta has been lauded as a great humanitarian and spokesperson for valetudinarian indigents. But is she truly as magnanimous as The Catholic Church would have us believe? With The Church behind you, you’ve got some powerful Public Relations machinery – at least, so author Christopher Hitchens believes. That’s why he decided to take a closer look to see if the woman actually lived up to her legend. It is no surprise, then, that Hitchens set about to disprove her believers and expose Mother Teresa as a total phony.
In pursuit of the truth, the premise of Hitchens’ book poses one key question: Should the world judge Mother Teresa’s reputation by her actions and words rather than judge her actions and words by her reputation? Is this Albanian nun worthy of beatification and canonization? If she is in fact going to be considered a saint, has she truly performed any miracles that have been verifiable? All are reasonable questions, despite the fact that some would accuse the inquisitor of blasphemy. But do people prefer to believe in the myth over the reality because the reality shatters their world view and personal beliefs?
Among Hitchens proof includes Mother Teresa’s associations, which have included Haitian dictator Duvalier (who stole millions of dollars from his country before fleeing to avoid prosecution) and disgraced financier Charles Keating (who did prison time for his role in the Savings & Loan scandal). Despite the fact that millions were donated to Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, it is difficult to trace exactly what happened to all of that money. Since Mother Teresa believed that the ill should suffer just as Christ suffered during his crucifixion, she chose not to spend any of that money building a hospital and hiring physicians to treat and heal them.
Christopher Hitchens is at his best in “The Missionary Position”; he was an evil genius who’s both mean and hilarious concurrently – resulting in a fully entertaining read. The last thing you ever wanted to do was to wind up on Hitchens’ radar, because when you did, he would bombard his target with a degree of vitriol that has to be witnessed in order to be fully appreciated. He was notorious for whittling any target down to size in a seemingly effortless manner. This pretty much sums up Hitchens’ approach toward dealing with Mother Teresa in this book, which was considered highly controversial when originally published 20 years ago.
Is nothing sacred? To Christopher Hitchens, the answer was an unambiguous “no”. Hitchens shunned the appellation “atheist” in favor of “anti-theist” – basically, he thought religion was poisonous. It didn’t matter what the religion was, he believed they were all corrupt and suffered from their own various hypocrisies. So, Hitchens was not about to pull any punches with a nun whom the powerful Catholic Church had beatified. In this work, Hitchens brilliantly reveals Mother Teresa to be a manipulative fraud who believed more in palliative care for the afflicted in favor of the more costly medical treatment that might have saved lives. In keeping with Catholic doctrine, she also opposed abortion, thus enabling poverty stricken women to remain in dire financial straits.
To be perfectly honest, I chose this book as my final read for the summer because it was by one of my favorite writers (Hitchens) and because it was a short, quick read. Also factoring into my decision was the fact that Mother Teresa was recently canonized. What makes “The Missionary Position” such a pleasurable read is due in part to the author’s style and wit as well as both the depth and breadth of his research. In “The Missionary Position”, Hitchens pulls the curtain back on Mother Teresa – this woman who exploited the sick and the poor and who said the way to make the world a better place would be by smiling more. Surely, if Mother Teresa or her acolytes read this book, none of them would be smiling.
The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice: Christopher Hitchens, Thomas Mallon: 9781455523009: Books