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June 1, 2021 36 mins

PART FOUR - The world’s most admired woman lived a life dedicated to helping the poor – but was it always in their best interest? 

After Mother Teresa became famous, controversial claims about her work began to emerge. Dangerous medical practices? Secret baptisms? In this episode, we meet Mother Teresa's biggest critics and hear from sisters who were there.

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This series was inspired by Mary Johnson’s memoir, “An Unquenchable Thirst.” Find it HERE -


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Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:00):
M the day after Mother Teresa died. Her body lay
on a bed of ice in the mother house and Calcutta.

Hundreds of people stood outside in the rain, somewhere crying. Inside,
sisters knelt or stood around her body. They prayed the
Rosary aloud and approached one at a time to kiss
her feet. The chapel was too small for all the
visitors who wanted to pay their respects, so her body

was carried through the streets in an open coffin to
a church, where she lay in state for a week.
Her funeral was in a sports arena and Calcutta. Some
fifteen thousand people attended, including dignitaries from around the world,
the presidents of Albania, of Ghana, of Italy, the Queen
of Spain, the Queen of Belgium, the Queen of Jordan's
first Lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Prime Minister of India,

declared at a state funeral, something usually reserved for presidents
and prime ministers, a leprosy patient carried in the eucharis twine.
Mother Teresa's personal story seems to me like a vague silhouette,
something so public and at the same time deeply private.
As I chiseled my way through. It wasn't long before

I hit something hard. Mother Teresa's cult of death and
suffering depends for its effect on the most vulnerable and helpless.
Abandoned babies, say all the terminally ill. Christopher Higins was
a political critic and author known for his blistering commentaries.
Some people called them hitch slaps, and in the nineteen
nineties he made a television documentary about Mother Teresa, a

scathing critique. It's called Hell's Angel. Mother Teresa regards herself
as mandated by Heaven, which is hot, be modest. She
learns spiritual solace to dictators and to wealthy exploiters, which
is scarcely the essence of simplicity, and she preaches surrender
and prostration to the poor, which a truly humble person

would barely have the nerve to do. Throughout the program,
Higgins is weirdly lit half his faces and shadow, A
massive caricature of a devious looking Mother Teresa lurks in
the background, and Hitchens is ruthless. She takes on the
grim and tedious tones of the zealot and the finacial
such a person is manifested in the shape of a demagogue,

an obscure antist, and a servant of earthly powers, a
presumable virgin who also campaigns against birth control. Hell's Angel
came out at a time when Mother Teresa was considered
too virtuous to be criticized. Calls for her sanehood were growing.
If you haven't heard some of these criticisms before, you
might be thinking, what is this guy saying? I thought

everyone loved Mother Teresa. Well, it isn't just Christopher Higgins
who just has Mother Teresa. Because it has to be done,
somebody has to do it. Somebody had to do it.
From a cocoa punch and I heart radio. This is
the Turning America Lance, Part four, The Devil's Advocates. We

reached out to the missionaries of Charity Sisters and sent
them a list of questions we had. While a representative
did respond, they declined to be interviewed. Critics have a
lot of complaints against Mother Teresa, and once these criticisms
entered the world, they became part of her story. They
still are today. I can't go into all of them,
but we're going to look at a handful. Let's start

by going back to something beautiful for God. That's the
documentary about Mother Teresa by Malcolm Muggridge, the film that
made her famous. M Muggridge was convinced that a scene
in his film captured a miracle. It happened in the

home for the Dying. When the crew tried to film
in there, the room was so dark that the director
worried the images wouldn't come out, But it turns out
they did. The scene was full of light. Immediately Muggaret's
thought it was divine intervention. He declared it the first
photographic miracle. But to Christopher Higgins, mother Teresa's critic, this

miracle seemed too good to be true, and in Hell's
Angel he included an interview with Muggridge's cameraman, a guy
named Ken McMillan, who said, it's true they were worried
about the low light, but they were using a new
kind of film, some new film made by Kodak, which
we hadn't had time to test before we left. So
I said, well, let's have a go, so we shot him.

A month or two later, they're in the studio looking
at the footage. Thanks really up came the shots of
the house of a dying and it was surprising. You
could see every detail. And I said, that's amazing, it's extraordinary.
And I was going to go on to say, you know,
three cheers for Koda. I didn't get a chance to

say that because Malcolm, sitting in the front rows, spun
around and said, it's divine light. It's Mother Theresa. You'll
find that it's divine mit. Old boy Malcolm Muggert couldn't
stop talking about this miracle. He called it a halo
and a star was born. Here's Christopher Higgins and Hell's

Angel again. This profane marriage between tawdry media hype and
medieval superstition gave birth to an icon which few have
since had the poor taste to question, how does the
reputation of Holy Mother Teresa look if, just for a
moment we switch off Malcolm muggerage is kindly light? Well,
without him, there wouldn't be any Mother Trees obvious sleep,

because he was the one who puts her on that pedestal.
This is a roop Chatter Gee a physician in London.
He collaborated with Hitchens on the film Hell's Angel. He
also published a book, jam Packed with his research and
condemnations of Mother Teresa for years he spent his spare
time researching the lady, as he often calls her, whatever

you call it, crusade against the lady. Well, maybe to start,
I wonder, could you just if you had to summarize
your overall case or perspective on Mother Teresa, what would
you say? I considered the whole Mother Teresa bandwagon as
a cult um. I would say that practically everything about

Mother Teresa is a result of myth and hyperbolic But
what fired him up in the first place? A roop
chatter Gee grew up in Calkatta in the nineteen seventies.
He was a medical student, and back then he had
a very different person backtive on Mother Teresa. When I

used to go to medical school on my moped every
day in Calcata, I used to pass by one of
her places and I used to see about forty people
being fed, and I would be quite thankful and happy
that somebody was feeding at least forty people in Calcata.
Even in her head day, not much was known about her.
It was known that she had won the Nobel Prize

and that she was a very good, charitable lady. So
I had absolutely nothing against her. If anything, I was
positive towards her. Then he moved to the UK. One
day a co worker asked him where he was from.
He said Calcutta, and then he said, oh, Calcata. Do
you know something. There's one person in the whole world

I respect more than anybody else. That's Mother Teresa. And
I was I was quite surprised. I said, why this is?
Why did she mention Mother Teresa When I said I
was from Carcasa. That incident stuck to my mind, like yesterday,
I just I didn't know that people synonymized Calcata with
Mother Teresa. After that, he started noticing how his home

city was viewed by the Western world. I read little
things about Calcutta in a very gruesome way, and it's
all about poverty and leprosy and squala, nothing at all
about anything else. I recently came across a video where
a bishop in Los Angeles describes Calcutta like this, Imagine
the worst garbage jump you've seen, and now think of
the whole city that way. Reports like this didn't match

the Calcutta chatter. Je new a thriving metropolist, a cultural hub.
So when he was on a trip to Calcutta. He
visited the Home for the Dying, the place he'd heard
described as an oasis for the poor, and I was
appolled that that place had given us so much publicity
and it was even called a hospice. It had less
than one places, and they didn't have any beds, even

they had hammocks. There was no yards, no veranda, no balcony,
no nothing nowhere to stretch your limbs. You were brutally
treated in there. Chatterjee says he was even more shocked
by the medical practices he saw. They routinely used to
re use needles and gloves. Even that practice has stopped now.

It was a harsh place. I think it's a harsh place.
Collet Livermore was with the Missionaries of Charity for eleven years.
She's the Australian sister who wasn't allowed to go home
when her brother was very ill. After she left the
m CS, she became a physician, but back in night
she was assigned to the Home for the Dying. Collett
fed intended to patients. There, she cleaned maggots from wounds

and watched the bodies of people who died. One patient
died in her arms. The standard medicine wouldn't have been high.
And the thing I found difficult was there was no
pain killers. She says. The sisters were often rough and cold.
When people who had been on the street arrived at
the home, the sisters would strip off their clothes right

there in the room. They were all washed in a
cement washing place with no privacy and just cold water
thrown over them. Clutz as they often cried out when
the cold water hit their skin while some visitor with
a camera might be snapping photos. Their hair was shaved,
and I mean, I know they had lice and all

that sort of stuff, but I don't know. I found
it very harsh. She says. Sometimes sisters even got aggressive,
acting harshly to someone or hitting them or when did
you see sisters head people in Calcutta? You know? And
I understand that it's very frustrating because you know, if

you've got desperate people trying to get things food and such,
they'll be pushing. Clatt couldn't get over the feeling that
things could be so much better, and it wasn't the
first time she felt that way. As a teenager, Collet

Livermore Plants to study medicine but then she watched Something
Beautiful for God, and I saw that movie and I thought,
I don't need to bother being a doctor anymore because
they don't need complicated medicine, they just need food. Clud
joined the m CS, and it didn't take long for
her to have misgivings about their medical care, including the

care for sisters. In seven, she was assigned to a
house in Papua New Guinea. She was twenty two. Before
she left, She says no one suggested she take medication
to prevent malaria, usually taken too weeks before travel. When
she arrived, she says she saw griefstones of nuns who
had died from malaria, so as soon as she had
a chance, she talked to mother Teresa about it. I

asked her, could we take something to prevent malaria? And
she said I I don't take anything. She trusts in God,
but I could take it if I wanted to. Collett
decided to take it, but it was too late. One night,
she felt incredibly cold, MY teeth were chattering. I had

a terrible back paint, terrible headache. She didn't go to
work that day and she wasn't getting any better. I
was arching my back was arching, My tongue was coming
out involuntarily, and I could have died. The sisters sent
for a doctor. He said it was cerebral malaria, which
is extremely serious. I didn't die. You'll be pleased to hear.

Another time, Collett was working with tuberculosis patients in the Philippines.
What she saw startled her. There was a particular mistake
where a wrong injection was given, and I was horrified
when I asked a sister, you know how much did
you give? And they didn't even know what dose it
had given. Kas in fiction was a problem since patients

were mixed together in close quarters collect things. A lot
of these mistakes stem from this empty belief that the
sisters shouldn't have too much expertise. Expertise is an opportunity
for pride, and Mother Teresa believed ignorance was actually an
advantage because you're a vessel for God's will. It was
a sort of form of magical thinking. If you obey

God's will be done through you in some sort of
magical way. Mother used to say, it was I'm just
a pencil in his hands, like an inanimate object. That's
what they told Half the time. We didn't know where
we were going, and we were sent away suddenly, so

there was absolutely no preparation, no language or cultural training.
The other thing that troubled her was how the vow
of obedience affected their work. You were supposed to obey cheerfully, promptly,
and without question, but what if you saw injustice or
medical mistakes? Do you speak up? Then one day in

Manila sticks out to her. The sisters had what they
called a Tohanan home for people who had tuberculosis and
other illnesses, and so a little boy came with his parents,
and his name was Alex, and he was very sick,

dehydrated and malnourished, with a fever and sepsis. His skin
was floppy and his eyes were sunken. They weren't supposed
to accept people on Thursdays, but Collette, who was Sister
Tobitt back then, spoke with the parents any way, and
the professor sister came out in a boiling rage, saying Tobert,

what are you doing here? I said, well, this little
boy is very ill and he's been rejected by the
hospital and we need to help him. And she said, so,
only you know what's right. And I said, look, I
don't really know what's right, but I just know that

this little child is going to die if we don't
do something. And she said, go back to the dahana
and I said, no, I hope I won't. And she said,
I will help him this time, but you do what
you're told and go back to the so collect dead

and the child was admitted. They put him on a
drop with antibiotics and fluids. That night, she snuck over
to see how he was. I remember carrying him outside
into the night and just sort of saying, why, why
you know too the blackness. Next day he was much

much better. Yeah, he survived. He became a fat little thing.
In fact, Collett's intervention wouldn't go unnoticed. About a month later,
she says, she walked into the dormitory and her bedrole
was gone. Someone had removed it, no warning, no explanation.

She had been demoted from her post as a novice mistress.
She says the conflict she felt inside her pierced through
her life like a thorn. Mother Teresa wrote a letter

in seven As usual, there was one thing on her mind.
She said, during the year, very often, I have been
longing to be all for Jesus and to make other souls,
especially Indian come and love him fervently. Bringing souls to
Jesus sounds a lot like conversion to me, and Mother
Teresa used the word conversion in some of her letters.

According to Father Brian Colodetuch, who edited her letters for publication,
she said, yes, I convert. I convert you to be
a better Hindu, or a better Muslim, or a better Protestant,
or a better Catholic, or a better Parsi, or a
better seek or a better Buddhist. And after you have
found God, it is for you to do what God
wants you to do. When I first joined the energy

and the spirit of the society, it was extremely powerful.
It was never about converting people. But that didn't last.
Sue Weber says, she's a former m C who was
a sure year in the early The longer I stayed
in the order, it started to be about converting people.

It became more about how many people did you convert.
I heard from many, many people that this was happening
on a large scale, that they were converting surreptitiously at
the point of death. In his book, A Root Strategy
tells the story of one former sister who says sisters
were trained to ask a dying person if they wanted
a ticket to heaven, and if they agreed to press

the wet cloths to their forehead and quietly baptize them.
But Run has died. The ticket wasn't bitterly called because
Ticus and Peter will not let them go in they
called baptism tickets. Was This is Mother Teresa speaking at

a clinic in California. We asked a person, do you Runs,
Do you want a blessing by which your scenes will
be forgiven and you will receive God? And they have
never really used. So twenty nine have died in that
one house from the time we began to buck in

two and they were collecting the numbers because you get
brownie points if you convert, because it is so beautiful
to see the people die. It's so much choi And
it's actually pretty lowly thing to do to take advantage
of somebody's alternate mental state and to exploit them like that.

Maybe the most repeated critique of Mother Teresa is that
you romanticized poverty. Christopher Hedges put it this way, that
Mother Teresa was not a friend of the poor. She
was a friend of poverty. S Antony Chaco Party, a
professor of history at the University of Calcutta, says westerners
ate her story up. I think the Western fascination with

her was because she was using the Indian sardi as
a projection of her glorification of poverty. The Saudi clad
women on the streets of Calcutta, working among among destitute
people living on the streets. I think that fascinated a
lot of Western people, trying to project India as a somewhat,

you know, a place like Mars. Almost the Roop Charity
put it a little more strongly. The West felt so
smug and so glad that this white woman who's a Catholic,
very very rigid Catholic, who was looking after this disgusting,
desperate people in a remote corner of the world. The

Western interest in Mother Teresa's work led to a lot
of donations. Some report tens of millions of dollars a year,
but the exact amount is unclear. The m c s
don't reveal their financial information, including to us we asked.
When one Forbes India reporter asked how much they received
in donations, he was told God knows he is our banker.
We have a lot of money, a lot. This is

Sue Webber again. When she became a superior at the
AIDS Hospice in San Francisco, she got a checkbook for
the first time, but she says she couldn't really use it.
I had to go through so many channels to get
like a refrigerator, a small refrigerator to put the men's
medicine in. Mm hmm. I had. I had access to

an account that had over million dollars in it, and
I couldn't buy a refrigerator. As the superior of the house.
Collet Livermore, the former sister from Australia, put it this way.
We had plenty of money, but in the name of poverty,
we didn't want to use it. Instead, they begged. That's
what the sisters called it, begging. They begged or donated supplies,

whether food or medicine or clothes. Mother trees. I believed
it was a chance for the donor to come closer
to Christ. So I was told with another sister to
go look at vehicles. So he remembers when she was
in the Bronx and they needed a new car. So
we get there and we look at different vehicles and
there's a small jeep. So I called the house and

I said to the regional superior, so we found the
vehicle and this is how much it costs. Can we
go ahead and purchase it? And she goes, no, you
should beg for it, and I was like what, and
I said, I'm not begging for it. I said, we
have the money. And I would have never had a
problem at all to beg for anything if we didn't

have it. By begging for it, it's basically, um, it's
a lie because you're basically presenting that you need something
and you don't have the wherewithal to get it, right,
that's a lie. So you refused to beg for it,
but you usually had to obey her regional superior. So
I said, that is exactly why. I said to the guy,

so I said, hey, I'm just curious, like, would you
give us that cheap? Would you just give it to us?
And he was like for free and I was like yeah,
And he was like, well, don't you have any money,
and I go, oh, no, we have plenty of money.
I'm just curious if he would just give it to us,
and he started laughing and he goes no, and I
was like, okay. So I called back the regional and
I was like, they won't give it to us for free,

and then we ended up buying it. Mother Teresa often
spoke of suffering, but critics asked how much did you
do to alleviate it. There's a particular moment in an
interview on William F. Buckley's Firing Line on PBS, where

she tells the story of a woman who would cancer.
The woman wasn't terrible pain, but Mother Teresa told her
that the pain was a sign that she had come
so close to Jesus on the cross that he could
kiss her. And the lady, though she wasn't a great pain,
she joined their hands together and said, Mother Teresa, please
tell Jesus to stop kissing me. As Mother Teresa tells

this story, you can see that she's starting to smile.
What's weird about this moment to me is hearing people
laughing in the background after this woman says to Mother Teresa,
please tell Jesus to stop kissing me. I guess it's
supposed to be funny, but doesn't it also mean this
person just wants the pain to stop. The interviewer then says,
to Mother Teresa, Christ entered his own passion willingly. Most

humans enter unwillingly into pain. Mother Teresa replies that he'd
be surprised how content that poor people in India are,
that on their suffering faces you see a beautiful smile.
That her work is to help them accept suffering as
a gift. Mother Teresa knew the power of a good story,

repeated anecdotes until they were parables, and she had a
way journalists. One expert said it was like she cast
a spell on them. She may not have enjoyed publicity,
but she saw the value in it. She was strategic
about granting interviews. Sometimes she made agreements that she be
allowed to review an edit material before it was published.

Books about her are often full of inaccuracies, more legend
than fact, and some of the people I talked to
told me the church was more than happy to benefit
from that legend. It wasn't only Mother Teresa who knew

how to use the media. Mary Johnson says the church
saw its value too, and I do feel that the
Church used her. I remember I traveled with her once
to Louisiana, the first place where the abuses of priests
who were pedophiles had become known. In nineteen eighty five,

a Louisiana priest admitted to abusing more than thirty children.
He was eventually sentenced to twenty years in prison. While
the trial was under way, the Missionaries of Charity opened
a new house just an hour away in Baton Rouge.
The sisters had been invited there in order to repair
the image of the church. If the people of the
diocese saw Mother Teresa and the sisters, that would be

the example that could kind of make up for these
horrible things that the priests had done. It sounds like
the missionaries of Charity and Mother Teresa sort of became
a pr tool for the church exactly, a pr tool,
a symbol um and I do think that's a way

of using someone. A lot of people wanted to use
that symbol. After Malcolm Muggridge's films Something Beautiful for God,
he promoted her like crazy. He saw her potential for
advancing conservative causes, especially with her stance on abortion. He
and a number of American politicians advocated for her to

be given the Nobel Peace Prize, and when she was
abortion was at the center of her acceptance speech, and
I feel one thing I want to share the two
on the greatest destroyer of peace today is the pride
of the innocent unborn child. If a mother and murder

her own child in her own room, what is left
for you and for me to kill each other to meet?
The nations who have legalized abortion, they are the poorest nation.
Christopher Higgins, the man behind the documentary Hell's Angel, he

sees this speech and much of Mother Teresa's work as
part of a larger, unstated political agenda to advance the
goals of the church. If you can give women control
over the rat reproduction and come back to that village
in ten years time, everything will be better right away.
It's the only thing that works well. Mother Reasons spent
her entire life saying that that solution was impermissible. She

waged her entire life making sure that didn't happen. So
I wish there was a hell to which she could go,
because she has a lot of death on the conscience,
and a lot of misery and stupidity and ignorance and
dirt and filth and disease as well. It just strikes
me again and again, how polarize these camps are. It's
like you either love her or you hate her. The

image of Mother Teresa that I had encountered out in
the world wasn't anything like the woman I had known.
Here's Mary Johnson. Either. There were people who made her
out to be this complete holy saint and said all
kinds of silly things like every morning she had only
a banana for breakfast and she you know, just these

apocryphal stories that were absurd, or there were people who
were very, very critical, and not that there weren't things
to be critical about, but who didn't really understand where
Mother Troops was coming from at all, unattributed motives to
her that were not at all her motives. I just
think if we're going to talk ship, we should talk
the right ship, right. Kelly Dunham was a sister with

the m CS in the nine nineties. She's heard the
criticisms I just laid out and has plenty of her own.
She calls the MCS problematic, But on the day Mother
Teresa was made a saint, Kelly posted a YouTube video
critiquing the critiques. People complain about Mother Teresa is that
she urged people to accept her suffering, to say you
to offer it up, and also said that suffering is

Jesus kissing. Now, Okay, So on the macro, if somebody
is suffering and it's caused by somebody else's actions, especially
a powerful person, and you tell them to accept it,
you're obviously contributing to a system of oppression and we
should fight like hell against that. But on the micro
and this is always what people are talking about, helping
somebody who's dying to find meaning in their suffering or
their death. Who are you to say, like that's not like,

that's not cool, but that's not good to offer them
like you the non dying person. They could not alleviate
all the poverty of Calcutta, and the focus is on
the poorest of the poor, not the poor. Father Brian Colladach,
the head of the EMC Fathers, says that the quality
of medical care and EMCY houses has improved over time,

but also that's not the point you have to understand.
For example, the Home for the Dying in its context,
it was set up not to be a clinic to
give medical care. It was set up to exactly what
it's at home for the dying, the ones who are dying,
so that last moments to to have some relief, some care,

some human love. At Mother Teresa's funeral, a cardinal put
it this way, He said, Mother Teresa was aware of
this criticism. She would shrug as if saying, while you
go on discussing causes and explanations, I will kneel beside
the forest of the poor and attend to their needs.

After Mother Teresa died, her supporters jump started the complicated
process of advocating for her sainthood, the process that typically
starts five years after somebody dies. The Archbishop of Calcutta
went to the Department of Congregation for Saints and asked
if you could start already, And he said, hey, wait
a minute, she only died a month ago. Hold your horses.

But Father Brian Colladatrix says soon, Pope John Paul the
second wait to the waiting period. Father Brian was the
official postulator, basically the advocate for her canonization, and her
fiercest critics a Roop chatter Ge and Christopher Higgens. They
both testified they gave the official critical perspective for the

canonization process, a type of role previously known in the
Catholic Church as the advocati diaboli or devil's advocate. That's
actually where the term comes from. As part of the
canonization process, the Church needed to attribute two miracles to
Mother Teresa that happened after her death. This is proof
that she's interceding from heaven, reports poured in the church

research The claims had eventually approved two miracles. They declared
she cured a Bengali woman's stomach tumor and saved a
Brazilian man in a coma. Almost twenty years after Mother
Teresa's death, a crowd packed St. Peter Square in Vatican
City for her canonization. A massive portrait of Mother Teresa
overlooked the proceedings from in front of St. Peter's Basilica,

and a million tiny copies of the painting were passed
out at the event. During the ceremony, two m C
sisters carried in a relic a vial of Mother Teresa's blood,
and Tolpe Francis, the head of the Catholic Church, said
the words to proclaim her new status, we declare and
define Blessed Teresa of Calcutta to be a saint. On

her tomb in the Mother House, they engraved the words
love one another, as I have loved you. Next time

on The Turning, all of a sudden, Niobe's next to me,
and she's whispering in my ear, Sister, do not I
love you? The Turning is written by Allen Lance Lesser

and Me. Our producers are Allen Lance Lesser and Emily Foreman.
Our editor is Rob Rosenthal Andrea Swahe is our digital
p Sir. Fact checking by Andrea Lopez Crusado. Special links
to Dennis Wills of d G Will's Books, Terrik Ali,
Amy Gains, Sarah oh Lander, Catherine Joyce, Bethan Macaluso, Travis Dunlap,
and consulting producer Mary Johnson. Her memoir and Unquenchable Thirst

provided inspiration for this series. Our executive producers are Jessica
Alpert and John Parotti from Rococo Punch and Katrina Norville
from My Heart Radio. Our theme music is by Matt Reid.
For photos and more details on the series, follow us
on Instagram at Rococo Punch. You can reach out via
email to The Turning at Rocco Punch dot com I

America Lance Thanks for listening.
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