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Face and Cross of Mother Teresa of Calcutta

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In 1969, a BBC documentary shot Mother Teresa to world fame. And in 1994, another of his shadows from Channel 4 projected those shadows would never depart from him, despite his canonization in 2016, 19 years after his death. First, something beautiful for god’s sake (A Beautiful Thing for God), was an openly geographical project by Malcolm Muggeridge in which the author interviewed the nun and publicized her work with the poor in Calcutta, where she founded a home for the dying, an orphanage and a Colony was opened. The leper Second, Hells Angel (The Angel of Hell), in the form of a pamphlet promoted by three of her staunchest critics, including Arup Chatterjee, a doctor who worked with the poor in Calcutta and who has questioned the nun’s practices since the 1980s It was a frontal attack. Journalists and essayists Tariq Ali and Christopher Hitchens. now documentary Mother Teresa: For the love of God?, which can be seen on Skyshowtime in Spain a year after its premiere on the British channel Sky – one of the partners that form the new platform – offers a deeply complex overview of the Albanian nun who became a symbol of Christian charity, a World reference as well as the most effective and influential propaganda and collection machine that the Catholic Church had during the papacy of John Paul II. The production acknowledges his achievements but also highlights his dark side. And it amplifies one of her charges against him, by suggesting that he not only protected a pedophile when the church began to suspect him, as published in 2019, but that he was aware or at least doubted the existence of abuses. ,

Mother Teresa: For the love of God? start at last. For the death of Agnes Gonxa Bojaxhiu on September 5, 1997. Shock Which caused the death of millions of people. “If Diana was the queen of hearts, Mother Teresa was the queen of the poor and of humanity,” says one man. The comparison is not free, and not simply because Diana of Wells had died five days earlier: the Teresa of Calcutta tale, like Lady Di, was sold as “a fairy tale come true” in Chatterjee’s words. Was. The strategy adopted by those responsible for the documentary, directed by Ziyad Desai and Benedict Sanderson, is to remember that fairy tales are just that, stories. Yes, they offer different voices for and against.

Mother Teresa in Lebanon in 1982.
Mother Teresa in Lebanon in 1982.Arnaud de Wildenburg (Sigma/Getty Images)

Muggeridge and Hitchens, now dead, appear only in archive footage. But along with Chatterjee and Tariq Ali, the director of the BBC program that started the cult of the Missionaries of Charity, Peter Cheefer, has been called in to describe the impact he had on visiting the centers in Calcutta It was lying In which he took care of the poor, orphans and sick. “It was unbearable for me to live for a day, and there we had the nun, in charge of the most evasive things that occupied all the hours and minutes of her life,” he explains. The documentary accepts the dedication of the Calcutta saint, but confronts the chauffeur’s testimony with that of a doctor who went to work alongside the congregation in the Bengali capital in the 1970s and who closed his clinic for refusing. installed and terminated. Missionaries to provide proper medical treatment to the sick.

Friends, followers, and supporters for Mother Teresa parade through the miniseries, which confirms that she was cured of schizophrenia when she finally met the nun, something that the documentary is responsible for calling into question. Don’t bother to But according to her testimonies, her critics are opposed, in line with the official and majority version, which emphasizes her goodness. Thus, it is clear that in a decade as marked by materialism as the eighties, she was, in the words of US Catholic League President Bill Donohue, “countercultural” because she represented an opposition to greed and consumerism. And Chatterjee says she, too, represented an old colonial vision: “The idea of ​​a white savior saving people of color was very attractive to the West.” For example, it is recalled that in 1985, after visiting Sing Sing prison and meeting several AIDS patients, he opened a center in New York to care for them. But he is also involved in his fierce crusade against abortion, which he defined as “the greatest destroyer of peace” in his acceptance speech upon receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, and against contraceptive methods. ,

Teresa of Calcutta caresses a sick man with polio in Manila, November 27, 1982.
Teresa of Calcutta caresses a sick man with polio in Manila, November 27, 1982. Bateman (Getty Images)

Over the course of three hours, much of the reproach that has been leveled at its protagonist since the 1990s is recounted: his religious fundamentalism, according to which being close to the suffering and sharing their suffering allows us to draw closer to Christ . on the cross ; his preference for prayer over painkillers to soothe the pain of the sick; refusing to provide medicines and medical supplies to its hundreds of centers around the world, and deploying programs to combat poverty in Calcutta, despite it receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in donations annually, most of which end up in the Vatican Bank become; obscurity of his accounts; his attachment to the powerful and his double standards with them, including satraps such as Duvaliers, or his mediation by letter to the judge to be lenient in sentencing him against the fraudster Charles Keating, for the largest known financial fraud up to that time Responsible, an episode in which the documentary adds testimony from the prosecutor in the case, who says he in turn wrote a letter to the nun asking her to return the hundreds of thousands of dollars Keating had donated to his congregation because the money was stolen. Was. Poor, and never received any response.

Other particularly juicy evidence enriches the documentary. An adult who grew up in a Calcutta hospice insists he will always be grateful to Mother Teresa, but clarifies conditions and treatment at the center were not good and she could be “brutal” with other nuns. And Mary Johnson, who was a close associate of the saint and left the congregation shortly before her death, states that the nuns could not have friends, that they could only visit family for two weeks every 10 years. and that corporal self-punishment, called “discipline” with silice and knotted ropes, with which the sisters flogged themselves. She says, “Many things that the Missionaries of Charity demand of their members are similar to what the sect demands.”

The series also covers a more recent allegation: that of a pedophile, the protection and even a possible cover-up of Jesuit priest Don McGuire, who was Mother Teresa’s confidant for years and worked to raise funds for the congregation. He traveled the world for blackmail, always accompanied by minors whom he systematically abused. McGuire was convicted in 2009, but 15 years ago, when skepticism was already growing towards him within the Church, the Jesuits ordered him to undergo a psychiatric evaluation, which determined that he had a sexual disorder and Had a crazy and narcissistic personality. and enter a center for treatment. But a letter signed by Mother Teresa in defense of the accused changed things and McGuire was able to continue the practice and abusing minors for almost a decade.

This is the only criticism that the Missionaries of Charity responds to in the miniseries. The first two chapters close with a statement that they will not be deterred from their work to refute the “posthumous slander” that slandered its founder. The latter, on the other hand, include a message in which they allege, as they did When the press aired the McGuire case in 2019, that Mother Teresa was not the author of the letter in her defense, that she gave it to him to sign, that she agreed because a senior Jesuit official had guaranteed her innocence and that she had no evidence of abuse . However, according to counsel for 12 of the victims, one of them assured that Teresa of Calcutta herself had come to ask him on one occasion whether McGuire had done anything bad to him. According to this version, the boy replied that he didn’t want to talk about it, and that same night the priest abused him again.

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