Mother Teresa and Phyllis Schlafly

Annie Laurie Gaylor of the Freedom From Religion Foundation wrote: “Mother Teresa & Phyllis Schlafly: Reactionary handmaidens,” a feminist commentary on the late Catholic leaders (here). She noted that Ms. Schlafly made her mark by leading the movement to reject the Equal Rights Amendment for Women (ERA), using arguments that look even more dubious today .

She recalled that in 1979 when Mother Teresa accepted her Nobel prize, she said “millions are dying deliberately by the will of the mother. And this is what is the greatest destroyer of peace today.” That is, she claimed that abortions are “the greatest destroyers of peace.” This memorable opinion received little mention elsewhere. .

While mainstream press in the United States was almost unfailingly adulatory about Mother Teresa, the Telegraph of the United Kingdom was not (here). They recalled that Christopher Hitchens called her a “thieving, fanatical Albanian dwarf,”, and called her mission a “cult of death and suffering”. Not your usual obituary. But unlike the standard vapid coverage, they provided facts.

Regarding the death and suffering of her flock, they said: “In 1994, The Lancet, the British medical journal, found that stocks of medicine in the shelters run by her order were paltry and that not enough was done to ease the pain of people who were dying”; “Doctors have accused her of perpetuating the suffering of her destitute and dying patients by not giving them painkillers.” Similarly, “Independent doctors who had visited the missions ‘observed a significant lack of hygiene, even unfit conditions, as well as a shortage of actual care, inadequate food, and no painkillers.’ They found that syringes were rinsed in cold water instead of being sterilised and that tuberculosis patients were not put in quarantine.”

The latter point about reusing syringes after rinsing them in cold water is particularly important. This was during the early days of the AIDS epidemic. Doctors and clinics were told not to reuse syringes, or at least to wash them in bleach. She did neither. Neither she nor the media reported any cases of AIDS among her flock. This is a far greater miracle than any the Vatican reported.

Nor was poor care due to lack of funds. In fact the Telegraph reports she received very large sums of money, and from some pretty unsavory sources as well: “Baby Doc Duvalier, the Haitian dictator, the disgraced British publisher Robert Maxwell and a scandal-tainted American banker, Charles Keating, who was convicted of fraud and racketeering.” Sore refused to provide any account of how much money she raised or how she spent it. “Canadian academics produced a paper in 2013 in which they criticised Mother Teresa’s ‘rather dubious way of caring for the sick, her questionable political contacts, her suspicious management of the enormous sums of money she received.’ … The academics, from the universities of Ottawa and Montreal, argued that Mother Teresa's ‘hallowed image’ did not stand up to rigorous analysis and that her saintly reputation had been ‘orchestrated by an effective media relations campaign’.”

There is more. I have seen nothing remotely comparable in the United States.