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Home » ‘The Missionary Position’: When Hitchens investigated Mother Teresa

‘The Missionary Position’: When Hitchens investigated Mother Teresa

christopher hitchens on mother teresa

When Hitchens investigated Mother Teresa : Indian author, Salman Rushdie once said you don’t wanna be on the wrong side of a debate with Christopher Hitchens. And, in this case, it was Mother Teresa. 

In 1994, British journalist Christopher Hitchens took on the task of scrutinising the social work of Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Hitchens is often described as a polemic or polemicist, meaning someone who engages in controversial debates. Hence, his idea of taking on the cult of Mother Teresa of Calcutta makes sense. Channel 4 documentary titled: Hell’s Angel, and the essay titled The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory, both scrutinise the ordinary in the extraordinary tale of Mother Teresa. The documentary was the precursor to Hitchens’ essay. 

Through both the mediums, Hitchens said he wanted to judge,

“Mother Teresa’s reputation by her actions, and words rather than her actions and words by her reputation.”

Interestingly, he is amazed by how no one has ever questioned the finances of the institution, the speeches by the Mother, or even Mother herself. Hitchens says,

“once the decision is taken to do without awe and reverence, and the Mother Teresa phenomenon assumes the proportions of the ordinary and even political.”

He says Mother Teresa’s intentions were never to serve the poor or help them have a better life. Rather, the poor were the means for her to propagate her roman catholic beliefs, and create a cult. Mother Teresa was the Nobel prize recipient and was unequivocally praised by politicians across the globe, the World media, and eventually the church, so she should be investigated.

The essay questions are intentions and the on-ground impact of the work. In addition, Hitchens bluntly put in custody Mother Teresa’s genial relations with dictators, corrupt politicians or tycoons, and even convicted frauds. He also presents the double standards and dismissive nature of her speeches towards the poor. 

DEAR ANN LANDERS:

Often the simple things in life can make the most difference. For example, when someone asked Mother Teresa how people without- money or power can make the world a better place, she replied, “They should smile more.”-Prince George, B.C.

DEAR PRINCE.

What a splendid response. Thank You.

22 May 1995

He questions her merits on deciding someone’s reproductive rights, and advocating for it while saying that you’re not political. Mother Teresa’s flagship home is in Calcutta, and it is called ‘House of Dying’. One of the former volunteer mentions the abysmal condition of the place, and the place functions with almost no medical supervision. Mother receives heft amount in donations, but still keeps the condition dreadful for the PR, claims the author. He then adds that mother doesn’t love the poor, she loves poverty. According to one of the testimonies in the book, Mother used to baptize the ‘dying’ without their consent, and in secrecy.

‘Secrecy was important so that it would not come to be known that Mother Teresa’s sisters were baptizing Hindus, and Moslems.’

Christopher Hitchens describes Mother Teresa as a fraud, fanatic, and fundamentalist. He also calls her a ‘demagogue’. The picture which Hitchens presents of Mother is an ignorant, arrogant evil woman. All in all, the 100 page book makes you so curious about Mother Teresa that you might want to investigate for yourself. 

One of the critics at New York Press wrote, “If there is a hell, Hitchens is going there for this book.”, as praise for the book.

Yet another book that critically analyze the work of Mother Teresa.

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