Church, oppn deplores RSS comment on mother Teresa
JAIPUR | KOLKATA | NEW DELHI, FEBRUARY 24
RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat today came under fierce attack from Christian institutions and non-BJP parties for his controversial remarks on Mother Teresa that also echoed in Parliament where the Opposition sought to target the Government.
The remarks made by Bhagwat– in Rajasthan yesterday that conversion to Christianity was the main objective behind Mother Teresa’s service to the poor were — condemned as “rubbish” and “uncharitable” and an attempt to malign her.
The Government said it had nothing to do with Bhagwat’s remarks.
The Missionaries of Charity trashed Bhagwat’s claim, saying he was “misinformed”.“He is misinformed. It should be absolutely clear that conversion was not going on when Mother was there, nor it is going on now. The whole motive is to serve the poor selflessly, bring joy and dignity into their lives,” Sunita Kumar, spokesperson of the organisation founded by Teresa in 1950, told PTI in Kolkata.
A close confidant of the Mother for many years, she said, “I never saw anything like that (conversion) happening. It is all rubbish”.
Teresa, who died in 1997 in Kolkata, had won the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize and was beatified as the “Blessed Teresa of Calcutta” in 2003.
Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Loreto)’s Sister S M Cyril, who knew Teresa closely, said it was silly and stupid to think like that.
“It is completely wrong that they have been propagating conversion. She never hoped that those who are serving will convert to Christianity. She had selfless love for people in her heart and that is why she served them,” said the Padma Shri awardee who has served as the principal of Loreto Day School, Sealdah.
The Catholic Church voiced its strong resentment over Bhagwat’s remarks, dubbing it unfortunate.
“It is quite unfortunate that the services of such a world renowned Nobel Prize laureate and Bharat Ratna awardee like Mother Teresa being dragged into unwarranted controversies,” President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) Cardinal Mar Baselios Cleemis said.
Any attempt to malign the Mother was “inhuman”, he told a press meet in Thiruvananthapuram.
“Cutting across religious and caste barriers, people considered Mother Teresa as a living saint. She never had any other agenda than serving the poor and downtrodden,” he said.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar slammed Bhagwat’s comments as reflective of a “prejudiced mindset” and sought action against people making such assertions.
“This reflects perverted mind of people making such statements,” the JD(U) leader told reporters in Patna.
“Condemn Mohan Bhagwat’s uncharitable remarks against Mother Teresa. Pl respect her dedicated service to the poor and under privilege (sic),” Congress leader Digvijay Singh said on Twitter.
Former Union Minister and Congress leader Sachin Pilot today condemned RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat for his remarks on Mother Teresa, saying it “reflected narrow- mindedness and fanaticism” and was “insult to all those who have faith in humanity and human service”.
“It is very unfortunate that RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has questioned the service of Mother Teresa who devoted her life for humanity. It is RSS which is working to promote conversion and caste divide in the name of social service,” said Pilot, the Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee President.
“Bhagwat’s comment is insult to all those who have faith in humanity and human service and embarrassment to the nation,” he said at a press conference here.
BJP gives promises for development before elections but after it comes to power, RSS becomes active for carrying out its agenda of social division and polarisation which disturbs harmony in the society, he said.
“Since BJP is not able to fulfil its promises made during elections, organisations associated with it try to divert attention by using these methods,” he said.
Bhagwat had stoked a controversy yesterday by stating that conversion to Christianity was the main objective behind Mother Teresa’s service to the poor.
“Mother Teresa’s service would have been good. But it used to have one objective, to convert the person, who was being served, into a Christian,” he said at an event in Bharatpur.
When Congress members led by Jyotiraditya Scindia sought to raise Bhagwat’s remarks during Zero Hour in the Lok Sabha, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu stood up to say that the Government has nothing to do with such statements.
“Every individual organisation has the right to speak outside,” he said, as Speaker Sumitra Mahajan disallowed Scindia when he continued to raise the issue.
When opposition members insisted on raising the matter concerning Mother Teresa, the Speaker staunchly dissallowed it.
“There is no one from the institution to respond… I also have some authority. I am not allowing it,” she observed, apparently not happy with the attempt of Mallikarjun Kharge of Congress to raise the issue again.
Accusing Congress of trying to make “political capital” out of Bhagwat’s remarks, BJP leader Meenakshi Lekhi claimed that Mother Teresa had herself in an interview said that her job was to bring people to the fold of Christianity.
When asked if she was trying to justify Bhagwat’s comments, Lekhi said she had nothing to do with what he had said.
“I am no one to justify. Who am I to justify Mr Bhagwat? I’ve nothing to do with it. Government has nothing to do with what Mohan ji has said,” she told reporters outside Parliament House.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejrwiwal said Mother Teresa must be spared of any controversy.
“I worked wid Mother Teresa for a few months at Nirmal Hriday ashram in Kolkata. She was a noble soul. Pl spare her, (sic)” the AAP Chief said on Twitter.
Bhagwat stoked the controversy when he made the remarks while addressing a function in village Bajhera, 8 kms from Bharatpur where he inaugurated ‘Mahila Sadan’ and ‘Sishu Bal Grah’ in the NGO Apna Ghar for helpless women and children. Later, RSS said on its twitter handle that the media reported “wrongly” and Bhagwat had only replied to former BSF DG’s comments.
Mother Teresa: The saint and the controversies
While comments made by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat on Mother Teresa continue to attract widespread criticism, we take a look at other controversies in the past on the saint.
From the issues of abortion to her beatification and sainthood, Mother Teresa’s work and life has been subjected to intense scrutiny, judgement and criticism.
While she was lauded for founding the Missionaries of Charity that ran hospices and homes for people with HIV/AIDS, leprosy and tuberculosis, many of the criticisms against her sprouted due to the conflicts of between her religious beliefs and her role as a social worker.
Critics have decried Mother Teresa for her anti-abortion stance. After receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, she had espoused the anti-abortion cause, “…I feel the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a direct war, a direct killing – direct murder by the mother herself.” Read more
Some even went so far as to say that she used her influence to further the Vatican stance on abortion. Other critics have been of the view that her charity work is a part of a larger scheme to fight ‘abortion and contraception’. In a 1995 book The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice, one of Mother Teresa’s harshest critics Christopher Hitchens says,
“..But it is difficult to spend any time at all in Calcutta and conclude that what it most needs is a campaign against population control. Nor, of course, does Mother Teresa make this judgment based on local conditions. She was opposed on principle to abortion and birth control long before she got there. For her, Calcutta is simply a front in a much larger war.”
Hypocrisy and controversial associations:
Mother Teresa has been accused of hypocrisy on some occasions. Known to embrace and idolise a life of suffering and poverty, she had once said, “I think it is very beautiful for the poor to accept their lot, to share it with the passion of Christ. I think the world is being much helped by the suffering of the poor people,” as mentioned in Hitchens’ work. However her association with and open support to corrupt businessmen Charles Keating and Robert Maxwell as well as dictatorial family Robert Duvalier received harsh criticism and disapproval.
Hitchens and others have also pointed at the duplicity that while her patients suffered from the lack of pain-relieving and illness-combating medical support in her charitable organisations, Mother Teresa herself would check into expensive and sophisticated clinics and hospitals in the West.
Mother Teresa was beatified to sainthood in 2003 by Pope John Paul II. Many eyebrows were raised over this event.
The charges against the Vatican was that they did not follow the necessary steps usually taken to confer the sainthood. Mother Teresa was nominated by the Pope for sainthood in 1998, a year after her death, instead of five years which is the usual practice.
There were also glaring holes into claims that she had performed miracles. A woman had claimed that she saw a light emanating from Mother Teresa’s picture which cured her of cancer. Her physician, however, countered the claims and said that the woman did not suffer from cancer, but from a tubercular cyst which went away after the regular intake of medication.
So RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat does not happen to be the first one to attempt puncturing the halo that surrounds Mother Teresa and it it does not look like he might be the last. Bhagwat has alleged that Mother Teresa had an ulterior motive to convert people under her organisation’s care to Christianity. But Hitchens in his 1995 book mentions a far more serious charge — that Mother Teresa and her nuns would secretly baptise dying men and women without their consent, a charge denied by the Missionaries of Charity.