Saints, Sinners, and Sophistry

“One may safely affirm that all popular theology has a kind of appetite for absurdity and contradiction…. While their gloomy apprehensions make them ascribe to Him measures of conduct which in human creatures would be blamed, they must still affect to praise and admire that conduct in the object of their devotional addresses. Thus it may safely be affirmed that popular religions are really, in the conception of their more vulgar votaries, a species of daemonism.” David Hume, The Natural History of Religion

A recent piece of mine ( brought with it the usual criticisms, recriminations, condemnations, castigations, and accusations. Of course, this is why I do this. Truth be told, I often learn things from those who hold different opinions, and, on the rare occasion, it changes my point of view.

One comment concerned whether I support abortion on demand. They then launched into the usual macabre reference to third-trimester abortion, which is never merely on-demand besides being the rarest of abortions. Nor would any such rational legislative body seek to make it so.

The comment also included a quote from Mother Teresa. 

“America needs no words from me to see how your decision in Roe v. Wade has deformed a great nation. The so-called right to abortion has pitted mothers against their children and women against men. It has sown violence and discord at the heart of the most intimate human relationships. It has aggravated the derogation of the father’s role in an increasingly fatherless society. It has portrayed the greatest of gifts — a child — as a competitor, an intrusion, and an inconvenience. It has nominally accorded mothers unfettered dominion over the independent lives of their physically dependent sons and daughters” And, in granting this unconscionable power, it has exposed many women to unjust and selfish demands from their husbands or other sexual partners. Human rights are not a privilege conferred by government. They are every human being’s entitlement by virtue of his humanity. The right to life does not depend, and must not be declared to be contingent, on the pleasure of anyone else, not even a parent or a sovereign.” 

Rather interesting moral pontificating from a woman who, while she certainly accomplished many good and worthy things, did not differ from the missionaries in the past. They came unbidden, sure of their just purpose, wrapped in the best of intentions, and set about converting those who did not embrace the Christian Faith as the priority, using charity and kindness or, when necessary, more direct measures to mask their real purpose.

If forced baptisms and compelled deathbed conversions to Catholicism were not a well-documented element of her mission, I would have a different perspective. But the truth is, she does not differ from every missionary who dragged Native American children to Indian Schools. They were sincere in the fervor, and it blinded them to what amounted to cultural genocide. What they saw as doing God’s work saving souls allowed them to ignore the destruction of one religious philosophy for the sake of another.

Often those who appear saintly turn out to be a mere self-deception by those who would believe. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Mundi vult decipi—ergo decipiatur (The world wants to be deceived, so let it be deceived.)


So, on to Mother Teresa. First, I have no doubt about her sincerity that she was doing God’s work. But then every missionary believes in the necessity to convert the heathen masses to the Word of (Insert the name of the particular God here.)

People needed saving from the devil’s false gospel and to bathe in the blood of Jesus. The problem is you can substitute any devil and God in the form of an alternate orthodoxy of any faith and still have the pretense of doing good. At the same time, your real purpose is merely conversion. 

Mother Teresa needed the poor more than they needed her. Here’s what she had to say in her own words from various interviews, movies, and television appearances.

In an interview for a film documented by Christopher Hitchens in his book, The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice, the good sister had this to say about a cancer patient’s suffering.

“She described a person who was in the last agonies of cancer and suffering unbearable pain. With a smile, Mother Teresa told the camera what she told this terminal patient: “You are suffering like Christ on the cross. So Jesus must be kissing you.”  Unconscious of the account to which this irony might be charged, she then told of the sufferer’s reply: “Then please tell him to stop kissing me.” (The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice pg. 44 Kindle Edition)

While being honored at a luncheon meeting at the International Health Organization in 1989. She had this to say about tolerance.

“During her acceptance speech, she spoke at length of her opposition to contraception and her activities to save the unwanted products of heterosexual activity. She also touched on AIDS, saying she did not want to label it a scourge of God but that it did seem like a just retribution for improper sexual conduct. (The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice location pg. 52 Kindle Edition)

While one can argue she inspired many to dedicate their lives to helping the poor and downtrodden, it is a legitimate criticism that her primary purpose was not to alleviate the suffering but to frame it in the context of her fundamentalist Catholic Doctrine.

Many former sisters, volunteers, and medical personnel questioned her rationalization for resisting using pain medications—even in hospice situations—because, she insisted, God sent the suffering and we must be willing to accept his decisions.

Her opposition to abortion aside, arguing against contraception, the one inexpensive and non-invasive method of population control, family planning, and effective means of eliminating overburdened families in poverty, cannot be rationalized.  

It is based on interpretations of ancient texts, rewritten and revised by Popes, Kings, and Priests with vested interests in their promulgation and maintaining male dominance of the religion.

It is nothing but the antithesis of compassion.

There are also many questions about her handling millions of dollars in donations that remain unanswered. These are well documented and available for anyone to inquire about. Her close association with brutal governments, albeit supported by Catholic clergy, questions her judgment.

That some in America would point to her as a beacon of morality is troubling. Leo Strauss, who had a profound influence on the Republican Right-wing majority, said this.

“Christian America cares for people before they are born and after they are dead but is only interested in clerical coercion for the years in between.”

Leo Straus

This perfectly sums up the good sister’s intentions. While she was the founder of a worthy order and can be admired for inspiring many to serve the poor, unmasking her motivations reveals a darker, troubling side. Suffering that can be eliminated or minimized should always be the goal. To subvert that worthy cause in pursuit of some egomaniacal claim to understanding God’s will is abhorrent.

That in the 21st Century, we have people who still believe in beings who can operate outside the laws of physics astounds me. In the debate over morality, if one wants to use religious tenets and the actions of those who embrace them as a justification for holding certain beliefs, one must be willing to scrutinize them.

Like many myths, they rarely survive the inquiry.

But here’s something that is not a myth and can stand up to scrutiny.  One of the most effective ways to reduce abortions is access to birth control and medical care. 

Organizations like Planned Parenthood, whose primary purpose is not to encourage abortions but to provide sound medical advice and options to women of childbearing age, is one such entity.

In the philosophy of Mother Teresa, contraception is against the Word of God and thus equal to abortion in moral terms. Such archaic morality flies in the face of human sexuality. The tongue-in-cheek title of Hitchens’s book, The Missionary Position, illustrates this well. And there is little need to mention the duplicitousness of the Catholic Church’s moral stance in the sexual abuse scandal.

Here’s another myth needing to be dispelled. Third-trimester abortions are common and made at the whim of the mother. Nothing can be further from the truth.

Third-trimester abortions are the rarest of events, always done for medically sound reasons, and are among the most heartbreaking decisions a woman has to make. That anyone would believe this is an appropriate place for external governmental or religious doctrinal intrusion is ludicrous.

Mother Teresa may become a Saint one day in the Catholic Church. Part of that process will include the advocatus diaboli, the Devil’s Advocate. It would be interesting to hear how those arguments are framed.

In the mythical realm of Saints and Sinners, we are all just human. No evidence exists to the contrary.


As always, I await the onslaught of criticisms, recriminations, condemnations, castigations, and accusations. I shall prepare another coffee and await my fate…