Kolkata will take a century to recover from Mother Teresa – Aroup Chatterjee

'Saint' Mother Teresa

Aroup ChatterjeeMy own wish would be to reclaim Kolkata from Teresa—to sever the automatic connection of the two names as the whole wide world sees it. Kolkata’s image under the yoke of Mother Teresa will take a century to recover. In the last 50 years, the city has lost an unimaginable amount from the loss of international business and tourism and will continue to do so. But let us at least loudly, proudly proclaim that we have nothing to do with a medieval creature of darkness—not any more. – Dr Aroup Chatterjee

If Mother Teresa, to be canonised at the Vatican on September 4, is to be named a patron saint of anything it should be for “misinformation”. In the last 20 years of her life, truth became an unknown entity to her. The media aided and abetted her lack of integrity and in a way she cannot be blamed for believing in her own lies.

Intellect was not her strong point and, for someone like her, to be surrounded by hordes of sycophants who were telling her if she said black was white then that had to be true, it became intoxicating. The media did spread the mega-myth about her, but she herself was the source. She repeatedly told the world she went around the city 24×7 “picking up” destitute from its squalid “gutters” (she did not), that she fed up to 9,000 in her soup kitchens (she did not), she never refused a helpless child (she did as a rule), that the dying destitute in her so-called home for the dying Nirmal Hriday died a “beautiful death” (they were treated harshly and often died a miserable, painful death).

Mother Teresa was an ultimate politician who worked on behalf of the Vatican. No, she was not an “agent” as that would be conspiratorial. She did not have to do much subterfuge or skulduggery in India itself, as Indians, particularly the media, were in awe of her and connived with her.

When she said in her Nobel speech that she created 61,237 fewer children from (slum) couples abstaining from sex, no one challenged her on her bogus and fantastic figure; neither did they ask her how at the height of the Cold War abortion could be the “greatest destroyer of peace” (said a thousand times, including in her Nobel speech).

I do not blame world media as much as I blame Indian and particularly Kolkata media. Here she was, a jet-setting celebrity—although appended with the epithet “of Calcutta”—spending six to nine months in a year in Europe and the US, making strange claims about her work and about the disgusting state of the city, but never to be seen in the city’s disasters—major or minor.

Why was she not asked why she re-used needles on her residents in Nirmal Hriday (it was official policy) when she herself received the finest care in the world’s best hospitals?

Even after her death, the Indian fear of blue-bordered saris continues. On August 1, 2005, UK TV showed a child tied to a cot overnight in her orphanage—one Kolkata newspaper grudgingly reported the matter with lots of “alleged”. During her lifetime, even that would be unthinkable. She was white, she hobnobbed with President Ronald Reagan (they were closest of buddies), and oh yes, she had the Nobel—so she had to be divine.

IOR (Vatican Bank) inside Vatican CityDid no one know that she hobnobbed with the Duvaliers of Haiti whose brutality was unsurpassed (whose opponents were often cut up and fed to dogs)? No one in India wanted to know. For the Western media, she was a metaphor, a set-piece, a stratospheric certainty of image in an uncertain and changing world. Conversely, Kolkata was the opposite metaphor of absolute degradation where “foetuses are given to dogs to eat” (as remarked by her “other self” Francis Goree).

It was beyond the West’s interest, energy or remit to robustly challenge these wrong stereotypes. But did Indian journalists not know that her main bank was the Vatican Bank, a dark cavern of corruption, intrigue and murder? Before she died, it was well known that she had accepted millions from Charles Keating, the notorious American swindler, but no one in India cared.

Mother Teresa MedalBengalis showed some rare guts when she was beatified through a “miracle” in 2003. Doctors, and even the then Health Minister, made statements that Monica Besra was cured by prolonged treatment, and not by an aluminium medal. Even Besra herself periodically said her cure was not a miracle. But the Vatican treated Indian opinion with the contempt it always has and proceeded with canonisation.

But what is so great about Catholic saints? People should realise a Catholic saint does not have to be saintly or nice in the secular sense, but has to be pure to Catholic dogma, especially on contraception and abortion. Jose Maria Escriva, a Fascist, is a Catholic saint; another Fascist, Cardinal Stepinac, is a “blessed”. “Saint” John Paul II actively shielded the prolific paedophile and criminal Marcial Maciel over many years. Mother Teresa also wrote a letter of support for a convicted priest Donald McGuire, asking people to overlook his “imprudence”.

If one looks around Mother Teresa’s homes in Kolkata today, one would find many of them acceptable. But one must not forget that this comes after 25 years of campaigning by me, and also persistent global criticism from Hemley Gonzalez, the American former volunteer who in 2008 was so utterly disgusted by what he saw that he founded the Stop the Missionaries of Charity movement and founded his own Responsible Charity. Moreover, in the last six months the order has spruced up a great deal, preparing for the canonisation on Sunday.

And yet, like obliging picaninnies, the Indian government is dutifully sending a delegation to the black-magic ceremony in Rome. (Hindus please note: the Pope is not allowed to wish Hindus personally even on Diwali.)

Be that as it may, my own wish would be to reclaim Kolkata/Calcutta from Teresa—to sever the automatic connection of the two names as the whole wide world sees it. Kolkata’s image under the yoke of Mother Teresa will take a century to recover. In the last 50 years, the city has lost an unimaginable amount from the loss of international business and tourism and will continue to do so. But let us at least loudly, proudly proclaim that we have nothing to do with a medieval creature of darkness—not any more. – The Economic Times, 3 September 2016

» Dr Aroup Chatterjee was born and brought up in Calcutta. He now lives and works as a physician in London. He was, if anything, positively inclined towards Mother Teresa while he was living in Calcutta, though he knew little about her. Upon coming to the West he was appalled at the Teresan mythology and at the gruesome image that his home city had in the world. He has done research on Mother Teresa for over twenty-five years and can be called the world’s foremost authority on the late nun. He is the author of the famous book Mother Teresa—The Untold Story.

Sushma Swaraj & Pope Francis (Sept. 2016)

Hindus protest Mother Teresa's criminal activities in New York City

When will Velankanni’s true history be known? – Dev

Our Lady of Good Health at Velankanni

Our Lady of Good Health at Velankanni, Tamil Nadu : The Portuguese-style idol is dressed in an Indian Tamil-style sari and kept in a glass box high above the church hall.

Vēḷāṅkaṇṇi is a Christian pilgrimage site—that is what most of us have been led to believe. We may however be surprised to learn about its Śaiva origins.

‘Kaṇṇi’ in Tamil means ‘she who has beautiful eyes’. In the ‘agam’ poems of the Sangam corpus belonging to the ‘kuriñjithiṇai’, we find the name of an ancient lady poet bearing the name ‘Kāma-kaṇṇi’

In the history of the Śaiva tradition in Tamil Nadu, there is one thing that draws our attention—in the Śivālayas that were constructed after the lifetime of the Samaya-kuravas, the tradition of using unique Tamil names to refer to the Śiva and Śakti deities in Śaiva temples, which was established by the Dēvāram-trinity, is faithfully followed. When we read the Dēvāram poems, we come across several such names of Ambikā.

‘Vēḷāṅkaṇṇi’ is etymologically derived from the old name ‘Vēlana-kaṇṇi’a name by which Ambikā is known in the Dēvāram:

mālai mathiyoḍu nīraravampuṉai vārchaṭaiyāṉ
vēlanakaṇṇiyoḍum virumpummiḍam…

— Srī Jñāna Sambandhar

Being known for possessing eyes (kaṇ) shaped like fish (cēl), she is known as cēlaṉa-kaṇṇi;  similarly owing to her eyes appearing like a spear-head (vēl = spear) eyes, she is also known as vēlaṉa-kaṇṇi. Feminine epithets such as cēlaṉa-kaṇṇi and vēlaṉa-kaṇṇi are based on uvamai (similes).

About 10 kilometres south of the site of the Veḷāṅkaṇṇi basilica, we find another town named ‘Karuṅkaṇṇi’ (“she who is black-eyed”).

‘Karuntaṭaṅkaṇṇi’ is also one of the epithets of Ambā. Vēliṉērtaru-kaṇṇi is also one of the epithets by which she is praised in the Dēvāram.

Iru-malar-kaṇṇi is another beautiful epithet of Himavān’s daughter. The undying fame of Maduraiyaambati (Madurai) is due to the power of aṅgayaṟkaṇṇi (Meenakshi). At the temple of Tirukkaṟkuḍi, she is known as maiyār-kaṇṇi, or maimēvu-kaṇṇi (añjanākṣī).

At Kōḍiyakkarai in the kuzhagar-ālayam, Ambā is known as maiyār-taṭaṅ-kaṇṇi. Chēramān Perumāḷ Nāyanār and Sundaramūrti Swāmi have arrived and worshipped together at this sthalam. Aruṇagirināthar has also composed hymns on this shrine. This site is also pointed out in the late Śri Kalki R. Krishnamurthy’s famous novel ‘Ponniyiṉ Selvaṉ’. This is also a śiva-sthala located near the shore. Vāḷnutaṟkaṇṇi is another name—when Īśa was deep in tapas, and her oblique glance disturbed him, the result was the appearance of Muruga. One can come across her other similar names such as Kāvyaṅkaṇṇi, Nīḷneḍuṅkaṇṇi, Vēlneḍuṅkaṇṇi, Varineḍuṅkaṇṇi, Vāḷārkaṇṇi, etc.

Māṉeḍuṅkaṇṇi is another name—it means ‘she who has wide eyes like a deer’ (deer = maan in Tamil):

māṉeṭuṅkaṇṇi maṇikkatavu aṭaippa
iṟaiyavaṉ itaṟkuk kāraṇam ētu eṉa
maṟikaṭal tuyilum māyavaṉ uraippāṉ….”

Kāḻipiḷḷai describes the fish-like eyes of Ambikā thus:

“nīlanaṉ māmiṭaṟṟa ṉiṟaivaṉ ciṉattaṉ neṭumā vuritta nikaril
cēlaṉakaṇṇi vaṇṇa morukū ṟurukkoḷ tikazhtēvaṉ mēvupatitāṉ….”

Thus have the saints submerged in the ‘science of beauty’ described the mother’s beautiful and karuṇā-laden eyes using many epithets.

All these names are most certainly influenced by the Dēvāram. It was considered the duty of the king to inscribe at least one or two patikas (poems of the Tirumurai) on the paliṅku (marble) boards in every śivālayait was to demonstrate that the patika of the Devāram had an inseparable association with that town.

Even Māṇikkavāchakar has praised the beautiful eyes of Ambikā:

“māvaṭuvakiraṉṉakaṇṇi paṅkāniṉ malaraṭik kēkūviṭuvāy” 

— Thiruvāchakam

Seashore  Śivālayas

All along the eastern coast of Tamilnadu, the Śaiva tradition had prospered. Jñānasambandhar describes the māsi-magha festival thus:

“maṭalārnta teṅkiṉ mayilaiyār mācik
kaṭalāṭṭuk kaṇṭāṉ kapālīc caramamarntāṉ….”

In all the shore-temples, for the māsi-magha tīrthavāri, it is an ancient custom to take the deity’s utsava murtis (idols) to the seashore for a ritual immersion into the waters, and this tradition still prevails today.

Vēḷāṅkaṇṇi is also one among  several seashore temples like Ādipurīśvara at Tiruvoṟṟiyūr, Kapālīśvara at Mylāpūr, Marundīśvara temple at Tiruvānmiyūr, Vēdapurīśvara temple in Pondicherry, Kāyārohaṇeśvara temple in Nāgapaṭṭanam, Kuzhagar temple in Kōḍiyakkarai, Vēdavananātha temple in Vēdāraṇyam, Darbhāraṇyeśvara temple in Kāraikkāl, Māsilāmaṇinātha temple in Puhār, which are situated along the southern coast.

In Mylāpūr we have Vālīśvara, Mallīśvara, Veḷḷīśvara, Kāraṇīśvara, Tīrthapālīśvara, Virūpākṣīśvara sthalas—apart from the Kapālīśvara temple. Across Chennai, most areas are filled with Śivālayas, which are too numerous to cover here.

Tiruvadikai Vīraṭṭānam (one of Śiva’saṣṭa-vīrasthānas where He is worshipped as Tripurāntaka)—is associated with the history of Tirunāvukkarasar and one of the sthalas that the samaya-kuravas have composed hymns on. Here the main deity is called Vīraṭṭānēsvara (Vīrasthānēśvara) and his consort is named Periyanāyaki (Bṛhannāyakī).

Tiruchōpuram (also called Tyāgavalli)—is a shore temple near Kaḍalūr on which Jñāna-sambandhar has composed hymns. The main deity is Chōpuranātha (also called Maṅgalapurīśvara), his consort is Vēlneḍuṅkaṇṇi.

Tiruchāykkāḍu (also called Chāyāvanam)—again this is a seashore temple located at the mouth of the Kāvēri river, built by Chola king Kōcheṅkaṇāṉ, worshipped by Iyaṟpagai Nāyanār and is also the site of his mukti.

Tirunāvukkarasar, Kāḻipiḷḷai and Aiyaḍikaḷ Kāḍavarkōṉ have composed hymns on this shrine. The main deity is Chāyāvanēśvara.

“Nitta lunniya mañceytu nīrmalar tūvic
citta moṉṟaval lārkkaru ḷuñcivaṉ kōyil

Matta yāṉaiyiṉ kōṭumvaṇ pīliyum vārit
tattunīrp poṉṉi cākara mēvucāyk kāṭē” 

— Jñānasambandhar

Tiruvalampuram is one more important seashore temple. The main deity is Valampuranāthar and his divine consort is called Vaḍuvakirkaṇṇi.

aṅkorutaṉtiruviralāliṟaiyēyūṉṟi
yaṭarttavaṟkēaruḷpurintaaṭikaḷinnāḷ
vaṅkamalikaṭalpuṭaicūḻmāṭavīti
valampuramēpukkaṅkēmaṉṉiṉārē!

The 9th century hymn itself makes it amply clear that it is a temple located near the sea shore.

Currently the temple comes under the area called Melapperumpallam.  Situated near Puhār (Poompuhar)

The Silappadhikāram says that there were temples of the Unborn One (Śiva) and the six-faced god (ṣaṇmukha kārttikeya) in Puhār:

“piṟavāyākkaipperiyōṉkōyilum,
aṟumukaccevvēḷaṇitikaḻkōyilum….”

In today’s Puhār, we find a temple for Śiva (known as Pallavaneśvara, with his consort known as Saundarya-nāyaki).

There is a small town called Paravai about 2 kms west of Vēḷāṅkaṇṇi. Sundaramūrti Swāmi’s wife Paravai Nācciyār was born there. In Tamil, ocean is called Paravai. Upamanyu Bhakti Vilāsam refers to this lady as Sāgarikā. Since the ocean has retreated, the temple here is not situated close to the shore now like it once used to be.

Nāgūr has a shore-temple of Śiva as Nāganātha (Lord of Nāgas) with goddess Nāgavalli. The town gets its name from the name of this deity. Associated with Kāmika-āgama, this is a very ancient temple. The Nagore Dargah (grave site of a Sufi dervish known locally as Nagūr-āṇḍavar i.e. the god of Nagūr) was established much later during the Maratha rule. The true nāgūr-āṇḍavar (god of Nāgūr) was the consort of goddess Nāgavalli—Śri Nāganātha.

In the Nāgapattanam region, one of the 63 Nāyanmārs called Adipatta Nāyanār who was born in a kula (family) of fishermen in a village called Nuzhaippāḍi by the seashore—where there exists a temple.

Before Lord Muruga (Skanda) went to war against the asuras, he is said to have got the blessings of the three-eyed lord (Śiva) at Tirucchendūr.

Rāmeśvaram has the world-famous pilgrimage site where Lord Rāma sought the help of Śiva on his way to Laṅkā.

Vēḷāṅkaṇṇi is just one more such shore temple like all these.

Idols unearthed in Velankanni

When a building site in Velankanni was dug up to lay the foundations, Somaskanda, Rama, Goddess Sivakami, Saint Sundarar, Narttana Vinayaka and 13 other panchola silas (murtis) were found. They have been deposited at Kilavelur Taluka Office.

Archeologists have found large number of daiva-śilās and pañcaloha idols buried in this location. In the Vēḷāṅkaṇṇi  town, there is another śivālaya called Rajatagirīśvara. Whether this is an ancient temple or a recently rebuilt one is yet to be established. If its origin is found, it is possible to unearth other bits of the place’s history.

Sri Rajatha Giriswarar Swami Temple at Velankanni

Sri Rajata Girisvarar Swami Kovil at Velankanni

A few centuries back, when the Portuguese, Danish, and French invaded these shore sites, they destroyed several Hindu temples. They also established Christian churches there. The demolition of the Kapālīśwara temple at Chennai and the Vedapurīśwara temple at Pondicherry are good examples of the level of Christian tolerance.

The Goa shores also had several temples which were destroyed by the Portugese. In 1567 Portugese missionaries destroyed about 350 temples in Goa. In those times, Hindus were even forbidden to grow the tulasi (holy basil) plant.

Cultural appropriation by missionaries

Wearing kāvi (saffron) robes, building churches that resemble temple architecture, placing Koḍi Marams (dhvaja sthamba) in front of churches, deliberately using Sanskrit words like Vedāgamam, Suviseṣam, Agni, Abhiṣekam, Sarvāṅgadahanabali, flag hoisting, doing ratha yātras and other rituals are being appropriated and used specifically to lure Hindus into their religion, and this has been happening over centuries. One of the aspects of this deception involves clothing idols of Mother Mary in sarees according to the Tamil style and using the name of the local Hindu deity ‘Vēlana-kaṇṇi’ to refer to Mary as Vēḷāṅkaṇṇi. This is the truth.

Mother Umā is known as Periyanāyaki (Skt. bṛhannāyakī). In the famous Thanjāvūr temple, Śiva is known by the name Bṛhadīśvara and his consort is called Bṛhannāyakī—and this is known to all. This name has been stolen without shame and used by missionaries as the name of Mary, as Periyanāyaki-Mātā.

Truth hurts. Christians have no reason to get annoyed. After insulting Hindu deities calling them devils, demons, etc—and on the other hand appropriating their names and symbols and using them in Christianity to refer to Jesus and Mary—this is in no way proper. Christians in Tamilnadu who have a conscience should reflect on these things.

Some Questions

Today Vēḷāṅkaṇṇi has been promoted and established as an extremely popular Christian pilgrimage site. But the questions that probe how it came to be a Christian site remain.

Is there any Biblical proof to show that Vēḷāṅkaṇṇi is a Christian name?

Else who named it Vēḷāṅkaṇṇi? Were they Portugese sailors, or the Papal authority in the Vatican? Or is it the missionaries who came later?

Is worshipping Mary as an independent deity (opposed in Trinitarian Christianity) acceptable to Biblical and Christian theology?

If this is a common Christian shrine, why don’t all sects of Christians come and worship here?

What is the relation between Ārogya and the name Vēḷāṅkaṇṇi? (Arogya Matha—Lady of Health)

What is the relation between Vēḷāṅkaṇṇi and Lourdes of the East conceptually? Is there any tradition of flag hoisting and ratha yātras at other Lourdes shrines? Will European devotees of the Lady of the Lourdes shave their heads?

It has been accepted by Christians themselves that there is no basis for the apparitions of Mother Mary that are claimed to have occurred in Vēḷāṅkaṇṇi. That being the case, how did this church become ‘Lourdes of the East’?

Why is Mary, the Lady of the Lourdes, not commonly worshipped in other places as the Lady of Good Health?

Why did this site where many miracles are said to have occurred not gain the status of basilica until 1962? The miracles are claimed to be hundreds of years old, yet why did it not gain basilica status during British rule?

They say this holy site was believed to have mahimā right from the start. Yet from Warren Hastings until Mountbatten, among the forty or so governor generals who ruled India, there is no record of any of them having visited the Lady of Health at Vēḷāṅkaṇṇi. What is the reason for this contradiction?

Even those native Christian scholars such as Henry Albert Krishna Piḷḷai, who wrote Rakṣaṇya Yātrikam (a Tamil retelling of the ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’), Māyūram Vedanāyakam Piḷḷai, etc., who lived just a century ago do not appear to have mentioned anything about the Vēḷāṅkaṇṇi apparitions, or shaved their heads in Vēḷāṅkaṇṇi.

Even in the ‘Christian Songs’ book of Devaneya Pāvāṇar who passed away in 1981, there are no songs about Arogya Mātā (Lady of Health). Is there anything more to say?

Although large numbers of Indian Christians congregate and worship at the Vēḷāṅkaṇṇi Church, no pope has visited or prayed to Arogya Mātā. What is the reason?

Without the approval of the Holy See, how did this become a basilica?

Does Biblical authority support ostentatious rituals in worshipping Mary, as well as large celebrations such as what we see in Vēḷāṅkaṇṇi?

Only when someone looks for answers with substantive proofs for all these questions, Vēḷāṅkaṇṇi’s true history will be known.

» Tamil to English translation support by Sri Ram Sury

Basilica of Our Lady of Health at Velankanni, Tamil Nadu

Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health at Velankanni, Tamil Nadu

How Mother Teresa became a saint – Christopher Hitchens

Narendra Modi

Christopher Hitchens“Mother Teresa was not a friend of the poor. She was a friend of poverty. She said that suffering was a gift from God. She spent her life opposing the only known cure for poverty, which is the empowerment of women. … She was a friend to the worst of the rich, taking misappropriated money from the atrocious Duvalier family in Haiti and from Charles Keating of the Lincoln Savings and Loan. Where did that money, and all the other donations, go?” – Christopher Hitchens

Mother Teresa of CalcuttaI think it was Macaulay who said that the Roman Catholic Church deserved great credit for, and owed its longevity to, its ability to handle and contain fanaticism. This rather oblique compliment belongs to a more serious age. What is so striking about the “beatification” of the woman who styled herself “Mother” Teresa is the abject surrender, on the part of the Church [and Govt of India–Ed], to the forces of showbiz, superstition, and populism.

It’s the sheer tawdriness that strikes the eye first of all. It used to be that a person could not even be nominated for “beatification,” the first step to “sainthood,” until five years after his or her death. This was to guard against local or popular enthusiasm in the promotion of dubious characters. The pope nominated MT a year after her death in 1997. It also used to be that an apparatus of inquiry was set in train, including the scrutiny of an advocatus diaboli or “devil’s advocate,” to test any extraordinary claims. The pope has abolished this office and has created more instant saints than all his predecessors combined as far back as the 16th century.

As for the “miracle” that had to be attested, what can one say? Surely any respectable Catholic cringes with shame at the obviousness of the fakery. A Bengali woman named Monica Besra claims that a beam of light emerged from a picture of MT, which she happened to have in her home, and relieved her of a cancerous tumor. Her physician, Dr. Ranjan Mustafi, says that she didn’t have a cancerous tumor in the first place and that the tubercular cyst she did have was cured by a course of prescription medicine. Was he interviewed by the Vatican’s investigators? No. (As it happens, I myself was interviewed by them but only in the most perfunctory way. The procedure still does demand a show of consultation with doubters, and a show of consultation was what, in this case, it got.)

According to an uncontradicted report in the Italian paper L’Eco di Bergamo, the Vatican’s secretary of state sent a letter to senior cardinals in June, asking on behalf of the pope whether they favoured making MT a saint right away. The pope’s clear intention has been to speed the process up in order to perform the ceremony in his own lifetime. The response was in the negative, according to Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, the Canadian priest who has acted as postulator or advocate for the “canonization.” But the damage, to such integrity as the process possesses, has already been done.

Mother Teresa & Pope John Paul IIDuring the deliberations over the Second Vatican Council, under the stewardship of Pope John XXIII, MT was to the fore in opposing all suggestions of reform. What was needed, she maintained, was more work and more faith, not doctrinal revision. Her position was ultra-reactionary and fundamentalist even in orthodox Catholic terms. Believers are indeed enjoined to abhor and eschew abortion, but they are not required to affirm that abortion is “the greatest destroyer of peace,” as MT fantastically asserted to a dumbfounded audience when receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. Believers are likewise enjoined to abhor and eschew divorce, but they are not required to insist that a ban on divorce and remarriage be a part of the state constitution, as MT demanded in a referendum in Ireland (which her side narrowly lost) in 1996. Later in that same year, she told Ladies Home Journal that she was pleased by the divorce of her friend Princess Diana, because the marriage had so obviously been an unhappy one …

This returns us to the medieval corruption of the Church, which sold indulgences to the rich while preaching hellfire and continence to the poor. MT was not a friend of the poor. She was a friend of poverty. She said that suffering was a gift from God. She spent her life opposing the only known cure for poverty, which is the empowerment of women and the emancipation of them from a livestock version of compulsory reproduction. And she was a friend to the worst of the rich, taking misappropriated money from the atrocious Duvalier family in Haiti (whose rule she praised in return) and from Charles Keating of the Lincoln Savings and Loan. Where did that money, and all the other donations, go? The primitive hospice in Calcutta was as run down when she died as it always had been—she preferred California clinics when she got sick herself—and her order always refused to publish any audit. But we have her own claim that she opened 500 convents in more than a hundred countries, all bearing the name of her own order. Excuse me, but this is modesty and humility?

George OrwellThe rich world has a poor conscience, and many people liked to alleviate their own unease by sending money to a woman who seemed like an activist for “the poorest of the poor.” People do not like to admit that they have been gulled or conned, so a vested interest in the myth was permitted to arise, and a lazy media never bothered to ask any follow-up questions. Many volunteers who went to Calcutta came back abruptly disillusioned by the stern ideology and poverty-loving practice of the “Missionaries of Charity,” but they had no audience for their story. George Orwell’s admonition in his essay on Gandhi—that saints should always be presumed guilty until proved innocent—was drowned in a Niagara of soft-hearted, soft-headed, and uninquiring propaganda.

One of the curses of India, as of other poor countries, is the quack medicine man, who fleeces the sufferer by promises of miraculous healing. Sunday was a great day for these parasites, who saw their crummy methods endorsed by his holiness and given a more or less free ride in the international press. Forgotten were the elementary rules of logic, that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence and that what can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence. More than that, we witnessed the elevation and consecration of extreme dogmatism, blinkered faith, and the cult of a mediocre human personality. Many more people are poor and sick because of the life of MT: Even more will be poor and sick if her example is followed. She was a fanatic, a fundamentalist, and a fraud, and a Church that officially protects those who violate the innocent has given us another clear sign of where it truly stands on moral and ethical questions. – Slate, 20 October 2003

» Christopher Hitchens, now deceased, was a columnist for Vanity Fair and author of the book The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice.

Christopher Hitchens

Mother Teresa: More dirt on the saint of the gutters – Jayant Chowdhury

John Paul II & Mother Teresa riding in the popemobile

It’s high time the world accepted that Mother Teresa was a regressive religious bigot who did little good for the poor and ailing. – Jayant Chowdhury

Now that the dust has settled over the comments made by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat about Mother Teresa and her alleged proselytization, this is a good time to undertake a dispassionate analysis of her life and legacy. Mother Teresa, or the ‘Blessed Teresa of Kolkata’ as she is known after her beatification by the Vatican in October 2003, is undoubtedly considered by the world as a saint who gave care to lakhs of ailing and dying people and salvaged their souls. In the collective imagination of the world, she was a noble soul who dedicated her life to caring for the sick, the disabled, the homeless and the poor and, hence, a saintly soul. The Missionaries of Charity, that she established in 1950, today runs more than 500 missions in over 130 countries and is said to be the richest such order in the world, thanks to the billions of dollars that pour in from all over the world every year.

But, say Mother Teresa’s not inconsiderable number of critics, she and her order, and the work they do, is one of the biggest hoaxes created by western media-orchestrated hype. To them, Mother Teresa’s primary purpose in life was not to provide care to the sick and the destitute, but to spread the word of Christ. Mother Teresa herself said so; she hung a placard outside “Mother House” (the command centre of her order where she also resided) in Kolkata that said: “Tell them we are not here for work, we are here for Jesus. We are religious above all else. We are not social workers, not teachers, not doctors. We are nuns.”

Walter Wuellenweber argues in his incisive article in the December 22, 2006 issue of the German magazine Stern that if Mother and the sisters of the Missionaries of Charity were primarily nuns, what did they need so much money for? She once told British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge (who shared her extreme right-wing Catholic views) and was the first architect of the elaborate myth that was constructed around her: “There is always the danger that we may become only social workers. Our works are only an expression of our love for Christ”.

But it’s primarily her work that attracts the fiercest criticism. She, and the Missionaries of Charity (MoC), have been accused of not doing enough for the sick and disabled in her homes, of not utilizing the vast resources at her disposal to provide modern medical treatment to them, of diverting most of the funds received in the name of the poor to the Vatican Bank, of being opaque in financial transactions, of hobnobbing with crooks and fraudsters and accepting their ill-gotten wealth and of promoting her archaic, ultra-orthodox and dogmatic views on issues like abortion, contraception and homosexuality.

Mother Teresa's home for the dying in KolkataHorrible conditions at MoC homes

Former nuns and volunteers who have worked in MoC-run homes have written about the atrocious conditions at such facilities and how the sick are denied proper medical care due to Mother Teresa’s atrocious belief that “suffering was a gift from God”. Mother Teresa once told journalists: “There is something beautiful in seeing the poor accept their lot, to suffer it like Christ’s passion. I think the world is being helped by their suffering.” And so she, and her order, let the poor suffer as a matter of principle!

Doctors who have visited her homes have spoken and written about a significant lack of hygiene, proper medical care, absence of trained staff and inadequate food for the patients there. S. Bedford, a Toronto-based travel writer and journalist provided a shocking expose of conditions at Prem Dan, a MoC home in Kolkata, in the September 2014 issue of the magazine New Internationalist. The Guardian once described the care given in MoC hospices as an “organized form of neglectful assistance”. Robin Fox, the editor of British medical journal The Lancet, who visited Mother Teresa’s Home for Dying Destitute in Kolkata, criticized the medical care, or the lack of it, being provided to patients there, and held her responsible for the horrible conditions, for not making any distinction between the curable and non-curable patients and for leaving all of them to die.

Amy Gigi Alexander, who spent many years as a volunteer in Daya Dan, a MoC-run home for children with special needs in Kolkata and in MoC homes in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Bolivia, Bangladesh, France, England and America since 2007, writes: “Standards for treatment were antiquated and the children often crawled around on hands and knees rather than using wheelchairs that were kept unused in a storage room”. “Mother House provided the budget for only the children’s basic needs and those needs did not include medical that was not deemed ‘necessary’. The order did not pay for things that would improve the quality of life, extend life, or make life more comfortable. Therefore, many children had had diseases that caused them to suffer, or conditions that were treatable,” she wrote.

Missionary of Charity nuns entering the Chase Bank in New York.However, when Mother Teresa herself required medical treatment, she sought and got it from the best medical facilities in America and India!

No dearth of funds

What is inexplicable is why the MoC ran, and still runs, its facilities in such a parsimonious fashion? There is no doubt that it is awash with money. An extensive study of Mother Teresa and her MoC carried out by Professor Serge Larivee and Genevieve Chenard of the University of Montreal’s Department of Psychoeducation and Carole Senechal of University of Ottowa’s Faculty of Education resulted in a paper (released two years ago) that said the MoC had raised hundreds of millions of dollars. “Mother Teresa was miserly with her foundation’s millions when it came to humanity’s sufferings. During numerous floods in India or following the leak of poisonous gas from a pesticides plant in Bhopal, she offered numerous prayers and medallions, but no monetary aid,” observed Professor Larivee.

Investigations by Stern revealed that MoC used only 7% of the donations for charity and the rest were funneled into secret bank accounts or used to build more missions. Walter Wuellenweber, in his article in Stern, quotes Susan Shields who served as Sister Virgin for nine and half years at MOC’s Holy Ghost House in New York’s Bronx, as saying that every night, 25 nuns there spent many hours preparing receipts for donations that ranged between five and a thousand dollars and during Christmas, the flow of cheques, many for 50,000 dollars and more, became “uncontrollable”. Shields was quoted as saying that one year, an MoC account in a New York bank had more than $50 million. “Fifty million dollars in one bank account in a predominantly non-Catholic country. How much then were they collecting in Europe and from around the world?” wonders Wuellenweber.

Financial opacity

Mother Teresa had consistently refused to provide any accounts of the donations she had received and how they were spent. Stern, which investigated MoC’s affairs, reported that the UK was the only country where MoC, the largest organization of its kind in the world, allowed the authorities a look at its accounts. The MoC has never issued any statement of its accounts in India, even though it is legally binding to do so and when all other similar organizations like the Ramakrishna Mission and the Bharat Sevasram Sangha regularly submit audited statement of accounts.

Walter Wuellenweber wrote that “for book-keeping, the sisters use school notebooks in which they write in cramped penciled figures. Until they (the notebooks) are full. Then everything is erased and the notebook used again!” It is mysterious why Indian authorities have not asked the MoC to submit audited accounts every year.

Mother Teresa & Michele Duvalier of HaitiHobnobbing with dictators and fraudsters

Mother Teresa flew to Haiti in 1981 to receive the Legion d’Honneur from Jean-Claude Duvalier, the maniacal dictator of that country and routinely accepted huge donations from him. She once said: “Duvalier loved the poor and their love is reciprocated”. She visited Eastern European countries during the days when they were part of the Soviet Bloc and ruled by despotic Communist regimes, accepted their hospitality and set up homes in those countries.

She accepted donations from British publisher Robert Maxwell who embezzled $450 million from his own companies’ pension funds. She also took huge sums of money from the infamous American banker and financier Charles Keating and used to travel by his private jet in the US. She infamously pleaded leniency for him when he was prosecuted for fraud, racketeering and conspiracy. She supported the Emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi in 1975 and said: “This is good. People are happier. There are more jobs. There are no strikes.”

Ultra-orthodox views

Mother Teresa harboured Catholic right-wing views on issues like abortion, contraception and homosexuality. She termed homosexuality a “scourge” and said abortion is “the worst evil”. “Abortion is a direct war, a direct killing, a direct murder by the mother of her own child. If a mother can kill her own child, what will prevent us from killing ourselves or one another?” she once said. In the context of the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War, when an estimated 45,000 women were raped by Pakistani army, she said the women should keep their babies.

The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and PracticeThere have been quite a few critical books and films made on Mother Teresa. One of the most well-researched among them is one by Aroup Chatterjee, a London-based physician, who worked in one of Mother Teresa’s homes. His The Final Verdict is a damning indictment of Mother Teresa and her work. Based on his book, British journalists Christopher Hitchens and Tariq Ali produced a documentary, Hell’s Angel, for BBC’s Channel 4. Hitchens also wrote the well-known book The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa In Theory and Practice, that blew many myths around the nun. Hitchens puts it succinctly when he says: “Mother was not a friend of the poor, but a friend of poverty. She said that suffering was a gift from god. She spent her life opposing the only known cure for poverty—empowerment of women and their emancipation from a livestock version of compulsory reproduction”.

Aroup Chatterjee points out that of the few hundred charitable organizations working for the poor, destitute and ailing in Kolkata, the MoC is one of the largest in terms of size and number of nuns, workers and volunteers, but caters to a very small percentage of the people who need help. Even other Christian organizations do much more. Organisations like the Ramakrishna Mission routinely cater to a few times the number of poor and ailing that the MoC does, despite having much lesser funds.

In the ultimate analysis, a lot of that aura surrounding Mother Teresa and her order is a myth created by the media and the Catholic Church which sees in her beatification and eventual canonization the perfect means to revitalize the Church at a time when churches are empty and the Vatican’s authority on the decline. And for many in the western world, Mother Teresa reinforces their deep-seated prejudices that it is ultimately the white man (or woman) who provides succour to the unwashed, heathen masses of the “brown” and “black” world. She made westerners feel good that they still are the saviours of the world. – Swarajya, 16 March 2015

» Jayant Chowdhury is an avid observer of and commentator on politics and society in Bengal and north-eastern  India.

New References

Catholic Church in India should end ‘silence’ over kidnapped Dalit bishop, say critics – Ruth Gledhill

Fr Prasad Gallela is the Bishop of Cuddapah

Ruth GledhillDiscrimination based on caste system is illegal in India but it has proved almost impossible to eradicate [within the Church].  A Capuchin Franciscan priest, Father Nithiya Sagayam, told Crux that the Church should speak out more on the caste system: “The silence of the official Church is criminal.” – Ruth Gledhill

The Catholic Church hierarchy in India has been accused of ignoring an attack on a Dalit bishop after three of its own priests were arrested in connection with the attack.

Bishop of Cuddapah Prasad Gallela, of the so-called “untouchable” Dalit caste, and his driver Vijay Kumar were kidnapped in April this year, blindfolded and beaten and taken to an undisclosed place where £50,000 was demanded in ransom.

Three high-caste [Reddy] priests were among those arrested for the crime.

The South India Dalit Catholic Association has now condemned the Catholic hierarchy’s “silence”, UCA reported. In a statement, the association condemns the “silence of the official church on the kidnapping and assault of Bishop Prasad Gallela by three priests of the Cuddappah Diocese on 25 April.”

A. J. X. BoscoJesuit Priest Father A. X. J. Bosco, a Dalit activist in the area, sent an open letter to the president of the national Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Baselios Cleemis of Trivandrum, criticising the silence.

“The sad and criminal event has been published in the media,” he wrote, asking why there had been “no significant response condemning the culprit priests or supporting Gallela” in the national media.

He said: “Are all the prayers, statements, promises and assurances of the hierarchy and Church leaders only in words? Is the Church leadership afraid of their caste communities; or do they not care about the Dalits even if they happen to be bishops?

“You can very well imagine what the people, especially the Dalit Catholics, would think and feel about the significant silence on the part of the official Church.

“We know that there is caste discrimination in the Church, and it is a great challenge to the Christian Community in India.

“The question to ask is—If Jesus were here, what he would have done?”

Bosco called for a “concrete” plan of action, including transfer of bishops to other dioceses when they refuse to treat Dalits as equals.

In May this year, Gallela was supported by a rally in Cuddappah city in south-east India, Crux reported.

Nithya SagayamDiscrimination based on caste system is illegal in India but it has proved almost impossible to eradicate.

A Capuchin Franciscan priest, Father Nithiya Sagayam, told Crux that the Church should speak out more on the caste system: “The silence of the official Church is criminal.”

He added: “Our socially discriminatory society is vigorously condemned by secular leaders who work for social justice. It is shocking that the Catholic Church and its official organisations have not responded effectively to end this evil, in spite of clear indications of caste discrimination within the Church leadership.”

Gallela’s attackers took three ATM cards, a silver chain with the bishop’s holy cross and his iPhone.

From 2000 to 2004, Gallela served as a priest in the diocese of San Angelo, Texas, before returning to India to teach in a local seminary. – Christian Today, 21 July 2016

Gandhi Quote

The ‘miracle’ that makes a saint out of Mother Teresa – Jaideep Mazumdar

Pope John Paul II & Mother Teresa

Jaideep MazumdarThis woman drives to the hospital and places the Mother Teresa medallion under her husband’s pillow. And then, even as her husband is being readied for surgery, she drives back to her church to pray! … Did she drive back an hour to be able to pray with the Missionaries of Charity nuns so that the outlandish miracle could be attributed to Mother Teresa? – Jaideep Mazumdar

In early December 2008, 34-year-old Marcilio Haddad Andrino, a PhD in mechanical engineering from one of Brazil’s best institutes (University of Campinas) went on his honeymoon to Gramado, his wife’s hometown. There, he fell seriously ill and was driven 1111 kilometres, a journey that would have taken 14 hours at least, to a little-known hospital (St. Lucas Hospital) in Santos on 8 December.

According to a news report that appeared in Avvenire (an Italian newspaper that is affiliated to the Vatican) Andrino, of Lebanese origin, was diagnosed with hydrocephalus (abnormal accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain) and eight abscesses (tumours) in the brain, and had gone into a coma. But his wife left the hospital and drove for over an hour to São Vicente (where the couple used to reside) to pray at her church—Our Lady of Aparecida Church.

The priest at the church, Father Elmiran Ferreira, who very conveniently had a medallion bearing a portrait of Mother Teresa in his pocket, gave it to Andrino’s wife and asked her to take it back and keep it Mother Teresa Medalunder her husband’s pillow at the hospital before returning to the church to pray for her husband. The woman dutifully returned to Santos and did the priest’s bidding.

The next day, even as Andrino was being readied for surgery, his wife drove back to São Vicente to pray at her church along with Father Elmiran. A group of Missionaries of Charity nuns living at São Vicente also joined the lady and the priest to pray for Andrino’s recovery and ask for Mother Teresa’s intercession.

Meanwhile, Andrino, who was comatose, was wheeled into the operation theatre at 6.10 pm on 9 December. But doctors could not perform the tracheal intubation for anaesthesia. They, quite inexplicably, left Andrino in the operation theatre (OT) and, presumably, went to drink coffee! Half an hour later, they returned to the OT to retry the procedure and nearly jumped out of their skins when they saw the patient fully awake and without pain.

“What am I doing here?”, Andrino is said to have asked the doctors, who were possibly too dumbfounded to reply. The next (10 December) morning, when his wife went to the hospital, she was startled to see him sitting on his hospital bed sipping coffee.

A couple of days later, he was back home with all the excess cerebrospinal fluid and the eight tumours having mysteriously disappeared. Soon after, he landed a good job with the federal government and shifted to the country’s capital, Rio de Janeiro, with his wife, who has since borne him two children.

This fantastical story, with its plethora of loopholes, will form the basis of Mother Teresa’s canonisation a little over two weeks from now on 4 September. Thousands from India, including West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj—who will lead the Indian delegation, will journey to the Vatican to attend the ceremony, where this “miracle” will be celebrated.

The detailed account of this “miracle cure” of Andrino—which appeared in Avvenire, the first to announce the date of Mother Teresa’s canonisation (conferring sainthood)—stretches one’s credulity and throws up many questions. Why would a seriously ill patient be taken to a nondescript hospital more than a thousand kilometres away when Porto Alegre, the city nearest to Gramado (where Andrino was on a honeymoon; and what sort of person would go to his wife’s hometown on a honeymoon anyway?), a major city in Brazil, was just 125 kilometres (2.5-hour drive) away?

Porto Alegre has the Hospital de Clínicas, a renowned university hospital in Brazil that has 60 specialities, and gets patients from across Brazil. In a medical emergency, it would be natural for a patient to be taken to the nearest hospital, more so if that hospital is highly reputed, rather than being taken to a nondescript one more than a thousand kilometres away.

The whole account of a (presumably) newly-wed woman (since the two had gone on their honeymoon) rushing off to her local church leaving her critically ill and comatose husband in a hospital is quite implausible. That is not normal human behaviour.

But after having left her comatose husband in hospital and met her parish priest, this woman drives back to the hospital and places the medallion under her husband’s pillow. And then, even as her husband is being readied for surgery, she drives back to her church to pray! Which woman would ever do that? Did she drive back an hour to be able to pray with the Missionaries of Charity nuns so that the (outlandish) miracle could be attributed to Mother Teresa?

And even as her, and her priest’s and nuns’ prayers are answered almost instantly by the “Blessed Teresa of Kolkata” (as Mother Teresa came to be known after her beatification in October 2003), the Mother Teresa & Pope John Paul II(distraught?) lady remains unaware of her husband’s miraculous recovery. This at a time when, less than eight years ago, Brazil had (according to this Wikipedia entry) 150.6 million mobile phone users.

Would not a woman whose husband was dying call up the hospital using a mobile phone (borrowing one if she doesn’t possess one) to know about her husband after his scheduled surgery? Would she wait till the next morning to physically visit the hospital to find out about her husband’s condition?

This story is also full of coincidences. Many outside the Santos diocese came to know of this miracle, but it was not reported to the Vatican. It was only eight years later, in 2013, that Pope Francis got to know about it during a visit to Rio. A neurosurgeon in Rio, Jose Augusto Nasser, was assigned as the Pope’s personal physician during the visit and told him at the time.

Nasser also happened to be the personal physician of Father Caetano Rizzi, who was the judicial vicar of Santos when this miracle occurred. Incidentally, there are no accounts of Father Caetano suffering from any neurological disorders that required surgical intervention. And a surgeon is not usually a personal physician of any person. But we are talking about fantastical stories here.

Father Caetano, like Andrino’s wife, also hails from Gramado and knew the lady’s family. Father Caetano had told Dr Nasser, a devout Catholic, about the miracle cure of Andrino. Nasser then narrated the account of this miracle to the Pope and sent a report on it to the Vatican as well.

Last year, Father Caetano was told by the Vatican that it was examining the miracle. In the next week, three representatives from Rome reached Brazil, heard testimonies of Father Elmiran and 14 others and returned to Rome. They prepared a 400-page report on the miracle.

Fr Brian KolodiejchukA team of three senior priests and two doctors carried out more investigations to conclude that the miracle was “instant, perfect and complete, lasting and scientifically inexplicable”. One of these priests was Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, a member of the Missionaries of Charity Fathers, a religious community of priests founded by Mother Teresa. It would be in Father Brian’s interest to have Mother Teresa declared a saint.

Of the two doctors, one was Marcus Vinicius Serra, a neurosurgeon who had treated Andrino and had “witnessed the miracle”. The other was Monica Mazzurana Benetti, a surgeon, who is Father Caetano’s niece and close to him. Benetti also hails from Gramado, a town with a strong Catholic influence.

Father Caetano also oversaw the case for another miracle that happened in Santos and that led to Josephine Margaret Bakhita, a Sudanese-born former slave who worked in Italy as a nun, being declared a saint in 2000 by the Vatican. The miracle attributed to Josephine occurred in Santos in 1992 when a local woman miraculously recovered from ulcers caused by diabetes and hypertension in her legs. Father Caetano played a pivotal role in having the cure of the woman being declared a miracle that propelled Josephine to sainthood.

Mother Teresa visited São Paulo soon after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. Soon, her nuns arrived in São Paulo and Santos, where they have a good presence. They regularly visit the Our Lady of Aparecida Church in São Vicente that Andrino’s wife used to frequent. This church is a simple building painted in white with thin blue lines stencilling its doors and windows. The similarity with the blue-bordered white saris worn by the Missionaries of Charity nuns is uncanny. – Swarajya, 19 August 2016

» Jaideep Mazumdar is a journalist with many years of experience in The Times Of India, Open, The Outlook, The Hindustan Times, The Pioneer and some other news organizations. He lives in Kolkata has reported on politics, society and many other subjects from North, East and North East India as well as Nepal and Bangladesh.

Sushma Swaraj

Mother Teresa did not care for the poor. She cared for poverty and made it into a very lucrative business. Her religious order is now the richest in the world. It is therefore entirely inappropriate for a high-ranking minister of the secular Indian Republic to attend the sectarian religious programme for this sadistic woman at the Vatican on Sept. 4th. Those who agree may sign the petition requesting Sushma Swaraj not to go HERE.

Nun threatened and harassed by Syro-Malabar Catholic Church – Megha Varier

Mary Sebastian

Megha VarierSr. Mary filed a complaint with the Human Rights Commission and Women’s Commission alleging that she was facing physical and mental harassment at the hands of her superiors. But after she approached Women’s Commission, the Church, she alleges, has found new ways of taunting her. – Megha Varier

The Church preaches charity, kindness, and compassion towards everyone but Sr. Mary Sebastian, a 45-year-old nun, is afraid that the very institution that she has served for 25 years might harm her.

Sr. Mary wants to leave the Church and it is a well-known fact that the Church does not take too kindly to rebels.

In January this year, Sr. Mary took the decision to quit the Church because of the harassment that she allegedly faced in the hands of her superiors at the Syro-Malabar Church’s Cherthungal Nasrathubhavan Convent under Congregation of the Mother of Carmel (CMC) in Pala, Kottayam district of Kerala. She has been living there for the past three years.

Sr. Mary approached the Church to grant her 3 years of exclaustration that allows a nun to stay outside the convent as a common citizen and return to the convent after the designated period.

However, she was denied permission as the Church feared that granting her this would encourage other nuns to follow suit.

When the Church deliberately delayed the proceedings, Sr. Mary approached the Kerala Catholic Church Reformation Movement, an organization that works for rehabilitation of ex-priests and ex-nuns. Matters went haywire after the organization intervened.

In May, she was given dispensation and was asked to quit the Church. Having decided that it is best to do so, Sr. Mary demanded that she be paid her due in order for her to lead a life outside the church. The Cardinal George Alencherry wearing his Rajiv Gandhi badge.authorities objected.

Renji Njellani, organizing secretary of KCRM, points out that any priest or nun who wishes to quit the Church is entitled to be given money according to the canon law. The Church refused to pay the sum of Rs.30 lakh that Sr. Mary demanded and offered to pay Rs.1 lakh, after months of negotiation.

Two weeks ago, Sr. Mary filed a complaint with the Human Rights Commission and Women’s Commission alleging that she was facing physical and mental harassment at the hands of her superiors. But after she approached Women’s Commission, the Church, she alleges, has found new ways of taunting her.

They even filed a police complaint recently, accusing her of theft. She says that police officials threatened her to quit the Church as per their order.

Last week, a complaint was filed with Child Welfare Committee accusing her of harassing the children at Balabhavan, a children’s home associated with the convent. Sr. Mary claims that the authorities of the committee forcefully made her sign a document pledging that she will stay away from the children.

Renji points out that the Church in fact uses the committee to its own advantage, with priests appointed in key positions.

“I am scared for my life…. They are so powerful that they may even harm me!” These were her first words as Sr. Mary spoke to The News Minute over phone.

Sr. Mary claims that false allegations have been levelled against her ever since she joined the Church.

In 1997 when she was a student of Master of Social Work, her superiors at the convent had accused her of being in a relationship with a priest.

“Nobody asked for any explanation from my side…. I wasn’t given a chance to prove the allegations wrong, or at the least defend myself. They accused me of wrongdoing and I was forcefully sent for retreat camps where I wasn’t allowed to speak to anybody. I used to spend the days cut off from the outside world,” she says.

But things became worse when in the early 2000s, Sr. Mary objected to a misappropriation at Shanthinilayam, a special school in Pala run by the Church.

“When I found that they were forging documents to include nuns in the teachers’ list to claim university grants, I objected. I discussed the issue with other nuns and the superiors came to know about it. Since then, they have constantly been trying to tag me as a mentally challenged person,” she says.

She also alleges that she was repeatedly transferred from one convent to the other, at the behest of the Church, often in the middle of an academic year.

Sr. Mary, who works as a teacher at a school run by the Church, says that she was brutally assaulted by her superiors at the various convents she has lived over the years.

“They would hit me, accusing me of various things, including robbery. They hid letters addressed to me. I forgave them and tolerated everything till now. I cannot take it any further,” she says.

Sister JesmeThe Church involved her family in all these matters too and would demand that they visit to sort things out.

Sr. Mary’s decision to leave the Church citing harassment is not a unique instance. Only a few years ago, Sister Jesme, who had been a nun for over 33 years, quit the Church alleging harassment by her superiors. Her leaving and the subsequent release of her autobiography Amen: The Autobiography of a Nun (Malayalam PDF) had created a huge controversy at that time. Sr. Abhaya’s murder, in which priests are the prime accused, is yet another example of how things are not exactly holy in the Church.

Once she leaves the convent, Sr. Mary cannot go back home.

“Do you know what it means to be a nun who quit the Order? Our society hasn’t grown enough to accept such things. People will see it as my betrayal towards Jesus. But only if they knew that my fight is against the Church and not Jesus….”

She says that her family does not want her to return home. “In fact they don’t want me to quit the Church. It is all because of the stigma that is associated with it. Society will only target my family for my actions.”

Dismissing the allegations of harassment at the hands of superiors, spokesman for Syro-Malabar denomination of the Catholic Church, Dr Paul Thelakkat states that the Church does not stop anybody from quitting.

Saying that he is unaware of the case in detail, Dr. Thelakkat claims that the canon law does not prescribe the Church to pay compensation to those who quit.

“As far as I understand, there is only one problem here. If the nun wants to quit, it is up to her to decide. But she cannot hold the Church responsible to provide rehabilitation. When a nun joins the Church, she voluntarily does so, agreeing that she will not hold any property under her name. Then how can she now stake claim in the Church’s joint property?” he asks.

Instances where the Church does provide monetary help to those who quit are purely out of ‘humanitarian concerns’, he maintains, adding that the nunnery is a service and not a means to earn money. – The News Minute, 8 August 2016

Syro-Malabar Church