Tutelage & fanaticism

by Yule Heibel on October 22, 2003

Thanks to Frank Paynter for pointing to Christopher Hitchins’s piece, Mommie Dearest, wherein Hitchins elaborates on the scandal of Mother Teresa’s beatification. Note that MT called abortion “the greatest destroyer of peace,” which is an obviously fanatic and anti-human/ anti-woman statement, worthy of scrutiny and criticism by itself but especially now in the wake of the US ban on so-called “partial birth” abortions. An excerpt from Hitchins’s article:

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? [More… ]

Indeed. Read the article, it’s good. See Wendy Koslow, too, on this topic, and a follow-up she posted the same day.
PS: the logo (Greek letter psi upside down) says “knowledge protects”. It’s from an Austrian site, Critical Information about Psychotherapy.


Doug Alder October 23, 2003 at 5:31 pm

I’ve never been a Hitchin’s fan and comments like “the abject surrender, on the part of the church, to the forces of showbiz, superstition, and populism.” are why. What else is religion in general and Catholicism in particular if not superstition. So of course they’ve surrendered to it – it’s always been their schtick. On the whole it is a good article but he misses driving an important point home, that the catholic church is in trouble – losing priests and nuns at an alarming rate, very few entering service, those that remain are getting very old, parishoners in 1st world countries dwindling and along with that contributions to the church are way down. THe only growth areas they have left (other than people deserting their faith) is in 3rd world countries and saints. Of course this pope is creating a gazillion saints he’s trying to bring the faithful back to the fod with all the usual huffpuffery, sleight of hand etc. Instead Christopher danced around it. Was he afraid to anger the faithful in his audience or did he just miss the point?

Yule Heibel October 24, 2003 at 12:21 am

Well, there’s surrender, and there’s strategy in surrender. First, let me say that I don’t know Hitchins’s (other) work, so I have to admit to ignorance as to his strategies. But here’s why I have no sympathy to whatever problems of losing nuns, priests, et al. the Church has: they have some very deluded fanatical people in high positions of power, and those people are actively engaged in getting more of their kind into place in a bid to increase their power not just in poor population-burgeoning “3rd world” countries, but in Europe & the US, too. Take Opus Dei; their website looks so benign, but are these people anything but fanatical? And they’re appealing to superstition, showbiz, and populism, albeit in the most slick way. Imagine: Ratzinger, the bishop in Munich, is in the running for becoming the next pope. The guy is the head of the Inquisition, for god’s sake!

Let me just add a personal dimension. When I lived in Munich (from ’77 to ’80) I was best friends with the daughter of Otto, the son of the last emperor of Austria. His son, Karl, is the current pretender to any throne that may or may not still exist for the Habsburgs. Most people still regarded my friend as an archduchess and princess. Her brother Karl, Otto’s son, is a politician, and is very active. The brother’s wife is a Thyssen-Bornemisza, and she’s head of an international agency that preserves architecture & art, with all the philanthropic contacts that implies (google them: Karl H. and wife, Thyssen-Bornemisza). My friend and I stayed in contact for years after my departure from Munich; we recently stopped exchanging xmas cards, but I know that I can still call her up if I ever get to Munich again (and then again maybe not if she reads this…). But for me, it’s chilling to read her father — an ardent supporter of Opus Dei and of the Catholic Church in general (hey, the Habsburgs practically invented huge chunks of it) — say things such as that Jews run the Pentagon and the White House (never mind that socialists call him Otto von Gestern — he’s still got power & influence). Or to have my friend say to me back in 1979 — and this is so embarassing — that she didn’t think Pinochet “was all that bad.” (OW!!!!) Or to know that her brothers (Karl & Georg) are busily establishing real political power in real European parliaments (Karl and Otto already are members of the EU parliament). Or that my friend’s sisters have systematically gotten married off to various European (Catholic) royal house still around — from Spain through Baden to Sweden (yes, Sweden).

Is it coincidence that Mother Teresa hung out with Princess Di? I don’t think so, personally. I really don’t.

Yes, the Church has issues with/ concern for the poor, and also has appealed to superstition etc. since all time, but they have some incredible heavies in the first world going to bat for them, too. And Opus Dei and the creation of saints is this weird freaky combo of late medieval/ early Renaissance world view with Realpolitik. They dream with swords in their hands. Really, they do.

I think I can agree with you that Hitchins perhaps danced around some points, but I think it’s also the case that this particular pope’s attempts to bring the faithful back into the fold is anything but a simple appeal to faithful, potentially faithful, and/or faithless. This pope is part of Opus Dei, always was, always will be. I think it’s strategy. And maybe Hitchins is talking about the non-Opus Dei folks within the Church when he talks of abject surrender? That’s what I suspect. But maybe I have a chronically suspicious mind! 😉

Yule Heibel October 24, 2003 at 1:46 am

Uh, Doug, you were right — I just found out a bit more about who C. Hitchins is. I guess I’m not small-c catholic enough in my tastes and had stayed away from him instinctively, perhaps? He’s a bit of a piece of work, for sure.

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