'All for ourselves and nothing for other people' seems in every age of the world to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind. -Adam Smith "All the 'truth' in the world adds up to one big lie." Bob Dylan "Idealism precedes experience, cynicism follows it." Anon

September 26, 2011

Book by former Missionaries of Charity nun describes abuse in cult of Mother Teresa

Chain The Dogma

Book by former Missionaries of Charity nun describes abuse in cult of Mother Teresa

by Perry Bulwer



I just read a short review of a new book, An Unquenchable Thirst, by a former nun, Mary Johnson, in Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity order who describes experiences commonly found in many religious cults. The reviewer highlights just a few of the "dozens of uncomfortable moments the former nun recalls", yet in just those examples it is easy to identify several cult characteristics.

Recalling just one of those moments, the reviewer says it "exemplifies the degree to which she saw life around her as one of repression, repercussions and guilt", which could be a description of life in any number of cults and sects. Dozens more examples drive home the point that life in Mother Teresa's order was not an ideal but an ordeal. Certainly, anyone joining that order knew what they were getting into. Serving God by living in poverty to help the poor (and as Christopher Hitchens wrote, to keep them poor) was part of the idealism they signed up for. What they didn't sign up for was the spiritual, emotional and verbal abuse from "superiors who became drunk with power, whose normal mode of communication was to shout and invent irrational accusations against those below them." If I didn't know better, I would think that was a description of David Miscavige  or David Berg, leaders of Scientology  and The Family International, respectively.

Most cult survivors are familiar with that or similar kinds of abuse from their former spiritual leaders as well as with the inability to directly confront that abuse when it occurred. "Because arguing back was considered a sin against humility, even the most irrational charges could not be countered properly for fear of appearing to be proud or arrogant." I experienced that personally many times in The Family International  previously known as the Children of God,  earning a reputation as a trouble maker for daring to question or criticize leaders. I was punished with spiritual threats, demotions, forced separation from loved ones and internal exile many times by leaders of that cult who are still deceiving, manipulating, exploiting and abusing people as they have always done. But if it was so abusive, why did you stay so long, I can hear you ask?

That is a question commonly put to cult survivors, and one the above reviewer asked of Johnson, expressing his incomprehension that anyone could stay in such an abusive environment for 20 years. Her response is right on the mark: "We'd always been told you are here because God has called you, so the worst thing you could do is leave." Allured by what she considered the radical nature of Mother Teresa's order, which often attracts people to cults, she had joined out of a conviction that God was calling her to that extreme mission. A religious conviction of that nature is far stronger than any secular calling and more difficult to abandon because to do so is to disobey and disappoint God, so it is not surprising that people who have not experienced that cannot understand why one would stay in an abusive environment. When a person is indoctrinated to think that God has a special mission for them, it is extremely difficult to walk away from that, even if they are being abused.

Spousal abuse, mostly perpetrated against women, is a secular example (though often with religious, patriarchal roots) that helps some people understand why abused religious cult members stay in the group or only leave after many years. It seems unthinkable that any woman would stay with a husband that beats, humiliates, threatens or otherwise abuses her, yet it happens all too frequently. When the same question is put to battered spouses as is put to cult survivors, asking why they did not just leave their abusers, the answers they give are strikingly similar to the ones given by former cult members. This list of reasons on a support website for battered women explains why many do not leave their spouses  and can easily be applied to cult members. The following video makes the same point.

Set Yourself Free - Is religion a form of abuse?


There are a few other examples of cult characteristics in that short review I am referring to (imagine how many are in the actual book). Johnson points out that what she experienced in Mother Teresa's order is not typical of other women's religious orders, thus setting it apart from the norm. She gives the example of social isolation, even within the order. The radicalism that initially attracted her to the order ultimately led her to leave it. "As I lived it out, I realized that sort of radical draw also brought these drawbacks where people didn't have any way of pursuing any form of pleasure or relaxation," she said. While other orders allow members to keep in contact with their families, friends and engage with the outside world, Johnson says, “We weren’t even allowed to be friends with each other. All our contacts were cut off.” That is very typical of cults, and a common theme in cult survivor's stories. It is one more reason why it is so difficult to leave. When you burn all your bridges behind you, or they are burned for you, or you were born in a cult and never knew those bridges even existed, it makes it far more difficult to escape the abuse and find your way back to normal.

Although Johnson is able to identify most of the issues behind the abuse she suffered at the hands of her superiors, she seems unable to place ultimate blame where it belongs, on Mother Teresa. She is "careful not to sully Mother Teresa" in the book and attended her beatification ceremony in 2003. But even that is typical of some religious abuse survivors. They are willing to blame the persons who directly abused them, but hesitate to blame those with ultimate authority, whether it is the leader of their order, cult, church, or even God. After all, if God called Johnson to serve him in Mother Teresa's order, then why did God not protect her from the abuse she obviously suffered? It is as if they have accepted the common excuse made by religious leaders that the abuse is the result of a few bad apples, whereas the real cause is the structures, systems and dogmas of religion. Mother Teresa was no saint, yet Johnson still seems to think she is. Perhaps she has not read the reports of how Mother Teresa ignored the abuses perpetrated by her Jesuit adviser, one of the most notorious abusers in the Catholic church. Here are a few excerpts from some articles I've archived on the subject.


San Francisco Weekly - May 25, 2011
Let Him Prey: High-Ranking Jesuits Helped Keep Pedophile Priest Hidden
By Peter Jamison
The conservative Catholic family lived on a quiet cul-de-sac in Walnut Creek and took pains to observe the traditions of a church racked by social change. Their lives appeared driven by the famous motivational phrase of Saint Ignatius, "Ad majorem Dei gloriam" — for the greater glory of God. It was the same motto that ostensibly guided the Jesuit priest, Donald McGuire, to whom they turned for spiritual guidance.
Then, in 1993, they learned that McGuire had done unthinkable things with their 16-year-old son, Charles, who traveled with him as his personal assistant. The boy and the priest had allegedly looked at pornographic magazines, masturbated, and taken showers together. The family took this devastating news to an esteemed San Francisco priest, Joseph Fessio, who, like McGuire, had once been a teacher at the University of San Francisco.
Fessio runs the Ignatius Press, a Catholic publishing house based in the Sunset District that is the primary English-language publisher of the pope's writings. He and McGuire shared a reputation for doctrinal orthodoxy. McGuire, for his part, was a cleric of worldwide renown, functioning as adviser and confessor to Mother Teresa. [see related article links below] While family members considered reporting the abuse to secular authorities, Fessio urged them to stay quiet until he could confer with Jesuit higher-ups.
Confronted with the allegations, McGuire, a famously manipulative man known both for his charm and periodic rages, denied Charles's accusations or made excuses. His Jesuit bosses in Chicago, where McGuire was technically based, ordered him to undergo a residential treatment program at a psychiatric hospital for priests. In about seven months, McGuire was released and returned to active ministry. He continued to prey on other children for the next nine years.
...
http://religiouschildabuse.blogspot.com/2011/05/jesuit-priest-being-considered-for.html

New York Times - March 28, 2011
Suit Says Jesuits Ignored Warnings About Priest
By ERIK ECKHOLM
The case has been acutely troublesome for the Jesuits, an order known for its scholarship and its elite high schools and universities. Father McGuire was by all accounts a mesmerizing teacher, and after he was barred by some Jesuit schools in the 1960s and 1970s for suspicious behavior, including having students share his bedroom, he went on to became a popular leader of eight-day spiritual retreats around the country and the world.
For about two decades, starting in the early 1980s, he was a spiritual adviser to Mother Teresa, who put him in charge of retreats for the nuns in her worldwide order, Missionaries of Charity. Several times each year, in India, the United States, Russia and other countries, he led retreats for the sisters.
In these travels he routinely took along a teenage boy as an assistant, saying he needed help administering his diabetes treatment. In complaints voiced by some parents and priests at the time, and in later depositions, those assistants said their duties often included sleeping in the same bed as Father McGuire, showering and reading pornography together, providing intimate massages and watching him masturbate.
...
http://religiouschildabuse.blogspot.com/2011/03/jesuit-leaders-concealed-40-years-of.html

SF Weekly - July 27, 2009

For He Has Sinned

A new lawsuit sheds light on the San Francisco years of Mother Teresa's spiritual adviser – who is also one of the Jesuit order's most notorious convicted pedophiles.

by Peter Jamison
Kevin McGuire said his uncle's time as a professor in San Francisco, and his later trips to the Bay Area and around the world, were encouraged by superiors as a "pass-the-trash" strategy to keep the predator priest far from his home base. "USF was a place where the Chicago Province sent Father McGuire to get him the hell out of their hair," he said. "That's why this guy was allowed to roam around the country. They wanted him everywhere but Chicago."
And he said that while there's no evidence Mother Teresa herself was consciously covering up for the priest whose piety she admired, the nun, who died in 1997, should have known something wasn't right.
"I think Mother Teresa had plenty of evidence in front of her that something was wrong," Kevin McGuire said. "When you see Father McGuire seven to nine times a year at your retreat houses or nunneries around the world, and he's constantly with teenage boys who are essentially his slaves, and to have these boys in your bedroom — yeah, I think that's plenty of notice to anyone with oxygen in your brain. I don't care how holy you think your confessor is. Something's wrong."
http://religiouschildabuse.blogspot.com/2010/11/mother-teresa-failed-to-protect-teen.html

UPDATE: 

Perry Bulwer July 11, 2012

A few months ago, I had an email conversation with Mary Johnson, the former nun and author of the book reviewed in this blog article.

I based my comments in this blog article solely on the Toronto newspaper article. I owe an apology to Mary for some assumptions I made about her and her current perspectives on Mother Teresa in the last paragraph of my article, just before I quoted from three newspaper accounts. I made those assumptions based on the reporter's perspective, which may not have accurately portrayed her position, so I am sorry if I made any inaccurate statement about her. After communicating with her, I realize there is almost no difference between our positions on these matters.

Mary has an impressive website and works to help other women writers to tell their stories. See: http://www.maryjohnson.co/ and  http://aroomofherownfoundation.org/weneedyou.php

What prompted me to write this apology note now is the article posted in the comments below on July 11, 2012 titled:

"Abuses At Legion Of Christ-Run High School, Immaculate Conception Academy In Rhode Island"


Here is Mary's version of The Apostles Creed found at: http://www.maryjohnson.co/humanist/

I don’t believe in God, an imaginary father with almighty power.

I don’t believe in heaven; I do believe in earth.

I believe that a man called Jesus of Nazareth lived in Palestine at the beginning of the Common Era,

That he was conceived in the way of all human beings, that he was born of a woman called Mary, that he had a following large enough to trouble the authorities of his day, that it’s very difficult to separate what he actually said and did from what people would later say he said and did, that odds are good that he was a more than decent man.

I believe that this Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate; that he was crucified, died and was buried, that there were no souls in hell waiting for him to set them free, that his death was in no way redemptive, that crucifixion has to be hell enough for any person.

I believe that when Jesus died, he remained dead. He did not ascend into an imaginary heaven, nor does he sit at the right or left hand of God, an imaginary father.

I do not believe that Jesus judges human beings. It seems to me that far too much judging goes on in his name, and that most of us try to do the best we can with the lives we’ve been given and that all of us fall short of the unreachable ideals we sometimes set for ourselves, that we ought to be kinder to ourselves.

I do not believe in ghosts, holy or otherwise.

I believe that the church is a human institution that still has much to learn about the humane exercise of power and authority.

I believe that each human being is connected with every other human being by bonds we do not often perceive, that what we do matters because our deeds affect beings animate and inanimate, for better or for worse.

I believe that justice and mercy are both essential and that forgiveness is often one of the deepest kindnesses we can extend to others and to ourselves, but that it should not be offered indiscriminately.

I believe that when we’re dead, we’re dead, and that while we, for a brief stretch of years, breathe upon this planet, we experience mysteries we ought not pretend to understand, though one day human beings will understand them better than we do now. I believe that we should affirm as true only those things we know with reasonable certainty, according to rigorous standards of history and science, that to cede our intellect to religious tradition is to allow ourselves to be manipulated by those who benefit from our credulity. I believe in the value of helping others and nurturing ourselves so that we can live lives as full as they can be. Amen.


RELATED ARTICLES ON MY BLOGS



Mother Teresa failed to protect teen boys from her spiritual adviser, the Jesuit order's most notorious convicted pedophile


Corporal Punishment, the Abuse of Authority and the Rights of Children

Nuns among worst perpetrators of horrific violence and sex abuse in Jesuit-run schools and missions on Indian reservations

Jesuit priest being considered for sainthood among order's leaders who protected "the Hannibal Lecter of the clerical world"

Jesuits pay record settlement for decades of psychological abuse and rape of over 450 Native American children

Abuse was common in religious orders

Oregon Jesuit province files for bankruptcy

$50 million for Alaskan abuse plaintiffs

Diocese of Fairbanks launches multistate search for possible sexual assault victims

Canadian Indian residential schools designed to assimilate natives traumatized individuals and generations

Canadian Indian residential school hearings identify thousands of abusers including some students who were also abused

Survivors of Indian residential schools need to tell their stories to restore self-worth after trauma of abuse

A brief history of Canadian residential schools designed to indoctrinate and assimilate aboriginal children

Canadian Truth Commission investigates fate of thousands of aboriginal children who died in mysterious circumstances

Canadian residential school Truth Commission begins to address over a century of child abuse, thousands of children still missing

‘Apology? What apology?' Church’s attempt at reconciliation not enough, says counsellor

Church-run Canadian residential schools denied human rights to all aboriginal children in their custody

'This Is How They Tortured Me' [book review]

Mothers of a Native Hell

Fugitive priest hiding in Belgium and Lourdes, France sent back to Canadian territory Nunavut to face sex abuse charges

Canadian priest convicted of pedophilia, wanted by Interpol for 15 years, surrenders in Belgium but authorities let him go

Pope expresses 'sorrow' for abuse at residential schools - but doesn't apologize

When will church learn lessons about abuse scandals?

Edmonton mural celebrates Catholic bishop's role in the horrific abuse of aboriginal children in residential schools

Lawsuit claims, but Seattle U. president denies, that he knew of priest's abuse




Prosecuting the Pope for Crimes Against Humanity


Are Priests Their Brother's Keeper? A Catholic Morality Tale


Vatican more upset by Catholic Prime Minister's criticisms than clergy sex crimes against children


Philadelphia archbishop resigns due to old age, not for failing to protect children


Catholic child protection policies are merely public relations ploys


Best city in the world honours man who protected notorious Catholic child abuser


The Catholic Church and The Family International: popes and prophets who protect pedophiles


What the Pope should have said in his Easter sermon: "I did it. I was wrong. The buck stops here."


22 comments:

  1. Here is an example from today's news of what happens when cult members question or criticize their group's leaders or dogma.
    **********************************

    Police inquiry over Jehovah's Witness magazine 'mentally diseased' article

    An official magazine for Jehovah's Witnesses that described those who leave the church as "mentally diseased" is at the centre of a police inquiry, it has emerged.

    TELEGRAPH UK September 27, 2011

    Detectives are investigating whether the article, published in July’s edition of The Watchtower, is in breach of Britain’s religious hatred laws.

    The article, published in the magazine which is distributed by Jehovah's Witnesses across the globe, reportedly warned followers to avoid "false teachers" which it condemned as being "mentally diseased".

    "Suppose that a doctor told you to avoid contact with someone who is infected with a contagious, deadly disease," part of the article stated.

    "You would know what the doctor means, and you would strictly heed his warning. Well, apostates are 'mentally diseased', and they seek to infect others with their disloyal teachings."

    A group of former Witnesses, based in Portsmouth, have made an official complaint to Hampshire Police about the article. Police have launched an investigation.

    They are considering whether to complain to the Charity Commission. The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Britain, which prints church doctrine in Britain, is a registered charity.

    The church is known for handing down harsh punishments to followers who criticise doctrines or raise questions about the faith.

    Angus Robertson, a former Witness "elder" from an undisclosed town in Hampshire, who was present at the meeting with police, told The Independent: "The way scripture is being used to bully people must be challenged.

    “If a religion was preaching that blacks or gays were mentally diseased there would understandable outrage."

    But Rick Fenton, a church spokesman, defended the passages, saying ostracisation was "a personal matter for each individual to decide for himself".

    "Any one of Jehovah's Witnesses is free to express their feelings and to ask questions," he said. "If a person changes their mind about Bible-based teachings they once held dear, we recognise their right to leave."

    A Hampshire police spokesman was unavailable for comment.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/8791196/Police-inquiry-over-Jehovahs-Witness-magazine-mentally-diseased-article.html

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  2. Tainted Saint: Mother Teresa Defended Pedophile Priest

    By Peter Jamison, San Francisco Weekly January 11 2012

    The death of journalist and polemicist Christopher Hitchens last month gave those familiar with his work a chance to revisit one of his more controversial subjects: the Albanian nun Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, better known to the world as Mother Teresa. In his 1997 book, The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice, Hitchens argued that the "Saint of Calcutta," who founded and headed the international Missionaries of Charity order, enjoyed undeserved esteem.

    Despite her humanitarian reputation and 1979 Nobel Peace Prize, Mother Teresa had set up a worldwide system of "homes for the dying" that routinely failed to provide adequate care to patients, Hitchens argued — an appraisal shared by The Lancet, a respected medical journal. Mother Teresa also associated with, and took large sums of money from, disreputable figures such as American savings-and-loan swindler Charles Keating and the dictatorial Duvalier family of Haiti.

    Notwithstanding these black marks on an otherwise sterling reputation, Mother Teresa — who died in 1997 and is now on the fast track to a formal proclamation of sainthood by the Vatican — was never known to have been touched by the scandal that would rock the Roman Catholic Church in the decade after her death: the systematic protection of child-molesting priests by church officials.

    Yet documents obtained by SF Weekly suggest that Mother Teresa knew one of her favorite priests was removed from ministry for sexually abusing a Bay Area boy in 1993, and that she nevertheless urged his bosses to return him to work as soon as possible. The priest resumed active ministry, as well as his predatory habits. Eight additional complaints were lodged against him in the coming years by various families, leading to his eventual arrest on sex-abuse charges in 2005.

    The priest was Donald McGuire, a former Jesuit who has been convicted of molesting boys in federal and state courts and is serving a 25-year federal prison sentence. McGuire, now 81 years old, taught at the University of San Francisco in the late 1970s, and held frequent spiritual retreats for families in San Francisco and Walnut Creek throughout the 1980s and 1990s. He also ministered extensively to the Missionaries of Charity during that time.

    In a 1994 letter to McGuire's Jesuit superior in Chicago, it appears that Mother Teresa acknowledged she had learned of the "sad events which took [McGuire] from his priestly ministry these past seven months," and that McGuire "admitted imprudence in his behavior," but she wished to see him put back on the job. The letter was written after McGuire had been sent to a psychiatric hospital following an abuse complaint to the Jesuits by a family in Walnut Creek.

    "I understand how grave is the scandal touching the priesthood in the U.S.A. and how careful we must be to guard the purity and reputation of that priesthood," the letter states. "I must say, however, that I have confidence and trust in Fr. McGuire and wish to see his vital ministry resume as soon as possible."

    The one-page letter comes from thousands of pages of church records that have been shared with plaintiffs' attorneys in ongoing litigation against the Jesuits involving McGuire. (The documents were also shared with prosecutors who worked on his criminal cases.) It is printed on Missionaries of Charity letterhead but is unsigned, and thus cannot be verified absolutely as having been written by Mother Teresa. Officials in the Missionaries of Charity and the Jesuits did not respond to requests for comment on its provenance.

    continued in next comment:

    http://www.sfweekly.com/2012-01-11/news/mother-teresa-catholic-church-john-hardon-donald-mcguire-child-abuse-jesuits/

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  3. continued from previous comment:

    Yet statements throughout the letter point to Mother Teresa as the author. The writer speaks of "my communities throughout the world" and refers by name to Mother Teresa's four top deputies, calling them "my four assistants." Rev. Joseph Fessio, a Jesuit and former University of San Francisco professor who knew Mother Teresa, said the reference to her assistants is an "authentic" aspect of the letter.

    The letter could have an impact on the near-complete process of canonizing Mother Teresa. In 2003 she was beatified by Pope John Paul II, the penultimate step to full sainthood.

    "What we see here is the same thing we see over and over in regard to the [priest pedophilia] scandal — the complete lack of empathy for, or interest in, possible victims of these accused priests," said Anne Rice, the bestselling author of novels including Interview with the Vampire and a former Catholic who has been outspoken in her criticism of the church's handling of the sex-abuse scandal. "In this letter the concern is for the reputation of the priesthood. This is as disappointing as it is shocking."

    Other documents that have emerged in the criminal and civil cases involving McGuire could affect the sainthood prospects of another deceased religious leader eyed by the Vatican for sainthood. Among the newly uncovered church records are letters by Rev. John Hardon, a Jesuit who also worked extensively with Mother Teresa and died in 2000. He collaborated with then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, a landmark summation of contemporary church doctrine. In 2005, the Vatican opened a formal inquiry into whether Hardon should be made a saint.

    But statements by Hardon in his letters could complicate that process. The documents reveal McGuire admitted to Hardon that he was taking showers with the teenage boy from Walnut Creek whose complaint led to McGuire's psychiatric treatment. He also acknowledged soliciting body massages from the boy and letting him read pornography in the room they shared on trips together.

    Despite these admissions, Hardon concluded that his fellow Jesuit's actions were "objectively defensible," albeit "highly imprudent," and told McGuire's bosses that he "should be prudently allowed to engage in priestly ministry."

    The postulators, or Vatican-appointed researchers and advocates for sainthood, assigned to investigate Mother Teresa and Hardon did not respond to repeated requestsfor comment.

    While it is unclear exactly what impact the new documents will have on the evaluation of both figures for sainthood, the evidence of involvement by two prominent and internationally respected Catholics in the McGuire sex-abuse scandal is likely to cause consternation among critics of the church's handling of predator priests. The situation is aggravated since McGuire went on to abuse more children after suggestions to return him to ministry were heeded.

    "We're talking about extremely powerful people who could have gotten Father McGuire off the streets in 1994," said Patrick Wall, a lawyer and former Benedictine monk who performs investigations on behalf of abuse victims suing the Catholic Church. "I'm thinking of all those post-'94 kids who could have been saved."

    [...]

    read the rest of the article at:

    http://www.sfweekly.com/2012-01-11/news/mother-teresa-catholic-church-john-hardon-donald-mcguire-child-abuse-jesuits/

    ReplyDelete
  4. A few months ago, I had an email conversation with Mary Johnson, the former nun and author of the book reviewed in this blog article.

    I based my comments in this blog article solely on the Toronto newspaper article. I owe an apology to Mary for some assumptions I made about her and her current perspectives on Mother Teresa in the last paragraph of my article, just before I quoted from three newspaper accounts. I made those assumptions based on the reporter's perspective, which may not have accurately portrayed her position, so I am sorry if I made any inaccurate statement about her. After communicating with her, I realize there is almost no difference between our positions on these matters.

    Mary has an impressive website and works to help other women writers to tell their stories. See: http://www.maryjohnson.co/ and http://aroomofherownfoundation.org/weneedyou.php


    What prompted me to write this apology note now is the article posted in the comments that follow this one.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Abuses At Legion Of Christ-Run High School, Immaculate Conception Academy In Rhode Island

    by Nicole Winfield, Huffington Post July 9, 2012

    VATICAN CITY — Dozens of women who attended a high school run by the disgraced Legion of Christ religious order have urged the Vatican to close the program, saying the psychological abuse they endured trying to live like teenage nuns led to multiple cases of anorexia, stress-induced migraines, depression and even suicidal thoughts.

    The women sent a letter this weekend to the pope's envoy running the Legion to denounce the manipulation, deception and disrespect they say they suffered at the hands of counselors barely older than themselves at the Rhode Island school. For some, the trauma required years of psychological therapy that cost them tens of thousands of dollars.

    A copy of the letter was provided to The Associated Press by the letter's 77 signatories, a dozen of whom agreed to be interviewed about their personal problems for the sake of warning parents against sending their children to the program's schools in the U.S., Mexico and Spain.

    "I have many defining and traumatic memories that I believe epitomize the systematic breakdown of the person" in the school, Mary told The Associated Press in an email exchange. She developed anorexia after joining in 1998, weighed less than 85 pounds when she left and dropped to 68 pounds before beginning to recover at home. "The feelings of worthlessness, shame and isolation that are associated with those memories are still vivid and shocking."

    Mary, who asked that her last name not be used, blamed her eating disorder on acute loneliness – girls were prevented from making close friends or confiding in their families – and the tremendous pressure she felt as a 16-year-old to perfectly obey the strictest rules dictating how she should walk, sit, pray and eat.

    It's the latest blow to the troubled, cult-like Legion, which was discredited in 2009 when it revealed that its founder was a pedophile and drug addict who fathered three children. The Legion suffered subsequent credibility problems following its recent admission that its most famous priest had fathered a child and the current Legion superior covered it up for years.

    The Legion saga is all the more grave because its late founder, the Rev. Marcial Maciel, had been held up as a living saint by his followers and a model of holiness by Pope John Paul II because of his ability to recruit men and money to the priesthood, even though the Vatican knew for decades that he had sexually abused his seminarians.

    Pope Benedict XVI took over the Mexico-based order in 2010 and appointed envoy Cardinal Velasio De Paolis to oversee a whole-scale reform of the Legion and its lay branch Regnum Christi. But the reform hasn't progressed smoothly, with defections from disillusioned members and criticism that some superiors remain locked in their old ways.

    The all-girl Immaculate Conception Academy, located in Wakefield, Rhode Island opened two decades ago to serve as a feeder program for the Legion's female consecrated branch, where more than 700 women around the world live like nuns making promises of poverty, chastity and obedience, teaching in Legion-run schools and running youth programs.

    Because of dwindling enrollment – 14 seniors graduated last month – the school recently merged with a Legion-run school in Michigan; in Mexico two programs merged into one that produced 10 graduates this year.

    continued in next comment...

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  6. continued from previous comment:

    The school's current director said things have changed dramatically recently and many of the spiritual and psychological abuses corrected. But she acknowledged the harm done, apologized for the women's suffering and asked for forgiveness.

    "For any errors made by our order in the past, we do apologize," said director Margarita Martinez. "We are sorry these young women have suffered and been harmed in any way."

    In an email response to AP, Martinez noted that not all students experienced the same "level of negativity" as those who wrote the letter, and that regardless the movement was listening to everyone's experiences as it undergoes a process of Vatican-mandated reform.

    Megan Coelho, 30, recalled how pairs of consecrated women would visit her regularly as a child in northern California where she was homeschooled; they told her tales of the wonderful high school in Rhode Island where she might find a vocation and grow closer to God. Coelho, who wanted to be a nun, left home when she was 14 to join.

    By junior year, the occasional migraines she had suffered became frequent and debilitating as pressure to conform to the rules and highly structured schedule increased. The migraines would paralyze one side of her body, making her collapse at times. She developed facial tics. Her eyesight became blurry.

    "As sweet as they (her consecrated directors) were I was counseled not to tell my parents about it because then my parents would take me home," she said, referring to the movement's goal of keeping members at almost any cost. "No one contacted my family. Nobody took me to the ER or got me a doctor's appointment."

    Eventually, Coelho got so sick she returned home, and the migraines stopped. Feeling better she returned, only to suffer a migraine her first day back. She left for good six months before graduation.

    Coehlo's story is the first on a blog she and other former pre-candidates, as the girls were known, started this past spring, a seemingly cathartic experience since many had never shared their pain with their onetime classmates. The blog, , is an astonishing read – testimony of a twisted and cruel methodology applied to girls at their most vulnerable age, when even under normal circumstances girls are prone to self-esteem issues, peer pressure and bouts of depression. www.49weeks.blogspot.com

    Instead of finding support from friends and family, these teenagers were isolated from their families 49 weeks a year, told to unquestioningly trust their spiritual directors and confide only in them. Obedience to the minutest of rules, they were taught, reflected their acceptance of God's will.

    They write about their feelings of inadequacy, humiliation and loneliness, and of idolizing their smiling consecrated counselors. They paint the depths of their depression when seemingly overnight they were told they didn't have a vocation and should go home.

    "Looking back, I was suicidal," said Sarita Duffy, now a 28-year-old mother of three in Fort Cambpbell, Kentucky. "I never took a bottle of pills or slit my wrists, but I was fully content with the possibility of never waking up again."

    In a phone interview, Duffy said she equated being rejected by the movement with being rejected by God, and lost her Catholic faith for years as a result. She acknowledged she can't blame the movement for all her problems but said the "zero self-worth" she felt after being rejected precipitated her descent into depression and rebellion.

    "Why do you hate me God? I hate me," Duffy wrote in her journal on June 10, 2002, four years after she entered as a freshman and about a week before she received the final "no" to work in the movement's missionary program.

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  7. continued from previous comment:

    One of the blog entries was written by Lourdes Martinez, a former counselor or formator at the school from 2000-2005. She admitted that she and her consecrated colleagues would classify the girls into potential leaders, "normals" and those who should be sent home. This would enable the directors and counselors under them to manipulate the girls and prey on their vulnerabilities, giving special attention to those they wanted to keep as potential consecrated leaders and devise strategies to get rid of those they wanted to send home, she said.

    Often, information from the weekly reports written about each girl's development would be shared with the priests who heard her confession – a striking violation of privacy. The priests could then reinforce the directors' decisions in confession with the girls, she said.

    "So she's hearing this from everyone and thinks it's the Holy Spirit talking. And we would say `Yes, of course,'" Martinez told the AP in a phone interview from Monterrey, Mexico.

    Martinez described an almost "Lord of the Flies"-like situation in which the counselors were barely older than the girls under their care, with no experience in adolescent development. The counselors themselves lived with the fear that they must obey the rules and their superiors or risk violating God's will.

    Martinez signed the letter to De Paolis because she wanted to show solidarity with those who suffered. But she stressed that she believes the reform will work because she knows and trusts the new leadership and is working with them to improve.

    Not everyone suffered so much, and not everyone has joined the call to close the program; of the 270-odd people on a closed Facebook group that served as the basis for the blog, 77 signed the letter.

    And by many indications, things have changed dramatically for the better at the school, with girls allowed more time with families and much less emphasis on sticking to the rules.

    "People who are going into the pre-candidacy and are starting out will not find the same experience as those people did," said Sasha Jurchak, 25, who left consecrated life in May because she simply decided it wasn't for her – not because of any problem with the program.

    In an interview, she noted that De Paolis has instituted new regulations that forbid consecrating girls as young as 18 after a six-week candidacy program. The new rules require a years-long process of assessment similar to that of traditional religious orders. Recruitment is no longer the primary aim, she said. The girls' mail is no longer screened and they have more free time. Girls can wear shorts and pants for athletic activities instead of long skirts and stockings.

    Margarita Martinez, the school director, said other changes include better reflection from counselors on when to invoke "God's will" in requiring something of the girls.

    She disputed claims that the school failed to provide adequate medical care for sick girls, saying the policy has always been to notify parents and get proper care.

    Asked if Regnum Christi was prepared to provide financial assistance to women who needed psychological counseling when they left, she said each case would need to be considered individually.

    "The reform process has taken time. It has been a learning process for everyone involved. And we still have a long way to go," she wrote. "But I strongly believe we are moving in the right direction, with the Holy Spirit as our guide."

    The letter to De Paolis from alumni said it's too risky to wait and see how it all turns out.

    "Today's girls deserve more than to be guinea pigs during the experimental stages of the reform process which may or may not prove in the end to be authentic," it concluded.

    Regnum Christi is at http://www.regnumchristi.org

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/09/legion-of-christ-abuse-high-school_n_1658904.html

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  8. Mother Teresa 'saint of the media', controversial study says

    by Kounteya Sinha, TNN Mar 2, 2013

    LONDON: A study conducted by Canadian researchers has called Mother Teresa "anything but a saint", a creation of an orchestrated and effective media campaign who was generous with her prayers but miserly with her foundation's millions when it came to humanity's suffering.

    The controversial study, to be published this month in the journal of studies in religion/sciences called Religieuses, says that Teresa — known across the world as the apostle of the dying and the downtrodden — actually felt it was beautiful to see the poor suffer.

    According to the study, the Vatican overlooked the crucial human side of Teresa — her dubious way of caring for the sick by glorifying their suffering instead of relieving it.

    Instead, the Vatican went ahead with her beatification followed by canonization "to revitalize the Church and inspire the faithful especially at a time when churches are empty and the Roman authority is in decline".

    Researchers Serge Larivee and Genevieve Chenard from the University of Montreal's department of psychoeducation, and Carole Senechal of the University of Ottawa's faculty of education, analysed published writings about Mother Teresa and concluded that her hallowed image, "which does not stand up to analysis of the facts, was constructed, and that her beatification was orchestrated by an effective media campaign".

    According to Larivee, facts debunk Teresa's myth. He says that the Vatican, before deciding on Teresa's beatification, did not take into account "her rather dubious way of caring for the sick, her questionable political contacts, her suspicious management of the enormous sums of money she received, and her overly dogmatic views regarding ... abortion, contraception, and divorce."

    At the time of her death, Teresa had 517 missions or "homes for the dying" as described by doctors visiting several of these establishments in Kolkata. They welcomed the poor and sick in more than 100 countries. Two-thirds of the people coming to these missions hoped to a find a doctor to treat them, while the other third lay dying without receiving apt care.

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  9. Miracle of medicine

    According to the study, the doctors observed a significant lack of hygiene, even unfit conditions and a shortage of actual care, food and painkillers. They say that the problem was not a paucity of funds as the Order of the Missionaries of Charity successfully raised hundreds of millions of dollars. Researchers said that when it came to her own treatment, "she received it in a modern American hospital".

    The three researchers also dug into records of her meeting in London in 1968 with the BBC's Malcom Muggeridge who had strong views against abortion and shared Mother Teresa's right-wing Catholic values.

    The researchers say Muggeridge had decided to promote Teresa. In 1969, he made a eulogistic film on the missionary, promoting her by attributing to her the "first photographic miracle", when it should have been attributed to the new film stock being marketed by Kodak.

    Following her death, the Vatican decided to waive the usual five-year waiting period to open the beatification process. According to the researchers, one of the miracles attributed to Mother Theresa is the healing of Monica Besra, who suffered from intense abdominal pain, after a medallion blessed by her was placed on Besra's abdomen.

    Larivee said, "Her doctors thought otherwise: the ovarian cyst and the tuberculosis from which she suffered were healed by the drugs they had given her. The Vatican, nevertheless, concluded that it was a miracle. Mother Teresa's popularity was such that she had become untouchable for the population, which had already declared her a saint."

    Larivee however signs off on a surprisingly positive note and says there could also be a positive effect of the Mother Teresa myth. "If the extraordinary image of Mother Teresa conveyed in the collective imagination has encouraged humanitarian initiatives that are genuinely engaged with those crushed by poverty, we can only rejoice," they signed off.

    http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-03-02/uk/37389641_1_mother-teresa-vatican-study

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  10. Mother Teresa: anything but a saint

    University of Montreal March 1, 2013

    http://www.nouvelles.umontreal.ca/udem-news/news/20130301-mother-teresa-anything-but-a-saint.html

    The myth of altruism and generosity surrounding Mother Teresa is dispelled in a paper by Serge Larivée and Genevieve Chenard of University of Montreal's Department of Psychoeducation and Carole Sénéchal of the University of Ottawa's Faculty of Education. The paper will be published in the March issue of the journal Studies in Religion/Sciences religieuses and is an analysis of the published writings about Mother Teresa. Like the journalist and author Christopher Hitchens, who is amply quoted in their analysis, the researchers conclude that her hallowed image—which does not stand up to analysis of the facts—was constructed, and that her beatification was orchestrated by an effective media relations campaign.

    “While looking for documentation on the phenomenon of altruism for a seminar on ethics, one of us stumbled upon the life and work of one of Catholic Church's most celebrated woman and now part of our collective imagination—Mother Teresa—whose real name was Agnes Gonxha,” says Professor Larivée, who led the research. “The description was so ecstatic that it piqued our curiosity and pushed us to research further."

    As a result, the three researchers collected 502 documents on the life and work of Mother Teresa. After eliminating 195 duplicates, they consulted 287 documents to conduct their analysis, representing 96% of the literature on the founder of the Order of the Missionaries of Charity (OMC).

    Facts debunk the myth of Mother Teresa

    In their article, Serge Larivée and his colleagues also cite a number of problems not take into account by the Vatican in Mother Teresa's beatification process, such as "her rather dubious way of caring for the sick, her questionable political contacts, her suspicious management of the enormous sums of money she received, and her overly dogmatic views regarding, in particular, abortion, contraception, and divorce."

    The sick must suffer like Christ on the cross

    At the time of her death, Mother Teresa had opened 517 missions welcoming the poor and sick in more than 100 countries. The missions have been described as "homes for the dying" by doctors visiting several of these establishments in Calcutta. Two-thirds of the people coming to these missions hoped to a find a doctor to treat them, while the other third lay dying without receiving appropriate care. The doctors observed a significant lack of hygiene, even unfit conditions, as well as a shortage of actual care, inadequate food, and no painkillers. The problem is not a lack of money—the Foundation created by Mother Teresa has raised hundreds of millions of dollars—but rather a particular conception of suffering and death: “There is something beautiful in seeing the poor accept their lot, to suffer it like Christ's Passion. The world gains much from their suffering," was her reply to criticism, cites the journalist Christopher Hitchens. Nevertheless, when Mother Teresa required palliative care, she received it in a modern American hospital.

    Questionable politics and shadowy accounting

    Mother Teresa was generous with her prayers but rather miserly with her foundation's millions when it came to humanity's suffering. During numerous floods in India or following the explosion of a pesticide plant in Bhopal, she offered numerous prayers and medallions of the Virgin Mary but no direct or monetary aid. On the other hand, she had no qualms about accepting the Legion of Honour and a grant from the Duvalier dictatorship in Haiti. Millions of dollars were transferred to the MCO's various bank accounts, but most of the accounts were kept secret, Larivée says. “Given the parsimonious management of Mother Theresa's works, one may ask where the millions of dollars for the poorest of the poor have gone?”

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  11. The grand media plan for holiness

    Despite these disturbing facts, how did Mother Teresa succeed in building an image of holiness and infinite goodness? According to the three researchers, her meeting in London in 1968 with the BBC's Malcom Muggeridge, an anti-abortion journalist who shared her right-wing Catholic values, was crucial. Muggeridge decided to promote Teresa, who consequently discovered the power of mass media. In 1969, he made a eulogistic film of the missionary, promoting her by attributing to her the “first photographic miracle," when it should have been attributed to the new film stock being marketed by Kodak. Afterwards, Mother Teresa travelled throughout the world and received numerous awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize. In her acceptance speech, on the subject of Bosnian women who were raped by Serbs and now sought abortion, she said: “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.”

    Following her death, the Vatican decided to waive the usual five-year waiting period to open the beatification process. The miracle attributed to Mother Theresa was the healing of a woman, Monica Besra, who had been suffering from intense abdominal pain. The woman testified that she was cured after a medallion blessed by Mother Theresa was placed on her abdomen. Her doctors thought otherwise: the ovarian cyst and the tuberculosis from which she suffered were healed by the drugs they had given her. The Vatican, nevertheless, concluded that it was a miracle. Mother Teresa's popularity was such that she had become untouchable for the population, which had already declared her a saint. “What could be better than beatification followed by canonization of this model to revitalize the Church and inspire the faithful especially at a time when churches are empty and the Roman authority is in decline?” Larivée and his colleagues ask.

    Positive effect of the Mother Teresa myth

    Despite Mother Teresa's dubious way of caring for the sick by glorifying their suffering instead of relieving it, Serge Larivée and his colleagues point out the positive effect of the Mother Teresa myth: “If the extraordinary image of Mother Teresa conveyed in the collective imagination has encouraged humanitarian initiatives that are genuinely engaged with those crushed by poverty, we can only rejoice. It is likely that she has inspired many humanitarian workers whose actions have truly relieved the suffering of the destitute and addressed the causes of poverty and isolation without being extolled by the media. Nevertheless, the media coverage of Mother Theresa could have been a little more rigorous.”

    About the study

    The study was conducted by Serge Larivée, Department of psychoeducation, University of Montreal, Carole Sénéchal, Faculty of Education, University of Ottawa, and Geneviève Chénard, Department of psychoeducation, University of Montreal.

    The printed version, available only in French, will be published in March 2013 in issue 42 of Studies in Religion / Sciences religieuses. This study received no specific funding.

    *The University of Montreal is officially known as Université de Montréal.

    On the Web :

    Studies in Religion/Sciences religieuses
    http://sir.sagepub.com

    Official biography of Mother Teresa published by the Vatican: http://www.vatican.va/news_services/liturgy/saints/ns_lit_doc_20031019_madre-teresa_en.html

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  12. Self-Flagellation and the Excruciating Kiss of Jesus –Mother Teresa’s Attraction to Pain

    by Valerie Tarico, Away Point April 29, 2013

    An Interview with Mary Johnson, former nun and author of An Unquenchable Thirst.

    http://awaypoint.wordpress.com/2013/04/29/self-flagellation-and-the-kiss-of-jesus-mother-teresas-attraction-to-pain/

    With a new Pope at the helm, the Catholic hierarchy has set about to polish its tarnished image. Can an increased focus on the poor make up for the Church’s opposition to contraception and marriage equality or its sordid financial and sexual affairs? The Bishops can only hope. And pray. And perhaps accelerate the sainthood of Agnes Gonxha, better known as Mother Teresa.

    In the last century, no one icon has improved the Catholic brand as much as the small woman who founded the Missionaries of Charity, whose image aligns beautifully with that of the new pope. In March a team of Canadian researchers noted the opportunity: “What could be better than beatification followed by canonization of [Mother Teresa] to revitalize the Church and inspire the faithful, especially at a time when churches are empty and the Roman authority is in decline?”

    The question, however, was more than a little ironic. The team of academics from the Universities of Montreal and Ottawa set out to do research on altruism. In the process, they reviewed over 500 documents about Mother Teresa’s life and compiled an array of disturbing details about the soon-to-be saint, including dubious political connections and questionable management of funds—and, in particular, an attitude toward suffering that could give pause to even her biggest fans.

    Passive acceptance or even glorification of suffering can be adaptive when people have no choice. As the much loved Serenity Prayer says, “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.” This attitude of embracing the inevitable is built into not only Christianity but also other religions, especially Buddhism. But passive acceptance of avoidable suffering is another thing altogether, which is why the prayer continues, “. . . the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”

    By even her own words, Mother Teresa’s view of suffering made no distinction between avoidable and unavoidable suffering, and instead cultivated passive acceptance of both. As she put it, “There is something beautiful in seeing the poor accept their lot, to suffer it like Christ’s Passion. The world gains much from their suffering.” Or consider this anecdote from her life:

    One day I met a lady who was dying of cancer in a most terrible condition. And I told her, I say, “You know, this terrible pain is only the kiss of Jesus — a sign that you have come so close to Jesus on the cross that he can kiss you.” And she joined her hands together and said, “Mother Teresa, please tell Jesus to stop kissing me.”

    Mother Teresa’s outlook on suffering played out in her order’s homes for the sick and dying, which doctors have described as deficient in hygiene, care, nutrition, and painkillers. Miami resident Hemley Gonzalez was so shocked by his volunteer experience that he has founded an accountable charity to provide better care. “Needles were washed in cold water and reused and expired medicines were given to the inmates. There were people who had chance to live if given proper care,” . . . “I have decided to go back to Kolkata to start a charity that will be called ‘Responsible Charity.’ Each donation will be made public and professional medical help will be given,” Gonzalez said after returning to the U.S. He also launched a Facebook page called, “Stop the Missionaries of Charity.”

    Even her critics mostly believe that Mother Teresa was devoted to God as she understood him and that she was devoted to serving the poor.

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  13. And yet, it would appear that her institutions have offered a standard of care that would provoke international outrage if it were provided by, say the United Nations rather than an affiliate of the Vatican. How are we to understand this paradox?

    Mary Johnson is a former nun who joined Mother Teresa’s order, the Missionaries of Charity, at age 19. For the next twenty years, she lived a life of service and austerity among the sisters, which she has described in her memoir, An Unquenchable Thirst. But beneath the stark simplicity of her daily routine stirred a host of emotional, interpersonal and spiritual complexities, including the order’s tangled view of love and pain. Johnson’s thoughtful observations offer a window into the woman who inspired her spiritual vows and who ran her order of women religious.

    Mother Teresa has inspired millions to acts of sacrifice or service, much as she inspired you. But even as the Catholic Church moves toward making her a saint, others are saying she was a fraud. Your book suggests something more complicated.

    Johnson: One of the reasons I wrote An Unquenchable Thirst was that none of the images of Mother Teresa in the media corresponded with the person I knew. The mainstream media created an image of Mother Teresa that reflected our desire for a perfect mother more than it reflected who Mother Teresa really was. On the other hand, those who called her a fraud often seemed determined to discredit her because they want to discredit religious faith. I very much admire the fact that Christopher Hitchens, who had been one of Mother Teresa’s most adamant critics, eventually revised his assessment of her.

    The Mother Teresa I knew was a remarkably dedicated, self-sacrificing person, but not one of the wisest women I’ve known. Both empowered and shackled by religious faith, Mother Teresa was generous and unreasonable, cheerful and never content, one of the world’s most recognized women and one of its loneliest and most secretive.

    As a postulant in the Missionaries of Charity, one of your superiors, Sister Dolorosa, told you, “Mother always says, love, to be real, has to hurt.” Did you believe that?

    Johnson: In the beginning of my life as a sister, I tried my best to believe what I was told, including that the greatest sign of love was Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. I’d never known the sort of mutual love in which two people rejoice in each other, strengthen each other, enjoy each other. I do believe that true love is willing to suffer for the beloved when necessary, but I don’t believe that suffering is the truest or best sign of love. I certainly now reject the notion that love demands the immolation of self for the beloved, though that’s something Mother Teresa seemed to believe all her life.

    During your time with the sisters, you gave up all possessions—your hair, which had to be shorn every month, an audiotape sent by your parents, even photographs. How does this relate to the fusion of love and pain?

    Johnson: The Missionaries of Charity set out to live like the poor they serve. We each had two sets of clothes, which we’d wash by hand every day in buckets. We are rotting vegetables and stale bread that we’d begged from wholesale grocers. We slept in common dormitories, without any privacy, on thin mattresses we’d made ourselves. Living poorly day by day convinces you that life is hard. For a Missionary of Charity, ideal love was self-sacrificing, even to the practice of corporal penance.

    Your first session of self-flagellation is imprinted in my mind: “My knees shook. I took the bunch of knotted cords into my hands. From Sister Jeanne’s stall, I heard the beating sounds, one, two, three. . . . I swung harder. The skin of my lower thighs turned red, then red with white streaks as I hit harder.”

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  14. Johnson: When I took that rope whip into my hands, I was scared, I was excited, I hoped that I was on my way to conquering my selfishness and becoming a holy person. When you visit the homes and shrines of various saints, you often see hair shirts or whips or spiked chains on display. This is a religion in which nearly every house of worship, classroom, and private home has as its most prominent feature the image of a bloodied, tortured man. We were taught that wearing spiked chains and beating ourselves allowed us to share in his work of redemption. I know it doesn’t make much sense when you say it just like that, but within that entire system it had its own weird logic.

    After Mother Teresa’s death, the public learned of her struggles with anguishing doubt. You quote the words of a priest who comforted her with words that glorified her pain: “Your darkness is the divine gift of union with Jesus in his suffering. Your pain brings you close to your Crucified Spouse, and is the way you share His mission of redemption. There is no higher union with God.

    Johnson: I often wish that Mother Teresa had found someone who would have encouraged her to look at her doubts honestly, to examine them, to confront them. But instead of finding someone who encouraged her to think for herself, she found Father Joseph Neuner, SJ, who spun Mother Teresa’s doubts in such a way that the doubts themselves were deemed a sign of her holiness. I believe that the anti-intellectual bias of the Missionaries of Charity can be traced to the day that Mother Teresa was told that the content of her doubts was something she ought never explore. We all tell ourselves stories that help us cope; wisdom looks at those stories and knows how to distinguish the true stories from the coping mechanisms. Mother Teresa swallowed the stories whole.

    Help us to understand the theology under this mindset.

    Johnson: Ah, Valerie, theology is a story that seeks to explain things. In the Catholic Church, official theology is determined by the hierarchy, who have a vested interest in keeping things as they are. When Mother Teresa admitted to the priests and bishops who were her spiritual directors that she was tormented by feelings of distance from God and by doubts in God’s existence, these priests and bishops didn’t want to encourage real questioning; they probably didn’t even give themselves permission to question deeply. Unquestioning faith enables the system to continue undisturbed. Official theology often serves politics.

    In this particular case, Father Neuner taught Mother Teresa to reframe doubt as a sign that she had drawn so close to God that she shared the agony of Jesus, who cried from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Mother Teresa’s doubts did not therefore require examination, but a greater, unquestioning faith. The adoption of such a dogmatic stance proscribed any questioning of the Church’s teachings, including those that caused such suffering to those Mother Teresa served—like prohibitions against birth control and the effective relegation of women to second-rate status in the Church. When these priests convinced Mother Teresa never to question, they were molding her into one of the most outspoken proponents of official Church teaching. The same thing happens on a smaller scale whenever a member of the faithful is taught that reason must be subjugated to belief.

    Because of her opposition to contraception and her seeming disinterest in modern medicine, some have called Mother Teresa a friend of poverty rather than a friend of the poor. How do you see that?

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  15. Johnson: Most people today would say that we help the poor by helping them out of poverty. That was never Mother Teresa’s intention. Mother Teresa often told us that as Missionaries of Charity we did not serve the poor to improve their lot, but because we were serving Jesus, who said that whenever service was rendered to one of the least, it was rendered to him. Jesus promised eternal life to those who fed the hungry and clothed the naked. Mother Teresa was undeniably interested in reserving a really good spot for herself behind the pearly gates. I remember once when we were having dinner and a sister was serving water for the other sisters. Mother Teresa stopped the table conversation to point to that sister and tell us, “Jesus knows how many glasses of water you’ve served to the poor. He’s counting. When you get to heaven, he will know.” I do believe that Mother Teresa had a great deal of compassion for the poor, but it’s hard to deny that she was more interested in improving everyone’s lot in the next life than in this one.

    The enthusiasm for Mother Teresa’s life and work doesn’t seem to jibe with the conditions in her homes for the sick and dying. My husband and I support relief agencies like Oxfam, PATH, Water 1st and Engender Health, and like many secular donors we take time each year to make sure they are making smart use of appropriate science and technology. Why don’t supporters hold the Missionaries of Charity accountable?

    Johnson: Supporters of the Missionaries of Charity are often theologically similar to the sisters, interested not so much in the (to their minds) short-term goal of helping the poor as in the long-term goal of getting everyone to heaven. It’s a little bit like certain evangelical Christians who look forward to nuclear holocaust in the Middle East because they believe devastating war will herald the end of the world and the union of all the good with God.

    Toward the end of your book, you say, “So much depends on the stories we tell ourselves, and on the questions we ask, or fail to ask.” The words are a comment on Mother Teresa and her response to doubt, but I can’t help but think they also are a comment on your own journey.

    Johnson: I’ve learned that every question is worth asking, even when answers elude us. I’ve learned that the stories we tell can help us live more firmly in reality or they can create an alternate reality that causes us to relate to the world in a distorted way. When I allowed myself to question the stories that I’d been told, I could finally begin to live in the real world, and I can’t tell you how liberating that felt, how freeing, how wonderful. Faith teaches you all the answers; it doesn’t tell you that those answers may be wrong. I prefer to live with the questions, and with stories that mirror the world as I experience it rather than as I’d like it to be. I wrote An Unquenchable Thirst in hopes that if I were honest about the story of my life, then I could perhaps encourage others to be honest about their lives as well.

    Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light and Deas and Other Imaginings, and the founder of www.WisdomCommons.org. Her articles can be found at Awaypoint.Wordpress.com.

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  16. Spanking for Jesus: Inside the Unholy World of Christian Domestic Discipline

    What do you call it when a husband beats his wife with a paddle for disobeying him? Some would say domestic abuse. These people say he’s doing God’s work.

    By Brandy Zadrozny, The Daily Beast June 19, 2013

    On a pain scale of one to 10, Chelsea ranks the epidural-free birth of her child as a six. Her husband’s spankings? Those are an eight.

    First, he uses his hands for “warm-up” slaps. Then comes a combination of tools based on the specific infraction. The wooden spoon is the least severe; for the worst rule-breaking—like texting while driving (“It could kill me,” Chelsea admits) or moving money between accounts without his permission—she’ll be hit with something else: a hairbrush, a paddle, or a leather strap.

    But this isn’t domestic abuse, Chelsea says. This is for Jesus.

    Chelsea and her husband Clint, who asked that I use only their first names, belong to a small subculture of religious couples who practice “Christian Domestic Discipline,” a lifestyle that calls for a wife to be completely submissive to her husband. Referred to as CDD by its followers, the practice often includes spanking and other types corporal punishments administered by husbands—and ostensibly ordained by God. While the private nature of the discipline makes it difficult to estimate the number of adherents, activity in several online forums suggests a figure in the low thousands. Devotees call CDD an alternative lifestyle and enthusiastically sing its praises; for critics, it’s nothing but domestic abuse by another name.

    Clint was in the room while I talked to Chelsea. They do everything together, including running their blog, Learning DD, which chronicles their exploration of domestic discipline. When Chelsea gets flummoxed by a question, she asks Clint for guidance in a voice so high-pitched that it belies her 28 years: “Honey, how long does the spanking usually last?” (About 5 minutes, Clint says.)

    He has left bruises, Chelsea says, but it’s rare, and she attributes them to anemia.

    You don’t have to be a Christian to practice domestic discipline, although many of its practitioners say they believe that domestic discipline goes hand in hand with their faith. Specifics of the practice vary by couple, though CDDers all seem to follow a few basic principles. Foremost, that the Bible commands a husband to be the head of the household, and the wife must submit to him, in every way, or face painful chastisement.

    When a wife breaks her husband’s rules—rolling her eyes, maybe, or just feeling “meh,” as one blogger put it—that can equal punishments which are often corporal but can also be “corner time”; writing lines (think “I will not disobey my master” 1,000 times); losing a privilege like internet access; or being “humbled” by some sort of nude humiliation. Some practice “maintenance spanking,” wherein good girls are slapped on a schedule to remind them who’s boss; some don’t. Some couples keep the lifestyle from their children; others, like CDD blogger Stormy, don’t. “Not only does he spank me with no questions asked for disrespect or attitude in front of them, but I am also required to make an apology to each of them,” she writes.

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  17. After discipline, many wives report being held and comforted. And on Internet message boards dedicated to the practice, couples emphatically advocate for the CDD way of life. As such, there’s a temptation to file away domestic discipline into to the “different strokes for different folks” category. But mental-health and abuse experts see a potential for danger.

    Jim Alsdurf, a forensic psychologist who evaluates and treats sexual psychopaths and is the author of a book on abuse in Christian homes, says CDD isn’t about religion—it’s an outlet for emotionally disturbed men with intimacy deficits.

    “No fool in his right mind would buy this as a legitimate way to have a relationship,” Alsdurf says. “A relationship that infantilizes a woman is one that clearly draws a more pathological group of people.”

    For Alsdurf, though, CDD sounds less like an act of violence and more like of an act of distorted sexual arousal. “If people want to spank each other, go ahead,” he says. “The problem of course, is if it’s done in a controlling and a mildly abusive way.” Like with all outer variables of sexual expression, he says, “If they’re not done in a healthy way they can become about abuse and control.”

    Others are less equivocal. “It’s sick,” says Wendy Dickson, who runs an emergency shelter for women and children fleeing abusive homes in Evanston, Illinois. Women who receive beatings in the name God, she says, are no different than the women she sees every day in her shelter. Domestic abuse, which one in four U.S. women (PDF) will experience at some point in their lifetime, often conjures scenes of thundering rage, broken bones, and black eyes. But the most dangerous kind, Dickson says, is the emotional kind, because it keeps people trapped. “The definition of domestic abuse is power and control over another individual,” she says.

    And as for women who seem content? Dickson says many of the abused women whom she helps also make excuses for staying in an unacceptable relationship. “Everyone just wants to maintain and tell themselves this is what they want,” she says.

    Perhaps for these reasons, CDDers are a private group. As they see it, they’re fighting (and losing) a culture war against liberalism and feminism. There are no brick-and-mortar churches where adherents gather to pray and paddle. Instead, the ties that bind the community are formed in largely anonymous online communities.

    There are dozens of online meeting places. On Fetlife, the Christian Domestic Discipline group has more than 500 members. The private Yahoo group boasts some 4,000 members. The topics on these forums range from the banal (“Happy Flag Day, everybody!”) to the political, such as a thread on whether Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly got it wrong on bread-winning moms. And then there are posts that are just plain disturbing: “My wife cries and writhes and begs me to stop during spankings, should I?”

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  18. Some women post questions about how best to convince their husbands to begin disciplining them, or pen distressed posts when the punishments wane in number or intensity.

    Dig deeper, though, and you’ll find women who seem to want out. They describe being scared and in physical and emotional pain. The responses range from suggestions to submit more fully and try harder to leaving the relationship.

    “I wanted the spankings to stop and my husband told me it was either DD and marriage or divorce,” one user named “Michelle” wrote on a popular domestic discipline blog. “I chose divorce. I couldn’t handle the pain of spankings anymore, emotionally or physically.” Leah Kelley, a CDD blogger and author of “spanking romance stories,” split from the man she had described as her “knight in beat up armor,” in 2010, citing her husband’s “deep-seated mental issues,” as the reason for the marriage’s end.

    What seems to be the most obvious explanation for CDD, one acknowledged by some domestic discipline advocates not tied to the Christian church, is that the practice is a means to justify the fulfillment of a sexual fetish. On a CDD blog, “Sue” writes, “Boy do I wish more of the women in DD would admit to this. It’s a sexual fetish. There’s nothing wrong with it, but they try to make it so much more than it is.”

    But the moral constraints of the church make it difficult for couples to be honest about the sexual nature of their desire, says Paul Byerly, who with his wife runs The Marriage Bed, a site dedicated to sexuality and religion. Byerly, who calls CDD a “distortion of what God intended,” believes that “women, particularly in the Christian church tend to be sexually repressed.” Domestic discipline, he explains, could be “a way around that”—a chance to explore sexual desires while still nominally acting in the name of Jesus.

    Still, CDDers themselves reject this pain-for-pleasure explanation. “The pure CDD people don’t go there,” says Vera, who is both in a domestic discipline relationship as well as into sex play. “A lot of folks think of Fifty Shades of Grey—but this is not that,” she says.

    Vera (not her real name), argues that abuse is all about intent. “He never punishes me when he’s angry,” she says of her partner. “He doesn’t yell. The worst thing I can do is disappoint him and I do that when I act on one of my character defects.”

    And do men have any of these defects? Who is there to correct them? “He’s not perfect,” Vera says, “but it’s not my role to point that out. He self corrects.”

    And as for what a man gets out of it, besides a woman who obeys his every command, Vera says her partner is satisfied by her growth. “He enjoys seeing the person he owns, his property, become the thing God wants her to be. It might sound weird, but that works for me.”

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/06/19/spanking-for-jesus-inside-the-unholy-world-of-christian-domestic-discipline.html

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  19. Mother Teresas orphanages end adoptions because of new liberal rules in India

    By Rama Lakshmi, Washington Post October 10, 2015

    NEW DELHI —Thirty orphanages run by the group founded by Mother Teresa have decided to shutter their adoption services in India rather than comply with a new government system that makes it easier for single and divorced people to adopt children.

    “We have already shut our adoption services, because we believe our children may not receive real love,” said Sister Amala at Nirmala Shishu Bhawan, a New Delhi orphanage run by the Missionaries of Charity. “We do not wish to give children to single parents or divorced people. It is not a religious rule but a human rule. Children need both parents, male and female. That is only natural, isn’t it?”

    In recent months, the government has overhauled India’s complex adoption bureaucracy to reduce the long, frustrating waiting period faced by prospective parents and boost the country’s woefully low adoption rates.

    [India moves to improve ‘shameful’ record on orphan adoptions]

    Estimates of the number of orphans in India vary from 16 million to 30 million, a figure cited by several nongovernmental organizations, but only about 2,500 orphans were adopted last year, down from 5,700 four years ago, according to the Women and Child Development Ministry.

    Under the earlier system, orphanages around the country were allowed to handpick parents and match them with children. But that process, officials say, operated with scant oversight and was plagued by corruption, trafficking, delays, favoritism and prejudice.

    Since August, the government has required orphanages to submit records of children to a central authority that maintains a database. Prospective parents are now asked to register with the authority, whose automated system will match them with children.

    That means children from any orphanage can potentially be matched with single parents anywhere in the country, something that the nuns of Mother Teresa’s order frown upon.

    At a meeting in New Delhi this past week, Maneka Gandhi, the minister for women and child development, said the Missionaries of Charity had refused to register children in their care with the central authority.

    “They have cited ideological issues with our adoption guidelines, related to giving a child up for adoption to single, unwed mothers,” Gandhi said at the event. “They do not want to come under a uniform secular agenda.”

    Gandhi said the government will try to persuade the religious order to work with the new system because it has “valuable, good people” and experience in adoption.

    The order, however, said it will give up its license. In New Delhi, it has transferred six unadopted children to Holy Cross Social Services, a Catholic organization.

    “We want to bring everybody under a uniform, secular Web site. We do not want different groups to run their own parallel systems anymore,” an official in the Women and Child Development Ministry said.

    The vacuum left by the order is being filled by other agencies.

    “We are seeing a sudden rise in children coming to our adoption home. It could be because the Missionaries of Charity is not accepting any more,” said Lorraine Campos, assistant director of Palna, one of the oldest adoption homes in the capital. “We do not have a problem with single parents or divorced people. We have to accept that society is changing. We have to be flexible, too. But we carefully study the kind of job pressures of the applicant, and we also ensure that they have a family support system that can step in to give care to the child.”

    The Indian system does not, however, allow adoption by gay prospective parents. “We have not progressed to that extent yet,” Campos said.

    Adoption agencies say the new system has cut the waiting period from several months to a few weeks.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/nuns-linked-to-mother-teresa-halt-adoption-services-to-avoid-single-divorced-parents/2015/10/10/338111fe-6ec2-11e5-91eb-27ad15c2b723_story.html

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  20. The Winnipeg-born priest who uncovered Mother Teresa's 'miracles'

    CBC Radio, August 25, 2016

    On Sept. 4, Pope Francis will formally canonize Mother Teresa as a saint.

    The famous Roman Catholic nun died in 1997 at the age of 87 after a life dedicated to helping the poor and sick. But Reverend Brian Kolodiejchuk says her good works didn't end there.

    The Winnipeg-born priest, who will attend the ceremony in Rome, became the main proponent of Mother Teresa's case for sainthood soon after she died. Kolodiejchuk's job is to collect enough evidence that shows she is a true saint. On that pursuit, he says he has uncovered and confirmed the two miracles required to have been performed through her posthumous intervention.

    The first involved an Indian woman in Calcutta, whose tumour in her abdomen made her "roughly the size of a woman six-months pregnant," Kolodiejchuk says. Doctors had said nothing could be done for her. But on Sept. 5, 1998 —exactly a year after Mother Teresa's death — a locket containing her picture was placed on the woman's stomach. Within days, she was healed.

    Some observers disputed the explanation, arguing that the treatments the woman had been receiving were ultimately responsible for her recovery. But in the eyes of the Church, the deed was enough to earn Mother Teresa beatification.

    Kolodiejchuk says the second miracle occurred in 2008, but didn't come to his attention until five years later. A Brazilian man had developed brain tumours. He was unconscious and near death when he was being prepared for surgery. But before the doctor began operating, Kolodiejchuk says, the man woke up, conscious and healed.

    Pope Francis ultimately acknowledged the second miracle last year, effectively paving the way to Mother Teresa's canonization as a saint.

    Doubt has, of course, been cast on the reports, as well as on Mother Teresa herself. The late author Christopher Hitchens, a sharp critic of hers, argued that she mismanaged funds, and ultimately did not have the best interests of the poor at heart.

    So what about Catholics still in doubt about whether the events were, indeed, miracles?

    The decision to accept the findings remains up to the individual, Rev. Kolodiejchuk says. "The Church says this, in our official judgement, is worthy of belief," he explains.

    But to some of Mother Teresa's admirers, these questions are irrelevant, he believes.

    "I think most people even wouldn't say Mother Teresa's holiness depends whether the miracles were really miracles."

    For more on Mother Teresa's sainthood including the story of a miracle that didn't pass muster, listen to our full interview with Father Brian Kolodiejchuk.

    http://www.cbc.ca/radio/asithappens/as-it-happens-thursday-edition-1.3735771/the-winnipeg-born-priest-who-uncovered-mother-teresa-s-miracles-1.3734072

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  21. A Critic’s Lonely Quest: Revealing the Whole Truth About Mother Teresa

    By KAI SCHULTZ, The New York Times August 26, 2016

    KOLKATA, India — Taking on a global icon of peace, faith and charity is not a task for everyone, or, really, hardly anyone at all. But that is what Dr. Aroup Chatterjee has spent a good part of his life doing as one of the most vocal critics of Mother Teresa.

    Dr. Chatterjee, a 58-year-old physician, acknowledged that it was a mostly solitary pursuit. “I’m the lone Indian,” he said in an interview recently. “I had to devote so much time to her. I would have paid to do that. Well, I did pay to do that.”

    His task is about to become that much tougher, of course, when Mother Teresa is declared a saint next month.

    In truth, Dr. Chatterjee’s critique is as much or more about how the West perceives Mother Teresa as it is about her actual work. As the canonization approaches, Dr. Chatterjee hopes to renew a dialogue about her legacy in Kolkata, formerly Calcutta, where she began her services with the “poorest of the poor” in 1950.

    Growing up, Dr. Chatterjee, a native of Kolkata, found himself bothered by the narrative surrounding Mother Teresa, beginning with the city’s depiction as one of the most desperate places on earth, a “black hole.”

    Having been raised in the middle-class Kolkata neighborhood of Ballygunge in the 1950s and 1960s, Dr. Chatterjee said the city of his experience was cosmopolitan, even moneyed. “Every airline that existed in those days, they all came.”

    As the capital of the British Indian Empire for nearly 140 years, Kolkata was considered one of India’s crown jewels. When the British moved their headquarters to Delhi in 1911, Dr. Chatterjee acknowledged, the city began a slow decline in international prestige.

    Continue reading the main story
    Dr. Chatterjee worked as a foot soldier for a leftist political party in the late 1970s and early 1980s, while he was studying at Kolkata Medical College, campaigning and sleeping in nearby slums. During a year as an intern, he also regularly saw patients from one of the city’s oldest and “most dire” red-light districts.

    “We used to see very serious abuse of women and children quite often,” he said, noting that the city was still struggling to absorb an influx of refugees after the civil war in what was East Pakistan, now Bangladesh.

    “I never even saw any nuns in those slums that I worked in,” he said. “I think it’s an imperialist venture of the Catholic Church against an Eastern population, an Eastern city, which has really driven horses and carriages through our prestige and our honor.

    “I just thought that this myth had to be challenged,” he added.

    Over hundreds of hours of research, much of it cataloged in a book he published in 2003, Dr. Chatterjee said he found a “cult of suffering” in homes run by Mother Teresa’s organization, the Missionaries of Charity, with children tied to beds and little to comfort dying patients but aspirin.

    He and others said that Mother Teresa took her adherence to frugality and simplicity in her work to extremes, allowing practices like the reuse of hypodermic needles and tolerating primitive facilities that required patients to defecate in front of one another.

    But it was not until he moved to the United Kingdom in 1985, eventually taking a job in a rural hospital, that he realized the reputation Kolkata had acquired in Western circles.

    In 1994, Dr. Chatterjee contacted Bandung Productions, a company owned by the writer and filmmaker Tariq Ali. What started as a 12-minute phone pitch turned into an offer by Channel 4’s commissioning editor to film an exposé of Mother Teresa’s work. The social critic Christopher Hitchens was hired to present what would become “Hell’s Angel,” a highly skeptical documentary.

    Over the next year, Dr. Chatterjee traveled the world meeting with volunteers, nuns and writers ...

    continued below

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  22. ... who were familiar with the Missionaries of Charity. In over a hundred interviews, Dr. Chatterjee heard volunteers describe how workers with limited medical training administered 10- to 20-year-old medicines to patients, and blankets stained with feces were washed in the same sink used to clean dishes.

    In the past, when similar criticisms were made, the Missionaries of Charity typically did not deny the reports but said that the nuns were working on the matter. Today, they say, speech therapists and physiotherapists are regularly consulted to look after patients with physical and mental disabilities. And nuns said they frequently take patients who require surgery and more complicated care to nearby hospitals.

    “In Mother’s time, these physiotherapists, they were coming, but at that time, there weren’t as many available,” said Sunita Kumar, a spokeswoman for the Missionaries of Charity.

    These days, Mrs. Kumar added, several nuns have undergone training to “spruce up their medical background,” and the general upkeep of facilities has improved.

    Dr. Chatterjee agreed that after Mother Teresa’s death in 1997, homes run by the Missionaries of Charity began taking their hygiene practices more seriously. The reuse of needles, he said, was eliminated.

    Over the years, as Dr. Chatterjee tried to make his case, campaigning for changes in the charity’s facilities, he said he began to feel Kolkatans turning against him.

    “Like a complete nincompoop, I thought that people would absolutely fall over me with garlands and roses, people in Calcutta, if I came and told them that I’m going to settle the score and I’m going to expose this lady,” he said.

    Part of this protection of Mother Teresa, Dr. Chatterjee believes, can be attributed to the Nobel Peace Prize she won in 1979. “Calcuttans have got this fascination with Nobel Prizes,” he said, adding that the city’s celebrated poet Rabindranath Tagore won Asia’s first Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913. Others, he said, were simply afraid to speak out.

    But Dr. Chatterjee said that Mother Teresa’s place in the Western canon was enough for some Indians to lionize her as part of an ingrained colonialist mind-set. “The West is saying she’s good, so she must be good,” he said.

    When Indians have challenged aspects of Mother Teresa’s career, he said, it has often been to safeguard what some see as the progressiveness of her work, playing down the miracles and myths surrounding her.

    “Because Calcuttans think that Mother Teresa is Western and she’s a Western icon, she’s very progressive,” he said. “And they do not associate her with miracles and mumbo jumbo and black magic just as they do not associate her with opposition to contraception and abortion.”

    Leading up to the canonization, several Hindu nationalists have spoken out against Mother Teresa to different ends, arguing that her Missionaries of Charity pushed conversion on its patients. Dr. Chatterjee said he felt safer criticizing the nun with a nationalist party like the Bharatiya Janata Party in power.

    As for the reception of his work among Western audiences, Dr. Chatterjee said there was an appetite mostly for the more sensational issues he had raised.

    “They don’t care about whether a third-world city’s dignity or prestige has been hampered by an Albanian nun,” he said. “So, obviously, they may be interested in the lies and the charlatans and the fraud that’s going on, but the whole story, they’re not interested in.”

    Asked if Mother Teresa’s becoming a saint would deter him from his campaign, Dr. Chatterjee said he would continue his quest to right the record as long as it took.

    “In my mind, the dialogue will never die, because I think the myth goes on and the issue goes on,” he said. “I will not go away. It’s as simple as that.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/27/world/asia/mother-teresa-critic.html

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