Mother Teresa’s "Saint of Calcutta" narrative is the one she is best known by, the mantle in which much of the world has accepted and honoured her. But before her death in 1997, British author and journalist Christopher Hitchens had taken it upon himself to tear through this narrative and expose the “saintly” nun as what he called a “Hell’s Angel.”
The video above is the 1994 documentary which Hitchens, along with British Pakistani journalist Tariq Ali, made about her. His face lit up by a slightly sinister glow, Hitchens tells his version of the story – that Mother Teresa is pushing a Catholic agenda, cosying up to the powerful while “rescuing” the poor.
He says that her apolitical stance was one in alliance with the status quo. She did not believe in empowering the poor, but instead in rescuing them, he says. As a western Catholic “rescuing” Third World "heathens", her figure enforced certain problematic narratives.
She was against abortion and contraception, instances of which are pointed out. When she won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, she said abortion was “the greatest destroyer of peace”.
Hitchens, an almost militant atheist who was amongst Mother Teresa's most vociferous detractors, followed the film up with a pamphlet controversially titled, The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice.
There he wrote: “Who would be so base as to pick on a wizened, shrivelled old lady, well stricken in years, who has consecrated her entire life to the needy and the destitute? On the other hand, who would be so incurious as to leave unexamined the influence and motives of a woman who once boasted of operating more than five hundred convents in upward of 105 countries – 'without counting India'? Lone self-sacrificing zealot, or chair of a missionary multinational? The scale alters with the perspective, and the perspective alters with the scale.”
The Pope announced on Tuesday that Mother Teresa will be canonised on September 4, a day before her 19th death anniversary.