A saint of suffering

Excerpted from the Sept. 8 Digital Diary in GoLocalProv

“It is not true that suffering ennobles the character; happiness does that sometimes, but suffering, for the most part, makes men petty and vindictive.”

-- W. Somerset Maugham

The late Mother Teresa has been made a saint. That’s the Catholic Church’s business, but a lot of us think wish that she had used her fame mostly to lobby for truly effective humanitarian aid by nongovernmental and governmental organizations in teeming places like Kolkata (formerly called Calcutta),  which she encouraged to be even more teeming. The poor there need Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) a lot more than Mother Teresa’s sort of charity work, which included substandard medical care. 

Where she probably did the most damage was in fighting artificial birth control in grossly overpopulated Kolkata. The out-of-control population there causes vast human suffering and environmental devastation but her Catholic theology told her, in effect, to encourage her impoverished clientele to have even more babies. She was an impressive promoter of certain kinds of  selflessness and Catholicism but her stand against birth control and her glorification of suffering probably did more harm than good. 

-- Robert Whitcomb