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robertogreco : sainthood   4

The fanatic, fraudulent Mother Teresa.
"I think it was Macaulay who said that the Roman Catholic Church deserved great credit for, and owed its longevity to, its ability to handle and contain fanaticism. This rather oblique compliment belongs to a more serious age. What is so striking about the "beatification" of the woman who styled herself "Mother" Teresa is the abject surrender, on the part of the church, to the forces of showbiz, superstition, and populism.

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

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

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

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

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

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

One of the curses of India, as of other poor countries, is the quack medicine man, who fleeces the sufferer by promises of miraculous healing. Sunday was a great day for these parasites, who saw their crummy methods endorsed by his holiness and given a more or less free ride in the international press. Forgotten were the elementary rules of logic, that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence and that what can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence. More than that, we witnessed the elevation and consecration of extreme dogmatism, blinkered faith, and the cult of a mediocre human personality. Many more people are poor and sick because of the life of MT: Even more will be poor and sick if her example is followed. She was a fanatic, a fundamentalist, and a fraud, and a church that officially protects those who violate the innocent has given us another clear sign of where it truly stands on moral and ethical questions."
2003  motherteresa  christopherhitchens  poverty  catholicism  cotholicchurch  religion  sainthood  popejohnpaullii  beatification  india  corruption  biography 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Mow the Lawn - NYTimes.com
"She’s off to college in California, whence I suspect she will never return. As places to stay go, California is up there. Whenever I’m there I wonder why I leave. Unencumbered by too much past, it offers the sunlit tug of the future.

So, dear reader, you find me at a juncture. You put four children through high school, and you find yourself reflecting less on the collapsing Sykes-Picot order and the post-carbon economy than on the happiness whose pursuit America at its founding declared an inalienable right.

The founders were not wrong. It is a self-evident truth that people, whether in creating a new nation or simply beginning a new relationship, seek happiness. That they often go about it in the wrong way does not detract from the sincerity of their quest. Sure as there are acorns beneath the oak tree, people keep rekindling their hopes.

In this commencement season, there is inevitably much reflection on the nature of those hopes and how to fulfill them. These tend toward the mawkish. Life is a succession of tasks rather than a cascade of inspiration, an experience that is more repetitive than revelatory, at least on a day-to-day basis. The thing is to perform the task well and find reward even in the mundane.

I have no idea if Malcolm Gladwell is onto something with the “10,000-hour rule” — the notion that this is the time required for the acquisition of perfected expertise in a particular field — but I am sure grind is underappreciated in our feel-good culture. Don’t sweat the details, but do sweat.

I’ve grown suspicious of the inspirational. It’s overrated. I suspect duty — that half-forgotten word — may be more related to happiness than we think. Want to be happy? Mow the lawn. Collect the dead leaves. Paint the room. Do the dishes. Get a job. Labor until fatigue is in your very bones. Persist day after day. Be stoical. Never whine. Think less about the why of what you do than getting it done. Get the column written. Start pondering the next.

A few years ago, when my son Blaise graduated, I was asked to give the commencement speech at the American School in London. Among other things, I said:

“Everyone has something that makes them tick. The thing is it’s often well hidden. Your psyche builds layers of protection around your most vulnerable traits, which may be very closely linked to your precious essence. Distractions are also external: money, fame, peer pressure, parental expectation. So it may be more difficult than you think to recognize the spark that is your personal sliver of the divine. But do so. Nothing in the end will give you greater satisfaction — not wealth, not passion, not faith, not even love — for if, as Rilke wrote, all companionship is but “the strengthening of two neighboring solitudes,” you have to solve the conundrum of your solitude.

“No success, however glittering, that denies yourself will make you happy in the long run. So listen to the voice from your soul, quiet but insistent, and honor it. Find what you thrill to: if not the perfect sentence, the beautiful cure, the brilliant formula, the lovely chord, the exquisite sauce, the artful reconciliation. Strive not for everything money can buy but for everything money can’t buy.”

It’s not precisely that I would retract any of that today — well, maybe a little — it’s just that I’d put the emphasis elsewhere. I am less interested in the inspirational hero than I am in the myriad doers of everyday good who would shun the description heroic; less interested in the exhortation to “live your dream” than in the obligation to make a living wage.

When you think of Sisyphus — the Greek mythological figure whose devious attempt to defy the gods was punished with his condemnation to pushing a boulder up a hill and repeating the task through all eternity when it rolled down again — think above all that he has a task and it is his own. Rather than a source of despair, that may be the beginning of happiness.

In Camus’ book, “The Plague,” the doctor at the center of the novel, Bernard Rieux, battles pestilence day after day. It is a Sisyphean task. At one point he says, “I have to tell you this: This whole thing is not about heroism. It’s about decency. It may seem a ridiculous idea, but the only way to fight the plague is with decency.”

Asked what decency is, he responds: “In general, I can’t say, but in my case I know that it consists of doing my job.” Later, he adds, “I don’t think I have any taste for heroism and sainthood. What interests me is to be a man.”

In the everyday task at hand, for woman or man, happiness lurks."
albertcamus  theplague  everyday  work  labor  heroism  sainthood  rogercohen  2015  california  happiness  slow  small  sisyphus  money  fame  peerpressure  companionship  solitude  repetition  decency  camus  ordinariness  ordinary 
june 2015 by robertogreco
What Internet.org's Stirring Video Cut From the Kennedy Speech It Quotes - Alexis C. Madrigal - The Atlantic
"And that's really the point here: Don't pretend to be saints. We are not stupid.

Because the narrow scope of Internet.org's actual mission sounds both reasonable and, perhaps, attainable, given the 60-year decrease in costs associated with all semiconductor-based technologies.

Not even a grump could take issue with an industry trying to make itself cheaper, so that more people could use its products.

But that's only one level of what Internet.org is trying to do. The public facing-side of Internet.org is not satisfied with looking and sounding like an industry collaboration to increase technical efficiency. It's also working at an ideological level to reinforce the idea that connectedness means peace, that Internet access means progress (or even Progress), that working for a tech company is about making the world a better place. 

At some point, it may (may) have made sense to associate Facebook with peace. But that time is over. 

The thing is: People love the Internet, and they'll hop on it if it's available, even given all privacy concerns. The tech business is safe. But its leaders also want our adulation. 

And we shouldn't have to worship web products, or the people who make them, or the values they hold, to use the Internet."
2013  alexismadrigal  internet.org  sainthood  markzuckerberg  facebook  internet  web  online  digitaldivide  quoteoutofcontext  context  jfk  technosolutionism  silverbullets  politics  policy  worldpeace  whitewashing  ideology  connectiveness  adulation 
august 2013 by robertogreco
Rod Dreher » Steve Jobs or Coach Eric Taylor?
"An average life. The kind of life most of us will have. The kind of life that can be a thing of beauty and worthy of praise…

…Leon Bloy famously said, “There is only one tragedy in the end: not to have been a saint.” Saints can be great men (or women) of the world, or they can be quiet servants. Only God knows… whatever vocation one pursues, whether on the world stage or in the anonymity of our own back yards, the path to sanctity is always before us — and that, in the end, is the only dream worth pursuing. I didn’t always know that. I’m grateful to have learned it.

I mean, look, good for Steve Jobs. I mean that. But I’d rather be Coach Taylor. Very damn few of us have the talent to become Steve Jobs, and even fewer of us will have the opportunity as well. But we can all be Coach Taylor."
stevejobs  fridaynightlights  via:lukeneff  life  wisdom  meaning  purpose  teaching  2011  influence  sainthood  scale 
october 2011 by robertogreco

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