Anyone who knows anything about Catholic League president Bill Donohue knows that he’s a man of many questionable opinions.
This is the man who called the Catholic Church “a model for all organizations and professions” dealing with sexual misconduct, all the while attacking atheist groups for bizarre and often hypocritical reasons.
He’s also the man who recently accused the New York Times of “blaming Christians for coronavirus” after they published an op-ed criticizing the role of anti-science religious conservatives in hampering COVID-19 response efforts.
This time, though, his hardcore devotion to Mother Teresa tripped him up, and he inadvertently paid a compliment to the people he most loves to hate.
In an article he posted on the Catholic League’s website, he argued against everyone using the pandemic to promote such grave evils as “socialized health care” or better wages for essential workers. Now you might think such people are motivated by a desire to alleviate suffering during uncertain times… but Donohue knows better! This is obviously all a dastardly plot against capitalism.
These people, he contends, are “the polar opposite of Mother Teresa.”
Those who truly care about the poor, such as Mother Teresa, have always had some skin in the game. In her case, it was more than a little: she gave her life to the dispossessed. She risked her own well-being caring for lepers; she carried the sick up flights of stairs; she founded hospitals; and she tended to the dying. By contrast, left-wing champions of the poor never lift a finger. They simply agitate.
Donohue is an ardent admirer of Mother Teresa. He’s written a book about it. He once even picked a fight with a cheese shop to defend her honor. So it’s clear that he considers this a damning condemnation.
It’s actually a compliment.
Mother Teresa’s horrific legacy is well-documented (most famously, perhaps, by the late Christopher Hitchens). She may have lived with the poor and ailing, but whether she actually helped them is debatable. The “dispossessed” she’s said to have risked her life for lived and died in deplorable conditions. Doctors who visited her “homes for the dying” criticized them for unsanitary conditions, lack of medical attention, and the withholding of painkillers — all this in spite of access to millions of dollars in donations.
Why? Because Mother Teresa fetishized other people’s suffering:
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.
Donohue takes shots at Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for gloating about the falling price of oil and Rep. Rashida Tlaib for taking the crisis as a teachable moment, but none of that comes close to the level of callousness in those words of Mother Teresa’s.
That alone makes “the polar opposite of Mother Teresa” more accolade than attack. But it doesn’t quite get at the root of the difference between your average “left-wing radical” (Donohue’s words) and the woman he adores.
The difference is structural change.
Mother Teresa was a defender of the status quo. She benefited from that system. With the poor and sick dependent on her private charity, she got to feel righteous and important while advancing her dogmatic beliefs at others’ expense. And for that, the world saw her as saintly.
The left-wing radicals, as Donohue acknowledges, want change. Rather than celebrating the suffering of others, they seek to alleviate it — not in a nebulous afterlife, but in the here-and-now. All the ideas he attacks — living wages, universal basic income, debt forgiveness, price controls, rent deferrals — are based on the observation that more people suffer when those things are absent. Left-wing radicals don’t want to “destroy the market economy” so much as they want to lift people out of poverty and spread societal wealth more equitably.
Donohue seems to suggest that the market economy cannot survive without the suffering and exploitation of millions living in poverty. Worse, he’s suggesting that allegiance to a particular social structure should be more important than the actual experiences of living human beings, which makes him every bit as much of a ghoul as Mother Teresa was.
If someone like that thinks you’re the villain, you’re clearly doing something right.
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