Magazine article New Internationalist


Magazine article New Internationalist


Article excerpt

Praise, blame and all points in between? Give us your feedback.

The New Internationalist welcomes your letters. But please keep them short. They might be edited for purposes of space or clarity. Letters should be sent to or to your local NI office. Please remember to include a town and country for your address.


I am disappointed by your article with the sensationalist headline 'How Mother Teresa is torturing Kolkota' (NI 475).

The article makes three claims against the Missionaries of Charity: poor maintenance and negligence in surgery, that funds are grossly mismanaged and that the charity has a fundamentalist doctrine that justifies unnecessary suffering of the poor.

S Bedford's claim of negligent surgery has been made before and was answered by letters to The Lancet explaining that the criticism failed to take account of Indian conditions, specifically that government regulations effectively preclude the use of morphine outside large hospitals.

As for financial mismanagement; the audited accounts for the charity can be inspected on the UK Charity Commissioner's website. The same website lists the first objective of the charity as the 'Relief of Poverty' which cannot be consistent with any socalled doctrine of unnecessary suffering.

Mike Slinn Winchester, England

S Bedford replies:

The Charity Commissioner's site only audits the UK branches of Missionaries of Charity. While it does mention funds allocated to branches overseas, it does not specify how that money is spent once it arrives. In the article, I was referring to the organization as a whole, which spans over 100 countries.

The reader writes that 'the criticism fails to take into account Indian conditions' in reference to the hospitals. Although there are government hospitals which offer care that seems substandard when compared to Western hospitals, I know from experience that the private hospitals are excellent. Regarding whether morphine is available outside hospitals, I met a nurse who was able to procure morphine with a prescription. On very rare occasions, doctors from Kolkata hospitals do visit Kalighat, and thus would potentially be able to prescribe morphine if the nuns were unable to. Regardless, the prominent issue in this case is that the nuns do not administer the local anaesthetic, which they already have in their possession.

Unlike the reader, I do not believe that 'relief of poverty' is necessarily incongruent with Missionaries of Charity's fundamentalist doctrine. That is only one part of its mission statement - the rest does include spreading religious beliefs.

Call on men

Re: your comment that feminist movements hold the key to change, and are more effective at combating violence than either political parties or wealth ('Is there a feminist spring?', NI 474).

The only reason feminist movements are more effective is not due to any inherent characteristics they have, but because governments and other institutions with the power to make immediate and effective change have variously avoided, deflected, trivialized, refused or otherwise failed to take any responsibility, and only act when protest is too visible and too politically/socially costly to ignore. No ruling class ever gave up power over a subordinate class without a struggle.

Your comment appears to be perpetuating the 'blame the victim' syndrome: ie, we won't achieve a fair and just world unless we protest. While I agree that this is the sad reality, I feel your article has not called on men to take any responsibility for women's inequality. …

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