March 6, 2015
An art exhibit at a public library In Trumbull, a Connecticut town, featured a painting depicting Mother Teresa and members of her religious order, The Missionaries of Charity, marching in unity with icons of the feminist movement and Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger. A Catholic organization, The Knights of Columbus, protested, resulting in the removal of the painting. The Secular Left is battling to have the painting returned to the exhibit. Undoubtedly they will win. They always do.
I spent a year as a volunteer physician working with the Missionaries of Charity in Haiti. They are the best the human race has to offer. They woke up at 4:30 AM, prayed for an hour on hard wooden kneelers and then spent the rest of the day caring for the sick and dying. They drove through the streets of Port-au-Prince, found people dying, brought them back to their hospitals, and nursed them back to health. They distributed medicine and food to neglected and abused. They cleaned the flies and excrement off of patients dying of AIDS and drug-resistant tuberculosis, allowing them a pain free and comfortable death.
They also believed in the culture of Life. Abortion was an anathema to Mother Teresa and to sisters in her order. This is spite of the fact that they daily saw pregnant women with no visible means of support and infants dying of starvation because of a lack of medicine and food. This is simply an unshakable article of Faith.
What is less known about the Missionaries of Charity is that they are totally free of any racial bias. Racism is a sin. In fact when I was in Haiti, the good sisters would routinely interview parents who wanted to adopt an abandoned baby. If one of these parents even asked about the degree of pigmentation of the child, that family was automatically rejected.
Margaret Sanger, on the other hand, had racist tendencies. In her book, The Pivot of Civilization, she professes her belief in the science of eugenics, whereby “inferior races” should be discouraged from reproducing. Her journal, Birth Control Review, featured Nazi writers. In her book, What Every Woman should Know, she stated that the Australian aborigine is “just a step higher than the chimpanzee” with “little sexual control,” as compared to the “normal man and Woman.” Margaret Sanger was a guest speaker at Ku Klux Klan meetings. Civil rights activist Angela Davis once accused her of wanting to exterminate black people.
To suggest that Mother Teresa would march with Margaret Sanger dishonors her memory. No one would suggest that art work that insults gays, blacks, Jews or Hispanics be exhibited. Why should the Secular Left force the exhibition of a painting that deliberately insults the memory of Mother Teresa other than to showcase their raw political power? To do so is simply bad manners.
In all this hullabaloo, I suspect the Missionaries of Charity are not terribly upset. They are joyous, productive people at peace with their Faith. They realize their world view will always have opposition. I would bet my bottom dollar that they are praying for the artist, for the squabbling politicians trying to protect their careers, for the Secular Left that ridicules their pro-life values and for the repose of the soul of Margaret Sanger.
Jack Testani says
Excellent summary and thoughtful insight into the controversy over Mother Theresa being portrayed with Margaret Sanger
Ben Proto says
I think the art work fulfilled its purpose, which was to create and maintain a discussion, as all good works of art do.
I don’t believe the artist, nor anyone else would suggest that Mother Theresa and Margaret Sanger would ever agree on anything, however, I do believe that most people would agree that both Mother Theresa and Margaret Sanger were women who had a great impact on society (you can argue whether the impact was good or bad), and the purpose of the painting, as I understand it, was to showcase women of historical significance. How is it that noone has an issue with Abigail Adams and Gloria Steinem, two women of very different philosophical beliefs, but both of whom had a tremendous impact on, at the very least, American society, and many would argue both women changed the world.
Under the logic being put forth, all the books in the Trumbull library which may mention both Mother Theresa and Margaret Sanger, or books about either, should be removed because the two women should never be associated under the same roof.
Art should always provoke discussion and, at times, disconcernment.