Sunday, September 4, 2016

FLASHBACK: When a Belgian Sinologist Defended Mother Teresa's "Secret Baptisms"

Some Catholics have criticized Mother Teresa's canonization (or at least the rapidity of it) partly on the grounds that she may have voiced quasi-indifferentist views.

For example, she is alleged to have said:
I’ve always said we should help a Hindu become a better Hindu, a Muslim become a better Muslim, a Catholic become a better Catholic.
However, there's a sort of opposite story that has also been told - that Mother Teresa and her Sisters gave dying Muslim and Hindu patients "secret baptisms."

In "The Shadow Saint," a favorable review of Christopher Hitchens' infamous The Missionary Positiona 1996 book-length attack on Mother Teresa, Murray Kempton quotes a source mentioned by Hitchens:
In the homes for the dying, Mother taught the sisters how to secretly baptize those who were dying. Sisters were to ask each person in danger of death if he wanted a “ticket to heaven.” An affirmative reply was to mean consent to baptism. The sister was then to pretend that she was just cooling the patient’s head with a wet cloth, while in fact she was baptizing him, saying quietly the necessary words. Secrecy was important so that it would not come to be known that Mother Teresa’s sisters were baptizing Hindus and Moslems.
Kempton then adds some of his own righteous snark:
Some of those thus surreptitiously snatched from the burning had to be so far in moribundity as to be incapable of informed consent; and this glimpse of her style with conversions licenses us to add to the catalog of this woman’s heresies the extraordinary notion that the gate of Heaven, instead of being as strait as she was taught as a novice, gapes instead so wide as to accept tickets of admission contrived in stealth and sealed with a fraudulent stamp.
Two months later, NYRB printed two letters in her defense. The first was written by, of all people, a younger Fr. James Martin at America Magazine who begins his letter by stating, "So Mother Teresa isn’t perfect." He then cites a conspiracy book by John Corwell, criticizes the selfishness of the West and finally defends (admittedly in a gentlemanly way) the Sister's commitment to helping the poor.

The second letter was written by "Simon Leys", the pseudonym of Pierre Ryckmans, a Belgian-Australian art historian, literary critic, translator and sinologist. 

The Catholic Ryckmans, who died in 2014 was a fascinating character, and I urge you to look up some of his diverse selection of books. Among other things, he was one of the most prominent critics of Mao and the Chinese Communists during an era when such thoughts could doom ones academic career in the West, hence the "Simon Leys" pseudonym.

While Martin gently scolded Kempton for being "not a little unfair," Leys strongly gave back to Kempton and Hitchens what they so richly deserved:    
Bashing an elderly nun under an obscene label does not seem to be a particularly brave or stylish thing to do. Besides, it appears that the attacks which are being directed at Mother Teresa all boil down to one single crime: she endeavors to be a Christian, in the most literal sense of the word—which is (and always was, and will always remain) a most improper and unacceptable undertaking in this world . . . 
She secretly baptizes the dying. The material act of baptism consists in shedding a few drops of water on the head of a person, while mumbling a dozen simple ritual words. Either you believe in the supernatural effect of this gesture—and then you should dearly wish for it. Or you do not believe in it, and the gesture is as innocent and well-meaningly innocuous as chasing a fly away with a wave of the hand. If a cannibal who happens to love you presents you with his most cherished possession—a magic crocodile tooth that should protect you forever—will you indignantly reject his gift for being primitive and superstitious, or would you gratefully accept it as a generous mark of sincere concern and affection? 
Jesus was spat upon—but not by journalists, as there were none in His time. It is now Mother Teresa’s privilege to experience this particular updating of her Master’s predicament.
You don't have to be a Catholic to get the point.

A magical crocodile tooth that will protect you forever.

Sancta Teresa, ora pro nobis. Requiescat in pace, Monsieur Rickmans.


  1. Good for Saint Mother Teresa. I'm sure Jesus would approve of such a charitable indiscretion.

  2. "I’ve always said we should help a Hindu become a better Hindu, a Muslim become a better Muslim, a Catholic become a better Catholic."

    Indifferentism is a hallmark of Vatican 2 so her comments are in keeping with the new religion that Vatican created. As a sede, I don't have to accept her canonization; however, this story of her secret baptisms makes me think that perhaps she wasn't as religiously indifferent as her above heretical quote indicates. Good for you , Mother Teresa!

    Seattle Kim

  3. I'm with you Michael! Saint Teresa of Calcutta pray for us!


  4. Mohammad in Vatican II
    St.Alphonsus Liguori said Mohammad is in Hell. He has gone there like other Muslims. The popes and the other saints said the same.Vatican Council II also says that 'all' need 'faith and baptism' for 'salvation'.Everyone needs to enter the Catholic Church, 'as through a door' (Ad Gentes 7). Mohammad did not have faith and baptism at the time of death.
    Being saved with the baptism of water in the Catholic Church is the ordinary means of salvation.The Church is 'the ordinary means of salvation'( Redemptoris Missio 55).In general all Muslims need to be visible members of the Catholic Church for salvation; salvation with 'faith and baptism' (AG 7, LG 14).
    We cannot say that Mohammad or a Muslim was saved with the baptism of desire or in invincibile ignorance. Since they are not the ordinary means of salvation.They cannot even be the extra ordinary means of salvation since there are no such known cases in our reality. They cannot be relevant to the dogma extra ecclesiam nulla salus since they do not exist for us humans in 2016.
    If a person in invincible ignorance is to be saved,God could send a preacher to baptize him with water. So there are only Catholics in Heaven. They are there with the Catholic faith and the baptism of water.
    To be saved with the baptism of desire etc is a possibility known only to God.There is no such known case in reality, defacto, in 2016.So there cannot be any exception in reality to Ad Gentes 7 or Lumen Gentium 16.
    So we cannot meet someone who will be saved with the baptism of desire or in invincible ignorance. Since the ordinary means of salvation is entering visibly in the Catholic Church (with faith and the baptism of water ).For us the baptism of desire refers to something hypothetical, accepted only in theory, in principle.It is speculative.
    We cannot say that Mohammad was saved in invincible ignorance because the only way to go to Heaven is with the baptism of water in the Catholic Church. It is given to adults who have Catholic Faith.Mohammad was not baptised.

    Mohammad also was not ignorant of the Catholic Faith. The Qur'an indicates that Mohammad knew about Jesus and the Church.He chose not to enter. The Second Vatican Council (LG 14), says that those who know about Jesus and the Church and its need for salvation and do not enter are on the way to Hell.
    The Second Vatican Council (AG 7) is cited in the Catechism of the Catholic Church under the title outside the Church there is no salvation.
    Ad Gentes 7 is in accord with the defined dogma, Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus.The dogma is based on John 3: 5 and Mark 16:16.
    There are no exceptions mentioned in the Second Vatican Council to the dogma extra ecclesiam nulla salus. The Council does not contradict the dogma as it was interpreted by the 16 century missionaries or Fr. Leonard Feeney of Boston.
    In the present times we do not know anyone who has received salvation through 'good and holy things in other religions' (NA 2) and without the baptism of water in the Catholic Church. It is not possible to greet someone on the streets of Rome who has received salvation with 'the seeds of the Word' (AG 11) and without 'faith and baptism'. I cannot see someone in Italy or in Heaven who has been saved in invincible ignorance or with a good conscience(LG 16). Therefore, these references (hypothetical cases) are not exceptions to the dogma extraecclesiam nulla salus as they are often mistaken to be.
    Everyone needs to convert into the Church through faith and baptism, all need to be visible members of the Catholic Church to go to heaven and avoid hell (for salvation). The Second Vatican Council is in agreement with the popes and saints when they said that Mohammad is in Hell. The official teaching of the Catholic Church, like the magisterial documents, before and after the Second Vatican Council, and including Vatican Council II has the same message.Nothing has changed.
    Islam is not a path to salvation. (CDF, Notification, Jacques Dupuis, SJ, Dominus Iesus 20, the Second Vatican Council, AG 7, LG 14 etc.). Muslims need to visibly convert into the Catholic Church to avoid hell. (Catechism of the Catholic Church 845.846, Ecclesia in Eucharistia, Cantate Domino, the Council of Florence in 1441, extra ccclesiam nulla salus etc.).
    The founder of Islam, a religion which has good and holy things and which politically is one of the "great religions" like Judaism, was oriented to Hell.
    This is a truth of the Catholic Church.
    The Catholic Church still proclaims and teaches exclusive salvation. Since there are no known cases of Muslims or other non-Catholics, saved outside the Church .
    Since there are no visible exceptions,there is no basis for a theology of religions or a new ecclesiology.
    The ecclesiology of the Catholic Church today, based on the Second Vatican Council (LG 14, AG 7) is still exclusivist .
    Vatican Council II has an exclusivist ecclesiology when references to implicit cases are not mistaken to be explicit, when hypothetical cases are not assumed to be objectively visible in 2016 and when LG 16 for example, refers to someone who is invisible and not visible.
    Exclusive salvation in the Catholic Church, according to Vatican Council II, does not mention any exception to the dogma extra ecclesiam nulla salus or to Ad Gentes 7 (all need faith and baptism for salvation).
    So we need Catholic Mission based on the Second Vatican Council.This is not only a personal opinion. Cardinal Angelo Amato, as Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Vatican, in an interview with the daily Avvenire, called for mission based on Vatican Council II, which for him is missionary .He specifically mentioned Lumen Gentium 14 and Ad Gentes 7.
    -Lionel Andrades

  6. I really wish Mother Teresa hadn't been canonized. She went to the slums of India, one of the most horrible places on earth and devoted herself to people that were despised by the local Hindus and who would make most us completely freak out if they came near so I don't want to criticize her but there are questions. This canonization was too messy. The lack of clear cut miracles is embarrassing. Unless you have someone like Padre Pio or St. Hyacinth or St. Anthony of Padua who all performed miracles on an astounding basis before their deaths, canonization causes should take decades of calm study before decisions are made.


    1. I am old enough to remember when it was only the protestants who attacked the character of those who have been Canonised.

    2. To be fair, it wasn't all that long ago that we had somebody explicitly designated to attack their character BEFORE canonization. Restoring the Advocatus Diaboli might help put a lot of these questions to rest.

    3. Mick, I do not attack her character. That would be ridiculous. I just want to see a more careful examination before canonizations and a miracle that is not flat out denied by the doctor in the case.

    4. Dymphna, I'm with you and I understand what you are saying. I am conflicted about this canonization, partly because of the current regime we are suffering under, which makes me question their motives and how they do things. Slipshod saint-making is bad and we shouldn't have it. It's convenient to have a saint you can use to bolster your own propaganda, and that's all I think this is. I envy the people who feel nothing but joy over this, I really do, and I wish I could, but for the right reasons. I suppose we'll have to ask God directly how He weighs things, does a lifetime of sacrifice and supernatural giving to the world's most off-putting poor souls of more weight than the fact that they died without being told about Jesus Christ but could have been? It's a fascinating thing to ponder, as I sit here doing nothing to convert souls myself, but there's no answer available, not even from the best theologians I'll wager. I hope the baptism stories are true, but these may put people at risk, God forbid. I love the idea of someone being asked if the poor soul wanted a "ticket to heaven", and I would not presume to tell God who can and can't get in no matter how much information I had.

  7. Clear cut Miracles, Dymphna? This "pope" doesn't even believe in the multiplication of the loaves and the fishes. Ambiguity about nearly everything is Jorge's game.

    Seattle kim

  8. Canonisations are infallible and they were infallible prior to the establishment of a devil's advocate.

    We in the west have been seduced by positivism and this is an example of that.

    Read the Relatio of Bishop Gasser on infallibility during Vatican 1 where he both stated the official position of the One True Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church - that there have been thousands of infallible judgments - and his caution to the Fathers of the Council that demanding a positive process that laid out just what steps had to be taken by a Pope before his infallible judgment was acceptable would trail jn its wake many potential problem; such as the problem we are seeing with recent canonisations and the rejection of those by certain soi disant traditionalists.

  9. Bishop Gasser, Relatio:

    [S]ome will persist and say: there remains, therefore, the duty of the Pontiff - indeed most grave in its kind - of adhering to the means apt for discerning the truth, and, although this matter is not strictly dogmatic, it is, nevertheless, intimately connected with dogma. For we define: the dogmatic judgments of the Roman Pontiff are infallible. Therefore let us also define the form to be used by the Pontiff in such a judgment. It seems to me that this was the mind of some of the most reverend fathers as they spoke from this podium. But, most eminent and reverend fathers,this proposal simply cannot be accepted because we are not dealing with something new here. Already thousands and thousands of dogmatic judgments have gone forth from the Apostolic See; where is the law which prescribed the form to be observed in such judgments? [19]

    ....Perhaps someone will say: if we don't have a law, let us make one. But let us not do this lest we run up against that already condemned law which said that the council was above the Pope. Furthermore, of what use would be such a law? Would it not be completely useless, since it would never be able to be verified by the faithful and the bishops scattered throughout the world? Even more, it would be a very dangerous thing....

  10. Sorry, I clipped the copy + paste too short:

    Would it not be completely useless, since it would never be able to be verified by the faithful and the bishops scattered throughout the world? Even more, it would be a very dangerous thing since it would offer the opportunity for innumerable foolish objections and anxieties

    Gasser was bang on...