Classless Obituaries for Mother Teresa
by L. Brent Bozell III
September 11, 1997
Weeks after the tragic and touching story of Princess
Diana's untimely death, the story has been beaten into an unrecognizable pulp,
and still the media won't let go. This is no longer news. It's a blatant
attempt to cash in on a horrific event, and if it means transforming the
departed princess into a figure worthy of Greek mythology, so be it. And they
condemn the paparazzi?
In a sense, it was fitting that Mother Teresa's death should
come five days into this frenzy, if that's what it would take to sober us up
and put the world back into its proper perspective. In today's
celebrity-dominated network "news," perhaps it's too much to expect
reports of Mother Teresa's death not to be drowned out by the unceasing Diana
juggernaut. Only ABC led with Mother Teresa the evening of her death. That
night, NBC devoted seven times as many minutes to Diana as Mother Teresa, CBS
three times. As one "network insider" noted to the Hollywood
newspaper Variety, Mother Teresa "wasn't even a blip on our radar screen
compared to Diana."
But what was really stunning was the quality of coverage,
comparatively. News reporters have devoted untold hours to wholly uncritical
stories on Diana's good works, both real and imagined. (Didn't anyone
have the courage to report how pointless, no matter how well-intentioned, were
Diana's calls for a worldwide ban on land mines with monsters like Saddam
Hussein being responsible for the atrocities?)
No such treatment, remarkably, awaited Mother Teresa. Her
primary concern - protecting the sanctity of life - was first simply ignored,
and then along with her other "fundamentalist Catholic" beliefs,
made into controversy.
On the "Today" show, Newsweek religion writer
Kenneth Woodward noted "She said any country that allows abortion the way
this country does commits violence and she said this to a President and a
First Lady whose one consistent principle was choice." (Note which party
in this exchange was driven by opinion, and which by "principle.")
To which, Matt Lauer added: "And many people were critical of that. Other
critics chimed in because of the fact that she would take money and sometimes
appeared she had tunnel vision. She would help the individual in front of her
without stopping to look back at the larger picture that surrounded her in a
On CNN, reporter Richard Blystone quickly identified Mother
Teresa as the enemy of Earth worship: "The forceful personality and
unswerving beliefs put her in conflict with several Western liberal ideals.
Among them, the notion that feeding the poor only perpetuates poverty, and
hunger should be attacked at its root with seeds and hoes and population
control. Not her job, she said.... And her opposition to contraception,
divorce and abortion drew active and vocal criticism, but she was not to be
But the most classless media attacks on Mother Teresa came
from National Public Radio, especially Scott Simon's "All Things
Considered" obituary on the night she died, which awarded a platform to
the wretched Christopher Hitchens and his book-length, tastelessly titled
attack, "The Missionary Position."
Simon declared: "It wasn't her support of the Church so
much as her tolerance of tyrants and criminals that began to draw criticism in
the 1980s. She accepted millions for her missions from the dictatorial
Duvalier family in Haiti, and from convicted savings and loan executive
Charles Keating in the United States....Hitchens criticized Mother Teresa's
enthusiasm for the dignity of poverty as 'Middle Age theology,' a destructive
comfort to keep people poor, rather than give them the means or inspiration to
rise up." There you have it: the life of an angel, reduced to dirt by a
reprehensible Marxist guttersnipe.
The coverage of Mother Teresa's death illustrates the
anxieties of a secular liberal media. MSNBC proclaimed Diana a "secular
saint," whatever that means, and the rest of the media echoed that same
spirit in their reports. Now suddenly faced with having to cover a real one,
their discomfort was palpable.
Several years ago, Mother Teresa came to Washington, DC, and
I had the honor to hear her speak before a standing-room-only audience. In
that heavily accented voice, she begged America to embrace the sanctity of
life. Words could never do justice to the visual when this stooped,
diminutive, old lady with the weather-beaten face begged America to end the
slaughter of the unborn. "And if you don't want your babies," she
said sadly, before stretching out her frail arms and bursting into a glorious,
welcoming smile, "give them to me!"
The cameras were all there that day, and captured the
moment, but that night no one reported it. How sad that they didn't see - and
many still don't realize - that right before our very eyes was the Saint of
the Gutters, the face of God.
Rest in peace, gentle lady.
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