Thursday, January 14, 2010

Pity Haiti and the Vatican's hypocrisy

The earthquake has been devastating for a country beset for decades by corruption, kleptocracy, dictatorship and mysticism. It can only be hoped, and no doubt I expect private and government relief to come to this country with a history of being one of the most damned places in the Caribbean. It is ranked 156th by the CIA in per capita GDP, with the average of only US$800 per person per annum, alongside the likes of Cambodia and Chad, and the lowest in the Americas.

If ever there was a country that long needed rule of law,a culture of reason and respect for individual liberty and property rights, and the end of kleptocratic violent government, it would be Haiti.

However, whilst Catholic news services and the Vatican no doubt show true concern about conditions there, even though one questions why a military jet to fly a Bishop from Brazil does anyone any good (except a conscience), it is a shame that the Vatican can't truly be said to be morally consistent about Haiti at all. No, I'm not going to start on the idea that a loving omnipotent God might not strike the most poverty ridden countries with natural disasters like this (that's too obvious).

You see, in 1981 Mother Teresa of Calcutta went to visit Haiti. Not a big deal you might think? Well at the time Haiti was run by a criminal family called the Duvaliers. Papa Doc Duvalier ran the country with an iron fist, all media was controlled by the state and all broadcasting generated a North Korean style personality cult around the Duvalier clan. By 1981 he had been succeeded by his son Jean-Claude (Baby Doc). The Ton Ton Macoute acted as the personal army of the Duvaliers, and would abduct, torture and murder suspected opponents of the regime. Tens of thousands died at the hands of the regime. The Duvalier's meanwhile enriched themselves enormously by creaming off profits from government export monopolies, spending extravagant sums on themselves.

Did Mother Teresa go there to call for freedom, to end abuses of human rights, to call for the Duvaliers to share their ill gotten gains? No.

She received the Legion d'honneur award and praised the Duvaliers for their treatment of the poor. The picture above is of her holding the hand of Michele Duvalier, Baby Doc's wife, who endured the estimated US$3 million wedding not long before Teresa visited. She said of Michele Duvalier that she was "someone who feels, who knows, who wishes to demonstrate her love not only with words but also with concrete and tangible actions . . . the country vibrates with your life work". Vibrates with fear.

Mother Teresa provided open explicit moral support for this gang of thieving murderers. A gang who all up inflicted misery on Haiti for nearly 30 years. It was used as propaganda in Haiti, which has a strongly Catholic population. What more could the Duvaliers have wanted? How disgustingly evil was she in provide succuour to the despicable?

Pope John Paul II by contrast spent only a few hours there in March 1983 and damned the situation in the country.

Yet the Vatican still beatified her. Beatified one who gave warmth to some of Haiti's most evil rulers, who told complete lies about them, and who turned her back on the reality of the country.

No doubt Haitians will warmly welcome any assistance from Catholic charities in the coming days, weeks and months.

However, an appropriate footnote would be to strip Mother Teresa, or rather (her real name) Agnesë Bojaxhiu of her beatification, and to apologise for Haiti for her complicity in supporting the Duvalier regime. There are reports she received funds from the Duvaliers at the time as well. This should be investigated and if found true, it should be spent on providing humanitarian assistance for Haiti.

After all, it is one thing to ignore evil and say nothing, it is another to take a very long trip, to sup with evil, to receive an award, to praise it, to give it credit when it is dripping with the blood of those you purport to care for - and then for your employer to grant you one of its highest honours and respect.

Until then, the Vatican's claim for compassion is deeply darkened by its sympathy for one of its own who did great evil in embracing great evil.

12 comments:

ZenTiger said...

What a rant.

Vatican hypocrisy? The majority of charities in Haiti are Catholic run, and they do a great job.

No doubt Haitians will warmly welcome any assistance from Catholic charities in the coming days, weeks and months.

Of course they will, because they were the ones on the ground, day after day before the earthquake.

Simply because Mother Theresa was blind to the politics, and understanding the economic causes doesn't make her evil.

Mother Theresa was focused on direct charity, and very hands on. I doubt she was an intellectual giant and would take much at face value. She wasn't interested in politics or money, and this is demonstrated over and over, and your view (and others like Hitchens) spout unreasonable venom for someone thinking entirely differently, to the point you can just blot out (or deride) her huge compassionate efforts trying to take care of the poor as best she could.

Pope John Paul II by contrast spent only a few hours there in March 1983 and damned the situation in the country.

Yes, but he was a totally different person, and all you are doing is countering your "Vatican Hypocrisy" rant should you care to think deeper on this matter.

Yet the Vatican still beatified her.

Yes, beatified her for her years of service to the poor. You may prefer she become Goerge Saros and sit in an office to manage the donations, or Bob Geldof and travel the world to complain about injustice, but she preferred to actually get out in the gutters of society and touch the untoucahables.

Something I've never seen Hitchens and his ilk manage to do.

ZenTiger said...

No, I'm not going to start on the idea that a loving omnipotent God might not strike the most poverty ridden countries with natural disasters like this (that's too obvious).

Then why say it? It's simply a backhanded attack, and you don't need to go there.

Are you a determinist, or do you believe people effectively have free will? With free will, there are consequences. If God protected us from all harm, he would have to protect us from independent thought. Given that you don't believe in God, save yourself a lot of bother and go with the "free will" understanding of God.

Equally, if out of this earthquake a spotlight is focused on Haiti and the world cares enough to wonder why it's people are so poor, and decide to do something about it, society could be rebuilt from the ground up based on free market, democracy and rule of law.

Then enormous good would come out of great tragedy, and that might not be a bad thing.

I absolutely agree with you one point of the post:

If ever there was a country that long needed rule of law,a culture of reason and respect for individual liberty and property rights, and the end of kleptocratic violent government, it would be Haiti.

I don't think we can blame religion for this sad state of affairs when we have so many secular organisations around to have helped Haiti over the past 50 years, and they have failed to do so. Mother Teresa may not have condemned the ruling class, but countless others have supported it and strengthened it. The UN is pushing for 525 million debt forgiveness. That's effectively forgiving who exactly???

Whilst the humanists and secularists look to lay blame at the Vatican on any opportunity, it's those kinds of organisations that have the political power to change things and yet do nothing. Although I suspect many people in "legitimate" companies have become rich off the backs of the Haitians.

libertyscott said...

Zen: Sorry, you excuse GIVING praise and receiving an award (flying especially there to receive it) to demonstrated murderers as "thinking differently"? Some people will die in Haiti in the next few weeks because of the kleptocracy of the Duvaliers having starved the country of infrastructure - she has contributed in her own pathetic way to that. Why? Why did she never apologise and express regret?

She "did the best she could"? Taking from dictators who stole from those who she purported to care about? Well I look forward to you being beatified, in fact there are easily millions of people who did BETTER than she did, and did not praise such obvious evil.

She didn't need to go, and she didn't need to praise them. I am astonished you don't think it is absolutely disgusting.

Indeed was she THAT naive that had it been a different time, she'd have flown to Berlin to praise Hitler? For it IS the same thing. Who flies anywhere to give praise to anyone and receive awards for anything? Those with no values at all - or those too stupid to be given credibility by those who should know better.

Her record on the poor (if I am generous) is not exemplary compared to many many others. I know a gentleman who has spent the last couple of years getting schools and clinics opened in post conflict southern Sudan, where is his beatification?

She was an excellent fundraiser for the church though and a fantastic publicity figure. She did, after all, glorify in the austerity of the poor. However that is another issue.

If a politician, entertainment figure or any other public individual praised a known brutal dictator, that would be it. The person concerned, regardless of past record, would be ostracised and regarded as a fool and damnable.

The church can and no doubt will do much good in Haiti now. It can choose to embarrassingly forget about Teresa. It chooses to glorify her. It's appalling, and I'm appalled you find it not just excusable, but she's capable of being a saint. How worthless has that title become?

libertyscott said...

Zen: Do explain what part of "free will" enabled the people of Haiti to avoid being killed in the thousands from an earthquake? It is conceivable that a god that grants free will wont stop human beings doing stupid things or harming each other, but can stop tragedies that have nothing to do with human actions at all. Yet that god evidently doesn't exist, although it would seem fair. Nothing about the earthquake is moral, and either it can be stopped through conscious intervention or it cannot. I don't believe it can, but belief in an omnipotent god that does not act would appear to indicate that god is immoral.

I am not blaming religion for the plight of Haiti (although voodoo hardly can have helped), indeed previous US administrations bolstered the Duvaliers, and much intervention has been a disaster. I was simply noting that those who were such a dark part of Haiti's history were glorified by one who is now being glorified by the Vatican. I would have hoped that most Catholics would find that rather appalling.

ZenTiger said...

Zen: Do explain what part of "free will" enabled the people of Haiti to avoid being killed in the thousands from an earthquake?

Which ones? The ones that left the country (some 600,000) or the ones that stayed?

Every decision has consequences. Every action creates ripples. If you expect God to prevent one thing, you'll need him to change another, and another until there is no natural universe and there are no repercussions. Or perhaps the repercussions are felt in the next life?

she has contributed in her own pathetic way to that.

Or she may have felt she could make a difference in access to charity services in Haiti.

Do you expect Ghandi to renounce his own doctrine of non-violence and use a gun to win peace?

Sometimes, people can be swayed more by soft words rather than abuse. That was her style. Respect it, rather than calling it evil.

And apparently, all the other secular organisations in the world, rather than propping up the regime were abusing them? You think Mother Terese was the tipping point? All their so called efforts stopped by her turning up and asking for more charity towards the poor and the sick Haitians? Or are you angry at Mother Terese so you don't need to be angry with them?

ZenTiger said...

I was simply noting that those who were such a dark part of Haiti's history were glorified by one who is now being glorified by the Vatican. I would have hoped that most Catholics would find that rather appalling.

Again, the Vatican glorified her for her work with the poor, not her approach to politics. The Pope can and does comment on political and moral issues, which at that point most secularists demand he shut up.

ZenTiger said...

Liberty, to change the topic slightly for a moment to something I've been thinking about for the last few days (before this event).

We both agree that : If ever there was a country that long needed rule of law,a culture of reason and respect for individual liberty and property rights, and the end of kleptocratic violent government, it would be Haiti.

I'm wondering though, how such a country could get there. What does it take?

I note for example, that something like 60% of the population are engaged in subsistence farming, and yet in our society, around 1% of the population produces enough food for the other 99%. It's not just hardware that does this, it is obviously the ability to own property, and simple and cheap technology like crop rotation, irrigation techniques and fertilization.

Various organisations have tried installing a western constitution, and throwing billions ion aid money over many years, to no avail. When the UN tried to run "free elections" in DRC all they did was burn through 800 million dollars and fighting is breaking out again.

Any thoughts?

libertyscott said...

Zen: I guess everyone would leave the country had they known the earthquake would occur.

However to take your final post. I suspect it needs someone to establish title in land, and a means to defend the rule of law for property rights and basic individual rights (someone to go to for violent crimes). Rule of law would help keep clever people there and enable a nascent tourist industry to emerge. It doesn't need much government, it just needs to pay to have an independent, accountable judicial, police and prisons system.

Beyond that, there is literacy, roads (ask why land access from the Dominican Republic is almost impossible at the moment, it isn't just the quake), mobile telephony, electricity, sanitation and clean water.

Education to improve techniques of agriculture and marketing would help.

Perhaps one of the biggest steps would be free trade in agriculture, to give it a better chance particularly in the enormous market to the northwest.

Institution building is most critical though, so that people have confidence in a government doing its core job, that wont rip it off, that will defend their rights, and enable them to get on with using their own initiative. Educated literate people with reasonable sanitation standards, able to get around and communicate freely have the best chance of making a difference.

If it can avoid drugs (Jamaica has been damned by this), it might have a chance.

I'd argue for a trusteeship relationship with a big western country (e.g. UK or France), but that is so politically incorrect it wont even get a look in.

ZenTiger said...

It would be interesting to get a blow by blow detail of the UN and foreign aid expenditure, given they were in for policing and infrastructure building, and appear to have very little to show for it.

As a case study it would show why institutions like the UN and the lending practices of the World Bank are failing to raise such places out of poverty. Haiti is looking at debt forgiveness of half a billion, plus need to rebuild - who will get this money (I wonder?

Even the capital city buildings seemed to have been built to standards widely available for all living on major fault lines (although given the proximity and force of the quake, maybe this isn't the case).

Canterbury Atheists said...

Bang on the money there Liberty.

http://canterburyatheists.blogspot.com/2008/06/holy-cow-loathsome-cult-of-mother.html

http://canterburyatheists.blogspot.com/2008/12/scandal-of-mother-teresas-sainthood.html

If only more people would study these things.

Well done.

Paul.

libertyscott said...

Zen: Quite. I gather voodoo is a significant reason, with Catholicism in Haiti being followed ALONG with voodoo. It was one reason Papa Doc could frighten the locals, by appealing to superstition. That's why education that steers away from all of this might be quite critical.

It would be easier if Haiti became a US trust territory and was governed directly for a decade. However, imagine the wails and screams of outrage.

Paul: Yes, well sadly Teresa's myth shows how little one need achieve (and how much succuour you can give to evil) to be lauded by the Church, as long as you are strictly faithful and direct a lot of money its way. Those who defend her rarely give hard evidence contrary to that of her critics, she's a myth the BBC conceived through that flake Muggeridge.

esceezeroten said...

"Mother Teresa" is a rockstar, cynially exploited by the central authority to dispel attention grom the centuries of the most blackhearted abuses of children. Her pathological poverty fetish is best studied by clinical psychologists and certainly not held as any kind of good example of human behavior. In the Catholic Church, there is only one true eternal voice: Money.