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The Mother Teresa Problem: Basic Women's Rights Are Still Being Failed By The Catholic Church

04/09/2016 22:29 | Updated 04 September 2016
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Much has been made in recent months and years over the now not-so-new head of the Catholic Church. Pope Francis, we are told, is a reformer and a moderniser. Whilst this may be the case to a certain degree, taking LGBT rights as an example, Pope Francis endorsing the canonisation of Mother Teresa proves there is one group he is still yet to accept in his Church: women.

Growing up in the Catholic Church, I was taught to revere Mother Teresa as the embodiment of goodwill and sacrifice; she was a woman who devoted her life to making poor people better off, they told us. It was only as I started to analyse her actual effect on 3rd world countries, that I realised she was not a 'friend of the poor', but as Christopher Hitchens put it, a "friend of poverty".

It has been well documented around the globe, that the best way to free a country from the shackles of poverty is the empowerment of the 'other 50%' of its population. By giving women the right to control their own reproductive cycle through the use of contraception, they are released from the bondage of continuous childbirth and child rearing and are actuall given the chance to contribute to the growth of their own country.

Mother Teresa spent an entire lifetime campaigning against this very solution to poverty. Instead of working to reduce poverty, she was merely a passenger. Questions have also been raised about practice in her clinics. Author Susan Conroy, a woman how has worked in Teresa's 'Home of the Dying', talks about unqualified nurses and volunteers being expected to treat seriously ill people with dirty equipment. This incidentally, was backed up vehemently at the time by the editor of the Lancet.

I hope that isn't misconstrued as an attack on religion. Like I said, I grew up in the Catholic Church and half of my family is of that persuasion. What people believe is of no interest to me, nor should it be, for their sake and mine. What is of interest to me, however, is the substitution of medical care for religion, and for me, Mother Teresa strayed far too close to that line.

And while it may seem pernickety to call out the Pope on the canonisation of Mother Teresa on the backdrop of all the great things he has done to advance the Church, I do think this endorsement is indicative of a wider problem that still holds strong in the Church.

Less than two years ago, on a trip to the Philippines, a country that is desperately trying to navigate its way out of poverty and violence, Pope Francis reaffirmed the Catholic Church's official stance on contraception. Whether he means it to be or not, and I'm almost certain he doesn't, this is an attack on both women and a struggling nation.

So to all the people toasting to Pope Francis and all the great things he has done for the Church, myself very much included, it's worth reserving some caution for the people who are still being left behind by this notoriously troubled institution. It's going to take a lot more than some LGBT-friendly comments to undo all of the damage that has been done by the Vatican, so let's keep the pressure on.

It's the Church's risk to take - modernise your stance on women and contraception or risk finally becoming irrelevant. Then the rest of us will get on with emancipating the 'other 50%' from the shackles of your history.

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