Chatterjee in 2013
June 23, 1958|
Ballygunge, Calcutta, India
|Home town||London, England|
Aroup Chatterjee (born 23 June 1958) is a British Indian atheist physician. He was born in Kolkata (Calcutta), India, and moved to the United Kingdom in 1985. He is the author of the book Mother Teresa: The Untold Story (originally published as Mother Teresa: The Final Verdict), a work which challenges the widespread regard of Mother Teresa as a symbol of philanthropy and selflessness.
Chatterjee's criticism inspired the documentary Hell's Angel that was shown on Channel 4, a British television channel. The documentary was written by a well-known critic of Mother Teresa, Christopher Hitchens, who co-produced it with journalist and filmmaker Tariq Ali. Chatterjee and Hitchens were the two Devil's advocates, or hostile witnesses to Catholic Church procedures for the beatification of Mother Teresa in 2003.
Life and career
Chatterjee was born in 1958 and raised in the district of Ballygunge, Kolkata (Calcutta), India, moving to the United Kingdom in 1985. In the 1970s and 1980s while studying at Kolkata Medical College he worked part-time for a left-wing political party campaigning against poverty and later worked at a hospital where he regularly treated patients from the oldest and poorest districts of the city as well as refugees from the civil war with what is now Bangladesh. Later while living in the UK he became concerned by the increasingly common portrayal of the widespread destitution and disease in his native Calcutta which stemmed from press reporting of the work of Mother Teresa. At that point he describes his attitude to Mother Teresa as "If anything, I was positively inclined towards her" although he says he never saw any of her nuns in the slums. However it was this image at odds with his own experience as a doctor in Calcutta that caused him to look more closely at her work and reputation.
From the 1990s onwards he began to uncover what he calls a "cult of suffering" which Mother Teresa and her followers in the Missionaries of Charity were running back in Calcutta supported by her friend Pope John Paul II. In February 1993 Chatterjee sent a proposal for a short documentary to Vanya Del Borgo, associate producer of Bandung Productions which was owned by Tariq Ali. The proposal was passed to a Channel 4 commissioner who approved it, and Del Borgo with Chatterjee's proposal began work, approaching journalist and author Christopher Hitchens to write and present it. The documentary became the 1994 film Hells's Angel. Chatterjee found the documentary "too sensationalist" and Hitchens went on to write his book The Missionary Position. Chatterjee spent the next year travelling and interviewing people who had worked closely with Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity and began to campaign against the conditions in Nirmal Hriday, also known as the Kalighat Home for the Dying in Calcutta. In particular he heard stories of lack of basic hygiene, the absence of any pain medication, and the frequent reuse of hypodermic needles. Chatterjee then began work on a book, eventually released by Meteor Books in 2002 under the original title Mother Teresa: The Final Verdict. Chatterjee says in addition to the hours of interviews, "I started in pre Internet days and I spent months in libraries in London. I also travelled the world researching it. I followed slum dwellers, beggars, destitute children with a video camera. I interviewed hundreds of people. I stood with video camera outside Teresa's home for hours."
Following the publication of his book Chatterjee continued to speak out against what he calls the "bogus and fantastic figure" of Mother Teresa, acting as Devil's advocate in the process of her sainthood. He continues to work as a physician in London where he lives with his Irish wife, who was raised as a Roman Catholic, and their three children.
Mother Teresa: The Untold Story
In December 2002 independent publisher Meteor Books, owned by Bhagbat Chakraborty, published Chatterjee's book under the title Mother Teresa: The Final Verdict. In 2016 the same book was reissued under a new title, Mother Teresa: The Untold Story by Fingerprint! publishers after being taken up by literary agent Kanishka Gupta. The book covers her life and her rise to fame following the documentary Something Beautiful for God by Malcolm Muggeridge, the Calcutta home for the dying and the practices of running it, the non-consensual death bed conversions of Hindus and Muslims, and the vast amount of financial donations given to the charity but not spent at Nirmal Hriday. He covers her Nobel Peace Prize and the speech in which she claimed to have saved tens of thousands of destitute people; Chatterjee estimates in his book the real number was 700. He also writes about the celebrities and the powerful people who had audiences with her, and the controversies surrounding the money she accepted from dictators such as Haitian president Jean-Claude Duvalier, convicted fraudster Charles Keating and disgraced publisher Robert Maxwell. The book looks at the worldwide reach of the Missionaries of Charity and examines the available evidence for her financial accounts, and her personal crusade against abortion and contraception. The final chapters address her death, funeral and beatification and Chatterjee's own involvement as an official devil's advocate or hostile witness and the transcripts of the proceedings. Chatterjee has summed up his view of Mother Teresa's life's work,
|“||Principally, she was a ... medieval ideologue – who taught that abortion had to be banned at any cost. And any means could serve to achieve that end. That was her.||”|
The book has received both criticism and praise. It has been described variously as a "necessary, well-documented book" (Times Higher Education), "this important book" (The Open Society journal) and "an irrational attack" (Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights). Some criticism has been made of the editing. Most however agree that the book is "extremely critical" of Mother Teresa.
On the path to Mother Teresa's sainthood, a process Chatterjee has described as "a superstitious, black magic ceremony", Chatterjee acted as one of two official Devil's advocates during the process of her beatification in 2003, the other being Christopher Hitchens. In order to begin the requirements of beatification, the first step on the way to sainthood, the Catholic Church was required to announce a first miracle ascribed to Mother Teresa, which it did on December 1, 2002, the supposed miraculous cure of Monica Besra of a cyst caused by tuberculosis. Chatterjee pointed out the cure was a result of medical treatment Besra received from Superintendent of the Balurghat Hospital and not the placing of metal jewellery on her body. His position was also confirmed by her doctor Dr. Ranjan Mustafi, speaking of the nine months of drugs and treatment he provided: "I've said several times that she was cured by the treatment." Initially both Monica and Monica's own husband called the miracle "a hoax," as did Prabir Ghosh from the Kolkata Humanist Association, who runs a programme raising awareness of holy men who dupe ordinary Indians into paying for supposed miracle cures. During the process, the Catholic Church allows consultation with doubters where the miracle is contested. In his book, Chatterjee details his deposition to the committee, his correspondence with the official postulator Brian Kolodiejchuk, and the transcripts of his questions and answers.
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- Official website
- Review of Chatterjee book in the Socialist Review
- Maternal Neglect – Review of Mother Teresa: The Final Verdict by Latha Menon