HOMEWORK - Mother Teresa & Florence Nightingale: Scammers or Saints?

Mother Teresa of Calcutta with a beer and cigarette


In today's lesson we look at two of the world's most famous virgins... also famous for helping the sick and the needy! 

Mother Teresa & Florence Nightingale


First we will watch a video about the Mother Teresa.

The late, great English journalist and author Christopher Hitchens investigates if Mother Teresa of Calcutta deserves her 'saintly' image.

He investigates:

- how she was invented

- her campaigns against contraception and abortion

- her cult of death and suffering

- her highly questionable political relationships with right-wing political leaders


Selfless Altruista

Wretched Misero

Goodness Bontà

Holiness Santità

Nun Monaca / Suora

Believers Credenti

Extravagant Stravagante

Adulation Adulazione

Hyperbole Iperbole

Credulity Credulità

Fraud Frode

Television miracle Miracolo televisivo

The House of the Dying La casa dei morenti

Photographic shots Scatti fotografici

Divine light Luce divina

Media hype Pubblicità mediatica

Medieval superstition Superstizione medievale

Stretcher beds Letti a barella

What’s the point? Che senso ha?

Cult of death and suffering Culto della morte e della sofferenza

Demonstrations of compassion Dimostrazioni di compassione

Kidney complaint Disturbo dei reni

Campaign against family planning Campagna contro la pianificazione familiare

Global crusade Crociata globale

Tenderness Tenerezza

Birth control Contracezione

Christian right agenda Politica della destra cristiana

‘It makes the West feel better.’ Fa sentire meglio l'Occidente.

‘The deserving poor.’ I poveri meritevoli

‘The Great White Hope.’ La grande speranza bianca

Thrones, dominions and powers. Troni, domini e potenze

The slaughterhouse states of the region. Gli Stati macello della regione.

I don't get involved in that sort of politics. Non mi lascio coinvolgere in questo tipo di politica.

Forgive. Perdona

An ally of the status quo. Un alleato dello status quo.

Fundraising raccolta fondi

Behind bars Dietro le sbarre / in gallera


Annual turnover in the millions Fatturato annuale di milioni di euro


This is very difficult, advanced English!

We recommend changing the playback settings to 75% as the English is fast and quite hard to understand.

Click Youtube settings button below the video.


The Missionary Position - Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice
Adobe Acrobat Document 2.5 MB


Battle of the virgins!

Mother Teresa versus Florence Nightingale shootout boxing poster

Another conversation between Zak and Ahmet....

What do you know about Mother Teresa of Calcutta or Florence Nightingale?

Quite a lot. Well….. a few things…. Well actually practically nothing.

Oh yes. Mother Teresa was from Calcutta.

You are wrong. She was actually from Albania.

Didn’t she start and manage a clinic in Calcutta? And she did a lot to help the poor. And the great Florence Nightingale. She was called the ‘Lady of the Lamp’. Did she invent the electric lamp? And she’s on the old British £10 banknote.

Actually, she is the godmother of modern nursing.

Yes, of course. And today we are taking a deeper look at the differences between these extraordinary women to evaluate who has left the biggest mark on history.

Who was Mother Teresa?

Mother Teresa of Calcutta has gone down in history as a sort of 20th Century pop icon.  If Pope John Paul was Prince, Mother Teresa was Madonna!

Mmmmm. That’s one way of looking at it….

Originally she began her career as a Roman Catholic nun and missionary. Like many Christians she tried to be just like the Virgin Mary.

It’s true. They say she was a virgin….

We’ll get to her sex life later. In 1950, Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholic organisation with over 4,500 nuns, active in 133 countries. The organisation manages homes for people who are dying of HIV/AIDS, leprosy and tuberculosis. It also runs soup kitchens, dispensaries, mobile clinics, family counselling programmes, and orphanages and schools.

Hey I thought you said you knew nothing about Mother Teresa!

I’m reading it on Wikipedia.

She was also famous for her charity and humility.

Humility! That’s a joke. She jetted around the world in business class doing photo opportunities with politicians and celebrities. She had a helicopter!

She was doing public relations and collecting donations for her clinics.

She was doing public relations for every politician and evil dictator such as the president of Haiti, it didn’t matter. Mother Teresa would get the money and the politician would have an ideal public relations photo shoot to help sanitize his image.

Saving lives costs money!

In 2017, investigative journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi, in a book titled Original Sin, published accounting documents from the Vatican Bank, which revealed that the funds in the name of Mother Teresa’s charities made her the Bank's top client. They amounted to billions.  She collected millions of dollars but used very little to help the poor. Everyone said she kept the clinics in bad condition to be able to collect more money. Why didn’t she buy some high-tech medical equipment?

Who’s asking the questions, me or you? She received many prestigious prizes and awards in her life….

True. In the latter part of Mother Teresa’s political career, she received numerous awards and prizes for her work.

Some of the top prizes included the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize. 

Nobel was the man who invented dynamite! He was a warmonger and a terrorist. That prize is normally awarded to people who support the neoliberal world order and the interests of the American empire.

In fact, she was given ‘honorary’ American citizenship in 1996, the year before she died.

See! I told you so. She was a yank.

Her other great achievement was when she was canonised and became a saint in 2016.

Her greatest achievement was her sex life.

Mother Teresa was an international spokesperson for sex, contraception, abortion. She was a world authority on the subject?

Mother Teresa died a virgin.

That’s no important. She could still be an expert.

She was anti-contraception and anti-abortion. Correct?


But if women don’t use contraception, then they have unwanted pregnancies and want abortions.

Let’s not change the subject. Mother Teresa helped cure a lot of people.

No, she didn’t. She helped them to die. Mother Teresa received a lot of criticism for the condition of her clinics and her believe that dying people should suffer ‘like Christ on the cross’. They say she gave aspirins to patients with terminal cancer and cold baths for everyone. A group of academics from the Université de Montréal criticized her for "caring for the sick by glorifying their suffering rather than alleviating it."

Mother Teresa performed some important miracles.

The most important miracle that she performed was staying out of jail.

Don’t be ridiculous.

I’m not. She was involved in a business relationship with Charles Keating. He went to jail for his part. Mother Teresa avoided prison as a result of her international fame and influence. But what are these miracles that you refer to?

To be canonised, you have to have performed two recognized miracles. In 2002 the Vatican recognized as a miracle the healing of a tumour in the abdomen of Indian woman Monica Besra, using a locket that contained an image of Mother Teresa.

However, Besra’s husband, and some of her medical staff said that conventional medical treatment eradicated the tumour. Ranjan Mustafi told The New York Times that he had treated Besra for a cyst caused by tuberculosis: "It was not a miracle ... She took medication for nine months to a year." According to Besra's husband "My wife was cured by the doctors and not by any miracle ... This miracle is a hoax."

You’re a cynic, aren’t you?



So. What about Florence Nightingale?

Woa! Hot Latin-style babe in a nurse’s uniform!

Compared to Mother Teresa anyone is hot.

Was she a virgin too?

You are not going to believe this, but many researchers and biographers say yes!

What?! Tell me more.

Later. First things first.

So what do we know about Florence Nightingale?

She was British, but was born in 1820 in Florence, Italy. Hence the name. Probably at night. In a gale…. Her family were rich and upper-class. She had a fantastic education and her family toured Europe.

Let’s get back to her sex-life!

A year after the Crimea War began in 1853, the 34-year-old Nightingale went with a group of volunteer nurses and Catholic nuns to help with the wounded soldiers in a military hospital. They found terrible conditions.

Mother Teresa had been there too?

No. She believed that more deaths were being caused by bad sanitation that by the war. She was able to get authorities to take the subject far more seriously and resolve the hygiene issues.

How? With photo opportunities and donations?

She was not only an amazing nurse, but also a pioneering statistician capable of representing complex statistics in a concise, visual way that made people realize the gravity of the situation. She also wrote Notes on Nursing which became the cornerstone of the modern practice of nursing.

Didn’t she stay in bed for over 50 years?

She was bedridden from 1857 to her death at 90 years of age in 1910.

What was the problem?

No-one really knows. Some say it was digestive disorders, depression or venereal disease.

But I thought you said she was a virgin!

There is no recorded evidence of relationships in her life, although she preferred the company of men in the professional environment. She also referred to herself as a male, calling herself ‘a man of action’ or a ‘man of business’.

So she was a lesbian?

I didn’t say that.....



More of this material can be found in ZakMag on this site....

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