FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Poverty, Squalor and Nuns

As both a non-Catholic and atheist, I have all the creds I need when it comes to doing a number on the granddaddy of organized religions.  As a non-Catholic, I can mock their rituals, I can deplore their history, I can wail in indignation at their sexual molestation scandals, and I can snicker at the Pope’s hat.

And as an atheist I could fly to the moon on the gas created by Catholicism’s medieval hocus-pocus.  People may smirk all they like at Scientology (a religion invented by a pulp fiction writer), but I think the case can be made that if the Pope and L. Ron Hubbard had a pissing contest over which theology was more outlandish, the Pope would win.

But as a former Peace Corps volunteer in Northern India, who saw firsthand the humanitarian contributions made by the Catholic Church, I shall neither mock nor criticize them.  Indeed, the extent to which Catholic nuns were helping needy Indians was awe-inspiring.

Back then, the big, institutional relief agencies in India—the ones whose motorized vehicles constituted practically the only traffic on India’s rural, one-lane highways—were CARE, UNICEF, the Red Cross, OxFam, and the CRS (Catholic Relief Services).  The Peace Corps had a few, scattered outposts in the region, but their missions were more “project-oriented” (e.g. rural manpower, water wells, poultry, etc.) than “relief-oriented.”

Prior to India I had no experience with any of this stuff.  I was 22 years old.  Although I had heard of CARE, UNICEF, OxFam, et al, I had no idea how they operated.  It took me a while to figure out that, despite being dedicated to their jobs, the thing these guys cared most about was career advancement.

And the more I hung out with them, the more obvious this became.  Mind you, I’m not knocking them.  In their position, I would’ve behaved the same way.  These were educated, youngish Americans and Brits.  They were compassionate.  They were honest, diligent workers.  Most of them were working in fairly hostile environments.  And to their credit, they had chosen a career in charity rather than in high finance.

But they were fanatics when it came to promotions.  When you met them socially, say in a hotel bar in New Delhi, all they did was gossip about who was being transferred, who had left, who had moved up, who was hot, who was cold, and which job openings were considered the plums.  It’s doubtful these same topics were being discussed by Indian nuns.

Two impressive things about the nuns.  First, their mission was located in one of the most remote hell-holes you could imagine.  How they even found this spot was a mystery.  The way I found it was completely by chance.  One morning, with an urge to explore, I drove my Suzuki motor-bike deep into the rural scrub brush, miles from the nearest paved road.  What I found was poverty and squalor.  And nuns.

Second, these women were the happiest, most self-fulfilled people I had ever met.  They were doing God’s work—caring for children, feeding the hungry, ministering to the sick.  Speaking perfect English (they spoke Hindi as well), they told me that they’d been at the mission for many years, but couldn’t recall exactly how many.  And how long do you expect to stay here? I asked (Why on earth would I ask that??).  Until we are called back, they answered serenely.

Oddly, when I returned home, the only people who appreciated my nun stories were other Catholics.  While the Protestants grudgingly credited the nuns with helping the poor, they were quick to point out that these ladies were on a recruiting mission—sent to India to convert Hindus into Catholics.  So before we start handing out accolades, they said, we need to remember that these sharp-eyed nuns had a hidden agenda.

I can still recall how proud this display of inter-denominational bullshit and pettiness made me feel about being a Godless atheist.

David Macaray, a Los Angeles playwright and author (“It’s Never Been Easy:  Essays on Modern Labor,” 2nd Edition), was a former labor union rep.  He can be reached at dmacaray@earthlink.net

 

 

 

More articles by:

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is How To Win Friends and Avoid Sacred Cows.  He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

August 14, 2018
Daniel Falcone
On Taking on the Mobilized Capitalist Class in Elections: an Interview With Noam Chomsky
Karl Grossman
Turning Space Into a War Zone
Jonah Raskin
“Fuck Wine Grapes, Fuck Wines”: the Coming Napafication of the World
Manuel García, Jr.
Climate Change Bites Big Business
Alberto Zuppi - Cesar Chelala
Argentina at a Crossroads
Chris Wright
On “Bullshit Jobs”
Rosita A. Sweetman
Dear Jorge: On the Pope’s Visit to Ireland
Binoy Kampmark
Authoritarian Revocations: Australia, Terrorism and Citizenship
Sara Johnson
The Incredible Benefits of Sagebrush and Juniper in the West
Martin Billheimer
White & Red Aunts, Capital Gains and Anarchy
Walter Clemens
Enough Already! Donald J. Trump Resignation Speech
August 13, 2018
Michael Colby
Migrant Injustice: Ben & Jerry’s Farmworker Exploitation
John Davis
California: Waging War on Wildfire
Alex Strauss
Chasing Shadows: Socialism Won’t Go Away Because It is Capitalism’s Antithesis 
Kathy Kelly
U.S. is Complicit in Child Slaughter in Yemen
Fran Shor
The Distemper of White Spite
Chad Hanson
We Know How to Protect Homes From Wildfires. Logging Isn’t the Way to Do It
Faisal Khan
Nawaz Sharif: Has Pakistan’s Houdini Finally Met his End?
Binoy Kampmark
Trump Versus Journalism: the Travails of Fourth Estate
Wim Laven
Honestly Looking at Family Values
Fred Gardner
Exploiting Styron’s Ghost
Dean Baker
Fact-Checking the Fact-Checker on Medicare-for-All
Weekend Edition
August 10, 2018
Friday - Sunday
David Price
Militarizing Space: Starship Troopers, Same As It Ever Was
Andrew Levine
No Attack on Iran, Yet
Melvin Goodman
The CIA’s Double Standard Revisited
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The Grifter’s Lament
Aidan O'Brien
In Italy, There are 12,000 American Soldiers and 500,000 African Refugees: Connect the Dots 
Robert Fantina
Pity the Democrats and Republicans
Ishmael Reed
Am I More Nordic Than Members of the Alt Right?
Kristine Mattis
Dying of Consumption While Guzzling Snake Oil: a Realist’s Perspective on the Environmental Crisis
James Munson
The Upside of Defeat
Brian Cloughley
Pentagon Spending Funds the Politicians
Pavel Kozhevnikov
Cold War in the Sauna: Notes From a Russian American
Marilyn Garson
If the Gaza Blockade is Bad, Does That Make Hamas Good?
Sean Posey
Declinism Rising: An Interview with Morris Berman  
Jack Dresser
America’s Secret War on Yemen
Howard Lisnoff
The Use and Misuse of Charity: the Luck of the Draw in a Predatory System
Louis Proyect
In the Spirit of the Departed Munsees
Binoy Kampmark
Banning Alex Jones and Infowars
Mundher Al Adhami
On the Iraqi Protests, Now in Their Second Month 
Jeff Mackler
Nicaragua: Dynamics of an Interrupted Revolution
Robert Hunziker
Peter Wadhams, Professor Emeritus, Ocean Physics
David Macaray
Missouri Stands Tall on the Labor Front
Thomas Knapp
I Didn’t Join Facebook to “Feel Safe”
John Carroll Md
Are Haitian Doctors Burned Out?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail