Brazil’s Own Mother Teresa, Haiti’s Star, Helped the Poor. But First She Created Them

Zilda Arns The pearl of the Antilles – I mean, Haiti – boasts of being the first Latin American country to declare itself independent. United under the leadership of Toussaint L’Ouverture and, later, of former slave Jean-Jacques Dessalines, blacks and mulattos fought the French troops until the proclamation of independence in 1804.

Independence for what? Today, Haiti is the poorest country in the continent. In a list of 180 countries, its per capita GDP ranks 130.

Liberia – I mean, the Free Land – was founded in the nineteenth century by freed slaves from the United States, not having known colonial rule. The country was created by the American Colonization Society, an organization founded in 1816 by Robert Finley, whose aim was to bring to Africa free blacks or blacks who were freed from slavery.

According to Finley and other American leaders, blacks would never be able to integrate into the American society. The only solution would be sending them back to Africa, to avoid crime as well as interracial marriage.

In 1821, the American Colonization Society purchased a parcel of land in Africa, where the first black settlers from the United States would settle down. In 1847, Liberia declared its independence, becoming the first African country to become independent. Independence for what? Today, Liberia is still poorer than Haiti. In the same ranking of 180 countries, its per capita GDP ranks 159.

Conclusion? Before you call me a racist I invoke the testimony of George Samuel Antoine, Haiti’s consul in Brazil. Not knowing he was being recorded by the news team of Brazilian TV network SBT, Samuel Antoine said: “Africans themselves carry a curse. Everywhere there are Africans things are f….d up.”

Truth is that after saying that he rushed to add that he was misunderstood. But I do not see how he can be misinterpreted. He said and he can’t change it. As consul, he should know very well the country he represents.

In 1957, Dr. François Duvalier, a physician better known as Papa Doc, was elected president of Haiti, where he established a government based on terror promoted by the tontons macoutes, members of his personal bodyguard. In 1964, in Fidel Castro or Hugo Chávez’s best style, he made himself president for life.

He gave orders for the production of pamphlets, in which, among other information, he called himself God. That was when Haiti became the poorest nation in the continent. When he died in 1971, he was replaced by his son, Jean-Claude Duvalier, Baby Doc, who nowadays eats in Paris the exile’s bitter caviar.

I wrote about Zilda Arns, our own Teresa of Calcutta, who died in the earthquake, and stated: “Who knows what I think of Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, the Albanian holier-than-thou lady, knows that by this I don’t mean any compliment.” There were some readers who questioned me. What have you got against Mother Teresa?

This is a reader who doesn’t follow me. Among other feats, Mother Teresa received Haiti’s “Légion d’honneur” from the hands of Baby Doc. Not to mention the flowers she used to take to the tomb of one of the bloodiest dictators in the Balkans, Enver Hoxha, her countryman. But I digress, I was talking about Arns, the novel Brazilian saint.

One of my interlocutors wrote, “Janer, your biography could do without this piece. You mix apples and oranges and moreover offend Zilda Arns. This woman managed to create, in Brazil, a service of 250,000 volunteers that serves two million people. The fact she is a religious woman only shows the basis for her ideals. Whatever your phobia for popes, bishops and cardinals, you could have done without committing this unprovoked aggression against someone whose only crime was kindness.”

Kindness? In terms. Behind kindness, often hides evil. To be able to care for two million destitutes there have to be two million destitutes. Their number would be lower if there was a policy of reducing birth rate. This, as a good Catholic, Zilda Arns would not accept. She condemned contraception and condoms. The sperm is sacred, as Monty Python used to say.

This criminal attitude of the Roman Church, which only increases poverty in the world, is decimating Africa in droves, by AIDS, in the predominantly Catholic countries. Our own tupiniquim Teresa of Calcutta was complicit in this murderous policy.

With her hypocritical posture, Zilda Arns first created the miserable to serve them afterwards. The Holy Mother Roman Catholic Church is a madam of the miserable. It’s not a coincidence that it only grows in poor countries. Without misery is not easy to be a saint. It lacks clientele.

This policy can be seen in São Paulo. When some authority takes into its head to remove beggars from the streets, the churchgoers come out: “Who took away our beggars? We want our beggars back.” I’m not using rhetoric. This phrase I read in the Ceciliano, the St Cecília’s parish bulletin, here next to where I live. When the beggars were taken off the square around the church, the priests grumbled: we want our beggars back.

Poverty when well exploited brings profit. With thousands of beggars on the streets, the millions of dollars that Misereor, Caritas and other European entities send to the Brazilian Church are guaranteed. With these millions, Arns gave the wretched a soup made of rice, corn, pumpkin seeds and eggshells.

Just yesterday, this swill was welcomed by Senator Flávio Arns, her nephew, as the great “legacy” left by  auntie in the fight against child mortality. Lula is already calling for a posthumous Nobel Prize for the Forquilhinha’s holier-than-thou lady.

Obscurantism, the dictionaries say, is the attitude, doctrine, policy or religion that opposes the dissemination of scientific knowledge among the popular classes. Zilda Arns’s obscurantism is not limited to the condemnation of birth control.

By positioning herself against experiments with stem cells, the sanitation-expert doctor is denying science and condemning vital experiences to humanity.

As Nietzsche used to say, “The closer you are to science, the greater the crime of being Christian.” This lady, the earthquake’s star in Haiti, with an obscurantism that brings us to the days when Galileo was condemned by the Catholic Church, today is being promoted to saint by the national press.

Last but not least, I have no phobia for popes, bishops or cardinals. I loathe them. It’s different.

Janer Cristaldo – he holds a Ph.D. from University of Paris, Sorbonne – is an author, translator, lawyer, philosopher and journalist and lives in São Paulo. His e-mail address is

Translated from the Portuguese by Arlindo Silva.


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