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Martin Kämpchen

Mother Teresa - a Life for the Poor


From: Stimmen der Zeit, 8/2010, P. 507-518
webmaster's own, not authorized translation


    August 26, 2010 marks the 100th anniversary of Mother Teresa's birth, the founder of the Missionaries of Charity, who was beatified in 2003. The writer MARTIN KÄMPCHEN who is living in West Bengal (India) presents her spirituality and appreciates her letters which became known a decade ago and which speak of darkness and God's distance.


August 26, 2010 marks the 100th anniversary of Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu's birth, known as Mother Teresa. She was born in 1910 in Üsküb (now Skopje, Macedonia), at the age of twelve she chose the religious life, and aged 18 she entered the Order of the Sisters of Loreto. After a short training period in Ireland she was sent in 1928 to Calcutta. There she worked for 17 years as a teacher and later as director in the St. Mary's School. Inspired by a mystical experience, which she regarded as vocation, she left the Order and founded in 1950 with the church's permission the Missionaries of Charity (MC) in order to help the "poorest of the poor" on the streets of Calcutta in their physical and psychological distress. She founded orphanages and homes for the dying and for lepers. Her Order grew rapidly and spread throughout the world. In 1979, the male branch of the Order followed, in 1984 the Order for priests. She also organized lay followers and helpers in loose communities.


From State Funeral to Beatification

A series of coincidences - especially encounters with journalists - made Mother Teresa and her work famous. In particular, the book and the movie "Something Beautiful for God" (1971) {1} of the famous British journalist and later convert to Catholicism, Malcolm Muggeridge, drew worldwide attention to her. She felt it was her charisma to alleviate the lot of the poorest in the world and to portray their distress in public. She traveled to the houses of the Order, took part in conferences and congresses and visited the powerful, rich and great of this world. In 1979 she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her work. Numerous other high awards had preceded it and followed. In the last years of her life Mother Teresa was often ill, she spent weeks in hospitals, and in the end she sat in a wheelchair. But she remained head of her sisterhood and was active until her death on 5 September 1997 in Calcutta.

Her funeral became a homage to the "Angel of the Gutter", a major event, as Calcutta had not yet experienced it until then. Presidents and kings, prime ministers and princes came by the dozens to say goodbye to Mother Teresa.



The Indian government gave the simple nun a state funeral. Today, her mortal remains lie in a tomb at the Motherhouse of the Order in Calcutta. This room is open to the public and has become a place of pilgrimage for Christians and non-Christians. The leadership of the Order is still in the mother house.

After the death of the founder, sister Nirmala, a nun of Nepalese origin, who had belonged to the inner circle of Mother Teresa took over the leadership. During her two terms in office Mother Teresa was beatified in 2003. Despite all fears the Order continued to grow and the number of houses increased. For reasons of age Sister Nirmala refrained from a third term; and in March 2009 the German sister Prema was elected second successor of Mother Teresa.

The new Mother Superior, whose real name is Mechtild Pierick, was born in 1953 in the North Rhine-Westphalian town of Reken and was trained as social therapist. She met Mother Teresa in 1980 at the Catholic Congress in Berlin and entered shortly afterwards the Order. She served the poor in houses of the Order in Rome, Naples and Madrid, before she was called to Calcutta. She is used to great administrative tasks. Sister Prema has e.g. been Regional Superior for Europe, and since 2003 she belonged to the Council consisting of four sisters, which supported Sister Nirmala in Calcutta. Thus, a German is Superior of one of the largest sisterhoods of the Catholic Church. According to her information it had about 5100 members at the moment of her election. These are the sober facts of an extraordinary and complex "success story" in today's universal Church.


The Indian Church and Mother Teresa's Order

Into what situation has Mother Teresa founded her Order? Let us first outline the situation of Indian Christianity. The Indian Catholic Church is admittedly, like all the mission churches, oriented towards the clergy. Especially in rural parishes, the priest is still the authority not only for spiritual matters but also for the material and social needs of life. He advises, decides and assists and in return he is held in due respect. Compared with Europe, the lay movement is in its beginnings. With the priest, the Mass and other sacraments as the center, the Catholic parishes as communities are alive and aware of their status as a special group. The popular devotion with its prayers, processions and pilgrimages supports the life of the communities. In this atmosphere, many boys and girls who have been reared catholically cherish the dream to become a priest or a nun. The requirement of celibacy they do not regard as a problem, at least as long as they are young. In contrast to in the West, they are not at an early age made curious by a sexually stimulating climate that is spread by the media.



The sisters and brothers of the "Missionaries of Charity" are often young people who - due to low education - could not enter seminaries and traditional sisterhoods. The Missionaries of Charity do not demand - as other Orders - a primary school-leaving qualification (ten years of school) or even a higher education as a condition for admission. The reason is obvious: the charisma to serve the poor and the sick does not depend on the education.

Conversely, it is also true that in a prestige-conscious country like India young men and women with higher education are rarely prepared to do the difficult, "dirty" and "menial" work that is done by the brothers and sisters of Mother Teresa. To what extent the desire to establish one's prestige by one's service to the church or the charisma to serve the poorest is in the foreground with the vocation to religious life is certainly individually different and difficult to assess. There is certainly a strong temptation to seek one's prestige, safety and security in a religious community. Let us remember that the Catholic Orders offer their members (according to Indian standards) a maximum security of life: livelihood until death, care and support even during long illness, and good medical care. In addition, as regards girls, the families have not to bear the high costs of dowry and wedding, when a daughter chooses a religious order.

On the other hand, it is important that men and women who wear themselves out in the service to the poor have a secure existence. Only by the feeling of personal safety, they can unreservedly devote themselves to their work, because in India social commitment is easily weakened and broken by personal material poverty.


To Live like the Poor?

In Europe it is often said that the sisters and brothers of the Missionaries of Charity were living "like the poorest of the poor." This is, as already said, an exaggeration. First, it cannot be an ideal to live like the poorest, that is in deplorable sanitary conditions, malnourished, in soiled clothes, and in permanent social and emotional tensions. The ideal solution is to live according to the real needs, and to require nothing else. Second, the uncertainty of where the next meal comes from is an essential component of poverty, which the members of a religious order need not share.

With astonishing patience and persistence, Mother Teresa has tried to keep the original charisma of her work alive: to recognize in the poor Jesus Christ and to serve him. This service should spontaneously come from a full, loving heart; one should give away oneself in a Franciscan manner.



This Franciscan spirit complies with the Indian mentality; it appreciates emotional actions which are rather led by inspiration than by rationality. The Bhakti movement, a popular piety movement from the Indian medieval, idealizes the ecstatic feeling of love towards God. Mother Teresa's "method" of assisting the poor is still shaped by this charisma. Accordingly, the sisters and brothers do not call their service for the poor "social work" but their manner of contemplating Christ. From it they deduce their entitlement to orienting their assistance to the poor not primarily towards effectiveness but the quality of love with which it is given. Mother Teresa said, "What matters is not the success but the loyalty in faith."

This view is the reason for the often poor medical care received by patients in the hospitals and homes for the dying of the Order - a fact that many critics and friends of the Order have criticized. On principle, not out of lack of money, only the common mild painkillers are distributed and other general medications, and this is usually done by medically untrained sisters, brothers, and volunteers. Difficult diseases are superficially treated, without the help of medical knowledge, and complicated procedures are avoided.

In Kalighat's home for the dying (the house where Mother Teresa had begun her service), I once spoke with Andy, a German volunteer who repeatedly took leave from his computer job in order to help the dying in Calcutta. He is a radiant man and obviously imbued with his service. Asked about the poor medical treatment, he talked again and again of the "little miracles" that God works among the patients in their care: terminally ill people recover, others die in peace, patients reconcile with their families, forget their hatred and find back to God. They start to comfort those who are worse off than they - and all this happens under the inspiration of the Franciscan active love. In the Order a Passion mysticism developed from it where the crucified Christ is in the center. Like Christ, the patient should endure his sufferings rather than try to mitigate them.

However, Mother Teresa's intellectual and spiritual approach, which has often been repeated by her, is incontestable. When she sees someone lying sick and helpless in the street, when she finds orphans who are hungry and crippled and mentally handicapped people who are wasting away, Christ orders her to take up these people, to care for them, and to comfort them. And as long as there are such people in need, their sisters and brothers have to be these Samaritans. This primal gesture of charity, however, is only justified in the case of those wretched poor who are dependent on the help of compassionate people. As soon as they are able to help themselves, they must be challenged to do so. For the poor too willingly become comfortably dependent; then they are only recipients and do no longer contribute to coping with their life and are thus ultimately reduced to beggars.



The brothers and sisters of Mother Teresa are usually not trained to offer organizationally and medically more than that charitable primal gesture. Their Order gets along with a minimum of infrastructure. The sick who are taken up from the street and nursed by them in their homes are usually discharged back to the street as soon as they have become reasonably healthy. Rehabilitation is not among its tasks, says the Order, and does normally not send those who got well again to rehabilitation centers of other religious or secular institutions. This needed a measure of organization that would overtax the members of the Order. But the sisters and brothers are in charge of leprosy centers, orphanages and homes for the mentally and physically disabled, hence for people who need permanently help. Especially for the service to lepers the Order has well trained some members, and is doing a magnificent job throughout the country.


Mother Teresa's Spirituality

It is not easy to summarize Mother Teresa's spirituality. It is complex, even paradoxical. Pre-modern and progressive elements are combined in it. In loyalty to her church, she rejected e.g. contraceptives and sterilizations, an attitude which many modern Indians, even Christians cannot share in view of the explosively growing population. At the same time Mother Teresa was one of the first in India who set up homes for AIDS patients. AIDS patients are still stigmatized as people who became sick due to their dubious life. Mother Teresa was able to ignore these social reservations. In spite of her traditionalism she has, paradoxically, inspired hundreds of thousands of modern young people. Up to the present day, the Order enjoys a large number of volunteers who work in its homes for several weeks or even months.

Mother Teresa has taken the vow of poverty more literally than most other religious orders that work in India. When you visit the houses of other religious orders or presbyteries in India, you cannot avoid the impression that also representation and prestige are important for the church. For Mother Teresa, however, it was important that the sisters' life style is so frugal that the poor can communicate with them without inner inhibitions. Modern kitchens, television, mobile phones, computers and cars are still not common. Thus, even devices that could make the administration of the Order more easily and effectively remain usually prohibited. This priority of direct loving care to the poor in all its consequences is impressive.



Within a large religious community where coordination and management are essential, this attitude admittedly comes against limiting factors.

Mother Teresa pursued her task, to serve the poor like Jesus Christ, with an iron, patient determination. On that occasion she accepted everything: the Indian climate, the dirt, the ugliness of the ugliest and dirtiest corners of Calcutta, the humiliation in the offices of a fossilized, Kafkaesque administrative machine, slander, the hate campaigns, the misunderstandings of a bourgeois public, the countless breaches of trust of alleged friends and supporters who only wanted to exploit her fame, and not least the serious disappointments caused by her sisters and brothers.

In order to fulfill her task, she broke many conventions of both Western and Indian society. She had the amazing courage to preach the love for the poor to the great of the political world. She went into the "lion's den", to the rich and influential; she did it naively and vulnerably, without understanding something of the games for money and power. She thus aroused the wrath of her critics. In fact, she showed little political sense, when she claimed that she did not interfere in politics. For in reality, everything that she has done as a famous public figure was a political statement.


A Modern Icon

In India, especially in the megalopolis of Calcutta, Mother Teresa became an icon already in her lifetime. In Calcutta, it is sufficient to speak of "Mother", like the Romans cheered the "Papa", the medieval scholars referred to "the philosopher" (Aristotle), and in India "the Poet" means always Rabindranath Tagore. Mother Teresa has long since become the symbol of the maternal-Protective that looks especially after the poor and underprivileged. In the area of Christian symbols she approaches the Madonna with her broad mantle, under which all find their place, in Hinduism the mother goddesses Durga and Kali, which are especially revered in Calcutta. Mother Teresa's resoluteness makes you imagine Durga, who kills the demons; her compassion is combined with the gentle, mild, bestowing affection of Kali. The goddesses and gods of the Hindu pantheon are each portrayed with certain symbolic objects which characterize the deities: e.g. Shiva with the trident, Vishnu with the discus, Krishna with the flute. Accordingly, the pictures of Mother Teresa look remarkably similar: the wrinkled and half-veiled head bent over a patient, the woman holding a sick or emaciated child in her arms, the mother who cares for a patient - smiling at her and talking with her. It is always the motherliness which is emphasized.



With devotional objects a cult figure was made out of Mother Teresa long before her death. At the street corners of Calcutta gaudily colored posters of gods and goddesses, movie heroes and screen goddesses are offered for sale; then Mother Teresa's picture is rarely missing. Small clay figures and pictures of Mother Teresa find customers - for the kitsch shelf in the living room. This cult is incidentally compatible with Mother Teresa's piety, which, originating from the European 19th century, emphasizes the veneration of the Blessed Sacrament, the prayer of the rosary, and the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Marian devotion. Her houses are full of pious maxims affixed to the walls, and sweet pictures of Jesus and Mary. Mother Teresa handed out medallions, small images with adages and text cards to their visitors - a custom which the current Mother Superior retains.



During her lifetime, India had a quite ambivalent relationship to Mother Teresa. The foreign Mother was a thorn in the eye of many educated Hindus, because she belonged to the still politically and socially suspicious group of foreign missionaries who had tried for centuries, not always with sensitive methods, to convince Hindus from the higher value of their religion. The Hindu psyche received permanent wounds from it. To this day, Mother Teresa and her two Orders are suspected to make conversions to Christianity. Mother Teresa, however, has repeatedly emphasized that no one is baptized secretly and against his will. She would aspire to a "conversion of the hearts". Brother Prem Anand, a member of the male branch of the Order, has reliably assured me that the Order exerts absolutely no influence or pressure. However, it is only natural that in some patients who have experienced the love and care of Christian sisters and brothers an interest in Christianity arises.

Then Mother Teresa's work reminds the Hindus of the shortcomings of their religious practice and society. She was the personification of the bad conscience of the better-off in Calcutta. It was embarrassing, yes, annoying that a woman from Europe had to come to them to take up the poor from their streets! By her fame she had discredited Calcutta - they complained. She would avert the world's attention from the rich cultural heritage of the city, the place of Ramakrishna's activity, the birthplace of Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo, Subash Chandra Bose and Rabindranath Tagore and direct towards the miserable situation of its slum dwellers and the sick. While the overwhelming majority of people go past the poor and thus "resolve" the problem of misery for themselves, this woman stopped and did something.



The normal answer of the wealthy is rather to protect themselves from the masses of the poor and to demarcate themselves from them than to seek for an integration of rich and poor through aid, assistance and education. This is a matter for the government, it says typically. Many people take, often tacitly but nevertheless clearly, offence at Mother Teresa's affront to the bourgeois consciousness of social standing.

In her last years there had been repeatedly occasions to write critically or, in return, defensively about Mother Teresa. At the beginning there is a documentary Mother Teresa: Hell's Angel by Tariq Ali and Christopher Hitchens, which was broadcasted in November 1994 on British television (BBC Channel Four). He accused the founder of the Order of hypocrisy and of dealing with the powerful and corrupt of this world. She was a woman who did business with God's mercy; and on such occasions she was skillfully doing advertising for herself. This was followed by the book version of the film by Christopher Hitchens {2}. You need only read the first pages in order to realise that the author is not interested in soberly analysing the facts but in justifying a deep dislike. He thus deprived himself of the opportunity to draw an objectively accurate portrait of a woman whose methods are definitely also vulnerable.

Since her death, the criticism of Mother Teresa has almost become silent. Only once more, when Mother Teresa's letters appeared, she was the subject of public debate. The two successors, Sister Nirmala and Sister Prema shun deliberately publicity. Sister Prema does not give interviews, attends no conferences, and makes no speeches. From Calcutta she manages the Order and regularly visits the houses around the world. The German nun is deeply rooted in the piety of the founder. Her quiet but firm manner and the clarity with which she concisely answered questions have impressed me. I asked her also about Mother Teresa's spiritual letters, which were published in 2007 - the tenth anniversary of her death - and which once again radically changed the public image of the beatified. Sister Prema said:

"These letters are a treasure for us. We read them, we discuss them, and we above all contemplate them and take them into our prayers."


Mother Teresa's letters to her spiritual guides

When the book with the collected letters of Mother Teresa to her spiritual guides was published, this was world-wide treated as a sensational event {3}. The "Spiritual Darkness" which the nun had to endure for decades stood - so it was perceived - in contrast to the image of the beatified, who always radiated spiritual joy. People wondered whether all this had been "show".

The reactions to the book were divided. The press let admirers have their say; they regarded the book as a reaffirmation of her holiness.



They have not so much focused on her spiritual dryness and mental darkness but on the fact that, in spite of that darkness, she radiated spiritual joy and continued her work for the poor with unprecedented energy and devotion until her death. Her critics saw the revelations with barely concealed malice as the admission of weakness, and her joy and warmth as hypocrisy. There were many non-Christian Indian voices about the book, which were helpless in coping with its content.

More significantly, even many sisters first were taken aback by this unknown side of their "mother". Even the German sister Andrea, who as doctor manages the first orphanage of the Order - Shishu Bhavan in Calcutta - confided to me that she had been "frightened" after the publication.

When I read the press reports and the publishing house advertisements, I suspected that in them the centrality of the "darkness" in Mother Teresa's life was exaggerated. But the reading taught me that in fact this darkness has accompanied the nun almost 50 years. Only during the 20 years, when she lived as a Loreto sister in a convent and taught in a Christian school, she felt the loving union with Jesus. The letter writer repeatedly described this period as extremely happy.

When Mother Teresa was already world-famous and had to travel quite a bit - which meant great sacrifices for her, and tried to manage a large Order, she met the Austrian Jesuit Josef Neuner (1908-2009) who from 1960 in the vicinity of Calcutta gave lectures at the seminary. Her correspondence, which again revolved essentially about the mystery of that experience of darkness and desolate emptiness, gave Mother Teresa new ideas. Neuner has not negatively interpreted Mother Teresa's spiritual life as purification and atonement but as a special closeness to God (cf. 250). It was her special task not only to endure this darkness but to love it - said Neuner (cf. 253) {4}.

In none of her letters Mother Teresa has expressed any doubts about her vocation. On the contrary, she always emphasized that she felt totally confident of her initial spiritual experience. The amazing fruits produced by her work furthermore suggest that she is right; her spiritual guides have always pointed to that fact. Doubt and despair about her work were therefore not the cause of her inner darkness. But this security, with which she organizationally managed her Order and spiritually lead her sisters, could not be transferred into her prayer life. She has continued this work to the last, in spite of all resistance through her painful inner life.

In reading the letters you can understand how revolutionary Mother Teresa's work was within the Catholic church of her time. Clergy and religious served the population by means of schools, hospitals and other social institutions. But they lived separately from the population and kept away from it. Most of their social works served the middle and upper class in cities.



The Catholic Church wanted (and still wants) to make her voice heard by communicating her knowledge and competence in institutions for the elite in administration, government and education, the present and future opinion makers in the country. But due to the general change in awareness towards democratic norms of justice and equality very much has meanwhile changed in the Indian church, although remnants of the feudal mentality are still visible.

Mother Teresa was the pioneer who broke out of this elitist and protected circle of the church in order to expose herself to the living conditions of the poor in the slums. "All will think I'm crazy" (66), she wrote. Her initial finding was:

"Our Lord wants ... Indian sisters who lead the life of the Indians, dress like them, and become His light, His fire of love in the midst of the poor, the sick, the dying, the beggars and the little street children" (91).

She called her goal as follows: "To go directly to the poor - To care for the sick in their homes - To help the dying to make their peace with God" (91). She was then well aware that she filled a place in the church, which had previously remained empty. Her intention therefore was to "do the work which is missing in the Church of India" (92).

By her example the church discovered the "option for the poor". In this respect Mother Teresa must be regarded as a precursor of liberation theology, even if her theological approach is quite different. She has not seen herself as a social revolutionary. In her letters she excluded the question as by which unjust social structures the poverty of the slums was caused. There was no room in her thought and action for key words such as oppression and exploitation, feudalism and justice through structural changes in society. Mother Teresa followed first and foremost God's call, without analyzing it. Only secondarily she gave her attention to the plight of the poor. She was deeply distressed by this poverty and hardship. But here again, what first and above all mattered to her were the poor as "souls" which had to be rescued or won for God.

Similarly, in these letters there is felt no historical integration of her life and her work. With the exception of two or three comments, her letters do not reflect on epochal developments in India: the struggle for political independence which took place in 1947, and the division of the Indian subcontinent into India and Pakistan, when millions of Hindus and Muslims were massacred, and the way of India as a developing country. One may object that these issues have no place in letters to spiritual guides. And yet, also these historical developments create spiritual problems, but Mother Teresa was apparently not touched by them.



A Deeply Distressing Reading

Mother Teresa's book, "Come, be my light" is a deeply shocking and disturbing reading. You experience the struggle of a woman who tries to fulfil directly God's will in everything, without any regard to herself, without any request to God. Her struggle does not aim at recognizing the will of God but at fulfilling the once recognized will in everything. In almost every letter she writes about her spiritual dryness, her darkness, her solitude without God, her almost unbearable, unsatisfied yearning for him. Only after decades she seems to be able to endure this longing, after it has become clear to her, due to the words of comfort of her guides, that God wants to communicate himself to her just in this darkness. Several times the teachings of St. John of the Cross are mentioned. He describes the inner processes of purification in psychologically precise details and has coined the concepts of "dark night of sense" and "dark night of the spirit." With the grace of God in these "nights" a human being purifies first his/her sense and then the mind, in order finally to receive the experience of unity with God - after this experience of God's absence.

John of the Cross teaches that these "nights" are transitional stages - with Mother Teresa, however, they probably lasted until death. This has also shaken her spiritual guides and confessors and made them almost helpless.

According to her letters, Mother Teresa's night was interrupted only a few times by spiritual joy and a feeling of peace.

One may speculate that the constant darkness was induced by Mother Teresa's daily confrontation with the unspeakable suffering of the poor in Calcutta. In order to digest spiritually this plight and to integrate it into the plan of God for those people, it possibly needed infinite mental efforts, which effected that darkness. Her last spiritual director, Michael van der Peet, SCJ, takes a similar view:

"I really think the reason why Mother Teresa had to go through so much darkness in her life is that this would entail a greater identification with the poor" (320).

In other words, God kept Mother Teresa in the dark, so that she was able to empathize fully with the human suffering of the poor {5}.

When reading her letters, we must remember that Mother Teresa has not spread here the entire spectrum of her spirituality. The letters deal almost exclusively with her relationship to God. In her numerous speeches, prayers and interviews, which are published in books, in her retreats for the sisters and brothers of her Order (which partly mimeographed circulate among the members of the Order), she mentions other aspects; darkness and spiritual distress are here no question.



In order to understand Mother Teresa as spiritual personality, it is essential to see both.

However, the discrepancy is irresolvable that Mother Teresa radiated joy and spiritual fulfillment, by which countless people felt touched and transformed, whereas she felt in her heart almost only despair. The nun lamented, "If (people) only knew - and how my cheerfulness is only the cloak under which I conceal emptiness & misery" (219). To quibble about this contradiction and to harmonize it in the end would mean to try to resolve the mystery of God's will. Mother Teresa was not (just) the simple nun, as which she always presented herself.

Her personality was more complex and multilayered. That's why she precisely gains in depth and importance by the publication of these letters, especially also for our era, which more highly appreciates the broken heroes than the smooth and straightforward {6}. Precisely because she was not this simple nun, the members of her Order and her friends will with great efforts have to rethink her in order to grow in view of this newly created role model. For them, this book is an enormous challenge to their spiritual maturity.



{1} M. Muggeridge, Mutter Teresa. Leben u. Wirken der Friedensnobelpreisträgerin (Freiburg 61979).

{2} Ch. Hitchens, The Missionary Position. Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice (New York 1995).

{3} The English edition is entitled "Come, be my light", edited by B. Kolodiejchuk (New York 2007); the title of the German edition is "Mutter Teresa: Komm, sei mein Licht" (München 2007); page numbers in the text refer to the German language edition.

{4} J. Neuner, Mother Teresa's Charisma, in: Vidyajyotí. Journal of Theological Reflection (New Dehli) 65 (2001) 179-192; German: Mutter Teresas Charisma, in: GuL 74 (2001) 336-348.

{5} See A. Huart, Mother Teresa. Joy in Darkness, in: Vidyajyotí 64 (2000) 654-659.

{6} See about it A. R. Batlogg's considerations in the editorial 'Die unvollkommenen Heiligen' [The Imperfect Saints], in this journal 225 (2007) 721-722.


Link to 'Public Con-Spiration for-with-of the Poor'