James Martin, S.J.February 01, 2010

David Gibson over at Politics Daily has a great piece on the "uproar" over the newly announced "Mother Teresa stamp."  Seems that some are objecting to her smiling visage gracing our letters and postcards.  And they're objecting for good reason.  The U.S. Postal Service's list of requirements for those who should appear on stamps includes this rather clear-cut restriction: "Stamps or stationery items shall not be issued to honor religious institutions or individuals whose principal achievements are associated with religious undertakings or beliefs."  The risibly named Freedom from Religion Foundation (named, I suppose, after one of the Four Non-Freedoms that Norman Rockwell famously commemorated in World War II) has used that restriction as an airtight argument opposing her.  Joe Carter at First Things takes a different tack, though: "Mother Teresa should certainly appear on a stamp -- but only after we change the law. We shouldn't look for loopholes that require denying the importance of her faith in order for her to qualify. Mother Teresa should be honored for who she really was -- a Catholic nun motivated by the love of Christ -- and not as a faux, secular saint."  

That makes sense, especially since, as Gibson notes, the Postal Service has honored The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who was, um, a religious leader, and Fr. Edward J. Flanagan of Boys Town fame.  According to the USPS, they're acceptable because they were not known primarily as religious leaders, which would have surprised Rev. King and Fr. Flanagan (not to mention their congregations).  And as Gibson notes, the Blessed Virgin Mary somehow slips through those religious restrictions every Christmas.  That pesky BVM!  His article says, tongue-in-cheekly, that perhaps she's seen primarily as a mom.  Or maybe just a painting.

But let's use an even simpler argument.  US stamps rightly honor deserving people, events, inventions, achievements and even landmarks.  And so the question: Does Mother Teresa live up to these high standards?  Can she, for example, be counted in the august company as the two estimable figures, public servants and international humanitarians already honored by the Postal Service who are pictured at right?

Give me a break.  Put her on the damn stamp already.

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Murali Karamchedu
11 years 7 months ago
Based on the USPS guidelines, I wonder how one would interpret St. Francis of Assisi. This was a 20c stamp issued in 1982. Curiously, this stamp simply says Francis of Assisi, (in contrast, a similar stamp issued by the Govt. of India, in 1982 as well, says *St.* Francis of Assisi).
Webster Bull
11 years 7 months ago
Quoth the Wicked Witch of the West: What a world, what a world.

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