Jan 28, 2022

The Dark Side of Mother Teresa Mother Teresa, A Saint or a Fraud?

Sal Writes
Mar 25, 2021

Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu, or Mother Teresa as she is now known throughout the world, was one of the most important Catholic Church figures when she was alive and even posthumously. Someone who Christians and everyone alike admired, she is best known for her work in uplifting poverty and helping the marginalized in the poorest regions of Calcutta, India. Her trophy cabinet is filled with multiple awards that ranged from the Ramon Magsaysay Peace Prize to the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, cementing her legacy as someone who worked solely for the welfare of those suffering.

Even today, if her name is mentioned, the first thought that comes to mind is of a pious woman who had the purest intentions and a smile that welcomed everyone into her grace. However, the truth might be far from this perception. Many people have questioned Mother Teresa’s actions and motives over the years, deeming them as a romanticization of people’s suffering. From her questionable practices in the Missionaries of Charity to her dubious ways of handling the money granted to her by equally shady people, this is a deep dive into the dark side of Saint Mother Teresa.

Hell’s Angel.
By Christopher Hitchens — Christopher Hitchens — Mother Teresa:  Angel

In a 1994 documentary with the name “Hell’s Angel,” the first of many criticisms of Teresa’s work started to emerge. The documentary was spearheaded by someone who was a volunteer in Teresa’s missionary work. This meant that there was some credibility to the claims that were being made. In the documentary, the sanitation of the soup houses and hospices was critiqued heavily. It was claimed through various eyewitness testimonies that there was no regard for safety for terminally ill individuals under the watchful eyes of Mother Teresa. This disregard was seen in the form of reusing the same needles for various other patients who were receiving treatment.

There was no sterilization in the process, which meant that there was a very high chance of infection. Shockingly, these malpractices were happening at a place where there were patients of HIV/AIDS who are already immunocompromised. Another eyewitness claimed that no staff at these places of care were medically trained and had poor skills in handling patients already making peace with death. It can be concluded that Teresa was taking advantage of these people to boost her picture of being compassionate rather than actually caring for these people.

Was it just a case of no funding?
Many people would jump to the conclusion that operating in an impoverished area like India meant that there was a lack of funds that made the conditions of the hospices terrible. However, this claim is false as Mother Teresa alone brought in over $30 million in funding from various donors across the world. There was more than enough money for the operation to run smoothly. Instead, there were no attempts made even slightly to make the conditions of the people better.

Teresa’s and the other missionaries’ refusal to install water heaters at certain camps is a testament to her caring about her persona rather than the actual freezing water with which the patients used to bathe. Donald McIntyre went undercover to one of her hospices to volunteer for Teresa and reported similar neglect and even cases of abuse. His reports claimed that children and the mentally ill were often tied up with ropes and clothes so that they could be fed or kept stationary. These clear violations of human rights were brushed off and never associated with the holier than thou personality of Mother Teresa.

Friends in High Places?

For someone who has been canonized in Christian literature, Mother Teresa sure mingled with the wrong individuals. She was known to have made friends with people that donated to her cause regardless of their actions. Teresa accepted donations and medals from people involved in large genocides of the Christian communities around the world. This included Ronald Reagan, the President of the US, someone who is alleged to have orchestrated the mass murder of catholic nuns and archbishop of San Salvador during the cold war.

For someone who dedicated her life to saving lives, this was very hypocritical. She was also involved with successful business tycoons like Charles Keating, who would later be convicted for fraud and racketeering for his dirty loan practices. This showed that Teresa had an inclination towards gathering money (which, by the way, was not even used for making the lives of the ill better) rather than actual altruism.

A Saint, or a Fraud?

In 2016, Teresa was posthumously granted the title of Saint, one of the highest ranks for preaching members, by Pope Francis I, and her life was canonized in the Roman Catholic Church. To be awarded the title of a Saint, the individual has to perform two known miracles that would then be acknowledged and approved by the Catholic Church. Teresa’s two miracles happened in 1998 and 2008. The former was Monica Besra, a woman in Bengal who claimed that her illness, caused by a tumor, was eradicated after praying to Mother Teresa. In 2002, the Church formally acknowledged this as a miracle.

However, various reports, including one of her own husband, claimed that Monica was cured by the doctors more than Teresa, and it was the regular treatment that saved her. This was backed up by various medical reports as well, but these statements were later retracted. It seems that the Catholic Church could care less about the science behind benign tumors but more about this miracle. After Teresa’s death in 1997, there was another report of a miracle in 2008 by a Brazilian man with multiple brain tumors. In just seven days, the Catholic Church completed its investigation, and Pope Francis would later grant Mother Teresa with the title of Saint.

Mother Teresa’s Life: A Gray Area.

Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta is undoubtedly someone who spent her life trying to help out the poor and the ill. Her years of struggle are proof that she wanted to cultivate a narrative of helping other people. However, her altruism was not black and white; with all the eyewitness reports and criticism that her actions have garnered, it is safe to say that Mother Teresa’s life lies in a gray area that is far from perfect like many seem to claim.
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