“THE LIES OF MOTHER TERESA AND THE MANUFACTURE OF A CATHOLIC HERO

By David F. EFFIONG

One of the arguments supporting Euthanasia includes the reduction or elimination of pain and misery; Against Euthanasia is to care and love, but above all, the need for social support and relief. Mother Teresa surely, showed no support for the dying except offering prayers and medals. It came to be known that her hospitals were houses for the dying. Involved in shady business practices, her clinics received millions of donations yet the conditions of medical care, systematic diagnosis and nutrition were in a sorry state. 

 But the other story, the rather popular story of Mother Teresa, is the story of her selfless service to humanity, her heroism and her faith. For “by canonizing some of the faithful as saints, i e., by solemnly proclaiming that they practiced heroic virtue and lived holy lives by God’s grace, the Church gives her members models and intercessors.” After all, “the saints have always been a source of renewal in the most difficult moments in the Church’s history” (A Concise Catholic Catechism).” But who was Mother Teresa really?

 Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu , the future Mother Teresa, was born on 26 August 1910, in Skopje, Macedonia, to Albanian heritage. After spending her adolescence deeply involved in parish activities, Agnes left home in September 1928, for the Loreto Convent in Rathfarnam (Dublin), Ireland, where she was admitted as a postulant on October 12 and received the name of Teresa, after her patroness, St. Therese of Lisieux. She made her final profession as a Loreto nun on 24 May 1937, and hereafter was called Mother Teresa.On 10 September 1946, on a train journey from Calcutta to Darjeeling, Mother Teresa received what she termed the “call within a call,” which was to give rise to the Missionaries of Charity family of Sisters, Brothers, Fathers, and Co-Workers. The content of this inspiration is revealed in the aim and mission she would give to her new institute: “to quench the infinite thirst of Jesus on the cross for love and souls” by “labouring at the salvation and sanctification of the poorest of the poor.” On October 7, 1950, the new congregation of the Missionaries of Charity was officially erected as a religious institute for the Archdiocese of Calcutta. On 1 February 1965, Pope Paul VI granted the Decree of Praise to the Congregation, raising it to Pontifical Right (www.catholic.org/clife/teresa/).

In the words of Literary critic and sinologist Simon Leys, are we talking about the Mother Teresa who,  endeavouring to be a Christian, accepted “the hospitality of crooks, millionaires, and criminals” to remind us of Christ’s relations with unsavory individuals,” or the Mother Teresa who “is less interested in helping the poor than in using them as an indefatigable source of wretchedness on which to fuel the expansion of her fundamentalist Roman Catholic beliefs?” (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Missionary_Position:_Mother_Teresa_in_Theory_and_Practice) This article therefore, hopes to inquire into the life of Mother Teresa through assessment and analysis of the writings of certain individuals, the Catholic Church, witnesses and scholars. 

Most of the criticisms levelled against Mother Teresa came from Christopher Hitchens  Concerning the canonization of Mother Teresa, the situation in India, and her reactions to the poor, Christopher Hitchens in his book titled, “The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice,” had this to say: “This returns us to the medieval corruption of the church, which sold indulgences to the rich while preaching hellfire and continence to the poor. MT was not a friend of the poor. She was a friend of poverty . She said that suffering was a gift from God. She spent her life opposing the only known cure for poverty, which is the empowerment of women and the emancipation of them from a livestock version of compulsory reproduction. And she was a friend to the worst of the rich, taking misappropriated money from the atrocious Duvalier family in Haiti  (whose rule she praised in return) and from Charles Keating  of the Lincoln Savings and Loan. Where did that money, and all the other donations go? The primitive hospice in Calcutta was as run down when she died as it always had been—she preferred California clinics when she got sick herself—and her order always refused to publish any audit. But we have her own claim that she opened 500 convents in more than a hundred countries, all bearing the name of her own Order. Excuse me, but this is modesty and humility?” (www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/fighting_words/2003/10/mommie_dearest.html)

But to really understand the tone of Hitchen’s criticisms and the Church’s story of poverty or of being poor, is to journey into the past. The past, filled with stories of saints and desert Fathers like Anthony of Egypt, Pacomius, Francis of Assisi, Benedict, etc. St. Alphonsus Liguori in his book titled “The Will Of God” (4th edition, Dublin 1939, pg. 22-33) had written thus, “we should endeavour to be resigned to these accidents of nature which come to us from without; as when there is great cold, heat, rain, scarcity, pestilence, and the like, we should take care not to say: “what intolerable heat! What horrible cold! What a misfortune! What an unhappy lot! What a wretched season!” Or other words expressing repugnance to the will of God. We should will everything to be AS IT IS, since God arranged all things. Alphonsus would further write that uniting one’s self to the Divine Will (on cases of illness) is of much more advantage than health.” One should for him, suffer with patience the pains and infirmities which God sends.

Thomas à Kempis, author of the book titled, “My Imitation of Christ” (Revised translation illustrated by John J. Gorman, NY: 1954), had also written: “The better you dispose yourself for suffering, the more wisely you’d act, and the more your merits.” History however, is rich with this way of life in a ‘fattened’  Church whose blessedness is not alien to poverty.

Franz Jalics, in his book titled, “The Contemplative way” (Germany, 2006, pg 49 – 57) wrote extensively about the Church’s ‘kind’ of poverty. He narrates: “This contrast of the helplessness of man and the omnipotence of God shows the full meaning of poverty. Man has to become empty, so that God may fill him. There is nothing negative and destructive in this poverty because it leads to the fullness of God. But for Jesus, even this is not enough yet. He continues the conversation and confirms once again the radicalism of this emptiness. “A camel will rather go through the eye of a needle than a rich man into the Kingdom of God.””

Surprisingly, Mother Teresa was not just satisfied with claims of being empty of treasures, she had constantly reminded the suffering ones entrusted to her that Jesus was pleased. Mother Teresa believed that “pain, means Jesus is near you.” And “Suffering is an opportunity to share in the passion of Christ.” It is recorded that she told a patient who had been suffering that, “pains are kisses from Jesus,” to which the patient had replied, “please tell Jesus to stop kissing me.” 

With 517 missions in 100 Countries at the time of her death, conditions in the Missionaries of Charity’s hospices were deplorable. Teresa for poverty’s cruel sake, refused to introduce the most basic methods of hygiene, even going so far as to re-use needles without sterilization.
C. Hitchens was invited by the Vatican to speak about Teresa and he noted that, “it was by talking to her that I discovered, and she assured me, that she wasn’t working to alleviate poverty. She was working to expand the number of Catholics. She said, “i’m not a social worker. I don’t do it for this reason. I do it for Christ. I do it for the Church.””

In another reaction following the canonization of Mother Teresa as a Catholic hero, Christopher Hitchens would remind us that in such action, “we witnessed the elevation and consecration of extreme dogmatism, blinkered faith, and the cult of a mediocre human personality. Many more people are poor and sick if her example is followed. She was a fanatic, a fundamentalist and a fraud. And a Church that officially protects those who violate the innocent has given us another clear sign of where it truly stands on moral and ethical questions.”

Was Christopher Hitchens mistaken? Or was he even more concerned that Mother Teresa, had opposed abortion and birth control in India whose population is now “1,344,046,762 as of Tuesday, August 8, 2017, based on the latest United Nations estimates (India population is equivalent to 17.86% of the total world population. India ranks number 2 in the list of countries (and dependencies) by population)?” (www.worldometers.info/world-population/india-population/).

Or was he concerned that Teresa was not a humanitarian? Or was he infact concerned about the atmosphere of secrecy and denial in the Catholic Church which causes many crimes to breed freely?

To further substantiate and expand the criticisms leveled by Hitchens, the Université de Montreal gave an official press release after peer-review namely:

The myth of altruism and generosity surrounding Mother Teresa is dispelled in a paper by Serge Larivée and Genevieve Chenard of University of Montreal’s Department of Psychoeducation and Carole Sénéchal of the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Education. The paper will be published in…the journal Studies in Religion/Sciences religieuses and is an analysis of the published writings about Mother Teresa. Like the journalist and author Christopher Hitchens, who is amply quoted in their analysis, the researchers conclude that her hallowed image—which does not stand up to analysis of the facts—was constructed, and that her beatification was orchestrated by an effective media relations campaign.

“While looking for documentation on the phenomenon of altruism for a seminar on ethics, one of us stumbled upon the life and work of one of Catholic Church’s most celebrated woman and now part of our collective imagination—Mother Teresa—whose real name was Agnes Gonxha,” says Professor Larivée, who led the research. “The description was so ecstatic that it piqued our curiosity and pushed us to research further.”

As a result, the three researchers collected 502 documents on the life and work of Mother Teresa. After eliminating 195 duplicates, they consulted 287 documents to conduct their analysis, representing 96% of the literature on the founder of the Order of the Missionaries of Charity (OMC). Facts debunk the myth of Mother Teresa.

In their article, Serge Larivée and his colleagues also cite a number of problems not taken into account by the Vatican in Mother Teresa’s beatification process, such as “her rather dubious way of caring for the sick, her questionable political contacts, her suspicious management of the enormous sums of money she received, and her overly dogmatic views regarding, in particular, abortion, contraception, and divorce.”
“Mother Teresa was generous with her prayers but rather miserly with her foundation’s millions when it came to humanity’s suffering. During numerous floods in India or following the explosion of a pesticide plant in Bhopal, she offered numerous prayers and medallions of the Virgin Mary but no direct or monetary aid. On the other hand, she had no qualms about accepting the Legion of Honour and a grant from the Duvalier dictatorship in Haiti. Millions of dollars were transferred to the MCO’s various bank accounts, but most of the accounts were kept secret, Larivée says. ‘Given the parsimonious management of Mother Theresa’s works, one may ask where the millions of dollars for the poorest of the poor have gone?’”
.” . .In 1969, [Muggeridge] made a eulogistic film of the missionary, promoting her by attributing to her the “first photographic miracle,” when it should have been attributed to the new film stock being marketed by Kodak. Afterwards, Mother Teresa travelled throughout the world and received numerous awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize. In her acceptance speech, on the subject of Bosnian women who were raped by Serbs and now sought abortion, she said: ‘I feel the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a direct war, a direct killing—direct murder by the mother herself.’

. . . Following her death, the Vatican decided to waive the usual five-year waiting period to open the beatification process. [ JAC: As I recall, it took only a year.] The miracle attributed to Mother Theresa was the healing of a woman, Monica Besra, who had been suffering from intense abdominal pain. The woman testified that she was cured after a medallion blessed by Mother Theresa was placed on her abdomen. Her doctors thought otherwise: the ovarian cyst and the tuberculosis from which she suffered were healed by the drugs they had given her. The Vatican, nevertheless, concluded that it was a miracle. Mother Teresa’s popularity was such that she had become untouchable for the population, which had already declared her a saint. “What could be better than beatification followed by canonization of this model to revitalize the Church and inspire the faithful especially at a time when churches are empty and the Roman authority is in decline?” Larivée and his colleagues ask” (cf.https://theageofblasphemy.wordpress.com/tag/mother-teresa/). You can check other reports on Mother Teresa here at www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/04/mother-teresa-myth_n_2805697.html.

The questions asked even today by concerned scholars, journalists, humanitarians and Catholics include: 

  • Was Mother Teresa really a hero or she was manufactured by a Church to whom she served?
  • Why was the illiteracy of an expanding population of India not a priority to Teresa, as suffering for Christ was?
  • Was Mother Teresa really interested in the empowerment of women or in the enrollment of wealth into the Church?
  • Was her canonization orchestrated by the media or her ‘fans’ or by the patience of inquiry?

    Photo credit: Google image.