Ten serious accusations against Mother Teresa – Adrian Asis

Mother Teresa

Adrian AsisIt’s easy to dismiss the criticisms against Mother Teresa as the biased rantings of anti-Catholic skeptics who aim to discredit her. But perhaps, it is wiser to look into the evidence these critics present before making a judgment on the life of a woman once dubbed “the living saint.” – Adrian Asis

Mother Teresa is commonly depicted in such a saintly manner that it’s difficult for most people to imagine she has even one bad bone in her body. After all, the religious sister is responsible for founding the Missionaries of Charity, a religious congregation that provides free care for the sick, the hungry, the orphaned, and the dying. Moreover, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 and was beatified as “Blessed Teresa of Calcutta” by the Catholic Church in 2003. And yet, to this day, eighteen years after her death, numerous critics still insist that Mother Teresa is not the saint many people believe her to be.

Of course it’s easy to dismiss the criticisms against Mother Teresa as the biased rantings of anti-Catholic skeptics who aim to discredit her. But perhaps, it is wiser to look into the evidence these critics present before making a judgment on the life of a woman once dubbed “the living saint.” Here are ten of the most serious accusations that have been brought up against Mother Teresa of Calcutta:

10. Forced Catholicism on others

Because Calcutta (now “Kolkata”) is composed predominantly of Hindus, they are responsible for many of the criticisms against Mother Teresa, most especially with regard to her conversion of Calcuttans into Catholics. An example of such a critic is head of an Indian Hindu nationalist group Mohan Bhagwat who, in a public speech, said, “It’s good to work for a cause with selfless intentions. But Mother Teresa’s work had ulterior motive, which was to convert the person who was being served to Christianity.” In support of Bhagwat’s claim, researchers revealed that nuns at Mother Teresa’s institution secretly baptized the dying regardless of the patients’ religious affiliation. More specifically, Mother Teresa was said to have taught nuns how to ask the dying if they wanted a “ticket to heaven,” after which a positive reply would be followed by cooling the dying’s head with a damp cloth while the nun softly uttered the words for Catholic baptism.

9. Substandard quality of medical care

Mother Teresa established the Kalighat Home for the Dying in 1952 by converting an abandoned Hindu temple into a free hospital. As the name of the facility suggests, its main purpose is to provide its patients with an opportunity to die with dignity. However, in 1991, the editor of the medical journal The Lancet paid a visit to the hospice and observed that conditions there were far from ideal. More specifically, Robin Fox described the quality of the care provided to dying patients as “haphazard,” including unacceptable practices like the reuse of needles and the mixing of tuberculosis-infected patients with the uninfected. Worse, no distinction was made between the dying and the curable, thus leaving even curable patients to waste away. Furthermore, other critics pointed to the hospital’s disregard for modern medical practices, including the most basic of diagnosis procedures. However, Mother Teresa’s defenders countered the accusations by pointing out that the facility was only meant to serve as a refuge for the dying.

8. Support for the suspension of civil liberties

“The Emergency,” which took place from June 25, 1975 until March 21, 1977, is one of the most controversial intervals in India’s history. During the period, then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi imposed a dictatorship whereby civil liberties were suspended and most of her political enemies were imprisoned. Furthermore, the press was heavily censored, and a shocking mass-sterilization campaign was said to have been carried out by the Prime Minister’s son. Mother Teresa, however, seemed to have failed to recognize the oppression present at that time. Of the period, she commented, “People are happier. There are more jobs. There are no strikes.” Well, the Indians of the time certainly seemed to disagree with Mother Teresa as during elections in 1977, Gandhi and her son lost their seats in parliament, and the opposition was overwhelmingly swept into power.

7. Warped understanding of suffering

The Catholic Church is often criticized for allegedly teaching its followers to revel in suffering, and Mother Teresa is said to have been among the teaching’s most prominent purveyors. During a Washington, D.C. press conference in 1981, for example, Mother Teresa was asked, “Do you teach the poor to endure their lot?” and she replied,

I think it is very beautiful for the poor to accept their lot, to share it with the passion of Christ. I think the world is being much helped by the suffering of the poor people.

This response is said to exemplify the crooked mentality behind Mother Teresa’s insistence on keeping her facilities substandard despite the availability of funding to improve their services.

6. Inconsistency in teachings and actions

Perhaps even worse than allegations of her warped understanding of suffering are accusations of Mother Teresa’s hypocrisy. These are rooted in the advanced treatments she received for her illnesses despite her supposed appreciation for the value of suffering. More specifically, in 1985, Mother Teresa underwent cataract surgery, including the implantation of an artificial lens, at the St. Vincent’s Hospital in Manhattan. Then later, in 1989, the “Saint of the Gutters” received a pacemaker at the Woodlands Nursing Home in Calcutta. Furthermore, Mother Teresa has been accused of being selective in her values, such as when she openly opposed the legalization of divorce but supported Princess Diana when she divorced Prince Charles.

5. Questionable associations and silence on abuse

Mother Teresa has been documented to have associated with several individuals whose records of uprightness are questionable at best. In 1981, for example, she visited Michèle Duvalier, then the wife of Haiti president Jean-Claude Duvalier, who was later overthrown by popular uprising because of the terrible abuses of his regime. However, Mother Teresa instead ended up singing praises for the people’s familiarity with the First Lady and even accepted a national award from the government — all the while remaining silent on the numerous human rights violations of the regime. Another similar encounter took place in 1989, when Mother Teresa visited communist Albania. At that time, the government there was widely perceived to be openly oppressive to anyone who opposed it, and yet, Mother Teresa met with the nation’s leaders without commenting on their abuses.

4. Accepted donations from criminals

Connected to Mother Teresa’s questionable associations is her practice of keeping donations from criminals. One example involved Robert Maxwell, a British Member of Parliament who donated to Mother Teresa’s charities but was later found to have misappropriated the pension funds of his media company. Even more infamous was the case involving Charles Keating, a moral crusader who donated millions of dollars to Mother Teresa’s charities and even had her use his private jet. Later though, despite Mother Teresa sending the court a letter to attest to Keating’s kindness and generosity, he was found guilty of multiple counts of fraud that deprived thousands of people of their life savings. Then, after Keating had been convicted, the Deputy District Attorney wrote Mother Teresa a letter asking that the money she had received from Keating be returned. She did not reply.

3. Lack of transparency with funding and expenses

With all of the positive attention that Mother Teresa commanded and still commands, it is uncontested that her charities have received millions in donations from various sources. And this has led her critics to ask, “Where is all the money?” In fact, even Susan Shields, a former nun at the Missionaries of Charity, has asked the question. Shields claims she was assigned to record donations at the institution, and despite the fact that she regularly wrote receipts for donations of up to $50,000, the nuns continued to beg for supplies and reuse syringes. Furthermore, Stern, a German magazine, exposed that despite Indian laws requiring charitable organizations to publish their finances, the Missionaries of Charity never did. Stern also reported that only 7% of the 5.3 million Deutsche Marks donated in England in 1991 had been used for charitable purposes. The rest? Head of the Missionaries chapter in England, Sister Teresina, insisted, “Sorry, we can’t tell you that.”

2. Doubtful miracle attributed to her

This item is not an accusation directed at Mother Teresa but rather at those responsible for her beatification. However, the issue does raise doubts on the integrity of those defending her legacy. The matter in question has to do with Mother Teresa’s beatification, which like all those before her, required the documentation of a miracle performed with the candidate’s intercession. In the case of Mother Teresa’s beatification, the “miracle” certified by the Vatican as genuine involves the healing of Monica Besra, a woman from Calcutta.

On September 5, 1998, exactly one year after Mother Teresa’s death, Besra applied a medallion bearing Mother Teresa’s image over what she believed was a tumor in her stomach, and this act purportedly caused the growth and the pain it caused to disappear instantly. However, the doctors who handled Monica’s case over several months claim that the growth in Monica’s stomach was not a full-grown tumor and that treatments they had administered could have been responsible for the cure. In fact, even Monica’s husband, Seiku, believes that his “wife was cured by the doctors and not by any miracle.” Adding to the mystery, the medical records of Besru’s case were taken away by a certain Sister Betta of the Missionaries of Charity, and a call to her by Time magazine simply had her responding, “No comment.”

1. False claims about the impact of her work

Even the harshest critics of Mother Teresa concede that she had a positive impact on some people’s lives, but how many lives, really? Aroup Chatterjee, an atheist who performed extensive research on Mother Teresa, claimed that “the living saint” deliberately misled the public several times about how many people the Missionaries of Charity were helping. For example, Chatterjee noted that Mother Teresa repeatedly changed the figures—from as low as 1,000 to as many as 9,000—relating to how many people her charities in Calcutta had fed, sometimes in speeches delivered within just days of each other. Then there’s Mother Teresa’s claim of a “modern school [in Motijheel]. . . with over 5,000 children in it” even if no such school established by her with such a large number of students actually exists. – The Richest, 7 May 2015

» Adrian Asis is a freelance writer from the Philippines.

Academics condemn Mother Teresa

The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice

Petitions

There are two petitions at Change.org requesting Prime Minister Narendra Modi not to send official government representation to the controversial canonization ceremony for Mother Teresa on September 4th at the Vatican. Official Indian government representation for this sectarian Catholic religious function is deemed to be highly inappropriate as India describes herself to be a modern, science-oriented secular republic that does not favour one religious group over another. See the petitions HERE and HERE.

See also

  1. Kolkata will take a century to recover from Mother Teresa – Aroup Chatterjee
  2. How Mother Teresa became a saint – Christopher Hitchens
  3. Mother Teresa’s troubled legacy – S. Bedford
  4. Mother Teresa ‘a friend of poverty, not of the poor’ – Carol Hunt
  5. Living and working with the Missionaries of Charity – Amy Gigi Alexander
  6. Mother Teresa: More dirt on the saint of the gutters – Jayant Chowdhury
  7. Aroup Chatterjee: Revealing the whole truth about Mother Teresa – Kai Schultz
  8. St Teresa: The hypocrisy of it all – Jayant Chowdhury
  9. The scandal of Mother Teresa’s sainthood – Canterbury Atheist
  10. Mother Teresa defended notorious paedophile priest – Nelson Jones
  11. Mommie Dearest – Christopher Hitchens
  12. Nobel Prize acceptance speech – Mother Teresa
  13. To many critics, Mother Teresa is still no saint –  Adam Taylor
  14. Mother Teresa and her millions – Susan Shields & Walter Wuellenweber
  15. The ‘miracle’ that makes a saint out of Mother Teresa – Jaideep Mazumdar
  16. Mother Teresa was “anything but a saint” say research scholars – Kounteya Sinha
  17. Indian Rationalists question mother Teresa’s ovarian miracle – Sanal Edamaruku
  18. Mother Teresa brainwashed Hindus and fuelled an insurgency, claim BJP leaders – Andrew Marszal
  19. Is canonising Mother Teresa the Vatican’s strategy to gain ground in India? – Sandeep B.
  20. VIDEOS: Mother Teresa and her cult of suffering – Christopher Hitchens, Aroup Chatterjee & Others

 

11 Responses

  1. Missionary of death that came to India to convert. They do not have guts to convey Muslim for fear of throat sliced. Indians were too timid after Buddhism came with Ashoka propogated it. Before Ashoka , no body dare to come to India. Buddhism has disintegrated India. And Islam and British almost finished it. But I see hope for revival of Dharma and end of modern religion of Christianity and Islam.

  2. Prakasanandendra Saraswati

    Letter from SWAMI PRAKASANANDENDRAJI SARASWATI in BENGALURU dated 24 August 2016. Published with permission.

    Shri Swami Devanandaji,

    I signed the petition (you sent me) to Sushma Swaraj. Then I got these ideas which I am writing below.

    I feel that the Indian Government should think and understand clearly what the Vatican function stands for before it decides to attend it.

    1) It is a religious canonization of a person as a saint and not a civilian award.

    2) Secondly, it is given in recognition of neither of a person’s saintly qualities and saintly life nor of social service but of a miracle believed to have taken place in the name of a departed person for her belief in Christ-dogma.

    3) Moreover, this recognition is selective. There are many devotees and yogis and saints all over the world who performed or believed to have performed miracles on account of their yogic and other spiritual sadhanas. But they are all not recognized by the Vatican simply because they are not claimed to be on account of Jesus-dogma and the Vatican probably believes them to be from Satan and hence not worth recognizing.

    What is Shri Sushma Swaraj going for, for learning and practicing the sadhana of Jesus-dogma or for receiving another healing-miracle of Mother Teresa? Or is she going as a witness to confirm her miracle? Indians fail to understand unless the Government tells us.

    Around two months ago a news item appeared in the front page of a news paper (The New Indian Express). The President of All India Catholic Church, and not the PM office, said that the PM had accepted to attend this Vatican function of canonization. He also added that this would be a good opportunity for the BJP to boost it’s relationship with the Indian Christian community. Did he mean that The Indian Christian Community would vote for the BJP on this condition?

    The Government should also think what message is going to the people of India with attending such a function? Indians particularly youngsters think that a miracle, that too a Christian miracle and also the belief in Jesus-dogma is a great and important thing for India. See the contrast, several state and central Ministers visited Shri Satya Sai Baba in their individual capacity and not officially when he was alive. All of them praised his social service, running schools, teaching values and patriotism etc. Nobody ever mentioned his miracles, leave about praising them or glorifying them or even canonizing him. Sai Baba too expressed innumerable times the purpose of his miracles that his devotees might remember his love for them. He never said ‘Believe me, you too will heal in my name’. In his teachings too he always spoke of values and saintly qualities; and respect for divinity and saintliness wherever it is found irrespective of what religion the saint practices.

    With Narayana Smaranam,
    Swami Prakasanandendra Saraswati

  3. Run of a Notorious Nun finished at the line of a Satanic Saint.

    Saint Teresa: Satanic surge of a saint from a notorious nun.

    Read details in http://wp.me/pCXJT-6L0 .

  4. Why is Smt. Sushma Swaraj Going for Canonization Drama?

    Read in this link: http://wp.me/pCXJT-6Ku .

    • The real danger is that Sushma Swaraj may have instructions to invite the Pope to India. That is what the Indian Church has been lobbying for for two years. And BJP leaders can’t refuse a substantial donation from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference (CBCI) the same way they can’t refuse a substantial donation from a slaughterhouse owner or beef exporter (Rs 2.5 crore in 2014-15).

      But if the BJP thinks it will get the Christian vote by kissing the papal bottom, they are sadly mistaken. They will only get shit on their nose for their trouble—and no Christian vote (which always goes to Congress).

  5. Narendra ModiThe Modi Miracle: Narendra Modi’s “conversion” is yet another miracle that can be attributed to Mother Teresa and it may even be genuine!

    Sangh sees red over govt team to Vatican for Mother Teresa’s canonisation – Smriti Kak Ramachandran & Aurangzeb Naqshbandi – Hindustan Times – New Delhi – Updated: Aug 31, 2016

    The government’s decision to send a delegation led by foreign minister Sushma Swaraj to the Vatican for Mother Teresa’s canonisation on September 4 appears to be the latest point of confrontation between the BJP and the Sangh Parivar.

    The Parivar affiliates, still smarting from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s criticism of cow vigilantes, see the decision as an affront to their ideology.

    “It becomes hard for the Sangh brass to explain to the workers the rationale for change in the BJP’s position. For now the RSS brass has put down the decision to political compulsions,” a Sangh functionary said on condition of anonymity.

    The Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), the ideological parent of the BJP, and its partner organisations have always been suspicious of Albania-born Mother Teresa, accusing her of using Missionaries of Charity that she founded in 1950 of trying to convert people to Christianity.

    Conversions are an emotive issue for the Parivar which says Christian missionaries spread out to the remote corners of the country to proselytize tribals and poor Hindus.

    While the RSS described the move as a “political decision by an elected government”, its hardline affiliates such as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) are not pulling their punches.

    “The whole process of anointing her as a saint in itself is a falsehood. In this day and age it is specious to talk of miracles,” VHP’s international joint general secretary Surendra Jain said.

    The VHP, which had described Modi’s cow vigilante remark as an insult, said in acknowledging the so-called miracles of Mother Teresa, the government had “thrown open the doors for more conversions”.

    Jain demanded an inquiry into alleged conversions carried out by the Missionaries of Charity.

    Pope Francis had cleared the way for Mother Teresa’s sainthood in December.

    The Church defines saints as those believed to have been holy enough during their lives to now be in Heaven and can intercede with God to perform miracles. Mother Teresa has been credited with two miracles, both involving the healing of sick people.

    Swaraj’s delegation includes food processing minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and Goa’s deputy chief minister Francis D’Souza.

    West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, too, will be at the Vatican but she says she is going there as a guest of Missionaries of Charity.

    Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s poor health has forced her to pull out. “If I had not been unwell, I too would have been there to witness the sacred ceremony, and to pay my humble homage to the woman who was the very embodiment of boundless compassion, mercy and grace,” she said in a letter to Pope Francis.

    The Sangh functionary, who didn’t wish to be named as he is not authorised to speak to the media, said there was considerable dissent within the organisation over the government’s position on Mother Teresa.

    “The feedback from the rank and file of the Sangh is that the government has erred by sending Swaraj. They wanted a minister of state in the MEA to represent the country,” the functionary said.

    RSS sources said the government was told of the Parivar’s sentiments.

    Modi’s tribute to Mother Teresa in his radio programme Mann ki Baat, too, has not gone down well with the Parivar. The Prime Minister had praised Mother Teresa, a Nobel laureate and a Bharat Ratna, for devoting her life to serving the poor and the destitute.

    RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat stoked a controversy in 2015, when at the inauguration of an orphanage in Rajasthan, he had said unlike Mother Teresa, work “here would be carried out selflessly”.

    RSS general secretary Suresh Bahiyyaji Joshi had questioned Bharat Ratna for her, saying it was a worry that the country’s highest civilian honour was conferred on Mother Teresa 10 years before BR Ambedkar, who is credited with writing the Indian constitution and is a Dalit icon.

  6. Sanal Edamaruku

    In an interview, rationalist-author Sanal Edamaruku talks about being a victim of Christian religious intolerance of the worst kind. – Vasanth Srinivasan – The Hindu – August 30, 2016

    Independent India has had a chequered history when it comes to defending freedom of expression in all its glory. Nobody knows this better than Sanal Edamaruku, an author and a rationalist, who himself has been a victim of intolerance of the worst kind. Now in Finland on a self-imposed exile following a threat to his life in the wake of the Mumbai ‘crucifix miracle,’ Mr. Edamaruku, in an email interview with Vasanth Srinivasan, shared his thoughts on a wide range of issues including the circumstances that forced him leave India four years ago. This interview has been abridged.

    Q : What prompted you to leave India in 2012? Don’t you think it’s time you returned?

    A : When I left India in June 2012, I did not think I would be staying away for this long. Following the Mumbai crucifix miracle exposure over a TV panel discussion, the situation went out of my control. Apart from the cases that they tried to impose on me by misusing the archaic Section 295(A) of the Indian Penal Code, there have been direct and indirect attacks on me from the side of the Catholic Church.

    As Church sources later admitted, it was not only this “miracle” debunking that turned them against me. The list of my perceived ‘sins’ is long: I continued re-printing and circulating my father Joseph Edamaruku’s famous book Christ and Krishna Never Lived. In 2005, I exposed the miracle claim of the magical tumour cure with Mother Teresa’s picture and triggered a controversy. In 2011, I exposed the fallacy of the so-called shroud of Turin in a TV programme. I published critical articles on conversion strategies of the Church. Then there was my initiative to defend P.M. Antony, the author of the banned theatre play ‘Sixth Holy Wound of Christ’.

    So, following the TV debate with the Mumbai bishop, a group of goons were sent to the studio with sticks to attack me. After several hours, the studio crew had to save me by opening a new way out. As church panellists threatened in the TV programme, several complaints were filed against me in Mumbai police stations. There were calls to get me arrested for at least one night so that they could get rid of me by a co-prisoner.

    All these forced me to go into hiding. And, protected by trusted friends, I gave interviews and appeared on TV programmes. In my last weeks in India, I was hiding in a hostel room at the Jawaharlal Nehru University. It was from there I left for Finland two weeks ahead of a pre-scheduled lecture tour in Poland.

    Before leaving India, I talked to many top politicians of India whom I knew personally, including some of the Cabinet Ministers. I wrote to the Maharashtra Chief Minister and the Home Minister explaining to them the nature of the threat. I wrote in detail to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

    The Indian Society of Authors, backed by several prominent writers, also wrote to the Prime Minister. I tried to get an anticipatory bail from the Delhi High Court and Mumbai High Courts. We decided to fight the law (Section 295 A), as it is violative of my fundamental rights. Even as an international petition seeking the intervention of the Indian government and signed by several prominent signatories including people like Richard Dawkins and many Nobel laureates went unanswered, the Archbishop set my apology as the pre-condition for withdrawing the cases. My answer was a clear ‘No’.

    As soon as I get protection and a guarantee of safety, I will come to India. It’s been a long time. I need to meet my friends and people close to me. I hope the Maharashtra government will reject the complaints lodged against me by the Catholic groups to make it possible for me to come to India without intimidation and bullying.

  7. Regarding point#10 about baptising dying people, she did not do anything wilfully wrong. Catholics believe that you go to heaven only if you are baptized catholic. This is believed, however stupid it sounds, by most catholics. They do not encourage people to think. Mother Teresa was uneducated but a staunch believer of catholic teachings and baptized dying people because she wanted the poor souls to go to heaven.

    • Mother Teresa was involved in the conversion to Christianity, by rite of baptism, of dying Hindus and Muslims. This was an outrageous breach of trust by an Catholic nun who obviously knew better—or she wouldn’t have acted in secret!

      Mother Teresa’s belief in the salvific efficacy of the baptismal ritual did not give her the right to impose her faith on ignorant and trusting non-Christians without their informed consent. Her conduct was selfish, superstitious and inexcusable!

  8. In an essay in the collection White Women in Racialized Spaces, historian Vijay Prashad said of Mother Teresa:

    Mother Teresa is the quintessential image of the white woman in the colonies, working to save the dark bodies from their own temptations and failures. […] The Euro-American-dominated international media continue to harbor the colonial notion that white peoples are somehow especially endowed with the capacity to create social change. When nonwhite people labor in this direction, the media typically search for white benefactors or teachers, or else, for white people who stand in the wings to direct the nonwhite actors. Dark bodies cannot act of their own volition to stretch their own capacity, for they must wait, the media seem to imply, for some colonial administrator, some technocrat from IBM or the IMF to tell them how to do things. When it comes to saving the poor, the dark bodies are again invisible, for the media seem to celebrate only the worn out platitudes of such as Mother Teresa and ignore the struggles of those bodies for their own liberation. To open the life of someone like Mother Teresa to scrutiny, therefore, is always difficult. […] Mother Teresa’s work was part of a global enterprise for the alleviation of bourgeois guilt, rather than a genuine challenge to those forces that produce and maintain poverty.

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