Mother Teresa Saint Or Sinner, Caregiver Or Exploiter Of The Poor?

Mother Teresa is widely known for her charitable works on which she devoted all her life in the streets of Kolkata. From taking care of the poor, to the sick, to the ones that had strayed away from God, she did it all. She dedicated her life to bring the message of salvation to those who failed to recognize it. Widely known as the Saint Teresa of Kolkata, she was beatified on 19th October, 2003, then being known as the ‘Blessed’ in the Roman Catholic congregation. On 4th September, 2016, Mother Teresa was finally canonised at St. Peter’s Square, Vatican City, as the Roman Catholic Church recognized a second miracle attributed to her. This canonisation took place almost after 19 years after her death.

Many people from all over the world paid their reverence in her name. Our very own PM Narendra Modi paid tribute to Mother Teresa in a radio broadcast, and said that when a person like her who devoted her whole life to the poor in our country, is conferred with sainthood, it is natural for Indians to feel proud. Also Sonia Gandhi in a letter to Vatican said that not just the Catholics but every Indian took immense joy and pride in the canonisation of a woman who was an embodiment of boundless compassion, mercy and grace.

As much has this canonisation brought the beloved nun into news, who was already a global icon for her work with the poor, but has also reignited the deep criticism of the order she founded, the Missionaries of Charity, which according to the detractors focused on the elevation than the relief, of suffering. But the woman who had to face criticism about her good work when she was alive, is still criticised after death by some and they seem very dissenting about the canonisation amid the controversies over her missionaries and miracles. Critics also protested against the decision of our PM Modi to send a 100-strong delegation led by the Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj to the canonisation mass. We found an online petition that said that it boggled their mind that the Foreign minister of a country whose constitution exhorts its citizens to have a scientific temper would approve of a canonisation based on ‘miracles’. Hindu nationalists have claimed that the new proclaimed Saint was a ‘soul harvester’ who proselytized among the poor, and she and her followers baptized the dying secretly. Another critic, goes by the name Aroup Chatterjee, a doctor who grew up in Kolkata and presently works in UK is one of the most vocal critics. According to him, many rogues have become Catholic saints and it bothers him to such an extent that he stated that the world makes such a song and dance about a superstitious, black magic ceremony. He has described Saint Teresa as a “ medieval creature of darkness” and a “bogus and fantastic figure” which went without challenge by world’s media. In his book Mother Teresa: The Final Verdict on her work, shows her to be negligible about the medical care given to the sick and says that she spent a lot of time flying around in a private plane meeting political leaders. A similar accusation was made by another late writer Christopher Hitchens in his book, The Missionary Position, and also stated that the focus of St. Teresa’s work was not the honest relief of suffering but the dissemination of a cult based on death and suffering and subjection. Hitchens also went on to say in his book, The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice that-

“…But it is difficult to spend any time at all in Calcutta and conclude that what it most needs is a campaign against population control. Nor, of course, does Mother Teresa make this judgment based on local conditions. She was opposed on principle to abortion and birth controllong before she got there. For her, Calcutta is simply a front in a much larger war.”

Some even alleged that she went on to use her influence to further the Vatican stance on abortion. Hitchens also stated that Mother Teresa herself would check into expensive and sophisticated hospitals and clinics in the West but would neglect the fact that her patients suffered from the lack of pain-relieving and illness-combating medical support in her charitable organizations. Also some three years ago a study at the University of Montreal by academics concluded that Vatican had ignored Mother Teresa’s rather dubious way of caring for the sick, suspicious managements of enormous sums of money she received and her dogmatic views on divorce, abortion and contraception.

Albeit criticisms from different people that fact that she did what no one else cared to even think about, cannot be left discredited. In 1950, she established the Missionaries of Charity with 12 followers, and today the order has 5600 members, and hundreds of thousands of lay volunteers, which runs orphanages, schools, homes for the sick and dying, shelters for homeless, health clinics and other services in 139 countries. She was also awarded Nobel peace prize in 1979, which she said she didn’t deserve but accepted the award “in the name of the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, of the lepers, of all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout the society.” Even in her acceptance speech she focused on abortion, and raised a stunning question that if a mother was capable of killing the unborn child growing in her womb then what was going to prevent us all from killing each other, nothing would. She died after several years of illness on September 5, 1997.

The question that whether Mother Teresa was a ‘Saint or Sinner’ or ‘Caregiver or Exploiter’ is completely subject to one’s own individual belief. If one believes that the work carried out by her was in good faith, he/she will never question that she could be an exploiter or sinner for that matter. As for what message I want hereby to be received is that one shouldn’t question on the works of someone so great and pure until there is a compelling allegation on fitting evidences. Given if anyone finds anything as such then it should be brought out on the larger platform, but if one doesn’t, then they shouldn’t fail from honoring the righteous soul as it deserves.