Mother Teresa

Mama T is NOT a Friend of Mine

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Join us as we discuss a supposedly good person who may not be so good after all: the beloved Mother Teresa. She’s a saint, she’s a super nun, and…. oh snap! She’s also kind of a terrible person. Learn about the net worth of her Missionaries of Charity group as well as the reported deplorable conditions in her homes for the sick. Did I mention illegal baby sales yet? I didn’t. Well, you’ll just have to tune in to find out more. 

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Show Notes:

Mother Teresa aka Saint Teresa of Calcutta who is best known for her work with the Missionaries of Charity, providing care and housing to the poor.

Mother Teresa was born Agnes Gonxha (Gon-ya) Teresa Bojaxhiu (Bo-jax-hu) in 1910 in Skopje (SKOPE-yay), which was then part of the Ottoman Empire. Currently, Skopje is the capital city of North Macedonia, which is located on the Balkan Peninsula in Southeastern Europe. Some other countries in this region are Serbia, Bulgaria, and Bosnia, for reference. Her early years were financially comfortable, as her father was an Albanian merchant with a relatively prosperous business working as a contractor and trader of goods such as medicine. Her father Nikola, and mother, Dranafile, were devout Catholics and her father was heavily involved in the church and in city politics. He passed away in 1919 suddenly, when Agnes was only 8 years old. As a result of her father’s passing, Agnes became close to her mother, and it appears this is where her commitment to charitable work may have
originated. It was common for Drana to invite the poor members of their community to eat meals with their family, and she encouraged Agnes to treat all people as members of their family.

Agnes was educated in a primary school run by a local convent, and this is where she experienced her first “religious calling” at the age of 12 while on a religious pilgrimage with her classmates. By the age of 18 years, she had joined the Sisters of Loreto, a convent in Dublin Ireland, and she adopted the name Sister Mary Teresa, after Saint Teresa of
Lisieux (Lees-yuh) One year into her work with the Sisters, Mary Teresa was sent to Calcutta, India, to teach geography and religious studies in 1929 at Saint Mary’s High School for Girls. She would continue this work for 15 years, until she experienced “a call” to begin a mission dedicated to providing compassion and love to the “poorest of the poor”. In 1946, after hearing this “calling”, Sister Mary Teresa parted with the Sisters of Loreto to form her own Order, the Missionaries of Charity.


The Order of the Missionaries of Charity was a congregation of Roman Catholic women dedicated to serving the poor, primarily in India. The nuns worked by providing homes for orphans and hospices for the terminally ill, as well as nursing homes for lepers. Eventually, the Missionaries of Charity would grow to include more than 4000 nuns and span over 130 countries, as it has remained active beyond Sister Mary Teresa’s death in 1997, by which time she was known globally as Mother Teresa. She eventually was declared a Saint by the Catholic Church in 2016, almost 20 years posthumous, and is now more officially known as Saint Teresa of Calcutta. While her work with the Missionaries of Charity is what Mother
Teresa became idolized and famous for, there have been allegations surrounding some of her beliefs and practices that most people have no knowledge of.


First let’s talk her finances. While Mother Teresa was pictured walking around in an Indian Sari, the iconic white sari with three blue borders that came to be a symbol of her work. The backstory on this was that Mother Teresa was told by Christ himself to dress in “simple Indian clothes” and that this would come to symbolize holiness. While Mother Teresa may
have dressed in simple Indian garments, her meager housing and modest clothing do not reflect her net worth, which was reported to be in the tens of millions, with one previous
bookkeeper for the Missionaries of Charity citing a sum of $50 million dollars in a New York bank account, which is one of their many accounts across the globe.

While it is not necessarily scandalous for a religious organization to receive such large donations, there are allegations that the Missionaries of Charity did not really use this money in helping the poor, hungry, and sick citizens of India or other countries. It appears that Mother Teresa was adept at having buildings, food, clothing, and labor essentially donated or paid for by outside entities. Susan Shields, a sister with the order for 10 years shared the following in her article, Mother Teresa’s House of Illusions:


(Begin Quote) “Mother was very concerned that we preserve our spirit of poverty. Spending money would destroy that poverty. She seemed obsessed with using only the simplest of means for our work. Was this in the best interests of the people we were trying to help, or were we in fact using them as a tool to advance our own “sanctity?” In Haiti, to keep the spirit of poverty, the sisters reused needles until they became blunt. Seeing the pain caused by the blunt needles, some of the volunteers offered to procure more needles, but the sisters refused.
We begged for food and supplies from local merchants as though we had no resources. On one of the rare occasions when we ran out of donated bread, we went begging at the local store. When our request was turned down, our superior decreed that the soup kitchen could do without bread for the day.

It was not only merchants who were offered a chance to be generous. Airlines were requested to fly sisters and air cargo free of charge. Hospitals and doctors were expected to absorb the costs of medical treatment for the sisters or to draw on funds designated for the religious. Workmen were encouraged to labor without payment or at reduced rates. We relied heavily on volunteers who worked long hours in our soup kitchens, shelters, and day camps. A hard-working farmer devoted many of his waking hours to collecting and delivering food for our soup kitchens and shelters. “If I didn’t come, what would you eat?” he asked. Our Constitution forbade us to beg for more than we needed, but, when it came to begging, the millions of dollars accumulating in the bank were treated as if they did not exist.” (End Quote)


Something else that is perhaps, even more troubling, concerns how she actually helped the sick. An article published by Robin Fox, the previous editor of the Lancet, a respected and
world renowned medical journal, commented on the conditions of on Mother Teresa’s homes for the sick, which many medical physicians began referring to as “Homes for the Dying” due to the 40% mortality rate. These homes could be thought of as a sort of hospice for the ill in Calcutta, and in these homes, Dr. Fox uncovered a lack of proper medical care, including misdiagnosis of the illnesses in question, and thus, lack of proper treatment of the underlying conditions these individuals were suffering from. A journalist who visited the primary location of the “Missionaries of Charity” compared what he experienced to
photographs he had seen of one of Nazi Germany’s concentration camps. To paint a better picture, it seems that syringes were simply washed in warm water and reused, contagious TB patients were housed with others and not isolated to help contain the spread of their illness, and it appears that those who were in even immense amounts of pain were not given analgesics or other pain killers, not because of a lack of resources, but based on the belief held by Mother Teresa that “The most beautiful gift for a person is that he can participate in the suffering of Christ”. This appears to suggest that she believed a person’s suffering, from poverty, illness, or pain, made that person more Christ-like and brought them closer to Christ, and that “suffering was a gift from God”. Is it possible Mother Teresa’s beliefs on suffering and devotion to her faith meant that many if not all of the individuals her organization treated were actually made to continue suffering? Apparently, this may very well have been the case. Her potential expectation and support of suffering by the poor and sick who were supposedly receiving care from the Missionaries of Charity is made even more deplorable based on reports that she herself flew to America for medical treatment when she became ill.


Perhaps not surprising, Mother Teresa was a bit outspoken about her beliefs surrounding abortion, contraception, and divorce. She is quoted as saying that “the greatest destroyer
of peace today is abortion” during her Nobel Prize acceptance speech in 1979. In addition, she believed that contraception was a selfish act and a denial of accepting God’s love in the form of conceiving a child as she has stated,”In destroying the power of giving life, through contraception, a husband or wife is doing something to self. This turns the attention to self and so destroys the gift of love in him or her.” Her reproductive ideology seems to fit very neatly with the views espoused by the Catholic Church, and this extends to divorce and remarriage. When Ireland was voting to potentially lift the ban on divorce and remarriage in 1995 (it had previously been banned in the country), she wrote a letter to the people of Ireland urging them to vote “no” on reversing the ban:

(Begin Quote)”It is true that many families have experienced much suffering because of violence, alcoholism and, abuses which have often led to a breakdown in the relationship.
If the family prays together, they will stay together. And if they stay together, they will
love each other as God loves each one of them. The fruit of prayer is joy, love, peace and unity in the family and this will be an example of love for the children and for the neighbours. And so, there will be no need for divorce. How can the spouses give up each other if they love each other? Divorce breaks, destroys and causes terrible temptations. And it also causes suffering and pain to the heart, to the children and to the whole family. Divorce is one of the biggest killers of family, love and unity.” (End Quote)


In more recent years, the Missionaries of Charity have come under scrutiny related to illegal adoption practices, wherein in 2018 a nun and a social worker affiliated with a shelter for pregnant, unmarried women were accused of selling babies from the home. They were caught specifically to sell a two month old boy for about 1300 pounds to a married couple who believed that this was all part of a legit adoption. At the time of this investigation, there were three other alleged incidents of selling children in illegal adoptions. Baidnath Kumar, a local child rights activist, was quoted as saying the
following about the orphanages in 2016, “I learned that some people have visited the orphanage in Ranchi (Ron-Kee) where they found several mothers asking for news of their children born in the structure, never seen again after the birth.” Furthermore, echoing Mother Teresa’s views on divorce, three years earlier, in 2015, the Missionaries of Charity had actually decided to suspend any adoptions from their orphanages after the Indian government opened adoption to single, separated or divorced people, which was interpreted to also include homosexuals.

Last but not least, is the issue of Mother Teresa’s sainthood. As previously mentioned, she passed away in 1997 from congestive heart failure, which she received medical treatment
for (and likely pain relief) in an American hospital. In 2015, the Vatican officially made Mother Teresa a saint, and her new persona, St. Teresa of Calcutta was born. For clarity, there are five steps toward achieving sainthood. Number one, wait five years after someone has passed away. Second, the bishop of the diocese where the person lived investigates to
determine if the individual lived a life of holiness and virtue. Third, the evidence gathered in step two is scrutinized by another group, The Congregation for the Causes of the Saint, who will then accept and pass the evidence on for the Pope or end the process there if the evidence is insufficient. If the Pope decides the person lived a live of “heroic virtue”, they can proceed forward to beatification, which indicates that a miracle can be attributed to prayers made to this individual, after their death. This is Step Four. These miracles need to be verified by evidence, such as medical evidence that a person’s disease has been cured… And the individuals verifying the evidence are a special commission of theologians and scientific experts. The evidence apparently has to be pretty clear to the extent that an
individual has experienced a spontaneous recovery after being told that they had no chance of surviving. After verification of two miracles, in Step Five, canonization is achieved, and the person is deemed a Saint. In Mother Teresa’s case, Pope John Paul II and Pope Francis each played a role in verifying the two miracles attributed to her, again, after her death. These purported miracles involved curing a man and a woman of their cancerous tumors after the individuals made prayers to Mother Teresa for her to intercede on their behalf. What’s questionable, aside from many aspects of this process, is that
there is a lack of support from the medical doctors who worked on these particular cases, who do not believe the recoveries were due to divine intervention.


Sources
https://deeshaa.org/shields-teresas-house-of-illusions/
https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-37269512
https://www.huffpost.com/entry/mother-teresa-was-nosaint_b_9470988
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_Mother_Teresa
https://allthatsinteresting.com/mother-teresa-saint
https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/mother-teresa-ondivorce.331983

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