This Sunday September 4, the much-loved Catholic nun and founder of the India-based Missionaries of Charity, Mother Teresa is set to be canonized by Pope Francis as St. Teresa of Kolkata (or Calcutta). She was a Nobel Peace Prize winner, who devoted her very life to the work of helping the “poorest of the poor” on the streets of India’s cities and other countries too. She was praised by past Pontiffs for her religiosity and made common cause with other famous crusaders like the late Diana Princess of Wales. It was like she was loved by everybody.
But there are always dark sides to every beautiful story they say. And so close to her inevitable sainthood, critics to how Mother Teresa did things are starting to throw the skeletons out of her closet.
The Guardian points out some of the things her detractors place front and center to emphasize how Mother Teresa was, pardon the pun, “nun too holy”. For instance, British journalist Christopher Hitchens stressed how the missionary nun was ready to receive charity from anyone, even political and business figures with dishonest reputations.
Then there were concerns by professional doctors and disillusioned volunteers from their charity centers, how some of her charitable homes and hospices for the sick and dying had the most abysmal medical care standards and hygiene levels and more often than not did were lacking the services of a trained doctor or nurse. Their fiercest critiques compared the living conditions of these places to World War II concentration camps.
The seeming fact that these centers and homes for the suffering poor seemed not to alleviate suffering at all can be traced to Mother Teresa’s personal and archaic conviction that suffering is a beautiful gift from God that shouldn’t be taken away from people’s lives. She often goes as far as to believe that physical comfort has a corrupting effect on the soul; it’s easy to believe a story about how, in Mother Teresa’s attempt to comfort a sick patient by saying that his pain was a kiss of blessing from Jesus Christ, he replied, “Pray to Him that He stop kissing me!”
On that note, Mother Teresa has also gotten some flak from the devoutly Hindu quarters of India’s government. These political figures have long accused her of using her charitable institutions as a secret front to forcibly convert her Indian patients to Christianity. The Hindustan Times reports that at the latest they are up in arms over the government sending an official delegation to her canonization in Rome.
There’s now a veritable storm of controversy regarding Mother Teresa’s reputation and legacy that is swirling about as the day of her sainthood approaches. While her detractors continue to air the dirty laundry as it were, to her many admirers it matters not. Mother Teresa was nicknamed the Living Saint while she was around; soon she’ll be a saint for real.
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