The Pope has decided to afford the world’s most famous nun the highest honour of the Catholic church. But PETER FROST thinks her treatment of the poor was far from decent or fair.
MOTHER TERESA, whose gift for self publicity made herself the world’s best-known nun, is about to be made a saint.
Now however saintly you are, however hard you pray, however diligently you work for the Roman Catholic church, none of that is enough make you a saint.
What you need is not just one miracle but two made in your name. One miracle gets you beatified, and all good Catholics call you “The Blessed.” Mother Teresa got that title in 2003, becoming “Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.”
Two duly authorised honest-to-God miracles and you are in the first division, the Pope declares you a saint.
So forget all the good — and not-so-good — works Mother Teresa carried out in her lifetime. All that got her was a Nobel Prize. In her acceptance speech (beow) she declared that “the greatest destroyer of peace” was abortion.
In 2002, the Pope officially recognised the first miracle she was said to have carried out after her death — namely the 1998 healing of a Bengali tribal woman, Monika Besra, who the Vatican said was suffering from an abdominal tumour.
On the first anniversary of Mother Teresa’s death, to the day, Ms Besra was staring at a portrait of the nun on her wall. Suddenly a shaft of bright light emerged from the portrait and shined on to the site of the tumour.
The Vatican never took evidence from the doctor treating Ms Besra. Her physician, Dr Ranjan Mustafi says that she didn’t have a cancerous tumour in the first place and that the tubercular cyst she did have was cured by a course of prescription medicine.
Pope Francis has now recognised a second miracle attributed to Mother Teresa. This one involved the healing of a Brazilian man with several brain tumours in 2008. The man, whose identity has not been disclosed, claims his miraculous recovery came after he prayed to the dead Mother Teresa.
A number of critics both inside and outside the Catholic church have questioned how much of Teresa’s image as the “saint of the gutters” is justified.
Criticisms focus on her rather dubious way of caring for the sick; her questionable political contacts; her suspicious management of the enormous sums of money she received; the way her order always refused to publish any audit; and her overly dogmatic views regarding, in particular, abortion, contraception and divorce.
At the time of her death, Mother Teresa had opened 517 missions — all bearing her name — welcoming the poor and sick in more than 100 countries.
However doctors inspecting several of these establishments in Kolkata (Calcutta) observed a significant lack of hygiene and unfit conditions, as well as a shortage of actual care, inadequate food and no painkillers.
These inadequacies certainly didn’t arise from a lack of funds. The foundation created by Mother Teresa has raised hundreds of millions of pounds.
Following numerous natural disasters in India she offered prayers and medallions of the Virgin Mary but no direct or monetary aid.
Some of her huge wealth came from some very dubious sources. She accepted both the Legion of Honour and a financial grant of millions from the Duvalier dictatorship in Haiti.
Charles Keating, the disgraced and jailed banker involved in the Lincoln Savings and Loan scandal, was another huge sponsor of Mother Teresa.
Where did that money, and all the other donations, go? The primitive hospice in Kolkata was as run-down when she died as it always had been.
It’s hard to tell exactly how many millions she received and where it went. Mother Teresa’s various bank accounts were always kept secret. Her supporters justified the secrecy over her funding, saying it did not matter where the money came from as long as it was used to help the poor.
However Dr Serge Lariviee, a researcher from the University of Montreal, asks: “Given the parsimonious management of Mother Teresa’s works, one may ask where the millions of dollars for the poorest of the poor have gone?”
Teresa was born to Albanian parents in what is now Skopje in Macedonia. She died in 1997 at the age of 87.
Throughout her life her position was ultrareactionary and fundamentalist — even in orthodox Catholic terms.
She demanded a referendum against allowing divorce in Ireland (which her side narrowly lost) in 1996.
Teresa always preached that suffering and poverty was a gift from God. She spent her life opposing the only known cure for poverty — the empowerment of women and their emancipation from compulsory reproduction.
When she needed medical treatment herself she would book herself in to an expensive Californian clinic.
The Roman Catholic church is haemorrhaging members in Europe. Years of scandal and priestly abuse have seen to that. So the Vatican is looking more to South America, India and developing countries for converts and funding.
The church needs local saints to promote its primitive superstitions. I just wish it could find a more deserving candidate than Mother Teresa.
This article first appeared in the Morning Star 4 January 2016