Mother Teresa: definitely no saint

20 December 2015 10:39 am

So Mother Teresa is about to be turned into a saint. Pope Francis has cleared the way for her sainthood by approving a decree recognising a miracle attributed to her intercession with God.

But what do we know about Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu who was born of Albanian descent on August 26, 1910, in Skopje, the current capital of the Republic of Macedonia?

In his cleverly titled book The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice, the devoutly atheistic Christopher Hitchens got stuck into her. He said her emphasis on "the poorest of the poor and the lowest of the low" was never designed to lift anyone out of poverty and loneliness, and definitely not to engage in a dialogue of change systems that perpetuated the poverty and lowness.

As an example, he cited the case of Dr. Robin Fox, editor of the leading medical journal The Lancet, who visited Mother Teresa’s Home for the Dying operation in Calcutta, in 1994. Whe he got there, he found that systematic approaches to diagnosing and caring for ill patients were frowned upon, because Mother Teresa preferred “providence to planning,” with one consequence being that patients were frequently misdiagnosed and given the wrong medicines. (“Investigations,” as the attending sisters told him, “are seldom permissible.”) Worse, he found a disturbing lack of the strong analgesics that are often required to manage the pain of the dying. The lack of good analgesia, Fox said, “marks Mother Teresa’s approach as clearly separate from the hospice movement. I know which I prefer.”

In other words, the sick must suffer like Christ on the cross. Mother Teresa was not a friend of the poor, she was a friend of poverty.

Her critics say she had another agenda: make people convert to Catholicism,

“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,” RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said at the opening of an orphanage in Rajasthan state, the Times of India reported. “In the name of service, religious conversions were made.

A paper by Serge Larivée and Genevieve Chenard of University of Montreal's Department of Psychoeducation and Carole Sénéchal of the University of Ottawa's Faculty of Education looks at "her rather dubious way of caring for the sick, her questionable political contacts, her suspicious management of the enormous sums of money she received, and her overly dogmatic views regarding, in particular, abortion, contraception, and divorce."

Then again, the Vatican is likely tp push on regardless. According to Robert J Barro, a professor of economics at Harvard University, popes have named an increasing number of saints since 1590. These days, beatification can take place anywhere in the world and does not require the physical presence of the pope. And sometimes, it’s purely for political reasons. John Paul II did it to protect Catholicism from rising Protestantism; Benedict XVI was preoccupied with secularism in Europe and wanted to re-evangelise countries that had been Catholic.