I consider myself an expert on 3 things; late blog posts, 90’s kid’s TV shows and the history of Albanian nuns.
On the 4th of September 2016 Mother Teresa is to be canonised as a saint in accordance with Pope Francis’ orders. She was born Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu and lived a relatively comfortable early life before joining the Sisters of Loreto in 1928. In 1948, she received Indian citizenship and began working with the poor in the slums.
Rather than face the ignominity of trial, Mother Teresa will be shooed in sooner than you can say “a Nama for Northern Ireland”.
Originally the Catholic Church had a position called “The Devil’s Advocate”. The theatrically named person had the task of arguing against the canonisation of an individual. Acting as a critic of the proposed saint was never a loved position. After complaints that the process was too cumbersome Pope Jon Paul II had the position renamed to “Promoter of the Faith” and the position’s power was very much diminished. In other words, too many candidates were coming up short on delivering the holy goods.
Now to become a saint you must have heroic virtue and either performed two miracles or died in the service of the church. Mother Theresa already has two healing miracles under her belt (although some doctors disagree) so I’m going to take a look at her ‘heroic virtue’. Clearly a pure of heart individual like myself is qualified to judge the morality of others, I say non-sarcastically. Here we go:
- Mother Teresa was happy with the poor being poor. She never helped institute systemic changes that could have solved the base problems Indians faced.
I think it is very beautiful for the poor to accept their lot, to share it with the passion of Christ. I think the world is being much helped by the suffering of the poor people.
- The quality of care in her hospices was poor. There were shortages of nutritional food, painkillers and the diagnoses given by her nurses were often inaccurate thanks to a lack of training. Perhaps if she had used the funding given to her, on the hospices, care would have improved but instead much of the money was used for proselytisation.
- Her stance on birth control helped exacerbate the issues India faced.
- She supported some questionable leaders. Indira Gandhi and Jean-Claude Duvalier have histories so checkered that it would make a chess set blush and yet Mother Teresa advocated on their behalf. Flying around in a private jet lent to her by a known fraudster doesn’t help either.
- Allegations persist that she ordered her nuns to baptise comatose Hindus and Muslims.
- Should someone who struggled with their faith be canonised?
I am told God loves me, and yet the reality of the darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul. Did I make a mistake in surrendering blindly to the Call of the Sacred Heart?
- She never intended to push for systemic changes. Mother Teresa wanted to help those on the ground as that was her calling. Politics was never her forte. We shouldn’t criticise Mother Teresa for failing to fix all of India’s woes anymore than we should criticise Freddie Mercury for failing to eradicate AIDs. It’s ridiculous.I won’t mix in politics. War is the fruit of politics, and so I don’t involve myself, that’s all. If I get stuck in politics, I will stop loving. Because I will have to stand by one, not by all.
- Any time she tried to use her political sway it was for noble causes. She actually attempted to stop the gulf war, writing to both George Bush Senior and Saddam Hussein to avert blood shed.
- Mother Teresa’s primary aim was to give the dying poor some dignity in their passing. Her Houses of the Dying did this when there was no safety net there to help. The patients were shown compassion in their dying days.
- Mother Teresa came from a relatively wealthy background but gave it all up to serve those with nothing. She lived their lifestyle and was still seen scrubbing the floors late into her seventies.
- She opened a home for the Bangladesh rape victims. These women were treated as shameful and unclean by the society of the time but Mother Teresa came to their aid.
- Teresa and her fellow nuns fearlessly worked with leprosy victims. She opened outreach clinics in Calcutta providing care to those who were often avoided and stigmatised.
- She taught the poorest children to read and write so they had a chance of escaping the poverty trap.
- Who cares if she used dictators’ money? Surely it’s better being spent on anything other than another Gold Lambo that has no long lasting effects other than the desecration of automotive good taste.
- Mother Teresa was not always aware of the regimes she spoke of positively and chose to judge people on what she perceived their intentions to be.
- There was no one there for those patients. How well did people think nuns would do when they have to act as doctors and nurses? Given their circumstances, their performance was not so bad.
- She refused to take the Nobel Prize banquet, insisting the money be spent on food for the starving in India.
- She never sought canonisation nor titles. She just wanted to help the poor and her God.
I heard the call to give up all and follow Christ into the slums to serve him among the poorest of the poor.
Is it really for any of us to judge a dead woman who cannot answer the criticisms we level nor acknowledge the compliments we give? Mother Teresa seems to have been a passionate carer for the poor foisted into medical and political positions that she was never equipped for.
Her successes and failures are not so far from our own to be other-worldly. Anjezë was a person just like you and I. She had great triumphs and substanstial failures. She helped others because of how she cared. She hindered progress because of her strict objective viewpoints. Her faith was tied to both. She was nether black nor white, saint not devil. A complex person. A grey person. A person.
OR perhaps I’m another 90’s kid blinded by the trappings of my generation. A fence sitting embarassment, full of Post-Cold War moral relativism, happy to label everything as ambiguous until a new flag is placed in the ground.
I like turtles.