The case against Mother Theresa

There’s a boring discussion going on about Cheney in the Pit, but one post stood out to me:

I won’t post any responses from that thread, because they’re not helpful in GD, but I’ve heard some anecdotes that put her in a less than saintly light - unless your definition of saintlyhood is something like “people are closer to god if they suffer more” - so I’m wondering if anyone wants to step up for or against the case that Ms Theresa did more good than bad in the world?

With some cites, please. I’m ignorant.

It’s not a question of her doing more bad than good in the world.

The question is typically whether or not she should have been beatified (and eventually, she’ll be sainted), given the fact that she was sort of a bitch. Now, I’m not Catholic, so I’ve got no dog in this fight, but I’ve got to say – I wouldn’t saint her. She thought it would be a good idea to have people suffer, without telling them her reasoning or telling them she could make the suffering stop, to make them closer to god.

It requires a lot more than that, as in not doing that at all to begin with, to warrant sainthood in my book (in fairness, I don’t have a book, more a pamphlet, but “in my pamphlet” just doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it?).

The case isn’t so much against Mother Teresa as it is against Catholicism calling her a saint.

Here are a few complaints I’ve heard:

  • She was against birth control (in a country that could use a little birth control).
  • She pushed for death-bed conversions.
  • She was a money-making machine for the Catholic church.
  • She had a conservative political slant.

Some people will belabor those points (and others) to criticize MT. I disagree with some of her stances but I firmly believe she put others before herself and tried to do as much good as she could.

Is there a chance that Catholicism means the word “saint” differently than you do?

I mean, don’t get me wrong. I surely appreciate the time and effort it must have taken to craft your pamphlet. But perhaps your pamphlet isn’t the only game in town when it comes to sainthood?

From bitter experience here, this thread is going to soon be filled with hateful diatribes directed against Mother Teresa. And most all of them will share in common their explicit or implicit desire to be the ones that define what kinds of acts are good in this world. Some will even deny that here’s a next world to be considered. But all will inveigh against Mother Teresa and the Church for lauding her.

What I can’t figure out is – why do you care?

If Catolics wish to say that to embrace suffering, to endure it, to offer it up for the sake of the souls in Purgatory, is of benefit to souls, and you don’t believe in souls, or don’t accept that version of souls… why do you care?

“Oh, but she led others into error, and made them suffer!”

At gunpoint, did she?

This may seem unfair to people who think they know what happens in the afterlife, but consider this a reminder that the debate stipulates arguing “[for or against the case that] Ms Theresa did more good than bad in the world

Also: if the worst you can say about MT is that she didn’t deserve sainthood, than fine, but neither do I. It’s not interesting to me.

Wikipedia is a little help. It would appear that Christopher Hitchens was the instigator. The Missionary Position.

This article is either poorly written, or Mr. Hitchens didn’t make much of a case. IMHO. Could well be the former.

Yeah, sure.

Hey, my pamphlet isn’t actually crafted yet. It’s more in the design stages… but some day, some day, it’ll be a pamphlet to behold!

Yeah, I was being snarky in my post. But it wasn’t a diatribe against Mother Theresa, it was just my opinion.

I don’t – I don’t have a dog in that fight.

I care, because I’m a humanitarian. Anyone who has the capability to ease suffering and actively avoids doing it, or puts forth an agenda which allows it to continue or encourages it to continue (the latter being my understand of what she did) is doing a great injustice.

But, like I said, if it were up to me – it’s not – I wouldn’t saint her. Also, if it were up to me – again, it’s not – the church would hand out lots of free condoms. Lots and lots of 'em.

I’m guessing you’re already aware of Christopher Hitchens’ criticism of Mother Teresa?

He goes into more details about her in his book than that Slate article.

I wasn’t aware of that, but I’m not surprised that Hitchens was not a fan. Also thanks to John Mace for pointing out the same.

Because your brand of superstition, and the fact that people buy into is actively increasing the amount of suffering in the world. It is making the world a worse place to be than it otherwise would have been.

When the Catholic Church proclaims condoms to be sinful (and also lies about their effectiveness) the result is that more people will die unpleasant deaths. More people will be born into extreme crushing poverty.

I know that the prospect of eternal bliss in heaven can cause you to overlook these minor details because they are part of God’s plan, but for those of us not blessed with the ability to believe that God sacrificed himself to himself in order to save us from himself, and that the church is literally (not figuratively) serving the blood of Jesus every week, it’s really not that appealing at all.

Certainly not at gunpoint, but it has to be borne in mind that most of the recipients of her charity were sick and helpless. If she chose not to give them painkillers, for example, because she believed that enduring physical suffering was good for the soul, they didn’t have a lot of alternatives.

I do believe that Mother Theresa herself was sincerely persuaded that she was helping people in the best way possible. Nevertheless, I think she has to be held responsible for the choices that she made, both positive and negative.

Yes, she was personally and honestly convinced that poor and sick people needed spiritual benefits more than painkillers or physical comfort, that conversion to Christianity was the ultimate spiritual benefit, and that the Church as a whole was entitled to the lion’s share of the ample donations she received, even at the expense of privations for her Sisters and the people they were ministering to. But how far was she entitled to impose those convictions on others?

A former member of her organization has written:

She glorified suffering, rather than trying to alleviate it . . . except her own suffering, of course.

And very early in the AIDS crisis, she was asked whether she thought AIDS was God’s punishment for homosexuals. She replied: “Yes, that sounds like something God would do.”


Hardly remarkable, among Catholics.

Well, of course. No chance after they die.

And this is a bad thing? If she inspired people to donate money (of which she kept very little for herself), doesn’t that reflect well on her?

She dedicated her life to helping the poor. If that’s conservative, then conservative is good.

panache, can we have a cite for that AIDS quote?

Here in Peru, MT’s nuns work among the destitute sick is remarkable.

As to the “money-making” thing, it’s a bad joke. Getting donations for hospitals is hardly that.

perhaps a logical conclusion would be “she had no impact, good or bad, on the world”? A lot of people were dying in the usual deathbed suffering before she showed up. So she set up a facility where they could die with about the same level of suffering but with some minimal accommodations. And she and her colleagues converted some of them from one religion to the other shortly before they died. As far as the world is concerned, what’s the difference?

If her critics think that these dying people should have been given morphine instead of preaching, what stopped them (indeed, what is stopping them now) from setting up similar institution nearby that would do just that? MT’s outfit seems to have been pretty cheap per patient, so I am guessing that the “secular humanist’s home of the dying” wouldn’t cost much either.

The charge is I think best summarised by this Hitchens quote (from the Slate article):

I don’t know whether or not this is correct. However, if it is, it does seem to me that alleviating poverty is much more worthy than providing some minimal relief to those in poverty while vociferously advocating policies likely to further poverty. I haven’t seen much if anything by way of denial that her efforts were as Hitchens says.

What she did might well have been with behaviour that Catholics favour, such that they might wish to bestow certain titles meaningful to them upon her. I don’t know about that.

Mother Teresa Sent To Hell In Wacky Afterlife Mix-Up

Out of curiosity, what is the Catholic standard for sainthood? Or more particularly, what did Mother Theresa do that merits sainthood, by the standards of the Catholic church?

It sounds to me like the critisms of Mother Teresa could pretty much be said of the Catholic Church in general. That is to say, it’s not specifically MT that they have a problem with.

Since you asked… :smiley:
Everything you ever wanted to know about beatification and canonization in the Catholic Church.

Got that? Note that Mother Theresa has already been beatified, in 2003.

How come? Because she met the following criteria (from first link):

Shall I go on? There are 20 steps in all for beatification, and then comes the separate process of canonization. :wink:

But to cut to the chase (you’re welcome), the prospective saint needs, first, official confirmation of heroic virtue and conformity to Catholic principles, which makes them technically venerable. Then there must be official recognition of the candidate’s having performed a posthumous miracle, which entitles them to beatification. Then if it’s officially recognized that you performed a second posthumous miracle, that qualifies you for canonization, and now you’re Saint Miller.