10 Misconceptions about Mother Teresa; She was no Saint

Top 10 Misconceptions About Mother Teresa. Hint: She Was no Saint
Top 10 Misconceptions About Mother Teresa. Hint: She Was no Saint

Top 10 Reasons Mother Teresa Was No Saint: 10 Misconceptions about Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa known and celebrated worldwide as the Albanian Nun who received a calling to work with the poor in the slums of Calcutta.  Even now, many years after her death, her name is synonymous with charity, with love and care of the poor.  She was honored with the Nobel Prize for Peace and, shortly after her death the Vatican started an accelerated process for her canonization.

Significant controversy surrounds her life and her missionary work.  Here we list the top 10 reasons why Mother Teresa was not a saint and why claims about her life and work should be treated with caution.

10. Mother Teresa’s Home for the Dying provides abysmal medical care.


Mother Teresa was no saint because her home for the dying provided terrible medical care
Mother Teresa was no saint because her home for the dying provided terrible medical care

Mother Teresa received a vision from God telling her to help the poor while living among them.  Following some very basic medical training Mother Teresa started to look after the ‘poorest among the poor’., those who were dying, destitute on the streets in the slums of Calcutta.  In 1952 her Missionaries of Charity organization started her Kalighat Home for the Dying – a place where people could come to die in dignity and comfort.  She wanted to make it possible for ‘people who lived like animals to die like angels – loved and wanted’.

When qualified doctors visited the home, however they found that the medical care provided was very poor.  Most of the volunteers had no medical knowledge and yet had to make medical decisions because there were no doctors available.  There was no distinction made between those who were suffering from curable and incurable illnesses so people who might have survived had they been given access to treatment were left to die.  Needles were re-used so many times that they became blunt and they were not sterilized between uses.  In 1981 when the state of care in her facilities was challenged she said ‘There is something beautiful in seeing the poor accept their lot, to suffer it like Christ’s Passion.  The world gains much from their suffering’ This shows a very cynical use of the poor to further the ends of others.

There was no proper pain management, meaning people suffered in needless pain while they died.  Mother Teresa promoted this suffering as she felt that it was of benefit to suffer in this world for a better life in heaven.  She is reputed to have once told someone dying in pain ‘you are suffering, that means Jesus is kissing you’.  It is not known whether the sufferer was even Christian but probably not, he screamed back, in pain and distressed ‘tell your Jesus to stop kissing me’.

With regard to her own medical treatment Mother Teresa received only the best.  Although she made public shows of declining free high quality medical treatment she nevertheless had no compunctions about secretly accepting medical care from some of the best institutions in the world including having cataract surgery and having a pace maker installed.  When the time came for her to be ‘kissed by Jesus’ she did not die in one of her own homes for the dying and was not treated with blunt needles.  She passed to meet her maker in the very best of medical facilities.

9. Mother Teresa’s goal was missionary work not helping the poor.

Mother Teresa would rather be a missionary rather than help poor people
Mother Teresa would rather be a missionary rather than help poor people

Despite the extensive donations to Mother Teresa’s homes only a few hundred people are helped at any one time.  At the time she accepted her Nobel Prize for Peace Mother Teresa claimed to have helped about 36,000 people in Calcutta, the reality is that the Missionaries of Charity have helped about 5-700 people.  A survey of charitable organizations operating in Calcutta in 1998 did not even rank her homes in the top 200. Some of the Missionaries of Charity homes are used, not to treat people but to try to persuade them to convert to Catholicism.

There have been well documented cases of people trying to access the services of Mother Teresa’s house for the dying but being turned away.  In one instance in 1979, shortly before the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, a well-known Calcuttan intellectual, Jyotirmoy Datta, tried to obtain the assistance of the House of the Dying for a destitute he found on the street.  He spoke to Mother Teresa herself who refused to help.

Mother Teresa’s organization received and receives extensive donations which would enable them to transform the homes for the dying into modern, clean hospices that provide a decent level of palliative care.  Mother Teresa was not, however, interested in mitigating suffering so much as celebrating it.  As such she concentrated on opening new Missionaries of Charity convents and homes in many different locations around the world as opposed to channeling its extensive funds into their existing homes for the benefit of the people they claimed to be trying to help.

8. Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity baptized the dying without their permission.

Mother Teresa's minions baptized people without their permission
Mother Teresa’s minions baptized people without their permission

The Missionaries of Charity operate in Calcutta where the majority of people are Hindu or Muslim.  Mother Teresa claimed that the Missionaries of Charity gave the dying the rituals of their faith.

However, in 1992, on a visit to the Vatican she claimed that she and her sisters gave the dying a special ‘Ticket to St Peter by baptizing them.  In essence all who were dying (and probably in pain, incoherent and incapable of making a rational decision) were asked if they wanted a blessing, their sins forgiven and to see God.  It is not clear if this offer was worded so as to make it clear that the offer came with regard to the Christian God or if the offer was made at the same time that they were given the comforts of their own faith.  Most people agreed to this forgiveness, their head was then covered in a wet cloth and the formula for adult baptism repeated very quietly

To impose a religion on someone, to convert them covertly is not the actions of a saint.  Surely if someone’s mortal soul is in peril it would be better to arrange for instruction in the religion and allow people to come to their faith naturally.

7. Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity Organization has shady finances

Mother Teresa's finances allegedly were not above board
Mother Teresa’s finances allegedly were not above board

Under Indian Law all charities are required to publish their accounts but the Missionaries of Charity have never complied with this requirement.  In Germany, when the Missionaries of Charity were asked how much money they had they responded that ‘it’s nobody’s business’.  In New York a former Sister with the Missionaries of Charity said that in one year the organization banked $50million, she thought that the organization’s receipts worldwide would amount to somewhere in the region of $100m annually.

There equally appears to be no record of expenditures made by the Missionaries of Charity, indeed wherever possible they rely on donations – of food, clothing, buildings etc to cover their start up and operating costs.  It appears that a significant portion of the monies were deposited at the Vatican Bank in Rome and not used to improve the houses of the dying, the orphanages or other charitable operations of the order.  Saving not spending money appears to have been a goal in itself even when the money was plentiful and could have been used to ameliorate suffering and improve conditions for those living in the very worst of conditions.  New missions are given start up assistance from the order but are then expected to be completely self –sufficient.

Many philanthropic organizations exist in order to use money to improve the life of others.  The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is a typical example.  It uses its funds to help improve the lives that people lead, regardless of where they are or how they worship – the foundation is predicated on the belief that every life has equal value.  Its finances are properly regulated, transparent and applied effectively.  Unlike the Missionaries of Charity who hide away their money and promote suffering as noble, admirable philanthropic organizations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation help people to make the most of the life they have.

6. Mother Teresa took money from known fraudsters and refused to refund it – even when this refusal caused real harm to innocent people.

Mother Teresa took money from fraudsters
Mother Teresa took money from fraudsters

Mother Teresa was happy to accept donations from any source – even when the source in question was a reprehensible con-man.  She received significant donations from Charles Keating, a leading American catholic and anti-pornography protestor who was convicted and imprisoned for fraud when his Savings and Loan Association collapsed leaving 23,000 investors with worthless bonds and from Robert Maxwell who stole £450m from the pension fund of his employees.  Although it appears that she was not aware of their activities prior to the scandals association with the men she showed little concern for the suffering their actions caused; she believed that the donation of funds could salve the conscience of those who donated them.

Mother Teresa wrote to the judge requesting leniency for Keating because he had made donations to the Missionaries of Charity.  The Deputy District Attorney wrote to her explaining exactly what Keating had done in defrauding small investors of their life savings.  Mother Teresa refused to reply to that letter.  Sadly because of the shady finances of her organization it is impossible to tell whether the money was put to good use which would at least provide some small comfort to the people whose lives were ruined.  From the poor conditions in her House of the Dying and the lack of support given to missions worldwide it would seem these people lost their money for no good reason.