The altruism and generosity of Mother Teresa is disputed in a paper by humanities scholars 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.
The paper will be published in the March issue of the journal Studies in Religion/Sciences religieuses and is an analysis of the published writings about Mother Teresa, mostly by atheist critics. Like atheist journalist and anti-religious beacon Christopher Hitchens, who is heavily drawn from in their analysis, the researchers also claim that her hallowed image does not stand up to analysis of the facts and was constructed, and that her beatification was orchestrated by an effective media relations campaign.
"While looking for documentation on the phenomenon of altruism for a seminar on ethics, one of us stumbled upon the life and work of one of Catholic Church's most celebrated woman and now part of our collective imagination—Mother Teresa—whose real name was Agnes Gonxha," says Professor Larivée, who lead author of the revisionist work. "The description was so ecstatic that it piqued our curiosity and pushed us to research further."
As a result, the three academics compiled 502 documents on the life and work of Mother Teresa - in good 'accept the hypothesis as true and find evidence to affirm it', they eliminated 195 duplicates, and used 287 documents for their confirmation bias. They say this represents 96% of the literature on the founder of the Order of the Missionaries of Charity (OMC).
Debunking the good work of Mother Teresa
In their article, Larivée and colleagues cite a number of problems not taken into account by the Vatican in Mother Teresa's beatification process, such as what they term "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."
In order words, she was a Catholic and, like Hitchens, they hate religious people more than they love people who actually do things to help others.
At the time of her death, Mother Teresa had opened 517 missions welcoming the poor and sick in more than 100 countries. The missions are described in the claims they trot out as data as "homes for the dying" by doctors visiting several of these establishments in Calcutta. Two-thirds of the people coming to these missions hoped to a find a doctor to treat them, while the other third lay dying without receiving appropriate care.
The only doctors they seemed to be able to find observed a significant lack of hygiene, even unfit conditions, as well as a shortage of actual care, inadequate food, and no painkillers. The problem was not a lack of money, they claim — the Foundation created by Mother Teresa has raised hundreds of millions of dollars—but rather a particular conception of suffering and death: "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," was her reply to criticism, they quote atheist firebrand Christopher Hitchens. Nevertheless, when Mother Teresa required palliative care, she received it in a modern American hospital.
So she was a failure because she could not fly the world to America.
Questionable politics and shadowy accounting
Mother Teresa was generous with her prayers but they say she was rather miserly with her foundation's millions when it came to humanity's suffering. During numerous floods in India or following the explosion of a pesticide plant in Bhopal, she offered prayers and medallions of the Virgin Mary but no direct or monetary aid. They criticize that she 'had no qualms' about accepting the Legion of Honour and a grant from the Duvalier dictatorship in Haiti. Millions of dollars were transferred to the MCO's various bank accounts, but most of the accounts were kept secret, Larivée says. "Given the parsimonious management of Mother Theresa's works, one may ask where the millions of dollars for the poorest of the poor have gone?"
The grand media plan for holiness
Despite atheists criticizing her, Mother Teresa gained an image of holiness and infinite goodness. According to the three academics, her meeting in London in 1968 with the BBC's Malcom Muggeridge, an anti-abortion journalist who shared her "right-wing Catholic values" - being against abortion - was crucial. Further revising history and even telepathically knowing the motivations of people they never met, they declare Muggeridge decided to promote Teresa. In 1969, he made what they call 'a eulogistic film' of the missionary, promoting her by attributing to her the "first photographic miracle," when it should have been attributed to the new film stock being marketed by Kodak.
Afterwards, Mother Teresa traveled throughout the world and received numerous awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize. In her acceptance speech, on the subject of Bosnian women who were raped by Serbs and now sought abortion, she said: "I feel the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a direct war, a direct killing—direct murder by the mother herself."
Following her death, the Vatican responded to the masses and waived the usual five-year waiting period to open the beatification process. The miracle attributed to Mother Theresa was the healing of a woman, Monica Besra, who had been suffering from intense abdominal pain. The woman testified that she was cured after a medallion blessed by Mother Theresa was placed on her abdomen.
Her doctors thought otherwise: the ovarian cyst and the tuberculosis from which she suffered were healed by the drugs they had given her.
"What could be better than beatification followed by canonization of this model to revitalize the Church and inspire the faithful especially at a time when churches are empty and the Roman authority is in decline?" Larivée and his colleagues ask.
Positive effect of the Mother Teresa myth
Despite what they claim was Mother Teresa's 'dubious' way of caring for the sick by glorifying their suffering instead of relieving it, Larivée and his colleagues were able to find a positive. Well, a positive effect of the Mother Teresa myth, they say: "If the extraordinary image of Mother Teresa conveyed in the collective imagination has encouraged humanitarian initiatives that are genuinely engaged with those crushed by poverty, we can only rejoice. It is likely that she has inspired many humanitarian workers whose actions have truly relieved the suffering of the destitute and addressed the causes of poverty and isolation without being extolled by the media. Nevertheless, the media coverage of Mother Theresa could have been a little more rigorous."
Life is good for humanities academics in Canada, who do nothing to help anyone, but get paid to tear down the figures who do.