Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu, known worldwide as the Blessed Mother Teresa, is often said to be a pillar of peace. With a Nobel Prize under her belt and a legacy of charity, the results of a new study may seem shocking to some.
The study was a joint effort by Serge Larivée and Genevieve Chenard from the University of Montreal as well as Carole Sénéchal from the University of Ottawa. It delves into the effective PR strategy the Vatican constructed for her while disregarding questionable methods she used to conduct her work.
A television documentary released nineteen years earlier, in 1994, brought to light similar claims by journalist and writer Christopher Hitchens. The documentary was titled Hell’s Angel, as Hitchens' following book release in 1995 was shrewdly named The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice. He is said to be one of the many resources utilized in the study. This brings forth the conundrum — if Mother Teresa wasn’t as good as she seemed while she was still alive, then why is she a saint in the public’s eye? Larivée and his fellow collaborators practically answer this question in the form of another, “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?”
Beatification is the third step towards canonization — in short, making Mother Teresa an official saint of the Catholic Church. The late Pope John Paul II beautified her in 2003. Two miracles must be attributed to her outside of the one that elevated her to beatification must occur in order for her to be recognized as a saint. A miracle called by the Vatican sped up Mother Teresa’s beatification, which is usually a five-year wait. A woman with abdominal pain gave credit to a blessed trinket for aiding in her recovery when doctors countered modern medicine did the trick. In London of 1968, Mother Teresa found camaraderie in the capable hands of Malcolm Muggeridge, a journalist who held the same Roman Catholic and conservative ideas as her. Let it be noted that Mother Teresa was anti-abortion, divorce, and contraception. It was in his name gave the booming start to Mother Teresa’s career in the limelight. His influence is so profound that it has been noted that without Muggeridge, there would be no Mother Teresa.
After analyzing over 200 documents about Mother Teresa, the researchers of the study came across jarring contrasts to her reputation, one including her policy on taking care of the poor and ill.
She once 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,” in response to criticism pushed on by Hitchens. With money bountiful from her charity efforts, Mother Teresa was equipped with resources to give the ill that came from across the world for healing. Instead, she allowed their health to decline, without medicine to hinder pain, proper food, and cleanliness. Yet hypocrisy dictated that when Mother Teresa needed medical care, she received it in a hospital.
Furthermore, Mother Teresa seemed to favor the darkly wealthy while offering nothing but prayer to the poor. The study points out how she accepted honors and grants from Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier, a man known for the severe mistreatment of his own people while living in a bubble of luxury. When asked to return donated money from the corrupt banker Charles Keating, she remained silent and she also accepted money from Robert Maxwell, later discovered as stolen money. She had millions of dollars transferred to secret accounts to which Larivée asked once again, “Given the parsimonious management of Mother Teresa's works, one may ask where the millions of dollars for the poorest of the poor have gone?” When floods and chemical disaster hit her home of India, there were no financial relief efforts to be found.
The ideal situation would situate Mother Teresa in an arena where she can't be touched — but that has not and should not be the case. Everyone wishes to remember her as an idol to look up to, rather than the reality that she was a flawed human being — arguably, a fraud.