How to be a saint
It has been announced that the canonisation procedure for Mother Teresa has been approved by Pope Francis. In a decision which may prove controversial, Pope Francis reportedly approved Mother Teresa’s second miracle. In Christianity, particularly the Catholic faith, sainthood is the highest form of praise for an individual. Based on the conduct of a religious individual in their life, they may be deemed as sufficiently pious or godly to warrant this honour. This status rests on the recognition of miracles, events which are deemed inexplicable by natural laws, and therefore have a divine origin. However, the exalted Nobel Peace Prize winner is not without her share of controversy.
Behind the legend
Born in what is today Macedonia, Mother Teresa was a Catholic missionary based in Calcutta, India. She founded the Missionaries of Charity, a Catholic religious congregation. Dedicated to helping the needy, the group is active in 133 countries, running hospices, soup kitchens, and clinics. This congregation was founded in 1950, with the permission of the Pope, with the stated aim of caring for “the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone.” The conditions in the hospices have been one part of the Mother Teresa controversy.
Mother Teresa’s legacy is tinged with controversy. A key part of her ideology relates to suffering, and it is from this that the concerns about her work spring. Mother Teresa believed that suffering was a ‘gift’. This approach led to alarmingly low levels of pain management and incidences of starvation in the facilities managed by her religious outfit, the Missionaries of Charity. Other parts of Mother Teresa’s ideology have attracted ire from critics.
Though hospices under the organisation she founded care for those suffering with HIV AIDs, her stance on sexual health and reproduction, in line with traditional Catholic doctrine, forbade the use of condoms. Furthermore, concerns over use of funding have been raised repeatedly. Of an estimated $100 million in donations, the Missionaries of Charity, only 5-7% was used to treat sufferers. When Mother Teresa received a Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, many used these concerns to question her eligibility. With Mother Teresa on track to join the ranks of Catholicism’s highly praised in sainthood, questions of her legitimacy will once again be raised.