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article imageCanadian researchers discuss ‘The dark side of Mother Teresa’

By Igor I. Solar     Mar 7, 2013 in World
Montreal - A study conducted by Canadian researchers questions Mother Teresa’s views on the poor’s suffering, the dubious management of money by the Missionaries of Charity, and contends the humanitarian image of Mother Teresa is a media-orchestrated "myth".
The paper published on-line on January 15, 2013, in the Journal "Studies in Religion/Sciences religieuses" under the title "Les côtés ténébreux de Mère Teresa” (The dark side of Mother Teresa) is based on the analysis of 287 documents covering 96% of the literature on the life and work of Mother Teresa of Calcutta (born Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu), the Albanian-Indian Roman Catholic nun, 1979 Nobel Peace Prize winner, and founder of the Order of the Missionaries of Charity (OMC). The report concludes that the nun’s sacred image and the events leading to her beatification were the result of a well-orchestrated and effective media campaign.
The researchers, Serge Larivée and Geneviève Chénard of the University of Montreal and Carole Sénéchal of the University of Ottawa, as shown in an article on the official website of the University of MontrealMother Teresa: anything but a saint...”, object to Mother Teresa’s "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."
The study points out that Mother Teresa organized 517 missions for poor and sick people in over 100 countries. The researchers indicate the missions have been described as "homes for the dying" by doctors who visited several of these institutions in Calcutta. According to the researchers "the doctors observed a significant lack of hygiene, even unfit conditions, as well as a shortage of actual care, inadequate food, and no painkillers."
Since the foundation created by Mother Teresa collected hundreds of millions of dollars, the authors allege that the problem was not caused by lack of funds. They assert that the situation was due to the nun’s rather unique 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, citing journalist Christopher Hitchens. Nonetheless, according to Hitchens, when Mother Teresa required palliative care, she received it in a modern American hospital.
Men s ward at Mother Teresa s Home -  Nirmal Hriday  (Home for the Dying)  Kalighat/ Kolkata  India.
Men's ward at Mother Teresa's Home - "Nirmal Hriday" (Home for the Dying), Kalighat/ Kolkata, India.
Mark Makowiecki
Another aspect of the report deals with Mother Teresa’s management of millions of dollars collected by her foundation. The researchers contend the nun was generous dispensing blessings and prayers, but very tight-fisted with her foundation's millions when it came to give assistance to those in distress. During numerous floods in India or following the 1984 Bhopal pesticide disaster at the Union Carbide India Limited, Madhya Pradesh plant, she presented numerous prayers and medallions of the Virgin Mary to the survivors, but no direct monetary support. According to UdeMNouvelles, the authors of the research ask the question: “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?”
The researchers argue that the media overstated Mother Teresa’s image and succeeded in building an aura of unequivocal holiness and unlimited goodness which led her to win the Nobel Peace Prize and further beatification by the Catholic Church in an abbreviated process through the attribution of an alleged miracle. It was the healing of an Indian woman who had been suffering from intense abdominal pain caused by an ovarian cyst. Allegedly, the woman was cured after a medallion blessed by Mother Teresa was placed on her abdomen. However, the doctors had said the miracle is a deception and that the cure was the result of the treatment she received.
Despite their doubts and criticisms Serge Larivée and colleagues see some positive effects of the Mother Teresa myth. They conclude that:
“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 Teresa could have been a little more rigorous.”
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