Was Mother Teresa so bad?

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Was Mother Teresa so bad?

There was reason to be critical but what difference has it made? Mari Marcel Thekaekara asks.


Mother Teresa. (Funky Tee under a Creative Commons Licence)

When I was younger, I criticised Mother Teresa very strongly. What do I think about that now?

Before Mother Teresa became a saint on 4 September, 2016, I wrote in The Guardian newspaper about how I grew up in a Kolkata apartment, very close to Mother Teresa’s convent called ‘The Mother House’. I hated the way she controlled the order and the nuns, like a dictator. I was 18 at the time and made my criticisms very loudly.

Because I came from Calcutta, now Kolkata, I knew that life could be hard, but I thought it was cruel of Mother Teresa to make the young sisters walk without shoes in the hot sun on the very hot pavements.

I learned to accept extreme poverty. After the Bangladesh war, a few million refugees came into Calcutta from what was East Pakistan. Suddenly people with no homes, food or money were sleeping on the streets and in the stations, so we all knew about extreme poverty. We thought people who helped these very poor people were good.

Mother Teresa’s order did things which nobody had done before. They took the poor and dying people from the streets and gave them a clean place to die. I hated the way she controlled her nuns (for example, she read their letters and they were only allowed to send one or two letters home a year) but I knew she was the only person who helped the poor and dying.

There are many, many criticisms of Mother Teresa and her canonisation on September 4. I’ve been a critic too, but I was shocked by some of the terrible criticisms made by western readers. In Kolkata it was the opposite. It was almost like a carnival. People were really happy about their ‘mother’ becoming a saint in Rome. People could watch the ceremony live from big screens in the streets of Kolkata. The critics didn’t understand. I hated Mother Teresa’s self-importance, I wasn’t happy about people, especially Mother Teresa, becoming saints, but the work done by the Missionaries of Charity to help those very poor people in Kolkata at that time, was good.

A friend of mine said: ‘Mari and I lived in the same place, went to the same college, studied the same subjects and worried about Mother Teresa in the same way. I was studying photography, so I took many photos of Mother Teresa for my studies and I completely understand everything Mari said about her self-importance. This was because she wanted power. For example, I refused to play the keyboard for one of her services and I was very angry when she phoned me and said: ‘You cannot refuse to play the organ for my sisters!’

But years later, in 1997, I took some children to the Nirmal Hriday orphanage in Kolkata. I could not believe there were so many volunteers, who were only interested in helping others. I was so shocked and so sad when they asked me to carry 2 dead bodies. One of them was a one month old baby.

Today, now that she is a saint, I do not want to tell everyone that I knew her and that I have photos of us together, but I accept that her love gave her the power to make people help her in her work with the poor’.

Some people were much too critical and too rude about her. I didn’t like Mother Teresa personally, but I must also accept that I could not do the sort of work Mother Teresa and her sisters did, for example, looking after people with terrible leprosy. And so I cannot criticise her, because she has done so much good work for poor people.

I’ve heard that, after the criticism, they got cleaner, better care facilities. I hope this is true.

NOW READ THE ORIGINAL: http://www.newint.org/blog/2016/09/14/criticism-of-mother-teresa/ (This article has been simplified so the words, text structure and quotes may have changed).