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Portrait taken in December 1991 in New Dehli shows Mother Teresa of Calcutta. (Getty Images)

Life and times

Why some people think Mother Teresa wasn’t very much of a saint at all

By WITW Staff on September 1, 2016

Pope Francis is set to canonize Mother Teresa, the nun from Calcutta renowned for her decades of charity work on behalf of the poor, in Rome on September 4. From that point on, the Catholic Church will recognize Mother Teresa as a saint — a distinction many say was a long time coming and is a reflection of the benevolent life she devoted herself to living. But, surprisingly to some, perhaps, not everyone is in agreement about the saintliness of Mother Teresa’s life. There is a faction of critics who actually argue that the nun was anything but a saint during her life and times.

Some of Mother Teresa’s critics focus on the state of her charity in the years since her death. The iconic nun died in 1997 at the age of 87 and some have said that the group she left behind, Missionaries of Charity, has operated irresponsibly for at least a decade following her death. Allegations that the there is no transparency with the organization have led to whispers of possible malfeasance. The charity takes in millions of dollars in donations each year, and there is no accounting for how any of that money is spent, critics allege. Moreover, some say, the organization fails to meet basic medical standards or properly vet doctors that it hires, and therefore puts the lives of the people it’s devoted to helping at risk.

Others, though, instead of criticizing the direction her legacy has taken in her absence, focus on some of the deeds of her life. Chief among her philosophical positions that many feminists have taken issue with are her hardline stances on such topics as divorce, reproductive rights and abortion. After winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, her acceptance speech was loaded with incendiary language on abortion. Her words have come under increasing scrutiny through the lens of hindsight. “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,” she railed in the 1979 speech, before citing scripture and then advising on what she saw as the solution. “We are fighting abortion by adoption, we have saved thousands of lives, we have sent words to all the clinics, to the hospitals, police stations – please don’t destroy the child, we will take the child.”

Indeed, even her very ascent to sainthood is controversial among critics, some of whom dispute the pope’s recognition of the requisite two miracles that have been attributed to her. Let us know what you think about her legacy and whether or not she deserves sainthood by voting in our poll below.

Read the full story at CNN.


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