Today marks the 111th birth anniversary of Mother Teresa, whose real name was Anjeze Gonxhe Bojaxhiu. She was born to Albanian parents in Macedonia in 1910 (August 26) in what was then part of the Ottoman Empire.
Teresa, who was canonised as a Saint by Pope Francis in 2016, is immortalised for her humanitarian efforts across the globe and especially in India.
Yet, she has always been a controversial figure during her life and even after her death.
Marking her 111th birth anniversary, The Ukhia bartha Showbiz team has compiled some of the most controversial and dark facts behind her popularity around the world.
1. Anti-abortion rights
Abortion-rights groups have always criticised Teresa’s stance against abortion and contraception. Australian feminist Germaine Greer called her a “religious imperialist” who preyed on the most vulnerable in the name of harvesting souls for Jesus.
2. Unhygienic conditions at Teresa’s charity homes
Indian journalists have always claimed that Nirmal Hriday, a home for the dying run by Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata’s crowded Kalighat area, poor level of hygiene and medical care.
It is alleged that nuns at these homes routinely reuse needles after washing them in tap water, that clothes — sometimes soiled with urine and feces — and cooking utensils were hand washed side by side in the same room.
Reports have also claimed that patients suffering from respiratory diseases had to bathe in freezing water because a single water heater wasn’t barely enough for one bath.
Multiple reports have also claimed that on most days there was not a single doctor or medically trained nurse at these facilities.
In 2013, in a comprehensive review covering 96% of the avalaible literature on Mother Teresa, a group of Université de Montréal academics did a study.
The study concluded that Mother Teresa’s “hallowed image – which does not stand up to analysis of the facts – was constructed and that her beatification was orchestrated by an effective media relations campaign” engineered by controversial anti-abortion BBC journalist Malcolm Muggeridge.
Her charity homes also allegedly sold babies and were involved in child trafficking.
3. Undetected money trails
Since the group received millions of dollars in donations from around the world over the years, it should have been used to build hospitals, schools and to upgrade their old facilities.
Yet, there’s no transparency — and very little information available — on her group’s bookkeeping.
Several requests to interview about these facts were declined over the years.
The official routine response from the heads of the groups was similar to “We can feed every hungry mouth every day. It’s the miracle of love.”
4. Fake Saint canonisation by the Vatican
Her path to sainthood has also been controversial. To officially become a saint, a Pope has to approve two confirmed miracles.
One of these miracles of Teresa involved a rural Kolkata woman named Monica Besra, who claims she was cured of cancer after praying to Mother Teresa.
Monica claims that she was cured by Mother Teresa’s blessings and not by her doctor’s treatment.
However, critics dispute her claims and say it was modern medicine and not a miracle that healed her. A Time magazine report in 2002 revealed that some of her doctors claim that her tumour was actually a cyst caused by tuberculosis, rather than a cancerous tumour.
In the same story, Monica’s husband also confirmed these facts.
5. Exposé documentary series ‘Hell’s Angel’
‘Hell’s Angel,’ a 1994 UK television documentary series criticising Mother Teresa on Channel 4, was hosted by famous English-American socio-political critic, journalist and public intellectual Christopher Hitchens. The investigative docu was directed by Jenny Morgan and produced by renowned journalist Tariq Ali. Hitchens and Ali co-wrote the programme’s script.
The film argued that Mother Teresa urged the poor to accept their circumstances as their destiny and for the poor and sick in particular to submit to the substandard, unsafe, and non-therapeutic medical care provided by her clinics while she endorsed and accepted money from a variety of rich and powerful people who had stunning ethical lapses.
Famous British Indian author and physician Aroup Chatterjee’s criticisms of Mother Teresa inspired the creation of the film.