Five reasons this beloved figure did far more harm than good.

Five reasons this widely beloved figure did much more harm than good.

Mother Teresa racked up a disturbing legacy on her way to becoming a saint.

Mother Teresa racked up a disturbing legacy on her way to becoming a saint. Wikimedia Commons

Ever since this past March, when the Vatican announced that Mother Teresa would be made a saint, the response has been controversial and polarizing.

To achieve sainthood, the Vatican had to recognize two miracles that Mother Teresa performed in her life. Pope John Paul II recognized the first miracle in 2003, just six years after her death in 1997; Pope Francis was behind the second. Both popes claim that Mother Teresa performed a miracle when she cured one man and one woman from their respective tumors, and both are medically disputed by the doctors who worked on the “miracle” cases.

Pope Francis — who has a history of surprising people — is now set to canonize Mother Teresa on September 4 as part of his Jubilee Year of Mercy. Mother Teresa’s sainthood may seem well-deserved to some, but the realities of her life’s work belie these saintly claims:

Her “selfless” intentions were hardly selfless

Mother Theresa Pope

STR/AFP/Getty ImagesMother Teresa and Pope John Paul II wave to well-wishers in Calcutta in 1986.

Mother Theresa was intent on converting as many people to Catholicism as possible, even at the expense of the poor.

No one builds a church purely for the love of God — especially in third-world countries where critical services, like hospitals, are lacking. Religious groups that erect houses of worship in these areas do so not just out of the kindness of their heart, but to increase the number of people who believe in their faith. Like those missionaries, conversion — the Church’s key to survival — was Mother Teresa’s primary goal. In the context of the Catholic Church, charity can be viewed as a self-interested act.

“It’s good to work for a cause with selfless intentions,” Mohan Bhagwat, the head of the Hindu nationalist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak, said. “But Mother Teresa’s work had ulterior motive, which was to convert the person who was being served to Christianity. In the name of service, religious conversions were made.”

When they reviewed the British documentary Hell’s Angel, a film that highlighted Mother Teresa’s flaws, The New York Times concluded that she was “less interested in helping the poor than in using them as an indefatigable source of wretchedness on which to fuel the expansion of her fundamentalist Roman Catholic beliefs.”

But helping the poor is helping the poor, and regardless of any possible ulterior motives, at least the people she cared for were better off for it, right? Wrong…

Nickolaus Hines
Nickolaus Hines
Nickolaus Hines is a freelance writer in New York City. He graduated from Auburn University, and his recent bylines can be found at Men's Journal, Inverse, and Grape Collective.
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