September 10th, 2012
10:16 AM ET

My Take: The Mother Teresa you don’t know

Editor's note: David Van Biema, the chief religion writer at Time Magazine for ten years, is author of the illustrated biography "Mother Teresa: The Life and Works of a Modern Saint," now being reissued and made available in Spanish as "La Madre Teresa: La Vida y las obras de una santa moderna."

By David Van Biema, Special to CNN

Fifteen years may be less than an instant in celestial time, but here on earth it's a lot of news cycles.

Mother Teresa departed this Earth on September 5, 1997. What more can we say about the woman who became synonymous with love for the "poorest of the poor," picking up a Nobel and tweaking the conscience of millions? What do we know about her now that we didn't know then?

A lot, it turns out.

Here's a quick Blessed Mother Teresa primer, emphasizing the stuff that you probably don’t know, some of which we only learned recently.

1. She was born a rich girl.

Born in 1910, Mother Teresa came from money - at least by the standards of her native Skopje, Macedonia. Her parents were so well-off that there was a local saying "as generous as the Bojaxhius." (Her last name was Bojaxhiu; her given first name was Agnes.)

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Agnes was cultured and well-educated: She wrote poetry and played the mandolin. Her family took in orphans and she tagged along as her mother went out to tend to the destitute. All of this challenges the notion of pre-saints as nasty, or no better than average, until God flicks a switch (think Paul, pre-Damascus).

In Agnes’ case, if God flicked a switch, he had clearly laid the circuitry carefully beforehand.

2. For a long time, it was hardly obvious that Teresa would end up who she became.

She emigrated to India to become a nun at age 18, but worked as a teacher another 17 years before receiving a series of startling visions and locutions (verbal communications) from Jesus. The experience, wrote her confessor at the time, was "continual, deep and violent."

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She later recalled it as a dramatic dialogue taking up pages: Jesus calls her "my little one" and demands that she "carry Me into the holes of the poor. I want Indian nuns … who would be my fire of love among the poor, the sick, the dying and the little children." She hesitates. He asks impatiently, "Is your generosity gone cold?"

It had not. After two years spent convincing her local bishop, she was released from her previous vows and founded her Missionaries of Charity.

3. She changed our view of the poor.

"There are plenty of nuns to look after the rich and well-to-do people, but for my very poor, there are absolutely none," Teresa wrote, describing communication she got from Jesus.

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That seems a bit exaggerated. But Teresa redefined the concept of "working with the poor" in the modern age. For poor she substituted "poorest of the poor," a new category with a corresponding moral imperative. She understood the word "with" as obliterating the line between benefactor and beneficiary, plunging her nuns deeply into the world of the slums.

As for "working," Teresa combined case-by-case spontaneity with an organizational genius. In Calcutta she developed institutions - schools for poor children, homes for pregnant homeless women, orphans and lepers, and hostels for the dying - that became a template for her ministries the world over.

4. She was a marketing guru.

"Billions know about her compassion," says evangelical megapastor Rick Warren. "But what is not so well known (were) leadership skills, evident in the multiplication of what she did to other parts of the planet."

Teresa instinctively leveraged her growing renown, cultivating a United Nations of world leaders and donors and paving the way for the Missionaries. Four decades after her solo start in India, her order was in over 100 countries, making her one of the church's truly great founders. "If there are poor on the moon, we will go there, too," she joked - sort of.

5. She cultivated her celebrity.

Teresa was famous first in India, then worldwide, partly through the efforts of British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge and partly due to another gift. "The way she spoke to journalists showed her to be as deft a manipulator as any high-powered American public relations expert,” noted Irish rocker/philanthropist Bob Geldof.

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That that gift seemed to be unconscious did not make it any less effective. After winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, she became part of a Mt. Rushmore of greatest-generation religious icons - including Pope John Paul II, Billy Graham and the (relatively youthful) Dalai Lama - that has no successor generation.

Of them, Teresa attained the purest pop-culture status, capped by her touching friendship with then-Princess Diana of England. When the two died within a week of one another (Diana in a car wreck, Teresa by heart attack), a T-shirt immediately popped up showing both with halos.

6. Teresa had a long, dark night of the soul.

In 2007, a cache of newly released private letters introduced a startling unknown side to Teresa: a 39-year period, coinciding almost exactly with her Missionaries career, during which Jesus, previously so present, seemed utterly absent to her, in prayer and even in the Eucharist.

"The silence and the emptiness is so great," she wrote, "that I look and do not see– the tongue moves (in prayer) but does not speak."

Critics like the late Christopher Hitchens said the correspondence proved Teresa was just a "confused old lady." But the letters were issued by her postulator, the Vatican-appointed advocate for her sainthood.

Her church regarded her perseverance in the absence of a sense of divine response as perhaps her most heroic act of faith. Both her torment and underlying faith were evident in another letter: "If I ever become a Saint - I will surely be one of 'darkness,'" she wrote. "I will continually be absent from Heaven - to (light) the light of those in darkness on earth."

7. She’s not a saint yet – not officially.

Not as recognized by her own Roman Catholicism, where validation of sanctity is a multi-step process.

A year after Teresa's death, the Vatican waived a five-year-delay to allow her "cause" to begin early. In 2002, it announced her "heroic virtue," and in the same year credited her with the disappearance of a tumor affecting an Indian woman who had prayed to her.

This first miracle led to her beatification, for which 250,000 people flocked to Rome. But canonization awaits a second miracle. Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, her advocate, says reports of her "supernatural favors" to believers currently total 4,200. He is currently investigating a case in Colombia.

Of course, the church freely admits that saints are saints before it recognizes them, and many Catholics fervently believe Teresa is one. So do others, including Rick Warren, who defines a saint as "a true hero" who "sacrifice(s) for the benefit of others." Suzie van Houte, left in infancy with Mother Teresa and now an Episcopalian living in Washington state, says simply: "A saint is a person who's gone out of her way."

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of David Van Biema.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Catholic Church • India • Leaders • Opinion

soundoff (1,499 Responses)
  1. Nancy C

    So much hate in these comments! I guess it's easier to criticize someone that to attempt to live by her high standards. May God forgive those who show so little respect to Mother Teresa, you must be in great need of spiritual help. Those of you who have harsh words for her work acknowledge one thing: she did more good in one single day of her life than all of you together will ever do in you whole lives.
    Shame on you people!

    September 10, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • sammy

      Well said. Thankyou.

      September 10, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
    • Jake-413451

      Stating what she did, or more to the point did not do, is not hate. It is respect.
      We respect that she was capable of doing it, that as a human being she was capable of compassion, and empathy, and understanding the agony others were going through.

      But we recognize she was capable of all that, and still sent the billions she collected off to the Vatican rather than using it alleviate the suffering of others. Because her religion taught her that through the suffering of others she could be closer to god.

      To do something truly twisted one needs a religion.

      September 10, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
    • ScottCA

      Her good side was her atheistic logical natural sense of morals and concern for her fellow humans. Her immoral side was brought about by ignorant faith in religion.

      Leading to the death of countless people by encouraging them to not use condoms while aids decimated their population. How many children were born with aids due to her contributions to this ignorance?

      September 10, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • Rob


      I am highlighting the fact you said " To do something truly twisted one needs a religion." I like to point out when people make blanket statements that are fallacious. Thank you for giving me something to do. So, to contradict you, I have assembled a list of names (3 of which are pretty well known) who admitted to having no religion and yet did twisted things.

      1. Pol Pot was an athiest.
      2. Stalin was an athiest who ordered massacres.
      3. Dahmer was an athiest while he conducted his crimes.
      4. Alfred Kinsey was an athiest who molested children in the name of science.

      September 10, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
      • TheScienceEnthusiast1130

        SCIENCE has nothing to do with murder, unlike your delusional beLIEfs.

        September 26, 2013 at 11:17 am |
      • Jennifer

        I agree that the statement "To do something truly twisted one needs religion" is obviously false. Good people will do good things regardless of religion. Bad people will do bad things regardless of religion (see your examples). However, historically, religion is the most successful means of making good people do bad things. As examples: If religion teaches that slavery is okay or that marrying your 10 year old daughters off to older men is what your faith demands, there are many otherwise good people who follow these religious decrees or tenets because it is the will of God and therefore they allow themselves to become participants in acts of cruelty and inhumanity. There are no such sources of divine coercion or divine enticement for atheists/agnostics/humanists. Atheism is not a belief system any more than not playing chess is a hobby. Please note that when I say religion, I refer to religious dogma and religious literalism, not spirituality or a belief in the numinous.

        January 5, 2014 at 11:36 am |
      • Jennifer

        I have never come across a claim that Kinsey was a paedophile. Would you mind citing your sources?

        January 5, 2014 at 11:50 am |
    • serdich

      1. Pol Pot was an athiest.
      2. Stalin was an athiest who ordered massacres.
      3. Dahmer was an athiest while he conducted his crimes.
      4. Alfred Kinsey was an athiest who molested children in the name of science.
      so I guess:
      1. Hitler has a mustache
      2. you have mustache
      3. you are evil man...
      see it works...

      September 10, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
    • thecollegeadmissionsguru

      HIGH standards???? Are you kidding, the woman's idea of high standards for the seriously ill was if you were in pain it was Jesus kissing you... HA

      September 10, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • thecollegeadmissionsguru

      @Rob. while your argument is valid it is non sequitur. However, MORE evil has been done in the name of religion than by any atheist. Being an atheist is not a religion, it is a LACK of religion. No one kills in the name of atheism, or denies rights based on being an atheist.

      September 10, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • Jake-413451

      The followers of communism such as Stalin, Lenin, Pol Pot, Mao were practicing their religion. They were taking it on faith they were going to find the promised utopia of communism. no evidence for it but willing to sacrifice millions in their search for utopia. Religion doesn't need a deity, ask the Buddhists.

      But since it escaped you let me explain why it takes religion to truly make it twisted. Religion gets these people promising to do good works, take care of each other, and look out for the poor. But what does Mother Teresa do, send the cash to the Vatican while those in her care suffer pain and agony. And she can't even claim faith is what was driving her. She'd lost her faith. She did it, well, because that is what the rules said she should do. Religion was driving her.

      And that is why Dhamer, as sick as he was, isn't comparable. Dhamer was doing his horrible actions while supporting an organization that proclaimed it was working for the poor, while secretly eating them. Nope, he was one sick puppy, but was it twisted from what he was claiming to do. Nope, but religion does that regularly.

      Thank you for replying though. I hope this clears up the confusion.

      September 10, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • Rob


      By nonsequitur are you saying "a logical fallacy where a stated conclusion is not supported by its premise?"

      I made statements about four atheists who did "twisted" things. I define twisted as "corrupt or morally unacceptable." If you contend my definition, please let me know. If you contend the actions of the four I mentioned do not meet my definition, let me know. Otherwise, I fail to see how my comment is nonsequitur. It was addressed to a specific person, it's subject matter (i.e. reveal the fallacy of Jake's claims), and enumerated facts as to why the claim(s) were fallcious. Again, how was I nonsequitur?

      Also, the Soviet pogrom during Lenin and Stalin's era ("gosateizm") was to implement state athiesm. It sought to crush people's choice to worship a supreme being if they wanted to. Is that not a direct contradiction to your statement "No one .. denies rights based on being an atheist?"

      September 10, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • hawaiiguest


      Ah but did they want to crush religion because they didn't believe, or did they want it gone because it took away from their own personal power? It's pretty clear they just wanted power, and even then, there is no way to draw a direct line from "don't believe in god", to "ban religion". It just doesn't happen. There is always something in between, because atheism isn't a philosophy, or a worldview, or anything else to really draw any decision in life from.

      September 10, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • Rob


      So, you assert that communism was the "religion" that drove Stalin and Pol Pot to do what they did? You are asserting that those two individuals used a socioeconomic model as a religion, and as "religious leaders" issued orders to do "twisted" things?

      For the sake of arguement, let's say that is true. What about Alfred Kinsey? What was the religion he followed?

      September 10, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • Rob


      I cannot agree that it is "pretty clear" what the motivation of [Stalin and the Soviet ruling class] was; but it is known that the Soviet pogram was brutal towards spiritualism of many kinds. If you can show me that it was merely a bid for power and that [Stalin and the Soviet ruling class] were secretly OK with people believing in Jesus et al so long as they lived according to communism, then I welcome the insight.

      However, I disagree with you when you say that atheism isn't a philosophy. "Philosophy" is pretty broad and encompasses so much. I turn to this definition: "a particular system of thought or ideas taught as truth."

      September 10, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • Huh....

      "a particular system of thought"

      A person's philosophy is their "system of principles for guidance in practical affairs." Like ideology, a philosophy comprises of two key elements: it must be a group of beliefs and it must provide guidance. Atheism is not a philosophy for the same reason that it is not an ideology: it's not even a single belief, much less a system of interconnected beliefs, and by itself atheism does not guide anyone anywhere. The same would be true if we defined atheism narrowly as denial of the existence of gods: that single belief is not a system of principles. As with ideology, atheism can be part of a philosophy

      September 10, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • hawaiiguest


      And how is the non-belief in a diety a philosophy? How do you perform any action based solely on the non-belief of a diety?

      September 10, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • Rob


      Webster's defines atheism as "a: a disbelief in the existence of deity; b: the doctrine that there is no deity."

      The implications of "there is no deity" compared to the implications of "there is a deity" creates an extensive fall out of – wait for it – interconnected beliefs, most of them morality-based.

      September 10, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • .

      "The implications of "there is no deity" compared to the implications of "there is a deity" creates an extensive fall out of – wait for it – interconnected beliefs, most of them morality-based."

      seek help for your poor reading comprehension skills...wait for it.....now try reading it again.

      September 10, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • Jake-413451

      It isn't up to me to prove why Kinsey may have done what your alleging he did. You would first have to prove your allegation.

      However, those who made the claim before and were (effectively) called liars tried to sue for defamation of character. Their attorney withdrew, and the court dismissed their claims with prejudice. Effectively meaning Kinsey won.

      Although please tell me you aren't just repeating the "My dad abused me to fill out questionnaires for Kinsey" tripe.

      Secondly the worst one can say with some reasonable certainty abotu Kinsey is that he got information from child molesters without turning them in for past acts. Yep, tricky thing trying to get honest answers from people about why they do what they do. But lets say he turned one in, where exactly would he have gotten honest information once word of that got out?

      And I assert that following communism is very comparable to following a religion. It requires belief in something which is not only unproven, but indescribable. No one has ever described how communism would actually work. The best they have ever done is describe a socialist transitional state.

      September 10, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
    • Jon Matthew

      Thank you Nancy!

      September 10, 2012 at 9:11 pm |
  2. serdich

    another day another 15th century fraud..O and the guys in funny costumes and hat do what...more paperwork for some fraud to become saint..its like your god cares what the pope thinks...

    September 10, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
  3. IslandAtheist

    She lost her faith and died an non-believer.

    September 10, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • IslandAtheist

      a non-believer*

      September 10, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • ScottCA

      A little deathbed deconversion pay back? How does it feel religious people?

      Well atheist or not at the point of Teresa's death the crazy Mormons will baptize her into their faith, as I am sure they have already done with all the departed popes.

      September 10, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  4. pmclconc

    One of the most important things that made Mother Teresa and her work stand out from the rest, and I think something that should have been said here, is that her charities took care of EVERYONE, regardless of race or creed. They tried to just and simply help people and allow that help, without preaching, be the best sermon ever given. I wish more religious figures would learn from her today.

    September 10, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • Arj

      Tha't not true. Her motive was to convert people. She said that explicitly.

      September 10, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
    • TheScienceEnthusiast1130

      Are you THAT ignorant? To support another malevolent character (*cough* "God" *cough*)?

      September 26, 2013 at 11:20 am |
  5. Hoover23

    Christopher Hitchens exposed this charlatan Mother Teresa.

    September 10, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
    • dommy

      Agreed. Princess Di is more saintly and did more good work than this christian charlaton.

      September 10, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • Franco


      September 10, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
  6. anna smith

    Christopher Hitchens on Mother Teresa: she was an advocate of poverty, not the poor. She thought suffering was good. She did not help people out of poverty. "The pope beatifies Mother Teresa, a fanatic, a fundamentalist, and a fraud."

    September 10, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

      hindu's, ignorant s.

      September 10, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
    • Arj

      And what great things you have done. You dont know anything about Hinduism.

      September 10, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
  7. ScottCA

    Isn't this the same mother Teresa who contributed to the deaths of countless people in Africa by spreading the message that condoms are bad? How many people have died of aids, how many babies were born infected with aids due to that message?

    September 10, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

      To do some thing, or not to some thing, is choice of a person himself, not the one who suggested him, Mayhem in Africa is not of no one's fault but hinduism, ignorance of people in hinduism, ignorance to truth absolute, one acting in hinduism, illegality is a hindu, criminal and accountable for his or her's deeds, no one else. please visit http://www.limitisthetruth.com/ and click on word Choice to open file.

      September 10, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • tired

      are you suggesting that we mitigate the good because of an, admittedly controversial, belief? perhaps from her perspective, any life is more precious than no life at all. her spirituality allows her to believe this. you may believe what you wish, based on your principles, but this woman clearly practiced what she preached. you and i are commenting on an email forum. kind of humbling i think.

      September 10, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • therealpeace2all


      @ScottCA Said: " Isn't this the same mother Teresa who contributed to the deaths of countless people in Africa by spreading the message that condoms are bad? How many people have died of aids, how many babies were born infected with aids due to that message?

      Then you(@tired said:) " perhaps from her perspective, any life is more precious than no life at all. "

      I'm confused... How does people/babies dying of aids... how is that more precious ?


      September 10, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
    • ScottCA

      therealpeace2all, Thank you for asking the question I was also thinking the same thing.

      September 10, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
  8. tuvia




    September 10, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
    • hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

      hinduism, criminality of a hindu Jew, terrorist self centered, expect nothing better from a hindu Jew, terrorist self centered but his hindu Judaism, criminal self center ism, secularism, as from a pig, self centered, secular. To learn hinduism, corruption of truth absolute by hindu's, denires of truth absolute, please visit http://www.limitisthetruth.com/ and click on word Choice to open file.

      September 10, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
  9. thecollegeadmissionsguru

    Says Susan Shields, former Missionary of Charity:

    As a Missionary of Charity, I was assigned to record donations and write the thank-you letters. The money arrived at a frantic rate. The mail carrier often delivered the letters in sacks. We wrote receipts for checks of $50,000 and more on a regular basis. Sometimes a donor would call up and ask if we had received his check, expecting us to remember it readily because it was so large. How could we say that we could not recall it because we had received so many that were even larger?

    September 10, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
    • thecollegeadmissionsguru

      At one point, there was some fifty million dollars in a bank account in NY in the name of the "charity" that Mother Theresa was head of. Her Order was rich, she had access to Millions of dollars and chose to allow people to suffer because it "brought them closer to god."

      September 10, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

      What is in on'e heart, no one know's, but truth absolute, God, If one used some one for personnel gains or used donation's to truth absolute, for other than designated purpose, they committed hinduism, illegality. No one is responsible for hindu's, crooks hinduism criminality but hindu's, criminals, regardless what garb they choose to hind, fool humanity. To learn hinduism, corruption of truth absolute by hindu's, denires of truth absolute, please visit For more http://www.limitisthetruth.com/ and click on word Choice to open file.

      September 10, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • Lee

      the charity may have been in her name, because the church knows people will pay tons of $$ if it can secure them a place in heaven.
      Teresa never saw a dime of it, she HATED money. How is she supposed to save everyone with money, when she does not believe in using money?

      September 10, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
  10. Lee

    *high mortality rate

    September 10, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
  11. hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

    No one know's, what is in one's heart, saint is is hinduism, absurdity of pot head hindu santans, filthy goons, god's of hindu's, ignorant s, neither she had any power of herself nor she claimed to have any, but promoted as a saint by hindu's ignorant s. She was servant of truth absolute, not truth absolute herself, as she has been designated by hindu's, ignorant s.believer's of hinduism, racism. To learn hinduism, corruption of truth absolute by hindu's, denires of truth absolute, please visit For more visit http://www.limitisthetruth.com/ and click on word Choice to open file.

    September 10, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • Normal

      Go get some help. Not sure if anyone has any sort of treatment that can help you though.

      September 10, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
  12. Jake-413451

    How much of the billions that she collected went to medical care for those on whose back she stood asking for donations?

    How much ended up in Vatican coffers?

    If that number is not 100%, and it isn't, then who was she a saint to? The Catholic Church worth some hundreds of billions in stocks, bonds, gold, art, and let's not forget real estate property; or the poor who died in one of her death houses in agony for want of even pain medication?

    If you can't get blood from a stone and bleeding hearts are the source of donations then it might be easier to get a rich man into the kingdom of heaven, than money from the church with a heart of stone.

    September 10, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • Rob


      This statement you make about "who was she a saint to? – no one" appears to stem from a previous statement about how less than 100% of what she had wasn't given for . I question the reasonableness of that question. If someone always gave 100% of what they had, they would die of dehydration, starvation or maybe exposure.

      I think you set the bar a wee bit high. By all means, however, continue to comment.

      September 10, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • Jake-413451

      Question it all you like. However, I am not the one propping her up as being worthy of providing some special intercession action between people and some imaginary deity.
      Secondly, I asked about the donations she was running around collecting. She could have held down a job to provide for herself.
      But by all means, continue with the straw man arguments.
      It is a further demonstration that you can't justify how building up the highly gilded church while allowing the poor to continue their suffering unabated qualifies her to be a saint.
      1. any of certain persons of exceptional holiness of life, formally recognized as such by the Christian Church, especially by canonization.
      2. a person of great holiness, virtue, or benevolence.

      Good to know that great holiness, vitue, or benevolence is met by filling the Catholic Church coffers by standing on the backs of the dying.

      September 10, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • Lee

      i hope you are giving all your extra money to charity, otherwise you are the biggest hipocrit on the planet. All you need is money for food and housing, right? She lived in poverty. Didn't drive a nice car, didn't have a fancy house with a nice yard, didn't have so much material possessions that she had to store them a storage facility. Where are people coming up with these BILLIONS of dollars that went to the Vatican???? Please, I'd like to see some facts here. Since most of you claim to be all about facts and science and believe religion is the root of evil and God is no more than the tooth fairy. Give me facts??? I want to see financial statements. Otherwise your just spreading lies and myths that you claim religious people do. Give them to me please. Post them!!! SHOW THEM TO ME PLEASE??? I find it fascinating since the Vatican is in the red almost every year. Give me proof, oh Gods of truth here on CNN blogs.

      September 10, 2012 at 9:15 pm |
  13. thecollegeadmissionsguru

    I am inclined to believe that the author of this post is a bit out of touch with reality, as well.

    September 10, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
  14. thecollegeadmissionsguru

    I have to ask about this whole "sainthood" thing the catholic church does. I mean, are there seriously adult people who believe in the whole "miracle:" thing? It would make a GREAT sitcom, for sure.

    September 10, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • Lee

      I believe the deceased person up for sainthood must perform 3 miracles, after their death....I believe the Catholic Church has already attributed one or two "miracles" to mother teresa, apparently death isn't stopping her from visiting earth and randomly dishing out anti-cancer cures to a couple of random people....

      September 10, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • Shakespeare

      There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
      Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

      September 10, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Mother Theresa's "miracle" is post-humously curing Monica Besra of an abdominal tumour.
      However – the tumour, which was not fully formed when diagnosed, actually receded due to months of therapy the patient received from doctors.
      Pictures of a magic nun didn't cure her – medical science did.
      In fact, the woman's husband has said so repeatedly in interviews.

      September 10, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
    • Simran

      The tumor actually was a tuberculoma (a lump sometimes caused by abdominal tuberculosis). It almost always gets cured with ant-tubercular medicines in 9 months. The doctors who treated this patient have refuted the magical claim, but the Vatican still want to believe the Lord, the God did a miracle through the Saint!!!

      September 10, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • Simran

      Oh, and this woman Monica Besra has accused the Missionaries of abandoning her and not keeping the promise of ensuring her financial help!

      Here's the link:

      September 10, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
    • Simran

      A doctor who treated Monica Besra, the tribal woman whom Mother Teresa is believed to have miraculously cured, has alleged that some persons claiming to represent the Roman Catholic Church and the Missionaries of Charity are trying to pressurise him to pass off the case as an inexplicable medical phenomenon.Dr Manzur Murshed, superintendent of the Balurghat Hospital in South Dinajpur district of West Bengal, said, "They want us to say Monica Besra's recovery was a miracle and beyond the comprehension of medical science." According to Dr Murshed, in 1998 Besra received nine months of anti-tubercular treatment for her abdominal tumour and was cured.

      The Vatican's Congregation for Causes of Saints has accepted that Besra was cured after praying to Mother Teresa and wearing a medallion with her photograph. This has paved the way for Mother Teresa's beatification, which is one step closer to sainthood. But the objections by the doctors who treated Besra and Indian rationalists have blotched the entire beatification process. Dr Murshed said, "The Missionaries of Charity and the local church [of Raigunj] have been inviting me and the other doctors to their functions to ensure that we say Besra was cured by a miracle."

      The doctors maintain that Besra was suffering from tubercular meningitis and had developed an ovarian tumour. Several pathological tests and an ultrasonography had revealed the tumour inside her. "We advised her a prolonged anti-tubercular treatment, which she followed and was cured," said Tapan Biswas, another doctor who was part of the team that treated Besra.Dr Biswas added, "With all due respect to Mother Teresa, there should not be any talk of a miracle by her." Besra's husband Sekhu Murmu told reporters that he believed his wife had been cured by medication and not by a miracle. He is actually peeved with all the publicity his wife has been receiving.

      The controversy has forced even experts on canonisation laws to call for a review of the supposed miracle. Salesian priest Father A C Jose, considered an authority on canonisation laws, has said the miracle should be re-examined to remove any doubts about the authenticity of the sainthood process.

      September 10, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
  15. Mike from CT

    15 years after the life of Mother Teresa?... then it must not be true just like 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians

    September 10, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
  16. William Demuth

    Wacko. Plain and simple.

    Crazy in the old school, really out of touch with reality style.

    Good riddance to her and her fake savior.

    September 10, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • Lee

      She was not wacko. She did not even believe in God....she just saw through all the crap we pretend we need in order to function and went out and helped people.
      She did convert the people she was helping, but they were so simple-minded and alone, she knew they needed the idea of a "Savior" watching over them.
      She was very well educated and althought she did start out very religous, her intelligence won over in the end and she realized it's all a myth to keep the masses in line/happy....like duh.

      September 10, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • thecollegeadmissionsguru

      @Lee, then why did she tell people that suffering was "jesus kissing them" and why did she allow so many to suffer so greatly?

      September 10, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
    • Lee

      Honestly, whose to say those people weren't better off dead? You weren't there, neither was I, nor the person telling these stories.
      Nobody really "knows" what happened, so your question is basically unanswerable. 🙂

      September 10, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
    • thecollegeadmissionsguru

      @Lee, so the people who actually suffered and were there, who have come forward to tell their stories are not valid.

      To say that people are better off dead, and to allow them to suffer when you have the power to ease said suffering, is inhumane. As an atheist, I am often accused of not having morals, but I know that there is NOTHING moral at all about allowing people to die while suffering. Have you ever seen someone in true pain? I have, and there is NOTHING saintly about it and NONE were better off because of it. Your logic is just plain idiotic.

      September 10, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
    • Lee

      Hun, you have no clue how credible this witnesses are, coming forward and giving random interviews for time spent with mother teresa. basing an entire opinion on the eyewitness testimony of a 3rd world citizen, who probably is not literate is totally naive.
      Inhumane? I'm gonna go out on a limb and say you have never lived in complete poverty or had a chronic disease that requires round the clock care.
      I'm going to just assume you are naive and shetered and don't fully understand what real pain is, because allowing someone to pass away in extreme pain, when your only solution is a temp fix, is humane.
      Inhumane is a rich girl, who doesn't underatand the world outside the comfy walls of the US, and would allow people in terrible suffering to endure and live out in pain, because death is ugly....gimme a break!

      September 10, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • Trago

      You are the only wacko and a stupid one at that. BE GONE.

      September 10, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • Lalo Acevedo

      What a hateful person you are. Judge, jury and executioner all at the same time. Wow. How pitiful.

      September 10, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
  17. thecollegeadmissionsguru

    Let's not forget that she allowed millions to suffer unnecessarily. Sure she had hospitals for the poor, but often did only enough to keep people alive, she did not believe in pain relief, instead felt that pain brought people closer to Jesus. She was a penny pincher who refused to spend money on things like needles, instead expecting her people to use needles over and over again until they were so dull that people screamed when given injections. But, when she was ill, she sought the BEST care money could buy. The woman was NOT a saint, in fact she was pure evil in the minds of many.

    September 10, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • Lee

      Penny pincher? She hated the idea of money, and men's greed/obsession with a few precious rocks the earth produces (gold, silve, etc.) thats translates into a "currency", with an intrinsic worth relevant only in our current time/location...she saw throught the farce of money and hated dealing with it.

      September 10, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • thecollegeadmissionsguru

      When was it saintly to NOT spend money, that you have, to help others. If she hated money so much, why did she raise so much money for the Catholic Church? Your argument fails the rationality test, my friend.

      September 10, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
    • Lee


      When was it saintly to NOT spend money, that you have, to help others. If she hated money so much, why did she raise so much money for the Catholic Church? Your argument fails the rationality test, my friend.

      She did NOT have any money. She refused it, when money did come to her (from I'm assuming anon. doners hoping to buy their way into eternal ife) she tried to get rid of it as quickly as possible.
      She saw being kind, holding/treating people (esp. in 3rd world countries where being alive was miserable anyway) and letting them die surrounded by someone who loves them., without being 100% dependent on money ...money can't buy a kind word, loving hug, etc...it could buy medicine to help sustain a group of people with low morality and mostly likely a host of incurable diseases

      September 10, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
    • thecollegeadmissionsguru

      Lee, you are making up your own history here. She raised billions of dollars, OPENLY begged for money, went to countless fundraisers. Her order was Rich beyond belief! Yes, she sent most of the money to the Vatican, but she had money, tons of money. Again, your arguments are based on a flawed reality.

      September 10, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
    • Lee

      Mother Teresa hated money...begging for money? What did she EVER spend money on? Her and the nuns were always given food/shelter...she literally owned nothing except the clothes on her back and a metal rosary....She was not spending time "begging for money" or sponsering fund rasiers/charity balls...she literally devoted her entire life to travelling around the world and attempting to assist people in poverty...what makes you think differently?

      September 10, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      The fact that she and her sisters were given, quite literally, tens of millions of dollars that all went straight into the Vatican coffers.
      She kept her nuns and, more importantly, her PATIENTS is a state of abject poverty, refusing to spend any money on basic medical necessities like mosquito repelling equipment to stave off malaria, pain killers for those suffering extreme pain, or even clean, sharp needles.
      She took over a million dollars from Charles Keating, now serving a ten-year sentence for his part in the savings and loan scandal, and actively defended him when he was on trial for ripping off 17,000 people.

      September 10, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
  18. Honey Badger Dont Care

    A catholic with inner demons, go figure. She wasn't that much of a saint and made millions off of the backs of the poor in India. She didn't help the poor as much as most people think, she kept it for herself and her cult.

    September 10, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • Trago

      Go away. No she did not make money off of anything, MORON.

      September 10, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
  19. Doc Vestibule

    Many of the people that Mother Theresa "helped" aren't very big fans of her.
    As a catholic nun, she held some opinions that run counter to what one would expect of someone purporting to help the poor and sick.
    She was of the opinion that pain and suffering are virtues that allow one to get closer to Christ.
    She stated that "the most beautiful gift for a person that he can participate in the sufferings of Christ" – so she outlawed painkillers, even for those having maggots tweezered out of open wounds.
    She was captured on camera consoling a man in terrible agony, suffering from terminal cancer. When he cried out for relief, she told him 'You are suffering like Christ on the cross. So Jesus must be kissing you.'
    Also, despite hundreds of millions of dollars worth of donations rolling in, Mother Theresa was obsessed with keeping herself, her nuns and her patients in a state of abject poverty – once again, to suffer and thus be closer to God.
    In Haiti, to keep the spirit of poverty, the sisters reused needles until they became blunt despite having the means to procure safe, new needles.
    Her "Homes for the Dying" got a lot of positive press – but in reality, the places were atrocious with no consideration for hygiene whatsoever. Patients carrying highly infectious diseases like tuberculosis and AIDS shared beds with others in the overcrowded conditions and "treated" with sometimes dangerous, out-dated drugs – but mostly with "kind words".

    When Mother Teresa received the Nobel Peace Price, she used the opportunity of her worldwide telecast speech in Oslo to declare abortion the greatest evil in the world. Her charitable work, she admitted, was only part of her big fight against abortion and population control. This fundamentalist position is a slap in the face of India and other Third World Countries, where population control is one of the main keys for development and progress and social transformation.

    September 10, 2012 at 11:20 am |
  20. Reality

    A great lady and deserving of "sainthood" but as with much of the global population, she was afflicted with the Three B Syndrome, i.e. Bred, Born and Brainwashed in religion, in her case Christianity. Was Christianity a "necessary accessory" in her Noble Prize winning work with the poor? Debatable as secular groups like Doctors Without Borders are equally committed to helping those less fortunate thereby also making the doctors of this group, "saints". Said group also received the Noble Prize.

    September 10, 2012 at 10:48 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.