THE BLOG

Mother Teresa on Trial

20/03/2013 09:53 GMT | Updated 19/05/2013 10:12 BST

Mother Teresa was an extremist. Before even delving into the wealth of evidence to suggest that she did not deserve her mythical saintly status, it is essential to note the views she freely offered up to the world during her lifetime. It would be foolish to forget her words after accepting the Nobel Peace Prize claiming that abortion is the "greatest destroyer of peace because if a mother can kill her own child, what is left for me to kill you or you to kill me?".

Many Catholics shun abortion, but they do not fanatically proclaim it destroys peace or leads to widespread murder. Similarly, just as they may renounce divorce, they do not lobby a ban on divorce and remarriage, as Mother Teresa tried to enact in the Irish constitution in 1996. Surely it is clear that these are the views of the right wing Catholic Church. This was someone focused on enforcing faith and ideology as opposed to actual long-term cures for poverty such as, the freedom of women and their right to bodily autonomy.

Originally born Agnes Gonxha in Albania, she fashioned herself as a 'mother', an icon but ultimately a symbol of cultish dogmatism. Her main home for the dying in Calcutta was just that. Not a place for sick children to be healed, but a darkened room filled with 'patients' lying on mats on the floor. Many doctors observed a lack of hygiene, a shortage of food and little actual medical care being given. Even when care was given, syringes were unsterilized and reused.

Recently, researchers examining 300 documents about Mother Teresa's life have confirmed these reports. Her work is hardly indicative of a true friend of the poor. But let's be clear, Mother Teresa was not a friend of the poor, she was a friend of poverty. She revelled in the dying and the sick and this, she says, is where she found Christ. In spite of receiving countless donations and monetary aid, she spent none of it on her homes for the dying, supposedly the hallmark of her legacy. And when she was sick she preferred the state of the art medical care that Californian hospitals can offer.

These are some of the finer distinctions of what Mother Teresa actually believed. They are important, as any subscription to absolutist ideology is latently dangerous. Her fanatic religious views are supplemented by the hypocrisy of her actions. As a towering figure of the Catholic Church she was clearly never short on donations. But the report from researcher Dr Larivie says she offered no money following natural disasters in India, only prayers and medallions of the Virgin Mary. And where did she get this unused miserly stash of money? Large proportions were donated by the brutal Duvalier dictatorship in Haiti and American loan fraudster Charles Keating.

Mother Teresa is a name synonymous with goodness, kindness and humility. Under scrutiny this image crumbles in the wake of someone who was surely a fraud who propagated the Catholic Church more than she did the relief of poverty. To subscribe without struggle to the veneration of such a figure is to fall victim to the same dangerous faith she professed. Not that she did not say some worthy things or inspire some worthy deeds, but to elevate her beyond the realm of fact based on her fundamentalist teachings and lack of real concern is to worship false idols. Shattering illusions is never fun, but Mother Teresa is patently unfit to be a role model.