Profile: Not-so-saintly Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa, the Roman Catholic nun soon to be canonized, was reviled, as well as revered in her lifetime. For many she was an angel, but for some a fanatic and an anti-feminist who associated with dictators.

The Sick Must Suffer

Doctors who visited Mother Teresa's homes for the destitute in Kolkata, India, in 1991 observed a significant lack of hygiene, inadequate food and lack of medical aids like painkillers for the suffering, according to a research project by the University of Montreal.

The problem was not of funds, the study said, but a particular conception of suffering and death.

"There is something beautiful in seeing the poor accept their lot, to suffer it like Christ's Passion. The world gains much from their suffering," Mother Teresa is quoted as saying by journalist Christopher Hitchens in reply to criticism.

The Fanatic

Mother Teresa strongly opposed contraception and abortion and feminist Germaine Greer called her "a religious imperialist."

At a conference in Oxford in 1988 she reportedly said that she would be unwilling to allow a child in her care to be adopted by a mother who used contraceptives or had an abortion for such women had proved that they cannot love.

Questionable Politics

Mother Teresa has been criticized for accepting the Legion of Honour and a grant from Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier and donations from British publisher Robert Maxwell and US businessman Charles Keating, both of whom were charged with fraud.

"She did not serve the poor in Kolkata, but the rich in the West. She helped them to overcome their guilt and bad conscience by taking donations from them," Sanal Edamaruku, president of the Indian Rationalists Association, told dpa in 2010. Mother Teresa would defend herself saying she could never refuse or condemn anyone who enabled her to help the helpless.

Shadowy Accounting

Hitchens and the University of Montreal study also point out that millions of dollars were transferred to the accounts of the Missionaries of Charity, but most of these accounts were kept secret. 

Baptizing The Dying

Mother Teresa and her nuns baptized the dying at her homes for destitutes without giving them an informed choice, Hitchens has alleged in his polemical book "The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice."

The journalist quotes Susan Sheilds, a nun who worked with the order for nine years, as saying that Mother Teresa told the sisters to ask each person in danger of death if he wanted a "ticket to heaven." An affirmative reply was to mean consent to baptism.

The Missionaries of Charity have denied they have such practices.

In depth coverage

"Christian hero" Mother Teresa to be be made a saint by Pope Francis

In a grand ceremony that will attract huge crowds to St Peter's Square, the nun known as the "Angel of the Poor" is set to be canonized by the pontiff who once said he dreamt of "a poor church, for the church."

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