Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Mother Teresa to be Declared Saint

Pope Francis announced today his plan to canonize Mother Theresa as a saint on September 4, the eve of the anniversary of her death on September 5, 1997. In most cases, two miracles are required to be considered a saint. Pope Francis declared in December 2015 that he would declare her a saint after recognizing her second miracle: the healing of a Brazilian man with multiple brain tumors after loved ones prayed to Mother Teresa. The first miracle, the reportedly inexplicable curing of a woman’s stomach tumor after praying to Mother Teresa, and she was beatified in 2003 by Pope John II after he waived a customary five-year wait period after her death in 1997.

In the Catholic religion, saints are believed to be people who have already entered heaven; canonized saints, those who are declared saints by the church after death, are prayed to and revered as model humans to be imitated. Mother Teresa spent most of her life working with the poor in India, founding the Missionaries of Charity in 1950 to care for “all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared-for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone,” she said in her acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. Being canonized a saint? Seems like a no-brainer—unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

Mother Teresa has always been a subject of controversy, and critics attempt to bring to light Mother Teresa’s less saint-like actions. According to Huffington Post Associate Editor Krithika Varagur,

“She was no saint. To canonize Mother Teresa would be to seal the lid on her problematic legacy, which includes forced conversion, questionable relations with dictators, gross mismanagement, and actually, pretty bad medical care. Worst of all, she was the quintessential white person expending her charity on the third world -- the entire reason for her public image, and the source of immeasurable scarring to the postcolonial psyche of India and its diaspora.”

Varagur supports this idea, citing a 2013 study from the University of Ottawa, which revealed among its findings that Mother Teresa's missions provided inadequate medical care and of her 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.” To some, Mother Teresa is not a holy figure but rather a symbol of Western supremacy and resembles the idea of the”White Man’s Burden” during the late nineteenth century.

In matters regarding religion, it is important to respect others’ beliefs, but what do you think? To outsiders, canonizing Mother Teresa just seems like a smart PR move by the Catholic church, but to others this decision holds far more meaning. Given the controversy surrounding Mother Teresa’s actions in life, do you think she should be considered a saint? How might this decision affect the United States' relationship with the Pope and the Catholic Church?








Danny Halawi said...

Although there is controversy over some of Mother Teresa's actions, I think it would be a bit cynical to state that she isn't a noble figure. Mother Teresa practically devoted her whole life to helping other people -- it's just what she did. No human is perfect, and she might have had some faults, such as having poor medical care. However, I don't think that should belittle her beneficent actions. To me, if Mother Teresa isn't worthy of becoming a saint, then I really don't know who is. Ultimately, I believe that in this situation we shouldn't scrutinize her life and look for every flaw, but rather pay attention to all the great things she's done in her lifetime.

Crystal Lee said...

Assuming Mother Teresa was problematic, I'm not sure it doesn't make her a saint. Speaking as an outsider, I do not believe that any human can truly be perfect, and saints, while, well, saintly, were probably flawed in reality. And if the church recognizes her second miracle, then logically, she should be a saint, as she fulfills all the requirements listed below.

However, I do have to disagree with Danny's idea of focusing on the great and turning a blind eye to the bad. I think that we should look for the bad and acknowledge Mother Teresa's flaws, even in the midst of her goodness. I also worry about what this canonization says about the church's view of the colonization and racism (calling natives savages, forcing them to convert, etc.). Please tell me if I'm extrapolating too much, but it seems reminiscent of the "well, racism/discrimination is over, now we can stop talking about it and ignore it and stop being sensitive about it!" attitude. Remember the Native Americans in California, in the missions? Many of them were forced to convert, made to work in hard labor, and scores died from diseases brought from abroad. What consequences of that do you see today? Well, Native Americans made up a grand total of 2% of the population in 2014, so maybe that has something to do with it.


Langston Swiecki said...

The whole concept of sainthood, of having individuals to look up to and try to imitate, has its benefits and drawbacks. The work done by Mother Teresa can inspire others to greatness or simply act as comfort to those who need some figure to submit to in a desire for aid and help. The classifications of sainthood are arbitrarily defined despite the necessity of two miracles, so I view this more of a move by the Catholic church to honor a woman who moved their cause forward, which maintains consistency for the church. However, in bestowing the title of saint, the church also might have the effect of white washing the complexity of the history associated with her, which limits perspective and might lead to inadvertent harm in regards to remembering the complex legacy of Mother Teresa. However, the problem lies not with the specific sainthood of Mother Teresa, but the concept of providing sainthood to fallible humans, which really cannot be helped, lest the Catholic Church drastically changes policy. In an time when exposure is a fact of life and multiple perspectives are present and vocal, saints cannot exist as they used to.

Relating this back to the United States, a similar situation is observed in the deification of the founding fathers, who legacies on slavery and other concepts are generally not as popularized as their success in battle or in the creation of the new government. A proper balance needs to be struck between the authentic remembrance of leaders and the human desire to have something to look up to in this ambiguous and perplexing world.

Anonymous said...

The whole idea of sainthood rubs me the wrong way but besides that, it is troubling to think that the Pope would elevate a woman like Mother Teresa to that kind of level. First off, her plans in India had very little to do with care for the poor; she went to India to spread Christianity. This is on full display with saying things like "the most beautiful gift for a person that he can participate in the sufferings of Christ". Speaking of working for the poor, she was not even able to fulfill that part of her mission. Most of her donations were not used for charity but instead for the missionary and general funds. The clinc that she was running in Calcutta was also extremely beat down even by third world standards. Mother Teresa also got along with people like Jean-Claude Duvalier, a brutal dictator who sold drugs and body parts in order to live a lavishly while the people of Haiti starved to death. Connections such as that would not be expected from a "saint". In addition, Mother Teresa was staunchly against birth control in a country where the population was exploding and absolutely needed it the most. One of the most disgusting acts that Mother Teresa also partcipated in was baptizing people without their consent during their dying days. Mother Teresa did not deserve a Nobel Peace Prize and certainly does not deserve Sainthood in my opinion.